Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fright Night

New Story at BEAT to a PULP

BEAT to a PULP :: Waking Up from the Big Sleep :: Paul Newman

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

4 Houston-area prisons ban weekend visitors after virus | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "A highly contagious stomach virus is sweeping through at least 16 state prisons, including Rosharon's Terrell Unit, where more than a third of inmates are reported ill.

State prison spokesman Jason Clark on Friday said Terrell is among four prisons in the Greater Houston area closed to weekend visitors."

James Mitchell, R. I. P.

Actor and Dancer James Mitchell Dead at 89 2010/01/23: "Actor and dancer James Mitchell who most notably played tycoon Palmer Cortlandt on the daytime soap opera 'All My Children' for more than 30 years has passed away at the age of 89.

While TV audiences will most likely associate Mitchell with his role on 'All My Children', Mitchell was also a professional dancer who danced in film musicals and acted in a slew of Broadway and regional productions. Mitchell's performing career began with the American Ballet Theatre. Mitchell had a long-standing collaboration with renowned choreographer Agnes de Mille working with her as dancer and assistant choreographer in various film and stage productions, including the Broadway productions of 'Bloomer Girl', 'Brigadoon' (for which he won the Theatre World Award), 'Paint your Wagon', 'Come Summer', and perhaps most notably in the 1955 film 'Oklahoma' where Mitchell starred as Dream Curly."

I, for One, Welcome Our New Canine Overlords

Moscow's Stray Dogs Evolving Greater Intelligence, Including a Mastery of the Subway | Popular Science: "For every 300 Muscovites, there's a stray dog wandering the streets of Russia's capital. And according to Andrei Poyarkov, a researcher at the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, the fierce pressure of urban living has driven the dogs to evolve wolf-like traits, increased intelligence, and even the ability to navigate the subway."

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

This isn't a review of the new mini-series, just a couple of comments that will tell you more about me than about the series. The reason it's not a review is that I didn't watch the show. Well, not all of it.

I'd been looking forward to this because I figured it had been too long since I'd seen a good sword-and-sandal epic, and this looked to be the real thing. Good advance reviews and such. So I tuned in. I knew I was in trouble right away because a notice flashed on the screen to let me know that the language, sensuality, and brutality I was about to see were simply a reflection of the times in which the show was set. I knew immediately that what the notice really meant was that I was about to see a whole lot of cussing, sex, and violence.

Sure enough, that's what I saw. Aside from one of the cheesiest farewell scenes ever filmed, that's all there was: blood, cussing, and sex. Since there wasn't much sex, it was mostly blood and cussing. I've never seen so much blood in such a short time. Sure, it was just CGI blood, but there was an ocean of it.

I'd read about the great "production values" of the series. My reaction to that was: "Huh?" How could anybody watch the first scene and talk about production values? Yikes. And then there's that farewell scene. See it to believe it.

I won't be seeing any more. After fifteen boring minutes, I turned off the set and picked up a book. The beautiful and classy Jean Simmons starred in the movie version of the Spartacus story, with Kirk Douglas and a host of others. I would have been better off to rent the DVD of that one than to watch Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

It's a Don's Life -- Mary Beard

Mary Beard is a professor of classics at Newham College, Cambridge, and she has a blog. Where she finds time to maintain it, I have no idea, since she's a very busy woman, considering all her academic responsibilities, not to mention that she's the classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement and does a lot of travel for research. The blog is full of interesting things related to the classics but also to modern life. So interesting, in fact that about three years worth of blog entries have been published in book for in It's a Don's Life.

Since I hadn't been keeping up with the blog, everything in the book was new to me, and it's all highly entertaining. It's the perfect book to have around when you want to read something short and interesting. A few examples: Was there a St. Valentine? What made the Romans laugh? (This entry includes jokes, of course.) Ten things you thought you know about the Romans, but didn't. And so on. Beard also includes some of the comments left on the blog.

As soon as you read the book, you'll most likely want to follow the blog. Check them both out.

I, for One, Welcome Our New Dwarf Croc Overloards

BBC News - Dwarf crocodiles in name training at Cheshire aquarium: "A pair of dwarf crocodiles can recognise their own names after training, a Cheshire aquarium claims.

The tiny reptiles, called Paleo and Suchus, are even learning when they are allowed to open their mouths, the Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port says.

The programme has been successful with mammals but it is one of the first times it will be used on reptiles."

Top 10 Passions of Ancient Rome

"Top ten passions of Ancient Rome"

Jean Simmons, R. I. P.

Jean Simmons dies at 80; radiant beauty was known for stunning versatility - "Jean Simmons, a radiant British actress who as a teenager appeared opposite Laurence Olivier in 'Hamlet' and emerged a star whose career flourished in the 1950s and 1960s in such films as 'Guys and Dolls, 'Elmer Gantry' and 'Spartacus,' has died. She was 80.

Simmons, who won an Emmy Award for her role in the 1980s miniseries 'The Thorn Birds,' died Friday evening at her home in Santa Monica, said Judy Page, her agent. She had lung cancer."

Terror is a Man

Friday, January 22, 2010

I've Been Needing Some New Clothes

Rick Owens delivers apocalypse-ready collection - Yahoo! News: "American designer Rick Owens continued to plumb the depths of the dark side Friday, with a fall-winter 2010-2011 menswear collection of gender-bending, space age-y designs ready for the apocalypse.

Androgynous models with enviable cheekbones skulked down the catwalk in bulky, tie-waisted trenches in lacquered microfiber or wrinkly microfiber with stiff, standup necklines and drop-crotched harem pants. Some wore ribbed turtlenecks with knee-length flaps in the front and back, while others sported leather tank tops that left their backs bare."

Chupacabra Update

Positive ID for strange creature in Wise County |
Dallas - Fort Worth News |
| Local News
: "The hairless creature was identified as a raccoon with a congenital defect."

Photos at the link. Sure doesn't look like a raccoon.

No Comment Department

Spice Girls: The Musical planned by creator of Mamma Mia! - Telegraph: "The creator of Mamma Mia! is developing a new musical based on the songs of the Spice Girls.

Viva Forever will feature the band's greatest hits and 'harness the distinct personality of the Spice Girls', according to Judy Craymer, the woman who turned Abba's back catalogue into an entertainment phenomenon."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Senior class photo prank spells trouble - Yahoo! News: "A spelling prank in a class photo for more than 600 seniors in the Houston area led to suspension of three students. Some students wore T-shirts spelling out 'CLASS' as part of 'Class of 2010' in a formal shot. But KHOU-TV reported in a later informal shot, students representing 'C' and 'L' moved from the front row, leaving behind an offensive three-letter word."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Gator Update (Bungee Edition)

Conan Update

Momoa set for 'Conan' - Entertainment News, Players, Media - Variety: "Jason Momoa ('Stargate Atlantis') has been tapped to star in the reboot of 'Conan' for Nu Image/Millenium, Lionsgate and Paradox.

Production on the remake is expected to start in March in Bulgaria. Marcus Nispel will direct."

Florida Gothic Stories -- Vicki Hendricks

Is there any need for me to tell you that Vicki Hendricks had me at the cover of this collection of her stories? I didn't think so. But wait! There's more! Florida Gothic Stories includes the irresistible (for me) "Gators," with this great opening line: "It was a goddamned one-armed alligator put me over the line." Here's what I said about the story in my column for Mystery Scene: "It involves a one-armed gator and a one-armed woman, but they’re just for starters. The plot concerns a woman who wants to get rid of her good-for-nothing lout of a husband, permanently. She devises a clever plan for doing so, but things gang aft agley with plans like that, as we all know. I shall say no more except that this is a clever variation on a theme and that I didn’t know where it was going."

And speaking of great beginnings, the first page of "Stormy, Mon Amour" is guaranteed to grab your attention. Two words from me: Interspecies sex. I can say no more for fear of spoiling it for you.

"Sinny and the Prince" has identical twins and a femme very much fatale. A good twist, too. "The Big O" might not be what you're thinking, but it's got a heck of a storm and another good twist or two. And that's just, what? Four stories? There are seven other good ones in the book, some of which I'd read before but was happy to read again. Not that everybody in the stories is happy. Hardly anyone is. Hendricks writes about the doomed, the damned, and the despairing., and she does it wonderfully well. Sometimes, yes, sometimes she even gives a little glimmer of hope at the end.

Add to the stories a fine introductory essay by Megan Abbott and a nice closer by Michael Connelly, and you have a book that's more than worthy of your attention. Check it out.

Update: I should have mentioned that the book I have is an ARC. The book comes out in May. So check your local bookstores then. Or Amazon.
Old Salt :: Cover Story :: Philadelphia City Paper :: Philadelphia Events, Arts, Restaurants, Music, Movies, Jobs, Classifieds, Blogs: "The crystals and cinder-block-sized chunks of rock dug out of a cavernous salt mine in Michigan were really, really ancient, part of one of the oldest salt formations in the world. And Russell Vreeland knew that if those rocks contained any DNA, it too would be really, really old. What he found when he brought them back to the laboratory at West Chester University wasn't just old DNA; it was the oldest DNA ever discovered, clocking in at about 419 million years."

Hat tip to Jeff Segal.

Top Twelve Brainy Dogs

Plus the bottom five.


15 Fabulous Books about Books

15 Fabulous Books about Books: "Is there anything better than to read a book… about a book, or books, or bookshops, or authors, or the pleasure and processes of reading, or collecting, or being addicted to books? The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett, one of AbeBooks’ bestsellers in 2009, was the latest addition to a long list of books about books (or in this case a book thief) to capture the attention of bibliophiles. With classics like Fahrenheit 451, The Haunted Bookshop, and 84, Charing Cross Road on this list, you cannot go wrong."

LCC Awards Nominees

Left Coast Crime announced the nominees for awards that will be given out at Left Coast Crime 2010: Booked in L.A. Left Coast Crime 20 will be held March 11-14 at the Omni Hotel.

The Lefty Award for Humorous Mystery:

Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews
Living With Your Kids Is Murder by Mike Befeler
Strangle a Loaf of Italian Bread by Denise Dietz
Getting Old Is a Disaster by Rita Lakin
High Crimes on the Magical Plane by Kris Neri

The Bruce Alexander Award for Historical Mystery:

Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander

In a Gilded Cage by Rhys Bowen
Freedom’s Fight by Gary Phillips
A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell
Serpent in the Thorns by Jeri Westerson

The Panik Award for LA Noir (in honor of the late Paul Anik, Chair of LCC20, to be given this year only):

Cemetery Road Gar Anthony Haywood
Trust No One by Gregg Hurwitz
Death Was in the Picture by Linda Richards
Boulevard by Stephen J. Schwartz

Hat tip to Janet Rudolph at Mystery Fanfare.

Forgotten Music -- Nervous Norvus

Back in the ancient days when I was a youth, we all wore gray flannel suits to school, spent most of the day learning to duck and cover, and then went home afterwards to our little houses made of ticky-tacky. It was a drag, man. But now and then something would break through the universal gloom. Mad Magazine. The Catcher in the Rye. And Nervous Norvus.

It may be that hardly anyone remembers him now, but in 1956, every kid in my school could quote the tags from his classic "Transfusion": "Shoot me the juice, Bruce." "Shoot the claret to me, Barrett." And so on. If you're just a little bit older, you may remember the sound of the car crash in Jan and Dean's "Dead Man's Curve." It was lifted from "Transfusion." Have a listen.

And then came "Ape Call." Sort of the era in a song. Things are sliding by in pure pop mode, and then . . . "Ape call!" Check it out.

Life was good.

Route 666

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another Taco Crime

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Taco toss puts Fairbanks man in jail: "Three tacos cost a Fairbanks man $100 in fines, one day in jail and one year probation.

Warren E. Strickland, 31, of Fairbanks, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct Tuesday for throwing a double-decker taco at a manager of the Taco Bell restaurant on University Avenue.

Strickland said he was upset during the Jan. 14 incident because a taco contained spit after he had been through the drive-thru twice to correct his order."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Shots fired at Texas Capitol; no injuries reported: "A man with a handgun fired several shots Thursday on the Texas Capitol's south steps, but state troopers quickly tackled him and there were no reports of injuries, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

The Capitol was on lockdown as officials searched as a precaution. The south steps were secured by yellow police tape.

The shots rang out just after noon, and officers with rifles quickly swarmed the scene. More than a half dozen Department of Public Safety cars quickly appeared, and troopers quickly surrounded the building."

On the Other Hand, I'm Doomed

Experts: Sitting too much could be deadly - Yahoo! News: "Here's a new warning from health experts: Sitting is deadly. Scientists are increasingly warning that sitting for prolonged periods — even if you also exercise regularly — could be bad for your health. And it doesn't matter where the sitting takes place — at the office, at school, in the car or before a computer or TV — just the overall number of hours it occurs.

Research is preliminary, but several studies suggest people who spend most of their days sitting are more likely to be fat, have a heart attack or even die."

No Wonder I'm a Genius!

How running can jog your memory by creating new brain cells
| Mail Online
: "We all know running is good for your body.

But it can also do wonders for the mind, according to Cambridge University scientists

A regular jog leads to the growth of new cells in the area of the brain which boosts your memory, a study has found."

The God Engines -- John Scalzi

The God Engines is a story of the far future when science has been displaced by religion. The gods live and breathe. They can be hurt, killed, and enslaved. That's where the title comes from. Gods are the engines that drive ships through the vast distances of interstellar space. In this future, faith and belief matter. So does the lack of them, and when a god's power begins to wane, he needs new believers.

This science fantasy is very different from John Scalzi's other work. It starts out dark and gets darker as it goes along. Some of his readers might be so surprised that they won't like the book (it's not a novel; it's a novella). Others will love the new direction and want to see more. You'll have to read it to see which camp you fall into.

As for me, I enjoyed it, but my pleasure was marred by the kinds of things that don't bother anybody other than old English teachers. Things like the use of aide as a verb, or a sentence that begins, "Whomever he was, . . ." Or the misuse of lay when lie would be correct. There are a few other little things like that. Maybe Subterranean needs a better proofreader, but I make so many errors myself that I really shouldn't complain. But I will, just a little.

Joe R. Lansdale Talks about Poe

Features > Dark Inspiration by Joe R. Lansdale - - The Texas Observer

Another List I'm not On

Which is okay.

Houston News - Houston's Craziest: The 30 Worst - page 1

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Man who swamped Bugatti in La Marque buys another | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "A Texan who last year accidentally turned his Bugatti Veyron into a swamp buggy has bought another of the rare million-dollar cars."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

$523,000 seized from truck near Rosenberg | Ultimate Fort Bend: "More than half a million dollars was seized from a tractor-trailer pulled over Monday afternoon in Fort Bend County.

Fort Bend County Sheriff's spokeswoman Terriann Carlson said the $523,145 in cash was discovered in the truck after it had been pulled over in the southbound lanes of the highway at 4 p.m. near Spur 10 in the Rosenberg area."

Croc Update (Use Your Thumbs Edition)

NST Online Man uses thumbs to escape crocodile attack: "At the Semada River in Balai Ringin yesterday, a man battled for dear life with his bare hands when he was attacked by a six-metre long crocodile.

Mathias Winston would have become crocodile fodder - had it not been for his quick-thinking to use his thumbs to jab at the man-eater's eyes!"

Eaten Alive

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Headline of the Day

'Terror-pisser' killed neighbour's garden with night-time golden showers - The Local: "A couple in Hamburg have finally got to the bottom of why the plants in their front garden keep turning brown and dying – their neighbour has been urinating on them at night."

Pennsylvania Leads the Way

Pennsylvania Couple Charged After Stealing ATM Card From Dead Friend - "A northeastern Pennsylvania couple is charged with stealing a bank card from a friend who died on their couch and running up more than $1,000 in charges."

Archaeology Update

Experts may have found bones of English princess: "More than 1,000 years after she was carted off to Germany to marry an ambitious Saxon duke, experts believe they have identified the body of Princess Eadgyth.
[. . . .]
Eadgyth was born at the dawn of the 10th century, when England was still divided into a patchwork of Anglo-Saxon and Viking fiefdoms. Her brother King Athelstan kicked the Vikings out of York and routed the Scots and Irish in a massive battle around 937."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Man Posed as Female Model to Lure Wealthy Men: "A conman posed as a gorgeous female model on the internet to trick male admirers into sending him gifts and money, police in Texas said Tuesday.

Justin Brown, 24, masqueraded as Californian Guess Jeans and Maxim swimwear model Bree Condon, 23, for two years."

Archaeology Update

Please don't mention this to my cats. They have enough self-esteem already.

BBC News - Temple to cat god found in Egypt: "Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a 2,000-year-old temple in Alexandria dedicated to a cat goddess.

The temple is the first trace of the royal quarters of the Ptolemaic dynasty to be revealed in Alexandria.

The find confirms the Greek dynasty of Egyptians continued the worship of ancient animal deities."

If Only This Were True of My Brain

Monkey Brain 'Hardwired' for Simple Math - Yahoo! News: "Monkey see, monkey do simple math?

A German team of neurobiologists has found that rhesus macaques can engage in abstract mathematical reasoning using specific brain cells dedicated to the comprehension of math rules and relationships."

Hat tip to Seepy Benton.

The 100 Greatest Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels of All Time

In Which We Count Down The 100 Greatest Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels of All�Time - Home - This Recording

Kingdom of the Spiders

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Erich Segal, R. I. P.

Erich Segal - Telegraph: "Erich Segal, who died on January 17 aged 72, was an esteemed Classics professor who produced the critically-panned but popularly-adored novel Love Story, which was turned into a film starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal; he also wrote the screenplay for the Beatles’ animated feature Yellow Submarine."

Hat tip to Scott Cupp.

The Traitor in Us All -- Robert S. Levinson

If you've read Bob Levinson's short stories in EQMM or AHMM, or if you've read his earlier novels, you know that he writes in a lot of subgenres. The Traitor in Us All is a straight-ahead thriller that begins with a high-voltage action scene and then zips along at top speed.

Emil Grass, a stone cold killer, murders a young woman in a pizza parlor and abducts her friend, Tracy Collins. Or is it really an abduction. Jack Sothern, a reporter, thinks there's more to it, and of course he's right. The McGuffin here is the diary of a former head of East Germany's State Security back in the Cold War days. The diary would be worth Big Bucks to certain parties, and Sothern believes that Tracy's mother either has seen the diary or knows where it is. The mother hates Sothern, whom she holds responsible (because of an article he wrote) for the death of her husband, an actor who defected to the USSR.

It's a lot more complicated than that, and there are so many twists and turns that I couldn't begin to enumerate them. It's all way over the top, but I didn't mind at all. It's easy to overlook implausible things when you're reading as fast as you can to see what happens next. Check it out.

Robert B. Parker

Trying to gather my thoughts. Still a bit boggled by the news of Parker's passing. As I mentioned earlier, I've been a big fan since the publication of The Godwulf Manuscript. The president of the college where I was teaching called me to his office and handed me a copy of the book. "This is the kind of thing you might like," he said, and he was absolutely right. Too bad it was a book club edition, or I'd have a real treasure (yes, I still have it; what did you expect?). Since that time, I don't think I've missed a single book, and that includes the YA novels.

Lots of people quit reading Parker years ago, for one reason or another. Not me. I stuck with him, and I've enjoyed every book of his that I've read. Some more than others, but I've never been less than satisfied. What did Parker have that made him one of my favorites? I've written about this before, but it's one of my favorite quotations, and so I'll repeat it. When asked why people were so devoted to his books, Parker said, "I think they like the sound of the words on the page." I can't speak for anyone else, but that's what draws me back, time after time: the sound of the words on the page.

I've joked before, and so have many others, about all the white space in Parker's novels, but when it comes to telling a fast-moving story with mostly dialog, and not much of it, Parker has few peers. His stories have a bit of depth to them, too, an emotional heft some people overlook.

I met Parker a couple of times, the first being in San Francisco in 1982 at a Bouchercon in the Jack Tarr hotel, or whatever it was called in those days. Right across the street from Tommy's Joynt, a spot Parker mentioned in one of his books published not too long after that Bouchercon. Parker was the Guest of Honor that year. I met him in the lobby, where he was waiting around for his room, which for some reason wasn't ready. He wore a red windbreaker with Ace (his nickname) embroidered on it. We talked for a while about this and that, probably our dissertations, which we'd written at about the same time about the same three authors.

It's hard to believe, but in those days at Bouchercon, a writer like Parker spoke in a small room with only 30-40 people in the audience, maybe fewer than that. He told a great story about giving up teaching for full-time writing. He said that he taught fewer and fewer classes and was finally teaching only one class a week. When he told his wife that he was going to stop teaching altogether, she said, "But it's only once a week." He answered, "Yes, but it's every week." Maybe you had to be there.

I don't have much else to say except, "Robert B. Parker, ave atque vale."

When Will the Lawsuit be Filed?

Man died after watching Avatar - doctor | "A 42-year-old Taiwanese man with a history of high blood pressure has died of a stroke likely triggered by over-excitement from watching the blockbuster Avatar in 3D, a doctor says."

Hat tip to David Cranmer.

Edgar Nominations

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce on the 201st anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, its Nominees for the 2010 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2009. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 64th Gala Banquet, April 29, 2010 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.


The Missing by Tim Gautreaux (Random House - Alfred A. Knopf)
The Odds by Kathleen George (Minotaur Books)
The Last Child by John Hart (Minotaur Books)
Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston (Random House - Ballantine Books)
Nemesis by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett (HarperCollins)
A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books)


The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano (Grand Central Publishing)
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (MIRA Books)
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur Books – Thomas Dunne Books)
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (HarperCollins)
In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur Books)


Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
Havana Lunar by Robert Arellano (Akashic Books)
The Lord God Bird by Russell Hill (Pleasure Boat Studio – Caravel Books)
Body Blows by Marc Strange (Dundurn Press – Castle Street Mysteries)
The Herring-Seller’s Apprentice by L.C. Tyler (Felony & Mayhem Press)


Columbine by Dave Cullen (Hachette Book Group - Twelve)
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster)
The Fence: A Police Cover-Up Along Boston’s Racial Divide by Dick Lehr (HarperCollins)
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo (The Penguin Press)
Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti (Random House - Alfred A. Knopf)


Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James (Random House - Alfred A. Knopf)
The Lineup: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives edited by Otto Penzler (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company)
Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King by Lisa Rogak (Thomas Dunne Books)
The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar (St. Martin’s Press)
The Stephen King Illustrated Companion by Bev Vincent (Fall River Press)


"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" – Crossroad Blues by Ace Atkins (Busted Flush Press)
"Femme Sole" – Boston Noir by Dana Cameron (Akashic Books)
"Digby, Attorney at Law" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Jim Fusilli (Dell Magazines)
"Animal Rescue" – Boston Noir by Dennis Lehane (Akashic Books
"Amapola" – Phoenix Noir by Luis Alberto Urrea (Akashic Books)


The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf)
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Books)
Creepy Crawly Crime by Aaron Reynolds (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer (Penguin Young Readers Group – Philomel Books)


Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (HarperCollins Children’s Books – HarperTeen)
If the Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte Press)
The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford (Penguin Young Readers Group – Viking Children’s Books)
Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Books)
Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte Press)


"Place of Execution," Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (PBS/WGBH Boston)
"Strike Three" – The Closer, Teleplay by Steven Kane (Warner Bros TV for TNT)
"Look What He Dug Up This Time" – Damages, Teleplay by Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler & Daniel Zelman (FX Networks)
"Grilled" – Breaking Bad, Teleplay by George Mastras (AMC/Sony)
"Living the Dream" – Dexter, Teleplay by Clyde Phillips (Showtime)


"A Dreadful Day" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Dan Warthman (Dell Magazines)


Dorothy Gilman


Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Zev Buffman, International Mystery Writers’ Festival


Poisoned Pen Press (Barbara Peters & Robert Rosenwald)

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 28, 2010)

Awakening by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)
Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof by Blaize Clement (Minotaur Books)
Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
Lethal Vintage by Nadia Gordon (Chronicle Books)
Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel (HarperCollins)

Robert B. Parker, R. I. P.

Robert B. Parker is Dead - Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind: "At the age of 77, 'just sitting at his desk' at his home in the Boston area, according to his U.K. publisher Quercus, Robert B. Parker is dead."

I'm sure there'll be much more to come on this. Right now, I'm overwhelmed. A writer I've followed faithfully since the appearance of his very first book, never missing a one. I can't believe he's really gone.

Gator Update

Police find alligator during drug bust - Timmins Daily Press - Ontario, CA: "Officers with the TPS drug enforcement section, along with officers from the organized crime enforcement bureau of the Ontario Provincial Police, executed a search warrant at a residence on Frederick House Lake Dr. in Connaught.

Police seized 430 pot plants in various stages of growth, 60 jars of psilocybin — commonly known as magic mushrooms — also in the growing phase, 1,900 grams f marijuana and 198 grams of psilocybin.

Police also discovered a six-foot long alligator in the home."

I've lost count of the number of stories like this that I've blogged. What is it about drug dealers and gators?

Edgar Allan Poe Update

Nevermore? Mystery Visitor Misses Poe's Birthday - "Is this tradition ''nevermore?''

A mysterious visitor who for decades has left roses and cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe has failed to show up for the anniversary of the writer's birthday.

The curator of the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore says the graveyard tradition dates back to at least 1949 and has never been interrupted before."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Carl Smith, R. I. P.

Carl Smith, Dapper Country Music Singer, Is Dead at 82 - Obituary (Obit) - "Carl Smith, the dapper singer who ranked among the most popular country hitmakers of the 1950s, died on Saturday at his home in Franklin, Tenn., just outside Nashville. He was 82.

He had recently suffered a stroke and had been in failing health, according to Keith Bilbrey, a close friend and former announcer on the Grand Ole Opry.

Mr. Smith’s music combined crooning vocals and upbeat arrangements, updating the gutbucket honky-tonk of his predecessors Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb with elements of rockabilly and rock ’n’ roll."

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Some Good News from Afghanistan

Rare bird's breeding ground found in Afghanistan: "The first known breeding area of one of the world's rarest birds has been found in the remote and rugged Pamir Mountains in war-torn Afghanistan, a New York-based conservation group said Monday.

A researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society stumbled upon the small, olive-brown large-billed reed warbler in 2008 and taped its distinctive song—a recording experts now say is probably the first ever. He and colleagues later caught and released 20 of the birds, the largest number ever recorded, the group says."

Sands of Iwo Jima

Monday, January 18, 2010

Glen W. Bell, R. I. P.

Taco Bell founder dead at 86 - Yahoo! News: "Glen W. Bell Jr., an entrepreneur best known as the founder of the Taco Bell chain, has died. He was 86.

Bell died Sunday at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, according to a statement posted Monday on the Taco Bell Web site."

Anthony Neil Smith will be in mourning for a month.
Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Edgar Allan Poe Update

Edgar Allan Poe - "Edgar Allan Poe's fertile imagination has endured for more than 150 years -- and so has his pale, death-haunted image, with his sunken eyes, a trim mustache and unruly mop of curly hair.

However, scholars say Poe looked far more vigorous, perhaps even dashing, in his earlier years than he does in the well-known series of daguerreotypes taken in the final years of his life.

The more robust Poe is captured in a small watercolor by A.C. Smith, one of just three surviving portraits of the author, which will be shown publicly for the first time Saturday and is expected to fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction."

Small photo at the link.

If It's Not Nachos, It's Tacos

Stabbing Reportedly Started Over Tacos - Central Coast News Story - KSBW The Central Coast: "A Greenfield woman accused of stabbing her husband allegedly did so after the two argued about tacos, prosecutors said."

Jack Benny Update

Killing Comedic Heritage? CBS Reportedly Seals Some Classic Jack Benny Show Comedy Masters | The Moderate Voice: "Late last week the International Jack Benny Fan Club got some very bad news: rather than allow the club with the Benny family’s enthusiastic blessing to digitally preserve some unreleased public domain Benny show masters that CBS has in its possession, the network is giving a thumbs down to the idea — thus sealing these shows’ fate so they will never be seen again. In effect, it’s a bullet through the head of this body of Benny work. And here is the most frustrating tidbit for comedy fans and those who study comedy: the Fan Club offered to do the preservation at no cost to CBS."

Link via Boing Boing.

No Comment Department

Boom in Avatar names for kiddies | The Sun |News: "MOVIE fans are rushing to name their babies after characters in sci-fi smash Avatar.

Choices include Neytiri - after the film's Na'vi warrior-princess - and giant flying creature Toruk.

Another favourite is Pandora, name of the blockbuster flick's fictional planet."

Bring Me the Head of -- oh, and Bring Me a Flower, Too

Human head found by tomb of Mexican drug lord Beltran Leyva : America World: "A human head and a red flower were found Sunday by the tomb of Mexican drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva, who was killed by Mexican security forces in a raid last month. The office of the Attorney General of the state of Sinaloa said that an employee of the Jardines del Humaya cemetery in the city of Culiacan, about 1,200 kilometres northwest of Mexico City, had informed them of the finding. Several suspected drug bosses are buried in that cemetery.

Mexican authorities did not immediately know the identity of the person whose head was laid on the steps of access to the tomb with a flower in one ear. The rest of the body was found inside a plastic bag in the same cemetery, by the tomb of Gonzalo 'El Chalo' Araujo, a boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel who was killed in October 2006."

Time Travelers Never Die -- Jack McDevitt

When i was a kid, one of the first grown-up SF stories I read was "E for Effort" by T. L. Sherred. It was in some fat Groff Conklin anthology that was full of great stories, but of them all, this one excited me the most. It's still one of my favorite SF stories, and I've read it several times since then. It never fails to impress me, and it's one reason I enjoy time-travel stories so much. So you have to take that into account when I say that I got a kick out of Jack McDevitt's Time Travelers Never Die.

The novel begins with as a kind of crime story. Shel Shelbourne appears to have been murdered. But then he reveals himself to his friend Dave Dryden. Shel has discovered an invention of his father's, the Q-Pod, that allows him to travel in time, but his father has disappeared. Dave and Shel search for him through the centuries.

There's no attempt to explain how the Q-Pod works, but it does, and all the expected paradox elements also apply. McDevitt has fun explaining and playing with them. Dave and Shel can't resist mingling with the people from the past, but nothing serious comes of it because they're careful. Well, most of the time. They run into trouble in Selma, Alabama, and they tangle with a Borgia. There are other bumps in the road.

Mostly the search for Shel's father is an excuse for a "and then we visited" kind of novel. (I was pleased that Shel and Dave attended a Kingston Trio Concert; I'm assuming they saw the original group.) Some might find the plot a bit rambling, but eventually Dave and Shel get around to the "crime" that began the novel and its ingenious resolution. A couple of other bloggers have commented, and you can find James Reasoner's comments here. Randy Johnson weighs in here. And George Kelley's review is here. George is the one who first recommended McDevitt to me some years ago, and I've enjoyed several of McDevitt's books since then.

Scott Cupp: Ten Overlooked Odd Speculative Fiction Classics

The SF Site: Ten Overlooked Odd Speculative Fiction Classics: "Ten Overlooked Odd Speculative Fiction Classics"

A good list, I think. Scott and I have talked about several of these over the years.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

McCoy's proposal came off without a hitch - Big 12 Blog - ESPN: "Colt McCoy had been planning to pop the question to his fianc�e, Rachel Glandorf, for several weeks."

McCoy took advantage of favorable circumstances to propose to Glandorf Sunday night at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, shortly after he returned from an examination of his injured shoulder from Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., earlier in the day.
[. . . .]
The proposal was made inside the stadium with the question flashed on the facility’s giant scoreboard. Glandorf quickly accepted."

They Had to Do a Study to Find This Out?

Current Biology - The cry embedded within the purr: "Despite widespread interest in inter-specific communication, few studies have examined the abilities of companion animals to communicate with humans in what has become their natural environment — the human home [1,2]. Here we report how domestic cats make subtle use of one of their most characteristic vocalisations — purring — to solicit food from their human hosts, apparently exploiting sensory biases that humans have for providing care."

Flying Leathernecks

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Weighty Problem

Floor caves under Weight Watchers weigh-in - Diet and nutrition- "As a Weight Watchers group gathered for a routine weigh-in, the dieters got an idea of how far they still had to go: The floor underneath them collapsed, a Swedish newspaper reports.

'We suddenly heard a huge thud; we almost thought it was an earthquake and everything flew up in the air,' one of about 20 group members said to the Smalandsposten newspaper. 'The floor collapsed in one corner of the room and along the walls.'"

Hat tip to Richard Wheeler and Jeff Meyerson.

They Had to Do a Study to Find This Out?

Weekends Are Good For You, Study Finds - Yahoo! News: "Just about everybody - even workaholics - should look forward to the weekend, when most people get a mood boost, a new study suggests.

Participants in the study often reported better moods, greater vitality, and fewer aches and pains from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon as compared with the rest of the week.

'Workers, even those with interesting, high-status jobs, really are happier on the weekend,' said study researcher Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester."

Skinks on a Plane

Michael Plank arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for strapping 15 lizards to chest: "Federal officials say they arrested a man who strapped 15 live lizards to his chest to get through customs at Los Angeles International Airport.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday that 40-year-old Michael Plank of California was returning from Australia when U.S. Customs agents found two geckos, two monitor lizards and 11 skinks - another type of lizard - fastened to his body Tuesday."

Hat tip to Art Scott.

Kenn Davis, R.I.P.

Kenn Davis, author of the Carver Bascombe series and Bogart '48, passed away on January 12. For a bit more info, see Bob Randisi's comments as PWA News and Views.

Update: More at The Rap Sheet.

Bury Me Deep -- Megan Abbott

I know I've been a little slow getting around to this one, but it's been reviewed in so many places that it doesn't need me to do any more cheerleading. The story, as you probably know by now, is a fictional retelling of the story of Winnie Ruth Judd.

Although I don't have any trunk murderers in my family, unlike some people (*kaff*Richard Moore*kaff*), some of my relatives were fascinated by that case, and I remember my grandmother and my aunt talking about it when I was a little kid. There were other references to it over the years, so I was aware of the basic story before I picked up
Bury Me Deep. This book goes way beyond the facts I knew, however, and fleshes out the characters in a way the turns the story into pure noir.

Marion Seeley is the Judd stand-in. She's married to a doctor with a morphine addiction. He's lost his license and goes to Mexico to work, leaving Marion behind in a little Arizona town where she falls in with the wrong crowd. Before long, she's going to wild parties, and not long after that, she's having an affair with a supposedly upright businessman who turns out to be anything but.

Marion's bad choices lead to even worse results, as they so often do in noir fiction, and while there's action and suspense aplenty, Bury Me Deep is really a character study. Why does Marion do the things she does? Why does she keep on doing them? Is she entirely to blame? How can a person do terrible things that don't fit with her own image of the kind of person she is? What can she do when everyone turns against her?

Megan Abbott is a skillful writer, and she's already won an Edgar. I'll be surprised if she's not nominated for another one. Bury Me Deep is just that good.

In Its Own Quiet Way, . .

. . . this is an amazing story.

I Have No Excuse for Posting This . . .

. . . other than the fact that I can't resist and article that mentions "a snail-sucking snake."

Spot the gecko: Reptile so small it can fit on pencil top found along with dozens of other new species in threatened Ecuador jungle | Mail Online: "A gecko so small it can perch on top of a pencil has been discovered along with dozens of new animal species in Ecuador’s threatened rainforest.

Scientists also found 30 new varieties of frog and a snail-sucking snake – all on the verge of becoming extinct."

Gator Update (Breathing Edition)

Alligators breathe like birds: "University of Utah scientists discovered that air flows in one direction as it loops through the lungs of alligators, just as it does in birds. The study suggests this breathing method may have helped the dinosaurs' ancestors dominate Earth after the planet's worst mass extinction 251 million years ago."

She Demons