Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Night Music: Max Richter

The Names Of Villains

Is it the villain the makes the name great or the name that makes the villain memorable: Hannibal Lector, Norman Bates, Nurse Ratched, Maleficent, Lex Luthor, Ebenezer Scrooge?

What are some of best names for villains?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Books

 QUEEN'S GAMBIT by Walter Tevis

I am not sure what drew me to this book. I know nothing about chess and the book was chock full of chess matches. I was unable to follow the moves and,
in fact, had never heard of terms like the "middle game" before.
Beth, an orphan, is taught chess by the janitor at the school/orphanage where she lives. She begs him to learn and at once excels. Once adopted, her adopted mother uses (in a benign way) her ability to support them. Both of them are in flight from any real world. 
We follow Beth from match to match across the years. She picks up some bad habits in terms of substance abuse along the way. An interesting book about a child prodigy and how she makes the jump to an adult champion. Highly recommended especially for those who play the game.

Sergio Angelini, MURDER WITHIN MURDER, Frances and Richard Lockridge
Yvette Banek, WARRANT FOR X, Philip Macdonald
Les Blatt, DEATH OF AN AIRMAN, Christopher St. John Sprigg
Brian Busby, BLONDES ARE MY TROUBLE, Douglas Sanderson
Bill Crider, THE VIOLENT ONES, Brant House, ed.
Scott Cupp, SOME OF YOUR BLOOD, Theodore Sturgeon
Martin Edwards, THE MAN WHO LOST HIS WIFE, Julian Symons
Ed Gorman, KILLER, Dave Zeltserman
Rick Horton,  Ace Doubles: Conan the Conqueror, by Robert E. Howard/The Sword of Rhiannon, by Leigh Brackett
Jerry House, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, Flint and Spoor
George Kelley, DEEP QUARRY, John. E. Stith
Margot Kinberg, BLANCHE ON THE LAM, Barbara Neely
B.V. Lawson, GOOD COP, BAD COP, Barbara D'Amato
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE PENCIL, Gordon McAlpine
Todd Mason, CONJURE WIFE, Fritz Leiber
Matt Paust, THE CONSEQUENCES OF DESIRE, Dennis Hathaway
James Reasoner, TERROR STATION, James V. Swain
Kevin Tipple. A DANGEROUS THING, Bill Crider
TomCat, SCHEMERS, Bill Pronzini
TracyK, FUNERAL IN BERLIN, Len Deighton
Westlake Review, ENOUGH, Donald Westlake

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Your ten desert island books?

No collections count. Single volume books only. I have read only three of these so their reputation precedes them.

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
Selected Stories of Alice Munro
The Bible
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
Middlemarch, George Elliott
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Edgar Allen Poe
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
A Secret History, Donna Tartt

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Directed by John Houston and based on the novella by Carson McCullers, this is a film that is probably too much for most people (like me). What was interesting and odd and beautifully written in the novel, became sinister, frightening. hysterical (in its true meaning) and occasionally laughable in the movie IMHO. Never a fan of either Liz Taylor or Marlon Brando's acting styles, I should have known this was not the film for me. Anyone see it?
I am still looking for a film where Brando (or Taylor) works for me. Brando comes closest in STREETCAR but even there his hysteria, suited to that film, I guess, wears on me. Brian Keith is the saving grace in REFLECTIONS.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Projection from HANZAI, Japan

"Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Projection" by Yumeaki Hirayama from Hanzai Japan

hanzai japan 

reviewed by Patti Abbott

Yumeaki Hirayama’s debut as a novelist came in 1996 with the psycho-thriller Sinker—shizumu mono (Sinker). In 2006 he won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Short Stories with Dokuhaku suru yunibasaru yoko merukatoru (The Universal Transverse Mercator Speaks), and his collection of the same title took first place in the 2007 Konomys rankings. He won the Japan Adventure Fiction Association Prize in 2009, and the Haruhiko Oyabu Award in 2011, for his noir novel Diner, set in a restaurant where professional hit men gather. Among his other works is the 2011 story collection An Outsider’s Death (original English title).
Hirayama’s story in HANZAI JAPAN, “Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Projection” looks to be related to his prize -winning collection. The anthology’s goal was to collect stories that managed to be both speculative and crime-oriented. The introduction advises us that Japanese crime writers enjoyed subverting the genre from the earliest days. And the combination here makes the likelihood even greater. The use of the supernatural adds some nice seasoning to crime stories. And the story of a crime can provide a fulcrum to science fiction.
In this story, the protagonist is a map. Though given the nature of the collection you might expect this to be a futuristic global navigation system, instead it is an ordinary paper map. Ordinary in appearance, that is. But this map has the ability through inner maps to provide supernatural guidance for its owner, a taxi driver. It can rearrange itself to provide a route to suit a need. This anthromorphized map functions as a sidekick.
Crime enters the tale when the taxi driver begins murdering then hiding the bodies of female passengers. The map makes himself an accomplice by finding burial sites that will go undetected. When the master (as the map calls him) dies, the story only grows more complex.
It is impossible not to admire this story. The abilities of the map have been laid out with great imagination and care. The consistency of the idea is thrilling. The murders take place off screen and are of much less interest than the relationship that exists between the map and the taxi driver(s). Highly recommended for fans of superb writing.

For more reviews from HANZAI, JAPAN, go to SPINETINGLER MAGAZINE 

What anthology has worked for you of late? 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Night Music: Adele

An Immediate Bond

Meeting new people in a new neighborhood I have found out something that I should have known. If we meet someone who reads, especially fiction, and someone who is a movie watcher, we become friends almost at once. We have so much to talk about right from the beginning.

Whereas if our only bond is living on the same street, what's there to say after comparing where we came from?

I can almost claim to be instantly closer friends with a new person that reads than older ones who do not. Do you find this? Are your closest friends readers?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Night Music: Jacob Isbell

Friday Forgotten Books, Winter Holidays in Fiction

*** denote holiday-themed selections  

***Christmas in Absaroka County

Rick Robinson suggested this when I said I was having trouble finding the right book for this topic. And I enjoyed it. A few gripes though-so many of the people I have grown to love from the TV series are not in here. It is basically Walt's stories with a bit of Cady. And he is somewhat different in temperament from the man I love on TV.

Here's a summary of the four stories. 

 "Ministerial Aid" takes place soon after the death of Martha Longmire and Sheriff Walt Longmire is in bad shape as he hand delivers a paycheck to his deputy. An abused woman mistakes him for Jesus.

"Slick Tongued Devil." Martha Longmire's death is reported anew years later by a careless newspaper employee and Walt is approached by a con man who sells bibles to the bereaved claiming the loved one had ordered it. Sad and beautifully told.

 "Toys For Tots." A grumpy Sheriff Waltmire befriends the young Navy chaplain manning a Toys For Tots box. Walt takes advantage of a situation to make the chaplain into a hero, restoring his self-esteem.

"Unbalanced" On his way to pick up his daughter Cady at the Billings airport, Sheriff Longmire stops offers a ride to a half-frozen young woman. Walt figures out she is on the run from a mental hospital and manages to wrest a gun away from her.

Each story in some way reflects on the spirit of Christmas. These are slight stories but well told.

I am not sure if the Walt Longmire in the novels is as different as this one is from the one on the series. I think hearing his interior voice makes him feel grumpier and more reflective than the Walt on the show. At the end of the four stories a long section from THE COLD DISH appears. I am not sure I want to read it because I like Longmire the way I find him played by Robert Walker.

Does this happen to you? Do you have trouble moving from book to TV or vice versa?

SNOWBERRIES, Megan Abbott (Christmas at the Mysterious Bookstore) 2010

Megan's story is the first one and you can read it on the Amazon site if you open the book. There are also seventeen other stories included by various crime fiction writers. This is in the style of the stories Megan wrote before producing more contemporary work. It is charming if I do say so.
Otto Penzler gives individual stories away to customers at Christmas. He has a new one each year. Or at least he did in 2010 and before. This collects the first 17.

Sergio Angelini, MURDER IN THE COLLECTIVE, Barbara Wilson
Yvette Banek, THE MAN WITH A LOAD OF MISCHIEF, Martha Grimes
Les Blatt, ST. PETER'S FINGER, Gladys Mitchell
Brian Busby, THE KEYS OF MY PRISON, Frances Shelly Wees
Scott Cupp, MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER, Russ Manning
Martin Edwards, THE JURY DISAGREE, by George Goodchild and C.E. Bechhofer Roberts,
Curt Evans, Quentin and Punshon
Ed Gorman, HOW LIKE AN ANGEL, Margaret Millar
Richard Horton, THE SPACE PIONEERS, Cary Rockwell
***Jerry House, MIRACLE ON 34th STREET, Valerntine Davis
Nick Jones, TOUCH, Elmore Leonard
***George Kelley, HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS, Agatha Christie
Margot Kinberg, THE CALLING, Inger Ash Wolf
***B.V. Lawson, RED CHRISTMAS, Patrick Ruell
Evan Lewis, THE SISTINE SECRETS, Blech and Doliner
Steve Lewis, MURDER AMONG THE OWLS, Bill Crider
Todd Mason Winter Holiday Edition: ALL THE LIES THAT ARE MY LIFE (and SHATTERDAY, the collection) by Harlan Ellison
***Matthew Paust, ST. ALBERT, THE GREAT, Kevin Vost
***James Reasoner, THE PUSHER, Ed McBain
***Richard Robinson,Wycliffe and the Quiet Virgin by W.J. Burley 
Gerard Saylor, GHOST ROAD BLUES, Jonathan Mayberry
***TomCat, CRIME AT CHRISTMAS, C.B.H. Kitchin

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tuesday Night Music: Dylan

Forgotten Movies, RACHEL, RACHEL

Margaret Laurence, one of my favorite writers, penned the original novel, A JEST OF GOD. Paul Newman directed his wife as a lonely spinster schoolteacher in rural Canada. A sad story as are all of MLs books.This film boasts the formidable trio of Geraldine Fitzgerald, Estelle Parsons and Woodward, all who emote to beat the band. A bit overwrought but still, how often do we see films about women over 35?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Night Music: Where is my Mind?


What are some of the books or authors that fall between cozies and dark crime fiction? I don't want to see Colonel Mustard do it with poison in the library. But I also don't want a savage killer on the loose with lots of mutilated bodies. It seems like every book I pick up falls in one category or the other.Suggestions?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Night Music

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, November 13, 2015

 Next week we will have some reviews of books featuring a winter holiday. 

(Ed Gorman)
The early Maigret detective novels by Georges Simenon bear the stamp of the busy pulp writer Simenon he was before finding his voice and mission with the cranky even surly Commissaire.
In the Yellow Dog, a particularly well-plotted crime novel, Maigret travels to the small coastal town of Concarneau where a local wine merchant has been murdered under mysterious circumstances. According to a witness the man was strolling home on a windy night and paused to walk up steps leading to the narrow sheltered porch of a long empty house. Moments later the man fell backwards, dead from the shots.
Once there Maigret meets the four men and one waitress who seem to know much more than they're willing to share with him. He also sees a large yellow dog that keeps appearing at the crime scenes to come. Maigret feels a kinship with the animal which is more than he can say for anybody he meets in the town. 
Where did the dog come from? Why does he keep showing up at such odd moments? Does he belong to the person who by book's end kills more people?
This is a serial killer novel. Simenon even casts the local newspaper as one of the villains. The editor has a history of exploiting bad news to the point of making each local tragedy worse. And the killings are no exception. Simenon suggests that it is sop for Frenchmen to a) have mistresses and b) go about armed. Both are factors in the investigation. 
Most of the elements of classic Maigret are here. The weather is as vivid as the characters; Simenon buttresses his sociological look at French life with bleak humor; and his pity for decent people life has treated badly borders on the religious along with his contempt for pomposity and self-importance and cruelty. 
There is always a claustrophobic feel to the Maigrets; this allows the reader to experience what the Inspector himself does. As a forlorn chronicler of humankind Simenon is still without peer.

Somewhat Forgotten Books That Made Me a Crime Fiction Reader. (Tomorrow it would be different titles)  Patti Abbott

Sergio Angelini, THE CRIME ON THE COTE DE NEIGES, David Montrose
Mark Baker, FREE FALL, Robert Crais
Yvetter Banek, REED'S PROMISE, John Clarkson
Les Blatt, A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED, Agatha Christie
Brian Busby, Young Canada Boys with the S.O.S. on the Frontier, Harold C. Lowry
Bill Crider, THE BOB DYLAN SCRAPBOOK, 1956-66
Martin Edwards, BATS IN THE BELFRY, E.C.R. Lorac
Ed Gorman, THE PAT HOBBY STORIES, F. Scott Fitzgerald 
Charles Gramlich, WEB OF GUNSMOKE, Will Hickok
Rick Horton, MARIETTA, F. Marion Crawford
Jerry House, THE FROSTED DEATH, Paul Ernst
Nick Jones, RIGHT AS RAIN, George Pelecanos
George Kelley, WOMEN CRIME WRITERS, 1950s, ed. Sarah Weinman
Rob Kitchin, WINTER WAR, William Trotter
B.V. Lawson, MORE GOOD OLD STUFF, John D. MacDonald
Evan Lewis, MURDER WEARS A HALO, John Evans/Howard Browne
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER, Margaret Maron
Todd Mason, el, 2003; edited by Earl Kemp
Matt Paust,THE BLACK CLOUD, Fred Hoyle
James Reasoner, NIGHT CALLS THE GREEN FALCON, Robert McCammon
Richard Robinson, THE COMPLETE PARATIME. H. Beam Piper
Gerard Saylor, British Paratrooper Versus Fallschirmjager" by David Grentree 
Kevin Tipple, SEVEN BY SEVEN, ed. Tony Burton
TomCat, Robert Arthur 
Prashant Trikannad, FIRST OFFENSE, Evan Hunter
Westlake Review, DANCING WITH AZTECS, Donald Westlake

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Happy Veterans Day

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Glenn Roy Hartwig, Commander, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of this profession as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer U.S.S. RUSSELL (DD-414), during the engagement with enemy Japanese forces north of the Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October 1942. After enemy bombs and torpedoes had seriously damaged the task force carrier resulting in raging fires and a dangerous list on that vessel, Commander Hartwig skillfully brought his ship alongside in a most seamanlike manner to assist in fighting fires on board with every means at his command. Although driven away by further enemy air attacks, he repeatedly returned to the side of the stricken carrier to continue rendering effective assistance. Later he maneuvered in the vicinity of the ship to evacuate and rescue survivors. His gallantry and intrepidity in action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service.
Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 314 (May 1943)
Born: March 30, 1904 at Detroit, Michigan
Home Town: Highland Park, Michigan


I  hate to talk on the phone. There, I said it. I hated it as a teenager and I hate it today. People say how often do you talk to your kids. Well, not very much. They hate it too. Only Phil likes long phone chats. The rest of us email or text.

Guess what my first job was--a service rep for Bell of PA. On the phone all day, but that didn't bother me as much as talking to people I know.

I used to think it was a cord thing. I could only go so far, but then they went and made longer cords and then they went and made cordless phones and then they went and said, "You have to carry it with you."

Carry it with you? This means your doctor's office can call you while you're walking down the street. You are never out of touch. Does anyone think this is a good thing? Not me. I love being out of touch.

Want me, email. But I won't answer it on my phone. I will answer it when I get home and sit down at this computer. That is my safe haven. Or this is because I am here now.

Cause I hate to talk on the phone even electronically.

How about you? Have you phone habits changed over the years? Are you an inveterate phone chatter?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Barbara and the Browns

Forgotten TV: THE TWILIGHT ZONE: The Lonely (or Fake Love) from Season 1

THE LONELY is usually chosen as one of the top ten or twenty TWILIGHT ZONE episodes. And I can see that. It's is fairly credible that a future society might imprison criminals on distant pieces of sky. And also credible they might provide them with robotic company. Jack Warden plays the lonely prisoner and his musings are poetic and poignant. Jean Marsh plays the robot who comes to provide companionship.

But this episode went sour on me at the end. The ending I expected was that it would turn out that she was an invention of his loneliness and once rescued he would not need her any longer and let her go.
Instead Sterling chooses to have an astronaut blast her in the face, exposing her mechanical parts, and Warden accepts this all too easily. A romantic episode that went awry in my book. Boo! Hiss!

Endings on TTZ were the most problematic feature as I rewatch some of them. O'Henry endings are all too common. What do you think? 

Monday, November 09, 2015

Hallelujah: John Cale

How I Came to Write My Book: Liam Sweeny: WELCOME BACK JACK

Welcome Back, Jack came from close to home. It was my first full-fledged crime novel, a police procedural set in New Rhodes, a city in the Capital Region of New York. It’s a fictional city, but it’s largely based on Troy, N.Y., the “Home of Uncle Sam.”

I wanted to take the truth of the city, and expand on it, blow it up to fictional proportions. Troy was an industrial city when industry first came to America, and that’s reflected in the tunnel system that forms the killer’s nesting ground. In fact, Troy had its own serial killer, a man named Gary Evans, who was on record for killing eight, though that number is likely higher. In fact, one of the bodies was buried in the swamps behind my house when I lived there.

With Jack, I wanted a rough character, but I wanted to avoid the Dirty Harry archetype. Jack smokes, but he struggles with it. He drinks, but he’s not a lush. And he takes chances, but it’s a part of his flaws, not a badge of honor, and he pays for it.

Welcome Back, Jack is a hard-boiled police procedural. I did a ton of research on police procedure, going even as far as the psychology of serial killer investigations. And it was a balancing act, figuring out where the creative license should be applied. A multi-agency task force, like the one in my book, has its own problems, and its own pace. And the pace of a task force and the pace of a novel are miles apart.

Trying to realistically portray the serial killer investigation was interesting, and it taught me something. Good, workable leads don’t come in every five minutes like they do on a TV show, or every third page like they do in a novel. Adjusting investigations to novels, or especially screenplays, have real-world effects. For example, shows like CSI and Law and Order influence juries in actual criminal cases, where people are acquitted because there’s no expert testimony, DNA, or literal smoking guns. 

When I was writing Welcome Back, Jack, I didn’t have to worry too much about the “CSI Effect”; my killer left too much evidence – it was all in connecting it to him. But there were parts where the DNA came back far sooner than it would have. As a rule, in New York, “top-of-the-pile” DNA evidence still takes about two months. 

All in all, I hope that I struck a balance between what could have happened and what did happen on the page. And I hope anyone who reads it buckles up.

Saturday, November 07, 2015


We usually assign a grade to a movie and if Kevin goes with us, he does too. He gave this one a 0. (He is a hard grader). But I could see his point. The entire movie was about romance. Charlie Brown and the girl with red hair and Snoopy and Fifi, a french poodle. How many eight year old boys want to see a movie about romance.

This leads me to the question, who was this movie intended for? Is it nostalgia for people over forty that remember PEANUTS in its heyday? Would those people really spend the money to see a 90 minute version of those 30 minute shows?

For Kevin, it was complete mystery. A typewriter? What is that? Why do the girls all wear dresses? Why does that phone have a cord? Kids young enough to be interested in the antics of eight year olds can't make enough quick translations to see the world of Peanuts as anything less than mysterious. They are too young to get quaint.

The one thing that still might work is that most kids can identify with Charlie Brown and his insecurity. But 90 minutes of this and he seems more self-pitying than sympathetic.


Friday, November 06, 2015


Friday's Forgotten Books, November 6, 2015

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. By Paul Malmont (from the archives by Bill Peschel)
In the 1930s, the heyday of the pulp era, magazines like "Thrilling Detective," "Amazing Stories" and the like kicked ass, took names, and shaped the morals of millions of American readers. The writers who created the heroes like Doc Savage and The Shadow worked under impossible deadlines for pennies a word to give us tales of the fantastic, of Oriental criminal gangs, dens of vice and iniquity, weird villains, two-fisted heroes and dames to be ornamental and rescued. At its height, as a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard reminds us in "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril," 30,000,000 pulps were bought every month. It took the paper shortages of World War II to knock them down, and they were finished off by television in the ‘50s, but they left us a legacy of heroes that include Conan and Tarzan, cult favorite H.P. Lovecraft, and provided the seed that spawned science-fiction and fantasy.Return with me, now, to those thrilling days of yesteryear, with the help of Paul Malmont, who, according to his bio, works in advertising and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two kids.I'm firmly convinced that, at night, he slips out of his brownstone in Park Slope and roams the wilds of Manhattan, battling the forces of evil with mad crimefighting skillz he learned in the mountain fastnesses of Bhutan.Either that, or he's a pulp fiction fan who did a wonderful job of researching the era, and clever enough to cast as his heroes the writers Walter Gibson, Lester Dent, Hubbard (known as "The Flash" because he was quick at the typewriter), with guest appearances by Lovecraft (oh, how I want to tell you how he appears. It's so appropriate!), E.E. "Doc" Smith and Orson Welles.As for the story, well, the title gives it away, and I'm not going to say more. If you're going to read this, it would just spoil the fun. But if you're still on the bubble, I'll say this:
Malmont writes about the pulp fiction world, but the story is told straight. Neat. No purple prose.
The plot makes sense. It's creepy and scary, but doesn't rely on the supernatural.
The writers may have created two-fisted heroes, but they aren't. That's part of the fun.
Malmont plays fair with Hubbard. I'm no fan of Scientology, but I was glad that Hubbard is presented just as you would expect him to be at the beginning of his career. He's ambitious, proud, something of a blowhard, but great sidekick material.
To say more would give away the fun, so let me just say that, if you have any affection for the pulp era, if you smile at the thought of a "GalaxyQuest"-type story set in New York of the Depression-era, or just want a rousing tale without the literary baggage, check out "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril."UPDATE: Thanks to Kaja Foglio, the co-creator of the fabulous "Girl Genius" comic, I found out that Lester Dent's Zeppelin tales are being republished.

Allison and Wes, THE THIN MAN, Dashiell Hammett
Sergio Angelini, A PERFECT MATCH, Jill McGowan
Yvette Banek, WHEN I LAST DIED, Gladys Mitchell
Joe Barone, A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, Michael Stanley
Les Blatt, THE CRIMSON CLUE, George Harmon Coxe
Brian Busby, RX FOR MURDER, Jane Layhew
Bill Crider, ONLY THE WICKED, Gary Phillips
Scott Cupp, GESTAPO MARS, Victor Gischler
Martin Edwards, THE MAN WHOSE DREAM CAME TRUE, Julian Symons
Ed Gorman, ON THE LOOSE, Andrew Coburn; MERMAID, Margaret Millar
Richard Horton,  Ace Doubles: The Plot Against Earth, by "Calvin M.Knox" (Robert Silverberg)/Recruit for Andromeda, by Milton Lesser
Jerry House, IN FOR THE KILL, John Lutz
George Kelley, WOMEN CRIME WRITERS, ed. Sarah Weinman
Margot Kinberg, LAIDLAW, William McIlvanney
Rob Kitchin, THE LONG-LEGGED FLY, James Sallis
B.V. Lawson, THE SUMMER SCHOOL MYSTERY, Josephine Bell
Steve Lewis, GIRL ON THE RUN, Edward Aarons
Todd Mason, HAWKSBILL STATION by Robert Silverberg LOOKING BACKWARD 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy
Mathew Paust, THE FLY ON THE WALL, Tony Hillerman
James Reasoner, MARILYN K, Lionel White
Richard Robinson, OVER HER DEAR BODY, Richard Prather
R.T. Lock No. 1, Georges Simenon
Kevin Tipple, DELTA BLUES, ed. Carolyn Haines
TomCat, BLUE MURDER, Harriet Rutland
TracyK, THE MOVING FINGER, Agatha Christie
Westlake Review, Mr. Westlake and the "N" word

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Wednesday Night Music: Things

Why Did You

decide to read the book you are reading now? In my case, it is the November book pick of my book group. What about  you? What made you pick up the book you are reading (or just read).

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


To all the people who come here and have taken the time to write a review on their blog, posted a review on amazon or good reads, interviewed me, etc. re: CONCRETE ANGEL.

My real world friends, many of whom have read the book, do not understand the way things are done now so I have been totally reliant on my online friends. But I never dreamed that so many of you would do so much to help me. A million thanks and let me return the favor if you think of a way I can be useful.


I shouldn't have loved Leave It to Beaver as much as I did because it was routinely pointed out to me by my grandmother that I didn't measure up to Wally and the Beaver. I didn't use Sir and M'am nearly enough. My table manners were not as good at theirs. I wasn't always washing my hands (they spent an inordinate amount of time in that bathroom off their bedroom). I wasn't nearly as tidy in my dress. (Having so many scenes in a bathroom seems unusual).

But her words didn't have much of an impact (gradmothers did a lot of scolding in those days). I liked the show then and still do now. Leave it to Beaver ran from 1957 to 1963 and was written by Bob Mosher and Joe Connelly, who'd earlier written the Amos and Andy radio show and would later write The Munsters. It starred Hugh Beaumont as Ward Cleaver, Barbara Billingsley as June, Tony Dow as Wally and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver. Why "the" in front of Beaver, I don't know, but it was used quite a lot.

Set in the town of Mayfield, Anywhere, the Cleavers were an upper middle class suburban family that probably mirrored very few of the lives of its viewers. Their life was a bit too easy financially, a bit too neat and tidy. The infamous pearls and dresses June wore were unfamiliar to most of us although I remember my mother getting dressed for dinner in the fifties.

What made it special was that so much of LITB was from the POV of the boys. The writers were on their side and seldom let them behave unrealistically, never let them flounder too much in their stunts. They assumed as we did that their motives were good and age-appropriate. It was easy to imagine myself in such a jam. (Although I would never climbed up into that cup on a billboard or let a homeless guy into the house).

The Cleaver parents were also subjected to the writers' microscope and made their share of parenting mistakes. They worried about such things routinely, re-thought poor decisions they had made, and corrected them. June always reminded Ward that boys today were different from those in his rural youth. Ward reminded June that boarding school was different from Mayfield Public High.

The show hummed due to its writing and it holds up very well today because it was never overly sanctimonious or too sure-footed in its view of the world. The writers were not afraid to make each Cleaver and his friends and neighbors look fairly ridiculous from time to time. If Eddie Haskell has endured as the case study of "bad influence" the Cleavers assumed they had raised a son smart enough to shake it off. How progressive was that!

I was exactly Beaver's age and had a mad crush on Wally, as did every girl I knew. An autographed picture of Wally hung on my wall. "Find a boy like Wally Cleever," must have been uttered more than once over those years and reportedly, he is as nice in person as on the show. No one offered the same advice about Beaver, who was much more like the rest of us.

I watched an early episode last week: Wally comes home from the barbershop with a ridiculous haircut, which all the boys have. June cannot let go of this and even sees the principal about it. (Something that would soon play out in many homes across the country). The show cleverly played a bit of rock music every time Wally or other boys with this haircut entered the room. In this show, June was allowed to be imperfect. How can you not like a show where everyone is allowed such a thing. It was the conforming fifties, but the Cleavers (or their writers) managed to sneak in a little bit more. Never sanctimonious, never out of touch, it plays well for me today.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Good Season, Walt Longmire

What influences you with a movie?

I have good friends who will go to virtually any movie with Johnny Depp or Helen Mirren. Other friends who wouldn't miss a movie directed by Scorsese. One or two who never miss a romantic comedy. And there's those (a lot of them!) who like movies about causes, injustices, third world suffering.

With me, it's the critical word. If a movie gets good reviews, I will see it regardless of the subject, director, stars. I can never be convinced that if a movie scores over 85% on rotten tomatoes, I might not like it.

What's your Achilles' Heel? What takes you into a theater or onto netflix most of the time?