Saturday, August 05, 2006

Books on Demand

Thanks to Ed Gorman for the link.

Publishing: On-Demand Paperbacks - Newsweek Periscope - "July 31, 2006 issue - Imagine if there were a magic machine that could print entire books in mere minutes. You could go to a bookstore or coffee shop, choose a book online from millions of digital titles and then—poof!—out would come a fully bound book. You could get rare and out-of-print titles, in any language, and for less because the inventory isn't stored on site.

That machine exists—it's called the Espresso Book Machine—and it's currently being tested at the World Bank bookstore in Washington, D.C. (The New York Public Library and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in Egypt, are each getting one in the fall.) Former Random House editorial director Jason Epstein, a legend in the industry, and former Dean & DeLuca CEO Dane Neller are backing the venture. 'We're on the verge of something really powerful here,' says Epstein.

The current model of the machine can print the text for a 300-page book, with a color paperback cover—and bind it—in just three minutes and for only a penny per page. It will retail for less than $100,000. If publishers digitize their catalogs and booksellers get onboard (big ifs), the machine could revolutionize the current warehouse-distribution model. 'I think that this may, indeed, someday come to fruition,' says Jane Friedman, CEO of HarperCollins. 'But there's a lot that still has to be worked out.'"

Things are Hairy in Scotland

Hairy MP wins sex scandal case - World - "A Scottish Socialist MP has his excessive body hair to thank for a startling victory over the might of Britain's most aggressive tabloid newspaper.

Tommy Sheridan, 42, has been found by a jury to have been wronged by the Murdoch-owned News Of The World paper, which had accused him of being a serial adulterer and patron of swingers' clubs.

In a libel case that has transfixed Scotland for weeks, more than a dozen witnesses appeared to corroborate the newspaper's claims, including three women who reported having participated in orgies with Mr Sheridan.

Several of the former party leader's colleagues testified that he had admitted during a party meeting to frequenting swingers' clubs.

Even the Scottish Socialist Party leader, Colin Fox, confirmed Mr Sheridan's admission, and questioned his judgement in bringing the 200,000 euros ($500,000) action against the paper.

At one stage the popular MP sacked his defence team and proceeded to represent himself, quizzing women who claimed to have spanked him, rolled ice cubes around his body and taken cocaine with him. But it was Mr Sheridan's wife, Gail, who fed the defence its silver bullet.

Under heavy cross-examination by her husband, Gail Sheridan confessed to feeling surprised that none of his alleged paramours had mentioned his luxuriant body hair.

'You're like a monkey,' she told her husband in court. 'Anybody rolling an ice cube round your body would have had a hair ball in their throat.'

Mr Sheridan, in summarising his case, offered to disrobe to reinforce this point, but was restrained by the judge.

Early on Friday, however, the jury returned a verdict in favour of the MP, awarding the full amount of damages to be paid by the News Of The World."

The Sad Deline of Luby's Cafeterias

When I was a kid, I went to San Antonio to visit my aunt. She took me to Luby's Cafeteria. I was an instant Luby's fan.

A couple of years before she died, when I was on another visit, we went to Luby's again. That was at least 50 years after the original visit. I could be wrong, but I believe the cafeteria was in the same building as it was when I first went. It was for sure pretty much the same menu, served in pretty much the same way.

But something happened. The Pappas brothers have bought an interest in the old cafeteria chain, and they've started doing things differently. Naturally the prices went up. They've kept going up, in fact, that that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about changes.

The first insidious change was to the menu. My favorite dish (and, I thought, the favorite of many), the cheese enchilada platter, was dropped.

After a while, the warming trays disappeared. Yes, "presentation" has become important even in cafeterias, so the food is in platters and bowls now. It's not as warm as it was when it came from the trays, but the presentation is classier.

More recently, the little carts with coffee and ice water and tea disappeared, too. Instead, a person in a red coat rushes up to your table and says, "I'll be your waiter today." Waiters? In a cafeteria?

A geezer such as myself can accept one change. With bad grace, naturally, but still . . . Two changes is pushing it. The third one's the charm. After more than 50 years as a Luby's customer, I won't be going back. There's only so much an old guy can stand.

A Dirty Job -- Christopher Moore

Charlie Asher is a Beta Male, and he knows it. He deals in secondhand goods and feels lucky to be married the the lovely Rachel. Unfortunately, Rachel dies in childbirth, leaving Charlie to bring up their daughter, Sophie. Sounds hilarious, right? Well, believe it or not, it is. Christopher Moore can make even death funny, which is a good thing since that's what the whole book is about. After his wife's death, Charlie discovers that not only does have have a daughter to raise but that he's a Death Merchant, a person who gathers the souls of the recently deceased so that they (the souls, not the deceased) don't fall into the wrong hands. Those hands would belong to the Morrigan and to Orcus, who are living in the sewers of San Francisco, waiting to return to power and take over the world. Charlie believes that only he can stop them. (If the plot sounds a little similar to the one of Gil's All Fright Diner, well, it is.) I've enjoyed all Christopher Moore's novels, and this one's no exception, though it did seem a little bit long. If you're in the mood for something really strange, but hilarious, check it out.

Star Bikinis

In Style | Trends | Summer Trends 2006 | Star Bikinis: "Star Bikinis
Yes, celebrities look great in bathing suits, but why, exactly? It’s not just because of their perfect bodies. We asked swimsuit designer Malia Mills why these bikinis work for each individual star’s shape and style."

Paris Hilton: "The fabric and flirty cut are so Paris Hilton. She doesn’t shy away from bright colors or fun prints, and with the big glasses, it’s a great head-to-toe look."

John Duke, after agreeing with Jeff Meyerson about my unhealthy obsession with P.H. and suggesting professional help, sent this link. (Other stars [Lindsay Lohan! Jessica Simpson!] in bikinis can be found if you click it.)

Texas Leads the Way - Texas School District Bans Cleavage: "Texas School District Bans Cleavage
(CBS) ARLINGTON, Texas With a new school year about to begin, some female students in one Texas school district may have to rethink their wardrobes.

Teen fashions often leave parents a little disgruntled. Arlington Independent School District parent Frances Henson said, "I'm thinking that our daughters are growing up a little bit too fast these days."

Arlington School Board members agree with parents and this summer, they adopted an unusual amendment to the student dress code.

The new dress code reads, in part, "The display of cleavage is unacceptable. Low cut blouses, tops, sweaters, etc. with plunging necklines are not allowed."

"It's gotten bad enough that, unfortunately, our young males are looking at more than their English book, their speech book, their science book," says school board president Sherri Wade. "And it's kind of nice to have something left to the imagination."

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Hottest Billionaire Heiresses

The Hottest Billionaire Heiresses - "The Hottest Billionaire Heiresses
Luisa Kroll and Chaniga Vorasarun 07.27.06, 6:00 PM ET

Fortune has long conferred fame. But recently, our obsession with the fabulously wealthy has spawned a new breed of celebrity: the beautiful and stylish billionaire heiresses. Sometimes called 'celebutantes,' these much-photographed trendsetters sit front row at fashion shows, take the most spectacular vacations, frequent the hippest nightclubs like Bungalow 8 (where a few rowdy ones have been known to get into cat fights) and regularly land in the tabloids.

The best-known celebutante is Paris Hilton, who ranked number 56 on our annual ranking of the world's 100 most powerful celebrities. Paris is the gold standard, flaunting her Hilton (nyse: HLT - news - people ) dollars with aplomb on her Simple Life reality show. Great-granddaughter of the hotel chain's founder, Conrad Hilton, she has managed to upstage the family's hotels with her regular appearances in the celebrity gossip rags and occasional stints as an actress and singer."

Check out the slideshow.

Fireball over Texas - Local News - Fireball Over Texas 'Turned Night Into Day': "A fireball seen streaking through the sky in Lakeway, Texas, 'turned night to day,' according to a police officer who witnessed the event.

SLIDESHOW: Fireball Images

A police cruiser dashcam videotaped the streak at about 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Hundreds of residents who witnessed the bright light in the sky called police and media, KNBC-TV reported.

'A police officer who captured the video said the light turned night into day,' Local 6's Jacqueline London said.

Astronomers said the light was either a meteor fireball or space junk entering the atmosphere, according to the report."

Books by John D. MacDonald

Well, it turns out that I couldn't resist doing one more flickr slideshow. This one features my John D. MacDonald paperbacks, and you can see it here.

Happy Birthday, Dennis Lehane!

From The Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of the crime writer Dennis Lehane, (books by this author) born in Dorchester, Massachusetts (1965). He grew up in a poor Irish neighborhood in Boston that he once described as "[a place] cramped with corner stores, small playgrounds, and butcher shops ... [where] days, the mothers searched the papers for coupons. Nights, the fathers went to bars. You knew everyone; nobody ever left."

Lehane was one of the few kids from the neighborhood who went to college. He got a master's degree in a creative writing program, and moved back to Boston, where he took a job as a valet in a parking garage. He started writing detective novels, the first of which came out in 1994: A Drink before the War. He supported himself as a chauffeur, and wrote most of his next two books on a yellow legal pad while sitting in the front seat of a limousine. The fifth book in the series, Prayers for Rain, was successful enough that Lehane was able to quit his job and write full time.

Earl Kemp's Latest e-Zine

As usual, there's so much information crammed into an issue of Earl Kemp's e-fanzine that I can't remember all of it. The latest includes a long article on Fantasy Press, with cover scans; and article on Maurice Girodias and Olympia Press, an article on British SF comics, and more. Lots more. Check it out.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Happy Birthday, P. D. James!

The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media: "It's the birthday of mystery author P D (Phyllis Dorothy) James, (books by this author) born in Oxford, England (1920). She's known for her novels starring Detective Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, who first appears about fifty pages into her first novel when he is sent out by Scotland Yard to investigate a death among the gentry at a remote country estate. He's a dedicated, hard-working policeman who is also a sensitive and successful poet.

She said, 'The classical detective story affirms our belief that we live in a rational and generally benevolent universe.'"

Well, Who Can Blame Her?

Paris: 'Who's Tony Blair?' This is London: "Celebrity rich girl Paris Hilton has demonstrated her grasp of world affairs by asking: 'Who's Tony Blair?'

The hotel heiress said she would not recognise the British Prime Minister. Asked by GQ magazine if she fancied Tony Blair, a confused Hilton replied: 'Who?'

After giving it some thought she said: 'Oh yeah... he's like your president?' Then she admitted: 'I don't know what he looks like.'"

Screaming Memes

Jayme Lynn Blaschke tagged me with this, and I decided to go along with the gag. Partly, at least.

1. One book that changed your life?
There have been many. One would be the first paperback printing of John D. MacDonald’s Murder for the Bride. I was holding it in my hand one day, looking at the cover, and I thought, “This was printed only in paperback. There are a lot of books like that. I think I’ll collect some of them.” Thousands of paperback originals later, here I am.

2. One book you have read more than once?
Again, there have been many. All of Chandler, all of Ross Macdonald, all of Hammett. Those guys are my idols. I’ve read Clifford Simak’s City several times. One story in it, “Desertion,” may be my favorite short story.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I’ve read some of the plays so many times that I practically have them memorized, but I figure they’re good for a few more rounds.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Yet again, there have been many. I just finished Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job. I laughed a lot.

5. One book that made you cry?
Jayme mentioned On the Beach. That one made me cry when I read it 45 years or so ago. But I’m a sucker for sentimentality. Just anything works. Dickens can get me going easily.

6. One book you wish had been written?
A Black Shroud for McGee. For years it was rumored that John D. MacDonald had written a final novel in the Travis McGee series, one in which McGee died. The rumor’s been pretty well proven false, but I wish it had turned out to be true. I’d like to have seen what kind of send-off JDM would have given old Trav.

7. One book you wish had never been written?
The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein.

8. One book you are currently reading?
Blue Screen by Robert B. Parker.

9.. One book you have been meaning to read?
As usual, there are many. I don’t have a TBR stack. I have two six-foot bookcases, double stacked. So I’m passing on this one.

10. Now tag five people.
I don’t want to bother anybody.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

Okay, you know you want to do it. Send a personal message in the voice of Samuel L. Jackson to someone special.

Anna Nicole Smith Update

MSNBC: "Anna Nicole Smith is reaching out to Britney Spears. “If you wanted to be friends, I would so much love to hang out with you,” the six-months-pregnant former Playboy pinup says in a video on her Web site — even though she spells Spears' first name “Brittany.” She goes on to say “I think you’re totally cool and I think we’re going to have our babies about the same time.” On another video, Smith treats viewers to the sight of her frying up a peanut butter, cheese and mayonnaise sandwich. The merry widow, however, had better hope that some of the money from her late billionaire hubby comes through, because she’s not getting rich off this venture. The members-only video site charges $4.99 per member, so with 183 members, she has raked in a whopping $913.17."

Sadly, my devotion to blogging about my homie doesn't extend to paying the $4.99.

Ed Gorman on Harry Whittington

The other day I mentioned a new Stark House edition of two Harry Whittington novels. Ed Gorman's comments on the same edtion are at Mystery*File. Click the link for the whole thing.

Ed Gorman Rambles: 01 August 2006. Harry Whittington.: "Back in the 1950s you could run but you couldn’t hide from Harry Whittington. Those were the days when many if not most paperbacks were sold in wire racks found in drug stores, grocery stores and what were then called dime stores.

Harry told me that he’d once seen five books of his displayed on the same rack, all published that month. He worked for everybody, from Gold Medal all the way down to Carnival. He did westerns, nurse romances, tie-ins, war stories and of course crime novels. The last was his true calling. There there was no sub-genre of suspense/mystery he didn’t like. Or apply himself to."

Today's Gator Update: They're in Montana!

The Daily Inter Lake: "Boys reel in 5-foot, 60-pound alligator in Kalispell pond

Some birthdays stand out as exceptionally memorable; 16 and 21 usually make the list.

Josh Bryant will never forget his 11th birthday, when he came nose to snout with a 5-foot alligator in Kalispell.

On Monday afternoon, Josh and his mother, Lynn, were trying out the new fishing pole she’d given him for his birthday. The Shady Lane fishing pond near the old Steel Bridge, where he spends three or four days a week during the summer, seemed the perfect place to test the rod.

It was about 4 p.m. when Lynn Bryant spotted something swimming toward them.

“I thought it was a muskrat,” she said.

Then she took a closer look. Muskrats didn’t swim with just their eyes and back ridges sticking out of the water."

Stark House Strikes Again

I was going to blog this later this week, but Bookgasm beat me to it. Check out the whole post at the link. Then order the book. Or vice-versa.

Bookgasm: "How about a taste of Canadian noir? One really has to thank Stark House Press for such, in putting out Douglas Sanderson’s THE DEADLY DAMES / A DUM-DUM FOR THE PRESIDENT as part of its “Mystery Classics” two-fer line instead of just reissuing some safe bet with built-in name recognition. Stark House goes above and beyond by finding authors that need to be reintroduced to a new generation. A case in point is Sanderson, who does something I did not think was possible: He outdoes Mickey Spillane. Yep, I said it, and you can believe it."

Gil's All Fright Diner -- A. Lee Martinez

Duke and Earl are good old boys who just happen to be a werewolf and a vampire, respectively. They find themselves at Gil's Diner, which is under nightly attack by zombies. But the zombies aren't the worst of it. Someone's trying to disrupt the fabric of the universe and bring about the return of the Elder Gods. If you like Joe Lansdale or Christopher Moore, this one will have some laughs for you. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Okay, Who's Been Messing with Wikipedia?

Paris Hilton - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Because of recent vandalism or other disruption, editing of this article by anonymous or newly registered users is disabled (see semi-protection policy). Such users may discuss changes, request unprotection, or create an account."

Thanks to John Duke for the tip. Naturally I'd never look up P. H., myself.

Today's Gator Update

Lexington woman, dog find baby gator hissing on front porch

By Cassondra Kirby
An alligator that was captured yesterday at an apartment complex in Lexington.
Matt Goins
An alligator that was captured yesterday at an apartment complex in Lexington.

A long snout. Small, needle-like teeth. Round, beady eyes.

It was a different kind of visitor that greeted a Lexington woman and her dog Sunday as they opened their front door on the way for an afternoon walk -- a baby alligator.

"It opened its mouth and hissed at the dog," said Nathan Bowling, Lexington-Fayette Animal Care and Control chief. The alligator was about a foot and a half long and resting on the woman's ground-level front porch, he said.

Monday, July 31, 2006

It Was 40 Years Ago Today . . .

. . . on August 1, 1966, that Charles Whitman, Eagle Scout, All-American Boy, and former Marine ascended the Tower at The University of Texas at Austin and started killing people. Actually, he'd started a bit earlier, killing his mother and his wife at their homes. He killed several people inside the tower, and he killed and wouunded a lot more outside. Judy and I lived in Denton at the time. We listened to the whole thing unfold on the radio as we packed our cars for the move we were going to make the next day, to Austin. I don't remember that we ever questioned the wisdom of going to a place where someone could do what Charles Whitman had done. Our decision had been made, we'd rented an apartment, and I was eager to start work on my Ph.D.

I've talked to people who were there that day and heard their stories. The current issue of Texas Monthly is full of personal accounts by survivors and people who were close by. It's a powerful article, but it's not available on-line.

When I was an undergrad, I loved to go up on the Tower observation deck and look out over the city. The observation deck was more than twenty-seven stories off the ground, and the tallest building in my hometown was the high school: two stories. No wonder I was impressed. After the shootings, the Tower was closed for a while, but as soon as it re-opened, I went up. There were still bullet holes in the walls, though I believe most of them have been plastered over now.

To a some of you reading this, 1966 will seem as distant as the dinosaurs, but to the people who were there that day, and to at least one person who was moving to Austin the next day, it's as immediate as the news in this morning's paper. Like the Kennedy assassination of a few years earlier, it's one of those terrible moments in history that we'll never forget.

Something to Look Forward To

Stark House will be publishing this one in September. You don't want to miss it. In addition to a couple of great novels, it has a fine introduction by David Laurence Wilson, full of biographical detail, that (really, no kidding) is worth the cover price. There's also a Whittington bibliography. Not to mention a closing (reprint) essay by me. A Night for Screaming was originally published by Ace Books, but it's almost impossible to find a copy now. is a sequel to Any Woman he Wanted is a sequel to Brute in Brass, a Gold Medal novel that's one of my favorites. This is essential stuff. Posted by Picasa

Texas, My Texas

Gov stops making ASS of Texans: "Gov stops making ASS of Texans

July 31, 2006

AUSTIN -- Texans who make mocking donations to Gov. Rick Perry's campaign no longer have to worry about how their canceled checks will be labeled. Perry's campaign said it will likely stop using the code 'ASS 06' -- short for 'A Small Supporter' -- on the canceled checks of small-change contributors who donated pennies in protest of the governor's support for a new business tax."

The Next Time You Die -- Harry Hunsicker

Lee Henry (Hank) Oswald is back on a case, and bodies are falling all over Dallas. Not to mention other parts of East Texas. There's never a dull moment in this one, and you won't need a testosterone injection for months. This time the McGuffin is a missing file that Hank's asked to find by an alcoholic preacher. Mix in the East Texas Mafia, the crazed ex-boyfriend of Hank's partner, a prison break, an indestructible villain, and enough firepower to secure Baghad, and you've got another fine reading experience from Harry Hunsicker. Check it out. Posted by Picasa

To Protect and Serve, Without Pants

Thanks to John Duke for the link.

Local & State News - Tampa Bay's 10 - "PLANTATION, Florida - A Plantation, Florida Police Academy DUI instructor was charged with drunken driving after she was clocked doing 90 mph and found to be lacking any pants.

The Plantation Police Internal Affairs report released this week says Officer Laurie Primeau had an open bottle of Southern Comfort in her car when she was arrested on Dec. 9. But her lawyer said the booze was merely a training device for cadets, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

The Orange County Sheriff's deputy who pulled Primeau over for speeding after she nearly collided with his cruiser said he was “kinda shocked” to realize the woman flying down the highway with two dogs in her car was naked from the waist down, the report said."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

You Know What I Hate?

Starting a book on the same day that James Reasoner starts one, that's what I hate. Why? Because James will finish his in two weeks, and it will take me months and months to finish mine. That's not just a guess. It's already happened once this year. Maybe I should just hire James to write my book. Hmmmm.

Mystery*File Update

MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE: "July 28. FATAL KISS. Most of my time this week has been on adding a wealth of information to the Murder Clinic page, thanks to Karl Schadow, and we’re not done yet. To take a break from the major action, I’ve added several reviews of books I read not too long ago:
Michael Kurland, The Empress of India. [This includes an annotated bibliography of all of the author’s crime-related fiction.]
Brian Augustyn, Gotham by Gaslight. [A graphic novel in which Batman meets Jack the Ripper.]
Hugh Clevely, The Case of the Criminal’s Daughter. [A Sexton Blake novel from 1954.]"

The Top 50 Movie Endings of All Time The Top 50 Movie Endings of All Time: "I've seen Chinatown a dozen times, and while it's a great movie, two specific things about it stick in my mind: Jack Nicholson's bandaged nose and the final line of dialogue. Acting, directing, a great script… these are essential to any film. But a classic ending, now that can really make a movie.

We spent literally months brainstorming and corralling the 50 films with the absolute best endings we've ever seen. We're not talking about the last half hour. We mean the last minute of movie. You know, the ending."