Sunday, July 31, 2005

Curmudgeon in the Wry 302

Sunday, July 31, 2005---673 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 14 seconds
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Rave: Kay Starr
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We know this to be true: When the Tour de Lance reverts to the Tour de France next summer, you and I, almost all of America, will stop caring about the race.
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Hmmmm: Can hotels on islands offer continental breakfasts?
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Good advice: Always avoid single ply toilet paper.
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Rave: I really enjoyed Steven Bochco’s “Over There.” In fact I watched the instant replay. I was not alone as it was one of the 10 highest-rated debuts in the history of basic cable and the highest rated series of the night on cable TV.
It got a lot of ink and TV talk time…and mostly favorable reviews.
I agree with one commentator who said it “is not about pro-war or anti-war…it is just about war.”
I do wish The New Yorker could have kept their editorial out of the review.
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Paperback Reader: Two merciless natural born killers make their way to Washington, DC as the Bicentennial approaches in “King Suckerman” by George Pelecanos. They cross paths with Marcus Clay and Dimitri Karras during a minor drug deal. The results force Clay and Karras to hunt down the killers before the killers wreck havoc on their families. Nobody gets Washington better than Pelecanos. He has not written anything less than A material.
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Ross Thomas never got his fair share of credit for having written some of the best works of crime fiction ever published. Among others, Michael Connelly and Laura Lippman urge their readers not to miss his works. “Chinaman’s Chance” (1978) was enough to hook me. An intricate sting perpetrated by Artie Wu and Quincy Durant---and no one can work a great con like this duo. Those being conned realize it, but feel they can out con the conmen. Add in a colorful group of grifters, ex-CIA types and the former folk trio, Ivory, Silk & Lace. The layers of deceit and inveigling are uncountable and end up with a conspiracy in Dallas in the fall of 1963. Not to be missed…unbeatable fictional creations.
*****
“Cop Hater” (1956) is the first 87th Precinct novel from Ed McBain, and broke new ground in crime fiction. The scene is set for the 87th and the cops that will fill over fifty novels. Crisp, lean prose and complex character development make for a fast read. It looks like a serial killer is targeting cops. Detective Steve Carella has one slender clue and parlays it into a white hot finale. Easy to see how “Cop Hater” was the genesis of one of the longest and most enduring crime series.
*****
In 1973, Robert B. Parker’s highly popular and influential Private Detective, Spenser was introduced in “The Godwulf Manuscript.” Spenser’s unapologetic confidence, snappy repartee and deductive powers explode off the pages and continue thirty-some novels later. No Hawk yet…but Spenser is a pretty self-reliant sort anyway. No tedious Susan or tiresome Pearl the dog, and for that I cheer. Great read!
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Rope-a-dope: Forty-six-year-old Thomas Hearns returned to the ring for a scheduled 10-round fight Saturday, said, “I’m going to prove that age is just a number.” Guess he did just that.
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Hmmmm: It has been said that Grahame Greene wrote exactly 400 words a day, and would stop when he hit that number, even if he was in mid-sentence. May or may not be an urban legend.
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Rant: “Please wait, all of our customer service associates are busy helping other customers.” This translates to: This company does not hire enough people to adequately provide customer service.
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Hmmm: Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are getting weak?
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Ever wonder: What did bagpipers play before that guy wrote "Amazing Grace"?
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Best line going on TV: “The matrix is not perfect.”
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Curmudgeon in the Wry 301

Saturday, July 16, 2005---785 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 22 seconds
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Rave: Ed McBain/Evan Hunter
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100% Absolute Truism: The volume level of a cellphone conversation is in inverse proportion to the intelligence of the participants.
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Suggestion box: The best way to improve HOV lanes is to do away with them.
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Don’t I wish: Why can't some of these hurricanes hit France?
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Factoids in History: The telephone was invented in 1876---the light bulb in 1879---but the zipper did not debut until 1893.
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Rave: Without question and without exception, I will watch any film with Ida Lupino in it. Not just a talented actress and a “hot number” as the cops in “The Hard Way” referred to her…she was among the first females to produce and direct in Hollywood.
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Rave: In his fortieth novel Elmore Leonard takes us back to 1930’s-era Oklahoma in “The Hot Kid.”
The kid is Carl (Carlos) Webster, who became a US Deputy Marshall at age twenty-one…his goal is be “America’s most famous lawman.”
“If I have to pull my weapon, I shoot to kill,” is his trademark calling card. And, he is quite the lady’s man as well.
The villain of the piece is millionaire’s son, Jack Belmont…as bad as they come…but not a candidate for The Mensa Society. As a teenager he tried to blackmail his father about his mistress---when that failed, he kidnapped the mistress and was surprised when she recognized him. His goal is to be Public Enemy Number 1.
True Detective Magazine writer Tony Antonelli is the chronicler of the events that aid Webster’s rise to fame. Carl Webster always makes certain to get credit when he shoots someone in the line of duty.
Like many of Mr. Leonard’s works, a stunning ensemble cast vividly emerges to propel the story along with the inevitable showdowns, gunfights and hair-raising turns. Sardonic, witty and sharp dialogue enlivens the narrative.
The so-called heroes are not that much different from the criminals…there are not a lot of noble ambitions on either side of the law. Moral ambiguity and hard-boiled cynicism rule the day.
Nonstop action, sly humor, and the cinematic portraits of the women whose desire is to be a “gun moll” of a famous criminal are other high points in this rousing tale.
Elmore Leonard, one of our most acclaimed crime writers has hit the bull’s-eye once again.
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Just wondering: Before taking a trip to Miami, do Americans need a passport now that it has become a foreign country?
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Rave: “Murphy’s Romance” was run twice early this week on WE and I was hooked for both showings. Directed by Marty Ritt, it starred Sally Field and James Garner in his Oscar nominated role. The spectacular soundtrack was a Carole King, David Sanborn, Lou Adler collaboration. This movie hit on all cylinders.
I had forgotten just how well done it was.
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Speaking of Carole King: Starbucks has released a 2 CD collection of her music recorded during her “Living Room Tour.” Enormously satisfying…lotsa hits, many a memory, countless goose bumps.
Not to be missed!
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Rant: The people who complain about how slow those who work at the Wal-Mart deli are, (it may be an urban legend that when you order meat there, it's already expired by the time they give it to you), deserve what they get. I would not trust the quality of deli food at Sam’s, Wal-Mart, and BJ’s, any of those deep discounters.
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Hmmm: When it comes to bike riding, President Bush is no Lance Armstrong.
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Quote: “Few enough would be cheering for Bonds to eclipse the noble Mr. Aaron even if the fog of steroids didn't hang round his big head. Records are made to be broken. But, oh my, couldn't we have it so we make the record-breakers more to our taste?”---Frank Deford
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Rant: Had Paris gotten the nod for the 2012 games, they could have introduced rifle-dropping as an Olympic demonstration sport.
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Stats ‘R Us: Boston College is the only team in the nation to have won a bowl game in each of the past five seasons. This after the Eagles College suffered back-to-back 4-7 seasons in Coach Tom O'Brien's first two years.
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Hmmm: So, has the Segway revolutionized anything yet?
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Marketing 101: What is it that makes business owners think that having a person wearing a bunny suit waving at me will make me pull in and buy a car or rent an apartment?
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.

"The Hot Kid" by Elmore Leonard

In his fortieth novel Elmore Leonard takes us back to 1930’s-era Oklahoma in “The Hot Kid.”
The kid is Carl (Carlos) Webster, who became a US Deputy Marshall at age twenty-one…his goal is be “America’s most famous lawman.”

“If I have to pull my weapon, I shoot to kill,” is his trademark calling card. And, he is quite the lady’s man as well.

The villain of the piece is millionaire’s son, Jack Belmont…as bad as they come…but not a candidate for The Mensa Society. As a teenager he tried to blackmail his father about his mistress---when that failed, he kidnapped the mistress and was surprised when she recognized him. His goal is to be Public Enemy Number 1.

True Detective Magazine writer Tony Antonelli is the chronicler of the events that aid Webster’s rise to fame. Carl Webster always makes certain to get credit when he shoots someone in the line of duty.

Like many of Mr. Leonard’s works, a stunning ensemble cast vividly emerges to propel the story along with the inevitable showdowns, gunfights and hair-raising turns. Sardonic, witty and sharp dialogue enlivens the narrative.

The so-called heroes are not that much different from the criminals…there are not a lot of noble ambitions on either side of the law. Moral ambiguity and hard-boiled cynicism rule the day.

Nonstop action, sly humor, and the cinematic portraits of the women whose desire is to be a “gun moll” of a famous criminal are other high points in this rousing tale.

Elmore Leonard, one of our most acclaimed crime writers has hit the bull’s-eye once again.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Ed McBain/Evan Hunter

To me, Ed McBain/Evan Hunter was a perennial figure in crime fiction…even though I “discovered” him late in the game.
I came to know his body of work via the Matthew Hope series while searching for mystery novels set in Florida. It was only natural that the 87th Precinct collection became an effortless addition to my library. Over fifty books on the realistic 87th have been issued…a most healthy crop for readers to harvest.
Effortless is a pretty good way to describe how I found his writing. Loved the characters…and enjoyed how slowly they aged while all that was transpiring in the real world around them was up to date in “the big bad city.”
He certainly did a great deal to feature the city as a principal character. He may not have been the first to do that, but he sure picked up the flag and led the charge.
He was one of the creators of the police procedural, now a huge component of mystery and crime fiction.
In the awards category he was no Forest Gump. In 1998 he was the first American to receive a Cartier Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain. In 1986 The Mystery Writers of America awarded him its Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement. Well deserved indeed.
I especially enjoyed “Candyland” co written by Evan Hunter and Ed McBain…quite a concept. And, hard as it may be to pick one…I think “Money, Money, Money” is my favorite 87th Precinct novel. However, I still have a number of 87ths to go.
Ed/Evan has given me many pleasurable hours of reading…and, lucky for all of us, his books will live on.
While I did know it at the time (1955 at the ripe old age of 12) I was introduced to Evan Hunter when I viewed “Blackboard Jungle,” a film based on his novel. The motion picture also presented Bill Haley and “Rock Around the Clock” to me…showing me the way to a misspent youth.
Perhaps there is some synchronicity that Evan/Ed’s passing coincides with the 50th anniversary of the landmark movie and pop-culture-changing song.
Rest In Peace Evan Hunter/Ed McBain.
For perhaps the first time I agree with a column by the NYT’s Marilyn Stasio. Her obit is a good one.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Curmudgeon in the Wry 300

Monday, July 04, 2005---519 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 52 seconds
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Rave: C.R. Hook
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Hmmm: Has science ever answered the question, are oysters alive when you eat them?
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Truism: Many of the new SUVs look so much like station wagons that it makes you wonder what all the fuss is about.
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Confession: I have never understood the purpose weather vanes. So you know when the wind is blowing from the southwest. What then?
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Rant: Some people will throw all the trash out of the car window but themselves.
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Quote: “Highlights are the ruination of sport. They show all the wrong things. Dunks. Fights. Holes-in-one by golfers not in contention. Home runs. And highlights, like mirrors in men's rooms, never will change.”---Frank Deford
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Rave & Rant: Love the Grey Goose Vodka print ads…very creative. As the product is made in France I would never spend a penny on it.
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Rave: One does not simply read Laura Lippman’s “To the Power of Three”…one becomes immersed in it.
Told from multiple points of view, it is in fact a character driven novel. The secondary characters are just as vivid and infused with distinct personalities and back stories as those in the lead roles.
Three suburban high school seniors (inseparable since third grade) are involved in a shooting in a locked girl’s restroom…one dead, one in a coma and one shot in the foot.
What precisely did go down in the restroom? Who in fact pulled the trigger?
Homicide Sergeant Harold Lendardt and partner Kevin Infante come across inconsistencies between the crime scene and account given by the coherent survivor.
The setting in the upscale development of Glendale is illusory, but the way the “event” affects the entire community is all too authentic.
Everyone is so fully realized, it is effortless to picture the novel as nonfiction. They all resonate with authenticity.
And, the plot is crisp, suspenseful, taut and moves along in a calculated rhythm. The reader is enticed to learn more about all the players…and care about them.
“To the Power of Three” hooks you from start to finish.
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Rant: Memo to the NBA. Longer does not necessarily mean better. The regular season ended in mid-April.
Fans in such cities as LA, Atlanta, Minneapolis, etc. had no intrinsic tie to the NBA for over two months, as the playoffs dragged on and on and on and on, incessantly.
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Stats: More relationships have broken up on Valentine’s Day than have ever been started on Valentine’s Day.
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Hmmm: Is it true that if you stay hot for more than four hours in the Cialis Western Open, you are supposed to call a golf doctor?
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Rant: Before send billions of dollars to Africa, let’s spend some dough bailing out the Veteran’s Administration, vastly improve teacher’s salaries and seal our southern border.
Charity begins at home.
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Enjoy the 4th, Fly the Flag.
If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

"To the Power of Three" by Laura Lippman Review

One does not simply read Laura Lippman’s “To the Power of Three”…one becomes immersed in it.

Told from multiple points of view, it is in fact a character driven novel. The secondary characters are just as vivid and infused with distinct personalities and back stories as those in the lead roles.

Three suburban high school seniors (inseparable since third grade) are involved in a shooting in a locked girl’s restroom…one dead, one in a coma and one shot in the foot.

What precisely did go down in the restroom? Who in fact pulled the trigger?

Homicide Sergeant Harold Lendardt and partner Kevin Infante come across inconsistencies between the crime scene and account given by the coherent survivor.

The setting in the upscale development of Glendale is illusory, but the way the “event” affects the entire community is all too authentic.

Everyone is so fully realized, it is effortless to picture the novel as nonfiction. They all resonate with authenticity.

And, the plot is crisp, suspenseful, taut and moves along in a calculated rhythm. The reader is enticed to learn more about all the players…and care about them.

“To the Power of Three” hooks you from start to finish.