Tuesday, April 28, 2020



My Ideal Book Shelf

This is not a random shelf. It was put together to constitute My Ideal Bookshelf.

Last week, much to my surprise, I got a lovely box of books and DVDs in the mail from George Kelley. In there was a book called MY IDEAL BOOK SHELF and it queried famous writers, artists, chefs, etc as to what would be their ideal shelf.  I think there were permitted to choose books that they didn't actually have on a shelf. But since I don't have an artist to illustrate book spines, I am limiting mine to books I own. Of course, there are many others I might have chosen had I had them. Instead I read them from the library or gave them away over the years. Certainly A FAN'S NOTES would be here, RABBIT RUN and THE GREAT GATSBY. And most surely, LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER by Stewart O'Nan.

I also have to confess although there are many, many mysteries on my shelves when it came to choosing books that endured, they came further down in the list. As much fun as mysteries are, it is rare that they touch my heart and soul. The closest I came to choosing one on here is THE MUSIC OF CHANCE, (Paul Auster) which is certainly noir if not a classic mystery. If I had owned THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR by Tey or a Rendell book, they might have been one of the fifteen. Or perhaps A PLACE OF EXECUTION by Val McDermid.

The titles here are a little hard to read. Half of them are story collections. I could easily have included more. Only two of these books are non-fiction. THE FIFTIES, which I find fascinating and have read several times. And PICTURES OF A REVOLUTION, which is about the five films nominated for Best Picture in 1967 and how they reflected on Hollywood's Past and Hollywood's Future. I wanted to choose a biography because I do read a fair number. But that meant I had to remember how strong the writing was not just how much I admired the subject. If I owned A. Scott Berg's bio of Max Perkins, that would be on my shelf.

I wanted to have an even balance between men and women, but it was not to be.

In case, you are having trouble making out titles, here they are.

HOUSEKEEPING, Marilynne Robinson-When I forced this on my book group, they didn't get it because the main character is problematic. But I loved it.
NEVER LET ME GO, Ishiguro-A speculative book, unusual for me, but I found it mesmerizing. It concerns the fate of clones created for a specific and cruel purpose.
THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER, Anyone who thinks Cheever only writes about suburban angst needs to read "The Swimmer" or "The Enormous Radio."
WHERE I'M CALLING FROM, Raymond Carver, the most influential ss writer in the last half of the 20th century. Even if Gordon Lish rewrote his stories.
AMERICAN PASTORAL, My favorite Roth. No, my favorite if I were to be honest would be GOODBYY COLUMBUS but this is the better novel. Although his last NEMESIS comes close. I would not rank THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA is the top five.
OLIVE KITTEREDGE, Elizabeth Strout, Again a cranky, quirky, sometimes annoying protagonist who still captures our hearts. OLIVE AGAIN, is almost as good.
DESPERATE CHARACTERS, Paula Fox.  New York in the seventies has never looked grimmer as a couple make their way through it.
LOST IN THE CITY. Edward Jones. This collection came out of nowhere and captures life in DC for African-Americans. Then Mr. Jones disappeared again and reappeared ten years later to write THE KNOWN WORLD, about black slaveowners. But the short stories just sweep me away.
ELEVEN KINDS OF LONELINESS, Richard Yates, I might have included REVOLUTIONARY ROAD or THE EASTER PARADE but they are not on my shelves. His stories are plenty great enough though.
I talked about the two non -fiction books and THE MUSIC OF CHANCE.
THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, Tim O'Brian, Brilliant stories about Vietnam and the men who came home from it.
DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADES, Alice Munro. Her first collection, stories set in Ontario.
SHILOH AND OTHER STORIES, Bobbie Ann Mason, who went on to write IN COUNTRY, which I could also have included. Stories about simple people in Kentucky. Very influential on my writing. Known for K-Mart realism, because she referenced actual stores more often and perhaps earlier than most.

Pictures are not necessary but what books would be on your ideal book shelf?

Monday, April 27, 2020

I'm Still Here

 Here is the link to the Sondheim tribute. It is 2 1/2 hours Enjoy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A92wZIvEUAw

My backyard, which is waiting for some TLC. Most of it will be filled with hostas and ferns soon, but it needs some color too. Don't know what it will be this year. The nurseries are open, as of Thursday, but I have no way of getting there until my cleaner/driver comes back.

Finished the Maigret and am going to try LEAN ON PETE by Willie Vlautin, I think.

Things I have ordered this week: a pulse oximeter, a safe--which I cancelled when I saw how much it weighed (80 lbs) Doubt I could haul that in from my porch. Headbands to cover the gray, although it turns out they are for kids or else I have a big head, loose tea in tins, books, unsalted mixed nuts from Costco, an orchid. I am still probably spending less than I would have if I was going out to a meal and the movies several times a week. But I had better be careful. Don't know what will happen to the economy.  They may come after social security and medicare. Will pensions survive if states go broke? I wish I understood all of this better.

Watched BAD EDUCATION on HBO. I liked it with the caveat, I am not sure why they saw it as a comedy. The writers, I mean. It was about a school superintendent and his underling who stole millions from the Roslyn, NY school system. Perhaps the original story in New York Magazine (I think) framed it like that.

Watching JEAN BAPTISTE on PBS. I like the character more than the story line. And I love seeing Amsterdam. We spent six months there in 1997. It looks exactly the same 25 years later, which would not be true of NYC or Detroit.

It is possible that east coast and midwest cities have a different strain of this virus than the west coast and a much worse one. One coming from Europe, and the other from Asia. That makes a lot of sense.

What's new with you?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Friday, April 24, 2020


Jordan Glass is a photojournalist who has traveled the world, especially Asia, to take prize-winning photos-mostly of war-torn areas. When she sees a painting of what looks like a woman sleeping, she knows it isn't her despite it being a mirror image. But could it be her twin sister, who died a year earlier. This quest takes her to New Orleans where a series of women have gone missing over an undetermined period of time. All of them turn up  in paintings and it is not certain of they are dead or sleeping.
This is one of those thrillers that have an awful lot of plot points and revealing any of them might spoil the book. It is probably 75 pages too long although not from a lack of story. If anything it has too much plot. It is a page-turner though. I found the central premise a little too woo-woo but not a bad book.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

One Year Today

The Ohrbach GIrl

A few nights ago, I watched THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES on Criterion.  I've been on a Jean Arthur kick lately and this one looked like fun. Charles Coburn is as much as star of this as Jean. As I watched, the story felt so familiar. Not in the particulars, but in the general overarching plot. It took a few hours of thinking for me to remember it. In the early days of my blog, I used to host flash fiction challenges and the story below was from a challenge to write a story based on a Reginald March painting. I picked one picturing a strike in an attempt to unionize department stores. This was exactly what THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES was about. Weird. I always meant to go back and expand the story and submit it somewhere but never did. 

The Ohrbach Girl
by Patricia Abbott
I was eating creamed spinach at the Horn and Hardart’s on 8th when Dave Lombardi walked in looking snazzy in a gray drape-cut suit topped by a soft fedora. His shoes looked new too. I pushed my scuffed tee-straps farther under the table.
”Maria Batista, you gotta be kiddin.’ All the chow in those slots and that’s what you gave up your dime for. Who are you—Popeye? ”
I didn’t even look up. Dave Lombardi and my pop had been partners once—buddies in small-time schemes. Pop always looked for a soft mat to land on, and Dave kept one ready. My trouble was I was outta work and Dave—well— maybe he could help me. Ma had gotten herself on relief but it wasn't enough dough to buy the kind of rags I liked. At 23, I was getting too old to live off her anyway.
“Still outta work?” Dave asked.
Ma must’ve been flappin’ her jaw about me losing my millinery job. I shrugged and shoveled more spinach into my mouth.
“Listen, kiddo, I might have a lead.”
I rolled my eyes. “Hard to warm up to goin’ to jail, Dave.” I pushed the empty plate away, my stomach protesting at the disappearing dish.In a few slick moves, Dave tossed the plate in the bin, fed the slot, opened the window and presented me with a lemon meringue.“Piece of pie’s not gonna buy many favors,” I said. We had some history—him and me.
“Can’t I be a nice guy?”
I licked at the meringue. “Sure. Whenever you get the urge.”
“Got your Dad’s smart mouth.”
“Pop wanted to leave me more than his bills.”
Dave sighed. “Okay, quit the patter and I’ll tell you about the job.”
Putting a small bite of pie in my mouth, then savoring it, I waited.
“Guy down at Orhrbach’s wants a reliable kid to make hats. Girl that won’t talk union. Chatter is, there’s gonna be a strike. Heard about it?”
I hadn’t. And a job at Orhrback’s sounded pretty okay to me. I couldn’t afford to be sweet on unions.
“You’ll really be workin’ for me. I'm figuring the crowd watchin’ the picket line's a good place to pick some pockets. Just tumble onto the subway if things get outta hand. There’s gotta be an opportunity for mischief with all the bedlam.”
“It’s not a pick it line,” I said. I shoulda known no job courtesy of Dave would be legit.
“Enough with the smart aleck routine. Wanna job or not?” His voice had a curl in it.
“So what's my angle?” I put down my fork to concentrate.
“Get to know the dames that shop there. Which ones carry a lotta dough Maybe we’ll need you to create a ruckus. Have to see how to play it.” He paused. “I like havin’ a man, or in your case a girl, on the scene. May take a week or two to find the best hand to play.”
Ohrbach’s sat on Union Square and every Saturday there was some kinda strike or protest. Poor slobs were tryin' to get a union going. Place was Red Central with the subway lines and buses spewing out jobless people with time on their hands. Within a day or two I usually took my sandwich outside to see what was goin’ on. Sometimes people from up on Broadway put on a play. Other days writers shouted their angry poems. Meanwhile, the clerks from Ohrbach’s marched around holdin’ their signs. Even when Orhrbach got himself an injunction from some judge on his payroll, the workers found ways around it.
The job was A-OK s'long as you didn’t mind back-breakin’, poor-payin’ work. Guy I worked for was nice enough, but jeez, that Ohrbach was a cheap bastard. Livin’ with Ma, I could make out, but some of ‘em supported a family on eight bucks a week. Fifty-seven hours work for chicken feed. And Ohrbachs wasn’t no Bonwit Teller’s. It was a crummy crowded store—damp and stuffy. After a while, I wanted to carry a sign myself. Dave and his scheme began to eat at me.
“This is the set-up,” Dave told me, on the phone in the building's vestibule one night. “Create a disturbance on the square. Somethin’ that'll pull security out of the store. Maybe accuse someone of being a Red. Or a thief. Get into a brawl.”
“I weigh 100 pounds. Think I can take on some of them bruisers millin’ around?”
“Just cause trouble. Monkey Business—that’s what the newspapers call it when the Commies do it. Guards are waitin’ for it since some noodle head opened a crate of mice in Notions last week. Ohrbach beefed up the force and I got two guys inside now who are just waitin’ to empty the tills and jewelry cases.”
“What if I say no?”
“Milliners are a dime a dozen.”
Saturday was a nice day and the crowd was the biggest yet. Someone gave kids balloons that read, “Don’t Buy at Ohrbach’s” and the cops were wrestlin’ them away. Kids were crying like Santa had forgotten to stop at their house. One kid had a bloody nose, another broken glasses. Oh, that Ohrbach. He had every crooked pol in his pocket.
As I puffed up with rage, it suddenly came to me how to make a disturbance—though probably not the one Lombardi had in mind. I grabbed a picket sign from the nearest girl and dashed into the center of the square where a statue of George Washington riding a horse sat. Putting the sign in my mouth, I mounted that statue and stuck the sign under George's arm.
A cheer went up, and a thousand people rushed the statue, stickin’ their signs around the base forming a barrier from the cops. We got our picture in the Daily Worker though none of the other newspapers touched it—chicken shits.
Things worked out okay for Dave too. His guys cleared all the first floor tills and the jewelry counter before the cops came. My take was enough to buy Ma a new radio. Sure, I wasn't gonna say no when the envelope came my way.

‘Course Orhbach fired me and dozens more the next day. You never can win with those guys.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


I have the feeling I am changing that phrase every week.

The top book is POE, Kevin Hayes, a bio of Poe, which I think Phil gave me. Did I have some passive aggression in me that I so rarely read the books he chose for me? It's not much better when I look at ones Josh or Megan gave me. I guess I like to pick out my own books. We all gave each other books for almost every Christmas or birthday so there is quite a stash of them.
POE seems untouched. Pristine. And as I open it, the print is too small. Good lesson: don't gift books with small print. So hard to know the font size if you buy online, which we often did.

THE SPORTSWRITER is the first of Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe books. There are four now. (Rumor is he is working on a fifth). I like all of Ford's books. A bit like Updike's series on Rabbit Angstrom. Female novelist don't seem to take a character through a series of books like this although we do have two books on Olive Kitteredge from Elizabeth Strout. I know there are mystery writers that do, of course, but those novels aren't about the character as much as the crimes they solve.

THE NIGHT WATCH, Sarah Waters. Haven't read it. Mean to, but it is set around WW 2 and I have grown tired of books about that war.

THE QUIET AMERICAN, Graham Greene. I have read a lot of Graham Greene. A great writer. But I am not sure I have read this one. I saw the movie with Michael Caine though. I am wondering if a movie puts me on to buying the source more than reading it.  I did read THE END OF THE AFFAIR after seeing the movie. In high school we read A BURNT OUT CASE, which seems a strange choice. There must be something about religion in it. Should probably read every book I was made to read in high school and see how they read as an adult.
Norman Sherry spent his life writing biographies of Greene and even Greene made fun of him. "Even  you will not live to see the third volume, Sherry." I went to a book talk once where Sherry and an American had both written a bio of Green. I think it was Sherry's second volume. And the American biographer made fun of Sherry too. What a great novel that would be: a man who spends his life writing about one writer. I am sure it's been done.

GHOST WRITERS. This was an anthology edited by Keith Taylor, a lovely man, writer and teacher, who taught Megan at U of M and has encouraged her ever since. All of these ghost stories are by Michigan writers and I have not read it at all.

BLOOD MERIDIAN, Cormac McCarthy. One of Phil's favorites, which I have always meant to read but Phil said it was too dark for me. So I haven't. Only book I have read by him is ALL THE PRETTY HORSES.

PICKUP, Charles Willeford. A darker book than his Hoke Moseley ones (MIAMI BLUES) but just as good in a very much darker way. Could this be less dark than BLOOD MERIDIAN.

IRISH STORIES, ELIZABETH BOWEN. A great fan of THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Bowen, but I have not read these stories. This looks like a book picked up at a library sale. This has nice dark big print so I have no excuse.

THE NATURAL, Bernard Malamud. I have read all of Malamud. My favorite is THE ASSISTANT but this is a closer runner up. Although his stories in THE MAGIC BARREL are magnificent too. Does anyone read Malamud or, say Bellow anymore. Bellow was a more intellectual writer than Malamud and I liked him less. But both captures the middle of the 20th century Jewish experience so well. Of course, I guess, Roth was the king.


Monday, April 20, 2020

Fiona Apple: Fetch the Boltcutters

I'm Still Here-View From One Window.

There is scarcely a minute when some bike riders. etc. are not passing by my house. There are actually four in this photo.

Letting the gray hair come in on my head. Except it is more white than gray. Not sure how far I will go with it because it will probably take a year. But I am two months into it and no sign anyone other than my Shipt delivery person is going to see me. Or, and my therapist.

Being morose with my therapist allows me to be cheery with other people. Or at least I hope so. I can lay it all on her and she assures me every week, she can take it. I actually had a dream for her two weeks ago. She has been disappointed in my meager dream output until now. My dreams all share one element, I eventually end up in a dilapidated room, floor, city. I never return to actual places I have lived in. I always invent new ones. Do your dreams have a common thread?

I watched RIPLEY'S GAME on Prime and although it was awfully violent, I liked it. Thought Malkovich was a very credible Ripley. Also watching MRS. AMERICA, where Cate Blanchett gives her usual terrific performance.  Continuing to enjoy SCHITT'S CREEK and SHTISEL. Finished OZARK. Waiting to see how BETTER CALL SAUL ends. Been a great season. SCHITT"S CREEK is truly a feel-good show. It takes a few episodes to get going though.Nice to watch one show about nice, if quirky people.

Reading MOVIE LOVE IN THE FIFTIES and finishing up the Greg Iles thriller-which was okay but too much chasing around as usual.

Trying to walk on every good day. I do about 45 minutes. Again though, it is hard in my 'hood because everyone is out there walking all day long. I have never lived in a place like this before. Yesterday I dodged a few golf balls as I passed the section with the biggest houses and yards. It makes the dogs crazy to have so many people going by.

It will be one year since Phil died on the 23rd. I still sometimes imagine I hear him moving through the house.Guess that's normal.

How about you?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Michigan has more than the thugs in Lansing.

Beaumont Royal Oak Solidarity Cruise


There are 5,787 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Oakland County, according to data provided by the county health department as of Thursday.
Of those cases, 417 people have died. The county also reported that about 644 people have reportedly recovered from the virus. Beaumont is the major hospital system in Oakland County.


Friday, April 17, 2020

FFB, A LOST LADY, Willa Cather

A Lost Lady, Willa Cather

I love all of Willa Cather's books, but this is my favorite. It is short enough to read in an hour or two but deep enough to stay with you forever. Like Wharton's HOUSE OF MIRTH, this is a story of a woman who is simply unable to survive on her own in the world and makes poor decisions because of that.

When our protagonist meets Marion Forrester, she is years younger than her prominent husband. They live in Sweet Water, a town expected to thrive due to the railway. A young neighbor, Niel Herbert, become infatuated with her and she allows his infatuation. But before very long, the fate of Mrs. Forrester turns sour and young Niel is simply too inexperienced to see her clearly and believes the worst of her. Because he never understood her situation, he is unsympathetic to her fall from grace. Years later, he is finally able to understand her.

A beautifully written book and portrait of a complex character.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling for Insane Times #3

 Judith at Reader in the Wilderness has started a new meme: Bookshelf Traveling For Insane Times. The idea is to look through a bookshelf or a bookcase or stacks of books and share some thoughts on the books. You can find more details here and here at Judith's blog.

This completes the top shelf of one of the bookcases in my house. The top and bottom books were Phil's although they were books he was always trying to get me to read, which is how they ended up in my room.
I have actually read most of the others.
DIRTY WORK is terrific. The story of two men who meet in a VA hospital room and share their life stories. One is black, the other white, they grew up in Mississippi and fought in Vietnam. Great stuff.
MIAMI PURITY opened the door wider for women wanting to write dark stories. I have spent time with Vicki over the years and she is a wonderful person. Although strangely enough for a woman who writes very dark stories, when we went to the Mutter Museum together, she had to leave. (It is a museum of medical history and oddities).
THE DAUGHTER OF TIME, Josephine Tey. you all know this one I am sure. It looks like a first edition but I doubt it.
THE SUN ALSO RISES, I have read although I am not really a Hemingway fan. My favorite, like many people, is the Nick Adams stories and A MOVEABLE FEAST.
GO WITH ME Castle Freeman, is one of the most delightful novels I have read. A woman recruits some roadside help on her quest for justice.
SALVAGE THE BONES, Jesmyn Ward, a terrific novel too about a family that supports itself by racing dogs after Katrina. Ward is a wonderful writer and has gone on to write several more books, all which deal with race.
Jhumpra Lahiri-INTERPRETER OF MALADIES, one of my favorite story collections, which won the Pulitizer Prize.
THE GIRL ON THE BEST SELLER LIST, Vin Packer (Marijane Meeker) this one I haven't read.The print is so small and the book pretty fragile. Or I just haven't gotten to it.

Some of my favorite books in this group.

Monday, April 13, 2020

I'm Still Here

I am so sorry I finished the book on movie musicals. It was just the right size for leaving open on a table and reading it while I ate lunch every day. I wish I had another book like it.
Funny how this pandemic thing just up and grabs you some days. And other days you make it through okay. And it doesn't seem completely based on how bad the news is. I have the feeling it will be with us in some way for the next 20 years. When you think of the impact of the Great Depression-it only ended when it did because the country was gearing up for a war. And both world wars changed the world in so many ways. This will be more like those events I think. How horrible it is for the world's powerhouse to be brought to its knees while countries like South Korea make it through much better. I guess we know why that is.
Reading a Greg Iles book (Dead Sleep), although my friend who read it last said the ending was a disappointment. Just one long chase. Now I don't know whether to toss it or not. This friend is not a tough sell so I may give up on it. I hate long chase. Although chases can work in movies, not often in books.
Watching Shtisel on TV.  Probably spelling it wrong. It's the story of a Hasidic Jewish family in Israel.
I rewatched Another Country from 1984 this week. I heard Rupert Everett on Desert Island Discs and got interested in him.  Both Colin Firth and Rupert Everett seemed so young. The movie, based on a play, imagines how Guy Burgess began his journey toward becoming a spy for Russia.
Lots of walks although still more dodging and ducking around here. When a family of four and their two dogs walk together, where do you go? It seems like the sidewalks here are more crowded than the ones in NY.
Doing more cooking than I used to do. Phil did it for years and enjoyed it. I don't mind it too much because I mostly toss veggies and fish or chicken in a wok or in the oven. Nothing that takes too much planning because I cannot run out and get ingredients I don't have.
Listened to Megan interview Bob Kolker for Square Books. His book Happy Valley Road is getting a lot of attention. It's the story of family of 12 children where half of them have schizophrenia. Sad story. 
So cool though that you can hear and see these events. This would have been a lot worse 25 years ago when there was no way to stay in contact with each other other than phone calls. 
And wished my son, Josh, a happy 50th this week. They were supposed to be in London. I hope they get there in August but am doubtful.
Anyway, what's new with you?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Friday, April 10, 2020

FFB, THE MOTEL LIFE, Willie Vlautin

THE MOTEL LIFE, Willie Vlautin

After seeing the movie on Netflix, I had to read the book. It seemed like a film that was amazingly faithful to the book, and indeed, it was.This was the first novel of musician, Willie Vlautin,

Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan live a meager existence in Reno, Nevada, staying in cheap motel rooms, working at odd jobs  and drinking heavily. One night, while driving drunk during a blizzard, Jerry Lee accidentally hits and kills a teenage boy. Although the accident is the boy's fault, there are no witnesses, and Jerry Lee is certain that the police will arrest him. This accident drives the plot of the novel for both brothers.

Both men are so damaged by their difficult childhoods that they are incapable of making good decisions. They drink too much, hang around with the wrong people, gamble. And yet they are likable and your heart goes out to them. There are few evil characters in this novel for all its angst. Most of them try hard to do what's right. It's circumstances that undo them.

One of the nicer features of this book is that Frank tells Jerry fictional stories throughout the novel.  Stories meant to allow them both to escape their lives.

THE MOTEL LIFE is an excellent character study of young men who live on the margin of society and demonstrates ably how escaping THE MOTEL LIFE is darn near impossible.

and written in 2006.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling for Insane Times or Shelfy Selvie #2

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness has started a new meme: Bookshelf Traveling For Insane Times. The idea is to look through a bookshelf or a bookcase or stacks of books and share some thoughts on the books. You can find more details here and here at Judith's blog.

DuMaurier-Don't Look Now and Selected. Another one from NYRB. Maybe I have them all! I read some of these stories including the title story and "The Birds." I should read more.

The Death of Sweet Mister, Daniel Woodrell. I have read most of his books but not this one. Not sure why. I think I had just read Winter's Bone and figured nothing could top that. He is a master and I wonder if there's another book in the pipeline.

The James Deans, Reed Farrel Coleman, My favorite book by Reed although I have not read the Jesse Stone books.

Laidlaw, William McIlvaney, A terrific book set in Glasgow. We have friends from Glasgow. I wonder if they've read it. I think McIlvaney is considered the father of Scottish noir.

The Golden Age of Murder, Martin Edwards, which I think I picked up at Boucheron as a gift bag book.  I've skimmed this, reading the writers that interest me.  It won lots of awards, I think.

Dorothy B, Hughes, The Blackbirder, Megan gave this to me but I haven't read it. I have only read In a Lonely Place by Hughes, which I think it one of the top five crime novels I have read.

Detroit Tales, Jim Ray Daniels, This is a very good collection of stories published at the depth of Detroit's depair although we might have a deeper one coming. Detroit went into the last recession ahead of the rest of the country. About 2001 or 2002 when this came out.

One Fine Day, Leon Arden, a friend kept telling me that he had a friend who published a book just like Groundhog Day. In fact, he had sent the studio a script for it. I don't know how much of that is true. There are similarities but it lacks the joyful nature of Groundhog Day. And no Bill Murray I didn't finish it, which was dumb because I went to some trouble to get it.

Twisted Daughter, Twisted Wives, ed. Sarah Weinman. A great collection. I have read some.

I wonder, looking at this, how often I actually read all of the stories in a collection. I am thinking, not too often.

Monday, April 06, 2020

I'm Still Here

After one successful order from Shipt I haven't been able to schedule a second so I am going to have to see I can get someone to shop for me for pay if it doesn't happen soon. I would be delighted to do this if I can find the right person. The chart says this will peak in Michigan this week, so hoping that is true. Along with NY, Michigan is an epicenter, especially in my county and in Detroit. GM is busy making respirators now. If only this had started two months ago.

Finished THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT, which was involving but I never cared much for the characters. Okay, I defend characters that are not likable but the protagonist just wasn't that interesting to me. Still enjoying The Movie Musical book. Don't know what I will read next on the fiction front but I have downloaded lots.

Watched THE STRANGER (Harlan Coban) on Netflix. Boy, was it a mess (to me). A hundred characters that were all supposed to fit together at the end and so many of them underdeveloped and unnecessary to the plot. I am not even sure how large parts of it worked. And the explanation for the reason was lame.

Really liked UNORTHODOX, just wish it were longer. Also like MY BEAUTIFUL FRIEND based on the Ferrante novels set in Italy. Ozark is great as is Better Call Saul. (Sorry to keep changing from capitalization to italics for titles). And Better Things is always amazing for their insight into mothers and daughters. Nice tribute to NOLA this week. CURB had a good year.

Watched the super-charming THE MORE THE MERRIER on Criterion. Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea were delicious together.

Been trying to walk for at least a half-hour every day. Lots of ducking and weaving around twosomes who seem to think they own the sidewalk. But I feel better for it. Spending about ninety minutes on the phone most days which I have never done before. But again I feel better for it and it makes the day pass. Funny how every day is the same now. The same but a little bit worse, right?

How about you?

Friday, April 03, 2020

FFB-Going for the Gold, Emma Lathen

Reviewed by Margot Kinberg (from our archives)

Margot Kinberg is a mystery novelist and Associate Professor at National University, Carlsbad, California. She was born in Pennsylvania, where she graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She taught at the University of Delaware and Knox College, then moved to California where she lives with her husband, daughter and dogs. GOING FOR THE GOLD, Emma Lathen

Friday’s Forgotten Books is such a wonderful opportunity to discover books that I might otherwise never have heard of that I was pleased and honored when Patti asked me to contribute.

Going for the Gold was written by Emma Lathen, the pseudonym of Mary Jane Latsis and Martha Henissart, and first published in 1981. It’s the 18th in the John Putnam Thatcher series.

In the novel, the Sloan Guaranty Trust bank is selected as the official bank of the 1980 Winter Olympic games in Lake Placid, New York. So John Putnam Thatcher, who’s a vice-president for the Sloan, is sent to Lake Placid to supervise the bank’s operations during the games. Shortly after Thatch
er arrives at Lake Placid, Yves Bisson, a French ski jumper, is murdered by a sniper’s bullet as he is making a jump. At first, everyone believes that a terrorist has struck. But then, Roger Hathaway, manager of one of the Sloan’s Lake Placid branches, reports that the Sloan has lost half a million dollars to a counterfeit scheme. Thatcher is able to put these two seemingly-unrelated events together when it’s discovered that a traveler’s check that Bisson passed was counterfeit. What’s worse is that Bisson’s not the only one who seems to have been passing counterfeit traveler’s checks, and it’s not long before Thatcher figures out that Bisson must have been involved somehow in a huge swindling operation.

At this point, suspicion begins to fall on several of Bisson’s skiing teammates, the French team coach, an
d some fellow competitors, and their backgrounds and relationships to Bisson and to each other are carefully scrutinized. While Thatcher is making sense of the counterfeit scheme, another competitor, Tilly Lowengard, is disqualified from the Olympics when it’s discovered that she made a ski run while under the influence of a drug. She maintains her innocence, and before long, it’s clear that she, too, is a victim of a ruthless killer. Just then, a blizzard strikes, stranding everyone in Olympic Village – including the murderer. Thatcher realizes he’ll have to act fast if he’s going to figure out who’s been stealing money and covering up the theft with murder.

Going for the Gold gets the reader involved very quickly. Bisson’s murder shocks everyone and it’s easy to get caught up in the action as the local police and the security staff at Olympic Village scramble to protect the other competitors. The tension and suspense stay strong as Thatcher carefully
works backwards through Bisson’s last few days to try to figure out how he might have been involved in the counterfeit scandal and who might be behind it. Adding to this is the reality that many competitors and visitors to the games face when they realize that their traveler’s checks are worthless and they’re temporarily stranded in Lake Placid. There’s also the suspense and interest generated by the inter-relationships among the competitors, especially as it’s discovered that several of them are keeping secrets.

There are also several interesting sub-plots in Going for the Gold. For example, there’s a secret marriage, another budding romance, theft from the Olympic Village food stores, and the struggles that everyone faces to deal with the heavy snowfall. Those sub-plots are well-woven into the central plot, so they aren’t distracting. They also add an interesting layer to the characters.

Perhaps the most gripping thing about the novel, though, is the snowstorm that strikes during the investigation. The snowstorm traps everyone in Olympic Village and adds to the sense of imminent danger. It also makes a fitting backdrop for the climactic scene in which the killer tries to strike one last time.

Besides the suspense, Going for the Gold features interesting characters. Since these are Olympic competitors, they come from several different countries, and all of them seem to be there for different reasons. As Thatcher finds out about their backgrounds, the reader gets to know these competitors. Thatcher, too, is an interesting and likeable sleuth. His background is in money and finance, but he’s also skilled at dealing with people, and provides a calming presence amid the hysteria that’s caused by the murder, the theft and the blizzard.

Banking has changed dramatically since this book was written, and so has bank security. So in some way
s, the novel is a little dated. There are also some dated references; for instance, some of the competitors are from the Soviet Union. It doesn’t suffer too much from that limitation, though. The interesting characters, solid suspense, and nicely focused plot make this book worth a read. No wonder that, almost thirty years after I first read it, I still enjoy it.