Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Left Coast Crime

Judy and I will be leaving tomorrow morning for the Left Coast Crime convention in El Paso, Texas. We'll get back home on Sunday afternoon. If I get a chance (highly unlikely) I'll post an audioblog sometime during the convention. I won't be near a computer, so regular posting won't begin again until Sunday evening or Monday. It's OK if you flirt with other blogs in my absence, but try to remain true blue.

Why Use Tinfoil?


Via Jayme Blashke's Gibberish comes this link to an important webpage that explains how to construct a "thought screen helmet that stops aliens from abducting humans." In case you're skeptical, "It's a tested device that works." And there's no tinfoil involved. You can make your helmet from Velostat for a mere $35 if you buy the material by the yard. Click the link to learn more and maybe save yourself an embarrassing anal probe like the one Cartman got on South Park.

Paperback Covers!

BookScans: "Graphically illustrating the evolution of Vintage American Paperbacks - 1939 through 1959"

This is a great site. The stated plan is to provide scans of every American paperback cover, and there are already hundreds, if not thousands, of them posted. Highly recommended.

Otto Penzler Gets a Deal In the U.K.

Otto Penzler Reunites With U.K. Publisher for Mystery Line: "Otto Penzler Reunites With U.K. Publisher for Mystery Line"

"Almost 20 years after they first teamed up to publish mysteries in markets throughout the world, New York–based bookseller and publisher Otto Penzler and veteran U.K. publisher Anthony Cheetham are renewing their relationship, now to begin a new line of crime stories, under the Random House UK imprint Hutchinson."

But Otto never publishes any of my books.

One Day at a Time

OK, I might as well come clean. I know you suspected it. So, yes, I watched the One Day at a Time reunion last night. Why? I don't know. When the show was on I never watched it regularly, but if it was on and I was in the room, I didn't turn it off. Like most any Norman Lear show, it had too much yelling for me. Apparently a lot of people could identify with Ms. Romano, the young single mom with her two daughters, but I wasn't one of them. The show had a few laughs, but it just never really interested me, and I never watched it at all after the first two or three seasons. I was, in fact, amazed to learn that it stayed on the air for nine years.

Now for the age thing. It just doesn't seem possible that Mackenzie Phillips is 44. That Valerie Bertinelli is 43. That Bonnie Franklin is 61. That Pat Harrington Jr. is 75.

Good grief. Now I'm feeling old again. You young whippersnappers can laugh, but some day you'll know what it's like. I'm just sorry I won't be there to laugh and point at you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Jack Higgins -- The Early Years

For quite a while now, Berkley Books has been republishing some of Jack Higgins' early novels, the ones that haven't been issued in paperback here in the U.S. Or hardback, for that matter. My favorite so far has been Pay the Devil, set during the Civil War. But a close second is The Graveyard Shift. This one's like a Gold Medal novel, with a main character (a cop named Nick Miller) who's not a lot different from the criminals he hates. The action of the novel, for the most part, takes place during one night, and the story moves along like a bullet. A man gets out of prison, and he's coming back to where it all started. The cops are asked to protect someone, and Miller gets the job, which naturally turns out to be a bit more complicated than anyone thought. It's hard to talk about the book without going into the ending, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you. So don't read past this point if you're thinking about reading it. All I'll say is that while the ending doesn't go The Maltese Falcon one better, the influence is obvious. Even though this book must not have been very highly thought of either by Higgins or his publishers (else it would have been reprinted before 2002), I like it better than any of the ones he's written in the last ten or fifteen years.

The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time

Mobile PC - Features - The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time: "The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time"

Some great stuff here. How many of these do you own?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Stone Cold

It's been so long since I watched a made-for-TV movie that I can't even remember what the last one was. But I decided to watch Stone Cold because I like Tom Selleck, and I liked the book. And what do you know? I wasn't disappointed.

First of all, someone got smart and used John Huston's old Maltese Falcon trick: they actually shot Stone Cold pretty much as Robert B. Parker wrote it. His dialogue works great on the page, and it works just as well on the screen. And Selleck delivered it well, too. In fact, the whole cast is good.

More good news: they didn't try to lighten it up. The Jesse Stone books have a darker edge than the Spenser novels, and they kept the mood appropriately dark.

Maybe it's not surprising when a TV movie gets so many things right. Maybe I should watch more of them. I know for sure I'll watch another Jesse Stone movie if they make one.

Sandra Dee, Hunter S. Thompson -- RIP

I'm getting really tired of having people die. I never met either Sandra Dee or Hunter S. Thompson(and what a pairing) but their passing has affected me nevertheless.

Sandra Dee hasn't appeared in a movie or on TV for about 30 years now, but people my age still remember her vividly. In a lot of minds she's inextricably linked with the irksome strains of "Theme from a Summer Place" because she starred in the movie with Troy Donahue, and of course to some of us she'll always be Gidget. That was her curse, I guess, but in a way it's really not. I haven't seen an image of her from her later years, so age won't wither her in my mind's eye. It probably wouldn't, even if I did happen to see a recent picture. I like to think she'd have been a lot like Barbara Burnett Smith, still pretty and bubbly even as a grandmother. [Musical digression that I can't resist: The Four Preps appeared in Gidget, and sang a couple of songs. "Cinderella" was one of them, a great number. Far superior, I might add to "Theme from a Summer Place."]

I'll always remember Hunter S. Thompson for a couple of things, his book about the Hell's Angels, real knockout, and his "Fear and Loathing" articles in Rolling Stone, back in the days when Rolling Stone still mattered. Maybe it still matters to some people, and for all I know, it does. But to me in the late '60s and a good portion of the '70s, it mattered a lot, and Thompson's writing, accompanied by those great Ralph Steadman illustrations, was one of the highlights.

More on Hunter S. Thompson

Incoming Signals: A Weblog

Lots of links to interviews and such here.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Barbara Burnett Smith -- RIP

In a post to DorothyL today, Patsy Asher, of San Antonio's Remember the Alibi, says that Barbara Burnett Smith died in an accident in San Antonio Saturday night. Barbara and her husband there to rescue a dog, and when they visited Remember the Alibi, the dog ran from their car and into the street. It was raining and dark, and apparently Barbara stepped into the street to catch the dog. She was hit by a car and died in the hospital.

I'm still in shock over this. I've known Barbara for at least 15 years, and she was one of the nicest people you'd ever hope to meet. She was lovely and perky and a very talented writer. She was also the former daughter-in-law of another fine mystery writer, Thomas B. Dewey, whom she credited with helping her quite a bit when she was starting out.

I don't really have much more to say, except that the world is a poorer place without Barbara in it.