Saturday, November 08, 2008

Croc Update (Thrill-Seekers Edition)

Thrill-seekers snap up new Aussie dare - croc swim: "DARWIN - Swimming face-to-face with a massive saltwater crocodile might not be everyone's idea of fun but thrill-seekers are snapping up northern Australia's new tourist attraction.

Tourists who want to get cozy with a crocodile climb into a clear acrylic cage, dubbed 'the cage of death,' which is about 145 mm (5.7 inches) thick and 2.8 meters (9.2 feet) high, wearing just a pair of swimming goggles and a swimsuit."

Gator Update (Traffic Stop Edition) Lufkin and Nacogdoches |Alligator Stops Traffic on Hwy 59: "Diboll (KTRE) - Texas motorists are used to seeing all kinds of road kill, but this morning was a different story.

Motorists traveling Highway 59 south of Diboll got a big surprise when they saw a huge alligator on the side of the road in front of a rest stop.

Some drivers headed north of 59 had to make a U-turn to go back to make sure their eyes weren't playing tricks on them. Others headed south on 59 stopped to see what the commotion was all about. People whipped out their cell phones making calls and taking pictures. This was a gator tale that was sure to get bigger and bigger as the day went on."

Top 10 Irritating Phrases

Oxford compiles list of top ten irritating phrases - Telegraph: "Heading the list was the expression 'at the end of the day', which was followed in second place by the phrase 'fairly unique'.

The tautological statement 'I personally' made third place – an expression that BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphreys has described as 'the linguistic equivalent of having chips with rice.'

Also making the top 10 is the grammatically incorrect 'shouldn't of', instead of 'shouldn't have'."

Thanks to Art Scott for the link.

Night of Thunder -- Stephen Hunter

Having recovered from his adventures in Japan, Bob Lee Swagger is doing so well that he knows something bad is going to happen. Sure enough, his older daughter, a reporter in Bristol, Tennessee/Kentucky, is the target of a hired killer who calls himself Sinnerman and who specializes in killing by auto. She survives the accident, but she's in a coma. You don't mess with Bob Lee's daughter and get off lightly. Bob Lee goes to Bristol, where everybody underestimates him. They think he's just some hapless gray-haired old goober. Boy, are they wrong.

This book is Stephen Hunter's love song to NASCAR. Lots of car stuff along with the usual ton and a half of gun stuff. Hunter, what with his having been a movie critic for so long, must just naturally think visual terms. The climactic firefight in the novel is definitely made for the big screen. He even casts the movie: Clint Eastwood as Bob Lee, Kevin Costner (the evil one) as the Sinnerman, Tommy Lee Jones as Papa Grumley.

This book is a far cry from Point of Impact, the first one with Bob Lee. It's not just that Swagger is older. It's a whole different thing, so far over the top that it's hard to suspend disbelief. It's also comic. The Grumleys might be a criminal clan, murderous and deadly, but they're also funny, especially Papa. Hunter appears to be trying to conceal the identity of "the boss" behind the goings-on, but anybody who's read a single thriller or mystery novel will have it figured out almost instantly. There are some "surprise" developments that come pretty much out of left field, so obvious that they seem like last-minute additions.

Fans of Hunter and Bob Lee Swagger probably won't be disappointed in the book, but, as I said, it's a far cry from Point of Impact.


This squirrel was really upset with something in my front yard. I went outside to have a look, and he wasn't too pleased about that, either. While he fussed at me, I snapped his picture.

Planet of Dinosaurs

Friday, November 07, 2008

Where We Are

Fort Worth, Texas, that's where, staying with some friends while getting ready for tonight's gig at the Fort Worth library. Posting will be light for the next couple of days, but if all goes as planned, there should be at least some book reviews and the usual movie clips. I won't be able to respond to comments or e-mail for a while, but I'll get around to that when I get back to Alvin on Sunday.

Gun Work -- David J. Schow

This latest Hard Case Crime volume is a bit longer than usual 249 pages. I liked it anyway. It has guns, firefights, and (I'm not making this up) Mexican wrestlers. I'll bet that can't be said of the last few books you've read. Having said that, I need to warn you that just about everything else in these comments is a spoiler.

Barney is a guy who's good with guns, somebody people call on when they have trouble. His old buddy Carl call for help when his wife, Erica, is kidnapped in Mexico. Barney agrees to help out. He goes to Mexico, he and Carl get the ransom money, and make the drop. Things (don't they always?) go wrong, but in this case they go really wrong, and Barney learns that everything he'd seen and heard was a lie.

He learns this too late, of course, and he finds himself in a sort of kidnap hotel, where he's tortured for many, many pages. He gets out of it eventually, but minus his trigger fingers on both hands. After a period of recovery, surgery (look carefully at the cover illustration), and more recovery, he puts together a team and goes out for revenge. Lots of people die, and Barney learns that once again, he's been wrong about nearly everything. When he finally meets Erica, she turns out to be real piece of work.

Okay, that's it for the spoilers. I saw this as sort of a Gold Medal novel on speed. Hardboiled, fast-moving (except for the middle part), and well written. Check it out.

Forgotten Books: CROCKETT ON THE LOOSE -- Brad Lang

Fred Crockett appeared in only three books, of which this was the first. The publisher was Leisure Books, not the top of the line, which might explain why hardly anyone remembers Crockett: "He's young, hip, long-haired -- a private detective." Very '70s. I mean, look at the cover.

But you know what? It's a fine series of books. I liked every one of them (Brand of Fear and The Perdition Express are the other two). this one's about a missing daughter. You know how that goes. It's never really about a missing daughter, and as the back cover says, you get to follow Crockett through "the sleazy massage parlors, topless bars, and narcotic hideouts of the midwestern college town" where he lives and works. Not to mention you'll run across the funniest torture scene around, not that there's a lot of competition.

Brad Lang doesn't write P. I. novels these days, but he has some cool websites, including Hardboiled Heaven and Classic Movies. I highly recommend you check those out, and if you run across any of the Fred Crockett books, give 'em a try. Maybe you'll like them as much as I did.

Update:  Check out this material on Steve Lewis's Mystery*File.

The People that Time Forgot

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Top Ten Paperback Writers

Lawrence McKenna, a reader of the blog, asked me about some of my favorite writers and books. I couldn't really answer his question, but I thought I might try a list of my Top Ten Paperback Writers. My list would have some guys who started out in paperback and later went on to hardcovers, but I consider them paperbackers nevertheless. So here goes, in no particular order (and, yes, I can count; I just couldn't keep it to ten):

Jim Thompson
Harry Whittington
Day Keene
Donald Hamilton
David Goodis
John D. MacDonald
Charles Williams
Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)
Lawrence Block
Dan J. Marlowe
Peter Rabe

5 Movies Ruined by Last-Minute Changes

You can find them here.

Michael Chabon's 12 Favorite Works of Adventure Fiction

DRIN - Del Rey Internet Newsletter: "What earlier tales of adventure inspired Michael Chabon? Del Rey asked him to recommend a few, and thus was created:
Chabon's 12 Favorite Works of Adventure Fiction"

A good list. You can f ind it at the link, which comes via Marshal Zeringue's Campaign for the American Reader.

I, for One, Welcome Our New Robot Master Flautists

The flawless flautist: The musical robot that plays Flight Of The Bumblebee perfectly | Mail Online: "Classical musicians could have good reason to be worried as scientists have developed a musical robot that makes no mistakes.

Waseda University’s robotic flautist can play the challenging musical score of the ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ almost flawlessly.

And the robot has been designed with a human-like quality that allows it to engage with the audience, making in a contender for concert performances."

The Land that Time Forgot

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Space Alien Weeps

ALIEN WEEPS FOR MCCAIN LOSS�|�Weekly World News: "The Alien, well known for correctly endorsing every presidential winner since 1980, is in shock over his first losing endorsement."

Photo at link.

Jesse Stone Update

Sounds like this one's not based on a published novel. Probably the novel's already written, though.

Sixth 'Jesse Stone' in works: "CBS has greenlighted a sixth installment in its 'Jesse Stone' movie franchise, starring Tom Selleck as a small-town police chief.

The movie has gone into production in Halifax, Nova Scotia, ahead of the premiere of the fifth movie in the franchise from Sony Pictures TV. Airdates for both are yet to be determined.

'Jesse Stone: No Remorse' will find Jesse (Selleck), having been suspended by the local town council, moonlighting for his friend, State Homicide Commander Healy (Stephen McHattie), by investigating a series of murders in Boston."

Michael Crichton, R. I. P.

Very sorry to hear this. I very much enjoyed Crichton's early novels under his own and other names.

Thanks to Todd Mason for the tip.

Best-Selling Author Michael Crichton Dies, "Jurassic Park" Author And "ER" Creator Succumbs To Cancer. He Was 66. - CBS News: "(CBS) Best-selling author and filmaker Michael Crichton died unexpectedly in Los Angeles Tuesday, after a courageous and private battle against cancer, according to a statement released by his family. He was 66.

Crichton is best known as the author of 'Jurassic Park' and the creator of 'ER.' His most recent novel, 'Next,' about genetics and law, was published in December 2006."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

iWon News - Determined Texas woman, 92, votes in ambulance: "SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Betty Owen is 92 and after a stroke four years ago, needs a feeding tube and can't walk. But she was determined not to miss Tuesday's election. She arrived at her polling place on a gurney in an ambulance, where an election judge and support worker climbed aboard with an electronic voting machine and let her cast her ballot."

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

The Little Professor Reviews the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008

Click here.

Thuglit -- Issue #28 Now On-Line

Ten stories for your reading enjoyment. Click here.

Three Stooges Update

Russell Crowe to Play Stooge Moe? at "HOLLYWOOD - Oscar winner Russell Crowe is reportedly set to appear in the remake of 1930s classic The Three Stooges.

Filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly are bringing Curly, Moe and Larry back to the big screen--and are hoping to cast the Gladiator star in the role of Moe."

Cold Case Files

Now the Chinese know: the Guangxu Emperor was poisoned. But by whom? - Times Online: "One of China's great historical mysteries has been solved. While it may never be known whether it was the dying Empress Dowager, her loyal eunuch courtier or her commanding army general who was responsible, it has been established that the Guangxu Emperor died of arsenic poisoning in the Water Terrace Pavilion."

Oh Brave New World, that Has Such People in It

At the Earth's Core

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Possible text messaging ban under review | AP Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "AUSTIN — A possible ban on text messaging while driving is being explored by city officials, according to a newspaper report.

The city of Austin's public safety task force approved a resolution Monday that the City Council ask City Manager Marc Ott and his staff to develop a proposal, vet it and bring it back to the council for consideration"

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Culture & Celebrity Blog: "In a high school cafetorium, a small man in his mid-70s was lecturing to a rapt audience of several hundred people. Dr. Henner Fahrenbach, a retired zoologist from Oregon, is also a self-proclaimed expert in the behavioral habits of a bipedal ape sometimes known as Sasquatch.

“Their top speed for running is between 42 and 45 miles per hour,” Fahrenbach told the crowd, in a thick German accent. “They can cover 90 feet in just three steps, or 30 feet per step. So obviously, they have immensely powerful thighs and legs in general.”"

Great illustration at link.

Supreme Chief Justice Tries His Hand at Hardboiled Prose

The BLT: Three years into his job as chief justice, is John Roberts Jr. already getting bored with traditional opinion-writing? Or is it just one more way in which he is following in the footsteps of William Rehnquist, his predecessor, mentor, and amateur mystery writer? Or does Roberts have a law clerk who's a descendant of Dashiell Hammett? These are just three of the questions that come to mind after reading an extraordinary dissent from denial of review issued this morning by the Supreme Court in Pennsylvania v. Dunlap, a fairly routine drug arrest case raising "probable cause" issues. Roberts, who was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, wrote the dissent, and this is how it begins:

"Officer Sean Devlin, Narcotics Strike Force, was working the morning shift. Undercover surveillance. The neighborhood? Tough as a three­ dollar steak. Devlin knew. Five years on the beat, nine months with the Strike Force. He’d made fifteen, twenty drug busts in the neighborhood.

"Devlin spotted him: a lone man on the corner. Another approached. Quick exchange of words. Cash handed over; small objects handed back. Each man then quickly on his own way. Devlin knew the guy wasn’t buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up the buyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack in the guy’s pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office."

Link via Neatorama.

This Is Where I'll Be on Friday

Feast on Books: Texas Literary Hall Of Fame: "Since 2004 the Friends of the Fort Worth Library have biennially honored Texas authors by inducting them into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. This year's induction ceremony takes place at the Central Library on Friday, November 7 at 6 pm.

The ceremony begins with wine and hors d'oeuvres. This is followed by the awards presentations and remarks from the living honorees.

The authors that are being honored this year are Sandra Brown, Benjamin Capps, Betsy Colquitt, A. C. Greene, Tom Lea, William Owens, Suzan Lori-Parts, Edwin 'Bud' Shrake, and Bill Wittliff. The Master of Ceremonies is Bill Crider."

This Is Where I'll Be on Thursday

North Texas Regional Library System: Author Bill Crider Will Be in Duncanville!: "Duncanville Public Library Director Carla Bryan has asked us to help get the word out about 'a TERRIFIC program our Friends group is hosting.' Texas author Bill Crider will be honored at the Friends of the Duncanville Public Library's 12th Annual Author Banquet Thursday Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the library's circulation desk for $15/each, or $90 to reserve a table.

'Bill is a great presenter & a wonderful author whose books are so much fun to read,' Carla tells us. To request an electronic file of a flyer to post and/or distribute - or just for more information, please contact her at 201 James Collins Blvd.; Duncanville, TX 75116; 972-780-5053; ."


Farrellys to direct 'Three Stooges' - Entertainment News, Film News, Media - Variety: "MGM has revived the long-gestating Peter and Bobby Farrelly Three Stooges project.

The siblings will renew their quest to channel the comic mayhem of the Three Stooges into a contemporary comedy for the studio."

Musical Update

NYT: FOR decades, hints tantalized record buffs and anyone interested in how classical music was performed through the centuries.

Somewhere out there, just possibly, was the largest cache of classical music from the dawn of the recorded age known to exist: hundreds of cylinders incised on an Edison phonograph from the 1890s by a music-loving businessman, Julius H. Block.

[. . . .]

If found, the recordings would furnish a deep and fascinating glimpse into the way music was played in the time of Tchaikovsky and Brahms, a sonic toe-touch into a distant epoch. But there was little hope. The collection, most believed, was destroyed in World War II.

[. . . .]

Three CDs of excerpts are to be released late next month by the Marston label (, which is based here and specializes in the early recorded age.

[. . . .]

With each cylinder able to record for only two to four minutes, the release will be limited to snippets: 90 of music and 4 with just spoken words. Those include Tolstoy reading from his work and what may be the voice and whistling of Tchaikovsky. The musical recordings in the release run from 1890 to 1923.

Humanoids from the Deep

Paging Michael Crichton

Japanese clone mouse from frozen cell, aim for mammoths: "Japanese scientists said Tuesday they had created a mouse from a dead cell frozen for 16 years, taking a step in the long impossible dream of bringing back extinct animals such as mammoths.

Scientists at the government-backed research institute Riken used the dead cell of a mouse that had been preserved at minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) -- a temperature similar to frozen ground.

The scientists hope that the first-of-a-kind research will pave the way to restore extinct animals such as the mammoth."

Monday, November 03, 2008

Yma Sumac, R. I. P.

Yma Sumac, 'Peruvian songbird' with multi-octave range, dies at 86 - Los Angeles Times: "Yma Sumac, the Peruvian-born singer whose spectacular multi-octave vocal range and exotic persona made her an international sensation in the 1950s, has died. She was 86."

He Should Have Used a Different Script

Filmmaker followed script in murder plot: "A Canadian filmmaker has been charged in a murder plot eerily similar to one of his horror movies, media said Monday.

Mark Twitchell, 29, was charged Saturday with the murder of Johnny Altinger in what police believe is a case of life imitating art."

Iceman Update

Ancient mummy has no modern children: "The 5,300 year old human mummy – dubbed Oetzi or 'the Tyrolean Iceman' – is highly unlikely to have modern day relatives, according to new research published today.

A team comprising scientists from Italy and the UK has sequenced Oetzi's entire mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome - which is passed down through the maternal line – and found that he belonged to a genetic lineage that is either extremely rare, or that has died out."

Clyde Wilson, R. I. P.

Clyde and I wrote three books together, two of which have been published. We signed the contracts for the third, Mississippi Vivian, last week. They don't make 'em like Clyde anymore. He was a throwback. He'd have been at home with Frank Hamer (one of his heroes), Eliot Ness, Lone Wolf Gonzales, and the other great lawmen of an earlier era. He'll be missed.

Legendary Houston private eye Clyde Wilson dies | Top stories | - Houston Chronicle: "Storied private investigator Clyde Wilson — who spent six decades cracking some of Houston's toughest cases — died Saturday of natural causes. He was 85.

After opening his first office in Houston in 1957, Wilson earned a reputation for exposing corruption. Some of his first cases shed light on wrongdoing by officials in Lufkin and Polk County.

'He was an icon in this business,' said his son Tim Wilson, who owns a private investigation company. 'He was the one who brought private investigation to the forefront and made it respectable.'"

Croc Update (Plastic Bags Edition)

Plastic bags killed tourist croc, says report | "PLASTIC bags mistaken for food in the water have been blamed for the death of Whitey, the infamous crocodile captured off Magnetic Island."

World Fantasy Awards

Via Locus:


  • Patricia McKillip

  • Leo & Diane Dillon

  • Ysabel, Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada; Roc)

  • Illyria, Elizabeth Hand (PS Publishing)

  • "Singing of Mount Abora", Theodora Goss (Logorrhea)

  • Inferno, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Tor)

  • Tiny Deaths, Robert Shearman (Comma Press)

  • Edward Miller

  • Peter Crowther (PS Publishing)

  • Midori Snyder & Terri Windling (Endicott Studios Website)

    The Black Hole

    Sunday, November 02, 2008

    The Devil in Texas

    Check out this story by a friend of mine.

    Paris Hilton for President!

    Thanks to Paul Bishop for the link via Miss Cellania.

    Neil Diamond is OK in my Book

    Neil Diamond helps keep spotlight on Oak Island recovery | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "When he takes the stage tonight in St. Louis, soft-rock legend Neil Diamond has an unusual speech planned amid wildly popular renditions of America and Sweet Caroline.

    He wants to tell fans about Oak Island: the heaping, rotting piles of debris; the hundreds of homes washed away; and the people, some still sleeping in tents and cars, struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Ike decimated the area in September.

    Two weeks ago, after his concert in Houston, Diamond paid an incognito visit to the small, unincorporated hamlet in Trinity Bay and was shocked by the devastation.

    Ever since, he has given something of a stump speech about the former fishing village at each of his concerts. And, operating almost completely under the radar, he has promised to donate 100 percent of the gross merchandise sales at 20 concerts to assist in the rebuilding of the small community, which sits just a few miles south of Anahuac in Chambers County. If sales continue, proceeds could exceed $4 million by year's end."

    Paris Hilton Update

    PARIS HILTON: "Men used me for sex " | Heiress reveals secrets in exclusive interview with News of the World | Showbiz | News Of The World: "Tearful multi-millionaire Paris fluttered her eyes and told the News of the World: 'Every other guy I've been out with has used me for money or sex - but in most cases they just want fame. It made it hard to trust people.'"

    Galveston Update

    Galveston hotels, businesses wait for tourists to return | Houston | Texas News | Texas Cable News | | News for Texas: "GALVESTON – One month after Hurricane Ike, Galveston’s story is almost a tale of two cities: One part of the city is struggling to dig itself out from the aftermath of the hurricane, but the other part is open for business and ready to move on."

    Video at the link.

    10 Best James Bond Theme Songs

    Top 10 Greatest James Bond Themes - The List Universe: "James Bond has been gracing our movie screens for over forty years, and is about to again this November with “Quantum of Solace.” Integral to the Bond legacy is the music, which has endured with the character, adapting to the times and films as fluidly as the character himself and becoming just as memorable. This was originally a complete ranking of 24 themes, but for the sake of brevity - and the potential for a followup list, this is a list of the top 10."

    5 Best Books about Old Time Radio

    Here's an annotated list.

    Link via Lit Lists.

    Watch the Skies

    Rock stars and their alien encounters - Times Online: "There is, as David Bowie once noted, a starman waiting in the sky. He’d like to come and meet us but he thinks he’d — to use Earth vernacular — “blow our minds”. So, what he does, it turns out, is make his presence known only to the most open-minded, space-attuned, alien-friendly creatures on the planet: rock stars."