Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I stumbled across this. It's a low class blooper reel but having worked in local tv while I was in college these kinds of screw-ups were all too familiar. I'm posting the headlines--to see the video go here. http://manofest.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=THE-10-FUNNIEST-FREUDIAN-SLIPS-IN-TV-HISTORY.html&Itemid=1


Life is pretty much an unfiltered version of the truth. Nobody ever really says what's really on their mind which is why most people are boring. The truth is that we're all disgusting and perverted bastards deep down and the people who succeed in life are the people who aren't afraid to hide it. What you need to remember is that it's the really quiet people that you have to keep your eye on. They have the weirdest thoughts going on inside their noggins and they own samurai swords. On the other hand, they're probably really good in bed and they know how to make delicious strawberry jam.

#10 A New Way To Cut Your Heating Costs? - The lady has a point. If you do that more frequently it does create more heat.

#9 Cute News Anchor Likes A Different Kind Of Ice Cream - Because the best Freudian slips are the one's said by a hot girls.

#8 Winning Basketball Games Lead To Good Things ... In Bed - This kind of makes me wonder whether there is such a thing as coach groupies. Older ladies who hunger for the not so younger.

#7 Quiz Nation Host Likes Clean Shaven Men - And twenty bucks says she has no idea what "tea bagging" means.

#6 Match Game Slip Of The Tongue - When a man meets a woman for the first time, the first thing he does is try to imagine what her boobs look like. Then he works on trying to remember her name.

#5 Jane Skinner Has Something On Her Mind - Yes it's true, everyone who works at Fox News only has sex in the missionary position.

#4 Fox Sports Sideline Reporter Is A Naughty Girl - Sadly, this is one of the finest moments in the history of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise.

#3 George Bush Sr. Mixes Business With Pleasure - Don't freak out Republicans, I'm sure George probably lets Barbara Bush watch.

#2 Shepard Smith Secretly Loves J-Lo - So Shepard likes girls with big booties. There's no shame in that.

#1 News Anchor Has Blind/Gay Confusion - The most inexplicable Freudian slip in the history of Freudian slips.

Monte Hale

For those of us who grew up in the Forties and Fifties going to westerns every Saturday afternoon Monte Hale was one of the more prominent names. Though he wasn't a star on the level of Gene or Roy, he had a steady following as proved by the wide range of tie-in products bearing his name and likeness, everything from comic books to lunch boxes. As television began to reduce movie attendance, Hale along with Republic's other remaining reliable, Allan Rocky Lane, turned to tv turns and personal appearances. Lane ultimately became the voice of Mr. Ed. Hale had a big moment in the film Giant.

'Singing cowboy' Monte Hale dead at 89

Mon Mar 30, 3:29 pm ET
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Monte Hale, who appeared in a string of 1940s westerns as well as the classic James Dean film "Giant," has died at his home in Los Angeles, his family said Monday. He was 89.
An official at the Autry National Center, the Los Angeles museum dedicated to the Old West, said Hale passed away Sunday at his home in the upscale neighborhood of Studio City following a long illness.
In an entertainment career spanning more than 60 years, Hale starred in several westerns and was also featured in a popular comic book series, often as a singing cowboy.
"My husband was the most wonderful, generous, giving and loving man I have ever known," Hale's wife of 31 years, Joanne Hale, said in a statement.
"He was a gentleman to all. He brought laughter, adventure and joy into my life and into everyone's life that he touched."
Hale forged a career in Hollywood in the 1940s after hitchhiking to California. He first appeared in 1944's "The Big Bonanza."
Hale appeared in various television series and the 1956 epic drama, "Giant," playing Rock Hudson's attorney, Bale Clinch. Off-screen he taught Dean several rope tricks the teen idol used in the film.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Charlie Stella: Shakedown

Until a few days ago I'd never read a Charlie Stella novel. I'd heard of him of course, hard not to when (as it turns out) he's this damned good.

For all the comparisons he gets to Elmore Leonard, the writer I thought of when I first started reading Shakedown was George V. Higgins and not just because of the idiomatic dialogue but because like Higgins--and early Leonard--the dialogue is layered in such a way that it's not just the usual mina bird tough guy stuff but talk that reveals character and milieu and history. That a good share of it happens to be hilarious makes it even better.

The story has one Bobby Gennaro, ambitious former bookmaker for the mob, trying to get away with a good share of the money he's been skimming. Eager to grab some of Bobby's money for themselves are a pair of wiseguys named Tommy Agro and John Forzino, Agro's deadliest weapon being his penchant for malaprops that deserve a quote book of their own. They are joined by a friend who is best known for a certain body part; a charmer of course. Bobby's fiance Lina Yao, an especially well detailed character, leads the secondary cast that is largely defined through Stella's masterful dialogue. And then Stella gives us a cunningly staged twist that makes Bobby's life much more difficult.

All this takes place a few days from he City's Feast of San Gennaro, an event that allows an old ethnic tradition to be contrasted with the changing colors, values and aspirations of the neighborhood. Agro's bursts of bigotry offer us a look at a wiseguy's op-ed piece on the new melting pot.

Stella is a major talent, a bone-crusher of a storyteller and a genuine street poet. A whole lot more people should be reading him.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Patrcia Wentworth--and Milton Caniff?

A friend sent me this link to a Fifties website. Here we find a Patrcia Wentworth mystery novel serialized in a newspaper and illustrated by Milton Caniff. You can enlarge the pages for a closer look at both the copy and the art. Wentworth was a very popular mystery writer and Caniff a master innovator in daily comics and comic books. Interesting to see that he didn't use his famous noirish inking style (Terry & The Pirates etc,) for this assignment but instead went to a more open approach. This may have had to do with newspaper mechanics.


Friday, March 27, 2009



The gifted Craig Johnson won a Spur for his Wyoming mystery, Another Man's Moccasins. You can see the whole list in the news section of the WWA website www.westernwriters.org.

Richard Wheeler

--------------Early Altzheimer's?

I've always suffered a touch of absent-minded-professorism but lately it's getting worse. Last week after my shower I squirted Visine into my nostrils and this morning I squirted Brylcreem into my mouth and proceeded to brush my teeth--but not for long.


Delusion by Peter Abrahams.

Twenty years ago, Nell Jarreau was the only witness to her young, brilliant husband's murder. Yet given the panic of the moment and the darkness she's always wondered if she identified the right person. Now Alvin Pirate Dupree, a character I've never encountered before in crime fiction (stupid, infantile,l ost in daydreams and bitter memories) has been released from prison and returns to town. He wasn't paroled. After all this time he was proved innocent.

Clay, Nell's second husband, is Chief of Police and doesn't want Pirate to settle here. But Pirate has managed to meet Nell's daughter Norah through her boyfriend. Nell soon notices that Norah is behaving strangely, constantly arguing with her and resenting her stepfather. Nell comes to suspect that Pirate was set up and that her husband--whom she met at the murder scene of her husband's murder--is hiding something from her. Is he involved in a cover-up, a conspiracy? These are the basic strands of the plot. As always Abrahams delivers an exciting, layered novel about people just like us. He's as good at building suspense as anybody else around and his writing, line by line, is masterful. A fine novel.

I've mentioned before that in high school a friend and I were falsely accused of stealing what was then a fair amount of money from a young woman. Because we came from a bad part of town the cops moved fast on us. We were told to admit our guilt and things would be easier for us. A woman identified us as the culprits. This went on for a few weeks. We were looking at reform school, neither of us having been saints exactly. Finally somebody came forward and the guilty party was discovered. I've never had a lot of faith in the justice system since then.

In the sixties a young black college student was accused of murdering his white girl friend in her dorm room. Of course he did it said the racists; of course he didn't said the left wing students. The trial was front page and angry. There were protests that an innocent man was being tried. A friend of mine (not the one as before) had the misfortune of having to serve on the trial. He hated it. He was well aware of how black people got railroaded by white law enforcement people, judges and juries. Ultimately though he voted with everybody and else and found the young man guilty. He told me he didn't have any choice. The evidence was overwhelming. He got calls, he got letters, nasty ones. He began doubting his judgment. Had he sent an innocent man to prison for twenty-five to forty years?

In just a few years the verdict was overturned on a technicality and the young man was freed. He came back here. He got a decent job, made friends and got a girl friend. She lived about a block and half from where Carol and I did after we first moved in together. Some time after his release his girl friend was found murdered on her living room floor. The police charged him. This time there was no doubt about his guilt; forensic evidence was overwhelming. He was found guilty and returned to prison.

I never want the responsibility of being on a jury unless the man on trial is wearing a T-shirt that says FUCKIN RIGHT I'M GUILTY and is holding a bloody machete in his hand. The two episodes I've cited have made me one leery dude.


------------------------From Jason Linkins:

"It's Friday, so why not check out what's happening on talk radio? Oh, here's Rush Limbaugh, passing on the opportunity to offer any substantive critique of, say, the White House's Afghanistan policy or something, to instead offer up one of his patented dinner theatre routines: "Hillary Clinton is a Mannish Lesbian."

Ridiculing Clinton for the work she's undertaken thus far at State, Limbaugh bleats: "The scary thing is that she is TWICE the man OBAMA is."

------------------------Huffington Post:

But buried within the hours of debate in the Senate on Thursday is an exchange you'd be more likely to hear in a locker room than a congressional hearing.

Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) was on the receiving end of this one, after telling Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), "Oh, you are good."

"Well, your wife said the same thing," Grassley responded.

------------------------From Mark Evanier News From Me:

"I'm keeping to my plan from the first trial. If (Phil) Spector is acquitted, I'm going on a killing spree. I don't yet know who I'll be killing or when...but I'm white, I'm in show business, I have some money. If they couldn't convict him, they'll never convict me. Unless you count this particular pledge, I don't even have a history of threatening to kill people."

-----------------------The One The Only (thank God) Michelle Bachmann

"Right now I'm a member of Congress. And I believe that my job here is to be a foreign correspondent, reporting from enemy lines."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Ivan G. Shreve at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear finally settles a debate that has obsessed at least five generations of American. Curly or Shemp?

Now Curly was funny sometimes, no doubt. But Shemp was nuanced (for a Stooge) and actually reflected the misery of their adventures. There was a bit of a Christ in Shemp, a long suffering that neither Mo nor Curly understood. And Larry was even more hopeless than those two. At least they instituted mayhem. Most of the time Larry just did what Mo did. But Shemp...I remember that as a kid he always made me sad the way Laurel and Hardy made me sad. Nothing ever worked out, the way it didn't wrk out for so many people in my working class neighborhood. Shemp understood that life wasn't supposed to be this way but he had no idea how to change it.

But Ivan makes the case better than I do:

(Talking about a Stooge DVD he'd just fished out of his mailbox) "... I haven’t checked out the inner contents yet, but I was intrigued by something on the cover: a picture of “Shemp” accompanied by the words “Includes Shemp Howard.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is it some sort of warning or admonition? “Caution: This product may contain Shemp…” I detect a distinct pro-Curly bias here, and, really folks, it’s time to set the record straight. Shemp was funnier than Curly. Period. End of report. I know it’s going to take a while to grasp this concept—you’re even going to go through the full gamut of Kübler-Ross (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance)—but it’ll be much easier if you just deal with it and move on. Many of the Stooges’ best comedies are in this collection, all of them featuring Shemp: Fright Night (1947), Out West (1947), Hold That Lion (1947), Brideless Groom (1947), Squareheads of the Round Table (1948), The Hot Scots (1948), Heavenly Daze (1948) and Crime on Their Hands (1948). (Volume 6 will be even better, for it will feature such gems as Who Done It? [1949], Fuelin’ Around [1949], Vagabond Loafers [1949], Punchy Cowpunchers [1950], Dopey Dicks [1950], Studio Stoops [1950], Three Arabian Nuts [1951], Scrambled Brains [1951] and Pest Man Wins [1951].)."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Best 100 Crime & Mystery Books

From time to time I see complaints on various blogs about how too many modern mystery readers (as well as some writers) seem to have no sense of--or much respect for--the writers who've gone before.

H.R. F. Keating is a distinguished novelist (the Inspector Ghote stories for just one example) and critic (for years he reviewed crime novels for the Times of London) who has written a book that is a graduate study course in the history of mystery. In one hundred thoughtful--and sometimes brilliant--short essays he traces the mystery from Poe to the late eighties and P.D. James.

This is a sleek, witty, rich travel guide through examples of every kind of mystery, from Christie to Wambaugh. With pieces on, G.K. Chesterton, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Dorothy L. Sayers, Rex Stout, Ngaio Marsh, Margaret Millar, Ed McBain and many, many others Keating touches on the themes, styles, trends of every decade from 1868 to 1986. You may not want to read every single book Keating recommends but the essays you will give you a helpful, historical sense of the mystery's evolution over more than a century.

I've mentioned before that Keating is so good a stylist, he's fun to read just for how he shapes his sentences. He also has his own slant on writers. Much as I admired Julian Symons his own collection of opinions (Bloody Murder) cost me a couple of molars from grinding my teeth. Keating is more gracious; he finds the most interesting book in a writer's bibliography--not always the most popular. He never offers us a bad book just so he can score points.

"Indispensable" is rarely used appropriately but it certainly applies here. If there is one book that belongs on the shelf of every mystery reader, this is it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

28 Minutes; Cage of Night

From Daily Variety:

Constantin heists rights to '28 Minutes'
Dave Zeltserman's crime novel will be adapted into film

By Jay A. Fernandez

March 22, 2009, 11:00 PM ET
Constantin Film has acquired the film rights to Dave Zeltserman's forthcoming crime novel "28 Minutes." The company plans to produce a movie adaptation under the title "Outsourced."

Travis Milloy has been hired to write the screenplay.

Constantin's Robert Kulzer and Impact Pictures' Paul W.S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt are producing. The trio produced the three "Resident Evil" films. John Tomko also will produce.

APA-repped Zeltserman's gritty novel follows a group of unemployed software engineers who plan a bank robbery that gets them in trouble with mobsters from Boston and Russia.

"The book is very real and original with believable contemporary characters," Bolt said. "We want to make an intelligent heist movie that people can relate to."

Milloy also scripted the horror film "Pandorum" -- also produced by Kulzer, Anderson and Bolt -- which Overture will release in September.

Germany-based Constantin is behind "The Never¬Ending Story," "The Name of the Rose," "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" and "The Baader Meinhof Complex." Impact produced "Mortal Kombat," "Event Horizon" and "Death Race."

The two companies jointly released "Alien vs. Predator," "The Dark" and "DOA: Dead or Alive."

------Vince Keenan on Cage of Night

I'm running Vince's kind review to announce again that I have ten copies of the hardcover Collector's edition available for $25 post paid. There's an introduction by Stephen Gallagher. I'll be happy to inscribe the books.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book: Cage of Night, by Ed Gorman (2008)

When 21-year-old Spence musters out of a stint in the army, he returns home to live with his parents and figure out what’s next. He tags along with his kid brother to a kegger and meets Cindy Brasher, reigning homecoming queen and recent patient at the local mental hospital. Spence falls, hard. And Cindy likes Spence, too, so much so that she wants to share her biggest secret with him. It seems there’s a well out in the woods. And something lives in it ...

Cage of Night is the kind of book that falls through the cracks. In fact, as the introduction by Stephen Gallagher in this PS Publications edition makes clear, it did fall through them when it was first published in the 1990s. It’s part crime novel, part horror story, with a rich strain of melancholy running through it all.

Best of all, Cage is vintage Ed Gorman, written with a feel for small town working class life, where people come home from thankless jobs searching not just for escape but elevation in books and movies. There’s some moving stuff about how it still aches when friendships formed on the most tenuous basis end. And it’s as creepy as all get-out.

The book is an expansion of Ed’s short story “The Brasher Girl,” which wowed me when I encountered it in Different Kinds of Dead. Ed kept the premise but pushed it in another direction. The ending of “Girl” is terrifying. Cage’s denouement is far darker, stripping away any shred of hope. “Girl” is dedicated to Stephen King, Cage to Robert Bloch. The influences are apparent in each. Read both if you can; it makes for quite the literary experiment.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Best and worst TV finales

Lee Goldberg has a great post tonight about the best and worst finales of long-running TV series. Nobody knows more or writes better about TV than Lee. And his list brings back many good memories.

My favorites among his favorites are

The Mary Tyler Moore Show--where everybody gets fired except Ted

Newhart--where Bob wakes up in bed not with his current wife but his wife from the previous series

The Fugitive--the ultimate confrontation

Larry Sanders--one of the most melancholy wrap-ups I've ever seen, three people you really care about each other--friends and enemies and friends forever

Of Lee's Worst I'd have to go with

Seinfeld-The whole thing hinges on them mocking and making fun of a grossly obese man and for me anyway that was completely out of character. Yes, they were self-centered and shallow and vain (except of course for poor George) but there were many episodes in which they tried to repair their mistakes and help people--the Puerto Rican busboy who lost his job and his cat for just one instance. They were never cruel and this false note did the whole thing in for me. Plus it just wasn't funny.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Leigh Brackett

The other night there was a discussion on The Big Adios about Ace Doubles. One of the books shown was the double with Build Your Gallows High (Out of The Past) and Stranger At Home by George Sanders--yes, the droll actor. Sanders didn't write it of course, Leigh Brackett did. I've always though that this was one of Brackett's best books, certainly her best mystery. She'd moved away from Chandler's influence and wrote it very much in her own voice. Here's the review I posted:

The Brackett novel is excellent. I tried to get it back in print fifteen years ago but learned that I'd have to go through the Sanders estate. Then a lawyer told me that maybe I could go through Brackett's agent. But the point was moot. The line died after two seasons. Stranger is a favorite of mine. The place descriptions in the opening chapter are some of the finest writing she ever did. Sets a tone and mood that she maintains trough the entire book. There's also a debauched party scene that for the 1940s was pretty wild with adultery, kept women and even an implied gay scene. There is a gothic quality that envelopes everything and everybody in the novel. This is very upper crust stuff. I've always wondered if Brackett was influenced by the Patrick Quentin Broadway-Hollywood novels of the time, though she's never as fey as the Quentins. I'd put this on the Best of Brackett shelf. I just wish it was in print again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Doug Clegg - Outlining

In Graham Greene's stingy faux-autobiography Ways of Escape (stingy because he tells us so little about his personal life) he remarks that only in the second half of his long career did he begin to outline his novels before writing them. Outlining helped him, he felt, and wished he'd done it from the beginning.

That most excellent writer Doug Clegg wrote a lengthy letter about outlining on Shocklines last night. Since I've always been unable (or maybe unwilling) to outline I found his take on the subject fascinating. I want to thank Doug for letting me reprint it here.

* * * *

Bio: Douglas Clegg is the author of more than 25 books, including the upcoming (fall 2009) hardcover, Isis, as well as the email serial The Locust, coming out in the summer of 2009. Check his website at DouglasClegg.com for details. He was born in Virginia and currently lives at the beach in New England.

* * *

I used to hate outlining. I felt I was storytelling in the outline, and I'd get bored with it and would never want to write the book. So, for most of my novels, the only outline was the first draft itself. This meant I had a 300-700 page "outline" depending on how that first draft went.

Then, I had to edit it down and cut it like crazy until I found the structure.

However, in the past couple of years, in the studies I've been doing of the architecture of the idea of story and what makes a powerful tale. I think there's another way to look at the outline in terms of a functional scaffolding for the writer's work.

I now believe structure is the most important element in a novel and a story.

I don't believe a writer with undeveloped abilities as a writer can necessarily write a great story or novel. But when the structure is sound in a story, even with so-so writing, a novel or story can be successful. With great writing, it stands a chance of becoming a classic -- either of its time, or a later time.

I have no influence over how "talented" I am. But I do have influence over the technique and craft of story creation.

In the past several years, I've begun studying story architecture -- and structuring what I write far ahead of the writing itself.

If the structure is interesting and exciting enough for me, there's no boredom in the writing of the tale.

The structure begins with a premise. The premise comes from the writer's judgment on some aspect of human nature and the human condition.

From this, I can start to ask questions about where would this story take place, who are the people who most exemplify aspects of this story who will conflict with each other, where am "I" in the story (in other words, how is this a story that I must write, rather than someone else? Otherwise I'm practicing "applied storytelling techniques," and, as a writer, that doesn't interest me. It must come from something important enough to me, specifically, to put it on the page.)

There are other hurdles in creating the structure of the story. Sometimes at the end of a story -- when it's all done and has worked -- I realize the premise itself was something other than I had planned. I love it when that happens -- it reveals to me something about why I write stories.

I used to get hung up on the idea of outlines as being close to what I learned in school about outlining. And to me, that was a homework assignment. I hate homework.

Instead, in structuring the novel and working out the problems of its creation before I begin the majority of the writing, I gain a greater freedom in ordering the scenes, knowing what scenes absolutely have to be there, knowing which characters need further development, etc.

When the structure is in place, I can approach scenes with a freedom to move them, change them, adjust them without hurting the structure of the story itself. Sort of like the game of Jenga -- once it's in place, you can pull out pieces, etc., but there are usually certain blocks of the story that absolutely must remain where they are for the strength of the story to hold.

Why would I do this after publishing more than 24 books in the past 20 years? Because for every good novel I produced, I felt there were two that didn't work the way I wanted them to work. And the problem was in those novels' structures. I'll never let that happen again.

If you ever ask me: what's the one element a story must have?

I have to answer: all of them. Tone, emotional heft, strong idea, talented writer, compelling narrative, strong structure, characters worth writing, good dialogue, great backdrop or setting, etc. But since we're talking outlines here, I'm focusing on structure only.

Now there's something to be said for those stories that are so based on a sudden hit of inspiration that they come alive because, organically, the story structure exists without the writer having to outline.

If a writer has that, more power to him or her. But I've reached a point with writing where I never again want to look at a novel of mine published and think: if I had taken four more months and restructured that story, it would have been unforgettable.

My goal is to write a story before I die where any reader who picks it up will forget they read the story and instead, feel they lived it. Not there yet. May never make the goal. But working on the structure of a story well in-advance of writing it -- for me -- seems to work.

This is just me. You may have a different approach to writing fiction that works beautifully for you.

-- Douglas Clegg

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pro-File: Charlie Stella

Charlie Stella has delivered newspapers (back when people read them), unloaded watermelons, been a dish washer, cooked hamburgers at McDonalds, humped sheetrock at the Olympic Tower, buffed hallways and cleaned apartments in Starrett City, cleaned windows atop several high rise Manhattan office buildings, was a bouncer at a few bars, was into street finance and bookmaking, was a word processing operator, supervisor, manager and director of communications and currently works as a word processing operator 7 days a week.

He had a few plays produced off-off Broadway back in the day before taking a break from writing to earn money on the streets as a knockaround guy. He’s an opera aficionado, jazz enthusiast and plays his brand new DW Drums every chance he gets. An avid reader of contemporary literature, he loves his 1.75 hour 1-way commute each day because of the reading time it affords him.

Ed here: Charlie wrote the above. What he forgot to mention is that his books have been among the most celebrated in the past ten years. From having one novel named one PW's best ten of the year to numerous starred reviews in all the major trade publications, Charlie's work has been lauded here and throughout Europe.

Charlie Stella:

1 Tell us about your current novel.

Mafiya was my attempt at writing a very strong female character that wasn’t raising kids on her own while climbing her way to the top of the corporate ladder. I had some fun playing with Russian-American dialogues and touching on some themes that have always intrigued me (some of them ugly themes). It was also a way to set up future (if there is one) mob conflicts for future books. I left it open-ended for obvious reasons.

2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?

It’s (they) aren’t crime novels. I’ve been bitten (or re-bitten) by the drama bug. I started writing plays a long time ago and have returned to drama in novel form. I put together a bunch of short stories around a Steinbeck quote “Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap, baits it, then steps in it.” I’m also rewriting a novel about relationships and lust. Peter Skutches (my maestro) liked the stories but hasn’t seen the novels yet. I hope to fit the novel in my impossible schedule and get it to him fairly soon. Both projects are probably a bit ambitious but I’m 52 and figure what do I have to lose?

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

Working 7 days a week … and I mean that. It’s been very liberating for me to work 7 days a week as a word processor because it forces the discipline I require to a) stay out of trouble and b) accomplish goals. Writing has been vacation money at best and usually more like tip money but that isn’t why I’m doing it anyway. I used to make a lot of money doing illegal things. The cliché is true … money can’t make you happy.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

The publishing business can be extremely frustrating. It’s been much easier to deal with working 7 days a week. I just don’t have time to get frustrated anymore.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Grow a pair of balls.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

I own pretty much everything by my favorites and frankly have to claim ignorance here. I really don’t read very many crime novels in a year (maybe a dozen or so and usually half of those are foreign crime novels). I’ve been spending a lot of time commuting (1.75 hours one way every day) catching up on all the stuff I should’ve been reading the last 40 years. Frankly, it’s been wonderful. A few months ago I discovered Richard Yates and have been overwhelmed by him. I read everything, including the Blake Bailey bio … then learned my writing mentor, Dave Gresham (a teacher from college many years ago who is most responsible for my writing anything) was a former student of Yates (and Vonnegut) at the Iowa Writers Workshop.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

Very exciting. I remember going to bed one night after hearing from my agent at the time that Kent Carrol was interested in Eddie’s World. Then I came home from a long night of bookmaking (when the office had taken a beating and my numbers were in the red) and there was an e-mail from Bob Diforio that read: “We have an offer.” It was a very exciting moment. I immediately called the woman responsible for me even trying to write a novel again and told her (my beautiful wife, Ann Marie – the Principessa). Everything seemed to come together at the exact right time in my life. I walked away from the street and avoided a ton of bad stuff less than two years later (as it turned out for the crew I was with).

8. What do you consider the highlight of your career thus far?

Last year we went to two book stores out west (Poisoned Pen in Arizona and Murder by the Book in Houston). Usually when I go somewhere, 2-6 people show up (usually for the free cannoli we bring). David at Murder by the Book and Barbara Peters at Poisoned Pen had real live Stella fans at each signing. Listen, there weren’t lines going around the block, but there were real to life people who were there for me. A few had every single thing I’d written (short stories included). It reminded us of the time we visited M is for Mystery in San Mateo after my second book and some woman came to tell me how much she enjoyed Eddie’s World. I was floored. I still am. Those things are great. So are the occasional fan emails.

9. How about the low point?

Going to a bookstore in New Jersey (after being lost for a good hour) and having the manager of the store tell me how much she hated mob novels before she even asked me what I wrote. I really wanted to leave, but my wife forced me to stay … to a crowd of zero. It was humiliating. I went home and ate a tree.

10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your work?

My personal favorite is Cheapskates. Reviewers seemed to like Charlie Opera and Shakedown. Short stories I’d say the one in Baltimore Noir (Ode to the O’s) (which probably got me the most press) and/or the one in Bleakhouse’s Hardboiled Brooklyn (Waiting for Gallo).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Superman #1

From Yahoo:

NEW YORK — A rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman has sold for $317,200 in an Internet auction. The previous owner had bought it for less than a buck.

It's one of the highest prices ever paid for a comic book, a likely testament to the volume's rarity and its excellent condition, said Stephen Fishler, co-owner of the auction site ComicConnect.com and its sister dealership, Metropolis Collectibles.

The winning bid for the 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1, which features Superman lifting a car on its cover, was submitted Friday evening by John Dolmayan, drummer for the rock band System of a Down, according to managers at ComicConnect.com.

Dolmayan, who is also a dealer of rare comic books, said he acquired the Superman comic on behalf of a client he declined to identify.

"This is one of the premier books you could collect," he said in a telephone interview. "It's considered the Holy Grail of comic books. I talked to my client, and we made the move."

Dolmayan said the client has "a small collection, but everything he has is incredible."

Only about 100 copies of Action Comics No. 1 are known to exist and they seldom come up for sale.

"Maybe in a booming economy, it would have done a hundred grand more, but in this economy, I think the price is great," Fishler said.

The man who had previously owned the book purchased it in a secondhand store in the early 1950s when he was nine years old.

He paid 35 cents.


Associated Press writer Adam Goldman in New York contributed to this report.
copyright 2009 Yahoo

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Millard Kaufman

Because he was merely a writer Millard Kaufman's death won't get much press but when you consider his many contributions to our pleasure and our culture, he was an important man indeed. EG

From Variety:
Millard Kaufman dies
Writer co-created Mr. Magoo at UPA

Oscar-nommed screenwriter and novelist Millard Kaufman died of heart failure March 14 in Los Angeles. He was 92.
With animator John Hubley, Kaufman created the nearsighted Mr. Magoo character, voiced by Jim Backus, for the 1949 short "Ragtime Bear" at UPA Productions. Kaufman modeled the nearsighted character in part on his curmudgeonly uncle. He also wrote the story for UPA's "Punchy de Leon" short.

In 1954, his screenplay for WWII boot camp drama, "Take the High Ground" was Oscar-nommed. He was again nommed for Western "Bad Day at Black Rock," starring Spencer Tracy.

During the McCarthy Era, Kaufman risked his career by lending his name to the screenplay "Gun Crazy," by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Initially unsure whether he should help out, he consulted with his wife. "But we discussed it and we believed it was rotten that a man couldn't write under his own name," Kaufman told Daily Variety in 1992. That year he officially requested the Writers Guild of America West take his name off the credits, replacing it with Trumbo's name. "I've been telling people for years that I didn't write that movie, but I guess it never becomes official until it appears in the newspaper," Kaufman said.


Born in Baltimore, Kaufman graduated Johns Hopkins U. and then worked as a newspaper reporter. During WWII, he served in the Marines and earned a bronze star. He moved with his wife to Hollywood after the war to recuperate from the malaria and dengue fever he had contracted in the South Pacific.

Kaufman also authored screenwriting text "Plots and Characters," published in 1999. He lectured on screenwriting at the institutions including the Sundance Institute, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, and USC, and was a mentor to many aspiring writers. His second novel, "Misadventure," will be published by McSweeney's later this year.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Lorraine; two daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.

Donations may be made to The Motion Picture and Television Fund.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ron Silver; The Ugly File

I've been watching Ron Silver on TV and in the movies for at least three decades. As a working actor he had to take what was offered him but no matter how bad the piece itself was Silver brought intelligence and honesty to the part. While we don't know actors personally we do become familiar with their screen persona--what they project almost no matter what part they're playing. So when I woke up this morning to the news that he'd died of cancer after a two year struggle I gave him one of those little salutes for saved for people who made passage on this old planet more pleasurable. So long to Ron Silver.

-----The Ugly File
(from Dread Central)

Peekers Director Debuts The Ugly File

* Mark Steensland
* Short Films
* The Ugly FIles

Last year short film director Mark Steensland unleashed his horror short "Peekers" on fans, and this year his newest project, "The Ugly File", is set for not only its world premiere but also its US debut during the Shocklines Short Film Series event later this month.

First up, "The Ugly File" is heading to the land Down Under for A Night of Horror Fest in Sydney, Australia on March 27th. Then, the very next night Steensland’s newest project will be playing as part of Shocklines in New York City at 200 Hudson Street.

"The Ugly File" is based on the Ed Gorman short story and follows a photographer who mysteriously photographs hideously deformed children.

Based on what Steensland did in "Peekers", I have a feeling that "The Ugly File" will be one twisted little treat.

- Heather Wixson

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Slammer by Allan Guthrie

If the rage that characterized the British writers known as The Angry Young Men had ever been focused on a novel about prison Allan Guthrie's Slammer might well have been the result. In the course of the relentless story of prison guard Nick Glass takes apart the prison system, prisoners who make the Oz boys look soft, the police, the underground gun society and, not least, a marriage foundering on the fact that neither Glass nor his wife can quite get around her brief affair with another man.

In short explosive scenes Slammer demonstrates that not only is Glass himself a prisoner (he badly needs the job) but so is his family. Prisoners demand that Glass start sneaking drugs into them. If not an outside man will kill his wife and child.

This is Guthrie's masterpiece to date, grim and brutal in tone, cunning in design and flawless in the telling. Guthrie keeps the numerous plot turns both exciting and believable. There is a surprise twist in the middle of the novel that stuns the reader and makes the pace even faster. Slammer could pretty much be filmed as is.

Years from now we'll look back on Slammer as a major leap forward in Guthrie's career. Slammer is not only artful, it's real art.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Shocklines Films 3/28 -- Short Horror Film Night

Shocklines is putting on a film festival that looks damned good. When they asked me if they could film my short story "The Ugly File" I thought they were kidding. I couldn't see how they could pull it off. But Rick Hautala wrote a fine script and Mark Streensland sent me some stills from the filming and they look stunning in a sad and haunting way. But the most interesting of the films for me is Eater by Pete Crowther--truly one of the scariest short novels I've ever read. It actually gave me nightmares for a few nights. Location, date, times--you'll find links at the bottom of this notice.

Shocklines Films 3/28 -- Short Horror Film Night (Joe Hill, Ed Gorman, Peter Crowther, more)
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I'm really excited about this. It wasn't easy to put together, but we've got a night in NYC of short horror films, including:

Pop Art, written and directed by Amanda Boyle, based on the short story by New York Times bestseller Joe Hill. Winner of the the audience award for narrative short at the Austin Film Festival.

Treevenge, directed by Jason Eisener and produced by Rob Cotterill. Winner of the audience award at the New York City Horror Film Fest, and the audience award at the Fantasia Film Festival.

Eater, written and directed by Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, based on the short story by Peter Crowther.

Abraham's Boys written and directed by Dorothy Street, based on the short story by New York Times bestseller Joe Hill.

Side Effect, written and directed by Liz Adams. Winner of Best Screenplay award at the Chicago Horror Film Festival and Best Short.

The Ugly File, written by Rick Hautala, directed by Mark Steensland, based on the short story by Ed Gorman. U.S. Premiere!

Storm, written by Ron McGillvray, directed by Jeff Radbourne.

I hope anyone in the NYC area can make it. This should be a blast, and who knows when you'll have another chance to see most of these!

http://www.shocklinesfilms.com (or http://shocklinesfilms.com/shortfilms.html for more detailed information on each film).

Friday, March 13, 2009

How did Bill Crider miss this one?

Thanks to Mark Johnson

Woman Injured in Power Tool Sex Toy Encounter


Updated 1:57 PM EDT, Wed, Mar 11, 2009
Related Topics: St. Mary's County | TheBayNet.com

A southern Maryland woman was hospitalized after her partner attached a sex toy to a power tool.
Getty Images

A southern Maryland woman was hospitalized after her partner attached a sex toy to a power tool.

LEXINGTON PARK, Md. -- Some sexual experimentation landed a southern Maryland woman in a hospital with injuries tough to imagine and even more difficult to forget.

Maryland State Police airlifted the 27-year-old woman to Prince George's County Hospital Center early Sunday morning after she was injured in an incident involving a sex toy attached to a saber saw blade, TheBayNet.com first reported.

The man who called 911 about the incident admitted attaching the sex toy to the saw and then using the high-powered, homemade device on his partner, according to the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office.

The saw cut through the plastic toy and wounded the woman, according to TheBayNet.com. The injuries were severe enough for medevac, but the woman was released from the hospital Monday and is recovering from her unusual injuries.

Investigators talked to the woman, who told them she suffered the injuries during a consensual act and that she and her partner were trying something new and no crime was committed, the sheriff's office said.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Go Home, Stranger

"His narrator is generally an ordinary, curiously amoral fellow fueled by greed and lust but curiously detached from his own crimes." Geoffrey O'Brien on Charles Williams

O'Brien's description is apt for virtually all of Williams' paperback orignals except one, that being 1954's Go Home, Stranger. Here Williams gives us a true hero--named Reno--a true heroine and even a tender brother-sister relationship.

Reno's sister is a famous actress who is accused of murdering her husband in a fit of jealousy. She is being held in a small Gulf Coast jail and already convicted in the minds of everybody except her attorney and her brother. The novel focuses on Reno's search for the killer who framed his sister.

Stranger is a good mystery. Williams sets up an almost mythic individual much like Graham Greene's Harry Lime--a rich spoiled psychopath possessed of deadly charm and animal cunning. Reno believes he's hiding in the swamps that surround the town. Williams' place descriptions are Conradian--place becomes a character at least as powerful as the human beings. The bayous have never been more sinister. There are three set pieces involving chases through the woods that are among the most vivid actions scenes Williams ever wrote.

It's interesting to watch Williams work with more conventional material than usual. He certainly knew how to handle it. But I suspect that in the course of writing it he wished he could make Reno at least bit like his other protagonists, "a curiously amoral fellow fueled by greed and lust."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What is noir?

Bill Crider will appreciate this. Since we were science fiction fans from our early teens on we got to sit in on an endles debate over the difference between science fiction and fantasy. What is sceince fiction? Big name authors wrote a pretty good number of pieces on the subject. I never really gave a damn, I just read what I liked and didn't worry about what niche it fit into. But it was always fun reading the yea and nay arguments as intelligent people struggled to nail down a definition of their prefered reading matter.

Somthing similar has been going on over at Mystery*File, one of my favorite sites. David L. Vineyard has written a two part article that attempts to define noir both theoretically and in practice. I don't know that I agree with all of it but it's well written and entertaining and does set up a workable (if somewhat arbirtrary) definition of the form.

David L. Vineyard:

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say why I don’t think some films embraced as noir really belong there, then saw it off behind me by trying to define what noir is. But first the films that I don’t think really are noir despite having noir elements.

I’ve already explained why I don’t think The Maltese Falcon is noir — Spade is hardly alienated, doomed, obsessed or the victim of mysterious forces. He’s in control of himself and the situation, and the closest he comes to a touch of noir is a pang of regret at sending Brigid up the river for killing Archer. The only bad nights Spade is going to have is getting Miles Archer’s widow off his neck.

Laura is a bit more problematic, because the sleuth is briefly obsessed, but in the end he isn’t a noir protagonist either. Clifton Webb’s villain is alienated and obsessed, but in noir it’s the hero and not the villain that counts.

I Wake Up Screaming would be noir if Laird Cregar’s cop was the hero, but the hero and heroine are PR man Victor Mature and showgirl Betty Grable, and if you remove the murder plot, the two would be perfectly served in a musical (in fact, they were).

Johnny Eager is a slick MGM take on a Warner’s gangster movie, but again the hero, Robert Taylor isn’t a noir hero (his buddy Van Heflin is though, but that doesn’t count). There is nothing in Johnny Eager’s character different than the general run of gangsters in a hundred similar films.

for the rest go here:


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cain and Chandler

Thanks to Mark Evanier and his fine website News To Me I came across this fascinating piece from the archives of The Daily Mirror. It's interesting to see the relative celebrity of Cain and Chandler at that time. It's also interesting to see how Chandler dealt with his drinking.

Mark Evanier:

Sept. 12, 1943, a feature on the upcoming film "Double Indemnity."

Here's an undiscovered treasure: The Times' Philip K. Scheuer interviews James M. Cain AND Raymond Chandler on the upcoming production of "Double Indemnity." Chandler tells Scheuer that his next novel, "The Lady in the Lake," may be his last. "There's no money in them," he says. "Not when 10,000 is considered a good sale!"

Scheuer also says Chandler doesn't drink. Hm.

Note: To mark the 50th anniversary of Raymond Chandler's death, the Daily Mirror is revisiting some of The Times' stories about his life and influence. We invite the Daily Mirror's readers to share their thoughts.

For the article itself go here:


Monday, March 09, 2009

Orrie Hitt

Over the past few weeks several bloggers have referred to one of the leading soft-core stars of the fifties and sixties, Orrie Hitt. James Reasoner has even run letters from Hitt's daughter and tonight he reviews another Hitt title.

All this brings back memories of discovering soft core in the late fifties. The only shop that sold it locally also sold beat literature. Both were cool with me. Of course you could also buy racing forms there too.

A used bookstore opened around 1961. A endearingly whacked woman named Mrs. Miller ran it out of her living room. She crammed a lot of paperbacks into her shelf space. She sold everything, bestsellers, sf, mystery, romance. One wall was filled with what she called "zippy" books. I took my good friend Doug Humble there a few times and he thought we were in an alternate universe. Mrs. Miller was seriously overweight and had a heart condition. Yet she chain smoked Kools and chomped on chocolates constantly. She also never shut up. I can still see Doug's eyes filled with tears of laughter. He covered his ears with his hands a few times when she couldn't see him--mugging that he was losing his mind.

Any time a customer walked in when I was there she would good-naturedly point to me and say "You know what he likes? He likes them beatnik books and he likes them zippy books." Then she'd burst into painful cigarette laughter.

I bought dozens of books from her over the years, many Orrie Hitts among them. She was out of Dickens and I had this great crazed affection for her even though she drove me nuts.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Locust Day

I've watched very few reality shows. Most of them are so clearly fraudulent they're little different from fiction. But occasionally on the tube you see something that's straight from Nathaniel West's Day of The Locust, the nexus of tragedy and an an unthinkable need for some kind of spurious fame. Or at the very least recognition.

In the Guardian today Gordon Burn discusses at some length what reality TV has wrought. He begins with Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius, a books that includes what Eggers "purports" is his audition tape for the MYV show The Real World."

"In the course of the tape, Eggers discusses the deaths of both of his parents from cancer in the space of a month, the deaths by suicide and suspected suicide he remembers as a child growing up in a well-heeled suburb of Chicago, his masturbation habits, favourite films and TV shows, the smell of his mother on her deathbed, his young brother, Toph, whom he is bringing up alone, formative sexual experiences, and his father's clandestine and ruinous alcoholism.

"Have I given you enough?" Eggers interrupts himself at one point to inquire of the producer who is putting him through his paces. "Put me on television," he urges her. "Let me share this with millions. I will do it slowly, subtly, tastefully. Everyone must know. I deserve this. I have this coming. Am I on? Have I broken your heart? Was my story sad enough?" And then, unsettlingly for anybody who in past weeks has been following the twists and turns of the Jade Goody story, he adds: "I can do last breaths, last words. I have so many things. There is so much symbolism."

The Goody reference is to a news story that has was much bigger abroad than here. Goody was a lower class woman it was difficult to like. She played The Bad Girl of reality TV with ease. Then things changed.

Gordon Burn:

"It was while she was appearing on the Indian version of Big Brother, known there as Big Boss, that Goody first heard that she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was a private moment which of course - a contract had been signed, and there were the new invented traditions of the reality genre to observe - was broadcast live and flagged up instantly as breaking news, something to be excitedly chewed over by the blogosphere's gawkers as well as by mainstream news organisations, themselves insatiably solicitous of audience input and feedback, back home in Britain.

"Goody was called to the diary room and effectively given a death sentence by a doctor many thousands of miles away in London, while her fellow housemates, quarantined on the other side of a sheet of plateglass, were left to speculate about what infringement of which rule - the one pertaining to the wearing of fright-wigs and maids' uniforms? The one about forbidden access to the hair-straightener? - had given rise to her heaving shoulders and hot tears."

Awhile back Salon ran an article about all the things science fiction failed to predict. To me reality TV is one of them. When sf writers wrote about the dominance of TV in future societies it was usually how the tube was used to spy on us or indoctrinate us en masse or have humans die in bloody games ala Roman gladiators ( or in the case of Mack Reynolds) to accompany us on our wars, which came true to an extent in Iraq.)

Not even Philip Dick managed to think of the most subtle and treacherous use of TV, that of the confessional with the prime motivation being humiliation and degradation for the pleasure of the viewers.

But then a different kind of writer many decades earlier had dealt with the same kind of fame-obsessed society we have today. His name was Nathaniel West.

for the rest of the excellent Burn article go here:

Friday, March 06, 2009

Rip Torn

Cinema Retro discusses the Rip Tor Film Festival coming up.

In later years Torn has become a character actor and TV fixture. But as the piece points out Torn was once a major theater actor.

"A ubiquitous but under-appreciated presence on screen for nearly five decades, Rip Torn is one of American cinema's great talents, an actor whose versatility, command, and sheer magnetism are unsurpassed. Though the last twenty years have found him emphasizing his (considerable) flair for comedy, Torn emerged, via the theater, as a star on par with James Dean and the young Brando. Becoming a stage sensation, he delivered renowned performances in plays such as Tennessee Williams's SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH and James Baldwin's BLUES FOR CHARLIE, and eventually mounted his own ground-breaking and politically provocative productions, including the NYC debut of Michael McClure's THE BEARD and a version of RICHARD III."n

For the complete article go here:

TV stuff

I've now watched last week's Fight of The Conchords episode three times and it gets richer each time. The actor who plays Prime Minister Brian will hopefully win an Emmy. I've never seen lunacy portrayed more believably, mostly because he wisely underplays everything. He risks throwing away his best lines and that makes them all the stronger.

For me The Office is having a pretty bad time of it this season. Two of the episodes have been very good but most are mediocre at best. And last night's was terrible. You could finish just about every gag thirty seconds before the punchline and the amusing central premise--Valentine's day for the lonely--was drowned in bad awkward jokes. They recycled the bit where Michael gets everybody in the conference room and asks them to speak honestly about some embarrassing problem in the past--in this case a love affair that went wrong. In the old days they couldn't miss with this set-up but this was not only lame it went on too long was damned dull. And Dwight started over the top and worked up from there. I sensed they were giving him extra bits because the director sensed he had a turkey on his hands. Unfortunately the lines weren't funny.

You had to feel sorry for The Office crew when 30 Rock came on immediately after. Crazy-brilliant with so many sharp performances--one of the stand-outs being by Patt LaPone--with plot twists coming so fast the pace got almost giddy. Tina Fey was at her flustered best and Alec Baldwin is never better than when he's trying to actually do something nice for somebody. And failing at it.

I have high hope for the Amy Poehler sit-com coning along in a few weeks. The promos keep pounding away at "From the creators of The Office." Right now that's not all that reassuring.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Douglas Sanderson

I was looking for something to read yesterday, couldn't find anything that grabbed me so I started looking back through some of my old Stark House bound galleys. Last week I read the forthcoming Benjamin Appel pair of novels and they are both Appel at his street best.

I ended up looking at the galleys for Douglas Sanderson's two two-fers. For some reason I don't think I ever got around to reading the second of the two books in the first volume, Catch A Falling Star.

This is a wild melodrama that, in the first ten thousand words, reads almost like middle-period Irwin Shaw. A broken-down screenwriter blamed for the death of his starlet wife--a very nasty lady turned into a martyr by the studio so they could hustle her old pictures. The time period here is the early 1950s when Hollywood was becoming more TV than feature films. The way Sanderson writes--his mourning for the old days--has an edge of true alcoholic remorse for the days that will never come again.

Because he did slap his wife the night she piled up her car and died in its flames...because the studio had spent muy dollars in magazines and tv getting her martyr image out there...he was ousted from Hollywood. He went back East, kept drinking and had a breakdown. We pick him shiortly after he leaves the sanitarium.

This is not a wonderful guy. He pays for his sins in complex bursts of guilt. But even when he feels guilt he can never quite forgive his wife for betraying him again and again. There's a strain of Kenneth Fearing here and it only makes the novel better.

Our man comes back to Hollywood and tries to get a script job. Not much luck (he goes to an old friend, a bawdy female agent who has real power. There's a finely drawn scene when he enters her lobby, all the wanna-bes sitting in chairs praying that she'll see them.) But she can't help him.

By luck a fading macho movie star he once wrote for summons him to the manse. He wants our guy to write a script based on a recent bestseller, an enormous epic that no studio will ever back. This is a Norma Desmond moment--the star, in his forties, wants to play a twenty year old fully capable of derring-do and laying the ladies. Really funny stuff here as our protagonist pretends to be writing this all down and agreeing with him--he needs the money. Fast. Bad.

He goes to his little rented room and starts pounding out ideas. The money the star is dangling is enormous. He decides to drive back to the manse with his ideas. And it is there he finds the star dead on the floor of his study. A lot of people in Hollywood want to see our man suffer the consequences of slapping his wife the night of her death. The cops are all too eager to nail him for the murder.

What follows is a chase through the Hollywood of the Fifties. Sanderson had obviously been there and his comments on the sociology of the time are sharp as the dagger that killed the star.

While the plot gets away from Sanderson a few times and there are moments that are too gaudy for their own good, he constantly writes sentences that are enviable as hell but never self-conscious or pretentious.

This isn't Sanderson's best but I sure did enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Ed here: Bruce Grossman over at that extremely cool site Bookgasm reviewed one of Bill Crider's Sheriff Rhodes books today. He's obviously crazy about it. And Bruce knows what he's talking about. I'm one of the people who've been pushing the Sheriff Rhodes novels for years. They are gracefully wrought serio-comic novels about life in a small Texas town. The portraits of the people and the thrust of the stories come to have a dusty and indelible reality in every book. A generous but wary look at the lives most of us lead. For pure enjoyment--and for the pleasure of watching a real writer do some of his best work--I recommend this fine fine series.

Bruce Grossman at Bookgasm:

EVIL AT THE ROOT by Bill Crider — I can’t believe it’s taken this long for me to cover a Crider book. I’ve actually had this 1990 one on my shelf for a while, but just never got around to it. My loss is all I can say, because now I’m going to hunt down other novels in his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series.

This is the fifth one, and like the previous book, covers a running storyline outside the mystery itself. Again, I never felt lost with those details since Crider keeps it very light, never letting it bog down the heart of the matter. It opens goofily enough with Rhodes turning up at Sunny Dale Retirement Home to investigate the loss of some teeth. To me, it felt a bit like BARNEY MILLER at that moment, but ROOT is really like an 87th Precinct set in a small Texas town, especially since Crider not only name-checks that series, but also the work of Ross MacDonald, since at the end of the story, it feels as though Rhodes has a bit of Lew Archer in him also.

Now back to the plot of the missing dentures: Lloyd Bobbit, the victim, is positive that one of his fellow patients on the floor is responsible, naming Maurice Kennedy as the suspect. What adds to Rhodes’ problems is that Kennedy might have been responsible for a murder from 60 years ago. But Crider moves the story so well that when Bobbit winds up dead, with all fingers pointing at a now-missing Kennedy, the author really amps up the MacDonald influence, especially when an investigation that looks cut-and-dry isn’t.

from the Mystery Scene website

by Oline Cogdill
March 4th, 2009
If it wasn’t for the mystery genre, the short story would continue to get, well, the short shrift.

Mystery readers at least have a couple of magazines devoted just to the art of the short story, other publications that include a story or two in each issue as well as the several anthologies published each year. There’s also several online publications that include short stories.

It’s still not enough. So many wonderful stories – most by new authors – languish in submission piles.

And as readers try to keep on top of the novels that come out, it’s easy to miss terrific short stories. The kind that make you think, the kind that make your hair stand on end, the kind that introduce you to an author you haven’t read before so you can go out and buy everything they have written.

Thank goodness Mystery Scene now has an advocate for short stories in Bill Crider whose column Short & Sweet kicks off this month.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

TV stuff; Cool Cops

I've been fighting the flu lately so I've watched more than my usual amount of tv, the highlight of which was Sunday night's Flight of The Concord. To me one of the funniest aspects of the show is that the New Zealand embassy, with which the boys and their idiot agent are associated, is housed not in some great stone monument all gargoyled'd up and splendiferous but in a shabby building in NYC. The third floor no less with the only signage being a piece of paper Scotch-taped to the door. And the office space is not only cramped but falling apart.

Sunday night the boys were visited by the New Zealand prime minister. A fair share of the episode reminded me of Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three and his take on the then Russian bureaucracy. The NZ prime minister goes by one name--Brian--and totes around a "cell phone" (something brand new to New Zealand) like the original cells--the size of a walkie-talkie. And he is constantly calling NZ to see how things are going in his absence even though he's only been gone a day. At one point we overhear him asking "How the environment there? Not good? Well put your cousins to work." In a show with top to bottom morons this guy stands out. In an episode that has look-alikes (well, the point is they don't look alike even though they think they do) of Obama, Elton John, Art Garfunkle, Bono and Elvis and then out of nowhere the real Art Garfunkle appears--even by the Conchords usual absurdist standards this episode is wonderfully ridiculous. Another surprise is that one of the boys actually gets laid!

If you've never seen Conchords this is a good place to start. Check your TV listings. It's also on HBO On Demand.

-------Cool Cops

By coincidence I got three galleys in one week in which the lead character was one of those Dirty Harry type detectives who a) can't work with the constraints of the department b) has terrible memories of bad stuff while on duty c) has a smart mouth and d) is a hunk. Reviewers bitch about romance fiction and how rigidly formulaic so much of it is, especially The Bad Boy that our ladies always go for. The Bad Boy ain't got nothin' on the Dirty Harry copper.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Dave Zeltserman

There' a fine article about Dave Zeltserman in the Boston Globe this morning (thanks to Sarah Weinman for the tip):

Crime author's tales emerge from shadows
Author Dave Zeltserman, framed by icicles dripping from his Needham home, saw his novel ''Small Crimes'' singled out for praise last year. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Steve Maas
Globe Correspondent / March 1, 2009
Dave Zeltserman's crime fiction is better known in Britain and Italy than in his hometown of Needham. But it looks like that's about to change.

After more than 15 years in which he has written 10 books and countless short stories, Zeltserman is finally emerging from the literary wilderness. His novel "Small Crimes" was named one of the top five crime-and-mystery novels of 2008 by National Public Radio critic Maureen Corrigan, who said Zeltserman is "a new name to add to the pantheon of the sons and daughters" of crime noir great James M. "Double Indemnity" Cain.

Zeltserman's characters are often lowlifes and losers, people who are either the victims or the perpetrators of heinous crimes. His inspiration ranges from the news - a later book features a Whitey Bulger type - to the hard-boiled detective novels of Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald to Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone."

Zeltserman, 49, creates his dark world in the cluttered office of his modest house on a quiet street off Highland Avenue. He greets a visitor not with the bourbon or beer favored by his characters, but with a choice of tea, the leaves brewed in a ball meticulously timed.


"Small Crimes" is about an ex-cop who, after a stretch in prison, returns home in search of redemption but finds only trouble. Joe Denton is one of those characters who has you constantly shouting "don't do it" - and then does it.

"In his mind-set," Zeltserman said, "those are the only decisions he can make."

None of the characters in "Small Crimes" can be considered likable, which is one reason Zeltserman had such a hard time selling the book. Publishers are looking for "safe" books with larger-than-life protagonists and breakneck pacing, he said.

Zeltserman isn't interested in creating another Spenser or Jack Ryan.

For the entire article go here