Sunday, April 30, 2017

Liking Twelve's Tenth

I watched Doctor Who's "The Pilot" and liked it a lot. The setting with Twelve working as a university lecturer fits like a glove, Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts was instant likability (and that comes from a card-carrying Clara Oswald fan), and Matt Lucas as Nardole is alien funny forming with Twelve and Potts an unusual, quirky trio. Hey, there's granddaughter Susan in a photograph on his desk. Believe I read somewhere they are bringing back Carole Ann Ford. How we are all on board is that, huh? Oh, and the Douglas Adams nods were spot on. Yeah,  Peter Capaldi’s final season (tenth of the new series run) as Twelve is shaping up rather nicely.

Friday, April 28, 2017


I'm rereading Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS ahead of the April 30th television adaptation on Starz. I will be doing an analysis of novel vs. series for Macmillan's Criminal Element. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

That Brutal Unpredictability

A Free Soul (1931)
Renowned gamesman Barclay Cooke (1912-1981) called Backgammon “the cruelest game.” Memorable hyperbole? Perhaps. But vital skills are needed to play: intense concentration, clever strategy, and an ability to see ahead to possible traps—and still the probability of the roll can level the steel nerves of even the finest. That brutal unpredictability translates well to the mystery, crime, and thriller genres, and of course, with sport slang like post mortem, premature burial, under the gun, shot, hustler, and hit, backgammon is practically crying out for a spotlight with the criminal element.

Read more on my favorite game, by me, here.


Latest title (and a long one at that, right?) from BEAT to a PULP books and Court Merrigan:

Set in post-apocalyptic 1876, THE BROKEN COUNTRY tracks the scabrous exploits of the outlaws Cyrus and Galina Van. The pair kidnaps a naïve, young scion and head west in pursuit of gold, glory, and respect. Along the trail they met Atlante Ames, a mapper who euthanized her own father and now seeks her twin brother, himself gone outlaw in the ravaged West. In cold pursuit rides the implacable bounty hunter Hal, who takes scalps in the name of Jesus Christ and the science of phrenology, and the contemplative Buddhist assassin Qa'un, paying off the bloodprice he owes Hal … bounty by bloody bounty. Cyrus and Galina's hard road west comes to a head in a dynamite-tossing, six-gun-blazing shootout at the old train depot in Laramie.

A dark journey to a time when wagon trains have retreated and the Old West is haunted by bonepickers and starving tribes, THE BROKEN COUNTRY: BEING THE SCABROUS EXPLOITS OF CYRUS & GALINA VAN, HELLBENT WEST DURING THE EIGHTH YEAR OF THE HARROWS, 1876; WITH AN ACCOUNT OF MAPPERS, BOUNTY HUNTERS, A TATAR, AND THE SCIENCE OF PHRENOLOGY is unlike any other book you will read this year.

Creating The Never-Ending Bloom

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Black Thirteen

Callahan stops his traipse down the bloody memory lane to show Roland the crystal ball. Roland has Callahan take him to Black Thirteen without Susannah present, afraid that the demon in her belly will grow stronger.
Faintly, Roland heard the chime of bells—a sound so beautifully hideous it made you want to grind your teeth against it. For a moment the walls of Pere Callahan’s church wavered. It was as if the thing in the box had spoken to them: Do you see how little it all matters? How quickly and easily I can take it all away, should I choose to do so? Beware, gunslinger! Beware, shaman! The abyss is all around you. You float and fall into it at my whim.
Our ka-tet continues forward at Macmillan's Criminal Element. 

I'm Throwing In With Shetland

Looking for a new crime drama series to watch and tired of the same old? Try, Shetland that's currently on Netflix. The BBC program stars Douglas Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and besides the fine acting, plotting, there's the incredible scenery. I expound more in my review of COLD EARTH by Ann Cleeves who is the architect behind it all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


On our recent trip to the Smithsonian, we saw just a fraction of the natural history museum. We ended up spending most of our time in the invertebrate and geology exhibits. Ava loved the live tarantulas so much, she asked for a Mexican orange-kneed—not a pink toe—variety for a pet. And as for the rocks, all three of us were mesmerized by the meteorites, gems, and minerals.

Here’s a picture of a section of columnar dacite. What’s so interesting to me about it is how it’s formed from lava flow and its mathematical properties. When the lava cools, it shrinks and fractures creating vertical columns of crystallized dacite in various polygon shapes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Many Come But...

Most of my Blogger posts still generate a few hundred visits and depending on the topic a few thousand often stop by. One thing that has never changed, in the decade I've been perched here, is the number that leave comments which is normally less than other social networking sites. I'm surprised that Blogger hasn't updated their platform to something similar to Facebook, Instagram, etc. Make it less of a hassle and more inviting for comments. I realize Blogging is considered dated but I still enjoy this corner of the world and have met most of my enduring online friends here.

Anyway, there's my random Tuesday morning thought.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Book List

I’ve been asked to recommend a list of books. Tall order. This list could change next week or even later today. But these fifteen have had a lasting impression. Disclosure: I published three and two others are written by good friends.

The Adventures of Augie March (1953)/Saul Bellow

Herzog (1964)/Saul Bellow

Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)/Joan Didion

I Shall Not Be Moved (1991)/Maya Angelou

Despair (1965, English translation)/Vladimir Nabokov

The Posthumous Man (2012)/Jake Hinkson

The Age of Reason/Thomas Paine (published in three parts: 1794, 1795, and 1807)

Monte Walsh (1963)/Jack Schaefer

Donnybrook (2013)/Frank Bill

American Gods (2001)/Neil Gaiman

The Little Boy Inside and Other Stories (2013)/Glenn Gray

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)/Patricia Highsmith

The Girls of Bunker Pines (2014) /Garnett Elliott

The Haunting of Hill House (1959)/Shirley Jackson

All Those Hungry Mouths (2015)/Keith Rawson

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Razor Sharp Teeth

Little d and I are proofing Nik Morton's "We Fell Below the Earth" and learned that people are quite passionate about vampire teeth. Should they be front and center like Nosfertu or sport them on the lateral incisor as seen in The Lost Boys and True Blood? Then there's the classic canine set like Lestat in Interview with the Vampire and now the Vampire Diaries? Who knew?!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

René Descartes Says...

I'm reading “Discourse On Method” (from a prized 1910 edition of the Harvard Classics) by René Descartes (1596-1650)  and came across the following timely quote:
It is useful to know something of the manners of different nations, that we may be enabled to form a more correct judgment regarding our own, and be prevented from thinking that everything contrary to our customs is ridiculous and irrational, — a conclusion usually come to by those whose experience has been limited to their own country.

Wolves At The Door

The ka-tet dine with their perspective employers, feeling out the sharecroppers and the mysterious Father Callahan and learning that Thunderclap is somewhat of a dead zone populated by the wolves. When Eddie excuses himself to take a dump in the woods, he discovers Andy is quite the stealthy robot. Startled while still squatting, the gunslinger has a couple of questions for the apologetic machine—the most troubling of which regards the wolves: “... how do you know when they’re coming?”

The normally genteel machine turns haughty, “What’s your password, sai Eddie?” Turns out the bot is restricted from divulging this information under directive nineteen (there’s that damn prime). So, I’m making the call early: Andy is in cahoots with the wolves. Agreed? Of course, I’ve come to not trust any machine with a North Central Positronics, LTD label.
Here's a link to follow for the rest of my article on Stephen King's Wolves of the Calla.

Past Voices

I'm reading a Harvard Classics featuring Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Hobbes. Most days on Twitter I follow accounts dedicated to Samuel Pepys, Richard Burton, and actively contribute to a Thomas Paine page. Waiting to be read are memoirs by Anais Nin and Charles Darwin. Put bluntly, I enjoy reading dead people ruminating about the minutiae of their daily lives, cultural events of their day, and whatever else passed their radars. Question: I'm looking to expand beyond the mostly white guys and looking for women essayists before the 20th century and writers from countries outside the US. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Salvation (2014)

Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) is a Danish settler whose wife and son are murdered by two thugs just released from prison. Jon kills both in revenge. One of the ex-con's brother is Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a gang leader who is working to remove the entire populace of Black Creek for Standard Atlantic Oil Company to bottle the crude that’s bubbling about town. Riding with Jon is his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt). Together they make a formidable opposition though Peter eventually sacrifices himself for Jon's safety. With every gesture, Mikkelsen pumps fresh life into the genre, and, here’s hoping there are more Westerns in his future. Eva Green plays Delarue's mute sister-in-law, Madelaine, who serves as his accountant and is sexually abused by him. Strong acting all around in THE SALVATION, but Ms. Green deserves extra mention for conveying such a wide range of emotion without any lines.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Odin aka Wednesday

Odin the Wanderer (1895) is such a commanding piece by Georg Von Rosen. Odin, in Norse mythology, goes by numerous names including Wednesday. In AMERICAN GODS, Mr. Wednesday is played by Ian McShane. What a great casting choice that is, right? I've enjoyed McShane performances for years including his acting in VILLAIN (1971) opposite Richard Burton, LOVEJOY (1986-1994), and DEADWOOD (2004-2006).

Friday, April 7, 2017


My continuing studies of Thomas Paine unearthed this always timely passage from Rights of Man (1791):
"That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and keeping up the quarrels of Nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord and cultivate prejudices between Nations, it becomes the more unpardonable."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Broken Down

My jeep decided to give up the ghost today, but, thankfully, while I was waiting to be rescued I had Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS with me. Forgot how much I enjoyed this novel and the thirty minutes zipped along to my father-in-law showed up. Now, wonder how much the old beast is going to cost for repairs. It's an electrical issue. Oy vey!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What Happened To My 444?

Here Is the World's Favorite Number.

Some Lincoln Common Sense

I am reminded of a conundrum posed by Abraham Lincoln: If the tail of a dog was called a leg, how many legs would a dog have? Lincoln's answer was: "Four, calling the tail a leg doesn't mean that it is one." Raymond M. Smullyan, WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS BOOK

American Gods

I just got the green light to review the adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods (2001) that is premiering April 30. Doing something a little different, I will be comparing the characters and plot from the novel with the show. Hope you will join me for the ride.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Wolves, Jazz, and Hammer

More articles of mine have been posted at Criminal Element. First up is my review of FATAL MUSIC  which is a mystery with a jazz enthusiast for a detective. Then WOLVES OF THE CALLA, #5 in The Dark Tower series, and, finally, THE WILL TO KILL, a new Mike Hammer novel.

Monday, April 3, 2017

3, 107, 444

The number nineteen continually pops up in The Dark Tower series and it made me think of some favorite numbers of mine which include 3, 107, 444. Three, a prime, because of my family trio. 107, another prime, is a number from an address of my past that continually pops up, and 444 because I end up looking at the clock at exactly that time almost daily. Anybody have a favorite number and why. And, careful, you don't give me the password to your Swiss bank account by accident.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


I'm eighty-six pages into Stephen King's WOLVES OF THE CALLA (2003). It's part of his epic The Dark Tower series and influences for this entry include THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) and SEVEN SAMURAI (1954). Biggest shocker is a character from King's SALEM'S LOT (1975) makes a return and looks to be an ongoing character.

Well, anyway, that's why I'm up at 4:26 a.m.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


April starts on a high note. "Yolo" by Libby Cudmore (BEAT to a PULP, May 2016) is a 2017 Derringer Finalist for Best Short Story. She's in fine company with other finalists whose work appears in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

Congrats, Libby!