Saturday, March 07, 2009

Latest Acquisition

Today I was browsing the Clearance shelves at Half-Price Books, and I saw the two enormous volumes of Leslie Klinger's Annotated Sherlock Holmes. I've owned the William Baring-Gould edition for many years, and I certainly didn't need another edition. Also, there's simply no room for those hefty books on my shelves. But I couldn't resist sneaking a peek at the price tag. $3.00 each. Wow. That's like giving them away. A friend was with me. I tried to convince him to buy them. No dice. I walked away. I walked back. I hefted the books again. Very heavy, very big. No room. $3.00. Why go on? You know what happened. I sure hope I can find a spot for them somewhere.

Mike Ripley's Latest Shots Mag Column Now On-Line

Shots Ezine: Getting Away With Murder, The Mike Ripley Column - Get The Latest Trade News and Gossip from the Crime, Mystery and Thriller genres


Salacious content driving the adoption of ebooks? | ITworld: "Barnes & Noble abandoned ebooks once, so why are they coming back to them now? Because the format is starting to take off. Why is that? What's popular on Fictionwise? Well, once again it seems like porn is blazing a path to a new media format. Of the top 10 bestsellers under the 'Multiformat' category, nine are tagged 'erotica' amd the last is 'dark fantasy'."

D. B. Cooper Update. Yes, Another One.

Sleuths seek D.B. Cooper clues - "VANCOUVER, Wash., March 6 (UPI) -- A team of amateur sleuths say they are scouring Oregon and Washington state for clues to the fate of a 1971 airline hijacker who jumped from a plane.

Retired businessman and amateur scientist Tom Kaye said his team of amateur investigators have conducted experiments with money in the Columbia River to try to reconstruct the path taken by some of the cash taken by the hijacker, who called himself D.B. Cooper, The Oregonian reported Friday.

'The money is the only path to what happened to him after he left the plane,' he said.

Cooper hijacked a 1971 Northwest Airlines flight from Portland to Seattle. He released the plane's passengers in Seattle, demanded $200,000 and ordered the plane to fly to Mexico City. The hijacker jumped out with the money and two parachutes somewhere over southwest Washington."

First, I Need a Yacht

Winged luxury submarines 'fly' underwater - "What better toy to have on the end of your 200-foot yacht than a submarine capable of diving to 1,500 feet below the sea's surface?

Whoops. Did we say submarine? It's a submersible that can 'fly' underwater."

Video at the link.

Actors Who Served in WWII

Some of these names might surprise you.

Link via Pop Culture Junk Mail.

Singing in the Saddle -- Douglas B. Green

Douglas B. Green (aka Ranger Doug, aka The Idol of American Youth) of Riders in the Sky has written the definitive book on singing cowboys. I loved it. There's great information on every page about singing cowboys, singing groups that appeared in cowboy movies, and much more. In fact, there's more in this book about the Durango Kid movies that I've ever seen before. From the obscure to the famous, Green covers them all.

For example, did you know that Bob Steele sang in several cowboy movies three years before John Wayne appeared as Singin' Sandy? And did you know that Steele's twin brother dubbed Wayne's singing in that movie? (Others may tell you differently, but I trust Green.)

The Sons of the Pioneers are covered in depth, and Green devotes seven pages to a timeline with the group's different configurations.

Tex Ritter, Monte Hale, Rex Allen, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Dick Foran, Bob Baker, Vaughn Monroe (yes, Vaughn Monroe), Whip Wilson (you didn't know Whip was a singing cowboy?), and on and on. If you, like me, spent many of your Saturday afternoons in a crowded theater listening to singing cowboys, you can't go wrong with this book. And did I mention the great illustrations? Check it out.

Will Texas Lead the Way?

LEGISLATURE '09 EDUCATION | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | News: Education: "AUSTIN – Advocates for more technology in the classroom – and fewer textbooks – are stepping up their arguments for change this year, trying to convince Texas lawmakers that the future of electronic textbooks is now.

The technology push is getting a boost from a special House committee that warned about the consequences if Texas is stuck in the past when it comes to classroom materials. Among the reasons: the higher cost of printed books, the expense of transporting and storing them, and the fact that they can be outdated before students get them."

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

"Marmaduke" heading to the big screen: "LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – 20th Century Fox must disagree with W.C. Fields' admonition never to work with animals. It's a veritable zoo at the Hollywood studio.

In its latest animal-central project, Fox has signed director Tom Dey to develop a big-screen adaptation of 'Marmaduke.'"

Even Cats Love My Short Stories!

Hat tip to Lauren Bettinger and the lol cats.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

Friday, March 06, 2009

15 Incredible Library Special Collections

And look who heads the list! Way to go, George!

15 Incredible Library Special Collections | Online Courses: "Large libraries, be they university or city, aren’t just good for research and circulation. They also often have amazing special collections centered around singular, often esoteric, topics. These collections are often donated via will by individuals who collected the items over a lifetime of obsession. Many library patrons may not realize it, but often these special collections are surprisingly accessible. The items usually don’t circulate, but libraries often put on exhibits or provide special reading rooms for people who want to take in the collection. There are many, many special collections around the world worthy of discussion, but here are 15 that we found particularly interesting."

Link via Neatorama.

Croc Update (From the Penthouse to the Outhouse Edition)

Bloomington man escapes crocodile that bit his head | WSBT South Bend - Your Local News Leader | Local News: "It was near dusk at the end of a lazy day in Guatemala and Chris Waggoner was taking a relaxing swim in the national park lake where the locals gather.

“I was doing the backstroke, looking up at the trees and the birds. I remember seeing white egrets and hearing the howler monkeys in the trees,” Waggoner recalled. “I remember thinking, this is paradise. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

That was, literally, an instant before a crocodile’s powerful jaws clamped down on his head and pulled him forcefully under water."

There's a link to photos of Waggoner's surgery. Parental discretion advised.

Gator Update (They're Everywhere Edition)

Alligator Sanctuary: "David Critchlow, owner, first envisioned a reptile park in the mid 80's, beginning with a small habitat for small cold-blooded animals indigenous toMichigan as entertainment for his two growing children."

Hat tip to Mike Galbreath.


A handy little guide to small talk in the Stone Age - Times Online: "A “time traveller’s phrasebook” that could allow basic communication between modern English speakers and Stone Age cavemen is being compiled by scientists studying the evolution of language.

Research has identified a handful of modern words that have changed so little in tens of thousands of years that ancient hunter-gatherers would probably have been able to understand them.

Anybody who was catapulted back in time to Ice Age Europe would stand a good chance of being intelligible to the locals by using words such as “I”, “who” and “thou” and the numbers “two”, “three” and “five”, the work suggests."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo, TX: - Alligators in Spearman are Living Large!: "The Texas Alligator Ranch, an established highlight in Spearman is expanding to add a small bed and breakfast.

The ranch is home to 18 foot alligators and you are welcome anytime. 'Well we don't have to many hotels in town when we have a celebration or when people come in for a funeral, not to many places to stay,' said Dean Coates, Owner."

10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants

And, yes, McDonald's is on the list.

Forgotten Books: NOTHING BURNS IN HELL -- Philip José Farmer

Philip José Farmer, who passed away recently, is widely known as the author of any number of innovative and ground-breaking SF novels and stories. No need for me to list them here. What's not so well known is that he also wrote a private-eye novel, and this is it. Since it's by Farmer, maybe I don't need to tell you what it's crude, rude, lewd, funny, violent, and decidedly odd.

To begin with, it's set in Farmer's native Peoria. Is there another p.i. novel set there? If there is, I've never read it. Tom Corbie is the detective's name. His wife is Glinna, and she's a wiccan. They live in an apartment where they're plagued by noisy redneck neighbors. One of the extended subplots deals with Corbie's war with these neighbors, but the first case that Corbie's called to deal with has to do with extortion, and that leads to his capture by the lowest of the backwoods low. Later, he's hired to work for one of the wealthiest families in Peoria. And -- you guessed it -- the cases turn out to be related. But it's how they're related that'll get you. Nothing Burns in Hell is one of the most labrynthine tales I've read in many a year. Raymond Chandler's plot in The Big Sleep is simple compared to this one.

Along the way, Farmer gives you details of Peoria's history, talks about native American myths, tosses in seemingly unrelated stories that turn out to be important to the plot, and generally has a great time. I think I can safely say you'll never read another p.i. novel like this one, should you be brave enough to give it a try.

Manhunt of Mystery Island

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Make My Day

CLINT EASTWOOD - MAGNUM FORCE THE MUSICAL?: "CLINT EASTWOOD's classic action film MAGNUM FORCE is set to be given an unlikely musical makeover. The Dirty Harry sequel, released in 1973, featured Eastwood as maverick cop Harry Callahan, and now cult singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock is planning to produce an off-Broadway musical based on the film."

Hat tip to Steve Stilwell.

Having Now Seen WATCHMEN Twice, Roger Ebert Blogs

Roger Ebert's Journal: Roger Ebert: February 2009 Archives: "Inside many superhero stories is a Greek tragedy in hiding. There is the godlike hero, and he is flawed. In early days his weaknesses were simplistic, like Superman's vulnerability to Kryptonite. Then Spider-Man was created as an insecure teenager, and comic books began to peer deeper. Now comes the 'Watchmen,' with their origins as 1940s goofballs, their development into modern costumed vigilantes, and the laws against them as public nuisances. They are human. Although they have extraordinary physical powers, they aren't superheroes in the usual sense. Then everything changes for Jon Osterman, remade after a nuclear accident as Dr. Manhattan. He isn't as human as Batman, but that can be excused because he isn't human at all."

And You Thought Asking an Officer to say "Please" was Bad

Motorist stopped by police for laughing - Telegraph: "Gary Saunders, a company director, was using a hands-free phone when he burst out laughing at a joke told by his brother-in-law, who he was talking to.

A few moments later he noticed a traffic officer flashing his lights at him and gesticulating at him to stop his Renault.

When Mr Saunders got out of his car, the policeman told him: 'Laughing while driving a car can be an offence.'"

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Mayor responds to "Dane" in distress | dane, distress, mayor - Top Story - Brownsville Herald: "Brownsville Mayor Pat M. Ahumada Jr. called the police, fire department and animal control officers to assist in what apparently turned out to be a dog simply sunbathing on a balcony.
[. . . .]
Ahumada said he didn't think the occupants of the apartment were home. So, to save the pooch, Ahumada mobilized emergency response services to assist him with the rescue effort. Two patrol cars, one fire engine and one animal control vehicle responded to the scene."

t tip to Jeff Meyerson.


Tulsa World: Parts of noir classic to be shot in Tulsa: "A major motion picture starring Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba will begin filming on March 23 in Oklahoma City, Guthrie, Tulsa, Cordell and surrounding areas, a local casting director announced Wednesday.

'The Killer Inside Me' is a crime thriller based on a 1952 pulp novel by Oklahoma-born author Jim Thompson. The film will be directed by Michael Winterbottom, an award-winning British filmmaker best known for helming 'A Mighty Heart' and 'Jude.'"

Via Sarah Weinman from Twitter.

Jesse James Rides Again

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Horton Foote, R. I. P.

Horton Foote Has Died - ArtsBeat Blog - "Horton Foote, who chronicled America’s wistful odyssey through the 20th century in plays and films mostly set in a small town in Texas and left a literary legacy as one of the country’s foremost storytellers, died in Hartford, Conn., on Wednesday. He was 92, said his daughter, Hallie Foote.

In screenplays for such movies as “Tender Mercies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Trip to Bountiful,” and in plays like “The Young Man From Atlanta” and his nine-play cycle “The Orphans’ Home,” Mr. Foote depicted the way ordinary people shoulder the ordinary burdens of life, finding drama in the resilience by which they carry on in the face of change, economic hardship, disappointment, loss and death. His work earned him a Pulitzer Prize and two Academy Awards."

The pride of Wharton, Texas, and a great writer. I'm very sorry to hear the news.

I'm in Mystery Scene!

� Blog Archive � Bill Crider is Short & Sweet: "If it wasn’t for the mystery genre, the short story would continue to get, well, the short shrift.

Mystery readers at least have a couple of magazines devoted just to the art of the short story, other publications that include a story or two in each issue as well as the several anthologies published each year. There’s also several online publications that include short stories."

Is it Just Me, or Does this Paper Smell a Little Odd to You?

Wombat poo paper launched - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation): "A north-west Tasmanian company is launching a product made from wombat poo.

Creative Paper attracted worldwide interest for its 'roo-poo' paper in 2005.

Darren Simpson from Creative Paper says the paper is green or gold depending on the time of year the droppings are harvested."

Yes, It Is

'Say please' at U. S. border nets pepper spray: "A Canadian who demanded courtesy from a U.S. border security guard says he was pepper sprayed and held in custody for three hours for asking the disrespectful officer to 'say please' when ordering him to turn his car off during a search.

'I refused to turn off the car until he said please. He didn't. And he has the gun, I guess, so he sprayed me,' said Desiderio Fortunato, a Coquitlam, B.C., resident who frequently crosses the border to visit his second home in the state of Washington. 'Is that illegal in the United States, asking an officer to be polite?'"

Sounds Like a Must-Read Book to Me

Times writer Jeff Klinkenberg to share gator tales at Weedon Island Preserve - St. Petersburg Times: "He will talk about the exciting encounters between Homo sapiens — that's us — and Alligator mississippiensis — that's them — from the 15th century to the present. 'We've worshiped them, feared them, hunted them, eaten them and been devoured by them,'' he says. 'But I guess both species are here to stay.'' After the talk, Klinkenberg will sell and sign his latest collection of essays about Florida culture, Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators."

Thought for the Day

SeeqPod - Playable Search

I'm Blushing

Bruce Grossman over at Bookgasm takes a look at one of my books, Evil at the Root, and he seems to have liked it. I'd tell you what he has to say, but I'm too modest. So take a look for yourself. You'll have to scroll down, or you can read his take on Ed McBain's Fuzz first. Thanks, Bruce.

Jungle Queen

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I Have Seen the Future. . .

. . . and it's a one-room library with nothing but Kindles. The lone librarian sits behind a desk. You get into the single line. When you get to the desk, the librarian asks for the first letter of the last name of the author you want to read. You answer. The librarian hands you the correct Kindle and scans the barcode tattooed on your wrist. You leave. Life is sweet.

Stop the Madness Time

Since we're going to be subjected to Daylight Saving Time soon, it's time for my perennial question: Why? What's the benefit? I once heard that it saved energy, but I can't locate a single study that proves it. I've heard that it reduces traffic accidents in the evening. So what about in the morning?

When you get right down to it, is there any reason at all to have DST? I'd love to have someone give me one that's logical and proves it's necessary or a good thing. As it is, I think we're just sheeping along, allowing the government to mess with our circadian rhythms with out protest.

The only person I know who resisted was my grandmother, God rest her soul, who refused to change her clocks. She let the world go on DST, and she stayed on Central Standard Time.

A couple of states opt out (Hawaii, Arizona). I wish Texas would.

Phil Collins Remembers the Alamo

San Antonio: Singer Phil Collins said his life now revolves around the Alamo.

Collins is in town, set to appear at local events commemorating the anniversary of the siege and battle of the Alamo. Though he's mulling the idea of recording a tribute cover album of 1960s songs, he said he's making the Alamo “my main thing” as a collector, history buff and possible author.

“Basically, now I've stopped being Phil Collins the singer. This has become what I do,” he said Monday, standing beside a 13-foot-by-15-foot model of the 1836 Alamo compound that will open to the public this week.

Collins, who is British, said he has “hundreds” of cannonballs, documents and other artifacts from the Alamo, possibly the largest private collection anywhere, in the basement of his home in Switzerland. He said he's collaborating with artist Gary Zaboly on a book about his collection.

His most prized item is a receipt signed by Alamo commander William Barret Travis for 32 head of cattle used to feed the Alamo defenders.

Just Another Day in Paradise -- A. E. Maxwell

Fiddler and Fiora are back, and Busted Flush's got 'em.

In 1985, the writing team of Ann and Evan Maxwell began a series about a private-eye named Fiddler and his ex-wife, Fiora. Eventually the series totaled nine books, the first of which was
Just Another Day in Paradise. The series was a big hit with both readers and reviewers, but it's been out of print for years. Now, David Thompson at Busted Flush Press is bringing back some of the books, which is going to make a lot of readers happy.

Fiddler has a murky past, having partnered with his drug-smuggling uncle Jake, and he has plenty of money. He's not looking for work. He just fiddles around, and he would even play a real fiddle if he could stand it. Because the sounds he hears with his ears don't match the perfection he hears in his head, though, he doesn't play. Instead he helps people out, Fiora in this case. While they might not get along in some way, they still love each other, and when Fiora asks Fiddler to help her twin brother out of a mess, he agrees, not that he wants to.

Fiddler soon finds out that the mess is much worse than it first appeared, and it involves the KGB, the FBI, U. S. Customs, and even a bunch of tough Vietnamese. The plot is of the Silicon Valley variety. The McGuffin is a high-tech machine that the Russians need and that no one wants them to have. But the Russians, in the form of Volker, Fiora's lover and a memorable villain, wind up with Fiora. Volker will kill her if he doesn't get the machine.

Fiddler is tough, resourceful, and competent. Fiora is beautiful and smart. Maxwell keeps turning up the tension, and the book doesn't pause for breath. If you're not acquainted with the series, this is a great time to change that. If you remember it fondly, now you can read it again in a good-looking trade paperback edition. Check it out.

It's Square Root Day -- Let Joy Be Unconfined!

3/3/09: Math fans to celebrate Square Root Day: "Dust off the slide rules and recharge the calculators. Square Root Day is upon us.

The math-buffs' holiday, which only occurs nine times each century, falls on Tuesday — 3/3/09 (for the mathematically challenged, three is the square root of nine).

'These days are like calendar comets, you wait and wait and wait for them, then they brighten up your day — and poof — they're gone,' said Ron Gordon, a Redwood City teacher who started a contest meant to get people excited about the event.

The winner gets, of course, $339 for having the biggest Square Root Day event.

Gordon's daughter even set up a Facebook page — one of a half-dozen or so dedicated to the holiday — and hundreds of people had signed up with plans to celebrate in some way. Celebrations are as varied: Some cut root vegetables into squares, others make food in the shape of a square root symbol."

Perils of Nyoka

Monday, March 02, 2009

Louisiana Leads the Way

Louisiana's incarceration rate is No. 1 in nation - Breaking News from New Orleans - Times-Picayune - "BATON ROUGE -- One out of every 55 Louisiana residents is behind bars, a higher incarceration rate than any other state, according to research released today by a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group.

One in 26 Louisiana adults is under correctional control, if probation and parole are included, the group found."

It's Texas Independence Day!

Texas Independence Day - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Texas Independence Day is the celebration of the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. The Texas Declaration of Independence was created by the Convention of 1836, which took place at Washington-on-the-Brazos.[1] Texas Independence Day is an official holiday in the State of Texas.[2]"

The Greatest Animated Films?

Cartoons in the cinema - the greatest animated films - Telegraph: "It’s 70 years since that mischievous scamp Pinocchio, one of Disney’s best-loved characters, first enchanted cinema audiences, and to mark the anniversary the film has been digitally restored for a new DVD release on March 9. But which are the greatest big-screen cartoon creations? Here are the contenders..."

On the Grind -- Stephen J. Cannell

I've enjoyed any number of Stephen J. Cannell's TV series (particularly and Tenspeed and Brownshoe and The Rockford Files), but until now I'd never read one of Cannell's novels. I have to say that On the Grind hits the ground running and never lets up.

Shane Scully is apparently booted out of the LAPD for so many serious indiscretions that it's hard to count them all. The next thing you know, he's hired to work for the department in Haven Park, a small incorporated city within Los Angeles. It's the dirtiest department you'll ever read about with the crookedest cops you can imagine. Scully seems to take to the graft like a natural.

Cannell tells his story in stripped-down prose that carries things along at warp speed. There's not a lot of time for reflection and angst; just pure storytelling. Check it out when you're in the mood for something fast, furious, and fun.

It's Wild West Monday!

Go to a bookstore or a library and ask about their western section. Or buy a western.

Jesse Stone: Thin Ice

Judy and I watched this last night and enjoyed it.  We had only one major complaint, if you don't count the seemingly interminable commercial breaks.  We both found the explanaiton of one plot element hard to believe.  Really hard.  Other than that, the cast was excellent, and the story was true to the spirit of Parker's books.  The writers have his dialog down pretty well, and the annoying relationship of Stone and his ex-wife was kept to a minimum.  

The woman from Internal Affairs was named Sidney Greenstreet.  A little to cutesy if you ask me, which nobody ever does.  The ending screamed sequel, and I hope we don't have to wait two more years for one.

13 Ghosts

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Barbara Franchi, R. I. P.

I just read on Janet Rudolph's blog about the death of Barbara Franchi. This is quite a loss for the mystery community. She started the Reviewing the Evidence website and attended a number of mystery conventions. I met her a couple of times and would occasionally her from her about one of my books. She'll be missed.

And Keep off our Damn Lawns, Too!

Feeling jobbed - The Boston Globe: "Whitley and Palliola represent what a new study identifies as a worrisome trend. As older Americans, by necessity or choice, work beyond traditional retirement ages, young men and women are increasingly shut out from the job market, according to the study by researchers at Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies."

Maybe It's Time for me to go Back to School

The 15 Strangest College Courses In America | Online Colleges: "College is viewed by many people these days as a diploma factory. You show up go to certain classes in a certain order, and eventually receive a diploma. There’s not a lot of love for learning for learning’s sake anymore. But that hasn’t stopped many colleges from offering plenty of quirky unique classes that go over non standard educational topics. A lot of the odd courses we found sound like lots of fun, but with tuition costs skyrocketing is it really worth it to spend thousands of dollars on fun diversions? Read on and decide."

Take a Walk in the Garden

Do these mysterious stones mark the site of the Garden of Eden? | Mail Online: "They certainly were important. The solitary Kurdish man, on that summer's day in 1994, had made the greatest archaeological discovery in 50 years. Others would say he'd made the greatest archaeological discovery ever: a site that has revolutionised the way we look at human history, the origin of religion - and perhaps even the truth behind the Garden of Eden."

Starship Troopers