Saturday, September 11, 2004

DAW Books

Did you ever buy a book just for the introduction? Let me tell you how pathetic I am. I bought DAW Books' 30th Anniversary Fantasy for the ten pages of introductory material by Elizabeth Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert. Sure, I could have stood at the dealer's table and read the intro, because it's almost a certainty that I won't read any of the stories, but I wanted to have it in case I felt the need to read it again.

DAW books in the 1970s were as important to me as Donald A. Wollheim's line of Ace Doubles was in the 1950s. The distinctive DAW spines and cover artwork made them stand out, and I could almost always depend on them to provide just the kind of reading I was looking for. I didn't buy the first one or two. In fact, the first one I remember buying is Dinosaur Beach by Keith Laumer (and, yes, I still have it; surely you aren't surprised).

In a way this leads me back to that generational thing I was talking about the other day. I've come to the conclusion that I don't much like change. There aren't any Ace Doubles anymore, and I've pretty much managed to accept that. But even DAW Books have changed. It's not just the spines and the logo. The books themselves are different. They look different, and they have different content. Don Wollheim is long dead, and the line is slanted toward a generation of readers who are not the same at all as the ones in the 1970s, except for the few of us old dinosaurs who are still hanging around, waiting for extinction.

And another thing I don't like is being a dinosaur, especially that extinction thing. The secret of all old men, I suppose, is that on the inside we don't feel old at all. We think we haven't changed, but we can see that the world is changing all around us. I go out to the college these days and see the kids walking around, and I don't think I'm much different from them. Meanwhile they're looking at me and thinking, Isn't it nice that the old gentleman can get around without a walker. I wonder if he was able to drive himself to the campus. Getting old sucks, folks, in more ways than one. What the...?
Emails you when a celebrity or sports figure dies. Free. Simple. Easy. Fun. No bull.

I haven't signed up for the service, but I was interested in seeing some of the obits listed. For example, I didn't know Joe Barry had died. I remember his 1961 hit version of "I'm a Fool to Care" quite well. A fine song.

National Museum of Funeral History

National Museum of Funeral History

Great stuff. Check out the fantasy coffins and the Hall of Fame. And I think it's great that they sponsor a golf tournament.

Me Gotta Go Now

Me Gotta Go Now
Cap'n Bob's Army

These three icons of the TV West stopped by with a message for Cap’n Bob Napier. The message is: “Hey! How about blogging some of your toy soldiers for the rest of the world to enjoy?”

Dave Lewis over at Megottagonow is trying to encourage Cap'n Bob Napier to start blogging about his toy soldier collection. You can visit Dave's blog by clicking the link above and find out just what "toy soldiers" means. You can also comment if you'd like to get the Cap'n invovled in blogging.

Friday, September 10, 2004 News - Latest News - Ancient Gold Penny 'Could Sell for ?150,000' News - Latest News - Ancient Gold Penny 'Could Sell for ?150,000': "Ancient Gold Penny 'Could Sell for ?150,000'

A pure gold English penny, hailed as the most important find of its type for a century, could fetch up to ?150,000 at auction, it emerged today.

The coin, which dates back around 1,200 years, was stumbled upon by a man walking along the banks of the River Ivel in Bedfordshire."

What I want to know is, why don't I ever stumble across something like that?

Shakespeare in quarto: view the British Library's digital copies online

Shakespeare in quarto: view the British Library's digital copies online On this site you will find the British Library’s 93 copies of the 21 plays by Shakespeare printed in quarto before the theatres were closed in 1642.

For the English majors among you. I was one once.

Ed's Place

Ed's Place: "A good number of the over-fifty writers--my peer group--will tell you in whispers that they don't like much of today's crime fiction. Some of this is said jealously, of course, but most of it I think is simply the changing of generations. The things writers my age venerate are not to be found in the young writers of today. And why should they be? They think differently from us, write diferently, market differently and are more attractive to publishers and booksellers alike because they're going to be around a lot longer than we are--and are thus worth investing money and time in."

What Ed Gorman is saying here is that he (and I and guys like us) have become old farts. And I guess he's right. It's certainly true enough that I don't care for any of the contemporary music I hear these days, not even country music. When I listen to Internet radio or buy a CD, it's something from an era long past, something from a time when the contemporary singers weren't even born. Give me some George Jones tunes from the old days, like "She Thinks I Still Care" or "The Window Up Above." Give me Elvis singing "Mystery Train." Or the Clovers, the Drifters, the Cadillacs.

And when it comes to crime novels, give me Gold Medal. It's not that I don't like some of today's books. I read a good many of them, actually. But I don't admire them the way younger people do. I prefer the Good Old Stuff. Like the one I mentioned yesterday, River Girl. I think it's terrific, but the fact is that probably no editor today would buy it. It lacks the amped-up action, the "social siginificance," the outrageous premise that readers these days seem to crave. It's just good writing, smooth pacing, and masterful storytelling.

So you can grab the latest bestseller if you want to. Me, I'll put on a Slim Whitman CD and read another book by Charles Williams.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

eBay Woes

I have this eBay habit. I buy and sell (buying more than selling of course), and over the last several years I've had pretty good luck all around.

But not long ago I bought an old SF magazine from one of those dealers who has a long list of "rules" for buyers. If you win an auction and he hasn't heard from you in three days, he's going to turn you in as a deadbeat. And if you haven't paid in ten days, you're scum, and he's going to turn you in. And so on.

Well, I responded as soon as I got notification that I'd won. But I never heard from the dealer.

So I wrote him daily for about a week. Finally he responded and told me the amount of postage due. I paid him by PayPal as soon as I got his e-mail.

More time passed. A lot more. But today I got a magazine in the mail.

It's the wrong magazine.

So I e-mailed him immediately. Guess what? No response so far. Why am I not surprised?

Charles Williams

Last night I was thinking about which Gold Medal writer to talk about for the next issue of MysteryFile, and I settled on Charles Williams. Just a few minutes with River Girl reminded me of why I like Williams' writing so much. It's not fancy, but it's smooth as the surface of one of those swampy lakes he describes so well, and he can really tell a story. He's right up there with the best of the Gold Medal writers. In fact, didn't John D. MacDonald say that Williams was "the best of us all"? I seem to remember having read something like that. But, as the old song says, I don't remember where or when.

Mystery*File Again

For those of you who don't read the comments or who prefer a clickable link, you can find out all about Steve Lewis's Mystery*File right here.

OK, some of you are snickering about what a moron I am. "Can't even make a link," you're saying between snickers. Well, it's not my fault. Steve assures me that it's his server and that the link will be working Real Soon Now.

UPDATE: The link seems to be working now. Give it a click.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

From Blogger

I've made several posts today, but not a one of them has shown up on the blog. Here's what blogger has to say:

Hi there,

We apologize for the problems you have been experiencing with Blogger. We
had a simultaneous failure across multiple machines responsible for the
publishing of Blog*Spot blogs, but this issue has now been fixed. To
prevent this type of outage in the future, we are performing a full system
audit to ensure that proper redundancies are in place.

Blogger Support

Now I'll try posting this to see if the issue really has been fixed.

Me Gotta Go Now

Me Gotta Go Now

Dave Lewis has started a blog, and today he has some comments on Zatoichi. Check him out.


The latest issue of Steve Lewis's Mystery*File is available now, and it's probably the best one yet. Reviews and articles by Vince Keenan, Ed Gorman, me, Ed Lynskey, and many others. Great stuff, and if you're not a subscriber, you should be. You can get in touch with Steve via e-mail at

The Quick

Blogger is uncommonly wonky these days. I've made several posts that have never shown up, but I'm a persistent cuss. I keep right on trying.

Last night I read The Quick by Dan Vining. This is one of those books that seemed to be about one thing and then turned into something else entirely. At first it appeared to be a Ross Macdonald-ish SoCal p.i. novel. Then it got murky. (Warning: From this point on I reveal things you don't want to know if you plan to read the book.) It seems that Los Angeles is full of "Sailors." These are people who are dead. They're not zombies. They eat and drink and do everything living people do. But their dead bodies have been buried. Somehow they have new bodies that don't age. Jimmy Miles, the p.i., is a Sailor. So the mystery element of the book becomes less important as the story unfolds, and in fact by the end, the book has devolved into what I thought of as a bunch of New Age nonsense. I felt cheated, and I felt as if I'd wasted my time reading the book. There are some other problems, too. The POV isn't handled well, for one thing. For another there are some inconsistencies in the stuff about the Sailors. One new Sailor notices that his hair has stopped growing. But Jimmy Miles has to shave. Why should that worry me, though, when the book is so disappointing? I don't think I'll be reading any more books in this series (assuming it becomes a series).

How to write a best selling fantasy novel.

How to write a best selling fantasy novel.

Some of you reading this blog (I know you're out there; I can hear you breathing) might be wondering how to get rich in the writing game. Well, the link above provides the answer.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Lovely Bones

I'm probably the last person in America to read Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. But that may be because nobody told me it was a serial killer novel. It's an odd serial killer novel, sure, but to me that's exactly what it is. The POV's different, I'll admit, since the book is narrated by one of the victims after her death, but aside from that it's just another riff on Red Dragon. OK, so I'm exaggerating, but not as much as you might think if you haven't read the book. You've read it, thugh, since everyone in the country has, now that I have.

My Way News

My Way News: "LONDON (AP) - Archaeologists in northwestern England have found a burial site of six Viking men and women, complete with swords, spears, jewelry, fire-making materials and riding equipment, officials said Monday."

More cool news. I'd love to see this stuff.

Hard Case Crime

Hard Case Crime: "Hard Case Crime brings you the best in hardboiled crime fiction, ranging from lost noir masterpieces to new novels by today's most powerful writers, featuring stunning original cover art in the grand pulp style."

The first two books from Hard Case Crime are available today. What a great line of books and covers, and what a great idea! I hope everyone's going to support them.

Monday, September 06, 2004

1st Space Elevator Competition Set for Mid-2005

1st Space Elevator Competition Set for Mid-2005: "The new race to space is emerging that may be an even more exciting and challenging than that of the Ansari X Prize and may hold the promise of low cost Earth-to-orbit and beyond launches that would make SpaceShip One technology appear to be from yesteryear."

I love this stuff. I hope I live long enough to see it work.


I realized this morning that I've failed to report on my weekend in Thornton, Texas. That's mainly because when you spend a weekend in a town with a population of around 600 people, there's not a whole lot to report. I did get some reading done (see previous post), and I saw most of two movies: The Princess Bride and The Breakfast Club. I'd seen both of those before, but it had been a while.

I like The Princess Bride well enough, but I read the book when it first came out, and I like that a lot better. A wonderful book.

The Breakfast Club
surprised me. I liked it better than I did when I saw it nearly 20 years ago. A really good ensemble cast and some terrific moments. Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estivez, Ally Sheedy, and Anthony Michael Hall never did better than this, which is kind of sad when you think about it. To do something this good as a teenager and then never to live up to it must be a huge disappointment, not that they don't still have time to do something great.

And then there's the song. "Don't You Forget about Me" by Simple Minds is a classic. Perfect for the movie, too. I need to find an MP3 of that one Real Soon Now.

Sunday, September 05, 2004


News: "A Leonardo da Vinci for the twenty-first century
It may look like a combine-harvester but a plane designed in a Tuscan farmhouse is being hailed as one of the great breakthroughs in aeronautical history. Peter Popham meets its inventor"

This is pretty cool. If you want to see a picture of the plane, it has its own homepage here.

The Lecturer's Tale

Now and then I can't resist reading an academic novel, so this weekend I read James Hynes' The Lecturer's Tale. I'd read one of Hynes' books earlier, one called Publish and Perish, which I enjoyed quite a bit, so I was pretty sure I'd like this one, too.

I did, especially for the first 200 or so pages, but after that its delights began to pall a little. And why is it that so many novels by "literary" guys like this have to end in some version of the apocalypse? I can think of a lot of other instances, but I'm not going into them here.

But, as usual, I digress. The novel is about Nelson Humbolt, an adjunct lecturer in the English Department at the University of the Midwest. It's a perilous life, and Nelson is fired. His publications aren't up to par, and his mentor in the department has deserted him.

Minutes later, while the tower clock is striking thirteen, Nelson loses his middle finger in a freak accident. When it's reattached, he discovers that he can make people do whatever he wants by touching them with it. He sets out to do good. Well, we all know where that leads.

Part of my problem with the latter part of this book is that I found myself in sympathy with some of Nelson's goals, and with the goals of his mentor, whose name is Weissmann, in the batte of the theorists vs. the people who just love literature and support "the canon." But neither Nelson nor Weissmann is a particularly admirable character, especially not by this point in the book. Nelson has let his rage nearly overcome his original good intentions. Or maybe entirely overcome them.

Lots of good names in the book, including my favorite, Lester Antilles. And lots of wonderful satire of academic types. Antilles is a good example. He "refused on principle to participate in the marginalization of indigenous voices or to be come complicit with the hegemonic discourse of Western postcolonial cultural imperialism. In practice, this meant that for six years he refused to take classes, attend seminars, or write a dissertation. As a result of this ideologically engaged nonparticipation, he was offered tenured positions even before he had his Ph.D. . . ."

The book is full of great stuff like that, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once because it's all too familiar.

So I'm willing to forgive the apocalypse. This is a funny, well-written book. Any English major will love it.

I have Hynes' first novel, The Wild Colonial Boy on hand to read, along with his most recent, Kings of Infinite Space. I'm sure I need to space them out a good bit, but I'll get to them eventually.