Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics

The blurb on the back cover says, "24 of the greatest crime comics ever," and that's close enough to the truth to let you know you gotta have the book. The names you're looking for (or at least the ones I was looking for) are all here: Mickey Spillane, Max Allan Collins, Dashiell Hammett, Alex Raymond, Will Eisner, Alex Toth, Jack Cole, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and many others. Some really classic stories, for sure, with great art, including the one must-have, Cole's "Murder, Morphine, and Me!" There's even an 87th Precinct comic.

Complaints? Well, it's too bad the reprints are in B&W. Comic books from my era should always be in color. And there's one big screw-up in my copy. The long story arc from Secret Agent X-9 (a newspaper strip and not a comic book) is made less effective by the fact that several pages are printed out of order. It's kind of jarring until you figure out what's going on. That's not enough to spoil things, though, and maybe it's not a flaw in all the copies. Anyway, I especially liked the scene in which X-9 tells the femme fatale that he won't play the sap for her. Hammett must have liked that line a lot.

Get your copy soon.

Holding Forth at Armadillocon

John Scalzi and David Lee Anderson look on in amazement.

I'm shocked. Shocked!

Bigfoot fails DNA test | Science & Health | Reuters: "PALO ALTO, California (Reuters) - Bigfoot remains as elusive as ever.

Results from tests on genetic material from alleged remains of one of the mythical half-ape and half-human creatures, made public at a news conference on Friday held after the claimed discovery swept the Internet, failed to prove its existence."

House of Wax

Friday, August 15, 2008

Carnival of the Criminal Minds

This time it's Crimedog Anthony Neil Smith who's doing the honors. Check it out.

Timothy Harris Update

Art Scott sent along this shot of the British paperback edition of the Timothy Harris novel discussed below.

John McCain Gets ir Right

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - McCain rises to ABBA’s defense � - Blogs from "ASPEN, Colorado (CNN) – ABBA might be one of the world’s most-ridiculed pop acts, but at long last, John McCain is rising to their defense.

Speaking to Walter Isaacson at the Aspen Institute in Colorado on Thursday, McCain found himself explaining a recent interview with Blender Magazine in which he selected ABBA’s 1976 track “Dancing Queen” as his favorite song."

Archaeology Update

Graves Found From Sahara’s Green Period - "When Paul C. Sereno went hunting for dinosaur bones in the Sahara, his career took a sharp turn from paleontology to archaeology. The expedition found what has proved to be the largest known graveyard of Stone Age people who lived there when the desert was green."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Stars and Stripes: Independent U.S. military news from Iraq, Afghanistan and bases worldwide: "SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Gas prices have been falling - but not that much. A problem with a pump cost a San Antonio convenience store when premium gasoline accidentally sold for 38 cents a gallon. Manager Jim Duke at a Dill Food Market says that grade of gas was supposed to be selling for $3.89 a gallon.

Duke says the 'pump malfunction' involving a misplaced decimal point was fixed by Wednesday afternoon.

Nobody reported the mistake, which WOAI-AM reported apparently started Tuesday afternoon."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

What could possibly go wrong?

North Texas school district will let teachers carry guns | Front page | - Houston Chronicle: "HARROLD, Texas — A tiny Texas school district may be the first in the nation to allow teachers and staff to pack guns for protection when classes begin later this month, a newspaper reported.

Trustees at the Harrold Independent School District approved a district policy change last October so employees can carry concealed firearms to deter and protect against school shootings, provided the gun-toting teachers follow certain requirements."

No Reports on the Roadrunner's Reaction

iWon News - Fake coyotes fooling the motorists, not the geese: "HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - Phony coyotes set up to discourage ducks and geese from gobbling up seeds and fresh shoots from wetlands plants didn't fool the fowl, but humans were another matter. Hammond Port Authority Director Milan Kruszynski said his office has fielded several calls from passing motorists who mistook the two-dimensional cutouts on islands in Wolf Lake for dogs."

Thanks to Doc Quatermass for the link.

That's Not a Knife . . . .

Always Bring a Mop to a Knife Fight: "Chicken shop owner Hong Ling and his chef Yang Yang foiled a robber using a mop and rotisserie pole after failing to be impressed by his 15 cm knife. Mr. Ling says 'I think we did pretty well. You can't let him get away with a little knife.'"

Forgotten Books: KYD FOR HIRE --Timothy Harris

When Timothy Harris came on the scene with Kyd for Hire in 1978, I thought of him as a direct descendant of Raymond Chandler and likely to become a top writer in the field. It never happened, even though his second novel, Good Night and Good-Bye (a direct bow to Chandler) was even better. Instead of following up on that one, Harris got into writing movies, and I'm sure he made a lot more money from them than he'd have made from writing p.i. novels.

In 2004, Harris came back with a third Thomas Kyd book, Unfaithful Servant, published by Five Star. Nothing more, though, that I'm aware of. If you like p.i. novels, you can't go wrong with any one of the three, but you'll want to start with Kyd for Hire. That's the paperback cover over on the left. The British hardcover came first, I believe, but it's probably way too expensive.

There's a good interview with Harris on January Magazine.

The Pit and the Pendulum

Thursday, August 14, 2008


We're in Austin, ensconced in the Doubletree, and I've already eaten my cookie. Programming for ArmadilloCon doesn't begin until tomorrow, but the committee is taking the guests out for dinner this evening. I think. I need to find out for sure.

Sins of the Assassin -- Robert Ferrigno

This is the sequel to Ferrigno's Prayers for the Assassin, reviewed here a couple of years ago. To recap, it's 2043, and the Muslims have taken over most of the U.S. except for the Bible Belt (mostly the former southern states). Prayers concentrated on the Muslim part of the country. Sins takes us into the Bible Belt.

It's a fascinating place, more fascinating to me than was the other part of the country.
New Orleans is under water, flooded by the frequent hurricanes. People have a sort of David Koresh theme part, with the burning of the compound acted out daily. There's no real central government. The place is run by warlords, strongmen, rogue cops. Rikkim Epps, the protagonist of Prayers is sent there for the McGuffin, supposedly some kind of doomsday weapon. He's accompained by a young guy who's a mathematical genius, one a number of interesting characters that Ferrigno introduces. As always in a Ferrigno book, there's a lot of action and plenty of violence. Lots of crosses and double crosses. Maybe a triple.

The only problem is that because this is the middle book of a trilogy, there's a lot left hanging for book three. I won't say what, since you'll want to find that out for yourself.
And you might want to take a look at Republic World News, a website that will catch you up on all the doings in the Islamic States of America.

Lionsgate Checks Out Swierczynski's Package

Lionsgate, Platt pick up 'Package' - Entertainment News, Film News, Media - Variety: "Lionsgate has acquired the Duane Swierczynski novel 'Severance Package' and has hired helmer Brett Simon ('Assassination of a High School President') to write the script with the author and direct.

Marc Platt and Adam Siegel will produce the action comedy."


As I've mentioned before, it's time for ArmadilloCon. Judy and I are all packed up and ready to go, so we'll be leaving in an hour or so. We'll have lunch with our son, Allen, and then get on I-35 for a quick drive to the hotel. Hahahaha! Just kidding. I-35 is always packed, always bumper-to-bumper, and the four or five mile drive will take at least half an hour. But we'll get there. Regular blog posting will continue, thanks to blogger's allowing me to queue things up, and maybe I'll have some stuff from the con eventually. I won't, however, be responding promptly to comments or e-mail. We'll drive back here on Monday, and maybe by next Wednesday or Thursday I'll catch up.

This Year's Bulwer-Lytton Winners

Top dishonors in writing go to Washington man - "SAN JOSE, Calif.—A grotesque comparison of a steamy love affair to a New York City street has won a Washington man this year's grand prize in an annual contest of bad writing."

Die, Monster, Die!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Julia Child, International Spy

Documents detailing early spy network released - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - Famed chef Julia Child shared a secret with Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and Chicago White Sox catcher Moe Berg at a time when the Nazis threatened the world.

They served in an international spy ring managed by the Office of Strategic Services, an early version of the CIA created in World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt."

Hat tip to Doc Quatermass.

Paris Hilton Update

Jason Statham thrown out of the Playboy Mansion: "The ‘Bank Job’ actor was escorted off Hugh Hefner’s plush Los Angeles premises after he refused to pose for pictures with models at the annual Midsummer Night’s Dream Party.

The British star – who attended the bash on Saturday wearing only a bathrobe – was escorted out by five security guards.


Socialite Paris Hilton was also at the party.

I Believe!

'Bigfoot' Trackers Claim They've Found Their Prey - News Story - KTVU San Francisco: "PALO ALTO, Calif. -- It’s more than 7-feet tall. Weighs over 500 pounds and walked upright -- three 'Bigfoot' seekers, including a Redwood City man, Wednesday claimed they have proof that they have found the body of the elusive creature in the wilds of Georgia.

And on Friday, at a news conference in Palo Alto, they say they will present DNA evidence to prove the carcass of “Rickmat” is that of a bigfoot."

Hat tip to Scott Cupp.

Set the TiVo!

'Hee Haw' returns to tube - Entertainment News, TV News, Media - Variety: "'Hee Haw' is returning to the airwaves after nearly a decade of absence, airing on the Nashville-based RFD-TV's Sunday lineup at 8 p.m. as of Sept. 7. As befitting its Nashville station, reruns of the show will feature country music greats including Hank Williams Jr., Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn, who performed 'Your Squaw is on the Warpath' in the show's June 15, 1969 premiere."

I'd Rather Have a Burger

But anything to save the world. Thanks to Art Scott for the link.

Rat snacks can solve world food price crisis: Indian official: "Eating rats is the best way for rich and poor people to solve the global crisis of rising food prices, an Indian official said Wednesday as he unveiled his plan to put rodents on menus.

Regular rat snacks would translate into fewer rodents eating precious grain stocks -- 50 percent of which are lost in the northeastern state of Bihar every year to the animals, said Vijay Prakash, secretary of the state's welfare department."

Just What America Needs

More spies.

Homeland Security setting up counterspy unit - Security- "WASHINGTON - Concerns about foreign spies and terrorists has prompted the Homeland Security Department to set up its own counterintelligence division and require strict reporting from employees about foreign travel, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press."

Robert McGinnis: Painting the Last Rose of Summer

If you like McGinnis's paperback covers, you probably want this DVD from Paul Jilbert. It's got a little of everything, from autobiography to a section on how McGinnis does a painting, and of course it's full of those wonderful cover illustrations and movie posters, as well as some of the gallery work. I came away impressed all over again by the range of McGinnis' work. I mean, at the same time he was doing those Carter Brown covers, he was illustrating stories for Guideposts. I think my favorite moment in the DVD is when Art Scott holds up his copy of Backwoods Teaser, but you might find something you like even better. Check it out here. You can watch a trailer and then order a copy. If you want to read more about it, you can read Jilbert's comments about the "making of" here.

And speaking of Art Scott, as I was, while my comments were sitting in the queue, Art sent me his own review of the DVD. Here it is:

Paul Jilbert's documentary film on Robert McGinnis -- eight years in the making -- is finally, almost unimaginably, completed and available on DVD. By way of full disclosure I should note that I've followed Paul's ups and downs in creating this film from the beginning, and also that I'm in the film (or at least there's this guy who kinda looks and sounds like me only with lots less gray hair).
The DVD is available directly from Paul at his website,; or from Bud Plant (
The film is a superbly made, comprehensive examination of Bob McGinnis's extraordinary life and career as one of America's premiere illustrators. If you know his work principally from his famous "McGinnis Girl" covers for paperback private eye series: Mike Shayne, Carter Brown, Shell Scott, Sam Durrell, etc., you will find that aspect of his work well-represented; but you will be astonished by the amazing range of his work outside the paperbacks: magazine illustration, Western art, movie posters, landscapes and nudes. If the film has a flaw, it is that there are so many images in such a variety of styles and genres that you can't absorb it all in one (or even several) viewings.
The most telling comment in the film -- and the truest -- is made by Don Smolen, Bob's art director at United Artists, "The only person who doesn't think Bob is a genius, is Bob."
Art Scott

Chinese Hercules

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Will the Persecution Never End?

My Way News - Paris Hilton sued over lack of publicity for film: "MIAMI (AP) - Paris Hilton didn't do enough pledging for a 2006 sorority comedy, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Worldwide Entertainment Group Inc. filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Miami, alleging the 27-year-old model-actress-heiress owes $75,000 in damages for not fulfilling promotional obligations."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Tensions flare over Texas school district's dress code, jumpsuit option | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News: "The school district is implementing a revamped dress code that includes a ban on cargo pants and requires students to wear collared shirts. Those from fifth through 12th grade who don't obey may also be put in prison-style navy blue coveralls the district ordered from Texas Correctional Industries, the industrial arm of prison system."

Free Fiction

Patti Abbott has been given permission by Busted Flush Press to print Cornelia Read's Shamus-nominated "Hungry Enough" on her blog. You can read it here.

Chupacabra Update (With Video)

Since Jayme Blaschke is out of town, I feel it's my duty to post this. Video at link.. Test your gullibility level.

'Chupacabra' Makes Rare Daytime Appearance - Miami News Story - WPLG Miami: "CUERO, Tex. -- Deep in the heart of Texas, one lawman thinks his deputies may have recorded footage of the elusive Chupacabra.

Some believe the Chupacabra is a mythical creature that only comes out to feed late at night. But Dewitt County deputies recorded their video during the day."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Rosharon is a few miles from Alvin. I often drove through there when I was teaching at the prison units. Nolan Ryan's ranch is outside of town, on the way to the Ramsey Units.

Pig goes hog-wild for pizza and cow-herding (w/video) | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "ROSHARON — Call her Squeaky the Wonder Pig, or the cowpig or a 385-pound guard pig. But most of all, call her when it's time for pizza.

Squeaky is clearly no ordinary pig.

The pet and partner of Mike Veara, manager of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan's China Grove Ranch in Brazoria County, she herds cows, eats pizza and greets most visitors to the ranch.

'And she's a wild pig,' Veara said. 'You never see a feral pig like that.'"

The 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters

Empire | The 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters

Thanks to Doc Quatermass for the link.

Archaeological Update (Kitty Cat Edition)

Ancient big cat fossils found in South America - Yahoo! News: "CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuela has found the first fossils of an extinct scimitar cat -- of the saber-toothed cat genus -- in South America, during oil prospecting activities southeast of Caracas, paleontologists announced."

Zarodz is a B-Movie?

EVIL DEAD TOPS B-MOVIE LIST: "EVIL DEAD 2 has topped a new U.S. magazine poll to find the Greatest B-Movie of All Time.
The cult zombie film claimed 31 per cent of the Paste reader vote to beat Plan 9 From Outer Space and Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
Other classics in the top 10 included Troll 2, Leprechaun, Zardoz and Witchboard."

Croc Update (Birthday Edition)

Adorable photo of the little snappers at the link.

50 crocodiles born in Bhitarkanika geological park: "Around 50 baby crocodiles were born at the Bhitarkanika national geological park in Orissa. The forest officials will keep the baby crocodiles for three years in several pens at the crocodile breeding centre to save them from predators."

Archaeological Update

Iron Age Warrior with Roman Links Found in U.K.: "The grave of an ancient British warrior with tantalizing Roman connections has been unearthed in southern England, archaeologists say.

The 2,000-year-old skeleton of the tribal king or nobleman was found buried with military trappings, including a bronze helmet and an ornate shield both of a style previously unknown in Britain, experts say."

Hercules in New York

Monday, August 11, 2008

Now this is Classy

Dress For Dinner Napkins: The Spoon Sisters - Great Gifts Opening Everywhere: "Even if the guy's dressed in his favorite old white tee shirt, with this napkin at his neck he'll actually look like he made the effort to get dressed for dinner."

Thanks to Doc Quatermass for the tip.

Happy Birthday, Arlene Dahl!

Arlene Dahl - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Arlene Dahl (born August 11, 1925)[1] is an American movie actress who achieved notability during the 1950s. She is the mother of actor Lorenzo Lamas."

Yet Another List I'm Not On

It's here.

I"m Not Quite Sure What to Make of This

Time Warp Wives: Meet the women who really do live in the past | Mail Online: "The credit crunch, a knife crime epidemic - no wonder so many of us are sick of the 21st century. Most of us just grumble, but some women have taken radical action to escape what they see as the soulless grind of modern life. Meet the 'Time Warp Wives', who believe that life, especially marriage, was far more straightforward in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties."

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Showbuzz | | Entertainment: "PARIS Hilton has revealed she is creating a new superhero based on herself.

The hotel heiress has been working with Stan Lee, who co-created the Spider-Man comic books, to invent a character for a new MTV cartoon. While Paris refused to divulge any details of the new collaboration, she did reveal her favourite superhero power. She said: 'I'd love to be invisible – that would be fun!'"

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Breaking Cover -- J. D. Rhoades

Taking a break (no pun intended) from his Jack Keller series, J. D. Rhoades has a bunch of new characters in his latest thriller. Undercover FBI agent Tony Wolf has been hiding out for the last four years from a criminal gang, one of whom wants to cripple him. The others just want to kill him. Wolf hasn't even been able to tell his wife, who's also an agent, that he's alive because there's a traitor in the ranks.

Now, because he's a good samaritan, Wolf has been exposed, and everybody's after him. Explosions, gun battles, and Blood Eagles ensue. It's all fast and furious, and you might not even notice the risk that Rhoades has taken with the structure of the book because he pulls it off so well. I think this was supposed to be a standalone, but I, for one, wouldn't be surprised if we saw Tony Wolf again. Check it out.


Duane Swierczynski Update

Blogger Scott Parker has a report on Duane Swierczynski's appearance at Murder by the Book.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Size Matters

The Classic Rock Magazine Is Switching to a Smaller, Rack-Friendly Size - "Some packages like the curvaceous old Coke bottle become so iconic that they are recognizable at 30 paces. So it is with Rolling Stone, whose large format has stood out on magazine racks for more than three decades. It won’t for much longer, however. With the Oct. 30 issue, which will go on sale Oct. 17, Rolling Stone, published by Wenner Media, will adopt the standard size used by all but a few magazines.

In an interview in his office, Jann Wenner, founder, publisher, editor and general guiding force behind the nation’s biggest music magazine, was characteristically brash about the change. Leaning back in his chair, one leg slung over the side of it, he said, “All you’re getting from that large size is nostalgia.”

But as he knows well, nostalgia is a powerful marketing force, as is a package that instantly evokes not only the product, but an era. It is tempting to apply that logic to a 41-year-old magazine that seems to put as many pensioners as teenagers on its cover, but Rolling Stone’s readership, bigger than it has ever been, has a surprisingly young median age, in the early 30s, according to market research firms."

Isaac Hayes, R. I. P.

Soul legend Isaac Hayes dies - "(CNN) -- Soul singer and arranger Isaac Hayes, who won Grammy awards and an Oscar for the theme from the 1971 action film 'Shaft,' has died, sheriff's officials in Memphis, Tennessee, reported Sunday.

Relatives found Hayes, 65, unconscious in his home next to a still-running treadmill, said Steve Shular, a spokesman for the Shelby County Sheriff's Department."

The Hugo Awards

From the official website:
  • Best Novel: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins; Fourth Estate)
  • Best Novella: “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s Dec. 2007; Subterranean Press)
  • Best Novelette: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean Press; F&SF Sept. 2007)
  • Best Short Story: “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s June 2007)
  • Best Related Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher (Oxford University Press)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman Illustrated by Charles Vess Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Paramount Pictures)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who “Blink” Written by Steven Moffat Directed by Hettie Macdonald (BBC)
  • Best Editor, Long Form: David G. Hartwell
  • Best Editor, Short Form: Gordon Van Gelder
  • Best Professional Artist: Stephan Martiniere
  • Best Semiprozine: Locus
  • Best Fanzine: File 770
  • Best Fan Writer: John Scalzi
  • Best Fan Artist: Brad Foster

Once Again, Texas Led the Way

Forgotten PC history: The true origins of the personal computer: "August 8, 2008 (Computerworld) This year marks an almost forgotten 40th anniversary: the conception of the device that ultimately became the PC. And no, it did not happen in California.

For decades, histories have traced the PC's x86 lineage back to 1972, with Intel Corp.'s introduction of the 8008 chip, the 8-bit follow-on to the 4-bit 4004, itself introduced in 1971 and remembered as the world's first microprocessor.

But the full story was not that simple. For one thing, the x86's lineage can be traced back four additional years, to 1968, and it was born at a now-defunct firm in San Antonio."

Hat tip to Dwight Silverman's TechBlog.

50 of the Best Websites for Writers

50 of the Best Websites for Writers | "There are tons of reference sites on the web that can help you land a job or write that poem, essay or story. Here is a list of the best 50 websites for writers."

Hat tip to Rick Klaw.

I for One Welcome Our New Invisible Overlords

Science close to unveiling invisible man - Times Online: "NVISIBILITY devices, long the realm of science fiction and fantasy, have moved closer after scientists engineered a material that can bend visible light around objects.

The breakthrough could lead to systems for rendering anything from people to large objects, such as tanks and ships, invisible to the eye – although this is still years off.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, whose work is funded by the American military, have engineered materials that can control light’s direction of travel. The world’s two leading scientific journals, Science and Nature, are expected to report the results this week."

Duane Swierczynski at Murder by the Book, 8/09/08

Gator Update (Touchy-Feely Edition) | Entertainment | Watch an alligator hatch - in your hand — Baton Rouge, LA: "Alligators are plentiful in south Louisiana, but unless you live in the wetlands, they’re not exactly walking around the backyard. If you want to get close up to a gator, visit the Insta-Gator Ranch in Covington.

“First of all this is not just a place to come and see alligators,” said John V. Price, owner. “We are a place where you learn about gators. You can see, touch, feed and hold them,” he said.

During August, Insta-Gator, a farm that raises alligators for commercial use, offers visitors a chance to step into the hatchery. An egg is placed into your hand, and you can watch and feel the tiny gator emerge into the world."

Hercules in the Haunted World