Saturday, August 27, 2005

Important Announcement

OK, folks, here's the deal. Because of all the spam comments I've been getting I've resorted to a new method of commenting. When you type in your comment, you'll have to also type a few letters into a little rectangle below the comment before it can be published. Gerald So tells me that the spambots can't type in the letters, so there will be no more spam comments. I'm sorry about the inconvenience, but it's better than my having to delete all the spam.

We now return to our regular programming.

How to Prove you Don't Have an Obsession

BBC NEWS | UK | Author denies 'Ripper' obsession: "Crime author Patricia Cornwell has taken out full-page ads in two national newspapers to deny she is obsessed with Jack the Ripper."

Red Eye

Vince Keenan is one of the few people I know (besides me and Rosemarie, his wife) who openly admits a liking for Joe and the Volcano. So when he recommends a movie, I pay attention. The other day he recommended Red Eye, so I figured it was worth a look (and not because it starred Rachel McAdams, so stop saying that).

Some of the movie's real horrors have nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with the extreme hassle that air travel has become. Judy and I are flying to Chicago for the Bouchercon next Wednesday, and I should never have gone to this movie. My travel anxieties were high enough already. Now they've been cranked up another notch.

As for the plot, the less said about it, the better. You don't want to know to much going in, or that would spoil the fun. Let's just say that if you thought you've had bad seatmates on an airplane before, you're lucky you didn't have Cillian Murphy sitting beside you. Sure there are lots of holes in the plot, but only a picky person would even mention them. So I won't. Just go along for the ride, so to speak, and enjoy yourself.

Rachel McAdams does a fine job here as the woman in jeopardy who's better equipped to deal with things than you might think at first, and Cillian Murphy is smoothly ruthless. These two characters have to carry the movie, and McAdams and Murphy are more than up to it.

I don't know if Wes Craven of Nightmare on Elm Street fame has directed a thriller of this kind before, but he's certainly good at it. Check it out.


Tommy Sands is 67. He was one of those would-be Elvises who didn't quite make it, but I still remember seeing him in Sing, Boy, Sing, way back in the late 1950s. He had a couple of hit songs, including the title song from the movie, but his career never went anywhere.

And then there's Tuesday Weld, 62 today. The first time I ever saw her was in Rally Round the Flag, Boys, a movie I still remember with affection. She played a character named Comfort Goodpasture, and Dwayne Hickman sang a song called "You are my Boojum" to her. One reason I remember the movie is that a friend of mine named John Black and I went to see it after we had our senior pictures made for the high school yearbook. That was a long time ago, for sure. John went on to a hugely successful career in the import business, and Tuesday went on to star with Hickman in the Dobie Gillis TV series. Both the movie and the series were based on books by the now-forgotten Max Shulman. Not forgotten by me, of course. I read all his books I could find and thought they were hilarious. Later in her career, Weld starred in a movie that I liked a lot, Heartbreak Hotel. I don't think anybody else liked it, however.

Andy Jaysnovitch Take Note

Unclassified maggots no longer a thing of the past. - Aug. 24, 2005: "FDA clamps down on maggots, leeches

Bone wax, tissue expanders for breast implants and other devices could face stronger regulation."

Andy's praise of maggots and leeches is here.

Jayme Blaschke Take Note

A Texas farmer may have found what some would call a "chupacabra," a legendary animal known for sucking the blood out of goats.

Reggie Lagow set a trap last week after a number of his chickens and turkeys were killed.What he found in his trap was a mix between a hairless dog, a rat and a kangaroo.The mystery animal has been sent to Texas Parks and Wildlife in hopes of determining what it is.

There's a slideshow with pics of the "creature" here.

Jayme has a photo here.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Pulprack: The Hunt for Merle Constiner

George Kelly alerted me to this interesting article about Merle Constiner on the always fascinating Pulprack. Check it out.

The Action at Redstone Creek -- Merle Constiner

I'd never read any books by Merle Constiner, an author about whom Richard Moore has recently become enthusiastic. So enthusiastic, in fact, that he bought two copies of The Action at Redstone Creek in his frenzy to get as many books by Constiner as he could. He didn't really want two copies of the same book, however, so he brought one of them to ConMisterio in Austin back in July and gave it to me. He told me to read it or he'd kick my butt. Being a frail old retired English teacher, I said I'd do whatever he said.

And the book turned out to be pretty darned good. It's got a couple of problems, but it moves fast, has some good humorous moments, and gets the job done.

It's the old story about a drifter who gets into the middle of a range war, but it's handled differently than any story of its type that I've read. The local sheriff is a great character and adds a lot to the book, and Constiner seems to know what he's writing about when he discusses tracking and cattle. He also handles the violence (of which there's plenty) well. Nothing is drawn out. It's just fast, dirty, and done with. This seems to have been intended as the first book in a series. I guess I'll have to ask Richard if there was ever a sequel, since I'd like to read it. And I'll probably be reading other books by Constiner as well.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

An Alvin Blogspot

The Cottage House Museum: "The Marguerite Rogers House Museum, built by John G. Slover in the early 1900's, is located at 113 East Dumble in Alvin, Texas. In 1938 James A. and Marguerite Rogers bought the house. The Rogers' daughter, Emaline, bequeathed the property to the Alvin Museum Society in 1995. The Society restored the home and named it Marguerite Rogers House Museum, in honor of Emaline's mother."

This blog is maintained by the Alvin Museum Society,and there's a nice photo of one of the town's historical houses.

Problem Solved!

Print Story: GOP Fears Gas Price Anger May Spill Over on Yahoo! News: "As one of its first orders of business, the Senate will hold a hearing to examine the causes of the price increases, and oil executives might be summoned to testify."

A Great Slideshow

The Sun Online - Life: Worst album covers...ever: "By DAVE MASTERS
Sun Online

HERE'S a lesson in bad record sleeve design from the idiots who put the bum into album.

We've pulled together the funniest covers from the past few decades of disks for our latest slideshow below.

It includes some shockingly bad releases including Swing That Gospel Axe and Trees Talk Too.

One wacky cover by Millie Jackson shows her boobs distorted through a crystal ball.

While Pooh-Man's album Funky Like I Do has a spread-eagled woman with the artist's head between her legs."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Creepers -- David Morrell

A few years ago I got what I thought was a terrific idea for a book. I'd been reading about urban infiltrators, people who go into long-abandoned buildings and tunnels at night and explore them. I checked out a bunch of websites and took several pages of notes, but I never did anything with the idea.

It's just as well that I didn't. David Morrell had the same idea, and he's done a dandy job with it. He's more twisted than I am, so he was able to come up with all sorts of horrible things that would never have entered my mind. He's used them all in Creepers, his new novel from CDS Books.

Five people enter the Paragon Hotel, abandoned and deserted for many years. Or so they think. Before they're inside long, it turns out that rats and mutant cats are the least of their worries. The old building is falling down around them, and they have company. Bad company. Things start happening on the first page of Creepers, and they don't stop until the end. You won't be able to guess what's coming, since some of the people aren't at all what they seemed to be, and their motives for entering the Paragon aren't what they said they were.

And that's all I'll say about the plot, so as not to spoil the fun for you. OK, one other thing. I think that Stephen King once said that an essential requirement for a book like this is that "anyone can die at any time." Consider the requirement met.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Yes, There Is a God

Jessica Alba: Jessica Alba Older Men Are Ideal Partners: "JESSICA ALBA LOVES OLDER MEN.


The stunning actress, 24, admits she likes an older man, and the screen veterans list among her ideal dream partners."

Shopping Tip of the Week

I know everyone who reads the blog is going to want this. I'm wearing mine right now.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

I see in the paper that it's Ray Bradbury's 85th birthday. The Martian Chronicles is one of those books that will always be in my Top Ten. There are some great stories in there. And "The Fireman," the story that became Fahrenheit 451, is one that completely knocked me out when I was a kid and read it in Galaxy magazine. One of the best stories ever. Happy birthday, Ray Bradbury!


This isn't really a report on the convention. It's just a kind of general lamentation on the fact that science fiction has pretty much left me behind. One of the panelists mentioned the fact that SF today is much better-written than it was in the Golden Age and for many years after that. The literary quality is so much higher now that a lot of the old stories seem crude by comparison. The writing styles today are much more sophisticated, and the scientific concepts are, too. Why, some of the writers even know a lot about science.

I don't doubt that all that's true. But when I started reading SF all those years ago, I wasn't looking for literary quality or a sophisticated writing style, much less up-to-date scientific knowledge. I was looking for fast-paced stories, and if the cover of the magazine or book I bought had a scantily clad babe on the cover, so much the better.

One of the writers whose stories were everywhere in the 1950s was Murray Leinster, and my favorite purchase of the convention is the copy of a new collection from Baen Books pictured here. Leinster wasn't a stylist, and he wasn't aiming to create literature. But he could sure tell a story. "A Logic Named Joe" is a fine example, and so are novels like The Pirates of Zan (which is included in the collection). I've read everything in the book already, and I have copies of everything in other editions. Nevertheless I had to have this new one, and I'll probably read everything in it all over again. Baen Books has another Leinster collection, with at least one more to come. Which I think is great.

My question is, where do kids these days go for that old sense of wonder? Probably not to works with literary quality or sophisticated style. Maybe media tie-ins sell so well because they hark back to the older kind of SF. But what do I know?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Dennis Lynds, R. I. P.

I walked in the house from ArmadilloCon, turned on the computer, and surfed to Ed Gorman's Blog, where I found this. It really took the breath out of me. I met Dennis Lynds at a Bouchercon years ago in San Francisco, where I was on a panel with him and his wife, Gayle. He signed a couple of my Belmont Shadow novels and we talked a little about his work. I'd started reading him with the publication of the first Dan Fortune novel and continued ever since. I always looked forward to seeing him at Bouchercon, and in fact I was on a panel again with him in Toronto just last year. I'm still trying to absorb the news that he's gone, and my sympathies go out to Gayle and his family.
Mystery Novelist Dennis Lynds Dies at 81

The Associated Press
Sunday, August 21, 2005; 1:36 AM

LOS ANGELES -- Dennis Lynds, whose tautly written mysteries featuring the one-armed Dan Fortune were praised for reflecting contemporary political and social issues, has died. He was 81.

Lynds, who wrote under the name Michael Collins, among others, died Friday at a San Francisco hospital from septic shock caused by bowel necrosis and multiorgan failure, Mark Powning, an investigator with the medical examiner's office, said Saturday.

Lynds collapsed Thursday in the parking lot of the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center while trying to visit his eldest daughter, who had been hospitalized there, said Kathleen Sharp, a family friend.

He died the next day at San Francisco General Hospital, Powning said.

Sharp said the author, who lived in Santa Barbara, had been ill for some time and had undergone several surgeries for a stomach condition.

In a career spanning more than four decades, Lynds wrote more than 80 novels and short stories, according to his Web site.

The first Dan Fortune novel, "Act of Fear," was published in 1967 and won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for best first novel. The last novel in the series, "Fortune's World," was published in 2000.

The Fortune novels were praised for their writing and for their willingness to reflect on contemporary political and social controversies.

"I write mysteries to say something, not just for entertainment," Lynds told the Santa Barbara News-Press in 1982.

Lynds was born in New York and moved to Santa Barbara in 1965.
© 2005 The Associated Press