Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Obit watch: May 15, 2016.

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Katherine Dunn followups: A/V Club. NYT.

Harlan Ellison, the science fiction author and screenwriter, hailed it as “transformative.”

Julius La Rosa, who was a noted singer of the 1950s, but is perhaps most famous for being fired on the air by Arthur Godfrey.

On Oct. 19, 1953 — 23 months after Mr. La Rosa’s debut — Mr. Godfrey retaliated in a morning segment heard only on the radio. Mr. La Rosa had just finished singing “Manhattan” when Mr. Godfrey delivered the sentence in his solemn foghorn voice.
“That was Julie’s swan song,” he said.

The dismissal stunned Mr. La Rosa and the Godfrey audiences, whose reaction was largely negative. Most media critics also chastised Mr. Godfrey, whose avuncular image began to crumble.

Obit watch: May 13, 2016.

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Katherine Dunn, noted author (Geek Love) and boxing aficionado.

One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing sounds like a book I might be interested in. (Short shameful confession: I haven’t read Geek Love.)

Hattip: Lawrence, who also brings us a vital safety tip.

Quote of the day.

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Have you noticed that in military history no regular army has ever been able to deal with a properly organized guerrilla force? If we use the regular army in Algeria, it can only end in failure. I’d like France to have two armies: one for display, with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, fanfares, staffs, distinguished and doddering generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned with their general’s bowel movements or their colonel’s piles: an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country.
The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage battledress, who would not be put on display but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That’s the army in which I should like to fight.

The Centurions, Jean Lartéguy

Many years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a teenage boy, Soldier of Fortune magazine sold merchandise, including posters.

There were two that I kind of wanted: one was a poster of the classic Thompson submachine gun ad. I’m still looking for that, if anyone has any leads…

The other was a variant of Lartéguy’s quote above. I was struck at the time by his distinction between the two armies, and yes, that’s the army in which I should like to fight as well.

Now I’m actually reading the book that quote came from, and I’m growing quite fond of Raspéguy and his band of merry men. I’ve just reached the end of book two, where the colonel gets the band back together: he assembles his fellow POWs from the Indochina war and tells them:

I’ve just been given command of the 10th Colonial Parachute Regiment, the most useless bunch of s.o.b.s in the whole French army, the rejects from every other paratroop unit.

I know this is going to end badly for everyone: we’re talking about French Algeria, after all. But I expect the rest of this ride is going to be fun.

This is intended to enrage you. (#7 in a series)

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Okay, the title may be somewhat of an exaggeration. I’m guessing the only people enraged by this will be:

But I’m willing to be proven wrong. Feel free to do so in comments.

Anyway. A long time ago – 1987, to be precise – a group of John D. MacDonald fans put up a plaque at what was Slip F602 at the Bahia Mar Marina. Slip 602 was also renamed Slip F18.

What was the significance of this? MacDonald’s most famous creation, Travis McGee, docked his houseboat, the “Busted Flush”, at Slip F18. I know it probably sounds kind of silly and trivial to a lot of you, but it always seemed to me to be a nice gesture in honor of a man who has influenced more writers than you could fit into a 1936 Rolls-Royce pickup truck. (Just a few names you may have heard of: Michael Connolly, Randy Wayne White, Lee Child, Carl Hiaasen, David Morrell, and some guy named Stephen King.)

But I ramble. My point now is: the plaque isn’t there any longer. It has been moved to the harbormaster’s office. I can’t really get a sense of how easy or hard it is to find from the photos online. But more to the point:

The relegation seems particularly poignant in 2016, McDonald’s centennial birthday year. Sarasota, where MacDonald lived, will be staging a big celebration in July. But there’s nothing going on in Fort Lauderdale.
“I had tried to contact the Bahia Mar offices to see if anything would be done to celebrate the 100th Birthday of JDM but I received no answer,” Calvin Branche told me via email. Branche, who runs the John D. MacDonald website and will be staging slideshow presentations in Sarasota this summer, suggested that the marina place the plaque somewhere more conspicuous. “But nothing came of it.”

It just seems kind of a lousy way to treat a good man and a great author.

(Hattip: Lawrence, via email.)

Obit watch: April 8, 2016.

Friday, April 8th, 2016

E.M. Nathanson.

Nathanson was perhaps most famous as the author of The Dirty Dozen, based on a story told to him by Russ Meyer (!) and adapted into a movie that I’ve never actually seen. I wonder if Lawrence has a copy…

Obit watch: March 28, 2016.

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Mother Mary Angelica, founder of the Eternal Word Television Network.

Jim Harrison. I feel kind of bad about saying this, but: I bought a copy of The Raw and the Cooked, mostly because it gets a lot of praise from various food writers that I like. I’ve tried to read it, and found that it’s about 50% really good food and outdoor writing…and about 50% pretentious twaddle.

Obit watch: March 25, 2016.

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Garry Shandling. NYT. A/V Club.LAT.

Earl Hamner Jr. I knew he was responsible for “The Waltons”, but I wasn’t aware that he also did “Falcon Crest”, and I don’t think I knew he’d written “Twilight Zone” episodes.

He also wrote the 1968 TV adaptation of “Heidi,” which infuriated football fans when NBC began airing the children’s classic by cutting off the final one minute and 15 seconds of a New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game in which the Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final 75 seconds.

Did you think I was going to pass up a chance to work in a Heidi Bowl reference?

A couple of random notes: March 16, 2016.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

How did I not have a “Lovecraft” category before now? Fixed.

What brought this to mind? Anther AP story, this one about the relationship between H.P. Lovecraft and Providence.

Lovecraft aficionados, drawn to Providence, leave trinkets and notes at the author’s gravesite in Swan Point Cemetery. The Lovecraft council has a store downtown and holds conventions and events to celebrate Lovecraft’s work and influence.

When I visited Swan Point on one of my trips, I was told Lovecraft’s grave was the most visited one in the cemetery. This struck me as interesting, because Sullivan Ballou, aka “the guy who wrote the letter from the Ken Burns series that everyone but me loves” is also buried in Swan Point. My recollection is that this was near the peak of “Civil War” mania, but I guess Lovecraftian horror beats banjos and sentiment at least five out of seven days of the week.

Tam has a very nice obit up for Todd Louis Green, noted pistol trainer, class act, and “Archer” fan.

I never got to take a class with him, and I wish I had: I think I would have enjoyed both learning from him, and finding out if he hates Bionic Barry as much as I do.

Obit watch: March 9, 2016.

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

I have to note this one: Kathryn Popper has passed away at the age of 100.

Ms. Popper had a very small, almost microscopic, role in “Citizen Kane“: she appears as a photographer at the very end of the movie, and has two lines.

According to the NYT, she was the last surviving person to have appeared in the film: Jean Forward Baker, who dubbed Susan Alexander’s voice, is still alive.

Her first visit to New York was with Welles to promote “Citizen Kane.” She moved to the city a year later, befriended many celebrities, wrote a hibachi cookbook and never left.

I’m guessing this is the cookbook?

Also among the dead: George Martin, noted record producer, perhaps most famous for his work producing an overrated mediocre band with a few toe-tappers.

Obit watch: March 7, 2016.

Monday, March 7th, 2016

I know I keep using this excuse, but it really was a busy weekend. I spent a large chunk of Saturday babysitting children, away from a computer I could use. I may write some later on about how I spent my Sunday, but not right now; also, I wanted to let the Nancy Reagan obits sit for a day.

NYTimes. LAT. WP. Lawrence.

Catching up from the weekend and for the historical record: Pat Conroy. NYT. WP. A/V Club. Charleston Post and Courier.

I’ve read very little of Conroy’s work: The Prince of Tides in particular always struck me as being chick lit. But somewhere recently (and I wish I could remember where) I read part of his followup to The Great Santini, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son…and I was actually kind of hooked. Maybe I need to give his work a second look.

And I have to confess: I’m a sucker for crap like this. (See also this, which I picked up at Half-Price over the weekend, even though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.)

Notes on historical notes.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

We’re coming up on at least two significant anniversaries this year.

One of those is the 100th birthday of John D. MacDonald on July 24th. I plan to write more about this closer to the event. In the meantime, here are a couple of links I like:

From the “National Post”: “Sunbelt Baroque: How John D. MacDonald invented a subgenre that’s no longer his own”.

(Well, of course it’s no longer his own. He died almost 30 years ago.)

Stephen King’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune essay about MacDonald. I think Big Steve and I first encountered John D. at about the same age. This may explain some things.

(I really wish the Herald-Tribune would make it easier to find these columns. It looks like this link will bring them up, along with some unrelated stuff.)

And the other significant anniversary? June 25th will mark the 110th anniversary of the murder of Stanford White by Harry Kendall Thaw. That’s something I want to write more about as well, but it needs research. I’d appreciate book recommendations, if folks have them.

(You know, you would think you could find this on the Internet, but I’ve had no luck: what was the weapon Thaw used? The only description I’ve been able to find is that it was a “pistol”.)

(Teaser.)

Random notes: February 22, 2016.

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Two from the NYT:

Save the endangered Long Island skeet!

Harper Lee was a big fan of Opus. Yes, the penguin, from “Bloom County”.

Mr. Breathed could barely believe what he was reading: “How ironic is that here, she is desperately upset that I’m letting my character die for her when millions around the world, for generations, have been upset that she let her characters end?” he said, referring to Ms. Lee’s never publishing another book until the contentious release of “Go Set a Watchman” last year.

Borepatch left a most gracious note on the last obit watch, which was much appreciated. I’ve been feeling like all I do is write obit watches these days. It also feels kind of lazy sometimes; but I like to think that there’s some historical value, if not now perhaps in the next few years, in noting these deaths and how they were covered.

And every once in a while you find an obit for someone who didn’t get the attention that Harper Lee or Scalia got, but deserves some attention. Speaking of that…

And speaking of lazy, I do have some longer pieces I want to write. Some of them are still in draft status, waiting for things to come together. Then there are some things that I expected to be able to write longer form entries about that just haven’t materialized yet.

I’d love to be able to write about my ongoing experiences with the Austin Police Department Citizen’s Police Academy, for example. But we’re only two sessions in and the first one was mostly back-patting. I’m hoping that there will be things that are worth writing about (and that I can write about without breaking any rules) soon. (If you’re really interested in the actual police academy and the training process, there’s a set of videos up on YouTube.)

Quick movie note: Lawrence and I went to see “Hail, Caesar!” yesterday. Lawrence liked it more than I did. I don’t think it is a bad movie, but it seemed slight and insubstantial.

We watched “Burn After Reading” a few weeks ago, and I liked that a little more: it may have something to do with almost everyone in “Burn” being utterly insane. (Especially John Malkovich’s character; but then, Malkovich adds that extra special touch to everything he’s in. I’m still not going to see “Zoolander 2”, though.)

TL,DR: wait for “Hail, Ceaser!” on streaming.