Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Short Of It

The Short Of It

Bob Tinsley has started a new blog devoted to reviewing short stories. Interesting idea, and I enjoyed checking out his opinions.

Another Nice Review


Saw this review of A Bond With Death on the 'net and couldn't resist posting the link. I'm just glad the book got reviewed at all. I thought St. Martin's might not have sent out any review copies.

Thrilling Detective

The Thrilling Detective Web Site

The latest issue of Kevin Burton Smith's webzine is up, and it has (besides a great cover) new fiction, reviews, comics, and all sorts of good stuff. Always worth checking out. And for those of you in the writing game, Kevin says that it's become a paying market.

Ross Thomas, Again

In her comment on my Ross Thomas post below, Sarah Weinman says she's written an appreciation of Thomas for Crimespree magazine. If you're not a subscriber, that should be reason enough for you to send in your sheckels. But Sarah has some bad news, too: ". . .I'm getting the feeling the reprint project isn't doing well and SMP's preparing to drop it. Which would be an utter, utter shame. "

Too true.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Blatant Plug for New Book

Just in case you haven't done your Christmas shopping yet (you know who you are), I thought I'd let you know that my latest book, A Bond with Death, got a nice review in the November 28th Chicago Tribune. Remember, books make the perfect gift. One size fits all.

Here's what the reviewer said: "Bill Crider...writes two entertaining mystery series about his friends and colleagues.... In his third book about small-town English professor Sally Good, Crider links the muder of a campus troublemaker with Good's late husband, supposedly related to a Salem witch.

"As clean and sharp as a fine Bowie knife. Crider's prose slices through conventions and expectations to produce an enjoyable read, no matter what state you're in."


In his comment on my Rolling Stone post, Kent Morgan mentions the Los Angeles Free Press. I lost a big stack of those in the conflagration, too. I particularly enjoyed Harlan Ellison's "Glass Teat" column, and of course the classified ads. I never saw any copies of the S. F. Oracle that Kent mentions, nor have I seen any copies of the S. F. Ball mentioned by the esteemed Cap'n Bob. But it certainly sounds like a worthy publication.

I do still have a big stack of comix that I bought back in the late '60s and early '70s: Zap Comix, Sudden Death Funnies, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and so on. Thank goodness I didn't store those with the issues of Rolling Stone.

THE ZOOMQUILT | a collaborative art project

THE ZOOMQUILT | a collaborative art project

Far Out! Click the link and have a look.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Like a Rolling Stone

Someone on the Rara-avis list mentioned that Greil Marcus reviewed James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss in Rolling Stone. This comment brought the following response from the mild-mannered Kevin Burton Smith:

"Gee, I remember that one too -- it made me go out and buy the book, which I still think is Crumley's best by far. And didn't Marcus also do a column on Chandler about the same time, a collection of his best wisecracks?

"And how the story about Warren Zevon and Ross Macdonald? And the Macdonald obit? And the original version of Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities? The Patty Hearst story? Mikal Gilmore's coverage of his brother's execution? All those great (and disturbing) true crime
stories? Hunter S. Thompson? P.J. O'Rourke? Dave Marsh? Charles M. Young? And on and on.

"It's a sad world when the most famous Rolling Stone staffer is now lightweight filmmaker Cameron Crowe, whose lightweight rock crit career reached its pinnacle with his penning of the liner notes for Frampton Comes Alive.

"Kids, believe it or not, once upon a time Rolling Stone was much much more than just a marginally hipper version of People. Forget the cutting edge (and often surprisingly hard-boiled) writing on lit and music and politics and culture, now it's mostly, to quote those other Stones, starfuckastarfuckastarfuckastarfuckastar and regularly scheduled special issues and tributes to itself."

Well, I couldn't have said it better myself, which is why I asked Kevin if it would be okay for me to reprint his remarks here. I actually know nothing at all about the current incarnation of the magazine, but I was a subscriber from the late 1960s until the middle 1980s. By then it had begun to be of little interest to me. I'll never forget, however, the story that Kevin mentions, the one about Macdonald and Warren Zevon. I went out and bought Zevon's album (it was an LP, which you oldsters will understand), and it was so good that I bought every Zevon album afterward, which means I have a couple on 8-track, some on cassette, and others on CD.

But what about those great issues of Rolling Stone from the early days? Since I save everything, don't I still have them around? No, and that's the point of this post. When I left Howard Payne U. to come here and teach in Alvin, I had no room for all those back issues. However, there was a great storage cabinet in the Main Building on the floor where I taught. I'd been keeping the magazines there for years, and I thought it would be a great place to leave them. If I ever wanted them, I could just go back and get them. Well, Robert Burns told us a long time ago about the best-laid plans and what happens to them. In this case, Old Main burned to the ground the year after I left, and mingled in with the ashes of everything else were those of my Rolling Stone collection. I think about it every now and then. Sic transit gloria mundi, or words to that effect.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Ross Thomas

Now and then some of us will sit around at some mystery convention somewhere and ask the age-old question: "Why didn't Ross Thomas ever become a best-selling writer?" I was asking myself the same thing the other day when I was re-reading The Fourth Durango.

I think that when Otto Penzler signed Thomas to Mysterious Press, both of them probably had the idea that it was time for Thomas to "break out," as they say these days. For years Thomas had gotten rave reviews, and no wonder. He was one of the best writers around. His style was sophisticated without being literary, his plots were clever and twisty, his characterization was the best in the business, his dialogue was top-notch, his humor always seemed to click, his wit was sharp, his backgrounds and facts always seemed absolutely on the money, his worldview was a little jaded but never depressing. So why didn't Thomas break out?

Don't ask me. Writers who couldn't carry Thomas's ballpoint pen (No, I'm not naming names. [James Patterson, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum.]) sell billions of copies, while a guy like Thomas sells only adequately. Maybe he was too good to be a best-seller. I suppose that's possible. It's also a shame. If you haven't read one of Thomas's books, you should. It'll be a real treat, whether it's one he wrote under his own name or as "Oliver Bleeck." I believe that the ones under his name are currently being reprinted in paperback by St. Martin's, which is a real public service.

I'd like to add here that when I picked up the first Oliver Bleeck book, many years ago, I'd read no more than two pages before I knew that Thomas had written it. I'm not usually that perceptive. (It's happened only two other times.) But Thomas was so good that I knew nobody else could have been the author.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Looney Tunes

This year, because I've been really good, Santa will be bringing me the second Looney Tunes Golden Collection. I'm looking forward to that gift as much as I am to just about any other, including my copy of Max Allan Collins' Men's Adventure Magazines. Which is saying a lot.

Probably everybody has a favorite Warner Brothers cartoon, and there are so many good ones that it's hard to choose just one. So I won't even try. But I will mention one that impressed me a lot when I was a kid. I saw it only once and never got another look at it until I got the first Golden Collection last year. Since I watched WB cartoons on TV for hundreds hours with my kids when they were young, I don't know how I missed this one, but it was great to see it again at last.

It's called "Scaredy Cat," and it stars Porky and Sylvester, who go to an old deserted mansion on a dark and stormy night. Practically the first thing that Sylvester sees is a bunch of mice taking a cat to be excuted, while as what I thought of as a kid as "the Death March" is played in the background. For whatever reason, this struck me as the creepiest scene in any cartoon I'd ever seen. I was happy to discover that I found it just as creepy after all these years. I've watched "Scaredy Cat" a couple of times just to see that scene. The whole thing seems to have a little bit darker tone than most cartoons, in spite of the overly cheerful ending. Maybe that's one reason why I liked it so much.

And of course another reason is that I can't resist the old-deserted-mansion-on-a-dark-and stormy-night bit. Give me Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and I'm a happy guy. Hey, I'll even watch Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorillia. Judy often says, "It takes so little to make you happy." How true.

Godzilla Stomps Onto Walk Of Fame

WCCO: Godzilla Stomps Onto Walk Of Fame

What took them so long?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Gulf Coast Living

One thing I like about living down here practically on the Texas Gulf Coast: no winter.

One thing I don't like about living down here practically on the Texas Gulf Coast: year-round lawn mowing.

Anybody who knows me knows that I don't like mowing the lawn. This stems from a childhood trauma created by having to mow a lawn of about ten acres with a reel-type push mower. Uphill. In the snow.

Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating a little bit. Not about the push mower, however. I really did mow a large lawn with one for several years back before I even entered junior high. My father finally relented and bought a power mower, for which I was grateful for about forty-five minutes. Then I found out I was expected to use it.

Down here, grass grows for most of the year. If you're lucky, you might have to mow only a couple of times in December, and maybe not even once in January. But by the middle of February, the stuff is greening up, and once that happens, you might as well crank up the mower because the cycle is beginning all over again. It never ends.

Which is why I was out today, the Monday after Thanksgiving, mowing in the 80 degree weather. And as soon as I finished, it rained. Which means the stupid lawn is growing even now.

Lawn mowing is big business in these parts. People make good money at the job. My favorite story in that regard was told to me by a teacher at the college. He was building a very nice home in Friendswood, just down the road from Alvin. He thought it was rather extravagant, in fact. But not long after he got started, someone began an even bigger, nicer home right down the street. He decided that he'd like to meet the people who were building it, since they'd soon be his neighbors, so he walked down one afternoon. And -- I'm sure you guessed it -- the guy who would soon be moving in was the one who came every week to the teacher's house to mow the lawn.

Nobody pays me. All I get is the satisfaction of a job well done. And we all know how good that makes you feel.

So Long, PWG.

Plots with Guns Flips You the Bird

Plots with Guns is packing it in. The zine did great work and published some fine stories in its five years. Check out the final issue by clicking on the link above. Thanks to Neil Smith, Victor Gischler, M. Hunter Hayes, and Trevor Maviano for all their good work.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Another Good One from Hard Case Crime! Posted by Hello


Since I was fortunate enough to get an advance reading copy of Al Guthrie's new novel, Kiss Her Goodbye, I thought I'd let you know what you have to look forward to.

First of all, the book is not, as we like to say, for the squeamish. It's about terrible people who do terrible things to other people, and some of those things are described in detail. Baseball bats are involved, and so are various parts of people's anatomies.

The plot is in the classic Gold Medal tradition, the one where a more or less ordinary guy finds himself in big trouble, and, just when you think it can't get any worse, it gets worse. Much worse.

Joe Hope, who is not a nice man, gets some bad news: his daughter, possibly the only person he cares about, commits suicide. And then his wife is murdered. Joe might not care so much about his wife's death if the cops didn't think he was the killer. He decides to find out who's responsible and deal out a little payback, assuming he can survive.

Kiss Her Goodbye moves fast, and there are plenty of interesting characters to meet along the way. My favorite is Tina, a prostitute who can handle a baseball bat almost as well as Joe. (Check out that great cover.) The climax is as nerve-wracking as anybody could ask for.

I don't know what's going on over there in Ireland and the U.K. Maybe it's something in the water. If it is, I wish I had some of it to drink, myself. (Maybe it's not the water.) Anyway, there are a lot of guys over there who are really bringing noir and hardboiled novels back to their roots, but they're doing it in their own way and in their own styles. Allan Guthrie is right out there in the front of the pack, and if you missed his outstanding debut novel, Two-Way Split, it's time you read it right now. And then, next March, you'll want to be right there at your local newsstand (assuming there is such a thing these days) to grab Kiss Her Goodbye.

And while I'm at it, here's another word of thanks to the good folks at Hard Case Crime for publishing novels like this one, along with other originals and classics. Long may they prosper.