27 August 2008
039 A Diet of Treacle, Lawrence Block, reprint 1961 (I haven't read this one, I'm saving it because I know it'll be good!)
040 Money Shot, Christa Faust, new original 2008, great read, superb Orbik cover
041 Zero Cool, John Lange, reprint 1969 (have not read)
042 Spiderweb/Shooting Star, reprints 1954 and 1958
043 The Murderer Vine, Shepard Rifkin, reprint 1970
044 Somebody Owes Me Money, Donald E. Westalke, reprint 1969
045 No House Limit, Steve Fisher, reprint 1958
046 Baby Moll, John Farris, reprint 1958 (have not read)
047 The Max, Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, new original 2008 (next on the reading list!)
The tally? 3 newbies and 7 oldies.
The final score? 31 reprints and 16 new originals.
26 August 2008
036 Dead Street, Mickey Spillane, new original 2007
035 Kill Now, Pay Later, Robert Terrall, reprint 1960
034 Fright, Cornell Woolrich, reprint 1950
033 Songs of Innocence, Richard Aleas, new original 2007
032 Blackmailer, George Axelrod, reprint 1952
A 50-50 spilt--3 new, 3 old. Slide continues where Bust left off, and is equally brilliant, if not better.
031 The Wounded and the Slain, David Goodis, reprint 1955
030 The Vengeful Virgin, Gil Brewer, reprint 1958 (I have not read this one!)
029 Robbie's Wife, Russell Hill, new original 2007
028 Lucky at Cards, Lawrence Block, reprint 1964
027 The Peddler, Richard S. Prather, reprint 1952
026 Grave Descend, John Lange, reprint 1970
Only 1 new in this bunch, a great collection of oldies. "John Lange," I understand, is a nom de plume for Michael Crichton. David Goodis really is a master, there's nothing else in the series quite like The Wounded and the Slain. The Glenn Orbik cover art is also masterful--he's done my favorites in the series, and that is saying a lot. All the covers have been spectacular and heavyweights like Robert McGinnis and Gregory Manchess are tough competition.
Score so far: 24 reprints, 13 new originals.
25 August 2008
015 The Gutter and the Grave, Ed McBain, reprint 1958
016 Night Walker, Donald Hamilton, reprint 1954
017 A Touch of Death, Charles Williams, reprint 1953
018 Say It with Bullets, Richard Powell, reprint 1953
019 Witness to Myself, Seymour Shubin, new original 2006
020 Bust, Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, new original 2006
021 Straight Cut, Madison Smartt Bell, reprint 1986
022 Lemons Never Lie, Richard Stark, reprint 1971
023 The Last Quarry, Max Allan Collins, new original 2006
024 The Guns of Heaven, Pete Hamill, reprint 1983
025 The Last Match, David Dodge, newly published 1973 novel
Hmmm. The Collins is based on older short stories, but I'll call it a "newbie." The Dodge is technically new, but I'm counting it as an "oldie," since it was written over thirty years ago. That gives us three new and nine old.
The score after 25 books: 16 to 9 in favor of the "classics." My faves? The Stark (Westlake) and Block are hard to beat. The consistent excellence of those two always amazes me. But the Starr-Bruen creation, Bust, is one of the funniest and most twisted books I've ever read. Those two are sick. And hilarious. A real highlight of the entire collection. I liked the Shubin as well, but it is an entirely different kettle of fish from Bust.
001 Grifter's Game, Lawrence Block, reprint 1961
002 Fade to Blonde, Max Phillips, new original 2004
003 Top of the Heap, Erle Stanley Garnder, reprint 1952
004 Little Girl Lost, Richard Aleas, new original 2004
005 Two for the Money, Max Allan Collins, re-packaged reprints 1973 & 1981, some new material from 2004
006 The Confession, Domenic Stansberry, new original 2004
007 Home is the Sailor, Day Keene, reprint 1952
008 Kiss Her Goodbye, Allan Guthrie, new original 2005
009 361, Donald E. Westlake, reprint 1962
010 Plunder of the Sun, David Dodge, reprint 1949
011 Branded Woman, Wade Miller, reprint 1952
012 Dutch Uncle, Peter Pavia, new original 2005
013 The Colorado Kid, Stephen King, new original 2005
I will count the Collins as a reprint. The score so far? Six new, seven old. We'll take a look at the next dozen in a later post. HCC-047 is on my shelf right now. I've read all but five--I wanted to get "caught up" this summer but indulged in lots of other books as well and didn't quite make it.
Of this group, the highlights for me were the Block and Westlake of course, and the Guthrie. Kiss Her Goodbye was a terrific read, and the Scotland setting made it even more fun. Of the other new ones, I would probably pick the Pavia.
23 August 2008
16 August 2008
15 August 2008
13 August 2008
Now I'll expect y'all to raise a glass of good stuff to teachers everywhere. No one ever drinks to teachers. Teachers and drinking are not usually lumped together. I sure appreciate drinking after a day of teaching, but that 's not the point. The point is, no one ever drinks to teachers. Now that you've read this, you can go out and actually drink Teacher's, not just drink to teachers. You knew I had to work that in, didn't you? One item I found interesting at Teacher's was the bit about the Finger Print, that is, the malt most responsible for the blend's qualities. Much like Chivas Regal is built upon Strathisla, Teacher's shows the imprint of Ardmore. Now that one is a single I'll have to find. They claim to be the only Highland distillery left that peats its own malt. This makes an intriguing side-by-side tasting idea: match the foundation malt with the blend. Blind taste the single, then pick the blend. Would that be easier than trying the blend and matching the single? Hmmm. Seems like an experiment is in order. OK class, get to work!
11 August 2008
10 August 2008
Earlier this year I wrote about the Lagunitas Brewing Company and their beer and bottle label tribute to Mr. Zappa. This summer the 4th in their series, the aforementioned WOIINFTM, hit the shelves. Of course we picked it up for quaffing. And for the collection. My lovely bride had the original LPs when I met her (she turned me on to this music). We've got the re-released re-mastered CDs. Why wouldn't we have the bottles for the French Street Brewery collection?
Alas, excitement was tempered by the actual brew. I'm one of the only craft brewers and microbrew drinkers who has NOT been bitten by the Belgian bug. I made some pretty funky brews in my early days as a beer-crafter. Stuff would come out with an over-the-top bitterness, a harsh, acidic carbonation, a rotted, cellary cheese flavor, and a deep musty-yeasty smell. It was like old socks had been tossed in the fermenter. I finally figured out that some souring bacteria had violated my carboy, or the fermenting temperatures had encouraged some off-flavors, or some other technical flaw had occurred in the process. Nowadays, with Belgian ales being "the heighth of fashion," brewers WANT THOSE FLAVORS. I was dumping the shit out! It may have been an acceptable flavor to a Belgian, but not to me. Those beers did not taste the way I intended them to taste. I've got no beef with Belgians, or their unique, complex, and fascinating approach to beer-making. But when beer tastes like a locker room, I'm not interested in drinking it. When we were in Holland, we had a chance to taste some Belgian beers. Some were lovely, some were passable, some tasted like moldy cardboard or rotten yogurt. Lagunitas' WOIIFTM tastes just like those old failed brews of mine from when I was a pup brewer. Needless to say, we dumped it. Sorry, fellas. I love your IPA and your tributes to FZ. But I'm not tuned in to the Belgian vibe.
09 August 2008
08 August 2008
Other than Giants prospect Nate Schierholz playing on the USA baseball team, I have zero interest in this spectacle. Synchronized swimming? Beach volleyball? Is this a joke? And what's this about REMOVING softball? What, not enough time for kayaking? Give it up. This is the most expensive put-on in history. I'd be interested in stuff like tae-kwan-do and Graeco-Roman wrestling, but Americans want to see basketball. Like there isn't enough damn basketball in the world. And soccer (er, football). Didn't we just suffer through the damn World Cup and the Euro Cup? Not enough, eh? And how about tennis? Wimbledon just doesn't cut it anymore, I guess.
And don't get me started on China. And that pompous ass Bob Costas. And Pepsi-fucking-cola. Read Dave Zirin and get back to me.
07 August 2008
That's because these guys ARE serious, ARE conservative, ARE Establishment and most certainly ARE NOT "un-patriotic." They are smart. They do research. They are paid to think. Paid with your tax dollars.
Here is their website. Go visit. Come back and tell me if you think these guys are full of shit.
Here's why: they recently released a report that said, in essence, that the War on Terror is failing. Yeah, that's right. It isn't working and it won't work. That's what the RAND Corporation said. Not me. Not some "liberal elite" or some "wimpy Democrat" or some "hippie peacenik." The fookin' RAND Corporation.
Don't believe me? Read the fecking report.
News release 7/29.
Summary (pdf) here.
Full report (pdf) here.
Have a nice day.
06 August 2008
Out of the Gutter, perhaps? Hunter S. Thompson? Dawn of the Dead? David Cronenberg?
Sorry. None of the above. The quote is from a short story called "Prediction" by the incomparable CHESTER HIMES. (Wikipedia entry here.) Like a lot of the noir masters, Mr. Himes was misunderstood and under-appreciated during his lifetime. With the benefit of historical distance, readers like me can enjoy this man's searing honesty, brutal realism, and terrific story-telling. He is best known for the Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones novels (like The Real Cool Killers) and the movies (Cotton Comes to Harlem) those spawned. I just finished the long (60 stories, 420+ pages) Collected Stories (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1990). Like any collection, the pieces vary in quality. These span a period from 1933 to 1978, and reflect much of what Himes experienced as a convict, an African-American, and an ex-patriate. Mostly what holds them together is his insight into character and motivation, as well as his unwillingness to pull punches. Himes shines a bright light on to everything he looks at, and reports back with a graceful balance of detachment and passion. Great stuff.
(There's a nice piece by Michael Marsh on Himes' life and work here.)
05 August 2008
That's right--Canandian Club "Classic 12." This is a rich, full-flavored treat. And you can't get it in California. Don't ask why. Corporate marketing is like the Old Testament--you think you should know something about it, but everyone you ask just gives you a bunch of bullshit and talks to you like you're a child. But nevermind. I can get to Oregon right quick and get some if I need it. This whisky is unique--bright and spicy, malty sweet, clean finish--and doesn't really compare to other Canadians. I like it.
The other is a whiskey:
A bourbon, in fact. My favorite kind of whiskey. This is "desert island" stuff: complex flavor profile but smooth and easy-drinking. 94 proof, too! Yes, Elijah Craig 12-year old doesn't get noticed, but it ought to. This is a Bardstown, Kentucky outfit. Evan Williams is in their lineup as well. The parent company is Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. Their master bourbon distillers are all members of the Beam family. It is funny that bourbon, a uniquely American drink, is made by a select elite, almost a bourbon royalty. If your grand-daddy's grand-daddy didn't make bourbon, you are a nobody. The emphasis on bloodline is a Southern trait, something you also see in New England. Here in California, we could give a shit. Our governor was born in Austria, our Senators are both Jewish, and 57% of our residents are ethnic minorities. Even Scotland didn't generate the same sense of clique-ishness regarding their whisky-making as our beloved Kentuckians. But it works, eh? I mean, those good ol' boys make a superior drink. So it is OK, my friends, don't fix it, it ain't broke.
Just keep bottling those spirits. I'll keep buying.
Happy annivesary, sweetheart. Glad you like whisk(e)y, too.
03 August 2008
You can see my entry for the 6th day (7 July) in Oaxaca: SHIT HAPPENS. Indeed. One of the most common consequences for nortes in México is the so-called "Traveler's Diarrhea."
Page 37 of my log:
lunes, siete de julio
1045 I woke up feeling crappy and then had a serious attack of the mal de México, Moctezuma's Revenge, las turistas.
And here's a bit later (page 39):
1725 I have been bed-ridden all day. Drinking water, had some pepto. Tried to sleep.
My lovely bride managed to avoid the bug, but she is like that. Careful, precise, detail-oriented, hardly ever gets sick. I had been soaking my toothbrush in mezcal--really! I kept forgetting and rinsing it off with the verboten tap water, so I'd stick the head in a shot glass of Benevá blanco. I got all kinds of crap about it from my so-called friends, so I stopped. What a wuss, caving in to peer pressure! I'm not saying that I got the bug because I stopped what I thought was a brilliant travel-hygiene practice, but you never know. I decided that I will keep cheap vodka on hand for toothbrush-soaking whenever I travel to funky-water places. What can it hurt? And it sure wakes you up in the a.m. when you mix your toothpaste with a bit of alcohol.