Monday, April 29, 2024

Monday, Monday

 All the excitement this week was downtown where many thousands filled the street outside Ford Field to participate on some level in the NFL Draft. It was great to see so many enjoying the city.

Watching SPOOKS (Prime), REINDEER BABY ( (I think), JINX (HBO), THE SYMPATHIZER. I finished RIPLEY and thought it was a very good production. I especially liked the use of Italian actors rather than English or American actors with Italian accents. It really seemed important in this production. I never felt any sympathy for Ripley however. Can't remember if I did in the Matt Damon version. I can't remember any other series that seemed so authentic to its setting and era.

Enjoyed THE CHALLENGERS a lot. Sweatiest movie ever. 

I belong to a writing group. We meet every other week for two hours. It's about 12 people and most of them come and bring something to read. So it is very hard to try to read a story, not that I have been writing many. So I have started writing haikus. I am trying to write good ones, which is very hard. You probably know the requirements from fourth grade. 17 syllables, three lines 5, 7, 5, a reference to nature, and a something called a kireji--a cutting word. In other words, there has to be some sort of insight or twist in it. That's the hard part. We'll see. These rules can be broken but probably best to work within them for a while. My friend, Bob writes tankas, which have 31 syllables. I am working toward that. 

Still reading THERE, THERE and stuff on haikus. 

What about you?

Friday, April 26, 2024

For Those Who Miss Attending Conferences (and boy, was Christa a great interviewer)

Left Coast Crime, two weeks ago. (Robert Dugoni was also a guest of honor but his interview isn't up yet).


reviewed by: R. Narvaez was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 
NOIRYORICAN is a recent publication.

I Am Thinking of My Darling,
Vincent McHugh

A virus. The City. Civic chaos. Government collapse. The stuff of zombie flicks and terrorist scenarios in 2010. But back in the ’40s, such a plot could still be light-hearted. In Vincent McHugh’s 1943 novel I Am Thinking of My Darling, a virus infects New York City—but it's a happy virus! The infected follow their bliss, feverishly losing their inhibitions (for you Trekkies, think "The Naked Time" episode). The problem is that no one wants to work. Honestly, who would?

Acting planning commissioner Jim Rowan returns home from a trip to DC to find cheerful chaos quickly spreading across town—and his actress wife Niobe missing. She’s infected and on the lam, looking to live out a succession of character roles in a kind of Method fervor. Meanwhile, in an emergency management meeting (consider what that term evokes today), the mayor announces he has the virus—and would rather play with model trains than lead the City. To avoid panic, Rowan is secretly made acting mayor.

The plots riffs genially from there, with Rowan hot on the trail of his slippery wife, cabbing from City Hall to Harlem across a Cityscape in Mardi Gras mode—all the while consulting with civil services to keep things running and with scientists to find a cure. (The fact that the virus apparently originated in the tropics, implying that people there are inhibition-less, may be another artifact of the past.) A polymath (when being a polymath was simpler), Rowan narrates in sensual, informed detail about now-bygone architectural wonders, regional accents, lab science, and jazz music.

This book, with its glad-rag view of a long-lost era, has been a favorite of mine since it was recommended to me decades ago. (I still have my first copy, bought in the now-bygone Tower Books in the Village). McHugh, a poet and a staff writer for The New Yorker in the ’30s, employs a prose style that winks slyly at Chandler and pulp. (Once Rowan is inevitably infected, he’s like Marlowe on E.) Darling also features a nice amount of sexual frankness that may surprise modern readers who forget that people in the ’40s had sex. The novel was made into the very '60s movie What's So Bad About Feeling Good?, but by then the times had already been a-changed enough that the conceit no longer had the right kind of jazz.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: William Maxwelll, ALL THE DAYS AND NIGHTS, collected stories


I think if it weren't for Short Story Wednesdays, books like this would have been donated to the library long ago. But because I need to draw on ss collections, this remains on my shelf. Maxwell was a novelist and ss writer as well as an editor for THE NEW YORKER. I have read stories from this collection for this project in the past. I wonder if a young reader would enjoy these stories as much as I do. Perhaps their style and subject is dated. I am not sure.

This time out I read two stories, both written toward the end of Maxwell's career. "The Holy Terror" is about two brothers in their boyhood. The older one loses part of a leg, needlessly it turns out, and the story discusses their relationship and how this loss had a huge impact on the family, despite the brother's fortitude in getting on with his life. "What He Was Like" is the story of man who keeps a journal for years and what happens to that book after his death. It's a chilling short tale. 

Maxwell wrote two of my favorite novels too. TIME WILL DARKEN IT and SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW. For me, he's a very readable, enjoyable writer. 

George Kelley


Jerry House 

Casual Debris

Monday, April 22, 2024

Monday, Monday

LA CHIMERA is an Italian film that is magical in many ways. The most magical thing was that three thirteen year olds came in the theater as the picture was starting, ordered food (I didn't know you could do that), and sat through ninety minutes of the movie in complete silence. Did they know Italian? Or were they used to reading subtitles? Did their parents tell them it would be like Indiana Jones? (It has been compared to that in reviews) But then they left (wordlessly) without seeing the final forty minutes. Quite an unusual film with Josh O'Connor giving a standout performance along with Isabella Rossellini. I am very grateful that the theater down the block is showing this sort of film. I hope it lasts. 

RIPLEY is gorgeous to look at it if nothing else. But there are other delights: Dakota Fanning is wonderful and if Andrew Scott is too old for the part, he does give it a gravitas that Matt Damon didn't. Also watched a documentary on Charlotte Rampling called LOOK on you-tube. Watched the first episode of THE SYMPATHIZER (HBO-MAX).

I think I give up on SUGAR. NORTHERN EXPOSURE is better than ever. Did I appreciate it at the time? Not sure.

There's an article in the NYT today about how people pick up and ditch streaming services constantly now. I got rid of three in the last few months and am considering ditching APPLE and HULU. Really, you have to have more to offer than one show if you're going to charge $15 a month. The best value for me is Criterion. They have a tremendous library of films--if film is what you like.

Still working on reading THERE, THERE, (Orange)which is good--I just am reading more slowly than ever. 

Going to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra play Brahms in Ann Arbor today. It was a choral piece. Very moving. He wrote after the death of his mother. 

And you?

Friday, April 19, 2024

FFB: Hollywood and LeVine, Andrew Bergman


 Reviewed by Randy Johnson in 2014

18697864I’ve written about P.I. Jack LeVine before.

It’s 1947 and Jack LeVine runs into an old college friend he hasn’t seen since before the war. Walter Adrian had made a career in Hollywood writing screenplays. One LeVine had loved, another not so much.

Adrian looked terrible, worried about something. Laying one false story on LeVine, he finally admitted he was having contract problems and wanted His friend to come to Hollywood and find out why. A new contract was in negotiation and Warner Brothers not only wasn’t offering him a raise, they wanted to cut his pay.

LeVine heads for Hollywood and goes to Warner Brothers where Adrian was working late on a script, only to find him on the back lot on a western set hanging from a scaffold.

The police call it suicide, but LeVine was suspicious. The trapdoor he’d been standing on that killed him when he fell through didn’t allow Adrian to hit the lever that opened it. Bot to mention the lump on the back of his head.

LeVine decides to look into it.

But no one wants him doing that. Shots are taken at him, the police are warning him off, and the meeting with freshman Senator Richard Nixon reinforces what they consider the problem.

Remember this is 1947 and Nixon is heading up the west coast version of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

LeVine keeps plugging along. The highlight of the story is the finale, a long car chase and shootout with LeVine aided by none other than Humphrey Bogart doing the driving. Lauren Bacall was left behind at the party where it started.

A fun read.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "Late Love" Joyce Carol Oates, THE NEW YORKER


This story started out as a story I might like: an older couple is newly married but both have previous marriage that ended in death or divorce. One night, the husband thrashes, groans and grunts with a bad dream. And it happens again. And again. When the wife confronts him with it, seeking to comfort him, he denies he was dreaming and accuses her of being the one that had a bad dream. This goes on and on and on. Leeches enter the plot. It morphs into horror. Has he killed his first wife. The second wife can find out little about her even from people who should know the story. The reader doesn't know if she is mentally ill or if he is trying to kill her. It ends ambiguously and is apparently part of a longer work. 

This was so, so long. Although the writing was good, I just don't care for horror stories on the whole. You can listen to JCO read it on THE NEW YORKER website. If you dare....

Jerry House


George Kelley

Kevin Tipple

Monday, April 15, 2024

Monday, Monday


Been trying hard to produce a new piece of writing for my group on Thursdays. What was once so pleasurable is agony now. But there's no point feeding them old stories twice a month.

Watching a lot of movies lately. I especially enjoyed UNDER THE SAND from 2001 with Charlotte Rampling and THE AMERICAN FRIEND with Dennis Hopper and Bruno Gantz. But the best movie of the week was FRIDA, a film using her own words and artwork. Just gorgeous. Although it is streaming, this was as part of the Detroit Free Press Film Festival.

Also watching RIPLEY, SUGAR, and still NORTHERN EXPOSURE.  

Starting THERE, THERE by Tommy Orange. And the new book by S.J Rozan is waiting at the library. 

What about you?

Friday, April 12, 2024



Tracy K Smith is mostly a poet but this is her memoir. It's a story about a mother and a daughter and the religion that bound them together and nearly drove them apart. Although I have read many novels about Black girls from poor and abusive families, this one is not that. Tracy's family is middle-class, her father is in the military for most of her childhood. The five children are well-cared for and loved. They don't face the kind of bigotry that many Black children face. But, of course, it is always there to some degree. (A white friend calls her Black Girl).

This was an amazingly honest and forthright book. Ms. Smith does not shy away from telling you about many facets of her life that most writers might skip over or at least dull the impact. She spends a lot of time on her religious life and how she grew away from it. I found it interesting and am going forward to read her poetry

She is in Michigan this week, speaking at the Marygrove Conservancy. Each year, it hosts a Black writer of note. Marygrove, a mostly Black college on the fringes of Detroit, no longer exists as a college. But the Conservancy has preserved some of its institutions.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, ed Sarah Weinman-A Case of Maximum Need, Celia Fremlin


This is pretty much the last story I read in this collection. I have read two of Celia Fremlin's novels and especially liked her first novel, (which won the Edgar) THE HOURS BEFORE DAWN. This story originally appeared in Ellery Queen Magazine in 1977. 


“No, no telephone, thank you. It’s too dangerous,” said Miss Emmeline Fosdyke decisively; and the young welfare worker, only recently qualified, and working for the first time in this Sheltered Housing Unit for the Elderly, blinked up from the form she was filling in.

“No telephone? But, Miss Fosdyke, in your–I mean, with your–well, your arthritis, and not being able to get about and everything…You’re on our House-Bound list, you know that, don’t you? As a House-Bound Pensioner, you’re entitled–well, I mean, it’s a necessity, isn’t it, your telephone? It’s your link with the outside world!”

And indeed it is, but not in the way you expect. Not many 87-year olds can hold our attention but Ms. Fosdyke does once the telephone's installed. A fine end to a fine collection. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Happy Birthday, Josh

 May this be the year the Detroit Tigers brings you as much joy as the Detroit Lions did in the Fall.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Monday, Monday

Takoi is a fabulous Thai restaurant in Detroit. Tres elegant. We celebrated Josh's birthday here on Saturday night although his birthday is the 9th. Thai food is his favorite.

I don't get down to downtown Detroit very often and I am astonished at all of the new hotels, restaurants, businesses, shops, etc. And all of the people on the streets. We came here (1970) at a low point for Detroit. It was still reeling from the riots. There are still many areas that are poor and dangerous but the good parts are spreading.

The only thing that hasn't changed is the lousy roads. 

Loved the British series BOILING POINT, which I got through Kanopy (from my library). It's somewhat similar to THE BEAR but the restaurant is in London. It's based on the characters in a movie of the same title and starring Stephen Graham.

Also loved OF AN AGE, an Australian movie on Amazon Prime. Hoping to find more movies from this director.

Only watched the first episode of RIPLEY (Netflix) but it looks promising. So too SUGAR (Apple). Thinking of reading another Ripley book. I have only read THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY.

What about you?

Friday, April 05, 2024


 (From Ed Gorman's blog, 2010) This also appeared in The Thrilling Detective just weeks ago. Funny how we synchronize sometimes.

Dick Lochte's Top 20 Private Eye Novels

Ed here: In addition to being both a fine novelist and short story writer as well as a very perceptive critic,  Dick's list is especially interesting to me because he includes novels I've never seen on any other list before. And now I want to read or reread them. (This was originally published in the PWA newsletter)

TOP 20 PRIVATE EYE NOVELS (in alphabetical order – one per author or Chandler, Hammett and Macdonald would use up the 20)

1. Charles E. Alverson - Goodey’s Last Stand
2. Lawrence Block – Eight Million Ways to Die
3. Howard Browne – The Taste of Ashes
4. Raymond Chandler – The Long Goodbye
5. Robert Crais – L.A. Requiem
6. James Crumley – The Last Good Kiss
7. Stanley Ellin – The Eighth Circle
8. Earl W. Emerson – The Rainy City
9. Loren D. Estleman - Every Brilliant Eye
10. Joe Gores – Dead Skip
11. Sue Grafton – ‘K’ Is For Killer
12. Dashiell Hammett – The Maltese Falcon
13. Arthur Lyons – Hard Trade
14. Ross Macdonald – The Way Some People Die
15. Walter Mosley – Devil in a Blue Dress
16. Warren Murphy – Trace # 1
17. Robert B. Parker – The Judas Goat
18. T. Jefferson Parker – Silent Joe
19. Brad Solomon – The Open Shadow
20. Jonathan Valin – Day of Wrath

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: "Neighbors" Zach Williams from THE NEW YORKER


The story.


 The author's discussion of his story

A couple trying to rebound from an infidelity rent a house in an area not far from SF, known for its fog and remoteness. A neighbor's son, comes to visit and asks the husband to keep an eye on his elderly mother. Of course, something happens and our hero goes to investigate. While there, a strange, shadowy figure moves around him as he hovers over the body. Whenever our protagonist moves, so does shadowy figure. Eventually he calls the police in and the shadowy figure disappears. 

I thought I had this figured out and that this shadowy figure was  a metaphor for the unknown man his wife had had an affair with. But from this interview, I don't think the author meant anything that concrete. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 

Jerry House 


Monday, April 01, 2024

Monday, Monday


I am ambivalent about PRISCILLA. It was so claustrophobic watching it, so dark, visually and thematically that I either thought it was great or I hated it. I had no idea why Elvis was the love of her life.  He borders on pedophilia for me. She was 14. Why do parents fall for these guys as much as their kid?

Also watched the fabulous SHALL WE DANCE (Japanese version) and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. Charles Laughton was terrific. So too Marlene and Tyrone Power.

Had an Easter brunch with the family. Very nice. I am lucky to have a son and his family 20 minutes away.

Reading ORDINARY LIGHT by Tracy Smith, a memoir of a poet who is coming to Detroit in two weeks to talk about her work.  

So gray here after California. This is supposed to be the place to live with the coming climate catastrophes but be sure you can stand gray skies seven months a year. 

Watched a four-part dramatization on LIFE AFTER LIFE (Kate Atkinson) and a 5 part series BOILING POINT. Both from the BBC but showing on KANOPY, which I get through my library. Both terrific. Still enjoying NORTHERN EXPOSURE and I found the Steve Martin 2 part doc really interesting.

What about you?