Friday, September 29, 2023


ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE tells the story of World War II through the narratives of two children. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris; Werner, along with his sister, is growing up in an orphanage in a mining town in Germany.  

When Marie-Laure goes blind at six, her father builds a miniature of their neighborhood and gradually she learns how to navigate the streets, first with him and eventually alone. By age 12, the Nazis occupy Paris and her father, who works in the Museum of Natural History, takes her to Saint Malo to live with her eccentric uncle. They carry with them something precious to the French.

Werner, an extremely bright boy, evades his future in the mines by making himself useful to a scientist through his ability to build and repair radios. But eventually he finds himself in the Hitler Youth and he becomes part of dangerous operations.He is the less sympathetic of the two but perhaps the more interesting, standing in for the Germans who didn't balk when they should have.

Eventually these two characters come together in Saint Malo.

ALL THE LIGHT is written in short chapters that vibrate with Doerr's great gift for description. These are two memorable characters and their stories will not fail to draw you in. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, it became a best seller and is the darling of book groups across the country. It's the sort of book you feel virtuous for reading. But it was a book I admired more than liked.

 I think this is about to debut as a movie or tv series.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "After Emily" from INTO LOVE AND OUT AGAIN, Elinor LIpman


I have read a number of Lipman's novels and they are always enjoyable. Not romance: perhaps domestic novels might express it best. I don't know where or when I got this collection, but it was published in 1987. "After Emily" looks at pregnancy and young motherhood as it was in the early seventies through the late eighties. All the things that changed over that period have changed again in the thirty-five years since. The central character is a college professor raising two girls on her own as her husband has a new family. And it is not so much a story but her observations on the proper time to have a child and the proper way to do it. She has colleagues of her age (late thirties) just having a first baby now. You feel this story is very much based on Lipman's own life. 


Yesterday I learned that a casual friend of mine had died suddenly. She was in her sixties and it was a shock to all of us. Only a month or so ago, she emailed me asking for suggestions for placing a crime story-flash fiction length. I gave her an idea or two but said I wasn't really up on the current markets. Which is true. How I wish now I had taken the time to look around a bit for her. I am no longer in the writing group she curates and apparently some of them knew she hadn't been feeling well.

Look out for your friends, Friends. They can slip away suddenly. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 


 Casual Debris


Monday, September 25, 2023

Monday, Monday


I saw a wonderful production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN yesterday. What a powerhouse that play still is all these years later. I also watched a wonderful Moroccan movie called THE BLUE CAFTAN on Criterion Channel. And a pretty good movie, DUMB MONEY at the theater. It's about the GAMESTOP investors. 

Watching BAND OF BROTHERS on Netflix. I never saw it last time. Bravo to Ethan Hawke for a wonderful episode of RESERVATIONS DOGS. Also watching GOLD on Paramount. 

We have had wonderful weather. Day after day of it. 

Reading Emma Cline's novel THE GUEST. It is a great idea for a novel, a bit like SIX DEGREE OF SEPARATION.

Have appointments to get all three shots this week. Hope it's not too much at once. 

So what are you up to?

Friday, September 22, 2023

FFB: THE BOYS IN THE BOAT, David James Brown

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS. A book about rowing? Seems improbable that anyone could make it a page turner but David James Brown succeeded.

The reason he was able to do this was because he was able to pull in so much beside the University of Washington's rowing program in the thirties. The book looks at the problems of poverty in the 1930s, the dust bowl, Nazi German's rise to power, the Olympic movement, the story of rowing itself, the lives of the coach, the boat builder, and some of the athletes. Most especially it gave us the life of Joe Rantz, a rower who had an exceptionally hard childhood. His summer job while in college was hanging from cliffs and using a 75 pound drill to build a damn. Most of the boys came from humble means, which means we cheer for them all the more. Brown was especially adept at exploring the psychology of successful rowing. A very particular sort of sport.
I enjoyed this book immensely and am looking forward to a forthcoming film about it which is directed by George Clooney.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: STRANGERS IN TOWN, Ross Macdonald

From the archives

Strangers in Town: Three Newly-discovered Mysteries by Ross Macdonald, edited by Tom Nolan
(Review by Deb)

Containing three short stories (only one of which was published in Macdonald’s lifetime), written in 1945, 1950, and 1955 respectively, Strangers in Town displays some of the earliest themes, characterizations, plot twists, and motifs that are found in Macdonald’s longer works.  In each one of these stories, we see elements emerge that will be explored more fully in future mysteries, including the development of Macdonald’s series private investigator, Lew Archer.
The first story, Death by Water, was published in 1945 in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine under Macdonald’s real name, Kenneth Millar.  Written while Millar was serving on a naval vessel in the Pacific Theater of WWII, the story features Lew Archer prototype, p.i. Joe Rogers, who is investigating the drowning death of a wealthy man.  Was it just an unfortunate accident or was he deliberately killed?  And, if the latter, who is the killer?  The man’s younger, wheelchair-bound wife has only a few months to live herself.  The man’s stepson is on a navy ship (much like Millar himself when he wrote this story) and therefore unable to have committed the crime.  How about the dead man’s brother, who struggles to live on a limited income?  And where was the wife’s personal nurse when the death occurred?  Millar manages to pack a lot of suspects and motives into a few pages, but what I found most interesting about the story was the reference to ALS (aka, Lou Gehrig’s disease) just a few years after Gehrig himself succumbed to the condition.
Lew Archer appears in the next story, 1950’s Strangers in Town, where he is hired by a woman to prove that her son did not kill a pretty, secretive young woman who was renting a room in her house.  Archer has to travel to a dusty town in the California desert to investigate this one.  As in much of Macdonald’s longer fiction, the small California community in which the story is set is a character in itself.  What I liked most about the story was the sympathetic and dignified treatment of African-American and Hispanic characters (the victim and the alleged killer are both black; the attorney defending the young man is Mexican-American)—they are depicted neither as caricatures nor noble stoics, but as fully-realized characters with the standard human mix of decency, faults, and failings.
The final story in the collection is 1955’s The Angry Man which features several frequent Macdonald themes:  The mentally-ill and the often callous treatment they receive from law enforcement and society as a whole; wealthy but dysfunctional families; the lengths to which people who have no money will go in order to get it; and the juxtaposition of a character’s surface persona with their inward self.  You can also see Macdonald working on the technical problem of how to have a first-person, non-omniscient narrator receive and communicate information without the story devolving into one long piece of exposition (I think Macdonald handles this type of narrative extremely well in both his short and long fiction).  Neither this story nor Strangers in Town was published in Macdonald’s lifetime.  He decision not to publish these works was not because they did not measure up to his standards but for quite the opposite reason:  He liked what he had written so much that he wanted to expand upon it and develop the material into longer works.
As entertaining as these short stories are, I found the most interesting thing about the book to be its long, informative introduction written by Tom Nolan which quotes extensively from letters Millar/Macdonald wrote to his wife (fellow novelist, Margaret Millar—herself an FFB honoree some time ago) while he was serving in the Navy.  During long, occasionally dangerous, deployments, Millar was able to read extensively from the ship’s library and continue to write fiction and develop his ideas for writing first-person murder-mysteries narrated by the hard-boiled but moral private investigator who ultimately became Lew Archer.

 George Kelley


Steve Lewis 

Casual Debris

Monday, September 18, 2023

Monday, Monday

Because Megan was taking the train to Rhinebeck, NY, (up the Hudson), to give a talk on SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, I decided to watch it last night. I thought I had seen it before, but I am not sure I ever have. What a terrific movie and what a great screenplay by Ernest Lehman.  I spent the rest of the night watching talks with and about Lehman on you tube.I loved how they cast this movie with mostly regular looking people. Even the love interest is not the typical glamor-puss. I wish Tony Curtis had made more movies of this caliber. The only other real classic is SOME LIKE IT HOT.

I had a big crush on Tony Curtis as a thirteen year old and had a photo of him on my bulletin board. I used to send to the studios for photos of the movie stars I loved and they would send back (machine) autographed pictures.  (Troy Donahue, George Maharis, Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins, Rock Hudson). 

Been watching the scary DEAR CHILD on Netflix (German). Also watched Eric Rohmer's TALES OF AUTUMN. Still looking for a long series to get me through winter. Gave up on ER and GREY'S ANATOMY. Maybe I will rewatch THE SOPRANOS but I don't know if I want to enter his world again.

Picked up the new Kate Atkinson's story collection and the new Angie Kim, HAPPINESS FALLS. Still working on my book club book, but Tuesday is the day.

Went to Senior Day at the Detroit Zoo this week. Also listened to a Jazz Group practice at the Senior Center. 

I get my shots on the 28th. Wish it were sooner so I didn't have to wear a mask to a play next Sunday. 

What about you?

Friday, September 15, 2023

FFB: THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF, Elizabeth Sanxay Holding


(review by Ed Gorman)

THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF, Elizabeth Sanxay Holding 

For some reason, much as I've pushed her, I'd never read THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. It is remarkable in many ways, not least because the protagonist, Jacob Duff is drunk for virtually the entire novel. And we see 95% of the book through his eyes. Functionally drunk for most of it but also falling-down drunk in places. Holding's genius was to sustain a sense of
dread that I don't think even Ruth Rendell has equaled. There are times in her novels when I have to put the book down for a few minutes. They are that claustrophobic in mood and action.
That's the first remarkable aspect of the book. The second remarkable aspect is that we see the book through the eyes of one of the most arrogant, self-involved, cold and self-deluded men I've ever encountered in fiction of any kind. I hated the bastard so
much--I'm not enamored of the upper-classes, alas, and Duff embodies everything I loathe about them--I almost gave up after chapter three. I wasn't sure I wanted to learn anything more about this jerk,

But Holding has the voodoo, at least for me. She makes me turn pages faster than any best-seller because what you're rushing to discover is the secrets of her people not just plot turns. All the good folks in
this one are women, especially Duff's younger, beautiful and very decent wife. He constantly compares her unfavorably to his first wife, though we soon learn that he didn't care much for his first wife, either. At
age forty he's still looking for his dream woman. God have mercy on her soul if he ever finds her.

As always with Holding, as with much of Poe, what we have is not so much a plot (though she's as good as Christie) as a phantasmagoria of despair, distrust and suspicion that consumes the protagonist. Is his
wife cheating on him? Is she setting up his death so she'll inherit his estate? Is she turning his young son against him? Has his wealthy aunt, his life-long mentor and mother confessor, taken the side of his young
wife? Has his drinking disgraced him in his small town and are all those smirks aimed at him? And finally, is he a murderer? And why does he have to sneak around these days to drink?

If you're curious about Holding, this is a good place to start. Anthony Boucher always said that she was the mother of all psychological suspense novelists. What's interesting is how few, fifty-some years after her death, have come close to equaling her enormous powers. Not for nothing did Raymond Chandler call her the best suspense novelist of his generation


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "Possibilities" Bill Pronzini

This is a somewhat familiar setup-a man seems to be disposing of his wife's body and his neighbors are more than a little interested. They are at his elbow from start to finish. What makes it work so well is how great and natural the dialogue is-and it's almost all dialog. The ending is somewhat of a twist but it really hangs together on the development of the characters and that Pronizini makes them so realistic. A real master. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House

Monday, September 11, 2023

Monday, Monday


How about those Lions!!! Maybe this is our year.

A lot of cloudy weather. Since it so cloudy in Detroit from November to March, I really hate it when this happens earlier. The temperature is nice though. Some lunches and dinners with friends but nothing at the movies to see. Hoping the new Poirot opens and gets good reviews. 

A friend and I went to a couple of plant nurseries on Saturday and at one of them a wedding was about to begin. The groom wore a bright blue tuxedo with brown shoes, which we thought unusual. Black, right? But apparently that's a new trend. The bride was completely traditional. Having a wedding at a nursery seemed odd-it was in the greenhouse, which was fairly dirty because of the leaves blowing in. But it was also sort of nice for a September wedding. 

What month did you marry in and was there anything unusual in your outfits? I think my brother had a maroon tux or maybe it was just the cummerbund. Or maybe that was a prom tux. I would check on it but it's on a top shelf in a closet.

Mine was dead normal except I wore a short gown. Megan did also thirty years later. 

 This was January in Philadelphia, a beautiful day. 

Watching THE SECRET SHE KEEPS, based on a Michael Robotham novel. It's on Prime. Also the PBS Sunday night fare. Contemplating watching HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER since I am listening to Viola Davis' memoir. Boy, can she read it well. 

Still struggling with this book club book. So well written but boy it moves slowly. I think anything I have to read I struggle with. Listening to lots of podcasts as I walk and ride the bike. My PT guy came to the gym in my bldg and worked out a routine for me since I am out of therapy now. A new fun one is TEAM DEAKINS, which interviews film people. I will finally learn what a best boy does.

So what's new with you?

Friday, September 08, 2023


(reviewed by Richard Robinson, 2018)

Forgotten book: A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Obviously, the computer is fixed. It wasn’t a big deal, I should have figured it out myself.
Meanwhile, this is another in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

This may or may not truly be a “forgotten book”, but it is certainly not much read these days. I know I hadn’t thought about it for a very long time until, reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards, I saw it listed and discussed. So I decided to reread it. The copy shown is my copy, the January 1963 Dell edition of the 1961 original published by Harcourt Brace.

Jo Walton’s comments are right on target, for the most part, so I’m quoting some of them:

“I remembered this book as an exciting technical story about a rescue on the moon—and my goodness, that’s what it still is. A Fall of Moondust remains an edge-of-the-seat exciting technical story of a rescue on the moon. It’s the 2050s. The solar system is being colonized. On the moon, they want to make some money from tourism. They have a boat that skims over the dust in the “Sea of Thirst,” just a tour bus, really, out there to give the tourists a show—until the day when there’s a moonquake and the boat slips down into the dust.”

From that point on, the book tells how, with brains, luck and patience, the craft is located and the passengers rescued. The “dust” is made up of such tiny particles that radio signals can’t penetrate it, so the dust-drowned craft is completely out of touch with Moonbase. They can’t send any signal without opening a door or hatch, which would let the dust flow in and suffocate everyone in minutes.

The passengers, not knowing how deep they may be, can’t risk trying to “swim” through the dust, which flows like a liquid and is blinding and deafening, trying to find the surface. Then what? To sink again. So the passengers settle in for a wait, for rescue.

The people on the surface work frantically to rescue them. As Walton says, “It’s as unputdownable today as when I first read it.”

The tension never lets up. The ship goes under the surface, and time is ticking and heat is rising and oxygen is running out and more things keep happening—it’s riveting. You can never forget you’re on the moon. All Earth can do is watch. Some of the passengers are comic relief, but the vast majority of the characters in this book are competent men doing their jobs. Even the grumpy astronomer is a competent man doing his job with a bit of sarcasm.

“This is the future that didn’t happen, the future where the boffins of the 1950s rose up and colonized the solar system with slide rules and general cooperative intellectual competence. This moon was first reached in 1967 by the Soviets—and this was published after Kennedy announced the space race, so Clarke was putting his money on the other side. The hotels have notices in English, Russian, and Chinese, but there’s no indication that the Cold War is still a problem.”

A Fall of Moondust is a classic of science fiction—a “man against nature” story, at one-sixth gravity and in a sea of dust that’s halfway to being a liquid. The characters are thin, but the prose is full of the poetry of science. We have come a long way since 1961, but this is readable, exciting, and chock-full of sense of wonder.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "Scarlet Ribbons" Megan Abbott

 This is Megan's story in the collection A Darker Shade of Noir, Of course, I read it first (solving the problem of what to read first) and enjoyed. As the parent of the author, it is fun to see what she has used in the story that comes from her childhood. 

Anyway, this is the story of an eleven-year old who feels compelled to visit the haunted house in her neighborhood, much like Margaret O'Brien's character in Meet Me in St. Louis. Penny is also afraid of her father who's suffering from PTSD from his tour in Vietnam. The Hoffman House was the scene of an horrific murder and sits abandoned around the corner from Penny. This is also a story about day v night and the landscape of dreams. I am looking forward to reading the other stories, all written by woman. 

Todd Mason

George Kelley 

Kevin Tipple 


Jerry House -I could not get into your blog at all. Maybe just thinking of that word did it. 

Monday, September 04, 2023

Monday, Monday

Lots of nice weather although we have entered a hot stretch. Today I am going to see a play in Ann Arbor. The title is MLIMA, The playwright is Lynn Nottage. It's about an elephant that is murdered. The theater is very tiny, which usually works out well. Lots of tiny theaters in Michigan. Too many of them do the same old stuff though. This one never does.

Started watching Inhuman Resources on Netflix. I remember the author from a big splash novel about a decade ago. Pierre Lemaitre (Alex?). Have only seen one episode but it seems

promising. French.

Watching Grey's Anatomy but I am not sure I can stick with it for 20 seasons. Medical shows are not my favorite. Sad to be done with Slow Horses. I hope the next season comes soon. Still watching After Party. Some episodes are much better than others. Also watching Commission on Prime. Artists in Seattle  get commissions to paint buyers a picture. So far everyone wants abstract art. I need a good doc show to cleanse the palette. In the past I have watched a series on Portrait Artists and Landscape Artists.

Reading the Sarah Winman book for my book group. (Still Lives)

Megan has a short story in JCO new anthology, which just arrived. Some of the authors will be at the Mysterious Bookshop on Thursday night.

What about you guys?

Friday, September 01, 2023



Susannah Moore is a novelist, perhaps best known for her dark novel, IN THE CUT. But this is a memoir published in 2020. Not really forgotten, but a review I wanted to get on here so I don't forget it. This book details her rather difficult early years, especially the ones she spent with a wicked stepmother. But it is also discusses her modeling career and her years in Hollywood (sixties and seventies mostly) where she was never quite successful but charming and smart perhaps because she is a frequent dinner guest at A list parties.. 

She is candid about not being a very good actress, but enjoyed meeting the stars of the time. Lots of stuff about Roman Polanski, for instance. It is well -written and I will enjoy reading in another volume about her transition to novel writing. The memoir skips around in time more than I like but was quite good.