Thursday, September 21, 2017

Things I See in Alvin, Texas

Today's Vintage Ad

I Found a Penny in the Walmart Parking Lot Last Week

Researchers Find 98-Million-Year-Old Horned Vampire Ant Encased in Amber

Lillian Ross, R. I. P.

The New York Times: Lillian Ross, who became known as the consummate fly-on-the-wall reporter in more than six decades at The New Yorker, whether writing about Ernest Hemingway, Hollywood or a busload of Indiana high school seniors on a class trip to New York, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 99.  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.


Ross Sloane, Three Naked Souls, Quarter Books, 1949

“Three Lessons of Shimon Litvak” (by John Gastineau)

“Three Lessons of Shimon Litvak” (by John Gastineau) | SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN: When EQMM’s November/December 2017 issue goes on sale next month, readers will be introduced to a new writer, John Gastineau. With his debut in our Department of First Stories, the former newspaper reporter, photographer, and book editor returns to his first love, writing, after many years as a full-time lawyer. It’s clear from the following post that he has long had an interest in crime fiction (and particularly spy fiction), and his analysis of some of the work of John le Carr is timely, with le Carr’s latest book, A Legacy of Spies, currently number three on the New York Times bestseller list. Readers who have not yet read the 1983 novel The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carr may want to do so before reading this post, which discusses the book in detail.—Janet Hutchings

I Miss the Old Days

Leggings: The Huge Fashion Trend of Women in the 1980s 

Gator Update

Alligators Attack and Eat Sharks, Study Confirms

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Bernie Casey, R. I. P.

NY Daily News: Bernie Casey, known best for roles in “Revenge of the Nerds” and “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” died Wednesday.  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

2017 David Thompson Special Service Award

2017 David Thompson Special Service Award: The Bouchercon National Board of Directors has selected George Easter as the recipient of its 2017 David Thompson Special Service Award for “extraordinary efforts to develop and promote the crime fiction field.”

First It Was the Thin Mints Melee

SFGate: And now it's the baguette beatdown.  

Hat tip to Art Scott.

Down to No Good -- Eric Javorsky

When Down to No Good opens, private-eye Charlie Miner is dead.  This might not be easy for anybody else to overcome, but it's not too tough for Charlie, even though he has three bullet holes in his head.  He's a hard man to kill, and he has some interesting abilities once he returns to life.  He can perform a sort of astral projection, in which he leaves his body, and he can also reenter his body through an opening like an eye and repair it.  He doesn't know how he does these things, but if you want to learn a little more, you can check out his first appearance in Down Solo.

In this book, the point of view alternates between Miner's first person and the third-person narrative that focuses on Miner's friend David Putnam, a cop.  Both Miner and Putnam have serious drug problems, and this plays a big part in the story, which involves a psychic who's been helping out the police with some vague but amazingly accurate information about some cases they've been having difficulty in solving.  She also makes some accurate predictions about terrible crimes that are going to happen.  A genuine psychic in a story about a p.i. like Miner wouldn't be a surprise, but is she genuine or not?  And if she's not, what's her game?  It's complicated.

Down to No Good is a fast-moving story, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and it kept me flipping the pages at a rapid rate.  It's also short, a great virtue in these days of bloated thrillers.  If you're like me, you'll close this book ready to see what Javorsky comes up with next. 

10 Creepy Psychological Thrillers

10 Creepy Psychological Thrillers: In Jane Robins's novel, White Bodies, Callie Farrow, who works in a London bookstore, becomes obsessed with every aspect of the life of her glamorous twin sister, Tilda, a well-known actress, after Tilda marries the controlling Felix Nordberg, a wealthy financier. Callie believes that Tilda is in danger. The plot forcefully builds to a shocking finale as Robins skillfully explores the dynamics between sisters, mental health issues, and manipulative behavior. Robins picks 10 of her favorite psychological thrillers.

Song of the Day

Or Maybe You Did

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jayne Mansfield  

Annoying slideshow alert.

Jake 'The Raging Bull' LaMotta, R. I. P.

Mirror Online: Boxing legend Jake 'The Raging Bull' LaMotta has died, aged 95. The American professional boxer, former World Middleweight Champion and stand-up comedian died in a nursing home due to complications from pneumonia, his wife Denise confirmed this afternoon.

Today's Vintage Ad

Alvin, Texas, Inexplicably Not Included

2017’s Most Fun Cities in America

First It Was the Thin Mints Melee

And Texas leads the way:  Odessa man accused of assault with watermelon  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.


Amos Hatter, Untamed Woman, Quarter Books, 1951

I Miss the Old Days

1960s: The Era That Even Middle-Aged Women Looked So Cool: The 1960s saw a flourishing in art, music and fashion, and it was definitely for youth. But these cool snapshots prove that it affects more or less some middle-aged people, especially women.

I Found a Penny in the Walmart Parking Lot Last Week

English School Caretaker Discovers Medieval Coin Hoard Buried in Playground

Bonus FFB on Wednesday: The Winter Is Past -- Harry Whittington

The Winter Is Past is likely the most forgotten book ever posted about.  Whittington researcher and expert Rick Ollerman found the manuscript when going through boxes of papers with Whittingon's daughter, Harriett (and it deeply saddens me to report that Harriett passed away only a few days ago).  Rick says that the only people to have read the manuscript are Harry Whittington himself, his wife, Katherine, and me.  Rick read a few pages of it before making a copy and sending it to me.  What an honor and a privilege it is to be the person reading a heretofore unknown Whittington novel thanks to Rick's generosity!  

Now about the book.  It's both a medical drama and a courtroom drama, and I suspect it was Whittington's attempt at writing a best-selling novel.  I read a ton of such novels in the late '50s and early '60s, and this one would fit right in.  In some ways it follows the formula that Whittington used in most of his work.  The protagonist is a doctor named Gordon Hillway, and Whittington gets him in trouble at the start before piling more and more and more trouble on him.

Hillway is a fine surgeon, one of the best, yet he's accused of malpractice when the wife of Herman "Pal" Pilzer dies after Hillway does a routine surgery on her.  Her death isn't Hillway's fault, but some of the surgical team has niggling doubts.  Pilzer is rich, powerful, and politically connected, and he decides to destroy Hillway and the hospital.  He files a huge malpractice suit.  Besides this, Hillway and his wife have serious marital problems, and Hillway has been drinking heavily.  Things don't look good.

Also figuring into the story are other doctors and nurses like Frank Leslie*, whose problems have a lot to do with sex and alcohol; Robert Corson, who has money difficulties; Merle Walker, the Chief of Staff, who has his own medical problems; Ann Shaffer, who tries to do what she believe is right and later regrets it; and Elmer Blaisdell, who sells out the hospital and his own profession for position and power.

There's a lot of medical stuff in the book, and it's all quite convincing.  The amount of research that must have been involved is staggering.  The same is true of the courtroom material.  The characters are vivid and memorable.  The theme is a big one, dealing as it does with the ethics of the medical profession.  The closing chapters get into highly melodramatic territory, but Whittington was always good at that.

The novel reads like a historical novel now, and some of the attitudes (especially some of them toward sex) might turn off a contemporary reader, but the book is compelling reading from first to last (as usual with Whittington), and a good editor could easily whip it into shape.  Until someone does, it will remain a forgotten book, and I'll remain one of its few readers.

*Pete Brandvold, take note.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Merriam-Webster Expands the Dictionary

Merriam-Webster: We've expanded the dictionary with more than 250 words and definitions

Song of the Day

7 Writers Who Were Also Editors (And the Books They Edited)

7 Writers Who Were Also Editors (And the Books They Edited)

Today's Vintage Ad

Keep Your Eyes Open For Cher, Bitches

Keep Your Eyes Open For Cher, Bitches: Cher is still making headlines, after more than five decades in the spotlight, because she’s never stopped finding and mastering new outlets for her creative expression.


Herman Bellamy, Frenchie, Quarter Books, 1949

This week’s tabloids

Trump’s space death ray, Hillary Clinton’s liberation, and alien mummies, in this week’s tabs

I Miss the Old Days

Here's What the Original McDonald's Menu Looked Like, And It Was Extremely Simple!

A Review of Interest (To Me, Anyway)

Kevin's Corner: Review: Dead, To Begin With: A Dan Rhodes Mystery by Bill Crider


International Talk Like a Pirate Day – Pirate phrases to say to ye crew mates: International Talk Like A Pirate Day happens this Tuesday, September 19. The International Day of talking like a pirate began in 2002 and is still going strong in 2017 as people gear up to speak a new sea faring language for the day.

Morning Sky in Alvin, Texas, 9-18-17

Overlooked Movies -- Black Bart

I saw this movie at the drive-in with my parents nearly 70 years ago.  My father liked Dan Duryea, to whom he liked refer as "Dan Diarrhea," and he liked westerns, so that's probably why we went to see this one.  I hadn't seen it since 1948 or 1949, but I had fond, if vague, memories of it, and I was glad when it turned up on cable so I could take another look.  I'm happy to report that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

To begin with, it's beautifully shot in Technicolor.  That's often a plus with me.  And it has a nice script, with a good bit of snappy patter, not at all like the usual Hollywood western of the time.  Yvonne de Carlo as Lola Montez is beautiful and gets to do a couple of dances, one of which is embedded above since there's no trailer available.

Duryea is Black Bart, who's robbing Wells Fargo stages so he can force them to close their Sacramento office, after which he and his partner (played by John McIntire) will open their own bank.  Bart was formerly partners in crime with Jersey Brady (Percy Kilbride) and Lance Hardeen (Jeffrey Lynn), but they parted on unfriendly terms. Jersey and Hardeen turn up in Sacramento, where Hardeen and Bart become rivals for the affections of Montez.  Hardeen and Brady are hired by Wells Fargo, and they decide they want some of the money that Bart's been stealing.  At the end Hardeen and Bart go after the last big shipment together.  This being a Hollywood movie from 1948 and Bart and Hardeen being cheerfully amoral guys, you can probably guess what happens.

The story is told in flashback by Jersey  Brady, and Percy Kilbride is really fun in this role.  There's a little snapper at the end, which I remembered immediately when I saw it, but which I wasn't expecting because I'd forgotten it over the years.  

There is no question in my mind that William Goldman had seen this movie and remembered it when writing BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID.  The final scene in BLACK BART with Bart and Hardeen is the final scene in BUTCH CASSIDY, it seems to me.  I hope someone who's seen it will agree or disagree with me in the comments.  I think there's a small monograph waiting to be written on the subject.

Black Bart is a better-than-average western, and I recommend it.

Dance scene from 'Black Bart' 1948 - Yvonne DeCarlo