Sunday, May 26, 2019

Review: Elementary

The seventh and final season of Elementary is here, and it’s about time. The first of the thirteen episodes premiered Thursday night and made the move I expected—from New York City to London. I’m fine with that as long as I get my Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.
I was skeptical when the show began in 2012. Did the world really need another Sherlock Holmes adaptation? Perfection had already been reached with the Benedict Cumberbatch-led Sherlock, also set in the modern day. I grudgingly watched the first episode in 2012. It scored points for shaking things up—moving the setting to New York City, making Dr. Watson a woman. Interesting, but not enough to hook me. But then . . . then came Jonny Lee Miller. Visions of his seminal performance in Trainspotting flashed through my head; they were quickly doused by his complete transformation into Holmes. He took the characteristics—the brusqueness, the condescension, the indifference to social norms, the brilliance—and made them his own. The interplay of these traits with other characters guarantee that, at least once an show, I’ll laugh out loud. That’s a tricky thing to pull off in a drama, and Miller does it every episode.
Lucy Liu as Joan Watson and Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock.
Miller and show creator Robert Doherty also did something that other adaptations either ignore or gloss over. They confronted Sherlock’s drug addiction head-on. Arthur Conan Doyle showed the detective using cocaine throughout his short stories; Elementary took that and turned it into a full-blown, life-devastating disease that Holmes has continued to battle every season so far. It adds a layer to the series that I think makes it, despite its American setting and female Watson, the most realistic of the many Sherlock interpretations.
The show also has fun with the canon—Holmes’s love, the mysterious Irene Adler, appears, as does his brother Mycroft, newly slim and a successful restauranteur. And it includes, in a wonderfully surprising way I won’t spoil here, the ubervillain Moriarty.  
These characters drive recurring storylines that have been the most enjoyable parts of the series. The cases-of-the-week, on the other hand, can sometimes be too neat and tidy and hastily resolved. Thursday’s season seven premiere was one of those. The resolution was a little too pat. I’m hoping the episode is just getting viewers set up for continuations of some of those overarching storylines. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll see the great John Noble as Sherlock’s immoral businessman father again. I’d also love to see their twist on Doyle’s Inspector Lestrade, now that they’re in London.
John Noble as father Morland Holmes.
Elementary airs Thursday nights on CBS. Previous seasons are available on Hulu.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 21

Scott D. Parker

Boy are there a ton of anniversaries this week.

Thursday alone saw the 24th anniversary of Chicago's Night and Day album, the 35th anniversary of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and the 40th anniversary of KISS's Dynasty album. I reviewed the KISS album, but wanted to re-watch Temple of Doom before I review it. That post will be coming next week.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade's 30th anniversary was yesterday. Same thing: want to re-watch it and review it. This movie kicks of the Summer of 1989 at 30 series that'll run throughout the summer as I re-watch and revisit the incredible films of 1989.

Today is forty years since Alien was released.

Lots of fun to experience these things again and, in some cases, share them with the family for the first time.

Podcast of the Week

Same one: Blockbuster. The last of the six episodes dropped on Tuesday and it is incredible. I updated the review I wrote when I first heard twice, once to include Episode 5 and again for Episode 6. It is one of my favorite things of 2019. I listened to the last episode on Tuesday morning on the way to work and prompted donated money when I got there. Give it a listen and see what you think.

Later, when I tweeted how much I loved it, the folks a Blockbuster picked it up and included none other than Mark Hamill. That moment of thrill I experienced when I thought Hamill might actually read something I wrote was fantastic. He liked my separate tweet about it.

Made my day.

TV Show of the Week

Elementary returned for its last 13-episode season. I have loved this show from day one. If we can agree that Jeremy Brett is the epitome of the traditional Sherlock Holmes, then Johnny Lee Miller's Holmes is my favorite non-traditional version. He has been allowed to have Sherlock grow over these past seven years. That's made all the difference. I will sincerely miss this show when it goes for its final bow. (see what I did there?)

The Summer Writing Session Starts

Monday marks the opening of Summer 2019. Labor Day is 97 days later. This is perhaps my favorite writing time because of the clear bookends.

What are you going to write this summer?

I have to finish the proofing and editing for the fourth Calvin Carter story, Brides of Death, but I aim to try something new. Something different. I don't know what it is yet, but I intend to have fun writing.

Memorial Day

Lest we forget, here in the United States, Monday is Memorial Day, and it is dedicated to all the soldiers over our history who have given their last full measure of devotion to our country. They will forever have our gratitude.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The raisins pod, in case you missed it

Welcome to Season 2 of the "7 Minutes With" podcast, brought to you by, with your host Steve Weddle.

This is episode 4 of the second season.


Apple Podcasts:

As always, Jedidiah Ayres talks about film, while Chris F. Holm suggests some music, and Holly West discusses TV.

Chris F. Holm:
Holly West:
Jedidiah Ayres:

Jedidiah Ayres->
The Bouncer/Lukas
The Crew

Holly West->
State of the Union
Dead to Me
Cook this:…ives-and-raisins/

Chris F. Holm->
Fig Dish
Stiff Little Fingers
that zombies story:…gest-con-in-rock
Music from
"District Four" by Kevin MacLeod (
Licence: CC BY (


Apple Podcasts:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Books That Made Me - Part 1

Jupiter, Pete & Bob. My best friends in childhood.

I had an exchange of views on Twitter last week. No, not one of those I-can-scream-louder-than-you, or My-outrage-is-better-than-your-outrage exchanges so popular on that Hellsite. This one was about a particular series of books and why they -The Three Investigator Novels – were the most successful gateway drug in history. And finding out I was not alone in my love for these books, or in  my firm belief that they made me a better person and helped create the writer I am today made me very happy.
And since I figure there aint enough happy or simple joy in the world these days, please forgive me a thousand words or so of complete Stanning...

I was a quiet kid, with an obsession for books of all kinds.
I loved the anthropomorphic cats and bears in Richard Scarry’s works, read the Famous Five books, enjoyed The Hard Boys and Nancy Drew, and then something amazing happened:
My Dad bought me one of the Three Investigators books. It was The Mystery of The Laughing Shadow (Book 12 in the series).
My dad and I loved Alfred Hitchcock movies, and the books – in an early approach to celebrity endorsement / branding – were introduced by the Auteur, who often featured as a character in them. By the time I was introduced to Jupiter Pete and Bob, the series had already been running for 13 years, having commenced in 1964 when Robert Arthur – who had previously edited several short story collections attributed to Alfred Hitchcock – sold the idea of a series of teenage mysteries to Random House.
Over time, other writers had contributed to the series, principally William Arden (who wrote The Laughing Shadow amongst others), Nick West, and Mary Virginia (MV) Carey, who wrote many of my personal favourites.
The head investigator, Jupiter Jones, lived with his Aunt and Uncle in a vast salvage yard, and had built – amongst the scrap and salvage – an operations centre with hidden entrances; a true boy’s den. The boys, too young to drive, were driven around – thanks to a competition win – in a chauffeur driven limo, while the animosity between the boys and their sworn enemy, the perma-cocky Skinny Norris, whose bullying attempts to spoil their plans felt, so often, like a replay of my daily life, resonated with me.
But unlike my life, the boys got to hang out with Alfred Hitchcock; they seemed, permanently, to be on some extended school vacation; and they lived in Southern California.
Many of the normal mundanities of life – school, homework, the general depressions of a childhood in 1980s Dublin – could simply cease to exist for as long as my nose was buried in a Three Investigator book.
I stopped buying them in 1986 when I moved to London and began working. I guess I figured I was grown up now, and it was time, as they say “To put aside childish things.”
But some years later, on a visit back to Dublin, I packed my entire collection into a suitcase and brought them back to London with me, their presence in my flat symbolising the fact that I had settled, that where I was – now that The Three Investigators were there with me – was finally home.
The investigators are lead by Jupiter Jones, a chubby, smart mouthed intelligent kid, who is a former child actor named "Baby Fatso” (although he hates it when people mention this). Jupiter is a prolific reader, often rubs his peers up the wrong way and is driven by his own morality and belief in the power of logic and creative thinking (So: not much psychology required there to figure out why I fell for this series).
Jupiter was joined by Pete Crenshaw, the athletic leg of the trio, more likely to be the one who tackled the escaping criminal to the ground, though Pete was never drawn as being pure brawn without brains; he was as capable of challenging assumptions and of suggesting possible motives or viewpoints as the lead investigator.
Bob Andrews made up the trio. The researcher, who – in pre-Google days – would scour newspaper morgues, school libraries, and interview witnesses face to face, produced, often, the killer clue that Jupiter and Pete would then extrapolate into a solution to the mystery. Bob did all of this, in the early books, while wearing a leg brace to heal multiple leg fractures, thus – in late 60s / early 70s fiction – presenting a differently abled person as a positive independent and equal contributor to the endeavour, and doing so in a way which never felt shoehorned in.
In fact, the boys also faced off against menaces which, whilst entirely present in much of today’s YA market, were definitely unique at the time.
I can barely imagine any of Enid Blyton’s detective gangs facing down someone trying to swindle a Mexican family out of their ranch purely because of their race, let alone the Secret Seven dealing with obsession or the supernatural (Whispering Mummy), and in “The mystery of The Magic Circle,” Carey dealt with the sad isolation of faded Hollywood Fame in the same stark fashion as ‘Sunset Boulevard.’
The books were written by the various authors in a style that could be described as Pulp-Lite. The story started almost on the first page (if not the first line), the writing was snappy and direct. There were outlandish titles (“The Secret of Skeleton Island,” “The Mystery of The Moaning Cave,” “The Mystery of The Headless Horse” to name a few) designed to pull the readers in, and reveals that – at the end of the book – made absolutely perfect sense in light of what had been planted through the plot up to that point.
Chapters ended, mostly, on cliffhangers, and the danger was real. In “The Magic Circle,” for example, Bob is bashed on the head, knocked unconscious, dumped in the trunk of a car in the middle of a scrap yard in Southern California, and left to die of heat stroke. Beat that, Hardy Boys.
And now I write books. Mystery books. Books peopled with characters who run the gamut from loveable to quirky to monstrous, and who are all (or mostly) comfortable in their own skins.
I owe Robert Arthur and MV Carey particularly a great debt, and one I hadn’t fully realised until recently.
The books have been somewhat bogged down in legal wrangles in recent years, but I still firmly believe they have a place in the pantheon of great often overlooked crime writing and can’t imagine my life – as a kid, as an adult, or as a writer of crime fiction that entertains and celebrates life in all it’s difference – without The Three Investigators.
So: What are the books that made you? Which childhood favourite has stayed with you til today, and which parent, relative, librarian teacher turned you on to the sheer joy of a brilliant story well told? I'd love to know.

A small selection of my most treasured posessions.

(Portions of this post originally appeared on the blog

Tuesday, May 21, 2019





The world of crime fiction has always been a place for the outsider. It's a palace where the halls are haunted by the benighted. Hitmen, grifters, rumrunners, dealers , women and men of the night are all welcome denizens of the shadowy streets where noir,hard-boiled and cozy mysteries intersect. However even among the outsiders there are characters and plots that exist in that hallucinogenic undiscovered country that exist on the fringes of the fringe. These characters are brought to life by authors who push against the stifling constraints of genre and the staid rules of narrative. Whether you call it bizzaro or transgressive or grand guignol it's crime fiction at it's most raw and experimental. It's the type of writing that dares you to expand your mind and reevaluate what the definition of crime fiction really is. I'd like to take a moment and introduce you to three writers who are among some of the most talented guides to the outer limits of noir 


Will Viharo is a man who is as much a character as the people in his books. His life story could be it's own noir tale. A former resident of that modern Babylon Los Angeles Will now resides in Seattle where he spends his days as a dog walker and his nights as a bon vivant hep cat cocktail drinking raconteur. In his spare time he writes. Will's books are a deconstruction of the noir archetypes and motifs while at the same time a reimagining of a specific time and place in American pop culture that isn't so much an alternative history as it is an alternative reality. In his work Yakuza assassins might fight demons, beautiful femme fatales are living statues and the world weary private eye is losing his mind one martini at a time … or is he? The truth is what you fake it in Viharo's world and the line between dreams , nightmares and the mundane is as frayed as your favorite lounge lizard's tie. Viharo is a talented wordsmith who takes his readers on a Lynchian tour of his own fevered psyche. In the hands of a lesser writer the end result might unravel under the weight of it's own surreal logic but Viharo has a knack for the moribund and the maniacal that keeps his stories afloat long after reason has been abandoned like your inhibitions at a party in the Hollywood Hills. Check out "Vic Valentine Lounge Lizard for Hire " to get a taste of the wild world of Will " The Thrill" Viharo. Bring a strong stomach and an open mind. 


Jessica McHugh is an energetic emotionally honest writer with a masterful command of language and pacing. 
She also has a sick and twisted imagination that would make William S. Burroughs blush. Her writing is an exploration of the darkest corners of the everyday experience. Her characters are people living in a world where morality is pliable and every sensation is a visceral journey to the edges of sensory perceptions. Her novels runt he gamut from experimental fantasy to splatterpunk horror to nihilistic noir fiction. Her style is fearless and uncompromising. She can't look away from what her characters are doing to themselves and each other and she won't allow you to look away either. To read one of her books is to bear witness to the not so shocking depths of depravity that human beings are capable of and sometimes revel in. It's like reading Hubert Selby if he woke up in Baltimore and listened to musicals. Raw and raucous her stories are not for the faint of heart but for those that are brave enough you will come out the other side with your brain seared by her commitment to the truth , as her characters see it. Pick up her novel "Rabbits In the Garden " for an introduction to this amazing author.


The term renaissance artist is bandied about with as much care as a carafe of wine at a Russian wedding reception but when it comes to Ed Kurtz the title is warranted. An author, a narrator an audiophile Kurtz is a writer who excels in any genre he chooses to put his considerable focus on. 
"Horror and crime are kissing cousins." is something I've heard Mr. Kurtz say on more than one occasion and he has proved the veracity of that adage time and a time again in his writing. Combining the world weary , biting down on tinfoil whiskey soaked milieu of the crime novel with the stomach churning , nerve wracking body horror of a supernatural tale Kurtz has carved a unique niche for himself in the writing community. Fast paced snappy dialogue and existential dread run throughout his work hand in hand taking readers on a nightmarish trip through the mean streets and the graveyards. His book Nausea read like the Friends of Eddie Coyle directed by David Cronenberg. Kurtz is a master of his own subgenre. Horrific Noir. Pick up "Nausea" for a taste of the macabre and the maddening.. You won't be disappointed. 

This is just a sampling of the talented and unique authors who are kicking down the walls of conventional crime fiction. These and many other writers are not pushing the envelope . They are shredding it to bits and using it as confetti. These kinds of novels aren't for everyone but if you are a reader who yearns for something truly different …
Free your mind.....and pick up one of these books today.