Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Procedure and hiatus delayed

I can't remember if I have even laid out what has been going on with my brain or not. But in any case a routine C-scan last Sept picked up a brain anomaly, which has been with me since birth. It was unknown before this scan and without symptoms. They did a second scan, which confirmed it, and than an MRI. I saw a neurologist but eventually ended up in the hands of an interventional radiologist. 

Now this anomaly is probably a DVA, which is basically harmless. But it could be an AVM (Arterio-venous malformation) which can cause bleeds in the brain. This only happens in 2-4% of people with them but fixing them if if they need fixing varies in technique. 

So my doctor scheduled a cerebral angiogram for yesterday but an emergency called him away. So now I will have to reschedule it. He assured me in a very nice email last night that the angiogram is not dangerous and the information they cull from it will hopefully never need to be used. But they will have it ready if the thing does start to bleed. 

So even if it is the AVM and not the DVA, my chances of it killing me are less than 1 percent and I will probably die from something else entirely. But being alone now and having to go into these procedures alone (because of COVID) has been taking up a lot of my energy. Also it is so helpful to have someone with you to understand what the doctor is telling you and asking the questions your blank mind doesn't ask.
Anyway my hiatus is over for now. Have a good holiday.

Thursday, March 25, 2021


 I am going to take a hiatus here until after Easter. Have a good one all of you. Think good thoughts.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Charlie the Barber, Joe Lansdale


"Charlie the Barber," Joe Lansdale

"Charlie the Barber" is collected in Alive in Shape and Color, the second of Lawrence Block's three anthologies based on famous art work. (Pictured above). This story starts out light-hearted with Charlie enjoying cutting hair, working with his daughter as the only father-daughter barbershop he knows, thinking about his wife and how it was love at first sight for them. He likes his customers, knows how to cut their hair, all is right with the world.

But things begin to deteriorate when his electric clippers give out and he has to go get a new pair stored in a dark closet in the back of the shop. This closet is a place of terror for him because he is reminded both of the closeness and darkness of his captivity in Japan during the war. He manages to find the clippers and is able to squelch his rising PTSD.

Until two young men enter the shop just before closing. At first they are just verbally abusive, but it turns into a robbery and his daughter and one customer get pushed around. I won't tell you the ending in case you want to read it. Charlie does the best he can to live with his terrible experiences although  it is often evoked by things in his daily life. Another fine story from Joe Lansdale.

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 


George Kelley

Monday, March 22, 2021

Still Here

 Saw Minari at a movie theater on Friday. I think it may be the best movie I saw from 2020 although Nomadland is close. There were seven people in the theater, well spread out but since Michigan's covid is climbing it may be the last time I do this for a while.The acting in Minari was superb.

Also saw Let Him Go on Prime, which was an excellent adaptation of the novel by Larry Watson, which I greatly enjoyed a few years ago. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane played a long-married Montana farm couple to perfection. They cross swords with the worst family imaginable. The name Weeboy perfectly suits their horribleness. 

I am trying to get up the nerve to watch Promising White Female.

Just started Call My Agent on Netflix, which seems like fun. Finished the Allen v. Farrow doc, which was just sickening. I can never watch a Woody Allen movie again. 

Reading THE LOST MAN (Harper) and Buddha in the Attic for my book group. 

Lots of good weather here. How about you?

Friday, March 19, 2021


I have read one or two books by Ivan Doig over the years and this was his last one published in 2015. For a city or suburban woman, I like novels set in the West: Larry Watson, Wallace Stegner and others escaping me right now. Doig's books tend to be a little sentimental but just a little and Doig is capable of pulling some scary incidents out of his hat.

Donal is an eleven year old boy who lives with his grandmother in Montana. When she needs a surgery with a long recovered period she sends him to Wisconsin on the train to stay with her sister and her supposed husband, Herman, the German. The bus trip is the thing though and set in 1951 it was a time when kids were collecting autographs, which gives Doig a nice way of introducing a lot of characters. 

This book is filled with incidents on the road, coming and going. Donal is a smart boy but he is also very much an eleven-year old and should not really be on his own. Luckily Herman, the German decides to accompany him back and see the country. A bit too long but a very nice book by a very talented writer.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

SSW-Big Day in Little Bit, James Sallis


There are few writers I admire more than James Sallis. I have read several novels from his Lew Griffin series and the three novels grouped at the Turner Trilogy. He also writes criticism, poetry and whatever strikes his fancy. Many of his stories are available on his website. 

"Big Day in Little Bit" is the story of a hit man who comes to town and becomes so fond of the sheriff and the town and its people that he turns the job down. But there will always be another who will take the job. This is a short short and I am not entirely sure of its ending. That happens to me sometimes. But it doesn't matter because I don't read James Sallis for his endings. I read him for his gorgeous prose and his ability to make statements about life; to have a piece of a poem, an observation about history, a comment on what people are like woven into a 2500 word story. This is another terrific story with nary a false note from BULLETS AND OTHER HURTING THINGS. I know Bill would be proud to be remembered with these stories and the writers are proud to do their best for him. 

Kevin Tipple


Jerry House

Monday, March 15, 2021

Still Here


Most of my family with the exception of Kevin (14) and Megan have had the vaccine. A big relief as we tick people off. Kevin is soon able to student drive at 14 years and 9 months. That seems crazy to me. I can't believe he now takes a size 12 shoe. He is able to play his guitar very well; it really helped that he used this pandemic to learn how to read music, which they don't normally teach kids at the school of rock for playing guitars. He is also improving his tennis game. But his real love--surprise, surprise is Xbox games. I think it is a way to communicate as much as it is about game playing. 

Josh is back in the office every day now. He has a new boss who beat out a candidate called Scary Mary for Chief Prosecuting Attorney. This is the first time Josh has worked under a Republican. Although his last two bosses were both indicted for crimes so that's not so great either. Josh is the head of the appellate division and is mostly in appeals courts. 

Megan has a book coming out in July (The Turnout) and is working on four TV and film projects. 

Julie, my DIL, is still working from home. She works for Michigan Legal Services which helps people who can't afford a lawyer, especially right now with eviction attempts. 

That is a small family, isn't it? 

I saw Supernova with Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth. I can't believe how many films right now have an Alzheimer's theme. This was set in the Lake District, which almost made up for the grimness of the plot. Great acting. 

Watching Harrow on Hulu about a coroner. The Allen-Farrow doc has been harrowing. So too the Oprah interview with Meghan and Harry. My So-Called Life is on Hulu. We were away for a year when it was on. Very well done. Still working through Handmaid's Tale. Netflix has really crashed and burned lately. 

Those of you who still have traditional cable. What do you pay a month? I am trying to decide if I should cut the cord.

Just started Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell. Not sure if it's my cup of tea. Of the dozen or so hardbacks I have bought in the last year, I have read few of them. Jo Ann Beard on "By the Book" in the NYT today said she finished any book she started. I would say I finish 25%. I usually finish a short story though. 

What about you? What are you doing? Do you finish every book? What is your cable bill if you have cable tv and Internet?

Friday, March 12, 2021



This was published in 1989 and it looks like a second volume came out in the nineties edited by Kate Stine. Usually I get rid of books like this after a while because the lists, of course, end with books from 1989 or whatever year they were published. But they are still fun to look through and remember the books that won awards or were prominent in that era. It is also fun to see which ones you read and wonder why so many others you never heard of. 

For instance, have you read the Edgar Award winner from 1972, THE LINGALA CODE by Warren Kiefer. Often if you haven't heard of the winner, you don't recognize the other titles either. But some years every book is a winner. Like in 1964 when THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD beat out THE NIGHT OF THE GENERALS, THE FIEND and THIS ROUGH MAGIC. 

Also writers you have underestimated that show up are interesting. I have never read a novel by Dorothy Miles Disney who showed up quite regularly. And in some years only two books were nominated for an Edgar. Did all the others stink that year? 

There are also lists of favorites from critics I no longer remember: Robin Winks, for instance. Readers' surveys are fun to read too. I think there was probably more consensus on the best books then, then now. Then and now Otto Penzler could only name books written by men, except for Christie. 

Even an hour of fun it sometimes worth keeping a book for and I would like to see a 2020 version of this book.

Do you have a favorite book along these lines?

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: "Smoke Ghost" by Fritz Lieber


I haven't read all that many ghost stories in my life, but this has to be one of the best. The atmosphere is so precisely rendered and the thirtyish protagonist is both sympathetic and yet representative of the modern age. An older man would not have worked so well, I think. This man has not been completely corrupted by his life yet.

SMOKE GHOST takes place in a city and you can feel its darkness in every line. Towering, impersonal buildings, dirt, soot, smoke, faceless strangers, physically dark. (Leiber apparently wrote this after moving from Chicago to California). 

Mr. Wran, a young businessman, father , husband, begins noticing an odd shape on his way home on the train. Gradually it begins to exhibit a human face and as the story continues, it becomes more and more frightening as it haunts his home, office, and other places he travels to. 

Unlike most ghost stories, this ghost does not seem to have come about after a death, but is perhaps composed of the detritus of the city. Maybe even the evil that goes on in those towering towers. 

Some incidents from Wran's childhood figure in interestingly, yet I was not sure his ghost emanated from that period. I don't want to say much more because it is better read than described by me. 

And it is probably better read twice for novices in the genre. 

Kevin Tipple

Steve Lewis 

Jerry House 


George Kelley 

Cullen Gallagher 

Todd Mason

Monday, March 08, 2021

Still Here

 Not a lot to say this week. I went with a friend to the Detroit Institute of Arts, which was so impressive in the things they had done to make it safe and contact-free. You stood on a special circle to check your temp and you reserved your tkts ahead of time and put your phone on an ipad. It was great to feel free for a couple hours. 

Got out to a meal twice this week, both restaurants were almost empty. I am more worried about eating spoiled food in them that anything else. Phil highly disapproved of bringing leftovers home from restaurants so twice I have left food behind. Do you bring leftovers home? No new books this week, no new TV shows. I could use some new ideas, preferably stuff in English because reading movies on a TV makes my eyes hurt after a while. Been trying to write a bit but I still lack focus.

So what's up with you?

Friday, March 05, 2021


A fun virus. What a concept.

R. Narvaez was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His newest book is HOLLY HERNANDEZ AND THE DEATH OF DISCO (from the archives)


I Am Thinking of My Darling, Vincent McHugh

A virus. The City. Civic chaos. Government collapse. The stuff of zombie flicks and terrorist scenarios in 2010. But back in the ’40s, such a plot could still be light-hearted. In Vincent McHugh’s 1943 novel I Am Thinking of My Darling, a virus infects New York City—but it's a happy virus! The infected follow their bliss, feverishly losing their inhibitions (for you Trekkies, think "The Naked Time" episode). The problem is that no one wants to work. Honestly, who would?

Acting planning commissioner Jim Rowan returns home from a trip to DC to find cheerful chaos quickly spreading across town—and his actress wife Niobe missing. She’s infected and on the lam, looking to live out a succession of character roles in a kind of Method fervor. Meanwhile, in an emergency management meeting (consider what that term evokes today), the mayor announces he has the virus—and would rather play with model trains than lead the City. To avoid panic, Rowan is secretly made acting mayor.

The plots riffs genially from there, with Rowan hot on the trail of his slippery wife, cabbing from City Hall to Harlem across a Cityscape in Mardi Gras mode—all the while consulting with civil services to keep things running and with scientists to find a cure. (The fact that the virus apparently originated in the tropics, implying that people there are inhibition-less, may be another artifact of the past.) A polymath (when being a polymath was simpler), Rowan narrates in sensual, informed detail about now-bygone architectural wonders, regional accents, lab science, and jazz music.

This book, with its glad-rag view of a long-lost era, has been a favorite of mine since it was recommended to me decades ago. (I still have my first copy, bought in the now-bygone Tower Books in the Village). McHugh, a poet and a staff writer for The New Yorker in the ’30s, employs a prose style that winks slyly at Chandler and pulp. (Once Rowan is inevitably infected, he’s like Marlowe on E.) Darling also features a nice amount of sexual frankness that may surprise modern readers who forget that people in the ’40s had sex. The novel was made into the very '60s movie What's So Bad About Feeling Good?, but by then the times had already been a-changed enough that the conceit no longer had the right kind of jazz.


Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Short Story Wednesday

I know a lot of you have ordered this collection and are already reading it, but I promised Rick Ollerman, the editor, that I would try and mention it now and then. Rick is ill and cannot do the events to promote it. So if you guys could talk it up a bit, maybe we can do Bill proud (and Angela and Rick and Down and Out Books).

Both of the two stories I read were excellent. At first I was put off a bit by the ending of William Kent Kruger's Innocence but then I realized he had done something really different with his story. He had made, you, the reader, a mark. Like the woman in his story. A man and his daughter roll into town and seek help from a local waitress, newly widowed. I will say no more. 

Joe Lansdale's, (Promise Me) was more conventional, but just as good. It's about two guys hired to bring down a mild-mannered accountant who inexplicably has stolen money from his boss. Although you see the ending coming, watching it played out in such skillful lands is a pleasure. 

I also enjoyed Angela's words about her father. And I think they are not so different from what my kids would say about their Dad. That he was a bit of an enigma to them. Always available, but he played his cards close to his chest. Shy in a crowd. Kind, and gave more than he took. Stood out in his field. Devoted to his wife. These men don't come along often. That's why they are missed so dreadfully.

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 

George Kelley

Monday, March 01, 2021

Still Here

And it is getting warmer. I let go of the girl who pulls my recycling and garbage down my drive so I hope that means we are done with snow and ice. I paid her $20 a week for a two-minute task so it's a nice saving. I am also trying to get Comcast to lower my cable bill. I called and they gave me three plans but couldn't really explain what I was giving up. So I asked them to email me the plans. Hope they do. Since I never watch any network shows I am paying for a lot I don't use right now. (Over 200 channels, I believe) Not sure if giving up the landline is a good idea but I supposed I can get one outside of this plan. Nobody knows the number anyway. 

This week I also fixed my sink myself and changed the toner on my computer. Baby steps. 

I was so lucky to get a nice email from someone who liked SHOT IN DETROIT. He is a retired psychology professor at WSU but didn't know of my connection with the school. He is ordering two more of my books. It is nice to think a few people out there have read them. COVID has made everything in the past seem remote.

In the NYTBR today there was a full page ad by a guy hawking his short story collections. Now a full-page ad with color costs close to $200,000 so he must expect that this ad is going to sell a lot of books. Or else ego knows no price limit.

Reading these two books. The second (LAST BUS) for my book group. It really seems like a YA book to me, but I have enjoyed other books by Doig so I will stick it out. If the main character is 11 and what happens to him is consistent with what happens to 11 year olds, why is it an adult book? The language certainly isn't sophisticated either. I am also reading some stories from the Bill Crider memorial anthology. I have to say the first one by William Kent Kruger really shocked me. 

Started THE KNICK on HBO MAX, which is almost as unpleasant as the other two series I am watching. So I gave it up. I have troubles with medical shows that actually discuss illness.I watched three episodes from the nineties of Dalziel and Pascoe, where I liked the characters but found the plots overly complicated with far too many characters. I think I used to like this sort of plot but don't know. It seems too much a puzzle where you don't have many clues.

I finished IT'S A SIN, which was absolutely terrific but so sad. It is sickening how many young men died from AIDS, ashamed and alone. How many of their parents abandoned them! 

Funny show on HBO MAX Stath Lets Flats. Funny like the British version of The Office oFawlty Towers. Although after three episodes I am not sure I will keep watching it.

Going out to dinner tonight. I can hardly believe I am saying that. I thought it would be May or June before that happened. But if we have all had the shot and wear masks except to eat, it should be okay. (I hope). The restaurants here are opened at 25 % capacity.

So what are you guys up to?