Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Happy Holiday to All!

I bought a box of these Christmas cards in 1963, and I still have a couple of them. The greeting on the inside says simply, "Joy to the world." I've seen hundreds, if not thousands of cards since 1963, but this one is still my favorite. I have no idea what that says about me, and I don't want to know. I do want all of you who read this to have a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2006.

Friday, December 23, 2005

My Evil Twin is Famous in Finland

And I didn't even know. Thanks to Palonen, who runs this site, for the cover scan.

A Christmas Story . . .

. . . in 30 seconds. With Bunnies.

And here's an update on what Ralphie's doing these days, including a lot of stuff I didn't know about him.

These Guys Need the Cast of CSI to Help Out

World news from The Times and the Sunday Times - Times Online: "THE wife of a leading opposition figure in Kazakhstan found him sprawled in a pool of blood in the billiard room of his villa in Almaty.

Zamenbek Nurkadilov had been shot twice in the chest, piercing his heart, and once at close range in the head, investigators say. By his side lay a cushion with two bullet holes in it. Yet three weeks on, police in the city are still treating the case as a suspected suicide."

The Worst Christmas Singles

Via Scrubbles, here's a link to a curmudgeon's guide to the worst Christmas singles releases. While it doesn't include the dogs singing "Jingle Bells," it does list "Meowy Christmas" by those annoying cats.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

When Possums Attack

ENGLEWOOD, Pa. Dec 22, 2005 — Mary Kathleen O'Connor, 16, doing some studying for school about 6 a.m. Tuesday, said she was the first to be startled by an apparent Christmas tree stowaway.

"I'm looking at the tree and the angel just pops off," she said. "And a second later, this head just popped up. The eyes were, like, glowing. I was thinking, 'Oh my God!' And I screamed."

You can see my own possum visitor here.

The Gutter and the Grave -- Ed McBain

A long time ago I read a book called I'm Cannon -- For Hire. It was a Gold Medal edition by "Curt Cannon," who was also the novel's main character. Cannon, as you probably know, was a pen name used by Evan Hunter.

Now Hard Case Crime has reissued the novel under what I suppose is Hunter's original title, and the main character's name has been changed to Matt Cordell, who (if memory serves, and it rarely does) was the name of the character in a series of short stories that appeared in Manhunt. (I'm sure someone will correct me if I have the facts wrong.) Some of these stories were reprinted in a Gold Medal book called I Like 'em Tough by Curt Cannon, with the main character's name again being Curt Cannon.

At any rate, The Gutter and the Grave is a highly entertaining novel. You have to believe that Lawrence Block must have read it or the short stories because, like Matthew Scudder, Cordell/Cannon is a former p.i. who has no license now nad spends his time drinking. He can, however, be talked into "doing a favor for a friend." The favor sounds simple enough, but it leads to murder in short order, and then it becomes a lot more complicated. Hunter writes a good bit about musicians in the course of the book, and he seems to have particularly enjoyed it. Some of the "hip" talk will seem a little dated to you whippersnappers, but I remember it well. And when it comes to driving a story a long, McBain is hard to beat. He had the narrative gift. Pick this one up and see what you think.

Best. Version. Ever.

For my money the best version of "White Christmas" is the one recorded by The Drifters. Here it is for your listening pleasure, with some new flash animation.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Love Stuff Like This

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Hundreds of human footprints dating back to the last Ice Age have been found in the remote Australian Outback, an official and media reported Thursday.

The 457 footprints found in Mungo National Park in western New South Wales state is the largest collection of its kind in the world and the oldest in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.

The prints were made in moist clay near the Willandra Lakes 19,000 to 23,000 years ago, the newspaper reported ahead of archeologists' report on the find to be published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

State Environment Minister Bob Debus said the site showed a large group of people walking and interacting."

A Scene from Catch-22 that Has Absolutely No Political Implications at the Present Time

"What was that?" roared General Dreedle incredulously . . . ."Who is this man?"

"M-major Danby, sir," Colonel Cathcart stammered . . . .

"Take him out and shoot him," ordered General Dreedle.


"I said take him out and shoot him. Can't you hear?"

"Yes, sir!" Colonel Cathcart responded smartly, swallowing hard, and turned in a brisk manner to his chauffeur and his meteorologist. "Take Major Danby out and shoot him."
. . . . . .

"I don't think you can shoot him," [Colonel Moodus said].

General Dreedle was infuriated by his intervention. "Who the hell says I can't?" he thundered pugnaciously in a voice loud enough to rattle the whole building. Colonel Moodus, his face flushing with embarrassment, bent close to whisper into his ear. "Why the hell can't I?" General Dreedle bellowed. Colonel Moodus whispered some more. "You mean I can't shoot anyone I want to?" General Dreedle demanded with uncompromising indignation.

Merry Christmas, Alan Ashby

The Houston Astros unceremoniously dumped Alan Ashby, their radio color guy, yesterday. Ashby said he was "devastated" and had no idea he was doing to get the axe. For years the Houston sportswriters have been telling me that Astros owner Drayton MacLane was a class act. They were wrong. Drayton MacLane is Ebeneezer Scrooge in a suit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bank Job -- Steve Brewer

I've been reading a lot of books about bank robbery lately, including Duane Swierczynski's The Wheelman and Jim Sallis's Driver. Now it's Steve Brewer's Bank Job. Three goobers from down around Bakersfield who like to think of themselves as "outlaws" drive to northern California and go on a crime spree. (That's their description.) Their lack of competence leads them to need a hide-out, and the happen onto the cabin of Vince Carson, a retired bank robber. They decide to force Carson to rob a bank for them. I have nothing to say about what happens after that, since I don't want to spoil the story. Let's just say that things don't go exactly as they plan.

Like Swierczynski, Brewer mixes dark comedy with his caper, so this book has it all: violence, laughs, and plenty of action. Okay, almost all. There's no sex. Don't let that deter you from reading the book, though. It's fast-paced fun all the way.

Not-So-Famous Last Words

Here's a creepy but fascinating site about "executed offenders" in Texas. There's quite a bit of information about each one if you click the links provided, including the last statements of each one.

Ken Levine Didn't Like KING KONG

By Ken Levine: "What movie did the reviewers see? It was at least an hour too long. The first hour. Wait for the DVD, skip to “they arrive” and start there, keeping your finger on the ff button at all times. Trust me, by the giant insects you’ll be pressing it as if it were a morphine drip."

Best Lists

Via Incoming Signals, here's a link to a long list of "best lists" (books, movies, DVDs, etc.). It will keep growing, so you can check back for even more lists.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Mystery*File, Marvin H. Albert, and Harry Whittington

Over at Steve Lewis's invaluable Mystery*File, I was reading the latest in the search for a Marvin H. Albert novel that wasn't published in the U.S. when it occurred to me that Harry Whittington wrote a couple of books that never had U.S. publication. I have a copy of one of them that I got from Harry himself. As you can probably see in the scan, he affixed a little sticker to the cover saying that the book was "Never Published in America." It was published in France, and I've often regretted that my minor in college was Spanish instead of French. (You can click on the photo for a larger and maybe more easily readable version.)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Four New E-zines

This information comes by way of Tribe's Blog. I'm not sure I'll have time to read all of these, but anybody who's going to put up a zine for western stories deserves a little credit. I'll give that one a try for sure.