Friday, September 03, 2004

The Weekend

This afternoon, Judy and I are going to drive up to the metropolis of Thornton, Texas, and visit with her mother for a couple of days. There's no Internet in Thornton, or at least there's not at my mother-in-law's house. I'm not even sure she really knows that the Internet exists. She's about to turn 92 years old, and while she can operate her VCR and tape her soap operas every day, she's not into computers. What she's into is yard work. She still mows her own lawn every week of the summer, and it's a huge lawn. She uses a power mower, but it's not self-propelled. She has to push it every step of the way. And she cleans her house, including mopping her floors, every single day. She's pretty amazing when you get right down to it, and an inspiration to us all.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Who's Had Who

Another book I bought is Who's Had Who, which purports to be a carefully researched tome on the subject of, well, you read the title. If half the stuff I've read is true, then people have been a lot busier than I thought. How did Elvis ever have time to record any songs?

The book's copyright date is 1990, and I can't begin to imagine what's been going on between then and now. It's probably best not to think about it.


As I anticipated, I didn't find many books worth mentioning on my little expedition yesterday. Fewer even than I'd hoped.

One thing I picked up was The Ultimate Elvis by Patricial Jobe Pierce. Hey, it was only two bucks. I couldn't resist.

And what, you might well be asking, is the ultimate when it comes to Elvis? Well, in this case it's a "Day-by-day clandear of Elvis Presley's life, from birth to death and beyond." And that's just for starters. It also has "Lists galore, from the men and women in his life to his phone numbers, home addresses, pets, nicknames, codenames, personal statistics, and awards."

And there's even more!

You're not gonna tell me you could have passed this up.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Judy is having a gaggle of friends over this afternoon, which means it's time for me to vacate the premises. I'll spend the rest of the day cruising some bookstores, seeing what treasures I can find. Probably not many. The pickings are slim these days. Most stores don't even bother with the kinds of books I'm interested in. If the book doesn't have a cover price of more than five dollars, they don't want it. The ones that do have a few old books always seem to stick some random price on them, hoping for a sucker to come along. That's why you can see a copy of, say, a tenth printing of a Perry Mason book with a $10 price tag.

So why do I keep going out and looking? Well, you know that old saying about hope springing eternal. But then Emily Dickinson said that hope is the thing with feathers. Whatever that means. You'd think that if it had feathers, it could stop springing around and take off in full flight.

But I digress. If I find anything worth mentioning, I'll do it here tomorrow. My inner pessimist tells me there won't be anything. But the feathery springer keeps whispering, "Just maybe . . . just maybe. . . ."

Tuesday, August 31, 2004


I forgot to mention (and you're probably sorry that I've remembered) that last week The Fabulous G-Strings performed at the Alvin Community College pre-school workshop. (For more about the Fab Five go here.) We did our versions of "Memories are Made of This," "Da Doo Run Run," and "Cool Water." These versions would most likely not be recognized by the original singers. They are, in fact, often not recognized by anyone except us, but at least we amuse ourselves.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Old Paperbacks

This afternoon I got a call from a reporter for the Houston Chronicle. He's working on a story on Hard Case Crime, the new paperback imprint that's doing some classic reprints (Lawrence Block, etc.) and some new books (Al Guthrie has one of them). The reporter wanted to talk to someone about the old paperbacks because he collects them himself, and he was given my name. We talked for a while, and I told him a little about my accumulation. An hour or so later, he called back to say he wanted to pay me a visit and bring a photographer from the paper with him. Fine by me. Maybe I'll get a little free publicity out of the deal.

Andrew Klavan

I've been reading Andrew Klavan's books since the days when he was Keith Peterson. I don't think I've missed more than a couple of them. My favorite is one called The Uncanny. In fact, I should read that one again, one of these days.

But today's topic is Dynamite Road, just out in paperback. It's the first book in a new series about a private-detective agency run by a man named Weiss. His top investigator is named Bishop. And this time, among other things, they're after a serial killer called "The Shadowman." As you'd expect if you've read much Klavan, this is a wild and wolly ride, totally unbelieveable, but fun (at least for me). The Shadowman makes Hannibal Lecter seem like one of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Bishop is tough as whet leather and almost soulless. Weiss can instinctively put together nearly any crime puzzle, albeit a bit slowly. And there's plenty of action for the movie version.

You might recall (or you might not) that in a recent post I complained about books that mix first- and third-person narration. Well, this one does it, too, but for some reason I don't mind. It's an entirely different kind of narration, for one thing, with the first-person tale-teller sort of drifting in and out of the narrative and not being a really major character. He's a young guy who's just out of college, and his first job is with the Agency. He wants to be a writer, so he's observing things and then (apparently after some years have passed) writing this novelistic account of what he experienced. Since most of it wasn't first-hand experience, he uses his writerly skills and imagination to tell the story. It shouldn't work, but it does.

Something Old, Nothing New

Something Old, Nothing New: "Bob McKimson
Of the directors of Warner Brothers cartoons, Robert McKimson is the forgotten man."

Check out this whole post if you're interested in WB cartoons. And who's not?

Sunday, August 29, 2004 / A&E / Celebrity news / Actors turned singers / A&E / Celebrity news / Actors turned singers: "Steven Seagal
In the late 80s and early 90s, Steven Seagal was above the law, marked for death, hard to kill, and out for justice. The perennial badass, Seagal not only plays a master of martial arts on film...he actually is one. So giving advice to stay clear of a music career could be tough ('Sure, Steve...this sounds great!'), but I dare you to keep a straight face while looking at this album cover. "

And there's even an audio clip! Nuff said.


School started without me at Alvin Community College last week. It's been two years since I left teaching, and people still ask me if I miss it. The truth is that I do, especially in the fall when the school year's beginning and classes are about to start. Every fall I'd walk into the classroom and think, "This is the year they're really going to learn something. This is the year I'll make a difference." Maybe it never happened, but it was a good feeling nevertheless. And I do miss it.

What I don't miss is the endless meetings, the hassle of dealing with complaints, the stress of registration.

All in all, I have no regrets. I was lucky to find a career that I enjoyed so much. Most of the time, it wasn't even like working. It was like having fun.

Ed's Place

Ed's Place: "I ordered The Martian Chronicles, Groff Conklin's Thinking Machines and an Ace Double that I believe had an Eric Frank Russell short novel on one side."

A great post over at Ed's Place today, and one that a lot of writers will identify with. I certainly do. I'm just going to comment on one part of it here because it ties in with an earlier post of mine, and a comment of James Reasoner's attached to that same post. It's funny how science fiction grabbed all three of us when we were young.

After I discovered Heinlein, I went on to read several novels in the Winston SF series, and in keeping with my visual orientation, I can still look at the endpapers of those books and feel some of the old thrill. Wonderful stuff. I've mentioned the ones I owned in an earlier post, I'm sure.

And then there was Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter series. You'd be surprised how hard it was to get a copy of one of those books back in the middle 1950s. Not a one was in print in paperback. I found out about them by reading the comic books that were based on them, and then a friend of mine whose parents had more money than I did, and whose parents were more indulgent, started ordering the hardbacks from book dealers. He was kind enough to let me read them, but he owed me for having introduced him to SF in the first place.

The book that sealed my fate, however, was one of those fat anthologies by Groff Conklin. I'm not sure which one it was, but it was either The Science Fiction Omnibus or The Big Book of Science Fiction. The one with T. L. Sherred's "E for Effort" in it. What a great story! I read it two or three times in a row.

But I digress. It was by looking at the copyright page of the Conklin anthology that I learned that there were magazines publishing stories like the ones in the book. I went to the bookstore (and how great was it that in Mexia, Texas, in the 1950s, there was a real bookstore?) and found a copy of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Another life-changing experience, because on the two spinning racks of paperbacks near the magazines I found the wonderful Ace Doubles, the Gold Medal novels, and many more. Great days, indeed.