Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Little Free Libraries

Is there a Little Free Library near you? You can check on this handy map:

One showed up on my street a little while ago and it turns out there are a few more in the neighbourhood. It's kind of the book version of, "Take a penny, leave a penny."
You can find more information on the Little Free Library Website.
I don't have a favourite design, but I think if I put one up in front of my house I may try and make one that looks like an old-fashioned jail. You know, for crime novels.
Okay, so I don't have it worked out yet.
What do you think of these Little Free Libraries?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Print Books As Furniture

By Steve Weddle

Something in the Sunday paper struck me. It was a baseball bat. And how it got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.

Something else, though. In an article about the fiftieth anniversary of a certain university press, the interim publishing director was speaking about  those people in the book publishing business and said this:
There’s a warmth to a book that plastic computer screens don’t have….It’s the same as a furniture maker who loves making furniture. There’s a craft element to it. What image do you put on the cover? What typography does inside? What kind of paper do you use? Of course, when you look at e-books, there’s a technology aspect to it that’s every bit as much a craft. But I don’t think this is the demise of the book.
Now, it is certainly possible that the reporter asked some leading question, something along the lines of “Are e-books the end of civilization?”

Still, I’d wager the three dollars I have in my pocket that the e-books published by these folks have cover art. And typography. That the visual aspect of the book – big headers, small headers – has taken some crafting, as well. To publish an e-book, one does not simply up a text doc to the cloud anymore than one simply walks into Mordor. One must walk into Mordor very, very complicatedly with hours of tedious backstory. The same is true of books, whether “e” or “p.”

I don’t merely look at books. I read them, usually on my Kindle Fire, because inside of a dog it's too dark to read on my K3.

I was, in fact, looking for a book this weekend so that I could loan it out to someone. As it happens, I’d read it on my Kindle. In all seriousness, maybe I should have known whether I’d read those words on a screen or on sheets of paper. I suppose it matters to some people. It doesn’t matter to me.

And speaking, as I almost was earlier, of Eric Blair’s famous Vaudeville show, “Shooting An Elephant in My Pajamas,” I made my way down my driveway Sunday morning for the paper that had the story about the university press inside.

I could have just downloaded the newspaper to my Kindle, as it is available in the newsstand. I didn’t, though. Of course, it would have been less expensive had I downloaded it. And I would have gotten it sooner. And I wouldn’t have had to walk outside in my admittedly lovely black-watch pj bottoms and “All your base are belong to us” t-shirt. But, and here’s the important thing, had I downloaded that newspaper and read the story about the publishing world, I would not have been able to enjoy the crafted typography of the print version.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Opinions in the age of the internet

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Ok.  Perhaps this isn't the best post for me to write, but I've been thinking about this topic for a while and I finally decided to give it a whirl.  Here goes.

I think the internet is great.  I love social media because I get to reconnect with people that I haven't seen in years, look at family photos and effortlessly connect with friends old and new.  YAY!  However, the age of the internet has also created something a little frightening to me.  A lack of civility.

More times that I can count, I've witnessed the posting of a picture that a FB friend wanted to share (political, religious, a happy quote that means something to them) which lead to belittling or berating comments.  And the posting of a personal political or religious comment - no matter how positive - more often than not opens a can of worms that includes unkind words and attacks.

And, of course, this behavior doesn't end on Facebook or Twitter.  Take a look at the comments on any online news article and watch the lack of civility that appears.  There is no filter.  Trust me, I love the first amendment and believe that we all should have the right to free speech as well as freedom of religion and freedom of the press.  But when did it become okay to disrespect someone else's opinion?

I've seen this same disrespect extended to reviews on products, restaurants, movies, music, plays and books.  And wow, does it shock me every time.  Not that I think that everyone should like everything.  I mean...how boring would the world be if that was true.  I mean - honestly - that would be duller than dull.   It's not the opinion I have a problem with.  I don't like everything I read, watch, or experience.  But it's the tone in which the opinion is expressed that has the power to me cringe.  These days book, movie and other entertainment reviews are strewn with personal attacks.  If a book or movie isn't to your liking - say that - but don't tell the author or director or actor that they are stupid or are ruining the world as we know it.  (Trust me - authors, actors and directors really aren't that powerful.)  Personally, I go with the rule that I shouldn't say something online that I wouldn't say directly to someone's face because while there is a screen between me and whoever I'm talking to - there is another living, breathing person with feelings on the other side of the communication.  Right?

And perhaps even worse to me are the times where someone respectfully expresses their opinion and then gets attacked by the defenders of whatever book, movie, restaurant or product the comment centers around.  How is that okay?

Look, in my life, I have chosen to be an actor, a singer and a writer.  I get reviewed all the time and  my reviews have ranged from glowing to scathing.  That's the business.  (In fact, the negative reviews are often easier for me to read than the glowing ones.  How crazy am I?)  But it is more than reviews than I am talking about.  It's the method in which we discuss information and ideas.  I love debate and an exchange of contradicting or conflicting thoughts.  To me, respectful debate is the best way to learn and think of problem or concept in a new way.  But the key word is respectful.

We all have opinions.  We all have the same rights to express them.  But when you are doing so - think about how you would feel if you were the recipient of the Facebook comment you are about to type.  The internet is a great place that brings us together in wonderful ways--expect for the times it allows us to tear ourselves apart.  I'm hoping that someday more people remember to be respectful so that we can have wonderful debates and and exchange of ideas that makes us all better.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pi: Film Noir With Math

Let's get one thing straight: Pi (1998) is one weird-ass mind trip of a film and it's not for everyone. However, it's one of my favorite indie movie and a dang good thriller.

And Chevy Chase can rest easy: there's really not a lot of math in this movie.

Max Cohen is a reclusive, paranoid math genius cursed with headaches who knows--just friggin' knows!--that there are patterns in nature that follow certain mathematical precepts. Here are his assumptions: 1. Mathematics is the language of nature. 2. Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers. 3. If you graph these numbers, patterns emerge. Therefore: There are patterns everywhere in nature.

The thing he's trying to solve is the stock market. He's doing this for the joy of discovery, not for monetary rewards, as he yells at another character later in the film. To help him analyze patterns, Max has built a gigantic supercomputer, named Euclid, in his New York apartment. After a particularly trying day, Euclid crashes but not before spitting out a 216-character number and a single stock pick. Pissed off because the stock pick just can't be correct, Max throws away the printout of the number. Later, he meets with his former teacher and mentions the 216-digit number. The teacher, Sol, gets immediately interested. Max then learns that the stock pick Euclid predicted was accurate...but he can't find the printout.

Soon, he meets a Hasidic Jew, Lenny, who also is into number theory as it pertains to the Torah (remember the Bible Code from the 1990s? Same thing. Basically, every letter in Hebrew corresponds to a number. Thus, the Torah is both a written document and a large series of numbers from which patterns can emerge.) He wants Max's help and he agrees. Add into the mix some shady types (who may or may not be criminal or governmental) and Max is seeing spies everywhere he looks. In order to rebuild Euclid, Max takes from the shady types a new super microprocessor. He turns on the computer and starts analyzing the Torah. Again, Euclid crashes and again it produces a 216-digit number. Since the computer won't let him print, Max starts writing down the number...and finds a pattern.

Here's the key: according to tradition, the true name of God is a 216-letter word. Max's teacher, Sol, thinks that Euclid became sentient and, in that moment, the computer saw the Almighty. Lenny's Hasidic group wants the number because they want to reverse the code and find the true name of God. The shady types want Max to help them do evil things. Max just wants to be left alone.

Filmed in black and white, this is Darren Aronofsky's first film. Most of the tropes and film techniques he uses in subsequent films (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler) are evident here. To be honest, the black and white noir touches make this film. The paranoia Max experiences is heightened by the shadows and the fear of what truly lies in the darkness. It's brilliant. And there are some genuinely weird moments in this film (a brain in a subway that seems to be connected to Max’s psychosis) that would make Salvador Dali proud. Another noir trait is Max's self destruction as he spirals downward into madness. I make it sound light--it really isn't--but in this film, I love it. The electronica score by Clint Mansell (in addition to songs by Orbital, Aphex Twin, Massive Attack, and others) adds to the weirdness. Coming out a year before the Matrix soundtrack, this was a major entry point for me to electronica and I've followed some of the artists in the years since. Opposite of the Pi music, Mansell, in his soundtrack for the 2009 film, Moon, captured the loneliness and isolation of the lunar surface using only a piano.

I originally saw this film when I was dating my wife. She hated the film at the time and has successfully resisted every time I've watched the DVD (yeah, I bought it and have watched the DVD about five times since). I think what really strikes home with me is the nature of God as portrayed in the movie and how we humans can get but a glimpse of the beauty and order of the universe (and God?) via mathematics. It's an awe-inspiring concept and is the touchstone for this great film.

Here's the trailer.
Here's the official site (oddly still active 14 years after the movie's release)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Less is More (some thoughts on the legends of Villainy)

“You’d like to quantify me, Officer Starling. You’re so ambitious, aren’t  you?” – The Silence of the Lambs

Its fair to say that Hannibal Lecter is one of the greatest and most terrifying villains in modern entertainment. From his appearances in Harris’s novels RED DRAGON and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to his recurrence in MANHUNTER and later SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (the movie) he was the ultimate in chilling evil. We saw just enough of him to know he made the hairs stand up on the back of our neck. He was revealed in slow moments, in pieces, stepping out of the shadows just far enough for us to see his teeth and to know that we needed to steer clear of him.

He was a shadow.

A monster.

A bogey-man.
“Dr Hannibal Lecter himself reclined on his bunk, perusing the Italian edition of Vogue. He held the loose pages in his right hand and put them beside him one by one with his left. Dr Lecter has six fingers on his left hand.” – the Silence of the Lambs

We wanted more of him, this strange, unknowable and terrifying figure.

But when we got more of him, something strange happened. He lost his power. That uncertainty, that unquantifiability suddenly became quantifiable.  Because we learned too much and too fast. By the time Hannibal rolled around, Lecter was no longer this creature in the shadows, but suddenly he had a backstory (a sister lost in terrible circumstances, eaten in front of his eyes, because, you know, that explains his obsession with canibalism) and even an enemy who was more brutal than he was (the ludicrously over the top Mason Verger, who happens to be a paedophile, just so we get the message that he’s more morally reprehensible than our favourite psychopathic doctor). He became more than a supporting character in a larger tale and instead the focus of the story. He became the “hero” instead of the villain. And he lost his edge; became a parody of himself.

And I won’t even talk about Hannibal Rising.

It’s the same story as with Darth Vader. A mysterious black clad figure, Vader was given just enough backstory (spoiler – he’s the hero’s father) to grant him life, but then we were given his backstory which fleshed out his character to the point of pointlessness. All those beats that one could easily have filled in as an intelligent consumer of stories were made explicit. And suddenly Vader was no longer this omnipresent threat, but rather a lovelorn idiot who was once an extremely annoying kid with a talent for driving race-cars. All the threat and menace he once exuded was gone. And it didn’t help that he was given one of the most painfully hamfisted origin scenes in the history of the movies:

The great villains – and by villains, I mean the ones who speak to the blackness of the world, the ones who are truly monsters and bogey-men - do not need backstory beyond what is neccesary. They work at their finest when we know them in the moment, when we know only that we need to be afraid of them, that in this moment they make us feel something at back of our neck.

But the problem comes when those villains start to step out of the shadows; when they become so popular that their creators feel the need to give the audience more, to expand upon their creations, to give these creations more depth than they were every created to handle.

And to do that, they have to let the bogey-men step out of the shadows.

Thus, Hannibal Lecter becomes less a manifestation of our fears regarding the intelligent, thinking monster, and more of a strange sad-luck story.

Darth Vader becomes a weak parody of power; a lost little boy carried by a destiny beyond his own control.

They lose the effect they once had. In the harsh light of over-exposure they become less powerful and consequently lose the effect that they once had on audiences. We know them too well for them to have the same effect upon us they once had. They have become quanitifiable. Understandable. Predictable.

There is such a thing as knowing a character too deeply.

The legends become too thin. The increased knowledge on the part of the audience weakens the power of the character.

Think about it: would Jaws be so powerful if we knew the Shark’s backstory? If we learned that the shark were angry at the residents of Amity Bay because Quint had killed its mother?*

Would Max Cady have benefited from a sequel to The Executioners/Cape Fear in which we learned about the childhood trauma that created the monster?

“He kept grinning at me. I can’t remember ever seeing a more disconcerting grin. Or whiter, more artificial looking teeth. He knew damn well he was making me uncomfortable.” – The Executioners.

Certain villains are iconic in and of a moment and only within a certain fictional framework. Certain heroes work in the same way, too**. They are legends more than they are characters. They do not need to step beyond the confines of the stories that gave them power in the first place.  They do not need continual expansion or mythologizing. Because instead of adding the depth that the creators – and the audience who have demanded this – crave, all that happens is that the characters become lesser. They lose their impact. They become something else entirely; something weaker and altogether less appetising.

I always think about The Joker. He is the Batman’s most appealing villain, and yet for every attempt to explain who he is, we only wind up with more questions and indeed even today we know as much about him as we did in the early days; he is a homicidal maniac with no (definite) name and no agenda beyond spreading chaos across the Gotham city landscape.  We may get glimpses of other parts of him, but never more than is necessary and never anything to take away the most powerful aspects of that character.  Think about Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger’s take on the character in The Dark Knight: constantly telling different versions of his origin, never letting anyone close to what he really is or how came to be. The very uncertainty of the character gave him his power.

 Wanna know how I got these scars? My father was… a drinker. And a fiend. And one night he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn’t like that. Not one bit. So – me watching – he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it! Turns to me, and he says, “why so serious, son?” Comes at me with the knife… “Why so serious?” He sticks the blade in my mouth… “Let’s put a smile on that face!” And…Why so serious? - The Dark Knight.

Less is more. The less we know, the more the legend has its power.

The best villains – the best legends – do not need to come into the light, do not need to let us see more of them than we do in the moment of the story.

This is why they are effective.

And that is not to say that some villains do not deserve depth, do not deserve to come into the light. But when you’re dealing with iconic figures, with characters whose very existence is dependent more on the effect they have on the reader than on their depth, then you have to walk a very fine line between psychological acuity and oversharing.

Or else you run the risk of destroying everything that made that character work in the first place. By giving the audience more, you wind up giving them less.

*Actually I have a sick feeling this may have been hinted at – or something similar – in one of the sequels. In which case, given how bad the sequels were, point proven.
**Although, as with everyone, I find its more fun to talk about the villains; they get all the best lines.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

30 Days Of The 5-2- Digging.

By Jay Stringer

Gerald So regularly challenges me to write poetry. I usually find a way to avoid doing it, but I'm glad for his persistence. The only time that I've come up with anything passable was Cold Call.

His latest challenge was to get involved in the 30 Days Of The 5-2 to celebrate national poetry month. I'm a Limey, so for me that would be in October, but let's ignore that for now. His idea was simple; An April blog tour where writers talk about poetry, or their favourite poem, or even about how great his website is (he didn't suggest that last bit.)

What I like about trying to write poetry is that it forces me into something I'm not comfortable with. I prize that feeling. I wasn't raised to have any love or understanding for poetry (songs, yes, poems, no) and I have a very limited knowledge. I spent a few years writing songs for bands and various failed musical projects, but it's a muscle I stopped using a long time ago and sitting down to write poetry now is very challenging.

Settling on my favourite poem, however, was not a challenge at all.

I spent most of my twenties being one of those people who would tell you how much I hated school, and how little help I'd gotten from my teachers. The former is still true -I did grow up to become a writer, after all- but I've realised the latter simply isn't correct. It would still be fair to say I didn't get all that much out of the organised education system. A combination of my own attitude, a learning disability, some admittedly poor teachers, and the straight-jacket of the syllabus all combined to let me down. But as I've talked to more teachers, I've realised that many of them are not there for the good they can do "on the clock," but for what they can achieve in and around that. It seems that -for the good and great teachers- it's often about finding ways to make a difference despite of the demands of their job, rather than because of them.

When my first book Old Gold came out I started to do interviews in which I would be asked how I got into writing, and about what had influenced me along the way. I talked about family and comic books, about social issues and music. What I realised as I looked back was there was a key figure in a lot of my development- My high school English teacher.

So much of the literary side of my development can be traced to him, and none of it was "on the clock," none of it was contained in the lessons that he was being paid to teach. He was the first person to put a George Orwell book in my hand, and he sent me home with a copy to read in my own time. He lent me Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht (some of you will know of the obsession I developed much later with one of Brecht's other works.)

But as important as Orwell and Brecht would become to me later on, there was something simpler and more informative that happened during this period. He was my introduction to the Irish playwright Sean O'Casey, and the beginning of a long tradition of my finding subtle ways to steal from his work. This was the beginning of my focusing on social storytelling. The haves and have-nots. All the same issues I've blogged about many times.

And he was my introduction to the one poem I've held close for the past two decades. Digging by Seamus Heaney. I don't really know enough to know if it's a cliche or not to cite that poem, but I know the effect it had on me. There's one part in particular that became a motto-

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

I still remember the moment all the lights came on at the back of my brain as my teacher read that line back to me again and asked what I thought it meant. I still remember how those words hovered around my head the next time I wrote something.

I took that into everything that I wrote or read afterwards. I came from a family full of men who'd been good with their hands. There were engineers, steeplejacks, mechanics, even poachers. I wasn't one of them, I wasn't one of any of them, but like the narrator of the poem I watched with awe and guilt as adults went about their jobs with apparent confidence. But I had words, even if they were a struggle, and I could write about things that mattered to me. I could dig.

After years of saying how little teachers had done for me, I realised how much I owed to one in particular. Mr Leathem. A gruff old Catholic boy who dressed like he was auditioning for Doctor Who and smoked a pipe. His demeanour scared the hell out of so many students in the school, but if you asked him about literature or Irish history he'd come alive and talk for as long as you would listen. I tried to contact him recently, but found out he passed away a few years ago. I was left wishing I'd made more time for someone who'd always made time for me. Even if he did have poor taste in football teams.

So, when Gerald invited me to pick a poem for the 30 Days Of The 5-2, it was a no-brainer.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Winner of EVIL

Kieran takes home a copy of EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES for his caption last week.

THE NEW YORK TIMES By David Barboza 
Posted: 04/17/2013 11:23 am EDT - Hilary Davidson, 
writer and wax sculptor extraordinaire, 
pauses to admire her latest life-like creation "The Fondler"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Indie Authors Stay Out

By Steve Weddle

The co-owner of Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts in Berkeley, California has written a letter to the editor of the New York Times, taking time to provide a word of warning for indie authors:

We see this every day in our independent bookstore: writers dropping off unsolicited work in the hope that we will stock books that have had little or no editing, and few reviews or distribution beyond Amazon (always a nonstarter).
You can read more here.

Of course, it seems odd that an independent bookstore should be at odds with independent authors. It seems odd that the co-owner of the store would think that a book would have had "little or no editing"
simply because the book is not corporately owned. I do not automatically assume that the restroom at the independent has had "little or no cleaning" just because it doesn't have the Barnes & Noble smell.

Then again, I don't have the experience of a bookstore co-owner, nor the experiences of this particular co-owner. It could very well be that 98% of indie authors she's met have had horribly edited books.
Typos can ruin the read of even the best book. I recall how I had to set aside the purple paperback of Graham Greene's TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT because of all the typos in that book.

What really seems odd to me, though, is this notion of the two indies at odds -- the writer who, for whatever reason, is not published with a corporation fighting against the little shoppe on the corner.

Maybe the indie author went that route because she didn't want to "sell out" or answer to anyone else. Maybe she didn't like the corporate terms. Sometimes people go indie as a choice. Sometimes people don't work in indie bookshops because they were fired from Barnes and Noble. Maybe they like being indie sellers. Maybe people like being indie authors.

In fact, when you consider some of the troubles between traditional bookstores and traditional book publishers -- BN vs SS, for example -- you'd think that working with individual authors with a stake in their books would be welcomed. And, as most indie authors don't have budgets to travel across country, being able to focus on locals would be beneficial.

Of course, we should be honest about it. Having a publisher to vet books means you don't have to read 500 books a day. Which, you know, you can't.

And some indie authors are batshit crazy. Some are awful to deal with. Here at DSD, we get bombed a few times a week by someone attempting to get reviewed here by acting like an asshole. That said, this type of behavior is not limited to indie authors.

And dealing with one sales person from the publisher is much easier than dealing with 1,000 various authors.

But that's the point, isn't it? You've got so many local, indie authors who want to be associated with you, that you should be able to figure that out. When their books sell, your cash register rings. And
you get to keep a chunk of that money.

When I worked at a gas station, we'd often get folks coming in, telling us how we could all be rich if we'd just give shelf-space to their innovative beef jerky/fingernail clipper/lighter. Everyone wants
shelf space.

And I'm not suggesting that bookstores do anything different than they've always done. I'd never suggest that. I don't know the business from a co-owner's point of view. I have no idea the challenges these folks face. If they want to keep going about it as they always have, that's fine.

But how cool would it be if indie authors and indie bookstores could work together? Maybe a special section for indie authors, Maybe a monthly spotlight. Maybe a reading on the 13th of every month so that readers can meet local, indie authors.

After all, these authors are coming to the bookstores because those bookstores are doing something right.

I think many, many bookstores, both indie and corporate, are probably trying stuff just like this. One store came under fire a couple years back when they sold shelf space to indie authors instead of just
offering it. Some have other ideas that seem to be catching on.

I don't have the Great Solution. But I think it's just making the problem worse when you tell indie authors that they're not the type of authors you want in your indie store.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cort McMeel

By Brian Lindenmuth

I was going to write about a really great documentary I saw but, with the untimely passing of Cort McMeel, I decided to write this instead.

One of my earliest exposures to Cort and the Murdaland gang was this Sarah Weinman blog post from 2006 in which bold statements were made and the gauntlet was thrown. You can tell by the comments section that an impact was made.

And Murdaland did make an impact. Anthony Neil Smith declared that Murdaland was "the rightful heir to PLOTS WITH GUNS."

Murdaland blazed hard and bright, left a trail, and burned out, leaving an image in the retinas of the crime fiction landscape still felt today. Little did we know that the rise, fall, and influence of Murdaland would foreshadow its founder.

I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Cort in person but I exchanged emails with him and spoke to him a couple of times. I regret that I won't have that opportunity to meet him.

The Cort that I will remember was a fierce book enthusiast. The kind of person that gives you a reading list just by virtue of having a conversation with him. The kind of person who advocated for great books that deserved more recognition. The kind of person I strive to be.

Murdaland mission statement:

Murdaland: Crime Fiction for the New Century will feature the best and most derelict, deranged, bareknuckled honest voices to bring about a renaissance of crime fiction. Currently, the predominant “mystery” magazines are two lame, staid, old fogey establishment publications: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Both are put out by the same publisher and stuck in a timewarp of 1950's schlock. They even have mystery crossword puzzles catering to nuns living sober lives in the cornbelt.

Murdaland will not be kin to this kind of writing or experience. More risk taking in nature, possessing the kind of vision and rebellious attitude as such rogue presses as Olympia (Naked Lunch, Burroughs), our mission will be to free American crime fiction from the cage of civility where it now rots. Murdaland is a beast of three parts: part literature, part rabid dog, part sad whiskey shot spilled on the barroom floor. The final result will be in the tradition of crime writer David Goodis (Shoot the Piano Player), as he was once described by Kerouac: “the poet of the losers.”

We are calling for stories that will help redefine the Noir/Hardboiled genre and take it to new literary heights. Stories don’t have to be about boxers, PIs, pimps, hookers, bank robbers and drug dealers, as much as they should be about exploring characters in a violent modern world existing on the margins of society. Above all, it’s about the writing. The prose must be high and tight.

Links of interest:

Tribe's Murdaland interview

Baltimore City Paper about Murdaland featuring Cort

Cort writing about Simenon

Cort writing about B Traven

Ben Whitmer's remembrance

Les Edgerton's remembrance

Mario Acevedo's remembrance

Kevin Hardcastle's remembrance

Cort's novel, Short, and a novel that apparently he wrote under a pen name, Blue Bloodbath.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Paying it forward

by: Joelle Charbonneau

According to the widget that my publisher created there are 43 days until THE TESTING launches. YAY!  EEK!  Help!  All sorts of emotions flood me when I think of the launch.  And today there is a brand new emotion that I can add to the list - hope.  And not in the way you think.  Yes, I am hopeful the book will be read and even more hopeful that some readers will connect with the characters.  But this hope is more than that.  It is farther reaching.  Why?

Because yesterday Anderson's Bookstore announced something that we have been working on for a
while.  Anderson's and I have created a pre-order incentive that I hope everyone will take advantage of.  No, we aren't giving away cool swag.  Instead, we are offering readers a chance to make a difference in the lives of others.  Because for every book ordered from Anderson's between now and THE TESTING launch on June 4th - Anderson's and I will together make a donation to Autism Speaks.

Here is the link to Anderson's Bookstore's pre-order page for THE TESTING.

As a teen, I was a member of the International Order Of The Rainbow for Girls.  The Rainbow Girls are a Masonic youth service organization that encourages teenage girls to raise money and donate their time to charity work as well as building self-confidence, camaraderie and so much more.  This year, the Illinois State Chapter of the Rainbow Girls chose to raise money for Autism Speaks and I want to help them.

So many of my friends have children with autism.  It is a condition that seems to be more common with every passing year.  The challenges for families who have to navigate this condition are great.  The challenges for the medical community to find the best ways to not only help those with the condition, but prevent it in future generations is even greater.   More research is needed to understand how best to help those who have autism as well as how to prevent it in future generations.  Autism Speaks is dedicated to advocating for those with autism as well as funding research to find a cure.  They are such an important voice for families and I am beyond thrilled to be able to help raise money for such a worthy cause.

If you are considering reading The Testing, please join with me and Anderson's and help raise money for this wonderful cause. I hope together we can make a difference.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cool and Lam: My Choice for a TV Show

(I've been dealing with a lot of personal stuff this week and I don't have anything new or profound. Yesterday, on Keith Rawson's Facebook page, he asked what book you'd like to see adapted into a film. I immediately gravitated towards the Cool and Lam books by Erle Stanley Gardner. I'd love to see a TV series with them. It could be done and it would get viewers. So, to honor that, here is a review I wrote back in 2008 when I first discovered this pair of PIs.)

Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. If my research is any indication, they are two truly forgotten detectives created by one of the most famous writers of the twentieth century. How could that happen? Oh, right. Erle Stanley Gardner, the man who created the mismatched team of Cool and Lam happened also to create the world’s most famous defense lawyer, Perry Mason. Easy mistake to make. It’s kind of like remembering that George Lucas also wrote the movie “Willow,” except, you know, “Willow” wasn’t very good.

Not the case with Cool and Lam. I pondered starting this series with the first book, The Bigger They Come. I even asked around and folks like Bruce Grossman over at Bookgasm assured me that these books could be read in any order. Since I am still a freshman at the University of Crime Fiction, I decided to trust a couple of tenured professors, Charles Ardai and Max Phillips of Hard Case Crime. If such a university existed, the books published by Hard Case Crime would be required reading. You can tell what Ardai and company think of Cool and Lam: the third book they published was Top of the Heap, a 1952 book that was the thirteenth in a series that ran twenty-nine books. Deferring to their knowledge, I read Top of the Heap.

Boy, was this book fun! I haven’t enjoyed a book like this since The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow. After reading The Case of the Velvet Claws, the first Perry Mason book, I thought I knew what to expect from Gardner. Not even close. I guess this is why he chose to write the first few Cool and Lam books under a pen name, A. A. Fair.

Like any good story, it’s the characters that make this story. Bertha Cool is not obese but she wears her one hundred and sixty pounds well. She’s a widow (something I picked up in research because it’s not mentioned in this novel) and her voice is imposing and you can tell from the prose that she fills a room with her mouth, if not her body. And she loves money. At least twice in the first chapter, her eyes are described as “greedy.” And she’s got a new case, one that Lam notes must be worth a lot of money because he heard the tone of voice she gave to the new client. Lam “knew from experience that it took cold, hard cash to get Bertha to assume that ingratiating manner and that cooing, kittenish voice.”

If Bertha Cool is like Oliver Hardy, Donald Lam is Stan Laurel. He couldn’t be more opposite of Bertha if he tried. In fact, Bertha, late in the book, nicely describes her partner: “You little two-bit, skinny-necked, flat-chested, dimple-waisted, beetle-browed, double-crossing bastard.” Oops. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back and see how it all started.

John Carver Billings the Second comes into the offices of Cool and Lam looking for help. It seems that Maurine Auburn, the girlfriend of a gangster, “Gabby” Garvanza, has disappeared. Gabby is recovering in a hospital with too many bullet holes in his body. Maurine, not worrying too much about Gabby, was seen at a party with an escort a few days ago. Unfortunately, she ditched the escort and left someone else. No big deal for most people. Except for Billings. He was the ditched escort. But, not to be outdone, Billings, that same night, found two other girls with which to spend time. This new trio crashed at a motel and, by morning, the two gals had also gone. Now, Billings, thrice stood-up, needs an alibi for that night so the police don’t go suspecting him of having anything to do with Maurine’s disappearance.

Simple case for Bertha: find the girls, keep the $300 Billings already paid in cash and collect a $500 bonus. Not so simple for Lam, who immediately has reservations and questions that can’t be easily answered. Bertha, the smell of greenbacks filling her nose, sends Lam out of the office to find the girls. It’s not giving anything away to say the more Lam discovers, the more complicated the case gets. What started out as a small case with just one objective explodes up into a larger case involving murder, money, misunderstandings, and mining assets.

The entire story is told in Lam’s first person voice. And he is a smart-ass. A funny smart-ass, but a smart-ass nonetheless. The writing style is quite different than the prose Gardner uses for the one Perry Mason novel I’ve read. Granted, Top of the Heap was published nearly twenty years after The Case of the Velvet Claws so, undoubtedly, Gardner honed his writing skill.

Lam’s voice is fresh. He gets his secretary to tag along as they case the motor court where Billings passed out in the room with the two girls. You can get a taste of the relationship between Lam and Elsie Brand, his secretary, in these lines.

    “How’s Bertha?” [Elsie said]
    “Her same old irascible, greedy, profane self. How would you like to act the part of a falling woman?”
    “A fallen woman?”
    “I said a falling woman.”
    “Oh, I see. Present participle. What do I do?”

Grammar jokes in a mystery novel. Couldn’t get away with it in 2008 mainly because the general public doesn’t even know what a present participle is. But in 1952, this line probably garnered a few chuckles. And I certainly wanted more from these two. Perhaps in other books.

All kidding aside, Lam is a small man who uses his brain like a chess player. If he has a hunch about something, say the actions of Person A, he goes to great lengths to get his answer. In order to verify his hunch before meeting Person A, Lam will talk with Person B. Then, he’ll go to Person A and, using information acquired from Person B, find new clues that he needs when he talks with Person C, the real focus of the investigation that you, the reader, probably didn’t even pick up on. He’s very smart but his brain gets him into trouble.

Unlike other PIs in literature, Lam can’t fight his way out of pretty much anything. And he gets scared along the way. He bends the law to meet his needs, even bending the truth at times. But his actions get him into some potentially hot water. If a hunch fails, he’s on the outs with the cops and the bad guys. This vulnerability made Lam instantly more real to me and, frankly, more relatable. He’s a bit like John Blake, the lead character in the two Richard Aleas (pen name of one Charles Ardai) books published by Hard Case Crime, Little Girl Lost and Songs of Innocence. They get by with brains, not brawn. I love my tough guy PIs, but Donald Lam is a nice change of pace.

What surprised me was Bertha’s absence from this story. She was in chapter one and the last chapter. I expected more. Again, maybe she’s featured in other books. A nice note I learned about the series, which started in 1939, is that Lam goes off to fight in World War II and returns after the V-J Day. That’s very cool to me: having a fictional lead character actually leave the stage for a few books.

What I Learned As A Writer: The puzzle and the summation. Like I mentioned in my review for The Case of the Velvet Claws, Gardner is a master at creating a puzzle. It’s intricate and Gardner’s lawyerly mind really shines at the end when Lam lays out the final solution. As with the Perry Mason book, I re-read chapter one after I finished the book. It really is all there. Fantastic.

And it’s in these ‘summation’ scenes where a certain style of Gardner’s prose comes out. He lets Lam basically just stand there and talk. There were sections of sometimes half a page with Lam just talking. There were paragraph breaks but no extra prose, no “he said” or “he smoked a cigarette,” or “he walked across the room.” Nothing but dialogue. In my own writing, I’ve been so accustomed to putting in these little elements that some of the force of the dialogue is lost. Gardner’s way is much more direct. And there’s certainly some merit to it. I don’t know if that kind of prose will fly nowadays but I’ll certainly try it.

Speaking of trying things, I’ll be avidly searching for the other Cool and Lam books out there. I flat out loved this book. I’ve already started my search. It turns out I didn’t have to look far. In a big box of books—mostly westerns—I inherited from my grandfather, I found a couple of Cool and Lam books. Thanks, Grandpa. Guess he liked them, too.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Onion Street

By Russel D McLean

Russel is currently down with man-flu and drinking horrific amounts of hot fluids. He did have a post planned for this week but its in no fit shape yet. However, he'd like to share a recent review he did for Crime Scene Scotland with you. The review is for Onion Street by Reed Farrel Coleman, which will be released on 18 May from Tyrus books and is the penultimate in Coleman's Moe Prager series. If you haven't read the Prager books, Russel recommends you start right now.

have always said that I prefer series fiction to have a natural ending, that I’m not a fan of those series novels that play out indefinitely with no end in sight, except that brought by a decline in sales or the author’s interest slowly fading.

But the idea that Onion Street is the second last book to feature Reed Farrel Coleman’s incredible creation, Mo Prager, makes me feel somewhat sad.

The end was always coming, of course. Ever since we learned that Mo is ill, that his own body is working against him like a ticking time bomb, its been inevitable that an end is in sight.

So it feels only right that the second to last Prager novel should come almost as a breather, a chance for us to catch our breath. In essence, Onion Street seems like an extended flashback; giving us a glimpse of Mo Prager in the days before he joined the police force, in the days where he was still figuring who he was and what kind of man he wanted to be.

This is very much in keeping with the general them of the series. The past and the present have always been intertwined, not just for Mo but for those around him. When he worked as a part time PI, Prager often found that events from the past had often inevitable effects upon the present.

And so Prager, finds himself at the funeral of an old friend. Death is on his mind, of course. It has been since his diagnosis.

Dead or not, gone is gone. It’s what happens to friends: they fall away. Time erodes them into fi ne grains of powder carried by the wind to alien places to teach or to start up a business or to settle down or to just run away. Me, I’d never strayed too far from Coney Island, but I suppose we all had to kill time somewhere before, in the end, time killed us. In the scheme of things, it didn’t much matter where that time was spent.

The funeral – and the thought of friends gone – sparks old memories in Mo, and we are pulled back into the past along with him, to a world where Mo couldn’t conceive of the pain that is to come in his life, of the things he might achieve or the challenges that would await him.

By going back to this pre-formed Mo, we gain a deeper sense of who he is. Often, flashback origin novels can feel hokey or unnatural; events are often given a false sense of foreshadowing or the narrative winds up winking to the reader but, hey, you know this. Luckily for all, Coleman’s too smart a writer to try these kind of tricks, and what he does is tell a story that feels so utterly of its time and place that it is not so much the events but the themes of those events that carry into Mo’s later life.

Personal responsibility.



These are what define Mo to one degree or another, and here we see the first time that he starts to question all these qualities of life, the first time that he is forced to make truly terrible decisions that will wind up affecting not just himself, but everyone around him.

The novel proper begins in 1967. Moe’s in college, still trying to find who he is. There are radical groups on campus, and when one of Moe’s friends seems too close to some of their more dangerous activities, Moe is spurred into action to protect his friends and his current girlfriend, whose behaviour is, from Moe’s point of view at least, become stranger and more erratic as she moves deeper into other circles.

The sense of time and place in the novel is, as one would expect, utterly convincing. Coleman seems incapable of writing a dull sentence, and here he manages to balance the naivety of the young Moe Prager with the more worldly narration of his older self. There’s a sense here of a dual narrative, of the older Moe trying to connect with his younger self, to rediscover and understand who he – and by extension his old friend Bobby – was.

But among all that, the plot rockets forward with a compelling pace. Coleman lays out a number of disparate threads, only to masterfully pull them together as the novel heads for its retrospectively inevitable climax. The action scenes are handled well, but more than that Coleman never loses sight of the fact that character is the heart of the Prager novels. His mysteries are those of motivation and the unknown burdens that can make someone act in a way we might not understand at face value.

Onion Street serves as a reminder of who Moe is, and what it is that he stands for. It lets us breathe before the inevitable, serving as a way to better understand the man whose life we have found ourselves a part of for eight previous novels. But more than that, it is a brilliant 60’s set thriller that makes the politics of the era personal, that shows the lengths people are willing to go to for what they believe in, that shows us people at their worst and more importantly at their best. The Prager novels are not noir in the most cynical sense. They are philosophical crime novels, explorations of people and motivations. They allow us to get a real sense of the complexities of moral choices. And more than that, they are beautifully written.

I don’t want to say goodbye to Moe.

But Onion Street convinces me that Coleman will find the right way for us to say goodbye.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Art Envy And Validation.

By Jay Stringer

There's a phrase I've long hated in comic books. "Graphic Novel." I feel like throwing up a little each time I hear it.

I'm sure I will have made this argument at some point before in the (almost) four years of DOING SOME DAMAGE. (It would have been somewhere around April or May 2009 when Weddle said "I have this idea...") This isn't a post focusing on comics, but I'll make my point again to carry it through into an another argument.

Comic books are comic books. Some of them are amazing works of art, and some of them are terrible. What the best ones do, at their absolute purest and finest, are to show what the medium can be. They show the best of the format. But somewhere along the way, the industry decided that it was not taken seriously enough, and coined a phrase to compare itself to another medium. They'll stop laughing at us, they thought, if we come up with a wanky name that makes us sound like novelists. The correct response would have been to point out that, no, thankyou, we're comic books, and at our best we are amazing, and critics can like that or ignore it. People of DSD, I put it to you that Watchmen -one of the greatest works of storytelling of the 20th century- was a comic book. And it was supreme at being a comic book. It was designed specifically to be one, and told a story that really only works in that format.

I used to say that we don't see other formats doing it. That we don't see cinema call it's best products "filmed stage-plays" and the music industry doesn't call an album "Blind television."

Recently I realised that's wrong. We do it for everything. We've all had the conversation in which a certain TV show has been praised as being "more like a novel than television." The script for a movie tends to be called a screenplay.

It seems like the only way we feel we can validate something as having artistic merit is to compare it either to a novel, a play or poetry. Like, something is only important if it's written in the format that was used by Shakespeare, Dickens or Poe.

I overheard this conversation recently;

-"And then he said to me, Dylan wasn't a poet, and I was, I was all 'what?'"
-"He was the best poet of the 20th century. Every word."

It's in the same vein as people who feel the need to say that Bill Hicks was more than a stand up comedian, he was a preacher, a troubadour, he made great coffee. 

I call shenanigans on this whole bloody thing.

We need to start loving our art forms by holding them up for what they are, and start praising the best artists for what they achieve, not for how we perceive their work to still be ever-so-slightly inferior to the generic format of another  medium.

Bob Dylan is not a poet (ignoring for a moment that he is and that he has published poems.) What his songwriting does, in it's best moments, is to show the magic that can be achieved with songwriting. We don't need to think that the moment someone shows brilliance in songwriting they instantly morph into something else. No. He's a song writer, and he's a fucking amazing one at that. 

Bill Hicks was not a preacher. Not a troubadour. He was one of the best examples of a stand-up comedian. He was one of the people to raise the bar of that art form. Don't sully that by comparing it to something else.

Each time we do that, we cheapen the thing we claim to love. We're saying the best of comics can only aspire to being seen as novel. We're saying the best song writers can only aspire to being compare to every poet. That all stand-up comics can hope for, at their best, is to be seen as spreading religious dogma or travelling medieval Europe singing songs and limericks. 

Each great piece of art, and each great artist, has found a way to exist in that format that is better than most of everything else in the field. We should laud and celebrate them for that, and on those terms. 

To quote our man Chandler, "There is only art, and precious little of that."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hilary Davidson: The EVIL Interview

By Steve Weddle

First, consider looking into some Red Cross First Aid training.


Pleased to bring back one of our most frequent guests, Hilary Davidson, who has the world's largest Pinterest page.

Hilary's been here a number of times, including the MacGyver post, the NoirCon post and the Series Characters post. Plus, of course, 39 other times.

This week, she stops by to talk about her new Lily Moore novel, EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES.

"Davidson knows how to write a galloping page-turner, 
and the plot twists are plentiful."—Quill & Quire

In this third Lily Moore book, the setting is a hotel in Acapulco, where guests check out, but can never leave, as the song says.

We first met Lily in THE DAMAGE DONE and saw her later in THE NEXT ONE TO FALL. Now she's back.

DSD: This series is known for the exotic locales, the fashion, and the movie-buff fun. What are the blessings and curses that come along with this? Do you find yourself reaching readers who might not otherwise pick up detective fiction?

Hilary Davidson: The exotic locations have certainly lured in a lot of people who claim they don’t normally read mysteries, and the Peruvian tourism board has bought boxes of my second book, The Next One to Fall, to give away at trade shows. I was worried they’d hate me for killing a tourist at Machu Picchu, but it turned out they didn’t really mind. (I don’t think the Mexican tourism board will take to Evil in All Its Disguises the same way, though. There’s too much real-life Acapulco crime that ended up in that book.) My love of old movies and vintage clothes is something I got from my grandmother, so it thrills me when readers connect with that. The downside has been that a few people think exotic locales + fashion + old movies = cozy, old-fashioned mysteries. The books are tough to pigeonhole, but they tend to be dark, so I’ve heard from a few disgruntled cozy fans.

DSD: How have the characters changed, especially Lily?

Hilary DavidsonLily Moore has been evolving through the three books, and she’s become a tougher, resilient character. Before The Damage Done, she tended to run away from her family and relationship problems, rather than confront them. But her life changed dramatically in the course of that book, and that forced her to change. In The Next One to Fall, she was dealing with grief and struggling to pick up the pieces of her world after everything fell apart. In Evil in All Its Disguises, she’s recovered from some of those wounds, but she has a lot of baggage from the past that she’s dragging around with her, and she starts to understand that unless she confronts it, she’ll always be chained to it.

DSD: How difficult is it writing an amateur sleuth? Don’t you sometimes wish Lily could get a search warrant?

Hilary Davidson: Definitely! That was one of the great things about writing Evil in All Its Disguises. On the one hand, Lily is trapped at an Acapulco hotel that has armed guards who won’t let anyone leave the grounds. But being trapped means all bets are off inside the hotel, so Lily isn’t worried that they’re going to call the cops on her for breaking into someone’s room. Lily’s got a “bad girl” side, and that really came out in the latest book.

DSD: Are book tours necessary in the age of Twitter and Facebook?

Hilary Davidson: I love Twitter, but I don’t think it can replace a book tour. It’s wonderful for meeting people and getting into interesting, sometimes crazy, conversations. I treat it like my virtual watercooler because I work in a corner of my living room, and I have no coworkers unless you count the incredibly squawky blue jays in the courtyard behind my building. But would be a mistake to think that most of the people who follow me on Twitter are into my work. Some people are just there for recommendations of gluten-free restaurants or for the llama photos, which is fine with me. A lot of people are on Twitter just to promote their own work, and they don’t care what I’m doing — they’re only following me in the hope that I’ll follow them back so they can sell me their stuff.
I’m a big believer in book tours, even though I know a lot of writers who disagree with me on this front. I don’t believe touring is for everyone. For starters, are you the kind of person who will turn into a resentful rageball if you see there are only five people in the audience? Don’t go on tour. Touring gives you the chance to hang out with booksellers and librarians, and to meet up with bloggers and other authors. Generally speaking, local media won’t cover your book unless you’re visiting the area on tour. I think there are a lot of ways to connect with readers — Alafair Burke’s video chats come to mind as an excellent idea I want to steal next time around — but there’s nothing better than meeting in person.

DSD: What’s the biggest mistake you made as a debut author? Or what’s one thing you’d change if you could “debut” all over again?

Hilary Davidson: I would take all of the ARCs I sent to media outlets and give them to booksellers and librarians instead. Because I’d worked in magazines for years, I was obsessed with media coverage, and I didn’t realize how much more important it is to get your book into the hands of book pushers.

DSD: Publishers Weekly mentioned the “Poe-like” creepiness in EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES. Where’s the Poe in this one? Is there someone buried in one of the hotel rooms?

Hilary Davidson: Well, actually… no, wait, I shouldn’t be all spoilery. But there’s always some Poe in my books. In Evil, a lot of it is tied up in the Hotel Cerón itself. When I started writing it, “The Fall of the House of Usher” was on my mind, and I pictured the hotel crumbling from within, and its rottenness being a metaphor for the people running it. But as I got into writing the book, I realized that the story was really about revenge, and that almost every character wants vengeance on some level. That includes Lily, even though she denies it to herself. Revenge brought me back to another story by Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado,” and it worked its way into the book. Mind you, when that reviewer made the comparison to Poe, they might have just had the subterranean passageway filled with rats in mind. Or maybe the snakes? It’s hard to say.

DSD: Some readers have seemed torn whether to classify this newest Lily novel as a cozy because it has some stronger elements than the previous books. Is this a fair reading of the book? Does it matter?

Hilary DavidsonBookPeople’s Scott Montgomery has told me how hard my books are to categorize. From a marketing point of view, this is a bad thing, because it’s easier to sell a book you can put into an easy-to-recognize category. A lot of people who read the phrase “amateur female sleuth” expect a book to be cozy. I don’t really mind how the books are categorized, unless readers feel cheated or disappointed. I know a few cozy readers hated the dark ending of The Damage Done, and others who were disturbed by Lily’s suicidal thoughts in The Next One to Fall. I don’t have a sense yet about what they think of Evil. It’s by far the most romantic of the books, in spite of the rats and snakes and the creepy Poe-like atmosphere. Honest! (Hey, come back, cozy readers! Why are you running away???)

DSD: What's the one genre novel you'd love to write but probably won't?

Hilary Davidson: I’d love to write science fiction. One of my all-time favorite authors is Harlan Ellison, and I think I learned how to write a short story by reading his. I don’t really see it happening in the near future… but you never know.


And now for a little something for you. Caption this photo of Dan O'Shea and Hilary Davidson. The best caption wins a copy of EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES. Post your captions -- and your whatevers -- in the comments. No wagering.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

42 - eh

by John McFetridge

A new biopic about Jackie Robinson breaking the major leagues’ colour-line in 1947 opened last week and, as with Argo, there has been a lot of talk here about how the Canadian aspects of the story have been minimized.
Maybe they have been, maybe we Canadians overstate the effect of Montreal on Robinson’s 1946 season with the Royals, I’m not sure, but I am sure that we should stop whining about the way Hollywood cuts us out of their stories and start telling our own better.
There was a TV movie about the events in Argo made by Canadians that aired in 1981 called Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper, but I don't remember there being much 'caper' in it. It was certainly a serviceable, straightforward movie. Maybe it stuck too closely to the real story. In its review, Variety said:
 "... a detailed logistical account of the rescue may have been avoided because those events were in fact fairly mundane.
They resulted in an unsatisfying climax — the Americans simply answered a few questions at the airport and boarded their plane out of Iran.

Ordinariness of the conclusion was compounded by a series of quick cuts from scene to scene that robbed viewers of a well-defined struggle to the goal of freedom, and gave them only a few suspenseful snatches of that journey. ..."

Well, that does sound pretty Canadian, doesn't it.

When it comes to Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball, though, it would be tough to give Robsinon's year with the Royals, "an unsatisfying climax." They won the Junior World Series in six games, three straight at home, against the Louisville Colonels. After winning the first game in Louisville the Royals lost the next two 3-0 and 15-6 and limped back to Montreal as underdogs. The comeback victory topped a season in which Robinson faced death threats, constant taunts, stayed at different hotels than the rest of the team, ate in different restaurants (or hotel kitchens) and... well, you know the drill. I haven't seen 42 but I imagine all that's in there when Robinson joins the Brooklyn Dodgers the next year.

But I still say if Canadians are unhappy that the support Robinson was given by the people of Montreal isn't in the movie, they should blame Canadian producers for not making their own movie.

I spent most of the 1990s trying to sell a script I wrote about Robinson's year with the Royals and never got any interest from Canadian producers. Of course, my script may have been terrible. Still, the real events in Montreal in 1946 should have been enough to at least get a nibble and then maybe a better writer to do a better draft - happens all the time in Hollywood. I finally managed to sell the story as a 60-minute CBC radio drama which I co-wrote with Michel Basilières.

In the meantime, I used Robinson and the Royals as a plot point in a short story I wrote a few years ago that was published online in Demolition Magazine. It’s called Barbotte and it's available for free here.

And one last thing. I’m very excited about the Spinetingler nomination for my novel, Tumblin’ Dice, a real surprise to me, so the publisher, ECW, has lowered the price of the ebook to $1.99 for April. The book got some good reviews when it was published but disappeared pretty quickly. And I noticed when I checked to see that the sale price was in effect that it has also received some very bad reviews, so be warned, it’s not for everybody. Another good reason for the free samples of ebooks.