Friday, December 08, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, December 8, 2017

Next Friday will be Bill Crider day on the blog. Please save reviews of work other than Bill's for another time. Remembrances are also welcome. Those without a blog, please send your piece to me and I will post it here.

I can hardly bear to post these reviews without his name on the list. Another friend died from a stroke this week. Bonnie has two major losses. And Kevin has lost his Sandi. Hardly a worse week in memory. And what goes on in Washington just compounds all semblance of a civil society.



 UPRIGHT PIANO PLAYER, David Abbott

Henry Cage is an enigmatic protagonist to say the least. Despite what seem outwardly like a successful life, he is left by his wife, spurned by his son, a stranger to his grandson, forced out of his career, and harassed by a man who knocks into him after a party. Yet none of these things lead him to much self-reflection. He seems unable to give much and is puzzled at the consequent results of his behavior.

This is a book that has been reviewed favorably yet not one of the women in my book group enjoyed it or even thought it a very good novel. These were the reasons they expressed:: they had no more understanding of Henry Cage by the end of the book than at the beginning--oh, yes, he had changed but it was not clear why. There were too many POVs that seemed unnecessary. Sometimes it was hard to sort out whose head we were in. Every character gets moments of reflection. So many in fact that this may have been what kept us from understanding Henry. The book begins with a horrific incident--an incident so horrible that we all dreaded having to go through it again. The author seemed determined to drape every character in tragedy, in fact. 

Having said this, I have thought about this book quite a bit. I wish we had been told more about his childhood, what made him such a inward man, so unreflective and aloof. I know back stories are unpopular nowadays but a character like Henry needs one if we are to have any hope of peering inside his head. What made Henry the man he was?

Sergio Angelini, Ranking the 87th Precinct Books by Ed McBain
Yvette Banek, Three Mystery Series
Les Blatt, SOMEBODY AT THE DOOR, Raymond Postgate
Brian Busby, The Season's Best Books in Review: 1917 
Martin Edwards, THE FILE ON LESTER, Andrew Garve
Curt Evans, LAVENDER HARVEST: IN COLD BLOOD, Armstrong Livingston
Richard Horton, THE AUCTION BLOCK, Rex Beach
Jerry House, TARZAN AND THE MAD MAN, Edgar Rice Burroughs
George Kelley, HARD READING: LEARNING FROM SCIENCE FICTION, Tom Shippey
Margot Kinberg, THE STUDENT BODY, Simon Hyatt
Rob Kitchin, DEATH OF A DOXY, Rex Stout
B.V. Lawson, THE MYNN'S MYSTERY, George Manville Fenn 
Evan Lewis,  RED GARDENIAS, Jonathan Latimer
Steve Lewis, THE GUILTY BYSTANDER, Mike Brett
Todd Mason, MIND FIELDS, Harlan Ellison and Jacek Yerka
Neer, A TIME TO DIE, Hilda Lawrence
J.F. Norris, THIRTY DAYS TO LIVE BY, Anthony Gilbert
Matt Paust, OUR GAME, John LeCarre
James Reasoner, THE EBONY JUJU, Gordon MacCreagh
TomCat, PATTERN OF MURDER, John Russell Fearn
TracyK, LANDED GENTLY, Alan Hunter
Westlake Review, GET REAL, Part 2

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Agatha Christie Night for Selected Shorts


Sorry. The guy is Hugh Dancy (Hannibal). It should turn up on the podcast for Selected Shorts. Or at least I hope so. They each read an Agatha Christie story except Megan who is the host. It was to raise money for Symphony Space.




Wednesday, December 06, 2017

First Wednesday Book Review CLub


I could not help but be impressed with the love Louise Penny received in Toronto at Bouchercon. Yvette Banek convinced me to try this one. She felt this was the one I was most likely to enjoy. And I did enjoy it somewhat, admired the writing, was impressed with how much research must have gone into learning about chants, monks, monasteries, the politics of a monastery. It was a book I admired more than liked though.

Briefly,  Gamache and his protege, Beauvoir go to a remote monastery where a monk has been killed. The murderer must be one of their own because it is cloistered. The monastery has recently gained fame for their chants of ancient works. This has caused a chasm between two groups of monks: the ones who feel moving forward is necessary and ones (led by the abbot) who feel their first calling is religious. The monk who is killed represents the progressive group.

My main issues with THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY were: too much of it relied on the reader knowing the events that took place in previous books. Hardly a page went by when these events were not referenced and yet never explained enough for the first-time reader to make sense of.

Secondly, the mystery, although interesting in the abstract, was not all that interesting in the way it played out. Only a few of the monks were sharply drawn and too much time was spent on arcane discussions. It felt at time like information dumps.

I also disliked how Gamache's supervisor was flown in (literally) to add tension to the story because there was so little. I find it hard to believe a police supervisor from a major cityy would take the time to go to this remote place just to torment our protagonist.

I also found little reason for Beauvoir, the second in command, to revert to his addiction to drugs when he is preparing to marry. This whole storyline and especially the ending, didn't work for me at all.

As I write this, I like it even less. And yet, I had no trouble finishing a long book, which I often do. So the beautiful mystery is why I finished it and why it didn't work for me. 

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy right here. 


Bill Crider Day on December 15th on FFB

Friday, December 15 will be Bill Crider Day on Friday Forgotten Books. If you would like to participate, either with a book review of one of his books or a remembrance, or a review of a short story, you can post it on my blog or your own should you have one. If you message me, I will give you my email to send it to. If you can get it to me a day or two before then, that would be great. Even Facebook reviews will work.All reviews are welcome.
Bill Crider was the first person I asked to write a review ten years ago when I began FFB.. I expected him to write one for the first week. Instead he has written over 500 reviews of books, never missing one that I remember. Let's honor Bill and his writing life on Dec, 15th. There is much to honor Bill for, let this be the firs

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Forgotten Movies, THE JAGGED EDGE



I know I saw this movie in the eighties at the theater but surprisingly little of the story stayed with me. Including the twists of which there are several. Jeff Bridges plays a newspaper editor accused of murdering his wife and maid. All of the assets including the business were hers. Motive.
Glenn Close, a former prosecutor, suffering  PTSD from a bad case and now practicing corporate law, reluctantly takes him on. And, of course, a romantic relationship develops. The film suffers from mediocre at best direction and some inconsistent acting, but on the whole, I liked it well enough. It is hard to say more than this without spoilers. All in all, a B- movies for me.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Things That Are Making Me Happy

We have had so many sunny days this week. So unusual for Detroit this time of year. I am very affected by the lack of sun here so yay!

We celebrated Kevin's 11th birthday yesterday. On Thursday night, the day of his birthday, he went with friends to see an illusionist. Seems to have been a great choice of events. Boy, does he have great parents. They make sure he gets to sample a wide range of cultural and popular events.

My favorite TV shows of 2017 all made me happy.

THE GOOD PLACE, MASTER OF NONE, BETTER THINGS, BETTER CALL SAUL, THE DEUCE, BIG LITTLE LIES, MINDHUNTER, ATLANTA, THE LEFTOVERS, THE FIVE.

What about you? 




Saturday, December 02, 2017

Saturday Music




Thanks for one of the most original songs I grew up with.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books December 1, 2017

The Stone Diaries (from 2006)

My book club chose The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields to read for October (2006). I read it when it first came out 15 years ago and had a different set of reactions this time. One of the most interesting things for me was the list made by the protagonist near the end of the book of things she never did. Included are items such as oil painting, nude bathing, reading science fiction, oral sex, driving a car. It is a very sad list because so many of the items were ordinary and accessible and the last item was she never heard anyone say they loved her!

Carol Shields, who died too young, was a Canadian writer who was once one of the triumvirate with Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood. And I would include Margaret Laurence as another great Canadian writer.  THE STONE DIARIES takes a character from early in the 1900s to the 1990s and we watch the world change repeatedly over that time.

My "didn't do" list would include smoking pot, diving, learning a magic trick, skating backward, living alone. The woman in my group talked most about the last one. Most of us had never lived alone--going right from our parent's house or a college dorm to living with a husband. We were all born in the late 1940s.. (Ten years later, more of us live alone).
 

What would your list include if you're old enough to make one?What did you never do?

Sergio Angelini, FIDDLERS, Ed McBain
Mark Baker, VOID MOON, Michael Connelly
Yvette Banek, IT WALKS BY NIGHT, John Dickson Carr
Bill Crider, PRIME SUCKER, Harry Whittington
Martin Edwards, THE  HOUSE OF DOCTOR EDWARDES, Francis Beeding
Richard Horton, THE GREEN QUEEN, Margaret St. Clair/THREE THOUSAND YEARS, Thomas Calvert McClary
Jerry House, SOMEBODY'S WALKING OVER MY GRAVE, Robert Arthur
Nick Jones, P.M Hubbard short stories in the magazine of FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION 
George Kelley, THE BIG BOOK OF THE CONTINENTAL OP, Dashiell Hammett
Margot Kinberg, DAYS ARE LIKE GRASS, Sue Younger
Rob Kitchin, THE SELLOUT, Paul Beatty
B.V. Lawson, HARD-BOILED DAMES, ed. by Bernard Drew
Steve Lewis.Barry Gardner, CHARLIE'S APPRENTICE, Brian Freemantle 
Todd Mason,  THE OVERLOOK FILM ENCYCLOPEDIA: HORROR, edited by Phil Hardy  ROMANCING THE VAMPIRE by David J. Skal 
J.F. Norris, FLASHPOINT, John Russell Fearn
Matt Paust, SINGLE AND SINGLE, John LeCarre
James Reasoner, ON A SILVER DESERT: THE LIFE OF ERNEST HAYCOX, Ernest Haycox, Jr. 
Gerard Saylor, THE BOYS OF '67, Andrew Wiest
TomCat, DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF RAIN, Zu Yen Lin
TracyK, BANKING ON DEATH, Emma Lathen
Prashant Trikannad, DEAD LINE, Stella Rimington

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Your Favorite Mystery Taking Place on a Train: Book or Movie

Watched the TV version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, which was disappointing. Suchet played it as grimly and judgmentally as possible and it seems like a lot of text about religion was added. Also I don't remember it as being quite so much a Poirot in every scene affair. And also it was quite claustrophobic, which may or may not be there. I'll take the Albert Finney version.

Anyway, I love movies/books set in trains. And my favorite is THE LADY VANISHES. Love every minute of that one. Love Chalders and Caldicott and their cricket obsession.

I have never read the book though.

What is favorite fictional train trip?  (I am sure I have asked this before because I can ever remember some responses).

And anyone who wants to name the HOMICIDE episode from season 6 set in the subway, yes!


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Forgotten Movies: GREEN FOR DANGER

Sergio Angelini reviewed this recently. So we watched it too. I remember reading the book when it was on a list as one of the 100 best mysteries. But I did not remember the ending. And I do think the way it was filmed enhanced its strengths. The tonal shift when Alastair Sims shows up as the Inspector is odd but enjoyable. It is set in a hospital during the war. It is close to a locked room murder in some respects. Well-acted, stylish. We enjoyed it. And every actor plays their part well.

For a longer and better look at this film, here is Sergio's review

Monday, November 27, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dad.






My father, Ralph Edward Nase, was born in 1914, the sixteenth of nineteen children. He was put to work by six or so, selling pretzels, delivering the newspaper, doing whatever he could to bring in money for a family supported by a father who worked in a cigar factory.

They lived in a three-bedroom house with all the boys sleeping in the attic. They raised their own food and butchered their own animals. They were Lutheran and took religion seriously.
Recent immigrants, no. They came to Pennsylvania centuries earlier from Alsace-Lorraine. The original spelling of their name was probably Neys or Nehs. The town he grew up in was filled with Nases, some spelling it Nace.

He got a two-year degree in bookkeeping (following the lead of an older brother) and took a job keeping the books for Oak Terrace Country Club. He married my Mom in 1941 and was drafted the same day. He spent the next four years fighting in Europe.
He was a devoted father, husband and church goer. He never lifted a hand to us, was always kind and affectionate. But he often worked 60 hours a week. It was hard life that he never complained about. He liked working, liked keeping busy, loved to walk, play tennis, play ball, dance.

He loved to be the center of attention and loved his grandchildren, loved all children.
He is very much missed.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
He never understood what blogs were or online but he would love being on here today.


Things That Make Me Happy


I have begun to divide old photos up between my two kids and it was fun to hear them remember fondly vacations, Halloween costumes, grandparents and various other times on Thanksgiving. It was almost always just the four of us in their childhood and it is so nice now to be a bigger group.

Also fun to play games together and not electronic games. We especially enjoyed THE OREGON TRAIL. Although most of us died before reaching the coast, it was fun.

We enjoyed rewatching the Thanksgiving episodes of FRIENDS and hearing Kevin recite every line of them. Clearly he has rewatched. Say what you want about FRIENDS, it was a funny show with great chemistry and great writing. It made some mistakes, yet, but it reflected the era it played in.

Loved LADYBIRD. Perhaps the best evocation of a mother-daughter relationship on film ever. So beautifully done by first-time director Greta Gerwig.Also enjoyed THREE BILLBOARDS IN EBBING MISSOURI. Sam Rockwell especially impressed me.

Kudos to Katee Sackhoff for the acting she is doing on this last season of LONGMIRE. She has always been a great asset to the show, but she gets to show her depth as an actor finally.

Fondly remembering my Dad today who would have been 103. He was a good father and a good husband.

And what about you?




Saturday, November 25, 2017






I am so lucky to have a  husband who after 50 years still plays music when we decorate the house for Christmas.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 24, 2017

Heath Lowrance (from the archives)

“Forgotten book” might be the wrong way to describe Dan J. Marlowe’s The Name of the Game is Death. For hard-core fans of brutal, fast-paced noir, the book is anything but forgotten-- it is, in fact, considered a cornerstone of the genre. But despite that, in the fifty years since its first publication it’s been out of print more often than in, and most casual readers of crime fiction have never heard of it. For me, The Name of the Game is Death is one of the essential five or ten books in the world of hardboiled/noir.
The story: a career criminal calling himself Roy Martin (more on his name later) holes up after a botched bank robbery, while his partner sends him monthly allotments of their take. But when the money stops coming, Martin suspects the worst and sets off to find out what happened. The small town he finds turns out to be a cesspool of corruption and hypocrisy that makes even Martin’s twisted morality seem sane and rational by comparison.
In the hands of most writers, this rather simple plot wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, but Marlowe paints a vivid picture of Martin, not just through his actions but also in a set of chilling flashbacks to Martins’ youth and young manhood, where all the signs of a sociopathic personality begin to emerge. And the steps Martin takes to find out what happened to his partner and to retrieve his money reinforce him as a deeply disturbed man.
Quite simply, he enjoys killing and hurting people; in one memorable scene, he’s unable to become sexually aroused for intercourse, and admits to himself that the only thing that really turns him on is bloodshed-- in a later scene, he brutalizes a woman who attempted to set him up, and he’s able to “perform” without a hitch.
So all in all, Roy Martin is a seriously messed-up sociopath, with barely a redeeming feature-- aside from a fondness for animals. Why do we find ourselves almost rooting for him? Because almost everyone else he encounters is a hollow, lying hypocrite. Martin is the only character who is actually true to himself… much to the horror of everyone else.
The climax to Th e Name of the Game is Death is stunningly violent, very dark, and totally chilling-- not the sort of ending that would cause you to expect a sequel. And yet Marlowe did indeed bring the character back a few years later for a book that was almost-but-not-quite as good as the first, One Endless Hour. In that one we discover that Martin’s name is actually Drake (which is how he’s often referred to when discussing The Name of the Game is Death).
More books about “The Man with Nobody’s Face” would follow, each one a bit softer than the one before, until almost all signs of the near-psychopathic Martin were gone, replaced by a repentant crook who now worked for the government.
But lovers of dark, violent tales will always remember him as the blood-thirsty killer calling himself Roy Martin.

Mark Baker, I IS FOR INNOCENT, Sue Grafton
Bill Crider. AMONG THE GENTLY MAD, Nicholas Brasbane
Martin Edwards, THE THIRD EYE, Ethel Lina White
Curt Evans, BLOOD FROM A STONE, Ruth Sawtell Wallis,
Richard Horton, MAIGRET HAS SCRUPLES, MAIGRET AND THE RELUCTANT WITNESS,    George Simenon
Jerry House, THE SHORT LIFE AND HAPPY TIMES OF THE SCHMOO, Al Capp
George Kelley, FIRST PERSON SINGULARITIES, Robert Silverberg
Margot Kinberg, DEAD LEMONS, Finn Bell
Rob Kitchin, CODEBREAKERS, James Wiley and Michael McKinley
Evan Lewis, A NOOSE FOR THE DESPERADO, Clifton Adams
Steve Lewis, Robert Briney, CASTLE SKULL, John Dickson Carr
Neer, THE FEVER TREE, Richard Mason
J.F. Norris, COMETS HAVE LONG TAILS, Madeleine Johnston
Todd Mason, Terry Carr, ed: SCIENCE FICTION FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE SCIENCE FICTION ; Harry Harrison, ed: THE LIGHT FANTASTIC  --Redux post from 2012
Matt Paust, MRS. MCGINTY'S DEAD, Agatha Christie
James Reasoner, THE NIGHT HELL'S CORNER DIED, Clay Ringold
Gerard Saylor, IT'S MY FUNERAL, Peter Rabe
Kevin Tipple
TomCat, THE CASE OF THE BONFIRE BODY, Christopher Bush
TracyK, NORTHANGER ABBEY, Jane Austen, FEAST OF MURDER, Jane Haddam

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Forgotten Movies




What brought this to mind was that we saw the play on Friday night. The cast here was excellent as was the cast in the version we saw. A play this elegant and profound has to touch you and it did.

Have you seen either the play or movie?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

It makes me happy that Kevin is always inventing games even if I never quite understand them!

Really enjoyed a local production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN, which is more powerful now than ever. Well, at least as powerful now as ever.

Happy to have lunch with some old friends that have been going through the same sort of hard times we have but have not let it beat them down. Janet was a professor of folklore before her retirement. Andrea, a professor Italian. It was fun to compare recent reads, movies, tv, trying to stay away from the BIG TOPIC. And fun to hear they are having their first grandchild soon. The parents have not asked the sex, which I find incomprehensible. Why talk about the baby as it when you could take about it as she or he?

How about you? 

Oh, and this from Ken Bruen.
  Patricia Abbott's collection of stories are just electric
Utterly amazing
In any collection there are usually a few duds.
Not here
no way
The short story form is perhaps the most difficult to achieve artistry in
PA joins the very select few
Like
Frank O Connor
Raymond Carver
De Maupassant
Dahl
who has not only mastered this art but brought something entirely new to the genre
A dark captivating compassion.
gra go mor
K



Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 10, 2017

(from the archives: Ed Gorman)

Forgotten Books: Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson


Let's begin with a tale of woe. Mine.

Years ago I was asked to contribute a forty thousand word novella to a YA series about shapeshifters. You know, beings humans and otherwise who can transform themselves into other kinds of creatures. I immediately thought of Jack Williamson's The Wolves of Darkness, a grand old pulp novella set in the snowy American West and featuring enough creepy
violence and tangled romance to make it memorable. It even has its moments of sweeping poetry.

Reading Williamson's piece showed me how to write my own. A few days after the young editor received it he called to rave. And I do mean rave. The best of the entire series. Eerie and poetic. Yadda yadda yadda. For the next forty-eight hours I was intolerable to be around. It was during this time our five cats learned to give me the finger. My swollen head was pricked soon enough. The young editor's older boss hated it. He gave my editor a list of reasons he hated it. I was to rewrite it. I wouldn't do it. I said I'd just write another one, which I did. Old editor seemed to like this one all right but he still wasn't keen on how my "characterizations" occasionally stopped the action. Backstory--verboten.

Shortly after this werewolves began to be popular. I spoke to a small reading group one night and told them about Wolves of Darkness and then about Williamson's novel Darker Than You Think. Everything I love about pulp fantasy is in this book. The werewolf angle quickly becomes just part of a massive struggle for the soul of humanity. As British reviewer Tom Matic points out:

"According to its backstory, homo sapiens emerged as the dominant species after a long and bitter struggle with another species, homo lycanthropus, whose ability to manipulate probability gave it the power to change its shape and practise magic. These concepts, fascinating as
they are, might make for dry reading were they not mediated via a gripping thriller riddled with startling plot twists, that blends scientific romance with images of stark bloodcurdling horror, such as the kitten throttled with a ribbon and impaled with a pin to induce Mondrick's asthma attack and heart failure, and the pathetic yet fearsome figure of his blind widow, her eyes clawed out by were-leopards. With its scenes of demonic mayhem in an academic setting and the sexual and moral sparring between the two main characters, it almost feels like a prototype of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer in a film noir setting."

Williamson couching his shapeshifters in terms of science fiction lends the story a realistic edge fantasies rarely achieve. The brooding psychology of the characters also have, as Matic points out, a noirish feel. And as always Williams manages to make the natural environment a
strong element in the story. He's as good with city folk as rural. And he's especially good with his version of the femme fatale, though here she turns out to be as complicated and tortured as the protagonist.

This is one whomping great tale. If you're tired of today's werewolves, try this classic and you'll be hooked not only by this book but by Jack Williamson' work in general..  

Sergio Angelini, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Sergio Angelini
Yvette Banek, STAIRWAYS OF DOOM
Les Blatt, THE ORIGIN OF EVIL, Ellery Queen
Bill Crider, THE BEST OF ROBERT BLOCH 
Curt Evans, PSEUDONYMS
Richard Horton, THE ORDEAL OF GILBERT PINFOLD, Evelyn Waugh
Jerry House, ALL OUR YESTERDAYS, ROBERT B. PARKER
George Kelly, HARD-BOILED, NOIR AND GOLD MEDALS, Rick Ollerman
Margot Kinberg, NUNSLINGER, Stark Holborn
Rob Kitchin, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukherjee
B.V. Lawson, THE SLIPPER POINT MYSTERY, Augusta Huiell Seaman
Evan Lewis, CODE NAME GADGET, Peter Rabe
Steve Lewis, NOT A THROUGH STREET, Ernest Larsen 
Todd Mason, VENTURE: THE TRAVELER'S WORLD (Feburary, '65)
J.F. Norris, RESERVATION FOR MURDER, June Wright 
Juri Numellin, HOURS BEFORE DAWN, Celia Fremlin
Matt Paust, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie
Gerard Saylor, DIG MY GRAVE DEEP, Peter Rabe
Kevin Tipple, THE KILLER WORE CRANBERRY: A SECOND HELPING, edited by J. Alan Hartman
Tomcat, DANCING DEATH, Christopher Bush and ANNE VAN DORN
TracyK, BROTHERS KEEPERS, Donald E. Westlake 
Westlake Review, DIRTY MONEY, Part 3

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Who are the biggest holes in your reading of crime fiction?

I have many holes, but about half the books I read are out of the genre. But in the genre, I have never read Ellery Queen, Michael Connelly or Hugh Pentecost. There are plenty more too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Tuesday Night Music


The Saddest Movies

I thought about this a bit and decided, the movie had to be a good one. I wasn't going to highlight a movie that was sad but lousy. There are a lot of those--mostly romances. So my five saddest movies would be CALVARY, MOONLIGHT, PRIEST,ORDINARY PEOPLE and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. I am sure given this task tomorrow others would come to me.

What movies would you choose?

Monday, November 06, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy




Seeing LA BOHEME on my local arthouse movies screen live from the Royal Opera House in London. This program and others like it are available in many places now and gives us a chance to see classic works of music, dance and theater that we may not have been able to see otherwise. Phil watched the 7th game, but my friend, Charleen, and I enjoyed this production so much.

Phil's latest scan was cancer-free. Yay! Four months of freedom after 15 months of surgery,  chemo and radiation.

Enjoyed the Harlem Quartet, played here on Saturday. They are in Detroit for a few days, introducing their music to schools with music programs. They are currently in residence in London so we are lucky to have them here for a week. They play both jazz and classical and are joyous performers.

Having a friend like Mary, who has helped us through the last few years and is making a celebration dinner for us tonight. Everyone needs a friend like Mary. There are very few people who you know you can count on and she is our go-to friend.

Still reeling from the finale of THE DEUCE. Megan talks about her experience in working on the show on the terrific LARB right here.  

And how nice meeting Steve Oerkfitz for coffee. So nice to talk books and movies and other topics with someone I have known online for so long. Everyone I have ever met from my online life has been exactly as they seemed: smart, nice, interesting. 

And what about you? 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Friday, November 03, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 3, 2017

(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 blogwhen 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 inbringing 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 arestill 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 verylast 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.” Its 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 booksin the series are the ones which include Mrs. Haven.Into this close, closed and tight knit community fall the adventures of the richand famous, infamous, innocent or not so, scrupulous or unscrupulous, always intriguing visitors with mysteries begging to be solved.

Sergio Angelini, I AM MARY DUNNE, Brian Moore
Yvette Banek, FREE FALL, Robert Crais
Brian Busby, WIVES AND LOVERS, Michael Milner
Bill Crider, KISS ME, SATAN, Victor Gischler
Martin Edwards, THE GOLD STAR LINE, Meade and Eustace
Curt Evans, NO BONES ABOUT IT, Ruth Sawtell Wallis
Richard Horton, UNDER THE RED ROBE, Stanley J. Weyman
Jerry House, TWO FABLES, Roald Dahl
Nick Jones, PERIL FOR THE GUY, John Kennett
George Kelley, THE ART OF THE PULPS, Douglas Ellis
Margot Kinberg, ABOVE SUSPICION, Lynda La Plante  
Rob Kitchin, MAP OF A NATION, Rachel Hewitt
B.V. Lawson, THE ALBERT GATE MYSTERY, Louis Tracy
Evan Lewis, TAI-PAN, James Clavell 
Steve Lewis, CHAIN SAW, Jackson Gillis 
Todd Mason, Favorite Little Magazines
Neer, THE FILM OF FEAR, Frederic Arnold Kummer Jr.
J.F. Norris, TO CATCH A THIEF, Daphne Sanders
Matt Paust, More Maigrets, Georges Simenon 
James Reasoner, BELLS OF DOOM, Maxwell Grant
Gerard Saylor, WHORESON, Donald Goines
TomCat, THE WINDBLOW MYSTERY, Edward Gellibrand
TracyK, SMALLBONES DECEASED, Michael Gilbert 
Westlake Review, DIRTY MONEY, Richard Stark 
Zybahn, THE SUPER HUGOS, Issac Asimov

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Wednesday Night Music


First Wedneday Book Club: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng


This was peculiar book for me. Although I read it very quickly, easily and with pleasure, it had many oddities. It wasn't until the book was half over, that its real topic emerged: the adoption of Asian babies by American couples. And the problems of surrogate mothers as well. And because the topic arises late, it leaves most of the characters lurching for their place. Characters I had begun to be interested in in the first half, barely surfaced in the second.

It is also a story of mothers and daughters. A major figure is identified mostly by her surname. Why?
And if the first half addresses privilege, the second half leaves this behind and hones in on other non-character based issues too often. It's as if, Ng becomes bored with her clever social satire and reaches for a deeper tone.

The plot mostly concerns the intersection of a self-satisfied Shaker Heights family with a single mother and her daughter. The single mother is an artist who begins to clean for the family. The daughter forms relationships with all of the family's kids. But as I said earlier, most of this goes out the window in the second half.

I kept thinking that if this book was reordered and told from the single mother's POV, it would have been a stronger story. But you can find lots of reviews who had no problem with the story. So maybe it's just me. Certainly it is a well-written, thoughtful book. Just a little short of memorable characters. Too many of them never come alive.

You can find more reviews at Barrie Summy's place. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween


Joan Didion documentary on Netflix: THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD






Joan Didion chronicled much of American life from the sixties till fairly recently. She wrote novels and two memoirs: both about the deaths of the two people in this picture. Her nephew Griffin Dunne, attempts to capture her life and work in this documentary. And although she fully cooperated with  him, she remains something of an enigma at the end. A life as rich and full as her is difficult to put on film. Their are so many avenues to explore and only so much time. But this was a mostly successful attempt. Certainly the biographical ticks are covered. If there is a hole, it would be in not having a literary critic sum up her contribution to the modern essay and literature itself more fully. Why are SLOUCHING TOWARD BETHLEHEM and THE WHITE ALBUM still revered? What is it about her writing that enthralls most literary students?

In this photo, she is the onlooker. I think that sums her up fairly well. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 30, 2017

THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY


The Halloween edition.Or almost.
Not since 400 BLOWS have I seen a film as good about childhood as THE FLORIDA PROJECT. Amazing performances in a story of welfare hotels just outside the Magic Kingdom. Interview with the director credit his love of THE LITTLE RASCALS in getting the sort of performances he wanted.

Some ambivalence about THE MINDHUNTER on Netflix. It may be just a bit more graphic in its detail than I want. But STRANGER THINGS starts out well. And THE GOOD PLACE does not disappoint me although my husband is not a big fan. Nor a big fan of BETTER THINGS, which I also like,

Not much family stuff. Kevin''s hockey game was canceled and he lost a tooth (baby) in PE. I envy those of you who have so much interaction with your family. Ours is small and spread out.

Speaking of which, my nephew in VA had a baby girl so I am now a great aunt. Welcome Marley Nase. How beautiful you are.And Marley has a beautiful mother Michelle. Congrats to them all.


And what about you?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, October 27, 2017


 (Read in 2007)
When was the last time you read a book so compelling you couldn't put it down? What was it?
For me, it was this novel. It takes a long time in Pick-Up for the reader to understand the protagonist and what he's all about. Why he's in the fix he's in. Maybe you won't understand the full story until the last line. And yet, Willeford is able to tell his story lucidly, making even the most mundane details riveting.
This is basically a story about two drunks. Why does it work so well? Better for me even than Kennedy's drunks in Albany. Because the characters are interesting, the narrative pull inescapable, the writing excellent.
Even when the plot turns a bit unlikely in the last third--the characters remain true to themselves, so you go along with it.
What turned you on this much?

Sergio Angelini, OMNIBUS, Carter Brown
Yvette Banek, THE PALE HORSE, Agatha Christie
Elgin Bleecker, WOLFSHEAD, Robert E. Howard
Brian Busby, THE NEW APOCALYPSE, John Daniel Logan
Bill Crider, FOUR UGLY GUNS, Ralph Hayes
Martin Edwards, TIME TO CHANGE HATS, Margot Bennett
Curt Evans THE SECOND SICKLE, Ursala Curtiss; THE STAIRWAY, Ursula Curtiss
Elisabeth Grace Foley, UNDER FIRE, Charles King
Richard Horton,  Times Without Number, by John Brunner/Destiny's Orbit, by David Grinnell
Jerry House, THORKOL, LORD OF THE UNKNOWN, Edmond Hamilton
George Kelley, COLLECTED MILLAR
Margot Kinberg, THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, Eric Ambler
Rob Kitchin, FLASHMAN'S LADY, George Macdonald Fraser
B.V. Lawson, THE CHINK IN THE ARMOR, Marie Belloc Lowndes
Evan Lewis, THE DESPERADO, Clifton Lewis
Steve Lewis/Dan Stumpf. THE GHOST OF OLD MOVIES,
Todd Mason, Various short story publications
Neer, THE INHERITANCE, Tom Savage
Matt Paust, THE LAST DAYS OF BLACKBEARD, THE PIRATE, Kevin Duffuss
James Reasoner, THIRST OF THE LIVING DEAD, Arthur Leo Zagat
Gerard Saylor, WARLORDS OF MARS, Edgar Rice Burroughs
TomCat, GROANING SPINNEY, Gladys Mitchell
Kerrie Smith, HARBOUR STREET, Ann Cleves
TracyK, CLOSE QUARTERS, Michael Gilbert
Westlake Review, ASK THE PARROT 
Zybahn, THE LAMP OF GOD, Ellery Queen

Thursday, October 26, 2017

LUCKY

 I have never been a huge Harry Dean Stanton fan although he has been used pretty effectively in his long career. I especially remember him from BIG LOVE where he played the evil polygamist in a cult of Mormonism. Also in the David Lynch movies. and in TWIN PEAKS

But LUCKY was a grace note to end a career on. At age 90+ it suddenly becomes clear to Lucky, an eccentric fellow living in the southwest, that he is going to die...eventually. Apparently other than a flash of the abyss at 12, he has given no thought to this before. LUCKY details his life before and after this insight. Wonderful to see James Darren, playing a bar buddy. Still handsome and still my teenage heartthrob. Lynch himself does a great job as does virtually every player in this film. It's a small world they live in but is populated like a neighborhood in LA or New York.

Well-directed, well-shot and enough of a story for me, I highly recommend it if watching a guy wander around for 90 minutes is your bag. It sure was mine.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Brief Encounter





Okay, not really a forgotten film. But I bet many men have not seen it. And Phil had to admit at the end, it was a superb piece of cinema. Even if it was a love story. But a love story only the British could tell because of its restraint, its sense of honorable behavior, its dignity.
Two middle-aged people, both unsatisfied in some never stated way with their marriage, meet in a rail station around 1945. Beautifully shot, directed (David Lean) and acted, this is the love story where two people act honorably despite its cost. So sad. The intensity of unacted upon love may have never been equaled.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy


Huntington Woods is having "the best scarecrow contest". It's fun to travel around, mostly on foot, and look at them.This is by my friend, Jenn. It is quite large.

Really happy to share some good times in Toronto with friends. Especially gratifying for a parent to see their child experience such acknowledgement from her peers. And we got to spend more time with Megan than we have in ages.

Enjoyed LOVING VINCENT, which is a film composted almost entirely of Van Gogh's artwork. Any Van Gogh fan will enjoy it.

So much terrific weather to enjoy. Love walking through HW and listening to podcasts. My favorite is FILMSPOTTING where they can spend an hour on which characters in Noah Baumbach films are the best. Glad podcasts have come along to replace the radio shows I once listened to.  And I very much enjoyed THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES on Netflix.

And speaking of Megan, she sure wrote a terrific episode of THE DEUCE, which aired last night. 

How about you?




Friday, October 20, 2017

Any Street Corner in Philly in the early Sixties, some guys were singing this.


Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, October 20, 2017


 (From the archives)

I am reluctantly finishing this book, which I have so enjoyed. I can't imagine any of you would not. More than 100 current writers choose a crime fiction book they admire and write an essay about it. Each one approaches it a bit differently. Some of the essays are scholarly. Some are personal. Some discuss the author more than the book. But nearly every one is worth reading. It is interesting to see how one writer has influenced another's work too. Some of them make perfect sense. With some the connection is less clear.

I had a hard time thinking of a book I would have included that wasn't here. In a review in the Washington Post, the reviewer asks where is Nicholas Blake and a few other golden age writers, but on the whole there are not too many great books not represented. Most of the books chosen do not come from the cozy sub-genre though.

I had read only half the books essayed here. Some I had never heard of. A few of the essayists were new to me too. But I sure went over to my TBR pile for three books I own but haven't read.

What book would you have chosen for your "book to die for?"

I would have chosen THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. Although Highsmith is remembered for STRANGERS ON A TRAIN-a very clever novel, I think Tom Ripley is a more memorable and important character. Perhaps a book of characters to die for would be fun. 

Sergio Angelini, SINGLE AND SINGLE, John LeCarre
Yvette Banek, THE FRIGHTENED STIFF, Kelly Roos
Les Blatt, INSPECTOR FRENCH'S GREATEST CASE, Freeman Wills Crofts
Elgin Bleecker, TRUE GRIT, Charles Portis
Brian Busby, BLACK FEATHER,  Benge Atlee
Bill Crider, THE BODY LOOKS FAMILIAR and THE LATE MRS. FIVE, Richard Wormser
Richard Horton, MR. FORTUNE'S MAGGOT, Sylvia Townsend Warner
Martin Edwards, TOO MANY COUSINS, Douglas G. Browne
Jerry House, CHASING THE BEAR, Robert B., Parker
Nick Jones, SCIENCE FICTION ODYSSEY 3 
George Kelley, SECRET AGENT X, Paul Chadwick
Margot Kinberg, THE BLIND GODDESS, Anne Holt
Rob Kitchin, A DANGEROUS MAN, Charlie Houston
B.V. Lawson, WIDOW CHERRY,  Benjamin Leopold Farjean
Evan Lewis, CHARLIE CHAN in LAND OF THE LEOPARD MAN
Steve Lewis, WHO IS SIMON WARWICK, Patricia Moyes
Todd Mason, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION (1976) Edward Ferman
Steven Nester,(THE RAP SHEET) THE BIG FIX, Roger L. Simon
Matt Paust, Maigret Double Feature, Georges Simenon
James Reasoner, SLAVE RUNNER. Gordon MacCreigh
Richard Robinson, TIMELESS, Armand Baltazar
Gerard Saylor, THE HIGHWAY KIND, ed. Patrick Milliken
Katherine Tomlinson, AN EXCESS MALE, Maggie Shen King
TomCat, THE GUEST WITH THE SCYTHE, Gret Lane
TracyK, THE NIGHTRUNNERS, Michael Collins
Westlake Review, ASK THE PARROT

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

FOR THOSE SEEKING A SHORT, CHARMING BOOK: THE RED NOTEBOOK






Oh, if every book was only as charming as this one. Set in Paris, a book shop owner finds a handbag and sets out to find its owner using clues from the items found in the bag. If I told you more, I would lessen your pleasure. Short, sweet, perfect for an hour or two's read. Have you read a charming book recently?