Saturday, August 10, 2002

August 10, 2002: Here's my take on Gold Medal writer Wade Miller (actually a writing team), as posted to rara-avis, the hardboiled listserv:

I thought I might as well read Wade Miller's THE TIGER'S WIFE (1951) for a very good reason: I'd never read it before. I'd read several others by the Miller team, though, including the one that's probably my favorite of theirs, THE BIG GUY (1953). Before reading THE TIGER'S WIFE, in fact, I scanned THE BIG GUY to see if it was as good as I remembered. It was. Great opening: "Joe Drum glanced dispassionately at the blood on his knuckles. It was not his own blood. Even if it had been, the mere sight of blood would have lighted no fire of emotion in his eyes, which were a rusty-brown color like old armor plate. Noe one ever knew what went on inside Joseph T. Drum, and he was proud of that. He dried his knuckles on the clothes of the mand held pinioned before him." And there's an even better ending, which really impressed me Back in the Day. I read it again, and it's still good. I won't quote it because it's a spoiler. I wonder, though, if Peter Rabe didn't go to school on Wade Miller.

But I digress. Back to THE TIGER'S WIFE. Another classic GM situation: a guy meets a beautiful woman and they marry in haste. As the book goes along, he begins to discover that she isn't at all what he thought she was. That's the case here. Lucius Bohy is a knockaround guy, gun-runner, soldier of fortune, nicknamed The Tiger. You know the type from other GM books. He meets Jill Spring and before he realizes it, his life is really changed. This is definitely not a feminist tract. Maybe it's the reverse, but again I don't want to give away too much. Readable and slick, and if there's way too much of that irritating love talk, there's a good reason for it. The psychology is very 1950s, but that's part of the book's appeal for me. There's some hot (for the early 1950s) sex, some of it just a little kinky. And another great ending.

If you have any of these early Miller books in your collection, give one a try.

Friday, August 09, 2002

August 9, 2002: Judy and I went to see BLOOD WORK this afternoon. Not a bad movie, but pretty easy to figure out. Clint Eastwood was good, and in fact so was most of the cast. It was nice to see an old-fashioned cop movie, with no car chases and no big special effects. Just a straightforward story.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

August 8, 2002: Went to Wal-Mart (Boy, I go to Wal-Mart a lot, don't ? But then where else is there to shop in Alvin, Texas?) and bought the DVD release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Not for me, though. I'm giving it to Allen for his birthday, along with several other DVDs, all westerns. It's nice to know that somebody his age is still interested in watching westerns. I figure most of the ones sold go to people my age.

This afternoon I took Judy to the doctor to get the drain removed from her surgery. All went well, and she didn't even feel it when the nurse removed the tube. This wil make bandaging her back a lot easier.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

August 7, 2002: Here's my take on forgotten writer Jonathan Craig, in a message I posted to the rara-avis list:

Dragnet probably spawned plenty of fictional procedural
series, but two of the best were published as paperback
originals. You all know about one of them, Ed McBain's 87th
Precinct series, which eventually went into hardback and is
still going on. The other one began about a year before
McBain's, and hardly anyone remembers it. Too bad, because
it's a good one. The author was Jonathan Craig, and the
series is set in a (named) New York City. The main
characters are two homicide cops, Pete Selby and Stan
Rayder. They work out of the 6th precinct, and most of
their cases (I think there were 10, all for Gold Medal) are
in Greenwich Village. The book I picked to re-read (for no
particular reason) was CASE OF THE PETTICOAT MURDER (1958).

The book opens, as nearly every Selby/Rayder case with the
discovery of a beautiful nude murder victim. It proceeds
with very little action but a lot of attention of details
(both of forensics and of regular police routine). And with
plenty of cross examination by Selby. Craig was really good
with dialog, and the story moves right along. Like all the
crimes Selby and Rayder get involved with, this one has
plenty of sexual overtones. Here's Selby: "People do weird
things for sexual enjoyment; strangling themselves and
others is only one of them. The idea, of course, is to stop
just the other side of climax and just this side of death;
but by the time that point is reached, the victim is often
in such a state of excitement that he no longer recognizes
it. In our years together, Stan and I have cut down a lot
of them: men dressed in women's clothing, girls with their
bodies coveredwith obscene words written in lipstick, men
and women with their stomachs bristling with needles or
forearms livid with cigarette burns." Pretty strong stuff
for 1958. (Trust me; I was there.) But at the same time,
there's Gold Medal's apparent ban on the grosser
body-function words. One character, for example, is "peed

If you read several Selby books in a row, there would
probably be a sameness about them, but I highly recommend at
least one. Why didn't they hit the big time like McBain's
books? One reason was almost certainly Craig's decision to
write in the first person. He doesn't have the big cast
that McBain does. And of course McBain's plots are a lot
more varied.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

August 6, 2002: The reviews for Anna Nicole Smith's "reality" show are brutal. I watched it, of course, because Anna is from my hometown of Mexia, Texas. In fact, my brother taught high school there for many years, and she was in one of his biology classes. Under a different name, of course. She's clearly dumber than a rock, but she was smart enough to somehow go from working at Jim's Crispy Fried Chicken (where my father used to go because he liked the gizzards) to becoming a media phenomenon. Smalltown girl makes good. I mean, my brother's a lot smarter than she is, and he's not famous.

I have to admit the show was awful, though. Anna Nicole slurred her words so that I could hardly understand her. She knew nothing at all about the suicide bombings in the Middle East, and in fact when someone told her about them, she said, "Doesn't that hurt?"

But there she is: a star. Or what passes for one nowadays. Gotta give her credit for that.

Monday, August 05, 2002

August 5, 2002: Time to get busy on the book I'm writing, as I just signed a contract to do another one, due December 15. I'll have to write fast, and I'm just hoping I can get it done.

Today is probably my next-to-last on the job. I have some vacation time coming, and I'll start taking those days on Wednesday. When I get back, the summer session will be over, so there'll be only a few people there. It's going to be pretty strange not to have a place to go. I'll be the Ghost Crider in the Sky, as the guys said in their song. I still haven't finished cleaning out the office, so that needs to be done, and the sooner the better.

I've figured out the digital camera, or pretty much so. No all I need is an excuse to take pictures.