Wednesday, April 26, 2017

14 Deep Facts About ‘Valley of the Dolls’

14 Deep Facts About ‘Valley of the Dolls’

Jonathan Demme, R. I. P.

IndieWire: Jonathan Demme, the filmmaker whose career ranged from the David Byrne documentary “Stop Making Sense” to the Oscar-winning “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” died this morning in New York. He was 73.

Song of the Day

Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy [with lyrics] - YouTube:

It's Like I Have a Twin!

Edward Gorey, Pack Rat: The famous illustrator was a devoted collector of… well, almost everything.

Today's Vintage Ad


How the 'Servant Girl Annihilator' Terrorized 1880s Austin

Mental Floss: Before Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of London, another midnight murderer was prowling halfway across the world. In Austin, Texas, an individual who became known as the “Servant Girl Annihilator” was responsible for the deaths of eight people between late 1884 and Christmas Eve 1885. Attacking victims in their beds and then dragging them outside to mutilate their bodies, the killer eluded police, private investigators, and mobs of civilians who took to the unpaved streets of newly settled Austin in anger and panic. He—eyewitnesses claimed it was a man—has been called America’s first serial killer, and his crimes remain unsolved to this day.

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Frances & Richard Lockridge, Dead as a Dinosaur, Avon, 1952

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

Spoilers abound, of course.
The Greatest Resurrections in Literature

I Miss the Old Days

The '60s at 50: Saturday, April 22, 1967: Birth of the Big Mac

William Hjortsberg, R. I. P.

The Rap Sheet: A “Gentle Soul” of Great Accomplishment: The New York City-born Montana novelist who gave us private investigator Harry Angel (in 1978’s Falling Angel), the lively detective pairing of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini (in 1994’s Nevermore), and a drug-fueled nightmare excursion through 1960s Mexico (in 2015’s MaƱana) passed away this last Saturday night of pancreatic cancer. Author William Hjortsberg, who was known to friends simply as “Gatz,” was 76 years old.

Bonus FFB on Wednesday: The Golden Spiders -- Rex Stout

George Kelley thinks The Golden Spiders is the best of the Nero Wolfe series, and Art Scott and Max Allan Collins also rate it highly, so I thought I'd reread it.  I read the edition on the left, since that's the one I have.

After reading it, I find that it's never going to be my favorite (I'm sticking with The Doorbell Rang) for one reason.*  The setup is a good one.  Archie, a bit irritated with Wolfe, brings in a neighborhood kid as a potential client.  The boy says he was running the old windshield-cleaning gag, starting first with the driver's window, when the driver, a woman wearing golden spider earrings, turns to him and says, "Call a cop."  The kid doesn't like cops, so he goes to Wolfe, who also doesn't like cops.  Soon the kid is killed by a hit-and-run driver, as is a woman who comes to Wolfe claiming to have been the woman in the car.  She isn't killed before handing Wolfe a $10,000 check, however, and he intends to earn the money because he doesn't like it that people who come to him for help are being killed with impunity.  Saul, Orrie, and Fred are called in, and the game's afoot.

What they uncover is a scam operating within a charity designed to help displaced persons, and it's a complex situation.  Wolfe figures all out, of course, and he makes an assumption or two that wouldn't occur to most detectives.  That's why he's so good.  Archie has plenty of opportunities for wisecracks and flirts with attractive women.  Both he and Wolfe irritate Inspector Cramer, and all the familiar routines are observed or mentioned.  The food sounds great, although Wolfe is irritated with one particular meal, and that sets everything in motion.  Wonderful stuff for the most part.

*MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT: What sets this book apart from the others in the series (at least in my view) is the level of violence, particularly in one scene set in a garage.  Using a technique called "the crisscross," Archie tortures a man to get information from him. Archie calls it "stimulating" him.  It's not the kind of thing I expected from Archie, but it works well and shows that Archie is a true tough guy.  There's more than torture, too. There's even a shootout.  A good one.  Not the usual thing in a Nero Wolfe book, but done very well.  Still, the torture scene didn't sit well with me, and while I liked the book a lot, it's not going to wind up in my Top 5.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

“The Not-So-Simple Art of Mystery Reviewing” (by Elizabeth Foxwell)

“The Not-So-Simple Art of Mystery Reviewing” (by Elizabeth Foxwell) | SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN: It’s our pleasure this week to present a post by a mystery reviewer. Over the several years during which this blog has been active, we’ve had only a couple of previous posts by members of that important profession. Elizabeth Foxwell reviews mysteries for Publishers Weekly, serves as managing editor of Clues: A Journal of Detection (the oldest U.S. scholarly journal on mystery/detective/crime fiction), and edits the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series. She has received the George N. Dove Award from the Popular Culture Association’s Detective/Mystery Caucus for outstanding contributions to the serious study of mystery and crime fiction.  She is also a writer of short mystery fiction, and an Agatha Award winner, whose stories have appeared in several anthologies. Her post gives a concise overview of the history of critical analysis of mystery fiction.—Janet Hutchings

10 Famous Companies with Unexpected Origins

10 Famous Companies with Unexpected Origins

Song of the Day

Hippy Hippy Shakes - The Swinging Blue Jeans - YouTube:

The Real Zorro?

The Real Zorro? - Neatorama: Every cultural legend has to start someplace, even if it’s from just a kernel of truth, expanded and embellished until it bears no resemblance to the original. Here’s the possible origin of Zorro, the “bold renegade” who “carved a Z with his blade.”

Today's Vintage Ad


I Miss the Old Days

Remembering What a Buck Could Buy in the 1950s and 1960s: A dollar really went far in the 1950s and 1960s — much farther than it does today. Before you get too nostalgic, remember that the average home was worth $7,354, a new Volkswagen Beetle could be yours for $1,280, and tuition at the University of Pennsylvania was $600.

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Jan de Hartog, The Distant Shore Book Two: The Sea, Pocket Books, 1953

Coin washer keeps Westin St. Francis' change shiny

SFGate: "There was a time," Holsen said, "when a cabdriver could look at a person after they paid their fare and ask, 'So, how was your stay at the St. Francis?' "

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

For the Love of God, Stop Putting Two Spaces After a Period

Overlooked Movies: Beau Brummell

Beau Brummell is another of those movies that impressed me a lot when I was a kid.  It's one of those big, lavish MGM Technicolor productions that's (very) loosely based on a true story.  If you want history, you'll have to watch something else, though.  The movie's not historically accurate at all and doesn't care to be.  It's entertainment.

Peter Ustinov is the weakling Prince of Wales.  Stewart Granger is the unbending Beau Brummell, who becomes the prince regent's unlikely friend and tries to make him into a man worthy of the crown.  Elizabeth Taylor is the beautiful love interest who has to choose between the excitement and danger of Brummell and the security that someone more stable can offer.   Brummell is something of a con man and rascal, but his affection for the Prince is real.  The story of Brummell's rise and fall is carried off with wit and style, and the ending is [SPOILER] a real tear-jerker.  

I've heard that Beau Brummell was a flop on its original release.  I don't know why, but maybe the fact that it was bit of a downer had something to do with it.  I liked it then, when I liked downers, and I like it now when I usually don't like them.  Check it out and see what you think.

Beau Brummell

Beau Brummell Original Trailer - YouTube:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Robert M. Pirsig, R. I. P.

The Millions: Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals, died today at the age of 88, according to a statement released by his publisher. Pirsig’s work explored a system of thought called the “Metaphysics of Quality,” which has been defined as “a thesis that quality is the basis of reality, and that this understanding unifies most East Asian and Western thought.”

The COPS Story

Neatorama: COPS has been a Saturday night TV staple for so long -28 years now- that it’s easy to forget what a groundbreaking show it was when it debuted in 1989.

Song of the Day

Electric Light Orchestra - Calling America - YouTube:

What 2000 Was Supposed To Look Like (in 1958)

It’s a Wonderful World – Tomorrow! What 2000 Was Supposed To Look Like (in 1958)

Today's Vintage Ad


What Every Writer Could Learn from Coaching Little League

Literary Hub: Unlikely as it might appear, there are lessons here for the burgeoning novelist. In fact, if we proceed genre by genre, you will find Little League fields surfeit with dark secrets, unspeakable tragedies, lacerating comedy, budding romance, and even a profound lesson or two about humanity.

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Basil Heatter, Sailor's Luck, Lion, 1953

11 Twisted Facts About ‘The Far Side’

11 Twisted Facts About ‘The Far Side’ 

I Miss the Old Days

10 Popular Names You Just Don’t Hear Anymore

Forgotten Hits: April 24th

Forgotten Hits: April 24th: The Monkees top both the album chart AND the singles chart this week with "More Of The Monkees", their second LP and their latest single "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You".  "Somethin' Stupid" by Nancy and Frank Sinatra falls to #2 while "Happy Together" by The Turtles holds at #3.  Tommy James and the Shondells are up a notch from #5 to #4 and The Supremes reach #5 with their latest, "The Happening".

10 Oldest Known Objects Made by Man (and his Ancestors)

10 Oldest Known Objects Made by Man (and his Ancestors)