Saturday, April 11, 2020

Year 5 of an Indie Writer: Week 15 AKA Dublin Murders, John Prine, The Rockford Files, and Apollo 13

Scott D. Parker

I'm willing to bet my week went something close to yours. I spent every workday in my writing room doing the day job. I watched some news, but only about an hour a day. I watched a few TV shows. I spent lots of time with the family. And that was about it.


I thought so.

Without much variety and few exterior stimulation, there's not a lot of change day to day. Now don't get me wrong: I am not bored. I do not have cabin fever. I am content to do what I can to flatten the curve. And, as I'm not a medical professional or a grocery store employee, that means staying home. I'm doing my part, as are so many of us. Frankly, it's inspiring to see everyday folks doing what they can to combat this virus. It should be a moment of pride for all of us.

Give yourself a round of applause. But I also have some crime fiction-related material.

Dublin Murders

My wife read all the books by Tana French and loved them. When she heard a television series was being made, she got very excited. When she learned said series was going to be on STARZ, she sighed. We subscribe to a few streaming services, and she was willing to wait to see Dublin Murders at some future date.

Well, STARZ came through. The network offered it's content for free for about a week, and we eagerly jumped on the eight-episode series which combines the first two French novels: INTO THE WOODS and THE LIKENESS.

Taking place in 2006, Rob Riley (Killian Scott) and Cassie Maddox (Sarah Greene) pick up a case about a murdered teenaged girl. They don't want another child murder case but Rob's driven to solve this one. Turns out, the dead girl was found in the same set of woods a notorious 1985 crime also occurred. The 1985 case involved three younger teenagers who went into the forest but only one came out. This story line corresponds

Rob was that boy, but he's hidden his identity. Now, as the lead detective in 2006, he strives to find the 2006 killer at the same time as he digs into the events of 1985, most of which he can't remember.

Cassie has her own issues stemming from the deaths of her parents when she was a child. Her own demons haunt her, and play directly into the B Mystery, which is the subject of THE LIKENESS. This one involves her going undercover to find who killed a young lady...who looks just like Cassie.

Okay, so the A Mystery plot is pretty good and I found it quite compelling. I enjoyed the camaraderie between Rob and Cassie...until they both started acted in a manner that seemed unlike themselves. And it really put me off. The B Mystery plot I almost didn't care for. The deeper into the B Mystery we got, the more irritated I became. I would've preferred just doing INTO THE WOODS.

And then there was the ending...

Have you seen Dublin Murders? What did you think of it.

John Prine

Up until the singer/songwriter got sick with Coronavirus, I wouldn't have been able to pick him out of a lineup. I don't think I've ever consciously listened to any of Prine's songs.

Unfortunately, Prine died from Covid 19 this week. And then I started reading the remembrances from all over, including Jason Isbell's piece in the New York Times and that of James Taylor. Seth Godin listed lots of song lyrics on his blog, and that got me to YouTube. I started listening to Prince's songs. I listened and then I kept listening. My wife, who knows Prine and his music, had me listen to multiple versions of "Angel from Montgomery."

I loved everything I heard, and he had a great way with lyrics and spinning his tales. I'll be listening to more of his music in the weeks ahead.

Do you have a favorite Prine song?

The Rockford Files

Yesterday, I had a day off and, after lunch and my daily games of backgammon and Yahtzee with the wife, I pulled out my DVD set of the first season of The Rockford Files. I watched the first two episodes, and boy did I enjoy them. The clothes. The cars. The rumpled coolness of James Garner. The big heart. That theme song.

What I really liked and appreciated is how Rockford would think his way out of every situation. He reminded me of Donald Lam from the Erle Stanley Gardner Cool and Lam novels. And the humor was at times subtle and obvious. Really enjoyed both episodes.

I have memories of the show being on back in my childhood, but I don't remember ever sitting down and watching the show. I was probably too young for it. Cut to my adulthood and I never sought out the show. Now that I have the complete first season, I'll be watching it...and then finding future seasons.

Apollo 13 at 50

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 13's launch. Monday marks the anniversary of the accident in space while next Friday is the date of splashdown. If you haven't done it in awhile, you should check out the movie. If not, there will be likely be articles published.

Take a moment and remember what the expertise of all those involved fifty years ago did to get those astronauts back home safe. Remarkable.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Beau Looks at Gretchen

This week, Beau Johnson looks at GRETCHEN, a thriller from Shannon Kirk.

Ever since Lucy was two, she’s been on the run alongside her mother. She’s never understood the reason for a lifetime of paranoia, aliases, and lies. All she understands are the rules: never lock eyes with strangers, never let down your guard, and always be ready to move on.
Finally, after thirteen years and eleven states, their next hideaway seems perfect. An isolated, fortress-like place in the New Hampshire woods is the new home they share with its owner, a gentlemanly pianist, and his lonely daughter, Gretchen. She’s Lucy’s age and soon becomes Lucy’s first real friend.
But Gretchen and her father have secrets of their own—and an obsession with puzzles that draws Lucy into a terrifying new game of hide-and-seek. Lucy’s dark past is about to come calling. And this time, for her and her mother in the house on the hill, it might be too late to run.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

One Shocking Moment

A month ago, I talked about The Dark Brink of Love, the noir volume of BYNWR, the website devoted to little known and eccentric films given loving restoration. Filmmaker Nicholas Winding Refn started the site, and the three chapters of the noir volume are curated by William Boyle.

Chapter 1, which went live on March 1st, centers around the 1962 film Stark Fear.

Chapter 2 went live on April 1st, and its focus is a restoration of Ted V. Mikels's 1965 nudie cutie noir One Shocking Moment

Here is what is featured:

- A noir testimonial by Laura Lee Bahr from the POV of Lee Anna, who plays Mindy in One Shocking Moment

- William Boyle's essay on the film:

-A profile of legendary stuntman (and co-star of One Shocking Moment) Gary Kent by Ace Atkins

-A Radio NWR conversation between Ace Atkins and Gary Kent:…/pyramids-provocations-and-perfect-i…

-Violet LeVoit's visual poem inspired by Maureen Gaffney, who plays Joanie in One Shocking Moment…/the-crucifixion-of-maureen-gaffney

-Theresa Starkey's memoir about Satan, UFOs, Bigfoot, and  Calvary:

-Theresa Starkey reads her piece on Radio NWR:

-William Boyle's essay about tracking down a lost script by dive bar poet Eddie "Cold Hands" Caponetto:

- Laura Lee Bahr's "The Melting Memoir," where her L.A. life gets all tangled up in Lee Anna/Mindy's world. Bahr also made a video collage, "Mindy's Lament" (inspired by Kenneth Anger's "Puce Moment"), to accompany the piece:

-Finally, there's Charlie Beesley's Discarded America:…/charlie-beesleys-discarded-america-…

And Peter Conheim's The Restorationists:…/the-restorationists-one-shocking-mo…

There is plenty to explore here, and what better time to do it than now, when we all have lots of time on our hands.

Ted V. Mikels

Sunday, April 5, 2020

A Little Vicarious Traveling--Murder at The Mena House

My friend Erica Ruth Neubauer’s first novel came out this week. Yep. This week. Her publisher scheduled it months ago. And she did what authors do—she spent even more months organizing events at booksellers, even planning to hit multiple out-of-town stores. And then . . . well, there came a pandemic.
So since readers aren’t getting to see her in person at the moment, I’m doubly delighted to have her here today. Her book, Murder at The Mena House takes place in 1920s Cairo, Egypt, where an American widow is caught up in a murder and a possible deadly attraction at the city’s Mena House Hotel. I can’t wait to start it for the chance to indulge in some armchair traveling.
And here’s Erica Ruth with a few more suggestions about things to do from your armchair. - Claire

These are strange times, friends. I hope that you’re all safe, healthy, and finding ways to stay sane, while also cutting yourself slack for the things you AREN’T getting done. This is a time to be kind to others and also ourselves.
Without further ado, here is a random list of things that are helping me hang on to my sanity during this lockdown.
The Miss Fisher movie.
I am admittedly obsessed with the series (“Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries,” for those of you who haven’t, like me, watched it all the way through four or five times.) I didn’t really show up to the movie for the plot, which I’m hoping is entertaining for those of you new to the thing. I came for the Indiana Jones feel of it, the amazing clothing, and the shot of Inspector Jack Robinson, shirtless in the desert with suspenders.
I’m just speaking my truth here, folks.
(I’ve only watched the movie twice so far, which I think shows a lot of restraint on my part.)
Acorn TV
30-day free trial! Did you know? This is good stuff—I love a good English mystery. Although unfortunately I’ve already seen all of Midsomer Murders (which seems incredible, but it’s true) and Foyle’s War. But there’s a ton of other really good stuff out there, like QUEENS OF MYSTERY which was very quirky and charming.
This might be my third time through the series, but it’s been several years since I’ve watched it, and I forgot how much I love this show. And how much I identify with Liz Lemon—I’ve been known to slice some cheese in my kitchen late at night and actually sing “Working on my night cheese.” I still have a couple seasons left before I start hunting for the next great comedy to binge. (May I also recommend Schitt’s Creek.)
This one is boring, but it’s really helping. I’ve been taking (socially distant) long walks and doing yoga in my living room. The yoga studio that I frequent is doing some classes online and some of my favorite teachers are also doing classes online. It’s not the same as sweating in the same room as other people, but when I put it like that, it’s also less gross.

- The latest installment in Kristen Lepionka’s Roxane Weary PI series. Get in on this. The first in the series is THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK.
- Elizabeth Little’s entirely enjoyable PRETTY AS A PICTURE—a love letter to cinema and awkwardness, Little’s voice is a standout.
- Samantha Downing’s HE STARTED IT. I don’t think this is out yet, but I tore through both it and her first novel, MY LOVELY WIFE. Super twisty thrillers.
- Allison Montclair’s THE RIGHT SORT OF MAN—set after WWII, and utterly charming, with two young women running a marriage bureau and solving murders.
- And I’ve been doing a Margaret Atwood retrospective. I read THE BLIND ASSASSIN years ago and remember loving it, but I’m picking it up again as well as several others I’ve had lying about the house.
Cross Stitch
I like to keep my hands busy while I watch TV, so I’m busting out the cussy cross-stitch. My throw pillows will never be the same.
Well-heeled travelers from around the world flock to the Mena House Hotel—an exotic gem in the heart of Cairo where cocktails flow, adventure dispels the aftershocks of World War I, and deadly dangers wait in the shadows . . .
Egypt, 1926. Fiercely independent American Jane Wunderly has made up her mind: she won’t be swept off her feet on a trip abroad. Despite her Aunt Millie’s best efforts at meddling with her love life, the young widow would rather gaze at the Great Pyramids of Giza than into the eyes of a dashing stranger. Yet Jane’s plans to remain cool and indifferent become ancient history in the company of Mr. Redvers, a roguish banker she can’t quite figure out . . .
While the Mena House has its share of charming guests, Anna Stainton isn’t one of them. The beautiful socialite makes it clear that she won’t share the spotlight with anyone—especially Jane. But Jane soon becomes the center of attention when she’s the one standing over her unintentional rival’s dead body.
Now, with her innocence at stake in a foreign country, Jane must determine who can be trusted, and who had motive to commit a brutal murder. Between Aunt Millie’s unusual new acquaintances, a smarmy playboy with an off-putting smile, and the enigmatic Mr. Redvers, someone has too many secrets. Can Jane excavate the horrible truth before her future falls to ruin in Cairo . . . and the body count rises like the desert heat?
You can find Murder at The Mena House at IndieBound,, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.
Erica Ruth Neubauer spent eleven years in the military, two years as a cop and one year as a high school English teacher before finding her way as a writer. She has reviewed mysteries and crime fiction for several years at publications such as Publisher’s Weekly, the Los Angeles Review of Books and Mystery Scene Magazine and is a member of both Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. When she’s not writing her next novel or curled up with a book, she enjoys traveling, yoga and craft beer. She lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband.