Saturday, November 10, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Once again, Jeff Meyerson supplies an important news item.

iWon News - Brit's Lawyer Sues Anna Nicole's Estate: "LOS ANGELES (AP) - Britney Spears and the late Anna Nicole Smith have something in common - the same attorney. Sorrell Trope, the attorney currently representing Spears in her custody battle, is suing Smith's estate for unpaid legal bills.

Trope is seeking more than $160,000 in legal fees for work his firm provided for Smith from October 2006 to March 2007, according to a creditor's claim filed with Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday. The former Playboy Playmate died in February."

Elvis is Alive

Hey, I believe it.

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Norman Mailer, R. I. P.

Probably everybody of my generation read The Naked and the Dead. I went on to read many more of Mailer's books, including some of the "lesser" ones. Great stuff, some of it.

Literary giant Norman Mailer dies at 84 - Local News Updates - The Boston Globe: "Norman Mailer, the self-proclaimed heavyweight champion of postwar American letters, whose six decades in the public eye helped make him one of America's most acclaimed, and controversial authors, died this morning of acute renal failure at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He was 84.

Mr. Mailer was 25 when he published his first book, 'The Naked and the Dead' (1948). Based on his experiences as a combat infantryman in the Philippines, the novel was a great literary and commercial success.

Mr. Mailer went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes: for 'The Armies of the Night' (1968), a nonfiction account of a 1967 anti-war march on the Pentagon, and 'The Executioner's Song' (1979), which Mr. Mailer described as a 'real life novel,' about executed murderer Gary Gilmore."

Croc Update

The touching story of a man and his croc. Hat tip to Neatorama for the link.

Peter Viertel, R. I. P.

PETER VIERTEL | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Nation: "Peter Viertel, the novelist, memoirist and screenwriter best known for his books chronicling episodes in the lives of author Ernest Hemingway and film director John Huston, has died. He was 86.

Mr. Viertel died of lymphoma Sunday in the Spanish coastal resort of Marbella, according to Paula Kane, a family friend.

His death came less than three weeks after his wife of 47 years, actress Deborah Kerr, died in Suffolk, England, also at 86.

A formidable figure and bon vivant, Mr. Viertel drew upon his relationships with Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Huston – two larger-than-life friends – in his books, the novel White Hunter, Black Heart (1953) and the memoir Dangerous Friends: At Large With Hemingway and Huston in the Fifties (1992)."

The Da Vinci Code Redux

Leonardo painting has coded 'soundtrack' - Yahoo! News: "ROME - It's a new Da Vinci code, but this time it could be for real. An Italian musician and computer technician claims to have uncovered musical notes encoded in Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Last Supper,' raising the possibility that the Renaissance genius might have left behind a somber composition to accompany the scene depicted in the 15th-century wall painting.

'It sounds like a requiem,' Giovanni Maria Pala said. 'It's like a soundtrack that emphasizes the passion of Jesus."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Substitute Teacher's Lessons Enrage Parents - Education News Story - WMAQ | Chicago: "HOUSTON -- Parents in Houston said they were terrified when they found out what a substitute teacher has been teaching their children.

Students at MacGregor Elementary School said the substitute makes them call her 'Sister Jessica' and take notes of her lessons.

'She said she doesn't want to be called 'Miss' because it means mistress and 'Mister' means slave master,' said one of the fifth-graders who did not want to be identified. 'My child does not know what a prostitute is and she shouldn't be learning that at school,' the student's mother said.

The student said that the teacher said she was teaching them about health. 'She said sugar is cocaine, McDonald's should be called 'Crack Donald's' and Burger King should be called 'Murder King' because the hormones in the food will kill you,' the student said.

The mother recalled when her child came home and asked if a hair perm and makeup causes cancer. The fifth-grader said she learned that in school and that the teacher said she did not believe in God."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Maybe They Should Just Move to Duncanville, Texas

B.C. Supreme Court rules nudists can't be prevented from renting Surrey pool: "Nudists have won the first round in their bid to bare all at Surrey's Newton Wave Pool.

'There are a lot of nudists very interested in this decision,' said Paul Andreassen, president of Skinnydipper Services Inc.

'The wave pool is an excellent facility and we want to get back there.'

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the City of Surrey could not prevent the nudists from renting the wave pool.

The group held private, once-a-month, late-night events at the wave pool between June 2002 and January 2003 with up to 200 nudists attending. The events were banned due to a city bylaw that requires swimmers be clothed in 'proper bathing attire.'"

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Smoking questioned for stores that sell lottery tickets | - Houston Chronicle: "AUSTIN — The Texas Lottery Commission's sale of tickets in stores that allow smoking could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the attorney general's office said.

Lewisville resident Billy Williams complained to the commission in 2006 that he had an asthma attack after buying a ticket at a smoky store. He said his rights were violated because the store allowed smoking.

'A court would probably find that the Texas Lottery Commission violates the Americans with Disabilities Act if it fails to provide Texas residents with 'meaningful access' to state services' in this case, lottery tickets, Attorney General Greg Abbott's office said."

Irving Klaw

Today would have been Irving Klaw's 97th birthday. His grandson, Rick, has a great article about him posted here. If you know who Klaw was, you've probably clicked through already. If you don't, you could find out. Does the name Bettie Page ring a bell?

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way (Sex Party Update) - Swingers Plan Party To Raise Money For Legal Fees: "(CBS 11 News) DUNCANVILLE Tuesday night the Duncanville City Council voted to shut down a swingers club known as the Cherry Pit.

Now they say they have an additional reason to party. The organizers hope to attract big crowds on Friday and Saturday night.

They say they'll use the donations to build a legal defense fund to fight the city's ordinance.

On their Web site's chat room Wednesday, the Cherry Pit's organizers said they need $10,000 to retain an attorney who will help them fight to stay open. They said it would take 1,000 supporters donating $10 each.

After the ordinance passed Tuesday, organizers Jim Trulock and Julie Norris vowed to take the city to court next week."

Yet Another List I'm Not On

The Top 50 Thinkers.

The Sword of Genghis Khan -- James Dark

James Dark is a pen name used by an Australian writer named James McDonnell. He wrote a lot, and I mean a lot, of books, including those in the Mark Hood spy series. Some of the latter were published in the U.S. by Signet at the height of the spy craze. I have four or five of them, and I must have read a couple back in the '60s, though I don't remember which ones. I pulled one off the stack the other day just to have a look, and I recognized the opening scene, in which the sea begins to boil near some Japanese fishing boats just before they're destroyed. In rapid succession, we have more boiling seas, a sex scene, a scientist kidnapped by a some fake medics, and another scientist grabbed by a guy wearing a jet pack right out of the Rocketman serials. That takes up about the first twenty pages. And there are only 1oo left to read. The print's big, too.

As you've probably guessed, this book makes anything in Fleming's James Bond series (and I'm counting the movies) look like a model of realism. Before it's over we've taken into the cave of Genghis Khan where one of his descendants has set up shop and from which he intends to (you guessed it) rule the world. (The cave, by the way, was revealed by a nuclear test, and the Khan descendant and his minions entered it "after the radiation had receded." In case you were wondering.)

He doesn't have a chance, however, against Mark Hood, who's remarkably stupid at one minute and brilliant at the next. The book seems to head in one direction and promise one thing, but then it veers off into another direction entirely, dropping the plot idea that had seemed to be developing for another one. You want character development and logic? You've come to the wrong place.

This kind of thing can be fun, though, if you just turn off your mind and go with the flow, but it's definitely a relic of an earlier time. I suspect there's only one other person besides me who can still enjoy it: this guy. If you want to try, though, you might get a kick out of it. (And don't ask what that is on the cover. I have no idea.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happy Birthday, Patti Page!

Almost missed this one, which would have been too bad. 80 years old today. Talk about the soundtrack of my kidhood! Miss Patti Page, the Singing Rage, was a huge part of it. My parents must have had the radio on all the time because my head is full of the pop and country songs of the late '40s and early '50s.

10 Most-Quoted Movie Lines

The list is at this link.

The Mafia's 'Ten Commandments'

List at the link. No photo of the stone tablets, however.

Police discover Mafia's 'Ten Commandments' after arresting Godfather | the Daily Mail: "The Mafia's Ten Commandments have been found after police arrested a top Godfather in Sicily.

Under the secret Cosa Nostra code of conduct, the so-called 'men of honour' must avoid bars, other gangsters' wives and girlfriends and be on time.

The list of rules emerged from documents seized after the arrest of Salvatore Lo Piccolo, 65, at a secret mob meeting in Palermo, along with his son Sandro, 32, and two other godfathers."


The Austin Chronicle: Screens: Review - Chinatown: "For many, Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski from Robert Towne's Oscar-winning screenplay, epitomizes the peak of Seventies Hollywood filmmaking and perhaps the finest neo-noir ever made. Yet according to the four documentary featurettes on this new special edition, the movie almost didn't get made."

Check out the whole review at the link.

New Issue of Spinetingler Now On-Line

An embarrassment of riches today. Check it out.

New Issue of Thrilling Detective Now On-Line

As always, it's don't-miss material. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Crosshairs -- Harry Hunsicker

I've said before that I'm opposed to mixing first- and third-person narration in p.i. novels that have the p.i. narrating the story. Call me a traditionalist, or a fuddy-duddy, and keep off my damn lawn. Anyway, those days are gone forever. I'm here to say that I've decided not to object anymore. Robert B. Parker did it in at least one Spenser novel, James Lee Burke has started doing it all the time, Robert Crais took up the habit, Dave White did it in his first novel, and now Harry Hunsicker has done it in his third book. I'm sure I've missed plenty of others. So who am I to object?

But enough of that. What about Crosshairs? Well, Lee Henry (call him Hank) Oswald, shaken up by the events of the previous book in the series (The Next Time You Die), has become a bartender. That doesn't last long, though. An old Army buddy calls in a favor, Oswald bumps into the buddy's doctor, and the next thing he knows, he's up to his neck in mayhem again. That's one of the things I like about the books, in fact. There's always plenty of mayhem, and Hunsicker's very good at action scenes. Good at the snappy patter, too, and at giving you a look at the down and dirty of Dallas. An bonus in this one is some good stuff about the Travelers. I was planning to use them in a Rhodes book I've started, but now I probably won't.

I don't know if there are plans for more in the Hank Oswald series, but I figure there must be. Wouldn't surprise me if Hunsicker didn't have a standalone in mind, too. Check him out if you haven't already.

I Love a Mystery

Scott Cupp, knowing I'm a fan of the radio version of I Love a Mystery, called to alert me to the fact that yesterday afternoon TCM was showing the three 1940s movies based on it. I set the DVR, but then I decided to watch the first one, I Love a Mystery: The Decapitation of Jefferson Monk, which is based on the radio program of the same title.

Carlton E. Morse, who wrote the radio show, liked to let his imagination run wild for these programs, and this one opens with a guy (Jefferson Monk, played by George Macready) who's killed in a single-car accident. And his head is missing. The rest of the story is told in flashback, as Jack (Jack Bannon) and Doc (Barton Yarborough, who played the part on radio) tell the owner of The Silver Samovar what happened.

Then we get flashbacks within the flashback as Monk relates the strange circumstances that led to his being followed by a peg-legged man carrying a small black valise, just the right size to hold Monk's head.

As the stories unfold, you have your secret societies (which want Monk's head), your prophesies, your paralyzed wife, and plenty of murders. Some of this is preposterous (a guy with a peg leg wears a mask to disguise himself?), and some is beyond that, but it's all part of the fun.

Jack figures out a lot of things apparently by having picked up on clues that aren't shown to the viewer, or by having heard descriptions that the viewer didn't hear. But even Jack can't figure out everything, which leads to a dumb series of events and the climax. The final moments aren't bad, but the final moments of the radio show are a bit spookier.

And here's the thing. The movie is pretty spooky. It's preposterous, but it still manages to work up a nice atmosphere and to cram plenty of plot into 65 or 70 minutes. I'd rather listen to the radio show, but I'm glad I watched this. I'm sure I'll check out the others one of these days.

Hank Thompson, R. I. P.

A list of Thompson's hits would fill the page, and they're part of the soundtrack of my youth. One of the all-time greats. My son worked on a recording session with him only months ago. | 11/07/2007 | Country singer Hank Thompson dead at 82: "Waco native and Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Thompson passed away Tuesday evening at his Keller residence, four days after cancelling the remainder of an ongoing tour. He was 82.

“He was battling aggressive lung cancer,” said Thompson spokesman and Heart of Texas Records President Tracy Pitcox in a statement. “He remained conscious until the last couple of hours and passed away peacefully at about 10:45 p.m. ... surrounded by his friends and family.”

According to his bio, Thompson began playing the guitar and working local talent shows as a teenager. His first radio program was on WACO where he was featured as “Hank the Hired Hand.” In addition, Thompson was the first country entertainer to travel with his own light-and-sound systems, the first to have a corporate sponsor, the first to record in high fidelity stereo and the first to broadcast his television show in color. In 1961, Thompson recorded Live at the Golden Nugget, which would become the first live album ever produced.

“He was one of a kind,” says D.D. Bray, Thompson’s manager and booking agent for 25 years. “It’s a long, long legacy ... his songs will live forever.”"

Paris Hilton: Making the World a Safer Place

Paris Hilton Helps Elephant Alcoholics - Starpulse News Blog: "Socialite Paris Hilton is spearheading a campaign to stop a herd of elephants killing themselves - after bingeing on alcohol. The hotel heiress was horrified to discover 40 of the animals were electrocuted after drinking rice-beer, which is brewed by locals in north-east India. And Hilton is now urging Indian residents to lock up their booze."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way - City Of Duncanville Cracking Down On Sex Parties: "(CBS 11 News) DUNCANVILLE It's been a secret in the suburbs for years.

A house in Duncanville that holds large private parties for swingers is now gaining unwanted attention. Swingers are single people or couples who are open minded about their sexual partners.

'We have friends over for private parties,' said the organizer, Jim Turlock.

The City of Duncanville wants to crack down on the parties. So far, the city has been powerless to stop the parties at the house on Cedar Ridge Drive. But Tuesday night, the city council will consider a different tactic.

People gather at the house every Friday and Saturday night. As many as 200 people showed up for a Halloween party. So many people attend the parties that the organizers have a man directing traffic and parking."

Sometimes Georgia Leads the Way

No age limit on Gwinnett police Taser policy | "Last week's use of a Taser stun gun on a handcuffed 14-year-old trick or treater is within Gwinnett County police policy, which has no age provision, police said.

The only protection in the policy is for pregnant women because it could induce labor.

So what about a 5- or 6-year-old?

That's OK, according to Gwinnett police policy."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

iWon News - Man Arrested After Reporting Pot Theft: " McALLEN, Texas (AP) - A man was arrested for drug possession after telling authorities that two masked gunmen had stolen 150 pounds of marijuana from his home.

Hidalgo County sheriff's deputies arrived at the home near Penitas in South Texas to find the door kicked in and nearly 15 pounds of pot lying on the floor, Sheriff Lupe Trevino said.

Jose Guadalupe Flores, 35, escaped while the men ransacked the house but returned later and told the deputies he had been wrapping the drugs for shipment when the intruders arrived.

'The guy walked right up and said the drugs were his,' Trevino said. 'That's not the smartest move.'"

Croc Update

I'll think just have the salad, but thanks anyway.

Celebrities to eat crocodile penis | "CONTESTANTS in the latest version of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here will be told to tuck into crocodile genitals as part of the popular British reality TV show, filmed in Australia.

According to, twelve crocodile penises were transferred to the film set this week.

Lilian Lever, owner of the Koorana Crocodile Farm in Coowonga, Queensland, told Metro: 'We do supply 'We do supply 'bits' of the crocs for the TV show. I can't say any more.'"

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Stonewall Jackson

A country music great turns 75 today. If you have your old 45 rpm recording of "Waterloo" (I do, still in its picture sleeve), flip it over for an even better song, "Smoke Along the Track."

Red State Update

Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for the link.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

My first thought is, "Do this with gators, and then you'd have something."

Dublin, Texas, by the way, is the place where they still make Dr Pepper with real cane sugar.

And a tip of the Crider gimme cap to Jeff Meyerson.

'Texas Snake Man' sets record in tub with 87 rattlers | - Houston Chronicle: "DUBLIN, Texas — Another day, another bizarre world record for Jackie Bibby, the 'Texas Snake Man.'

Bibby spent about 45 minutes in a see-through bathtub with 87 rattlesnakes Monday, fully clothed, shattering his own record by 12 snakes just in time for Guinness World Records Day, which is Thursday. A Guinness official certified the record.

The snakes crawled under his arms, between his legs and anywhere else they could slither, Bibby said. None bit him.

'They can go wherever they want as long as they don't start biting,' Bibby said. 'The key to not biting is for me to stay still. Rapid movement scares a rattlesnake. If you move real slow and gentle, that doesn't seem to bother them.'

Bibby sat in the dry tub with a pillow behind him, wearing regular clothing. The snakes were not defanged and still contained their venom, he said."

Puppet on a Chain -- Alistair MacLean

Every now and then I like to re-read something by Alistair MacLean, even if it's not one of his best, which this one isn't. It was published in 1969, and by that time, at least for my tastes, MacLean was past his prime. I remember reading a scene in Force Ten from Navarone (1968) and thinking that MacLean was writing strictly for the movies and even putting in scenes that he thought would work well in the screenplay. I think pretty much the same thing about several of the scenes in Puppet on a Chain.

This is a drug war book. Major Paul Sherman, of Interpol, and his two beautiful assistants (who really have next to nothing to do with the plot) are in Amsterdam to put a stop to the drug traffic. Like all of MacLean's first-person narrators, Sherman is supposed to be highly competent, but he makes all kinds of blunders, which he tells us about as he makes them and which he also tells us will lead to terrible consequences. That's what happens, all right. But whereas that kind of thing worked for me in his earlier books, it just doesn't quite come off in this one. Or maybe I'm just cranky.

There's lots of derring-do and plenty of action, but it all seems to me to lack the drive of the earlier books. Again, maybe it's just me. But I felt the same way nearly 40 years ago. I thought maybe I'd feel differently this time, or I hoped I would, but I didn't. If this had been the first MacLean book I'd ever read, I might have loved it. As it is, I'd say it's middling, but not in the same league with things like The Black Shrike or The Golden Rendezvous or a number of others.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Robert A. Heinlein

Earlier this year I reviewed a few books by Robert A. Heinlein as my little way of celebrating the centennial of his birth. Robert Silverberg is doing something similar in Asimov's, just much better, and here's an example.

100 Movies, 100 Numbers

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the tip.


• Hollywood Elsewhere •: "Because Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa kicked some surprising box-office ass ($80 million domestic, $150 million int'l) last year and similar-type earnings from his aging-Rambo remake may be in the offing, the MGM guys -- holding high the attitude and aesthetic of Cannon Films in 2007 -- are 'in talks' with Stallone to direct and star in a remake of Death Wish, the 1974 Charles Bronson-Michael Winner film."

Well, at least it would be good for Brian Garfield's pocketbook.

New from Ramble House

Ramble House Rag: Let's Go Get Ripped: "Ramble House is releasing a book it published back in 2005, this time with an introduction and index to make it handier for anyone interested in serial murder. The book, RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES, is a collection of newspaper articles from the London Times and the New York Times between 1888-1895 dealing with the Jack the Ripper murders of Whitechapel and it now has an excellent introduction by Ripperologist Don Souden. It also has an index of all of the last names that appear in the articles for easier reference for Rippernuts the world over."

Political Rant -- Please Skip

This blog is usually just a conglomeration of stuff that amuses me for one reason or another. (Some would point out that I'm easily amused. I can't deny it.) I try to avoid politics, but now and then something political amuses me through its sheer outrageousness, like this new proof of the flowering of democracy in the Middle East, and I just can't resist.

Let me see if I have it straight about Pervez Musharraf:

1. Military dictator? Check. (Passes the duck test.)
2. Has weapons of mass destruction? Check. (Ask India if you don't believe me.)
3. Violates Human rights? Check. (Protesters and journalists beaten.)
4. Harbors terrorists? Check. (Osama's found safe harbor in Pakistan for ever so long.)

But not to worry: the State Department has sent a sternly worded letter saying that they'll be reviewing the millions of dollars in aid we're sending to Pakistan every single week.

I love the smell of democracy in the morning!

Question of the Day

Why are people who can't pronounce antarctica paid big bucks to be on TV news shows?

Mike Ripley's Latest Column Posted at Shots Magazine

You can read it here. I was pleased to see that two of his favorite Jack Higgins novels are also two of the ones I favor. Neither was originally published under the Higgins name, by the way.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Preview of Coming Attractions from Richard Helms

And just as a meaningless aside, I wrote my MA thesis on Frank Norris. I've read McTeague several times.

Just wanted to drop by to let everyone know that the second issue of The Back Alley ( ) will go live in a little over one week.

We're very excited about this issue. The feature author this time around is Keith Gilman, the winner of the PWA/St. Martin's Best First PI Novel. Also appearing is Megan Powell, editor of Shred of Evidence Ezine; Bryon Quertermous, editor of Demolition ezine; Warren Bull, a psychologist and novelist from Kansas City; and John Weagly, a playwright and actor from Chicago. We have a wonderful historical/analytical piece from Jess Nevins, and the first installment of a serial edition of Frank Norris's early naturalistic/noir novel McTEAGUE.

For those of you interested in submitting to The Back Alley, we are now paying the MWA minimum $25 per story, and hope to be listed as an MWA qualified publisher sometime next year.

For the next week, please do drop by and check out the first issue of The Back Alley, featuring Stephen D. Rogers, G. Miki Hayden, Jack Bludis, John Lau, and the first published story by Eric Shane. If you missed the first issue, it will be archived in pdf format on subsequent issues, for your downloading and reading pleasure.

Hope to see you there when we debut Issue Two of The Back Alley!

Richard Helms ?

Suspicions Confirmed, Part 2

Santa Rosa Press Democrat // News for California's North Bay and Redwood Empire: "WASHINGTON (AP) -- After clocks are turned back this weekend, pedestrians walking during the evening rush hour are nearly three times more likely to be struck and killed by cars than before the time change, two scientists calculate. Ending daylight saving time translates into about 37 more U.S. pedestrian deaths around 6 p.m. in November compared to October, the researchers report.

Their study of risk to pedestrians is preliminary but confirms previous findings of higher deaths after clocks are set back in fall.

It's not the darkness itself, but the adjustment to earlier nighttime that's the killer, said professors Paul Fischbeck and David Gerard, both of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh."

Gentle, Fun-Loving Old Charmers to Cheer You Up

American Gangster

No, I haven't seen the movie. However, I did read the article on which it's loosely based. If you haven't read it before, you can find it here. It's worth your time. Thanks to Walter Satterthwait for the tip.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents. . . .

. . . . but only in syndication.