Monday, January 31, 2022

Monday, Monday

 Megan was here for two days, which was delightful although she had to endure all sorts of delays, cancellations, etc. Travel with Covid and storms is pretty stressful. We opened all of our Christmas presents finally. We went out to three meals and all the restaurants were packed. Mask-wearing is on the decline in Michigan again, which was shocking to Megan. Also shocking to her that we didn't have to present vaccination cards. I took her to  a used bookstore where she was delighted to find some James Cain and Jim Thompson books with vintage covers. Actually my friend Kathy took us. I am so lucky to have a friend that is willing to cart us around for an afternoon. 

Reading DEER SEASON, by Erin Flanagan, which is great. Also Laura Lippman's short stories, SEASONAL WORK. 

Enjoying the new HBO series SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE with Bridget Everett, ABBOTT'S ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and assorted British series on BRITBOX. Watched a bit of the Disney series on the Beatles, which is good. 

How about you?

Friday, January 28, 2022



COME CLOSER is a slim horror novel about the demonic possession of a young architect, Amanda. Amanda is seemingly happily married to Ed and having a successful career. One day her boss calls her in to his office regarding some notes she has given him, which turn out to be a X-rated rant about his deficits rather than a work- related report. Things only go downhill from here as all sorts of changes take place in Amanda's psyche and life. Early on she seizes on the idea that what's happening is demonic possession and she researches the signs of it and gradually she exhibits all of them. 

What was both original and a bit troubling to me was how little she resisted or was worried by what was happening to her. She immediately fell into it. Perhaps a dull life was rescued by this diversion. Perhaps children that have imaginary friends are prepared for events like this later in life. A good and well-written book by any standards but not a great fit for me. I needed Amanda to rage against the dark but she embraced it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "The Long Hall on the Top Floor," Caitlin R. Kiernan


This is another story from a wonderful collection a friend gave me  years ago, AMERICAN FANTASTIC TALES, 1940 to the present. I probably would never have picked this collection up were it not for short story Wednesdays. 

Deacon Silvey moved from Atlanta to Birmingham, AL after a robbery that scared him. He has substance abuse problems and is stuck doing shift work at various places. While working at a laundromat in Birmingham, a guy named Soda comes in and asks Deke if it's true that he has psychic powers. He asks him if he will use his powers to help a female friend of his. After some attempts to avoid this, Deke agrees. 

Sadie Jaspers meets up with Deke and she takes him to the top floor of a building. Deke advises her he just gets impressions so it might not be what she wants. He keeps trying to get her to tell him what she is seeing on that top floor but she insists, it's better if he sees for himself. At the very top, she points to a spot and it turns out the spot is about the way it makes you feel rather than any specific terror. It is not just cold but "indifferent, the freezing temperature of an apathy so absolute, so perfect" that Deacon vomits. He tells her the "thing" doesn't want to be seen. "It wasn't meant to be seen.'

It is hard for me to make this seem frightening here. But the writing is so sharp and these two characters so well fleshed out that we don't see what they don't see and yet believe in it. 

Kiernan writes other pieces about this twosome and has published novels as well. Good writing is a reward in itself. Deacon Silvey is a character to remember--just from a 5000 word story. And so too is Sadie Jaspers. If Kiernan had named them John Black and Sara Jones, we would not remember them nearly as well. Names are important. It is easy to forget that. 

Kevin Tipple


George Kelley 

Richard Robinson 

Todd Mason

Monday, January 24, 2022

Monday Monday

Here is the place I am looking at.


 A pretty dull week. Although I did buy a Blue Ray DVD Player so I can play the new Criterion Version of Miller's Crossing and see Megan interview the Coen Brothers. I can't see I will use it much though with streaming what it is. Megan arrives for two days on Friday. Hope our weather is warmer by then. I am watching a friend's copy of all the Dick Cavett interviews from the seventies. Some horribly hard people to interview on there. John Houston was a complete bust until Cavett asked him about Ireland and that opened the flood gates. Marlon Brando was a complete boor and bore. 

Watching Abbott's Elementary School which is funny, profound, well- done in every way. A real pleasure. So the networks can still make a good show on occasion. Looking forward to the Gilded Age on HBO. Finished the second season of The Bay, which was so much better than the first. (Thanks, Jeff M).  Gave up on Apples Never Fall (Moriarity) after 300 pages.  So overly long for the subject. Rewatched Light Sleeper (Paul Schrader). 

A friend drove me up to see an apartment complex near my son and I liked it a lot. The timing is going to be difficult because I don't know how long it will take to sell this. I guess I could pay for a month or two rent while I see. I just don't want to be out on the street. But I cannot wait not to have to figure out how to get things fixed every week of my life. And also the taxes I pay here will pay three months rent at least. If I add in what I pay for snow removal and lawn service it would be four months rent. The community I live in has no businesses to support an elementary school, library and city services so it is steep taxes. 

What about you?

Friday, January 21, 2022




After seeing the film version of THE LOST DAUGHTER on Netflix, I wanted to read the book. Although there are some differences, on the whole the film is very faithful to the book. 

Leda is a middle-aged English professor on summer holiday. In the book, all the characters are Italian and the holiday takes place in Italy. (The movie changes both of those things). Leda is attracted to and repelled by a large Italian family who spend their days on the beach near her. She is especially interested in a young mother and her daughter and the daughter's doll. In flashbacks, we learn Leda deserted her family for a three-year period to pursue her career and an attractive professor in early motherhood. 

Leda is also attracted to a much younger student hired for the summer to attend to the guests. She finds it hard to realize that she is just hotel guest to him and not a possible romance.

The doll becomes very significant in this story. Leda steals it and hides it even when the child is clearly hysterical over its loss. It is only through flash backs to Leda's time as a young mother that we see what the doll represents. Her lost daughters (although Leda is the real lost daughter, I think) are now grown and in Canada with their father and although they seem to have a relationship with their mother, it is clear Leda lives with some regret over her desertion. Leda is an extremely thorny character. I felt sympathy for her but also did not understand a lot of her actions.

But I thought this was a very fine novel. Not many books have examined the consequences of a mother deserting her children and the society is not very forgiving of it. I also enjoyed MY BRILLIANT FRIEND a few years ago.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "THe Blue Lenses" Daphne DuMaurier

"The Blue Lenses" is another story from DON'T LOOK NOW. a collection by Daphne Du Maurier. This story so much resembled a TWILIGHT ZONE episode I was convinced I could find it online. But the somewhat similar TZ episode was THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER and not this story.

Marda West is in the hospital following surgery on her eyes. At first her eyes are completely bandaged and she lies in bed with nothing to occupy her days. The doctor and hospital staff care for her, feed and bathe her. Her husband visits when he can get away. 

When the bandages are removed, her temporary lenses, make the staff and doctor looks like various animals from the head up. Her surgeon has a dog’s head. Her day nurse has the head of a cow. Nurse Ansel has the head of a snake and her husband Jim, that of a vulture with a “blood-soaked beak.” At first she thinks the nurses are playing a cruel trick on her, but eventually she comes to realize  she has been granted the  ability to see those around her as they really are. The lenses have removed blindness both literal and metaphorical. 

She is frightened, of course, especially when she sees that people on the street resemble animals too. Marda manages to insult everyone with her terror of their looks and eventually attempts to run away. She is captured and endures another surgery to correct the problem. This time she awakes to normal faces on everyone around her. There is one final scene you can read for yourself. You might guess what it is.


George Kelley 

Steve Lewis

Monday, January 17, 2022

Monday, Monday


If you've never seen his yearly tribute (David Erlich: I hadn'T) here is 2021.

I enjoyed the Signature Theater's tribute to Stephen Sondheim's music this weekend. It was on you tube for two days and they did quite a number of his most famous songs. Especially from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, which was a flop when first produced. In Merrily the characters age from old to young and as we speak Richard Linklater is making a movie where just that happens. Unfortunately the movie won't be out until 2040 when the young cast (Beanie Feldstein, Ben Platt) is old enough to play the older cast--must as he did with BOYHOOD. I saw one production at the Signature Theater (Arlington VA) in 2019 of ASSASSINS and enjoyed it but I knew very little about Sondheim then. The last two years have caught me up a bit.

Listened to GOODBYE COLUMBUS again. I have probably read this novella half a dozen times. It is a sort of touchstone to my youth. Also still reading HAMNET (excellent) and APPLES NEVER FALL by Liane Moriarty.

On TV I am watching the Jerry House recommended BEFOREIGNERS, which is very clever and YELLOW JACKETS, which I don't like as much as the reviews promised me I would. In my rewatch of CHEERS I am on the last season and after two great seasons, the last two have fallen off in quality. 

It has been very cold here but sunny and no snow in two weeks. Today it might be warm enough for a walk. I try to walk around my house to get some exercise but it is difficult. What do you do for exercise in the winter and what else are you doing? It must be great to be in FL or CA and be able to walk every day.

Friday, January 14, 2022


Reviewed by Ed Gorman in 2016 

  THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF Elizabeth Sanxay Holding

One of the more familiar knocks on mystery fiction is that it rarely treats death seriously. That too often murder is simply the device that propels the story and not much more. I think that's a fair criticism and I certainly include my own work as being guilty of that particular sin. Murder, even literary murder, should HURT.

I'd also add to that criticism the various addictions common to the genre, namely alcoholism and drug addiction. Only Lawrence Block and a few others have taken us into the real world of recovering alcoholics. For the most part addiction has become just another keystroke common to the world of mystery fiction.

I've read three novels in my life that have described accurately--in my experience as an alcoholic--the horrors of being drunk most of your life. Certainly Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, After the First Death by Lawrence Block and a novel you've probably never heard of, though alcoholic Raymond Chandler pushed it as one of the finest suspense novels of his time.

For some reason, much as I've pushed her here, I'd never read THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. It is remarkable in many ways, not least because the protagonist, Jacob Duff is drunk for virtually the entire novel. And we see 95% of the book through his eyes. Functionally drunk for most of it but also falling-down drunk in places. Holding's genius was to sustain a sense of dread that I don't think even Ruth Rendell has equaled. There are times in her novels when I have to put the book down for a few minutes. They are that claustrophobic in mood and action.

That's the first most remarkable aspect of the book. The second most remarkable is the fact that we see the book through the eyes of one of the most arrogant, self-involved, cold and self-deluded man I've ever encountered in fiction of any kind. I hated the bastard so much--I'm not enamored of the upper-classes, alas, and Duff embodies everything I loathe about them--I almost gave up after chapter three. I wasn't sure I wanted to learn anything more about this jerk,

But Holding has the voodoo, at least for me. She makes me turn pages faster than any best-seller because what you're rushing to discover is the fate of her people. All the good folks in this one are women, especially Duff's younger, beautiful and very decent wife. He constantly compares her unfavorably to his first wife, though we soon learn that he didn't care much for his first wife, either. At age forty he's still looking for his dream woman. God have mercy on her soul if he ever finds her.

As always with Holding, as with much of Poe, what we have is not so much a plot (though she's as good as Christie) as a phantasmagoria of despair, distrust and suspicion that consumes the protagonist. Is his wife cheating on him? Is she setting up his death so she'll inherit his estate? Is she turning his young son against him? Has his wealthy aunt, his life-long mentor and mother confessor, taken the side of his young wife? Has his drinking disgraced him in his small town and are all those smirks aimed at him? And finally, is he a murderer? And why does he have to sneak around these days to drink?

If you're curious about Holding, this is a good place to start. Anthony Boucher always said that she was the mother of all psychological suspense novelists. What's interesting is how few, fifty-some years after her death, have come close to equaling her enormous powers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Kiss Me Again, Stranger" Daphne DuMaurier


The link above is to a filmed version that played on SUSPENSE in 1953.

Our narrator tells us that he has never had much interest in women, preferring a quiet regular life. He has found a job in a garage and has a bedroom with an elderly couple, which suits him fine. He eats with them and even visits friends along with them. He likes his boss and sends money to his mother. But one night at a movie theater, he meets an usherette who changes all that. His immediate attraction seems reciprocated and he finds himself on a bus trip to the end of the line. Walking back, she notices a cemetery and encourages him to come sit on a gravestone with her. He tells her about his life: he spend the war in the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) and she tells him how her parents were killed by the German flyers. She sends him home eventually and the next day he buys a piece of jewelry for her and goes back to the cinema. Of course, she is gone.

This seemed like a ghost story until the end. I won't tell you anymore in case you decide to read it. It was a very absorbing story and the two characters were well fleshed out. 

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House


Frank Babics 

George Kelley 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Monday, Monday


An odd week. Lots of sun, which is unusual for Michigan in the winter, but cold so sidewalks are icy with the last snow still. The number of sick grows in Michigan, but driving past restaurants last night, filled with patrons, it's like most people have shrugged and are letting fate take its course.

Three great movies this week. Loved THE LOST DAUGHTER, because the issues it examines: motherhood and a woman having a career are so seldom looked at. Hard to believe this is Maggie Gylenhall's first directing/writing job. It reminded me so much of a movie by Eric Rohmer or Bergman, perhaps a bit of both. And yet the subject is so much Ferrante, who wrote the novel is it based on.

Also loved the philosophical NINE DAYS. You can rent it on Amazon for $6. Sort of a combo of WINGS OF DESIRE and DEFENDING YOUR LIFE although no humor in it. 

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH was so well directed and filmed. Although I didn't quite buy a Macbeth and Lady this old, it was credible. And so many lovely supporting roles. Saw this at a theater where there were perhaps 25 people on a Wednesday afternoon at 2.

Reading HAMNET for my book group and it is terrific. It is the story of the death of William Shakespeare's son from the Black Death. I think this is one we will all like and finish. 

Anxious to see the last episode of STATION ELEVEN this week. Then I will hopefully watch it all over again to pick up the many things I missed. It is not a show to watch with your phone in hand because you miss to much. Just started YELLOW JACKETS on SHOWTIME. I can't believe how many streaming channels I have now. But what else is there beside books and TV.

Megan made reservations to come out the last weekend in January. It seemed like things would calm down by then but I am not sure. The largest hospital group had a full page ad in the local paper saying they are at capacity and so you better do what you need to to say out of the hospital. But nothing seems to stop these people from going bare-faced and vaccinated wherever they want. Sad that Michigan went right from Delta to Omicron.

What's new with you?

Friday, January 07, 2022



At age seven, Frank Rich became addicted to the theater. Living in D.C. he saw a lot of shows on their way to Broadway, and ones that never got there. To me, watching a boy find his niche so early and pursue it so ardently was fascinating. His interest in theater also saved him during his parents' divorce and subsequent remarriages. His stepfather is a brute in some respects, but he also loved the theater and supported Rich's ardor for it. Rich's ambivalence becomes ours.

Although the memoir ends before Rich found his way to reviewing plays for the New York Times, most people who picked this book up in 2001 and later know that. It is too bad he didn't write about that in a second volume but maybe it is not as gripping a story as this one. Highly recommended for theater lovers.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Miriam" Truman Capote

Miriam is the story of a sixty something widow (Mrs. Miller) who is leading a lonely life. She puts on her galoshes one night and makes her way to a movie theater where a girl insinuates herself into her life. First by asking her to buy her a ticket and eventually turning up at her apartment demanding food, jewelry etc. At first Mrs. Miller is annoyed but eventually her annoyance turns to fright. Just as she thinks she is rid of the child, there she is again. 

This story won Capote an O'Henry award for the best first story in 1946. Here is what Capote said when someone wrote asking him the meaning of his story.

Although the writing is excellent and the atmosphere perfect, this didn't quite work for me. I guess I expect a ghost story to frighten me and although Miriam frightened Mrs. Miller, she didn't scare me.  Maybe watching too many Twilight Zones episodes similar to this are to blame. 

George Kelley

Jerry House

Kevin Tipple 


Todd Mason

Monday, January 03, 2022

Monday, Monday

There are certain writer's voices I can't resist. And Sigrid Nunez is one of them for me. So although I wasn't more than a few pages into SALVATION CITY before I realized it was about a pandemic, I couldn't give up. And boy dp the pandemic and her observations on it hit close to home.

 Just finishing up the  Frank Rick (GHOST LIGHT) book, which seems made for Jeff Meyerson.

 Really enjoyed the TCM podcast on Desi and Lucy. (The Plot Thickens). The movie, not so much.

 I enjoyed GUYS AND DOLLS on NYE.

I have seen the Broadway show and a version in Stratford and another early version by Kurt Weill at the Shaw Festival but don't remember ever seeing the movie before. The music has always knocked me out.

Also enjoying ANXIOUS PEOPLE on Netflix based on the Frederick Bachman novel. Very amusing.

If you enjoy animation, you might like the delightful BLUEY on Disney. 


I am finding I have to watch every episode of STATION ELEVEN twice. My mind drifts.

Well, gang the radiologist said I don't strictly have to have radiation. My age and numbers make it highly unlikely this will come back. But my oncologist might overrule this and go for my having five radiation treatments. I will call early in the week to see what he says. Although I could overrule him myself and opt for not doing it--especially now. Do I diminish my resources for fighting off Covid? So hard to know. Either way I will take an estrogen-blocking drug for five years.

Saturday, January 01, 2022