Friday, March 29, 2019


Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

It's difficult to remember, forty years on, New York in the seventies, The City was facing bankruptcy, the streets were dangerous, frequent strikes left unattended garbage for the rodents, buildings crumbled. It was dirty, smelly, falling apart. Paula Fox's novel Desperate Characters perfectly captures that time along with the similarly disintegrating marriage of Sophie and Otto Bentwood.

The story begins with an unexpected cat bite. "Because it's savage," Otto answers Sophie's puzzled, "why?" It was a cat she was trying to feed that bit her. This well-intentioned act, this McGuffin, sends the couple off on a weekend odyssey, where ominous events continue to haunt the childless couple. They find little solace in each other and there is no easy resolution at the end. The quiet desperation that suffuses their story is heart-breaking.

The writing is haunting, lucid, and succinct.

Fox has also written two books about her life (Borrowed Finery and The Coldest Winter), a few other novels (The Widow's Children) and many children's books. But nothing is finer than this one for me.

Monday, March 25, 2019


Enjoyed CARELESS LOVE by Peter Robinson.
Enjoyed YOU on Netflix
Enjoyed GLORIA BELL at the movies. Julianna Moore was amazing.
Looks like we will have tulips soon.
Enjoyed SHRILL on Hulu.
Reading DEVASTATION ON THE DELAWARE: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955 
Loved CATASTROPHE on Prime. 
What about you?

Friday, March 22, 2019


Books I read in 1987.

I am sure I read almost all of the 87th precinct books. I liked the way they featured various cops, much the way Tana French does now. Although Steve Carella usually shines center stage.

When a man who wealthy Marilyn Hollis is dating is poisoned, Detective Steve Carella and his crew from the 87th Precinct are assigned to the case. She informs the detectives that the victim is only one of the men she dates.

The detectives can’t find anyone who might have wished him harm. Then a second man in Marilyn Hollis’s life ends up dead, as does a third. The detectives zero in on Ms. Hollis and the people in her life, looking for the villain.

Her charms don't go unnoticed and Detective Hal Willis moves in with her, even though she’s a suspect in an ongoing investigation. Willis insists that Marilyn is an innocent victim  and couldn’t possibly be guilty. Steve Carella is not so sure.

As always an enjoyable read.I can still remember waiting for the next book in this series to appear. Also the case with John D. MacDonald. Those were the days.

Whose books do you wait eagerly for?

Monday, March 18, 2019


 Haven't seen a copy myself. Perhaps it is all an illusion.

Things That Are Making Me Happy

SHRILL and PEN15 on HULU. THE OTHER TWO on COMEDY CENTRAL. Really enjoyed third season of CRASHING and sorry HBO cancelled it. Stopped watching BILLIONS. Just couldn't take the characters. Best line was when Richard Thomas told the lead that the only pleasure he would ever get from money was in giving it away. I agree with that. Same with Ray Donavan. They moved the show to NY but the characters are still going down the same path. Did they think tall buildings would make it better?

Watching a lot of TV as we are pretty housebound. Although I am lucky to have friends rescue me. A couple of meals out with them. Went to a book talk. Do miss movies but there have been few good ones of late.

Like the Podcast HIT PARADE. 

Megan is coming out in two weeks for two days. Yay!

Reading Peter Robinson's CARELESS LOVE. Real trouble in concentrating, sleeping, living. I never realized how much I depended on getting out. I am not a homebody.

So what are you up to?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Hit Parade

Music lovers. This is a terrific podcast (out of Slate) that looks at one song at a time and the culture and the time that made them hits. Chris Molanphy is so knowledgeable. Radio might have failed us but podcasts rock.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Books I read in 1987

L.R. Wright wrote perhaps seven books about a duo detecting team in Canada. After the publication of The Suspect (1985), her first mystery novel and winner of the 1986 Edgar Award for Best Novel, she concentrated almost exclusively on the genre after several earlier literary novels.

Anyhow in SLEEP, a body of a woman is found in the forest just off a road in British Columbia. Her throat has been slashed, her ID unknown, no discernible motive. 

An RCMP sergeant, Karl Alberg, is assigned to the case (and solves it eventually along with the village librarian). A Hollywood actor, an old flame, a grouchy old farmer, his lonely talkative wife, and an artist figure in the mix. Well-constructed and plotted plus engaging.Her style is spare and elegant. 
But probably read THE SUSPECT first.This one is very good but more conventional.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Dorene O'Brien was a member of a writing group I belonged to a decade ago.  Dorene, hands down, was the best and most thorough critic. She taught creative writing at a college and had honed her skills over the years. Whereas the rest of us might write two paragraphs of criticism, Dorene would write two pages. It was as if she digested it and spit it back decidedly improved.

Her writing was also exceptional. And none of us were surprised when Wayne State University offered to publish a collection of her stories. (VOICES OF THE LOST AND FOUND). We were also not surprised when she stacked up various awards like Lego blocks.

Her second collection of stories debuted last week. Dorene writes about-- to quote a line from her book "women with tar-stained teeth and men carted from the automotive plant." This is an unusual cast of characters among literary writers. Most choose to spend their time with the upper middle-class or with academic types. Her writing is elegant, precise, original. I would compare her to Bonnie Jo Campbell and Mary Gaitskill, Her stories are pitch dark although they are not crime stories.

The title story is my favorite. It is a pas de deux between a mortician and a fiction writer who specializes in novels where dying characters are miraculously spared death. However, the writer is  blocked due to the ill health of his beloved wife. He can no longer spare his characters death when he is unable to save his wife.

The mortician is both attracted to and disturbed by his writing. If death is the inevitable outcome of life, the writer should acknowledge it. So this is the dilemma Ms. O'Brien sets up and deals with handily.

Also enjoyable is a story about a writer who dreams of attracting Tom Hanks with a perfect script about zombies, or the story of a man who finds his ex is now writing romance novels, or the woman in a tearoom with tarot cards who susses out Detroit's fate. There is not a dull story in the bunch.

Most admired  in each of these stories is the quality of the writing. She is incapable of writing a boring sentence. Every character is fully developed, familiar, and yet unique.

If I was reviewing this book and the writer was unknown to me, I would probably praise it more. But because I have been reading Dorene's stories for a decade or more, I have come to expect just what this book gives us-exquisite writing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Happy Birthday, Mom

Who apparently had secrets she took to her grave. Never mind, I love you despite your secret life.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday Feeling

Really got a kick out of the Netflix series DATING AROUND. Any one of the episodes offers some salient detail that would make a good story. The gay couples are much more forthright about sex. Quite a difference.
Reading my friend, Dorene O'Brien's, collection of stories. She may not deal with outright crime but every story is as pitch dark as anything in noir. (WHAT IT MIGHT FEEL LIKE TO  HOPE).
Broke down and got SHOWTIME so we could watch BILLIONS and RAY DONAVAN. Also BRITBOX but not sure I will keep it. Have seen so much of their library.
Love telling Alexa to play whatever and have it usually be in the amazon library.
What about you?

Friday, March 08, 2019


Books I read in 1987

Inspector Wexford is knocked out of commission when a car bomb meant for his daughter (an environmental activist and actress) injures him. This leaves his underling, Mike Burden, in charge of the case. The case concerns the death of a woman in a shopping mall garage.
She turns out to have not been the nicest woman, nor is anyone else in this story. (Rendell clearly was a bit of a misogynist). 
Both Wexford, quickly back in the saddle, and Burden have their preferred murderer. There are lots of red herrings and excellent character development in this case. I guess Rendell's dark view of humanity coincides with mine.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

First Wednesday's Book Reviews

I couldn't quite finish the book I intended to review today (THE VEILED ONE by Ruth Rendell)
But stop by Barrie Summy's place where among other great reviews, she talks about MONKEY JUSTICE.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Thnigs That are Making You Happy

Things aren't good here but I hope you will share your life with me. Anything you are reading,watching, doing. It really helps to hear that life goes on elsewhere.