Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 29, 2012

Check with Todd Mason for the links. Have a safe and happy weekend.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Life at the Theater: Moonglow

We saw MOONGLOW at the Performance Network Theater in Ann Arbor in 2006. It was the world premiere of Kim Carney's play about her mother's battle with Alzheimers. It softens the blow of this topic by having her the woman strike up a relationship with a man in the Alzheimers Unit, a device also used in the movie AWAY FROM HER.

Kim Carney is a Michigan playwright whose plays have been performed widely and to acclaim. The Performance Network has never let us down with their productions and this was a fine one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Tom Waits

Pulp Ink Free on Amazon

In preparation for PULP INK 2, PULP INK 1 is free on Amazon for five days.

PULP INK 2 will be raising money for a charity that offers talking and play therapies to children in schools.

Forgotten Movies: Alice Adams

ALICE ADAMS was based on a novel by Booth Tarkington and directed by George Stevens. It contains a great scene of the problems of summer heat at the turn of the last century, which is why I thought of it now. Anxious to impress a beau with her cooking, Alice and her mother whip up exactly the wrong sort of dinner for a hot Indiana summer night. Charming, perhaps dated, this film is an old favorite. Fred had many hats, and this is a nice one.

For more forgotten movies, see Todd Mason.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Movie (or Tv) Music

My Dream Apartment: Then and Now

From THE MAD MEN, of course.

And it reminds me of the cool New York pad on Make Room for Daddy which had similar bi-level floors and sleek furniture. Or the Brady house in California.

I was always kind of amazed that a band leader like Ricky Ricardo had such a modest apartment.

Of course, the Honeymooners pad will live in infamy--until those who remember it are dead.

Did all my ideas of sophisticated adult life come from TV and movies? I think so.

Whose TV home stands out in your mind?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Night Poetry: Dorothy Parker

Your Favorite Science Fiction Short Story

I know I could not pose this topic with just any group, but I think I have some SF fans here. It came to mind when Jerry House posted a FFB about the work of Judith Merril Friday and I read her story "THAT ONLY A MOTHER," which was awfully fine. And then, googling her, I ran across a list of stories by Locus Magazine--what they regarded as the top stories a few years aback. I have no idea if the list is a good one or not but here it is.

I am sure some people will regard three Harlan Ellison stories in the first five as too many, but I couldn't say.

So what would you rank as some of the top five SF stories (not novels)? I am looking to add some to my 365 challenge. I am sure my taste would run toward stories like hers rather than stories about alien invasions and intergalactic warfare. But that's just me. Anyway, my tastes aside, what are your favorites? Any great ones been written in the last decade?

And I want to thank Todd Mason for sending me the three collections of SF I have.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday Night Music: Marianne Faithful

Who Did You Lose You Ear (or eye or taste) for?

Not an attempt to knock Laura Nyro here, but suddenly the other day when I put on a CD of her biggest hits, I realized I didn't much care for her anymore. Her delivery of each song was too big and too similar. It did make me sad but maybe either me or styles have changed. Perhaps I have grown used to female singers with a more delicate delivery.

Who have you changed your mind about over the years? Singer, writer, actor, director?

Or am I the only fickle one?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Night Music: Gilda

THE SUMMING UP, Friday, June 22, 2012

Todd has offered to gather links next Friday.

My review of Bernie is up at Crimespree Magazine.

THE SUMMING UP, Friday, June 22, 2012

Patti Abbott, THE ICE HOUSE, Minette Walters

Joe Barone, The Bone Polisher, Timothy Hallinan

Brian Busby, The Runner, Ralph Connor
Bill Crider, Speed Walker, Private Eye, Chris Hammond
Scott Cupp, Gunpowder, Joe Hill
Martin Edwards, Mystery of Greycombe Farm, John Rhode
Curt Evans, The Case of Constance Kent, John Rhode
Ed Gorman, Home Town, Georges Simenon
Jerry House, Early Judith Merril anthologies
Randy Johnson, The Coyote Connection, Nick Carter
Nick Jones, The Damsel, Donald E. Westlake (as Richard Stark)
George Kelley, Gods of Opar, Philip Jose Farmer
Margot Kinberg, Inspector Espinosa, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
B.V. Lawson, The Summer School Mystery, Josephine Bell
Evan Lewis, "The Dancing Rats" Richard Sale
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, Snowjob, Ted Wood
Todd Mason, The Golden Helix, T. Sturgeon; The Zanzibar Cat, J. Russ; Erasmus Magister, C Sheffield; The Dark Country, D. Etchinson; The Go-Away Bird, Muriel Spark
J.F. Norris, The Brotherhood of Velvet, David Karp
Juri Nummelin, Ripley Under Water, Patricia Highsmith
David Rachels, Rendevous in Black, Cornel Woolrich
James Reasoner, The Eight of Swords, John Dickson Carr
Richard Robinson, Sundiver, David Brin
Gerard Saylor, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Jeffrey Lindsay
Ron Scheer, Frontier Stories, Cy Warman
Bill Selnes, Before the Frost, Henning Mankell
Michael Slind, Accounting for Murder, Emma Lathen
Kerrie Smith, The Last Detective, Peter Lovesey
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, Kindly Dig Your Grave, Stanley Ellin
Prashant Trikannad, The Summer Man, Jory Sherman
TomCat, Death Has Many Door, Fredric Brown

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 22, 2012

Next week is an off week for FFB unless someone else can pick up the links. Maybe we all need a rest anyway.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad and Sam McCain series of books. You can find him
here, blogging about just about everything.

Forgotten Books:Home Town by Georges Simenon

Home Town is one of two short novels that appear in the book On The Danger Line. When the two stories first appeared (1944) The Green Thermos, the second of the pieces, was thought to be the superior of the duo. But time has changed some minds.

deRitter has lived on the edges of the underworld for many years. He is basically a small-time con artist who needs particularly gullible victims to be successful. For a reason even he can't understand, he returns to his home town with Leah, a prostitute, in tow. He has a fake emerald he hopes to make serious money with.

The story moves up and down the timeline. The reader sees deRitter as a boy growing up in a small, dull town--very much like the one that Madame Bovary despised--filled with trouble. Off to war he went in his later teen years and after that he discovered how to beat the monotony of regular employment by working minor cons short and long.

In town again he sees old friends and old relatives; his strange relationship with his mother being the most disturbing. He also runs his con with the emerald and here the reader comes to see that he is not good at his work at all. And even when he scores he's unhappy. Which is where Leah the prostitute comes in.

She is plump--as he never forgets or forgives--she is ignorant in many ways and she is eager to get out of the town and back to what she consider civilization. But she also understands deRitter in ways he never understands himself.

He does not seem to know, for example, that he is afraid to let go of her. They have sex occasionally but their real bond is a version of the familial. More than girl friend she is mother/sister/consoler. And forgiver. She even manages to be amused about the occasional shame he feels for traveling with a prostitute. And she knows that the con he's running will lead to the tragedy that ends the short novel.

deRitter is a familiar figure in hardboiled crime fiction. The nickel-dime grifter that the real players use and toss away. Simenon turns the stereotype into a real human being. And his story into a bleak snapshot of self-unawareness and despair.

THE ICE HOUSE, Minette Walters

When a copy of the soon-to-be released INNOCENT VICTIMS by Minette Walters fell into my hands, it reminded me of two favorites by her from some years back. I had a difficult time deciding which one to to because THE SCULPTRESS is such a powerful story. But eventually I decided on THE ICE HOUSE.

Winner of the John Creasey Award, THE ICE HOUSE was a terrific debut novel.

Three women live in seclusion in English country house and have served as a topic of gossip for their neighbors for years: witches, lesbians, murderers. Or all of the above since one of their husbands disappeared years before. Did he walk out as she suggests or was it murder? So when a faceless corpse turns up in Streech Grange ice house, Chief Inspector Walsh can't wait to make a case of it. While Walsh attempts to arrest Phoebe for murder, his colleague takes an interest in one of her roommates.

Walters is a terrific writer and I have enjoyed all of her books. This one was made into an excellent TV movie. THE SCULPTRESS is brilliant too.

Joe Barone

Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Curt Evans
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
Nick Jones
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
Juri Nummelin
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Bill Selnes
Michael Slind
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang
Prashant Trikannad

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What Series of Books Did You Love Most as a Child?

For me, there is no contest, and I think Megan would agree with my choice so it survived my generational attachment.

The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace were written in the late forties and fifties. Based on her childhood in Mankato, MN, they concerned life mostly in the early 20th century. Betsy, Tacy and soon Tib grew older in each book, finally ending with Betsy's early years of marriage. It was thrilling following three girls through so many years, in seeing how they turned out. So many series do not age their heroes.

When they went out of print, women linked arms and demanded a new printing so their daughters (and themselves) could enjoy them again. They also formed a Betsy-Tacy society.

So what was your favorite series of books?

I was able to find an original copy of the first book for Megan for Christmas( albeit a library copy). I had looked for it for years. This was our best present since the dollhouse at age nine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Life at the Theater: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

We saw this in 2008 and it was a remarkable production, starring much of the cast that performed it in its first production at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. Tracy Letts, the brilliant playwright of KILLER JOE and BUG, wrote it. Anna D. Shapiro directed. The addition of Estelle Parsons among a few others was wonderful. She ran up and down a flight of stair for most of the running time, which was about three hours. The Weston family was a thing of beauty--or least a thing of interest to an audience. Great play if you have endurance. Not a bad performance by any of the huge cast.


Everything in nature communicates. See those clouds up there. Well those clouds communicate with the earth by raining on it.

Why are human beings important? I understand why bumblebees are important because they pollinate flowers and make honey. But what do people really do?

I know three things about mummies. 1) they are usually green 2) they are like ghosts but wear bandages so you can see them 3) they are all girls.

How do people decide what animals to eat? I mean how about eating a rhino instead of a chicken? Rhinos are kinda mean.

Sigourney Weaver Day

Sigourney Weaver jumped into the limelight pretty quickly. ALIEN was only her third project. But since I was too scaredy-cat to see that at the time, my first memory of her was IN THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, still my favorite film of hers although there are an awful lot of good ones. She could do comedy (WORKING GIRL) as effectively as drama.

What's your favorite?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Blossom Dearie

Forgotten Movies: Bernice Bobs Her Hair

Read this story last week and remembered that a TV movie had been made of it--albeit not the best casting. Shelly Duvall was too odd an actress to play the typical Southern Belle and Veronica Cartwright was similarly poorly cast. Still it was faithful to the story of a cousin who takes her backwater cousin in hand in making her fit for society. Until she goes too far with her experiment and must be taught a lesson. Joan Mickin Silver directed it and some fine actors filled in the cast. Not a great movie but it captures the 1920s well.

Todd Mason will have more links right here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday Night Music: Bruce Springsteen

Drabble Challenge

I drew from the names and Jim Harrington popped up. Please contact me regarding a prize. Thanks to all who played in my yard today.

A drabble is a one-hundred word story. Write one based one of these three pictures--or go your own way.

Here are the stories. At the end of the day, I will draw one for a prize.

Kieran Shea

Mustache Royale

Blindfolds yanked, Walter Cronkite and Captain Kangaroo find themselves in a boxing ring. Lights doused, the smoky abyss roars around them.

The referee taps their gloves.

“Keep it clean, boys….”

The bell clangs, an Kangaroo launches a right cross. The beloved, late CBS new anchor wilts on impact.

“This is not the way it should be….”

Kangaroo chops and chops, muffling,“Noo! If-izzz! If-zzz! If-zzzzzz!”

Cronkite covers up. Weeping.

An uppercut lifts Cronkite up and then down to the canvas. Captain Kangaroo removes his mouth guard and heaves.

“I said, that’s the way it is, you dumb-ass….”

Rick Ollerman

I was more lost with the map than I was without it. Smartphones were supposed to keep you out of crap like this. I saw a show once where the survivalist dude smashed his binoculars to get the lenses out so he could start a fire. I don't need a fire, I need the binoculars.

But only if I can find the damned house before someone finds me. Which is ironic considering I was looking for people out here I couldn't find. Maybe I should give the money back, forget the job.

I'd still need to find my car, though.

Patti Abbott

“Hear there’s a parade Saturday,” Cassidy said.

“Bank’s open till noon,” Ferguson said. “Good a time as any.”

“Still got the costumes?”

“If they fit. Been living the good life since Tucson.”

By ten, the streets were filling with people.

“Gonna work out,” Cassidy said, heading toward the bank. “Stick ‘em up,” he yelled, bursting in. Both men sported blue noses, red wigs, flopping shoes.

“Didn’t notice Dalmatians and poodles on the billboard,” Ferguson said as they fled, looking at the parade of costumed dogs

“Where you clowns think you’re going?” the cop asked, hand coming down on their collars.

No Complications, Michel Williams

“Look, I'm serious, my toes feel fat."

The doctor glanced at his watch. "They look fine but surgery will takecare of everything, anyway."

She shrugged, he must be right.

Soon after the operation her big toe disappeared. In rapid succession the little toes followed. By the time she saw the doctor again, her ankle had disappeared.

"How're you doing?"

"Oh fine," she replied.

He checked his clipboard, "Color good, breathing normal." He patted her shoulder, congratulating both of them on the recovery.

That night in the shower watching her thigh disappear, she smiled. She was fine. Really.

Jack Bates
John Brooke
S. Jayant
Paul Brazill
Loren Eaton
Jim Harrington
Jerry House
Cooper Jennings
Rob Kitchin
Kate Laity
Brian Lindenmuth
Stephen D. Rogers
Sandra Seaman
Katherine Tomlinson
Prashant Trikkanad
Al Tucher

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Night Music: Icona Pop

The Summing Up, Friday, June 15, 2002

Who says travel isn't broadening? Tucson gave me a story idea, which you can find at ALL DUE RESPECT.

I need a guest host on June 29th or we can take a week off.

Tomorrow is Drabble Day.

Review of THE INTOUCHABLES on Crimespree Cinema.

The Summing Up, Friday,June 15, 2012

Patti Abbott, Norwood, Charles Portis
Sergio Angelini, Death is a Lonely Business, Ray Bradbury
Yvette Banek, Might as Well Be Dead, Rex Stout.
Joe Barone, Murder in Mykonos, Jeffrey Siger
Brian Busby, Emmeline, Arthur Stringer
Bill Crider, The Midnight Lady and the Mourning Man, David Anthony (William Dale Smith)
Scott Cupp, Stealing Souls, Ian Doyle
Martin Edwards, Hue and Cry, Bruce Hamilton
Curt Evans, Vultures in the Sky, Todd Downing
Elisabeth Grace Foley, Her Prairie Knight, M.M. Bower
Ed Gorman, Blood Marks, Bill Crider
Jerry House, Sophomore Slumps, Christopher Golden
Randy Johnson, Angry Moon, Terrill Lankford
Nick Jones, Other Paths to Glor, Anthony Price
George Kelley, Lightening, Ed McBain
Margot Kinberg, A Cotwold Killing, Rebecca Tope
Rob Kitchin and Rob Kitchin, The Pistol Poets, Victor Gischler, The Last Detective, Peter Lovesey
B.V. Lawson, The Habit of Fear, Dorothy Salisbury Davis
EvanLewis, Race William, Carrol John Daly, "Murder by Mail"
Steve Lewis, Political Suicide, Robert Barnard
Todd Mason, Cold Chills, Robert Bloch, Starlight, Alfred Bester, Ship of Shadows, Fritz Leiber
Terrie Moran, The Unexpected Mrs. Polifax, Dorothy Gilman
J.F. Norris, The House of Numbers, Jack Finney
David Rachels, Down There, David Goodis
James Reasoner, Rick O'Shay, Hipshot and Me, Stan Lynde
Gerard Saylor, Magic City, James W. Hall
Ron Scheer, The Sage Brush Parson, A. B. Ward
Bill Selnes, Prairie Hardball, Alison Gordon
Michael Slind, Wobble to Death, Peter Lovesey
Kerrie Smith, The Assize of the Dying, Ellis Peters
Kevin Tipple, Playing God, Allen P. Bristow
Prashant Trikkanad, The Haunted Hour: An Anthology, Margaret Widdemer
TomCat, The Case of the Constant God, Rufus King
Zybahn, Ellery Queen: Master Detective, Ellery Queen

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 15, 2012

Norwood, Charles Portis

This was Portis' first book and I can see the growth that took place in his writing between this and TRUE GRIT.

The book follows its protagonist on a misadventurous road trip (driving a car across country) from his hometown of Ralph, Texas, to New York City and back. During the trip, Norwood is exposed to a comic array of personalities and lifestyles.
Right from the get go the dialog in this is terrific. Norwood is a likable character and his eventual romance a winning one. But somewhere along the line it ran out of steam for me. The desire to keep the ball in the air with humor and oddball characters and situation for the length of the book felt forced or strained.

If I had read this before reading TRUE GRIT, would I have enjoyed it more? I am sure I would have. But TG is such a tour de force that anything would pale in its wake. And this one did.

DOGS OF THE SOUTH awaits me but I think I will let it sit a while longer.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Sam McCain series of novels and the Dev Conrad, series of novels about a political consultant. You can find him here.

Blood Marks, Bill Crider

Ed here: I believe that time will judge this novel an enduring classic.It's rare to see a writer take a sub-genre as over-worked as the serial killer novel and make something completely new out of it.
But Bill Crider has done that with Blood Marks.
The milieu is working class Texas and
the cast a group of realistic characters living believable lives and with the killer at work dying believable deaths. The writing is simple and
forceful and evocative of its era and its social strata.
And the remarks from the killer are as dazzling and deranged as any you'll
find in the entire sub-genre. I'd put this on the same shelf as William Goldman's No Way To Treat A Lady--that much a slap in the face to
wake you from the slumber inspired by all the other hackneyed serial killer novels. A triumph.

Sergio Angelini
Yvette Banek
Joe Barone
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Curt Evans
Elisabeth Grace Foley
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
Nick Jones
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
Rob Kitchin and Rob Kitchin
B.V. Lawson
Steve Lewis
Todd Mason
Terrie Moran
J.F. Norris
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Bill Selnes
Michael Slind
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple
Prashant Trikkanad

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Life at the Theater: One Man, Two Guvnors

I was lucky enough to see this last month in New York and if there was ever a case that one man stole the show and the hearts of the audiences, this was it. James Corden plays a man trying to satisfy two employers while also getting himself fed. Lots of fun in this British transport. It's based on the older play Servant of Two Masters (Italian: Arlecchino servitore di due padroni), a 1743 Commedia dell'arte comedy by the Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni. Audience participation is a big part of the show.

James Corden may look familiar to some of you from the British series Stacy and Gavin, where he played Gavn's pal.

James Corden won a Tony Award for this, beating out Philip Seymour Hoffman among others, on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Someone recommended a book to me by saying it was fresh? How would you define fresh in a book and what have you read lately that felt fresh.

If I were to choose, the last book I read that seemed fresh was THE SISTER BROTHERS, Patrick Dewitt.

Don't forget--Drabble Day is Saturday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Night Music: Harry Belafonte and Nat King Cole

Show Don't Tell

This advice has basically been in vogue since the Ernest Hemingway days. Although we have nay-sayers like Francine Prose who teaches writing and writes brilliant novels.

I believe this is from her book READING LIKE A WRITER.

"....there is a form of bad advice often given young writers—namely, that the job of the author is to show, not tell. Needless to say, many great novelists combine "dramatic" showing with long sections of the flat-out authorial narration that is, I guess, what is meant by telling. And the warning against telling leads to a confusion that causes novice writers to think that everything should be acted out ... when in fact the responsibility of showing should be assumed by the energetic and specific use of language."


I sometimes think that the most beautiful writing comes with the narrative passages, not ones of dialog. I get weary of too much dialog, too much of an attempt to completely root a story in hip, pitched dialects. Conversations can easily be as dull as narration. What do you think? Stasis isn't the outcome of narration (or telling) necessarily, but of too little story, too little description, too little character.

Forgotten Movies: Eyewitness

William Hurt is not the most consistent actor for me, but he came out nowhere like a cannon ball with Eyewitness, Altered State and Body Heat all in 1980-81.

New York janitor, Daryll Deever, (Hurt) is obsessed with TV journalist, Tony Sokolow, (Weaver). He tapes her news show every night so he can watch it when he returns from his job.
A wealthy man suspected of criminal connections is murdered in Deever's office building and Tony suspects Deever knows something about it. She pursues him for information, a pursuit Daryll encorages and a "cat and mouse" game ensues. This convinces the real killers that Daryll knows too much about the murder and they pursue the two.

Peter Yates directed this thriller and Christopher Plummer was also in it.

Todd Mason will have the links.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Movie Music: Manos Hatzidakis


Have not watched the last episode yet so don't tell me.

But....what movies and books capture the sixties best during my period of withdrawal?

How I Came to Write This Book: Sandra Seamans



By Sandra Seamans

It ain't easy being a short story writer, especially in the mystery/crime genre. Why you ask? Because mystery readers don't read short stories, only novels. Because there’s no money in writing mystery shorts, only novels. Because there are no markets for mystery short stories, only novels. Because mystery shorts are too hard to write, novels are easier. Trash talk? Of course it is. But this is what keeps getting regurgitated year after year in the mystery community.

Well, I stand here before you an unrepentant short story writer and damn proud of it. So why short stories? Maybe because I’m old enough to start collecting social security and have a short attention span? Nah. I write shorts because I love the form. I love how a short story keeps the telling simple. One story, no side trips. I love that I can experiment with the genre by mixing in bits of other genres like fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. I love that I can sit down at the computer and in the space of an hour or two have a rough draft to play around with. And believe it or not, I love that every time I get myself psyched to write the great American novel it always turns into a short story.

“Cold Rifts” is my belief in a world that reads and loves short stories. That readers, even of mysteries, find short stories a perfect fit with their reading tastes. I believe that short stories hit harder and deeper into the hearts of readers. That they have a lasting effect. You’re a reader, aren’t you? So, share your favorite short with us. I’ll give you one of mine. Harlan Ellison’s “Soft Monkey”. A sweet mixture of crime and horror.

Your turn. C’mon, you know you want to. Step up and admit that you’re a short story reader, too. There’s no shame in loving short stories.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Night Poetry: Derek Walcott

Guess Who?

Guess Who?

She brought me countless hours of pleasure in my youth as she seemed to embody what being an adult was like. She is only 22 in this photo.

Yes. Doris Day.

She began as a dancer and when an accident cut her dancing career short, she switched seamlessly to singing--her family needed her support.

What is your favorite Doris Day movie? I am opting for PILLOW TALK although before she made this series of sexy comedies, she made an series of girl next door musicals. She could do it all. People disparaged her movies with Rock Hudson but they hold up a lot better than other movies of the time. Their charm endures for me.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Saturday Night Music: Nina Simone

Dated Writing Styles

Edna Ferber dated?

On a blog last week, someone said they were not able to read older books (a century or so older) because of the dated writing style in many of them. Some writers seem able to write books that don't suffer from that as much as others. I guess the best way to avoid becoming dated is not to rely too much on current slang, current politics, current technology, etc. This is hard to do because we are often not aware of what is strictly current and embedded in a specific time and consequently will date the book eventually.

What writers from the early 20th century and earlier hold up especially well? Now here is a case where descriptions are probably more timeless than dialog. Nothing nails down a time more than dialog.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Friday Night Music: Neil Young

The Summing Up, Friday, June 8, 2012

The Summing Up, Friday, June 8, 2012

Patti Abbott, Plainsong, Kent Haruf
Sergio Angelini, Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey
Yvette Banek, As Dog is My Witness, Jeffrey Cohen
Joe Barone, A Question of Blood, Ian Rankin
Brian Busby, Face-off, Scott Young, George Robertson
Bill Crider, The Run to Morning, James Graham
Scott Cupp, Danger: Dinosaurs, Richard Marsten
Martin Edwards, The Case With Nine Solutions, J.J. Connington
Curt Evans, Death in Dallas: The Thirteenth Floor, J.F.W. Hannay
Elisabeth Grace Foley, The Sleuth of St. James Square, Melville Davisson Post
Ed Gorman, Learning to Kill, Ed McBain
Randy Johnson, The Last Days of Wolf Garnett, Clifton Adams
Nick Jones, A Game for the Living, Patricia Highsmith
George Kelley, The Heart of a Goof, P.G. Wodehouse
Margot Kinberg, The Legal Limit, Martin Clark
Rob KitchinKingdom of Shadows, Alan Furst
B.V. Lawson, Murder at the Foul Line, ed. Otto Penzler
Evan Lewis, Wild Wives, Charles Willeford
Steve Lewis, First You Read, Then You Write, Francis M. Nevins
Todd Mason, The Best American Erotica, 1993, ed. Susie Bright
Terrie Moran, Shadow Country, Peter Matthiessen
J.F. Norris, Weird Fiction, Rad Bradbury
David Rachels, The Criminal, Jim Thompson
James Reasoner, Wanton Bait, John Dexter
Prashant Triffand, A Fine Night for Dying, Jack Higgins
Gerard Saylor, Killing Floor, Lee Child
Ron Scheer, Judith of the Plains, Marie Manning
Bill Selnes, Personal Injuries, Scott Turow
Michael Slind, The Man with My Face, Samuel W. Taylor
Kerrie Smith, The House of Stairs, Barbara Vine
Kevin Tipple, Baby Shark, Robert Fate
TomCat, Discussion of Monte Verita

Friday's Forgotten Books, June 8, 2012

Ed Gorman is the author of the Sam McCain and Dev Conrad series of mysteries. He also writes westerns short stories and edits anthologies. You can find him here

Evan Hunter, Ed McBain and Learning to Kill.

A year or so before he was diagnosed with cancer, Evan Hunter seemed intrigued by my idea of doing a massive collection of some of his earliest tales. Intrigued enough, anyway, to have somebody make copies of sixty-some stories and send them to me.

The stories covered virtually every pulp genre – crime, western, adventure, science fiction, horror – done under seven or eight pen-names.

We had everything ready to go when Evan had second thoughts. There were just too many of these stories he didn’t want to resurrect.

In Learning to Kill (Harcourt, $25) Evan and Otto Penzler have brought together the very best of those early stories in a stunner of a hardback package. This shows you how early Hunter was a master of both form and character.

The stories are divided into categories: Kids, Women in Jeopardy, Private Eyes, Cops and Robbers, Innocent Bystanders, Loose Cannons, Gangs.

He wrote well across the entire spectrum of crime and suspense stories, so well in fact that several of these stories are true classics that will be reprinted for decades to come – “First Offense,” “Runaway,” “The Merry Merry Christmas,” “On The Sidewalk Bleeding” and “The Last Spin” aren’t just for readers. They’re also for writers. These particular stories yield great insights into use of voice, plot, character and milieu. I could teach a full semester of writing using just those stories I mentioned.

Hunter/McBain was one of the two or three best and most influential crime writers of his generation. Otto Penzler has paid tribute to that fact with this hefty and important contribution that belongs in every mystery collection.

Plainsong, Kent Haruf-
Patti Abbott

I have read this before but with Will Patton reading it was a perfect audiobook for a good housecleaning. This story, which takes place in Colorado, is the intersecting tales of a number of characters in a small town. A teacher at the high school is left by his wife with two small boys to care for; a pregnant teenager is taken in by some kindly town folks when her mother tosses her out, the boys themselves try to navigate life without a mother. It's a gentle book, well told but with a major flaw I am not sure I picked up the first time.

All of the "evil" characters eventually disappear instead of being dealt with or even explained in any depth. The mother that throws her daughter out never appears again, the family of the town bully just goes away, the father of the baby slinks off after making a fuss.

I am not sure if Haruf was aware of this or if he was making a statement that good can outlast evil, but it began to tear at the delicate framework of the book. Even the mother who left her husband and boys just seems to wander off with little explanation of her exact problem.

One unresolved conflict could be overlooked, but all of the conflict here was shed without resolution.

Still the writing is so good and the main characters so fully realized, it doesn't ruin a very fine book.

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