Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Master and Margarita -- Mikhail Bulgakov (Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky, translators)

In the late 1960s, the Signet paperback edition of The Master and Margarita was all over the paperback racks.  I loved the cover, but I was a grad student in American literature and didn't really have time to read a long Russian novel.  After all, I was reading a lot of Gold Medal originals in my spare time.  

The other day I read that the book was Soon to Become a Major Motion Picture (not that is hasn't already been made into motion pictures and TV series), so I thought it was time for me to see what I'd been missing.  The edition I picked up was published by Penguin Classics in 1997, and it's about 400 pages (not counting the end notes) of tiny print, not the kind of thing I usually read, but I persevered.

There are several main plot threads in the novel, but they're all connected with the arrival one day of the Devil and several of his pals (that's one of them on the cover pictured above) in Moscow.  Hijinks ensue, to say the least.  I'm not sure whether to call the book a fantasy or magical realism.  Maybe some of you can help me out.  Another plot thread has to do with Pontius Pilate on the day he condemns Jesus to be crucified.  This is both a story told by the Devil and a novel written by the Master, who hardly appears in the first half of the book.  Margarita appears even less and doesn't figure at all until the second half.  But those two are the third strand of the plot, which I won't try to unwind for you.  It's one of those books you just have to read for yourself.

If I knew more about the political, social, and literary goings on in Russia in the 1930s, maybe I could some up with some comments about the book's satire.  I'm pretty ignorant of all those things, however, so I just enjoyed the story, the wild happenings, the humor, and the characters, who, I must admit, were a bit hard to keep up with because of the Russian names and the fact that everybody seems to have at least three or four names, most of which aren't like the others.  Is this one of the great books of the 20th century, as it's often been called?  You can't prove it by me, but I'm glad I read it.

The Radical Argument of the New Oxford Shakespeare

The Radical Argument of the New Oxford Shakespeare

Song of the Day


Gator Update (Stolen Statue Edition)

Alligator statue stolen from Riverside home: "I would like for the people who caught it to be fed to some alligators," said Carr.

Oscar Nominees’ Most Embarrassing Roles

Oscar Nominees’ Most Embarrassing Roles

Today's Vintage Ad

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

Type casting: the worst novels by Hollywood actors 


Susan Ertz, Mary Hallam, Bantam, 1950

“Screaming Blue Murder—Writing For Television” (by Cath Staincliffe)

“Screaming Blue Murder—Writing For Television” (by Cath Staincliffe) | SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN: Cath Staincliffe’s work first appeared in EQMM in January 2016. Her latest EQMM story, “The Rat,” is featured in our current issue, March/April 2017, and a third story will appear in EQMM later this year. The Manchester writer is a founding member of the Murder Squad, a collective of crime writers from the north of England. She came to EQMM later in her career than the other members of that group, which includes Martin Edwards, Ann Cleeves, Kate Ellis, Margaret Murphy, and Chris Simms.  Long before her EQMM debut, Cath had become an award-winning novelist, radio playwright, and creator of the hit series Blue Murder for Britain’s ITV.  She has been shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Best First Novel award and for the Dagger in the Library. She was also joint winner of the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2012. Her novel Letters To My Daughter’s Killer was selected for the Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club on ITV3 in 2014. She also writes the Scott & Bailey novels based on the popular television crime show.  The Silence Between Breaths, her latest book, explores what happens when ordinary people are caught up in a terrifying and extraordinary event. In this post, Cath talks about her experiences writing for television.—Janet Hutchings

I Found a Penny in the Walmart Parking Lot Last Week

Found: 50,000-Year-Old Microbes Hiding in the Cave of the Crystals 

The Most Successful Songwriters in Rock History

Neatorama: Popular music in the early 1950s was all about cardigan sweaters and sanitized tunes. But then a pair of upstart songwriters taught teenagers how to let down their hair. Here's how two Jewish kids from the East Coast brought black music to white America.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Murder by the Book, Houston, 2/22/17

Top: Joe R. Lansdale hamming it up.

Bottom: Kathleen Kent and Joe R. Lansdale entertain the crowd.

First It Was the Thin Mints Melee

Athens man assaults mother with pork chop, head-butts her

Gary Cartwright, R. I. P.

One of my Texas writing heroes, whose career I've followed for 55 years or more.

Gary Cartwright dead at 82: Texas Monthly writer known for true crime: He specialized in true crime stories, such as spectacular case of Fort Worth millionaire Cullen Davis, charged with shooting his estranged wife, Priscilla, and murdering her lover, Stan Farr, and her teenage daughter, Andrea. Cartwright turned the lurid drama into the book “Blood Will Tell,” which was adapted into a TV miniseries.  

Forgotten Hits: February 22nd

Forgotten Hits: February 22nd

Library Hand

Library Hand, the Fastidiously Neat Penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs

Song of the Day

Cheap Trick - Don't Be Cruel - YouTube:

I'm Sure You'll All Agree When writing about this, we understand that based on their perspectives, some people may disagree partly with this list. However, with so many fake news sites out there, and so much propaganda, it can be useful to go over those news sources best known for holding their standards to something more approaching real and honest journalism. A true journalist isn’t out to change your mind, but rather to tell you what is happening.

Today's Vintage Ad

Once Again Texas Leads the Way

Pecan Pie Vending Machine – Cedar Creek, Texas: A 24-hour vending machine restocked daily with homemade full-sized pecan pies.


Daoma Winston, The Woman He Wanted, Beacon, 1954

They Can't Say I Didn't Warn Them

Hunters fight so-called 'feral hog apocalypse' in Texas   

Key quote:  “We’re gonna after possible the whole ecosystem.”  That would be a disaster, all right.

Album Covers: child prodigies

LPs : child prodigies  

Link via Messy Nessy.

I Miss the Old Days

The Tale of the 1970s Fashion Apocalypse

David Yorko, R. I. P.

David Yorko, 1943-2017: Rocker wasn’t ‘typical musician’: Known for instrumental hits such as “Red River Rock” and “Beatnik Fly,” the Rossford-based Johnny & the Hurricanes — fronted by saxophone player Johnny Paris — gained international fans.

Bonus FFB on Wednesday: The Case of the Lame Canary -- Erle Stanley Gardner

My copy of The Case of the Lame Canary is the one pictured here, the 23rd printing from 1954.  It's probably been through dozens of more printings by now.  I've had the book for years but hadn't read it.  When I found myself in the mood for a Perry Mason case, I picked it up zipped through it.

It's impossible for me to summarize a Perry Mason book because they're all quite complex.  This one begins with a woman who brings a lame canary (lame because of incorrect nail trimming) with her to Mason's office.  She also brings a story that doesn't hold up very well that involves some smooching, an automobile accident, and a few other things.  Mason takes her case only because of the canary, thinking that he's been fooled into taking an uninteresting case.  He's soon proved wrong, as murder enters the picture, along with a mysterious arson investigator who was involved in the accident, a lot of lies, and a lot of legal hanky-panky.  There's a race against time involved, too, as Mason has promised to take his secretary, Della Street, on an around-the-world cruise if the case is resolved in time.

How Mason arrives at the solution is a little questionable, and the summing up is complicated with a lot of little things, but Mason is, as always, eight or ten steps ahead of everyone else.  The book is fast (I'm guessing 80% or 90% dialogue) and fun, and if it's a little hard to swallow the whole explanation, who cares?  Now I'm feeling the need to read another of Mason's cases.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Semi-naked couple caught on camera 'having SEX while riding motorbike' in the middle of busy road   

Auto-start video, NSFW.

First It Was the Thin Mints Melee

Family argument over pot pie turns bloody

First It Was the Thin Mints Melee

Cops: Suspect Used Sex Toy During Attack: A Florida man punched his girlfriend and struck her with a “plastic dildo” when she criticized his performance as they were having sex, police allege.

How One British Soldier Turned a Parlor Game into 'Clue'

How One British Soldier Turned a Parlor Game into 'Clue'

Song of the Day


Walt Whitman Novel, Lost for 165 Years, Now Found

In a Walt Whitman Novel, Lost for 165 Years, Clues to ‘Leaves of Grass’

Today's Vintage Ad

Gun-Toting Depression Era Mobs In America

Striking Black And White Photos Show The Brutal Lives Of Gun-Toting Depression Era Mobs In America  

Link via Neatorama.


John Vail, Love Isn't for Now, Red Seal, 1953

Is the Persecution Ending?

Paris Hilton receives Fragrance of the Year award for Godn Rush scent

I Miss the Old Days

Making Office Supplies Sexy: The 1971 Monarch Marking Mate Catalog

2016 Nebula, Norton, and Bradbury Award Nominees

SFWA Announces 2016 Nebula, Norton, and Bradbury Award Nominees!

Who Says Hollywood Is Out of Ideas?

116 Movie Remakes and Reboots Currently in the Works 

Overlooked Movies -- And Then There Were None (1945)

The first Agatha Christie novel I ever read was Ten Little Indians which was originally published with a more offensive title and which later became And Then There Were None.  I was 11 or 12 years old, and I thought it was terrific.  Later on I saw the 1965 film in the theater, which is a lot different from the book and which, as it turns out, is also quite a bit different from the 1945 version, which, in turn, is different from the stage play.  I liked the 1965 film when I saw it, though, and you can't go wrong with a movie that has Fabian in it.  but the point is that while it's fairly famous, and while all of you have probably seen it, I'd overlooked the 1945 movie until now.  

As you can see on the poster to the left, the cast is top notch: Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, June Duprez, Mischa Auer, C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, Richard Haydn and Queenie Leonard  No Fabian, though.  RenĂ© Clair directed, and the movie turned out to be a big hit.

I'm sure you know the setup.  Eight people, none of whom have ever met before, are ferried to a deserted island.  They've been invited by U.N. Owen.  When they arrive at the only house on the island, they're greeted by two servants, but there's no sign of Mr. Owen.  A recording is played and each of the guests is accused of murder or of having contributed to someone's death.  So are the servants.  

You know the rest.  There's no way off the island for several days, and guests begin dying it ways mentioned in the "Ten Little Indians" rhyme.  So who's behind it all?  Who will live and who will die?  If you've read the book, you might not get the answer to both of those right, since the ending has been "Hollywooded" a bit, but it's still fun to watch the cast go through their paces and to see the cleverness of the murderer.  And to try to guess who it is, though that's not as hard as you might think.  A very entertaining movie, and I'm glad I finally saw it.

And then There Were None

And then There Were None Trailer 1945 - YouTube: