Monday, June 30, 2014

Opening Credits: Saturday Night Fever

Underated (or Underread) Authors

J. Kingston Pierce picks his choice in his Kirkus Column here.

One of my many choices would be Jo Ann Beard whose BOYS OF MY YOUTH and IN ZANESVILLE are two of my favorites.

Who would you choose? 

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Nick Forte, the protagonist of A Small Sacrifice, is the first character I developed as a writer, before I ever thought of being a writer. He’s been around over twenty years, though he only became available for public consumption when he appeared as a “guest star” in Grind Joint last fall.

In 1993 I’d given up on a musical career, lost my marriage, had enough of my teaching job—three assaults in two years will do that—and attempted what The Beloved Spouse calls a “geographic cure” by moving to Chicago to, hopefully, start over. Virtually all of my friends at the time were musicians, with a heavy concentration of trumpet players. When I heard grumblings that an audition had been fixed—not an uncommon complaint—I now had a different perspective, and decided to have some fun. I wrote a murder mystery about a private investigator who was a former musician, asked to investigate the propriety of a recent audition,  tongue firmly in cheek. All the characters were based on friends of mine, enough so that they could recognize each other. For the detective’s name, I chose “Forte,” the musical term for loud—these are trumpet players, after all—literally the Italian word for “strong.” I wanted a short first name with some hard consonant sounds. So, Nick.

Nick starred in three workplace-based short stories. I’d show people a previous story and they’d ask me to write one with them in it. It was great fun. The enthusiasm built until I started to wonder if I could write a Nick Forte novel. Two went more or less straight to the recycle bin, a not uncommon fate for first efforts. The third, Frame for the Blues, worked well as a kind of novelty, playing off of Forte’s background as a musician. It came close, but didn’t sell, and I decided to take the character more mainstream.

This was about the time of the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder in Colorado. John and Patsy Ramsey were on every news-related show on television. Their early behavior with the police—not allowing themselves to be questioned individually, for example—had made them America’s suspects. I don’t know of anyone who believed them.

A thought occurred to me: what if they’re innocent? (A decidedly minority opinion at the time.) Maybe they know who the killer is, but they can’t say, for some reason. I cut myself off from any more news or information about the case right there, as I didn’t want the story I was already thinking of to have more than the germ of the original idea to come from it.

A Small Sacrifice begins with a private investigator asked to clear a father’s name by the dead boy’s grandmother. Forte tells her he can’t prove a negative, and no one will accept whatever he finds, but the old woman uses his divorced father’s guilt to get him to look into it. What he finds changes more lives than minds, as the truth remains buried with Justin Mitchell.

Friday, June 27, 2014

How About a Dance Scene TOP SECRET

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, June 27, 2014


(From the archives)

Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of the Poke Rafferty Bangkok Thrillers and the Junior Bender Mysteries. His next Poke Rafferty book, The Fear Artist, will come out in July.

Gitana, Dominic Martell

Gitana is the third and final book in an unhappily short series (the others are Lying Crying Dying and The Republic of Night) by Dominic Martell. The hero, Pasqual Rose, lives a life on the margins in Barcelona, working at a small bar in a dicey neighborhood. This isn't the Barcelona of Gaudi or even Woody Allen, it's a much tougher town, populated by Gypsies, skinheads, and the occasional slumming tourist, a maze of ancient alleyways, dark enough to cloak the worst of misdeeds.
Pascual is shielding an enormous secret: a more than a decade ago, as a young, impressionable man, he fell in with the Palestinian cause and committed acts of terror in its name before he recoiled from what he'd become and fled into hiding. He's ridden with guilt and hopelessly seeking some kind of absolution—but he's still got the reflexes and instincts developed by years spent looking over his shoulder. When an American man comes into the bar and calls him by name, alarms go off in Pascual's head; and when the American is murdered shortly afterward, Pascual knows that someone or something is sniffing him out.
And then there's Sara, who sings in the bar where Pasqual works, and whom he's fallen in love with, and there's Serrano, the cop who knows part of Pasqual's story, and there's Campos, the journalist who may know nearly all of it and wants to write a book. And back behind all of it, cranking on clockwork Pascual can only guess at, is someone who wants him dead and who doesn't care about collateral damage. And there's also the secret in Sara's past, that Pascual can't even guess at.
Gitana is beautifully plotted and written. Martell obviously knows Barcelona inside out, because I've rarely read a book with a stronger and more persuasive sense of place. The triumph of the book for me, though, is characterization—there isn't a character in the book, who doesn't leap off the page, who doesn't seem to possess a genuine subconscious. I read the book for the skill with which it's written and the spell of the setting, but I loved it because of the people in its pages, Dominic Martell, who also writes crackerjack Chicago thrillers as Sam Reaves, is (I think) a criminally underrated writer, and I'm delighted to see the Pascual trilogy gradually becoming available in ebook form. The first one, Lying Crying Dying is available now here on Amazon.

Joe Barone, THE CASE OF THE BAITED HOOK, Erle Stanley Gardner
Brian Busby, REENTRY, John Wesley White
Bill Crider, DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE: ACE, James A. Corrick
Martin Edwards, NIGHT OF THE MOCKING WIDOW, Carter Dickson
Curt Evans, CRACK OF DOOM, Leo Bruce
Rick Horton, ROGUE MALE, Geoffrey Household
Jerry House, EQUAL TIME FOR POGO, Walt Kelly
Randy Johnson, RED-HEADED SINNERS, Jonathan Craig
Nick Jones, RIPLEY'S GAME and  THE AMERICAN FRIEND, Patricia Highsmith, book and movie
George Kelley, WARRIOR OF LLARN, THIEF OF LLARN, Gardner Fox
Margot Kinberg, THE BOUNDARY, Nicole Watson
Rob Kitchin, KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE, Horace McCoy and TO DIE IN BEVERLY HILLS, Gerald Pietrivich
B.V. Lawson, SHROUD OF CANVAS, Isobel Mary Lambot
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, SCORPIO RISING, Anthony Horowitz
Todd Mason, TBA
J.F. Norris, COLD HAND IN MINE, Robert Aichman
J. Kingston Pierce, Thomas Blanchard Dewey 
James Reasoner, HANGMAN'S HARVEST, M.E. Chabor
Richard Robinson, TETHER'S END, Margorie Allingham
Ron Scheer, THE HOMESTEADERS, Kate and Virgil Boyd
TomCat, A TIP OF THE VEIL, DeWaal and Baantjer
Kevin Tipple/Patrick Ohl, COP-HATER, Ed McBain
TracyK, THE MOTHER HUNT, Rex Stout
James Winter, HEARTS OF ATLANTIS, Stephen King

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Final Scene: FRASIER

Megan in Michigan for THE FEVER

Megan and her sister-in-law at Nicola's Books
Talking at Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor

Kevin too

The final party-thanks to Rita and Charlie, such great friends
The crowd at B & N, over 85 people
Three of my very best friends, Sara in pink, and Mary in blue, Mel in the rear

Josh and Megan: the book is dedicated to him.

The display at Nicola's Books

Megan being asked by our friends the Gellers (who lived there for 25 years) did she really like MS.
Thanks to our friends Sharon Lean and Greg Fox for hosting such a lovely party

The teenage girl had her mother drive her up to Ann Arbor from Ohio and she asked great questions

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wednesday Theme Songs: FAMILY TIES


I have a recurring dream where instead of quitting smoking 25 years ago, I have been secretly smoking all along. I always wake up in a sweat and have to remind myself that it's a dream.
Do you have a dream that recurs like mine? Of course, we all have the one where we are sitting in a math class, about to take the final,  and realize we haven't been to class all semester.

 Phil has dreams where he is traveling to places he has never been-like a bordertown in Poland or South Africa and has an assignment.  No doubt, too much Alan Furst.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday Night Music: Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs


And I am going to let Megan step in for me with her notes on the new Criterion edition of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, which is right here.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, June 20 2014

When you hear your daughter on your favorite radio station, you have to share it.

On July 11, we will be reviewing novels or movies featuring femme fatales. If you have a favorite and would like to write about it, I would be happy to post it here if you don't have your own blog. Hope for a good turnout.

I spent a day in Ontario last week and I have to say that as soon as I crossed the border, I breathed easier. Passing through mile after mile of farmland, small towns, people who don't carry guns, I feel great. And as always I browsed in Stratford's three bookstores briefly (we were only there a day) and was reminded of some of the Canadian writers I love most.

My forgotten book submission for this week is a remembrance of some of my favorite Canadian writers.

Margaret Atwood may be the most prominent Canadian writer. My two favorite Atwood novels are THE HANDMAID'S TALE, the most dystopic novel for women perhaps. And THE BLIND ASSASSIN. Not every book she writes speaks to me, but every book is a marvel in its own way.

Robertson Davies-My favorite book from Davies is FIFTH BUSINESS, the first book in what's now called the Deptford Trilogy. He is wildly creative and unpredictable. Love all his books

Margaret Laurence: She speaks most to the heart with three great novels: THE STONE ANGEL, THE DIVINERS and  A JEST OF GOD. Her books are often set in Manitoba and deal with women under duress. Fabulous.

Alice Munro, Perhaps the best short story writer writing today. I am particularly fond of her early stories such as those collected in DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADE. but any of her collections is better than almost anyone else.

Alistair MacLeod, Read NO GREAT MISCHIEF set in Cape Breton.

Mordecai Richler, writes from Montreal and my favorite is THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ, the Jewish experience in Canada.

Carol Shields moved to Canada in 1957. THE STONE DIARIES, HAPPENSTANCE, LARRY"S PARTY, take your pick.

Brian Busby, ALL ELSE IS FOLLY, Peregrine Acland
Martin Edwards, Mavis Doriel Hay
Curt Evans, BRAZEN TONGUE, Gladys Mitchell
Rich Horton, THE BLANK WALL, THE GIRL WHO HAD TO DIE, Elizabeth Sanxay Holding
Randy Johnson, THE GHOST OF WINDY RIDGE, Hal C. Morgan
Nick Jones, THOSE WHO WALK AWAY, Patricia Highsmith
George Kelley, RACE WILLIAMS' DOUBLE DATE, Carroll John Daly
Margot Kinberg, THE DYING TRADE, Peter Corris
Rob Kitchin, BRIARPATCH, Ross Thomas
B.V. Lawson, VOICE OUT OF DARKNESS, Ursula Curtiss
Evan Lewis, GOD SAVE THE CHILD, Robert B. Parker
Steve Lewis/Allen J. Hubin, DEATH AMONG THE ANGELS, John Walter Putre
Todd Mason, Redux, KEY ANTHOLOGIES
Neer, BODYLINE, Philip Deriman
Richard Robinson, THE LADY IN THE MORGUE, Jonathan Latimer
Gerard Saylor, PEPPERLAND, Mark Delaney
Ron Scheer, SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER, Hamlin Garland
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, NIGHT SQUAD, David Goodis
TomCat, OH, MURDER MINE, Norbert Davis
Prashant Trikannad, 99 NOVELS, Anthony Burgess

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ennio Morricone Week: MUSIC from THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

What movie do you have no doubt you would watch if it were on tonight?

Maybe this doesn't have the impact it once did. We can get movies more easily now than ever before. Between streaming, renting, buying it's not so hard.

But if GOODFELLAS was on tonight, without commercials, I would sit down and watch it.

What about you? What would you watch if it was on TV tonight?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ennio Morricone Week: THE MISSION

Happy Publication Day, Megan

Megan's novel, THE FEVER, was inspired by an outbreak of odd symptoms among a group of girls in Le Roy, NY a few years ago. Here is a video from THE TODAY SHOW.

The consensus, which took a while to shake out, was the girls suffered from conversion disorder. Of course, the novel goes off in its own direction.

Here are the tour dates in case Megan is in your part of the country. Or in case you have a friend or relative there.

The Fever Book Tour

June 17
Book Court Book Launch Party
163 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY
718 875-3677
June 18
WORD Bookstore
with Julia Fiero
126 Franklin Street
Greenpoint, Brooklyn
718 383-0096
June 20
Brookline Booksmith
with Stona Fitch
279 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA
617 566-6660

June 22
Aunt Agatha's
Ann Arbor, MI
Nicola's Books
Westgate Shopping Center
2513 Jackson Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI
734 662-0600
June 23
Barnes and Noble–Troy
396 John R. Road
Troy, MI 48083
248 577-5056
June 24
Square Books
Courthouse Square
Oxford, MS
662 236-2262
June 25
Murder by the Book with Vicki Pettersson
2342 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX
713 524-8597
June 26
Book People
603 N. Lamar
Austin TX 78703
512 472-5050
July 1
Poisoned Pen
with Jeff Abbott
4014 North Goldwater Street
Scottsdale, AZ  85251
888 560-9919
July 10
River Road Books
with Alison Gaylin
759 River Road
Fair Haven, NJ 07704
732 747-9455
Tues July 15
Washington, DC
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe
Mon September 8
New York, NY
Strand Book Store with Chelsea Cain

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ennio Morricone Week, Le Vent, le cris

Forever Nurse Rachett

Louise Fletcher turned up on an episode of SHAMELESS, Season Two and reminded me of actors that are so strongly associated with one role that we are often surprised to find them in another. She will always be Nurse Ratchett to me. Who else will always be one character to you? There are so many examples: Robert Preston in THE MUSIC MAN for another.Is it a good thing or a bad one? I guess mostly bad. When I see how wonderful, Flletcher is in SHAMELESS, it makes me sad we don't have more memories of her.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ennio Morricone Week: CINEMA PARADISO

Happy Father's Day

I had a terrific father who I have remembered here in the past. But if I had to choose the greatest father, I'd have to look to my husband. Phil is the most devoted father I have known. I bet my kids could not name a single instance where he let them down.

When it was still uncommon for men, he went on school trips with the kids, coached Little League, served as President of the PTO, drew pictures and did art projects with Megan every night, played catch with Josh, drove them to activities, spent Saturdays at an art class with Megan, took them to the theater, on Brownie trips, did activities with Cub Scouts for which he was ill-suited. Other fathers left such things to their wives but he always wanted to be a part of it.

I remember whose car came in last at the Pinewood Derby, whose rocket didn't go up. But because he never let such things bother him, they never bothered the kids.

Despite a challenging academic career, his kids (and wife) always came first. I can never remember him saying he was too busy or too tired to do whatever was asked of him. He never had to spank his children because they respected him too much to misbehave. Seriously, letting him down would have distressed them too much.

Happy Father's Day, Phil. You will never read this but I have put it out in the world because I am so proud of the father you have been. And needless to say, the husband too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


What is you weakness as far as books and movie you read,/see?

With Phil, it's a weakness for spy novels, movies, and TV shows. Or dark indy movies. But mine is a bit different and something I am embarrassed to admit. If any book, or movie, or TV show gets good reviews, I am likely to see/read it. So I have no favorite genres really when I go to a movie. If it gets above an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, I will probably turn up. This has led us to see a lot of movies that are inappropriate to our age or personality. Likewise, no matter how much I may like Juliet Binoche and Clive Owens, their latest movie has reviews so poor, I cannot see it.I am predisposed not to like it.

Phil will no longer see Super Hero types of films. But when I see one gets a good review, I really want to see it--thinking I will find something there worth my time.

So instead of my prejudice being novels about cops, or movies about pirates, or TV shows about newspapers, mine is: I WILL SEE ANYTHING THAT CRITICS HAVE PRAISED. And probably nothing they haven't. UGH, me. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tuesday Night Music: ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK

Forgotten Movies: Journey for Margaret

Robert Young and his wife, played by Laraine Day, have lost their child. Robert Young, overseas in the war, comes across some orphaned children. I bet you can guess the ending, although the film is fairly realistic in showing you the damage the kids have suffered. No one was better at playing tragic figures than Margaret O'Brien and here at six, the talent is well in hand. As a child, this was one of my favorite movies. And I would watch it now if it was on TCM.

As great as Shirley was at dancing and singing, Margaret could act her under the table.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Opening Credits: THE HAUNTING

Thanks to Juri Nummelin to Publishing a Few of My Short Stories in Finland

This means Mermaids in Finnish. I am so crazy about the cover and am so grateful to Juri for his interest.


Was an interesting piece in the NYT last week by Karl Greenfeld about how numerous online sites as well as facebook and twitter and hashtags allow us to comment on many things we could not really explain in any depth. We may have not read THE GOLDFINCH but we all know it concerns a famous painting. We may not have seen 12 YEARS A SLAVE but almost anyone can give you a plot summery.

This sort of thing predates online info on a smaller scale. It took me years to realize a friend who commented on movies all the time had not actually seen any of them, just read reviews. Novels, as well.

I guess we are all guilty of this. Reading headlines and not the stories beneath them is one of my biggest sins. I have never actuallyclaimed to have seen a movie that I didn't, but in some cases it may be that over time I come to believe I have read books that I haven't because the chatter about them is so intense. Did I ever read HUCK FINN, I am not sure any longer.

And not having read or seen such things does not stop us from having an opinion. We form opinions on prejudices and intuition as much as concrete information.

Are you guity of faking cultural literacy?

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Saturday Night Music: Moondance, Van Morrison


I generally dislike voice-overs but sometimes they work. I liked William Holden's voice-over in SUNSET BOULEVARD. What one works for you? THE WONDER YEARS used the voice of the adult Kevin (Daniel Stern) well too.


Friday, June 06, 2014

How About a Dance Scene: PICNIC

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, June 6, 2014

Next week, Evan Lewis will be collecting the links.

Jo Walton, Farthing (2006)

                  Ha'penny (2007)

                  Half a Crown (2008)

Reviewed by Jeff Meyerson

As a mystery fan who has read all of Christie and Sayers and much of Marsh and Allingham, as well as a long-time fan of alternate history books, there was little doubt I would read Jo Walton's trilogy set in an "alternate" post-World War II Britain where Churchill was out and peace was made with Hitler in 1941 and the Americans never entered the war.

The three books have the same format.  Each is told in alternating chapters, with the odd numbered chapters narrated by a young woman and the even numbered chapters told in third person from the point of view of Insp. Peter Carmichael of Scotland Yard.

The first book, Farthing, takes place at the titular country house, where the right wing "Farthing set" (based on the real-life Cliveden set) (WARNING: PLOT REVEALED) murder a prominent politician and frame a Jew to seize power and make one of their own Prime Minister.  (END WARNING) The narrator is Lucy Kahn, daughter of the house, who is married to the Jewish scapegoat.  Carmichael is not buying the obvious frame but his own personal life puts him in the position of having to go along with his superior's orders.

The second book, Ha'penny, set like it's predecessor in 1949, moves to a fascinating theater background.  Viola Lark (nee Larkin), third daughter of six in a prominent family (call them the Mitfords) who has one sister married to Himmler, another a Communist, and a third a duchess, is set to star in a partial reverse-sex version of Hamlet (which, I must admit, sounds like a show I would have loved to see!) when her sister and uncle tries to draw her into the plot to blow up the new fascist Prime Minister and a visiting Adolf Hitler.  Once again Insp. Carmichael is on the case.  I think this was my favorite of the three.

Lastly, in 1960 Carmichael is now the head of The Watch, meant to be Britain's Gestapo, though he is secretly helping Jews escape the country.  His ward is about to "come out" as a deb at the same time the government is planning to crack down even more and consolidate their power. 

I liked this series a lot.  I discovered Walton, a fantasy and science fiction writer, through her What Makes This Book So Great (about her sf/fantasy reading) and I'm glad I did.  Highly recommended.


Reviewed by Patti Abbott

I have read three of McCullers novels but none prepared me for the oddity and loveliness of this one. More a novella than a novel, it takes place on an army base that functions as a hothouse for cramped and unmet desires amongst a group of six. This handful of characters is suffering in various ways yet continue to play cards, drink, dine, ride horses. None of their motives are entirely apparent, but by the end disaster has overtaken most of them. This is truly a noir book. McCullers wrote it after her first book THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER became a best seller, and the reaction was somewhat critical. It is very modern in its topics for the time. Highly recommended.

Yvette Banek, ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY, Helen MacInnes
Brian Busby, SIN FOR YOUR SUPPER, Milton Douglas
Bill Crider, KING OF THE BS: WORKING WITH THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM, ed Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn
Curt Evans, MY SON, THE MURDERER, Patrick Quentin
Ed Gorman, THE CRIME LOVER'S CASEBOOK, Jerome Charyn
Rock Horton, THE KING'S JACKAL, William Harding Davis
Jerry House, REBEL: CITY OF INDRA, Kendell and Kylie Jenner
Randy Johnson. 42 DAYS FOR MURDER, Roger Torrey
George Kelle, PIETR, THE LATVIAN, Georges Simenon
Margot Kinberg,THE CHINESE MAZE MURDERS, Robert Van Gulik
Rob Kitchin, BEHIND THE NIGHT BAZAAR, Angela Savage
B.V. Lawson, GIDEON'S FIRE, John Creasey
Evan Lewis, ADVENTURE HEROES, Jeff Rover
Steve Lewis, Marvin Lachman, ABOUT THE MURDER OF A MAN AND WOMAN, Anthony    Abbot
Neer, CROME YELLOW, Aldous Huxley
J.F.Norris, PILGRIM'S REST, Patricia Wentworth
James Reasoner, SIN-A-RAMA.Brittany, Delany, et al
Ron Scheer, THE LAW OF RANDADO, Elmore Leonard
Kevin Tipple/Patrick Ohl, THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X, Keigo Higashino
Prashant Trikannad, CARVED IN SAND, Erle Stanley Gardner

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Theme Song: 77 SUNSET STRIP

Had to Post This One

But now I will stop...maybe.

Book Review: UPDIKE by Adam Begley

Still not quite finished this, but I have had such a good time reading this massive biography, I saw no need to rush through. It was more fun to remember when I read Updike's books, to remember the stories about the Maples, the stories about Rabbit, the story about the witches and all of the Updike trivia I ingested over the years.

If there's a writer, I identified with early on and for many years it was Updike. I must confess somewhere along the way he stopped speaking to me, as did a number of other writers I liked in my 20s and 30s but I always found him fascinating.

Adam Begley's book is  successful to me because it it shows you where the plots came from without pushing it too hard. It manages to be both sympathetic and critical of him for various decisions and behavior over the years. He doesn't seem particularly likable and yet there was no malevolence in him. I doubt anyone who didn't like Updike's books would find this book interesting. But if you're a fan or even an off and on fan, you will enjoy this. Not quite up to the standard of Scott Berg's biography of Maxwell Perkins, but some lives are more interesting than others. Like his friend and peer, Joyce Carol Oates, his life was exclusively about the writing. I know people like that.

What's your favorite writer biography?

For more book reviews, visit Barrie Summy. After a hiatus, book reviews will begin again in the Fall. 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Tuesday Night Music: Hey Ya OUTKAST

Forgotten Movies: THE ROSE TATTOO

I had been meaning to see this film for years and Friday night seemed as good a time as any. I had very mixed feelings about it. Of course, Magnani is magnificent. Her performance manages to be both natural, fiery, and poignant all at the same time. Some of the scenes work so well. But with the introduction of Burt Lancaster, who I usually love, the film goes awry for me. His acting is so over the top that I have to assume he was directed to play his character this way.

Briefly the story concerns a Sicilian family living in the American South. When the husband, the love of Serafina's life dies in an attempt to evade the cops, she is inconsolable, quite mad with grief. It is not until Lancaster comes along that she comes out of it. There's lots more too but that's the general plot.

I have never seen so many women dressed in slips. I have to assume either this was true in the South before AC, true among Sicilian women, true for the mid-fifties or a signature of Anna Magnani.

Directed by Daniel Mann who also did the similarly over- the- top COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA, I think taking it down a notch and bringing it off what felt like a stage production would have strengthened it. Too often it felt like characters tossing dialog in a enclosed place. The outdoor scenes were terrific.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Opening Credits: SHAMELESS

How Important Are Endings to You?

The ending of a book is very important to my husband. If I ask him midway through how a book is he will always claim not to know yet. For me a good ending is a bonus. I make a decision about a book long before I reach the end. And I don't keep reading if that decision isn't favorable.

BEING DEAD has one of the best endings because it is completely inevitable yet comes full circle.
Here is a description of it from PW.

 Being Dead by Jim Crace - This is the story of a loving couple, dead from the novel’s very first page on a beach. As their bodies decompose, we learn of their courtship, thirty-year marriage, and murder. Their end is at the novel’s beginning—and detailed gruesomely, painstakingly, throughout. And yet, as the waves continue to crash, the shells and fragments of mollusks and fish and birds are arranged and rearranged by the surf, the reader can’t help but feel haunted by a sense of eternity. The thing about this ending, what makes it beautiful and unique, is that nothing ends. The most final of finals—death—has come and gone. The end and the ending is really just a point along the great cycle, in the very grand scheme.

What is your favorite ending and how important are endings to you? 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

They Love it but You Can't Preorder It. What's Wrong with This?

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2014: Megan Abbott writes about the madness of adolescence better than anyone. She seems to understand teens’ urgent rush to grow up, to try on adult masks and costumes and play adult games. But she also knows: in the big game of pretend, there are often grown-up consequences. In the spooky town of Dryden--“the cloudiest city in the state,” we’re told--high school girls are getting sick, one by one, seizure by seizure. Is the lake toxic? Is the drinking water poisoned? Are vaccinations to blame? Is it the sex? Paranoia begets fear and, fueled by texted whispers and internet rumors, a frenzy roils into a contagious hysteria. Characters’ legs and hands shake. They feel a flutter in the chest. Their chins quiver. It’s hard to breathe. “Don’t you see?” says one parent. “It’s just begun.” The story of what’s afflicting this tainted school is told through the entwined points of view of a divorced teacher, his fast-maturing daughter, and his stud hockey player son, all three tied in their own mysterious way to the source of the fever. The real fever here is the lust, hormones, jealousy, and fear of being a teenager. And high school is its breeding ground, the place that can mark us for life. As one teacher observes: “That’s what high school does.” The Fever is a brilliant and chilling tale of the bewildering age when everything--friendship, love, sex, revenge--feels “new and terrifying and significant.” To survive it? It’s heartbreaking. --Neal Thompson
But sadly, you can't preorder it from Amazon. Order it elsewhere.

Writing Advice: Stan Lee