Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Obit watch: February 10, 2016.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

For the record: NYT obit for David Hartwell.

This has a February 3rd dateline on it, but I did not see it on the NYT website until today.

Marvin Minsky.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

NYT obit. 1981 profile from the New Yorker by Jeremy Bernstein.

Dr. Minsky was another of my personal heroes that I never got to meet. I first read about him in the pages of Hackers, which was a Christmas gift from my mother one year (and about which I’ve written before).

Later on, I got interested in AI, which led me again to Minsky by way of The Society of Mind. (Which, oddly enough, I have also touched on before.)

I wish that I had more to say, but I’m struggling to find words right now. (I blame this mostly on allergies.)

Obit watch: January 21, 2016.

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

David Hartwell, noted science fiction editor and personality, has died.

SF Signal. Scott Edelman. Lawrence. Kathryn Cramer.

I’ll leave it to others to discuss and dissect his impact on the field. I did not know him well. I was at a few conventions with him, and I think maybe he could have picked me out of a police lineup. But in the limited interactions I had with him, and what I saw of his interactions with others, he came across as one of the nicest people in the world. I think it is fair to say that he was a gentle man, and a gentleman.

He was also a snappy dresser.

The world is a lesser place today.

Obit watch: January 11, 2016.

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Florence King: NYT.

The cultural boils Miss King sought so vigorously to lance included:
Political correctness; feminism (“Feminists will not be satisfied,” she wrote, “until every abortion is performed by a gay black doctor under an endangered tree on a reservation for handicapped Indians”); environmentalism; the antismoking lobby; sentiment; intimacy; weakness; special pleading; lack of breeding (“No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street”); gay liberation; far rightism; far leftism; mild to moderate leftism; democracy (“I believe in a Republic of Merit in which water is allowed to find its own level, where voters, like drivers, are tested before being turned loose”); the Constitution; children (“In order to molest a child you must first be in the same room with a child, and I don’t know how perverts stand it”); the human race.


Angus Scrimm also passed away over the weekend. He knocked around quite a bit, doing guest shots on various TV series (including “Alias” and “Trapper John M.D.”) and movies. He was perhaps best known as “The Tall Man” from the “Phantasm” movies. Interestingly, he also wrote liner notes for Capitol Records:

During his tenure at Capitol, Scrimm penned liner notes for artists like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and even the Beatles under the byline “Rory Guy”; he won a Grammy in 1974 for “Best Album Notes, Classical” for Korngold: The Classic Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Even after the success of Phantasm, Scrimm continued to write liner notes.

Obit watch: January 8, 2016.

Friday, January 8th, 2016

I’m still kind of hoping for an obituary from a more mainstream news source, but Florence King, writer and National Review columnist, has died. Tributes from Tam and Lawrence.

This was a little surprising:

I’m not going to say she was as influential on my writing as P.J.: I came to her relatively late in life. But she was a damn funny writer (even if I can’t quote some of my favorite lines here), and the world is a lesser place for her passing. Frankly, we could do a lot worse than a monarchy. Especially one run by Florence King.

Pat Harrington Jr. A/V Club.

Interesting career. He started out on “The Jack Paar Show” (or “The Steve Allen Show”, depending on which obit you read).

His film credits include “The Wheeler Dealers” (1963) and “Move Over, Darling” (1963), both starring James Garner; “The President’s Analyst” (1967), starring James Coburn; and “Easy Come, Easy Go” (1967), starring Elvis Presley.

Of course, he was most famous as Schneider on “One Day at a Time”.

Ashraf Pahlavi, sister of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

According to an internal secret history of the C.I.A., she also played a crucial role in the British- and American-inspired military coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and restored her brother to the throne.

Really? I wonder where the NYT got access to this “internal secret history”.

100 years ago today…

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

…on December 29, 1915, Robert Chester Ruark, Jr. was born.


A Christmas Story.

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

I’ve been threatening to tell this one for a while now. What pushed me over the edge was this (because, hey, Christmas story), and a conversation with my mother about the first “Star Wars”, which filled me with nostalgia. (Or that may have been indigestion from a combination of three cup chicken and the pills I’m taking; sometimes, I can’t tell the difference.)

(We were trying to reconstruct the circumstances around seeing “Star Wars”. My father took my sister and I to the theater at Greenspoint Mall in Houston (which was the closest good one) to see it first run. My younger brother didn’t go with us, because he was roughly 2 1/2. So the questions that came up were: what did we do with him, and when did he first see it? I always thought my dad took us as just a nice gesture, while my mother thinks she had a Tupperware party going on that night and wanted to get us out of the house.)

End of introductory digression.

One year, over the Christmas break from school, I decided I wanted to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I’m pretty sure I was in middle school at the time, and to this day I can’t explain what motivated this: perhaps I thought it had a cool title, and I may have read about it elsewhere.

Anyway, I checked it out of the school library and brought it home with me.



Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Speaking of Ross Thomas, I’ve been meaning to link to (and bookmark) Ethan Iverson’s “Ah, Treachery!” essay for a while now. There are a few things in it that I disagree with, but I think Iverson’s essay is generally perceptive about Thomas and his writing; I find myself referring to it periodically.

Young Joseph Wambaugh and the hobo, from the LAT.

Dave Barry’s year in review, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

An OPM statement plays down the seriousness of the data breach, stressing that “if anybody publishes any photos allegedly depicting an alleged Cabinet secretary with an alleged goat, those are fake,” further noting that “it was totally a consenting goat.”

For the record: NYT obit for Joe Jamail.

Obit watch: December 24, 2015.

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Eden Pearl.

Pearl joined the Marine Corps in July 1994 from the town of Monroe, N.Y., before turning 19. After graduating from recruit training at Parris Island, S.C., he became an infantry rifleman, and then completed virtually every difficult form of training the service had, becoming a scout sniper, reconnaissance Marine, combat diver and critical skills operator in MARSOC. His training left him capable of performing anything — from free-fall aerial dives from airplanes to close-quarters combat after breaking down a door.

Sgt. Pearl was critically injured by an IED in 2009, and died on Sunday as a result of his injuries.

Fernande Grudet, aka “Madame Claude”. I note this here for two reasons:

2) In one of my favorite Ross Thomas books, The Seersucker Whipsaw, there’s a character named “Madame Claude”. I’m wondering if this was a very subtle reference on the part of Thomas…

Obit watch: December 18, 2015.

Friday, December 18th, 2015

British mystery writer Peter Dickinson. The Telegraph.

Dickinson is a writer who’s fascinated me since I read HRF Keating’s Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books: he shows up twice on that list (a distinction he shares with such folks as Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Arthur Conan Doyle).

Unfortunately, I’ve also always had some difficulty finding his work in the US: somewhere I have a paperback of The Poison Oracle (which appears to be back in print!) and apparently you can now get The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest for your Kindle…

Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm. I may have to revisit this after Christmas…

TMQ Watch: December 8, 2015.

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Instead of snark, and before jumping into this week’s TMQ, we wanted to throw up a link to something we found by way of a retweet from Popehat:

So let me be really clear about what happened to me. From the moment I got my first pair of hockey skates at five years old, I got the living shit kicked out of me every single day. Every day after hockey, no matter how many goals I scored, he would hit me. The man was 6-foot-2, 250 lbs. It would start as soon as we got in the car, and sometimes right out in the parking lot.

When I tell people the insane details of my childhood, they have the same two questions.
Why in the hell would anyone do this to their own son?
And then …
Why in the hell didn’t anyone put a stop to it?

Please go read this now, if you haven’t already. This week’s TMQ will be here when you return…


Yearly administrative note.

Friday, December 4th, 2015

This is your yearly reminder: if you use the Amazon search box on the right hand side of the page to buy stuff, I get a small kickback.

Said small kickback, as you all know, goes to purchasing toys for crippled orphans supporting this blog, mostly by enabling our purchases of Robert Ruark and Jack O’Connor books, along with other crap in general.

(Speaking of Ruark, I’m reminded that I have two historical notes coming up back to back before the year is over. One of those should be of some interest to Lawrence…)

(And speaking of Lawrence, I would be remiss if I did not note, as I do every year, that books from Lame Excuse Books make fine presents for the holidays, especially if you have SF or horror fans on your shopping list.)

I believe I recommended Amy Alkon’s Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck last year, but I’ll plug it again as she deserves it.

Another book that was loaned to me by a friend, and that I’ve almost finished – I will be purchasing my own copy, so I have no qualms about recommending it – is Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I somehow missed this when it came out in 2012, but it’s a very good book about the psychology of introversion, how to cope with being an introvert, and how to cope with significant others/family members who are introverts (if you’re an extrovert) or extroverts (if you’re an introvert).

I don’t see a shipping date for Archer Season 6 yet, but How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written made me laugh more than a cheap TV tie-in book by some anonymous ghostwriter had any right to. (But get the Kindle edition, or a used copy.)

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Edited to add: Also. If I’ve managed to irritate you, please consider supporting the fine folks at Popehat through their Amazon link instead.

Also also: I haven’t given them any money, but I’ve always been kind of fond of the HouChron‘s “Goodfellows” program.

Also also also: the Reason Foundation is having their annual fundraising drive. And they will accept bitcoins, too.