Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Night Music: SHE, Elvis Costello

What is the Most Influential Song of All Time?

THE ATLANTIC asked this question in the June issue and got answers from celebrities that included

Now I guess your choice depends on how you read the question. Do they mean influential in music, influential in culture, religion, in the U.S? What?

I think a case can be made for this...

and for this...

and for this

What about you?  What song do you see as the most or at least very influential?

"THE ENEMY ADVANCES" is in the latest issue of ALL DUE RESPECT. Thanks!

Friday, May 30, 2014

How About a Dance Scene: WEST SIDE STORY

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, May 30, 2014



July 12, 2014

I will be gone from 9-5 today. Latecomers will be seated then. 

The Plastic Nightmare by Richard Neely

I've written here before about Neely. He wrote non-series crime novels that pretty much covered the entire range of dark suspense. I mentioned that in the best of them the weapon of choice is not poison, bullets or garrote. He always preferred sexual betrayal.

Plastic is a good example. Using amnesia as the central device Dan Mariotte must reconstruct his life. Learning that the beautiful woman at his bedside all these months in the hospital--his wife--may have tried to kill him in a car accident is only the first of many surprises shared by Mariotte and the reader alike.

What gives the novel grit is Neely's take on the privileged class. He frequently wrote about very successful men (he was a very successful adverts man himself) and their women. The time was the Seventies. Private clubs, private planes, private lives. But for all the sparkle of their lives there was in Neely's people a despair that could only be assuaged (briefly) by sex. Preferably illicit sex. Betrayl sex. Men betrayed women and women betrayed men. It was Jackie Collins only for real.

Plastic is a snapshot of a certain period, the Seventies when the Fortune 500 dudes wore sideburns and faux hippie clothes and flashed the peace sign almost as often as they flashed their American Express Gold cards. Johnny Carson hipsters. The counter culture co-opted by the pigs.

The end is a stunner, which is why I can say little about the plot. Neely knew what he was doing and I'm glad to see his book back in print. Watching Neely work is always a pleasure. This was turned in the movie "Shattered" which pretty much ruined the book.

SERIOUS INTENT, Margaret Yorke

Back in the day when I gobbled down crime fiction, or mysteries as we called it then, 3-4 a week, one of my favorite writers was Margaret Yorke who always seemed to infuse her stories with a little bit more insight than other writers of her era. Maybe not quite a psychologically astute  as Margaret Millar but along those lines. Yorke died in 2012 after a hugely productive career. Some of her books feature Dr. Patrick Grant, a college dean, but many are standalones.

One of my favorites is SERIOUS INTENT.
No one knows Tom's son is in prison for murder--certainly not the boys who hang around his house. Just down the road, lives Richard Gardner with his second wife and her two sons. No one knows.she is seriously disturbed.All of the boys in this story are affected by absent or poor fathers and engage in petty thefts. Now Marigold Darwin, a retired civil servant, house hunts in Haverscot and begins to discover the intertwined serious intents in this supposedly benign neighborhood. And that lives--including her own are at serious risk. Yorke is very much a "why" writer rather than a how or who writer. And that's my favorite kind.

Yvette Banek, MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY, Winifred Watson
Brian Busby. RMS Empress of Ireland, Canadian Pacific Railroad
Bill Crider, ROOKIE BLUES, Richard A. Lupoff
Martin Edwards, SHADOW OF THE DOWNS, R.C. Woodthorpe
Rick Horton, LAUGHING BOY, Oliver LaFarge
Jerry House, BOOKS OF MAGIC: 4, Carla Jablonski
Randy Johnson, CAPROCK REBEL, Will C. Brown
Nick Jones, THE BLACK HOUSE, Patricia Highsmith
Margot Kinberg, THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS, Claudia Pineiro
Rob Kitchin, A DECLINE IN PROPHETS, Sulari Gentill
B.V. Lawson, HANGING DOLL MURDER, Roger Ormerond
Evan Lewis"House of the Seven Dragons" Robert Leslie Bellem
Steve Lewis/William F. Deeck, THE WINTER MURDER CASE. S.S. Van Dine
J. F. Norris, THE GLASS-SIDED ANTS' NEST, Peter Dickinson
James Reasoner, 361, Donald Westlake
Richard Robinson, THE BLUE MURDER, Brett Halliday
Gerard Saylor, PALE CRIMINAL, Philip Kerr
Ron Scheer, LIFE'S LURE, John G. Neihardt
Kevin Tipple/Patrick Ohl, THE DREAM WALKER, Charlotte Armstron
TomCat, THE CASE OF THE BAITED HOOK, Erle Stanley Gardner

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Most Shocking Scene in a Novel (Spoilers)

Still reading the Updike bio, I am up to his writing of RABBIT RUN, which contains the 17 page scene where Rabbit's wife, Janice, drowns their baby unintentionally. I doubt any scene has ever shocked me more. There are certain things you expect in a crime novel but not in a book like this one.

What novel or scene in one shocked you the most?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday Night Music: FEVER by the Black Keys


Where can I order/pre-order The Fever (pub. date June 17)? Your local bookstore, IndieBoundBarnes & NobleBN Nook (ebook), iTunes (ebook), Kobo (ebook), Powells, Books a Million  and many other places
Stores with signed copies that will ship directly to you include Book Court, Word, Brookline Booksmith, Square Books, Murder by the Book, Book People, Poisoned Pen, Aunt Agatha's, Nicola's and River Road Books.

Note: At present (May 22, 2014), The Fever may not be available for pre-order from Amazon due to the ongoing issues between Hatchette(Little Brown is part of Hatchette) and Amazon.

The Fever:

"An unforgettable inquiry into the emotional lives of young people... It's also a powerful portrait of community, with interesting echoes of The Crucible...Abbott may be on her way to becoming a major writer."
--Booklist, Starred Review

"Thrilling...a gripping story fueled by razor-sharp treachery, jealousy, hormones, and the insecurities of teenage girls."
--Publishers Weekly

"The book to beat… in the "Is it the next 'Gone Girl'?" sweepstakes."
–Janet Maslin, New York Times  

"The lives of teenage girls are dangerous, beautiful things in Abbott's stunning novel... Abbott expertly ratchet[s] up the suspense...nothing should be taken at fact value."
Kirkus, Starred Review


A few weeks ago, we saw a musical in NY: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER, which was a musical version of the old British comedy KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS. It was lots of fun and has gone on to be nominated for a bunch of Tony Awards.

It is the story of an impoverished young man who leans he stands eighth in a line to a earldom and goes on to dispose of those who stand in his way.

Since we had never seen the film, we rented it last week. We were quite disappointed. Perhaps it needed to be seen in its day. Or perhaps seeing the play first was a mistake. The play was very lively and the movie was not. The incessant voice-over was annoying. The play showed the deaths with more clever staging than the movie. Jefferson Mays was amazing in the Alec Guiness role.

I am sure if we saw this film in its day, we would have quite different feeling about it. '

What movie, when you finally saw it, disappointed you.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lee Child on Writing


 Great cover art. And great stories in this. Mine is called "We Are All Special Cases". It's out on ebook now, print to follow. So much work for these editors. Does anyone realize that? Thanks to all of them.

Short Story Sunday, Day Tripper, Joe Clifford

Day Tripper is the first story in the first print collection of stories from All Due Respect and it sets a high mark for those coming after it.

The narrator is a day laborer working for an outfit called Labor Core and assigned on this day to move furniture. His companion's a guy who's saved himself by getting religion. What makes this story soar is the small details of their day in Rochester: the weather, the food, their fellow workers; the job itself--every detail is perfect in leading up to the conclusion. The mood here is superb. Our narrator is struggling to pull his life together, struggling to earn enough to get through another day, struggling with his anger, struggling over issues with his wife. Just a great little story.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday Night Music: Carolina Chocolate Drops

Bands: An Old One and A New One-and not so different.

On Thursday, I posted the picture above on facebook for Throw Back Thursday. It's a photo of my grandfather (drummer) and his band circa 1920, when he was 22.

Our friend, Anders Engwall, from Sweden, sent me a video of his wonderful band, which is not all that different. The song they are playing dates from about a decade later. Wonderful treat.

Friday, May 23, 2014

From Crimespree Magazine and Me

Amazon/Hachette and buying books the old fashioned way

In case you’ve not heard Amazon and Hachette are having some trouble reaching an agreement on pricing and until it is resolved things may be a little weird if you are used to getting your books from Amazon. Hachette books are not available right now and this means you may have to work a little harder to get books by favorite authors, including Megan Abbott, Michael Koryta and JK Rowling

Well, my suggestion is to go old school and go to a…

BRICK AND MORTAR BOOK STORE. Here’s a list of some of the bookstores we love.

If you don’t have one near by all of these places will ship books to you.

Each store is linked to theirbooksz website.

Aunt Agatha’s

Books And Company


Boswell Book Company

Centuries and Sleuths

The Moonstone Mystery Book Store


Mysterious Galaxy

Mystery Loves Company

Mystery One Bookstore

The Mysterious Bookshop

Once Upon A Crime

Nicola's Books (Ann Arbor)

Literati Books (Ann Arbor)

Poisoned Pen Books (Phoenix)

Book Beat (Oak Park MI)

WORD Bookstores (Brooklyn)

Greenlight Bookstore

Barnes &Noble 

Elliott Bay Books (Seattle) 

Book Court (Brooklyn) 


Book People (Austin)


Booksamillion (is offering large discounts on Hatchette  preorders)

Porter Square Books (Cambridge) 

Haslam's (Florida)

McNally Jackson (Manhattan)

There are a lot of other great books stores out there so don’t let this business stuff get in the way of you enjoying your favorite authors. And  Libraries are always happy to see people!

Please add you favorite bookstore to the list. 

Friday's Forgotten Book, May 23, 2014

UNDER THE SKIN, Michel Faber 2001

I decided to read this book because I admired the recent film with Scarlett Johanssen. The film was lyrical, lovely, enigmatic. The book is just as good but less of these three adjectives because the story gets spelled out to a greater degree. We get inside the protagonist's head more and she is not so other-wordly even if she still is an alien. The movie version discards story elements that do not serve its vision of it. And although the outcome bears similarities the plot arrives there quite differently.

As with the movie we wonder who Isserly is, and why is she driving the roads of Scotland looking for men? We wonder what exactly she is looking for in her victims? What happens to the men is horrifying in both screen and print version but differently laid out. We understand it better in the book but it retains some of its mystery nevertheless. In the film, it has a beauty that the book doesn't.

One of the most amazing things that happens in this novel is that as you learn more about Isserly she changes. Where at first she is a predator, and an amazingly heartless one she becomes the biggest victim in the story and we grow to care about her. Faber does this in small graceful actions. 

This is a terrific story if you can accept that you won't understand all of it. But what you do understand makes it worth letting go of the rest.

 The Evil Days by Bruno Fischer

Ed Gorman's most recent book is SCREAM QUEENS AND OTHER TALES OF MENACE.

Bruno Fischer had one of those careers you can't have any more. There's no market for any of it. He started out as editor and writer for a Socialist newspaper, shifted to terror pulps when the newspaper started failing, became a successful and respected hardcover mystery novelist in the Forties and early Fifties, and finally turned to Gold Medal originals when the pb boom began. His GMs sold in the millions. His House of Flesh is for me in the top ten of all GMs.

Then for reasons only God and Gary Lovisi understand, Fischer gave up writing and became an editor for Colliers books. But he had one more book in him and it turned out to be the finest of his long career.

Fischer shared with Howard Fast (Fast when he was writing mysteries under his pen names) a grim interest in the way unfulfilling jobs grind us down, leave us soulless. Maybe this was a reflection of his years on the Socialist newspaper. The soullessness features prominently in The Evil Days because it is narrated by a suburban husband who trains to work each day to labor as an editor in a publishing company where he is considered expendable. Worse, his wife constantly reminds him (and not unfairly) that they don't have enough money to pay their bills or find any of the pleasures they knew in the early years of their marriage. Fischer makes you feel the husband's helplessness and the wife's anger and despair.

The A plot concerns the wife finding jewels and refusing to turn them in. A familiar trope, yes, but Fischer makes it work because of the anger and dismay the husband feels when he sees how his wife has turned into a thief. But ultimately he goes along with her. Just when you think you can scope out the rest of the story yourself, Fischer goes all Guy de Maupassant on us. Is the wife having an affair? Did she murder her lover? Is any of this connected to the jewels? What the hell is really going on here?

Sometimes we forget how well the traditional mystery can deal with the social problems of an era and the real lives of real people. The hopelessness and despair of these characters was right for their time of the inflation-dazed Seventies. But it's just as compelling now as it was then when you look at the unemployment numbers and the calm reassurances by those who claim to know that the worst is over.

All this wrapped in one hell of a good tale by a wily old master.

Sergio Angelini, THE BIRTHDAY MURDER, Lange Lewis
Joe Barone, THE DARK VINEYARD, Martin Walker
Brian Busby, THE MONTREALER, May 1958
Bill Crider, THE VIZIER'S SECOND DAUGHTER, Robert F. Young
Elisabeth Grace Foley, THE GRAND SOPHY, Georgette Heyer
Rick Horton, PORTRAIT OF JENNIE and ONE MORE SPRING, Robert Nathan
Jerry House, RED THREADS, Rex Stout
Randy Johnson, SING A SONG OF SIX GUNS, Burt Arthur
Nick Jones, Patricia Highsmith's Short Stories
George Kelley, BREAKFAST IN THE RUINS, Barry N. Malzberg
Margot Kinberg, THE JUDAS PAIR, Jonathan Gash
B.V. Lawson, I'LL SING YOU TWO-O, Anthea Mary Frasier
Evan Lewis, DEALING OUT DEATH, W.T. Ballard
Steve Lewis/Allen J. Hubin, THE WRONG IMPRESSION, John Malcolm
Todd Mason, The Best From IF and WORLD'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION 1970-71
J.F. Norris, THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY, Charles Willeford
James Reasoner, THE COLONEL'S LADY, Clifton Adams
Richard Robinson, THE ENGLISH COUNTRY HOUSE MURDERS, edited Thomas Godfrey
Gerard Saylor, KENOBI, John Jackson Miller
Ron Scheer, BIG HITCH, John Henry Reese
Kevin Tipple, "The Last Horseman" Frank Zafirro and THE THRILLING THIRTEEN
Prashant Trikinnad, THE INTRUDERS, Evan Hunter
James Winter, MARCH VIOLETS, Philip Kerr
Zybahn, NOIR, A NOVEL, Robert Coover

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Where Do You Fit In?

My house in Philly with my beloved 1955 Bel Air in pink and gray
I know I am quoting the Updike bio a lot, but so many interesting questions are raised. After his four years at Harvard and a year at a school in England, he worked at THE NEW YORKER for two years. He was incredibly successful there but felt uncomfortable in New York after his small town upbringing and so moved to Ipswich. MA.

I have only lived in or outside cities. Even when living abroad, we were in Amsterdam and outside of Manchester. In California, we are in San Diego. So I don't know how I would fare in smalltown or rural life. Do you live in the best place for you? Have you always lived in a similar sized place? Could you be happy anywhere or do you need a specific environment?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Night Music: THE KISS

For David, just because-Tulips on their final days

Forgotten Movies, Me, Natalie, 1969

This was certainly not a successful film critically in 1969 (directed by Fred Coe) when it was lambasted for any number of sins, but it has a great cast, including Pacino in first role and it captures the times pretty well. Natalie is a girl convinced she is ugly, and this supposed "ugliness" is enough to drive the plot. She runs off to pursue a Bohemian life style in the Village, apparently a place that will accept her.
I doubt any movie today would be quite so blatant in its thesis but maybe I am wrong. I hate the voice over, but it's fun for the ambiance, its cast, and its odd POV. Despite its flaws, Duke won a golden globe for it, being a darling of the media at the time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Opening Credits: Perry Mason


I read very little true crime. I prefer fictional crime even if it's based on real crimes. I am not sure why but I think it's because a fiction writer leaves out the boring parts. Or at least a good one does. And the story also seems more remote, less scary.

Megan and Phil and even Josh read a ton of true crime though. Phil just read SAVAGE HARVEST about the gory details of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea with a tribe of cannibals. Ugh!

I have read a few good ones though and I would chose IN COLD BLOOD as my  favorite. Capote changed the notion of reportage with this one and the Clutter family will always haunt me. 

What is your favorite true crime book. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Neil Young Week: Red Hot Chile Peppers, EVERYONE KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE


IN UPDIKE, John Updike reports that in his four years at Harvard, he never had a female professor. What about you? I went back to college in the nineties and had many female professors. In the late sixties, none. But Updike was at Harvard in the fifties. What was your situation?

Short Story Saturday: Mother Darkness from SCREAM QUEEN AND OTHER STORIES, Ed Gorman

"Mother Darkness" is the third story in Ed Gorman's new collection, SCREAM QUEEN and other STORIES. These are dark stories, maybe the darkest stories I have read by Ed. And each one takes you by surprise because his writing makes things feel ordinary right up until the moment they're not. The fluid writing and perfect amount of detail help to catapult you right into the action.

This one concerns a woman who checks out families getting government assistance. She is not a social worker--just there to monitor potential cases of fraud. But she hears a lot of sad stories, sees a lot of scary stuff and teeters between loathing the government who tries to deny the poor relief and the occasional cheating she sees going on. 

But, unmarried and childless herself, she feels bad for the kids. And does something about it. Great story, great collection.

Friday, May 16, 2014


Friday's Forgotten Books: SPECIAL: Crime Fiction of the 1950s

The 1950s was a rich era for crime fiction. Edgars were given for best first novel beginning in 1946. It was not until 1954 that the best novel category began. And look at the first selections! At least four of these first five are considered classics of the genre 60 years later.
And I am happy that right from the start, women writers were recognized in this field. 


  • 1955 Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
  • 1956 Margaret Millar, Beast in View 
  • 1957 Charlotte Armstrong, A Dram of Poison
  • 1958 Ed Lacy, Room to Swing
  • 1959 Stanley Ellin, The Eighth Circle

  • And today many of our reviewers have chose a book from the fifties to review. 

  •  In 1953 Ira Levin won best first novel for A KISS BEFORE DYING.(Patti Abbott)


    Bud Corliss, like many protagonists in books such as this one, yearns for the good life that his blue-collar origin seems to prohibit. He possesses good looks and the skills of a sociopath. In the war, he also learns he has the ability to murder with no regrets.

    Using the GI Bill, he returns home and enrolls in college where he meets the daughter of a tycoon and impregnates her. Believing this will sully him with her rich father, he murders her after tricking her into writing a suicide note.

    Next Corliss pursues Dorothy's sister, Ellen. The romance goes well until Ellen begins to probe into Dorothy's death, convinced her sister did not kill herself.  Ellen uncovers the truth and confronts him. Corliss confesses to the crime and kills Ellen. Unfazed by this setback, Corliss courts the last remaining Kingship daughter, Marion. This affair is the most successful; Corliss sweeps her off her feet and charms her father, and soon he and Marion are engaged.

    Local college DJ Gordon Gant begins investigating the case, and is immediately suspicious of Corliss. He breaks into Corliss' childhood home and steals a written plan for meeting and seducing Marion to get her family's money, as well as news clippings about Dorothy's and Ellen's deaths. Days before the wedding, he shows up at the Kingship family home and presents Marion and her father with the evidence of Corliss' deception.

    On a trip to one of the family's copper manufacturing plants, Marion, her father and Gant all corner Corliss while he is standing over a vat of molten copper and threaten to expose him. Corliss frantically pleads his innocence, but his accusers are unmoved. Realizing his luck has finally run out, Corliss panics and wets his pants — just as the Japanese soldier, his symbol of pathetic cowardice, had done. Delirious with fear and shame, Corliss stumbles and falls to his death into the vat below.

    There is a touch of AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY in this book, of course, but Levin, by taking it farther in audacity, is able to overcome the familiarity of the story of a poor boy yearning for marriage to a rich girl. Corliss is less redeemable and the plot is twistier.  

    As a huge Ira Levin fan I read this probably in the early seventies. I put off seeing the film with Richard Wagner for years, feeling he could not bring justice to the role.I was wrong. When I finally saw it, he was perfect as a sociopath. I won't give my thoughts on why that may have been. The next film, with Matt Dillon, was good enough too.The source material is strong enough for any number of remakes. But the novel itself is best of all.

    Levin went on to write several great novels. Truly one of my favorite novelists-especially in ROSEMARY'S BABY and THIS PERFECT DAY. But all of his books are terrific. And this is such a worthy Edgar win.


    I know the date on this is 2012 but this collection of 25 very noir stories all date in their original publication from 1951-1959.  They are dark and bleak, stories of weak men and adulterous women in steamy Florida.  Stories like "It's Always Too Late" and "My Lady is a Tramp" tell you almost all you need to know about them in the title.  The story that blew my mind (to use a phrase from my own youth) was "Moonshine" (originally published in Manhunt in 1955).  (SPOILER ALERT FOR PLOT HERE)  A guy comes home and catches his wife with her boyfriend and has to decide which one of them to kill.  After following the boyfriend and disposing of him he returns home only to find his wife with another guy.  The ending of this one absolutely floored me.  (END WARNING)

    Despite how the review sounds, the book is definitely worth your time.  If you like noir I'd recommend it.

                                                                                                         Jeff Meyerson

    The Killer by Wade Miller (1951) (Ed Gorman)

    Wade Miller was of course Bob Wade and Bill Miller. They collaborated on a few dozen novels until Miller died of a heart attack in the office they shared. He was forty-one.

    Much of their best work was done for Gold Medal. The Killer is a fine example. A rich man named Stennis owns a number of banks. His son works in one of them. During a robbery his son is killed. Stennis hires a big game hunter named Farrow to find the notorious bank robber Clel Bocock and his gang. When Farrow locates them he is to call Stennis who wants to be there to watch them die. Farrow is a unique character and not just because of the big game angle. He's middle-aged and feeling it, something rare in that era of crime fiction.

    The search for Stennis--and the love story that involves Bocock's wife--takes Farrow from the swamps to Iowa (including, yes, Cedar Rapids) to Wisconsin to Colorado. The place description is extraordinary. Probably too much for today's readers but the Miller books are filled with strong cunning writing. Same for twists and turns. For the length of the first act you can never be sure who anybody is. They're all traveling under assumed names and with shadowy motives. The only thing that binds them is Clel Bocock.

    For anybody who thinks that Gold Medals were largely routine crime stories, this is the noel you should pick up. Stark House published this a few years back (still available) along with Devil On Two Sticks, one of the most original mob novels I've ever read. There's also an excellent David Laurence Wilson introduction on the careers of the two writers.

    Wade Miller got lost in the shuffle of bringing back the writers of the fifties and sixties. This book, so strong on character and place and plot turns, will demonstrate why more of their books should be in print. 

    Sergio Angelini, THE SAINT IN EUROPE, Leslie Charteris (1953)
    Brian Busby, PURE SWEET HELL Malcolm Douglas, (1957)
    Bill Crider, JUVENILE JUNGLE, James Farrell et all, 1957)
    Curt Evans, DEATH TIME THREE, Rex Stout 
    Rick Horton, THE APRIL ROBIN MURDERS, Craig Rice and Ed McBain (1958)
    Jerry House, MASK OF GLASS, Holly Roth (1954)
    Randy Johnson, THE CASE OF THE VIOLENT VIRGIN, Michael Avallone (1956)
    Nick Jones, A KISS BEFORE DYING, Ira Levin, (1953)
    George Kelley, AMERICAN NOIR OF THE 1950s
    B.V. Lawson, NINE COACHES WAITING, Mary Stewart
    Steve Lewis, DEATH CAME UNINVITED, Elizabeth Backhouse, 1957
    Todd Mason, BEST OF THE BEST DETECTIVE STORIES,David Cooke (1950s)
    Neer, NATURAL CAUSES and ACCORDING TO THE EVIDENCE, Henry Cecil,(1953-54)
    J.F. Norris. MISS FENNY, Charity Blackstock (1957)
    James Reasoner, THE BRASS MONKEY, Harry Whittington, 1951
    Richard Robinson, THE MAN IN MY GRAVE, Wilson Tucker (1956)
    Ron Scheer, THE LONG GOODBYE, Raymond Chandler (1953)
    Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THE BRAT, Gil Brewer, 1957

    Prashant Trikannad, LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, Roald Dahl (1953), and LOVE STORY, Irving Cox 1956

    And other reviews
    Joe Barone, BLEEDING HEARTS, Jane Haddam
    Martin Edwards, THE GREAT ORME TERROR, Garnett Radcliffe
    Kate Laity, MAD WORLD, Paula Byrne
    Evan Lewis, "Over the Wall" John Butler

    Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    Neil Young Week: OLD MAN


    We were hardpressed the other night to think of too many TV couples that had great chemistry. The discussion usually demands that the couple be in the pre-marital stage of their relationship because the writing usually doesn't emphasize romance after that. The Taylors on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS had a great marriage but we didn't get excited about it.

    We could really only come up with three: Ross and Rachel on FRIENDS and Sam and Diane on CHEERS and Jim and Pam on THE OFFICE. The only married couple we came up with predates most of you-Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin in HE AND SHE.

    And I have never seen a homosexual couple with chemistry on any show--that's too bad.

    What other TV couples were believable as lovers? Doesn't have to be a sitcom. Extra points if it isn't? Dramas seem to have more trouble cultivating romance than sitcoms.

    RE: Friday's FFB theme on crime novels of the 1950s. To save me from checking out the date of your selection, could you indicate the year it was published in the heading. Thanks!! 

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    Neil Young Week: Norah Jones, TELL ME WHY


    This was a show about a defense attorney that was on from 1967-69 and put together by Paul Monash.

    Judd was a Houston attorney who traveled across the country defending liberal causes such as the attempt to jail draft evaders. Carl Betz, coming off his Milquetoast role on THE DONNA REED SHOW, was fierce and sympathetic. The times were right, we loved this show. Probably would seem overly dramatic and hyperbolic today.The show channeled the careers of Percy Foreman and F. Lee Bailey and Foreman actually threatened a suit.

    Monday, May 12, 2014

    Neil Young Week: Harvest Moon: Pearl Jam

    Runs on Authors

    In UPDIKE, the new biography of John Updike by Adam Begley, he quotes Updike as saying, "A real reader, reading to escape his own life thoroughly, tends to have runs on authors." Updike goes on to say he read Gardner, Queen, Carr, Christie, Marsh, Thurber, Benchley, and Wodehouse in this manner (among others).

    What writer to you remember reading like this first?

    In the summer of '68, on vacation with my parents, I began the journey through Agatha Christie. I could not buy them fast enough. Who lured you in once discovered?

    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Short Story Saturday: Angels by Jen Conley NEEDLE MAGAZINE, Spring 2014

    Jen Conley is an editor at SHOTGUN HONEY and her stories have appeared in venues such as NEEDLE, THUGLIT, BEAT TO A PULP, LITERARY ORPHANS and YELLOW MAMA. She lives in New Jersey.

    "Angel" is the traditional cop story we see too little of lately. It manages through excellent writing, atmosphere, and character to invigorate the genre.

    A seasoned female cop gets the call to investigate an accusation of rape. The call has come in from a young boy, who is hesitant to provide the details necessary. The girl herself also has some doubts about reporting the crime and can't identify her assailant. The story does a great job of showing the reader why such a crime can be difficult to solve and prosecute. Conley also has a lot to say about grief. I hope Officer Andrea Vogel gets another case. She's a great protagonist.

    This story appears in NEEDLE MAGAZINE, Spring 2014.

    Friday, May 09, 2014



    Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, May 9, 2014

    Some of links won't go up till late in the day because I have to leave the house at 7:30 to go to Grandparents Day at Kevin's school. The ones that show up were from yesterday. Sorry!!

    Next week, crime fiction from the fifties. Be there or be square. 

    From the archive:

    Ball Four, Jim Bouton
    This wa
    s a book that was read and reread at our house thirty years ago. My son adored it and so did I. It was the first book about baseball that gave an accurate depiction of what went on in the clubhouse, what the players' lives were like, the finances of the game, the pressures put on players, the drugs, the womanizing.

    Bouton recounted his year as a pitcher on the Seattle Pilots in 1969--the team's only year of play. It was a tumultuous year for the country as well and Bouton doesn't hesitate to give his views on everything.

    Bowie Kuhn called the book detrimental to the game because it blew the fairy dust off. He tried to force Bouton to sign a statement saying the book was fictional, a baseball version of M*A*S*H.

    Baseball players also came down hard on him. Pete Rose, that noble player, swore at him whenever he took the mound.

    It was not a good year for Bouton on the field, and he is honest about that too. This was one of the great books about sports. That dogeared copy is one book I won't give away.

    Sergio Angelini, THE THIRD MAN, Graham Greene
    Brian Busby, THE WINDOW GAZER,Isobel Ecclestone Mackay
    Bill Crider, SCREAM FACTORY, Spring 92: Suspense Issue
    Curt Evans, THE HANGING WOMAN, John Rhode
    Ray Garraty, ACT OF FEAR, Michael Collins
    Rick Horton, BEAU SABREUR, P.C. Wren
    Jerry House, THE PRIDE OF BEAR CREEK by Robert E. Howard.
    Randy Johnson, MEET THE TIGER! Leslie Charteris
    Nick Jones, A HIVE OF GLASS, P,M. Hubbard
    George Kelley, LOVE'S SWEET SONG/WHOM GODS DESTROY, Clifton Adams
    Margot Kinberg, A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART, Timothy Hallinan
    Tracy K, THE NIGHT THE GODS SMILED, Eric Wright
    B.V. Lawson, MISS PINK AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Gwen Moffat
    Evan Lewis, THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT, Robert B. Parker
    Steve Lewis/L.J. Roberts. THE GRAY GHOST MURDERS, Keith McCafferty
    Todd Mason, A Few Words About Older Books About Television
    Neer, CAT OF MANY TAILS, Ellery Queen
    J.F. Norris, FOAM OF THE DAZE, Boris Vian
    James Reasoner, SHADOW OF THE LARIAT, Jon Tuska. ed.
    Richard Robinson, THE GANYMEDE CLUB, Charles Sheffield
    Gerard Saylor, CLANDESTINE, James Ellroy
    Ron Scheer, THE CRIME OF COY BELL, Sam Brown
    Kevin Tipple, THE UGLY PRINCESS, Elizabeth Burton
    TomCat, HOT RED MONEY, Bayard Kendrick

    Thursday, May 08, 2014

    What Megan Did on Her Year in Oxford, MS (Borrowed from the blog of her great friend, Jack Pendarvis)

    Blog "trospective 13: When Megan Lived Here

    Well, it really happened. Megan Abbott moved back to New York. Now what are we supposed to do? Besides vomit and weep I mean. I guess we will attempt to cope by constructing a "blog"trospective of everything Megan did while she lived here (this is not everything Megan did while she lived here): arrived at the record store just as David was putting up the new sign---attended a party where a little girl did that thing where you rapidly stab a knife between your splayed fingers---brought up Sigmund Freud a lot---by example, had me drinking negronis for a spell---called BUFFALO '66 "a child's fantasy" (not in a bad way!)---compared me to Cathy in WUTHERING HEIGHTS---considered a dance called "the mumbly peg"---contemplated the travails of Lucille Ball as a woman in Hollywood---defined wildness---discussed Philip Roth a lot---displayed a cheery and tasteful novelty item---drank moonshine (twice... that I know of!)---during a visit by Kent Osborne she witnessed Kent eating chicken wings, which failed to be noted at the time---emailed me about Hank Worden---emailed me about orgone boxes---expressed a correct opinion about THE GLASS KEY that I undermined with ignorant hyperbole---found a lone pom-pom (this happened more than once)---got scared by a creepy tree---had her first belt of rye---helped Dr. Theresa and me avoid trick-or-treaters---hosted a Jerry Lewis double feature---likened something to Poe---loaned me a pen---looked up "querulous" in her dictionary---participated in an ecstatic roar---pointed a gun at me---professed a generalized affection for wax museums---read Claudia Roth Pierpont's book about Philip Roth---read my tarot cards via cell phone---received a visit from her parents---reminded me of an anecdote about Billy Wilder---researched "friendship clubs"---said something about Mary Steenburgen's accordion---sent me a picture of Bob Hope and Doris Day and Santa---sent me Dick Shawn's obituary---shared her knowledge about an illustrator who drew women with "impossibly long feet"---spent the last warm evening of the year on the balcony of the City Grocery Bar---spoiled a bat attack---strolled past Robert Mitchum's house from HOME FROM THE HILL---studied the racy cover of UNCLE GOOD'S WEEK-END PARTY, a novel by Faulkner's brother---told a story I misheard about a Depression-era Shirley Temple cream pitcher (and she actually gave us a Depression-era Shirley Temple cream pitcher last night as a goodbye present)---took a picture of a bubble house---took a walk with me while I was wearing a hat (and bedroom slippers, not pictured)---used the old-fashioned term "smoker" to refer to a gathering of rowdy males (she was talking about Bill and Jimmy and me)---visited Elvis's birthplace---visited Faulkner's house with Laraine Newman---was followed on twitter by the manufacturers of a gross-sounding vodka---was harassed by an inflated Batman---was supposed to be on a panel with Adrienne Barbeau (the panel happened but Barbeau canceled)---watched a Norman Mailer movie---went to a hobo festival---wondered about tight pants---wowed 'em at "Noir at the Bar."
    Thanks for sharing Megan's ten months with me, Jack.
    Knowing she had such good friends nearby was wonderful. Cheers to you and Theresa. To Bill and Ace too. 

    Wednesday, May 07, 2014

    Theme Song: FROZEN

    First Wednesday Book Review Club

    Ordinary People by Judith Guest

    I read this book when it was first published in 1976. At that time I was in my twenties, with two young children, a very different person than I am today. When my book group chose it for our May selection. I wondered if I would see it differently now. Whether I would like it less. If it would hold up--so many books don't quite. I also wondered if the movie, which I have seen at least twice, would be too dominant.Would Mary Tyler Moore's, Donald Sutherland, Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton's portrayals overwhelm Guest's

    I am only more impressed with this, a first novel, than I was almost forty years ago.

    The Jarrets have suffered the loss of one son and the near-death of another. Con is recently home from a facility that helped him cope with his suicide attempt. He is blessed with an extraordinary father, Cal, but his mother, Beth, is distant, cold. He no longer is a good fit with his friends, mostly high school swimmers either. He finally agrees to see a counselor, a man who he has immediate rapport with. This is the story of the months following his return home. The writing is perfect. I can't remember last reading a book where one page flowed from the last so easily. It's not a page turner in the traditional sense--but you become so involved in Cal's plight that you need to see him succeed. Highly recommended.

    For more reviews, check with Barrie Summy.

    Tuesday, May 06, 2014

    Tuesday Night Music: Mose Allison


    Continuing yesterday's theme as the"outsider," thirty years ago, Joe Morton starred in John Sayles' BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET. This was a clever movie that managed to be humorous, lovable, and still make a statement, as Sayles is wont to do.  Even a black man in Harlem can be an outsider. The plot is pretty self-explanatory. He arrives on earth with two white guys from his home planet immediately sent to bring him home.

    I haven't seen this movie since 1984 and the trailer here looks even more light-hearted than I remember it. Joe Morton plays a character on SCANDAL nowadays and most of the other actors seem to have disappeared. I remember it as a series of vignettes, which may be suited to this subject.

    Monday, May 05, 2014


    I Am A Stranger Here

    So many movies deal with the issue of someone new entering a society. In some cases, like UNDER THE SKIN, which I saw and liked a lot last week, the stranger is from another planet or world. But often it's an immigrant or a new kid on the block.

    What are some of the best movies and novels that use this plot device?

    Saturday, May 03, 2014

    Saturday Night Music: UNDER MY SKIN

    Short Story Saturday

    I just read the story by Shirley Jackson in THE NEW YORKER, "A Man in the Woods" and although it was a real treat, I am not sure I understood the ending. Anyone out there read it.

    Also my review of FINDING VIVIAN MAIER is up on CRIMESPREE CINEMA. Mystery lovers should love it.

    Friday, May 02, 2014

    How About a Dance Scene: Shirley Temple and Bill Robinson

    Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, May 2, 2014

    Two weeks from day: May 16: Crime fiction of the 1950s.

    THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES, Eduardo Sacheri

    Rob reviewed this book a few weeks ago, and since I loved the movie, I decided to give the book a try. I have read almost nothing set in Argentina. This was an excellent place to start. It's the story of a police office, about to retire, who decides to take up writing to occupy his time. We watch as he debates how to frame the story, what the POV should be--the questions all writers must answer for themselves.

    Thinking back over his cases, he chooses the case that always haunted his the most: the rape and murder of a young woman. Sacheri weaves the story of this case with the politics of the country at the time--the late seventies--when Argentina was in the midst of what became known as a dirty war.. How the justice meted out by the criminal justice system was entirely caught up in the politics of the country. And he also shows what happens when a government or criminal justice system does not meet the expectations of the victims of crime. There is just enough detail of Benjamin Chapparo''s personal life to make it something fully satisfying. Highly recommended.

    The Jugger, Richard Stark, reviewed by Ed Gorman


    How this for an opener? I'm about to review the worst book Donald E. Westlake ever wrote. Don't take my word for it. Here's Westlake himself speaking.

    "I spoiled a book by having him do something he wouldn’t do. The sixth book in the series is called The Jugger, and that book is one of the worst failures I’ve ever had. The problem with it is, in the beginning of the book this guy calls him and says “I’m in trouble out here and these guys are leaning on me and I need help,” and Parker goes to help him. I mean, he wouldn’t do that, and in fact, the guy wouldn’t even think to call him! (laughs)"

    I found this quote on The Violent World of Parker website, a goodie. More" Westlake has more than once cited The Jugger as a failure, and although I’ve never seen it straight from the horse’s mouth, I’ve heard he considers it the worst book he’s ever written. Well, Mr. Westlake, if this is the worst you can do after cranking out more books than I can count, I am in great envy of your abilities.

    "Mr. Westlake is wrong about Parker acting out of character in The Jugger. He seems to have forgotten the details, which is perfectly understandable, as the book was written in 1965 and he probably has not had much reason to revisit it if he doesn’t care for it that much."

    Me again: I frequently find myself liking books most other people don't and vice-versa. The Jugger's a good example. No it's not a great Parker adventure but it's got a lot of early Sixties atmosphere, a cast of truly despicable characters and a constantly shifting plot.

    What we have here is a kind of psychodrama. We have a dumb but crafty Sheriff, a smart but unlucky FBI man, a dumb but uncrafty lady friend of a pathetic dead guy who'd been trying to find an imaginary sum of money hidden by Joe Sheer.

    It goes like this. Parker and Sheer worked together sometimes and then Sheer got old and all he did was serve as a way station for Parker. If you wanted to talk to the big man you had to call Sheer who'd screen you. But when Parter got a nervous communication from Sheer he got concerned that maybe the old man was coming apart and would blow Parker's cover. He had to go to the small Midwestern city and make sure that didn't happen.

    But when he got there Sheer was dead. And the (imaginary) enormous amount of stolen money was nowhere to be found--yes there;s money but it's modest compared to what others think. So Parker proceeds to deal with both problems. Under the name of Willis.

    The Psychodrama: The Sheriff is a dope but a brutal one and Parker has to string him along in order to learn what he needs to. Watching Parter mislead him is a game worth watching. The Sheriff is a human pit bull. He's capable of killing Parker at any moment. But then Parker is more than willing to strike first. On the other hand the FBI man is slick and political. Mitt Romney could play him. Quoting Norman Mailer on a writer he didn't like: "He's as full of shit as a Thanksgiving turkey." But he suspects that this guy Willis is really a big catch under another name. He's already signing a book contract and learning to wave in parades.

    So The Jugger ain't perfect and ain't gonna win none of them NYC awards but I don't care. I just enjoyed this particular take on Parker's world. I read it in two dazzled sittings.

    Sergio Angelini, MR. CAMPION'S FAREWELL, Mike Ripley
    Yvette Banek, THE RUBBER BAND, Rex Stout
    Brian Busby, EXPO SUMMER, Eileen Fitzgerald
    Bill Crider. THE FUGITIVE STARS, Daniel Ransom
    Curt Evans, A PENNY A WORDER, Cornell Woolrich
    Rick Horton, THE CHANGED BRIDES, Mrs. E.D.E.N Southworth
    Jerry House, PULPTIME, Peter Cannon
    Randy Johnson, SEE THEM DIE, Ed McBain
    Nick Jones, HIDE TIDE, P.M. Hubbard
    George Kelley, DRUM BEAT, Stephen Marlowe
    Margot Kinberg, THE RED QUEEN DIES, Frankie Y. Bailey
    Rob Kitchin, BIRD DOG, Philip Reed
    B.V. Lawson, MRS. MADELYN MACK, DETECTIVE, Hugh Cosgo Weir
    Evan Lewis, "Smart Guy" Cleve F. Adams
    Steve Lewis/William F. Deeck, MUM'S THE WORD FOR MURDER, Brett Halliday (Asa Baker)
    J.F. Norri, THE GLASS SPEAR, S.H. Courtier
    James Reasoner, BEYOND ALL DESIRE, Tom Philips
    Richard Robinson, READING JOHN BUDE
    Gerard Saylor, LIVE AND LET DIE, Ian Fleming
    Ron Scheer, FLINT'S TRUTH, Richard Wheeler
    Kevin Tipple, THE FEEDSTOCK CHRONICLES, Travis Erwin
    TomCat, MURDER OUT OF ANGER, A.C. Baantjer