Saturday, October 20, 2007

Happy Birthday, Wanda Jackson

The Fujiyama Mama turns 70 today.

Frank Robinson Talks about Thrillers

An excellent interview right here. Todd Mason suggests that Robinson sounds like Joey Bishop, and he does, but that's not what the interview is about. Check it out.

Harry Potter Update

My Way News - J.K. Rowling Outs Hogwarts Character: "NEW YORK (AP) - Harry Potter fans, the rumors are true: Albus Dumbledore, master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay. J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-selling fantasy series that ended last summer, outed the beloved character Friday night while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall.

After reading briefly from the final book, 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,' she took questions from audience members.

She was asked by one young fan whether Dumbledore finds 'true love.'

'Dumbledore is gay,' the author responded to gasps and applause.

She then explained that Dumbledore was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, whom he defeated long ago in a battle between good and bad wizards. 'Falling in love can blind us to an extent,' Rowling said of Dumbledore's feelings, adding that Dumbledore was 'horribly, terribly let down.'

Dumbledore's love, she observed, was his 'great tragedy.'

'Oh, my god,' Rowling concluded with a laugh, 'the fan fiction.'"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Gone Baby Gone

I've never been as big a fan of Dennis Lehane's work as a lot of people, but I liked a lot of things about his series about Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. I liked some thing about this movie, too, but one thing I really disliked, plebeian that I am, was the color. Why is it that people film movies in this washed-out color? It's probably some kind of artistic statement, but I think it pretty much sucks. Even when the sun is shining, the sun's not shining. To heck with that. I'm old. I need light. And keep off my damn lawn!

But back to the movie. I liked Michelle Monaghan, who looked exactly like my idea of Angie. And while I've never been a Casey Affleck fan, I thought he did a fine job. The guy who played Lionel was on Deadwood, and he must've kept the moustache. Ed Harris has a pretty scary hairpiece, too, for that matter.

But I'm digressing again, maybe. The story's about a kidnapped child. The cops haven't found her after three days, so the family goes to Kenzie. He and Angie are reluctant to take the case, but they do, and the head cop, Morgan Freeman, assigns a couple of other cops to cooperate with them. If you've read the book, as I have, you pretty much know the rest. It's a dark story, with a few complications, but not so many that it's hard to follow.

Ben Affleck directed and worked on the screenplay, and I'd say he's redeemed himself for the Bennifer years.

Phamous Photos of Phantoms

A slideshow of photos of ghosts is located here.

Gator Update: Gali the Alligator

Hat tip to Neatorama.

University of Nebraska Press SF Reissues

Thanks to Beth Foxwell for the link.

The Neglected Books Page � Blog Archive � “Bison Frontiers of Imagination” reissues from the University of Nebraska Press: "A site visitor tipped me off to a series of reissues of neglected and long out of print science fiction classics from the University of Nebraska Press, which already deserves credit for keeping many of the works of the fine American novelist Wright Morris in print.

Titled the Bison Frontiers of Imagination, the series includes over 50 titles now. Each title includes an introduction or afterword by a worthy science fiction writer or critic such as John Varley, an original cover painting, and, in some cases, original illustrations as well. In keeping with the press’ long-standing practice, the reissues are high-quality trade paperback editions."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

With the best last sentence you'll read today. Reminds me of my days teaching "developmental" English.

Volleyball Team Finds Deer Carcass On Bus - Yahoo! News: "A girl's high school volleyball team was shocked to find a bloody deer carcass on their bus after a game against a rival.

Members of the Comfort High School Whitetail Deer volleyball team came across the remains of a dead deer after playing a game against Blanco High School. A sister of a Comfort High School student said she believes students from Blanco High School placed the carcass on the bus as a prank.

'That is very inappropriate, I just couldn't believe it,' Laura Lozano said. '(My sister) was just so surprised that they would do something like that.'

Lozano said the rivalry between the two schools is deeply ceded."

Croc Update

Hasn't this happened to most of us at one time or another?

AFP: Too drunk to go to hospital after croc attack, tourist sleeps instead: "SYDNEY (AFP) — A tourist who was attacked by a crocodile while swimming in an Australian river was so drunk that he fell asleep at his campsite before going to hospital for treatment, a report said Friday.

After a brief wrestling match with the reptile, Martin emerged with gashes on his face requiring 40 stitches, The Australian newspaper reported.

Admitting his face was "pretty messed up" when he went back to his campsite, Martin, 35, from Newcastle city north of Sydney, then slept for seven hours before seeking medical help."

When One Man Dies -- Dave White

Dave White's reputation in the mystery field to date is based on his short stories (and of course on his author faux pas). Now he's going to be known for his first novel and those that follow it (and for those faux pas).

When One Man Dies is about private-eye Jackson Donne, whom the readers of White's short stories have already met. The novel begins as Donne is about ready to give up the p.i. game and go to college (Rutgers). But when a friend is killed, he's drawn into the investigation.

Nobody is happier about that than Bill Martin, who was Donne's partner when Donne was a cop. Martin sees this as a chance to get a little revenge on Donne for what happened in the old days.

And then there's what seems to be another case entirely. If you've ever read a mystery novel before, you've already figured out that there's going to be a connection, and White doesn't disappoint.

The novel is told in two voices, Donne's first-person narration, which alternates with chapters from Martin's perspective but told in third person. This doesn't always work for me, but it does here.

White has a sure hand on the story, he mixes action with introspection well, and he wraps up a complicated plot with no loose ends dangling. What makes me sad about reading this book (and others by so many of the younger writers these days) is that I know the authors are going to be writing novels for thirty, forty, fifty years, and they're just going to get better. And I'm not going to be around to read all of them. The good news is that I'm getting in on the ground floor of some fine careers. If you want to do the same, check out When One Man Dies.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The 10 Worst Movies Directed by Actors

Click the Vulture link for the list.

Vulture: Actors: Most of them are lucky if they can even act. So it's always hilarious when they try other stuff, like
singing, running for president, or playing bass. Still, there's nothing that torpedoes a career quite like a self-directed vanity project. The Ben Affleck–helmed Gone Daddy Gone hits theaters this weekend, and you can only imagine our abject disappointment, as bloggers, when we found out that it's actually supposed to be very good. But not every movie star can be competent at two things.

Joey Bishop, R. I. P.

That's three, and the Rat Pack is all gone.

The Associated Press: Joey Bishop Dead at 89: "LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joey Bishop, the stone-faced comedian who found success in nightclubs, television and movies but became most famous as a member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, has died at 89.

He was the group's last surviving member. Peter Lawford died in 1984, Sammy Davis Jr. in 1990, Dean Martin in 1995, and Sinatra in 1998.

Bishop died Wednesday night of multiple causes at his home in Newport Beach, publicist and longtime friend Warren Cowan said Thursday.

The Rat Pack became a show business sensation in the early 1960s, appearing at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in shows that combined music and comedy in a seemingly chaotic manner.

Reviewers often claimed that Bishop played a minor role, but Sinatra knew otherwise. He termed the comedian 'the Hub of the Big Wheel,' with Bishop coming up with some of the best one-liners and beginning many jokes with his favorite phrase, 'Son of a gun!'"

Deborah Kerr, R. I. P.

First, Teresa Brewer, now Deborah Kerr. My first memory of her is from King Solomon's Mines.

Deborah Kerr, star of 'From Here to Eternity' and 'The King and I,' dies -- "Deborah Kerr, the acclaimed British actress whose versatile talent and refined screen persona made her one of Hollywood's top leading ladies in the 1950s in films such as 'From Here to Eternity,' 'The King and I' and 'An Affair to Remember,' has died. She was 86.

Kerr, who in recent years suffered from Parkinson's disease, died Tuesday in Suffolk, eastern England, her agent said today.

In a screen career that was launched in the early 1940s, Kerr received six best actress Academy Award nominations for her roles in 'Edward, My Son' (1949), 'From Here to Eternity' (1953), 'The King and I' (1956), 'Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison' (1957), 'Separate Tables'(1958) and 'The Sundowners' (1960)."

Teresa Brewer R. I. P.

She was an important part of the soundtrack of my kidhood.

1950s singer Teresa Brewer dies at 76 -- "NEW YORK - Singer Teresa Brewer, who topped the charts in the 1950s with hits like 'Till I Waltz Again with You,' and performed with jazz legends Count Basie and Duke Ellington, died Wednesday. She was 76.

Brewer died at her New Rochelle home of a neuromuscular disease, said family spokesman Bill Munroe. Her four daughters were at her bedside.

Brewer had scores of hits in the 1950s and a burgeoning film career, but she pared down her public life to raise her children. She re-emerged a decade later to perform with jazz greats Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Wynton Marsalis.

'She was just a wonderful, lovely lady,' said Munroe, a longtime family friend. 'Her career was always a hobby with her _ her family always came first. She always considered her legacy not to be the gold records and the TV appearances, but her loving family.' "

Norman Mailer Update

Norman Mailer 'not in very good shape' | The Courier-Mail: "PROMINENT US writer and journalist Norman Mailer has been hospitalised here with acute respiratory problems, The New York Post reported today.

'He's not in very good shape. It's breaking my heart,” one of his former wives, Carol Mailer, was quoted in the Post as saying.

The writer was reported to be at an intensive care unit at Mount Sinai Hospital."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another of those Great SF Book Club Ads

I think Todd Mason will remember this one.

'Second Earth'

'Second Earth' found, 20 light years away | Science | The Guardian: "Scientists have discovered a warm and rocky 'second Earth' circling a star, a find they believe dramatically boosts the prospects that we are not alone.

The planet is the most Earth-like ever spotted and is thought to have perfect conditions for water, an essential ingredient for life. Researchers detected the planet orbiting one of Earth's nearest stars, a cool red dwarf called Gliese 581, 20 light years away in the constellation of Libra."

Paperback Popups

Thomas Allen slices and dices old paperback covers, then photographs the results. There are 31 of his works on display here.

Link via YesButNoButYes.

10 Spooky Jobs

Thanks to Scott Cupp for the link. The salary for the third one on the list seems way too low, but maybe that's just me.

10 Spooky Jobs - AOL Find a Job: "The following jobs deal with matters from corpses to violence to death to the supernatural. They're not for the faint of heart, but if you wish Halloween was year-round, consider one of the following 10 spooky jobs to keep you looking over your shoulder every day."

Your Own Personal Google

Want to impress your pals with your own Google search page? You can create it here.

Hat tip to the mikemcgruff blog.

I'll Bet it Stars Jar Jar Binks

George Lucas planning 'Star Wars' TV series - Los Angeles Times: "Attention, TV executives: The Force may soon be with you.

Filmmaker George Lucas said Tuesday that he has 'just begun work' on a live-action television series rooted in the 'Star Wars' universe, which is huge news not just for fans of the science-fiction epic but also for networks looking for a piece of the Lucas magic that has grossed $4.3 billion in theaters worldwide.

There is a caveat, though: The proposed series doesn't have anyone named Luke or Anakin in it, a story path that Lucas concedes is 'taking chances' as far as connecting with an audience expecting the familiar mythology.

'The Skywalkers aren't in it, and it's about minor characters,' Lucas said in an interview. 'It has nothing to do with Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader or any of those people. It's completely different. But it's a good idea, and it's going to be a lot of fun to do.'"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

American Ingenuity at its Finest

Bed-mounted shotguns: "The worst part about shooting home invaders is having to get out of bed to grab the shotgun. Well, that's no longer a problem with the The Back-Up Gun Rack, which provides a convenient and easy-to-install bed-mounted solution! Now you can fill invaders with two barrels of buckshot without even having to sit up!"

A Hell of a Woman -- Edited by Megan Abbott

In 2006, David Thompson's Busted Flush Press published one of the most talked-about anthologies of the year, Damn Near Dead. This year, watch for A Hell of a Woman, because it's going to be another big hit.

So far I've read stories by Libby Fischer Hellmann, Naomi Hirahara, Vicki Hendricks, Ken Bruen, Donna Moore, Allan Guthrie, Sandra Scoppettone, Sarah Weinman, Vin Packer, SJ Rozan, and Christa Faust. There's tough, there's tender, there's even funny, and there's not a loser in the bunch. And even better, that's only about half the stories. I have a lot more to read.

And that's not even counting the appreciations of some of the authors not included in the book. (Confession: I wrote the one on Leigh Brackett.) It's supposed to hit the stores in December. You won't find a better stocking-stuffer.

God Works in Mysterious Ways

Priest has no problem worshipping God and Elvis - Yahoo! News: "SORBO, Italy (Reuters) - Romanian-born Antonio Petrescu believes you can worship God and Elvis at the same time: as a Catholic priest and Elvis Presley impersonator, he finds his spiritual inspiration in the late rock legend.

'People ask me 'How can you reconcile Elvis impersonations with your choice of professional work?'' said Petrescu, who puts on his glittery suits and swivels his hips when not working as a parish priest in the Italian town of Avezzano.

Interviewed by Reuters on a church visit to the tiny town of Sorbo -- population, 52 -- in southern Italy, the priest said he believes Elvis is an appropriate inspiration for Christian worship because he sang of 'love in general.'

The 34-year-old's Web site has two separate entries -- one for the priest, another for the artist, which talks about his 'fiery voice' and discography including the singles 'Lovin' Arms' and 'Reach out to Jesus.'"

Baptists Gone Wild

Bonus: there are nightclubs in Waco! Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Baylor assistant coach facing public urination charge | Bevo Beat: "This was a Texas-Baylor game week story we sure didn’t expect:

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports that Baylor assistant coach Eric Schnupp has been cited on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct/reckless exposure. He’s accused of relieving himself on the bar of a Waco nightclub.

Seems that police were already at the bar, Scruffy Murphy’s, at 2:26 a.m. Sunday when an employee says he saw Schnupp, um … we’ll let bartender Danny Severe describe it himself:

“While we were kicking everybody out, he apparently thought that nobody was looking and whipped it out and (urinated) on the bar. He tried to deny it, but there was definitely a puddle and there was no one else around him.”"

PC Magazine's 100 Favorite Blogs

And once again, I'm not on the list.

Gator Update (How-To Edition)

I highly recommend the whole article, which you can find here.

But do you know how to wrestle an alligator, if one by any chance shows up at your doorstep? Believe it or not, this manly skill, unceremoniously eclipsed by the digital age, is still being taught in southern Colorado.


The three-hour course costs $100 and is available to adults upon signing a release form.

The introductory phase consists of catching a sprightly 2½-foot caiman careening across a pool with the speed of a toy motor boat.

It probably lacks the heft to kill a human outright, but certainly has a wide enough mouth — and razor-sharp teeth — to snap off a finger, if given the chance.

"No matter the size, you always start from the tail," patiently explains Mr. Young, wearing a battered "Crocodile Dundee"-style hat. "As you may have noticed, that's where they don't have teeth."

The Poe War

It's still going on. And now you have a vote.

Update from Ed Pettit:
"If you are in a Comcast viewing area, check me out live on TV tomorrow morning on CN8's "Your Morning" show at 7:30AM (they broadcast from Maine to Virginia), debating the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe with someone from Baltimore. I'm not sure yet who will be representing that other city, but perhaps it'll be Jeff Jerome and I'll get punched in the eye. Should be fun."

Monday, October 15, 2007

How Long Has it Been . . .

. . . since I had a Paris Hilton post? Well, that's too long. So here's a link.

The Plot of Dave White's Next Novel?

1010 WINS - On-Air, Online, On Demand - FBI Monitoring al-Qaida Activity in North Jersey: "NEWARK, N.J. ( -- Members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force are monitoring a number of north Jersey residents with ties to al-Qaida.

The agents have disrupted their activities and deported several.

Task force director Kevin Cruise tells The Record of Bergen County there are facilitators in the state.

Cruise would not describe any case in detail. However, efforts to disrupt Osama bin Laden's network range from deportation to telling the suspects that they're being watched."

Short Story Contest

Crime & Suspense is having a short-story contest with cash prizes. Click here for details.

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Access Hollywood | Rita Cosby Releases Private Recording In Response To 'Sting Operation' | Celebrity and Hollywood News: "NEW YORK, NY (October 14, 2007) — Days after a Bahamian spokesperson for Anna Nicole Smith’s former nannies accused “Blonde Ambition” author Rita Cosby of attempting to bribe him and his clients, the former MSNBC journalist defended herself by releasing an alleged audio interview with the spokesperson.

In the tape, released to Access Hollywood, Cosby is heard talking with a man identified as “Lincoln.” Cosby said that voice on the tape is Lincoln Bain, the representative for Smith’s former nannies, Quethlie Alexis and Nadine Alexie.

On the recording, Bain tells Cosby that the nannies claimed to have witnessed Smith watching a video of an alleged sexual encounter between Smith’s longtime companion, Howard K. Stern, and Larry Birkhead."

The Owl 2: Scarlet Serenade -- Bob Forward

When I reviewed The Owl, I mentioned that I'd discovered that while no sequel was published in the U. S., one was available in England. So I bought it from The price of the book wasn't so bad. The postage was a killer. But you know how it is, I'm sure. The sequel was published in 1990, but the copy I got was in like-new condition and had never been read.

There was some discussion in the comments of the original review about the author's name, mainly because there's a well-known SF writer named Robert L. Forward. You'll note that on The Owl 2, the author is billed as "Bob Forward."

I'm thinking that maybe I should let the book speak for itself a little, so here goes, from page 14:
Baroom! Baroom! Baroom! The Peacemaker roared in .45 basso profundo as my left palm slammed the hammer. The driver's body went three feet backward without touching the ground and hit asphalt in a heap. What was left of his head landed a good deal further on, as the last vestiges of crimson spray blew away on the dry and dusty wind. The Santa Ana tasted blood -- and it howled.
And from page 43:
But that was a long, dark decade ago; before Alexander L'Hiboux, reporter, was reborn in a Hell of fire and rage as the ever-deadly, never-sleeping Owl.
And from page 46:
"You're the Owl. You're an ice-blooded, two-fisted, merciless sonofabitch. You move fast, shoot faster, and never take unnecessary chances. You've stayed alive because you stay alone and out of sight. Yet now -- all of a sudden, you've got the cops, the drug underworld, and probably the FBI on your ass . . . ."
I must have been in a more receptive mood when reading this one than when reading The Owl because I enjoyed the heck out of it. It starts off over the top and builds from there. It's essentially one long chase scene as The Owl acts as bodyguard to a 16-year-old girl whom seemingly everybody in L. A. wants to get his hands on. There's blood, gore, and action aplenty. Norbert the dead bartender, a great character, makes a return appearance, as does the enigmatic Alcatraz. Too bad there wasn't an Owl 3.

Kill Bill 1 & 2

With bunnies.

And then there's 300 (the feline version).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Stark House is Back

After a short hiatus, Stark House is back with a fine double book that features a couple of Bill Pronzini's standalones, either one of which, in a just world, would have been a breakout book for him. Bonuses: introduction by Marcia Muller and an afterword by Bob Randisi. Put it on your Christmas list.

Downwind -- Bob McKnight

A good while ago, Richard Moore was kind enough to send me a copy of this book that had been in Harry Whittington's personal library. It was signed by McKnight, who thanked Whittington for his "guidance." I've had another copy of the book for many years, but I've only now gotten around to reading it.

The story's a familiar one. Bert Brodie gets a call that his brother, Dave, is in trouble. The call is from Dave's wife, with whom Bert had once been in love. Naturally Bert flies to Santa Fe to help out. He's too late because Dave has been murdered. Almost at once, Bert is suspected of the murder. The sheriff and his nutty deputy are clearly in league with the bad guys. The whole town turns against Bert, who becomes a fugitive while trying to figure out who killed Dave. The reader will have known from about page one.)

Anybody reads that brief plot summary (not counting the final sentence) and who's read Harry Whittington will spot the Whittington influence. But the book's not nearly as well done as one of Whittington's; the spark is lacking. Still McKnight throws in a nice twist, and the book's well paced. It's also very unPC. People were so benighted in 1957. It's kind of fun, but I can't really recommend it other than as a curiosity.

Anna Nicole Smith Update

My Way News - Raids Begin in Anna Nicole Smith Probe: "LOS ANGELES (AP) - Authorities investigating the death of Anna Nicole Smith raided six locations Friday, including the offices and residences of two doctors, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said.

County prosecutors were aware of the raids in the Los Angeles area but were not involved in the operation, said spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. She did not comment further; Attorney General Jerry Brown was expected to make an announcement on the case later Friday.

Smith, a former Playboy Playmate, died of an accidental drug overdose in February at a Florida hotel. She was 39."

California Drivers

They don't let a little thing like a body in the roadway slow them down. Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for the link.

San Jose Mercury News - Body found on Highway 880 identified as Berkeley man: "HAYWARD - The man whose body was found on the southbound lanes of Interstate Highway 880 in Hayward on Thursday has been identified today by the Alameda County coroner's bureau as 37-year-old David Connolly of Berkeley.

The coroner's bureau said they recovered part of one hand and most of another and were able to lift fingerprints.

Witnesses reportedly told California Highway Patrol officers that Connolly was trying to hitchhike from Berkeley to Hayward. A truck driver pulled over but refused to give the man a ride.

Witnesses said Connolly then walked to the back of the truck and, without the driver's knowledge, grabbed onto the back. Connolly held on for as long as possible but eventually lost his grip and fell into the roadway.

The coroner's bureau said he was struck about 20 times and died of multiple blunt force trauma."