Pete Seeger was on to something when he tacked his famous line to the poem from Ecclesiastes. "To everything there is a season" is how chapter three of the King James Version starts, and it goes on to talk about birth and death, love and hate, and peace and war. If King Solomon was the author of those lines, then he managed to pen a number one pop hit (via the Byrds)! Not bad, eh? Today the autumnal equinox marks the start of fall in the northern hemisphere. Even the redoubtable Eric Partridge (WordMan™'s hero) admits that the Latin autumnus--the adjectival form being autumnalis--is "of obscure origin." He suggests it might have come from uertere (later vertere), the verb meaning, naturally, "to turn." Here in the State of Jefferson the 40 ºF mornings are evidence enough that we are turning from the warmth of summer to the cool of autumn.
One of our local treasures here in the State of Jefferson is the Mt. Shasta Brewing Company in Weed. They make a range of tasty brews, but I particularly like two--Mountain High IPA and Shastafarian Porter. The black ale with the groovy name assaults your nose with chocolate malt right off the top, and the first taste is a massive dose of roast barley. But the the porter has a smooth, easy drinkability, too, and the hops, hanging in the background, finally assert themselves on the back of the tongue as it goes down, balancing it all very nicely. Shastafarian is both full-flavored and thirst-quenching, refreshing as well as satisfying. I can say the same about the IPA as well, another delicious ale for quaffing. But tonight the porter was the beverage of choice. The brewery has a lot of fun with its Weed locale--advertising the beers with "Try Legal Weed" and "Weed. A flavor yet to be discovered." They've even re-worked an old saw as "A friend in Weed is a friend indeed." It wouldn't mean much if they didn't make outstanding beer. Grab some Shastafarian and see for yourself.
The first place I found John Lutz was in The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction--his byline was under the story "Tough." I like to collect the old Black Lizard paperbacks (with the Kirwan covers), and sure enough one of them was John Lutz' The Truth of the Matter. (I love the Fantastic Fiction website and use it all the time.) "Tough" is a hard-boiled tale about a grizzled old desert rat who matches his wits and guts against a trio of escaping robbers who commandeer his home as a hideout. The story is as tough and hard-boiled as anything in the genre, with a shocking conclusion that leaves you reeling. You get the sense that Mr. Lutz is a masterful writer. The Truth of the Matter, from 1971, is as far as I can tell his first novel. It is a simple story of a couple of down-and-outers. Ellie is a small-time hooker who takes a chance on a rugged, good-looking, smooth-talking john with a mysterious past. The john is Lou Roebuck, and he turns out to be a pathological liar with a persecution complex. Lou's hasty and inexplicable killing of an old accomplice sends him running, and when he runs into Ellie they run off together. A suspicious sheriff noses around their lakeside hideout, and that starts another round of running. Eventually the running and the paranoia get the best of our whacked-out protagonist, and things come to a head in an ending both explosive and anti-climactic. Late in the tale, we finally get to the "truth of the matter" in Lou's backstory, and it gives his character some depth and wins him some sympathy. Before that point, his obvious fabrications are so ridiculous you burst out laughing, and his increasing hostility toward his likeable companion wears mighty thin. Ellie is the deeper character, with an appealing self-possession, an undramatic fatalism, and a thorough lack of pretension. It was an enjoyable ride through a crime fiction landscape, featuring iconic figures like the Fugitive, the Prostitute, and the Lawman, with a dose of the Friendly Outsiders who help our heroes along the way. And that's the truth of the matter.
Yes, that's right, boys and girls, September is National Bourbon Heritage Month. Apparently we can thank Senator Jim Bunning for that Act of Congress. Other than being a fine major league pitcher, the guy comes across as a doofus, but at least he knows a good drink. I think we should all celebrate America this month by drinking more bourbon. Cheers!