Saturday, July 14, 2007

The World Famous Gopher Hole Museum

Stuffed gophers? That's right. Be sure to scroll down for the photos at this link.


Daily Express: HAVING toughened up the character of James Bond for Casino Royale to huge critical acclaim, Daniel Craig has surprisingly revealed that the next Bond outing will mark a return to the comedy that Roger Moore brought to the franchise in the Seventies.
Craig, 39, says of his forthcoming second outing as 007: “They [the producers] just want more gags. The next one’s going to be a lot funnier. Octopussy and Pussy Galore style gags. They’re all great names – but that’s the thing, the Bond jokes will be flipped on their heads.”

Giant Gator Update (TV Edition)

Walter Satterthwait has just informed me that the Sci-Fi Channel is running giant gator movies all day, leading up to tonight's showing of Supergator. Here's the schedule. Tune in now.

Squid Update

Hat tip to Scott Cupp, who thinks squid are as interesting as gators.

Squid as long as a bus washes up on beach: "HOBART, Australia (AP) - A squid as long as a bus and weighing 250 kilograms (550 pounds) has washed up on an Australian beach, officials said Wednesday.

'It is a whopper,' said Genefor Walker-Smith, a zoologist who studies invertebrates at the Tasmanian Museum.

Giant squid live in waters off southern Australia and New Zealand — where a half-ton colossus, believed to be the world's largest, was caught in February. They attract the sperm whales that feed on them.

The dead squid, measuring 1 meter (3 feet) across at its widest point and 8 meters (26 feet) from the tip of its body to the end of its tentacles, was found early Wednesday by a beachcomber at Ocean Beach on the island state of Tasmania's west coast, the museum said."

‘Bigfoot’ Search Under Way

‘Bigfoot’ search under way: "MARQUETTE — The Bigfoot Field Research Organization hosted a media conference Thursday in Chocolay Township as they began a local expedition to search for evidence of the legendary creature often called “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch.”

About 20 residents came to a scenic turnout on M-28 to find out more about the organization’s project, which will go on until Sunday. Also on hand for the event were representatives from the Detroit News and Fox News as well as local media. The Fox television crew planned to follow BFRO investigator Matthew Moneymaker and his team on their search throughout the week. About 55 or 60 team members came to the U.P. for the project, which involves observation and recording in areas where “Bigfoot” encounters have been reported. "

Another List

Over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, Ivan Shreve, Jr., has another list of his 100 favorite movies, along with an interesting explanation of why there's a new list. Check it out.

The Android's Dream -- John Scalzi

I read and enjoyed John Scalzi's Old Man's War, and while I haven't read the sequels, I did pick up The Android's Dream the other day.

SF fans will recognize at once that the title is a riff on Philip K. Dick's
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and while the book doesn't owe much of a debt to Dick's work, Scalzi does play around with that book's title. See, there's this alien race, the Nidu, whose gubernatorial ceremony (the background here is very complicated, so don't ask me to explain it) requires a certain breed of sheep called "Android's Dream." Sheep of that breed have colored wool. The color is electric blue. Not that the color has anything to do with the plot.

Ah, the plot. Did I mention that the gubernatorial ceremony of the Nidu is complicated? That's just a tiny bit of the novel. Here's the best I can do: the ceremony's coming up. The Nidu need a sheep. All the sheep are dying (it's part of a plot). Harry Creek is engaged to find a sheep because the Earth government obligated to supply it. By the time Harry's on the job, the sheep are all dead. But wait! Because of a bizarre genetic experiment, there's a woman who's DNA is about 18% sheep. So Harry has to find her and keep her alive. And then he has to save the Earth.

Pretty succinct, but that leaves out the AI who's created from a brainscan of Harry's best friend, all kinds of government manuevering, plotting, double-crossing, and so on. It leaves out the cruise ship filled with veterans of a certain battle. It leaves out another AI, not to mention the church created by an old SF writer. Everybody knows the church is a fraud, but nobody cares, and its congregants are looking for the Revealed Lamb. And space battles. And so on.

I do have a couple of questions and a little more info for you. The book begins with what can only be called an extended (about 20 pages) fart joke. The joke is based on the fact that, to the Nidu, odors have meaning. But nothing's ever done with that fact in the rest of the book (unless I just missed it, which is certainly a possibility). The last line is certainly a reference to it, and it frames the story nicely. But that's it.

Scalzi's fast-paced story and readable style carry all this off pretty well. The book was too long, I thought, but then I think all books over 300 pages are too long. It reads quickly, so check it out.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Will the Persecution Never End?

This is just . . . wrong, and thanks to Jeff Meyerson for informing us about it.

I Guess this is Good News

M.D. Anderson No. 1 for cancer treatment, report says | - Houston Chronicle: "The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has regained its No. 1 ranking for cancer treatment in the nation, according to an annual survey released today by U.S. News & World Report.

For the past two years, M.D. Anderson ranked second behind Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York in the magazine's America's Best Hospitals issue.

'We're very excited,' said Thomas Feeley, vice president for medical operations at M.D. Anderson, which has been either No. 1 or No. 2 for cancer care in the 18 years the magazine has ranked hospitals.

Feeley credited the hospital's improved patient survival rate, more physician referrals and better treatment methods, such as radiation therapy that focuses on a tumor without affecting other parts of the body."

7 Wonders Update

7 Wonders of Houston, that is. Be sure to click on the link in the article for the pictures.

Will the Persecution Never End?

Jeff Meyerson lets us know via this link that Paris has changed into a shy seeker of solitude.

5 Writing Lessons Learned from Donald Westlake

Link via Roberson's Interminable Ramble.

Old Dog, New Tricks - Smarter Freelance Writing � 5 Lessons Learned from Donald Westlake: "Donald Westlake, screenwriter of “The Grifters, author of “The Hot Rock,” “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” and many other novels, is one of my favorite thriller writers. Pick up any of his books at random, and you can learn something valuable from it, as well as be guaranteed hours of first-rate entertainment.

Under the pseudonym Richard Stark, Westlake also writes about no-nonsense thief Parker. The character has appeared, always with a different name, in a handful of movies, some of them good (”Point Blank”) and some of them not (”Slayground”). There are currently 23 Parker novels, and many of them epitomize what their author does best. They’re fast, lean, gripping and darkly, darkly funny.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned from Westlake/Stark."

Will the Persecution Never End?

Now the bastards are going after Paris Hilton's cousins.

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for this link.

Set the TiVo!

The Star Online eCentral - Malaysia Entertainment: "We've had boas fighting pythons, komodos fighting cobras ... well, why not an alligator versus a volcano?

You only hope they'll take on each other. But in the upcoming SciFi Channel original telemovie Supergator, the human protagonists will have to handle not just a volcano that's about to erupt, but a giant mutant alligator as well.

Bianca Lawson (Buffy's Kendra, Vampire Slayer) stars as a newspaper reporter who teams up with a volcano expert, an alligator hunter and a scientist to save the people of a small Hawaiian village from being roasted and eaten ... or eaten and roasted.

Supergator premieres on the SciFi Channel this weekend (Saturday, 9:00 p. m. Eastern), according to Sci Fi Wire, and should show up on our friendly neighbourhood HBO or Cinemax before the year is up - if the pattern holds."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Back Alley Webzine Launches Today

From Richard Helms:

On deck in the first issue are stories by Edgar Award Winner G. Miki Hayden; Derringer Award Winner Stephen D. Rogers; Anthony and Shamus Award Nominee Jack Bludis; Mickey Spillane screenwriter John Lau; and Shamus Award Nominee Eric Shane, appearing for the first time under this pen name. We're also including a classic public domain tale from Carroll John Daly, and the usual editorial ramblings by your faithful scribe.
THE BACK ALLEY Webzine goes live on Friday morning, July 13th. You can find it at . We'll look forward to seeing you there!

Kerwin Matthews, R. I. P.

I remember seeing The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad at a theater in Dallas, Texas, while visiting there long, long ago.
• Hollywood Elsewhere •
The L.A. Times reported yesterday that Kerwin Matthews, the good-looking star of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Jack the Giant Killer (and a supporting actor in The Devil at 4 O'Clock and Man on a String, among many other films), passed away "either Wednesday night or Thursday morning" at age 81.

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Clash of the Titans

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for this timely link.

Off to Houston

We got up at 4:45 for an MRI appointment at 6:30. That's a little early for us, but maybe the traffic won't be so heavy that this hour. This is just a small inconvenience compared to what's down the road, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Judy Update

The visit to MD Anderson today didn't go quite as well as we'd hoped.

Judy has two kinds of low-grade lymphoma. We knew that already. There's no trace of it in any lymph nodes other than those in the neck. That's the good news. Unfortunately, the PET scan showed lymphoma in the bone in a few areas. That's likely to be a more aggressive form of lymphoma, which would mean a more aggressive form of chemo would be necessary.

So Judy will have to have another MRI and another bone biopsy (she's not looking forward to either of those). Then, maybe in two more weeks we'll get the plan for the chemo treatments. It's likely to be every 3 weeks for 6 months.

More waiting and wondering, but we're holding up pretty well so far.

Thanks for all the support from you blog readers. It's helped a lot, as I've said before and will probablty say again.

Gator Update (Egg Hunting Edition)

Video at link.

Farmers search the wild for gator eggs --
ON LAKE JESUP - Stealing an entire clutch of eggs from an alligator's nest is a bizarre experience on so many levels it's hard to know where to start.

It's an obscure slice of Florida, in which a band of thieves spends the three hottest weeks of the year harvesting tens of thousands of soon-to-be-born reptiles from dozens of lakes. And it's all done with state approval and oversight.

About 30 gator farmers in Florida depend on wild eggs and pay about $10 for each, a fee that includes $5 for the state and the rest for collection expenses. The farmers do it because their captive gators aren't as fertile and productive as those in the swamp.

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Stay off Their Lawns!

Nonagenarians & Centenarians
This website highlights living people in their 90's (nonagenarians) and 100's (centenarians) who were noted in some field during their lifetimes, i.e., the arts, sports, science, politics, business, etc., and then grew old. While some of the 762 names may be familiar to you – Walter Cronkite or Kirk Douglas, for instance – most probably won't be. Please take a moment to look through the pages and discover some of the lesser known, but equally interesting entries such as Leila Denmark (1898), Kazuo Ohno (1906), and Frances Oldham Kelsey (1914).

This site is not meant to be an in-depth study of old age and it isn't meant to be an exhaustive list. Not everyone of note is here. That would be impossible. The people who are here, though, are bound to provide an interesting array. Enjoy!

Link via Neatorama.

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The Further Decline of Western Civilization

I can see Nero Wolfe tearing out the pages and feeding them into the fire.  Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Story - New Dictionary Includes 'Ginormous' - AOL News
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - It was a ginormous year for the wordsmiths at Merriam-Webster. Along with embracing the adjective that combines "gigantic" and "enormous," the dictionary publishers also got into Bollywood, sudoku and speed dating.

But their interest in India's motion-picture industry, number puzzles and trendy ways to meet people was all meant for a higher cause: updating the company's collegiate dictionary, which goes on sale this fall with about 100 newly added words.

As always, the yearly list gives meaning to the latest lingo in pop culture, technology and current events.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Doug Marlette, R. I. P.

I've read "Kudzu" for years. This guy was good, and I'll miss him.

Cartoonist Doug Marlette killed in crash - Yahoo! News
RALEIGH, N.C. - Doug Marlette, the North Carolina-born cartoonist who won a Pulitzer Prize and created the popular strip "Kudzu," was killed in a car accident Tuesday morning in Mississippi, authorities said. He was 57.

Marlette, who joined the Tulsa (Okla.) World last year, was the passenger in the car, which struck a tree after skidding on a rain-slicked road, said John Garrison, the coroner in Mississippi's Marshall County.

"Evidently, it hydroplaned, left the highway and struck the tree," Garrison said.

Marlette's editorial cartoons and his strip, "Kudzu," are syndicated worldwide. The "Kudzu" strip deals humorously with rural Southern life, featuring characters such as the Rev. Will B. Dunn.

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Jon Breen

Jon Breen is one of the best reviewers around, not to mention a mystery novelist and critic of note. If you're not reading at least his reviews in EQMM, you're missing a treat. So click here.

Seven Wonders/Peru Update

Tourist influx could destroy Machu Picchu | International News | News | Telegraph
Machu Picchu was one of the few Inca citdels that escaped the destruction of the Spanish Conquistadores, perched some 8000 feet above sea level on a shelf jutting out of the Andes Mountains.

More than 500 years later it seems the new wave of invaders, tourists clad in Timberland boots and North Face jackets and armed only with hard currency, may succeed where the conquistadores failed.

Experts have warned the choice of the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu as one of the "new seven world wonders" could lead to such an influx of tourists that the site is destroyed.

The once-lost city high in the Peruvian Andes was already a UNESCO World Heritage site, but its inclusion on Saturday in a new list of the world's wonders, chosen by more than 100 million online voters, could double the number of daily visitors from 2,500 to 5,000, prompting archaeologist Luis Lumbreras to publish an article in La Republica daily on Monday.

"There is a danger that it could be destroyed by abuse," said the former head of the National Cultural Institute.

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Pimp My Bookcart

Librarians are wild and crazy.

Hat tip to boing-boing for the link.

Just Cancel my Reservation

Town installs piranha net to protect bathers - News - Travel -
A resort town in Brazil hopes a steel-and-plastic net will stop piranhas from taking a bite out of bathers - and its tourist industry.

Authorities in Palmas in central Brazil say 180 cases of bathers being bitten by piranhas have been reported so far this year at La Prata beach on an artificial lake that is a major tourist draw.

The figure is three times more than in all 2006.

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Napoleon Dynamite

In 30 seconds, with bunnies.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What's in a Name?

Thanks to Jayme Blaschke for the link.

Woman Sues Porn Star Over Name - Local News Story - KPRC Houston
HOUSTON -- A Houston-area woman filed a lawsuit against a porn star, claiming she stole her name, KPRC Local 2 reported Sunday.

Lara Madden, 25, is an actress in the pornography industry. She is a former Houstonian who has appeared in about a dozen X-rated movies under the stage name "Syvette Wimberly."

That's the problem.

The real Syvette Wimberly was one of Madden's classmates at Kingwood High School. The women knew each other in the ninth grade.

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Gator Update (Education Edition)

This is what school should be like.

Seventh Graders Create Educational Alligator Coloring Book; Download and Print Here - Wakulla County - real estate, homes, news and politics
The Sanibel School Seventh Grade Community Problem Solving Team (CmPS) developed an alligator coloring booklet titled “All About Alligators” to educate children on how to be safe around this powerful reptile. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) funded nearly $11,000 for the second printing of the booklet.

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We're from the Government, and We're Here to Help You

Fake bomb eludes airport test -- Page 1 -- Times Union - Albany NY
COLONIE -- Federal inspectors were able to slip a fake bomb through a checkpoint at Albany International Airport during a test of the facility's Transportation Security Administration screeners, according to individuals familiar with the incident.

The unannounced inspection by TSA officials took place early last week. The airport's security measures failed in five of seven tests, most of the problems occurring at the passenger checkpoint, the sources said.

In one test, TSA inspectors hid the components of a fake bomb in carry-on luggage that also contained a bottle of water. Passengers are prohibited from carrying containers holding more than three ounces of liquids, gels or aerosols through airport checkpoints.

The screeners at Albany International confiscated the water bottle but missed the bomb. In all, the inspectors slipped four banned items through the main checkpoint during the test, sources said.

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Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

For those who are wondering, Pearland is about 6 miles from Alvin.

'N-word' laid to rest in Pearland | LOCAL NEWS | | News for Houston, Texas
A crowd gathered at Houston Memorial Gardens in Pearland Saturday to say goodbye. It was a funeral that some say was a long time coming.

“Lord, we come to you, thanking you for waking us up this morning, so that we could lay to rest this word that carries so much weight,” Dennis Campbell, Jr., of the Honey Brown Hope Foundation said.

The crowd was there to say farewell to the “N-word.”

In its life, the word caused many people a lot of pain. But it its death, there is rejoicing.

“We should not talk about the dead or speak about the dead and let the dead rest in peace,” Rev. Ralph Hawkins said.

The idea for the service came from Tammie Lang Campbell, founder of the Honey Brown Hope Foundation, a non-profit literary organization.

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This Isn't a Political Post

Or is it? Whatever it is, I thought it was funny.

Who's Going to Be the First Mystery Writer to Try This?

Doesn't J. D. Rhoades have a book coming out, like, tomorrow?

"Clothing optional" book signing planned by nudity author -
WAITSFIELD, Vt. --At The Tempest Book Shop, the paperback books won't be the only things without jackets Thursday. 

A "clothing optional" book signing event will be held by nudity author Jim C. Cunningham, with customers invited to leave their clothes at the door.

"The reason for this is to 'put our bodies where our mouths are,' living what we preach," Cunningham said. "The public are invited to express their solidarity with our message by also donning their birthday suits upon entering the book store."

The event is scheduled for 6 p.m., which is after the shop's usual closing time. And there are rules: Everyone who plans to strip must bring a towel, and there's no gawking.

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Gator Update (Vacation Edition)

Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for the link.

Daily Shot » Blog Archive » Alligator Hunt
Think for a second of the ballsiest thing you’ve ever done. Now compare it to hunting a ten foot alligator through a Florida swamp at midnight with nothing but a harpoon. How’s your experience measure up? Yeah… we thought so.

Hampton & Hampton Guide Services will take you on the manliest trip of your life: hunting down one of nature’s toothiest killing machines (other than Julia Roberts). Having been featured in dozens of TV shows and magazine articles, and praised by the Florida Game Commission and Safari Club International, make no mistake: these guys know a thing or two about hunting gators.

You’ll be taken at night in an air boat out into the humid swamps of central Florida. As you shine your flashlight over the waters, you’ll see hundreds of reptilian eyes glowing in the dark all around the boat. Then, armed with a few harpoons and some tips from your guide, you’ll try to impale the Floridian equivalent of a dinosaur. And once you do, the fun has only just begun, ’cause the thing about alligators is: they don’t like being stabbed with harpoons.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Decline of Western Civilization Continues Apace

Florida Gator Shows Declining -
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Wanted: Thrill-seeking animal lovers with cool heads and quick reflexes. Must have finesse, agility and high tolerance for pain _ and low pay.

Alligator handlers across South Florida said there is simply less money, glamour and interest in the profession today than in its glory days, when crowds flocked to roadside shows.

"I believe gator wrestlers are definitely a dying breed," said James Peacock, wildlife manager at Native Village in Hollywood. "We're fading out. Just like the cowboys and Indians of yesteryear, or the Japanese samurai."

While there are no exact figures, no one disputes that it's the alligator wrestlers, not the gators, that are an endangered species.

Thanks to John Duke for the link.

Have They Checked in the Millenium Falcon? - Chewbacca Assaults Marilyn At Kodak Theater
(CBS) HOLLYWOOD, Calif. A Chewbacca impersonator sexually assaulted a Marilyn Monroe impersonator in front of the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood in June. The wookie then evaded arrest, police said.

According to an officer with the LAPD, Chewbacca allegedly took the platinum-coiffed actress's hand and placed it on his private parts as the characters performed for tips from tourists.

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No, Thanks . . .

. . . I'll have the hamburger.

We All Know It's Real (and So is the Gill Man)

RIO BRANCO, Brazil (July 8) -- Perhaps it is nothing more than a legend, as skeptics say. Or maybe it is real, as those who claim to have seen it avow. But the mere mention of the mapinguary, the giant slothlike monster of the Amazon, is enough to send shivers down the spines of almost all who dwell in the world’s largest rain forest.

Photos at the link kindly provided by Jeff Meyerson.

Gator Update: Monster Truck Edition

United Press International - NewsTrack - Quirks - Gator vs. truck crash called a draw
TAMPA, Fla., July 7 (UPI) -- Two terrified Florida women holed up inside their truck for half an hour after they hit a 10-foot alligator that became stuck under their vehicle.

Jennifer Maldonado and Aimee Baker opened the doors of their vehicle after the collision on U.S. 98 set off their air bag; however, they spotted the silhouette of a thrashing tail from underneath and immediately retreated back inside and called 911, The Tampa Tribune reported Saturday.

"It was grunting and roaring and shaking the whole truck," Maldonado said. "I was hysterical."

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Happy Birthday, Roswell UFO Alien!

My Way News - Thousands Commemorate 1947 UFO 'Crash'
ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) - If you truly believe a UFO and its crew of bug-eyed aliens came crashing down here 60 years ago, rest assured: You're not alone.

At least 35,000 people have descended on Roswell this weekend for the 2007 Amazing Roswell UFO Festival to commemorate a purported flying saucer crash on a nearby ranch in July 1947. Participants have filled hotel rooms and nearly doubled the southeastern New Mexico town's population for a few days.

The festival, which began Thursday, is a mixed bag that includes live concerts (one headlined by a band with a computer-generated 'alien' drummer), costume contests, a Main Street parade and a slew of lectures that ponder everything from body snatchers to "What Does NASA Really Know?"

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Happy Birthday, "What's Opera, Doc?" - entertainment - 50 glorious years of `kill da wabbit'
At any other time, the film would not have been made. Imagine the pitch: "Let's steal time and funding from our other projects so we can go way over budget making a cartoon with no jokes, and no real gags. The score will be a German opera. Kids won't get it. Most adults won't get it, but I don't care because I think it's funny."

Fortunately, the time was 1956, the director was Chuck Jones, and the place was the Warners Bros. backlot animation studio dubbed "Termite Terrace." The result – released 50 years ago this week – was "What's Opera, Doc?," voted by animators in the 1994 book The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals to be the greatest cartoon of all time.

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Paris is Back on the Scene

Thanks to John Duke for letting me know about this.

Cripple Creek -- James Sallis

Turner is an ex-cop, an ex-con, and an ex-psychotherapist. Now he's a deputy sheriff in a very small Tennessee town. A big-city thug is stopped for speeding, and his pals break him out of jail. Turner goes after them, bringing some real violence home, in the form of professional hitmen.

If that sounds like a standard plot, believe me, it's not. Not the way Sallis tells it. It's just incidents folded in with many other incidents of life and death in the small town. Life as it's lived mingles with memories of times past, people (and possums) come and go, past and present flow together. There's some trickery at the end, when Sallis skips ahead a couple of days, only to return to the time he passed over. The result is a darker ending than you thought was coming. The big confrontation never happens. That is, it does, but it's offstage, and you're never sure exactly what it was.

Everybody seems to think Sallis's Lew Griffin novels are his best work. I'm not so sure that the two novels (so far) about Turner don't top them. Check this one out and see what you think.