Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 24, 2017

(From the archives)
Not exactly a forgotten book since C.J. Box's BLUE HEAVEN won the Edgar in 2009. But I have been meaning to read it and since I did, here is my review. This is a masterful book that manages to tell a fairly complex story in a completely lucid way. There is no fat in the story. It takes place over 48 hours and you can feel those hours ticking by at breakneck speed.
Two kids in northern Idaho watch the murder of a man, see that they've been spotted and are immediately on the run. They are lucky enough to find themselves in the barn of Jess Rawlins, a rancher who is one of the few good men left in his neck of the woods. He is also a hardluck guy who has lost almost everything. But Jess must hide the kids, figure out if their story is true, and determine just who the murderers are and why. Can he trust that what they think they saw really happened. And is it fair to keep the kids away from their worrying mother.
Blue Heaven is a term for the part of northern Idaho that is now a haven for ex-policeman. And some of those ex-policemen have taken over Jess's town for their own purposes. The is an exciting read and a nice introduction to this part of the country. Not a false step in the story and Box creates great villains and great heroes. Not an easy thing to do.

Mark Baker, LA REQUIEM, Robert Crais
Yvette Banek, HEIR TO MURDER, Miles Burton
Joe Barone, A CAST OF VULTURES, Judith Flanders
Brian Busby, PILLAR OF FIRE Gordan Green
Bill Crider, HOMICIDE TRINITY, Rex Stout
Martin Edwards, JOE JENKINS, DETECTIVE, Paul Rosenhayn
Richard Horton,  Flower of Doradil, by John Rackham/A Promising Planet, by Jeremy Strike
Nick Jones, THE FOREVER WAR, Joe Haldeman
George Kelley, ONCE A PULP MAN, Audrey Parente
Margot Kinberg, WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN A CASTLE, Shirley Jackson
B.V. Lawson, DEATH OF A BUSYBODY, Dell Shannon
Evan Lewis, NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH, James Hadley Chase
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, ALL SHALL BE WELL, Deborah Crombie
Todd Mason, THE BANTAM STORY, Clarence Peterson
Matt Paust, A VIEW OF THE CHARLES, Con Chapman
James Reasoner, KI-GOR AND THE FORBIDDEN MOUNTAIN, John Peter Drummond
Richard Robinson, IMPOSSIBLE STORIES, Zoran Zivkovic
Gerard Saylor, SNITCH JACKET, Chris Goffard
Kerrie Smith, LUSTRUM, Robert Harris
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, MR. MONK IN TROUBLE, Lee Goldberg
TracyK, DANCERS IN MOURNING, Margery Allingham

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Books Set in Hotels

A lot of Christie's make great use of hotels but so does mainstream fiction. I  am thinking of MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMOUNT (Elizabeth Taylor) and HOTEL DU LAC by Anita Brookner.
Any more?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Favorite Movies of 2007

  (Excuse wonky spacing). Can't seem to fix it.

Painted Veil                                                                                                                  Volver                                                                                                                                        Zodiac

Lives of Others
First Snow
51 Birch Street
Away From Her
3:10 to Yuma
Gone Baby Gone
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Starting Out in the Evening
Sweeney Todd

TODAY: I don't remember FIRST SNOW but I am going to look it up. The rest I still would vote for. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Things That Make Me Happy

We have been enjoying Escape to the Country on Netflix. If you like to look at the English countryside and watch couples explore houses, this is a great series. The houses are so much more interesting than the ones on similar U.S. shows. You don't hear repeated use of the words "open concept" and no one is big on stainless steel or cookie cutter kitchens. Although these are pretty pricey houses on the whole. Don't get me wrong. We are not looking at semi-detached houses in Manchester.

Been reading RUNAWAY by Alice Munro, which I read before but after seeing the Almodovar film Julieta I wanted to see how they used three stories for the narrative. Always amazed how she can tell a novel's worth of a story in a few thousand words.

Kevin and two of his friends were here on Thursday. So interesting to see how instead of playing a game they take it apart and film the game playing itself, adding dialogue and movement. Or instead of playing football they film each other catching the ball and them make it go backwards or in slow motion. They used two ipads and two iphones hooked together to get the effects . Pretty amazing but they don't know where India is on a map. Theirs is going to be a different world if there's a world left for them.

So kind of the Oakland Press is going an interview with me. The two Detroit papers have been singularly uninterested in doing this sort of story for years and in fact, have never responded to an email from Polis Books or me. Or even done a feature on Megan. But this smaller paper responded right away when the MWA contacted them about the Edgar nomination.

The movie A SENSE OF AN ENDING. It wasn't quite  as good as the very difficult book. But what I loved about it was seeing older people treated seriously, Older people who were not ill. And I loved seeing the faces of Jim Broadbent, Harriet Walters, Charlotte Rampling and several others still carrying a movie. Rampling is as mysterious as ever. Did she ever play an unambiguous person?

The fabulous soundtracks on so many TV shows now. Have really enjoyed the music on BIG LITTLE LIES lately. (Also ATLANTA, THE LEFTOVERS, THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE)

That I have a friend like Mary who went to Ulta with me to pick out makeup. Sounds like a small thing but I have never really learned much about it, coming from the hippie tradition. She's been my closest friend for 25 years and I love her. (As does Phil).

I know the things that make me happy tend to be books, movies, plays, music rather than personal relationship-related things. But you can just assume that my family always makes me  happy.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Night Music

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 17, 2017

(from the archives)

LONESOME ROAD (reviewed by Al Tucher)

By George Harsh.

Since 1986 I have worked as a cataloger at the Newark Public Library, which has existed since 1883. The library has some very deep collections, and exploring them is both my job and a perk of my job. A recent project in the biography section brought me into contact with Lonesome Road, a 1971 memoir by George Harsh.

In 1928 Harsh was a rich, arrogant, idle young college student in Georgia. He and other rich, arrogant, idle young men spent much of their time discussing their superiority over the masses and the uses to which they should put that superiority. This was only four years after the Leopold and Loeb case, but it seems part of the “superman” pathology to dismiss possible lessons from anyone else’s experience. The young men in Harsh’s circle decided that they were able and therefore obligated to commit the perfect crime.

For the thrill of it they began a string of armed robberies. When a store clerk resisted, Harsh was the one holding the gun and the one who fired the lethal shot.

The police easily caught the young supermen, and Harsh was sentenced to death. His codefendants received life sentences, and the prosecutor, troubled by the disparity, succeeded in having Harsh’s sentence commuted to life. Writing years later, Harsh is unsparing toward his young self. He deserved to hang, he says, but he received more mercy than he had shown with the gun in his hand.

He spent the next several years on a Georgia chain gang that was brutal even by the standards of the time and place. Eventually, he became a trusty with a job as an orderly in a prison hospital.

Here we encounter the first of several plot twists that only reality can get away with writing. When an inmate needed an emergency appendectomy, a freak ice storm kept the staff physicians from reaching the hospital. Harsh, who had assisted at several such operations, performed the surgery and saved the man’s life. The governor of Georgia pardoned him.

The year was 1940. George Harsh felt undeserving of peace and security while so much of the world was at war. He traveled north and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Harsh flew numerous bombing missions over Germany. His luck ran out in 1942, when he was shot down. His captors sent him to Stalag Luft III.

Fiction writers, try getting away with that one. In the 1963 film The Great Escape, the character called Intelligence, played by Gordon Jackson, is based on Harsh. He was not one of the 80-plus POWs who made it through the tunnel before it was discovered, which was just as well. Only a handful made it to safety. The rest were recaptured, and the Gestapo summarily executed more than fifty of them.

Harsh survived a brutal forced march westward, away from the advancing Red Army. His narrative ends there.

His story does not. In 1945 he was in his mid-thirties and had spent mere days as a grown man neither incarcerated nor at war. In another twist that in its own way might be the strangest of all, he worked for a while as a publisher’s traveling sales representative. The experiment in freedom was not a success. The memory of his crime tormented him, and he attempted suicide. Later he suffered a stroke, and in 1980 he died.

No collaborator in the writing of this book is named. If it is Harsh’s work, it counts as a remarkable achievement. He knows when and how to make his writing as terse and urgent as Morse code in the night, and his meditations on freedom, imprisonment, violence and war come with a hard-earned authority.

Did George Harsh atone for his crime? It’s a tough call that will vary from reader to reader. Does his book deserve a place on the shelf? In my mind, beyond all doubt.

Sergio Angelini, OUR GAME, John LeCarre
Yvette Banek, CORPSES IN ENDERBY, George Bellairs
Bill Crider, ONCE AROUND THE BLOCH, Robert Bloch
Martin Edwards, THE TEST MATCH MURDER, Denzel Batchelor
Richard Horton, THE SUPER BARBARIANS, John Brunner
Jerry House, THE MOON METAL, Garrett P. Serviss
Margot Kinberg, LA CONFIDENTIAL, James Ellroy
B.V. Lawson, A LONG FATAL LOVE CHASE, Louisa May Alcott
Evan Lewis, WAR AGAINST THE MAFIA, Don Pendleton Steve Lewis, KILLED IN  PARADISE, William I DiAndrea
Todd Mason, POPCORN AND SEXUAL POLITICS: Movie Review from Kathi Maio
Neer, THE THIRD EYE, Ethel Lina White 
Matt Paust, THE COREY FORD SPORTING TREASURY, Chuck Petrie, editor
Reactions to Reading, THE CASE OF THE LATE PIG, Margery Allingham
James Reasoner, JUST THE WAY IT IS, James Hadley Chase
Gerard Saylor, THE BODY LOVERS, Mickey Spillane
Kevin Tipple, IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE, Jeffrey Cohen
TracyK, DEALBREAKER, Harlen Coben
Westlake Review, BAD NEWS, Part 2