Saturday, March 01, 2008

She's Leaving Home

Okay, if you're going to get technical about it, our daughter, Angela, left home 20 years ago when she started college. But she's never lived more than a few hours away, and after college she moved to Houston, a 45-minute drive. Now, however, things have changed. After 39 years of the single life, she's getting married in September. To a guy named Tom, who lives in San Francisco.

So she applied for, and got, a job in San Jose. It's with the same government agency she works for now, but it's a promotion, with a fat raise. We're very happy for her.

But we're sad too. Angela's leaving today for San Francisco, which is a long way from Alvin, Texas. This is especially tough on Judy, who's just been through a long siege of chemotherapy and whose mother is in a local nursing home, knockin' on heaven's door. Angela and Tom came to see her last night, knowing that they'd never see her again, not alive.

Ever since last June, Judy and I have been on an emotional roller-coaster, and the ride's not over. Life. It's what happens when you're making other plans, as a famous philosopher once said.

Mary Ann Update

OK! Magazine - First for Celebrity News - Dawn Wells Sets Record Straight About Arrest: "Former Gilligan's Island star Dawn Wells clears the air about her recent traffic indiscretion, asserting that the marijuana found in her car the night of her arrest was not hers.

'I need to put the kibosh on rumors. It was my birthday and I was coming from a dinner. The marijuana found in the car was not mine,' she tells Entertainment Tonight. 'The marijuana charge was dismissed and the person whom it belonged to went to jail. There was no DUI charge. I want to make it clear that I was charged with a traffic offense.'"

Act of Violence -- Basil Heatter

Did you ever look at your shelves and see an paperback so old and crumbly that you thought you'd better read it before it disintegrated? That's the way I felt about this one. Not long ago, I'd read Steve Lewis' post on Mystery*File about Heatter, and that had caused me to look at my books. I have several of Heatter's Gold Medal novels as well as the one from Pinnacle that Steve mentions. I also have some older ones, including Act of Violence, which, as I said, is about to disintegrate. After reading it, I don't suppose it will be a great loss if that happens.

One of the good things about the book is that it's a fine Hemingway pastiche. Some of the writing in the skiing scenes is fine. One of the bad things is that the book was obviously marketed as a thriller, but it's really not much of one. It's more of a love story with thriller elements, and the story kind of meanders. The book's only only 126 pages long, but Heatter never seems to make up his mind about exactly what he's doing.

There's the main plot, which gets lost now and then, about Tony Kamp, an Austrian who escaped from a concentration camp in WWII and who's now a ski instructor in New England. He's being hunted by mysterious forces because they think he knows something, though he doesn't. There's the love story plot, with a woman lifted right out of The Sun Also Rises. There's the plot dealing with prejudice against strangers in small towns. And there's the plot about the severely wounded vet who's trying to recover some feeling of self-worth. My favorite scene, which really has little to do with anything, is the fight with the giant ape. (I'm not making that up.)

I was hoping to find a lost classic, but I wouldn't recommend that you bother looking for this one. Try Harry and the Bikini Bandits, instead.

Memoir Update

News from The Associated Press: "BOSTON (AP) -- Almost nothing Misha Defonseca wrote about herself or her horrific childhood during the Holocaust was true.

She didn't live with a pack of wolves to escape the Nazis. She didn't trek 1,900 miles across Europe in search of her deported parents, nor kill a German soldier in self-defense. She's not even Jewish.

Defonseca, a Belgian writer now living in Massachusetts, admitted through her lawyers this week that her best-selling book, 'Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years,' was an elaborate fantasy she kept repeating, even as the book was translated into 18 languages and made into a feature film in France."

Friday, February 29, 2008

This May Help You Understand the World -- Lawrence Potter

This book is the perfect thing to have lying by the bed or by a chair if you like to have something to pick up and read for a few minutes at a time. Lawrence Potter offers well-researched answers to questions like "What is the difference between a Sunni and a Shia," "Is George W. Bush Actually Stupid," "What Did Saddam do to the Kurds?" Potter writes clearly and concisely, and he's got a sense of humor. You might even learn something from him.

Mike Smith, R. I. P.

Those of us of a certain age remember the Dave Clark Five all too well.

Lead singer of Dave Clark Five dies | News | Music: "Mike Smith, lead singer of the popular 1960s Beat group Dave Clark Five, has died. He was 64. Smith was admitted to a London hospital earlier in the week and passed away on Thursday after contracting pneumonia. The illness is believed to have arisen after the singer suffered a chest infection, stemming from a 2003 spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed."

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse -- Victor Gischler

Since this book has what's bound to be the best title of 2008, you might be wondering what else it has to offer. It has, for one thing, story. It's about what happens to Mortimer Tate nine years after the apocalypse. Tate missed that event because he was hiding out in cabin and a well-stocked cave, and he hasn't seen anybody since. When he does see three guys, he kills them. Not that it's his fault, you understand. This event precipitates Mortimer's return to the world, such as it is. It's quite a trip, for both Mortimer and the reader.

Go-Go Girls isn't exactly a picaresque novel, since Mortimer's not a picaro. It's more like Candide, the variation in which the person making his way through a corrupt society is a naive optimist. Mortimer wanders through the post-apocalyptic landscape, taking as much punishment as Candide, and he's almost as optimistic. But then Mortimer is a Platinum Card holder in the Joey Armageddon's Sassy A-Go-Go franchise, which helps.

People turn up to help or hinder or torture Mortimer, disappear, and turn up again in the classic fashion, as Mortimer ventures through the strangeness of the brave new world. Along the way he learns some things about himself and the world. There's action, adventure, sex, gore, cannibalism, the Muscle Train, and a blimp. Not to mention go-go girls. Great stuff. What more could you ask for? In case you're wondering, my favorite chapter is XXXIII, which I think should earn Gischler a lifetime supply of Jack Daniel's.

I've reviewed a couple of Gischler's books before, here and here. I've also read and enjoyed Gun Monkeys and Pistol Poets. This new novel, available July 8, goes in a different direction. Gischler's going to be a writer you can't pin down. I think his readers will follow him (it would be a mistake not to), and everybody should be eager to see what he's going to do next. It'll probably be different, and it'll probably be worth waiting for.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Mankiller of Poojegai -- Walter Satterthwait

"Walter Satterthwait is one of the finest and most versatile of mystery writers." So says the blurb on the back of this new collection of stories, and I couldn't agree more. If there were any justice in the world, Satterthwait would be on the bestseller list instead of any number of lesser writers. Just the brief introductions to the stories in this book are so well done that they're worth the price of admission.

The variety of stories between the covers might amaze you if you didn't pay attention up above when the word versatile was used. Private-eye stories (one of them featuring Joshua Croft), cozy send-ups, Neanderthal detectives, possibly the first story ever written with a "chat room" as a setting, a story inspired by E. C. comics, and more. Open this book anywhere, and you can't go wrong. Prime stuff, every bit of it. It has my wife's favorite story, "The Cassoulet," which is also a favorite of Satterthwait's. Check it out.

David Thompson on Money Shot

From the Houston Chronicle.

Fossil Update

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Sea reptile is biggest on record: "A fossilised 'sea monster' unearthed on an Arctic island is the largest marine reptile known to science, Norwegian scientists have announced.

The 150 million-year-old specimen was found on Spitspergen, in the Arctic island chain of Svalbard, in 2006.

The Jurassic-era leviathan is one of 40 sea reptiles from a fossil 'treasure trove' uncovered on the island.

Nicknamed 'The Monster', the immense creature would have measured 15m (50ft) from nose to tail."

Don't Take a Machete to a Biker Bar

Bingo! Bear's bikers hog tie bandits - National - "Machete wielding masked bandits picked the wrong club to rob yesterday - 40 biker club members were meeting there.

The robbers immediately fled on seeing the bikies approaching, with one running through a plate glass window, leaping off a five-metre balcony and running through a bowling green, and the other escaping behind the bar."

Charlie Wilson's Commercials

You might have seen Charlie Wilson's War, but have you seen the commercials for the real Charlie Wilson? These ran during one (or more) of his campaigns. Great stuff. My favorite is the third one in the sequence.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stephen King/John Cougar Update

Stephen King, Mellencamp to make musical - Yahoo! News: "ATLANTA - Creating a Broadway musical can be scary enough. Even more so when it's script is penned by horror master Stephen King.

King, who has written numerous best-selling novels, has written the script for 'Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,' with music by John Mellencamp."

I'm Available

Paris Hilton needs a new best friend -- "Brace yourselves: Paris Hilton is planning a return to reality TV.

The celebutante's new show will be about her search for a new best friend, a Hilton pal told Us Weekly.

No, really.

'Paris is tired of the haters and she's looking for someone new,' the source said. �She�s looking for someone ... who she can trust.' And we all know going the reality TV route is a sure-fire way to do that!"

Page 69

Of All Sad Words gets the Page 69 treatment. You can read it here.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Texas university giving freshmen iPhones and iPod touches: "Schools and universities are often big fans of Apple products, which usually translates to labs and laptop carts full of Macs. Educational institutions across the country have also started to provide students with personal laptops. Louisiana recently launched a program to distribute MacBooks to elementary school students, and now Abilene Christian University in Texas is getting into the act as well. But rather than handing out MacBooks, the university will be distributing iPhones and iPod touches to all incoming freshmen."

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Conn. Girl Lights Teacher's Hair On Fire: "MILFORD, Conn. (AP) ― Milford officials have expelled a Jonathan Law High School student accused of lighting her science teacher's hair on fire during class.

Police say the girl was arrested after she ignited the ponytail of George Lardas with a lighter."

How the Vikings Dressed

I've always thought they dressed like Kirk Douglas in that movie.

Vikings did not dress the way we thought: "Vivid colors, flowing silk ribbons, and glittering bits of mirrors - the Vikings dressed with considerably more panache than we previously thought. The men were especially vain, and the women dressed provocatively, but with the advent of Christianity, fashions changed, according to Swedish archeologist Annika Larsson."

Gator Update (Drug Dealer Edition)

AFP: Ohio cops find alligators in drug dealer's den: "CHICAGO (AFP) — Officers trying to track down a drug dealer in Ohio stumbled across two alligators guarding his back door instead.

The snipping and snapping gators were far from full-sized -- one was about two feet long and the other was about four feet long -- but were scary enough to make a team of tough federal marshals and Dayton, Ohio police officers call for help.

'Nobody wanted to play catch a gator,' William Taylor, supervisory deputy US Marshal, told AFP."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Encyclopedia of Life

Encyclopedia of Life: "Welcome to the first release of the Encyclopedia of Life portal. This is the very beginning of our exciting journey to document all species of life on Earth.

Comprehensive, collaborative, ever-growing, and personalized, the Encyclopedia of Life is an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about all life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world."

Lone Star Sleuths

Jayme Lynn Blaschke shoots from concealment with his new camera. Jayme got some great photos. Check 'em out.

The Plot for Your New Thriller

Hunt Continues for Nazi Treasure - "DEUTSCHKATHARINENBERG, Germany (Map, News) - German treasure hunters began digging Tuesday for what they say may be plunder buried by the Nazis in a man-made cavern near the Czech border.

The area's mayor, Hans-Peter Haustein, and a man who believes he found the coordinates for the buried booty in a notebook among his deceased father's belongings, maintain that a scan of the spot has revealed that a large quantity of metal is about 20 meters below the surface.

They believe it to be either gold or silver, based on the scan with a sophisticated metal detector."

Happy Birthday, Fats Domino!

Fats is 80 today.

Lone Star Sleuths

Kasey Lansdale

Lone Star Sleuths -- You Will Learn, Grasshopper

Ben Rehder listens to David Lindsey's words of wisdom.

Lone Star Sleuths

Joe and Kasey Lansdale

History's Top Ten Overlooked Mysteries

That's not mystery novels or writers. Just mysteries.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Zero Cool -- John Lange

A little over a month ago, I reviewed Zero Cool. Today a copy of the new Hard Case Crime edition arrived in the mail. That's the cover over on the left. To see the old cover, you'll need to click the link above.

But I'm not here to talk about the covers. I'm here to tell you that the books aren't exactly the same. Lange has added a couple of pages titled "Video Interview" at both the beginning and end of the novel, and I got a big kick out of them, especially having just read the book in its earlier incarnation.

Peru Update

Archaeologists find 5,500-year-old plaza in Peru - Science- "LIMA - A circular plaza built 5,500 years ago has been discovered in Peru, and archaeologists involved in the dig said on Monday that carbon dating shows it is one of the oldest structures ever found in the Americas.

A team of Peruvian and German archeologists uncovered the plaza, which was hidden beneath another piece of architecture at the ruins known as Sechin Bajo, in Casma, 229 miles (366 kilometers) north of Lima, the capital."

Jimmy Kimmel's Revenge

If you laughed at Sarah Silverman's video about her and Matt Damon, you might think this is funny.

Joe Lansdale Update

Grindhouse in about One Minute

With bunnies.

In Case You Were Wondering Where the Ark of the Covenant Is

A Lead on the Ark of the Covenant - TIME: "When last we saw the lost Ark of the Covenant in action, it had been dug up by Indiana Jones in Egypt and ark-napped by Nazis, whom the Ark proceeded to incinerate amidst a tempest of terrifying apparitions. But according to Tudor Parfitt, a real life scholar-adventurer, Raiders of the Lost Ark had it wrong, and the Ark is actually nowhere near Egypt. In fact, Parfitt claims he has traced it (or a replacement container for the original Ark), to a dusty bottom shelf in a museum in Harare, Zimbabwe."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vote Early and Often

Anthony Neil Smith is going to shoot a puppy if he doesn't win.

Welcome to Bleak House Books: "Bleak House Books is launching its very own book club and we want you to be a part of it.

Here are the details:

The Selection Process:
This is an election year and we’re all about following trends so we’re going to allow the public to select the book. We encourage you to learn about the candidates and their platforms and then cast your vote. Information will be available on the Bleak House website, but may also be found on the candidate's respective sites. The poll closes on March 15th."

Stephen Marlowe, R. I. P.

One of the greats, mentioned often on this blog. Here, for example, and here. So his passing is very sad news to me. One of my favorite Bouchercon moments was signing next to Marlowe at the Monterey Bouchercon. I've put up a new slideshow in tribute.

Writer Stephen Marlowe dies - :: "WILLIAMSBURG, Va.—Novelist Stephen Marlowe, best known for a series of books featuring private detective Chester Drum, died Friday at a hospital after a long illness, his family said in a statement. He was 79.

Marlowe began his career as a writer of pulp and science fiction and wrote more than 50 novels. His series featuring Chester Drum began with 'The Second Longest Night' in 1955 and concluded with 'Drumbeat Marianne' in 1968. His more recent work included fictionalized biographies, including 'The Memoirs of Christopher Columbus' in 1987, 'The Lighthouse at the End of the World' in 1995 and 'The Death and Life of Miguel de Cervantes' in 1996.

Marlowe was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1949 with a degree in philosophy before serving two years in the Army. He spent decades of his working life overseas, mostly in France and Spain, and founded a writer-in-residence program at his alma mater in 1974.

Marlowe received France's Prix Gutenberg du Livre in 1988 and the Life Achievement Award of the Private Eye Writers of America in 1997.

He is survived by his wife, Ann, and two daughters."

Peru Update

Mysterious Pyramid Complex Discovered in Peru: "The remnants of at least ten pyramids have been discovered on the coast of Peru, marking what could be a vast ceremonial site of an ancient, little-known culture, archaeologists say.

In January construction crews working in the province of Piura discovered several truncated pyramids and a large adobe platform.

Officials from Peru's National Institute of Culture (INC) were dispatched to inspect the discovery.

Last week they announced that the complex, which is 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) long and 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, belonged to the ancient Vic�s culture and was likely either a religious center or a cemetery for nobility."

Nightly TV Lineups

Todd Mason has a good discussion here.

Lindsay Lohan as MM

Thanks to Todd Mason, who (in a comment below) tipped me to this link. Lohan as Marilyn.