Saturday, November 17, 2007

Safe and Sound -- J. D. Rhoades

This is the third Jack Keller book, and each one has edged farther away from the "crime" category and into the "thriller" area. Don't ask me to explain the difference. I know it when I read it.

The title doesn't really apply to anybody in the book as far as I can tell. Nobody's safe, and nobody's sound, least of all Keller. You really need to have read the first two books in the series to know about Keller, the problems he's had in the past, if you want to understand what's happening, but here's the short version. He had a particularly bad experience in Afghanistan, but he's been slowly getting better. Unfortunately, he keeps finding himself in situations where he has to let the violence inside him escape. He tries to keep it tamped down, but he keeps finding himself in situations where he has to use it to save himself or someone he loves. And once it gets out, there's no controlling it.

This time there's a kidnapping, two of them, really, and the man behind them is bad. Awfully bad. A torturer. He's after the mcguffin, which is something I won't tell you about, since Rhoades keeps it a secret for a while. If he can, I can, and it doesn't matter, anyhow. It's just the thing that sets off the action, of which there's plenty. The book never slows down. Don't expect a happy ending. Anyone can die at any time, and some wounds aren't caused by guns and knives. Check it out.

Croc Update (Gourmet Edition)

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the tasty link.

I’m a Celebrity: Janice Dickinson refuses to eat a crocodile penis | Showbiz Gossip, Showbiz News, Entertainment News - Showbiz Spy: "Tastebuds were put to the test as campers took on the challenge of eating jungle delicacies including crocodile penis and eyes in ITV reality show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

Janice Dickinson, the world’s first supermodel, lost the test to chef John Burton Race who won his team their first meal since bungee jumping their way into the Australian jungle on Monday.

The culinary genius forced down crocodile penis, a witchetty grub, which he likened to eating an oyster and two crocodile eyes.

He said: “They are so tough. They really grind your tongue. “When you crush down on them there’s this massive explosion in your mouth. They’re quite salty.”

Dickinson passed on eating crocodile penis and crickets but managed to force down mullet guts."

Elephant Update (Not a Paris Hilton Post)

Regular readers know, of course, that P. H.'s spokesperson has denied Paris's concern. Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

First Paris Hilton, now chilli trunks for elephant drunks | "WITH Paris Hilton concerned about their sobriety, India's notorious binge-drinking elephants were served notice yesterday that they face a potent new shock in efforts to curb their killer rampages - fences dipped in the world's hottest chilli powder.

Officials in Guwahati, capital of the north-eastern state of Assam, which has the world's largest concentration of Asiatic elephants, announced they were considering bringing in a team of wildlife experts from Australia to help with the increasing incidence of man-pachyderm conflict."

Friday, November 16, 2007


You remember me. I was the kid in your high school class who actually enjoyed reading Beowulf. I was the one who was apt to say something like, "With my grip I will grapple the gruesome beast!" at odd moments or talk about the time we took a vacation and saw the whale road.

And something I enjoyed before I ever got to high school was 3-D movies. When I was a kid, the theaters in Mexia, Texas, weren't equipped to show 3-D, but I was lucky enough to see a few of the movies, anyway. My aunt took me to Dallas on my birthday to see
It Came from Outer Space. I saw Fort Ti while we were in Galveston on vacation. My parents took me to Waco to see Sangree. I saw House of Wax and The Murders in the Rue Morgue in Ft. Worth on a school trip.

So was I going to pass up a chance to see the new 3-D version of Beowulf? Not on your life. I couldn't get to an IMAX theater, but I did find one nearby that was showing the film in digital 3-D, and that's where I went.

Let's talk about the story first. Yes, they changed it. I guess I know why. The Beowulf of the poem is too purely heroic. He has his flaws, but they're minor ones, and that will never do in this modern, cynical age. So we get a guy who makes a major blunder. Personally, I like the old way better, but that's just me. And while the fight with the dragon in the movie is thrilling, probably the best thing in the picture, I think the final section of the poem, with the old king doing what a man has to do, with the faithful Wiglaf backing him up, says a lot more about love, duty, friendship, and honor than you'll find in a hundred movies like this one. But that's just me.

Now about that 3-D. It's awesome. Great. Wonderful. I loved it. Why anybody would see this movie in any other format is beyond me. It won't be half as good. Not one-fourth. The visual effects carry you over the slow spots, and some of them are truly eye-popping.

Which reminds me. There's a lot of eye-popping in this movie, not to mention gore of many other sorts. It's over-the-top violent, and how it ever got a PG-13 rating, I'll never know. Except that violence doesn't bother the ratings board. It's nudity they hate. Well, you've got Angelina Jolie (or a representation of her) fully frontally nude here. No nipples, though, so I guess that's what saved them. She Grendel's mother, and while she doesn't have cloven hooves, she does have, well, you'll just have to see for yourself.

And you really should. See for yourself that is. If you like 3-D, you can have a good time with this one, in the same way you can with The Vikings or The Long Ships or even another Beowulf movie, The 13th Warrior. Check it out.

No Wonder Our Children Isn't Learning

School textbooks, rife with errors, tentatively approved | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Southwest: "State gives publishers until spring to fix 109,263 math mistakes 04:07 PM CST on Friday, November 16, 2007 By TERRENCE STUTZ

Proposed math books for elementary school children and their teachers have resulted in one computation that publishers would just as soon erase – 109,263.

That's the number of errors that were uncovered in proposed math textbooks that are under review by the State Board of Education for distribution to schools in the fall of 2008.

The total number of errors was nearly five times the total for last year, thanks to one publisher whose books contained more than 86,000 errors – 79 percent of the total."

Don't Mess with Texas

Shootings of 2 may test defense law (w/911 call) | - Houston Chronicle: "In a case legal experts say may 'stretch the limits' of the state's self-defense laws, a Pasadena man shot and killed two suspected burglars during a confrontation as they attempted to flee his neighbor's property Wednesday afternoon.

In the minutes before the fatal shootings, Pasadena police said the man called 911 and reported that he had heard glass breaking next door and saw two men entering the home through a window. Still on the phone with police, the man, believed to be in his 70s, saw the suspects leaving from the back of the home.

'I'm getting my gun and going to stop them,' the neighbor told the dispatcher during the 2 p.m. call, according to Vance Mitchell, a spokesman for Pasadena police. 'The dispatcher said, 'No, stay inside the house; officers are on the way.'"

Moviefone's Top 25 Box Office Turkeys

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Top 25 Turkeys: Biggest Box-Office Bombs Ever - Moviefone
This Thanksgiving, you can eat turkey -- or you can watch a turkey. A cinematic turkey, that is. But just what is a big-screen gobbler? Think about a film that bombs with moviegoers AND with critics and you've got a pretty good start. We waded through the foulest fare ever served up by Hollywood, pulling in budgets and grosses from Box Office Mojo just to be sure. The result is a list that's both fun and astoundingly awful. Now sit back and, um, enjoy.

PBS Digs Black Mask

You can listen to a brief commentary here.

Now & Then -- Robert B. Parker

Thirty-four years ago, in another lifetime, the president of Howard Payne University handed me a copy of The Godwulf Manuscript and said something like this: "I thought you might like this one." Well, he was right, and ever since that day, I've read each of Robert B. Parker's books as they appeared.

Digression: By that time I'd read all the published Nero Wolfe books, and I was reading each new one as it came along. One thing I liked was finding the things I'd come to expect. I loved it when Wolfe counted the beer bottle caps or put on the yellow pajamas or went up to the orchid room. I was comforted when Archie had his glass of milk before bed. I'm just like a kid that way, and in fact around this time, my kids were both small and watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island on TV in the afternoons. They watched every episode over and over. My theory was that if there'd only been a single episode, they'd watch that one over and over. Maybe they were comfortable with the familiar, as I am. So now, to get sort of back to what this post is about, when I read a Robert B. Parker book, it's those familiar things that I sometimes enjoy.

And Now & Then is familiar. Very familiar. One reason is that it uses exactly the same plot as the last Sunny Randall book, which I recently read. If you don't believe me, read them both and see.

But who cares? Certainly not I. When you have Hawk and Vinnie and Chollo helping out, when you have Spenser cracking wise, when you have less of Pearl than usual (I didn't say I liked every familiar thing), then I'm happy. Even if Spenser doesn't say "We'd be fools not to" a single time.

Another thing I like is the occasional little joke like this one:

I nodded and looked at Chollo.

"Okay, Casey," I said. "Just get some informals while we talk."

Si," Chollo said.

They both stared at him as Chollo took a big 35mm camera out of the bag and began focusing.

"He used to be a crime photographer," I said.

What makes me smile isn't so much that I get the reference. It's that Parker must have known that 99% of his readers wouldn't get it, and he didn't care. He put it in there for himself. I like a guy who likes to have fun, and I think Parker has fun writing his novels. I have fun reading them, too, no matter how much other people hate 'em. (Okay, I'm not that fond of Sunny Randall.)

There's a lot about Spenser's relationship with Susan in the book (it's part of the plot), and I'm wondering why, for the first time ever, there's a book not dedicated to Joan. This one's dedicated to Rose. I guess it's a nickname thing.

As usual, this is a much shorter book than it appears to be. It's nearly 300 pages, but you can read it in a couple of hours. Time well spent, at least for me.

Airships Update

There's a nice slideshow here.

Up, up and away: Airships, the next generation - "LONDON, England (CNN) -- 'Oh, the humanity.' When these three words were uttered by aghast radio journalist Herbert Morrison -- as the LZ129 Hindenburg airship crashed and burst into flames in New Jersey in 1937 -- it was seen as the end of airships. The other remaining Zeppelin-class dirigible, the Graf Zeppelin II, was destroyed by the Nazi administration who felt the materials could be put to better use with more conventional aircraft.

But, 70 years on, could the Hindenburg-style airship be experiencing a renaissance?"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The American Mark Twain

Gee, and I thought Sam Clemens was the American Mark Twain.

The Associated Press: Kurt Vonnegut Tops in Public's Heart: "'Vonnegut was the American Mark Twain. He even looked liked him. Everybody loved Vonnegut, whereas Norman was a much more controversial figure,' says J. Michael Lennon, the literary executor for Mailer, who died Nov. 10 at age 84."

Stark House Strikes Again

Stark House is coming out with some really dillies lately. The Gil Brewer volume pictured on the left will be ready in January. It has two novels, including Three-Way Split, which I reviewed a couple of years ago. That's just the beginning because there's also A Devil for O'Shaugnessy, a never before published Brewer novel. If that doesn't get your blood pumping, nothing will.

And the introductory essay by David Laurence Wilson is superb, as is the concluding essay by George Tuttle. Worth the price of the book, by themselves.

But wait! There's more! Three previously uncollected short stories by Gil Brewer! All this for $14.95. You really can't go wrong. Trust me.

Substitute Teacher Update

What's going on with subs these days? (I love the Superintendent's comment at the end.)

Bibb substitute teacher disrobes in front of fourth-grade class: "A substitute teacher who worked her first day Wednesday at Bruce Elementary School took off all her clothes from the waist down in front of a class of fourth-graders, according to school officials.

'They noticed she started to disrobe,' said Bibb County schools assistant superintendent Sylvia McGee. 'From her waist down, she was totally nude.'

McGee said the substitute, whose name was not released, may have been on medication at the time, because after students went to another classroom to tell another teacher, the substitute was found in the classroom 'nonresponsive.'

'We've never had this to happen,' McGee said."

From the MWA

Dear MWA Member:

And the 2008 Grand Master is...

ImageAuthor Bill Pronzini has been selected to receive the coveted title of Grand Master, Mystery Writers of America's (MWA's) highest honor bestowed on an individual. He will be honored at the 62nd Annual Edgar® Awards banquet on Thursday May 1, 2008 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The "Edgars," as they are commonly known, are named after Mystery Writers of America's patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are awarded to authors of distinguished works in more than a dozen categories.

The Grand Master Award represents the supreme level of achievement in the mystery field and was established to acknowledge important contributions to the genre, as well as significant output of consistently high-quality material.

"Bill Pronzini is not only a passionate author and reader of crime fiction – he is also one of the most ardent proponents of the genre," said Daniel J. Hale, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. "For forty years he has distinguished himself with consistently high-quality writing and editing in all areas of the field, including creating one of the longest lasting detective series ever."

Bill Pronzini started down his path toward the Grand Master in 1969, when he embarked upon his professional writing career. Since then, Pronzini has experienced a prolific career, penning more than 70 novels and non-fiction books, including 32 novels in his popular "Nameless Detective" series and three novels written in collaboration with his wife Marcia Muller (MWA's 2005 Grand Master).

Pronzini is no stranger to critical acclaim for his achievements. He is a six-time Edgar® nominee, including a nomination in 1987 with his wife Marcia Muller for Best Critical Biographical Work, "1001 Midnights: The Aficionados Guide to Mystery Fiction". He is also a recipient of three Shamus awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. Pronzini’s suspense novel, "Snowbound", was the recipient of the Grand Prix de la Litterature Policière as the best crime novel published in France in 1988.

Pronzini joins a notable list of previous Grand Masters. Past recipients of this distinguished Award also include: Stephen King, Ira Levin, Mary Higgins Clark, Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene and Agatha Christie.

Mystery Writers of America is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses almost 3,000 members in three categories of membership that include publishers, editors, literary agents, and screen and television writers, as well as authors of fiction and non-fiction books.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Army cars booted over unpaid tickets - "DALLAS, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Officials in Dallas have booted five cars belonging to U.S. Army recruiters to get the Army to pay parking fines.

The Army owes $2,635 in fines for unpaid parking tickets -- an amount that warrants a response beyond just issuing another ticket on another vehicle, the city said in a story published Wednesday in The Dallas Morning News.

The metal boots, which immobilize vehicles, would be removed once the tickets are paid, city officials told soldiers who marched to City Hall to complain."

Snakes on a Plane

In 30 seconds. With, of course, bunnies.

Croc Update (Consumer Fraud Edition)

Oddly Enough | Africa - "HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong people hoping to cure their asthma through the age-old remedy of a dish of crocodile meat could instead come down with sore throats, constipation, nosebleeds and insomnia, a newspaper said on Thursday.

This is because about two-thirds of the supposed crocodile meat on the market probably comes from other reptiles, the Standard said.

Hong Kong's Consumer Council tested 24 samples of crocodile meat from dried seafood shops across the territory and found that 16 were fake, constituted instead from dried lizard or snake."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Wonder I Feel So Safe

GAO: Bomb Parts Snuck Past Airport Checks, CBS News Exclusive: Investigators Got Through Passenger Checkpoints With IED Components - CBS News: "CBS) CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports terrorists could slip past Transportation Security Administration screeners and, with a few readily available components, assemble an explosive that could cause severe damage to an airplane, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report, obtained exclusively by CBS News, details how GAO investigators conducted covert tests at 19 airports earlier this year to test the vulnerabilities of the passenger screening process. The investigators succeeded in passing through TSA checkpoints undetected with components for making improvised explosive devices (IED) and improvised incendiary devices (IID). "

What would horrify my old English teachers, not to mention my parents, isn't the great security at our airports. What would appall them is the acceptance of snuck.

Ellroy on Hammett

The poet of collision | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books: " Dashiell Hammett knew that his day job as a detective for the anti-trade union Pinkerton agency made him in large part a fascist tool - his guilt, writes James Ellroy, was the driving force of his crime fiction."

Link via Tom Sutpen.

The 50 Greatest TV Icons?

I could link to the list, but it would be more fun for you to read Ivan Shreve's post about it over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. He has the link if you're interested.

Question of the Day

Terror Watch: A Shocking CIA Spy Case | Newsweek Voices - Terror Watch | "The case is clearly a major embarrassment for both the FBI and CIA and has already raised a host of questions. Chief among them: how did an illegal alien from Lebanon who was working as a waitress at a shish kabob restaurant in Detroit manage to slip through extensive security background checks, including polygraphs, to land highly sensitive positions with the nation's top law enforcement and intelligence agencies?"

More on Self-Publishing

Here's a post that grew out of a comment on this blog.

Croc Update (Jockey Shorts Edition)

Man uses his jocks to save croc | The Daily Telegraph: "A MAN has gone 'commando' in a bizarre attempt to rescue a stranded 1.5m saltwater crocodile on a popular Darwin beach.

Jimmy Howard last night told how he lassoed the saltie before taking off his red jocks and putting them over its eyes to calm it down.

'I just ripped my jocks off, soaked them in the water and wrapped them around its face,' he said.

'It was a bit cranky and that was the only thing I could use to cover its eyes."

I Recommend the Low-Carb Diet. . .

. . . for Mr. Piggy Winkle.

Killer Bean Forever

No, not Killer Bee. Killer Bean. A trailer from Jeff Lew, the lead animator for The Matrix Reloaded.

Killer Bean Forever - Official Trailer - The best bloopers are a click away

Link via Neatorama.

The Naked Trocar -- Fender Tucker

Fender Tucker, as regular readers of this blog know, is the founder of Ramble House, the publishing empire with the oddest array of titles currently available. Occasionally he sets pen to paper and writes a story. Sometimes the story features Tucker's alter ego, Knees Calhoun. One example is reviewed here. The stories are set in the past and based (loosely one hopes) on the adventures of Knees in his old hometown. This brings me to The Naked Trocar, one of Knees' longer adventures. Knees returns to Farmington, New Mexico, and the next thing he knows he's getting a parking ticket. That's an innocent beginning to a story that gets more bizarre as it goes along until by the end it's pretty perverse. And as a bonus, it has a chapter titled "Snakes on a Plain." As Knees says, "Everyone knows snakes make everything more fun."

The book also includes "The Best Revenge," subtitled "A Sort-Of Western." It's different, for sure, thanks to the fact that one of the characters is, well, I can't tell you. Why spoil the surprise?

After that is "The Martingale Arms," which is "A Gambling Fable." It's fun, too, and don't pass up the "Afterword" in which Knees, er, Fender talks about the stories and how he came to write them.

And if you want a real memoir and not fiction (though some it must be at least a little bit fictionalized), I highly recommend Weed, Women, and Song, in which we get a bit of the story of Tucker's well-spent youth. He could have called it Sex, Drugs, and Rock-and-Roll, which would also have been an accurate description.

While you're checking these out on the Ramble House site, just look around at the other titles. There's some wonderful stuff.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ira Levin, R. I. P.

The book I remember is A Kiss before Dying. One of the greats.

Ira Levin, of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ Dies at 78 - New York Times: "Ira Levin, a mild-mannered playwright and novelist who liked nothing better than to give people the creeps — and who did so repeatedly, with best-selling novels like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Stepford Wives” and “The Boys From Brazil” — died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 78.

No specific cause of death had been determined, but Mr. Levin appeared to have died of natural causes, his son Nicholas said yesterday.

Mr. Levin’s output was modest — just seven novels in four decades — but his work was firmly ensconced in the popular imagination. Together, his novels sold tens of millions of copies, his literary agent, Phyllis Westberg, said yesterday. Nearly all of his books were made into Hollywood movies, some more than once. Mr. Levin also wrote the long-running Broadway play “Deathtrap,” a comic thriller."

More on Self-Publishing

One man's on-going adventures can be found here. An interesting saga so far.

Thanks to Art Scott for the link.


AP Kills Paris Hilton Story: "(AP) -- GAUHATI, India — Kill BC-People-Paris Hilton. Lori Berk, a publicist for Hilton, says she never made any comments about helping drunken elephants in India."

Don't Raise the Fence, Widen the River

Didn't JerryLewis make a movie about this?

Texas mayors want wider Rio Grande - Yahoo! News: "BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - Texan mayors opposed to a planned border fence with Mexico want to widen and deepen the Rio Grande river instead, and say it will be more effective in keeping out illegal immigrants."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Town passes first Texas ban on phones for drivers | - Houston Chronicle: "DALLAS — Highland Park has approved a law restricting drivers from talking on cell phones near schools, becoming the first local government in Texas to take action in the talking-while-driving debate.

Drivers caught using handheld cell phones while passing through school zones will be fined $75 under the ordinance passed Monday. The ban takes effect next month and will apply only when school zones are active, normally during the morning and mid-afternoon."

Gator Update (Law Enforcement Edition)

Fleeing Robbery Suspect Eaten By Alligator - Problem Solvers News Story - WKMG Orlando: "MIAMI -- A Florida man police said was breaking into cars at Miccosukee Resort and Gaming was attacked and killed by a 9-foot alligator while trying to run from police."

Thinking about Self-Publishing?

Maybe you should read this first.

Hat tip to Mike McGruff.

Mystery Dawg Opens a New Fiction Site

Mystery Dawg: Cross Posting Danger Ahead.......: "Greetings all.Over the past year I have recieved many submissions that were longer than the guideline for my flash fiction site - Powder Burn Flash.

So, after much thought I decided to open an additional venue for writers wishing to explore their stories more indepth. Tonight I have opened Darkest Before the Dawn. This site is open to short story submissions up 10,000 words in length."

Virginia Quarterly Review Update

This includes Jonathan Lethem's "Phil in the Marketplace," among others.

VQR � Fall 2006 Special Fiction Issue: " “Writers on Writers” — A Special Issue of VQR!

To celebrate our 2006 National Magazine Award in Fiction, we’ve published a special supplement of original short stories—with a unique twist. We asked each contributor to write a story in which a famous writer appears by name. It was a challenging assignment, one we were unsure would yield fruit. But it did, and the results are amazing—and amazingly varied. The issue also boasts a specially commissioned cover design by Chris Ware—which irreverently covers the history of writers writing about writers from the oral tradition through James Joyce.

Sorry, issue sold out. But we've made all the stories available online!"

Croc Update (Movie Edition)

I just don't understand it. Perhaps there's been a mistake in the audit.

Rogue fails to bite at box office - Entertainment - "ROGUE, the much-anticipated follow-up film by Wolf Creek director Greg McLean, has bombed at the Australian box office on its opening weekend.

This was despite a nation-wide release pattern of 170 screens, blanket media coverage, a saturation advertising blitz and no blockbuster competition.

The film — about a giant crocodile that feeds on tourists in the Australian outback — managed a singularly tepid take of $667,194, ranking it fifth in the box office rankings compiled by Nielsen EDI. The dismal performance of Rogue is underscored when compared with the top four films."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link. | 11/13/2007 | Man fined for X-rated DVD in car: "FORT WORTH -- Cost of an X-rated movie on DVD: $19.99. A DVD player for your car: about $150.

Playing that porn movie while driving your car in Fort Worth: Priceless ... er, not exactly. Try a fine of up to $500.

A 24-year-old Irving man was cited for obscene display or distribution, a Class C misdemeanor, after a Fort Worth police officer spotted pornography playing inside his car."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Keep Off Her Damn, er, Lawn! - Great Grandmother Strip-Searched At N.Y. Casino: "YONKERS (CBS) ― A great-grandmother from Mount Vernon is filing suit for allegedly being strip searched at the Yonkers Raceway casino. As CBS 2 HD has learned, the angry woman says it was over a winner's slip that was missing.

Myrna Jones is appalled at the way she was treated.

'I felt just humiliated, embarrassed,' Jones said."

Don't Tase Me, Bro. Er, Sis. - Sign Of The Times? Tupperware To Taser Parties: "PHOENIX (CBS) ― You can call it a shocking sign of the times - Tupperware parties are starting to be replaced by 'Taser parties.'

A woman in Arizona recently hosted a party where she served cheese and apple cider while a law enforcement officer demonstrated Tasers.

After a short question and answer period, visitors were able to try the non-lethal weapons out for themselves."

The 7 Missing Wonders of the World

You can read about them here. One of them is the tomb of Genghis Khan, which of course has actually been found by one of Khan's descendants, as explained in this book.

Money Shot -- Christa Faust

This one's due from Hard Case Crime in January. I hadn't read anything by Christa Faust other than her short story in A Hell of a Woman. I liked the story, so I was glad to score an ARC of Money Shot.

The narrator is Angel Dare, or at least that's her porn name. Mine is Orel Strokum. You can get yours here, but it won't be as cool as Angel Dare, I'll bet. But I digress. Angel is a former porn star who's now a booking agent. Angel is shot at the beginning of the story and left for dead. She wants revenge, as who wouldn't?

The McGuffin in the story is a valise full of money. People want it back, and they think Angel knows where it is. She doesn't, though. Not at first.

There's a lot of violence in this story, and a lot of people die. One of Stephen King's tests of a good story, as I recall, is whether anyone can die at any time. In this story, anyone can. And you get a guided tour of the porn industry. "Lurid" is a word that's thrown around a lot when describing books. I think it fits this one just fine.

The story had me from the first pages, and it moves at a fine clip. Money Shot is nice addition to the Hard Case catalog. Check it out next January.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Work

The Daily Mail: When the U.S. Navy deploys a battle fleet on exercises, it takes the security of its aircraft carriers very seriously indeed.

At least a dozen warships provide a physical guard while the technical wizardry of the world's only military superpower offers an invisible shield to detect and deter any intruders.

That is the theory. Or, rather, was the theory.

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board.

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.

The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

One Nato figure said the effect was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik" - a reference to the Soviet Union's first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age.

The incident, which took place in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan, is a major embarrassment for the Pentagon.

The lone Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines.

And the rest of the costly defensive screen, which usually includes at least two U.S. submarines, was also apparently unable to detect it.

No Comment Department

Intel official: Say goodbye to privacy - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - A top intelligence official says it is time people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information."

Judy Collins and the Smothers Brothers

Last night, Judy and I went to Galveston to see Judy Collins and the Smothers Brothers perform in the Grand Opera House. As you can imagine there were lots of us oldsters in the audience.

We saw Judy Collins perform in Austin about 40 years ago. She doesn't look the same, nor do we, but as soon as she started to sing "Chelsea Morning," the years dropped away. It was like we were 25 again. She didn't do some of my favorites, but the ones she did lifted my spirits and even got me a little misty at times.

We'd never seen the Smothers Brothers in person, but they're so familiar from TV that it was as if two old friends had walked out on the stage, looking just the way they were supposed to look. They're still doing the same comic bits they did on the old records I have in my closet, and they're still funny. Still political, too. All they have to do is take their '60s political shtick and change the names.

I like Yo-Yo Man. Made me want to find my old Duncan and give it a workout.

All in all, a great evening. Worth every penny of the exorbitant ticket price, which isn't something I can say for every concert.

News Story of the Day

Getting On His Wick: Monk Gets Candle Stuck In Penis | Anorak News: "“HE did a very stupid and shameful thing,” says a Romanian “monastry source” to the Daily Sport. The man with the tonsure is speaking of trainee monk Dumitru Ilie who is said to have got “hammered” and spent the night a woman he met at a party. A woman who may or may not have been a nun.

In the morning Dumitru awoke full of regret and with candle wedged up his penis. Says the doctor who treated him: “I have no idea how he managed to do that but it looked extremely painful.” Albeit unlit…"

Peru Update

Temple built 4,000 years ago unearthed in Peru | Reuters: "LIMA (Reuters) - A 4,000-year-old temple filled with murals has been unearthed on the northern coast of Peru, making it one of the oldest finds in the Americas, a leading archaeologist said on Saturday.

The temple, inside a larger ruin, includes a staircase that leads up to an altar used for fire worship at a site scientists have called Ventarron, said Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva, who led the dig.

It sits in the Lambayeque valley, near the ancient Sipan complex that Alva unearthed in the 1980s. Ventarron was built long before Sipan, about 2,000 years before Christ, he said."