Friday, June 30, 2023

FFB: VANISHED, Mary McGarry Morris

VANISHED, Mary McGarry Morris

I don't know if anyone saw this book as crime fiction 25 years ago. It's certainly noir and straight out of the Woodrell/Jim Thompson universe. It was nominated for the National Book Award.

A laborer is lured into helping an attractive woman he sees on the road. He deserts his family and embarks on an odyssey with Dotty, who is a femme fatale of the highest order. She has kidnapped a baby and the three cobble out a life on the road over the course of the next five years. 

Their fate is further complicated when they run into an ex-con and his family, who come up with the idea of demanding ransom. This is one dark, often heart-breaking tale, and amazingly Morris' first novel. Highly recommended. Her other novels aren't bad either

Thursday, June 29, 2023


 Megan had a great event and sold out the books ordered for it. Great questions from the audience too.Thanks to all who attended.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: PLAYING GAMES, edited by Lawrence Block"THE PUZZLE MASTER, David Morrell

 I have read two stories from this collection. The first by S.A Cosby made use of the game of checkers. It was a fine story, well written, but pretty predictable. "The Puzzle Master" was not really a crime story but was clever. A couple were doing a jigsaw puzzle given to them by a neighbor and found clues in the puzzles left by the puzzle creator. I learned a lot about jigsaw puzzles and was treated to a clever story.  Any more information would ruin it. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House 


Todd Mason

Monday, June 26, 2023

Monday, Monday 

Every June the Detroit area hosts the Great Lake Chamber Music Festival where for two-three weeks, concert halls, churches, synagogues the DIA and other venues have gorgeous music. We saw the Emerson Quartet perform pieces by Brahms and Mendelsohn and the final piece above. This is their final tour after 40 years of performing. They played at Kirk of the Hills the night we saw them. 

Another friend and I saw ASTEROID CITY by Wes Anderson, which we both pretty much hated. Such warm colors for such a cold story-if you can even call it a story. It's more a concept than a plot. I have seen every Anderson movie and liked none of them. Yet I always expect to. 

Reading this and that. About to dig into DAUGHTER OF TIME for my book group. It was my suggestion. I hope they like it. 

Watching JOE PICKETT (Boy, I like his family and their story is the better part of it), THE BEAR, looks to be great again,  ENDEAVOR, love the characters and tolerate the plots. Tried SEX AND THE CITY, but boy, just a large group of people running around in their underwear. Wasn't it better than this thirty years ago.  

Why am I paying $15 a month for Netflix and finding nothing to watch on it. 

Waiting for Megan to arrive for a one-day visit on Wednesday to do a book talk in the Detroit area and then in Petoskey. 

How about you guys?

Friday, June 23, 2023

FFB: DECOY, Cleve F. Adams

DECOY by Cleve F. Adams (reviewed by Evan Lewis in 2010)

Decoy, published in 1941, is the third book in the Rex McBride series, and also Cleve F. Adams’ third novel. I reviewed the first two, Sabotage and And Sudden Death in earlier Forgotten Books posts, and invite you to take a look.

Decoy picks up shortly after the events in And Sudden Death, in which McBride foiled a pre-war plot by Japanese agents. Rex is throwing an extravagant party at a fancy hotel to spend some of dough he made on the previous job. That’s when his usual employers, the execs of an insurance company, come begging him to take on a new case.

Three commercial airliners have crashed (one burning with all passengers) and the insurance companies are taking it in the shorts. When a fourth plane vanishes completely, they come begging McBride to save them. McBride tells them to go to hell until he learns that another insurance investigator - a man he likes - has also gone missing. His takes the case to find out what happened to his friend.

Rex McBride is never quite comfortable in his skin. He wear expensive clothes and drinks good liquor (or any other kind), but never forgets his roots. He came from the gutter, and is more at home with cab drivers, bellhops, barflies and petty grifters than with folks in his own income bracket. He has nothing but contempt for the insurance execs and captains of industry who employ him. They're phonies who pretend to have clean hands, but hire McBride to do their dirty work for them.

A stock element of Adams’ books is a temporary sidekick/drinking partner for the hero. In this one, that role goes to a down-on-his-luck pilot who’s lost his license to fly. He helps McBride in some tasks, but more often just helps him get into trouble. Every Adams novel also features at least one deadly dame who tries to cozy up to the detective, usually for nefarious purposes. Somehow, the hero’s inamorata (in McBride’s case that’s Miss Kay Ford, secretary to an insurance exec) always manages to walk in on one of the cozier moments and get her nose out of joint.

This evil babe factor was all the excuse a British publisher needed to issue a 1956 reprint under the title Decoy Doll. In the U.S., the 1944 Books Inc hardcover reprint isn't too hard to come by, but as far as I know the only paperback edition was an early Handi-books abridgment. Too bad. This is a good read. Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe a youngster named James M. Reasoner, from a 1982 issue of The Not So Private Eye:

Adams' distinct prose style is tough to describe, but I find it infectious. It's what keeps me coming back for more. If you haven't tried him, click HERE for a complete 1938 novelette from Detective Fiction Weekly called "Jigsaw."


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: KISS ME IN THE CORAL LOUNGE, Helen Ellis


Although this is billed at a collection of essays, I thought it read equally well as a very humorous collection of stories about Helen Ellis and her husband. This is Ellis's fourth collection. Lex and Helen seem ideally suited to each other and, in fact, one chapter spells out the things they enjoy sharing (making paper valentines) and the things they don't. WE ARE NOT THE KIND OF COUPLE THAT....goes hiking, for instance. 

The coral lounge refers to the second bedroom in their apartment, which they have painted coral (they are child-free) and use it as a place they can privately relax together. These stories take the couple through the Covid years, which they seemed to have survived mentally better than most. Helen can toss out one joke and riff on it endlessly, like in the chapter on snoring or the ones on their cats. Highly recommended for those needing a laugh.

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 

George Kelley 

Todd Mason

Monday, June 19, 2023

Monday, Monday


Well we did NOT go to the thousand dollar a plate dinner at the DSO but we did hear Michael Feinstein and Jean Yves Thibaudet play with the DSO orchestra. Quite a thrilling concert of mostly Gershwin. We walked the red carpet, but were dressed normally unlike the many dressed to the nines people we mingled with. We did not realize the evening was about more than Gershwin so we got to sit through a lot of tributes to donors.

I also went to the Flag Day concert at the local park. I am not much of a fan of patriotic music played by amateur musicians but hey, it's free and I will do almost anything to get out of my apartment. Some of my friends find this puzzling. But they are people with a husband or wife, who have lived in the same house for 50 years, and have a yard to get out  to. What is there to do in a apartment for 18 hours a day? You have to love to clean or watch TV or read. I can do any of those activities for two hours a piece a day but that leaves me with 12 hours.

The Indy 500 that runs beneath my window grows more and more onerous as many cars now have both noise and lighting effects that strobe my walls and shake my glassware. Thousands of my neighbors take lawn chairs and coolers down below on Woodward Avenue to watch these cars drive back and forth from 7pm-11pm on weekend nights. And I count TH through SUN as the weekend. It is still two months to the official Dream Cruise. Will I survive?

Reading the delightful book of essays by Helen Ellis KISS ME IN THE CORAL LOUNGE. Will talk about it more on Wednesday. 

Watching Joe Pickett, which I like mostly although I don't find his case riveting. It is he and his family that steal the show. And I am very worried about his daughters. PLATONIC on Apple -which is so-so at best. Started Endeavour on PBS.

Hope you all had Happy Father's Days.

How about you? Is your 'hood driving you crazy?

Friday, June 16, 2023


                                       THE WHISPERING WALL, Patricia Carlon

Patricia Carlon's THE WHISPERING WALL tells the story of a wealthy, paralyzed, bed-ridden woman who, thanks to a vent in the wall, overhears murderous conversations. The Phippses plan to murder singer, Roderick Palmer.  A niece discovers  Sarah can blink in response to questions.  But the Phippses realize Sarah has overheard their plot and determine to kill her, too. With enormous effort, using letter games and Scrabble, Sarah attempts to warn Roderick in the only way she can.

Carlon proved herself to be a first class suspense writer with this novel. Carlon is Australian and wrote most of her books in the sixties. Occasionally I run across one, although less and less over time.Carlon was deaf from age 11 onward and kept out of the public eye her whole life. This may also explain why so many of her books used disabilities of some type as a feature.

Here is an interesting article about her. 


Monday, June 12, 2023

Monday, Monday

Hopefully it will rain today. It's been a long time. There is so much campground terrain in Michigan to worry about with careless campers. And the fact that it is so much windier than it used to be here aggravates it. 

Just discovered JOE PICKETT (from the C.J. Box books) on Paramount. Only have watched one and it doesn't seem up to the caliber of LONGMIRE, but not bad. Also watching MUSTER DOGS on Netflix. It's about the training of these dogs in Australia. Don't ask. I have formed a late-life attachment to other people's dogs. A four- part true crime series called BURDEN OF PROOF on Max was good. I am done with PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR although there are two more seasons that ran in the UK I am hoping for. Also finished TOP CHEF, which was a disappointment. I only watched it because I am paying for Peacock.  The cooking is at such a haute cuisine level now and looks much the same from chef to chef.

Reading FLY GIRL by Ann Hood (memoir). Maybe. I don't finish about 2/3 of the books I start so I am not sure I will find the life of a (at the time) stewardess interesting even though I have enjoyed Hood's fiction. 

Nice to see Megan's book recommended on the TODAY SHOW. 

What are you guys up to?

Friday, June 09, 2023

FFB: THE YELLOW DOG, Georges Simenon

(reviewed by Ed Gorman)

The early Maigret detective novels by Georges Simenon bear the stamp of the busy pulp writer Simenon he was before finding his voice and mission with the cranky even surly Commissaire.
In The Yellow Dog, a particularly well-plotted crime novel, Maigret travels to the small coastal town of Concarneau where a local wine merchant has been murdered under mysterious circumstances. According to a witness the man was strolling home on a windy night and paused to walk up steps leading to the narrow sheltered porch of a long empty house. Moments later the man fell backwards, dead from the shots.
Once there Maigret meets the four men and one waitress who seem to know much more than they're willing to share with him. He also sees a large yellow dog that keeps appearing at the crime scenes to come. Maigret feels a kinship with the animal which is more than he can say for anybody he meets in the town. 
Where did the dog come from? Why does he keep showing up at such odd moments? Does he belong to the person who by book's end kills more people?
This is a serial killer novel. Simenon even casts the local newspaper as one of the villains. The editor has a history of exploiting bad news to the point of making each local tragedy worse. And the killings are no exception. Simenon suggests that it is sop for Frenchmen to a) have mistresses and b) go about armed. Both are factors in the investigation. 
Most of the elements of classic Maigret are here. The weather is as vivid as the characters; Simenon buttresses his sociological look at French life with bleak humor; and his pity for decent people life has treated badly borders on the religious along with his contempt for pomposity and self-importance and cruelty. 
There is always a claustrophobic feel to the Maigrets; this allows the reader to experience what the Inspector himself does. As a forlorn chronicler of humankind Simenon is still without peer.

(We miss you, Ed)

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "For Esme with Love and Squalor" J.D. Salinger 

First published in THE NEW YORKER in 1950, this is the story of a GI near the end of the war who meets a precocious young girl and her precocious brother in a restaurant after observing them at choir practice. He has an engaging conversation with her, finally promising to write a story for her. The second scene is the story he writes and the squalor is the shell shock he is experiencing as the war winds down. He receives a letter from her and enclosed is her dead father's watch, the face broken in transit. 

This one is collected in NINE STORIES. Literary writers today aren't as easy to read as the ones of an earlier generation: i.e. Updike, Cheever, Mailer, Bellow, McCuller, Cather, etc. Their style of writing did not call as much attention to itself and the point was usually fairly discernible. At least to me. What do you think?

Todd Mason

George Kelley 

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House

Monday, June 05, 2023

Monday Monday

 Josh and Julie took me to see a local production of SINGING IN THE RAIN, which was amazingly good. The staging was so impressive in contrast to what you would have seen two decades ago. Today I go to see SIX.

Beautiful weather. It hasn't rained in a long time. And today it cooled off. 

I never have to have a colonoscopy again. Yay! Unless of course, there are troublesome symptoms. 75 is the cutoff.

Sad to see SUCCESSION, BARRY, TED LASSO and MRS. MAISEL go, All I have left is TOP CHEF, which is at the end and PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR.

Enjoyed YOU REALLY HURT MY FEELINGS with Julia Louis Dreyfus. Four people in the audience. Kevin gives 9/10 to SPIDERMAN IN THE MULTIVERSE. I think that is his highest score ever. 


                                                       Josh and Julie

Friday, June 02, 2023




This is the third book of what McKinty calls THE TROUBLES TRILOGY. This won the Ned Kelly Award and I enjoyed it immensely. It's a locked room murder inside a story of the troubles. I have not read the first two books so that probably factors in to a certain lack of knowledge of the character and his problems with the Royal Ulster Constabulary,

Sean Duffy has a chance for reinstatement in the local forces if he is able to find the whereabouts of an infamous IRA member. The two were childhood friends so this gives him a certain insight into the terrorist. His deal with those who can tell him Dermot's whereabouts is to solve the locked room murder of their daughter a few years back. And watching Duffy solve this crime is enjoyable. McKinty writes very clearly and yet doesn't repeat himself. It's a pleasure to be led through the clues by such a good plotter.

Also enjoyable is McKinty's use of Joseph Kennedy Jr. on a trip to Belfast. And the final scenes, which take place during Margaret Thatcher's stay in a Brighton Hotel, are exciting. I liked the style of writing and the cast of characters a lot. We get some of Duffy's life but not enough to slow the action down. I also really like the single POV in this book. It does make following a plot easier. Highly recommended for crime fiction lovers.