Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tuesday Night Music: Jagwar Ma


“Archie In the Cellar”Original airdate: Nov. 17, 1973 (Season 4)
Archie gets locked in the cellar of the Bunker house while everyone else is away over the weekend, and gets drunk on vodka. A man is coming to fix their heat and Archie, drunk by now, confuses him with his maker. This is a great solo piece by Carol O’Connor, especially during the scene when he uses a tape recorder to make a will.

This was written by Don Nichol who wrote more than thirty episodes in the early years. 

ALL IN THE FAMILY was one of the first, if not the first, socially relevant sitcoms. It took on every issue of the day fearlessly.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Opening Credits: FORTY GUNS

Movie Scenes Without Dialogue

Richard Wheeler had a lovely idea about sharing our favorite movie scenes that use no dialogue.

Here is a brilliant one he suggested.

Of course, ALL IS LOST came immediately to mind for me. Here is one from that.


I also posted this on facebook where many other movies are being mentioned. I remember the movies but forget the silent scenes. https://www.facebook.com/patti.abbott/posts/10152121963679551?comment_id=29433627&offset=0&total_comments=10&notif_t=share_comment

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Favorite Movies of 2013



My favorite movie of 2013

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Night Music: Patti Smith

I returned home to get this wonderful Christmas/Birthday Present. Thanks, Rob. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tuesday Night Music: Joni Mitchell

Myrna Loy

I guess she will never top Nora Charles in THE THIN MAN for me, but Myrna Loy made so many great pictures. (Does anyone call them pictures now?) What are some other favorites?

My Favorite Columbo Episode: Etude in Black

with the great John Cassavetes. Cassavetes plays a sophisticated, arrogant conductor who murders his mistress to prevent her for spilling the beans to his rich wife (Blythe Danner). Columbo seldom solved crimes with perpetrators that weren't rich and arrogant, but Cassavetes played it oh, so well.

Written by Steven Bochco and Richard Levinson.

Columbo sort of lost it along the way for me. It was too tied to its set-up. And its decision to always place  the murders among the wealthy made them awfully similar. But for a few years, it was terrific. And Falk was always terrific in the part.

What is your favorite COLOMBO episode.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Opening Credits: TREME

Nate Southard: PALE HORSES


A Guest Blog by Nate Southard

Hello.  My name’s Nate.  If any of you have heard of me, it’s probably as a horror author.  For the last five years, I’ve been writing scary stories.  I’ve had a few novels published, a couple of short story collections, and I have one of the smoother bald heads in the genre.  That last part may be up for debate, though I’m not sure why anyone would want to discuss the issue.  I’m not even sure why I brought it up.

Recently, Snubnose Press published my first crime novel, Pale Horses.  It’s probably the best book I’ve ever written, the story of an Indiana County Sheriff struggling to hide the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease as he tries to solve a murder, deal with the county’s growing meth problem, and quell the simmering violence brought about by a hot-headed deputy and a war vet suffering from PTSD.

Strangely, as people have asked me about the novel in the weeks since its release, one question keeps popping up over and over again.  It takes different forms, but it almost always come up.  “So, are you done with horror?”  “Are you going back to horror after this?”  “Why did you decide to leave horror for crime?”  I’ve given different answers to different people, explaining that this was just a story I wanted to tell or that I wanted to test the waters.  The more I think about it, however, the less I think any of those answers are correct.  The more I think about it, the more the answer becomes clear…

Honestly, I just don’t consider the horror and crime genres to be different.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to call Stephen King’s Carrie or Scott Smith’s The Ruins masterpieces of noir or anything like that.  Rather, I think both genres, when at their best, deal with the same issues and provide the same escapist release.  At the heart of it all, both genres deal with humanity and how a person may or may not cope with circumstances far beyond their control.  Both serve up the emotions of dread and excitement to the reader.  Maybe one does it with a maggot-filled claw and the other a cocked pistol, but I think those who enjoy either genre do so for similar reasons.

Some of my favorite authors illustrate the similarities between the genres perfectly.  Jack Ketchum, author of The Girl Next Door and Off Season has written only a handful of stories with any supernatural elements, but he’s considered an astounding horror author.  The majority of his novels, especially great reads like The Lost, Old Flames, and Hide and Seek, are pretty straight crime and noir tales.  The monsters are all deeply human, but Ketchum horrifies us by giving us a deeper peek into what makes them tick.

Gillian Flynn has been on everyone’s radar for a few years now, and she’s rightfully considered a master of the crime thriller.  In my eyes, however, Sharp Objects is hands down the best horror novel of the last decade.  The final two chapters still send chills down my spine.  Even thinking about them now gives me the goose shivers. Ken Bruen’s American Skin?  Another amazing horror novel.  In that novel, we meet the Tammy Wynette-obsessed Dade, easily one of the most fearsome monstrosities to land on the page in some time.

Let’s not forget Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me.  That novel is a master class in establishing dread and slowly turning it up over the course of a narrative.  The slow unraveling of Lou Ford’s sanity almost echoes the slow unraveling of sanity we find in the best of H.P. Lovecraft’s work.  Is there some cosmic Elder God involved?  No.  There’s just a crazed sheriff’s deputy slowly destroying everything around him.

Look…maybe you’re a crime fan who thinks horror is where all the weirdo kids play.  Maybe you’re a horror fan who believes a story without a MONSTER monster isn’t worth reading.  Let me assure you, our pet genres are a lot closer than they appear.  Check out some of the titles I mentioned.  You might be surprised.  They’re all dark tales.  And the dark, after all, is a sweet, terrible place.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Best Christmas Songs: The Pogues

Victoria Wilson on her Barbara Stanwyck Biography on THE BAT SEGUNDO SHOW

If you are a Barbara Stanwyck fan, and who isn,'t, be sure to check out the great interview biographer Victoria Wilson gives Ed Champion on THE BAT SEGUNDO SHOW.

I listen to several of these podcast series and Mr. Champion's are always the best because he has read the book(s) and asks perceptive and relevant questions.

Lots of her films have been playing in New York at the Film Forum this month if you are near by.

Friday, December 20, 2013

How About a Roller Skate Race?

Five Minutes

This flash piece is for Loren Eaton's ADVENT GHOST STORY CHALLENGE.
The ghost story has to be one-hundred words. For more stories, see I SEE LIGHTING FALL.

Five Minutes
by Patti Abbott

At five minutes to twelve on Christmas Eve, a voice at Violet’s ear said, “A halfpenny for the rest of your day, Dearie.” 

Violet needed that halfpenny. It'd be enough to put food on the table. And how much could the five minutes left in her day be worth? 

 “I don’t mind,” she said, holding out her hand. 

Grabbing a loaf and cheese in exchange for the coin, she rushed home. But her house, near London Bridge, was no more. A fire had ravaged it.

“Five minutes earlier and it would’ve been you inside,” a fireman told her.


I will be taking a week off next Friday and Todd will be linking on January 3rd. See you on the 10th.

Robert Barnard died this year at the age of 76. He produced 40 mystery novels as well as critical studies of Agatha Christie and Charles Dickens. His first book in 1976 was A LITTLE LOCAL MURDER. His final in 2012, A CHARITABLE BODY. He was award the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2003 and was nominated for an Edgar Award 8 times. His novels were considered by most to be cozies and he didn't mind that description, believing himself to be an entertainer at heart. His books enjoyed greater success in the U.S. than in the U.K..He was also  a university lecturer for many years. 
Here is the NYT obit. 

A Talent to Entertain, Mystery Scene Magazine

Martin Edwards words on his death. 

(Review by Deb)
For fuller enjoyment of Robert Barnard’s The Killings on Jubilee Terrace (published in 2009), it helps to know that one of England’s most beloved (and,
it must be admitted, most mocked) television shows is the long-running soap
opera, Coronation Street.  In this witty satire, Robert Barnard neatly
skews both the world of soap operas and the world of the actors who star in
them—and he throws in a crisp murder mystery to boot.
Barnard does a great job of introducing us to the
characters—both as characters in his book and the characters they play on the
soap opera, Jubilee Terrace (a
listing of the actors and their associated roles on the program provided at the
front of the book is helpful—you’ll do well to keep the page bookmarked for
easy reference).  Barnard does some
interesting narrative work here—we are reading about fictional characters who
are, in their turn, playing fictional characters.  It could get complicated, but Barnard handles
the double layer with aplomb.  Whoever claimed
that mystery writers weren’t technically sophisticated had not read anything by
The murder mystery involves the death of an actor, Vernon
Watts.  He has already died, ostensibly
in a traffic accident, when the book opens (the first scene in the book is the
filming of Watt’s character’s death on the soap opera).  But did Watts actually step in front of a bus
by accident—or was he pushed?  Because
Watts was as hated by his co-stars as his character, Bert Porter, was beloved
by the viewing public, possible suspects abound on the set.  To fill the void left by Vernon’s death,
another dislikeable actor, Hamish Fawley, returns to the show.  Fawley is a conceited, self-centered
womanizer who soon takes up with one of the show’s bit players, an married
actress whose husband is one of the show’s stars.  She is not very discreet about her affair and
the whole cast is soon aware that one co-star is being cuckolded by
another.  And then another death occurs—and
this time it is most definitely murder.  But is it connected in any way to the earlier death of Vernon Watts?  
It is at this point, Barnard’s series inspector, Charlie
Peace, shows up to investigate.  Peace is
shrewd enough to realize that a group of trained actors can make a pretense of
emotions they are far from feeling and he has to carefully turn over all the
evidence in order to finally determine the guilty party.  Readers may not be overly surprised at the initial
identification of the killer—but then, just a few pages before the end, Barnard
includes one of his patented plot twists and what we had thought is shown to be
completely wrong.
In his review of the movie War Games, Roger Ebert observed that in art technical accuracy is
not as important as a feeling of authenticity.  While I have no idea if Barnard’s depiction of what goes on behind the
scenes of a soap opera is accurate, the complicated interactions of the cast
members feels very authentic indeed.  This is a crisp little mystery from one of the great masters—it makes me
even sorrier to know that, with Barnard’s recent passing, we’ll have no more books
like this from him.

I don't know why I chose this book to read for today's ROBERT BARNARD day. I read most of his books many years ago, but not this one, I think. I would compare it to a Ruth Rendell standalone if a comparison is helpful. It is an interesting, if not totally satisfying or successful, crime novel. There are certainly crimes, but the reader has grown weary of the dismal cast of characters and the bleak and mean setting before this becomes clear.  Funny how the UK can often look like the most charming place on earth, but in other books and movies, the most drab.

A small boy turns up along with other London evacuated children in a remote small rural village during WW2.  Unlike the other children, he has no identification and is not on the list. He says his name is Simon Thorne and a local couple eagerly takes him in. When the war ends, no one claims him and the investigation into his identity turns up nothing. The couple has grown to love him and are happy to keep him. I would have liked to spend more time in this charming village, but this was not to be. This was not Mr. Barnard's interest.

Simon grows up and begins a career as a scientist at the London Zoo (and we get almost nothing about this either), and his true origin, of which he has some troubling memories, begins to haunt him. The rest of the novel concerns his attempt to find out who abandoned him and why. Although his investigation turns out to be a fairly static proposition.

Although Barnard paints the family Simon determines is his with an artful brush, they are so unlikable that we don't understand why Simon would allow them to turn what has been a happy life into a dour one. And the final pieces of the puzzle are bleaker still.

I feel I am doing Mr. Barnard an injustice with this review. I certainly found the book a quick and effortless read--his writing is superb--but when the end comes both Simon and the reader must scratch our heads and say, why did he not let well enough alone? And why did Robert Barnard choose to spend time here. These people are not evil enough to be interesting. They occupy that space known as dull and vile. I owe Mr. Barnard a review of one of his better novels.

For a very different take on OUT OF THE BLACK, see Peggy Ann.

Incidentally the reviews on Amazon all seemed to be for blackout blinds and not this book. That was the most amusing thing about it.

Randy Johnson, DEAD, MR MOZART, Bernard Bastable
Kevin Tipple/Patrick Ohl. DEATH ON THE HIGH Cs, 
Prashant Trikannad, A STRANGER IN THE FAMILY
Elinor Walpole, ROGUE'S GALLERY

Other Reviews
Joe Barone, DARK IS RISING Susan Cooper
Brian Busby, THE HAPPY ISLES, Basil King
Bill Crider, THE QUEST, Nelson DeMille
Martin Edwards, THE WRAITH, Philip Macdonald
Margot Kinberg, DEATH OF A RED HEROINE, Qui Xiaolong
B.V. Lawson, UNCLE ABNER, MASTER OF MYSTERIES, Melville Davisson Post

Evan Lewis, A CORPSE FOR A CORPSE, Carroll John Daly

Juri Nummelin, THE GOLD MEDALLION, H.L. Lawrence
Todd Mason, Uncollected Stories, William Campbell Gault
James Reasoner, THE DEEP COLD GREEN, Carter Brown
Gerard Saylor, THE MEANING OF LIFE, Monty Python
Ron Scheer, BLOOD GAME, Ed Gorman
Michael Slind, THE THIN MAN, Dashiell Hammett
James Winter, Dark Tower 4, Stephen King

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Final Scene: SHALL WE DANCE (Japanese version)

Watch Me Move: DIA Exhibit

The Detroit Institute of Arts has spent this fall showcasing an exhibit on the history of animation as well as presenting many animated films. I have to admit that animation is not really my thing, although I found it interesting to see its progression over one-hundred years. So far my favorite piece of animation were the films CORALINE and UP.

What is yours?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Theme Music: American Gigolo

Come live in Detroit and be a Writer.


Thanks, Todd Mason. You've got our backs.

Films with Ambiguous Endings.


I  bet you recognize this shot by now. This must have been in the early fifties.

So many films with ambiguity but the first I remember seeing was THE GRADUATE. Are Ben and Elaine relieved or worried after their hasty departure?

What films have ambiguous endings that work? Do you like ambiguity or do you prefer an ending that makes sense of everything? 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Night Music, Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac

Phil's Honor Students

Are Allowed to Bring One Piece of Paper (0ne-side) into His Exam. They must include the paper in their bluebook. All of them are like this. It would do me no good at all. 

Favorite Twilight Zone Episode: EYE OF THE BEHOLDER (Spoiler)

This one aired in 1962 and it concerns a woman having cosmetic surgery. She is ostracized and wants to correct things and look normal. We only see her swathed in bandages. When they are finally removed, the doctors are dismayed that the surgery has failed. But what we see is the gorgeous Donna Douglas. The trick becomes clear when the camera swivels around and shows the monster-like faces of the surgical team.

This scared me forevermore.Written by Rod Serling.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Opening Credits: Jackie Brown

A steal from THE GRADUATE but still….Tarantino always steals from the best.

The Most Loved Movies

Josh's first Christmas

This is a time of year when nothing is better than to curl up with the fire going, a cup of glass of your favorite beverage, a plate of Christmas cookies and a favorite film, What would your choice be?

My candidate is GROUNDHOG DAY. For me, it's a perfect movie: a comedy, a romance, it uses an original setting, it plays with time, Bill Murray is in it;; it has a moral lesson that is gently presented.

What movies do you think are loved by almost everyone?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Night Music; Norah Jones

And Lizzy Caplan singing it on the fabulous MASTERS OF SEX. No picture but she's a knockoout.

The Trouble with Fantasy

Karen and I were about fourteen here (1962). She is the Billie of HOME INVASION.

I have been dabbling with fantasy for the last year or two but I notice one real problem. Although I am able to come up with a decent concept, a satisfactory conclusion often eludes me. It is harder to end a fantasy story than a crime story, that's for sure.

What fantasy stories have great endings? Are you often disappointed or do most fantacists write pretty good endings?

Friday, December 13, 2013

How About a Cheetah Chase

Phil about 1968

My review of PHILOMENA is up on Crimespree Magazine.

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, December 13, 2013

Next week, we celebrate Robert Barnard's novels.
December 27th, I am taking a holiday break. 
On January 3, Todd will step in for me. 

Darin Strauss, Half a Life: A Memoir (2010)

"Half my life ago, I killed a girl."

If you can read that opening line and not want to know more, you're very different from me.  When Darin Strauss was an 18 year old high school senior on Long Island about to graduate he ran down and killed a girl he knew casually from school.  It wasn't his fault - she suddenly swerved her bicycle directly in front of his car - but she was still dead.

Strauss went on to college and to life but always had to live with his guilty feelings, as well as the girl's mother's words that now he needed to live a life worthy of both of them.  Every time he does anything he can't help but think, "she'll never do this."  Strauss goes on to get married and write three novels but it is the impending birth of his first child that makes him finally deal with what happened and how it has affected his life.

This is the second memoir I found through Beth Kephart's book Handling the Truth. It is a short (200 pages), fast but affecting read that is well worth your time seeking it out.

                                                                                                                      Jeff Meyerson


In the title story from this 2008 collection from Jhumpa Lahiri, a father, originally from India but now living in Pennsylvania, comes to visit his daughter in Seattle. We get the story in both of their voices. He is recently widowed and doing better than expected with the shock of his wife's unexpected death. He has discovered a love of travel and a love of a new woman met on his travels. He is more content perhaps than his daughter wishes or knows. She is the mother of a three-year old with another baby on the way, and misses her mother and also feels some guilt about throwing over her professional life as a lawyer. Her father does little to assuage her guilt. She wants him to stay in Seattle but not for the reasons that might persuade him to stay. This is a complicated story about fathers and daughters. About the divide that a country, a culture, a sex can evoke. Lahiri's, (a much praised writer), talents are very evident here. All of the stories in this collection look into these issues--as does her other work. 

Sergio Angelini, HAIL, HAIL, THE GANG'S ALL HERE, Ed McBain
Yvette Banek, LITERALLY DEAD, James Conroy
Joe Barone, CATS TELLING TALES, Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Martin Edwards, FOLLOW AS THE NIGHT, Patricia McGerr
Curt Evans, THE WALL, Mary Roberts Rinehart
Ray Garraty, THE BLACKBIRD, Richard Stark
Jerry House, BURGADE'S CROSSING, Bill Pronzini
Randy Johnson, THE BIG KISS-OFF OF 1944, Andrew Bergman
George Kelley, MURDER AT CHRISTMAS, edited by Cynthia Manson
Rob Kitchin, THE EYE OF JADE, Diane Wei Liang
Kate Laity, OUR MAN IN HAVANA, Graham Greene
B.V. Lawson, THE MYNN'S MYSTERY, George Manville Fenn
Evan Lewis, MURDER WON'T WAIT, Carroll John Daly
Steve Lewis/Captain Frank Cunningham, THE MYSTERY IN THE RITSMORE, William Johnston
Todd Mason, EPITAPH FOR A VIRGIN, Robert Arthur
J.F. Norris. HOT FREEZE, Martin Brett
Juri Nummelin, THE SPARTA MEDALLION, H.L. Lawrence
James Reasoner,  FURY WON'T WAIT, Richard Matheson
Gerard Saylor, Brotherhood of Warriors, Aaron Clark
Ron Scheer, THE INDIAN LAWYER, James Welch
Kevin Tipple.Barry Ergang, THE FABULOUS CLIPJOINT, Fredric Brown
Prashant Trikannad, THE BOOKCASE, Nelson DeMille
James Winter, THE GILDED AGE: A TALE OF TODAY, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner