Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Girl with an Ax" i(John Sanford) FROM SEA TO STORMY SEA and BEST MYSTERY STORIES of 2020


It is easy to see why this story was chosen for the best stories of 2020. Sanford is a master at character, atmosphere, place, all of it. Lots of readers especially of the mystery genre, claim they want action and yet there is no action in this story. It is all about the creation of a place and the people who inhabit it. Such lovely writing.

A woman finds her neighbor dead. She notifies the police, and the older woman's family comes and hires our protagonist to clean the digs out. They pay her almost nothing for her trouble and still she comes out on top because of their greed and haste in hiring her and selling the house. They want to beat the traffic home and sell the house in a quick sale. Great detail about the music business, the art of Thomas Hart Benton, and Hollywood in a few thousand words. 

Lawrence Block asked writers to choose a painting and write a story about it. This is not so easy to pull off. Sanford certainly excelled at not being driven by the painting he chose.

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 

George Kelley 

Casual Debris 


Todd Mason

Monday, November 28, 2022

Monday, Monday

Reading IDENTICAL STRANGERS (Jeff clued me) and enjoying it although THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS topped it because I saw it first and there was a third child. And both adoptions came from the same agency, which was exposed on the documentary. How many other lives did that place screw up. Infants are not able to give their consent to experiments!

Still reading THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUBS. I like the characters more than the mystery but maybe it will pick up. 

Saw A GLASS ONION after our Thanksgiving feast. I think I liked it the most of we six. Everyone else seemed to expect a different kind of ending. But I thought there was enough twists ahead of it. Also saw SHE SAID, which I thought was well done although I guess no one else is seeing it. Third, THE MENU, which was pretty good too.

Kevin is binging BREAKING BAD. I can't imagine doing that with such an intense show. He is not usually much of a TV watcher so this was a surprise. 

GO MICHIGAN. The Lions almost did it.

Watched THE HOURS on TV. A better movie than I remembered. Rewatched THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, which was a lesser movie than I remembered. I adored John Irving for many years but maybe our time has passed. Certain authors seem to speak to you at certain times of your life. 



What about you?

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

Fewer and fewer people probably remember the Waltons but I always loved them. From their house to yours (or your favorite restaurant) have a happy day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Hinges" Graham Swift


From the New Yorker

Graham Swift is one of my favorite writers. He won the Booker Prize for LAST ORDERS and was short listed for several other books. MOTHERING SUNDAY, WATERLAND, SHUTTERCOCK and LAST ORDERS have all been made into films.  

In this story, the two adult children of a man who died taking his golf clubs out of the trunk have gone to a minister to tell him about their father's life so he will have something to say, (about a man he didn't know) at his funeral. Funny how often this seems to happen in stories.

The woman thinks back over her father's life to an incident when she was nine and her father had called a carpenter to fix the hinges on their door. Although the carpenter was far from a young man, she is attracted to him--the first time she has experienced anything like this. And it becomes apparent that "Joe Short" is something of a Lothario in their neighborhood.

At the funeral, she considers telling this story, how her father held her hand while they waited to have their front door put back on. But in the end, she reads the poem that appears on the program. Of course, it is the writing that makes this story work. There is no eureka moment, no mystery solved, no problem overcome, just people going through a situation we have all gone through so its familiarity is soothing. And perhaps gaining some insight into their life (and ours). 

Kevin Tipple


George Kelley 

Casual Debris 

Todd Mason

Monday, November 21, 2022

Monday, Monday


Finally got my hands on THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB. Very popular. But even more astounding is my next book group book, PERSONAL LIBRARIAN, which has accumulated 28, 000 Amazon reviews in six months. Can that possibly be legit? Also trying to read MRS. DALLOWAY before the opera on December 10th.

No new movies this week. I had guests here three nights this week, which I enjoyed very much. It is much easier for folks to get in here now that the construction is finished. 

I am watching THE CROWN, THE WHITE LOTUS, FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE, 1899, and probably more whose titles are escaping me. 

We have a little snow and it is very cold but supposed to warm up in a few days. Did a little Christmas shopping and put my decorations up. 

Be careful out there and tell me what's new.

Friday, November 18, 2022

FFB-From Jeff Meyerson, back in the day....


Jeff Meyerson has been a member of DAPA-EM for over 30 years and published an early fanzine in pre-computer days called (way before the bookstore/publisher of the same name existed) The Poisoned Pen. I was a mail order book dealer, specializing in secondhand British mystery and detective fiction. I've read thousands of mysteries since 1970.

(And thousands more, thirteen years later)

John Sladek, INVISIBLE GREEN (1977)
Bari Wood, THE TRIBE (1981)
Walter Mosley, WALKIN' THE DOG (1999)

I thought what I'd do this week was go back and see what I was reading the first week in December of 1979, 1989 and 1999, and the above three titles answer that question.
Sladek was mostly a science fiction writer, of course, but he wrote two wonderfully old-fashioned locked room mysteries in the 1970's, BLACK AURA and INVISIBLE GREEN, both featuring brilliant amateur Thackeray Phin. Sadly, there were no more of them, and both certainly qualify as unjustly forgotten books. You could check the online booksellers for copies. Both are available at a cheap price on ABE and both are well worth your time. (Perhaps even harder today)
THE TRIBE was a hit at the time it came out, I believe, and Wood had several other bestsellers, including TWINS and THE KILLING GIFT. She's probably been pretty much forgotten these days, as her last published book was in 1995. To be honest I don't really remember much of this one, which the publisher tried to make a Jewish version of THE EXORCIST, with concentration camp victims and Jewish mysticism combining for rather tepid, if fast-moving, horror thrills. I don't have a copy so can't really be specific.
The Mosley was his second collection of Socrates Fortlow stories, and I'm a big fan of the series. Fortlow was a murderer who has been released from prison and is trying to get by in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood and negotiate his way in a white world. The stories here and in ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED, ALWAYS OUTGUNNED, the first book in the series, are well worth your time as Fortlow is - to me - a fascinating character, more so than Easy Rawlins.


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Short Story Wednesday, TUMBLE HOME, Amy Hempel


These are very short stories and a novella. They are often comprised of snatches of a conversation, fragments, so it is not always easy to summon up a theme. Does it need a point if it captures a moment, a truth? Some of them seem more like poems than stories. They take unexpected turns and then turn again. "How short is short?" she is asked in an interview. 

Here's one story "Memoir" 

Just once in my life, Oh, when I have ever wanted anything just once in my life?

That's is. Can you imagine the character? 

Kevin Tipple


George Kelley 

Paul Di Filippo 

Casual Debris

Monday, November 14, 2022

Monday, Monday


Well, things turned out much, much better than I expected a week ago. I have listened to a million podcasts explaining what it all means. Phil used to serve that purpose but now I am at the mercy of the various newspaper podcasts. (I don't have CNN or MSNBC on my TV to do that for me), And although I read the print version of the NYT, I need more explanation than it provides.

Winter arrived (again) this week. Only in the thirties. Watched LOVING HIGHSMITH on Kanopy but found it a strange film. It was scored and edited to look very romantic. And although they showed a scene or two from Ripley, Carol and Strangers on a Train, mostly it was extended interviews about her personal life with Mary Jane Meeker and other contemporaries. I think the intent was to soften her image. Also watching From Scratch, which is a delightful change from my usual menu of crime dramas and The Crown, (both Netflix)which I am sort of tired of by now. The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)finished with a very good episode and an ending that although not happy gave us something consoling. White Lotus (HBO) has a great second episode.

Atlanta (Hulu) also finished brilliantly. 

Really liked the movie Causeway on Hulu. 

Reading a strange book called The Old Place by Bobby Finger. Not sure who recommended it

Talked to my brother, Jeff, this week who continues to trace ancestors. Too bad I am not a Nase because he found out that Mathias Nass left Alsace on the Britannia from Rotterdam in 1731and landed in Philadelphia with his large family and settled in the Indian Valley in Bucks County/Montgomery Country. The ship's captain, Michael Franklyn changed the spelling of their name to Nehs. The spelling changed about a dozen times but they pretty much stayed in that area for 400 years. He has also traced our maternal side back to Robert Bruce and the Sheriff of Bute in the very early days of Scotland. I know almost nothing about my birth father though. My siblings (if they are that indeed) would need to do DNA testing to bring this to light.

How about you?

Friday, November 11, 2022



THE LONELY CITY was published in 2016, a few years before the pandemic's enforced isolation when a lot of people would feel loneliness, perhaps for the first time. I have been looking for books on this subject. I am not sure if I am lonely or just dislike being alone for extended periods. Although this was not quite the discussion I was looking for, it was a very interesting book. 

Laing is alone in the city and feeling isolated. She goes on to discuss, male artists mostly, that were known for sharing their loneliness through their art. Hopper comes first and certainly his paintings reflect that: empty rooms, women staring out windows, a diner at night. She also examines the life and work of Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz, Henry Darger, and various scientists searching for an AIDS vaccine or cure. 


Thursday, November 10, 2022

Cover Reveal: BEWARE THE WOMAN, May 30, 2023 Putnam Books


                          (This is Jenna Bush Hager from Today Show's Four Hour). 

Psst! Here's my new cover....🐍🐍🐍🖤🖤
Revealed with big thanks to Read With Jenna ❤️
Coming your way May 30, 2023. Preorder now, if you wanna (please!).

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO, Mary Gaitskill

Picking this collection up to avoid political news, I had forgotten just how painful Mary Gaitskill's stories are. This is the title story in a collection from the late nineties. A sixteen year old runaway takes a job babysitting for three small children (one an infant). Her travails with the kids over the course of one long day lead to her remembering her own horrific childhood. The mother never returns and eventually she leaves the kids and drifts back to her flat. Along the way she recounts a story of performing oral sex on a stranger for ten bucks. 

Now I read many dark stories and this one did keep me reading, but it was kind of like the way you have to look at an accident as you drive by it. You keep hoping things will improve and instead it only gets worse. This girl cannot be heroic because she's had too tough of a life, but boy, you need something by the end of this. I think I'm done with Mary Gaitskill. I probably should have just skipped even telling you about it. And all this was after ninety painful minutes in the dentist's chair. 

Kevin Tipple


George Kelley 

Casual Debris 

Jerry House

Monday, November 07, 2022

Monday. Monday


I am wondering if this will be the last halfway decent week politically for a long, long time. There are, of course, people who are voting correctly for their life style and bank account and such when they vote Republican. But I can't help but think the vast majority are voting for one or two issues they think the Republicans will solve. But if they do solve them it will be at the expense of the poor and middle class. If these people would just turn on the "real" news or pick up a real newspaper instead of getting their news from dubious sources, they might realize this.


Saw LA TRAVIATA, streamed from the Metropolitan Opera in NY. So lovely. Although I think the music would be superior at the Met, the closeups are just outstanding seeing it this way. 

Enjoyed KAREN PIRIE on Brtibox . Too soon to tell about WHITE LOTUS. ATLANTA is almost finished. I have learned more about Black life from this show than anything else. And the podcast that discusses it helps even more.

Today I am off to see a play. 

Reading the excellent THE LONELY CITY by Olivia Laing.  Also THE BLUEST EYE.

VOTE: PERMANENT DST, PERMANENT EST or continue switching. If Detroit stays on DST, it's sunrise would be at 9:01 am in winter. That doesn't seem right.

What about you this week?

Friday, November 04, 2022

NO HUMAN INVOLVED, Barbara Seranella

Andi Shechter, a publicist, chat host, interviewer, convention-planner, essayist and reviewer. died a few years ago. She wrote this review for me in 2009.

NO HUMAN INVOLVED, Barbara Seranella

The other day, in a fit of rereading (I get this way after trying two or three new books and finding them wanting) I picked up DEADMAN'S SWITCH by Barbara Seranella. This is a book I've read at least three times and will, undoubtedly read again. It was the last book Barbara wrote and I got annoyed thinking about that. It was the first book in a new series that featured a fascinating and terrific new protagonist, a woman with an interesting job in crisis management and an interesting life. Charlotte Lyon has obsessive compulsive disorder , an at times seriously disabling condition and Seranella it brilliantly – she was the "un-Monk" to me. (I know people with OCD and cannot watch the overbearing neurotic "Monk" who simply refuses to deal with his illness but instead expects the world to deal around him. Rrrrr.)

Sorry, off track. But see, the thing is that Barbara Seranella died in January of 2007 and that really frosts me. I'm still mad. I wasn't ready to lose a friend and to lose the person who created Munch Mancini, one of mystery's best protagonists. Her first book was NO HUMAN INVOLVED and it featured a character few of us had ever met. Munch was a junkie, an addict and was in trouble. In this first book, it's Munch's last day as an addict. She's going to get clean and sober. Throughout the history of the series, we watch her learn about all the life she missed while she was on drugs, all the hell she left behind and watch her try to get beyond it – something that's hard to do. She has debts she'll never pay, but she is learning to join society , as she puts it. Munch takes on responsibilities, sobers up without being preachy, faces the world pretty squarely and is just great to spend time with.

A couple years after I read NO HUMAN INVOLVED, I was hosting a discussion about hard-boiled mystery at a convention on a Sunday morning, It was a casual thing, a bunch of us sitting around in a circle and chatting. One of the participants in the conversation was so interesting, had so much to say and yeah, that was Barbara Seranella. I valued her friendship and the chance to catch up with her when she came to town on a book tour, and I miss her still. She had talent and used it. Her books are well crafted, and her protagonists unforgettable. This week, I'm reading my way through the Mancini series and being impressed all over again. I don't want her to be gone.

And we don't want Andi to be gone either. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: "Werner" from Jo Ann Beard's FESTIVAL DAYS


I have just begun this collection and the first story "Last Night" was a touching tale of the death of a beloved dog, but the second one "Werner" was a real knockout. It's the true story of Werner Hoeflich, an artist and caterer, who survived a fire and shared his story with Beard. Although he supplied most of the details, she turns it into art, vividly capturing his ordeal and amazing escape. Most of the stories in this collection are essay-like or actual essays. I enjoyed Beard's first two collections THE BOYS OF MY YOUTH and IN ZANESVILLE and I expect to enjoy these too. 

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 

George Kelley 

Todd Mason 

Casual Debris