Friday, September 30, 2022


At heart this is a domestic novel set in Australia. But Liane Moriarty was clever enough to put enough twists and turns to keep a reader who likes suspense engaged. It entwines several women and their respective families, all connected to the same school, and gives them stories rich and complex enough to allow them interact on several levels.

Of course, the very title seduces you.

One character, mother of three girls, and a woman who prides herself on being on top of things, finds a letter addressed to her from her husband with the warning it is not to be read until after his death. What she does with this letter forms the first part of the novel. But we also having a grieving mother about to lose her beloved grandchild in a move to the US, and a marriage threatened from an odd angle.

The stories are all interesting enough to keep you turning pages in the second half of the book. And the first surprise is not the only one.

The strength of the book lay in its "what-ifs." The repercussions of human behavior, often the actions that occur without thought or notice,  is at its heart.

Liane Moriarty has written several even more popular books including BIG LITTLE LIES, NINE PERFECT STRANGERS and  APPLES NEVER FALL. 



- Roger Zelazny (from the archives: Bill Crider)

I love Roger Zelazny's early books, but for a time there he was writing things that didn't engage me nearly as much.  I kept on reading them, mind you (well, except for the Amber series) because I kept hoping that he'd return to form.  And then, with his final book, he did.  I should have written about this one for Halloween, but it slipped down in the stack and I didn't get to it until now.  

To begin with, let me say that this is the best book you'll ever read that's narrated by Jack the Ripper's dog.  If that idea puts you off and makes you doubt that this is your kind of book, I'd say you're wrong.  

The dog's name is Snuff, and the story he tells has to do with the Great Game that is played during the month leading up to Halloween in those years when there's a full moon on that date.  That's when the Great Old Ones of Lovecraftian lore make their attempt to enter a gateway into our world.  There are two groups of players, the Openers and the Closers.  Jack has played before, but it appears that none of the others in this game have.  So far, the Closers have always won, but it's often a tight race.  The players this time consist of Jack the Ripper, the Universal monsters (I know they didn't originate with Universal, but their characters in this book come from the movies, not the original sources), a Mad Monk, a witch, a Druid, a clergyman, and a couple of others.  Sherlock Holmes and Watson are also important characters, and all the players have familiars, of which Snuff is one.  The familiars are excellent characters, too, especially Graymalk, the cat, whose relationship with Snuff is one of the book's highlights.

The Game has rules, but sometimes they get violated, and it's fairly complicated.  I'm a little surprised nobody's developed it as an actual game to be played by gaming fans.  I'm sure it could be done.

A Night in the Lonesome October is stylish, poetic, at times hilarious, suspenseful, and just a whole lot of fun.  And did I mention the Gahan Wilson illustrations?  No?  Well, there's one for each night of the month, with maybe a couple of extras. Great stuff.  If you're looking for a treat, don't wait until next year to read this one.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "The Sensible Thing," F. Scott Fitzgerald 


"That though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind."

William Wordsworth

This Fitzgerald story certainly reminds me of this passage.   

                            Here is the final passage in "The Sensible Thing"

 “Yes,” he whispered into her lips. “There’s all the time in the world…”

All the time in the world–his life and hers. But for an instant as he kissed her he knew that though he search through eternity he could never recapture those lost April hours. He might press her close now till the muscles knotted on his arms–she was something desirable and rare that he had fought for and made his own–but never again an intangible whisper in the dusk, or on the breeze of night…

Well, let it pass, he thought; April is over, April is over. There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice.

George O'Kelley is in love with Jonquil, a girl from Tennessee (and much like Zelda Sayre from Alabama in FSF's own life). George is an engineer, temporarily working in insurance.  Things do not quite work out for them on the first try; George is rather a failure and competing men are lining the porch at Jonquil's house.  But he goes off, goes to South America, and wildly succeeds, returning ten months later. They go for a walk in a magnificent garden and it ends with a kiss and the word abpve

(Scott later noted: “Story about Zelda + me. All true.”)

Kevin Tipple 

George Kelley

Monday, September 26, 2022

Monday, Monday


If I had to choose my favorite author, it would be Elizabeth Strout. I have loved following Olive Kitteridge and Lucy Barton and the Burgess Boys for the last twenty years. However, LUCY BY THE SEA may be more than I can handle since it takes Lucy from the first days of the pandemic up until the book's publication. It painfully brings back our isolation, our impotence, our mistakes in handling a pandemic and how other issues erupted to make it even more critical. And yet I can't stop reading it even though I know it is not really a good idea to relive it. Her voice is so powerful.

Also reading THINGS WE LOST IN THE WATER, Eric Nguyen for my book group. Speaking of which, Naomi Hirahara zoomed with us last week talking about CLARK AND DIVISION and was a wonderful guest speaker. Can't wait to read EVERGREEN, which comes out next summer. 

No movies to report. If GOD'S COUNTRY comes your way, it's worth seeing.

Enjoying REBOOT, BAD SISTERS, THE HANDMAID'S TALE and trying to catch up with various VERAS I have missed over the years on TV.  I need a good British mystery now and then, and especially enjoy Ann Cleeves style of mystery. I see SHETLAND is back. I might have to join whichever Brit streamer it's om.

Saturday night, I went with friends to TRINITY HOUSE, a tiny live music venue in Livonia, MI where many local musicians played songs they had written during Covid. So nice to hear live music.

What's up with you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Short Story Wednesday, "The Tooth" Shirley Jackson


Clara is suffering from a tooth ache, which as her unnamed husband reminds her, has been bothering her since their honeymoon. Full of codeine and aspirin and despite her claim she feels funny and light-headed, he puts her on a bus for a very long trip into Manhattan. Her husband has insisted on this, claiming the local dentist is a butcher. It is very hard to understand why he doesn't accompany her in the state she is in. She has even taken a sleeping pill?

The bus stops at roadside cafes many times and a man named Jim begins to accompany Clara, talking of some magical place. He gets her into the city where her dentists sends her to a surgeon. During most of the story Clara seems only semi-conscious of where she is and what is happening. Of course, gas administered by the surgeon further removes Clara from reality. When it is all finished, Jim is waiting for her and they run barefoot into the hot sand. 

Having been through many dental procedures like Clara's it is pretty familiar. And clearly Shirley Jackson has too. Much of the time, I was in awe Clara could navigate from place to place as drug-addled as she was. This story was seen as very Freudian at the time it was published with all those teeth references. Was Jim real? I doubt it. But clearly such a rescue was something Clara wished for. (And maybe Shirley too). If you have seen the Elizabeth Moss movie on Shirley Jackson, Clara is all the more familiar. 

Kevin Tipple

Steve Lewis 

Jerry House 


George Kelley 

James Reasoner 

J Escribano

Monday, September 19, 2022

Monday Monday


 The Handmaid's Tale is back and as scary as ever. Hard to imagine how Elizabeth Moss directed and acted in this episode. She is half-crazy for most of it. Still I have to see it out at this point. Finished Dopesick, which was great if disheartening. 

Saw See How They Run, which was pretty bad. Eight of us went and our opinions ranged from okay for a Saturday morning to never okay. What a waste of a good cast. 

Spent one day exploring Wyandotte, MI, which is along the Detroit River and quite a hip town. A friend of Phil and mine from our Lambertville, NJ days in the late sixties had an art gallery there. He is now dead but we met his widow Patt Slack who now runs it. 

Still plowing along on the same book as last week. But I did finish Clark and Division, which Naomi Hirahara will discuss with my book group on Tuesday night. What a nice job she did with exploring the Japanese-Americans sent to Chicago from Manzinaar but also creating characters to care about. 

What about you?

Friday, September 16, 2022


William Maxwell was one of my favorite writers. He died about twenty years ago leaving a handful of novels and many shorts stories and essays. My favorite of his novels is TIME WILL DARKEN IT.

When the King family is paid a visit from distant Southern relatives, Austin King, eager to impress a female cousin and repay their kindness to his father, behaves in such a way as to threaten his marriage, his law practice, and his reputation as a young attorney. His pregnant wife is especially torn asunder by his actions.

Maxwell makes every character in this seemingly ordinary story come to life. I can't think of many books I closed so reluctantly and yet with such complete satisfaction. His novels include:

  • Bright Center of Heaven (1934)
  • They Came Like Swallows (1937)
    • An autobiographical novella about the cruel impact of the 1918 flu epidemic, as seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old midwestern child and his family
  • The Folded Leaf (1945)
  • Time Will Darken It (1948)
  • The Chateau (1961)
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980) (Winner of the William Dean Howells Medal and National Book Award for Fiction)
    • An aging man remembers a boyhood friendship he had in 1920s Illinois which falters following a murder.


Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Return of Noircon

Check it out. We can all take part in this virtually.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Certain European Movies" Emma Cline (THE NEW YORKER)

Like the Hemingway story of a few months ago, this is about a couple, probably in Spain or at least in a Spanish speaking country. This couple doesn't know each other well and it isn't clear if they met on this trip or arranged it. (They are probably academics) She is older than him and the story is from her perspective. The plot is mostly about their trips to various beaches, their difficulty in finding places in a foreign country. How the Europeans staying at this residence find them humorous. 

One beach had become theirs, even though there really is no theirs.

This couple seems ill-suited to each other. There is an age difference. They take pictures, which she knows they will delete before returning home. He has a family in the States

Now if I wasn't looking for a story to talk about today, would I have finished this? Probably yes because unlike the first story I tried (Kelly Link) this one read easily enough. But even on my third read of a fairly short story, I was still picking up hints on its themes. I think I will read it again too.

Interesting how the author (also of THE GIRLS, based on the Manson girls) doles out information stingily, making you hungry for it.  Probably few would have had to read it 4 times to get it all. I think I am a day-dreamy reader, always thinking what I might say were I writing it.

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House

George Kelley 

Casual Debris

Monday, September 12, 2022

Monday, Monday


Reading THE SACRAMENT by Olaf Olaffson. I heard him speak on one of the book podcasts I listen to and was impressed. He's written several books, but this one is about a nun drawn back into an old crime. The writing is beautiful, which means so much to me when I read. If the writing is gorgeous, the plot can just be okay. But on TV it is only dialog that gets to shine. Very different when you think about it.

I went to Ann Arbor with a friend and was shocked at how many towering buildings have gone up in the last decade. Their medical center(s) are so dominant now. That must mean the future is in medicine. Visited the beautiful Matthai Gardens. The streets downtown have been pedestrianized and bike lanes are everywhere.

Got my omicron booster today. Quite a long wait, which I never had with the last two boosters. 

Watching DOPESICK and THE PATIENT. Finished SLOW HORSES but in the end I was not that impressed. It has a great premise as to a division for failures in MI5, but the crime this one featured seemed dull. And all the scenes were of men driving around in the dark and engaging in man talk. It never lived up to the first brilliant scenes. Ah well, maybe his plots get more interesting. It used to be British series were about the upper crust. Now they all seem to be about gangs, immigrants, and drugs. (So too so many novels from all countries).

No movies of interest.

Off to my writing group in the hope it will spur me to write more.

What about you? 

Friday, September 09, 2022

THE CASE OF THE LUCKY LEGS, Erle Stanley Gardiner

 (review by Sarah J Wesson)

THE CASE OF THE LUCKY LEGS, Erle Stanley Gardiner

While Earle Stanley Gardiner can hardly be called a forgotten author, nor Perry Mason a forgotten character, the books that first introduced these icons to the public appear to be fading from memory. Or at least they are in my library, where most of them have been relegated to the large print shelves so that the patrons who grew up reading about the singular cases of the granite-hard defense attorney can enjoy them without squinting.

The earliest Gardiner in our collection is The Case of the Lucky Legs. First published in 1933, it was the fifth of what would be roughly eighty-two Perry Mason adventures. Stilted by our standards, with rigid standards of grammar and punctuation, and---heaven forbid---not a few adverbs, this mystery still grabs the imagination and keeps it there until the last page.

The case starts with a provocative photograph of a pair of shapely female legs, sent to the lawyer by a prominent businessman, who wants Mason to do something about a fraud that has hurt a young lady of his acquaintance. It seems that a movie studio man has been conning innocent girls into competing in a Lucky Legs contest, the winner of which is promised a screen career that never materializes. Unfortunately, there is no legal recourse unless the con man confesses.

Unlike the televised, post World War II Perry Mason who has entered our cultural lexicon, the Perry Mason of the 1930s wasn't afraid to get his hands or his ethics dirty---he basically agrees beat a confession out of the huckster, though he does pause to square this plan with the county prosecutor before heading to the man’s hotel. In the lobby, he bumps into a frightened young lady with good-looking gams, so it comes as no surprise---to the reader or our hero---that Mason discovers the murdered body of the con man. Moments before the police arrive, alerted by a neighbor who heard a woman’s screams, Mason extracts himself by a bit of slick trickery and gets to work.

It seems odd that Perry Mason doesn’t set foot in a courtroom in Lucky Legs---he didn't settle into regular trial work until later in the series. It’s clear that Gardiner is till getting to know his character and hadn’t quite settled on his formula. But Mason does tamper with a crime scene, trap himself in a legal corner or two, smoke enough to stun a camel, and bring the murderer to justice at the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour despite numerous red herrings. Furthermore, his client is as lovely and clueless as they come and the man footing the bill is an interfering, opinionated pain in the tuchus. Della Street is smart, sassy, and loyal, while Paul Drake is hangdog, hungry, and resourceful.

These are among the golden elements that have kept Perry Mason going for almost eighty years. They’re well worth a revival, not only as the prototypes to modern legal procedurals or slices of social history, but as terrific who-on-earth-dunnits.

I confess that I check out these books fairly often to keep them off the weeding reports. If that's a crime, I doubt even Hamilton Berger, Mr. Mason's D.A. foil and frenemy, could bring himself to prosecute.


Wednesday, September 07, 2022

First Wednesday Book Review: TASTE: MY LIFE IN FOOD, Stanley Tucci


In the days before I cut the cord, I enjoyed Stanley Tucci's trek through Italy on CNN. I have also enjoyed him in movies like BIG NIGHT and JULIA AND JULIE. Listening to him read this on audio was a treat. He begins with his childhood and the sort of dishes he grew up eating in his Italian-American family who lived in Katonah, NY.  He included the lunches he took to school, what he ate after school, what the other kids were eating. All the sort of information a reader finds interesting but by not think to ask.

His mother was a terrific cook despite working full-time and food was an important part of their life. This book is full of recipes, advice on buying and cooking food, and the kind of thing it is interesting to hear about--like what they feed actors on sites filming movies and TV shows. He shares great meals he has had all over the world and the people he has had them with. This is a terrific book if food interests you at all. 

For more book reviews, please visit Barrie Summy's blog right here.

Short Story Wednesday: Two Stories from MISSISSIPPI NOIR

 "Uphill," Mary Miller and "Cheap Suitcase and a New Town," Chris Offutt

These are two beautifully written stories. I enjoyed them both but reading them in succession is probably a mistake. Especially with noir stories whose characters and settings tend to be much alike. Both stories had a female protagonist who was a match for anyone who went up against her.  

I have read other work by the authors.  BILOXI by Mary Miller and MY FATHER, THE PORNOGRAPHER by Chris Offutt.

The NOIR books is such an extensive series now. Clearly a lot of people have a yearning for these dark stories.  I have dipped into these books over the years but have never read an entire volume. How about you guys?Are you fans of this series or noir in general? 

Kevin Tipple


George Kelley 

Steve Lewis 

Todd Mason

Monday, September 05, 2022

Monday, Monday

 Saw HALLELUJAH, the movie about Leonard Cohen at the theater. There were four of us, yet the ticket seller warned us to sit in our assigned seats. The theater held perhaps 200 seats.

At home, Criterion is running the "kitchen sink" British films of the 50s-60s. I have seen them all before but it's fun to see them again. So far I have watched THE GIRL WITH THE GREEN EYES and THE L-SHAPED ROOM. Both are overly long but have lots of good things in them. Seeing Rita Tushingham, 22 at the time, with Peter Finch, 48 is more alarming now than then I think. We were used to seeing Audrey Hepburn with every aging actor of the time around then.

Finally getting to SLOW HORSES, which is very good. Also moderately like BAD SISTERS. 

A rainy day here. Not many of them this summer. 

Reading CLARK AND DIVISION still. I have to spread it out so I won't forget it for the book group. Naomi is going to visit us via zoom. I didn't have much luck with FEN after making my library round it up for me. Reading one strange story is perhaps enough for me. 

What's up with you?

Friday, September 02, 2022


 from the archives: Rick Robinson

The Jewel That Was Ours by Colin Dexter, Ballantine (Ivy), 1991, paperback, mystery, police procedural – Inspector Morse

Jewel That Was OursThis is Inspector Morse’s ninth outing, if I have the count right, and though I’ve tried to read these in order it’s been a while and I think I pulled this off the shelf out of order. Still, little seems to have changed, perhaps Lewis is slightly more confident, and Morse is an angrier, sadder, boozier man than I remembered from the last one I read.

I liked John Thaw as Morse on the Mystery! and now I can’t read these books without picturing him in the role. No problem there.

This story concerns a group of tourists, all from California, on a tour of Oxford and other historical cities. One of the group is going to present an Oxford museum with The Wolverton Tongue, part of a buckle artifact originally set with three rubies (only one left now). The woman has a heart attack, the “jewel” is stolen, then a lecturer is murdered. Morse is attracted to a woman who drinks too much and is one of the lecturers to the group. With two deaths and a theft, the tour halts while Morse and Lewis investigate the many clues.

Dexter is a pleasure to read, though the last chapter seems overly drawn out in this book. Still, the motives are sound, the red herrings sufficiently convincing, the language satisfying, the clues well if scantily placed, and it’s another good Morse outing. These books are satisfying enough that I never seem to want to read two in a row, but each time I pick one up I’m glad I did. I think I still have a couple unread, so there is more to enjoy ahead. I was lucky enough to meet him at a signing some years ago in southern California, he was a very personable fellow.

If your only experience with Morse is with the televised series, I encourage you to try the books, these are very good.