Friday, March 31, 2023

FFB: A MEMORY OF MURDER, Ray Bradbury (reviewed by Jeff Meyerson)



Ray Bradbury, A Memory of Murder (1984)

Ray Bradbury is, of course, associated with the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. A lot of people don’t know he started out in his early twenties trying to write somewhat hardboiled detective fiction in the pulps on the 1940’s, helped and encouraged by his friend Leigh Brackett. 

These 15 stories were originally published between 1944 and 1948 (Bradbury was born in 1920) and you can see why he gave up the field because, while readable, many of them just don't work. In fact, I found several quite ridiculous.

As he went on and tried different things, however, he got more confident and seemed to gain greater control over his material. Nowhere is that more apparent than in one of his most famous stories (included here), 1946’s “The Small Assassin.” It may seem familiar these days, but any similar “killer child” story you might have read derives from the Bradbury rather than the other way around. That alone makes this collection worth seeking out, as does the chance to see the somewhat humble beginnings of one of the most famous genre writers of the last century.
                                                                                                                                                                                         Jeff Meyerson


Monday, March 27, 2023

Monday, Monday


Too much rain and too cold for almost April. 

Heard a very good concert at the DSO. The newish conductor (Jader Bignamini) conducts with no score on his podium, preferring instead to make eye contact with his orchestra members. We heard Rachmaninoff's Piano Concert No 2 (used so brilliantly in BRIEF ENCOUNTERS) with the pianist George Li, and a piece by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and a Brahms Symphony. Lovely morning. 

And then went to MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art) and saw a terrific exhibit by Judy Bowman, who began her work after raising ten children.

Trying to settle into a book, Almost finished PARADISE NEWS by David Lodge, which I initially liked but now feel is bogged down by quirkiness. Listening to a Laurie King Mary Russell book on audio. 

A friend said she finished every book she started and I think I am at about 20%. Probably most readers take more care with what they start. I am very promiscuous, grabbing any book off the library shelf that seems promising. But I guess there is no harm in it.

Our book group is reading THE PROPHETS by Robert Jones. Marygrove College in Detroit is bringing the author in as part of their series on contemporary fiction.

PERRY MASON seems better than the first season. Trying the NIGHT AGENT (Netflix) but the reviews were right when they criticized it's by the numbers plotting (plucky woman, brave man). Looking forward to SUCCESSION tonight, which is never by the numbers. Also watching FAUDA. So odd that it's a 30 minute show.

And finally on Sunday afternoon, a friend and I saw Oakland University's production of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. One of the few good things that happened to me during the pandemic was the discovery of Stephen Sondheim. Yes, I had heard of him before and even seen several of his shows (A Little Night Music, Assassins, Into the Woods) but I didn't really get it. And although I still am not hearing his genius completely, I am beginning to. This was a wonderful production for college students. They really did themselves proud.

What about you?

Friday, March 24, 2023

FFB: THE EVIL DAYS, Bruno Fischer (Ed Gorman reviewer)


(from the New Improved Gorman-2009)

Forgotten Books: The Evil Days by Bruno Fischer

Bruno Fischer had one of those careers you can't have any more. There's no market for any of it. He started out as editor and writer for a Socialist newspaper, shifted to terror pulps when the newspaper started failing, became a successful and respected hardcover mystery novelist in the Forties and early Fifties, and finally turned to Gold Medal originals when the pb boom began. His GMs sold in the millions. His House of Flesh is for me in the top ten of all GMs.

Then for reasons only God and Gary Lovisi understand, Fischer gave up writing and became an editor for Colliers books. But he had one more book in him and it turned out to be the finest of his long career.

Fischer shared with Howard Fast (Fast when he was writing mysteries under his pen names) a grim interest in the way unfulfilling jobs grind us down, leave us soulless. Maybe this was a reflection of his years on the Socialist newspaper. The soullessness features prominently in The Evil Days because it is narrated by a suburban husband who trains to work each day to labor as an editor in a publishing company where he is considered expendable. Worse, his wife constantly reminds him (and not unfairly) that they don't have enough money to pay their bills or find any of the pleasures they knew in the early years of their marriage. Fischer makes you feel the husband's helplessness and the wife's anger and despair.

The A plot concerns the wife finding jewels and refusing to turn them in. A familiar trope, yes, but Fischer makes it work because of the anger and dismay the husband feels when he sees how his wife has turned into a thief. But ultimately he goes along with her. Just when you think you can scope out the rest of the story yourself, Fischer goes all Guy de Maupassant on us. Is the wife having an affair? Did she murder her lover? Is any of this connected to the jewels? What the hell is really going on here?

Sometimes we forget how well the traditional mystery can deal with the social problems of an era and the real lives of real people. The hopelessness and despair of these characters was right for their time of the inflation-dazed Seventies. But it's just as compelling now as it was then when you look at the unemployment numbers and the calm reassurances by those who claim to know that the worst is yet to come.

All this wrapped in one hell of a good tale by a wily old master.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

"Blue Skies" Erin McGraw


Every so often I pick up this collection and read another story. George sent it to me two years ago and I have enjoyed the stories I have read. They are mostly about people struggling to survive in an often inhospitable USA. 

In this one, Constance has had a rocky six-year marriage. It seems like her husband has finally kicked drinking and has a steady, if low paying, job. And then his old drinking buddy, Monty turns up and their immediate camaraderie is worrisome. Monty seems different and has some ideas about how the three of them can make a better living. But Constance doesn't trust him. Or her husband. But can she quit him anymore than he can quit drink. A well-written story with good details. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 


Casual Debri

Jerry House

Todd Mason

Monday, March 20, 2023

Monday, Monday


Had a very nice trip to Florida where both Jeff's drove me up and down both coasts. The damage from Ian was astounding. I took a lot of photos but I am not posting them because they are the destruction of people's lives on display. I had no idea how widespread the destruction was. It seems like you might wait years for a new roof based on all the blue tarp covering so many houses. 

Saw a lovely garden in Naples, the Baker Museum, and the Edison House in Fort Myers. Also the Flagler Mansion in North Palm Beach. 

Lots of good food on both coasts especially a Japanese buffet in Delray Beach (I think) and a fabulous Philly Cheesesteak spot in Naples. The nicest thing was seeing my great nephew and niece who seemed very excited to  have me visit them. 

Jeff and Jackie introduced me to FAUDA. I was able to finish off THE LAST OF US, which was exciting but touching as well. Also finished POKER FACE, which I also enjoyed. 

I am still floundering in finding a book to read. I am just not a kindle reader, try as I might. But I also don't care to hold a hugely heavy hardback. So it's paperbacks for me. 

What have you guys been up to?

Monday, March 13, 2023

Monday, Monday

 What's up?

3/13/2023 What Would Have Been My Mother's 100th Birthday



                                                        Happy Birthday, Mom

Friday, March 10, 2023

FFTV-COLUMBO "Double Shock"


Again, the plot was only so-so but the humor in this episode was outstanding. Funny when thinking back on this series I didn't remember it as funny. 

(SPOILER ALERT)Twin brothers (Martin Landau) plot to murder their uncle who is getting ready to marry (Julie Newmar) and change his will. One brother is a TV chef, the other a banker. And there is an amusing routine with Columbo helping the chef out on TV. A TV show within a TV show always plays a bit awkwardly. Somehow they feel they need to make it more amateurish.

But the most amusing scenes used veteran actress Jeanette Nolan (300 TV appearances) to play a housekeeper who has trouble tolerating Columbo's messes. The two of them are perfect together. So once again you can see Falk enjoying himself in every scene. There are other interesting bits in this episode.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: Edith Pearlman: "Inbound" from BINOCULAR VISION


"Inbound" is the story of a family of four taking a trip to the Boston area. Sophie is seven, her sister, Lily, two. Lily has Downs Syndrome and this is most of all a trip where Sophie figures out just what that means for her sister, her parents and her. Although it is also a story about her getting lost and what agony this puts her family through in a strange city. The writing is lovely and I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in this collection. 

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 


Todd Mason 

Casual Debris

Jerry House 

Monday, March 06, 2023

Monday, Monday


Going to see this tonight. Meadowbrook has gone the way of most theaters now and mostly has musicals or comedies. I remember seeing very serious plays there 20 years ago. I can remember seeing ALL MY SONS and A WALK IN THE WOODS there for instance.

Haven't been to a movie theater in a long time now. I may try to sneak away to one this week though. If we don't go to movie theaters, all our movies are going to be of the Hallmark/or MCU variety. Interesting that they are going to have varied prices at some theater. Do they think this will bring more patrons in? 

Watching the same old, same old. Most seem to be wrapping up though. I am looking forward to the final season of SUCCESSION and the second season of PERRY MASON. I have also been watching SERVANT on Apple, which is actually pretty good. Certainly moody, and well acted. Not really my idea of horror so good on that.

Finished LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY, which I thought had some major flaws but I finished it so that's something. Now reading short stories by Edith Pearlman, which I had to buy. I don't understand why my library had none of her work. And it is a very good library normally. Also reading a book by Scott Ellsworth, BREAKING GROUND, about the Tulsa race riot of 1921. 

Lots of people here without power again. I do not remember this happening in the past and I guess it is because our energy use is so massive now and no one is investing in improving the grids. 

I listened to Megan discuss Paul Schrader movies on a podcast (@WatchwithJen). It is a weird thing that I can always find something on you tube or a podcast with Megan on it if I am missing her. Her schedule is crushing though. She was with Sarah Weinman at Columbia University yesterday, is off to Oxford, MS in a couple of weeks and a book festival on Long Island. And this is two months before her book comes out. The pandemic actually allowed her to do a lot of this on zoom. Now it's back to in-person events. 

I will be in Florida with Jeff Nase and Jeff Meyerson next week but I will post this so you can share things.

Anyway, what is up with you guys?

Friday, March 03, 2023

FFTV-"Any Old Port In A Story" Columbo


Among other things, COLUMBO was known for the quality of its guest stars (much like POKER FACE today) but ANY OLD PORT (Season 3 episode 2) was notable. Donald Pleasance created a character that seemed to walk right off of the screen and it is clear how much Peter Falk enjoyed acting with him.

Pleasance plays Adrian Carsini the owner of a vineyard and there is nothing more important to him that producing, buying and selling fine wine. When his half-brother, Ric (Gary Conway) tells him he intends to sell the land, Donald kills him immediately. Now what makes this a great episode for me is not the cleverness in proving his guilt (although there are few good twists) but the camaraderie established between the two characters. Although there are many fine guest appearances on COLUMBO, this is the best for me because it's quieter and more charming than most of them. The final scene between the two actors is almost as sweet as Bogie and Bergman saying goodbye in CASABLANCA. 


This was one of Falk's favorite episodes. 

What is your favorite episode?

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: The Stories of Richard Bausch: "The Fireman's Wife"

 A review a few days ago of Richard Bausch's new book THE PLAYHOUSE, sent me to my very much culled bookshelves to find a copy of this collection from 20 years ago. This story was first published in THE ATLANTIC in 1989. A young couple is having trouble early into the marriage. The husband, a firefighter, seems immature, uncaring, a poor choice made in haste. Jane is getting ready to leave him, despite the words of a friend, "Wait for love to come around and surprise you again." As Jane is pulling clothes out of her closet, two colleagues bring the husband home, he has badly burned his hands fighting a fire that killed another man on his team. Jane tends to her husband and realizes that her rush into marriage need not be repeated with a rush out of marriage and decides to wait a bit. 

Bausch wrote many stories along this line. Now domestic issues seem more the province of women. It seems to me Robert Bausch was also a writer. I will have to check. 

Todd Mason

George Kelley 

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House 


Steve Lewis 

Casual Debris