Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: AT THE GATES OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, Amy Hempl

 Amy Hempl is considered a master of the minimalist short story. Many of her stories are less than 3000 words and still manage to convey characters and story. "Rapture of the Deep" is about a temp sent to spend Halloween with a bedridden woman who is afraid to have her house unguarded with kids coming to the door. All the things they might do in revenge, which she outlines. Their conversation mostly concerns the rings the invalid has on her fingers. Then the temp confides the death of a man she was engaged to by "Rapture of the Deep" which is what happens when someone scuba diving goes too deep and loses consciousness. The temp leaves, taking some Halloween candy and paper clips with her and remembers too late the remote is out of the woman's reach. The stories are slight but leave the reader with something to think about. 

Todd Mason

George Kelley 

Kevin Tipple 


Jerry House

Monday, May 29, 2023

Monday, Monday

 A quiet week with too many doctor appointments. Nothing serious but once you have cancer, even one not requiring anything too horrible, you are constantly being checked. And this week a colonscopy, which would be bad enough but I am sure I will flash back to the last one where Phil was diagnosed with colon cancer. 

Very nice weather although we went from forties to almost ninety in a week. Reading THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS for my book group. So far, it is too twee for me but maybe that will disappear as our heroine ages. I got 2/3 through STAY TRUE but got bored with the examination of nineties music, which seems to be most of it. Read an article about Alice Sebold in the NEW YORKER, which was terrifying. She was the author of LOVELY BONES and LUCKY and her false (inadvertent) testimony put a man behind bars for 20 years. 

TV-So sad SUCCESSION ends tonight. MRS MAISEL ended well but after a lackluster final season. TED LASSO and BARRY are also ending. Still watching PORTRAIT PAINTER OF THE YEAR, which as someone with 0 artistic talent, I find fascinating. 

What about you? 


Friday, May 26, 2023

The Pierre Chambrun series by Hugh Pentecost

 I love looking at some of the older forgotten book posts and this one really peaked my interest. AGAIN.

(From Kaye Barley in the archives)

The Pierre Chambrun series by Hugh Pentecost

Hugh Pentecost. I thought I had remembered the
PERFECT forgotten books. Perfect! Couldn’t wait to squeal about an author who I haven’t heard mentioned in forever. You can imagine how my chin hit the floor as I read Lesa Holstine’s November 28th blog post when the name Hugh Pentecost jumped off the page at me.

But, Lesa and I do tend to enjoy a lot of the same books, so perhaps not too surprising. Except this was a series which ended in 1988! How ironic is it for the two of us to want to re-read and remember these books at exactly the same time, and want to bring them to “Friday’s Forgotten Books?” It gives even more emphasis to the fact that they deserve to be remembered. Lesa did her usual excellent job in bringing these books to life and stirring some interest.

If you haven’t already read the Pierre Chambrun series, I too encourage you to try to find them and give them a try. I
think my love of and curiosity regarding all things having to do with hotels must stem from discovering Kay Thompson’s ELOISE at an early age. I find myself drawn to books which have hotels as a “character.” Especially a luxury hotel, which is a world unto itself. Upon discovering this series, I was in heaven. I continue re-reading the novels and short stories simply to lose myself in the Beaumont Hotel.

Hugh Pentecost was the pseudonym of Judson Philips (1903-1989). Philips was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America and served as its third president, in addition to being Grand Master in 1973. Pentecost’s luxurious Beaumont Hotel is the leading character in 22 books. When asked if the Beaumont was based on the Plaza, the Ritz, or another luxury New York City hotel, Mr. Pentecost replied that although he knew these grandhotels well, none of them were as well known to him, nor as well loved, as his own Beaumont, which was as real to him as his own home.

While we don’t ever find Eloise scampering the halls of the Beaumont, there’s a host of interesting characters with their own stories and secrets to keep us entertained. At the start of the series, which was begun in 1962, we’re introduced to Pierre Chambrun who is the much admired, well loved, lord and master over the Beaumont. We’re also introduced to a cast of supporting characters – most of whom are still employed by the hotel when the series ends in 1988. The
re are few character changes; but the changes are important to the series, and I think perhaps one of the reasons for its successful, long life. They include replacing Mr. Chambrun’s original insignificant secretary with the intriguing Ms. Ruysdale. The involvement between Chambrun and Ruysdale is developed slowly and intricately during the series until the very last line in the very last book leaving no mistake as to the nature of their relationship.

Another important change is losing a likeable key character, Alison Barnwell, public relations manager. Alison marries and she and her husband move away from the city to open their own hotel. By replacing Alison with Mark Ha
skell, the series gains its “voice.” It's through Mark that the rest of the stories are told. The relationship between Mark and Pierre is very much like that between Nero Wolfe and Archie. A relationship which would not have been as wholly believable with a female character during this time period. One additional recurring character who remains a favorite is the elderly Mrs.Victoria Haven. Penthouse resident. One time stage star, and legendary beauty. A woman of great dignity, intelligence, mystery and humor. My favorite books in the series are the ones which include Mrs. Haven. Into this close, closed and tight knit community fall the adventures of the rich and famous, infamous, innocent or not so, scrupulous or unscrupulous, always intriguing visitors with mysteries begging to be solved.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023


The Collected Stories of Ernest Hemingway (reviewed by Ed Gorman)

If you grew up in the Forties or Fifties it was impossible to imagine that the literary luster of Ernest Hemingway would ever dim. I've never known of a writer as imitated (usually badly) as ole Papa.

He loved it. He carefully crafted the public persona of adventurer and man's man the press and the people loved. Novels such as A Farewell To Arms and For Whom The Bell Tolls outsold the books of his contemporaries.

But time and taste caught up with him and we now see that Hemingway's novels weren't quite as good as we once thought. He certainly had no Gatsby to brag of nor even a Grapes of Wrath by the despised Steinbeck; Papa believed he was a terrible writer. For me the only novel of his worth reading now is The Sun Also Rises. It's not a great novel but it's fascinating one and much truer to the real Hemingway than the novels he wrote afterward.

But then there are the short stories. Back in the day his collected stories were referred to with great reverence as The First Forty-Nine. Many of them were reprinted dozens if not hundreds of times around the world, textbooks included. They still deserve the reverence paid them back then.

From his story of death and dying ("A Clean, Well-Lighted Place") to his sad and ironic tale of a soldier who came back from the First World War too late for the parades ("Soldier's Home:) to the stories set in Upper Michigan this is American literature at its finest. This was Hemingway before he became Papa--the confused boy-man who went to war and then set himself up in Paris to write.

In numerous stories here he proves himself the equal of Faulkner (whom he saw as his main competition--he'd already arrogantly written off his old friend (and the guy who got him his Scribner contract) Fitzgerald) in experimenting with point of view. The line, as several critics
mentioned at the time, went from Stephen Crane to Mark Twain to Hemingway, that pure American voice. If you read Crane's The Blue Hotel before you reading Hemingway's Collected Stories you'll hear the echoes throughout start the book.

For readers and writers alike, this is one book that should be in every serious collection. There was no more vital and powerful voice than Hemingway's in his early stories (and I don't include The Old Man And The Sea which I never much liked; way too self-consciously Important). Today they're just as pure and perfect as they were when first published. All hail Hemingway.

 Jerry House


Todd Mason 

George Kelley

Monday, May 22, 2023

Monday, Monday

My reading for the last few days was BEWARE THE WOMAN, which was terrifying and beautiful. Of course, I am her mother.

Saw four good movies, two at the theater: BLACKBERRY and RIO BRAVO.

Two Erich Rohmer movies on Criterion Channel: A TALE OF WINTER, THE GREEN RAY. They are very similar in plot: a discontented female is looking for love in France. These movies are very slow and yet you stay with it. Who else gives women a chance to whine and cry?


Happy birthday to my daughter-in-law, Julie Nichols, a great mother, daughter, wife. Julie works for Michigan Legal Services, representing people who can't afford an attorney.

What about you?

Thursday, May 18, 2023

FFB: A PERFECT MATCH, Jill McGown (reviewed Richard Robinson)


Friday Forgotten Book: A Perfect Match by Jill McGown

perfect matchA Perfect Match by Jill McGown, Fawcett Crest 1983 mass market paperback, mystery, first in Detective Inspector Lloyd & Judy Hill series.

“The September dawn crept over the sky like water on blotting paper, spreading a fine, thin light to supplement the yellow glow of the street lighting. In the town centre shopping precinct, photo-cells registered the increase, and the anti-theft store lights clicked softly, obediently switching themselves off.”

Once again, a recent Friday Forgotten Book review encouraged me to find a copy of a book. This book, to be specific, and, as it was at hand, just having come in the mail, I read it and here are my thoughts.

This is the first in a series, and I never know quite what to make of a first-in-series book. Is the author experimenting with setting and characters? Is this a plot that came to the author like a bolt of lightening, some inspired idea, an epiphany ? Or has the writer cobbled something together between lunch and dinner? With a first in series novel, you never know. So I sat, I read and here’s what I think.

Stansfield is a small English town an hour’s drive, perhaps a bit more, from London. Detective Inspector Lloyd Hill works on major crimes, but murder isn’t common. So it’s an unpleasant surprise when the body of a woman, dead, naked, strangled, is found in the woods near the boating lake just outside of town. The relationships between the victim, the family with whom she has been staying, her solicitor, his wife, the mechanic at the local garage, the estate agent working to sell the boating property to the town are all very tangled. In fact, the primary element in this mystery is tangled relationships. I suggest the reader pay close attention to that early on, or things will seem even more complicated than they turn out to be, and that’s complicated indeed.

I liked the book enough to try the next in the series, though it’s a bit off-putting when I guess the murderer very early on. Not that the author didn’t try to trick me away from my early conclusion, but I wasn’t convinced.

Another thing I should mention is that some of the relationships I mentioned are between the Inspector and his “charming young detective sergeant” Judy Hill. I assume that continues in following books. So if you’re opposed to a bit of “relationship” in your mystery books, you’ve been warned.


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: OUT OF THE WOODS, Chris Offut


Christ Offut is the author of many short stories and novels and several memoirs. I read MY FATHER, THE PORNOGRAPHER, a memoir a few  years back.
I think I have read some of these stories elsewhere.
I really like his style. The stories are spare, lean. Very little use of adverbs or adjective and yet we feel immersed in the Kentucky or in Nebraska, where he happens to set the story. 
In the two stories here, these are men and women living hardscrabble lives. Language is sparse too,
In the title story, a new family member is sent to fetch a brother-in-law hospitalized, four states away. He has been shot by a woman. The trip is a long one and when he gets there the man is dead from an embolism. Gerald asks to see the woman whose gunshot led to the death. Her story of the incident is as nutty as you might expect in a story like this. He persuades the sheriff to let him take the body home and on the way home, he invents a story that might be easier to hear to his new family. Exactly the kind of story I find satisfying because the writing elevates it, the characters seem real, the setting sparkles. 
Todd Mason--for any Charles Portis fans, follow Todd's links to register for the free webinar tonight 

Monday, May 15, 2023

Monday, Monday

 Although I am still watching SUCCESSION, BARRY and a few regular shows, I have drifted into watching THE DOG HOUSE, a real tear- jerker about dogs and the people they rescue, JEWISH MATCHMAKER, and PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR. Oh, and COUPLES THERAPY. Am I losing the ability to follow a narrative?

I finished HELLO, BEAUTIFUL. And my dilemma on what to read next was solved when Megan's new book arrived. 

No movies, but I did go to see ALADDIN at the Fisher Theater in Detroit. Although the music was all new to me, I enjoyed it and most of all enjoyed the staging. Funny to see a musical where only one woman had a speaking part. When did staging become such an important aspect of these musicals. I also saw COSI FAN TUTTE, a student production, but very competent. It was in a brand new auditorium at Oakland University in Rochester where there were NO HAND RAILS. Are they kidding? Do they know the age group that comes to these things? 

How about you guys?

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Happy Mother's Day


                                                        Miss you every day, Mom.

Friday, May 12, 2023

FFB: Dead ANYWAY, Chris Knopf (from the archives reviewed by Jeff Meyerson)

Chris Knopf, Dead Anyway (2012), Jeff Meyerson

People always ask (I know, I ask too) how you decide what to read next.  Might as well ask, how do you decide what to read, period?  I have a list of favorite authors whose books I read when they come out but for newer writers or ones I don't know I tend to lean on recommendations from friends, reviews here or on other blogs, plus newspaper and magazine reviews.  If they sound interesting to me, I'll check them out.
Chris Knopf had two earlier series set in the Hamptons, but this is the first in a new series.  Apparently Bill Crider reviewed it when it came out last year but somehow his review did not make enough of an impression on my brain until I read his review of the sequel a few weeks ago, linking back to his Dead Anyway review.  Then I thought, this sounds good. And it is.
How's this for starting with a bang?  Arthur Cathcart, an overweight 40ish guy working at home doing market research and other high end computer research, married to a gorgeous woman who owns a real estate firm near their home in Connecticut, comes home from a walk to find his wife sitting on the couch and a man holding a gun on her.  The man insists she answers five questions written on a paper, and to emphasize his seriousness, he shoots her husband in the thigh.  She answers the questions only to have the man, clearly a hired killer, shoot her in the head and kill her. Then he shoots Cathcart, who somehow doesn't die.
Now you may be able to resist seeing what happens next, but I sure couldn't.  Cathcart is gravely injured and decides (with the help of his physician sister) to stay dead and use his computer skills to discover who killed his wife and why, not easy in the post-9/11 world.  But first he has to recover enough physically and mentally to be able to act.  Along the way he gets some help from a woman named Natsumi Fitzgerald, who throws her lot in with his.
I really enjoyed this one and will be reading the sequel as soon as it comes in to the library.  Definitely recommended.


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: LOST IN THE CITY, Edward P. Jones

This is one of my favorite collections of stories, and I have written about it before. The stories are set in D.C. between the fifties and the eighties. Jones writes beautifully about ordinary people, enduring what Black people have for so long endured. This collection won the Penn Hemingway Award. Jones' novel, THE KNOWN WORLD, the story of a Black slave owner, won the Pulitzer Prize. 

"The First Day" is the story of a mother taking her six-year old to school for the first time. The mother takes her to a school near her church, and is told it's the wrong school. Reaching the correct school, the mother is asked to fill out a form. She admits she cannot read and asks for help filling out the form. She has brought all sorts of forms and paperwork with her, not understanding what will be needed, thinking she has to prove her daughter's right to attend school. It occurs to the reader what a deficit this must be in navigating nearly every facet of modern life. It is nearly impossible to believe illiteracy still exists but it's just more hidden, I think.

When she finally turns to go, the child notices her mothers darned socks and loud shoes, probably for the first time. The details in this very short story nail the tone and sadness so well. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 


Jerry House 

Todd Mason

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

From the Bookreporter

What a wonderful Mother's Day Gift


May 8, 2023


Megan Abbott is the Edgar Award-winning author of such novels as THE TURNOUT, GIVE ME YOUR HAND, YOU WILL KNOW ME, THE FEVER, DARE ME and THE END OF EVERYTHING. Her latest, BEWARE THE WOMAN, releases on May 30th and dissects the ongoing conversations about ownership and womanhood. Megan’s mother, writer Patricia Abbott, introduced her to countless books as a child and was the biggest influence on her reading habits. Patti gave Megan her first “adult” novel to read, which began her love of mysteries and thrillers, helping to pave the way for her career as a bestselling crime fiction author.


I come from a family of readers and a house stuffed with books --- great teetering piles of used books, library books, moldy paperbacks and plastic-sleeve bestsellers. And no one influenced by voracious reading habits more than my mom, Patti Abbott (now a writer herself). Through most of my childhood, she read as much as a book a day. In addition to her adult tastes (Philip Roth, Anne Tyler, John Irving), she would read books along with me, even reading them aloud while my brother and I washed the dinner dishes for our weekly allowance --- especially what would become one of my favorites: WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT by Judith Kerr.

I have such vivid memories of my mom introducing me to the glories of Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series, and later, LITTLE WOMEN, and still later, Norma Klein and, of course, Judy Blume. And no book was forbidden. She seemed to have an uncanny knack for finding the books that would be right for me --- stories about girls and young women, often loners, idiosyncratic, even surly (Francis Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN) or far darker (Patricia Clapp’s JANE-EMILY).

But, as a crime novelist, perhaps the memory that looms largest is the moment she placed in my hands my first “adult” novel: THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD. My father and mother both consumed mystery series avidly: Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, Georges Simenon and, of course, Agatha Christie. My mom must have sensed long before me that I wanted to be a part of their mystery-binging because she assured me that I’d never guess the ending of THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD, and it felt like a dare. Now, I think of it as a Tom Sawyer trick to get me to make the leap from Encyclopedia Brown and the wondrous Harriet the Spy to the adult world. But fall for it I did, and so began my lifelong consumption of mysteries and crime novels.

The family lore became that I did in fact successfully guess Christie’s famous twist before the ending, but I now suspect even that was just a way of luring me on further --- to Daphne du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith; into adolescence, Thomas Harris and Caleb Carr; and then onto James Ellroy and the hardboiled master. I’m so grateful for it, and for her, and to everything she gave me --- a lifetime of books, including all the ones we still share.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Monday, Monday

 I enjoyed the Alan Pakula  (Prime) documentary. He directed a few of my favorite movies (All the President's Men, Klute). Did not know of his horrific death however.

Saw Are You There God, it's me Margaret? with a decent-size audience on a Friday afternoon. It was faithful to the book and charmingly acted. 

Still reading, Hello, Beautiful and various short stories. 

Listening to the new Julia Louis-Dreyfus podcast  (Wiser Than Me) in which she interviews older women (Fonda, Reichl, Allende, Darlene Love). At the end of the interview she calls her mom and they discuss it. Very likable. 

Watching Succession (Max), Barry, (HBO) The Dog House (Max), Israeli Matchmaker (Netflix), The Servant (Apple), Ted Lasso (Apple) A Small Light (Hulu, Discovery, Disney)

A Small Light is the Anne Frank Story told from the perspective of Miep who was the woman who took care of them.

What about you?

Friday, May 05, 2023


Funny how you stumble on fairly obscure books once in a while. I was listening to a Curtis Sittenfeld interview about her new novel ROMANTIC COMEDY. The novel is about a writer working on a show modeled on SNL. She referenced several books that she read in order to understand the workings of the show and this was one of them. Jay Moehr was on the show from 1993-95 and recounts his experiences in GASPING FOR AIR. Apparently not having much success in either getting your scripts on air or on appearing on air quickly is very common. But Moehr doesn't seem aware of that and felt unsuccessful with the few appearances he made. The book details what various cast members and guests and the production wing of the show were like. At just 21, as many first-year cast members are, he was too immature to know how to hone his craft or wait it out. 

Sittenfeld also recommended a documentary SATURDAY NIGHT (Directed by James Franco) which documents the making of an episode in 2008. This was fun to watch too--to see all the jockeying that goes on to get a script accepted for the show. Men during that period certainly seemed to have the upper hand. Witness Bill Hader, Fred Armissen, Seth Meyers, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis

Wednesday, May 03, 2023


View this email in your browser

Hbeware the womaney, you!Just dropping into your inbox to let you know my new novel, Beware the Woman hits bookstores on May 30. Scroll down for Preorder Links and Tour Dates below.Beware the Woman is the story of Jacy—newly married, with a baby on the way—and her new husband, Jed, embarking on a trip to visit Jed’s father, Dr. Ash, in a snug cottage in Michigan’s far-flung Upper Peninsula. Once there, Jacy has a mild health scare and her Edenic idyll turns into something far darker...I’m also going to be adapting it for a feature filmmore on that soon!ADVANCE CRITICAL RESPONSE
  • Time Magazine highlighted it in their "Best of May" list, noting "Abbott spins an enigmatic tale web of foreboding and unease as she delves into family secrets and gender politics" in a novel "brimming with suspense."
  • Publishers Weekly named it one of the Best Summer Reads 2023. In their (starred) review, PW writes, “spine-tingling suspense… a masterful and provocative deep dive into desire, love, and gender politics. Readers will be left breathless.
  • Oprah Daily said, “With this bewitchingly creepy tale, thriller queen Megan Abbott keeps readers questioning whether this family getaway is the stuff of anxiety dreams or Bluebeard nightmares.”
  • Booklist (starred review) called Beware the Womananother knockout performance… A real treat for the author’s many fans and for everyone who treasures that sense of Gothic-tinged trouble both within and without. Think Rebecca in the UP. Abbott's a crime-fiction A-lister now.” 
  • Kirkus Reviews: “Abbott masterfully builds a claustrophobic atmosphere of mistrust and insecurity reminiscent of Get Out.  An unsettling, nightmare-inducing morsel from a master of suspense.”
PREORDER LINKS   Preorders are so appreciated! You can preorder Beware the Woman at your favorite bookstore or…  THE TOURBALTIMORE, MD Tuesday, May 30 at 7 PMGreedy Reads – Remington store320 W 29th StBaltimore, MD 21211Register here. PHOENIXVILLE, PA (near Philly)Wednesday, May 31 at 7 PMReads & Company234 Bridge StPhoenixville, PA 19460 BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, NY Thursday, June 1 at 7 PMBooks Are Magic – Montague store122 Montague StBrooklyn, NY 11201Register here. SCOTTSDALE, AZ Sunday, June 4 at 1 PMPoisoned Pen4014 N Goldwater Blvd #101Scottsdale, AZ 85251 DENVER, CO Monday, June 5 at 6 PMTattered Cover – Colfax store2526 E Colfax AveDenver, CO 80206 WICHITA, KS Tuesday, June 6 at 6 PMWatermark Books4701 E DouglasWichita, KS 67218  HOUSTON, TX Wednesday, June 7 at 6:30 PMMurder by the Book2342 BissonnetHouston, TX 77005 ST. LOUIS, MO Thursday, June 8 at 7 PMSt. Louis County Library – Grant’s View Branch9700 Musick RdSt. Louis, MO 63123 DETROIT AREAWednesday, June 28 at 7 PMBarnes and Noble – Detroit/Livonia17111 Haggerty RdNorthville, MI 48168 PETOSKEY, MI Thursday, June 29 from 1-3 PMMcLean & Eakin Booksellers307 E Lake StPetoskey, MI 49770 QUOGUE, NYSunday, July 16 at 5 PMQuogue Library Summer Series90 Quogue StQuogue, NY 11959 I so hope you like Beware the Woman. And thank you. Your support means so much.Xo Megan


Short Story Wednesday

Some weeks I just can't find a short story I want to talk about--or even finish. Hope you guys did better. 

Jerry House

George Kelley 

Kevin Tipple 


Todd Mason

Monday, May 01, 2023

Monday, Monday


Heard a lovely cello concert Saturday night at the Seligman Auditorium, ten minutes away.  Why is the piano always backup to the cello? 

Friday night we listened via a link to Robert Jones, who wrote the amazing book THE PROPHETS. His talk at Marygrove Conservancy was about his experiences getting an MFA at Brooklyn College twenty years ago. He was repeatedly told if he want to be published he would have to expand his stories beyond the Black community. I remember Toni Morrison saying this too on the documentary about her on Netflix. 

The rage Black people must feel toward white people worldwide can never be addressed, no matter how large the reparations. 

Reading HELLO, BEAUTIFUL by Ann Napolitano. Also short stories courtesy of Jeff Meyerson. 

Watching TED LASSO, SUCCESSION, BARRY, THE DOG HOUSE (Max), COUPLES THERAPY (Paramount) For a person who has never owned a dog, I love stories about them. Don't know why. 

How about you?