Sunday, December 17, 2017

From James Cameron

Bill Crider: We'll Always Have Murder (James Cameron)

For years, checking out Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine has been part of my daily routine. It’s one of the most entertaining sites on the Internet, IMHO. Years ago, I even sent Bill a couple of items that he posted and kindly gave me credit for. I started reading his blog posts because I was already familiar with his work as a mystery writer and figured his posts would be just as good―and I was right. For the past year, he’s been posting about some serious health issues, which seem to have reached a critical point. A bunch of Bill’s friends have decided to dedicate the latest edition of Friday’s Forgotten Books, and this post is my contribution and tribute.
This book is really forgotten―even the author says so, according to this interview: “Thanks to my agent, who got me the job, I also got the chance to write a private-eye novel with Humphrey Bogart as a featured character. It’s one of my better books, though nobody has heard of it—We’ll Always Have Murder is the title.” Subtitled “A Humphrey Bogart Mystery,” the book’s protagonist is Terry Scott, a war veteran and low-rent PI who works for Jack Warner to keep his stars’ peccadilloes out of the limelight, if not out of trouble. In this case, the star is Bogart, who’s been accosted by a sleazier PI for blackmail purposes. Scott meets Bogie, begins investigating with his help, and runs into multiple murders. Crider puts in plenty of apt allusions to and quotations from The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and The Big Sleep, some of them from Bogart, as this odd couple travels through both the glittery and seamy pockets of late 1940s Hollywood. Both of them come off as real, fallible, but ultimately capable investigators as they deal with Mayo Methot, Bogart’s real life, pre-Bacall wife, and a motley collection of stars, studio execs, wannabes, stunt men, and other movie types.
I really liked this book. I’ve always enjoyed period stories about Tinseltown, like Stuart Kaminsky’s Toby Peters series and Edward Wright’s wonderful John Ray Horn novels. We’ll Always Have Murder provides ample wry humor without caricaturing his Hollywood characters, who were and are bizarre enough in real life; it also adds a few darker strokes that emphasize the seediness beneath that tinsel. My sense is that it was intended to be a series, but apparently that never happened―my only disappointment. I urge you to read We’ll Always Have Murder―there seem to be plenty of used copies to be had from the usual suspects.

As for Bill Crider, I’d like to think that, like his books, he may still have a few more surprises for us before the end, optimist that I am. Whatever happens, Bill, we’ll continue to treasure all of the work you’ve accomplished as a writer and a person―and thanks for the ride.  

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A late one from Eric Beetner and Victoria Kemp

BTW for those who steer clean of Facebook, there are many, many tributes to Bill on there.

Eric Beetner, author

The writing world is paying tribute to Bill Crider today, and a more deserving man I don’t know of. No writer would see such an outpouring of admiration only for their books. Bill is a kind and generous man who is a friend to all who take pen in hand to battle the blank page into submission.
I wish I could say I knew Bill better, but I’m proud to call him a friend. Bill’s been extraordinarily kind to me. From stepping up and donating a signed book for my children’s school auction several years back to more recent favors he’s done, Bill has never said no.
When I asked him to join the ranks for the Unloaded 2 anthology, he said yes. When I started my column for the Film Noir Foundation newsletter all about noir fiction, I knew Bill had to be my first guest and he said yes. When I cornered him in Toronto and recorded him for the podcast, he didn’t hesitate, just said yes.
Bill is always quick with a compliment for another writer. He champions unsung books both contemporary and vintage. He gave me my favorite blurb of all time, completely unsolicited. And I don’t say that now in the face of losing Bill soon to cancer, I said it at the time and beyond the kind words, it was who was behind the words that added to my feelings.
Bill is the kind of writer I aspire to be. A craftsman who isn’t pretentious about it. A prolific wordsmith who keeps his head down and keeps churning out the ideas. A master of multiple genres. He bridges the gap between the classic pulp period and today like his contemporaries Lawrence Block, Ed Gorman, Max Allan Collins. Known as one of the nicest guys in the mystery writing world and that is a tall mountain to sit atop.
So it is sad to say goodbye to Bill, but at least we get the chance to let him know how appreciated he is. My story is not unique. He was good to all of us. I’m just glad I have my own stories to tell about Bill. And I will continue to tell them, and to read his words because with those in the world he will never truly be gone. But we’ll still miss him.


Victoria Kemp on Bill Crider

I've never met Bill Crider. I just read his books and then started following him on Facebook. He posted regularly, both as himself on his personal and on his author page. His author page was a fun amalgam of vintage advertisements; songs of the day; announcements about his writing, including his appearances at various mystery cons around the country, not to mention interviews with all his mystery writing buddies. His personal page was a wonderful glimpse into the life of a man who loved his wife (who died too soon) and his cats, the VBKs, Gilligan, Keanu and Ginger Tom. He wrote prolifically, separate series: Sheriff Dan Rhodes; Truman Smith; Carl Burns and Sally Good, not to mention co-authoring books with Willard Scott and several stand-alone westerns. His writing seemed to me to illustrate who he was as a man, plain-spoken and straight-shooting. 

Cancer sucks. It has taken too many people from my life. And, now, I will lose an author whose writing has taken me places I would never go by myself. 

Fuck cancer.

Victoria Kemp


 Terry (Shaimes) has left a new comment on your post "Bill Crider Day on FFB, December 15, 2017":

Patti, I just found this thread this morning, Saturday, and have enjoyed reading all these reminisces. I have a couple of my own to recount. I met Bill at a conference and found out he lived in Alvin, which was close to where I grew up. We had some chat about it. A couple of years later I started looking for an agent for a book I had written. It seemed daunting and it occurred to me that it might be clever to have a "blurb" to put in the query letter. Since I was writing about an older chief of police in a small town in Texas, I thought of Bill. I wrote and asked him if he would consider reading the book and giving me a blurb for my query letter. In typical Bill Crider fashion, he said he'd be glad to, although he didn't know whether it would be worth much! I knew it was worth gold. And it was. The agent I signed with was drawn in by his blurb.

Fast forward a couple of years and a few books under my belt. I was doing a signing at Murder by the Book in Houston, and who walked in, but Bill! I couldn't stop grinning. I couldn't have been happier. What a hero!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Bill Crider Day on FFB, December 15, 2017

 (Note: I have to leave here at 9:00 am EST and will  not return to mid-afternoon, so latecomers will not be seated until then. Very sorry about this)


                     BILL CRIDER DAY ON Friday's Forgotten Books.

I have known Bill Crider since I began blogging in late 2005. It wasn't long before I stumbled onto his blog and like everyone was charmed by it. Two things drew us closer. He contributed a book review to my idea of looking at forgotten books on Fridays the very first week in 2007. 

I thought this endeavor would last a month or two, but Bill was in for the duration and contributed reviews every Friday for ten years. I asked him from time to time was he tired of doing it and he always said his only worry was he would run out of books to talk about. Of course, he never did. 

The second point of contact was when he was asked to edit a second volume of DAMN NEAR DEAD, put together by David Thompson. I was amazed and delighted when he asked me to contribute a story. This was early on and he was taking a chance, putting me in with far more illustrious writers. But that was the kind of guy he was, giving new writers a place in his world. Always encouraging, always humble.

I have only met Bill about three times and although we never have had a long conversation in person, I think we had them online through the many comments we shared about books and writers. There are few, if any, people in this business more loved than Bill. I hope today will prove that.  How many people could write so many books and still make time to review the books of others, to give a helping hand, to fill our world with jokes, music, musings, TV, movies.

If I had to choose a few words to describe Bill, they would be decent, kind, generous, talented, modest. How proud we all are to know him.  He has made our world a better place.

In Bill's own words for who could say it better. (This is from a few years back, before the VBKs, for instance. 

I was born and brought up in Mexia (that's pronounced Muh-HAY-uh by the natives), Texas. The town's most famous former citizen is Anna Nicole Smith, whom my brother taught in biology class when she was in the ninth grade. I've always lived in small Texas towns, unless you count Austin as a large town.  It wasn't so large when I lived there, though.  I attended The University of Texas at Austin for many, many years.  My wife (the lovely Judy) says that I would never have left grad school if she hadn't forced me to get out and get a real job.  I eventually earned my Ph.D. there, writing a dissertation on the hard-boiled detective novel,  and thereby putting my mystery-reading habit to good use.  Before that, I'd gotten my M.A. at the University of North Texas (in Denton), and afterward I taught English at Howard Payne University for twelve years. Then I moved to scenic Alvin, Texas, where until 2002 I was the Chair of the Division of English and Fine Arts. I retired in August 2002 to become a either a full-time writer or a part-time bum. Take your pick.

What kind of books do I write?  All kinds, but mostly mysteries.  The Sheriff Dan Rhodes series features the adventures of a sheriff in a small Texas county where there are no serial killers, where a naked man hiding in a dumpster is big news, and where the sheriff still has time to investigate the theft of a set of false teeth.  The first book in this series won an Anthony Award for "best first mystery novel" in 1986. The latest book in the series is Murder in Four Parts. (Eight books have followed this one)

I also write about a couple of college English teachers. Carl Burns teaches at a four-year school and is a reluctant amateur sleuth who, according to one reader's complaint, frequently gets beaten up by women.  He works at a small denominational college, and his latest case can be found in . . . a Dangerous Thing.  Sally Good is the chair of the English Department at a community college near the Texas Gulf Coast.  She's also a reluctant amateur sleuth, but nobody beats her up.  Check her out in A Knife in the Back. 

And then there's my private-eye steries.  Truman Smith operates on Galveston Island, not far from Houston.  The first book in the series was nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private-Eye Writers of America, but to date no one has had the wisdom ot publish the books in paperback, and the series is out of print.

But wait!  There's more!  Yes, I write nonseries books, too.  In the mystery field, there's The Texas Capitol Murders in which you get murder, politics, and a bunch of pretty odd characters, some of whom aren't even Texas legislators.  Blood Marks is my venture into serial killerdom, and it's completely different from anything else I've ever written.  It's bloody and violent and the reviewers (even Kirkus!) loved it.  Probably my best-selling book.

And that's not all.  I've even written children's books, including one based on the Wishbone TV show (Muttketeer!) and the award winning Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror.

And of course there are the westerns, including Outrage at Blanco and Texas Vigilante.


So what do I do in my spare time?  I run five or six days a week. I used to run in the afternoons, but now that I'm retired, I run in the early mornings.  In scenic Alvin, Texas, it doesn't make much difference.  It's always hot, and the humidity is always about like it is around the equator. 

And I listen to music. I have an extensive library of CDs, and I pop in whatever I'm in the mood to hear. Most of this music is from another era, which proves once and for all that I'm an old fogy, but I can't help it. Mostly I listen to New York doo-wop, rockabilly, The Platters, the Coasters, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Dion and the Belmonts, and any group or solo singer from the 1950s that you can think of. There's earlier stuff, too, like Les Paul and Mary Ford and the Ink Spots. I also like the music of the "folk era" of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Lots of that has been reissued on CD recently, and I'm an eager customer. Of course, I don't really hear the music most of the time; I tend to get so involved in the writing that everything around me disappears. But I like to think that the songs have some kind of subliminal effect and maybe even seep into the novel I'm working on. I'd love to write a book that was like a Buddy Holly record, with that same infectious sense of fun, or a book that caught the spirit of the end of the school year like the Jamies' "Summertime, Summertime." I have the five-CD set of Elvis' 1950s' masters and the four-CD Roy Orbison set, not to mention a lot of great stuff by the Everly Brothers, CDs containing all the records of the real Kingston Trio (the one with Dave Guard), the Atlantic "History of Rhythm and Blues" CDs, a double set by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, and more wonderful stuff than I can list here.

I'm also a big mystery fan: I've had a letter in every single issue (more than 150 now) of Cap'n Bob Napier's "letterzine," Mystery & Detective Monthly. I also do my own fanzine, Macavity, which appears in DAPA-Em, the only amateur press association devoted to mystery fiction. I haven't missed a mailing in more than twenty years.

And then there are the cats: Three of them. Geri, Speedo, and Sam. All three are different ages, and all three of them just turned up here. I was too soft-hearted to turn them away, so by now they've just about taken over the place. Not that anyone seems to mind.


From Jeff Meyerson






Bill Crider, The Texas Capitol Murders (1992).


It's tough for me to write about Bill Crider, especially under these terrible circumstances.  I've known Bill for 40 years (we met in person first in 1980, but knew each other through DAPA-EM and various mystery publications before that), and I consider him a good friend, so this is definitely not objective.  I've read the large majority of his books and have most of them inscribed by him, and one of the Sheriff Rhodes books was dedicated to me, a real honor.  Sheriff Rhodes would be an obvious choice, especially for someone who has never read one of his books, as to me the Sheriff books is closest to the 'voice' of the author.  But the other mystery series - Carl Burns, Sally Good, Galveston PI Truman Smith - as well as his horror novels (as by Jack MacLane) and westerns are also worth your time, as are the kids' books (like A Vampire Named Fred, an entertaining plea for tolerance for the undead) and short stories (many involving cats).

I thought I'd go with this one however, the one praised by former First Lady (of Texas, then) Laura Bush.  It's historical, it's funny, it's political, and it's great fun.  What more could you want?   A supposedly promiscuous Mexican-American cleaner is found murdered in a dumpster outside the Texas Capitol during its renovations, possibly seen by homeless vagrant Wayne the Wagger, not really a reliable or helpful witness.  Then there is the dumb as dirt, paranoid Governor, the powerful State Senator and his closeted bisexual aide, naive tour guides, lobbyists and drug dealers, and the Texas Ranger called in to solve the murders (yes, there are more than one).

I've never been to Austin or the State Capitol, but those who have done have testified as to the accuracy of the portrayals, and you really can't go wrong here.  I just hope it isn't true that we've seen the last of Bill's books.


From Deb Pfeifer


Unlike many people, I did not come to Patti’s blog through Bill Crider’s but rather the reverse: I found Patti’s blog about eight years ago and from her blog roll discovered many others, including Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine.  I lurked there for a while before I posted a comment, but eventually I joined the fray and never looked back. Patti’s, Bill’s, and George Kelley’s blogs are always the first three I read every morning.


Bill’s obvious intelligence, unfailing good humor, kindness, and decency are apparent in everything he writes. His overwhelming love for Judy and their children shines through in the various essays and remembrances he occasionally posts. His mind is sharp, but never cruel, and he can always be relied on for a gentle, long-term take on events that have me ranting with indignation. His reviews are always on the generous side—he does not like to post negative reviews and always tries to find something positive to say about even the most critically-drubbed movie or book.


I only got to meet Bill in person once, but I’m so glad I had that opportunity: last year in New Orleans at Boucheron (where I also met Jeff & Jackie Meyerson, George & Diane Kelley, and—right as we were taking photos—Art Scott). Although obviously tired from his recent medical treatments, Bill was in good spirits and spent quite some time talking with my husband, John.  (As soon as we got back home, John went to the library and checked out some of Bill’s books. I think right now he’s read more of Bill’s books than I have.)


It’s still hard for me to comprehend that Bill has decided to discontinue his blog. There will be no more posts of the Song of the Day (a reflection of Bill’s wide-ranging and eclectic tastes), Thin Mints Melees, Texas Leading the Way, WBAGNFARB, Stay off His Lawn, Is There A Problem Officer?, and many others.  One of Bill’s frequent tag lines was Yet Another List I’m Not On, but there is a list I’m on, along with a lot of others, and that is people whose lives have been made richer by knowing (no matter how tangentially) Bill Crider.


Sharon Lynch

I was unable to copy from Facebook Sharon Lynch's words about Bill. However she admired him and was hoping to meet him in Toronto, which she did. And was so glad she did. 













MURDER OF A BEAUTY SHOP QUEEN, Bill Crider (Patti Abbott)

Bill Crider makes writing delightful books look easy. In fact, it is not easy to combine a satisfying crime and its solution with great characters, terrific local color, a wry sense of humor., and a style of writing easy to digest. Sheriff Dan Rhoades solves crimes and keeps order (and it is not always simple with a domestic animal population that is as troublesome as their owners, and in the case of feral pigs, no owners) down in Blacklin County, Texas.
In this outing from 2012, Lynn Ashton, a pretty hair stylist has been bashed over the head with a hair dryer. Suspects range from scorned lovers, to jealous wives, to two outsiders who have been scraping the town. Or maybe Lynn saw something she shouldn't have as she waited for a rendezvous with one of her clients. The characters, both new and old, all are the beneficiaries of inventive character development and the conclusion is satisfying and solid.

Sergio Angelini, SHOTGUN SATURDAY NIGHT
Yvette Banek, TOO LATE TO DIE 
Paul Bishop
Elgin Bleecker, A DANGEROUS THING
Ben Boulden, TOP OF THE WORLD 
Fleur Bradley
Cap'n Bob
Max Allan Collins,
David Cranmer
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards. Bill 
Barry Ergang, BLACKLIN COUNTY FILES
Curt Evans, EVERYTHING'S MORE MYSTERIOUS IN TEXAS
Lee Goldberg
Ed Gorman, SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN; BLOOD MARKS
Charles Gramlich, BILL CRIDER DAY
John Grant, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE MURDER
Lesa Holstine
Richard Horton, TEXAS VIGILANTE
Jerry House, BIG BILL VS. THE REPTILE MEN OF ALVIN 
Randy Johnson, OUTRAGE AT BLANCO 
George Kelley, GOOD NIGHT, MOOM 
Kate Laity, Bill Crider's Sherlock
B.V. Lawson, Bill Crider
Evan Lewis, The Secrets of Bill Crider's 1990 Bookshelves ; Visual Bibliography
Steve Lewis, MURDER AMONG THE OWLS
Brian Lindenmuth (Spinetinger Magazine) Interview with Bill 
Richard Lupoff
Todd Mason
Richard Moore
Terrie Moran, MURDER OF A BEAUTY SHOP QUEEN; COMPOUND MURDER, 
DEAD TO BEGIN WITH
Karin Montin
Neer, A TIME FOR HANGING 
J.F. Norris, DEAD ON THE ISLAND 
Juri Nummelin, OUTRAGE AT BLANCO 
Scott Parker
Matt Paust, DEAD TO BEGIN WITH
The Rap Sheet, THE BLOG (to come)
Reactions in Reading, TOO LATE TO DIE 
James Reasoner, Best Bill 
Richard Robinson, Bill Crider's Holmes Stories
Janet Rudolph
Gerard Saylor, Bill Crider's Novels 
Charlie Stella
Kevin Tipple,  FAST TRACK (with Ed Gorman), THE BLACKIN COUNTY FILES
TracyK, EVIL AT THE ROOT 
Dave Zeltserman, PIANO MAN 

 Aubrey Hamilton said...
Many, many years ago I began posting about the books I read to DorothyL and every time I mentioned reading a Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Bill Crider wrote to thank me. It was unnecessary but pleased me inordinately, even more so when I did a little research and saw just how many books he'd published. He certainly didn't need me to promote his books. When I heard him speak at a conference, I was entertained because he talked just like I imagined Sheriff Rhodes did. If anything could make me admire him more, it was his rescue of Keneau, the abandoned kitten, and, after everyone urged him to return to the place he found her, he located her siblings, to whom he has given the greatest care. Bill is a rare soul and I am fortunate to have met him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ten Years Ago.

My favorite movies of 2007

Some maybe actually 2006 movies. No special order and no real surprises. These were probably on everyone's lists. What were yours?

Painted Veil
Volver
Zodiac
Lives of Others
First Snow
51 Birch Street
Away From Her
Once
Hairspray
3:10 to Yuma
Gone Baby Gone
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Starting Out in the Evening
Sweeney Todd

And I remember most of these pretty well. FIRST SNOW I will have to look up though. A decent if not outstanding year. The ones that stayed with me most are THE LIVES OF OTHER and ZODIAC.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Forgotten Movies: PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT


George Roy Hill directed this odd little movie from 1962. Jane Fonda plays a nurse and Jim Hutton a vet suffering from PTSD. Their marriage is sudden and they end up at the home of his former Army buddy played by Tony Franciosa. Tony has his own problems because he married for wealth,
The key to it is the screenplay was written by Tennessee Williams and all of the themes that show up in his plays get a a look-see here: the impotent male, the trouble with Daddies, the hysterical players. Franciosa gives the best performance of the lot. Perhaps because he doesn't lay on a Southern accent with a trowel. Jane Fonda complained her makeup made her unrecognizable and it did. Maybe it was all for the best though. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Graduation Present on Better Things


Things That Make Me Happy





It would be very much easier to tell you the things that made me unhappy this week. There were quite a few. But who needs that right?

Sunday, a nice brunch with my book group (where you know who dominated the talk) and a nice dinner with eight good friends (same topic).  How can we not talk about what now dominates our life.

 I am going to leave it at this. I am very grateful that I have you, some of you stopping by for many years now. I am happy you are willing to share your lives with me. The books you read, the music you listen to, the movies and TV shows you like, the family you share your lives with, all of them are now part of my life. Thanks for being a friend.

What about you?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, December 8, 2017

Next Friday will be Bill Crider day on the blog. Please save reviews of work other than Bill's for another time. Remembrances are also welcome. Those without a blog, please send your piece to me and I will post it here.

I can hardly bear to post these reviews without his name on the list. Another friend died from a stroke this week. Bonnie has two major losses. And Kevin has lost his Sandi. Hardly a worse week in memory. And what goes on in Washington just compounds all semblance of a civil society.



 UPRIGHT PIANO PLAYER, David Abbott

Henry Cage is an enigmatic protagonist to say the least. Despite what seem outwardly like a successful life, he is left by his wife, spurned by his son, a stranger to his grandson, forced out of his career, and harassed by a man who knocks into him after a party. Yet none of these things lead him to much self-reflection. He seems unable to give much and is puzzled at the consequent results of his behavior.

This is a book that has been reviewed favorably yet not one of the women in my book group enjoyed it or even thought it a very good novel. These were the reasons they expressed:: they had no more understanding of Henry Cage by the end of the book than at the beginning--oh, yes, he had changed but it was not clear why. There were too many POVs that seemed unnecessary. Sometimes it was hard to sort out whose head we were in. Every character gets moments of reflection. So many in fact that this may have been what kept us from understanding Henry. The book begins with a horrific incident--an incident so horrible that we all dreaded having to go through it again. The author seemed determined to drape every character in tragedy, in fact. 

Having said this, I have thought about this book quite a bit. I wish we had been told more about his childhood, what made him such a inward man, so unreflective and aloof. I know back stories are unpopular nowadays but a character like Henry needs one if we are to have any hope of peering inside his head. What made Henry the man he was?

Sergio Angelini, Ranking the 87th Precinct Books by Ed McBain
Yvette Banek, Three Mystery Series
Les Blatt, SOMEBODY AT THE DOOR, Raymond Postgate
Brian Busby, The Season's Best Books in Review: 1917 
Martin Edwards, THE FILE ON LESTER, Andrew Garve
Curt Evans, LAVENDER HARVEST: IN COLD BLOOD, Armstrong Livingston
Richard Horton, THE AUCTION BLOCK, Rex Beach
Jerry House, TARZAN AND THE MAD MAN, Edgar Rice Burroughs
George Kelley, HARD READING: LEARNING FROM SCIENCE FICTION, Tom Shippey
Margot Kinberg, THE STUDENT BODY, Simon Hyatt
Rob Kitchin, DEATH OF A DOXY, Rex Stout
B.V. Lawson, THE MYNN'S MYSTERY, George Manville Fenn 
Evan Lewis,  RED GARDENIAS, Jonathan Latimer
Steve Lewis, THE GUILTY BYSTANDER, Mike Brett
Todd Mason, MIND FIELDS, Harlan Ellison and Jacek Yerka
Neer, A TIME TO DIE, Hilda Lawrence
J.F. Norris, THIRTY DAYS TO LIVE BY, Anthony Gilbert
Matt Paust, OUR GAME, John LeCarre
James Reasoner, THE EBONY JUJU, Gordon MacCreagh
TomCat, PATTERN OF MURDER, John Russell Fearn
TracyK, LANDED GENTLY, Alan Hunter
Westlake Review, GET REAL, Part 2

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Agatha Christie Night for Selected Shorts


Sorry. The guy is Hugh Dancy (Hannibal). It should turn up on the podcast for Selected Shorts. Or at least I hope so. They each read an Agatha Christie story except Megan who is the host. It was to raise money for Symphony Space.




Wednesday, December 06, 2017

First Wednesday Book Review CLub


I could not help but be impressed with the love Louise Penny received in Toronto at Bouchercon. Yvette Banek convinced me to try this one. She felt this was the one I was most likely to enjoy. And I did enjoy it somewhat, admired the writing, was impressed with how much research must have gone into learning about chants, monks, monasteries, the politics of a monastery. It was a book I admired more than liked though.

Briefly,  Gamache and his protege, Beauvoir go to a remote monastery where a monk has been killed. The murderer must be one of their own because it is cloistered. The monastery has recently gained fame for their chants of ancient works. This has caused a chasm between two groups of monks: the ones who feel moving forward is necessary and ones (led by the abbot) who feel their first calling is religious. The monk who is killed represents the progressive group.

My main issues with THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY were: too much of it relied on the reader knowing the events that took place in previous books. Hardly a page went by when these events were not referenced and yet never explained enough for the first-time reader to make sense of.

Secondly, the mystery, although interesting in the abstract, was not all that interesting in the way it played out. Only a few of the monks were sharply drawn and too much time was spent on arcane discussions. It felt at time like information dumps.

I also disliked how Gamache's supervisor was flown in (literally) to add tension to the story because there was so little. I find it hard to believe a police supervisor from a major cityy would take the time to go to this remote place just to torment our protagonist.

I also found little reason for Beauvoir, the second in command, to revert to his addiction to drugs when he is preparing to marry. This whole storyline and especially the ending, didn't work for me at all.

As I write this, I like it even less. And yet, I had no trouble finishing a long book, which I often do. So the beautiful mystery is why I finished it and why it didn't work for me. 

For more reviews, see Barrie Summy right here. 


Bill Crider Day on December 15th on FFB

Friday, December 15 will be Bill Crider Day on Friday Forgotten Books. If you would like to participate, either with a book review of one of his books or a remembrance, or a review of a short story, you can post it on my blog or your own should you have one. If you message me, I will give you my email to send it to. If you can get it to me a day or two before then, that would be great. Even Facebook reviews will work.All reviews are welcome.
Bill Crider was the first person I asked to write a review ten years ago when I began FFB.. I expected him to write one for the first week. Instead he has written over 500 reviews of books, never missing one that I remember. Let's honor Bill and his writing life on Dec, 15th. There is much to honor Bill for, let this be the firs

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Forgotten Movies, THE JAGGED EDGE



I know I saw this movie in the eighties at the theater but surprisingly little of the story stayed with me. Including the twists of which there are several. Jeff Bridges plays a newspaper editor accused of murdering his wife and maid. All of the assets including the business were hers. Motive.
Glenn Close, a former prosecutor, suffering  PTSD from a bad case and now practicing corporate law, reluctantly takes him on. And, of course, a romantic relationship develops. The film suffers from mediocre at best direction and some inconsistent acting, but on the whole, I liked it well enough. It is hard to say more than this without spoilers. All in all, a B- movies for me.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Things That Are Making Me Happy

We have had so many sunny days this week. So unusual for Detroit this time of year. I am very affected by the lack of sun here so yay!

We celebrated Kevin's 11th birthday yesterday. On Thursday night, the day of his birthday, he went with friends to see an illusionist. Seems to have been a great choice of events. Boy, does he have great parents. They make sure he gets to sample a wide range of cultural and popular events.

My favorite TV shows of 2017 all made me happy.

THE GOOD PLACE, MASTER OF NONE, BETTER THINGS, BETTER CALL SAUL, THE DEUCE, BIG LITTLE LIES, MINDHUNTER, ATLANTA, THE LEFTOVERS, THE FIVE.

What about you? 




Saturday, December 02, 2017

Saturday Music




Thanks for one of the most original songs I grew up with.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books December 1, 2017

The Stone Diaries (from 2006)

My book club chose The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields to read for October (2006). I read it when it first came out 15 years ago and had a different set of reactions this time. One of the most interesting things for me was the list made by the protagonist near the end of the book of things she never did. Included are items such as oil painting, nude bathing, reading science fiction, oral sex, driving a car. It is a very sad list because so many of the items were ordinary and accessible and the last item was she never heard anyone say they loved her!

Carol Shields, who died too young, was a Canadian writer who was once one of the triumvirate with Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood. And I would include Margaret Laurence as another great Canadian writer.  THE STONE DIARIES takes a character from early in the 1900s to the 1990s and we watch the world change repeatedly over that time.

My "didn't do" list would include smoking pot, diving, learning a magic trick, skating backward, living alone. The woman in my group talked most about the last one. Most of us had never lived alone--going right from our parent's house or a college dorm to living with a husband. We were all born in the late 1940s.. (Ten years later, more of us live alone).
 

What would your list include if you're old enough to make one?What did you never do?

Sergio Angelini, FIDDLERS, Ed McBain
Mark Baker, VOID MOON, Michael Connelly
Yvette Banek, IT WALKS BY NIGHT, John Dickson Carr
Bill Crider, PRIME SUCKER, Harry Whittington
Martin Edwards, THE  HOUSE OF DOCTOR EDWARDES, Francis Beeding
Richard Horton, THE GREEN QUEEN, Margaret St. Clair/THREE THOUSAND YEARS, Thomas Calvert McClary
Jerry House, SOMEBODY'S WALKING OVER MY GRAVE, Robert Arthur
Nick Jones, P.M Hubbard short stories in the magazine of FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION 
George Kelley, THE BIG BOOK OF THE CONTINENTAL OP, Dashiell Hammett
Margot Kinberg, DAYS ARE LIKE GRASS, Sue Younger
Rob Kitchin, THE SELLOUT, Paul Beatty
B.V. Lawson, HARD-BOILED DAMES, ed. by Bernard Drew
Steve Lewis.Barry Gardner, CHARLIE'S APPRENTICE, Brian Freemantle 
Todd Mason,  THE OVERLOOK FILM ENCYCLOPEDIA: HORROR, edited by Phil Hardy  ROMANCING THE VAMPIRE by David J. Skal 
J.F. Norris, FLASHPOINT, John Russell Fearn
Matt Paust, SINGLE AND SINGLE, John LeCarre
James Reasoner, ON A SILVER DESERT: THE LIFE OF ERNEST HAYCOX, Ernest Haycox, Jr. 
Gerard Saylor, THE BOYS OF '67, Andrew Wiest
TomCat, DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF RAIN, Zu Yen Lin
TracyK, BANKING ON DEATH, Emma Lathen
Prashant Trikannad, DEAD LINE, Stella Rimington

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Your Favorite Mystery Taking Place on a Train: Book or Movie

Watched the TV version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, which was disappointing. Suchet played it as grimly and judgmentally as possible and it seems like a lot of text about religion was added. Also I don't remember it as being quite so much a Poirot in every scene affair. And also it was quite claustrophobic, which may or may not be there. I'll take the Albert Finney version.

Anyway, I love movies/books set in trains. And my favorite is THE LADY VANISHES. Love every minute of that one. Love Chalders and Caldicott and their cricket obsession.

I have never read the book though.

What is favorite fictional train trip?  (I am sure I have asked this before because I can ever remember some responses).

And anyone who wants to name the HOMICIDE episode from season 6 set in the subway, yes!


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Forgotten Movies: GREEN FOR DANGER

Sergio Angelini reviewed this recently. So we watched it too. I remember reading the book when it was on a list as one of the 100 best mysteries. But I did not remember the ending. And I do think the way it was filmed enhanced its strengths. The tonal shift when Alastair Sims shows up as the Inspector is odd but enjoyable. It is set in a hospital during the war. It is close to a locked room murder in some respects. Well-acted, stylish. We enjoyed it. And every actor plays their part well.

For a longer and better look at this film, here is Sergio's review

Monday, November 27, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dad.






My father, Ralph Edward Nase, was born in 1914, the sixteenth of nineteen children. He was put to work by six or so, selling pretzels, delivering the newspaper, doing whatever he could to bring in money for a family supported by a father who worked in a cigar factory.

They lived in a three-bedroom house with all the boys sleeping in the attic. They raised their own food and butchered their own animals. They were Lutheran and took religion seriously.
Recent immigrants, no. They came to Pennsylvania centuries earlier from Alsace-Lorraine. The original spelling of their name was probably Neys or Nehs. The town he grew up in was filled with Nases, some spelling it Nace.

He got a two-year degree in bookkeeping (following the lead of an older brother) and took a job keeping the books for Oak Terrace Country Club. He married my Mom in 1941 and was drafted the same day. He spent the next four years fighting in Europe.
He was a devoted father, husband and church goer. He never lifted a hand to us, was always kind and affectionate. But he often worked 60 hours a week. It was hard life that he never complained about. He liked working, liked keeping busy, loved to walk, play tennis, play ball, dance.

He loved to be the center of attention and loved his grandchildren, loved all children.
He is very much missed.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
He never understood what blogs were or online but he would love being on here today.


Things That Make Me Happy


I have begun to divide old photos up between my two kids and it was fun to hear them remember fondly vacations, Halloween costumes, grandparents and various other times on Thanksgiving. It was almost always just the four of us in their childhood and it is so nice now to be a bigger group.

Also fun to play games together and not electronic games. We especially enjoyed THE OREGON TRAIL. Although most of us died before reaching the coast, it was fun.

We enjoyed rewatching the Thanksgiving episodes of FRIENDS and hearing Kevin recite every line of them. Clearly he has rewatched. Say what you want about FRIENDS, it was a funny show with great chemistry and great writing. It made some mistakes, yet, but it reflected the era it played in.

Loved LADYBIRD. Perhaps the best evocation of a mother-daughter relationship on film ever. So beautifully done by first-time director Greta Gerwig.Also enjoyed THREE BILLBOARDS IN EBBING MISSOURI. Sam Rockwell especially impressed me.

Kudos to Katee Sackhoff for the acting she is doing on this last season of LONGMIRE. She has always been a great asset to the show, but she gets to show her depth as an actor finally.

Fondly remembering my Dad today who would have been 103. He was a good father and a good husband.

And what about you?




Saturday, November 25, 2017






I am so lucky to have a  husband who after 50 years still plays music when we decorate the house for Christmas.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 24, 2017

Heath Lowrance (from the archives)

“Forgotten book” might be the wrong way to describe Dan J. Marlowe’s The Name of the Game is Death. For hard-core fans of brutal, fast-paced noir, the book is anything but forgotten-- it is, in fact, considered a cornerstone of the genre. But despite that, in the fifty years since its first publication it’s been out of print more often than in, and most casual readers of crime fiction have never heard of it. For me, The Name of the Game is Death is one of the essential five or ten books in the world of hardboiled/noir.
The story: a career criminal calling himself Roy Martin (more on his name later) holes up after a botched bank robbery, while his partner sends him monthly allotments of their take. But when the money stops coming, Martin suspects the worst and sets off to find out what happened. The small town he finds turns out to be a cesspool of corruption and hypocrisy that makes even Martin’s twisted morality seem sane and rational by comparison.
In the hands of most writers, this rather simple plot wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, but Marlowe paints a vivid picture of Martin, not just through his actions but also in a set of chilling flashbacks to Martins’ youth and young manhood, where all the signs of a sociopathic personality begin to emerge. And the steps Martin takes to find out what happened to his partner and to retrieve his money reinforce him as a deeply disturbed man.
Quite simply, he enjoys killing and hurting people; in one memorable scene, he’s unable to become sexually aroused for intercourse, and admits to himself that the only thing that really turns him on is bloodshed-- in a later scene, he brutalizes a woman who attempted to set him up, and he’s able to “perform” without a hitch.
So all in all, Roy Martin is a seriously messed-up sociopath, with barely a redeeming feature-- aside from a fondness for animals. Why do we find ourselves almost rooting for him? Because almost everyone else he encounters is a hollow, lying hypocrite. Martin is the only character who is actually true to himself… much to the horror of everyone else.
The climax to Th e Name of the Game is Death is stunningly violent, very dark, and totally chilling-- not the sort of ending that would cause you to expect a sequel. And yet Marlowe did indeed bring the character back a few years later for a book that was almost-but-not-quite as good as the first, One Endless Hour. In that one we discover that Martin’s name is actually Drake (which is how he’s often referred to when discussing The Name of the Game is Death).
More books about “The Man with Nobody’s Face” would follow, each one a bit softer than the one before, until almost all signs of the near-psychopathic Martin were gone, replaced by a repentant crook who now worked for the government.
But lovers of dark, violent tales will always remember him as the blood-thirsty killer calling himself Roy Martin.

Mark Baker, I IS FOR INNOCENT, Sue Grafton
Bill Crider. AMONG THE GENTLY MAD, Nicholas Brasbane
Martin Edwards, THE THIRD EYE, Ethel Lina White
Curt Evans, BLOOD FROM A STONE, Ruth Sawtell Wallis,
Richard Horton, MAIGRET HAS SCRUPLES, MAIGRET AND THE RELUCTANT WITNESS,    George Simenon
Jerry House, THE SHORT LIFE AND HAPPY TIMES OF THE SCHMOO, Al Capp
George Kelley, FIRST PERSON SINGULARITIES, Robert Silverberg
Margot Kinberg, DEAD LEMONS, Finn Bell
Rob Kitchin, CODEBREAKERS, James Wiley and Michael McKinley
Evan Lewis, A NOOSE FOR THE DESPERADO, Clifton Adams
Steve Lewis, Robert Briney, CASTLE SKULL, John Dickson Carr
Neer, THE FEVER TREE, Richard Mason
J.F. Norris, COMETS HAVE LONG TAILS, Madeleine Johnston
Todd Mason, Terry Carr, ed: SCIENCE FICTION FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE SCIENCE FICTION ; Harry Harrison, ed: THE LIGHT FANTASTIC  --Redux post from 2012
Matt Paust, MRS. MCGINTY'S DEAD, Agatha Christie
James Reasoner, THE NIGHT HELL'S CORNER DIED, Clay Ringold
Gerard Saylor, IT'S MY FUNERAL, Peter Rabe
Kevin Tipple
TomCat, THE CASE OF THE BONFIRE BODY, Christopher Bush
TracyK, NORTHANGER ABBEY, Jane Austen, FEAST OF MURDER, Jane Haddam

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Forgotten Movies




What brought this to mind was that we saw the play on Friday night. The cast here was excellent as was the cast in the version we saw. A play this elegant and profound has to touch you and it did.

Have you seen either the play or movie?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

It makes me happy that Kevin is always inventing games even if I never quite understand them!

Really enjoyed a local production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN, which is more powerful now than ever. Well, at least as powerful now as ever.

Happy to have lunch with some old friends that have been going through the same sort of hard times we have but have not let it beat them down. Janet was a professor of folklore before her retirement. Andrea, a professor Italian. It was fun to compare recent reads, movies, tv, trying to stay away from the BIG TOPIC. And fun to hear they are having their first grandchild soon. The parents have not asked the sex, which I find incomprehensible. Why talk about the baby as it when you could take about it as she or he?

How about you? 

Oh, and this from Ken Bruen.
  Patricia Abbott's collection of stories are just electric
Utterly amazing
In any collection there are usually a few duds.
Not here
no way
The short story form is perhaps the most difficult to achieve artistry in
PA joins the very select few
Like
Frank O Connor
Raymond Carver
De Maupassant
Dahl
who has not only mastered this art but brought something entirely new to the genre
A dark captivating compassion.
gra go mor
K



Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 10, 2017

(from the archives: Ed Gorman)

Forgotten Books: Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson


Let's begin with a tale of woe. Mine.

Years ago I was asked to contribute a forty thousand word novella to a YA series about shapeshifters. You know, beings humans and otherwise who can transform themselves into other kinds of creatures. I immediately thought of Jack Williamson's The Wolves of Darkness, a grand old pulp novella set in the snowy American West and featuring enough creepy
violence and tangled romance to make it memorable. It even has its moments of sweeping poetry.

Reading Williamson's piece showed me how to write my own. A few days after the young editor received it he called to rave. And I do mean rave. The best of the entire series. Eerie and poetic. Yadda yadda yadda. For the next forty-eight hours I was intolerable to be around. It was during this time our five cats learned to give me the finger. My swollen head was pricked soon enough. The young editor's older boss hated it. He gave my editor a list of reasons he hated it. I was to rewrite it. I wouldn't do it. I said I'd just write another one, which I did. Old editor seemed to like this one all right but he still wasn't keen on how my "characterizations" occasionally stopped the action. Backstory--verboten.

Shortly after this werewolves began to be popular. I spoke to a small reading group one night and told them about Wolves of Darkness and then about Williamson's novel Darker Than You Think. Everything I love about pulp fantasy is in this book. The werewolf angle quickly becomes just part of a massive struggle for the soul of humanity. As British reviewer Tom Matic points out:

"According to its backstory, homo sapiens emerged as the dominant species after a long and bitter struggle with another species, homo lycanthropus, whose ability to manipulate probability gave it the power to change its shape and practise magic. These concepts, fascinating as
they are, might make for dry reading were they not mediated via a gripping thriller riddled with startling plot twists, that blends scientific romance with images of stark bloodcurdling horror, such as the kitten throttled with a ribbon and impaled with a pin to induce Mondrick's asthma attack and heart failure, and the pathetic yet fearsome figure of his blind widow, her eyes clawed out by were-leopards. With its scenes of demonic mayhem in an academic setting and the sexual and moral sparring between the two main characters, it almost feels like a prototype of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer in a film noir setting."

Williamson couching his shapeshifters in terms of science fiction lends the story a realistic edge fantasies rarely achieve. The brooding psychology of the characters also have, as Matic points out, a noirish feel. And as always Williams manages to make the natural environment a
strong element in the story. He's as good with city folk as rural. And he's especially good with his version of the femme fatale, though here she turns out to be as complicated and tortured as the protagonist.

This is one whomping great tale. If you're tired of today's werewolves, try this classic and you'll be hooked not only by this book but by Jack Williamson' work in general..  

Sergio Angelini, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Sergio Angelini
Yvette Banek, STAIRWAYS OF DOOM
Les Blatt, THE ORIGIN OF EVIL, Ellery Queen
Bill Crider, THE BEST OF ROBERT BLOCH 
Curt Evans, PSEUDONYMS
Richard Horton, THE ORDEAL OF GILBERT PINFOLD, Evelyn Waugh
Jerry House, ALL OUR YESTERDAYS, ROBERT B. PARKER
George Kelly, HARD-BOILED, NOIR AND GOLD MEDALS, Rick Ollerman
Margot Kinberg, NUNSLINGER, Stark Holborn
Rob Kitchin, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukherjee
B.V. Lawson, THE SLIPPER POINT MYSTERY, Augusta Huiell Seaman
Evan Lewis, CODE NAME GADGET, Peter Rabe
Steve Lewis, NOT A THROUGH STREET, Ernest Larsen 
Todd Mason, VENTURE: THE TRAVELER'S WORLD (Feburary, '65)
J.F. Norris, RESERVATION FOR MURDER, June Wright 
Juri Numellin, HOURS BEFORE DAWN, Celia Fremlin
Matt Paust, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie
Gerard Saylor, DIG MY GRAVE DEEP, Peter Rabe
Kevin Tipple, THE KILLER WORE CRANBERRY: A SECOND HELPING, edited by J. Alan Hartman
Tomcat, DANCING DEATH, Christopher Bush and ANNE VAN DORN
TracyK, BROTHERS KEEPERS, Donald E. Westlake 
Westlake Review, DIRTY MONEY, Part 3