Friday, April 28, 2017

A Review of Interest (To Me, Anyway)

Kevin's Corner: FFB Review: A Time For Hanging by Bill Crider

FFB: Norstrilia -- Cordwainer Smith (Paul Linebarger)

Here's the opening of Norstrilia:  "Story, place, and time -- these are the essentials.

    The story is simple. There was a boy who bought the planet Earth. We know that, to our cost. It only happened once, and we have taken pains that it will never happen again. He came to Earth, got what he wanted, and got away alive, in a series of remarkable adventures. That's the story."

So now you know the plot.  More or less.  Let me tell you a little more.  In the far future there's a planet named Old North Australia, where there are giant diseased sheep.  From these sheep comes stroon, an immortality drug that can't be synthesized.  It's made the planet enormously rich.  And immortal, so population control is a problem.  At age 18, the youngsters have to pass a test for telepathy.  Fail, and they're killed.  Rod McBan has trouble passing, but he finally does, incurring the wrath of a former friend, who tries to have him killed anyway.  To escape the attempts on his life, Rod, with the aid of his trusty old computer, amasses a giant fortune overnight and buys Old Earth, Manhome.  He goes to Earth, has adventures, and returns to Notstrilia.

No summary can do justice to the richness of Smith's imagination and writing.  I first fell in love with his work when I read a short story called "The Game of Rat and Dragon" many years ago.  Some readers, I've heard, don't fall under Smith's spell, but I did, and it took only that one story to do the trick.  The stories, in fact, are probably the best place to start reading him before coming to this novel.  The tales of the Underpeople, who feature here as well, are as relevant now as they ever were.  Maybe even more relevant.  If you haven't read Smith before, take a look.  You might find yourself fascinated by a writer unlike any other.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Edgar Awards

The Edgar winners. 

PimPage: An Occasional Feature in Which I Call Attention to Books of Possible Interest

Serving Justice: A Noah Milano novella by [Vandersteen, Jochem]Serving Justice: A Noah Milano novella - Kindle edition by Jochem Vandersteen, Keith Dixon, Sean Dexter. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @  When security specialist and son of LA's biggest mobster, Noah Milano, moonshines as a process server and manages to anger a MMA fighter and stumble on a corpse. He's enlisted to prove a beautiful woman didn't killer her husband, the corpse Noah found. Caught in a dangerous web of deception where danger lurks around the corner and it can be very unclear who is friend and who is foe Noah Milano fights for redemption... And to serve justice.

Not Forgotten, Just Unreleased

Sgt Pepper: listen to an unreleased outtake of the Beatles' classic

Four Iconic Writers and the Felines Who Loved Them

Unlikely Cat-Lovers: Four Iconic Writers and the Felines Who Loved Them

Song of the Day


John Waters Summer Camp for Adults

Cult Filmmaker John Waters Is Hosting a Summer Camp for Adults

Today's Vintage Ad

You Want Scary? This Is Scary.

A 30 Second Visual Guide To The Opioid Epidemic In America


Richard Hull, The Murder of my Aunt, Pocket Books, 1947

NASA makes their entire media library publicly accessible and copyright free

DIY Photography: No matter if you enjoy taking or just watching images of space, NASA has a treat for you. They have made their entire collection of images, sounds, and video available and publicly searchable online. It’s 140,000 photos and other resources available for you to see, or even download and use it any way you like.

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

Best Car Chases from Bullitt to Mad Max: Fury Road

Forgotten Hits: April 27th

Forgotten Hits: April 27th: Big movers on the chart this week include "Shake A Tail Feather" by James and Bobby Purify (up 18 places from #61 to #43), "Groovin" by The Young Rascals (which climbs from #91 to #48, a move of 43 spots!), "Happy Jack" by The Who (which jumps from #67 to #51), "Portrait Of My Love" by The Tokens (moving from #70 to #56, a move of 14 places), "Melancholy Music Man" by The Righteous Brothers (which climbs from #84 to #59, a move of 25 places), "Little Games" by The Yardbirds, up twenty spots from #80 to #60, "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" by Whistling Jack Smith, up thirty spots from #94 to #64 and "My Girl Josephine" by Jerry Jay (which moves from #82 to #65)

Forgotten Music

10 Weird and Wonderful Biographies on the Music of the 1970s

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

14 Deep Facts About ‘Valley of the Dolls’

14 Deep Facts About ‘Valley of the Dolls’

Jonathan Demme, R. I. P.

IndieWire: Jonathan Demme, the filmmaker whose career ranged from the David Byrne documentary “Stop Making Sense” to the Oscar-winning “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” died this morning in New York. He was 73.

Song of the Day

Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy [with lyrics] - YouTube:

It's Like I Have a Twin!

Edward Gorey, Pack Rat: The famous illustrator was a devoted collector of… well, almost everything.

Today's Vintage Ad

How the 'Servant Girl Annihilator' Terrorized 1880s Austin

Mental Floss: Before Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of London, another midnight murderer was prowling halfway across the world. In Austin, Texas, an individual who became known as the “Servant Girl Annihilator” was responsible for the deaths of eight people between late 1884 and Christmas Eve 1885. Attacking victims in their beds and then dragging them outside to mutilate their bodies, the killer eluded police, private investigators, and mobs of civilians who took to the unpaved streets of newly settled Austin in anger and panic. He—eyewitnesses claimed it was a man—has been called America’s first serial killer, and his crimes remain unsolved to this day.


Frances & Richard Lockridge, Dead as a Dinosaur, Avon, 1952

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

Spoilers abound, of course.
The Greatest Resurrections in Literature

I Miss the Old Days

The '60s at 50: Saturday, April 22, 1967: Birth of the Big Mac

William Hjortsberg, R. I. P.

The Rap Sheet: A “Gentle Soul” of Great Accomplishment: The New York City-born Montana novelist who gave us private investigator Harry Angel (in 1978’s Falling Angel), the lively detective pairing of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini (in 1994’s Nevermore), and a drug-fueled nightmare excursion through 1960s Mexico (in 2015’s MaƱana) passed away this last Saturday night of pancreatic cancer. Author William Hjortsberg, who was known to friends simply as “Gatz,” was 76 years old.

Bonus FFB on Wednesday: The Golden Spiders -- Rex Stout

George Kelley thinks The Golden Spiders is the best of the Nero Wolfe series, and Art Scott and Max Allan Collins also rate it highly, so I thought I'd reread it.  I read the edition on the left, since that's the one I have.

After reading it, I find that it's never going to be my favorite (I'm sticking with The Doorbell Rang) for one reason.*  The setup is a good one.  Archie, a bit irritated with Wolfe, brings in a neighborhood kid as a potential client.  The boy says he was running the old windshield-cleaning gag, starting first with the driver's window, when the driver, a woman wearing golden spider earrings, turns to him and says, "Call a cop."  The kid doesn't like cops, so he goes to Wolfe, who also doesn't like cops.  Soon the kid is killed by a hit-and-run driver, as is a woman who comes to Wolfe claiming to have been the woman in the car.  She isn't killed before handing Wolfe a $10,000 check, however, and he intends to earn the money because he doesn't like it that people who come to him for help are being killed with impunity.  Saul, Orrie, and Fred are called in, and the game's afoot.

What they uncover is a scam operating within a charity designed to help displaced persons, and it's a complex situation.  Wolfe figures all out, of course, and he makes an assumption or two that wouldn't occur to most detectives.  That's why he's so good.  Archie has plenty of opportunities for wisecracks and flirts with attractive women.  Both he and Wolfe irritate Inspector Cramer, and all the familiar routines are observed or mentioned.  The food sounds great, although Wolfe is irritated with one particular meal, and that sets everything in motion.  Wonderful stuff for the most part.

*MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT: What sets this book apart from the others in the series (at least in my view) is the level of violence, particularly in one scene set in a garage.  Using a technique called "the crisscross," Archie tortures a man to get information from him. Archie calls it "stimulating" him.  It's not the kind of thing I expected from Archie, but it works well and shows that Archie is a true tough guy.  There's more than torture, too. There's even a shootout.  A good one.  Not the usual thing in a Nero Wolfe book, but done very well.  Still, the torture scene didn't sit well with me, and while I liked the book a lot, it's not going to wind up in my Top 5.