Thursday, February 28, 2019


Books I read in 1987
"I hated writing it,'' said Doris Lessing in the NYT. ''It was sweating blood. I was very glad when it was done. It was an upsetting thing to write - obviously, it goes very deep into me somewhere.'' 

THE FIFTH CHILD was Doris Lessing's 35th book and was different from the other ones I've read. It was an easy read; the rest were not. And yet it was a hard read. I guess it's nearest cousin is THE BAD SEED.

The golden couple of the story (Harriet and David) have four perfect children. And then Harriet becomes pregnant again and the pregnancy is difficult, as is the birth, as is the introduction of this destructive child into the household.  He is referred to as a brute, an alien, a monster at various times. Eventually Ben is institutionalized and although the other children are relieved, Harriet cannot live with the decision and brings him back home. Although he is somewhat improved, the other children find ways to live apart. The family has been destroyed. Ben finally finds a place in a gang with other kids like him and this is of some solace to Harriet to who presides over a ruined family. 

The book stuck with me more than most. I read it in 1987 and I mentally use the term the fifth child whenever I hear of a child that brings a family down. Is it his/her fault? Probably not.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Forgotten Movies: THE RED VIOLIN

A violin is made by a great violin maker in the 1500s and this movie documents the people whose hand it falls into through current day. I can think of three other similar movies: THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE, THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE and CHANGING HANDS.

Are there any others?

This was a pretty good movie although certain parts of it entertained more than others. The story of the original owner and his wife was poignant but its days in Communist China were fairly generic. But all in all a good film. And lots of nice music. Worth your time.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Went to see the Oscar nominated short live action films and animation. Boy, those live action films were horrifying in different ways. Film 1- MADRE-a  Spanish mother gets a call from her six-year old son that he is alone on the beach and a man is coming toward him. 2-FAUVE-two boys get outmaneuvred by mother nature 3-MARGUERITE-an elderly woman and her nurse bond over an unexpressed sexuality 4-DETAINMENT-A reenactment of the Jamie Bulger murder 5) SKIN- a skinhead's hatred of black-skinned people gets turned against him. Wow.
If I were to choose a winner it would be the Bulger murder which used the real interviews and elicited sensational performances by its two stars. The animation nominees were fairly weak except for the gorgeously done WEEKENDS.
Trying to get into BILLIONS on Showtime, but boy, any mention of money and I fade away.
We always treat ourselves to a dessert during the Oscars. I am looking forward to that more than the show. 
What about you?

Friday, February 22, 2019

FFB - Rogue Males, Craig McDonald

Conversations and Confrontations about the Writing Life.

I think a second subtitle might be "with Alpha Males." Because the writers interviewed here are certainly that. All were popular when the book was written in 2009 and remain at the top of their profession 10 years on. The writers include: Crumley, Leonard, Woodrell, MacLeod, Ellroy, Collins, Cannell, Holden, Dexter, White, Russell, Friedman, Sallis, Bruen. I bet you didn't have much difficulty in identifying any of them. Leonard, McLeod and Crumley are gone, I hope all the rest remain.

He begins with Crumley and, of course, quotes what is probably the most praised first line in crime writing. "When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring day." This line is in THE LAST GOOD KISS and may never be outdone. It is perfect in that the language is plain but the image is not. 

Mcdonald's questions to these men are just what you would have liked to have answers to and their responses are generally succinct. Leonard talks most about his ten rules for writing, which had just come out then. He proclaims THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE as the best crime novel written. 

All of these men come across as writers who take their work seriously. They read widely and think about their characters. I often think that people who read most literary novels believe that genre writers (and I use these terms strictly for quick clarity) don't write beautiful prose or create memorable characters. If that is true they need to meet: Jack Taylor (Bruen) Lew Griffin (Salis), Train (Dexter), Ree Dolly (Woodrell), Nat Heller (Collins) and so on.  

This is a really fun book. Pick it up.

TODD MASON is now hosting FFB.

Monday, February 18, 2019


We got out to see a play yesterday. (The Play That Goes Wrong) It was a slapstick sort of thing-not really our sort of play--but it was nice to get out for a few hours. And I have to thank good friends for taking us to the Fisher Theater in Detroit to see it.

Got to have dinner with my son and his family Friday night in Detroit's Greektown. The streets were filled with people. The food was so-so and I am sure Detroit's idea of Greek food doesn't correspond with Athens' but it was familiar, warm, comfortable.

Watching Patrick Melrose. I admire Benedict Cumberbatch's acting but boy, is it a downer.  I will be relieved to be done with it.

Kevin got to play a scrimmage hockey game at the new Little Caesar's Hockey Arena. A thrill for his parents and him.

What about you guys?

Friday, February 15, 2019

For the Forseeable Future...

Todd will be helming Friday's Forgotten Books. Eleven years is probably long enough. I will still be here on Monday and other days. Be kind to him.

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 15, 2019

Hopefully Todd will have the links.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Saw the Oscar short docs on Saturday and whoa what a depressing bunch. First one dealt with racism among teens in a UK housing project; second end of life issues; third American Fascists meeting at Madison Square Garden in 1939, fourth about refuges trying to get to Rome on overloaded boats (many do not make it) 5th, which was my favorite about village women outside New Dehli learning how to make and sell sanitary pads. Until then they used rags and had little idea what a period was for. But it had humor and success so I give it the Oscar. Those hills of used rags outside the village was horrific though.

Enjoying RUSSIAN DOLL. Natasha Lyonne is just terrific as his her male counterpart. Clever concept that they really run with.

Reading essays by Janet Malcolm, which are weird, wonderful, overwritten. And that makes them interesting. Sometimes. The first two on a clothes designer and a pianist are fabulous.

It is so cold and so many days were icy last week. Need to get beyond this weather so I can escape more often. Oh, how I wish I was a homebody. Instead I am always itching to get out. Which are you and what have you been up to.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 8, 2019

Mark Baker. MURDER ON LENOX HILL, Victoria Thompson
Elgin Bleecker, CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA, Frank Bill
Brian Busby, THE LISTENING WALLS, Margaret Millar
Crossexaminingcrime, THE LETHAL SEX, John D. Macdonald
Martin Edwards, THE PATON STREET CASE, John Bingham
Aubrey Hamilton, BLACKSHIRT PASSES, Roderic Jeffries
Richard Horton,  ANDROID AVENGER, by Ted White/THE ALTAR ON ASCONEL, by John Brunner
Jerry House, Two Graphic Novels 
George Kelley, GO, LOVELY ROSE and EVIL WISH, Jean Potts
Margot Kinberg, ARAB JAZZ, Karim Miske
Rob Kitchin, MOSKVA, Jack Grimwood
B.V. Lawson, MURDER AMONG FRIENDS, Elizabeth Ferrars
Evan Lewis, CONAN OF VENANIUM, Harry Turtledove
Steve Lewis "When We Went to See the End of the World" Robert Silverberg
Todd Mason, Wilma Shore's short fiction 
J.F. Norris, DEATH ON THE OUTER SHOAL, Anne Fuller and Marcus Allen
Matt Paust, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, Robert Traver
James Reasoner, LUST TYCOON, J X Williams
Richard Robinson, INTERSTELLAR PATROL, Christopher Anvil
Gerard Saylor, CURSE OF THE BANE, Joseph Delany
Kevin Tipple, ZERO COOL, John Lange
TracyK, THE MIRROR CRACK'D, Agatha Christie

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

First Wednesday Book Review, February 6, 2019


Throughout her life, people looked at writer Dani Shapiro and told her she couldn't be Jewish. Blonde, blue-eyed as you can see here. At 54, when she sent saliva to "23 and Me", one of the testing sites for DNA , she found out her adored father was not her biological father. She finds out pretty quickly who her biological father is and attempts to forge a relationship with him. He resists; he was a medical student who donated sperm for the greater good. He was promised anonymity. The book details her attempt to get him to recognize and acknowledge her. I can say firsthand that secrets like this are extremely difficult for children.
The reason this interested me particularly is because I found out last spring that my "social' father was not my biological father. Unlike Dani, my parents did not enter into an arrangement together. They didn't go to a clinic where infertile people were helped.

I am fairly sure my father never knew I wasn't his biological daughter but still mysteries abound. Photographs with date changes; the absence of a pregnant mother. Insurance policies with name changes. All of it to be puzzled over.
So this book interested me on a personal level. I am not sure it would have it if I didn't share her situation to some extent. But maybe all of us harbor some doubts as to our ancestors.

For more First Wednesday Book Reviews, visit Barrie Summy. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

MONKEY JUSTICE debuts on March 18

And I am looking for some blogs to talk about it on. Or have it reviewed. Sadly when I look at the places that helped me four years ago with CONCRETE ANGEL, many of them are gone. Since this is a reprint in a way, it will be a hard sell. But I very much want to try to sell some copies for Down and Out Press' sake if not mine. They were so very kind to offer to publish it.

Monday, February 04, 2019


So happy that the polar vortex is letting up on us. Today it is in the forties. I know it will not stay this warm but grateful for the break.

Really enjoyed THE COLD WAR, a Polish film about how the Cold War and the suddenness of the Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe wreaked havoc with lives. I also liked IDA by this director some years ago.

Enjoyed ESCAPE FROM DANEMORA on Showtime. We are inside so much we keep buying more and more TV. When you are ill or depressed, you lose focus and books are harder to distract.

Enjoying Paula Munier's A BORROWING OF BONES.

Love my ECHO DOT, So cool to say Alexa play Max Richter and she does. Pretty amazing. And the sound is better than on our old stereo. Alexa is very fond of Jimmy Fallon jokes. He must be an investor. 

Going to see a play now. IF/THEN. Hope it's diverting....NO! Left at intermission.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Books, February 1, 2019

PICKUP, Charles Willeford (from the archives)

When was the last time you read a book so compelling you couldn't put it down? What was it?
For me, it was this novel. It takes a long time in Pick-Up for the reader to understand the protagonist and what he's all about. Why he's in the fix he's in. Maybe you won't understand the full story until the last line. And yet, Willeford is able to tell his story lucidly, making even the most mundane details riveting.
This is basically a story about two drunks. Why does it work so well? Better for me even than Kennedy's drunks in Albany. Because the characters are interesting, the narrative pull inescapable, the writing excellent.
Even when the plot turns a bit unlikely in the last third--the characters remain true to themselves, so you go along with it.
What turned you on this much?

Les Blatt, THE COLOUR OF MURDER, Julian Symons
Elgin Bleecker, A RAGE IN HARLEM, Chester Himes
Crossexaminingcrime, MURDER EVERY MONDAY, Pamela Branch
Martin Edwards, DREADFUL SUMMIT, Stanley Ellin
Curt Evans, Elizabeth Fenwick
Aubrey Hamilton, CURIOSITY KILLED A CAT, Anne Rowe
Richard Horton, THE TRANSLATOR, John Crowley
Jerry House, THE BOOK OF IOD, Henry Kuttner
George Kelley, THE GREAT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES, ed. Pohl, Greenberg,Olander
Rob Kitchin, FROM DOON WITH DEATH, Ruth Rendell
B.V. Lawson, LONELY HEART 4122, Colin Watson
Evan Lewis, ONE WHO WALKED ALONE: Robert E. Howard, the Final Years, Novalyne Price Ellis
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, "Guns of Cyrano" Raymond Chandler
Todd Mason,  WORLDS TO COME edited by Damon Knight, FOURTEEN FOR NOW edited by John Simon
J.F. Norris, JOURNEY DOWNSTAIRS,  R. Philmore
Matt Paust, MURDER BEGETS MURDER, Roderic Jeffries
James Reasoner, BUZ SAWYER, Vol 1,  Roy Crane
Richard Robinson, ISLANDS IN THE SKY, Arthur C. Clarke
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THE REMAKE: AS TIME GOES BY, Stephen Humphrey Bogart
TracyK, THE CASE OF THE WEIRD SISTERS, Charlotte Armstrong