Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Forgotten TV: SISTERS

SISTERS ran for six seasons in the nineties.  It was quirky and fun for several years. The acting was good and it wasn't set in New York City, (Illinois instead) always a plus for me. The writers managed to give each sister a distinct personality. Wish someone would stream it. DVD doesn't cut it anymore for those of us without DVD players.You can find Ward, Kurtz and Kalembier still around but Julianne Philips has mostly disappeared.

Monday, June 27, 2016

What Do You Have Too Much Of?

I am putting my house back together for the third time since moving last year. Now I know I have too many books despite giving hundreds away several times a year. But I also have too many pictures to hang on the wall, picture albums and loose pictures, downloads of various articles, pottery, quilts (I made them back in the seventies, pens. And so much more. Not matter how often I divest myself of these items, they always come back,
Aside from books, what do you have too much of?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 24, 2016

Due to some early morning workmen here, Todd Mason will collect the links. Next Friday, I will be  in Stratford Ontario giving Phil his annual Shakespeare fix so he will again man the station.

However let me draw your attention to a book from 2012 that I have given to several newborns for their future enjoyment.  Here's a better synopsis than I could provide.
Step Gently Out, by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Nature’s miracles are often small and hard to capture, but in a syncopated harmony of text and image, Frost and Lieder manage to depict tiny moments as seen through a bug’s-eye-view of the world. The quiet poem begins with an invitation to “Step gently out” and, from there, to observe a blade of grass. This may seem a dull activity, but it turns out to be full of wonder: a cricket leaps and sings; a spider spins a silken web; a firefly flashes through the evening air. The soothing, meditative language bursts with beautiful imagery that begs to be read aloud—“The / creatures / shine with / stardust. / Then they’re / splashed / with / morning / dew”—and the photographs, taken at close range, magnify wings in flight and dewdrops on webs. Praying mantises and moths may not be known for their loveliness, but in the collaborators’ capable hands, they are beautiful. Moving from day to night, the poem makes for a soothing bedtime lullaby that includes a reminder to children about the book’s small creatures: “In song and dance / and stillness, / they share the world / with you.” Preschool-Grade 1. --Ann Kelley

Although the prose is amazing, the photos are even more so. Done in Rick Lieder's backyard. His newest one is on fireflies. Simply gorgeous. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thurday Night Music

Anna Kendrick is amazing but James Corden is insanely talented. Have seen him in plays, TV shows, his own show, on Broadway. He is always the highlight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thanks Mystery Scene!

Reading Pace

I am ashamed of myself. In the late eighties, just before I returned to work, I kept a diary of what I read. Here is one stretch

10/2-Final Harbor, David Martin; 10/ 3 The Object of My Affection, Stephen Maccauley; 10/5 Families and Survivors, Alice Adams; 10/9 A Family Gathering, Alan Broughton; 10/12 Indian Country, Philip Caputo

You get the idea. I read a lot more books than I do now. Now I read one or two a week. At best.

Yes, I write now but I think the real culprit is this-the Internet. I know I have talked about this before. Has the pace of your reading been affected by the Internet.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Two divorced women and their three children join forces. Lots of good conversations about feminism, including the one in this trailer. Jane Curtin and Susan St. James had good chemistry. Better than most romantic pairings.It was on TV for five years from 1984-89 and dealt with the topics of that day: single mothers, feminism. When the kids grew up, the story lost its main thrust: balancing single-motherhood and a career. Although the woman had male companions, it was always about the two of them.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Thanks to Bill Crider for Letting Me Blather On about Writing the Second Novel

right here.

My Town Detroit-20 Minute Neighborhoods

 From the Detroit Free Press, Robin Boyle

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan recently introduced the idea of rebuilding Detroit around the concept of the 20-minute neighborhood, where folks can walk or bike to everything they need outside of work.
Great idea, but could it work in Detroit?
For those who have never heard of it, a 20-minute neighborhood is an active, safe, walkable, convenient, predominantly residential neighborhood.  A place where people can get most of their day-to-day goods and services — shopping with good food, access to transit, parks and schools — within a 20-minute walk. According to the Portland Plan of 2009, 20-minute neighborhoods have three basic characteristics: a walkable environment, destinations that support a range of basic living needs and residential density. Or as they say in real estate: “rooftops.”
This concept is certainly not new. Before the turn of the 20th Century, before the automobile, the “walkable neighborhood” was the norm.  And even in the 1920s the idea of the “neighborhood unit,” where most services would be available within about a quarter of a mile, was the basic building block of the U.S. suburb. But how things change.
By WWII, and the emergence of widespread car ownership, the city was being stretched by lower and lower density development. By the 1950’s the auto-dependent suburbs were on over-drive and the very thought of walkability was far from the minds of the developers or the home buyers. The two or even three-car garage was far more important than the sidewalk, or the neighborhood store. Need a quart of milk or a pound of sugar? No problem. Jump into the car, scoot down the cul-de-sac and drive three miles to the A&P or Kroger.
But for many that suburban idyll is changing and the new home buyers, the millennials, want to find a tighter, more dense, more interconnected and certainly more walkable place to put down their roots. And the mayor sees that sort of place, that authentic urban neighborhood, as a model for Detroit’s recovery.
Can this work? Perhaps. Where there’s existing residential density, close to some shops, a local park and perhaps an elementary school then the Portland conditions will hold. So the mayor’s initial target neighborhoods: L6 (Livernois and McNichols), Southwest Detroit and West Village on the east side might work.  But the key to extending the concept is density. Are  there enough households, with sufficient disposable income, to sustain the shops, the local services? Are  there enough children to keep the school open and thriving?
Herein lies the rub. The 20-minute neighborhood needs a residential density of somewhere between 15 and 20 households per acre to support local retail. Outside of the downtown/Midtown corridor and a select number of more dense, occupied neighborhoods, most of Detroit has a lower residential density.
So is the idea dead on arrival? I’d argue not so, but Detroit’s neighborhood renewal needs to be packaged and sold in a different way. Twenty-minute walking access to shops and transit will likely take a while so the benefits of upgrading existing vacant homes, of filling empty lots and building some medium-density housing needs to be sold on other, noncommercial, benefits of density. The benefits of walkability and improved health and well-being should be highlighted. Sustainability, recreating a sense of place and building a safe, welcoming community for the young and old alike can all be promoted as authentic advantages of bringing density back to Detroit.
When the rooftops come back, shops and service are not far behind.
Robin Boyle is a professor of urban planning at Wayne State University. 

Does your nearest city offer this option? Is there any planning going on for the desire of younger people to live this way. Detroit is a sprawling city with large areas vacated for various reasons. Downtown has not been a place where people chose to live until very recently. What is your nearest city like? 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Night Music: Dream Lover

Happy Father's Day, Dad

Nobody liked to have their picture taken more than my Dad. He would have loved selfies.
And Happy Father's Day to all of you Dads and your Dads!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Saturday Night Music: Green Onions

Thanks Scott Parker and Charlie Stella and Charles Gramlich

for this fabulous review on Do Some Damage. 

Here's the Stella review on Temporary Knucksline

And finally, here I am talking about writing a dark woman. Thanks, Charles at Razored Zen.

(I promised to go away soon). 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 17, 2015

Sarah Water's THE LITTLE STRANGER is one of my favorite ghost stories. 

Here is Sarah Water's Ten Favorite Ghost Stories

The Monkey's Paw" by WW Jacobs
This is one of the most anthologised of all ghost stories, and its "be careful what you wish for" message has become one of the clichés of the genre. Every time I read it, I realise how economical it is: we never see the son who, summoned up by the diabolical power of the monkey's paw, has dragged his mangled body out of its grave and back to his parents' house; we only hear his baleful knocks at the door. But it's the anticipation that makes it so hair-raisingly good.

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu
This story of a beautiful revenant and her fascination with teenage girls is about a vampire rather than a ghost, but it can't be beaten. Most memorable is the "very strange agony" into which her voluptuous wooing plunges the story's unworldly narrator: "Sometimes it was as if warm lips kissed me, and longer and more lovingly as they reached my throat . . ."

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
As far as I know, none of Ishiguro's fiction is actively supernatural, but his novels have a brilliant strangeness to them, which makes reading them always an unnerving experience. Here his Nagasaki-born narrator has become so detached from her own traumatic past, she has effectively turned it into someone else's life. As in many great ghost stories, the result is a tightly controlled narrative surface, with half-glimpsed, terrifying depths.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This is a brilliant depiction of a woman's decent into insanity. But the room in which its unnamed protagonist slowly loses her wits is definitely a "haunted" one: the ghosts are other women, trying furiously but fruitlessly to "shake the bars" of the claustrophobic patterns in which they are trapped.

"The Specialist's Hat" by Kelly Link
All of Link's stories are wonderfully odd and original. Some are also quite scary - and this, from her collection Stranger Things Happen, is very scary indeed. It's the story of 10-year-old twin girls in a haunted American mansion, being instructed by an enigmatic babysitter just what it means to be "dead".

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The definitive haunted house story, and one of the novels that inspired a fabulously scary film, the 1963 The Haunting (1963).

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
I'm not really much of a James fan, but I think this has to be on my list, if only because the story - of a lonely governess whose charges may or may not be being haunted by the ghosts of wicked servants - has been such an influential one. As far as chills go, I actually prefer the two films for which it provided the inspiration: the 1961 The Innocents, with a fragile Deborah Kerr, and The Others (2001), with a demented Nicole Kidman.

"The Demon Lover" by Elizabeth Bowen
In many of her novels and stories, Bowen beautifully captures the eerie atmosphere of wartime London, with its blitzed, abandoned houses. In this story, a middle-aged woman tries to evade an assignation with the sinister soldier fiancé, lost to her many years before.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Watching a BBC adaptation of this several Christmases ago, I got so frightened, I was sick. Admittedly, I had eaten a lot of Christmas pudding - but Hill's story is terrifying, a classic of the genre. The "woman with the wasted face", made so malevolent by the loss of her own infant that she destroys the children of others, is a fantastic creation.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
"Not a house in the country ain't packed to its rafters with some dead Negro's grief," one of the characters points out, when Sethe, the novel's protagonist, suggests fleeing from the spiteful spirit inhabiting her home. One of the great fictional studies of slavery and its scars, Beloved is also a sublime literary ghost story: a meditation on the ways in which individuals and communities - an entire nation - can be haunted by the violence and injustice of the past.

Sergio Angelini, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER, Max Allan Collins
Yvette Banek, SAID WITH FLOWERS, Anne Nash
Les Blatt, TRIPLE QUEST, E.R Punshon
Elgin Bleecker, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, John Ball
Bill Crider, THE BRASS CUPCAKE, John D. Macdonald
Scott Cupp, GALACTIC POT-HEALER, Philip K. Dick
Martin Edwards, ENTER ST. JOHN, Clemence Danes and Helen Simpson
Curt Evans, THE WIDENING STAIN. W. Bolingbroke Johnson
Rich Horton, MASK OF CHAOS, John Jakes and THE STAR VIRUS, Barrington Bailey
Jerry House, Three Science Fiction Anthologies ed by Brian Aldiss
Margot Kinberg, THE BODY SNATCHER, Patricia Melo
Rob Kitchin, BLACK ICE, Hans Werner Kettenbach
Steve Lewis/William F. Deeck, CLUES TO BURN, Lenore Glen Offord
Todd Mason,  Silver Anniversary Issues of F&SF, edited by Edward Ferman (Mercury Press, October 1974) and FANTASTIC, edited by Ted White (Ultimate Publications, June 1977)
J.F. Norris, HERE'S BLOOD IN YOUR EYE, Manning Long
James Reasoner, THE COMPLETE FILMS OF WILLIAM S. HART, Diane Kaiser Koszarski
Mathew Paust, SEVEN ANGELS, Jane Lebak
THE RAP SHEET, Steven Nester, EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP, David Markson(coming)
Richard Robinson, DETECTIVE DUOS, Pronzini and Muller
Gerard Saylor, LOST CANYON, Nina Revoyr
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, KILLED ON THE ROCKS, William DeAndrea
TracyK, MOONRAKER, Ian Fleming
Westlake Review, SACRED MONSTER

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why Didn't You Finish the Last Book You Didn't Finish?

I read about 150 pages of this book. A friend and I had the idea we would revisit a classic that we had read as teenagers. I loved it then but perhaps my love of it was associated with the movie version  with Natalie Wood.

The novel now seemed overwritten. Every issue presented went on for many pages of dialog. I like dialog but sparser dialog. Also Marjorie seemed uninteresting as well as unlikable. Superficial. I don't mind unlikable characters If they do interesting things. She did not. At least not in the first 150 pages.

Why didn't you finish the last book you didn't finish? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Debut Day

Violet Hart is a photographer trying to cobble out a life for herself in the womb-like interior of Detroit. Nearing forty, she’s keenly aware that the opportunity for artistic recognition is on the wane. When her lover, Bill Fontenel, a Detroit mortician, needs a photograph of a body, she agrees to takes the picture. Violet is energized by the subject matter, and persuades Bill to allow her to take pictures of some of his other “clients." She is able to interest a gallery owner in mounting a show. 
Violet is overly confident because dead bodies are commonplace in Detroit. This project
soon places Violet in the position of having to strain to meet her quota.
As time runs out, how will Violet come up with enough subjects to photograph without losing her soul or her life in the process?

Should you want to read SHOT IN DETROIT, here are some places to order it. Or come to my book launch at the Huntington Woods Library on June 22nd where Book Beat will be on hand. Or Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor on June 25th (with Bryon Quertermous).

Monday, June 13, 2016

Ten Years Old

Afraid there is going to be a bit of this over the next week. So for those who can never get enough of me, ( a small list since my mom died) check out ONE BITE AT A TIME. Thanks, Dana King. You ask great questions-ones you can't hide from.

Patricia Abbott (pattinase)

This blog is ten years old this summer.
My very first comment was from Todd Mason, responding to a test post. I had an earlier blog. Can't remember why it ended. But this one is ten.

My third post was this:

Lonseome Dove, my eye.

I'm supposed to be reading Lonesome Dove for my book group. Why am I so resistant to reading assigned books? Because in this case it's 847 pages about cowboys. I read the first page and threw it on the floor. I start about ten times the number of books I finish. Is this normal?

I finish almost every movie though. Almost.

Story "Hole in the Wall" accepted in Hardluck Stories' Psycho noir issue. That means three in the fall: Murdaland (The Scarecrow), The Spinetinger (Roundabout) and now this. Perhaps one in Detroit Noir too (The Snakecharmer). Perhaps.
2 comment

At the height of this blog, I got upwards of 40 comments some days. Even more. Now it is never more than five or ten. I think the days of blogs is nearly over. Facebook put the nail in its coffin.  I used to read 20 or so blogs a day. Now just a half dozen most days. I miss those days but Facebook allows other things. People can talk more easily there. I have over a thousand friends on facebook. 

But none I value as much as the ones I found here. 

Incidentally, I finished LONESOME DOVE and loved it. Perhaps Sandra spurred me on. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A McCavity and an Anthony!

I never expected this. Very grateful that I haven't gone into cardiac arrest on hearing this. Thanks to Jason Pinter and Polis books.

Here's the list.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday Night Music: From La Piscine, ASK YOURSELF WHY

Forgotten Movies: LA PISCINE

I saw A BIGGER SPLASH recently and I liked it enough to search out the original French film from 1969 LA PISCINE. There may be more sensual movies but I've not seen them. Nearly the entire film centers around a swimming pool. Romy Schneider and Alain Delon play the couple, whose ideal world is turned upside down by the arrival of her ex-lover and his daughter. (Ronet and Birkin). The remake is better in some aspects, the original in others. Both are gorgeous but the original much more so. Tilda Swinton is too androgynous to be a good Romy Schneider stand-in IMHO. And no one is more gorgeous than Alain Delon.

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 10, 2016

Past Caring, Robert Goddard

I remember loving this book when I read it in 1987 or so. And yet, I am not sure I ever read another book by him after this one, his first. Here is an amazon synopsis. As commenters note, it bears some resemblance to Daughter of Time in its examination of an historical event. If I ever get a chance, I will read it again.

"At a lush villa on the sun-soaked island of Madeira, Martin Radford is given a second chance. His life ruined by scandal, Martin holds in his hands the leather-bound journal of another ruined man, former British cabinet minister Edwin Strafford. What’s more, Martin is being offered a job—to return to England and investigate the rise and fall of Strafford, an ambitious young politician whose downfall, in 1910, is as mysterious as the strange deaths that still haunt his family.

Martin is intrigued by Strafford’ s story, by the man’s overwhelming love for a beautiful suffragette, by her inexplicable rejection of him and their love affair’s political repercussions. But as he retraces Strafford’s ruination, Martin realizes that Strafford did not fall by chance; he was pushed. Suddenly Martin, who has not cared for many people in his life, cares desperately—about a man’s mysterious death and a family’s terrible secret, about a love beyond reckoning and betrayal beyond imagining. Most of all Martin cares because the story he is uncovering is not yet over—and among the men and women still caught in its web, Martin himself may be the most vulnerable of all…."

Joe Barone, WHEN BOOKS WENT TO WAR, Molly Gupthill Manning
Les Blatt, UNEXPECTED NIGHT, Elizabeth Daily
Brian Busby, THE HOHENZOLLERNS IN AMERICA, Stephen Leacock
Bill Crider, BEFORE THERE WERE GIANTS, James L. Sutter, ed.
Scott Cupp, THE PENQUIN POOL MURDERS, Stuart Palmer
Martin Edwards, POISON IN JEST, John Dickson Carr
Ed Gorman, CEMETERY GIRL, David Bell
Rick Horton, LORD MALQUEST AND MR.MOON. Tom Stoppard
George Kelley THE WEB SHE WEAVES, ed. Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
Margot Kinberg, TOTAL CHAOS, Jean Claude Izzo
Rob Kitchin,  The Buenos Aires Quintet, Manuel Vazquez Montalban
B.V. Lawson, MURDER INK REVISED, Dilys Winn
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, THE CAT SCREAMS, Todd Downing
Todd Mason, Instant Remainders: THE BEST FANTASY STORIES FROM THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION edited by Edward Ferman); TALES OF TERROR edited by Eleanor Sullivan
J.F. Norris, THE MEDBURY FORT MURDE, George Limnelius
Juri Numellin, IT RHYMES WITH LUST, Waller and Drake
Matt Paust, BLACKBEARD. Angus Kostum
James Reasoner, GUNSIGHT  PASS, William MacLeod Raine
Kerrie Smith, AN ISOLATED INCIDENT, Emily Maguire
Kevin Tipple, CATCH AND RELEASE: 17 STORIES, Lawrence Block
TomCat, THE MURDER OF MY AUNT, Richard Hull
TracyK, BLIND GODDESS, Anne Holt
Prashant Trikannad, FATHERLAND, Robert Harris

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

How I Came to Write This Book; DANA KING, A DANGEROUS LESSON

First, thanks to Patti for this opportunity. She’s been such a positive influence on my writing and attitude toward it I’m always flattered when she gives me her little corner of the Internet for a few minutes.

A Dangerous Lesson is officially the fourth book of my Nick Forte series, though the key idea comes from my first attempt to write a novel. It was a Forte story—the character pre-dates any thoughts I had of publication—with what I thought was an interesting twist. A well-known psychiatrist created a revolutionary treatment for drug abusers that relies heavily on hypnosis. The doctor kills his mistress and hypnotizes one of his patients into thinking he did it while under the influence of drugs, going so far as to leave the kid, stoned and passed out, in the vicinity of the victim’s home. I called the book Guilty Conscience. (Joe Clifford tells me it’s improper to italicize the titles of unpublished books.)

I haven’t look at Guilty Conscience in years, so I can’t say much about the caliber of writing it contains. That’s probably a mitzvah, given how much I’ve learned since then. I did like the story, and an agent showed at least some interest.

I still had faint hopes something might come of it when things fell apart between my second wife and me and divorce proceedings began. Among her laundry list of requests was 10% of anything I ever made from Guilty Conscience. This struck me as a bit much, as her entire contribution to the book was to mention there was no terrain in Chicago where one scene could have taken place, and that the top cop is the superintendent and not the commissioner. (Or the other way round.) This led to the easiest negotiation of the settlement: I told my lawyer to get something in return, we agreed to the 10%, and I resolved never to look at the book again. So there.

The idea of planting memories stuck with me. Several years later I was noodling around on the Internet and came across Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, who was teaching at Cal Irvine and considered the leading authority on the effects of hypnosis on memory. A bit of a controversial figure, she raised a counterargument to the use of detecting past child abuse by showing memories could as easily be created as recalled.

On the faculty of a state university, her email was public record, so I pinged her. A few messages back and forth resulted in a phone call that she began with a warning of how little time she had and lasted almost an hour. She was enormously helpful and provided ideas I would never have thought of while cautioning me not to make too much of some things. Not to say I did everything exactly as she suggested, but that’s what novelists do: use facts to make shit up.

So A Dangerous Lesson is what grew from the rotting corpse of Guilty Conscience. I buried the idea, gave it a little light and water from time to time, and an entirely new and different story grew from the same seed. One I own completely.

I do miss that title, though.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Story of 12 Dead Men: THE RAP SHEET


Thanks to The Rap Sheet for giving me the opportunity to tell the story of SHOT IN DETROIT. 

And this from KIRKUS REVIEW.  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/summer-schooled-time-wont-be-all-s-killed-season/

Forgotten Movies: LIKE CRAZY


 Like Crazy

A British student ignores her student visa regulations when she falls in love with an American student one summer, and this precipitates a world of trouble for them both.

They can't seem to find long-term happiness with each other or with anyone else. They are locked in that summer romance, can't see past it.

There is scarcely a false note in this sad little Valentine. Every character is shown to their best advantage, including the parents and other lovers. How often does this happen?

Starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead.

Directed by Drake Doremus, who seems to have come out of nowhere to do this great little movie.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Being Thin

I was thin until age forty when I 1) quit smoking 2) developed an underactive thyroid 3) well, who knows.
When I look at my friends who are thin (and they pretty much divide evenly among the woman as being very thin and needing to lost 25 pounds or so) the thin ones don't seem to follow the same pattern..

1) Friend One-is lucky in his metabolism. He can eat pretty much what he wants and not gain weight. He thinks he pays attention to what he eats, but I have seen no signs of that. His parents were thin, he inherited those genes.

2) Two friends only eat one meal a day and its late at night. Five days a week that one meal is a salad with chicken for protein. On the weekend, they have the largest meal I have ever seen. I couldn't begin to eat half of it. So they seem to have stomachs that are able to expand two times a week.

3). This friend never eats anything fattening. No cookies, cake, carbs, no bread, pasta, rice etc. And I mean never.

4) This friend orders a meal and only eats perhaps 1/4 of it and packs the rest up. This friend is also a fussy eater and can rule out most food because of that.

Do you have a thin friend? How does that friend maintain the weight? What's the secret?

I will say one thing about all of these friends. They are obsessed with being thin. Maybe that's the real key. It has to be the primary goal in your life.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Friday Forgotten Books, June 3, 2016

 Thanks to Todd Mason for manning the ship while I was away. Hope everyone will read a Rex Stout book for next month's special edition. Also if I was supposed to write something for your blog for A SHOT IN DETROIT (I remember Bill's) please let me know. Gremlins have made off with my list.

 From the archives, Charlie Stella reviews John Fetridges' LET IT RIDE

Charlie Stella is the author of six novels about the New York underworld, most recently TOMMY RED.

John McFetridge’s Let It Ride presents a lot of subplots to keep readers engaged. A husband and wife, fresh from a swing party, are mistakenly whacked by a hit man while in a semi-compromising position in their car while driving home from a swing party. The hit man could only see the driver (so yous figure out the position). A couple of veterans used to hustling drugs and guns out of Afghanistan are joined in Toronto where one of them,
JT (a Canadian Afghanistan veteran) is about to earn his full patch (become a made man, so to speak) for the gang run by Richard Tremblay (another subplot), a full patch who seeks the ultimate power (cappo di tutti cappi, so to speak). Vernard “Get” McGetty is the Detroit half of the connection and always looking for something better. After delivering some hardware up to JT in Toronto, he’s shown the ropes of the motorcycle gang world (and notices how many of the motorcyclists drive SUV’s) … JT shows him how they operate and it is impressive.
There’s also Sunitha, an Indian "rub and tug" (hand job) hooker with a second gig heading a small band of women who rob massage parlors of the almost rich and not so famous. She wants more and is ambitious enough to get it. Once she hooks up with Get (after JT takes him for some relief), she sees gold in her future.
Literally gold.
There’s also a subplot that has to do with the law trying to solve the couple murdered in their car … Maureen McKeon is cop no longer satisfied with her home life, her husband or young infant ... and she’s drinking again.
There are also those pesky, but not so powerful eye-talians out and about; with a subplot within their story as well.
Hookers and hit men abound … the names of the characters sub-title each chapter so there’s no reason to get lost. Let It Ride is chock full of references to the author the author of Let it Ride is most often compared to (say that three times fast). The name Elmore Leonard and several of his works make a few appearances, in tribute, I suspect. The references work well, as does the writing in this exciting page turner from the Toronto Bills very own crime fiction specialist.
The bit about full patches … essentially, a Full Patch = Made Man … north of the border there are motorcycle gangs that operate much the same way traditional organized crime does (or did); those seeking full honors in the program need to prove themselves over time … earn their stripes (so to speak) and then be approved by a board (of sorts) before they can become full patch members. There are rules one needs to abide along the way (or at least not get caught breaking them) and some are pretty similar to those the Italian-American mob are supposed to abide by.
Like don’t screw the wife of a made guy/full-patch and get caught without expecting to meet your maker. It’s one of the rules tested by JT …
No spoilers here … but know that McFetridge does very good work. He teaches as well as entertains. Let It Ride offers convincing snapshots of the different characters who inhabit our world. Like them or not, their choices are much more understandable by the novel’s several endings (each character has one, whether open ended or not). I never imagined motorcycle gangs were so powerful until I saw a documentary on the subject. It was chilling. Let It Ride was a reminder of just how powerful a group of determined sociopaths can be in a society unprepared for the violence and protected by law enforcement as corruptible as politicians.
Take a journey with this character driven novel of crime that takes place north of the border. You’ll meet interesting people at each turn; characters that both frighten and intrigue. Let It Ride is the character driven page turner we expect from McFetridge and we’re always glad to see some of his characters from prior works appear. Comparisons to the master from Detroit are valid. North of the boarder, McFetridge’s people inhabit the gritty world it is better to read about than taste first hand. Let It Ride lets us do that. An intriguing novel about opportunistic characters seizing their day. Carpe Diem indeed. McFetridge is the real deal.

Sergio Angelini, SCRATCH A THIEF and HOUSE OF EVIL, John Trinian
Yvette Banek, DEATH BY A HONEYBEE, Abigail Keam
Les Blatt, THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY, Helen McCloy
Elgin Bleeker, THE SNATCHERS, Lionel White
Brian Busby, AFTER YPRES, Robert Stanley Weir
Scott Cupp, THE OPENER OF THE WAY, Robert Bloch
Martin Edwards, DEATH STALKS A LADY, Shelly Smith
Ed Gorman, BLACK FRIDAY, David Goodis
George Kelley, THE OXFORD BOOK OF FANTASY STORIES, ed. Tom Shippey
Margot Kinberg, FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE, Rhys Bowen
Rob Kitchin. ELEGY FOR APRIL, Benjamin Black
B.V. Lawson, THE DANCING MAN, P.M. Hubbard
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, DOUBLY DEAD, James M. Patterson
Todd Mason, Strange Highways: READING SCIENCE FANTASY, John Boston and Damien Broderick
J.F. Norris, THE SECRET OF THE SEA- DREAM HOUSE, Albert Payson Terhune
Mathew Paust, THE LOBBYISTS, Jeffrey N. Birnbaum
Reactions to Reading, THE CAVEMAN, Jorn Lier Horst (winnter of the Petrona Award)
James Reasoner, NORMANDY: A GRAPHIC HISTORY OF D-DAY,Wayne Vansant
Richard Robinson, DEATH WATCH, Cynthis Harrod-Eagles
Gerard Saylor, MR. MONK GOES TO HAWAII, Lee Goldberg
Kerrie Smith, THE BATTLING PROPHET, Arthur Upfield
Kevin Tipple, BAD THOUGHTS, Dave Zeltserman

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Shot in Detroit: Barry Johnson

     At least once a day, and certainly in bed at night, Barry Johnson reviewed the details of his final race. He knew it was a bad idea--more than one shrink had told him to recite poetry or the characters on The Sopranos instead--but it had become unavoidable. Like saying the rosary was for a devout Catholic.
     His bike had been only seven months old but well conditioned from many weekend treks. He knew the bike. A dark-red Monster, it handled all terrains. He'd saved up for the bike since high school--every dime he could lay his hands on for six years.
      It was his second bike but a lot more powerful than the first one, a used Honda he bought from the mechanic at the corner gas station--a junkyard purchase--but what else could he expect at that price? And not being a gear head, he had to rely on the guy's skill and say so. A sprocket here, a crank shaft there, a cam chain shiny new, then finally something resembling a bike appeared. 
      He'd never taken to the ersatz Honda--always seemed like the piece of junk it was. Even the paint job was second-rate. 
      The Ducati was awesome--he like that it wasn't a rice burner--and the chicks flocked to him when he parked it outside a bar or at a track. Stroking the bike like it was a big red dick, asking him for rides. He took it out wheneven he could find the time, raced it twice before the Enduros up near the Dunes. After six months of a Kenpo Karate class, he felt physically prepared. Calm and in command. Had a few rallies under his belt, but this would be his first time-card test. 
      The bike had been tuned at the dealer the day before. It wasn't necessary, but that was the way he felt about it. He also took special care since he was a novice compared to the grayheads who'd been racing for decades. Fat men, whose asses bulged over their aftermarket gel seats, looked his bike over and shook their heads.
     He'd only taken up motocross two years earlier--but he's always been a demon for speed. First skateboards as a kid, then stock cars, but only briefly, Cages made him itchy, trapped. That turned out to be the final irony, didn't it? Back then, a time that seemed very long ago now, it was as if the car drove him--he never really felt one with it. So he moved on to bikes. Like leaning into a turn, feeling each shift in his stomach, vibrations in his calves. And the road beneath him, that was part of it too.
    He worked a shit job that paid okay because work didn't matter. He came alive on his bike--loved riding fast. Taking off into the unknown--depopulated neighborhoods in Detroit that were quiet as cemeteries, dirt roads in the midlands, or sandy trails far up north. 
     Racing required a series of rapid decisions, and he was good at making them. Had the instinct somehow. Loved the sound of the motors, the smell of the oil, gas, grass, dirt, hearing the din, and finally the roar of the crowd. It was his sport.
     Until it wasn't.
      It'd had been completely random--what happened that day--which made it both harder and easier to take--depending on his level of despair. Someone's broken headlight scattered glass on the track--nobody even knew the fuckin' thing was broken--and his front tire caught a piece, actually several pieces, someone told him later. He'd tried to lay it down when he saw how things were, tried to bring the bike under control, but the tire shredded after a few rotations and he smashed into a wall. First the bike hit the concrete with such force it vibrated uncontrollably, and then his body smacked the wall too, catapulting above the bike--as high as ten feet maybe. A few more feet and he might have cleared the wall entirely, landing safely on the other side. The arbitrariness of it all--that was the hardest thing to keep dwelling on later.  
     "Don't move," someone kept telling him. No fuckin' chance of that. If he had a body after that, he didn't know it. Seemed to be floating above it all --above the track and himself--wondering why there was no pain. But they, whoever they were, kept repeating the words "don't move" for hours it seemed and he obeyed. Obeyed without trying to because he couldn't have moved if it meant his life. Not even his head or arms at first.
     Helicopters, ambulances, wheelchairs--these were his new vehicles. Hospitals, rehab centers, and finally home--his new cages. His parents' house, redesigned in his absence, was a place for his chair, his medical equipment. He took over their room, their lives. 
     Home. Four wallks, almost all the time now--the ultimate cage. He knew the other guys had fitted vans--custom deals--but to go where? Shopping a the mall, out to Applebees,  a movie, a race. No, none of it.
     This is what he dreamed every night. That he climbed on the Monster, drove miles up north with his old girlfriend, Michelle, flew into the ozone or whatever lay beyond the cliffs. He could live with that. Or rather die with it. Soaring and free, his choice.
     But that wasn't going to happen so he sat out on the porch or in the backyard. Once a kid going down the street had asked, "What happened to you, Mister?" 
     "Afghanistan," he hollered back.
      He never felt the bite of the mosquito, but his thigh swelled up. His parents, then his doctor, then the hospital staff looked at it. Doctors said the insect might have bitten him ten times. never felt a bite, an itch. Nothing. Fuck.
     It took a few weeks to die though and it was still the crash he visited in his head. Dying seemed related to that--not to some dumb-ass bug. In his head,  he was back on  his bike, Michelle holding on tight, sailing into the ether off the sandstone cliffs of Picture Rock. Wind in his face felt so good, her breath on his neck even better. Soaring above all of it.