Saturday, April 29, 2006

Happy Belated Birthday, Ann-Margret!

Okay, I'm a day late with this, but only because the thought of Ann-Margret turning 65 depressed me so much I didn't post it. I like to think that she's still exactly the way she was when she filmed Kitten with a Whip or Viva Las Vegas. And in fact to me she still is. Take that, Father Time.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Crocodile Chainsaw Massacre!

Cranky croc snatches chainsaw from man: "Cranky croc snatches chainsaw from man
Friday Apr 28 17:00 AEST

A crocodile agitated by a chainsaw's noise has chased the man operating it and snatched the machinery from him.

Freddy Buckland was at a Northern Territory roadhouse on Friday cutting a dead tree that had fallen against a saltwater crocodile pen during Cyclone Monica when the 4.4-metre reptile struck.

'As he was trimming up the tree on the outside the croc jumped out of the water and sped along the tree about 18, 20 feet and actually grabbed the chainsaw out of his hands,' said Peter Shappert, the owner of the Corroboree Park Tavern, 80km east of Darwin."

Happy Birthday, Harper Lee

Harper Lee is, of course, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my favorite books. Here are a few amazing facts about it from The Writer's Almanac: Today, To Kill a Mockingbird sells about a million copies every year, and it's sold over thirty million copies since its publication. In 1963, just three years after its publication, it was taught in eight percent of U.S. public middle schools and high schools, and today that figure is closer to eighty percent. Only Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Huckleberry Finn are read by more high school students.

Mystery*File Update

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "We're back. Due to circumstances beyond our control -- it's a long story, which means I don't understand the technical stuff -- we were off-line all morning. If you tried to access any pages uploaded over the past few days, including the latest revisions to this page, you couldn't. I hope you will try again!"

Mystery*File seems to have suffered a little downtime (I was able to get to the site most of the time, myself), but things are going well again, so check it out. The latest article to be added is an overview of Robert Crais' Elvis Cole novels.

The '60s Redux

You can listen (for free) to Neil Young's new CD here. Shades of the '60s. (Link via Eschaton.)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

From MWA: The Winners

Image It gives us great pleasure to announce the winners of the 2006 Edgar® Awards (for books, short stories, TV episodes, etc.) published in 2005.


Citizen Vince by Jess Walter (Regan Books)


Officer Down by Theresa Schwegel (St. Martin's Minotaur)


Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford (Dark Alley)


Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick (Harper Collins)


Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
by Melanie Rehak (Harcourt)


"The Catch" – Greatest Hits by James W. Hall (Carroll & Graf)


The Boys of San Joaquin by D. James Smith (Simon & Schuster Children’s Books)


Last Shot by John Feinstein (Knopf Books for Young Readers)


Matter of Intent by Gary Earl Ross (Theater Loft)


Sea of Souls – "Amulet", Teleplay by Ed Whitmore


Syriana – Screenplay by Stephen Gaghan, based on the book by Robert Baer (Warner Brothers)

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions -- Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen's new CD, a tribute to Pete Seeger, is the kind of thing that would have given the folkies of my day apoplexy. I mean, like, man, it's not "authentic." It's not just one guy with an acoustic guitar (which Springsteen has done before, more than once, most recently on Devils and Dust). It's a guy and a chorus and a band. Guitars, sure, but also barrelhouse piano, horns, accordion, maybe a washboard, lots of other instruments. Some of the songs have been given a Dixieland feel, while others are more zydeco. I like 'em all.

Supposedly Springsteen heard most if not all these songs for the first time on albums by Pete Seeger. I heard at least four of them on Kingston Trio albums back in the day, and one on albums by both Burl Ives and the Brothers 4. Springsteen doesn't do them like any of those guys did. He does them like Springsteen. I find it hard to single out one song I like more than the others. There's the Dust Bowl humor of "My Oklahoma Home," the grade-school nostalgia kick from "Erie Canal," the church group nostalgia from "Jacob's Ladder," the kick-out-the jams fun of "Old Dan Tucker," "Oh, Mary, Don't you Weep," "Old Dan Tucker," "Pay Me My Money Down," "John Henry," and "Jesse James." There's the quiet power of "Mrs. McGrath," "Shenandoah," "Eyes on the Prize," and the title cut. The whole album is loosey-goosey, and it sounds like everybody involved is having a heck of a good time, which is just the way a folk album should sound. Sure, some of the songs are solemn, and I'm certain there are contemporary political references to be inferred, but I don't see how anybody could listen without smiling most of the time. In fact, I think I'll listen to it again right now.

Another New Drive-In Theater for Texas | Drive-in theater makes its debut: "Drive-in theater makes its debut
Show Boat attracts nearly 1,000 to its opening night

Chronicle Correspondent

The Show Boat Drive-In Theater has put on quite a show during its first few weeks.

Make that two shows.

The Show Boat Drive-In, 22422 FM 2920 between Bauer and Roberts Cemetery roads, drew just under 1,000 spectators to its 'grand opening' on March 31.

The drive-in featured the movies Ice Age 2 and Failure to Launch. It will continue to show double features Wednesdays through Sundays each week.

'Everything has gone great so far,' said Show Boat co-owner Chris Rumfolo. 'We have received a lot of positive feedback. Everyone is real excited about it.

'The ones who are coming with their kids are so thrilled the drive-in is coming back. The younger ones who have never been to a drive-in before are just fascinated.'

Those new to the drive-in have provided some good-natured humor.

'They don't know how to park,' Rumfolo said. 'They also don't know they can stay for the second movie. A lot of them think they have to go get back in line again."

This one doesn't have the speakers on poles, though. You have to listen through the car radio.

Wanna Buy the Lone Ranger's Pistols? | Classic Western items going on the auction block near Waller: "John Reedy reaches into a stack of clutter and pulls out a faded framed photo of himself, grinning widely next to a good-looking older man about the same height.

'There's Roy,' Reedy said, pointing to Western star Roy Rogers, 'and there's me. I never stopped smiling with him.'

For 60-year-old Reedy, what started as Saturday afternoons at the movies with his brothers became a consuming passion for the classic Hollywood West, ultimately manifested in a massive collection of memorabilia and a closeness to genre stars including Rogers, Rex Allen and Clayton Moore.

It's strange, he said, being star-struck by men you call friends.

'I was always cowboy crazy,' Reedy said. 'I get misty-eyed when I think about it.'

Those friends and other stars of the genre may now be gone, but their memories — and belongings — remain. On Saturday, Reedy will open up his personal collection for an estate auction, giving the community a chance at everything from the Lone Ranger costume worn by Moore in a 1956 movie to more than 40 pieces by Edward H. Bohlin, 'the saddlemaker and silversmith for the Hollywood stars.'"

Not That There's Anything Wrong with That

New Jersey 101.5 FM Radio: "A federal judge has dismissed a cross-dressing Atlantic County corrections officer's civil rights and harassment lawsuit.

Gregory DePiano said his civil rights were violated because the county kept two photos in his personal file of him wearing a red bra, black blouse, red lipstick and earrings. He was sitting on a bed with handcuffs and stuffed animals nearby. "

Burn -- Sean Doolittle

Andrew Kindler is escaping his past by hiding in plain sight in Southern California. Anybody who's ever read a mystery novel or seen an old western movie knows you can't escape the past, however, and Kindler's catches up with him in an unexpected way. He finds himself involved in a murder, too, one that everybody seems to think he knows something about. He doesn't, but that doesn't keep him from getting involved.

I liked this book for a couple of reasons. Doolittle can be funny without going over the top, and he fills the story with interesting characters. I like the writing style, straighforward and lean. The book went on for a little too long for my taste, and the tying up of the plot didn't really satisfy me, but I plan to read another of Doolittle's books Real Soon Now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Happy Birthday, Maurice Williams!

Maurice Williams is 68 years old today. He's the author of the best 1:38 single ever released, and he sang lead with the Zodiacs on the recording. One of the greats.

The Gator Should Have Pled Self-Defense - News - Alligator Bites Golf Ball Diver In Florida:

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - -- "A diver hired by the city to retrieve golf balls from a lake was attacked by a 9-foot alligator that bit the man's arm, authorities said.

Stephen Martinez, 43, of Coral Springs, was treated at a hospital for injuries similar to a dog bite, said Palm Beach County sheriff's Lt. Rolando Silva.

'It's serious, but certainly not life-threatening,' he said.

Martinez was under murky water at The Links golf course when a group of golfers heard him yell for help, said course manager Dan Hager.

The alligator apparently bit Martinez's air tank and tried to pull him under the water. Martinez grabbed a utility knife strapped to his dive suit and tried to stab the animal. That's when it bit his arm, Hager said."

Side by Side #5 (by Request)

Side by Side #4

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mystery*File Update

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "In the first installment of Bill Crider’s column in which he reviews Gold Medal paperbacks of the 1950s, neither of two books he reviews are Gold Medal paperbacks of the 1950s. Can you guess who the authors might be? Hint: Their last names are Pronzini and Gorman. Reprinted from Mystery*File 40."

There's always so much going on at Mystery*File that it should be on your "check every day" list.

The Family Circus plus H. P. Lovecraft = ?

Scott Cupp sent me this link. Family Circus cartoons with captions provided by H. P. Lovecraft. Talk about your Unholy Duos! Check it out.

Happy Birthday, Howard Garis!

If Howard Garis was still around, he'd be 133 years old. Who, the youngsters are asking, is Howard Garis? Just a guy who had a huge influence on my life, though I never met him. Garis was a writer. He created a character I loved as a kid, Uncle Wiggily, the kindly old rabbit gentleman. I even had an Uncle Wiggily board game. Other characters in the books were Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy, the Alligator, and Baby Bunny. But Garis wrote a ton of other things. He was the first "Victor Appleton" and wrote the first thirty-five Tom Swift books. He wrote most of the Motor Boys series, not to mention a lot of the Bobbsey Twins books (his wife wrote more of them than he did). And that's not nearly all. Baseball Joe and Dick Hamilton were also Garis characters. He wrote the Great Marvel series as Roy Rockwood (and maybe some of the Bomba books under that name, too). Most of these books have been long forgotten except by old codgers like me who read them in their misspent youth. They seemed wonderful to me then, bu it's probably better that I don't re-read them.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Happy Anniversary, Heartbreak Hotel! - Other Entertainment News - This week in entertainment history, April 23-29: "1956 Elvis Presley reached No. 1 on the charts for the first time, with Heartbreak Hotel. It was Presley's first hit for RCA Victor after the company purchased his contract from Sam Phillips of Sun Records for $35,000."

Malcolm Braly from Stark House

When I posted the list of upcoming publications from Stark House the other day, I forgot to mention the current double dose of Malcolm Braly. These are two excellent novels, originally Gold Medal originals, and both are highly recommended. You can order the book here. And I should mention, if I haven't already (and even if I have) that these are beautiful, well-made books, trade paperbacks that you'll be happy to own and have as part of any collection.

Okay, It's Official . . .

. . . the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. Or maybe I'm just a crotchety old fart. You can vote here for the new landmarks and so on. They don't have a "Don't Change a Thing" category.
From USA Today: Monopoly, invented in 1935, is undergoing gentrification. For the game's Here and Now edition (due this fall, $30), Atlantic City landmarks go national, property values are up and the metal tokens are modern.

Beginning today, fans can vote (at through May 12) for landmarks from 22 cities — including New York's Times Square, Chicago's Wrigley Field and Honolulu's Waikiki Beach — to be on the new board. Votes also will determine placement; the top vote-getter gets the high-priced Boardwalk spot.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Happy Birthday, Roy Orbison!

My brother decided to have a party in honor of what would have been Roy Orbison's 70th birthday, April 22. He rented the Civic Center in Mexia, Texas, our hometown, and invited just about everybody he knew. Naturally I couldn't resist attending.

The star attraction was, of course, a performance by Roy Orbison, or at least a reasonable facsimile of same. He was great, and he's pictured at the left with a couple of my high school classmates, Claudia Moss New and Mary Clark Mortimer. A great time was had by all.