29 December 2010

New stuff and new old stuff

Found a copy of Walter Mosley's The Tempest Tales (2008) in Ashland yesterday. Mr. Mosley is best known for his Easy Rawlins stories, and as excellent as those books are, they are only a small part of his output and give little indication of the range and depth of his work. Check out Futureland and The Man in My Basement if you want to have your preconceptions about a "crime writer" challenged. As far as his crime stories go, Mosley is often compared to Graham Greene and Raymond Chandler, but I think of John D. MacDonald as his literary antecedent. Both are superb observers of their time and astute social critics, and manage to craft taut, fast-paced tales peopled by intriguing and sympathetic characters. That is no mean feat. Speaking of The Late, Great John D., I also picked up a Fawcett Gold Medal reprint of his 1954 novel Contrary Pleasure. It looks like a 1970s vintage but is in good shape despite the yellowing pages. I found the first of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series (Cop Hater) in a somewhat battered late-80s re-issue, and the second of Donald E. Westlake's Sam Holt mysteries (I Know a Trick Worth Two of That), recently re-released in trade paper by Felony & Mayhem. I also grabbed a hardcover omnibus of classic pulp called Tough Guys & Dangerous Dames, which is 600 pages of everyone from Robert E. Howard to Robert Bloch. It features a story by Paul Cain ("Black"), one of the best writers you've never heard of, and no relation to his more famous contemporary James M. Cain.

I also ventured into The Music Coop, where antediluvians like me can find actual albums on CD. I picked up John Prine's Sweet Revenge (1973) and Patty Loveless' Mountain Soul (2001). Like I said: new stuff and new old stuff. That ought to keep me entertained for a while.

26 December 2010


In the penultimate episode of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom returns home. He has Stephen Dedalus in tow, and they drink cocoa and converse about art and science. Bloom had forgotten his key and had to break in to his own house. Later, after Stephen leaves, he hits his head on some furniture in the dark as his wife Molly had rearranged things in his absence. Molly awakens when he comes to bed, and he tells her about his day. She had entertained her lover Blazes Boylan earlier in the afternoon. Bloom thinks about their long and difficult marriage and her many adulterous liaisons. It is hardly a heroic return to a faithful Penelope for the aggrieved Bloom. Joyce uses an impersonal catechism technique of question-and-answer that varies from precise, elaborate cross-examination to absurd, comical repartee. Bloom's fears and dreams are ruthlessly analyzed and made pathetic. The tone is despairing, but in the end Bloom embraces "abnegation" and "equanimity" before falling asleep. Joyce makes explicit the universality of Bloom's experience:
What universal binomial denominations would be his as entity and nonentity?
Assumed by any or known to none. Everyman or Noman.
The odyssey of this melancholy, cuckolded alien in a neglected city of a fading empire is bereft of heroes, monsters, and goddesses. It is a far cry from the Odyssey it purports to emulate. Joyce pulls down the lofty myth and gives it to all of us, making the Everyman the real hero of the modern world. He also pulls apart the novel as a form by refusing to follow its strictures and showing how almost any type of writing can tell a story and teach a moral lesson. The elaborate artifice and complex structure of Ulysses creates a contradictory effect in the reader--the characters are stripped of their pretensions and falsities and exposed for the shallow, grubbing humans that they really are. Molly Bloom takes over the remaining 45 pages. Her internal monologue, lying in bed next to her sleeping husband, is the final episode. I'll finish it up before the New Year so check back soon for my final thoughts on Joyce's famous creation.

25 December 2010

Storm's a-comin'

A stout south wind has been blowing all morning long. Now drops of rain dot the flagstones of the back patio and streak my window. There'll be a storm tonight for Christmas! It's warm enough that we'll likely only get rain in town, but snow will fall on the hillsides. I expect we'll be driving through the white stuff on Forest Mountain later this evening.

22 December 2010

Winter warmer

I saw the moon bathed in a warm, orange-red light late Monday night while it was eclipsed by the earth. The day had been gray and overcast, but the skies cleared after the sun went down. If you were standing on the moon and watching the total eclipse, you'd see the sun blocked by the earth. Sunlight would appear as a reddish ring around the earth--the lucky lunar crew would be seeing all the sunrises and sunsets at once! This refracted light is what colors the moon for earthbound observers. Monday's hue was the color of good bourbon. Good thing I had some good bourbon on hand, because we toasted the Winter Solstice with it the next day. Evan Williams Single Barrel is lovely stuff, and this particular bottle that we cracked on Tuesday was filled on the 14th of June, 2010, from 10-year old barrels. Where were we on the 14th of June? Why, at the ballpark watching the Giants clobber the Orioles! The earth covered the sun and colored the moon. The sun started its long journey back north. The Giants won the World Series. Happy Holidays!

20 December 2010

I lacked a proper motive

I still play music CDs. They sound a hell of a lot better than .mp3 files. Plus I like handling the discs and looking at the cases, though I can't read the tiny print anymore without aid.  I still have LPs and a working turntable. Records are a bit of a hassle, but are certainly much easier to read than CDs and I enjoy the art and layout of the albums. I've taped many of the albums I listen to a lot.  Both of the vehicles I own still have working cassette players--my 2002 Honda came with one. Suffice to say that I've been late to join the iTunes crowd. I don't have an iPod and I don't go running around with my ear buds in. I can rip CD music to my computer, I can stream a radio station, and I can listen to Pandora through my PS3--I'm not technologically challenged. I get the digital music thing. I just lacked a good reason to start a downloading frenzy from iStore (er, iTunes Store).

But no more. The Giants released a video called Giant! Perfect '10 in San Francisco. and it was only available via iTunes. Quicker than you could say Windows7 I had a program, an account, and the damn thing downloaded. All for just $3.99! Then I discovered they had games. I mean actual Giants baseball games, like the 2010 NLDS and NLCS and etc. Pretty cool, eh? And only a $1.99 per game.

I'm tuned in now.

21 November 2010


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like it because the rules are simple: get together with those you love and eat a big, happy meal.

I can live with that.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

11 November 2010

The war to end all wars

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, an armistice was signed to end the war. It wasn't called World War One then, of course. It was simply The War or even The Great War. The slaughter and futility of that dark time in human history did not quite make the impression on men and nations that it should have. Humanity had to go and do it all again, bigger and better this time, and call it World War Two. Some day, perhaps, we'll learn. I'd love to live long enough to see the last of all wars. I dream of a time when no one will ever have to bear arms against another. Unfortunately, that is not the world I live in. Politics, ideology, racism, fear, ignorance, and greed may fuel wars, but human beings fight them. People who put on a uniform usually do so to protect those they love. Nations will wrap their wars in the usual nonsense that nations wrap things in, making the killing of others more palatable to their citizens. But that doesn't take away from the fact that people serve their country and risk their lives for their families, their friends, and their fellow citizens. Armistice Day--the original 11/11--is no more. Now we call it Veterans Day. All of us have veterans in our lives. Think about them. Thank them. Wish them a good day. And wish for the day when we can all live in peace. After all, that is what they fought for.

07 November 2010

Bloomsday: after midnight

The two protagonists of Ulysses come together in the final act. Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus seek refuge from the cold, dark Dublin streets in the "cabmen's shelter" and engage in rambling and unsatisfactory conversations with each other and with an ancient mariner they meet. Bloom struggles to express his paternal affection for the drunk and ill-tempered Stephen, who seems unwilling to talk directly about anything, preferring to be obtuse and philosophical. Bloom persists in looking out for Stephen, and finally convinces him to come to his house and sleep off his binge. This part of the story is analogous to the "homecoming" portion of the Odyssey. A disguised Odysseus returns to Ithaca and hides out in his aged but loyal swineherd's hut. He meets his grown son, Telemachus, and ultimately they plot the rescue of Penelope and the destruction of the suitors. The two modern men do nothing so bold. Bloom delays his homecoming for fear of encountering his wife's lover, and Stephen is oblivious to the older man's ingratiating efforts. The episode is told in a labored, almost overbearing tone, what you might call high-falutin', once again showcasing Joyce's remarkable mastery of the language and love of good parody. Two things seem to be at work here. One is Joyce forcing you to examine your bias when you approach a work. We all come loaded with preconceptions when we examine art, and Joyce gathers them all up and tosses them back in your face as if to say (like Kool Mode Dee) "how ya like me now?" It makes for difficult and frustrating reading, but when it's all over it empowers you to strip away artifice and technique and look for the essence of things. The second is the elevation of the banal. The Odyssey is warriors and gods--Ulysses is everyday men and women. Joyce reveals the profundity of everyday encounters and throwaway thoughts, he elevates his "everymen" by making them the subject of his great artistic endeavor. The ordinary, quotidian travails of our fellow humans ought to be a source of the wisdom and inspiration we seek from myths and legends.

My long journey through Ulysses is nearing it's end. Only two more episodes--a little over a hundred pages--remain. Stay tuned.

18 October 2010

Estate Homegrown Ale

I've been drinking beer from the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico for nearly thirty years. The stuff is damn close to mother's milk for me, and I'm always happy to try a new batch. The latest to cross my lips is the Estate Homegrown Ale that features "wet" hops grown at the brewery site. The hops used in beer are the unpollinated flower clusters--called cones--of the female plant. They are typically dried in kilns before packaging or further processing. "Wet-hopping" is using the freshly picked cones directly from the vines and substituting them for dried hops both in the kettle and after fermentation. The result is a rich and spicy "green" beer with a massive aroma and fresh, garden-like flavors. In the hands of skilled brewers the effect is marvelous, and the Estate Ale is no exception. Despite the high alcohol content (6.7%), the beer was very smooth and had a refreshing, light malt flavor. The huge hop profile was not at all overwhelming and the ale was dangerously quaffable. Go out and get some, I say, and drink it up while you can.

12 October 2010

Gutter Books

Matt Louis, publisher of Gutter Books, asked me some time ago if I'd like to contribute to the "News and Events" blog on his website. Who could refuse? He connected me with author Joe McKinney--a homicide cop in San Antonio--who had submitted his novel Dodging Bullets to Matt for publication. I was able to read (and comment on) an advance proof of the book, and I sent Joe an inquiry and a list of questions. He was not only gracious and friendly, he sent me lengthy and detailed responses. I think you'll enjoy his thoughtful and interesting take on things. Go read the interview! And support your independent, small-press publishers!

09 October 2010

Todos somos Chilenos

Your morning alarm is electrical, the pulses carried on copper wires. The coffee you make and the hot shower you take require copper wires and copper pipes. There is copper in the bronze hinges and drawer pulls in your closets and cabinets. There's copper in the brass buttons of your suit coat. You've got copper-clad pots to boil your eggs. Your computer and cell phone can't be made without copper. The electricity you pay two bits for two kilowatt-hours for is generated by huge, spinning bundles of copper wire. They work much like the windings in your car's alternator--more copper. You drive to work past homes and buildings whose veinous systems of copper wires and copper pipes keep them lit and habitable. The quarters you pump in the parking meter are disks of pure copper sandwiched between layers of a cupro-nickel alloy.

The United States consumes about two million metric tons of new copper in a year. A metric ton (aka tonne) is one thousand kilograms, or 2205 pounds. Two million of those is over 4.4 billion pounds. If there are 310 million Americans, that is 14 pounds of copper per person annually. If you live 80 years, that is 1120 pounds, or over half a ton (either kind!). The copper folks tell me a child born today will need 1500 pounds of copper to maintain our accustomed standard of living.

Chile is the world's largest copper producer, supplying about a third of the world's needs. The U.S. imports about a third of the copper it needs, and thus depends on Chilean output to augment domestic production and recycling. Copper is Chile's most important export, accounting for about 35% of the country's total. Copper mining and refining creates enormous environmental challenges for even the wealthiest countries, and the crisis in Chile has made the world aware of the hazards inherent in underground copper extraction. The dramatic news from Camp Hope that a rescue shaft has reached the thirty-three men trapped underground in the San Jose Mine has everyone optimistic that they will ultimately be rescued.

Everything we need for life is either grown or mined. Copper has been mined by human beings for millenia, it was one of the earliest metals our ancient forbearers utilized. Metalworking is one of the foundations of civilization, and its origins are somewhere in the mists of prehistory. Our modern way of life is even more dependent on the steady supply of copper and other metals. So we are all Chileans. Those men down there, they are our lifeline. They are literally our connection to the earth. Let us hope they all make it out safely, and that the next time they go down there, things will be better.

26 September 2010

"Pander to their Gomorrahan vices."

This latest section of Ulysses was written like the script of a play, in dialog with acting instructions and scenery descriptions. It ran from page 422 to page 593 of my ancient Random House hardcover, by far the longest episode, but also the easiest to read. It certainly wasn't any easier to understand than the rest of the book, but it was once again engaging and intriguing. A drunk Stephen Dedalus takes off for the red-light district of the city and winds up in a brothel. Leopold Bloom, protectively, hurries off to keep an eye on him. The episode ends with Stephen getting punched out by a soldier and Bloom intervening with the local cops to avoid an arrest for a public disturbance. In the middle of it all, Bloom goes on trial and faces his entire lifetime of fears, neuroses, and hang-ups in a series of interrogations in front of various hostile audiences. He even sees a vision of his dead son Rudy immediately after rescuing Stephen. The whole crazy, hallucinatory adventure is something of a critique of society's sexual mores. The immoral behavior Bloom is chastised for is nothing more than the natural impulses of the body and the free-running fantasy of the mind. He's helpless to defend himself, as any of us would be against arbitrary and hypocritical standards imposed by narrow-minded, fearful people. Bloom becomes something of a mirror for all of us to examine how we would be seen by others if they knew our innermost thoughts and feelings. No one wants that, of course, the very idea makes us squeamish, and Bloom's ordeal is indeed unsettling. He survives and carries on, not triumphantly, but doggedly, enduring his humiliations without rage or despair. Joyce assembles a little of everything into these narratives--history, language, politics, social satire, music, theology, evolution, melodrama, and the base instincts of everyday people. It's like you are riding on a sea of the collective unconscious and picking up and examining the flotsam. I hope my barely-adequate grasp of this extraordinary book does it some justice.

16 September 2010

Wham! Bam! No thanks, man.

I took a spill on my mountain bike yesterday. My buddy Brian and I were on the Hawkinsville Ditch, riding home from Long Gulch. It's a place I've been many times--it's a great ride in the woods just on the edge of town. The fall gave me some raspberries and bruises the size of small nations and they hurt like hell. I also hit my head, cracking my helmet at the left temple and sustaining a concussion. Brian had to walk me and my bike out--I don't remember any of it. Did I mention Brian is an all-around great guy and a real mensch? Anyway, Sue and I spent a long evening at the ER. I was examined and given a CT scan. The good news is they found nothing. The brain did not show up on the pictures, meaning I'm going to be OK! Seriously, I have to consider that I'm lacking a brain. I pursue two sports--alpine skiing and mountain biking--which routinely cause me to injure myself. I do these things with other fellows who are natural athletes. They carry themselves with an enviable, relaxed grace that I strive to imitate. They are sure-footed, nimble, and unselfconscious. I am none of those things. I have two left feet on some days and two right feet on others. I huff, puff, grunt, groan, grimace, and sweat in equal measures while these guys cruise around effortlessly. I'm fifty years old and I'm still pursuing a chimerical childhood playground dream. Alas, I do manage to have quite a bit of fun in between the stints on the DL. I suppose that's what keeps me going. Plus all the other ways that people stay in shape are, to my mind, wretchedly dull. Jogging? Lap swimming? Elliptical machines? Good god, I'd be crazy with boredom! After this latest episode, though, I'm beginning to see why these other pursuits are so appealing. They are safe! You aren't going to hurt yourself. Not much in the adventure/adrenaline department, but no trips to the hospital, either.

This "brain bruise" has been a sobering experience, and not just because the doctor told me to lay off the sauce for the next few days. When I torqued my rotator cuff skiing several years ago, I told myself I would learn to be a better, smarter, safer skier. For the most part, I have been. I've torn skin off my hide many times on my bike, but I've never had a serious injury. Nothing, at least, that ice packs and TLC couldn't cure. This time, though, I gave myself a serious whack on the noggin. The ER doc told me I must "absolutely not sustain another concussion for at least three months." The first thing I did was count the months on my fingers: October, November, December . . . and then asked him "you mean I can go skiing in January?" What the hell is wrong with me? I sat there on the table, not remembering how the hell I got there (I still don't), and the only thing I was concerned about was using my ski pass!

I make a living with my brain. Not only that, my mind is where I keep all those things that mean the most to me. The people I love and have loved. Memories, feelings, hopes, and dreams. Forgetting most of an afternoon in which I was pedaling through a forest over a rock-strewn trail on my beloved Specialized Stumpjumper is, frankly, a scary experience. I don't forget anything. I've got a mind like flypaper--crap sticks to it without me hardly trying. Yet much of yesterday is gone. The doctor said my injury "erased the tape." Tape--what an anachronism! C'mon doc, you meant to say "deleted the file." Either way, I don't like it. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful it was a relatively minor thing. People get concussions and they get over them. I didn't do anything that can't be undone with time and care. But I still don't like it. And I particularly don't like the bruise to my ego. I feel like a klutz. I mean, I chose this activity and inflicted this damage to myself entirely of my own volition. I don't have to risk life and limb in order to have fun and stay fit. I could take up square-dancing or something. On second thought, that involves rhythm and timing and coordination and even grace, so forget it. Maybe one of those Richard Simmons workout videos would be more my speed. There's always the stationary bike. I could ingest hallucinogens and watch Pink Floyd videos or something to fight off the tedium. Or maybe the NordicTrack. I'd be in better shape and it's about the same price as my Rossignol Phantoms.

Forget that. "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam." I'm going to have to take it easy, though, I know that. And I'm going to have to be more attentive and more measured when I head for the mountains. If I want to be an athlete, I'm going to have to know my limits, and to play my game and not chase after someone else's. I'm going to be good. I promise. I'm going to follow doctor's orders and I'm going to take care of my head.

See you on the slopes.

05 August 2010

"Just you try it on."

I know it is hard to believe, but I think I just finished the most bewildering section of Ulysses so far. The story seemed to be about a woman--Mina Purefoy--giving birth after a hard labor. But like all things in this bizarre and fascinating book, that's not what we read about. We read about Stephen Dedalus and his merry band of drinking chums. They party for a while in the hospital until the shocked staff finally kicks them out. Leopold Bloom tags along as well, as he had come to check on Mina. Lots of talk by the lads, lots of meanderings and ruminations and  . . . well, I'm not sure. The whole thing is like the charts of human evolution that used to be in the biology and anthropology textbooks of my youth. The ones that showed the four-footed apes, then the knuckle-draggers, then Cro-Magnon man, and finally Homo sapiens sapiens. The paragraphs are like the links in "the chain of evolution" of the English language. It's like Joyce wanted to trace out the phylogeny and ontogeny of the mother tongue, step-by-step. I noticed I used "like" and "seem" a lot. Can't help that. This book is very difficult to understand. But I'm still at it, and I've read 421 of the 768 pages, so there's no turning back now.

28 July 2010

The new Hard Case is here, the new Hard Case is here!

I've spent a bit of time on this blog talking about Hard Case Crime. No. 66 showed up in the mail today: Murder is My Business by Brett Halliday. It is from 1945 and features private eye Mike Shayne. The cover is by one of the most recognizable of illustrators, Robert McGinnis. You know his work from movie posters like Barbarella and Thunderball. He obviously has a thing for deathly pale, freakishly long-limbed women, as we see one on nine of his ten covers for the line. (I'm a Glenn Orbik man, myself.) As much as I've enjoyed reading and collecting the series, I must admit that the quality has been disappointing. Many of the reprints, even the modern ones, were dull and dated reads. Contemporary novelists like Ken Bruen, Jason Starr, Christa Faust, and Allan Guthrie all produced good stuff, and old-schoolers Lawrence Block and Donald E. Westlake were always worth a look, but overall the set is a bit of a letdown. I'd like to see more new writers and more 21st-century noir. The reprints are a nice history lesson, but there are too many. The cover art has been a lot of fun--I've half a wall devoted to it in my parlor and it looks damn good. (The lineup can be seen in thumbnail here.) Here's what came today:

19 July 2010

Bloom's fantasy--not quite half way

I'm still tackling Ulysses. Alas, I'm not even halfway through! The most recent episode took place on Sandymount strand, where Leopold Bloom sees a pretty girl--Gerty McDowell--who flirts with him from afar. Most of the scene is told from her perspective in the ornate and overheated style of 19th-century romance novels. She daydreams rhapsodically about love while sitting on the beach with her friends. When they are distracted, she contorts her body in order to reveal her legs and underthings to Bloom. He eyes her from behind a rock and masturbates as she becomes more emboldened. A fireworks show is in progress, and Bloom's climax occurs as they burst overhead. Here's a sample:
 And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely! O so soft, sweet, soft!
The rest of the section is told mostly via Bloom's stream-of-consciousness. He ruminates on his actions, thinking that he was a cad and behaved like a brute, but he also rationalizes, telling himself that she enjoyed his attention and that all women appreciate being reminded of their sexual hold over men. He also fantasizes about seeing her again:
O! Exhausted that female has me. Not so young now. Will she come here tomorrow? Wait for her somewhere for ever. Must come back. Murderers do. Will I?
It's a strange book, and a difficult one, but as I mentioned before I find it oddly compelling. I have a feeling that I'll be coming back to it--like a murderer to his crime scene--after I finally finish.

16 July 2010

Idiots in Sacramento

Lots of people don't know that asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral. It is often mined from serpentine rocks. Serpentine is the State Rock of California. You have probably seen road cuts containing this lovely grey-green stuff in your travels throughout the state. The rock is intimately associated with the unique flora of California, as many species are endemic due to the presence of serpentine soils. Serpentines are also associated with gold-bearing rocks, and we all know how important gold is to the history and culture of the Golden State. (Gold is the State Mineral.)

It seems State Senator Gloria Romero has a problem with this. She's sponsoring a bill that would strip serpentine of its State Rock status. Apparently serpentine is bad because asbestos comes from it. Never mind that EVERY SINGLE INDUSTRIAL MATERIAL WE USE COMES FROM ROCKS. I guess ground is bad, too, because oil comes out of it. Substances are not good or bad. They are what they are. Oil isn't bad. Neither is aluminum, or copper, or chromium, or clay, or gypsum, or quartz, or talc, or asbestos. How we choose, as a society, to extract, use, and dispose of these things is what makes them a benefit or a danger. Most things, in the real world, are a little of both, aren't they? Didn't we learn this stuff in school? We're grownups now, aren't we? You'd think our "leaders" in Sacramento would have better things to do, like fund our schools, fix our roads, balance our budget--you know, actual work.

You, madam, are an idiot.

15 July 2010

Old school noir

David Goodis is one of the finest writers you never heard of. You may be familiar with the Francois Truffaut film Shoot the Piano Player--that was an adaptation of Goodis' 1956 novel Down There. Goodis also wrote the screenplay for the 1947 Bogart & Bacall vehicle Dark Passage, which was based on Goodis' novel of the same name. In 1965, Goodis sued United Artists and ABC-TV for copyright infringement, claiming that the hit show The Fugitive was plagiarized from that book. The case was ultimately settled in Goodis' favor in 1972, but he had died by then. Wikipedia claims "the case is still regarded as a landmark decision in intellectual property rights and copyright law." (Details here.) Despite the fact that you probably never heard of David Goodis, you have encountered his work or his legacy. What you ought to do is pick up one of his novels. I blogged earlier about the superb The Wounded and the Slain, recently re-issued by Hard Case Crime. I just finished Night Squad (1961), and Cassidy's Girl (1951) awaits me on the shelf. I found them at Moe's Books in Berkeley, and both are 1990s Vintage Crime/Black Lizard editions. Night Squad is the story of Corey Bradford, a disgraced ex-cop who goes to work for a gangster. At the same time, he's recruited for undercover work by a special "black ops" police outfit--the Night Squad--charged with taking down the crime bosses. Bradford has his own reasons for playing both sides against middle, and the book is really the story of him figuring out who and what he's loyal to. It's set in "the Swamp," the squalid ghetto of an unnamed city where street violence, drug abuse, prostitution, and corruption are the norm. Goodis uses the crime novel form to explore larger themes like betrayal and reconciliation, and to look at people in an unadorned, brutally frank way. He's not judgmental, in fact, he's sympathetic to even the most hardened and vicious of his characters. The tone and mood of his work is bleak, but surprisingly, is never hopeless. It's a tough balancing act, something it takes a master to pull off. Even if crime fiction isn't your bag, you can't help but notice the lucidity and vividness of Goodis' prose, and you can't help but be moved by his empathy for the down-and-out, the distressed, and the desperate. I think you ought to put David Goodis on your reading list so he'll be one of the finest writers you have heard of.

13 July 2010

Football noir

The Jook is the story of an ex-NFL superstar named Zelmont Raines who has partied away his fortune and is reduced to playing American football in Europe. When the league creates a new franchise in his hometown of LA, "Zee" gives it one last shot and tries out for the team, hoping to make a comeback. Burdened by debt, legal hassles, and an insatiable appetite for pussy and crack cocaine, Raines is the classic doomed noir protagonist. When he gets involved with a cunning and ruthless femme fatale and her absurd heist scheme, it's only a matter of time before his world comes crashing down. Los Angeles writer Gary Phillips puts us right in the middle of the Southland's mean streets, peopling the novel with local hoods, imported gangsters, and big money wheeler-dealers. You can't have an LA story without dreamers and wannabes, as that city, more than any other, sells glitz, glamor, and the high life to countless hopefuls. No matter how many faded stars and failed big shots litter the streets, there are ten to take their place in the great, grasping swarm of climbers that give the city its most distinctive characteristic. Mr. Phillips lays bare not only the moral hypocrisy and phoniness of professional sports, but makes us think about the corrosive effect these million-dollar TV fantasies have on communities and their youngsters in particular. It's a hot, trashy read, with foul mouths and sordid sex, and it's a smart, gripping tale of survival and redemption as well. The Jook is part of PM Press' Switchblade crime fiction imprint. "Jook" is an alternate spelling of "juke," which means not only to dance and party ("juke joint", "jukebox"), but to cut and maneuver on the football field in order to get past a defender and make a play. WordMan™ thought it was a pretty clever title.

12 July 2010

Summer noir

I-5: A Novel of Transport, Crime and Sex is one of the 2009 releases from Oakland's PM Press in their Switchblade hardboiled fiction line. Berkeley writer Summer Brenner tackles the dark and tragic subject of international human trafficking with the story of Anya, a Russian peasant girl who is lured to America with promises of jobs and freedom, but finds herself instead a captive and a prostitute. Ms. Brenner writes Anya's story mostly in the present tense and in a plain, unadorned style that pulls the reader in and creates empathy with the girl's terrible fate. The story is set in California, mostly along the long, gray ribbon of road that bisects the state and joins its major population centers. The highway is always, metaphorically, an artery, a path for the lifeblood of the organism. We've all jockeyed for space on "the Five" with the endless number of tractor-trailer rigs, tankers, and freight trucks that carry our household goods and our industrial materials--the very stuff of our society's existence. How many of us thought that those big diesels might be shipping a human cargo? Brenner puts us right in the middle of that sordid enterprise, with its suave operators and elaborate deception schemes, but also manages to tell a brisk crime tale as well, with oddballs, sympathetic losers, creeps, and thugs. Good noir fiction puts you deep into the underbelly of everyday life, and opens your eyes to the damned and the doomed that are all around us. I-5 manages to be an exposé as well as a novel, and works brilliantly on both levels. Brenner concentrates on the human element, allowing the story to unfold and tell itself, and one can't help but be disturbed by a world that allows for disposable people.

08 July 2010

The World Cup

I'm only a mildly-interested football--er, soccer--fan, but I've watched quite a bit of the action from South Africa this year. That's mostly due to the new DishTV I had installed so I could watch my favorite baseball club, and the fact that the early-morning broadcasts fit my summer schedule nicely. I watched both group stage and knockout stage action, though I did miss the most of the U.S.-Ghana match. My rooting interest was simple: I wanted to see a new champion. I wanted the finals to involve teams that had never hoisted the Jules Rimet Trophy. That's worked out rather nicely, with Spain facing Holland, don't you think? I admit I was rooting for Germany--three-time champion--to beat Spain, but only because I like teams that score lots of goals, and Germany had soundly thrashed England and Argentina, scoring four goals in each match. Four goals is almost unprecedented in a competition where 1-0 is not only the most common score, but is also considered a decisive result. I'll admit, the dearth of goals is the main reason I can't get too excited by international football. They lads are certainly terrific athletes, and the steady flow and rhythm of passing and probing, passing and probing, can be entertaining. But goddammit, kick the fecking ball towards the net, will you? The game--at this level, is just too damn tactical and defensive. I think a team ought to feel that they can score, at the very least, one goal per half. That would make, for the most part, 3-2 and 2-1 results common rather than out of the ordinary. And don't get me started on the silliness of penalty kicks deciding championship games. I mean, should the World Series be decided by a home-run derby? Ye gods, that would be hideous. Being an American, I still have a hard time with "draws" as well. If FIFA restructured the group stages so that zero points were awarded for draws, just like for losses, you'd see a much more aggressive and attacking style of play as teams would have to go for the win. Spain, who certainly were the better club versus Germany, and deserved to win, has won its last three matches 1-0. Booooooooooring!!!! I have a feeling the final with Holland will end 1-0 as well, which would take some of the luster off the championship, at least for me. I also expect it will be Spain 1, Holland 0, as the Spanish team looks even more disciplined about possession and ball control than the Dutch team. We'll see, of course, it could be 90 minutes of cracking good football and end 4-3! But that would be a shocker. Perhaps the best thing about soccer is it requires so little time investment. The whole thing is over pretty quickly, what with the running clock and the short halftime. I can agree with fans that it is a beautiful game, but I cannot accept the notion that it is THE beautiful game. Sorry, that's a crock of snooty bullshit. Nor can I buy the idea that these guys are the "best" athletes in the world. Any sport played at an international level requires great athletes. I wonder how these fellows would do in ice hockey, where you have to skate like Michelle Kwan, crack heads like Ronnie Lott, and dribble, pass, and shoot like Kobe Bryant. With a stick, fer chrissakes! Trying to bully people into believing that one particular sport is the best with pronouncements like that makes me want to gag. Sure, I'll buy that it is the most popular sport in the world, but that is certainly not much of an argument. After all, Titanic is the most popular movie ever--does that make it the best? I don't think so.

That's my take on the World Cup. Congratulations to Spain and Holland for their success, and may the best squad take home the honors. And score some bloody goals, will ya?

05 July 2010


My dad's first cousin lives in Sligo, Ireland. He was a wonderful host when we visited that country, hauling us around, introducing us everywhere, giving us insight and opinion on all things Irish. When he talked about someone he didn't like, he invariably referred to them as a "bleedin' gobshite." Of course I though it was the most marvelous insult ever. The Irish version of the Queen's English is full of peculiarities and lovely bits, and I can't get enough of it. Pronouns are particularly fun. You hear the reflexive a lot: "Is it just yourself today?" Or the use of the personal for the possessive: "I reached for me drink." Another of my favorites is "your man" or "your man there," used to refer to some other person. In formal study, the dialect is called Hiberno-English, from the old Latin name of Ireland, Hibernia. There's enough unusual syntax, curious idioms, and colorful vocabulary there to keep WordMan™ happy for the rest of his days. Alas, like all things old, Hiberno-English is dying out. The younger generations have become more and more Americanised (as the Irish would spell it) and the country more global and multi-cultural. TV, the internet, mobiles (Irish for cell phones), and a flood of euros will do that.

Fortunately, there's Irish novelist Ken Bruen and his fictional creation PI Jack Taylor. Jack is "old school" Galway, a keeper of the Celtic flame, and he rails (mostly futilely) against the creeping modernization of his beloved country. We are always meeting old Galwegians who still use the old expressions and follow the old traditions. Cross is the latest I've read--having come across Priest last year--and Sanctuary awaits me on the shelf. The hard-boiled Taylor is rude, rough, lonely, and cynical, like a good noir protagonist ought to be. Despite the fact that the rather straightforward stories are premised on some shockingly savage violence, they are surprisingly funny, and even tender in spots, as our battered hero muses on his life and his many misdeeds. No matter how bad it gets, Jack Taylor manages to gain some measure of redemption and self-respect, at least enough to carry on. And all the while he's a treasure chest of Irish thought, history, and language. I don't know if Mr. Bruen set out to be a guardian of Irish culture, but through the voice of his angry PI, he is, and he manages to do it without pedantry or whingeing.

22 June 2010

Begob, I'm back at it

Knocked off another episode of Ulysses. This one has poor Bloom subjected to some racist abuse by a fellow known only as "the citizen." Bloom makes a pitch for universal love and speaks of the injustices heaped upon Jews worldwide. The passages describing events are told in over-wrought parodies of various writing styles, everything from traditional sagas to the society pages. Long lists of names, satirizing Irish mythology, Church saints, clergymen, royal families, and the like pepper the pages. How about this one: Senor Hidalgo Caballero Don Pecadillo y Palabras y Paternoster de la Malora de la Malaria. It's like Damon Runyon and William S. Burroughs helped Hunter S. Thompson write a chapter in a Donald E. Westlake comic crime caper. My favorite part is about brewing beer, and seems like just an aside (but you can never be sure with Joyce) when the bartender brings a drink ("a crystal cup full of the foaming ebon ale"):

For they garner the succulent berries of the hop and mass and sift and bruise and brew them and they mix therewith sour juices and bring the must to the sacred fire and cease not night and day from their toil, those cunning brothers, lords of the vat.

I like that--lords of the vat. Beats lords of the dance, eh?

06 June 2010

New computer!

Upgrading was the theme for this weekend. I bought a new Dell, an XPS 9000 with a 24" monitor which I'm using right now. I took the 5-year old Dell E510 and added 1 GB of RAM and a PCI wireless card. That machine has been moved to the other end of the house where my lovely bride can use it. Everything went swimmingly! The new machine is fast and quiet, and the old machine is still humming along. I realize that Dells are kind of like Fords--safe and predictable and even boring--but I'm pretty excited that everything came together "right out of the box." I'm also happy the old computer is useful, as there is too much digital junk already in this world. When I set up the first system, it asked me for a "name." At the time I had a sheet of Greta Garbo 37-cent stamps on my desk. Yes, I keep stamps on my desk. I'm currently featuring "Cowboys of the Silver Screen" with Tom Mix, Gene Autry, William S. Hart, and Roy Rogers, as well as "Legends of Hollywood" with Katherine Hepburn, all 44-cents. I slapped one of the Garbos on the box and called it "Greta." When it came time to name the new computer, I was stumped. Rummaging around in my odds-and-ends pile, I found two unused Garbos, so I called the new box "GRETA2." Take a look--who could resist that face?

30 May 2010

The Holy Trinity

Today is Trinity Sunday. My holy trinity is Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Jonathan Sanchez.

Go Giants!

16 May 2010

"Cashel Boyle O'Connor Fitzmaurice Tisdall Farrell

walked as far as Mr Lewis Werner's cheerful windows, then turned and strode back along Merrion Square, his stickumbrelladustcoat dangling." (p. 246)

This chap keeps showing up along Joyce's Dublin streets. I'm not quite sure who he is, and what he's all about, but he keeps making appearances and is always referred to by his full name. And I'm not exactly sure what a "stickumbrelladustcoat" is, but I sort of like it. The entire novel is having that effect on me--I'm not sure what it's all about, but I'm having a good time. Imagine riding a tourist bus in an exotic city with a guide speaking in an incomprehensible tongue and you'll get the picture. The scenery and is fresh and interesting even if you can't make heads or tails of it.

10 May 2010

Back in the gutter again

At least I hope.

Matt Louis, publisher and editor of Out of the Gutter magazine, has a new venture called Gutter Books. Mr. Louis hopes to expand beyond his hardcore pulp journal into publishing books, particularly crime fiction. Sounds good to me. I've published two short stories--both in Out of the Gutter--so you can understand my fondness for all things gutter (scroll down to the bottom of the blog). Matt asked me if I would help out Gutter Books by contributing to the blog on the website, and doing stuff like advance reading and perhaps some editing. How could I say no? Not only that, he says he'd like me to turn one of my short stories into a novel and submit it for publication!

Ann Landers is reputed to have said "Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognize them."

I'll have to start working my ass off pretty soon.

25 April 2010

Outstanding local brew

The Wild River Brewing and Pizza Co. in Medford, Oregon is another place here in the State of Jefferson to get great beer. We had a chance to partake on Saturday, and I had both the Kölsch and the Pilsener. Having never been to Köln or Pilsen I can't vouch for the "authenticity" so prized by micro-brewers, but I can tell you that both were delicious and drinkable. I found the Kölsch particularly lovely, with its clean, malty flavor perfectly balanced by subtle hop crispness. A perfect beer for a sunny spring day.

20 April 2010

2010 Dipshit Award

My 2010 Dipshit Award goes to this jackass:
Promiscuous women are responsible for earthquakes, a senior Iranian cleric has said.

His name is Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi. Here's more of his religious wisdom:
"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," he said.
Res ipsa loquitur.

08 April 2010

Past the quarter-mark

Stephen Dedalus spent the early afternoon regaling his friends with a number of wild theories about William Shakespeare. I'm just over the 200-page mark in Ulysses. The entire section is filled with wordplay, rhymes, and jokes. Buck Mulligan provides much of the silly banter, but also spots Leopold Bloom and makes anti-Semitic remarks about him. Mr Bloom is an acquaintance of Stephen's father, Simon, but unknown at this point in the story to Stephen. It seems like Joyce is cramming everything he knows into this one book--foreign languages, history, philosophy, politics--and taking every opportunity to show off his erudtion and arcane humor. I'm still surprised I'm enjoying the trip inside his head, as it is often tough going and impossible to follow. There's just something compelling about the whole thing. Perhaps when I'm done I'll understand why I took the plunge in the first place!

06 April 2010

Bend beer

We visited our pals in Bend, Oregon this weekend and drank some primo brews. The Deschutes Brewpub is right downtown and always jammed, but we managed to slake our thirst with hand-pumped ales (Bachelor Bitter and Mirror Pond) before heading to dinner at the excellent but unpretentious High Tides Seafood Grill. There's nothing quite like the smooth creaminess of beers "from the cask." The Brits call it "real ale" and I can't argue with them. Later in the weekend we got a tour of the actual Deschutes Brewery (located in a huge building in the Old Mill district) which was very impressive. No beer was being made, but we got an up-close-and-personal look at the brew vessels: massive, gleaming, custom-made million-dollar stainless-steel tuns and kettles that had me swooning with brewer envy. The tour was free and low-key (only 6 people), but thorough, and the beer samplers were free, too. Who can argue with that? The Green Lakes organic has a clean, light maltiness, suitable for serious quaffing, while the Hophenge is its opposite, a massive humulone-soaked high-alcohol snifter-only brew. Both were excellent. After that we enjoyed a fine meal and some more outstanding Bend beer at 10 Barrel Brewing Company. The S1NISTOR black ale (on nitro) was dreamy, rich and satisfying, taking full advantage of the "de-husked" dark malts. The Apocalypse IPA was smooth and well-balanced, with just the right hoppiness. When we hesitated over our beer choices the waitress brought us samplers so we could make up our minds! That's how it ought to be--you don't want a full pint of a beer you won't enjoy. In fact, the only one I didn't like was their Dubbel, but I'm not particularly fond of Belgian-style ales anyway, so that's not a knock. All in all, a damn fine Easter weekend. Thanks, H & D, for the superb hospitality and the willingness to keep me thoroughly lubricated with the good stuff.

01 April 2010

Maundy Thursday

They don't call it Maundy Thursday anymore, sticking with the more palatable Holy Thursday. "Maundy" is a fine old word with not much going for it these days. WordMan™ has a fondness for such things. "Maundy" comes to English via Latin, mandatus being the past participle of mandare, meaning to entrust or to order. Mandatus is also a noun, meaning a command (you can see the obvious root of "mandate"). Thus Christians are mandated to be holy, I reckon. To fulfill the command of John 13:34 ("love one another as I have loved you"). To wash the feet of the poor (John 13:1-17). Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry for Maundy Thursday offers an alternative etymology for "maundy," saying it comes from mendicare (French mendier) meaning to beg. Apparently the English king distributed alms to the poor on that day, filling the "maundsor" baskets of the less fortunate ahead of the Easter feast. Now that's more like it, a fine old controversy for grey-bearded Oxford dons to thrash out with their grad students.

24 March 2010

Bloomsday afternoon

I've only read through page 181. Leopold Bloom managed to get some work done and eat a bit of lunch. He winds up in the National Museum and remembers the bar of soap he bought. I'm reminded of this Woody Allen joke:

I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.

Talking about the plot of Ulysses is pointless. Not a whole lot happens. But a whole hell of a lot is going on, even if you can't follow it. Mostly, it's mental. You spend a lot of time in Mr Bloom's head as his mind wanders. Here's a piece:

At Duke lane a ravenous terrier choked up a sick knuckly cud on the cobble stones and lapped it with new zest. Surfeit. Returned with thanks having fully digested the contents. First sweet then savoury. Mr Bloom coasted warily. Ruminants. His second course. Their upper jaw they move. Wonder if Tom Rochford will do anything with that invention of his. Wasting time explaining it to Flynn's mouth. Lean people long mouths. Ought to be a hall or a place where inventors could go in and invent free. Course then you'd have all the cranks pestering.

This is an easy passage, with, if not complete sentences, at least complete thoughts. It's quite a jump from dog puke to an inventors' hall, but we all know our minds can do that. You see? There's a lot going on even though nothing is happening. I'm enjoying the ride despite the fact that it is bumpy and meandering--you have to stop frequently and go back, too. Normally, that would drive me nuts. I'm not sure why Ulysses has a hold on me right now. Perhaps St. Patrick's Day put me in a Irish mood. I think, though, it might be the familarity of it. The world of Bloom's mind that Joyce crafted feels like my own. Maybe that's what the fuss is all about. You can't "record" your stream-of-consciousness, but you could create, with art, a reminder, or a facsimile, that seems like your own mind. We all know fiction doesn't have to actually be realistic--the reader just has to believe it is. I believe I'm in Bloom's mind when he's walking down the street, so I keep reading.

17 March 2010

Bloomsday, continued

I'm still in the early morning of Bloomsday, having just attended a funeral with the aforementioned Mr Bloom. I also met Simon Dedalus, father of the aforementioned Stephen Dedalus, who was at the same funeral as Mr Bloom. The action in Ulysses takes place in a single day. Both Stephen and Leopold have had their breakfasts--Stephen's was prepared by his antagonist, Buck Mulligan, while Leopold served his wife Molly her tea and toast in bed before sitting down in the kitchen to his fried kidney. Both then went out into the city for walks. I followed Leopold's peregrinations with my Dublin map! Much of the story so far involves convoluted passages of internal monologues interspersed with random thoughts, stray impressions, and remembrances of things past. Imagine a kaleidoscope that never settles on the same pattern and you'll get the idea. Joyce is attempting to convey--it seems to me--all the stuff that fills the mind of an ordinary person on an ordinary day going about his regular business. It is confusing, infuriating, and fascinating at the same time.


12 March 2010

"Mr Leopold Bloom . . .

 . . . ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls."

I've decided to tackle Ulysses. I cannot say why. Mere days ago, I looked up on my bookshelf, and there was James Joyce, stuck between Erica Jong and Richard Kadrey. I still have the copy of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that I read in high school. I remember the book bewildered me at seventeen, but bedazzled me at twenty-seven. So far, I've met "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan" and been re-acquainted with Stephen Dedalus. Every page is sprinkled with Latin and Greek and allusions to things I think I should know about. Much seems like nonsense, but it is interspersed with much I want to leap up and write down and recite out loud, over and over again. Perhaps the "ineluctable modality of the audible" is at work.

I'll keep you posted. This might take a while.

04 March 2010

I'm hella stoked

A young fellow from our neck of the woods got excited one day in science class at UC Davis. He decided that the slang term "hella" would make a good prefix in the SI system. Everyone is familiar with mega-and giga- from computerspeak, and most of us know a kilo-meter is a bunch of meters (1000, or 10^3). So far, the SI folks don't have a prefix for 10^27 (10 raised to the 27th power). This lad--Austin Sendek is his name--thinks "hella" would do nicely. I'm all for it. After all, we need more humor in science. There are only so many "Uranus" jokes to go around. To give you an idea of how big 10^27 is, the world's electric power usage** is about 2 tera-watts, or 2 x 10^12 watts. That's only 0.000000000000002 hella-watts!

There's a Facebook page about "hella" and the story made it across The Pond to The Daily Telegraph!

**The number is from Richard Muller's Physics for Future Presidents.

02 March 2010

Life begins anew

The San Francisco Giants play their first Spring Training game on Wednesday. Baseball season begins and I live again. I believe Rogers Hornsby is credited with:

People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

I like to ski, and that helps. Otherwise, Rogers has it spot on.

Go Giants!

17 February 2010

Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), marks the end of the festive time--Carnival--after the Epiphany and before the fasting and prayer season of Lent. In English-speaking countries, it was often called Shrove Tuesday. "Shrove" is the past tense of "shrive," meaning to confess and obtain absolution. (You can also say "shrived.") Partridge says that "shrive" is from the Old English "scrifan" meaning to prescribe a penance on. So if you haven't done your penance, you better hop to it. It is Ash Wednesday after all--no more partying until Easter!

03 February 2010


I just finished COWARD, the first volume of Marvel's CRIMINAL, a noir comic series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It's brilliant stuff, and I can't wait to read the rest. I was introduced to Criminal via a short piece in Dark Horse's Noir collection, which I blogged about recently. The storytelling is so crisp and sure-handed, nothing seems out-of-place, and it deftly works in flashbacks and character development along with action. The protagonist of the story is a professional thief with a powerful instinct for self-preservation. As a result, he's a meticulous planner, obsessing over the smallest details in order to avoid personal risk. Our "coward" is more than willing to walk away from a payday if he thinks the job is too dangerous. Naturally, he gets involved in a scheme that starts to spiral out of control, and his personal loyalties and his fanatical adherence to his own "rules" are put to the test. The inks and colors are first-rate, adding a brooding, danger-laden atmosphere to the story. These guys are one hell of a tag-team and I suggest you go out and buy their stuff. I also recently read their pulpy, villainous super-hero tale INCOGNITO, which is also terrific. Both books re-imagine the rich landscape of American pulp, action-adventure, crime, and noir fiction in a post-modern world. The fact that they are beautiful visual art pieces as well only makes them more appealing!

02 February 2010

Halfway there

The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere--the winter solstice--is about six-and-a-half weeks behind us. In just about six-and-a-half weeks from now the vernal equinox will mark the start of spring. We sit right in the middle today, the "cross-quarter" point on the calendar that is celebrated in this country as Groundhog Day. Brigid of Kildare had her feast day yesterday, and Imbolc is reckoned tomorrow. In Punxsutawney, the eponymous Phil reportedly saw his shadow, meaning "six more weeks of winter." I'm a skiier, so I don't mind. But I was thinking that Pennsylvania is on the other side of the country, and we could use our own little fellow here in the State of Jefferson. I propose we select a rock chuck in Montague and call him something like "Malachi." We'll have to be quick about it, of course, as the poor creature will likely be blasted to smithereens by an alert 12-year old with a .22 as soon as he pops his head out of his hole. But at least it would offer a better local forecast, don't you think?

23 January 2010

Out of the Gutter VI

Yes, there have been SIX issues of Out of the Gutter! The latest, Sexploitation, contains the usual degenerate fare. I particularly liked Chris Pimental's "The Vigg Train" and "Life Model" by Angela Caperton. What stood out in this edition was the non-fiction, especially the interview with porn writer C.M. Gordon (his shamus is called "Max Load") and the story of the early days of Hustler magazine ("Thinking Pink with Larry Flynt") by one-who-was-there Mike Sheeter. The disturbing "What I Learned in John School: a true story by an unnamed author" was more chilling than most of the collection. Clair Dickson chipped in another Bo Fexler tale--some day she'll have to anthologize them all. I remember thinking I ought to create a recurring character (thus Matt Cadd, Private Eye was born) when I first encountered Ms. Dickson's P.I.. If you are tired of the usual homogenized, corporate crap that passes for entertainment these days, try some independent, small-press, one-of-a-kind stuff like OUT OF THE GUTTER. Founder and publisher Matt Louis has been fighting the good fight and deserves your support. And I should mention that M.C. O'Connor has two stories published in OOTG--one in issue 2 and one in issue 4. So hit the website and support your local author!

17 January 2010

The Corpse Wore Pasties

The latest Hard Case Crime release is a fun and funny Westlakean romp through the bars, back alleys, and burlesque shows of--where else--NYC. A fellow by the name of Jonny Porkpie ("The Burlesque Mayor of New York City") gets the by-line and is also the main character. Jonny is a reluctant detective. He's the host of a burlesque show that features a faux-poisoning act. Only this time there's no faux--the perfomer ends up actually poisoned to death. Naturally our hero gets on the wrong side of the law and becomes Suspect No. 1. Much to the chagrin of his friends and loved ones, Jonny decides to solve the case on his own. He's a bumbler, naturally, but a determined and resourceful bumbler, and his attempts to piece the whole mess together and clear his name make for a lively and entertaining read. The women make up the best part of the book. A whole host of beautiful, smart, cagey, and scantily-clad femmes populate the pages of The Corpse Wore Pasties, and you can't help but like all of them, even the evil ones. There's Nasty Canasta (Jonny's wife in the story), Angelina Blood, Victoria Vice, Jillian Knockers, Eva Desire, Cherries Jubilee, Brioche à Tête. and LuLu LaRue. What's not to like? The book has a breezy style but is carefully plotted and well-paced with enough misdirection to keep you guessing until the end. My favorite scene involves Jonny hiding in a foam rubber zeppelin (a Hindenburg stage prop) while Cherries lies to the cops about his whereabouts and drops one-liners about "hot air" and "flight risk" and distracts the poor flatfoots with peeks at her uh, assets. Oh, the humanity! Like I said, Westlakean. Not many writers would get me to favorably compare their work to the grandmaster, so a tip of the porkpie to Jonny for a fine effort. Let's hope there's more from him in the future.

Oh, and how about that fabulous Ricky Mujica cover?

12 January 2010

Steroids, moral outrage, and media blather

I guess I'm supposed to care that Mark McGwire used steroids. Rather, that he admitted that he used steroids. I don't. I don't care that he used them and I don't care that he admitted to using them. This is baseball, folks. Major League Baseball to be precise. It is a multi-billion dollar international entertainment industry. It is not a place for moral lessons. Mark McGwire wants a new job with MLB so he has to toe the party line and apologize regretfully for his past actions. That's it. There's no story and no substance. If he stayed retired he could (and should) keep his business to himself. How about this? You keep your business to yourself and I'll keep mine to myself. And if you are looking for a "solution" to the "steroid problem" then I have one: allow their use. These are drugs, folks. When properly prescribed, administered, and monitored, the danger and health consequences of these drugs become manageable. Just like other drugs in our multi-billion dollar international pharmaceutical world. Professional athletes use all sorts of medical technology to improve their performances and achieve at a higher level. More power to them. As long as they are ADULTS and aware of the risks they should be able to do whatever they want. Just like any other citizen.

That's enough of that.

Spring training is just weeks away! Nothing makes a baseball fan happier--other than the actual start of the season!

02 January 2010

Welcome to Twenty-ten!

We've managed to get past the awkward aughts. Did you go around, like me, saying "aught-five" and "aught-seven" and such? Probably not--I'm a lot geekier than you. You likely said "oh-five" and "oh-seven." That's reasonable, most folks say the Big One that hit San Francisco was in "ninteen-oh-six." Which ought to be a lesson to us. We say "seventeen" for the 1700s, "eighteen" for the 1800s, and "nineteen" for the 1900s. So what are we going to say for the 2000s? "Two-thousand?" I don't think so. Are you really going to say this year is "two thousand-ten?" Perhaps an abomination like "two-oh-ten" is more your liking.

No matter. This is year Twenty-ten.

Next year we'll say "twenty-eleven," and after that "twenty-twelve," "twenty-thirteen," and so on. There, you see? WordMan™ was there when you needed him.

Felicem annum novum.