Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Laura Lippman Interview

Diane Rehm did a terrific interview with Laura Lippman on NPR today (July 27th, 2004).
A good discussion on the latest book, "By A Spider's Thread" and on the growth of Laura's protagonist, Baltimore PI. Tess Monaghan.
It is archived on WAMU's web site.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry #268

Saturday, July 24, 2004—587 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 57 seconds
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Rave: Myrna Loy
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Factoid: It is almost impossible to spend two hours with Cole Porter and leave the theater without a great big smile.
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Rant: Explaining why he would have welcomed Mike Krzyzewski as Lakers coach, Kobe Bryant said, "If I had went to college, I would have went to Duke." And flunked English, by the sounds of it.
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Rave: RKO Radio Pictures.
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Rave: Melanie Griffith’s tribute to Jean Harlow on Turner Classic Movies is quite moving. It is hard to imagine that Jean Harlow died so young (at 26). She sure turned things around in Hollywood.
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Rant: Are there any children in the world more screwed up than the children of psychiatrists?
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Strange but true: Nobody has ever seen Ralph Nader smile.
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Hmmm: When is the last time you asked someone for his fax number?
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Truism: Some hotel chains have figured out that guests want good beds. And some have even figured out they like nice bathrooms. So when are the hotels going to figure out that guests would like a little soundproofing?
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Let us remember: At the age of 81 (six days after his final gig), legendary tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet died of a heart attack.
His career spanned seven decades and he received an honorary doctorate of musical arts from Julliard on May 21st of this year.
He played with and influenced everyone from Nat Cole to Louis Armstrong; Charlie Parker to Miles Davis; Count Basie to Cab Calloway; Ella to Dizzy.
His eighty-second solo on "Flying Home" with the Lionel Hampton Band is his most famous legacy. "Black Velvet" is my particular favorite.
He appeared in "Stormy Weather" with Lena Horne.
He was spectacular.
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Rant: I am certain it is irrational, but five-digit street addresses really bother me.
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Rave: "Double Play" by Robert B. Parker defies classification.
It centers on the 1947 baseball season when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier…so there is baseball.
The Dodgers feel Robinson requires a bodyguard and pick Joseph Burke. Burke is a physically and emotionally wounded Guadalcanal Marine sharp shooter. He has no feelings and nothing to lose, follows orders and shoots straight…in other words, the perfect choice to protect Robinson.
The plot to kill Robinson originates with a New York mob boss. Burke’s astute manipulations of the mob and the Harlem gangsters combine to save the day. So there is mystery and gunplay.
Mr. Parker alternates the death threat story with recollections of his own childhood as a fan of the Dodgers.
Nostalgic period detail paints the scene with atmospheric touches like vintage songs, network radio shows, Red Barber calling the games and 1947 box scores.
But it is the relationship between Robinson and Burke that carries the story in this lean, taut, intricate, poignant novel. While it is Burke who thwarts the assassination of Jackie Robinson, it is Robinson who truly saves Burke.
In the Parker tradition, Burke is "someone who plays the game, protecting those who follow the rules and punishing those who don’t. We call him a hero."
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Hmmmm: Would it not be cool if someone had a garage sale and actually sold his garage?
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Just asking: Have you actually seen a rug shop go out of business?
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Truism: People who sleep on foam pillows rather than down pillows do not know what they are missing.
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Born this day: Zelda Fitzgerald, Bob Eberly, X. Brands, Doug Sanders, John D. MacDonald, Amelia Earhart, Alexandre Dumas.
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That is all.
As you were.

Review: "Double Play" by Robert B. Parker

"Double Play" by Robert Parker defies classification.

It centers on the 1947 baseball season when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier…so there is baseball.

The Dodgers feel Robinson requires a bodyguard and pick Joseph Burke. Burke is a physically and emotionally wounded Guadalcanal Marine sharp shooter. He has no feeling and nothing to lose, follows orders and shoots straight…in other words, the perfect choice to protect Robinson.

The plot to kill Robinson originates with a New York mob boss. Burke’s astute manipulations of the mob and the Harlem gangsters combine to save the day. So there is mystery and gunplay.

Mr. Parker alternates the death threat story with recollections of his own childhood as a fan of the Dodgers.

Nostalgic period detail paints the scene with atmospheric touches like vintage songs, network radio shows, Red Barber calling the games and 1947 box scores.

But it is the relationship between Robinson and Burke that carries the story in this lean, taut, intricate, poignant novel. While it is Burke who thwarts the assassination of Jackie Robinson, it is Robinson who truly saves Burke.

In the Parker tradition, Burke is "someone who plays the game, protecting those who follow the rules and punishing those who don’t. We call him a hero."


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Review: "De-Lovely"

"De-Lovely" is exquisite…just a superb experience.
Both Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd inhabit their roles and become Cole and Linda Porter. It is impossible to take your eyes off them.
The parts seem tailor made for them. They combine infectious joy, gracefulness, charm and sophistication…and pull off the emotional ingredients essential to tell the bittersweet love story. They are there for one another in the hard times as well as the good times.
The supporting cast is equally potent and the motion picture is elegantly filmed.
The 1930’s come to life in the music, costumes and automobiles.
A galaxy of today’s pop stars brings several of Cole Porter’s standards delightfully to life.
And, what great music! Cole Porter is arguably one of the three or four greatest US songwriters. How many writing today will be remembered in eighty years?
Peaks and valleys filled Cole Porter’s career and personal life. This extraordinary, rich, enchanting film will take your emotions on that same roller coaster.
It would not surprise me in the least to see Oscar nominations for Costume Design, Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd...as well Song (any number of candidates there.)




Curmudgeon in the Wry #267

Friday, July 23, 2004—522 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 51 seconds
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Rave: Lana Turner
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Rave: "De-Lovely" is exquisite…just a superb experience.
Both Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd inhabit their roles and become Cole and Linda Porter. It is impossible to take your eyes off them.
The parts seem tailor made for them. They combine infectious joy, gracefulness, charm and sophistication…and pull off the emotional ingredients essential to tell the bittersweet love story. They are there for one another in the hard times as well as the good times.
The supporting cast is equally potent and the motion picture is elegantly filmed.
The 1930’s come to life in the music, costumes and automobiles.
A galaxy of today’s pop stars brings several of Cole Porter’s standards delightfully to life.
And, what great music! Cole Porter is arguably one of the three or four greatest US songwriters. How many writing today will be remembered in eighty years?
Peaks and valleys filled Cole Porter’s career and personal life. This extraordinary, rich, enchanting film will take your emotions on that same roller coaster.
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Rave: On ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, I prefer the "web gems" to the "touch ‘em all" segment.
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Rave: The Elton John guest appearance on the John McEnroe Show was worthy of the instant repeat. Overall the show needs a lot of tweaking…and John has to get a clue on how awful his shirts are.
CNBC has done a great job refining the Dennis Miller Show. It has become one of the fastest going sixty minutes on the tube.
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Rave: If he were alive today, Randolph Scott would be making a fortune doing voice-overs.
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Quote: "But after seeing about a thousand rock concerts, my feeling is that rock stars who discuss politics from the stage deserve whatever criticism they get -- not for speaking their minds, but for assuming they might have something to say that we need to hear from them. I figure if you're a pop musician and you feel the need to express your politics, go try to write the next ‘Blowin' in the Wind.’" ---Jim Fusilli in the Wall Street Journal
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Hmmm: What’s with the back of the nickel? It looks like two guys shaking hands over a pair of golf clubs. What is it supposed to be…a tribute to Ben Hogan?
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Admit it: Most new, fake diners are nicer than the old, real diners ever were.
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Rant: I remain unconvinced that birds actually like birdbaths.
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Rave: For the past couple of weeks the Danish Paralympic Swim Team has been training at the Aquatic Center I belong to.
This is as courageous a group of young people as I have ever seen.
A few have only one fully functioning limb, yet are never without a smile. All are powerful swimmers…a couple you could ski behind.
They are inspirational and give me a perpetual "there but for the grace of God go I" feeling.
It is humbling, uplifting and a privilege to share the pool with them.
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Born this day: Raymond Chandler, PeeWee Reese, Don Drysdale, Don Imus, Monica Lewinsky, Gloria DeHaven.
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That is all.
As you were.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry # 266

Monday, July 19, 2004—560 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 48 seconds
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Rave: Kirk Douglas
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Rant: Is it just me or is the Braves TV schedule being managed under the Witness Protection Program?
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Quote: "God helps those who get in on the ground floor." ---Anon.
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Y Not: Bill Cosby should be appointed secretary of education. You may not like his message, but who will be able to argue with him?
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Hmmm: Aren’t you glad that football and baseball did not go metric?
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Rave: The 91 movies run this past week in the Turner Classic Movies "Crime Wave." Many great film noir classics.
Every time I see "The Asphalt Jungle," the better it gets. Same with "The Postman Always Rings Twice"---James Cain was an incredible writer…and it did not hurt that Lana Turner and John Garfield were spontaneous combustion on the screen.
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Rave: I have convinced myself that M&M Almonds contain all sever major food groups.
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Rant: People who crack their gum should not be allowed out in public.
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Rave: Neighbors never just drop by on one another any more…thank goodness.
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Rant: On Sunday’s "Face the Nation," Ed Gillespie, Chairman, Republican National Committee brought up the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee’s report where Kerry advisor Joe Wilson was unanimously discredited.
The Committee found that Wilson fabricated stories and talked about viewing documents he never saw. Wilson himself said he "used a little literary flair."
No comment necessary.
The most interesting part came after moderator Bob Schieffer asked Terry McAuliffe, Chairman, Democratic National Committee if he wanted to reply.
McAuliffe said, "I’ll let Joe Wilson speak for himself."
Good to know that the Democratic National Committee Chairman is with his fellow dems win or tie.
Say what you may about George W. Bush…but he knows the meaning of loyalty.
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Truism: There is nothing more complicated than a hotel alarm clock.
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Rave: Laura Lippman’s eighth Tess Monaghan novel, "By A Spider’s Thread" is a provocative, savvy, challenging thriller.
Precise plotting, an economical cast of realistic characters (some appealing, some detestable) and a plausible resolution make the pages disappear in a trice.
Mark Rubin, a wealthy Jewish furrier whose wife (Natalie) and three children have vanished, hires Tess to locate them.
Mark and Tess get off to a rocky beginning as Mark withholds information about his family and omits details about contacts that could illuminate Tess’s search.
Tess is resourceful and they gradually warm to one another. As Tess learns more about Mark’s family, marriage and religious identity, the reasons for Natalie’s disappearance start to materialize.
Family secrets underlie the plot and provide the motive for the mastermind behind the disappearance.
The story is told from multiple points of view…that of Tess and the parallel view from the observant and bright eldest child. This works and leaves enough blanks to fill in to keep you guessing and on your toes.
Laura Lippman is masterful at filling in the pertinent background with the backwards and forwards story telling. Equally important is the way she builds the tension, suspense and impact with character development rather than gratuitous violence.
The multilayered, absorbing narrative has enormous momentum and clever details.
Easily the best in the Tess Monaghan series and a powerful follow-up to last year’s spectacular "Every Secret Thing."
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Born this day: Max_Fleischer, Vikki Carr, George McGovern, Lizzie Borden, Edgar Degas, Pat Hingle.
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That is all.
As you were.


Review: "By A Spider's Thread"---Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman’s eighth Tess Monaghan novel, "By A Spider’s Thread" is a provocative, savvy, challenging thriller.
Precise plotting, an economical cast of realistic characters (some appealing, some detestable) and a plausible resolution make the pages disappear in a trice.
Mark Rubin, a wealthy Jewish furrier whose wife (Natalie) and three children have vanished, hires Tess to locate them.
Mark and Tess get off to a rocky beginning as Mark withholds information about his family and omits details about contacts that could illuminate Tess’s search.
Tess is resourceful and they gradually warm to one another. As Tess learns more about Mark’s family, marriage and religious identity, the reasons for Natalie’s disappearance start to materialize.
Family secrets underlie the plot and provide the motive for the mastermind behind the disappearance.
The story is told from multiple points of view…that of Tess and the parallel view from the observant and bright eldest child. This works and leaves enough blanks to fill in to keep you guessing and on your toes.
Laura Lippman is masterful at filling in the pertinent background with the backwards and forwards story telling. Equally important is the way she builds the tension, suspense and impact with character development rather than gratuitous violence.
The multilayered, absorbing narrative has enormous momentum and clever details.
Easily the best in the Tess Monaghan series and a powerful follow-up to last year’s spectacular "Every Secret Thing."

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Review: “The Coil” by Gayle Lynds

With no Cold War, the agents of globalization are the central foes in “The Coil” by Gayle Lynds.
Former CIA agent, Liz Sansborough and undercover MI6 agent Simon Childs cross over England, Scotland and France attempting to recover the secret files of the “Carnivore,” one of the most successful and infamous Cold War assassins. The files are said to contain details on many high profile hits ordered and paid for by powerful politicos and industrialists.
The “Carnivore” also happens to be Liz’s father.
Whoever currently possesses the long lost files is using the info to blackmail eminent world figures and leaders---not for money, but to promote a secret agenda.
Liz and Simon are not alone is chasing the files. There are the kidnappers who have her cousin, a shadowy group of powerful corporate leaders known as The Coil, and eventually the CIA and MI6 disavow Liz and Simon and leave them twisting in the wind.
In this complex tale of international conspiracy, espionage, blackmail, deceit and conniving few are what they appear to be. Trust is impossible, self-reliance the best weapon.
At times the more Liz and Simon learn, the less they know. After many misdirections, the parallel plots of the search for the files, the kidnapping and the incredible power and reach of The Coil converge for a powerful ending.
“The Coil” is high-octane suspense with imaginative and intelligent protagonists versus determined villains with unlimited resources.
Suspend some disbelief and enjoy a smart, complicated novel of international suspense.

Review: “Good Morning Heartache” by Peter Duchin

Peter Duchin’s “Good Morning Heartache” is a most entertaining mystery-lite set in 1965 LA.
A gig at the Cocoanut Grove brings Philip Damon and his orchestra to the West Coast.
Recovering junkie Buddy Bixby subs for the ailing trumpet player and is working out well when he turns up dead with a needle in his arm. His is the second suspicious death since the band’s arrival.
Damon and his ex homicide detective/sax p[layer know foul play they encounter it.
Who stands to benefit from these deaths---a financially stressed “B” movie studio head, an embittered former child actor, a surfing legend/stunt man, a despised paparazzo, Buddy’s sister, a highly regarded publicity agent, a remarkably beautiful ingenue or her mother?
It is a great cast interspersed with real life pop icons of the time. Toots Shore, Joe DiMaggio, Gloria DeHaven, Rock Hudson, Art Pepper and the like share the pages with the fictional players.
Accurate attention to details of the mid 1960’s layout and life styles of LA and environs add to the pleasure of the novel.
The plot moves seamlessly. Told in the first person, the reader has the same insight and frustration as Philip Damon as to whodunit.
I had strong suspicions (correct) as to the culprit, but was never 100% certain and kept bewildered as to why until the end---always a positive sign.

Review: Robert Ferrigno’s “Scavenger Hunt”

Robert Ferrigno’s “Scavenger Hunt” is a subtle, darkly mesmerizing Hollywood tale of murder, ambition, frame-ups, set-ups, double-crosses and clever sleuthing.
After serving seven years, Oscar winning producer Garrett Walsh is determined to prove his innocence. His vehicle is what he terms, the “most dangerous screenplay in Hollywood.” Walsh wants SLAP magazine’s cynical, skeptical, irreverent, high profile reporter Jimmy Gage to publicize the screenplay, before someone attempts to silence him permanently.
Jimmy fails to buy in. But, when Walsh is found floating in his koi pond and the screenplay missing, Jimmy doubts it was the accidental death the police claim.
No one shares Jimmy’s thesis except his nefarious pal Rollo. Together they work their way thru a colorful cast of quirky Hollywood types, and around the cops who consider the case closed.
The plot is superb: sophisticated, solid, circuitous and overflowing with scintillating dialogue.
Mr. Ferrigno withholds enough info to keep surprises coming and the pages turning. The pace never slackens, and the accelerating danger of the killer keeps the tenseness at a high pitch.
A delightful read. Hooray for Hollywood!

Review: "Mr. Paradise" by Elmore Leonard

Shady characters, brilliant dialogue, irony, masterful writing and a lively and humorous story line are what we expect from Elmore Leonard. “Mr. Paradise,” a Runyonesque tale, has all this and more…it does not disappoint.
Eighty-four year old retired mob lawyer Tony Paradisio’s favorite pastime is watching tapes of classic Michigan football victories with an escort or two cheering topless in ways not athletically encouraging.
After learning that he has been eliminated from Mr. Paradise’s will, Montez (Mr. P’s main man) arranges a hit that is supposed to look like a home invasion gone wrong.
The perps and Montez are members of the criminal mindless.
Throw in two corpses, a Victoria Secret model witness, an identity switch, assorted lowlifes, a safe deposit box full of loot, the hitmen’s “agent” and Frank Delsa (a resourceful Detroit homicide detective)---and the chase is on.
The bad guys feel a sense of entitlement---leading to their demise. Getting caught being the real crime. Double-crosses, scams and deceptions propel the plot.
The tight prose is filled with accurate conversation in the colorful vernacular of the urban scene.
“Mr. Paradise” is a stylistic, unforgettable, witty, fast-paced read. Elmore Leonard is a consistently entertaining writer---do not under rate him just because you like him.

Reviews: P.J. Parrish & Vince Flynn

In “Paint It Black” Florida author P.J. Parrish brings protagonist Louis Kincaid to Soreno Key in the Sunshine State.
Louis Kincaid’s former cop boss has hooked Louis up with a local lawyer for some investigative work.
His attempt to clear his client of murder leads to a search for a serial killer. Louis and the Soreno Key PD work well together and are joined by a feisty, rookie FBI profiler. This alliance is further strengthened as they attempt to prevent an incompetent county sheriff from botching the investigation.
This is an efficient police procedural filled with nifty twists and turns. I bit on enough of the subtle red herrings to remain in doubt until the conclusion.
“Paint It Black” is nominated for this year’s Anthony Award in the Paper Back Original category. Well deserved!
This is a smart series with a strong lead character; solid secondary characters and now set in Southwest Florida.
I look forward to the further adventures of Louis Kincaid.


Vince Flynn’s “Executive Power” could easily become the lead story on tomorrow’s news. This tale is prescient in its take on the tangled politics of today’s Middle East, terrorism and counter-terrorism.
The CIA’s most efficient field agent (assassin) Mitch Rapp has been called in from the cold and is supposed to become a desk jockey.
Situations change, and Mitch takes hands on leadership of a SEAL op to rescue an American family taken hostage in the Philippines by radical Islamic terrorists. The first attempt was blown by leaks traced to the State Department and the Filipino embassy.
In a parallel plot we follow Palestinian assassin David’s crafty strategy to eliminate the heads of numerous Islamic terrorist organizations, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.N. and a Palestinian Ambassador…to throw the blame on the Israelis in order to establish sympathy for establishment on a Palestine state.
David and Rapp’s paths eventually converge and collide.
Mitch is a resolute, ruthless, self-assured, indifferent to politics interested only in getting the mission accomplished. He is fully supported his boss (a strong CIA head) and a heroic POTUS. Rapp’s inability to suffer the methodical bureaucrats gets the job done…forget PC.
An incredibly accurate portrayal of the politics of retribution filled with intense suspense.
A political thriller on the cutting edge that you will be unable to put down.

Michael Connelly, Terrill Lankford Signing

On Sunday (5/16/04) Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach had a triple header writer signing.
In the afternoon they hosted John Sanford. At 8 PM it was Michael Connelly and Terrill Lankford.John Sanford is a most affable guy and said his latest is the 15th Davenport book with at least two more planned.
However, he is getting “a little burned out on Davenport.”
So next up is a Davenport, followed by a non-Davenport/non-Kidd novel of suspense.
The next Davenport will be a reversion to the old Davenport style with a truly psycho villain.
His background included crime reporter and editor at the Miami Herald (with Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan) and the St. Paul Pioneer Dispatch---won a Pulitzer at the Herald.
He candidly admitted that he started writing thrillers because he needed money to send his two kids to college.
“Writing books is harder than writing newspaper stories.”
He said that much of what is written in novels and in the paper is toned down from the true carnage the criminals leave behind---and “in most major metro areas there is at least one serial killer working at all times. Usually they overlap. Some get caught, some do not.”
Michael Connelly is his favorite writer along with Robert Parker---and he reads a lot of historical fiction. “Parker is a most interesting stylist.”
“To be successful, thrillers need an important crime.”
If the choice in a novel is between veracity and drama, he will choose drama every time.
Attempts to complete about 600-1500 words a nite.
“Characters are inventions---I have no emotional ties to them. Anyone can be killed off at any time.”
In setting up his novels, he adapts the bad guy and the crime first and goes from there.
If Fahrenheit 451 started today the book he would become: “Animal Farm” or “1984.”
Terrill Lankford and Michael Connelly have been friends for a number of years and worked well together. Terrill produced and directed the incredible companion DVD “Blue Neon Night” to Michael’s latest Harry Bosch novel “The Narrows.”
At one time Terrill owned a mystery bookstore in LA where mystery writers hung out. The writers traded manuscripts and helped one another. One of those writers was Michael Connelly.
Terrill’s “Earthquake Weather” is “a Hollywood story wrapped around a mystery.”
Terrill grew up in Lantana, Florida and moved to LA in 1981---he said the making of “Blue Neon Night” is his most positive Hollywood experience.
His favorite writers: Scott Phillips, Stephen Hunter, T. Jefferson Parker and Joe Lansdale are his current favorite writers.
“I cannot live long enough to write all the material LA provides me.”
If Fahrenheit 451 occurred he would become “The Great Gatsby.”
Michael said, “you do not have to have read “The Poet” to enjoy ‘The Narrows.’” I agree, but feel if you read “The Narrows” before “The Poet” you will spoil “The Poet” for yourself.
“The Poet” was the first novel that Michael wrote as a full time writer. At that time he “was a burned out, cynical journalist”---and becomes less and less cynical the longer he is away from journalism.
Cassie Black’s brief appearance in the “The Narrows” is a portent that he is planning something more for her in the future. He would not divulge any more on her.
Harry Bosch moves in chronological time, but when Harry gets up in age, there are other possibilities---“I would like to know about his time in Vietnam, his time as a beat cop, etc.”
Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald and Joseph Wambaugh are the “big three LA writers who inspired me.”
The hard boiled novels are what got him into writing, but seldom reads it today because he feels they might conflict with what he is writing, so he reads mainly British mystery writers.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Curmudgeon in the Wry #265

Saturday, July 10, 2004-582 Words---Average reading time: 2-minute, 16 seconds
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Rave: Philo Vance
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Rant: The Orlando Magic dangled a six-year, $39 million contract in front of Hedo Turkoglu. Well, sure.
With the Spurs last season, Turkoglu tore up opposing defenses for 9.2 points per game.
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Hmmmm: Six WNBA players are getting their pictures on the Wheaties box. Considering what has become of the league, would it not make more sense to put their pictures on the back of milk cartons?
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Crazy money rant: The Golden State Warriors gave big man Adonal Foyle a new five-year, $42 million contract. Last season, Foyle averaged 13 minutes, 3.1 points and 3.8 rebounds a game.
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Rave: Reese's White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups!
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Rant: The ACC's unbalanced basketball schedule will not be released until next month, but Wake Forest has revealed that it will play North Carolina only once, in Winston-Salem. It's like UNC alum Thomas Wolfe once wrote, "You can't go home and home again."
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Unforced error: John McEnroe was so at ease in the Wimbledon broadcast booth. On the debut of his prime-time cable talk show this week, McEnroe's performance was so stiff that he might want to think about changing his name to John Wooden.
I really like the guy and hope he gets smoother. He could start by wearing better-looking shirts. Is Deion Sanders his wardrobe consultant?
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Rant: Senate Intelligence...perhaps an oxymoron.

So the committee tells us the intelligence from the CIA on WMD was faulty.

Okay. The Russian intel professed about the same results.

Why did both countries have inaccurate intelligence?

I think the reason is that both the CIA and their Russian counterparts deteriorated into a Mad Magazine "Spy Vs Spy" cartoonish secret agent operations.

To be effective you need spies to bring in from the cold. You must have agents willing to garrote their adversary after sipping espresso at a sidewalk cafe in Vienna, Istanbul, Hamburg, Casablanca, Prague, Morocco or other hotbeds of the spy tradecraft.

Spooks have to be ready, willing and able to kill, lie, cheat, steal and assassinate in the course of obtaining (by any means possible) the info that will further the cause of their government. Forget political correctness!

When the USA and the USSR denuded their intelligence agencies and went with satellite cameras they allowed the bad guys to grab the advantage.

The bad guys stayed in the field and went about their business...the only difference being it was easier to get a table at a sidewalk cafe.

The high tech cameras can read a license plate from miles in the sky...but nothing can replace the experienced operative with contacts developed over decades. Just ask Donnie Brasco.

Maybe having the proper complement of undercover infiltrators would have turned up WMD years ago and led to an early resolution…or conceivably they would have concluded there were none.

Either way, I think real people in real cities mining for info would have turned up far more credible data. No matter, there is plenty of blame to go around to many administrations and congresses...both parties screwed this one up.

I highly recommend reading "Memorial Day" by Vince Flynn for a fictional novel ripped from today's headlines. It gives some troubling insights into today's CIA. We can only hope there are agents like Mitch Rapp in the CIA looking for the bad guys in this war.
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Born this day: Nick Adams, David Brinkley, Arthur Ashe, Arlo Guthrie.
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That is all.
As you were.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Senate Intelligence Report BIZ

Senate Intelligence...perhaps an oxymoron.

So the committee tells us the intelligence from the CIA on WMD was faulty.

Okay. The Russian intel professed about the same results.

Why did both countries have inaccurate intelligence?

I think the reason is that both the CIA and their Russian counterparts deteriorated into a Mad Magazine "Spy Vs Spy" cartoonish secret agent operations.

To be effective you need spies to bring in from the cold. You must have agents willing to garrote their adversary after sipping espresso at a sidewalk cafe in Vienna, Istanbul, Hamburg, Casablanca, Prague, Morocco or other hotbeds of the spy tradecraft.

Spooks have to be ready, willing and able to kill, lie, cheat, steal and assassinate in the course of obtaining (by any means possible) the info that will further the cause of their government. Forget political correctness!

When the USA and the USSR denuded their intelligence agencies and went with satellite cameras they allowed the bad guys to grab the advantage.

The bad guys stayed in the field and went about their business...the only difference being it was easier to get a table at a sidewalk cafe.

The high tech cameras can read a license plate from miles in the sky...but nothing can replace the experienced operative with contacts developed over decades. Just ask Donnie Brasco.

Maybe having the proper complement of undercover infiltrators would have turned up WMD years ago and led to an early resolution…or conceivably they would have concluded there were none.

Either way, I think real people in real cities mining for info would have turned up far more credible data. No matter, there is plenty of blame to go around to many administrations and congresses...both parties screwed this one up.

I highly recommend reading "Memorial Day" by Vince Flynn for a fictional novel ripped from today's headlines. It gives some troubling insights into today's CIA. We can only hope there are agents like Mitch Rapp in the CIA looking for the bad guys in this war.

Curmudgeon in the Wry 264

Friday, July 09, 2004—566 Words---Average reading time: 2-minute,14 seconds
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Rave: Torchy Blane
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Rave: The Paul Newman salute to Elizabeth Taylor on Turner Classic Movies is just wonderful.
His description of her as a “practicing voluptuary” is priceless.
Her talent is undeniable…”Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Butterfield Eight” are my favorites.
And, to this day, I think she is far and away the most attractive woman of the 20th Century.
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Rave: The first couple of reviews I saw for the upcoming Cole Porter biopic “De-lovely” underwhelmed me…and I figured it would be another film to ignore.
That all changed when I saw the segment on CBS Sunday Morning.
Kevin Kline has obviously immersed himself in the role and has become Cole Porter. It is evident he has done his homework. His admiration, appreciation, high regard and respect were sincerely evident.
And, it looks like the period detail of costumes, cars and lifestyle are meticulously done.
I feel certain when it comes to the local Bijou, its run will be short lived…after all it is an adult flick without a big explosion every ten minutes and lacks the boorish computer animation that is de rigueur in today’s cinema.
+++++++
Rant: That “The Rule of Four” is an immense best seller is not news…about two months on the NYT best seller list.
What boggles my feeble mind is that the book was in its 14th printing before Wal-Mart’s visionaries decided to stock it in Sam’s Club. That still places them ahead of BJ’s book buyers.
I wonder just how many sales they have missed.
+++++++
Rave: Bumper sticker of the day: “Life is not a beach, it is a mountain.”
+++++++
Rave: Told in the first person, Lee Child’s “The Enemy” is the prequel in his electrifying Jack Reacher series. The pace of this intricate tale crackles from page one and accelerates from there.
It is New Year’s Eve, 1990 and the Berlin Wall is crumbling and Reacher is still a rising star in the Military Police.
Reacher gets the call to “control the situation” of the death of a two star general found in a fleabag motel. Soon the general’s wife is found murdered, his briefcase (containing the agenda to a high level meeting) missing, and a Delta Force soldier murdered,. The convoluted clues point to Reacher!
A deceitful CO, a Psy-Ops officer and meddling civilians complicate Reacher’s progress.
Laconic loner Reacher is joined by the ambitious, resourceful, aggressive Lt. Summer in the quest for the truth.
“The Enemy” is the least violent Reacher novel…relying on mystery and astute police procedural techniques to move the plot with speed and strength.
This is the career crunching case that infuses cynicism into Reacher’s psyche and transforms him into a dangerous man.
The cover-ups and political conspiracies compel him to perform a surreptitious investigation with no patience for rules.
The investigation ends in a staggering, unexpected showdown. While the bad guys get their comeuppance, the degenerates who actually are in charge still rule the roost. It is no wonder Reacher eventually leaves the military for his lone wolf existence.
“The Enemy” is an intelligent, thoughtful, suspenseful, hard charging narrative that will enthrall you from page one.
Perhaps Lee Child’s finest effort.
+++++++
Born this day: Tom Hanks, Kelly McGillis, Ed Ames, Brian Dennehy, Dean Koontz, H.V. Kaltenborn, Jimmy Smits, Nicola Tesla.
+++++++
That is all.
As you were.

Review: "The Enemy" by Lee Child

Told in the first person, Lee Child’s “The Enemy” is the prequel in his electrifying Jack Reacher series. The pace of this intricate tale crackles from page one and accelerates from there.
It is New Year’s Eve, 1990 and the Berlin Wall is crumbling and Reacher is still a rising star in the Military Police.
Reacher gets the call to “control the situation” of the death of a two star general found in a fleabag motel. Soon the general’s wife is found murdered, his briefcase (containing the agenda to a high level meeting) missing, and a Delta Force soldier murdered,. The convoluted clues point to Reacher!
A deceitful CO, a Psy-Ops officer and meddling civilians complicate Reacher’s progress.
Laconic loner Reacher is joined by the ambitious, resourceful, aggressive Lt. Summer in the quest for the truth.
“The Enemy” is the least violent Reacher novel…relying on mystery and astute police procedural techniques to move the plot with speed and strength.
This is the career crunching case that infuses cynicism into Reacher’s psyche and transforms him into a dangerous man.
The cover-ups and political conspiracies compel him to perform a surreptitious investigation with no patience for rules.
The investigation ends in a staggering, unexpected showdown. While the bad guys get their comeuppance, the degenerates who actually are in charge still rule the roost. It is no wonder Reacher eventually leaves the military for his lone wolf existence.
“The Enemy” is an intelligent, thoughtful, suspenseful, hard charging narrative that will enthrall you from page one.
Perhaps Lee Child’s finest effort.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Hmmmmmmmm

"The Rule of Four" is a major best seller---that certainly is not a flash.

What absolutely astounds me is that it took the 14th printing before the visionaries at WalMart decided to stock it at their Sam's Wholesale Clubs.

However, that puts them ahead of BJ's where it is still not on the shelf.

It is amazing how many sales they have missed.

Cole Porter

I saw some reviews for the upcoming Cole Porter biopik "De-Lovely" and was underwhelmed.

After seeing the segment on the movie and especially Kevin Kline on CBS Sunday Morning, I changed my mind.

If it ever arrives in this backwater community, I will be in line
early.

You could tell that Kevin Kline completely immersed himself in the role. He became Cole Porter. His words of admiration were telling.

It truly looks like he will make this a most enjoyable flick.

One thing is for certain---the music will be wonderful. I cannot think of someone writing music today that will be sung eighty years from now.

The current New Yorker has a nice article on Cole Porter and their on line edition repeats a Cole Porter profile from November of 1940.

I am looking forward to the ultimate wide release of "De-lovely."

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Review: "Paranoia" by Joseph Finder

While Joseph Finder’s “Paranoia” is a formulaic thriller (complete with a hard to buy premise), populated with stock characters, needless cliches and many too many lucky coincidences, I could not help but enjoy it.

It is pop culture eye candy…an easy reading Silicon Valley techno-espionage plot with built in momentum.

Underachiever deluxe, Adam Cassidy is forced into going to work for his employer’s biggest rival as a corporate mole.
Adam is placed in the midst of a dangerous maze on his double-dealing mission filled with encrypted messages, blind drops and key tracking devices. Naturally his peculiar sense of justice kicks in as he finds “a home” at his new company.

“Paranoia” provides an interesting and wickedly amusing look at corporate culture from the cube farms to the executive conference rooms…and the high-tech shoptalk and buzzword lend credibility.

In fact, Adam’s voice, outlook and situation will captivate anyone who has been a wage slave.

Like the John Grisham novels, Adam is a naive and ambitious young guy enticed by temptation…and we observe how he comes to terms with it.

A harmless diversion…it is fun while it lasts, but leaves no lasting impression.

Curmudgeon in the Wry #263

Thursday, July 01, 2004-511 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 55 seconds
+++++++
Rave: Burt Lancaster
+++++++
Rave:On CBS Sunday Morning's "Summer Music" segment, Bill Flanagan opened up with The Notorious Cherry Bombs. CBS used "Oklahoma Dust" in the segment tease and in the segment. It certainly sounds like an obvious hit to me---lotsa good-time fun and just a huge hook. This is wonderful music.
+++++++
Rant: You ask, "could two white comedians dress in drag and make a movie called "Black Chicks"?.....No HELL NO, that would be racist.
+++++++
Rave: Looking forward to the John McEnroe Show on CNBC.
+++++++
Hmmm: According to a German study, juggling can increase the gray matter in areas of the brain that process and store visual info.
+++++++
Factoid: Henry Ford invented the charcoal briquette.
+++++++
You do the math: When Elvis died in 1977, there were 150 Elvis Presley impersonators. Today at least 35,000 are imitating the King.
+++++++
Rant: Haven't the fifteen minutes for tattoos expired yet?
+++++++
Rave: While Joseph Finder's "Paranoia" is a formulaic thriller (complete with a hard to buy premise), populated with stock characters, needless cliches and many too many lucky coincidences, I could not help but enjoy it.
It is pop culture eye candy…an easy reading Silicon Valley techno-espionage plot with built in momentum.
Underachiever deluxe, Adam Cassidy is forced into going to work for his employer's biggest rival as a corporate mole.
Adam is placed in the midst of a dangerous maze on his double-dealing mission filled with encrypted messages, blind drops and key tracking devices. Naturally his peculiar sense of justice kicks in as he finds "a home" at his new company.
"Paranoia" provides an interesting and wickedly amusing look at corporate culture from the cube farms to the executive conference rooms…and the high-tech shoptalk and buzzword lend credibility.
In fact, Adam's voice, outlook and situation will captivate anyone who has been a wage slave.
Like the John Grisham novels, Adam is a naive and ambitious young guy enticed by temptation…and we observe how he comes to terms with it.
A harmless diversion…it is fun while it lasts, but leaves no lasting impression.
+++++++
Rant: Even members of the liberal-left leaning New York Times and LA Times questioned the veracity of Michael Moore's film on the Sunday news-talk shows. If these cheerleaders for the Democratic Party feel that way, would it not be more accurate to call the movie political satire rather than a documentary?
Then, of course, like 99% of politics today, it is preaching to the choir.
+++++++
Rimshot: There were the two antennas that met on a roof, fell in love, and got married. The ceremony was not much, but the reception was excellent.
+++++++
Rant: If we can put a man on the moon and send messages around the world in nanoseconds, surely restaurants can figure out how to give separate checks.
+++++++
Born this day: James Cain, Alvino Rey, Billy Wyler, Estee Lauder, Charles Laughton, Olivia DeHavilland, Leslie Caron, Pamela Anderson, Jamie Farr.
+++++++
That is all.
As you were.