Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Beatles!

A blog devoted to video and audio Beatles clips? What a great idea. It's right here.

Happy Birthday, James M. Cain

James M. Cain (1892-1977) did not write about detectives or publish in the pulps. He was an Easterner, a newspaperman and a protégé of H. L. Mencken who went West during the Depression to write for Hollywood. There he wrote moviescripts and crime novels. His gift for dialogue and the first-person, confessional form of his narratives gave them the suspense other writers achieved with a detective on a case.

Like a lot of you, probably, I still remember the first time I read The Postman Always Rings Twice. Wow! I got a copy of Double Indemnity and read that one. Wow, again! I saw the movies later. Wow, a third time! Cain translated well to the screen in black and white. No question, one of the greats.

On the July 3rd broadcast of Beth Foxwell's radio show "It's a Mystery," she'll present the radio version of
Double Indemnity. That's Monday at 10:00 A.M. CDT at
this link.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Pulp Heroes Redux

From The Shadow and Doc Savage are returning to thrill fans old and new. Anthony Tollin has acquired the license to reprint the original Shadow
and Doc Savage pulp novels, and will be publishing trade paperback
reprints in partnership with Nostalgia Ventures, Inc., a leader in the
field of radio and television nostalgia. These Shadow and Doc Savage
volumes are officially licensed by Condé Nast, the owner of the famous

"This is a dream come true for me," proclaims Anthony Tollin, the
former DC Comics professional who is also a leading pulp and radio
historian. Tollin co-authored Walter B. Gibson's The Shadow Scrapbook
in 1979, and has long desired to get Gibson's Shadow novels back in
print. "We're reissuing the classic pulp stories with the original
covers and interior art, with the type reset for clarity. We're
initially releasing the stories in a double-novel format. Our first
volume, already at the printers, reprints Walter Gibson's Crime,
Insured and The Golden Vulture, a Shadow novel that Lester Dent
wrote in 1932 that was later revised by Gibson and published in 1938.
This is the Shadow novel that won Lester Dent the Doc Savage contract.
Our first story, 'Crime, Insured' is recognized as Walt Gibson's
greatest action thriller, in which a criminal organization penetrates
The Shadow's operation and captures his major agents, and The Shadow
is trapped as the entire New York underworld invades his sanctum."

I read about this on the fictionmags list. No more details yet.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Sometimes when I can't figure out why a movie didn't to better at the box office, I ask Judy. When I asked about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, she said, "How many people do you think there are who know what the old Mike Shayne paperbacks looked like or even care?" See, the movie is based (in part) on a Shayne novel called Bodies are Where you Find Them, and one of the characters reads books about a p.i. named Johnny Gossamer, whose novels even had great McGinnis covers. I love stuff like that. So does James Reasoner.

But that's certainly not all the movie has going for it. Consider, for one thing, the great retro opening title sequence.

The plot is convoluted, but I followed it pretty well. (Just one minor quibble, I think.) Anyway, a convoluted plot is exactly what's called for in a movie where each section is introduced with the title lifted from Raymond Chandler, a master of convolution. The characters are great, and the cast does them justice. Robert Downey, Jr., is scruffy (and self-referential), Val Kilmer does one of his patented movie-stealing turns as the private-eye called Gay Perry, and Michelle Monaghan is as tough and spunky as you could ask for, reminding me a little of Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight (this is high praise from me, in case you're wondering). There's plenty of humor and snappy dialogue, along with a lot of action. Two thumbs way up.

Competitive Eating Update #2

From the Wall Street Journal: Sonya Thomas has been eating competitively since June 2003 and has set records for wolfing down everything from oysters to meatballs to tater tots. Her ability to outeat larger, male competitors has earned her the nickname "The Black Widow." During the day, the 38-year-old champion eater manages a Burger King restaurant located at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. She lives in Alexandria, Va.

To gear up for contests, she constantly tries to maintain or improve her hand speed, eye-hand coordination, jaw strength and stomach capacity. She says her day job as a Burger King manager keeps her hand speed and hand-eye coordination in top form.

"When I'm working I'm non-stop for eight hours, constantly moving and walking around and I can tell my body is working hard," she says. "I'm pulling orders out of windows and scooping fries." She also keeps her jaw in shape by chewing two pieces of sugarless gum at a time throughout the day. Once or twice a week she eats dried squid. "It really exhausts your jaw," she says."You have to keep your jaw strong when you eat so much and are using the muscle for such a long time," she says.

A Fifth of Bruen -- Ken Bruen

David Thompson, of Houston's Murder by the Book, has a small press. I like the name: Busted Flush Press. One his recent publications is A Fifth of Bruen, a collection of Ken Bruen's early novels and stories, the books that "he used to sell by hand in the bars of his home town," according to the introduction by Al Guthrie. For a mere eighteen bucks, you can't go wrong with a collection like this.

I've read one of the short novels so far, All the Old Songs and Nothing to Lose. I picked this one because it's a crime novel, and it turns out to be sort of Bruen's version of Death Wish. A vigilante is on the loose, but he's a Bruen vigilante, one who quotes literary poetry and song lyrics with equal facility. Great stuff, and it has all the hallmarks of Bruen's current work. Props to David for publishing this volume. Check it out.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

They Could Use It in the Northeast

June 29, 2006 A team of Texas archaeologists believe they may have located the remains of Noah's Ark in Iran's Elburz mountain range.

"I can't imagine what it could be if it is not the Ark," said Arch Bonnema of the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (B.A.S.E) Institute, a Christian archeology organization dedicated to looking for biblical artifacts.

Bonnema and the other B.A.S.E. Institute members hiked for seven hours in the mountains northwest of Tehran, climbing 13,000 feet before making the apparent discovery.

Swing Low, Swing Dead -- Frank Gruber

This is Frank Gruber's only paperback original about Johnny Fletcher. It's a Belmont Book from 1964, and it's about song theft, something that probably wasn't uncommon in the 1950s. Maybe it's not uncommon even now, but this book reads as if it were written six or seven years before it was published. It would be interesting to know if it was a trunk book.

But I digress. Johnny Fletcher and his sidekick, Sam Cragg, share a room at a small hotel. They're essentially conmen, though when asked they claim to be book salesmen because that's their line. They set up on the street and sell body-building books out of a suitcase. Sam Cragg demonstrates how he can snap chains by explanding his manly chest. Did I mention that he and Fletcher live together in a hotel room? Not that there's anything wrong with that, and besides, these guys get involved with all kinds of hot chicks. They're not overcompensating, either. At least I don't think they are.

But I digress again. What happens is that Sam wins a song in a crap game, and then the guy who wrote it is poisoned, and then it turns out that someone's already recorded the song and has a big hit with it. All this is straightened out in the end. Gruber tells everything in a straightforward, no-frills way. Very light entertainment, not necessarily for everyone. Worth checking out as an artefact of a by-gone time, though.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project

T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. is a series of experiments conducted during finals week, 1995, at Rice University. The tests were designed to determine the properties of that incredible food, the Twinkie.

Rice is one of Texas' premier universities. It's easy to see why. Be sure to read the haiku.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Now in Paperback: A Knife in the Back

Once again there's a paperback of one of my books that you can get only through the Worldwide subscription program. Kind of a drab cover, but then the cover doesn't really matter since the book won't be available at bookstores. Within a day or so you can probably get a copy on Amazon for a penny, plus postage. I think the hardbacks are going for a quarter. As you can tell, I'm a highly collectible author.

Rogue Gator Update

Largo, Florida - A trapper has captured a gator in a lake in Ridgecrest Park in Largo. The gator may be the one which attacked and carrying off a miniature Shih Tzus Sunday afternoon. Al Clark and his two dogs, Fifi and Cassidy were romping around the lake, off their leashes, when the eight foot gator attacked. Clark says he felt helpless as he saw his 8-year-old pet FiFi being carried away in the gator's jaws. Clark scooped up his other dog, Cassidy, and put him in the car. Clark says he'll never walk Cassidy at the park again.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Red Leaves -- Thomas H. Cook

Thomas Cook's Red Leaves was nominated for an Edgar. It's not a mystery novel, but I suppose it's a crime novel. It's mainly about what happens to a family when suspicion and fear get the better of a father whose son is suspected in the disappearance of a neighbor's young daughter. The resolution to the crime is a little bit out of left field, and for at least one reason very unsatisfactory to me, but the book is well written and suspenseful. It's also as bleak as any noir fiction you're likely to read anytime soon. If that's the kind of thing you like now and then, grab this one now. Don't wait for then.

Ummmmmmm, Eeeel.

A LOW-fat ice cream using DNA from an eel-like fish has been developed by scientists.

A protein created from the blood of the North Atlantic ocean pout could cut the fat content, reduce calories by 30 per cent and alter the genetic make-up of ingredients without affecting taste.

It is already used in some US ice creams and is being developed here by Unilever.

A spokesman said: "People want lower fat products but don't want to sacrifice taste."

Homeland "Security"? I Report, You Decide - Sales calls push security hotline to refuge of Do Not Call list: "Ever feel there's no getting away from telephone sales calls?

You're not the only one. The federal government has decided to put its own secret Homeland Security hotline to the nation's 50 governors on the federal Do Not Call Registry, according to Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

The move came after a complaint Thursday by Minner, who said that when her line rings, chances are it's not an emergency but an unwanted intrusion. 'Every time that phone rings, it's telemarketers,' she said in Washington.

Minner keeps the secret homeland defense hotline in her office. Governors have them for instant communication with Washington in case of a major emergency. Minner says that when her line rings, it's someone offering a time-share condominium or the latest deal on long-distance phone service.

'I wonder about the security of that line,' Minner said."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Competitive Eating Update

There's video at the link.

Woman eats 60 ham biscuits in eight minutes: "It's a country staple, but normally Ham Biscuits aren't devoured like this. It was a gluttonous scene at Lynchburg's Virginia Harley Owners Group rally Saturday afternoon.

One woman chomped down her biscuits faster than anyone else there. Her name is Sonya Thomas.

She's known as the 'Black Widow' in the world of competitive eating."

Shamus Nominations -- Congratulations to All!


The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) is proud to announce the nominees for the 25th annual Shamus Awards, given annually to recognize outstanding achievement in private eye fiction. The 2006 awards cover works published in 2005.

PWA was founded in 1981 by Robert J. Randisi to recognize the private eye genre and its writers. Previous Shamus winners include Lawrence Block, Ken Bruen, Harlan Coben, Max Allan Collins, Robert Crais, Brendan DuBois, Loren D. Estleman, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Sue Grafton, James W. Hall, Steve Hamilton, Jeremiah Healy, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, John Lutz, Bill Pronzini, S.J. Rozan, Sandra Scoppettone and Don Winslow. The awards will be presented on Sept. 29, 2006, at PWA’s 25th Anniversary Banquet in Madison, WI, during the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention.

Shamus Awards 2006 Nominees (for works published in 2005)

Best Hardcover

Oblivion by Peter Abrahams (Wm. Morrow), featuring Nick Petrov.

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown), featuring Mickey Haller.

The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais (Doubleday), featuring Elvis Cole.

In A Teapot by Terence Faherty (Crum Creek Press), featuring Scott Elliot.

The Man with the Iron-On Badge by Lee Goldberg (Five Star), featuring Harvey Mapes.

Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosley (Little, Brown), featuring Easy Rawlins.

Best Paperback Original

Falling Down by David Cole (Avon), featuring Laura Winslow.

The James Deans by Reed Farrell Coleman (Plume), featuring Moe Prager.

Deadlocked by Joel Goldman (Pinnacle), featuring Lou Mason.

Cordite Wine by Richard Helms (Back Alley Books), featuring Eamon Gold.

A Killing Rain by PJ Parrish (Pinnacle), featuring Louis Kincaid.

Best First Novel

Blood Ties by Lori G. Armstrong (Medallion), featuring Julie Collins.

Still River by Harry Hunsicker (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur), featuring Lee Henry Oswald.

The Devil’s Right Hand by J. D. Rhoades (St. Martin's Minotaur), featuring Jack Keller.

Forcing Amaryllis by Louise Ure (Mysterious Press – Warner), featuring Calla Gentry.

Best Short Story

“Oh, What a Tangled Lanyard We Weave” by Parnell Hall. Murder Most Crafty (Berkley), featuring Stanley Hastings.

“Two Birds with One Stone” by Jeremiah Healy. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Jan/Feb 2005, featuring John Francis Cuddy.

“The Big Road” by Steve Hockensmith. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May 2005, featuring Larry Erie.

“A Death in Ueno” by Michael Wiecek. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, March 2005 featuring Masakazu Sakonju.

“The Breaks” by Timothy Williams. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2005 featuring Charlie Raines.


Bogart News

New York Daily News - Breaking News: "NYC renames block after Humphrey Bogart

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Upper West Side brownstone where Humphrey Bogart grew up has long ago been turned into public housing. But the block, like Paris, will always be his.

Scores of fans stood in the drizzle Saturday as the city unveiled a plaque renaming the short stretch in front of 245 W. 103rd St. as Humphrey Bogart Place.

'Bogie would have never believed it,' said the actress Lauren Bacall, who was married to Bogart from 1945 until his death in 1957. She said the day was an emotional one, and her time with Bogart too short."

Even Sheriff Dan Rhodes is More Efficient than This | News | CSI: New Caney: "They do things differently up in New Caney, which is a small town in the woods of east Montgomery County. Take, for instance, their methods for identifying dead bodies.

Most coroners -- if confronted with a corpse who obviously has a wallet in his pants pocket -- would check that wallet for what investigators call 'clues' as to the victim's identity.

They don't mess with such high-falutin' detective work in New Caney, where the slogan seems to be 'We'll get the right ID -- eventually.'"

Catch-22, Iraq Style

This is one of the most interesting articles I've read on the Iraq War, a topic not often addressed here.

How Iraq became greater Islington - Sunday Times - Times Online: "[Rory Stewart] arrived in southern Iraq in the autumn of 2003, six months after the invasion, and spent more than a year as local governor, overseeing the local 'rebuilding' of the community. The dissonance between the aspirations of his bosses in Baghdad and the situation on the ground is staggering. When he could not even leave his compound as it was under siege from mortar attack, he was sent memos ordering him to set up 'gender awareness workshops' in remote marshland villages. Vacuum-packed $1m 'bricks' arrived so fast that he ran out of ideas about how to spend them. While his region drowned in blood, he was drowning in memos laden with 'David Brent jargon' or ordering him to seek out three rival glaziers to gain quotes to replace a window."