Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, February 27, 2015

From the archives
leopard13 is the internet moniker of a father of two, spouse to one, who blogs out of The City of the Angels. He owns a first edition copy of the book below and one day hopes to have the author autograph for him.

The Ninth Configuration, by William Peter Blatty (Harper & Row 1978)

Just say the name, William Peter Blatty. It does have its own sense of meter as it rolls off the tongue, now doesn't it? You'll most likely recognize it, too. Just the same, saying it three times in front of a mirror won’t cause anything bad to happen, either -- contrary to urban legend. If you love books and reading, whether you are a baby boomer or Generation X, Y, or even Z, odds-on you've heard of him. Such is the legacy of authoring a horror novel as famous as 1971's The Exorcist (which would go on to even greater notoriety when it was adapted to the screen in 1973's film of the novel). However, along with the popularity and fame for a book that became an all-encompassing event, it can be too much of good thing. 'Event' novels can take on a life of their own, and they can build to the point that all other work by the same author lies in its shadow. Obscured because they are not anything like that book. Such was the consequence for the next novel by author Blatty that it seemed to fall by the wayside when it was published in 1978. That forgotten, but wonderful, piece of elegant writing was, The Ninth Configuration.
What was released that year actually germinated from a hasty 1966 novel titled, Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane! From his author's note: "Its basic concept was surely the best I have ever created, but what was published was just as surely no more than the notes for a novel -- some sketches, unformed, unfinished, lacking even a plot." Luckily, for those of us who read the re-envisioned work in the late 70's (and those who would go on to discover and appreciate it decades later), it is an overlooked book worth remembering. Ironically, WPB has said more than once he considers it his unofficial sequel to The Exorcist. Although The Ninth Configuration shares a very loose connection (via an unnamed character) from that novel, the genre and plot line couldn't be more divergent. Plus, it works whether or not you've read the legendary blockbuster that preceded it.
The novel's story centers upon a select small group of military men secluded away with what are believed to be inexplicable mental disorders. Or, being highly intelligent men, they could be faking it--which could be the reason nothing has worked and why they continue their stay at a decaying Gothic mansion. Their treatment, and sanity, ultimately hinges upon one Marine Colonel Kane (a psychiatrist who may have his own issues) brought to the sheltered facility to seek the answers in the most unexpected of ways. Blatty crafts the story as a mystery to be solved, planting its seeds in the unusual interactions that take place. The author’s dialogue between the patients and staff are quite purpose-built, madcap, and unexpected. I cannot describe it any better than what a good friend wrote in a review of his, "Because the story is relatively brief, no words are wasted in an attempt to be lyrical or poetic. Yet somehow there are moments of utter poetry in the exchanges between doctor and patients, and in Kane's own introspective reasonings." While the material covered is meaty, it is one of the few novels that made be laugh out loud, and had my eyes welling by the time I finished it.
One could describe WPB as an author who writes eloquent, thought provoking fiction that draws in his readers with clever, humorous dialogue (keep in mind, he also wrote the screenplay for the comedy, A Shot In The Dark). Or put another way, he’s a humorous, clever writer who puts out eloquent novels that catch the readers off guard by being thought provoking. I'd say both are true. He just happened to author a chart topping novel of horror that eclipsed everything before, or since, in his bibliography. However, The Ninth Configuration remains perhaps a more intriguing read, and worth exploration by those who haven't experienced it. As well, for those of us who are film buffs, sprinkled throughout, the author references classic movie moments and dialogue within this novel. A few years after its publication, William Peter Blatty would pen and direct its film adaptation in 1980. Not surprisingly, it has developed a strong cult following, and many believe the story is more immersive on the screen (consider me in both groups). The 1978 novel is a svelte 135-page work, and next year TNC will be re-released by Centipede Press as a new edition. Purportedly, it will combine both novels and will include a long essay by film scholar Mark Kermode in a 292-page hardcover. So on this Friday, The Ninth Configuration is not forgotten (at least, by me anyways).
"Every kind thought is the hope of the world."

Sergio Angelini, THE QUIET AMERICAN, Graham Greene
Joe Barone, ASSASSINS OF ATHENS, Jeffrey Siger
Les Blatt, THE DOORBELL RANG, Nero Wolfe
Brian Busby, BAROMETER RISING, Hugh Maclennan
David Cranmer, THE LIGHTHOUSE, Edgar Allan Poe
Bill Crider, DREAM LOVERS, Dodd Darin
Martin Edward, DEATH BY REQUEST, Romilly and Katherine John
Curt Evans, A LIFE OF CRIME, Sinclair Gluck
Ed Gorman, CROSS COUNTRY, Herbert Kastle
John Hegenberger, THE BRIGHTEST BUCCANEER, Leslie Charteris
Rick Horton, A DIVERSITY OF CREATURES, Rudyard Kipling
Randy Johnson, DEVILS AND DUST, J.D. Rhoades
George Kelley, SOME CAME RUNNING, James Jones
Margot Kinberg, A NICE QUIET HOLIDAY, Aditya Sudarshan
Rob Kitchin, THE YARD, Alex Grecian
B.V. Lawson, WINDY CITY, Hugh Holton
Steve Lewis, THE INTERLOPERS, Donald Hamilton
J.F. Norris, THE FETISH MURDERS, Avon Curry
Richard Robinson, WATSON'S CHOICE, Gladys Mitchell 
Ron Schee, BLUE PETER, Luke Allan 
R.T. CRIPPEN, John Boyne
Kerrie Smith, ANGLE OF INVESTIGATION, Michael Connelly
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, MASTERS OF NOIR, Vol. 2
TracyK, THE CALLING, Inger Ash Wolfe

ALSO MY REVIEW OF BLACK SEA in Crimespree Magazine.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Agatha Christie

Okay, I just mailed the box of books back to Michigan. And then I discovered I didn't like the book I saved. And Phil is reading a really long book on the Kindle.

So I am left with the books left here by
other guests. The only ones I think I might like are the ACs. Now I have read every AC but a long time ago.


Which one would you read?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Things I Look Forward to in Michigan

Certainly not the weather. Somehow returning at the beginning of March seemed like we might avoid these frigid temps but it doesn't look like it. But there are some things I look forward to...

Being closer to family and friends. I am pretty gregarious and not having anyone but Phil to talk to most days is not enough after a while. Not that he is not delightful. ..

Being in the same time zone as most of our friends and all of our family. It does get to be a nuisance figuring out the time elsewhere.

Being able to take books out of the library, three blocks away. I am too promiscuous a reader to buy many books. I so often don't finish them. I still buy more than most people but buying every book I think I might read is pricey.

Being able to DVR TV shows. I'd forgotten how horrible watching commercials is. And also getting rid of DISH TV. And also having TV shows on at the correct time.

Being able to go to movies at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Although we have venues showing foreign and indie films here, they are not as adventurous at the DFT at the DIA.

My electric teapot. And my electric stove. I know gas is supposedly better but the burners here don't always light.  Also having my own cooking ware, silverware and dishes.

Enough lamps. I like a bright room at night. And a good reading lamp. 

Not having to ask ourselves will we finish this? Will we get our money out of it.

I will not miss driving here although it is Phil who drives. I hate double turning lanes. You always have to know exactly which lane you need to be in. And as a stranger here, you just don't always know. Don't know how people did it before SIRI.

Not having to figure out how to get everywhere.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Galleys Are In.

I guess this is going to happen. I will probably ask all of you who read this blog to help me get the word out via a blog tour. I do not need any ego boosting and have no dreams of grandeur, but I want to make Jason Pinter proud (or at least not regretful) he decided to take a chance on an old lady writing a novel.

The book comes out in June. Any advice is welcomed. I would categorize this as domestic suspense. Sort of like MILDRED PIERCE reversed (and written by someone with a lot less talent than James Cain). Phil says I am incapable of saying anything good about myself and I see that is true as I struggle here. Anyway, you get the drift. 

How About Some Bluegrass

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Uh, oh.

In attempting to change Rick's blog URL, I removed all of them. It may take me a few days or more to reconstruct that. Hopefully, by Friday.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

If I Chose the Oscars

And yes, I have seen them all, sadly or not, depending on your view

Best Picture-BIRDMAN (Although my favorite picture of the year might be CALVARY, which was not nominated. Also snubbed were NIGHTCRAWLER and BABADOOK-the most original movie of the year.

Best Actor-Michael Keaton. Although these were all great performances, I liked his the most of the nominees. Jake Gyllenhaal gave my favorite performance in NIGHTCRAWLER but was not nominated.

Best Actress -Marion Cotillard-Although Julianne Moore was very fine, I never forgot who she was as I did with Cotillard in TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT. Reese Witherspoon was also totally believable in WILD.

Best Supporting Actor-J.K. Simmons - Ruffalo a close runner-up but in a much less showy role.

Best Supporting Actress-Patricia Arquette-who played a fairly complex mother in BOYHOOD. Nobody else impressed me nearly as much.

Best Director-Alejandro Inarritu (BIRDMAN)

Best Adapted Screenplay-Damien Chazelle-WHIPLASH

Best Original Screenplay-Inarritu et al for BIRDMAN


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tom Waits: Waltzing Matilda

Two Great Old Covers (Hat tip to Anthony Ambrogio)

Here is what Anthony said about these books.

I am eagerly awaiting in the mail the arrival of two 1950s-era paperbacks that I ordered through MARK OF THE MOON and THE WITCHING NIGHT. I'm including images of the covers of both books. These two novels were in my dad's paperback library, and I "appropriated" them when I was 12 or 13. I no longer remember anything about them -- except that one of them (THE WITCHING NIGHT, I think) features a knock-knock joke, told (I think) by the hero's secretary to the hero:

"Who's there?"
"Formaldehyde who?"
"Formaldehyde-ing places came de Indians, whoo-whoo-whoo."

I only hope the rest of the books are that good! (But -- if that's all I remember about either -- what does it say about the books themselves?)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tom Waits: I Hope I Don't Fall in Love With You

Forgotten Movies: Who's That Knocking at my Door

J.R,. an early version of the young men who will turn up in MEAN STREETS and GOOD FELLAS, is a young Italian-American who is more interested in spending time with his friends than forging a relationship with a woman. Until he meets a girl (Zina Bethune) who is a notch above him in every way and yet falls for him. When she reveals an incident from her past he is put to the test,.

It is easy to see what themes Scorcese will pursue for the next 40 years. It may be sketchy in plot but there are lovely shots,a keen eye, and some real angst in this his first real film. A great introduction to a man who will dominate films for the rest of our lives.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tom Waits: Blue Valentine

Modern Art

We just watched a documentary about the 1913 Armory Show, an huge art exhibit introducing many of the new less representational European artists to the US in 1913 and how confounded the critics and public were about this new group of artists. Looking at the work now, it is not shocking to our eyes any longer. We have grown used to that art and accept its brilliance.

But when I go do an art museum now and see installation art, I know what they felt like. Or even more ordinary art. Today I saw perhaps twenty drawings on yellow and pink legal pad paper. They were drawings of ordinary things and not done very well to my eyes. Perhaps that was the point. Or maybe they were the preliminary artwork for sculptures.

But I just can't grasp how so much of what I see in contemporary museums is art. I need the eyes of someone from 2115, I guess.

How do you feel about contemporary art?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Setting the bar

(Thanks to George for the idea)

Reading a post on George's blog last week,  I realized I am not able to set the bar low with movies. And I am wondering if it is more a male thing. Most men I know enjoy junky movies of some kind-horror, adventure, science fiction, war.  Most women will tolerate a poor romance but not me so much.

 However, it is possible that I set the bar in the middle too often. I see a lot of stuff none of my friends would see. I guess I am a mid-bar setter.

Where do you set the bar with your favorite genres? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

House of the Rising Sun Lauren O'Connell (from American Horror: Coven)

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

Many thanks to Evan Lewis and B.V. Lawson for hosting FFB.
This may go up late. I went from edits to page proofs in two weeks and I am tied to the computer. Next week my family arrives so I am doubtful about whether I will get this up. If someone has time to do it, let me know and I will put a link up. 
But on February 28th I return to Michigan and things should go back to normal the first Friday in March. Thanks for your patience  with this and for my sporadic appearances here and at your place.

Sergio Angelini, THE DEADLY CLIMATE, Ursula Curtiss
Joe Barone, ACT OF DARKNESS, Jane Haddam
Les Blatt, NO WIND OF BLAME, Georgette Heyer
Martin Edwards, THE NOOSE, Philip MacDonald
Ed Gorman, KILLER, Dave Zeltserman
John Hegenberger, THE GAME OF X, Robert Sheckley
Rick Horton, STORMSWIFT, Madeleine Brent
Randy Johnson, HARK, Ed McBain
Nick JonesMargot Kinberg, THE CORNISH COAST MURDERS, John Bude
George Kelle, AS TIME GOES BY, edited by Hank Davis
Rob Kitchin, THE VANISHED, Bill Pronzini; DUTCH SHOE MYSTERY, Ellery Queen
B.F. Lawson, DEATH ON THE ROCKS, Michael Allegretto
Evan Lewis, RED TRAILS, Hugh Pendexter
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, THE COMING OF CASSIDY, Clarence E. Mulford
J.F. Norris. THE TALL DARK MAN, Anne Chamberlain
James Reasone, SHADOW OF A GUNMAN Gordon Shirreffs
Richard Robinson, BEHIND THAT CURTAIN, Earl Derr Biggers
Gerard Saylor, LIFE DELUX, Jen Lapidus
Ron Scheer, A GOOD MAN, Guy Vanderhaeghe
Kerrie Smith, A BEAST IN VIEW, Margaret Millar
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THE BEST FROM MANHUNT, Scott and Sidney Meredith
TomCat, THE JUDAS WINDOW, Carter Dickson

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

House of the Rising Sun; Joan Baez

The Things You Don't Buy

La Jolla
We went to a church rummage sale this week and picked up a bunch of books. What I left behind was a complete set of the newer editions of Sjowal and Wahloo's Martin Beck series. As soon as I got home I realized I should have bought them. But I had said to myself, "Patti, you have read all of these books and you will have to ship them home and they will probably sit on a shelf until you pass them on to a sale back home. So I didn't buy them.

I rushed back the next morning, but of course they were gone.

Has this ever happened to you? What book(s) did you leave sitting on a table?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

House of the Rising Sun-Leadbelly

Forgotten Movies: MATCH POINT


Woody Allen's 2005 film set in London is not forgotten, but I remembered it as much stronger than it was on a second viewing. I always find Woody's attempts to capture milieus outside of his own New Yorkers a bit painful to watch. He has way too much reverence for the rich in this film and little sympathy for the struggling working class. Scarlett Johansson's temptress gets little sympathy, for instance. Despite being dumped by the rich boy (Matthew Goode), we are offered a sympathetic view of his motivations rather than her position. And his sister's (Emily Mortimer: too perfect to be likable or interesting) sole interest is in producing children.

Allowing Rhys Davis to get away with his ridiculous and crackpot scheme seems like a bad idea too. The audience is not rooting for him at all.Although I believe Allen is.

I understand the film is examining the notion of luck but it just didn't work for me. It took too long getting to where it was going. Too many scenes of the rich frolicking, drinking, dining. The best plot points were borrowed from AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY and the worst from other Allen films.

What movie did you initially like and change your mind about?

Monday, February 09, 2015

House of the Rising Sun-The Animals

La Jolla

La Jolla Sunset
The thing I am most stocked up on out here is tea. I have seven boxes of tea and show no signs of throwing in the towel.

Everyone in La Jolla belongs to some sort of exercise venue. Despite being able to get outside to walk, run, swim, bike, play tennis virtually every day of the year, there is some sort of gym on every block. Sometimes more than one. You can't walk through the streets without seeing anorexic women carrying their mats to yoga or pilates or dance class.

I get very parsimonious about spending money on certain things here. I have been looking for a good price on a bottle of Clorox all week. I know I won't use that much and hate paying five dollars.

And yet in four weeks I have been to a play, three musical events, one dance event and four movies.Who's kidding who? Once I found out about Gold Star, I became unhinged.

Because I have no access to taking books out of a library, I buy books from them. Last year we mailed back two boxes. Phil is no better than me with this. So far we have bought over 16 books and downloaded four. All of these I could have had for free at my library 3 weeks from now.

I walk for an hour or two every day here but I eat more to compensate. Thus I always come home weighing just as much as when I left.

I can't unlock the door to this place. So I can only go out when Phil does and return when he does.

We spend more at the Sunday Farmer's Market than we do on the rest of our food. Organic food is expensive. Especially here.

I will never get over it being warm and dark at five each night. If it is warm it should be light outside, right?

The bookstore here never has any books on sale. How can a bookstore survive this pricing? And yet it is always pretty busy.

There is also a very good used bookstore here that is always empty. Why?

Everyone is always smiling here. I guess they know how lucky they are.

I find it funny when someone remarks on what a nice day it is. It is almost always a nice day.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Hiatus While My Condo's Kitchen Ceiling is Redone

First Wednesday Book Review Club: CLOSE TO BROKEN-HEARTED, Michael Hiebert

Ever pick up a book left behind by a former occupant at a place you are staying? This is how this one fell into my hands. And although I can't really recommend it whole-heartedly, it kept my attention for the first few days I was here.

The comparison to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD on the book jacket is a travesty, however. A Southern setting does not a classic make. However, it was a reasonably decent story about a female detective in a Southern town who is also a single mother. The story is told from her point of view as she tries to solve a case and the point of view of her son as he tries to piece together why his mother never speaks about his father. There's a sister too but she gets little attention.

The detective's case involves another single mother and her horrific past.This was an interesting storyline although the author relied way too heavily on a red herring. The second storyline didn't come together until the end and the movations were not all that persuasive. It was hard to believe a woman as reasonable and rational as this detective would deprive her children of any mention of their father or his family.

And yet I finished it despite these caveats. I guess its strength lay in the two main characters who seemed real and richly written.

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy. 

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Dave Miller Trio: Dream Dancing

Forgotten Movies: MY ARCHITECT

A decade or so ago, Nathaniel Kahn, the illegitimate son of architect, Louis Kahn, set out on a journey to discover his father. Aside from a wife and daughter,, Kahn had two other families, each with one child. Despite promises to Nathaniel's mother, Kahn never left his wife. Nathaniel harbored few hard feelings toward his father and this documentary is mostly a tribute to him as well as the story of his attempts to discover why Kahn did what he did. 

The most interesting parts of the film though look at the man within his profession. For a name that is known he had few big successes although the ones he did have (the Salk Institute and a building in Bangladesh) are considered masterpieces.Architect I.M Pei summed it up when he said better to design just a few masterworks than dozens of competent buildings.

While here, we have been looking at a lot of documentaries about artists and architects. I also recommend the one on the Woodman family. Amazing.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Maroon Five: Sugar

Stewart O'Nan

We got to see Stewart O'Nan, no secret my favorite writer, at Warwick's Bookstore last week. And he was everything you would hope for in your favorite writer: funny, charming, modest, enthusiastic.
He read quite a bit from his new books WEST OF HOLLYWOOD and he read it so well, I wanted him to read the whole book to me.

Most amazing thing he said: he works from 9-5 to produce one page. And sometimes he fails to do that. Every word has to sparkle to his ear as well as his brain.  But this is probably why his writing is so gorgeous.

My favorite books of Mr. O'Nan are A PRAYER FOR THE DYING, SPEEDQUEEN, THE LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, and EMILY, ALONE but all of them were great.

Often, after hearing or seeing a writer, I am a bit less enthusiastic about them. But in this case, I am even more enamored.

What writer have you been most impressed by at a reading or on a podcast or radio program?

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Jerzy Jung: ALIBI (written after reading DARE ME)

How I Came to Write This Story: "THE CAPE"

This story, included in the HISTORY AND MYSTERY, OH MY anthology started out as a quick little flash fiction story about Caruso's entanglement with the law when he fondled a woman at the Bronx Zoo.
In enlarging it for this anthology, I wanted to look at the incident more closely from the viewpoint of the tailor who made the fur coat (with slits for Caruso's hands) that he wore on the fateful day. How he saw the fur coat as his opportunity to increase his wealthy clientele and perhaps eventually move uptown.
It was fun looking into life on the lower east side at the turn of the last century and what a shop like his might be like.The story is true except for the parts about the tailor. It is very possible the coat was made uptown and not downtown at all. But I like to think my little tailor was responsible.

You can find this available on kindle and soon it will also be in print.