Every time I finish one of Bill Crider's fine novels about small town Texas Sheriff Dan Rhodes, I think I've just read the finest one yet. So let me say that HALF IN LOVE WITH ARTFUL DEATH (which is an excellent title by the way) is Crider's most nuanced, wry, sly and entertaining Rhodes adventure yet.
Here's why (and I mean not just because there's a hilarious scene of Rhodes having to lasso a donkey)--Crider has created a series that is as droll and laid back as the "Andy Griffith Show" but is not superficial. Beneath the wonderful humor the Rhodes books give us realistic depiction of humanity in a small Texas town.
Take Burt Collins the irritating jackass who instigates not only the book's set up but also the mystery. Every small town has at least one Burt Collins--and irritating and irritable man who imposes his opinions and sanctimonious judgements on everything and everybody. And they do this without shame, seemingly unaware that their public pronouncements are embarrassing and laughable. He's a buffoon but Crider subtly shows us that he's more, a dangerous man in his simpering way.
This time Collins is complaining about the artists who've shown up to take lessons from two instructors. He claims they're not the kind of people who should be here. More, he pronounces their work terrible and their attitudes sinful. When their work is defaced Collins is the number one suspect. After all he's long been suspected of other acts of vandalism in the past.
Crider makes all his this own by having Rhodes being as baffled by some of the artwork as Collins is. But Rhodes, being a professional law man, keeps his opinions to himself and soldiers on.
In the course of his murder investigation, Rhodes is distracted by other cases (in case you thought that lassoing donkeys was all he had to contend with) including a naked woman displaying her wonders publicly, convenience store robberies and meth dealers. The latter is an example of the grit Crider always brings to his Rhodes books. Meth is a scourge on our society. No pratfalls here.
Bill Crider is a very gifted writer who deserves a much larger audience. The prose here is crisp and even eloquent in places. The characters while comic (the amateur investigator Seepy Benton being my favorite) are never cartoons and the world he gives us is detailed with a journalist's eye. And has blunt force trauma ever been inflicted by a more symbolic weapon (for a small Texas town) than the bust of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, Junior?
So whether you're returning to the series or just starting it, you'll enjoy seeing a master storyteller working at his very best.
Police: Denver man shot his wife dead, then asked 7-year-old son to do
the same to him
Maryland suspect reportedly beat man to death, set body on fire, took
victim’s dog for a walk
County Forgives $2.4M in Bad Speed-Camera Tickets8/22/14 | 2:32 PM ET
Suspicious Object Turns out to Be Star Wars Toy8/22/14 | 12:32 PM ET
Kansas police shot unarmed suicidal teen 16 times as family says they
begged them not to
Fox News guest: Was Michael Brown too large to be an ‘unarmed teen’?
Pastor calls to imprison gays for ‘ten years hard labor’ with new
Arizona Girl Accidentally Shoots Her Shooting Instructor In The Head
OOPS: County Wrongly Figured Blood-Alcohol Levels8/22/14 | 12:00 PM ET
Man Has Kept All His Nail Clippings In A Jar -- Since 1978!
WATCH: TX police draw guns on mother and young children they mistook
for gun-waving males
CNN host rips Fox for ‘sowing doubt’ with baseless report on officer’s
fractured eye socket
Massachusetts man fears his horns, ’666? forehead tattoo will make a
fair trial impossible
Fox host kicks off two black lawyers after they accuse her of
‘distracting’ from Brown’s death
Someone in Brooklyn Keeps Filling Trash Bags With Pee, and Their
Neighbors Are Not Happy
Iowa GOP Official Warns That Child Migrants Might Be Highly Trained
Another GOP Candidate Says Migrant Kids Might Have Ebola. (They Don't.)
Anti-Israel Protesters in London Defend Hitler...
Cops Accused Of Using Police Database To Screen Women Found On Dating
Texas babysitter reportedly set ‘disrespectful’ kids’ house on fire
Lawyer Wants Seized $125K Wine Collection Back8/22/14 | 11:51 AM ET
UN-BEE-LIEVABLE: 50,000 Bees Living in NYC Ceiling8/22/14 | 11:14 AM ET
California Permits Outdoor Dining With Dogs8/22/14 | 10:09 AM ET
Md. Ban on Grain Alcohol Hurts Violin Makers
German Man Evicted for Squeaky Swing Set Sex
Posted by Susan Doll on August 25, 2014 Movie Morlocks
Ed here: Pauline Kael once referred to Dick Powell as "the sappiest crooner" of the Thirties. Yet he ended up doing well by Philip Marlowe. On the other hand a William Powell's fedora tip to the crime genre was playing Philo Vance as well as appearing in several other mysteries. Susan Doll's take on the two is well done..
Today, TCM pays tribute to Dick Powell, airing 14 of his films as part of Summer Under the Stars. Earlier this month, a day had been devoted to William Powell. As a major fan of both stars, I can’t decide if I was more excited to listen to Dick Powell croon and crack wise, or watch William Powell woo his costars with wit and style.
Like several male stars from the Golden Age, neither Powell was classically handsome. Yet, both are attractive and appealing because of their cultivated charisma and star images. WP was the elegant gentleman who exuded romance and class, while his keen sense of humor prevented his characters from becoming too high brow or pompous. Though he played oily cads very early in his career, his star image as the suave gent was cemented by the 1930s and remained remarkably consistent until his last movie, Mr. Roberts, in 1955. I admire those Golden Age movie stars who were able to maneuver their images through the changes in the industry and the ravages of aging. But, then again, who doesn’t respect Dick Powell for completely changing his star image from the sweet-faced crooner of backstage musicals to the wise-cracking, hard-boiled anti-hero of film noir.
William Powell is the very essence of romance in his films from the 1930s. His graciousness and consummate manners seem like a throwback to another era, when men treated women with respect and approached them with gallantry. Or, perhaps there never was such an era and it is only “movie memory” that makes me think there was. Even when his character deceives Myrna Loy—his most constant costar—in Libeled Lady or goads her inDouble Wedding, we know he will ultimately act in her best interests at the expense of his own. WP’s best tool for charming women was his voice—so smooth, soothing, melodious.
Dick Powell’s voice was also his best asset, and not just because he could sing in that high tenor voice (see 42nd Street today at 1:00pm). With his impeccable timing and sarcastic tone, he could toss off a verbal barb with wit and aplomb. Of all the actors to play Philip Marlowe, Dick Powell was the best at handling Raymond Chandler’s wise-cracking one-liners and smart dialogue. Revisit Murder, My Sweet this evening at 9:15 on TCM and focus on Powell’s line delivery. The back-and-forth banter between Powell and his leading ladies in his film noirs is a verbal dance—sexy in its sarcasm and modern in its suggestion that all romance is a sham. This is miles away from William Powell’s star image—yet I find both romantic in different ways.
for the rest go here:
Posted: 24 Aug 2014 07:45 AM PDT
Shortly after Isaac Asimov’s death in 1992 his memoir I. Asimov was released by Doubleday. It is a series of essays Asimov wrote, seemingly, from the narrative and the date of its publication, on his death bed. The book meanders—it starts at childhood, but jumps forward to his early writing career, and then back. It is a patchwork of related postcards rather than a chronological narrative of his life, and it works very well.
The essays run about four or five pages—sometimes longer, sometimes shorter—and cover a specific event, person, or idea. He discusses his early life in detail; specifically, working in his parent’s Brooklyn candy store as a boy surrounded by the pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s, which he wasn’t allowed to read until he convinced his father the science fiction magazines were about science.
The bulk of the book is devoted to his literary life, which, in his own estimation was his life. In several sections of the book he wrote he would rather write than anything else. He did not enjoy travel, and while he did enjoy the company of others, he did not tend to seek it out, and, especially in his early years, he had difficulty getting along and making friends.
He touches on his major works—The Foundation series; specifically the original trilogy—“Nightfall,” “The Ugly Little Boy” and many others. He freely admits he enjoyed writing nonfiction more than fiction, and in fact, he considered himself a much more accomplished writer of nonfiction. A sentiment I tend to agree with; however I enjoyed the original Foundation trilogy immensely when I read it as a teenager.
The most interesting essays in I. Asimov are the short pieces he wrote about his experiences with other science fiction writers. He had lifelong relationships with many writers, some of whom were part of the science fiction fan club The Futurians. The Futurians, as Asimov describes it, was an off shoot of the Queens Science Fiction club. The split occurred because the Queens club wanted science fiction to keep itself above politics, and specifically not speak out against fascism, which was spreading across Europe at the time, and The Futurians wanted fascism denounced. The Futurians included Frederick Pohl, who has written extensively about the club on his blog, Cyril M. Kornbluth, and Donald A. Wollheim.
He also writes admiringly of John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction (ASF), who gave Asimov his first real hope of publishing his science fiction stories and also, later, gave him the idea for his short story “Nightfall”. The seed for the story came from a Ralph Waldo Emerson essay titled “Nature”.
Asimov seemingly knew everyone writing science fiction in the 1940s through the 80s. A few of the more interesting comments Asimov makes about his contemporaries follows.
H. L. Gold. Gold was the editor of Galaxy; a top tier science fiction magazine where Asimov placed several stories. Gold was an ill-tempered editor, who changed story narratives and titles, and replied with meanness when the authors objected. Galaxyserialized Asimov’s novel The Stars, Like Dust and changed the title to Tyrann; “Worst of all was his pernicious habit of writing insulting rejection letters.”
Robert Heinlein. Heinlein is considered the father of modern science fiction, and Asimov worked with him during World War II, as a civilian employee of the Naval Air Experimental Station (NAES) in Philadelphia. Asimov wrote that he and Heinlein had an uneven friendship. He quipped about Heinlein:
“…although a flaming liberal during the war, Heinlein became a rock-ribbed far-right conservative immediately afterward. This happened at just the time he changed wives from liberal woman, Leslyn, to a rock-ribbed far right conservative woman, Virginia.”
Clifford D. Simak. In 1938 when Asimov was still a teenager he wrote a letter to ASFregarding Simak’s story “Rule 18”; he didn’t like the story much. Simak wrote a polite letter to Asimov inquiring what he didn’t like about the story. In response to Simak’s letter Asimov wrote:
“…I promptly reread [it]…and I found, to my intense embarrassment, that it was a very good story and that I liked it.”
I. Asimov doesn’t have the depth and detail of an autobiography. It has the feel of a congenial conversation, but it seemingly reveals his character, and he makes a point to highlight his flaws. It is an appealing book written by one of science fiction’s most well-known writers, and it is more entertaining and enlightening than I would have imagined.
This review originally went live June 3, 2012; however the stories Mr Asimov tells in its pages has stuck with me over the past few years, and I have especially been thinking about it again over the last several weeks.