Friday, June 28, 2024

FFB - Nightcall and Other Stories, Charlotte Armstrong

From the archives: Ed Gorman was the author of the Sam McCain and Dev Conrad series of crime novels.  You can find him here.

Forgotten Books: Charlotte Armstrong Night Call & Other Stories

New from Crippen & Landru

 I first read Charlotte Armstrong after seeing a 1952 movie called "Don't Bother To Knock." The stars were Richard Widmark and Marilyn Monroe. Monroe plays a seriously disturbed young woman asked to babysit the child of Widmark and his wife. Monroe is terrific--terrifying. Will she kill the kid?
  I'd seen the name Charlotte Armstrong on the metal paperback racks. She always seemed to have a new paperback out. And she was in Ellery Queen a lot. I tracked down Mischief which the Monroe movie was based on and became an Armstrong fan for life.
  If she was not as phantasmagoric as Dorothy B. Hughes sometimes was or as Elizabeth Sanxay Holding almost always was, Armstrong, as a critic recently noted, updated the gothic tropes of the previous generation and made of them tart and contemporary popular art.
  No critic of the time was a bigger promoter of Armstrong's work than Anthony Boucher. He noted that she was the creator of "suburan noir" and he was right.
  Though she used the tropes of what was dismissively called "women's fiction" she took them into a nether realm that was riveting and terrifying.
  Editors Rick Cypert and the late Kirby McCauley have collected here a collection of short and long stories that are a tribute to the Armstrong finesse and darkness.
  None of the pieces here have ever been collected before and there is also unpublished material.
  Everything in the book is packed with excellent storytelling but my favorite has to be the long novelette "Man in The Road") about a "career woman" (yes that was how they were divided from "real women" :) ) who returns home to a small bleak desert town only to find herself accused of a sinister mysterious hit-and-run. I'll pay this the highest compliment I can--this is the kind of twisty crime story Richard Matheson excelled at. It would have been perfect for the long form "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
  My favorite of the shorter pieces is "The Cool Ones" which concerns the kidnapping of a grandmother and makes as contemporary a statement  as the Flower Power era she wrote it in.
  This is not only a major collection of a major writer  (thanks to Sarah Weinman for bringing so many overlooked women writers back to our attention) but is also the most beautifully jacketed and produced book Crippen & Landru has ever published.   

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: THE BUGGY, Roddy Doyle THE NEW YORKER


 An older man speculates on whether a buggy on the beach might still hold a baby. He is on the way to visit his brother and the deserted buggy causes him to stop. He wrestles with the man he was in the past who would have known what to do. He remembers his childhood, his young adulthood and his own children. This is very much a story about feeling impotent compared to the way he felt when he was young. A woman comes and it is clear there is no baby in the buggy. Instead of him saving a baby, she wants to save him. This is lovely writing and a fine story but it will not make you smile. Later he tells his brother he found a buggy with a baby in it. It makes a better story and it makes him a man who can rescue babies. 

George Kelley

Jerry House 

Kevin Tipple

Monday, June 24, 2024

Monday, Monday

 Had four good days in NY where we saw MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, STEREOPHONIC and AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE in quick succession. We also saw great exhibits at the MET (Harlem Renaissance), MOMA, (Kathe Kollwitz) and FOTOGRAFITZA (Vivian Maier). Also saw the premier of FANCY DANCE with Megan at the Hotel Whitby with the cast in attendance. Had okay food but nothing exceptional.The temps weren't too hot for our visit but were climbing day by day.

And then my friend got COVID. I hustled her to a URGENT CARE, where we were both tested and somehow I didn't catch it. Her prescription for Paxlovid really seemed to help. But sadly we had to fly home, well masked, but perhaps infecting more people. What can you do? The place we stayed (a friend's) was about to undergo a kitchen renovation so we needed to get out. 

Last night I saw a very good movie if it comes your way, GHOSTLIGHT. Set in Chicago and acted by Chicago actors. Lovely little movie. 

No TV except a doc on the making of the original MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. 

Reading HORSE, which is okay but boy, horses don't much interest me. And it is hard to read about the treatment of slaves once again. Do book groups ever choose books that are happy?

How about you?

Monday, June 17, 2024

Friday, June 14, 2024

Forgotten Movies: A MAN AND A WOMAN

 Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is a widower who has become a single father after his wife's suicide, and Anne (Anouk Aimée) is a widow and single mother still reeling from the accidental death of her husband. When the two cross paths at their children's boarding school, both are wary, but they soon form a friendship that is quickly charged with romance. Yet the pair continue to struggle to overcome their past tragedies as they try to begin a new relationship. 

This won several Oscars including Best Foreign Language Film, best actress, and best screenplay in 1966. It is imaginatively but sometimes annoyingly filmed. It's romantic and sexy.

The back stories of the lovers are filmed very differently. Probably still influenced by the French New Wave in 1966. Several scenes seem completely extraneous to the plot. 

This was on Kanopy in my area but it is probably also on Prime. You will be humming its theme song all night.


Monday, June 10, 2024

Monday, Monday

 I will put an empty post up for next Monday so you can communicate while I am in NY.

Really liked THE GREAT LILLIAN HALL on Max. Jessica Lange was terrific and the story (based on Marion Seldes, who I bet Jeff has seen in plays) was sad but very well done.

Finished HACKS, which had a great last episode after a few middling ones. I would have written this season where she had already gotten the job hosting a Late Night show. Seems like they were treading water although Smart and the rest of the cast was great. Trying to watch WHITE COLLAR but boy, anything about finance, just shuts down my brain.

Saw a local production of SUNSET BOULEVARD. Is it me or does all of Andrew Lloyd Weber's music sound the same? Or else I saw this one before. This company did a great job with a not- so- hot screenplay. There is not very much plot in this tale. And I am not fond of singing the story. Write songs or write spoken dialogue. The actor who played Joe Gillis was an actor I saw last fall in THE MOUSETRAP at another theater. I spent the whole play trying to remember what I saw him in. Very cute guy and they had him parade around in a swim suit for a while.

Reading HORSE by Geraldine Brooks and PROVENCE, 1970 (Burr) Got TABLE FOR TWO (Towles) from library but it is too thick to take with me. 

Lots of rain here. Hoping it is not too hot in NY later this week. 

What about you?

Friday, June 07, 2024



Book by Ray Rasmussen
Landmarks is a collection of 64 of Ray Rasmussen's haibun that have appeared in a number of journals including Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Haibun Today, Contemporary Haibun Online, A Hundred Gourds, Bottle Rockets and Blithe Spirit. ... Google Books
Originally published: July 29, 2015
Rasmussen is especially good at being modest and honest about his life in this collection.
A haibun is a combination of poetry and prose. The poetry being a haiku, the prose, usually but not always, personal. Modern haiku are generally about 13 syllables, not the 17 we learned in fourth grade. They often have a nature reference. The haiku (there can be more than one), usually at the end of the prose section, is meant to comment on or deepen the prose. A title is also important. Thus far I have not written a haibun I am satisfied with but here is a try I did for my writing group. Haibun writers suggest 20 years to learn the art. Back at 96 then. 

Virtual Fences by Patricia Abbott

I grew up in a row house in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. The tiny backyard was more mud than grass. Fences were few because barriers would’ve taken precious inches away from the lot. Clotheslines strung on metal poles were as close as we came to fences.

                                                                        thistle shudders

                                                                        when a bouncing ball

              kneecaps it

There was one exception. Mrs. Pershing, an elderly widow, kept her dog in a small fenced-in area. If you got too close to his pen, which was easy to do in those narrow alleys, Buster went wild. Although there were other dogs on our street, most were kept inside, a practice endorsed by my father who had a set piece he delivered on the city being no place for dogs. His “How to avoid getting bitten by a dog” still troubles me today.

                                                                        against steel fabric

                                                                        woven into mesh

               you press your nose

On summer nights, twenty or so of us played various games in the alley until dark. If left outside, Buster’s barking was incessant. If he barked too long or with a certain panic in his voice, Mrs. Pershing would appear with a baseball bat in hand and wave it at us. We were more afraid of her than the dog tied to the clothes pole. Over time, our cohort outgrew playing in the alley and turned it over to a new crop of ten-year olds. Buster would break the new crowd in but got hoarser and more lethargic as the years passed. He eventually outgrew his grit and lost most of his teeth. As did his master.

            the dog struggles 

            rope twisted tight on a pole

            the zing of metal

A few years later as I was passing Mrs. Pershing’s house, she tapped on her window. She was frail by then and not frightening to a sixteen-year-old. I went to her door, and she asked me if I could pick up a prescription at the drug store. We talked now and then after that small favor, and she confided how frightened she’d been living alone in the years after her husband died. With no children of her own, the kids in the alley scared her as much as she scared us.

Why didn’t I tell my parents about Mrs. Pershing and her dog? Why not alert them to the possibly explosive problem just down the street? It never occurred to me, nor to anyone else on Gilbert Street in the nineteen sixties. The alley was our province and we handled things in our own way. No matter what the issue, no one brought in a parent. Maybe children didn’t expect adult intervention in their lives. And maybe an elderly woman didn’t count on help from her neighbors either.

                                                                        A neighbor or two

                                                                        the priest fumbling for her name

                                                                        ground frozen till spring


The challenge was write something about fences.

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Short Story Wednesday: collected stories of Carson McCullers

The link is to a Suzanne Vega performance based on the work of McCullers. Not sure when it took place.

I read two stories in this collection"Instant of the Hour After" and "A Domestic Dilemma." Written 20 years apart, they both concern alcoholism . McCullers husband suffered from this, eventually committing suicide. 

The early story, written when McCullers was 20, in many ways seemed more modern. It concerns a very young couple where it was already clear that drink is going to ruin their lives. Although they have both been drinking on this occasion, the man is in a real stupor. 

In the second story, it is the woman who drinks. There are two children now and the husband has walked in on two dangerous situations and is prepared to intervene although he blames himself to a degree for taking his wife away from her home town and family. 

I have read THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER and THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING but not in a while. Both were made into terrific movies too. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple   (Still not getting this link to work. Will try again later)


Jerry House

Monday, June 03, 2024

Monday, Monday


I had to think HIT MAN over for a while before coming to terms with the ending. Glen Powell is certainly the flavor of the month though. I guess I've come to think of certain kinds of movies as being Richard Linklater movies and this wasn't it. Although it is not so different from BERNIE the more I thought about it. It's on Netflix starting June 7.

I saw JUNIPER with Charlotte Rampling on KANOPY. It would have been a mediocre movie without her. Had a great last song by Marlon Williams.  A little like Elvis, right?

Because I have so much trouble finishing one book a month for my book group, I joined another one tentatively.  This is a bigger group so if I don't like the book or get busy, no one is depending on me. Books: HORSES and JAMES. Lots of Haiku. Still trying to get the hang of it.


What about you?