If you've read Robert Terrall'sKill Now, Pay Later, then you know the basic premise: PI Ben Gates is hired by a rich family to guard the fancy presents at a high-dollar wedding. Someone drugs his coffee, and not only is money stolen but murder is committed as well. He spends the rest of the book re-habbing his reputation and uncovering the mystery. If you've read my latest MATT CADD mini-saga, you'll note I've "borrowed" the plot line. I like to think of it as an homage. Check out this review of the novel. Mr. Terrall is still alive--93 years old!
The Scots and Americans dominate global whisk(e)y. It wasn't always so. Before the World Wars, before doughboys and GIs came home from time spent at British bases, Irish whiskey was more prevalent than Scotch. US bourbon and rye industries suffered terribly under Prohibition, while the Canadians enjoyed a nearly exclusive (illicit) market during those dark days. Across the pond, independence in Ireland was a bleak time for the new nation, and the economy was a shambles. Whiskey-making was hurt by the lack of money just like everything else. A great tradition was reduced to a handful of distillers, and the status of Irish whiskey never recovered. Blended scotches and, eventually, single malts captured the fancy of upwardly-mobile Yanks. We've seen a renaissance in homegrown spirits here in the States, bourbons (and even ryes) are rivaling the fancy malts for attention and consumer dollars. A similar mini-boom is flickering to life in Ireland, whether it sustains itself depends as much on the vagaries of global capitalism as the tastes of a fickle drinking public. Pernod-Ricard is one of the big players, and they own Irish Distillers. These guys include Jameson, and the sublime liquor known as Redbreast. This whiskey is a "single," and "pure pot still" aged for "12 years." Redbreast is scary good: it goes down like candy, but has a sumptuous, satisfying flavor. Apparently this stuff nearly faded from existence, but was rescued in the 1990s, presumably by astute marketers. Regardless, the folks in charge have maintained the quality. This is a world-class drink. I suggest you go out and get some--but be careful, one can inadvertently suck down a pile of it just because it is so fookin' tasty!
This fellow Robert Terrall is a tough guy to pin down. The book (HCC-035) says it was copyright in 1960 by Robert Kyle. This turns out to be one of Mr. Terrall's pseudonyms. One of the other pen names was Brett Halliday, he of Mike Shayne fame. A number of authors "ghosted" that series, and there's a place called Thrilling Detective where you can learn all about it. A search of the archives at RARA-AVIS turns up a few threads about Robert Kyle, one in particular describing him as a "forgotten" PI writer, and a few about Robert Terrall, mentioning another nom de plume, "John Gonzalez." Heaping on the mystery as it were, the gorgeous cover art by Robert McGinnis features another impossibly long-legged barely-clad babe, who I gather is supposed to be the "Hilda" character in the story. Mr. McGinnis is a Hard Case regular, and one of the longest-lasting and most widely seen and admired of all the artists in the field. He's also renowned for his movie posters: numerous Bonds, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Barbarella. Unfortunately, his official site is not up-to-date, and it is tough to find out much about him. The news on this site is not encouraging, and because of it I don't want to support any unauthorized use of his material. Regardless, Kill Now, Pay Later is a great read, breezy and fast-paced, our hero (PI Ben Gates) getting drugged, slugged, chased and shot at while fighting off the advances of several hot femmes. Gates is a bit of a bigshot, with a staff of operatives, but always seems on the edge of bankruptcy. In the late fifties and all through the sixties, the hard-boiled style, perfected by Chandler, got re-worked by writers with a sense of fun, and they used the clipped prose to humorous effect:
Soon after this we entered one of those sad developments that were thrown up in the hell-for-leather days after World War II. Hurricanes are infrequent in this part of the country, so the houses were still standing, but it worried me to see a boy bouncing a rubber ball against a wall. (Kill Now, Pay Later, Roberrt Terrall, p. 46)
Is it noir? People die, there's greed, corruption, and violence, but the ending is tidy and even "happy." Villians get killed or get their comeuppance, but wounds are healed and order restored. Too comic for noir, perhaps, but great inspiration for fellows like Matt Cadd!
Matt Cadd went to Church once a year: Christmas, maybe, or Easter. April Day dragged him this time, and together they prayed for Johnny's soul. And he thought of all the bad things he'd done, and of her lost innocence.
The priest went on and on. Tough racket, he thought.
With the Vernal Equinox having just passed, and the Full Moon occurring today, the conditions for Easter have been met. Roughly, Easter happens on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring. Easter can be no earlier than 22 March, because the ecclesiastical reckoning of spring is fixed at 21 March. Interestingly, Easter, this year on 23 March, last happened on 22 March in 1818, and won't happen again on that "earliest" date until 2285. The latest date for Easter is 25 April. The spring moon, or paschal moon, is also not astronomically exact. Tables based on lunar months are used to determine new and full moons so that churches all over the world can have a fixed calendar. The notion of a "month" is full of amazing complexities, since our moon and our sun hurl through space on their own schedules. We'd love to be able to divide up the seasons in nice, neat, 30-day months in (12 x 30) 360-day years, but nature doesn't cooperate. Sit down sometime and wrap your mind around sidereal and synodic orbital periods. A humbling endeavor, to be sure. Here in Siskiyou County, the winter is slowly slipping away as the sun climbs higher in the sky. I'm looking forward to a beautiful spring.
Whether it was politically smart or politically stupid, Senator Barack Obama's recent speech from Philadelphia ("A More Perfect Union") was one extraordinary piece of oratory. I think all Americans should both read the text and watch the video. Politicians are not supposed to be honest, and address things head-on. It won't surprise me if this speech comes back to haunt Mr. Obama. Then again, sincerity, passion, and intellect are so rare in American popular culture that perhaps this speech will be the spark that launches this fascinating character to new heights in his presidential bid. It was the kind of speech that makes even the most jaded listener say "fuck politics, let's talk, let's think, let's move forward and have a renewed faith in our nation." Whatever this speech turns out to be for the senator, and only time will tell, it was inspiring, uplifiting, heartfelt and, in short, brilliant. Bravo, Barack. (And kudos to pal JCP for pointing the way.)
I can understand why mainstream media types fear (and loathe) bloggers. We do what they do without restraint. We are not subject to editing, oversight, deadlines or the threat of a paycheck being pulled. But Bob Costas has gone too far:
''But it's one thing if somebody just sets up a blog from their mother's basement in Albuquerque and they are who they are, and they're a pathetic get-a-life loser, but now that pathetic get-a-life loser can piggyback onto someone who actually has some level of professional accountability and they can be comment No. 17 on Dan Le Batard's column or Bernie Miklasz' column in St. Louis. That, in most cases, grants a forum to somebody who has no particular insight or responsibility. Most of it is a combination of ignorance or invective.''
This Miami Herald article would have escaped my notice except, of course, for a blogger. There is a very smart and engaging blog that I read regularly (and sometimes comment on) called Only Baseball Matters. The post linked to another fine blog called Baseball Think Factory which then links to the source. I have been on-line since 1993. Remember USENET? I do. There are--no doubt--lots of idiots and losers on the 'net. So much of the "comments" section of any forum is blather, nothing more than the barstool rantings of angry drunks. In that narrow sense, Mr. Costas has a point. But he cannot--he must not--paint us all with the same brush. Too many wonderful voices have emerged from the chaos of cyberspace (how about Dave Zirin or Alexander Cockburn?). Funny thing: Costas is raging about "professional accountability" yet he delivers a carpet-bombing screed against an entire class of people without a shred of evidence, careful thought, or research. I wonder if those fat paychecks from the huge multi-media conglomerates he works for have distorted his perspective. Listen up Bob: time to get off the leather lounger the networks gave you for the Olympics and start noticing that far, far too many of your colleagues are narrow-minded, short-sighted egomaniacs with a well-paying national forum for their prejudiced, self-important drivel. Start paying attention to "alternative" media, pal, because the fascist outfits you shill for are swallowing up every other avenue of individual, creative expression left in this soul-less capitalist mess we call a country. In twenty years, if you and your ilk have their way, the only free thought left in the world will be a drug-addled half-senile ex-blogger with a mimeograph machine salvaged from the dump, printing broadsheets on his dwindling collection of grocery bags.
There's a telling moment in the grand jury testimony of Barry Lamar Bonds. The testimony, given in December of 2003, has recently been "unsealed" and can be downloaded in its entirety. In fact, an interesting sports law blog (yes, they have such things) called "Shyster Ball" does some laywerly analysis of what the Big Fella had to say in response to the prosecutors' questions. Before you ask--yes, I read not only the whole testimony but the analysis as well. I am not an attorney. If Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy didn't cover it on LAW & ORDER, then I'm in the dark. I read the stuff to see what Barry had to say. Now, Mr. Bonds is an unusual character, even in the world of sports. Notoriously prickly and hostile to the media, a Bonds press event was nonetheless more revealing and interesting than most because he was apt to say almost anything. Much of the time he said very pointed and truthful things, which went over the heads of the reporters and the fans because they weren't the kind of things he was supposed to say. Case in point: in the 1996 off-season, Matt Williams was traded. Fans loved Matt, and they wanted the new GMs head (Brian Sabean). Reporters loved the story, and fanned the flames all year. Turns out 1997 was a very good year--the Giants surprised everyone with an NL West title, and Sabean's new boys (like Jeff Kent and J.T. Snow) played a huge role. In the champagne-soaked locker room, reporters gathered around Bonds to ask his thoughts on winning the title. He, of course, was supposed to say "it's great, man, we all love each other and we stuck together and worked hard and blah, blah, blah." Jock talk. Reporters love it. Fans love it. Instead, Bonds said "I think you guys owe Brian Sabean an apology for all that stuff you wrote saying we were gonna be a lousy team and he was doing a lousy job." They were bewildered. They ran away from Barry as soon as he was done to find a more amenable fellow. I loved the moment. It was the first time I really appreciated the off-field Bonds. Candor? From an athlete? Pinch me! Which brings me back to reality, and the point. In the questioning of Bonds, the role of Mr. Greg Anderson was pivotal to the prosecution. Grilling Barry about his relationship to Anderson, they ask Bonds if the Giants were involved in their training regimen. Barry answers "no way." Surprised--apparently--the attorneys press the point, and Bonds explains that "we" (he and Anderson) don't "trust" baseball or the ballclub. Asked to explain, Bonds describes how he was "born in this game." He goes on to say:
Believe me. It's a business. Last time I played baseball was in college. I work for a living now.
I have no idea whether the testimony Bonds gave will get him convicted of perjury. From this amateur's point of view, I can't imagine how. There's nothing there. But, as I said, I'm not a lawyer. I am, however, a sports fan. And there is something powerful about Bonds' statement that I think all of us--fans, media types, casual observers--should think about. Sports is a business. It is "work" for those practitioners of it. They are PROFESSIONALS. That makes it different, for them, in a fundamental way. Fans, and in particular media types, try to frame sports in the same terms as Little League, or high school, or other amateur endeavors. This is a crock. Putting on a show for the local community theatre is not the same as being a movie star. Fudging on your tax returns is not the accounting ledgerdemain mastered by Enron. There is a difference, not only in scale and scope, but substance as well. John D. MacDonald was credited with a snappy comeback that is germane here. When fans or casual aquaintances found out who he was, they would inevitably say "I've always wanted to be a writer" (I'd have been guilty of that!). Mr. MacDonald would reply "Funny, I've always wanted to be a brain surgeon." Fantasy and reality. For thousands, even millions, playing a sport professionally is a fantasy. Being human, we project our values on to that fantasy. We refuse to believe it is NOT what is is, but that it is something else. If we could step away from our fantasies and see what the reality is, we probably would forget all about Barry Bonds, perjury, PEDs, etc., and let these men get on with their jobs. I love watching talented, hard-working chaps perform their panoply of skills. I have no illusions about them. Some of them are wonderful folks, I'm sure. But I'm not going to tell them how to do their jobs. I expect they know. And I refuse to project my fantasies and failed-jock angst on to them, any more than I'll tell the brain surgeon how he should go about cutting in to my skull.