31 July 2007


David Goodis' The Wounded and the Slain is a Hard Case Crime reprint (#31, May '07) of a 1955 novel. (See an excerpt here.) TPP readers know of my fondness for Hard Case. I own them all, and expect to own all future ones. My only complaint is sometimes the print quality is bad--faded and uneven. It gives the books a cheap, knocked-off feel. The covers are gorgeous, and I'm planning to add a special shelf in my library to display them, so that makes up for it. Almost. The best part is the quality of the works--smart, hard-hitting stuff. The recent Goodis is packed with existential anguish and repressed desires, and the exotic locale (Jamaica) gives our protagonist license to debauch himself. Naturally, he spills blood, and complications ensue. The surprise is the resolution. Expecting a re-telling of Camus' The Stranger, I got something else entirely, and it worked. Despite some dated material, The Wounded and the Slain has a sympathetic pair of leads, and their crisis is the meat of the book. I was also surprised by Richard Stark's Nobody Runs Forever, the most recent book in the new Parker series that began with Comeback in 1997. (Stark has abandoned the title word play: Backflash, Flashfire, Firebreak, Breakout were the follw-ups.) Ask the Parrot is the next one, due out in November. Donald E. Westlake needs no introduction, as TPP has already lauded him as a master, and we will buy and devour Ask the Parrot. However, I found Nobody Runs Forever to be a bit dull, except for the last part, and burdened by a Dortmunder-like undercurrent of humor. Now, Mr. Westlake is a very funny man, one of the best at comic novels. And that is why we read him and bumble alongside guys like Dortmunder. But this is a Stark novel. Parker, fer chrissakes. And we expect Parker to be hard-boiled, and all business. I wonder if the series is going to end. The surprise ending of Nobody Runs Forever gives that idea some credence. This one had a slow start and an uneven tone, but the climax was handled deftly. No surprise there. Maybe I'm just being fussy, and the book is just as good as the last few. I suppose I'll find out when I ask the parrot.

prid. Kal. Aug.

25 July 2007


This is post number one hundred for Ten Pound Press. That's 100. The Big C. Obviously I have changd the look of TPP (Blogger makes it very easy), and I've been experimenting with new forms. The Matt Cadd stuff is parody, having fun with conventions--the modes and tropes of the genre--and playing with the mountain of cliches available. Using the tight format, the 50-word mini-saga, makes it easy. The Marcus Crapularius is much more difficult. I'm trying to find a voice and so far it is just a half-baked notion, but I expect it will start to work. I needed an angle on the whiskey writing and M. Crap. came out. I hope both will add some humor. M. Crap. can lampoon modernity with sophisiticated wit while Matt Cadd can get down and dirty with fisticuffs and femme fatales. In the meantime, I've a pile of recently read books needing reviews, and some stories to get to work on.

a.d. VIII Kal. Aug.

23 July 2007

ex scrinio MARCVS CRAPVLARIVS, scriptor de aqua vitae

Welcome to Roma Aeterna, humble home of your host, Marcus Crapularius. It seems those barbarians north of the Antonine Wall, in a cold and craggy wilderness called Caledonia, make a variety of lovely spirits. In their rough and uncultured tongue they call it "uisce beatha" or "whisky." We Romans know it as "aqua vitae." It is a terrible time to be a Roman these days, as you know, what with slavery and all forms of servitude falling out of fashion. How does a patrician get good help? Fortunately, I have a superb cup-bearer, and I aim to keep the little Ganymede away from the clutches of my grasping neighbors. That's what happens when you give the plebs the same status as the ruling classes--they want what you have! But that is a rant for another time, my friends. These Caledonians are kin of our Gallic brethren, but of a more independent nature, and known as "Gaels" or "Celts." This particular whisky is named for a bird, a sort of partridge or gamecock. TETRAO NOBILIS in our language, The Famous Grouse in theirs. (Though what is notable about a fowl I can't imagine!) It is a fine, smooth drink, I must admit, not as distinctive as some of the so-called single malts, but eminently quaffable. These tricky fellows sometimes make a "blend" of whiskies, smoothing out the rough edges by mixing different spirits to achieve a harmonious combination of flavors. Here at Roma Aeterna we usually like the unique, individualistic nature of those unadulterated single malts, but one has to be flexible and open-minded. There was a time, friends, when a Roman had no fear of losing his supply of delicacies, for he was the only one cultured enough to demand that commodity. What with "free trade" and other abominations, even the nobility have to fight for their share of rare treats. With supplies of aqua vitae subject to "market fluctuations" and other nonsense, one must be prepared to appreciate and enjoy a greater variety. Thank goodness those foreigners make such a diversity of excellent drink! Get your hands on some TETRAO NOBILIS, The Famous Grouse, and enjoy smooth sipping.

a.d. X Kal. Aug.

22 July 2007


"That's a bad habit, Sister"

She smirked, and took another drag. The naked priest lay on the bed, the Marlboros on the dresser.

"It was an accident, Matt. He had a weak heart."

"Church business, eh Sister?" Matt Cadd eyed the dingy motel room suspiciously.

"Sure," she said. "Missionary work."

Look for the mini-sagas of Matt Cadd, Private Eye, here at TPP.
"Gettin' it done in exactly 50 words, baby."

a.d. XI Kal. Aug.

19 July 2007

Barry, Barry, Barry!!!

Yes, the Avatar of Sport, the Dark Prince of Baseball, the Bionic Man Himself has confounded critics AGAIN with two blasts today. One was the longest homer to RF in Wrigley (actually hit OUT of the park completely and on to the street) by anyone this year--not bad for a a guy about to be 43. Sure, the Giants lost. It is a lost season. The only thing we Giants fans have left this year is Young Phenom Tim Lincecum and Barry "The Greatest" Bonds. Think about this: Barry was 3 for 3 with 6 RBI and a walk. His on-base percentage, despite having an 0-fer series against the Dodgers over the weekend, is STILL over .500 and STILL leads ALL of baseball. Barry makes the fewest outs, sees the fewest pitches to hit, is almost 43 years old, and STILL has 19 home runs and 48 RBI in only 223 at-bats. WOW. He has a real shot at getting 30 bombs this year. I hope he does it. Right now, he could TIE Aaron in Milwaukee and then PASS him at home on his birthday (the 24th). We'll see how it all plays out. Historical note: Barry has 71 multi-homer games in his career. Babe Ruth is #1 with 72.

a.d. XIV Kal. Aug.

18 July 2007


She said her name--Greta--but Matt Cadd wasn't listening, just looking. Blonde hair, blue eyes, legs that went forever. The stack of bills was as thick as a book and the photo of her husband was on top.

"So," he said, "what's the job?"

"I vant to be alone."

TPP has added a new feature: the adventures of private eye MATT CADD, who is stuck in the fictional universe of "mini-sagas." That means he only gets 50 words--no more, no less.

a.d. XV Kal. Aug.

16 July 2007


TPP welcomes guest contributor MARCUS CRAPULARIUS, noted whiskey expert, who will keep the "spirits" flowing with trenchant commentary on the 'water of life.'

George Dickel is the other name in Tennessee Whiskey. Bourbon is not just a drink, it is a legal definition. In order to call something bourbon, it must be made in America. It must be made from a grain bill that is at least 51% corn (maize). And it must be aged in charred oak barrels. New barrels--use them once and once only. Then send them off to Scotland. Now, Tennessee Whiskey is a variant of American whiskey with its own distinctive character (and legal definition), that of "charcoal mellowing." Turns out sugar maple charcoal is the peculiar choice of this tipple. This "run" through the charcoal takes place after distillation, that is, the "white dog" (new spirit) is filtered before racking into barrels. I must admit that there are very few whiskeys (or whiskies) I find unpalatable, and Jack Daniels is one of them. Jack Daniels is the OTHER Tennessee Whiskey. It is NOT a bourbon, though far too many bartenders substitute it for bourbon and far too many drinkers and writers refer to it as bourbon. I find it too sweet and too perfumey. But JD is the 800-pound gorilla of the spirits world, and it crowds the shelf for poor George. But George is the real deal, folks. They are a small player (even though they are in Diageo's stable) but they deserve a spot on your shelf. We savored the "Barrel Select" yesterday on the deck at Fadeaway Bluff, magnificent Mt. Shasta looming to the east, casting a reflection on the waters of Lake Shastina. Dickel is made in Cascade Hollow, near Tullahoma, in Tennessee. Being in the shadow of the Cascades myself, knocking back some George D seemed the right thing to do. It is a smooth and richly sweet drink, with lots of vanilla and butterscotch notes, but not cloying or flowery. A man's drink! But ladies like it, too. (N.B. Dickel folks use the Scottish/Canadian spelling, "whisky" rather than the American/Irish preference, "whiskey.")

We survived the Ides of July, my friends, despite the forests burning all around us. M. Crap. will return before the Kalends.
a.d. XVII Kal. Aug.

12 July 2007


Some preliminary responses to OOTG2: I sure liked "Hit Me" by Christa Faust, which I had seen previously on DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash site, and "For All I Know" by Paul A. Toth. Mr. Toth's story was a contest winner. The illustration on p. 49 that opens "For All I Know" had been posted on the OOTG website as the basis for the short fiction contest for inclusion in the upcoming issue. I entered that contest, and used the illustration for a bar fight scene in "Tweaker." Apparently, "Tweaker" was a close second and got published on its own merits. Both of these individuals are published writers and have a long list of credits. I'm really looking forward to getting my February 2008 Hard Case Crime shipment--Money Shot--by the aforementioned Ms. Faust! It is a thrill to be published alongside accomplished pros like those two. I also liked the Bo Fexler, PI story "The Pleasure Business" by Clair Dickson (another Muzzle Flasher), and "To Get to Uncle Johnny's" by Mark Marquez. I Googled (is that really a verb?) Mr. Marquez and had no luck. I tried Googling (I conjugated it, it must be a verb.) 'M.C. O'Connor' and discovered that my blog profile is the third hit. I guess I need more web presence, eh? Finally, Steve Alten's "Lost in Time" stuck with me. I was not aware of Mr. Alten before, and his publishing credentials are impressive. I'll have to check out one of his novels. TPP will be back with a follow-up to this post after I digest issue 2 a little more.
a.d. IV Id.Iul.

11 July 2007

The 78th Midsummer Matchup

My earliest distinct baseball memories are from the 1967 World Series. They still played day games then. I remember coming home from school and being disappointed to learn that the St. Louis Cardinals had beaten my Mom's team, the Boston Red Sox, in the deciding 7th game. "Lonborg didn't have it today" was Mom's explanation for the end of 'Impossible Dream' season. I remember vividly Willie McCovey's MVP season in 1969, and Dad taking us to Candlestick Park to see the Giants (featuring slugging leadoff hitter Bobby Bonds) beat the eventual World Series winners Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 1 of the 1971 NL playoffs. This was the era of National League dominance in the All-Star Game. From 1959 (my birth year) until 1987 the AL only won 5 times. The NL piled up 27 wins during that span (2 games were played from '59-'62), including streaks of 8 in a row and 11 in a row (there was one tie). Being a Giants--and hence NL--fan, I was convinced in my youthful ignorance that NL players were simply better. These days of course, the AL routinely whips the NL. After the NL's win in 1987 (a playoff year for the Giants, 1st since '71), the AL won the next six. The NL won three in a row, from 1994-1996, when the Giants were the worst team in the league. From 1997 on it has been all AL, with one tie. The shift of talent to the AL is obvious, and the "junior circuit" is clearly superior, much like the NL in the 60's and 70's. Last night's game showed the clear imbalance: the AL starting lineup had their league's leading hitter, Magglio Ordonez, batting in the 6th spot! The 3rd-string catcher, Victor Martinez, hit a home run. The winner, Boston ace Josh Beckett, won a World Series MVP with the NL Florida Marlins before jumping leagues. Ultimately the game is meaningless. It is, and should be, an exhibition, nothing more. The misguided attempt by Bud Selig to "make it count" by deciding the World Series home-field advantage is silly. Home-field should be given to the team with the best record, period. The old method of alternating was at least fair, though a bit dull. The NBA and NHL run vastly more complex playoff schedules, and manage to reward winning teams with home-field, so what is your problem, Bud? If it was up to me, each team would send 5 players, and we'd get a complete roster change every inning. The game would go 9 innings and all players would be required to get an appearance. The home run derby is absurdly long and terribly dull, and TV's attempts to make it interesting reek of desperation. Face it, the game is lousy on TV, much like football (i.e., 'soccer'). These are games of wide open spaces--the closeups TV loves so much take away all that is beautiful to the serious fan. Ichiro's inside-the-park homer had no drama because you couldn't see him running! We had to follow the camera follow Ken Giffey, Jr., and never (except in replay) got to see Suzuki's speed on the basepaths. I usually skip Bud's Fiasco, but had to watch Barry and my beloved ballpark. Even then, the game did not hold my interest. I'll admit it is mostly because the Giants stink, I mean really stink, and the season is a long bitter pull at this point. At least tomorrow we will have some REAL baseball again.
a.d. V Id.Iul.

07 July 2007


Yes, it is the 7th of July--the seventh month--in the year aught-seven, VII-VII-VII. In Roman times, we would call today the "Nones." TPP vets will notice a change to the format, the "chick getting beat with a stick" is now featured prominently and the exhortation to buy OOTG is in the header. I have not received renumeration for my contribution--I was not paid to submit a story to OOTG, I did it as part of a contest in hopes of getting published. In theory, according to OOTG's website, I should get a T-shirt or a contributor's copy of the magazine. No such luck so far. I'm a subscriber, so I received my normal issue, but no "gifts" to this point. Do I push the point? Do I whine and say "But I didn't get my T-shiiiirrrrrt"? I dunno. I'm happy to be featured alongside some real pros. My stuff measures up! They'd have to pry the T-shirt from my cold, dead hands, but I can live without it. Getting in print is reward enough.
At least for now.
Non. Iul.

04 July 2007

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July!
Barry didn't play today, but he hit Number 751 last night in a loss. I correctly predicted that Bonds would be an All-Star--he won the vote in a late surge. I also predicted he would pass Hank Aaron on the all-time career home run list by the All-Star break. That looks doubtful. The exhibition is on Tuesday, the 10th, and the Giants have only four more games before then--one more in Cincinnati and three in St. Louis. Does he deserve to be on the squad? He leads all of baseball in on-base percentage (.517!!!) and is second--to Alex Rodriguez--in slugging. 'Nuff said. If you need further convincing, he leads all of baseball in walks and intentional walks. Seems to me he is still the biggest threat in baseball, and he makes the fewest outs. With the game in San Francisco, I expect we will get a lot of media play about how Barry is adored by the local fans and hated everywhere else. It is such a trite, tired story. The other night in Cincy, fans booed Barry coming up to the plate, then booed their manager for walking him. This happens everywhere he goes. I think there's a story there, guys.
Go Giants!
a.d. IV Non.Iul.

03 July 2007


Yes, this is post number 90 for all you Roman-numeral fans. Back home after a long holiday, and back on-line. According to my bio on p. 200 in the new issue (#2) of OUT OF THE GUTTER, I write about "books, baseball, whiskey and things noir." My story Tweaker is featured on page 78, and I'm delighted to see it in print! Get on the OOTG website and order yours today. You'll regret not doing it when I'm famous. Speaking of whiskey-induced fantasies, we discovered a new whiskey in Oregon. The McMenamin Bros. have made name for themselves in the Northwest buying old properties and converting them into adult theme parks. Well, breweries and restaurants anyway, with music venues and other diversions. Food, music, and drink? Good enough for me, I consider that a theme park. The old Multonomah County (OR) Poor Farm in Troutdale, now called McMenamin's Edgefield, is a complex of pubs, with lodging, eateries, a golf course, a winery and a distillery. Yes, an actual distillery that makes brandies, liquer, gin, and a WHISKEY. Yes, a real spirit, called Hogshead, that you can buy on the premises in fifths. The drink is described on the label as 100% barley malt, like a Scotch, but it has the full-bodied sweetness of a Canadian or U.S. whiskey. Unique, to be sure, and delicious. We were lucky to sample some in "The Little Red Shed" along with a Cohiba to smoke, courtesy of our friends Andrei and Kim in nearby Estacada. That was the penultimate day of our road trip, and a memorable one. The more I think about it, the more I want another dram of the stuff. I'm signing off so I can pour some more Hogshead.
As Andrei would say: Na zdorovye!