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
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
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
Steve Lewis, WHO IS SIMON WARWICK, Patricia Moyes
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
TracyK, THE NIGHTRUNNERS, Michael Collins
Westlake Review, ASK THE PARROT

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


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?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Taking a Week Off: Behave Yourselves.

                                                             Wish me luck.I will need it.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, October 6, 2017

Todd will have the links next week. Thanks, Todd.

from the archives of Randy Johnson.

I’ve posted about Pono Hawkins before HERE.He’s tilting at Wind mills again, literally. This time on the other side of the world. Maine. He’s there to help an old comrade who’s in jail for murder.
Buddy Franklin is his name and Pono doesn’t even like him. He once testified at a trial where Pono was accused of shooting an Afghani girl. He did, but the fifteen year old had been set on fire by her husband for daring to lay eyes on another man, an honor killing. Dying anyway and begging for someone to kill her, he’d ended her pain. The Bush government made him a scapegoat and Pono got twenty years, a sentence vindicated a few months later. Franklin had also married the woman Pono loved.
Why help him then?
A thing called honor. Franklin was Special Forces like Pono and the testimony was by rules of law. One didn’t desert a comrade in trouble. Oh, forgot to mention, Franklin had saved his life in a firefight as well.
The Wind Mafia was at it again in Maine. Pono had managed to beat them in Hawaii and they were now making billions, off the public dollar, building useless wind turbine towers, blotting the landscape, killing wildlife, ruining property values, and getting obscenely rich, along with the politicians, judges, and cops they paid off.
Pono was only there for a few days before the harassment started, shots were fired at him, and the cops were trying to pin murders, arson, and destruction of property on him.
A wonderfully written novel that wouldn’t let me stop until I finished it. Read the whole thing in less than a day.

Sergio Angelini, THE MANNY DEWITT TRILOGY, Peter Rabe
Yvette Banek, Classic Book Covers such as A SHOW OF HANDS, Erle Stanley Gardner
Les Blatt, Two by George Bellairs
Elgin Bleecker, ROUND TRIP, W.R. Burnett
Brian Busby, "Advice from Stephen Leacock
Scott Cupp, RIVER OF TEETH, Sarah Galley 
Martin Edwards, THE BORNLESS KEEPER, P.B. Yuill
Curt Evans, Roger Scarlett reissues 
Richard Horton, MIDDLE MARCH, George Elliott and AMAZING STORIES review
Margot Kinberg, CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, Elizabeth Peters
Rob Kitchin, WHISKEY IN SMALL GLASSES, Denzil Meyrich 
B.V. Lawson, ONE NIGHT'S MYSTERY, May Agnes Fleming 
Evan Lewis, THE LONG RIFLE, Stewart Edward White
Brian Lindenmuth, THE TWILIGHTERS, Noel Loomis
Todd Mason, MAGAZINE OF HORROR and GAMMA, 1963
Matt Paust, A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, John Kennedy Toole
James Reasoner, THE HELL-BORN CLAN, Phil Richards
Gerard Saylor, SHOEDOG, George Pelecanos
TracyK, THE EMPEROR'S SNUFF BOX, John Dickson Carr
Prashant Trikannad, SNIFF, THE DETECTIVE, Richard Scarry
Westlake Review, NOBODY RUNS FOREVER, Part 2

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

First Wednesdays Book Review Club: MORNINGSTAR, Ann Hood

                                                 For more reviews, go to Barrie Summy's blog, right here. 

MORNINGSTAR, GROWING UP WITH BOOKS is a favorite type of book for me. In it, novelist Ann Hood relates the details of her formative years through the books she chose to read at various ages. I am not going to tell you the books she chose because you will enjoy seeing what she read yourself  from her first books onward. We learn a lot about her middle-class family and the town of Warwick, RI. where she watched the decline of the town through her formative years. Mills and factories closed, better stores moved out of town or disappeared. A familiar story by now.

All of the books she talks about (and it's not all that many) were books that meant something to me too. And the thing that I liked best about it was her choices were original, realistic, different. Not the sort of books found on BY THE BOOK in the TIMES each week. But instead what a girl might stumble on herself when her family were not readers. This was also the case with me. No one ever guided my reading so I read inappropriate books often. No one told me to read books like FROM THE TERRACE or BABBITT or THE DEVIL IN BUCKS COUNTY or THE IDIOT, but I did.

This is a short book and Hood confines her discussion to about a dozen books, all which resonated with the times she lived in, her age at the time, and the country itself. . I would have like a list at the back of other books she read but did not include here. Especially childhood favorites.

I enjoyed this short book, almost more memoir than literary discussion but that is just fine. 

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tuesday Night Music

Two Movies I Have Seen This Week: BATTLE OF THE SEXES and BRAD'S STATUS

Neither of these films was a complete bust, but both of them were disappointments in a way. BATTLE OF THE SEXES was a Hollywood biopic and thus, despite very fine performances from Emma Stone and Steve Carrell, made the film duller than it had to be. The female tennis players, struggling to achieve equality in pay and respect with the men were presented as a mass of quasi-cheerleaders. Very few were even named. And how many Sarah Silverman performances must we endure before it is clear she always plays the same part. Both King and Riggs were poignant figures: he having become a clown to support his gambling addiction, and she for discovering her sexuality at the same time she was battling for women's rights. But neither is given the attention it deserves. Instead we spend too much time on meaningless scenes.The characters that evoke the most sympathy are their spouses. B-
BRAD'S STATUS presents a father who has no idea his son is a great student and has a good crack at a Harvard education despite having devoted his life to non-profits. You expect him to be a better man than he is. Are we supposed to feel sorry that his friends have greater success? Are we supposed to dislike him? But how can we when his son, a great kid, feels so sorry for him. Ben Stiller just never seems to play anyone but himself. His conversation with an older friend of his son's, a musician, is painful. "How can you be fifty and not know the world doesn't revolve around you?" she asks. Exactly. And yet you feel the movie feels sorry for him too. Again the character evoking the most sympathy is his wife. C+

Monday, October 02, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

I really enjoyed my trip to DC where we saw a terrific play set in Detroit (THE SKELETON CREW), went to a marvelous sculpture museum and garden in Maryland, saw a great exhibit of photographs of Marlene Dietrich at the Portrait Gallery (as well as portraits of the presidents)  and a great movie COLUMBUS. It was nice to see our friends there and also enjoy a visit with my brother, about to become a grandfather in two weeks. Another Nase will enter the world.

We had lovely weather although very hot. And some great meals. A much needed getaway for us. And thanks to Todd for helping out yet again.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

FRIDAY'S FORGOTTEN BOOKS, September 29, 2017

NIGHT TRAIN, Martin Amis

I came to NIGHT TRAIN having read only one Martin Amis book, THE RACHEL PAPERS. This is a very different book than THE RACHEL PAPERS and a very different book from the other books that preceded it. It was, I think, his ninth novel.

A female American cop, named Mike Hoolihan, investigates the apparent suicide of a young girl, Jennifer Rockwell, with everything to live for. She was also the daughter of Hoolihan's commanding officer. She is young, beautiful, has all of the assets and support Hoolihan does not. So it is this puzzle that occupies the investigation. Hoolihan makes a list of the things that would provoke a suicide and pursues them. At a certain point, a pattern begins to emerge.

Amis is able to imbue his main character with typical American cop traits. She is tough, scarred, a victim of abuse, determined.If she is able to get up every morning and face life, why not Jennifer? What makes some survive and others not. This question occupies much of the novel. 

Looking at the amazon reviews, some people faulted Amis for not writing his typical literary novel, some faulted him for not writing the typical police procedure. I credit him for writing a unique book.

Mark Baker, ANGEL'S FLIGHT, Michael Connelly
Yvette Banek, THE RIGHT SIDE, Spencer Quinn
Les Blatt, THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY, Agatha Christie
Brian Busby, REVENGE, Robert Barr
Martin Edwards, THE BOX OFFICE MURDERS, Freeman Wills Crofts
Richard Horton, NEW DREAMS THIS MORNING, James Blish
George Kelley, PAPERBACKS FROM HELL, Grady Hendrix
Margot Kinberg, AMONG THIEVES John Clarkson
B.V. Lawson, DR. NICOLA RETURNS. Guy Newell Boothby
Evan Lewis, "Surrogate" Robert Parker
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, DEEP END, Geoffrey Norman
Todd Mason, KIT REED
Neer, ASSASSINS, Jim Eldridge
Craig Pittman (THE RAP SHEET)La Brava, Elmore Leonard
Matt Paust, FINDING MOON, Tony Hillerman
James Reasoner, THE HARPERS OF TITAN, Edmond Hamilton
Gerard Saylor, GUN CHURCH, Reed Farrell Coleman
Kevin Tipple, THE WOMAN IN BLUE, Elly Griffiths
TomCat, THE CASE OF THE APRIL FOOLS, Christopher Bush
TracyK, THE CASE OF THE ROLLING BONES, Erle Stanley Gardner
Prashant Trikannad, BOOT HILL, AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE WEST, ed. Robert Randisi

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tuesday Night Music


I doubt that I will see a better movie than COLUMBUS this year. If you favor a lot of action, a big cast, noise, this probably isn't for you. But if you like quiet movies about the small moments in lives, you may like it too.
COLUMBUS takes place in Columbus, IN, rated the sixth best architectural place to visit in the U.S. and it is only a town of 40,000. All of the best modernist architects have buildings here and the movie makes good use of them. The two main characters, a girl of 20 (Haley Lu Richardson) and an older Korean-American (John Cho) are dealing with parent issues. But what makes the movie work so well is how their stories make use of the elements of architecture. Scenes are shot through windows, mirrors, doors, and only occasionally does it call direct attention to that. Hallways become an interesting way of showing distance. Their shared passion for architecture can only take them so far though. Such a beautiful movie. Directed by Kogonada, I think his name will become more familiar.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Forgotten Movies; GHOST STORY

This was a bit of a disappointment.I am not sure why the story seemed laid out poorly. And the acting was strange. Especially Craig Wasson, whose acting style didn't jibe at all with the four older actors. I loved the book and think if I read it again now I would still like it because there are good bones here. I think the direction is poor too. Perhaps the limitations of four elderly men impeded it as well. Also there was an awful lot of story to be told.
In summary: Four successful elderly gentlemen, members of the Chowder Society, share a gruesome, 50-year old secret. When one of Edward Wanderley's twin sons dies in a bizarre accident, the group begins to see a pattern of frightening events developing.
Read the book, skip the movie.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Night Music

Things That Make Me Happy

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, I struggled to get into this. Some books require a deeper focus than I have had lately to appreciate their worth. And this was one of them. But now I "get" it and am really enjoying it. The beauty of the prose and the deep rendering of a character and place really hooked me.

Really enjoyed watching Kevin perform with his Monday night School of Rock group. Amazing to see these elementary school kids, sing, keyboard, play drums and guitar. They have so much stage presence already. And they all love it. They performed at a bar at noon, which was an odd experience but the stage and lighting was terrific.

Enjoyed the first episode of THE DEUCE. We had some friends over and they didn't get it at all. Their only TV watching is sports, news and Downton Abbey. They also don't read novels. They have trouble with narrative and they have no historical context for what a show like this is trying to do. So they were mystified, but we loved it. 

The weather still rocks. Our new sprinkler system is keeping our lawn florescent green despite the lack of rain.

Phil has had the cataracts removed from both eyes. Glad that is over with. Certainly the year for doctors. Hope we get some respite from it.

What about you?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The New Collection Debuts at the end of February

The majority of these stories appeared in anthologies, lit journals and fairly obscure venues. None were in MONKEY JUSTICE. One is brand new. I am very thankful that Jason Pinter was willing to take a chance on a collection. I know the sales for these are even lower than the sales for novels from unknown authors. There are about 25 stories in here. They vary in POV, setting, etc, but almost none are terribly violent. Thanks to the editors that first published them. They allowed me to forge a writing career of sorts. If you had told me a decade ago, I would have three books, two ebooks and over 140 stories, been nominated for four awards, I would have fallen into a dead faint. Hey Mom and Dad, I did amount to something.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 15, 2017

Forgotten Stories


This is a very short story that is discussed, filmed and anthologized repeateldy if you google it. You can read it right here.
A woman with a heart condition is brought news about the crash of a train that her husband was traveling on. She sits looking out the window, going through various stages of grief and ending up in an unexpected place. I won't tell you how it ends but you might suspect it. A bit of an O' Henry ending but beautifully written and making the interesting observation that we don't always know ourselves well. If you go to You Tube you can see many student productions of it. It must be often assigned.

Sergio Angelini, PAST TENSE, Margot Kinberg
Yvette Banek, THE HOUSE AT SEA'S END, Elly Griffiths. 
Elgin Bleecker, Final Jeopardy, Linda Fairstein
Martin Edwards, MURDER MARS THE TOUR, Mary Fit
Richard Horton,  Bow Down to Nul, by Brian W. Aldiss/The Dark Destroyers, by Manly Wade Wellman
Jerry House, THE WIND LEANS WEST, August Derleth 
George Kelley,  DAVID FALKAYN: STAR TRADER,  Poul Anderson
Margot Kinberg, THE DAWN PATROL, Don Winslow
B.V. Lawson, THE MOONSHINE WAR, Elmore Leonard
Evan Lewis, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, Ian Fleming
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, NO MATCH FOR THE LAW, Osmington Mills
Neer, LOST AMONG THE LIVING, Simone St.James
Scott Parker, THE SUN RISES WEST,  Oscar J. Friend
Matt Paust, THE AWAKENING, Kate Chopin
James Reasoner, THE EMPIRE OF DOOM, John Peter Drummond
Kevin Tipple, DICE ANGEL, Brian Rouff
TomCat, NO KILLER HAS WINGS, Joel Hoffman
TracyK, BUSMAN'S HOLIDAY, Dorothy Sayers

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Night Music

Remembering Glen through Alison.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Watching Freaks and Geeks for the First Time

Gee, this is a great little show. Even set in Michigan. Fun to see so many faces that went on to great careers. Many appear in just one episode (Lizzy Kaplan, Rashida Jones, etc.)

You guys ever watch it?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Along with ICE STORM and SHOOT THE MOON, this is one my favorite depictions of an unhappy family. I think they get so many thing right. Especially how a narcissist can fall apart when his supremacy is threatened. Jeff Daniel is able to embrace the character's flaws. Laura Linney is always good. This is an early performance by Jesse E. before his tics became embedded for life. It looks and feels right.Kudos to Noah Bambach.

So many films about dysfunctional families. What is a good one about a happy family?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

We have had so much much perfect weather, I feel guilty with what is going on in other areas.

Happy Kevin made a friend his first week in a new school.

Went with my friend, Mary, to see what may become (although I doubt it) a Broadway musical. Called Johnny Manhattan it's about the last night of a nightclub in 1958 Manhattan. Terrific cast but the music was just not good enough. The singing was terrific though. You kept waiting for them to play a song from that era but it was all original music and not memorable. However the set was good and it was enjoyable.

Happy we got Acorn this week. Once we could stream in through Amazon, $5 a month seemed worth it.

Happy that it seems like we got through these horrific weather events without the sort of death toll Katrina saw. Fingers crossed. 

And what about you?

Friday, September 08, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, Sepember 8, 2017

(from the archives)

COMPULSION by Meyer Levin

(Review by Deb)
Meyer Levin's COMPULSION is a lightly-fictionalized account of the sensational Leopold and Loeb murder case that gripped the nation in the mid-1920s.  Meyer's fictionalization (published in 1956) is very light indeed, with much of the dialog being taken verbatim from transcripts of police records and court testimony.  Even so, the novel is more than just a retelling of a senseless and horrific crime, it is a perceptive study of what the French call a folie-a-deux, wherein two people who are utterly toxic for each other are none-the-less hopelessly attracted to each other and, in the thrall of that attraction, commit acts that neither would necessarily have done without the dark-mirror image of the other goading them on.
In Levin's book, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb become Judd Steiner and Artie Strauss, neighbors in Chicago's wealthy and close-knit German-Jewish community. (There's a small but telling detail when Judd informs his aunt that he's going out with a girl named Ruth Goldenberg and his aunt sighs, "Oh, Russian-Jewish I suppose.")  Both men were child prodigies who had graduated from university by the time they were 18 years old.  As the book begins, both of them are still in their teens (as is Sid Silver, a newspaperman who narrates part of the book and plays a pivotal role in uncovering some of the evidence).  Adopting the guise of Nietzschean "supermen" who do not need to follow the laws applicable to average beings, Steiner and Strauss plan the "perfect murder."  They eventually kidnap a randomly-selected neighborhood boy on his way home from school.  They kill the boy, pour acid on the corpse, hide the body in a drainage ditch, and then put into motion an elaborate red-herring of a kidnapping-ransom plot.
This perfect murder rapidly unravels, starting with the victim's body being quickly discovered and identified.  Then damning evidence stacks up against the men:  Steiner's glasses--traced to him by their unique hinge mechanism--are found beside the victim, there is blood on the back seat of a car the men have rented, papers typed on Steiner's discarded typewriter match the typing on the bogus ransom notes, and Strauss's attempts to inject himself into the investigation (in order to discover how much the press and police actually know) backfire spectacularly.  Their alibis in shreds, the men confess to the crime, each blaming the other for striking the fatal blow (although, as Sid Silver points out, in that regard, one of them had to be telling the truth).
Considering that the book was written in the 1950s about a crime in the 1920s, one aspect that I found surprising (and rather refreshing) was its refusal to take the "easy" way out and blame the men's actions on the fact that they were closeted lovers, although society at the time certainly did, blaming all manner of depraved behavior on homosexuality.  However, narrator Sid Silver is puzzled by how much stress the authorities place on the men's relationship and asks of it, "In all the history of human behaviour, of the sick and ugly and distorted and careless and sportive and mistaken things that humans did, was this so much more?" 
In fact, Levin does not present the men as sexually "set," but rather most likely bisexual, with Judd being more interested in dominance and submission rather than the gender of his partner, and Artie using his good looks, affable facade, and charisma to attract both men and women.  I was also surprised at the frankness of the book, given the time it was written--Judd's dark fantasies, especially involving rape, are quite explicit.  Levin's book makes us feel if not sympathy then at least some understanding, particularly for the intense and brooding Judd whose infatuation with the manipulative and self-centered Artie is as inexplicable as its dreadful outcome is inevitable.
But I've only covered the first half of the book.  The second half, which centers on the mens' trial, is interesting, although it drags in places due to pages of legal arguments and long-winded explanations of Freudian psychology with which we are now completely familiar.  In order to avoid a jury trial and a sure death penalty, Steiner and Strauss plead guilty in the hopes that arguing before a judge might result in a life, rather than a death, sentence.  Aging lawyer Jonathan Wilk (a fictionalized Clarence Darrow) mounts a brilliant legal defense at their sentencing hearing that saves the men from execution, although they both receive sentences of “Life plus 99 years.”  And, other than a brief coda, there the book abruptly ends, with Steiner and Straus entering prison and fading from public memory. 
But this abruptness works in the book's favor by indicating that there will be other events and other atrocities that will come to overshadow the "crime of the century."  First of all, the rise of "some gangster named Al Capone" (as he is described in an offhand remark by one of Sid's colleagues about a gangland shooting) and the associated violence of Prohibition.  And then the actual "crime of the century"--the Nazi atrocities of World War II and everything the world was to learn about the "Superman" ideal and where it leads.
Meyer Levin wrote this book in part to assist Nathan Leopold in his attempt to be granted parole, which finally happened in 1958. Leopold moved to Puerto Rico, married, worked as an x-ray technician, and died in 1971.  Richard Loeb was not so fortunate: In 1936, he was stabbed multiple times by a fellow inmate who claimed Loeb had made sexual advances toward him.  Although the story was easily discounted, especially since Loeb was covered with defensive wounds and the inmate who killed him was unscathed, no charges were ever filed in his death.

Sergio Angelini, TILL DEATH DO US PART, John Dickson Carr
Yvette Banek, WHO KILLED THE CURATE Joan Coggin
Les Blatt, THE CHINESE BELL MURDERS, Robert Van Gulik
Bill Crider, THE PLUTONIUM BLONDE, John Zakour and Lawrence Ganen
Fleur Bradley,  MANIAC MAGEE, Jerry Spinelli
Martin Edwards, NIGHT EXERCISE, John Rhode
Curt Evans, DEBBIE DOWNER DOUBLE DOOM, Josephine Bell, George Orwell
Richard Horton, THE LONELY, Paul Gallico
Jerry House, WEIRD TALES, anon
George Kelley, THE DEVIL's ROSARY, Seabury Quinn
Margot Kinberg, THE EARTH HUMS IN B FLAT, Mari Stachan
Rob Kitchin, A LOVE STORY WITH MURDERS, Harry Bingham
Evan Lewis, Forgotten Comics and the Forgotten Record They Spawned
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, THE BURGLAR WHO TRADED TED WILLIAM, Lawrence Block
Todd Mason, 1960s Crime Magazines in English
Matt Paust, THE LAST GENTLEMAN, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, FOUR FRIGHTENED WOMEN, George Harmon Coxe
Gerard Saylor, SWAY, Zachary Lazar
Kerrie Smith, DARK PLACES, Gillian Flynn
Kevin Tipple, GAME FACE, Mary Troy
TomCat, THE FAIR MURDER, Nicholas Brady 
TracyK, DR. NO,Ian Fleming 
Westlake Review, FOREVER AND A DEATH

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

First Wednesdays Book Review Club: IN A LONELY PLACE, Dorothy B. Hughes

If the film version of IN A LONELY PLACE was crafted as a tragic love story, one can never feel the novel was meant to be that. The romance in the novel serves mostly to titillate the psychopathological tendencies of our protagonist, Dix Steele. He is a narcissist incapable of love for anyone but himself. Full of self-pity, and guilty of so many other sins, the book opens with a series of stranglings going on in LA. Dix, a pretend novelist living at the home of a missing friend,  was a heroic figure in the war and reconnects with an old army buddy, Brub who is now a cop and newly married. Then he meets Laurel,  a neighbor. Their romance if it  can be called that is filled with tense situations. This may be one of the tensest books I have ever read. And the resolution is one no man would ever pen.
I have to say that many of Dix's traits reminded me of our current leader: self-pity, the need to seek revenge, extreme narcissism, the ability to only see his side of an argument. And certainly the presence of women brings out the worst in him. This was a terrific novel if you can tolerate an unlikable protagonist. You want to feel some sympathy for him but never can muster up a drop.
The afterword in this new edition by NYRB is by Megan. Rest, Megan, rest.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Forgotten Movies: IN A LONELY PLACE

Wow, this is very different from the book but no less fantastic. Humphrey Bogart plays Dix Steele an alcoholic screenwriter with a long time between screenplays as the movie opens. He's been through the war and is trying to make a comeback. He meets Gloria Graham early on and there is an immediate attraction. And soon she alibis him for the murder of a hatcheck girl who was in his apartment earlier that night reading him a novel that he might adapt. Dix's problem is he has a temper that just won't quit. He's brutal, perhaps a sociopath. And Gloria has her issues too. This is a tense film and kudos to Bogart for playing such an difficult guy. Such a very sad love story.
Tomorrow we talk about the novel.

For a far better review than I have the time or talent to write, see this one from Roger Ebert. 

New Yorkers, This is playing at the Metrograph on Sept 12th at 7 pm with Megan doing the introduction. God knows where she gets the energy. Not from me. 

Monday, September 04, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

Reading, then seeing, IN A LONELY PLACE. How can two such different versions of a story both work so well. Cheers to Dorothy L. Hughes for her genius in writing both.

Lots more lovely weather in Michigan. We feel so guilty enjoying it when Houston and Louisiana are in such dire straits.

Loved the pilot of THE DEUCE. It is such a novelistic show. It must be written by novelists rather than TV writers, right?

I love Instagram, where I was able to share my son and his family's trip to Niagara Falls and Stratford. Sure in the old days you saw pictures a week later, but now you feel like you are following them around. Thanks to my son, Josh, for being so diligent in snapping his iphone.

Phil finished radiation on Wednesday. They ring a bell and cheer for you as you leave. It's not enough to want to come back though.

Enjoyed WIND RIVER this week. It may have been a bit too violent, but it was essential to show what the victims endured. If you don't feel their pain to some extent, you can't really care about them.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 1, 2017

Naguib Mahfouz, Karnak Café (1974) (Ron Scheer-archives)

 This short novel by Nobel-winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz is a sadly melancholy story of the crushing of youthful hope. Set in the 1960s around the time of the 1967 war with Israel, it describes how a generation of young Egyptians, the children of the revolution of 1954, were betrayed and lied to by their government, while being subjected to interrogation and imprisonment by secret police.

Their story is told by an older man (and stand-in for the author), who befriends a gathering of them who are regulars at a Cairo café, Al-Karnak. There they talk of politics and express their idealistic aspirations, both for themselves and their country. Abruptly disappearing for periods of time, they return shaken and demoralized. While in police custody, kept in windowless cells, they have endured harsh treatment and false accusations.
Eventually it’s revealed that they have been coerced into becoming informants, which corrodes their trust in each other and eventually leads to the death of one of them. Two, a loving couple at the story’s start, are driven apart by their guilt and shame.

Karnak Café is a troubling vision of life in a modern police state, and it sheds light for Westerners on the recent struggles in Egypt for freedom and justice. Novella-length, it takes a stand somewhat distant from political events, while clearly throwing its sympathies to the young people who speak on its pages. It is currently available in paper and ebook format at amazon, Barnes&Noble, and AbeBooks. For more of Friday's Forgotten Books, click on over to Patti Abbott's blog.

Sergio Angelini, EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE, Lawrence Block
Yvette Banek, THE CURSE OF THE BRONZE LAMP, Carter Dickson
Elgin Bleecker, A DELIVERY OF FURIES, Victor Canning
Bill Crider, THE XANADU TALISMAN, Peter O'Donnell
Martin Edwards, INSPECTOR FRENCH'S GREATEST CASE, Freeman Wills Croft
Richard Horton, SNOW COUNTRY and A THOUSAND CRANES, Yasunari Kawabata
Jerry House, LOOK OUT FOR SPACE, William F. Nolan
George Kelly, WEEP FOR A BLONDE, Bretty Halliday
Margot Kinberg, THE COLABA CONSPIRACY, Surender Mohan Pathak
Rob Kitchin, HANNS AND RUDOLF, Thomas Harding
B.V. Lawson, SCARED TO DEATH, Felicity Shaw
Steve Lewis, THE WRENCH IS WICKED, Carter Brown
Todd Mason, TABOO and TABOO 2, ed. Paul Neimark
Neer, SHADOW SISTER, Simone Van Der Vlugt
Steven Nester (THE RAP SHEET) THE SWEET RIDE, William Murray
Matt Paust, THE SECOND COMING, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, COLOR HIM DEAD, Charles Runyon
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, Capsule Reviews.
TomCat, ESCAPE FROM THE TOWER, Roger Ormerod
TracyK, THE ABC MURDERS, Agatha Christie

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


A terrific little film that I came across on Netflix. Two 13 year old boys meet when Jake's family inherits a brownstone from a grandfather. Tony is the son of the tenant, a seamstress and dress shop owner. Both boys desire a career in the arts so this immediately bonds them. The parents however are in an immediate war over the rent paid for the dress shop, which is far too low for the neighborhood. No one is a villain and yet no one is totally likable. That's what made it work so well. And sadly, the boys' friendship can't survive the parents' predicament. A wise, sad and complex film.

What film about childhood do you like?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017



So WILL AND GRACE is returning this fall. I can pretty much guarantee I won't watch it. I disliked the original show because although it pretended it was breaking ground in having two gay men as leads, there was barely a single scene that did not play to male homosexual stereotypes. Yes, we like show tunes, yes we think about sex 24 hours a day, yes, we care about our clothes,  yes, we only date male models. You would have to assume from this show that every male homosexual was interchangeable with every other one.

And even more than my dislike of the two male stars was my dislike of the two female stars. Karen was annoying in every scene: bitchy, shrieking voice, bad values, and on and on. And Grace was a poor me sorority girl.

I could never understand what anyone saw in this annoying foursome. Nor in the actors they brought on to play their parents, their dates, their friends.

And I can't believe the new show will be less annoying than the first version.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

It makes me happy that we have good friends that helped us last week with the trips across town to take care of Phil's first cataract surgery. And that includes Todd who did FFB. Not so easy doing radiation in the morning and cataract surgery and followups in the PM. Wow, why don't I drive?

Very happy with the pilot of THE DEUCE. They managed to introduce dozens of characters in a way that made me remember them. The look of it is fantastic, the acting splendid. The dialog superb. It just felt so right. They haven't quite settled into the story yet, but I know that is coming. It must be the biggest cast on TV. The most lavish sets.

Loving IN A LONELY PLACE, which I don't know why I never read before. It is so skilled in its telling. A real course in how to make an unlikable protagonist interesting enough to stick with.

So far, so good with the TV series SPOTLESS, about two brothers dragged into mob activity with their crime scene cleanup business. A bit like Ray Donavan but not so much to ruin it.

Also recommend LAST CHANCE U on Netflix about a bunch of football players at East MS Community College with their last chance to qualify to play professional football.

What about you? 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books. August 25, 2017

                                                  Todd Mason will have the links today.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Girls On the Run

I am reading THE SISTERS CHASE where two sisters are on the run. It seems like every book I read lately features girls on the run. This was true of SUNBURN (Lippman). This was also true in THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS (Robotham) and to some extent THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER.

Has it always been like this? In the past, were girls on the run so much in crime fiction.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Forgotten Movies: DEAD ZONE

Well, I have to say that this film really didn't work for me. Directed by David Cronenberg in 1983, it was the wrong director, the wrong actor, and perhaps made in the wrong era. Christopher Walken is too quirky from the get go due to his personal style to make this guy seem like someone who becomes quirky.
Plot: Walken, about to marry Brooke Adams and happy to teach school, gets into an accident, is in a coma for three years, and comes to as a person inhabiting the Dead Zone. He has the ability to see the future, which turns out to be a curse most of the time. The movie was too episodic for my taste. And Walken never is believable as the everyman. I did like the fact it was made in Niagara on the Lake, one of  my favorite places though. But the setting can only take you so far. I was bored rather than scared. Critics from VULTURE see this as one of the best King films. To me STAND BY ME, CARRIE and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION are the top three. What do you think?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Night Music


Summer camps are wondrous things. Kevin attended camps where he improved his guitar playing, built robots, learned to dive, sharpened hockey, baseball and tennis skills, made computer games, and sometimes just played. School of Rock has turned him into an avid guitar player. No doubt he will have a garage band. Hope he gets the President he deserves sooner rather than later.

Loved SUNBURN by Laura Lippman.(Not out yet).

Enjoyed my book group's discussion of Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance) How much I admire how hard these women work to get the most out of a book. The book group is in its 16th year and I hate to miss a meeting.

The Dream Cruise...40,000 classic cars and over a million people cruise Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Pontiac, perhaps a 20 mile stretch over the third Saturday in August. Although the events spill over into the days preceding it. They pitch tents, set up bleachers, set up food, and watch cars go by. The vast majority of cars (and perhaps spectators) are from the sixties to the eighties. But there are plenty of earlier ones to see. Living a block away from this now is mostly annoying. But I grew up with a father working in the car industry so cars are kinda in my blood.I sneaked over and watched in as it began on Saturday. Kind of thrilling.

 And Megan's birthday is on the eclipse today. We had a special necklace made to celebrate it. It's gold with a moon and two stars with peridots in them.

What about you?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

For Anyone in Australia Next Weekend


Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is the award-winning author of eight novels, including The End of Everything, Dare Me and The Fever. She is also the author of The Street Was Mine, a study of hardboiled fiction and film noir. Her work has won or been nominated for the CWA Steel Dagger, the International Thriller Writers Award, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize and five Edgar awards. Currently, she is a staff writer on HBO’s new David Simon show The Deuce and is adapting two of her novels for television. Her latest novel is You Will Know Me.

Appearing in these sessions

Meet Megan AbbottMore
Binge CultureMore
Local Libraries: Megan AbbottMore
The Dark Side of WomanhoodMore
Available at Readings
You Will Know Me

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Night Music

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 18, 2017

(Something of a spoiler alert)

Nemesis by Philip Roth.

Nemesis is the story of a polio epidemic in Newark in 1944 and especially about its impact on a Mr. Canter, who runs a playground program and is about to become engaged.

Roth does an excellent job of showing the effects of polio on this small neighborhood, in relaying the horrible progression of the epidemic, which cruelly was most often contracted by kids.

But at Nemesis' end and despite my interest in this polio epidemic plot, I realized it wasn't really about polio. What it was about was the way in which individuals deal with the onslaught of horror in their lives. How some people can go on fairly effectively, not let things like disease or war or economic disasters corrupt their lives. But others cannot get past their terrible luck, and the idea that this turn of events was unjust. The idea that they didn't deserve it  completely derails them. The bitterness poisons everything.

I have read perhaps half a dozen books by Roth but apparently his last four books have dealt with this theme and I am most interested in seeing how his other characters deal with the fall of the sword.

When I wrote this little did I know
how the sword would fall on so many of us in the next few years.

Highly recommended.

Sergio Angelini, NINE AND TEN MAKES DEATH, Carter Dickson
Yvette Banek, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie
Les Blatt, CONTINENTAL CRIMES, ed. Martin Edwards
Brian Busby, CAUGHT IN THE SNARE, Mary Agnes Fleming
Bill Crider, TURN ON THE HEAT, Erle Stanley Gardner
Richard Horton, RECALLED TO LIFE, Robert Silverberg
Jerry House, THE BARON IN FRANCE, John Creasey
Nick Jones, "Science Fiction from the Lewes Book Fair"
George Kelley, A CENTURY OF GREAT SUSPENSE, ed. Jeffrey Deaver 
Margot Kinberg, THE CEMETERY OF SWALLOWS, Jean-Denis Bruet Ferreols
Rob Kitchin, THE DUST OF DEATH, Paul Charles
B.V. Lawson, NAKED VILLAINY, Sara Woods
Evan Lewis, THE GUNSLINGER, Stephen King
Steve Lewis, THE PUNCH AND JUDY MURDERS, Carter Dickson
Scott D. Parker KILLER'S DOOM: A Walt Slade Western by Bradford Scott.  
Matt Paust, THE THANATOS SYNDROME, Walker Percy
James Reasoner, SENORITA DEATH, Phil Richards
Gerard Saylor, EIGHTH CIRCLE, Sarah Cain
TracyK, DEAD SKIP, Joe Gores