Aug 202014

THE MIGHTY GORGA. American General Pictures, 1969. Starring Anthony Eisley, Megan Timothy, Scott Brady and Bruce Kimball. Written and directed by David L. Hewitt.

   Required viewing for bad movie buffs, this ranks right up there with Mesa of Lost Women and Robot Monster. Unlike those alternative classics, Mighty Gorga is in color, but that doesn’t help much — you can still see it.

   Anthony Eisley, once a star on network TV (Hawaiian Eye) stars as a circus owner fallen on hard times (not unlike the actor himself) who journeys to Africa in search of Great White Hunter Tonga Jack Adams, who can lead him to a legendary-jungle-monster-cum-boffo-box-office-attraction. Africa in this case appears to be the woods behind somebody’s back yard and the familiar landscape of Bronson Canyon, the perennial location of B westerns, here augmented by the sounds of jungle wildlife on the soundtrack: exotic birds (Bop-ooop-ooop-whaah-whaah-whaah!) lions and elephants, never seen but gamely referred to by the assorted players looking off-screen.

   It turns out Great White Hunter Tonga Jack Adams has been missing since the last safari; not to fear, though: his comely daughter (Megan Timothy) is running things in his absence, despite sabotage from a competing Great White Hunter, played by Scott Brady. Driven to desperate measures, Tony and Megan trek off into the ersatz jungle, guided by Tonga Jack’s treasure map.

   (Incidentally, Brady’s sabotage consists of setting fire to April’s animal compound, which might have been more convincing had the scenes matched up: he sets his fire at night and the characters react to it in the daytime — just a hint of things to come.)

   Writer/Director Hewitt ratchets up the tension(?) by cutting away frequently to scenes of the giant ape Gorga plodding amok through the jungle (?) terrorizing a native village that seems to be built of bamboo screens and 4’X8”plywood sheets, and it’s fitting to put in a word here about the monster: The Mighty Gorga is played mostly by someone in the top half of a really bad gorilla suit, with immobile features and cute button eyes. I say “top half” because we only get to see The Mighty G from the waist up, photographed from low-angles with bushes (standing in for tree-tops) in the foreground to attempt the illusion of height. Nice try.

   Anyway, our trepid explorers finally meet up with Mister G just in time to see him fight a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a burst of truly deplorable special effects. The T-Rex is represented by a plastic toy resembling a Pez Head, and for the fight scenes The Mighty Gorga is played by a hand puppet (his stunt double?) and his only visible wound is to get a splinter in his finger, which is removed by our plucky heroine, thus earning the monster’s undying gratitude, and there’s a lesson here for all of us, if we only look for it.

   Well, I know you’re all anxious to hear how this all comes out for yourselves, and I won’t spoil the ending for you except to say that Great White Hunter Tonga Jack is reunited with his daughter, they find the lost treasure (which looks like stuff from the clearance bin in the “Everything-for-a-Dollar” store) romance blossoms, the volcano explodes and—damn, I gave away the ending, didn’t I? Oh well, these reviews can’t all be gems of critical insight.

   But to conclude on a cheerier note, I should add that the acting in The Mighty Gorga is mostly better than you’d expect. Anthony Eisley, Kent Taylor and Scot Brady had all seen palmier days, but they trudge through this with admirable resolve and not a hint of embarrassment.

   Megan Timothy, who mostly appeared in Russ Meyer films, does the heroine duties capably, and really the only thespic disappointment is Bruce Kimball (star of several 60s skin-flicks) as the Native Medicine Man; decked out in a sarong and Cleopatra wig, he spends the movie summoning the monster with enthusiasm, but seems unable to get the New Yawk out of his voice, resulting in lines like: “Oh, Mighty Gawga, de infidels have come ta steal yoah treashah!” Immortal stuff for fans of bad filmmaking.

 Posted by at 10:54 pm

Headlines that shouldn’t be true but are

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Aug 202014

Cops cleared more than 400 times each year for "justified" homicides...

Missouri lt. gov.: We need ‘Anglo-American’ justice in Ferguson, not
racial protests

Maryland veteran shot 3-year-old daughter and cut her throat before
fatal shootout with police

Missouri official apologizes for racist Facebook posts: ‘I was a very
active Republican at the time’

Chicken-suited New Hampshire Republican arrested for flapping and
clucking at Dems

Wanted Man Discovered After Rear-Ending Detective’s Car

Robber Caught After Showering, Shaving In Elderly Victim's Home: Cops

Police Officer Allegedly Solicits Undercover Cop For Sex

Man Falls Asleep, Wakes Up To Bloody Stranger Sleeping On Couch

Man's 101st Birthday Present Is Another Day At Work

Affluenza’ teen’s father busted for impersonating a police officer
(this is the daddy of the teen who killed people and got off because
being so rich caused him to suffer from "affluenza")

Chris Christie Chews Out a Woman for Suggesting Bruce Springsteen
Doesn’t Like Him

CNN host: Nat. Guard said ‘you never know’ what Ferguson ‘n*ggers’ are
going to do

Oklahoma 12-year-old dies from B.B. gun shot to the head

Man wearing blue shirt poses as TSA, pats down women at airport...

Swastikas painted on church walls in MA...

NKorea calls John Kerry 'wolf with hideous lantern jaw'...
(as opposed to chubby boy-man who kills his people on a whim
including uncle while spending the national treasury on porn)

Wall Street Journal editor: Eric Holder should tell Ferguson protesters
to ‘pull up their pants’

No Charges for Guards in 3 Fatal Rikers Island Beatings
Though they were ruled homicides.

Cops accidentally kill bystander during FL nightclub arrest of
‘gun-wielding maniac’

Detour by Martin Goldsmith

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Aug 202014

Alex Roth is a musician who thumbs it out for L.A. with the woman of his dreams. Things hit a snag when the bookmaking driver Alex flags down, suddenly ends up dead.

Printing History
Written by Martin M. Goldsmith (1913-1994)

The Macaulay Company

The Film

Tom Neal as Al Roberts
Ann Savage as Vera
Claudia Drake as Sue Harvey
Edmund MacDonald as Charles Haskell Jr
Tim Ryan as Nevada Diner Proprietor
Esther Howard as Holly, Diner Waitress
Don Brodie as the Used Car Salesman
Pat Gleason as Joe
 Posted by at 3:53 pm

In memory and appreciation of Jeremiah Healy

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Aug 202014


In memory and appreciation to Jeremiah Healy

by Dave Zeltserman

I first met Jerry Healy back in 2001 when I started going to Boston mystery writing events. At that time I'd had two stories published in small mystery magazines and had a couple of unpublished novels, and Jerry always treated me as if I belonged, which certainly wasn't true of many of the other established Boston mystery writers at that time. Whenever I saw Jerry at these events, we'd talk Red Sox, Patriots, about writing, etc., and he was more than just friendly--he was generous. He was also a bit of a character. He was someone who could be in a tux (and look damn good in it) while everyone else would be in jeans and tee shirts. He was also a dynamic (and fearless) public speaker, sharp-witted, and entertaining. And he helped out a lot of us newer writers.

In my early years as a struggling author, Jerry helped me a number of times. One of these times was when I started Hardluck Stories back in 2002. Jerry agreed to be one of my first guest editors, which gave the zine credibility, and allowed it to flourish. At the time I had one of my good friends (and best man at my wedding) Jeff Michaels, who was also a huge PI Cuddy fan, write the following essay for Hardluck. It's with great admiration that I'd like to republish Jeff's essays about one of Boston's best, and to a man who touched so many--both authors and readers. Jerry, you'll be missed. 

A Look at Jeremiah F. Healy’s John Francis Cuddy Series
by Jeffrey Michaels, February 2003

If you’re an avid mystery reader, you’ve probably already read Jeremiah Healy’s work. If you’ve missed him for some reason, you have a great series awaiting you. Six of his novels and five of his short stories have been nominated for the Shamus Award (1), including a win in 1986 for his second novel, The Staked Goat. He has published 13 novels featuring Boston private detective John Francis Cuddy. He has also published a book of Cuddy short stories and a few novels without Cuddy.

Healy’s Background

Jeremiah Francis Healy III was born in Teaneck, New Jersey on May 15, 1948. He graduated from Rutgers University in l970, got his JD at Harvard Law School in l973, and passed the Massachusetts Bar in 1974. He was an associate with Withington, Cross, Park & Groden, a Boston law firm, from l974 to 1978, gaining a lot of courtroom experience. The Army ROTC helped pay for his education, and Healy served as a military police officer, leaving the Army in 1976 as a captain. He married Bonnie M. Tisler on Feb. 4, l978, the same year he began teaching at the New England School of Law in Boston. He wrote his first novel during the summer of 1981. The book, Blunt Darts, was rejected 28 times before it was published in 1984. The book is dedicated “To Bonnie, who is Beth.” He has since come a long way. His writing has been positively reviewed over the past 20 years, with his characters, plots and style singled out for their quality.

John Francis Cuddy

A recent article on mystery writers in Playboy ranks John Francis Cuddy #6 on a list of current fictional sleuths titled "Ten Dicks Worth Hiring." The Playboy article says this about Cuddy:

Boston P.I. with law training. Uses attorney's skills in eliciting information. Not as flashy as fellow Beantowner Spenser, nor does he eat as well. But he delivers results. Widowed for more than 15 years, he still visits his late wife's grave to discuss his cases. Even weirder, he follows her advice. (2)

This is Cuddy's entrance in Blunt Darts:

"Cuddy, John Francis."
"74 Charles Street."
"In Boston?"
"In Boston."
Social Security number?
"Date of birth?"
I told her.
She looked up at me, squeezed out a smile. "You look younger."
"It's a mark of my immaturity," I said. She made a sour face and returned to the form.
"Previous employer?"
"Empire Insurance Company." I wondered whether Empire had to fill out a form that referred to me as "Previous Employee."

The passage shows Cuddy graduated from the Philip Marlowe wise-cracking detective school, and we learn later that he was fired from his job as an insurance investigator because of his honesty. We also quickly discover Cuddy was an MP [military police officer] in Vietnam from 1967-68. Healy has said in interviews that Cuddy’s MP experiences are based on those of his father and uncle, rather than his own. Blunt Darts concerns the teenage son of a prominent judge who disappears, but it is unclear if he was kidnapped or ran away. The boy’s mother died four years earlier in an apparent suicide, but does that death relate to the boy’s disappearance? It is well-plotted, with a dash of Raymond Chandler and a shake of Ross MacDonald. The Boston setting was introduced by Robert B. Parker in 1973, and obviously influenced Healy. But while Parker’s Spenser was originally presented as a womanizer, Cuddy is the opposite. He is still devoted to his wife, Beth, who died young of cancer before the book opens. Cuddy’s first in a series-long string of visits to her grave site is a one-sided conversation, unlike later books in which the two talk over matters:

"Just carnations." I set them down and stepped back. "Mrs. Feeney said the roses  at the flower market were tired-looking." I felt too distant standing up, so I squatted down on my haunches.
            "Remember Valerie Jacobs, Chuck Craft's friend? Well, she's brought me a case, and it's a beaut! Rich family and all kinds of troubles. The grandmother you’d like. Good Yankee, you'd call her. The grandson I haven't met yet, and won't, if I don't roll pretty hard and fast on finding him. Still, he sounds like the type you'd have liked too. Serious, studies, and quiet. Just like me." We laughed.
            I stared at the carnations for a while. I began blinking rapidly. We talked inside for a bit.
            "So, I'm afraid I won't be back for a while. I'll see you when the case is over. Or sooner, if I hit a problem. Just like always."
            I straightened up and turned around to walk back down the path. A teenager holding a rake and wearing a maintenance shirt and dungaree cut-offs gave me a funny look. I didn't recognize him. Summer help, probably, and young. Too young to know anything. Especially about cemeteries.  

[Blunt Darts, chapter 4]

In a 1997 interview, Healy said the idea for the continuing dialog between Cuddy and his dead wife came to him while at a funeral: 

"At the funeral, I noticed an old man holding a hat and rotating it by the brim, rocking back and forth, clearly talking to a headstone...In a sense it was odd, but in a way it wasn't.  If you're used  to talking to someone every day then wouldn't you continue even after they had died?" (3)

The visit shows Cuddy to be a sensitive fellow, and later in the book we see how much he still loves Beth.  The young school teacher who got him into the case tries to seduce him, but he spurns her advances. He tells her it's not there for him, that he and his wife had something special. Valerie, the woman, tells him he should move on with his life and that it takes time to create a new relationship. He replies:. 

            "But that's just it, Val. After Beth died, and in between binges with the booze, I read all sorts or articles, whole books even, on the need to rebuild, to start over in your life, block by block. The problem is, it's wrong. Those writers were wrong, and you're wrong. There really are special people in the world, people who are special to other people from the word go, and that's the way it was with Beth and me. She was the only woman I'd ever loved. She was the only one who knew me, who knew what I was thinking and could anticipate what I'd be doing. It was magic between us from the first time I met her."

[chapter 21]

The Staked Goat (1986), the award-winning second novel, is much more violent than   Blunt Darts, and teaches us about Cuddy’s experiences in Vietnam. The plot involves one of his fellow MPs from his time “in country,” who is murdered in what is made to look like a sex crime. Cuddy vows to find the killer, and the trail leads back to his years in Vietnam. There is also a secondary plot involving arson and the murder of witnesses. Unlike Blunt Darts, in which he is surprised by the murderer and almost killed, in The Staked Goat Cuddy acts as executioner when he finally tracks down the killer. In the book he also meets, and is immediately attracted to Assistant DA Nancy Meager, who grew up as he did in South Boston. Sparks fly, though Cuddy still distances himself from her in memory of his wife. Nancy is disappointed when he acts as executioner, but near the end of the book Cuddy brings her to the cemetery to meet Beth:

            We walked the right path, then eased left. We stopped a few steps later at the familiar marble stone. Nancy slid her arm out from mine.
            “Beth,” I said, “this is Nancy.”
            Nancy didn’t say anything. She didn’t look at the stone or at me. She just stared down at the ground, where I used to look. Where Beth was.
            I said nothing. Nancy glanced up at the inscription, then down again.
            “Thirty was too young, Beth,” she said…

[The Staked Goat, chapter 26]

I recommend reading the books in order, because unlike some series, Healy’s connects the plots somewhat, and events carry over from book to book. Cuddy’s relationship with Nancy grows over the books, and unlike some detectives Cuddy gets a little older in each book. Cuddy and Nancy are nearly killed at the end of The Staked Goat, and the scene is recalled in the visit he makes to his dead wife toward the beginning of book three, So Like Sleep (1987). Unlike in Blunt Darts, Beth now keeps up her end of the “conversation,” and offers guidance on Cuddy’s advancing relationship with Nancy:

            "I don't know if I like the green paper as well."
            The roses were yellow, small but open flowers, sharp but widely spaced thorns. I bent over and laid them lengthwise to her.
            "Mrs. Feeney  says the company that manufactured the white tissue went bust, and the new outfit would charge her fifty percent more for the white."
            I smoothed the paper down. It crinkled. The old paper, the white, sort of whispered.
            Don't worry about it, said Beth. What do you think you're doing, working a toilet paper commercial?
            I laughed. I looked past her stone to the Daugherty plot. His monument was granite, not marble, and some of the blood from last March was still dried dark on it. I stopped smiling and repressed a shudder.
            Have you heard from Nancy?
            "No. I thought about calling her, but..."
            You're probably right not to push it.
            "I know."
            She needs time, John.
            "I know that too."
            There was nothing more to say on that subject. The sky was overcast, the air still. No sailboats in our part of the harbor. Two Boston Whalers raced on a near-collision course, both heading toward an anchored third, already bucking, its fishing rods bending.

[So Like Sleep, chapter 5]

It takes until the end of book 4, Swan Dive (1988), before Cuddy gives in to his feelings and sleeps with Nancy, after Beth says it’s okay. An excerpt from that book  shows that although Cuddy is a sensitive guy, he’s also the traditional tough guy P.I. who can take and give a beating. A lawyer who objects to Cuddy’s questioning asks her assistant/boyfriend to kick Cuddy out of the office. We learn the man, Paul Troller, was a finalist in the Golden Gloves before going to law school and is anxious to take Cuddy on:

The door to the adjoining office flew open and Troller burst into the room. He was wearing suit pants, a long-sleeved oxford shirt, sleeves rolled up, and a handsome regimental tie. He grinned at me and started bouncing on the balls of his feet and shaking out his shoulders.

Cuddy tells us he respects boxers for their strengths, but has also noticed their limitations over the years:  

            Boxers have a weakness, too, however. They tend to think they're invincible in close. Even when wearing a tie.
            I gambled Paulie's first punch would be a feint. He jabbed with his left at my eye, then pulled it short, instead driving a good right up and into my body. I caved, keeping my elbows and hands tight to protect my ribs and face. He followed with a left to the body, stepping forward to really bury it. I folded so that most of the force was spent in the air, leaving him near enough for me to grab his tie. I yanked the shorter end down with my right hand, my left forcing the knot high and hard into his throat. His face bulged, both his hands scrabbling to the front of his collar. I let go of the knot, clamping both my hands on the insides of his wrists and pulling his hands apart to benediction width. I had a feeling my grip would outlast his air.

[Swan Dive, chapter 20]

In book 5, Yesterday's News (1989), Cuddy is hired by a reporter to investigate happenings in Nasharbor, a city not unlike Fall River, Massachusetts. Nancy is mostly “off camera” in the narrative, and as a result the book is more hard-boiled than the previous two.Yesterday's News offers a good example of Healy’s strength in drawing characters. Here’s how he introduces a local pornographer:

            Bernard "Bunny" Gotbaum sat like a Buddha in a large judge’s chair behind a desk piled high with paperwork. Obese, his sausage-like fingers played with the collar of a long-point sports shirt that bulged at each vertical seam. Wearing a toupee the color of cream soda, overall he gave the impression of a man who hadn't burned twelve calories since kindergarten. The teeth, however, earned him the nickname. The upper two front ones bucked out far enough to open beer cans.

[Yesterdays’ News, chapter 10]

Yesterday's News is close to a Hammett story, since almost everyone is bad. The book ends with Cuddy watching a Red Sox game on the TV with a new male friend. He has solved the case, killed one person, but left another bad guy alone for lack of evidence.

In book six, Right to Die (1991), Cuddy is hired to protect a right to die activist who is receiving death threats. Much of the book deals with Cuddy's advancing age and his desire to run the Boston Marathon once before it’s too late. He trains for the race throughout the book, and even after he is shot working on the case he still enters the marathon. The marathon is described very realistically. Healy’s Who's Who biography says he is a jogger, and that experience is evident in the book:

Mile twenty one. Boston College and the top of Heartbreak. Exhilaration, then the incredible bunching pain in the backs of the legs from going downhill. My calves went mushy, and my feet kept tangling. My left side felt like somebody was plowing it with baling hooks.
No functioning water stations for two miles until just below Coolidge Corner, where a guy my age and his kids braved the rain outside a majestic synagogue...The marker said "25" at Kenmore Square. Every joint below my waist had tossed in the towel, the bones sawing and grading against each other. The crowd chanted a single phrase. One more mile, one more mile.

[Right to Die, chapter 31 ]

Skipping ahead to book nine, we see Cuddy’s continued aging. In Act of God (1994), Cuddy hurts himself helping his girlfriend bring a huge mahogany dresser up a flight of stairs and visits doctors, eventually suffering an MRI chamber:

We went into a large room. There was very little in the way of furnishings beyond a big metal cylinder like an iron lung from the fifties and a fancy gurney table in front of it.
"Please sit on the end of the table."
When I did, Maureen used a strip of cloth maybe six feet long to bind my shoulders back. I suddenly had a vision from Saigon during the Tet Offensive, suspected Vietcong, on their knees in the street, their arms bound behind them at the elbow, causing them to arch forward, like--
"Am I hurting you?" said Maureen.
You just grimaced, and I was afraid--"
“No, thanks. I'm okay."

The MRI chamber brings back memories:

Maureen moved me headfirst into the iron lung. The first impression was being inside a coffin...Then I noticed the semicircular top and the indirect lighting and the metal buttresses. Suddenly it felt like a day when I got back from the service and a friend took me through the Callahan Tunnel in his new convertible, my head lolling on the backrest, watching the roof of the tunnel as we went by underneath it. Now I had maybe eight inches of airspace between my face and the walls and roof of the machine Above me, a white disk and then two red dots flashed, and I was aware of the whirring of a small fan somewhere. Then, over a muted public address system, I heard Maureen's voice in my ear.
"Are you all right in there, Mr. Cuddy?"
"Please stay completely still. The first imaging lasts for just three minutes."

[Act of God, Chapter 15]

Act of God also has a pretty good mystery, one of Healy’s most complex, with well-plotted twists and turns. As in The Staked Goat, Cuddy metes out justice his way. Cuddy solves the case and decides to execute the killer himself. He confronts the man with the facts and tells him he hasn't yet told the police. Cuddy then urges him to pick up a shovel so they can go dig up the body together. Cuddy wants the killer to swing it on him:

            I'd tipped him, but the way he kept his eyes on me while reaching out and grabbing the handle told me he'd been thinking of it before I said it. He brought the shovel into both of his hands, first like Little John with a quarterstaff, which would have been a lot more trouble. Then he switched to a baseball grip, a leftie, and swung at me forehand. I jumped back, the knee twinging as I torqued it. He swung backhand, striking me on the left bicep and knocking me downward as I drew the Smith & Wesson Chief's Special worn over my right hip…From the ground, I could see [the killer] raising the shovel above his head, like a man with a maul to split firewood. When the shovel came forward, I fired three times into his chest and rolled left, the shovel hammering my right shoulder as [killer's] face thumped into the lawn about where my head had been.

[Act of God, chapter 29]

I omitted the killer's name in case you haven't read the book yet, since the mystery is rather complex and deserves to be savored.

Skipping ahead again to the latest Cuddy book, Spiral (1999) the reader is shocked in the very first chapter. Cuddy's girlfriend flies off on a business trip, and her plane crashes, killing all aboard. The two had been talking about moving in together, and Cuddy would have flown with her except for a previous job commitment, which it turns out had been cancelled before he left to drive Nancy to the airport.  He gets drunk and mourns her in his own fashion. After a few days he talks the situation over for the first time with his dead wife, who is shocked and saddened to hear the news. She says:

This may not help, but there's a reason why you weren't on that plane.
"Sure there is. I didn't check my messages in time to--"
Not what I mean, John. There's some reason why you were spared.
I thought back to one of the first visits I'd made to the graveyard after Beth had died. "You know that."
I do.
"Mind letting me in on it?"
A short pause this time that passed for a small smile. If only I could.
Suddenly, I started to feel the cold. "Do me a favor?"
"Keep an eye out for Nancy. I think you'd like her"

[Spiral, chapter 1]

Nancy was disposed of because, as Healy has said in interviews, he had to either arrange a wedding or a funeral for her. Her death brings Cuddy back to the beginning of the cycle of mourning he was completing in Blunt Darts. The Cuddy series lies at the intersection of hardboiled and puzzle mystery fiction, with Nancy's presence a major factor in humanizing Cuddy and allowing him to be seen as a person and not just a detective. But after 13 novels there was probably little left for Healy to write about the two.

In Spiral, Cuddy is hired by his old commanding officer, just a week or so after Nancy’s death, to solve the murder of his 12 year old granddaughter. Spiral is set mostly around Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where Healy apparently now lives half the year as a snowbird. He dedicates the book to his "friends at the Tennis Club", a setting in the book. Florida flora and atmosphere give the book a different feel, and provide refreshing plot elements, since all the previous Cuddy novels were set in New England. Spiral continues the Vietnam themes found in the series, and the client calls Cuddy “Lieutenant” throughout the book.

When Cuddy reports on a barroom brawl he was involved in to his client, he reminisces about his time in Vietnam, and this internal dialogue causes him to zone out, which is noticed by the client:

            I thought back to Saigon, the dozens of times I watched my MPs -- our MPs -- crawl on their hands and knees into bars. Inside, combat troops from the bush on two-days passes did their best to drink a month's worth of booze and forget what they'd just been through and would be going through again. Forget by starting a free-for-all fistfight with whomever supposedly slighted them, any opponents having roughly the same attitudes.
            The MPs would crawl into the bars because the safest way to break up a brawl was to sneak up below the revelers' line of sight and whack them behind the knees with a nightstick, causing the muscles back there to spasm so badly that nobody could get to their feet for fifteen minutes, by which times the desire--the raw need--to swing on somebody would have--
            The concussion, or just me since Nancy? "Sorry sir."

[Spiral, chapter 15]

The zoning out is noticed by a few other people in the novel, but it doesn’t stop Cuddy from solving the case, which has more suspects than any previous book in the series. But here’s where I must confess I don't generally care about the "mystery" in a mystery novel. Healy's novels appeal to me because he combines hard-boiled with enjoyable writing, strong characters and lively dialog. His books are very well-written puzzles, however, and I haven't provided the details on any endings because readers who care about such things deserve to view Healy's plots for themselves. Hopefully there will be future Cuddy adventures to savor, with hard-boiled Cuddy for readers like me, and a finely plotted mystery for another part of the book buying public.

Healy has recently published under the name Terry Devane, but I lack space herein to discuss those or the non-Cuddy books published under his own name. The Cuddy series offers enough to write about, and I urge you to give them a read. Healy’s legal background gives them added depth, as Cuddy smoothly draws out facts in a lawyer-like fashion from witnesses and suspects who expect to tell him nothing. If you like the honest, brave, loyal knight-in-shining-armor version of the hard-boiled detective hero, Cuddy is worthy of your time. If you want your detective to have a significant other, Cuddy and Nancy are far more realistic than any other couple I've encountered in detective fiction.  And make sure you watch out for the series’ inside jokes, like Cuddy watching the filming of the Spenser TV show, reading a Robert Randisi novel, or driving by the site of Travis McGee’s houseboat.

Jeremiah Healy's John Francis Cuddy Series:
  • Blunt Darts (1984)
  • The Staked Goat (1986)
  • So Like Sleep (1987)
  • Swan Dive (1988)
  • Yesterday's News (1989)
  • Right to Die (1991)
  • Shallow Graves (1992)
  • Foursome (1993)
  • Act of God (1994)
  • Rescue (1995)
  • Invasion of Privacy (1996)
  • The Only Good Lawyer (1998)
  • The Concise Cuddy (1998) -- short stories
  • Spiral (1999)


(1)  The Shamus Award is given by the Private Eye Writers of America to honor excellent work in the Private Eye genre. The award was created by Robert J. Randisi in 1981. To see the list of winners and nominees go to:

(2)  Lochte, Dick. “The Return of the Private Eye.”Playboy, March 1, 2000: 96.

(3)  Snell, George. “Mystery writer in love with Boston'” Worcester Telegram & Gazette, October 15, 1997: B1.


Aug 202014

The post Start Reading Confessions by Kanae Minato appeared first on Mulholland Books.


Between household chores, Kanae Minato wrote a multi-million-copy international bestseller that’s now being hailed as “the Gone Girl of Japan” (Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times) and praised as an “implacable, relentless” and “stunning” read (Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal). CONFESSIONS is now available in bookstores and from e-tailers everywhere.

Once you finish your milk, please put the carton back in the box. Make sure you return it to the space with your number on it and then get back to your desk. It looks like everyone is just about done. Since today is the last day of the school year, we will also be marking the end of “Milk Time.” Thanks to all of you for participating. I also heard some of you wondering whether the program would be continuing next year, but I can tell you now that it won’t. This year, we were designated as a model middle school for the Health Ministry’s campaign to promote dairy products. We were asked to have each of you drink a carton of milk every day, and now we’re looking forward to the annual school physicals in April to see whether your height and bone mass come in above the national averages.

Yes, I suppose you could say that we’ve been using you as guinea pigs, and I’m sure this year wasn’t very pleasant for those of you who are lactose intolerant or who simply don’t like milk. But the school was randomly selected for the program, and each classroom was supplied with the daily milk cartons and the box to hold them, with cubbyholes for your carton to identify each of you by seat number; and it’s true that we’ve kept track of who drank the milk and who didn’t. But why should you be making faces now when you were drinking the milk happily enough a few minutes ago? What’s wrong with being asked to drink a little milk every day? You’re about to enter puberty. Your bodies will be growing and changing, and you know drinking milk helps build strong bones. But how many of you actually drink it at home? And the calcium is good for more than just your bones; you need it for the proper development of your nervous system. Low levels of calcium can make you nervous and jumpy.

It’s not just your bodies that are growing and changing. I know what you’ve been up to. I hear the stories. You, Mr. Watanabe, you grew up in a family that owns an electronics shop, and I know you’ve figured out how to remove most of the pixilation on adult videos. You’ve been passing them along to the other boys. You’re growing up. Your minds are changing as quickly as your bodies. I know that wasn’t the best example, but what I mean is, you’re entering what we sometimes call the “rebellious period.” It’s a time when boys and girls tend to be touchy, to be hurt or offended by the least little thing, and when they’re easily influenced by their environment. You’ll begin to imitate everyone and everything around you as you try to figure out who you are. If you’re honest, I suspect many of you will recognize these changes in yourselves already. You’ve just seen a good example: Up until a few moments ago most of you thought of your free milk as a benefit. But now that I’ve told you it was an experiment, your feelings about the milk have suddenly changed. Am I right?

Still, there’s nothing too odd about that—it’s human nature to change your mind, and not just in puberty. In fact, the teachers have been saying that your class is actually a good bit calmer and better behaved than the usual group. Maybe we have the milk to thank for that.

But I have something more important I wanted to tell you today. I wanted you to know that I’ll be retiring at the end of the month. No, I’m not moving to a new school, I’m retiring as a teacher. Which means that you’re the last students I’ll ever teach, and I’ll remember you for as long as I live.

Settle down now. I appreciate your response—especially those of you who actually sound as though you’re sorry to hear I’m leaving—what? Am I resigning because of what happened? Yes, I suppose so, and I’d like to take some time today to talk to you about that.


Now that I’m retiring, I’ve been thinking again about what it’s meant to me to be a teacher.

I didn’t enter this profession for any of the usual reasons—because I myself had a wonderful teacher who changed my life or anything like that. I suppose you could say I became a teacher simply because I grew up in a very poor family. From the time I was little, my parents told me they could never afford to send me to college—and that it would have been waste to send a girl anyway—but I suppose that made me want to go all the more. I loved school and I was a good student. When the time came, I received a scholarship—perhaps because I was so poor—and enrolled at the national university in my hometown. I studied science, my favorite subject, and I started teaching at a cram school even before I graduated. Now I know you all complain about cram school, having to go right home from the regular school day to hurry through supper and run off to more classes that last late into the evening. But I’ve always thought you were incredibly lucky to have parents who cared enough to give you that extra opportunity.

At any rate, when I reached my senior year I decided to forgo graduate school—which might have been my first choice—and get a job as a teacher. I liked the fact that it was a secure career with a stable income, but there was an even bigger factor: The terms of my scholarship required me to repay the tuition money if I did not become a teacher. So without so much as a second thought, I took the test to obtain my license. Now I know this may cause some of you to question my motives for becoming a teacher, but I can assure you I have always tried to do the very best job I could. Lots of people fritter away their lives complaining that they were never been able to find their true calling. But the truth is that most of us probably don’t even have one. So what’s wrong, then, with deciding on the thing that’s right in front of you and doing it wholeheartedly? That’s what I did, and I have no regrets.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I chose to teach middle school rather than high school. I guess you could say that I wanted to be on the “front lines,” so to speak. I wanted to teach students who were still in the middle of their compulsory education. High school students have the option of quitting school, so their attention can be divided. I wanted to work with students who were still completely committed to their education, who had no other choice—that was as close to a true calling as I could find. It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when I was passionate about this work.

Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Ogawa—that’s not a funny part of my story.

I became a middle-school teacher in 1998, and my first position—on-the-job training, really—was at M Middle School. I was there three years and then took a leave of absence for a year before coming here to S Middle School. I found I enjoyed being away from the bigger cities in the prefecture, and this has been a pleasant, relaxed place to work. This is my fourth year here, so I’ve worked as a teacher for only seven years total.

I know you’ve been curious about M Middle School. Masayoshi Sakuranomi teaches there, and you’ve probably seen him on TV recently….Please settle down, everyone. Is he that famous? Do I know him? Well, we worked together for three years, so I suppose you could say I do, but in those days he wasn’t such a celebrity. They’ve made him out to be a super-teacher, and he’s in the news so often that I suspect you know more about him than I do.

What’s that? You don’t know the story, Mr. Maekawa? Don’t you watch TV? All right, I’ll tell you. Sakuranomi was the leader of a gang when he was in middle school, and when he was a sophomore in high school he assaulted a teacher. He was expelled and left the country, and for the next few years he apparently wandered around the world doing all sorts of dangerous things and getting into trouble. He witnessed war and other violent conflicts, and he lived among people suffering from extreme poverty. From those experiences, he came to realize the error of his ways and regret his violent past. He returned to Japan, passed his high school equivalency test, and entered a prestigious university. After graduating, he became a middle school English teacher. It’s said that he chose to teach middle school because he wanted to help students avoid the kinds of mistakes he had made when he was that age. A few years ago he started spending his evenings in the video-game centers and bookstores where students get into trouble after school. He would seek them out one by one, talking to them about self-respect and offering them a chance to start over. He was so persistent he acquired the nickname Mr. Second Chance, and they even made a TV documentary about him. He published books and expanded the scope of his work, trying to reach more students—what’s that? You heard all that on TV last week? Well, my apologies to those of you who already know the story….What? You’re right, I left out an important point. At the end of last year, when Sakuranomi was barely thirty-three years old, his doctor told him he had only a few months to live. But instead of feeling sorry for himself, he decided to devote his remaining time to his students. So now they’ve given him a new nickname: the Saint. You seem to know all about it, Mr. Abe. What’s that? Do I admire Sakuranomi? Do I want to be like him? Those are tricky questions. I suppose you could say I want to learn from his life—but only the latter half.

But I can see what an impression he’s made on some of you, and it makes me realize that I may have been an inadequate teacher in certain ways, especially compared to someone with his total dedication. As I said before, when I first became a teacher I wanted to do the best job I could. If one of my students had a problem, I would ignore my lesson plan and try to get the class to solve it together. If a student ran out of the room, even right in the middle of class, I would go after him. But at some point I started to realize that no one is perfect—me least of all. And when you tell a young person something with all the authority of a teacher, you actually risk amplifying the trouble. I began to feel that there was nothing more self-indulgent and foolish than forcing my opinions on my students. In the end, I worried I was simply condescending to the very people I should have been respecting and trying to help. So after my leave of absence, when I started work here at S Middle School, I laid down a couple of new ground rules for myself: First, I decided I would always address my students politely and use Mr. and Miss before their names, and second, I would treat them as equals. These seem like small things, but you’d be surprised how many students noticed right away.

Noticed what, you ask? I suppose they noticed how it made them feel to be treated with respect. You hear so much about abusive families that you might think that all children are being persecuted at home. But the truth is that most children these days are coddled and spoiled. Their parents bow and scrape and beg them to study, to eat their supper, whatever. Which may be why children show so little respect in return, why they talk to adults in the same tone of voice they use with their friends. And a lot of teachers even play up to this—consider it a badge of honor to be given a nickname or to be addressed informally by their students in class.

That’s what they see on TV, after all, with all those shows about popular teachers who are “buddies” to their students. I’m sure you know how the plot goes—a popular teacher has trouble with one particular class, but out of the conflict a deep trust develops between them. And when the end credits roll, the rest of the school and the teacher’s other classes have vanished and it’s as though the teacher’s there for that one group of troublemakers alone. Even in class, the TV teacher talks about his personal life and delves into the problem student’s most intimate feelings. Do the rest of you want to hear all this? Oh yes, of course we do. Then some serious student gathers the courage to ask about the meaning of life…and then the drivel continues. In the last scene, the serious student usually ends up apologizing to the troublemaker for having been insensitive…which might be fine for TV, but how about in real life? Have any of you ever had a personal issue that seemed so pressing that you wanted to interrupt class to talk about it? There’s too great an emphasis placed on the sheep gone astray. Personally, I have more respect for the serious student, the one who never got into trouble in the first place. But those kids never get the starring roles, either on TV or in real life. It’s enough to make the well-behaved student doubt the value of his efforts.


People often talk about the sense of trust that develops between a teacher and her students. When my students started getting cell phones, I began to receive text messages saying things like: “I want to die” or “I have no reason to live”—cries for help. They often came in the middle of the night—two or three o’clock in the morning—and I have to admit I was tempted to ignore them. But of course I never could. That would have been betraying our “sense of trust.”

Of course, teachers also started getting much more malicious messages. A young male teacher got a text asking for his help. The sender said her friend was in trouble and asked him to come to the entrance of a seedy hotel in the center of town. Now, you might think he should have been a little more cautious, but he was young and earnest and he hurried off to help—only to be photographed with the girl in said compromising location. Her parents showed up at the school the next day, the police got involved, and it turned into a major incident. His fellow teachers knew, of course, that the poor fellow had simply been tricked. We knew because he had told us that he was transgender—he had been born with the body of a man but he was actually a woman. Even under these circumstances, however, we saw no reason to reveal the truth. The young man himself, however, was determined to defend his honor as a teacher, and he ended up telling his students and their parents. But this whole tragedy—and the disastrous outcome for the teacher—had started from almost nothing. From a student’s hurt feelings at having been told to stop talking during class.

What? Was the student ever punished? Of course not. On the contrary, the teacher and the school were blamed—how could they expose impressionable young people to sexual deviants…or gays…or even single mothers like myself? The parents ignored what their own daughter had done and blamed the school, and in the end they won—though I’m not sure it’s ever appropriate to talk about winners and losers when it comes to education. The teacher? He was transferred last year and teaches at another school now, as a woman.

I know it’s an extreme example, but these kinds of accusations get made all the time, and for male teachers they’re very difficult to disprove. Since that incident, we’ve made it a policy to have a female teacher go in place of a male teacher when he has to meet with a female student, and vice versa. That’s also why we have two male and two female teachers for each grade. If one of you boys were to ask me to meet you somewhere, I would immediately get in touch with Tokura-sensei from the A Class and ask him to go in my place; and if something happened involving a girl from the A Class, Tokura-sensei would contact me. You hadn’t realized? There was never an announcement made, but we thought you’d figure it out for yourselves.

So now you boys are probably wondering whether it’s even worth contacting me when you’re really in trouble if Tokura-sensei is going to show up anyway? What’s that, Mr. Hasegawa? Yes, I remember when you had that problem in gym class. You told me it was serious, but in the bigger scheme of things it was quite minor. In fact, I doubt it’s more than a few times a year when one of you really needs me. I’m sure when you text me saying you want to die, you truly believe on some level that “life has no meaning,” as you all seem to like to say. And I’m sure that from your own self-absorbed point of view, you feel as though you’re all alone in the great wide world. That your troubles are completely overwhelming. But I have to say that I’m less interested in catering to your adolescent whims and more concerned that you grow up someday to be people who are capable of considering the feelings of others—for example, the feelings of the person who receives such a thoughtless message in the middle of the night. To be honest, I doubt that anyone who was truly despondent, who was actually considering doing something drastic, would send an email to announce the fact to her teacher.


You may have guessed by now that I was never the sort of teacher who thought about her students twenty-four hours a day. There was always someone more important to me—my daughter, Manami. As you know, I was a single mother. Shortly before Manami’s father and I were planning to be married, I learned that I was pregnant. We were a little disappointed that it had turned into a “shotgun wedding,” as they say, but the truth is we were delighted at the prospect of having a baby. I began getting prenatal care, and we decided it would make sense for my fiancé to have a physical as well. Quite unexpectedly, the tests revealed that he was suffering from a terrible disease, and all talk of the wedding stopped at that point. Because of the illness? Of course, that was the reason. Was it hard for him to accept? I’m sure it was, Miss Isaka. And of course some couples go ahead and get married even though one of them is ill. They choose to face the problem together. But what would you do in this situation? What would you do if you found out your boyfriend or girlfriend was infected with HIV?…HIV—the human immunodeficiency virus—better known as AIDS. But most of you already know all about this from the novel you read for your summer project. So many of your book reports said that you had cried at the ending that I decided to read it for myself. For the few of you who chose another book, it’s about a girl who contracts HIV while working as a prostitute and eventually develops AIDS and dies.

What’s that? You don’t think the story is that simple? You found the woman—the heroine—more sympathetic than I made her sound? I can understand that, but if you sympathized with the girl in the book, why did so many of you push your chairs back just now when I told you what happened with my fiancé? If you’re so sympathetic to people with AIDS, why did you move away when you found out that the teacher standing in front of you had sex with someone infected with HIV?

You look particularly uncomfortable, Miss Hamazaki, sitting here in the front row, but there’s no need to hold your breath. HIV is not spread through the air. The fact is you can’t catch AIDS from most kinds of physical contact—not from shaking hands or coughing or sneezing, not from the bath or the swimming pool, not from sharing dishes or from mosquito bites or from your pets. In general, not even from kissing. You can’t get AIDS from living in close contact with an infected person, and no one has ever caught it simply by being in the same class with someone who was infected—though I know the book didn’t mention any of that. And I apologize for keeping you in suspense—but I’m not infected either. Don’t look so shocked. It’s true that sexual intercourse is one way of spreading HIV, but not every act of intercourse results in infection.

I was tested during my pregnancy and the results were negative, but because that seemed so hard to believe, I was retested several times. It was only later, when I learned the real infection rate from intercourse, that I understood why I had escaped, but I won’t tell you that figure since I know how easily influenced you are by statistics. If you want to know, you’re free to look it up yourselves.

My fiancé contracted HIV overseas, during a wild period in his life when he hadn’t cared much what happened to him. I’m afraid I found it difficult to accept this part of his past. It had been a terrible shock to learn that the man I was planning to marry was infected with HIV, and despite the tests I continued to worry that I was infected, too. Even after I was sure that I was safe, I lay awake at night worrying about the baby in my belly. While I never stopped respecting my lover, I have to say that at times I truly hated him for what he’d done. And I suppose he could sense that. He apologized to me repeatedly and pleaded with me to go ahead and have the baby. But I have to say that the thought of ending the pregnancy never crossed my mind. Irrespective of politics, it felt like murder to me.

I should also tell you that my fiancé didn’t dissolve into self-pity after learning he had AIDS. On the contrary, he seemed to feel that he was simply suffering the consequences of his actions, and he was always careful to distinguish between his situation and that of hemophiliacs and others who had contracted the virus through no fault of their own. Still, I can’t imagine the despair he must have been feeling.

Eventually I realized I’d been wrong—partly because I so much wanted my baby to have a father—and I told him that we should go through with the wedding, that as long as we both understood the situation, we would find a way to face the problem. But he refused quite stubbornly. He was strong-willed, and he was absolutely determined to put the child’s happiness above all else. Prejudice against people with HIV is terrible in Japan—if you want proof, just remember how you all held your breath a moment ago when you thought I was infected. Even if the child turned out to be HIV-negative, how would she be treated when it was learned that the father had AIDS? If she made friends, would their parents forbid them to play with her? When she was old enough to go to school, would the other children—or even the teachers—mistreat her and try to force her out of the cafeteria or gym class or anywhere they thought a problem might occur? Of course, a child with no father can also experience prejudice, but the challenges are much less serious and she has a much better chance of finally winning acceptance. At any rate, we decided to call off the wedding. I was left to raise our daughter alone.

After she was born, Manami was tested and turned out to be HIV-negative as well. You can’t imagine how relieved I was. I made up my mind to give her the best care a mother could, to protect her at all costs, and I poured every ounce of my love into her. If you were to ask me which was more important, my students or my daughter, I would have answered without a moment’s hesitation that my daughter was far more important. Which was, of course, only natural.

Manami asked me about her father only once. I told her that he was working very hard, so hard he couldn’t come see her. And this was, in fact, quite true. Having given up the right to call himself Manami’s father, he had thrown himself into his work as though the rest of his life depended on it.

Manami, however, is no longer with us.


When Manami turned one, I put her into day care and returned to teaching. In the city, day care centers will keep a child until late into the evening, but out here in the countryside, even extended care ends at six o’clock. So I consulted a placement service for seniors looking for part-time work and found Mrs. Takenaka. She lives just behind the school swimming pool. Yes, that’s right, the house with the big black dog named Muku. I’m sure some of you have fed Muku your leftovers from lunch through the fence.

At four o’clock when the day care center closed, Mrs. Takenaka would go to get Manami and keep her for me until I finished work. The two of them grew very attached to one another. Manami loved Mrs. Takenaka and called her Grannie, and she loved Muku, too, and was very proud of the fact that she was often given the job of feeding him. This arrangement continued for three years, but at the beginning of this year, Mrs. Takenaka fell ill and went into the hospital.

Because we had been so close, I felt uncomfortable looking for a replacement simply because she was laid up for a few weeks, so I decided that I would go get Manami from the day care center myself until Mrs. Takenaka got well. In general this worked well enough, since they were willing to keep Manami until six o’clock and I was usually able to wrap things up at school by then. But on Wednesdays, our faculty meetings often went later, so on those days I would get Manami at four o’clock and have her wait for me in the nurse’s office. Miss Naitō and Miss Matsukawa, you often played with her while she was there, didn’t you? I’m truly grateful to you for that. She loved those afternoons. She told me that you girls said she looked like her favorite cartoon character, Snuggly Bunny. She couldn’t have been more delighted.

Please don’t cry, girls. Those are happy memories.

Manami loved rabbits, and she loved anything that was soft and fluffy. So of course she was crazy about Snuggly Bunny—though in that she was no different from most of the girls in Japan, even those in high school. Just about everything she owned—her backpack, her hankies, her shoes, even her socks, had his little face printed on it. She would climb up on my lap every morning with her little Snuggly Bunny hair bands and ask me to make her look like Bunny, and on weekends when we went shopping, she would always spot some new sort of Snuggly Bunny product that made her eyes sparkle.

About a week before Manami died, we had gone out to the shopping center. There was a Valentine’s display with all kinds of chocolate, including a whole selection with especially cute packaging, probably for girls to give to one another instead of to boys. Manami was drawn to the display and immediately spotted a Snuggly Bunny–shaped bar of white chocolate that came in a Snuggly Bunny–shaped fuzzy pouch. Of course, she wanted me to buy it for her, but we had a rule that she could only buy one item when we went shopping, and I’d already bought her a Snuggly Bunny sweatshirt that day—the pink one she was wearing the day she died. I told her she could get the chocolate bunny the next time we came shopping and began to lead her away from the candy.

Normally she would have followed me quietly enough. But for some reason that day was different. She sat down on the floor in the middle of the store and began to cry, telling me that she didn’t want the sweatshirt and that I had to buy her the chocolate. But a rule is a rule, and I wasn’t about to let her get away with that kind of behavior. I told myself I would buy it for her another time, when I was alone, and give it to her on Valentine’s Day. I reminded her about our rule and told her that she needed to behave herself. As a mother, I’d had to learn that there was a clear difference between loving your child and spoiling her. But just then Mr. Shitamura happened to appear from somewhere. You had apparently been watching the whole thing, since you came up and offered your opinion without being asked. You seemed to think I was being unreasonable to deny Manami something that cost only ¥700. Fortunately, Manami was embarrassed to have you see her sitting on the floor having a tantrum, and she immediately calmed down and stood up. “Okay,” she said, puffing out those little cheeks, “but next time I’m getting it for sure.” Then she gave you a smile and a little wave and we left.

Of course, with Manami gone before Valentine’s Day ever came, I regret not buying her that chocolate every day.

The faculty meeting ended just before six o’clock that day. The school nurses attended the meeting, so their office was empty. But several of you girls were kind enough to look after Manami until the school closed at six, so she never complained about being bored or lonely, and she was always waiting patiently for me when I got out of the meeting. That day, however, she wasn’t in the office. I checked the restroom, but she wasn’t there either. It was just as after-school activities were winding up, and it occurred to me she might have gone to find some of you girls in your club rooms, so I wandered around the school looking for her, not particularly concerned at that point. I ran into Miss Naitō and Miss Matsukawa, and you told me that you’d gone to play with Manami in the nurse’s office around five o’clock but that she hadn’t been there. You’d thought she hadn’t come to school that day. Then you helped me look for her.

It was dark by then, but there were still a number of people in the school, and they all joined in the search that evening. Mr. Hoshino, you were the one who found her—after you’d finished with baseball practice. You said you hadn’t seen her that day but that you remembered seeing her once coming from the direction of the pool, and you went there with me to look for her. The gate was chained for the winter, so we climbed the fence, but the chain was loose enough to let someone as small as Manami slip through. The pool was full, even though swimming classes were over for the year. The water was cloudy and dark—it had been kept in case it was needed to fight a fire.

We found Manami floating on the surface. We pulled her out as quickly as we could, but her body was icy and her heart had stopped. Still, I continued to call her name and perform CPR. Despite the shock of seeing Manami’s body, Mr. Hoshino went right away to call the other teachers. Manami was transported to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The cause of death was determined to be drowning. Since there were no injuries or any sign that she’d been attacked, the police concluded that she had fallen in accidentally.

It was already dark when we found Manami and I was terribly upset, so there’s no reason I should have noticed this, but I did remember seeing Muku’s nose poking through the fence that separated Mrs. Takenaka’s yard from the pool. The police investigation turned up bread crumbs in that area, from the same sort of bread they served at Manami’s day care center. Several students testified that they had seen Manami in the vicinity of the pool, and it became clear that she had been in the habit of going there every week. The neighbors were taking care of Muku while Mrs. Takanaka was in the hospital, but Manami had no way of knowing that, and she may have thought that the dog would starve if she didn’t bring him the bread. She must have been worried that I would scold her if I found out, so she always went alone and tried to avoid being noticed. According to the students who had seen these little excursions, she was never gone more than ten minutes or so.

Of course, I had no idea about any of this. When I would ask her what she did while she was waiting for me, she’d give me a mischievous look and tell me she’d been playing with some of you girls. I should have realized then that she was hiding something and questioned her more. If I had, she might never have gone to the pool.

Manami died because I was supposed to be looking out for her and I wasn’t vigilant enough. I am truly sorry, too, for the shock it caused everyone here at the school. It’s been more than a month now, and I still reach out on the futon every morning, expecting to find Manami curled up next to me. When we went to sleep at night, she would always push up against me, making sure that we were touching somewhere; and if I pulled away to tease her, she would reach out toward me again. When I relented and took her hand, she would relax and drop off to sleep again. I find myself crying now each morning when I reach out and realize that I will never again feel her downy cheeks or her soft hair.

When I told the principal I would be resigning, he asked whether it was because of what happened to Manami—which is just what you were wondering earlier, Miss Kitahara. And it’s true that I’ve decided to resign because of Manami’s death. But it’s also true that under other circumstances I would probably have continued to teach in order to atone for what I’d done and to take my mind off my misery. So why am I resigning?

Because Manami’s death wasn’t an accident. She was murdered by some of the students in this very class.

Kanae Minato is a former home economics teacher and housewife who wrote CONFESSIONS, her first novel, between household chores. The book has sold more than three million copies in Japan, where it won several literary awards, including the Radio Drama Award, the Detective Novel Prize for New Writers, and the National Booksellers’ Award, and was adapted into an Oscar-short-listed film directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. Minato lives in Japan.

CONFESSIONS, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder, is now available in bookstores across the country and e-tailers everywhere.

The post Start Reading Confessions by Kanae Minato appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Celebrity Deaths

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Aug 202014

A real string of them lately. And there have been so many tragic ones over the years. The ones of natural causes are hard enough to take, but there are many, like Natalie Wood, for instance that have a horror beyond ever those that come by their own hand.

The death I found the hardest to take was John Lennon's. Who kills a song-writer? Who takes the life of a man who only sought to entertain. I will never forget that day. Never. To kill for the notoriety in killing is unfathomable to me.

Whose death hit you the hardest?
Aug 202014
BLACKOUT is the first thing I've read by Tim Curran. It's a well-written horror/science fiction novella that's very reminiscent of not only 1950s SF movies but also the work of Stephen King, in that he takes a group of normal people (in this case middle-class suburbanites) and puts them in an unexpected and very harrowing situation so we can see how they react. Curran spends a little time

On the DL

 Josh Getzler  Comments Off
Aug 202014

Josh Getzler

So today it's going to be short, since I'm finding typing pretty painful. I've got something in common with the following people:





Yep, I'm a pitcher.

No, no. Rotator cuff issues. They suck. but make it hurt to throw a ball, sleep, hail a taxi, and type. Going to see an orthopedist Thursday, and hope not to be on the DL as long as these guys. In the meantime, enjoy your end-of-summer and join Jeff Cohen's email list! Or EJ Copperman's. Doesn't matter to me. or him. I mean them. :)

Aug 192014
Allen J. Hubin

M. R. D. MEEK – A Mouthful of Sand. Scribner’s, hardcover, 1989. Worldwide, paperback, 1990. First published in the UK by Collins, hardcover, 1988.

   I quite like M.R.D. Meek’s stories about Lennox Kemp, and A Mouthful of Sand is no exception. Kemp, a lawyer, was barred from practice when he took money to pay his wife’s gambling debts. She disappeared along with his reputation, and he served a lonely six years’ penance as a private investigator.

   Now he’s back in the law, doing very well, having a relationship (albeit uneasy) with Penelope Marsden. His life is coming back together; perhaps he will marry Penelope and banish the loneliness he fears so much.

   Here a tycoon asks him for a written opinion on the state of British marriage law. Lennox complies, then [leaves] to go on vacation to Cornwall, coincidentally to the coastal town where the tycoon’s wife has gone to recover from severe depression. But her condition worsens, and the battered head of a man is found on the beach. Soon Kemp finds himself ensnared — heart and mind.

   Very effective storytelling, full of subtleties and dense with expressive language.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 11, No. 3, Summer 1989.

Bio-Bibliographic Notes: Since Lennox Kemp is a Private Eye, there’s no place better to look for information about than the Thrilling Detective website. There Kevin Burton Smith says, in part: “… while waiting to be reinstated (the events leading up to his disbarment are related in the first book in the series), he earns his daily bread as an op for the London-based McCready’s Detective Agency. But he is eventually reinstated, and this spare yet often elegant series, full of rich characterization, and sharp writing, continues, with Kemp as a particular hands-on type of attornney, part Perry Mason and part Lew Archer.”

   His creator was in real life Margaret Reid Duncan Meek (1918-2009), a retired lawyer.

       The Lennox Kemp series —

With Flowers That Fell (1983)

The Sitting Ducks (1984)
Hang the Consequences (1984)
The Split Second (1985)
In Remembrance of Rose (1986)

A Worm of Doubt (1987)
A Mouthful of Sand (1988)
A Loose Connection (1989)
This Blessed Plot (1990)
Touch and Go (1992)

Postscript to Murder (1996)
If You Go Down to the Woods (2001)
The Vanishing Point (2003)
Kemp’s Last Case (2004)

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