Saturday, January 02, 2010

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Refrigerator stops bullet during celebratory gunfire in southeast Houston - 1/01/10 - Houston News - "'I could see people shooting guns in the air and I know it was guns because you could see the muzzle fire about a foot to two feet long coming out the end of the guns. And it was more than one person,' said J.J."

Ligature Marks

Ligature Marks Fiction & Film - January Issue

A new e-zine with short fiction by the likes of Joe R. Lansdale, whoever he is.

Hat tip to Sandra Seamans over at My Little Corner.

Hard Case Crime Update from Charles Ardai


First things first: Happy New Year.

2009 was Hard Case Crime's busiest year ever, with 13 books coming out. The last two are still in stores now, and if you haven't read them yet, you're missing a treat. Jonny Porkpie's THE CORPSE WORE PASTIES is a hilarious detective story set in the world of burlesque; A.C. Doyle's THE VALLEY OF FEAR is also a detective story, but it's set about 100 years earlier and features a detective you may have heard of once or twice. (Interestingly, I could see Robert Downey, Jr. playing the lead in a film version of either book.)

Want a taste? You can read sample chapters from both books (as well as all our upcoming titles) on our Web site, Want more than a taste? You should be able to find them at your favorite local bookstore, but if they're sold out you can always order a copy online or by calling 1-800-481-9191.

Or...if you would like a copy of THE CORPSE WORE PASTIES that's been signed by the author and one of the lovely cover models, a few such copies were left after the stage show they put on in November. The author is making them available for $10 apiece (normal cover price plus a bit to cover postage/handling), and it's first-come-first-served -- so if you'd like one, send me an e-mail today and I'll pass it along to Mr. Porkpie pronto.

Or...if you prefer your PASTIES live, this month you've got another opportunity to enjoy a theatrical event celebrating the book, and this one's not just for New Yorkers. In the tradition of the long-running Off Broadway hit "Naked Boys Singing," last year saw the launch of a distaff alternative, "Naked Girls Reading" -- and this month's theme is "Naked Girls Reading Pulp Fiction." The titular naked girls (and yes, they really are) will be reading excerpts from a wide range of pulp novels, including THE CORPSE WORE PASTIES. The fun starts in Chicago on January 3, and then moves on to Seattle, Key West and Dallas (with possible stops in Madison, Miami, and Denver as well) before landing in New York on January 29. The author and cover models will be there at the New York event, so if you come to that one you can get your book signed and personalized; Jonny, Nasty, and GiGi won't be there in the other cities, but the lineup of sexy readers who will be there is certainly enticing enough to get you out in the cold. (Or in the warm, for those of you in Florida.) You can find out more at -- and if you're interested in coming, you should get tickets pronto, since the NGR shows are held in intimate venues where seating is limited (just 40 seats in New York, for instance), and the shows tend to sell out quickly.

What else is coming up? Our next new book hits stores at the end of March, and it's a big one (both in terms of length and in terms of significance): MEMORY, the final novel by the great (and much missed) Donald E. Westlake. After that, it's the stunning, heartbreaking NOBODY'S ANGEL about a Chicago cab driver on the midnight shift, written by Shamus Award finalist (and Chicago cab driver himself) Jack Clark. Then the great Brett Halliday makes his first bookstore appearance in something like 20 years with MURDER IS MY BUSINESS, and then the equally great Max Allan Collins brings Quarry back in QUARRY'S EX.

After that? We'll see, we'll see. We've got a bunch of cool things cooking, but none's quite ready to come off the stove yet. Rest assured you'll be hearing more as 2010 trundles along.

In the meantime: Go to your favorite bookstore and buy some books. It'll give you great reading to entertain you on these long winter evenings, and it'll help keep the bookstores (and outfits like ours) in business. It might not always feel like your $7.99 makes a difference -- but I can tell you it really does.

With thanks and warmest holiday wishes,
Charles Ardai
Editor, Hard Case Crime

To the Devil a Daughter

Friday, January 01, 2010

Why Wait for 2012?

Biblical scholar's date for rapture: May 21, 2011: "[Harold] Camping, 88, has scrutinized the Bible for almost 70 years and says he has developed a mathematical system to interpret prophecies hidden within the Good Book. One night a few years ago, Camping, a civil engineer by trade, crunched the numbers and was stunned at what he'd found: The world will end May 21, 2011."

Ten for Tennant:

Parallel Universe: Ten for Tennant: Best 'Doctor Who' Episodes: "Ten for Tennant: Best 'Doctor Who' Episodes"

Hat tip to Toby O'B.

New Story at BEAT to a PULP

BEAT to a PULP :: Missed Flight :: Steve Weddle

Psychic predictions for 2010

Psychic predictions for 2010: Obama assassination and giant bats

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Rocket Launcher Found In Apartment - Houston News Story - KPRC Houston: "Police went to a southwest Houston apartment to break up a disturbance but ended up finding something else, KPRC Local 2 reported Wednesday.
[. . . .]
They found an AT-4 shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. It can shoot a missile nearly 1,000 feet through buildings and tanks."

A Nice Review of Murder in Four Parts . . .

. . . over at the Temporary Knucksline.

Here's the Plot for Your Next Psychological Suspense Novel

Half Guilty - Nick Kam: "How would the American legal system punish conjoined twins if one committed a murder while the other was completely innocent?"

Forgotten Books: THE BLUE STREAK AND DR. MEDUSA -- Art Elder

This is another of the books I inherited from my cousins, and it was a huge favorite of mine. I read it many times, and it was a nostalgic thrill to return to it once again. Each illustration brought with it a fine shock of recognition, and though I didn't remember much about the story, I did remember a good deal about the Blue Streak himself. He's a semi-Super Hero. He's lots stronger than an ordinary man, more agile, faster, with better eyesight. He can jump at least 18 feet straight up, as he proves at one point in the story. And he dresses funny. But he's not invulnerable. He wears a bulletproof vest.

Dr. Medusa is the mad scientist in a role just perfect for Lionel Atwill in a Republic serial. ("I am mad but I have the most brilliant mind in the whole world.") He has a plot worthy of a Republic villain, too. For unspecified reasons, he kills people and creates statues from their bodies, using a process of calcification. He's also accumulating huge sums of money from his victims, which, for other unspecified reasons, he uses to ceate a large underground kingdom, where he and his henchpersons will live as soon as it's finished. Only one person can stop him, and we all know who that is.

One of Medusa's intended victims is Bess Marigold. Her uncle hires the Blue Streak to protect her, but she's a spirited young woman and doesn't want to be protected. This leads to complications involving large caverns, underground rivers, whirlpools, encounters with Medusa's goons, murders, and even a bit of light romance.

All of this thrilled me when I was a kid, and I didn't notice the writing style, which is of the Hardy Boys school, or the problems with the story. I just enjoyed the adventures.

Now I wonder about the Blue Streak. Unlike a lot of Whitman books, this one doesn't seem based on a comic book, radio, or movie character. It's really a great deal like a Republic serial, but I don't know of one based on this character. It's also obviously set up for a sequel, though if there is one, I don't know of it. I don't know who Art Elder is, either, but I owe him big-time for the pleasure he brought me so many years ago. And now, too, for that matter.

Halls of Montezuma

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everybody! Live long and prosper.

Never Bring a Knife to a Swordfight

Beloit Daily News - your source for news, entertainment, sports, opinion, events, community, shopping and more > News > Local News: "A domestic abuse incident turned into a swordfight — reminiscent of a movie scene from “Crocodile Dundee” — Wednesday afternoon in a Park Avenue apartment.

Lester Burks, 33, pulled out a sword and engaged in a match with his girlfriend and mother of two children, Yvone Coleman, 31, who had grabbed a knife, according to police reports."

Nightmare Alley: The Musical

Nightmare Alley: "Music, Book and Lyrics by Jonathan Brielle
Directed by Gilbert Cates

April 13 – May 23, 2010

Step into Nightmare Alley and enter the titillating world of carnies, cons and clairvoyants. With a score as wild as a funhouse and as evocative as a beautiful tightrope walker, this world premiere musical tells the tale of a young carnie couple who tempt the fickle hand of fate. Based on the darkly evocative 1946 William Lindsay Gresham novel of the same name, Nightmare Alley is a night at the theater full of special effects, wondrous feats and enough spirit to make believers of us all. But remember, here, things are never as they seem."

This musical was originally produced in 1966 and didn't last long. Probably a real toe-tapping good time, though.

Hat tip to Boing Boing.

Most Expensive Sales on AbeBooks for 2009

Most Expensive Sales on AbeBooks for 2009

Colorado Leads the Way

Bomb squad, police show up in force during search | police, squad, bomb - Breaking News - Colorado Springs Gazette, CO: "A standoff at a central Colorado Springs motel has ended after police entered the motel room in question, and it was empty."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

YouTube - The Snow Globe Car

Here's the Plot of Your Next Bizarre Short Story

Mo. dad, son accused of beating, killing Ohio man - Yahoo! News

And bizarre is the word, all right.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Dallas County jail guard resigns after inmate lap dance - 12/31/09 - Houston News - "A Dallas County jail guard has resigned amid allegations that she allowed a male inmate to perform a 'lap dance' to music for her."


I see on the poster to the left that the catch-phrase for Avatar is "Believe it, or not." I was reminded of the phrase used in connection Christopher Reeve's Superman: "You'll believe a man can fly." Okay, in both cases, I believed. Especially in Avatar. Not many minutes passed in the movie before I believed that Pandora was entirely real and that instead of watching a screen full of special effects, I was seeing the real thing. It's that good.

The movie's not without problems, especially in the storytelling. Cameron appears to have changed his mind about a potential conflict between two characters in the middle of filming and resolved it with a throwaway line, for example. So what? The story's just an excuse for the visuals, and I was swept away by them and let them carry me along.

SF fans will have fun pointing out all the influences: Poul Anderson's "Call Me Joe" is certainly there, and so is Clifford Simak's "Desertion' (a favorite of mine). Burroughs, for sure, and a dash of Le Guin, too. John Scalzi? Maybe. And then there are Dances with Wolves and FernGully. Again, so what? It doesn't matter when you're sitting enthralled in the theater. Avatar isn't a great film, but it's wonderful movie-making. You might even find out the old sense of wonder's not dead yet. I know I did.

I'll close this out with Seepy Benton's commentary on the film:
"By the way, the word 'Na'vi' used in the film is also the Hebrew word for 'prophet.' It literally means 'mouthpiece' which is how a prophet was viewed in ancient times, as someone who became a mouthpiece or 'avatar' for God's voice. Also, 'Eywah,' the name of the diety of the Na'vi in the film, is an alternate pronunciation of the Hebrew 'Yahweh.' Recall that in Hebrew there are no vowels, and hence, you can take the same spelling for 'Yahweh' and pronounce it instead as 'Eywah' or Yaywah.' By the way, 'Yaywah' is also the most sacred name for God in the Cherokee language, and that name, too, was only pronounced by their priests. Of course, all of this information will be on the test next week."

The 10 Greatest Fantasy Series Of All Time

The 10 Greatest Fantasy Series Of All Time

2009: A Year of Books in Review on

2009: A Year of Books in Review on

John Scalzi - The Best SciFi Movies of the '00s

AMC - Blogs - SciFi Scanner - John Scalzi - The Best SciFi Movies of the '00s

Now Showing

New Year's Eve TV: What will you be watching? | "Three Stooges marathon: Starts at 7 a.m. ET Dec. 31 and doesn’t stop until 6 a.m. Jan 1 on AMC."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The 15 Most Influential TV Shows of the Decade

The 15 Most Influential Shows of the Decade -

Top Ten Reasons to Hate Top Tens

Top Ten Reasons to Hate Top Tens (BitchBuzz Culture)

Hat tip to Todd Mason.

Innumeracy in Action

Why American consumers can't add - The Red Tape Chronicles - "Here are a few examples of innumeracy in action:

According to the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy, U.S. adults are terrible at solving real-world math problems, like calculating tips or comparing prices in grocery stores. Some dismal results:

*Only 42 percent were able to pick out two items on a menu, add them, and calculate a tip.

*Only 1 in 5 could reliably calculate mortgage interest.

*1 in 5 could not calculate weekly salary when told an hourly pay rate."

And so on. It's all very sad.

Wal-Mart Update

Police: Accused shoplifters cause chaos at Walmart - Yahoo! News

Tom's Glossary of Book Publishing Terms

Tom's Glossary of Book Publishing Terms

Funny stuff. Hat tip to Rick Klaw.

The Story With No Name Continues

The Culbin Trail: The Story with No Name - Part 22

With all the other parts, too, if you want to catch up.

Geography Test

Where in the world? Test your geography smarts with this annual quiz | AP Outdoors News - The News Tribune | Seattle-Tacoma News, Weather, Sports, Jobs, Homes and Cars | South Puget Sound's Destination: "Travelers pride themselves on knowing a lot about the world.

But how do you stack up when it comes to geography? Get a sharp pencil and test yourself on a dozen questions in the third annual Detroit Free Press Travel Quiz."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Deputies: Kidnapping victim sent text message from trunk that led to rescue | | News: "Authorities say a Texas man was kidnapped but managed to send a text message from the trunk of his car that led to his rescue."

"I'm Sorry, Dave, but You Have to Take the Road I Tell You to Take"

My Way News - Couple stranded 3 days after GPS leads them astray: "A Nevada couple letting their SUV's navigation system guide them through the high desert of Eastern Oregon got stuck in snow for three days when the GPS unit sent them down a remote forest road.

On Sunday, atmospheric conditions apparently changed enough for their GPS-enabled cell phone to get a weak signal and relay coordinates to a dispatcher, Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger said.
[. . . .]
John Rhoads, 65, and his wife, Starry Bush-Rhoads, 67, made it home safely to Reno, Nev."

Hat tip to Jeff Segal.

Good Reviews/Bad Reviews

There's been a lot of discussion on the short mystery fiction list about reviewers who aren't "honest" because they give only positive reviews. They're not reviewers; they're cheerleaders for certain books. All I can say is, "Guilty as charged."

That's because I don't regard what I do as reviewing. I'm just writing a few words about books I like. If I don't like the book, I don't comment on it, mainly because I usually don't finish it. Now and then, however, a book will aggravate me so much that I'll say something, Twilight being a case in point. And if a book I like has a few things in it that I don't like, I'll mention those things. Otherwise, yes, I'm a cheerleader for books I like. In fact, I like that description quite a bit. It's my blog, and cheerleading for books (and movies and music) I like is one reason I have it in the first place.

I just thought I'd clear that up, in case there was any doubt.

Graceland Too

Graceland Too Attracts Offbeat Tourism: "Paul MacLeod is a perpetually caffeinated Elvis fanatic who's taking care of business 24-7-365 at the antebellum home he calls 'Graceland Too.'

Pound on the door at any hour -- seriously, it's OK to arrive at 4 in the morning -- and the 67-year-old former auto worker will escort you through his discombobulating, floor-to-ceiling collection of photos, records, figurines, cardboard cutouts, candy wrappers, clocks and other random kitsch featuring the King of Rock 'n' Roll."

Stay off their Lawns!

Beer can alarm gives away intruder | INFORUM | Fargo, ND: "A Fargo apartment dweller who set beer cans in front of his door to alert him to intruders ended up tussling with an alleged burglar early Tuesday, police said.

A neighbor in the apartment called police at 1:24 a.m. to the 2500 block of 15th Street South to report two elderly, naked men attacking each other."

Latest Issue of I Love a Mystery Now On-Line

I Love a Mystery

The Omega Man

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Tis the Season to be . . . Tree Surfing?

Tree surfer in San Clemente slams into car, injures head - LA Daily News: "Authorities say a man in San Clemente riding a Christmas tree being dragged behind an SUV slammed into a parked car and was hospitalized with head injuries.

Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino says the 18-year-old and another teenager were Christmas tree surfing, a seasonal Internet fad."

Hat tip to Walter Satterthwait.

More Trouble in Florida

iWon News - Police: Young Fla. couple plotted to kill mother: "An 11-year-old Florida girl and her 15-year-old boyfriend are accused of plotting to kill the girl's mother by setting her bedroom on fire while the woman slept Tuesday, police said.
[. . . .]
Clearwater Police Department detectives say the young couple poured gasoline on Nancy Broadhead's bedroom floor and bed, and then set the room aflame. Police say the pair escaped in the mother's 2007 Ford Focus."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Stephen Hunter reviews THE GETAWAY

Stephen Hunter reviews THE GETAWAY | Murder By the Blog | - Houston Chronicle

The movie with Steve McQueen, that is.

Headline of the Day

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

'Tis the Season to be . . . Disinterring St. Nicholas

BBC News - Turkey seeks return of Santa Claus' bones: "A Turkish archaeologist has called on his government to demand that Italy return the bones of St Nicholas to their original resting place.

The 3rd Century saint - on whom Santa Claus was modelled - was buried in the modern-day town of Demre in Turkey.

But in the Middle Ages his bones were taken by Italian sailors and re-interred in the port of Bari."

No Comment Department

Son, 26, mad over having to make own lunch, in brawl with dad in Port St. Lucie, police say� "An apparent family disagreement over lunch and name-calling turned into a violent confrontation involving a candleholder, guns and a bite to the arm, according to records released Monday."

Erik Gates, R. I. P.

Mythbusters regular Erik Gates dies in freak accident: "Erik Gates, a regular on the popular show MythBusters, has died following a thirty foot fall in a work-related accident."

Seepy Benton Knows all about This

Why some shapes are more pleasing to the eye than others - Science, News - The Independent: "The ancient Egyptian pyramids, the Parthenon of Athens, Mona Lisa’s face and the head of George Clooney all have one thing in common. Their attractiveness is said to be based on the “golden ratio”, which is supposed to be the most aesthetically pleasing shape to the human eye.

The golden ratio, also known as the divine proportion, produces a shape similar to a widescreen television or a cinema screen and describes a rectangle with a length roughly one and half times its width. The proportion is said to pervade art, architecture and nature."

Dracula: Dead and Loving It

Scam Warning

Warning: A Very Clever Scam Targeting Older Men: "Clever Scam - taking advantage of older men, or any other men, as well

Women often receive warnings about protecting themselves at the mall and in dark parking lots, etc. This is the first warning I have seen for men. I wanted to pass it on in case you haven't heard about it. This will only become more commonplace as the weather warms."

Hat tip to Dan Stumpf.

Monday, December 28, 2009

'Tis the Season to be . . . . Gift Wrapping - News From AP: "Missouri troopers seized about 20 pounds of marijuana from a car this week - some of it in luggage, and some in boxes wrapped as Christmas gifts."

Hat tip to Jeff Segal.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

My Way News - 22 and counting: Mystery fires rattle Houston: "A four-foot pile of ash and charred debris is all that remains of the Rodriguez family's two-story garage, which had been stuffed with tools, machinery, couches and appliances when a mysterious fire ripped through it earlier this month.

It was the 22nd arson that has taken place since August in a historic Houston neighborhood called the Heights, known more for its comforting small-town feel in the midst of big city sprawl than for being the center of criminal activity."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Alleged white supremacist wanted in Liberty Co. store owner's killing | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "The suspect was identified by police as Stevie R. Walder Jr., 31, who also goes by “Bubba.”

Bishop said Walder, who has a lengthy criminal history in Liberty County, is believed to be a member of a white supremacist group.

Walder is described as 6 feet 2, about 250 pounds, with a shaved head.

He has many tattoos, including a skull on the left side of his neck, a Nazi SS symbol on the right side of his neck and tear drop under his right eye."

Top Sexy Nerds of 2009

Sexy Nerds of 2009.00 � Sexy Nerd 21.0

If Iran Doesn't Shape Up, He'll Visit the Country with his .45

White House condemns 'suppression' in Iran - Yahoo! News: "'We strongly condemn the violent and unjust suppression of civilians in Iran seeking to exercise their universal rights,' White House spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement."

The Vikings

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Could Make a Lot of Puns, but I Won't

Worker missing at Wash. plant; salt pile searched - Breaking News - The Olympian - Olympia, Washington: "Emergency workers using a front-end loader and a vacuum truck have searched a large pile of salt at a chemical plant in Longview for a missing worker."

The Top 10 Top 10 Lists of 2009

The Top 10 Top 10 Lists of 2009. Enough Already - Steve Tuttle -

Croc Update (Sounds Like Fun Edition)

Men showed 'absolute stupidity' by swimming into baited crocodile trap | "TWO men who made funny faces from inside a baited crocodile trap while their friend stood on top of the cage were criticised for their 'absolute stupidity' by authorities in the Northern Territory.

An image of the three men risking their lives and limbs surfaced yesterday after they were posted on Facebook."

Don't Worry, Guys. It's all a Fake.

Piers Morgan and Paris Hilton say 'I do' in Las Vegas... | Mail Online: "He may be a happily engaged man, but that didn’t stop Piers Morgan eloping to Vegas to ‘marry’ a blonde 16 years his junior.

And his bride? The socialite hotel heiress Paris Hilton.

In typical Vegas style, Mr Morgan, who announced his engagement to writer Celia Walden only two weeks ago, got ‘hitched’ under the watchful eyes of an Elvis impersonator, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike and several Rat Pack mimics."

Gator Update (Motorcycle Edition)

This reptile runs on regular: "Custom leather designer Benny Ohrman displays the alligator-covered custom built motorcycle Wednesday at his shop, Suncoast Leather. Ohrman said it took more than a year to complete the job of covering the motorcycle with the hide of the 10-foot long alligator."

Pirate Latitudes -- Michael Crichton

The story is that this novel was found in Michael Crichton's computer files after the author's death. No one knows when it was written or why Crichton chose not to publish it.

My guess on the first half of that sentence is that the book is certainly not from the early period when Crichton was writing as John Lange. It seems to me to come from the time when he wrote books like EATERS OF THE DEAD and CONGO.


I don't have a guess as to why Crichton didn't publish it, but I do think he'd have done considerable revision had he chosen to market it himself. For one thing, he'd have developed the characters. While he wasn't known for character-driven fiction, there are just too many missed opportunities in Pirate Latitudes. Even Charles Hunter, the main character, is little more than a cipher. Sure he's a ruthless killer, but how did he get that way, considering that he's a Harvard man? I think Crichton would have let us know more. The supporting characters get even shorter shrift. And then there's the
almost offhand dispatching of one of the major villains, but there's plenty more.

As for the plot, well, it's just one damned thing after another. Episodic? Sure. Crichton throws in every single thing he could think of. The assault on the impregnable fortress with the hand-picked team? Check. Hurricane? Check. Hot-blooded aristocratic captive (the Maureen O'Hara role)? Check. Sea battles? Check. Traitorous crewman? Check. Sea monster? Check. Prison break? Check. And the list goes on. You've seen every one of these things in movies before, and I'm sure the book will make an entertaining movie itself. Not an original bone in it, but still fun.

But why quibble? The book's sitting on the bestseller list right now. If I could get my first drafts there, I'd be one happy guy. Okay, let's face it, if I could get my fifth drafts there, I'd be one happy guy. Check it out.

Archaeology Update

Archaeology's Hoaxes, Fakes, and Strange Sites

Links to an introduction and many articles. Good stuff.

Steel Frontier