Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Damn it all to Hell and Hong Kong.

Friday, December 29th, 2017

The NYT is reporting the death of Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone “alphabet” mysteries, at the age of 77.

The paper of record does not have a full obit up yet: I will try to post a follow-up when I can.

Quickies from the legal beat.

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Some serious, some less so.

Stop! Hammer time!

Former Michigan state trooper charged with second degree murder in the death of a 15-year-old boy. He was a passenger in another trooper’s vehicle: they chased after the kid, who was driving an ATV, and the trooper fired a Taser out the window.

Struck and disabled by the Taser while traveling at up to 40 mph, Grimes lost control, struck a pickup and died.

(Hattip: Morlock Publishing on the Twitter. The Powers of the Earth is available in a Kindle edition, and would probably make a swell gift for the SF fan in your life. I already own a copy, but haven’t read it yet.)

Grandma got stopped by a state trooper,
Driving to Vermont for Christmas Eve.
People say “It’s just weed,”
But the state says “60 lbs is a felony.”

(Those lyrics probably need some work.)

Obit watch: December 21, 2017.

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Clifford Irving passed away on Tuesday.

Mr. Irving, for the younger set, was a somewhat prominent author and journalist in the 1960s and 1970s. Among his works is FAKE! The Story of Elmyr de Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time. I’ve actually been interested in reading that: nice to know there’s a cheap Kindle edition and I don’t have to seek out the hardcover.

But sometime in 1970, Mr. Irving came up with the idea that made him infamous: an autobiography of Howard Hughes. It didn’t make any difference that Hughes was extremely reclusive and didn’t talk to journalists.

After studying a Hughes letter reproduced in the Newsweek article, Mr. Irving forged letters from Hughes to back up the story. He began calling his publisher from exotic locations where, he claimed, he was meeting with Hughes and developing a close relationship. He was betting that Hughes hated the limelight so much that he would never step forward to debunk anything written about him.

He got $750,000 for the book, $400,000 for the paperback rights, and $250,000 for serial rights.

And he was wrong.

At the end of 1971, with McGraw-Hill and Life ready to go to press, the scheme began to unravel. Mr. Hughes went public and denied knowing Mr. Irving, first through a representative and later in a conference call with seven journalists based in Los Angeles.
Swiss banking investigators soon discovered that a Zurich bank account belonging to “H. R. Hughes” had been opened by Mr. Irving’s wife, Edith Irving, a German-born Swiss citizen, using a forged passport with the name Helga R. Hughes.
As the evidence piled up, the house of cards collapsed. In March 1972, the Irvings pleaded guilty to conspiracy in federal court. In state court, along with Mr. Irving’s research assistant, Richard Suskind, they pleaded guilty to conspiracy and grand larceny. Mr. Irving was given a prison sentence of two and a half years and served 17 months. Mr. Suskind received a sentence of six months, of which he served five.

Mr. Irving went on to write some novels and true crime books.

Orson Welles drew on “Fake!” and on the Hughes hoax when making his 1974 film, “F for Fake,” in which Mr. Irving plays a prominent role.

You can get “F for Fake” in a Criterion edition: I’ve seen it and recommend it.

You can also get The Hoax, Mr. Irving’s account of the affair, and Autobiography Of Howard Hughes: Confessions of an Unhappy Billionaire, the actual book, through Amazon as Kindle books.

Christmas giving note.

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

I know we are inexorably drawing closer and closer to Christmas. I hope most, if not all, of you have your Christmas shopping done.

For the record, if you do not have your Christmas shopping done, and if you are, for reasons I cannot fathom, looking for a Christmas present for your humble blogger: please do not purchase this book for me. Thank you.

(If you do have someone in your life who is not cat allergic and likes spirituous liquor, Amazon does have this available with Prime shipping, so you can get it before Christmas. And there is even a Kindle edition, if you need to fill a gap on Christmas Day.)

TMQ Watch: December 19, 2017.

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Before we jump into this week’s column, we did want to make note of the not-technically-a-firing-but resignation of ESPN president John Skipper. We think it is appropriate to note this here because this is, and for reasons we will get into shortly.

We really don’t have much to say about this: we don’t care much for ESPN, or the way Skipper’s been running it. But substance abuse of any sort sucks, and we wish the man all the luck in the world.

After the jump, this week’s TMQ


Quote of the day.

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

One might look at the master collaborators — from Kern and Berlin to Rodgers and Hart and Loesser and Jule Styne and Jerome Robbins — and come to the conclusion that the history of the Broadway musical is the history of short Jewish men yelling at each other.

—Jack Viertel, The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built.

Administrative note.

Friday, November 24th, 2017

This is your yearly reminder that, if you shop at Amazon using the search tool on my sidebar, links in my posts, or through my store, I get a small kickback on each purchase.

Said kickbacks allow us to indulge our eccentricities, and purchase such things as expensive books on Smith and Wesson revolvers, knives, and even the occasional firearm accessory. Thank you for your continued support.

While we are on the subject of the holidays: if you are inclined to get me a present, please do not purchase this book for me. Not in a one, ten, or 20 pack. Thank you.

Also, while I would kind of like a hat from The Boring Company, $20 seems way way high to me for a gimmie cap.

Obit watch: November 20, 2017.

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Man, it was a weekend, wasn’t it? Sorry I didn’t get to some of this yesterday, but I spent a large part of the day foraging for food in Westlake (Why is it so hard to find a restaurant that’s open on Sunday in that part of town?) and then on an expedition to Pflugerville to visit the new Aldi grocery store. (The natives are wary, but I think we started to win them over.)

Anyway: Malcolm Young, AC/DC co-founder. I feel a musical interlude coming on, but I think I’ll do a jump first.

Mel Tillis, who sang both types of music: country and western.

He even went so far as to make the nickname Stutterin’ Boy, conferred upon him by the singer Webb Pierce, the title of his autobiography (written with Walter Wager and published in 1984), and to have it painted on the side of his tour bus. He also named his personal airplane Stutter One and referred to his female backup singers as the Stutterettes.

Dr. John C. Raines is dead at the age of 84. This name is probably not familiar to you, but the story is interesting.

Dr. Raines, along with seven others, broke into a FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania on the night of March 8, 1971 (during the Frazier-Ali fight) and stole a large number of FBI internal documents. They later released those documents to the press and to members of Congress.

The burglary, and subsequent lawsuits by NBC and others, prompted a groundbreaking investigation in 1975 by the so-called Church committee, a special Senate panel led by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. The committee revealed details of the F.B.I.’s secret Cointelpro, or counterintelligence, operation, which included illegal sabotage of dissident groups deemed to be subversive.

The NYT obit gives a pretty good summary of the whole affair. But, if you’re interested, I recommend The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI by Betty Medsger: it gives a detailed account of the planning, the execution, the aftermath, and what happened to the principals (as of 2013-2014).

Last, and definitely least, Charles Manson is burning in Hell. NYT. LAT. Lawrence.

I’ve felt for a while now that we would be much better as a culture if we all agreed to ignore Manson, beyond providing him with basic human needs (food, shelter, medical care). No publicity, no interviews, no cover versions of his “music”: we should have just let him rot silently.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, they’re all together spooky, the Manson family.

Mr. Manson was a semiliterate habitual criminal and failed musician before he came to irrevocable attention in the late 1960s as the wild-eyed leader of the Manson family, a murderous band of young drifters in California. Convicted of nine murders in all, Mr. Manson was known in particular for the seven brutal killings collectively called the Tate-LaBianca murders, committed by his followers on two consecutive August nights in 1969.

I do like that paragraph: “semiliterate habitual criminal and failed musician”, indeed. This one, too:

Manson was a pathetic, cowardly con man & should be remembered for that alone.

Time for a palate cleanser. After the jump, musical interludes.


Quote of the day.

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

I’ve been thinking a lot about Chesterton recently, and this quote in particular:

“The dog could almost have told you the story, if he could talk,” said the priest. “All I complain of is that because he couldn’t talk, you made up his story for him, and made him talk with the tongues of men and angels. It’s part of something I’ve noticed more and more in the modern world, appearing in all sorts of newspaper rumors and conversational catch-words; something that’s arbitrary without being authoritative. People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition.” He stood up abruptly, his face heavy with a sort of frown, and went on talking almost as if he were alone. “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can’t see things as they are. Anything that anybody talks about, and says there’s a good deal in it, extends itself indefinitely like a vista in a nightmare. And a dog is an omen and a cat is a mystery and a pig is a mascot and a beetle is a scarab, calling up all the menagerie of polytheism from Egypt and old India; Dog Anubis and great green-eyed Pasht and all the holy howling Bulls of Bashan; reeling back to the bestial gods of the beginning, escaping into elephants and snakes and crocodiles; and all because you are frightened of four words: `He was made Man.'”

–“The Oracle of the Dog”

Obits, firings, and random: October 3, 2017.

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

I didn’t feel much like blogging yesterday: what the hell was I going to say that everyone else wasn’t saying better? Plus, I was trying to dig myself out of a backlog at work most of the day, and then I had a doctor’s appointment (at least that went well) and then I went down to the cop shop to help with the CPA class (which had been moved from Tuesday)…

…so I really didn’t get a chance to blog Tom Petty, which was a good thing. First he was dead, then he wasn’t dead and the LAPD knew nothing, and now he’s really dead. What a mess.

I probably would have inserted a musical interlude or three, but really, you’ve heard them all.

John Coppolella out as general manager of the Braves in a “resignation”:

…after an investigation by Major League Baseball revealed serious rules violations in the international player market.
The Braves announced Coppolella’s resignation Monday, citing a “breach of Major League Baseball rules regarding the international player market.” Gordon Blakeley, a special assistant to the GM who was the team’s international scouting chief, also has resigned.

Longtime readers know of my interest in baking bread. I just found out about this: Modernist Bread. From those wonderful folks who brought you Microsoft Windows Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.

Right up my alley? Perhaps. But not no damn $562.50 worth. Though I’m sure it is beautifully photographed, and if you have that kind of money, good for you. I’ll wait for it to show up at Half-Price Books.

Obit watch: September 21, 2017.

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Lillian Ross, one of the old-time New Yorker writers. She was 99.

I didn’t grow up reading her work, but I was passingly familiar with her from her book Picture. Ms. Ross followed John Huston while he was making “The Red Badge of Courage” and wrote about the production. Which, oddly enough, turned out to be deeply troubled.

Julie Salamon cites Picture as a major influence for her own classic book, The Devil’s Candy: The Anatomy Of A Hollywood Fiasco. It’s kind of interesting to contemplate these two books. Neither Ms. Ross (as far as I know) or Ms. Salamon (who explicitly states this in her forward) intended to write books about troubled movies. Both of them just simply wanted to document the process of making a Hollywood film: what was it like to do this in the 1950s, and what was it like in the 1980s? It’s odd that both movies turned out the way they did. And it’s interesting that nobody else has tried doing this in the last 25 years.

Bernie Casey, NFL wide receiver (for the San Francisco 49ers and the LA Rams) turned actor (“I’m Gonna Git You Sucka”).

For Mr. Casey, who also published books of poetry, the arts always came first. He considered football a steppingstone, but many viewed him as an athlete.
“It was just a gig,” he told The Washington Post in 1977 about football. “But it limits the way people perceive you. That can be frustrating. People have tremendous combinations of talents. A man can be a deep-sea diver and also make china.”

Obit watch: September 18, 2017.

Monday, September 18th, 2017

I don’t know exactly why this surprises me, but for the historical record: NYT obit for Jerry Pournelle.

The obit is actually pretty respectful (if a week late) and covers his work as a computer columnist almost as much as it does his SF writing.