Jan 282015

Josh Getzler

So today was a snow day, after a Snowmageddon that wasn’t, at least in New York City (OK, at least in Manhattan). But since I don’t cross-country ski to work, I stayed home and watched Columbus Avenue be empty of cars. I thought I’d get a ton of reading done, but it was more phone calls with clients and wrangling recalcitrant children who didn’t want to do their homework when there was perfectly good loafing to be done instead.

The other thing this storm did was cause my first class of my teaching gig at NYU to be cancelled. It was awful. I felt like a marathoner who pulled a muscle walking to the starting line, or an astronaut when liftoff is aborted at “5…4…3…NONONO.”

I mean, I had BUILT to Monday. Wrote beautiful slides on OneNote (love that OneNote!), thought of the anecdotes to tell, emailed my students with guidelines and suggestions, carb-loaded…and then at 2 PM, “NONONO.” And now not only do I need to wait till next week, but I have to rejigger my syllabus completely. We’re being given permission to extend two classes by a half-hour each (our classes are already 2 ½ hours, so the students will be very excited, I’m sure, to go till 9:30 PM a couple of times), and we’ll be losing an hour and a half of class time. For a seven-session course, this is a serious issue.

The other thing is that I’d based the course (which is about the Role of the Literary Agent) on working through the life-cycle of a book from First Query through a year after publication, and had pretty specific places to end lessons. Now we’ll have to adjust, and it may not be elegant. My wife and mother, both veteran teachers, are looking at me with benign amusement. Apparently my stress-dream that I’m in the right classroom at the right time with only one student and nobody else showing up is both normal and adorable. What can I say? At least I wasn’t naked, too.

And it’s funny—I LOVE teaching. I spoke to a multitude of classes about baseball when I was in that part of my life, and have given so many Query Letter and Pitch seminars in the past 8 years that I have a patter and confidence. But I’ve heard my wife and mother talk so often about “their” classrooms—they have great ownership of their space, and it was one of the aspects of teaching that I’m most looking forward to feeling. Now I’ve got to wait a week.

And all because of a storm that, in my old stomping grounds of Watertown, NY, they would have called “flurries” and not even called for extra plows. (Yes I know, the radar was awful and I wouldn’t be so smug in, say, Old Lyme Ct or Cape Cod. And I’m GLAD the Mayor was overcautious. He’s in an impossible situation, and I am glad he chose to be aggressive about it. I just, for once in my life, was bummed to have a snow day.)

Jan 282015
Reviewed by Mark D. Nevins:

JOHN D. MacDONALD – The Green Ripper. J. B. Lippincott, hardcover, 1979. Fawcett Gold Medal, paperback, 1981. Reprinted many times since.

   I noted in my review of the previous entry in the Travis McGee series, The Empty Copper Sea, that the overall tone of the books seemed to be changing — and with The Green Ripper, the change is really palpable.

   To start, this book follows directly from the prior: one lovely lass in danger in Copper actually lived through that book’s climax (“Travis Girls” have even less likelihood of survival than “Bond Girls”), and by the beginning of Green, Travis is starting to think “she’s the one.”

   Of course, that doesn’t last long, and the main plot trajectory is McGee going undercover to infiltrate a religious cult that’s up to no good. (I’m avoiding spoilers that you can probably guess.)

   Published in 1979, this story feels a lot more current and “real” than the Gold Medal vibe of the first 3/4ths of the series: the story is plausible (and foreshadows events like Waco, Texas); Travis comes alive as a character in his anger and frustrated helplessness; and the overall feeling is much more Nightly News than Drug Store Spinner Rack: it’s like the Polaroid colors of the rest of the series snap into something more like digital focus in Green.

   In some ways I miss the nostalgia of the earlier series, but the verisimilitude and violence in this one show MacDonald working at a new level. This is a fine thriller, and would work great as a stand-alone for a new reader; but in the context of the 21-book series (with, I am lamenting, only 3 more to go) The Green Ripper is a real high point as well as a powerful inflection point.

   Since one of the things that pleases me most about this series is MacDonald’s “literariness” via McGee’s voice, I’ll again share a passage I dog-eared:

   An empty path to walk. It leads toward superstition and paranoia, two whistle stops on the road to incurable depression. Once upon a time I took a random walk across a field. I went hither and yon, ambling along, looking at the sky and the trees, nibbling grass, kicking rocks. The first Jeep to start across that field blew up. So did the people who went to get the people who’d been in the Jeep. And I stood right there, sweaty and safe, trembling inside, while the experts dug over ninety mines out of that field, defused them, stacked them, and took them away. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Philosophy 401, with Professor McGee. Life is a minefield. Think that over and write a paper on it, class.


   I put the pin in my pocket. Talisman of some kind. Rub the tiny green face with the ball of the thumb. Like a worry stone, to relieve executive tensions. The times I remembered seeing it, she had worn it on the left side, where the slope of the breast began. She had bought it, she said, at a craft shop in San. Francisco at Girardelli Square. I hadn’t been there with her. All the places I hadn’t been with her, I would never be with her. And at those unknown places, at unknown times, there would be less of me present. There can be few things worse than unconsciously saving things up to tell someone you will never see again.

 Posted by at 2:00 am

The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe

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Jan 282015
Featuring the fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin

The unnamed narrator is discussing with the famous Parisian amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin some of his most celebrated cases when they are joined by the Prefect of the Police. The Prefect has a case he would like to discuss with Dupin.  A letter has been stolen from the boudoir of an unnamed female by the unscrupulous Minister D. It is said to contain compromising information. D was in the room, saw the letter, and switched it for a letter of no importance. He has been blackmailing his victim.

Printing History
Written by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
The Gift for 1845
December 19844
 Posted by at 1:41 am
Jan 272015
Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:          

NONE BUT THE BRAVE. Golden Harvest Company, Hong Kong, 1973. Original title: Tie wa. Cinemation Industries, US, 1974. Also known as Kung Fu Girl. Pei-pei Cheng, Wei Ou, James Tien, Wei Lo, Chen Yuen Lung (Jackie Chan). Screenplay and director: Wei Lo.

   If one were to fully appreciate None But The Brave (aka Kung Fu Girl), it’d probably help to know a bit about early twentieth-century Chinese-Japanese diplomatic relations. The film, which stars Chinese actress Pei-Pei Cheng (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), takes place during a tenuous time for China’s future, when the leadership in Beijing is in the process of making concessions to Japan.

   The movie is filled with both martial arts action sequences and a healthy dose of political intrigue. Pei-Pei Cheng portrays a girl who pretends to be the long-lost sister of a Chinese military official in Beijing. Her ultimate goal is to manipulate him so as to free one of the revolutionary party leaders opposed to selling China out to the Japanese.

   Along the way, she has to contend with a Japanese official who takes a fancy to her, as well as a member of his entourage (portrayed by a young Jackie Chan) who wants to fight her.

   Sometimes the plot isn’t the easiest to follow, but it all sort of comes together by the end. There is some absolutely great cinematography present here; this isn’t some cheap, shoddy grindhouse kung fu film. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Pei-Pei Cheng is wonderfully electric. Her smile and energy are infectious. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of martial arts films, this one takes some patience, but is well worth a look, if only to catch a glimpse of one of Hong Kong’s best-known female action stars in her prime.

 Posted by at 9:51 pm
Jan 272015

The post Start Reading The Kings of London by William Shaw appeared first on Mulholland Books.

The Kings of London by William ShawWe’ll admit it. Even more than the historical detail, even more than the celebrity cameos, even more than the mystery, what we love most about William Shaw’s series is the pair of sleuths at its heart: Detective Sergeant Breen and WPC Tozer. In the sequel to She’s Leaving Home, Breen and Tozer investigate the suspicious death of a man trapped when his house went up in flames. Join them as they walk through the ashes in this excerpt from chapter five.

‘You all right?’ Sergeant Breen asked Temporary Detective Constable Tozer, shouting above the noise of the siren.

‘Me? I’m fine,’ she shouted back. They were in Delta Mike Five, the old Wolesley radio car whose gearbox crunched every time Breen put it into second.

He hesitated before saying, ‘I meant to call you.’

‘Course you did,’ said Tozer.

‘No. Really.’

She looked out of the window. Awkwardly thin, early twenties, in clothes that never seemed to fit quite right. Lank hair cut to a bob. ‘I wasn’t by the phone, waiting for it to ring, if that’s what you were wondering.’

‘Of course not.’

She dipped into her handbag. ‘I suppose you told all the lads,’ she said.

‘What do you take me for?’

‘That’s something, anyway,’ she said. ‘Want a fag?’

He shook his head.

‘Were you avoiding me?’

‘No,’ he said. ‘Busy, that’s all.’

‘Fair enough,’ she said. ‘I been busy too. Getting ready to go home.’

Tozer had handed in her notice. She was leaving too. She had joined CID from the Women’s Section as a probationer, hoping to do more than just interview women and children, or direct traffic, which was all you were supposed to do as a WPC. But it wasn’t much different in CID either.

‘I mean,’ said Tozer. ‘It was just a bit of fun, wasn’t it, you and me?’ Then, ‘Christ. Must have rattled a few windows.’

Breen had pulled up outside the house on Marlborough Place. Or what was left of it. A grand, three-storey Victorian mansion, half of it completely blown away.

The Gas Board were still not allowing people back into their houses. They crowded behind the line of policemen, craning necks. A couple of press men with twin-lens reflex cameras complained about the way they were being treated. Breen recognised one from the local Chronicle. ‘Oi, guv. What’s going on? Get us in there, can’t you?’

Things like this never happened around here. After the firemen had discovered the body news had spread fast.

‘I was expecting to see you last night,’ Breen said. ‘At Prosser’s leaving do.’

‘Didn’t fancy it much, be honest,’ Tozer said. ‘Don’t even know why Prosser’s leaving. Many there?’

‘Everyone,’ he said.

‘Rats from the sinking ship,’ she said.

Breen approached one of the three constables standing on the door. Two men, one woman. ‘They found a body, they said. Where is it?’

‘In the kitchen. What’s left of it.’

A fireman came out of the building. ‘Got a cigarette?’ he asked, brushing down his sleeves.

‘I said no bloody smoking,’ said the gas man.

‘Give it a rest. That guy’s smoking over there. ‘If he can, I can.’ He pointed to a press man hovering at the front gate.

Tozer pulled a packet out of her handbag and offered him one. ‘You a copper?’ asked the fireman.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘For the next four weeks.’ She wasn’t cut out for the force, they said. Breen wanted to tell her that he’d miss her, but he hadn’t found the right opportunity. Not yet, anyway.

‘Why isn’t you in uniform then?’ asked the fireman.

‘Didn’t match my nail varnish,’ Tozer said. The fireman looked down at her hand. She wasn’t wearing any.

‘Safe to go in?’ asked Breen.

‘Fire’s all extinguished. But, ask me, whole lot could go any sec,’ said the fireman. He took a long pull on the cigarette Tozer had given him.

‘We need to see the body before they pull the place down,’ said Breen.

‘I could tell you all you need to know,’ said the fireman. ‘Some bastard sliced him up like a Sunday roast. Sorry, miss,’ he said to Tozer.

‘Who knows about that?’ said Breen.

‘Just us firemen.’

‘Keep it to yourselves, OK? How do you know it wasn’t just the blast?’

‘During the war I seen all sorts of things happen in explosions. Never one skin a man, though.’ The fireman turned to Tozer. ‘What about after this, you and me and some of the lads—’

‘Skinned?’ said Breen.

‘Like a ruddy banana. Not all of him, mind. What about a coffee bar or something, love?’

‘Don’t really think so,’ Tozer said.

‘Pardon me,’ said the fireman. Then to Breen. ‘Only asking out of politeness. She’s got a face like bag of spanners, anyway.’

‘You haven’t been able to get the body out?’

‘Not our job, mate. Too risky in the circumstances.’

Breen said, ‘I want to see him for myself before anything else falls on him.’

‘Only I’m not supposed to let anyone in,’ said the fireman.

‘I’m a policeman,’ said Breen.

The fireman hesitated. ‘Your funeral, mate. They’re bringing a ’dozer to pull the lot down. It’ll be here any minute.’

‘Come on then,’ said Tozer.

‘Oi!’ said the fireman. ‘Go careful. Don’t want to be hoicking out three bodies.’

‘You don’t have to come,’ said Breen to Tozer.

‘I know,’ she said.

What he should have said was, ‘You’re not supposed to come.’ If she got hurt there would be a stink. But it would be good to have her there with him.

The post Start Reading The Kings of London by William Shaw appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Jan 272015

Happy publication day to The Kings of London! We’re overjoyed to welcome back Breen and Tozer, the unstoppable pair of detectives at the heart of William Shaw’s series of mysteries set in 1960s London. Publishers Weekly gets it exactly right when they say “Breen and Tozer come across as fallible human beings … It’s their relationship—both professional and personal—that makes this a winner.”

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.
Jan 272015
This oddball private eye series ran for only 12 episodes more than 30 years ago, but I remember it. Does that say something about it, or me? Who knows? But I recall it as being pretty entertaining. While the plots were standard private eye fare about husband-and-wife PIs, the gimmick was that the wife was also a witch. Like if Darrin Stevens gave up advertising, got his PI license, and Samantha