pattinase (abbott)

Jan 272015

When an 11-year old girl is seen being dragged into a car kicking and screaming, the police issue an Amber alert. As the minutes and hours pass by, they know their chances of rescuing the girl diminishes. As Tony Hill reviews the evidence however, he becomes less and less convinced that this is an abduction by a stranger and believes that the girl must have known her attacker. The missing girl's mother is overwrought and her stepfather has a conviction for assault. A sudden twist however changes the entire nature of the investigation leading Tony and DI Alex Fielding to realize they had made a fundamental error at the outset.(From IMDB)

This is a very fine episode. To tell you why would ruin it. It is clever in its setup and clever in the denouement. Despite watching it on a defective DVD, I was riveted.

Why We Don’t Finish Books

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Jan 262015
I only finish a small percentage of books I start. ( I have said this before). My reasons for this are varied and here are a few recent ones.

Book One: Although the writing is very fine and although there is a fair amount of clever humor, nothing happens. Page after page of nothing happening. And the writing is too self-consciously clever.

Book Two: I could not follow the scientific information in it and this occupied too much of the book for me to skim it. This is not the author's fault. It is mine.

Book Three: A mystery that is an endless series of detective interviews. There is little character development, little good writing. Just following the detective around while he interviews people. The plot might turn out to be clever but I need more than someone following their nose.(This is why I have never gotten into LEWIS on Masterpiece).

Book Four: Looks like this is going to be another serial killer story after all. I have to hear his voice every few chapters too. And I have to think about his victim in the closet. Same old, same old nut.

Book Five: Didn't you do this in your last book, Author? Aren't you writing about the same place, with the same guy, with the same observations again? 

What about you? What was your recent for not finishing a recent book?

The Book You Recommend Most

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Jan 252015

For years I have been trying to get people to read TIME WILL DARKEN IT by William Maxwell and today in the NYT book review, Daniel Handler picked it as a favorite too. So I am not its only fan!

What book have you been trying to get people to read for years?
Jan 232015
 From the archives. 

Toni L.P. Kelner suspects the Brains Books influenced her "Where are they now?" series--they have real settings, are filled with odd facts, and she hopes Tilda Harper is a character you'll like hanging out with.

The Brains Benton Books: The Case of the Forgotten Series

When Patti first invited me to participate on Friday's Forgotten Books, I was all excited to have a chance to talk about an author I just adore and who is seldom talked about any more: Dorothy Gilman. Then it was announced that Ms. Gilman is getting a much deserved MWA Grand Master Award in 2010. This is wonderful news, without a doubt, but I don't think she can legitimately be called forgotten anymore.
So I've decided to go back even further to the series of mysteries I loved I was growing up: the Brains Benton books. I read and reread those books more times than I can count.

I know, most of you are scratching your heads over these books. I admit that it's a pretty obscure series. According to Wikipedia, the books came out in the late 1950s and early 1960s, They were originally published by the Golden Press, and later reprinted by Whitman Books. Charles Spain Verral wrote the first one, then George Wyatt continued the series with lots of rewriting from Verral. I don't think it was ever wildly popular, and there were only six books in the series.

Actually, as far as I was concerned, there were only three. That's how many of the books my big sister Brenda had and then passed on to me. (One of the best gifts any young reader can ever have is a big sister willing to share her books--I was luck enough to have three!) Brenda had the first three of the series: The Case of the Missing Message, The Case of the Counterfeit Coin, and The Case of the Stolen Dummy. I didn't even find out there were other books until years later, and it wasn't until the web came around that I tracked down the volumes I was missing. And though it's hard to look at them with any trace of objectivity, I think they're still pretty good reads.

Read this paragraph, the first from The Case of the Missing Message, and see if you aren't charmed:

"I might as well explain right away that my name is Jimmy Carson and I live at 43 Maple Street in the town of Crestwood. I'm a detective. And if anybody tries to tell you that a boy like me can't be a real detective and get mixed up in an honest-to-goodness mystery...well, I wish he'd been along the night my partner and I investigated the spooky old Madden house."

Jimmy was an average kid in the almost painfully average town of Crestview. But he had one thing most kids don't: a best friend and partner like Brains Benton, who was a certifiable genius. Together they formed a detective agency complete with secret passwords, code names, and a secret hideout about the Benton family garage. As they tackled kidnappers, counterfeiters, and swindlers, Jimmy was the Watson to Brains' s Holmes, sometimes the Archie Goodwin to Brains's Nero Wolfe. While Brains was amazingly intelligent and worthy of admiration, sometimes he was kind of a snot. Jimmy, on the other hand, was a great guy to hang out with. He made mistakes like trusting the wrong person and misusing equipment, and wasn't nearly as smart as Brains, but he was loyal and tenacious, and never gave up on a case.

The books had a comforting sense of realism. Jimmy didn't have a roadster like Nancy Drew--he had a bicycle. His father wasn't as exotic as the Hardy Boys' father--I think he was an insurance salesman. He and Brains didn't go to exotic locales, unless you count the circus or the nearby lake where they went for the summer. Yet I learned the oddest facts from those books, information about topics ranging from infrared photography to ancient coins to stock car racing. There was some danger, of course, but nothing over-the-top--just enough to get my heart racing. They were just so much fun!

And since I had to pull out the books to write this post, I just might start reading the series all over again.

Brian Busby, MURDER IN MAJORCA, Michael Bryan (Brian Moore)
Casual Debris, WHO WILL RUN THE FROG HOSPITAL, Lorrie Moore
Bill Crider, GUN GLORY FOR TEXANS, Marshall McCoy
Martin Edwards, THE HEIRS OF ANTHONY BOUCHER, Marv Lachman
Rick Horton, FINNLEY WREN, Philp Wylie
Jerry House. MORE DIXIE GHOSTS, ed. by McSherry, Waugh and Greenbert
Randy Johnson
George Kelley, Loren D. Estleman's stories about Peter Mackin
Margot Kinberg, CRADLE TO GRAVE, Eleanor Kuhn
Rob Kitchin, A DARK SONG OF BLOOD, Ben Pastor
B.V. Lawson, THE GREY FLANNEL SHROUD, Henry Slezar
Evan Lewis, HEADED FOR A HEARSE, Jonathan Latimer
Steve Lewis, THE RANGE BUSTER, William Heuman
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris, COMLYN ALIBI, Headon Hill
James Reasoner. RUSTLER OF OWLHORNS, Jim O'Mara
Richard Robinson, DEATH WORLD, Harry Harrison
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THRILLER 2:: STORIES YOU CAN'T PUT DOWN, Clive Cussler
TomCat, UNHAPPY HOOLIGAN, Stuart Palmer
TracyK, SALVATION OF A SAINT, Keigo Higashino
Prashant Trikannad, THE ACCUSED, Harold R. Daniels

pattinase 2015-01-22 16:20:00

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Jan 222015

HomeAnti-Heroes: A panel discussion with Adam Sternbergh, Emily Nussbaum, A.O Scott, and Megan Abbott

01/27/2015 7:00 pm 
Former New York Magazine Culture Editor Adam Sternbergh will celebrate the release of NEAR ENEMY, the dynamite follow-up to his beloved debut SHOVEL READY, and another  lean noir thriller which returns us to a half-deserted New York dystopia, to the adventures of garbage-man turned unvarnished psychopath, Spademan, and to a corrupt, crime-ridden vision of the future far more plausible than we might think.

Join Sternbergh for a discussion of  the role and relevance of the anti-hero in fiction and TV—with Emily Nussbaum (New Yorker TV critic), A.O. Scott (NYT film critic), and author Megan Abbott (The Fever).


Now available: How the West Was Written, Vol. 2 (1907-1915)

How the West Was Written continues the chronology of western writers that began in the first volume with Mary Hallock Foote's The Led-Horse Claim (1883). Here is a short description of the new volume from its introduction: 

During the years 1907–1915, frontier fiction boomed with new writers, and the success of Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902) began to make itself felt in their work. That novel had made the bestseller lists for two years running. With the continued popularity of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, and the appearance of one-reeler westerns on movie screens, many featuring the adventures of Bronco Billy Anderson, the cowboy hero was becoming an established mythic figure in the public imagination. 

New writers capitalizing on this interest begin to emerge in numbers and include Zane Grey, Dane Coolidge, Charles Alden Seltzer, William MacLeod Raine, and Eugene Manlove Rhodes. Fans of cowboy westerns will find this book's discussion of these storytellers of particular interest.
Meanwhile, for writers of popular fiction, the frontier was also a subject for exploring ideas drawn from current public discourse—ideas about character and villainy, women’s rights, romance and marriage, democracy and government, capitalism, race and social boundaries, and the West itself. With each new publication, they participated as well in an ongoing forum for how to write about the West and how to tell western stories.
Taken together, the chapters of this book describe for modern-day readers and writers the origins of frontier fiction and the rich legacy it has left us as a genre. It is also a portal into the past, for it offers a history of ideas as preserved in popular culture of a century ago that continues to claim an audience today.

Currently available at amazon for kindle and in paperback. Also in paper at Createspace. Order both volumes from amazon here.