Saturday, August 15, 2020

How Do You Find New Books?


Scott D. Parker

Earlier this week, a friend of mine at church posted an article about the mental benefits of listening to new music. In his post, he asked us how we discover new music.

I answered by saying nearly all of my nearly two dozens albums in 2020 stemmed from two sources: Frontiers Music (keeping melodic rock alive and kicking) and bands featured on the Texas Music Scene TV show. 

When I stumbled on Frontiers Music in 2019, I ended up downloading a sampler CD and listening. That led directly to purchases. It also led me to subscribe to Frontiers’s newsletter. Every week, I get an email talking about the new releases of that week. I also Liked their page on Facebook. Now, whenever I get the weekly email or I scroll to the Frontiers Music Facebook page, I listen. Heck, this week I discovered a band called Pride of Lions and their kick-ass song “Carry Me Back.” I heard the first few bars of this tune and instantly marked the new album as a prerelease. Only later did I learn one of the lead singer (and lead guitarist) is Jim Peterik, a founder of Survivor and…The Ides of March! Yeah, the guy that sings “Vehicle” is still making music. Oh, and how cool is Peter’s guitar!

The Texas Music Scene is a syndicated TV show that comes on Saturdays at midnight, right after SNL. It used to be a casual show. Now it is appointment television. I take notes on the bands and the songs they perform. Then I go out and buy the albums. I’ve got quite a list and I’m slowly working my way through all the new-to-me music. 

But for books, how does it work? How do I find new books?

Well, J. Kingston Pierce’s The Rap Sheet is top dog for me. Somehow, he finds the time to compile not only awesome lists of new books, but he pens fantastic articles about mystery and crime fiction. His Revue of Reviewers is a highlight as is his lists of awards. Plus, he has a knack for zeroing in on those fun old crime TV shows, complete with links. I often find new-to-me stuff there.

Turning my attention to the local scene, I subscribe to the Murder by the Book email list. All during the quarantine, they have continued their author events, only now, they’re online. They debut on Facebook and then show up on their YouTube page. Interviews with J. Todd Scott and Brad Thor have directly led me to book purchases. 

Here’s the link to their events page.

But, to be brutally honest, other than a few other newsletters, that’s it for me. 

So this post is actually a call to action: how do you find new books? I’d like to know so I can learn about even more books that are being published. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Beau visits Doomsday

This week Beau Johnson takes a look at MAXINE UNLEASHES DOOMSDAY by Nick Kolakowski.

“Take one of Richard Stark’s Parker novels and throw it in the blender with DVDs of Mad Max and The Warriors. Guess what? You just broke your blender. Find solace in this book, which is what you should have done in the first place.” —Rob Hart, author of The Warehouse and New Yorked

Maxine Unleashes Doomsday rolls in with bang-up premise and keeps on punching. This is a trip into the far future and then the near future, where the oceans have swallowed up the coasts, the United States has fractured, and people like Maxine are left in the dust. But Maxine is tough and she’s got no patience for any crap and she will survive…one way or another. Filled with a terrific carnival cast of characters, cracker-jack scenes, and Kolakowski’s witty prose, Maxine Unleashes Doomsday is a fantastic read and definitely well worth your time.” —Jen Conley, author of Seven Ways to Get Rid of Harry and Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens

“Loaded with savvy world-building, memorable characters and precise, sharp plotting, I devoured Nick Kolakowski’s latest. The post-apocalyptic and wonderfully bonkers Maxine Unleashes Doomsday will keep you turning pages at a breakneck pace.” —Alex Segura, author of Blackout and Dangerous Ends

“I don’t know which is more terrifying: how wildly inventive this book is, or how close this fractured world is to ours. In Maxine Unleashes Doomsday, Kolakowski gives us the hero we need for the apocalypse we deserve.” —Nik Korpon, author of Wear Your Home Like a Scar and Old Ghosts


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Truth as Evil (Or: Fritz Lang, Polly Platt, and Peter Bogdanovich)

So here's a story that has made me think.  It comes from Karina Longworth's great podcast You Must Remember This, the second episode of the recently-ended season devoted to the life and career of Polly Platt, the still underappreciated "invisible woman" of film from the 1960's until her death in 2011.

Here's what happened: In the late 1960's, in Hollywood, Platt and her then-husband, the filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, became friendly with director Fritz Lang.  Lang was old, retired, and nearly blind at this time, living, despite the long list of remarkable films he'd made, in anything but luxury.  He lived alone essentially and liked to drink martinis.  Platt, of course, knew his films well, and in the unfinished memoir she wrote that Longworth takes passages from, Platt says that she thought his films were brilliant for the most part.  But she also says, "they were so evil that I hated them even as I admired them".  She goes on to say, "He was an evil man."

Evil? Why?  

Platt tells us she found this about Lang when Lang invited Peter and her to "his place" in Palm Springs.  She and Peter were very excited to receive the invitation and drove to Palm Springs, only to find that "his place" was a "decidedly decrepit motel surrounding a kidney-shaped pool".  Lang was a good friend of the motel's owner, and presumably, she gave Lang a deal.  In any event, one day Polly and Peter found themselves having breakfast in a pancake house with Lang, and they discussed the "international news in America".  Polly and Lang got into an argument about Vietnam.  Lang was a dove about Vietnam, Lang a hawk.  At one point, in the heat of the argument, Lang accidentally forgot Polly's name and called her Patty.  Polly immediately corrected him about her name, but the argument itself and Lang's forgetting her name so upset that she got up from the table and went back to the room she and Peter had in the motel.  Bogdanovich, though, stayed with Lang.

In her room, Polly thought Peter would be angry with her for having argued with the great man.  Polly says that she felt sorry too, but she felt that Lang was wrong about what they'd been discussing.  Later in the day, Polly went by herself to Lang's room to apologize, and as she says, "He was very gracious about it and we became friends again."

Weeks later, Lang, "very hush hush", called Polly and asked her to come alone to his house to have breakfast.  He told her not to tell Peter about this, but she did tell him, and with amusement between them, they wondered what Lang could possibly be inviting her over for.

After breakfast, Lang, as Katrina Longworth puts it, "dropped the bomb".

"Polly, I don't want to talk to you about how much your husband loves you or not, but you must remember, when you and I had an argument and you ran out, that Peter stayed with the great director, me, rather than side with you, his wife.  This is something for you to think about, no?"

Polly says that she never told Peter what Lang said because she knew it would hurt Peter.  And she admits that what Lang said was true.  But, as she explains, "That is why it was so evil.  It put a strange barrier between Peter and me."

She concludes by saying that years later, when she told Orson Welles this story, Welles said, "Lang was Iago."

I won't go on with much more about Polly Platt and Peter Bogdanovich's marriage because if you don't know the story about Peter and Cybill Shepherd and the making of The Last Picture Show and how Peter and Polly's marriage ended, you can easily look it up.  And even if you do know something about it, you'll learn more -- I guarantee you -- by listening to the podcast I'm talking about.

But my question: Putting aside the question of whether Fritz Lang's movies are evil, who thinks what he did here, making his "unwelcome intervention" into the Platt-Bogdanovich marriage, was evil? I understand why Polly Platt used the word, and she was someone who used words very precisely.  But it's a fascinating word to employ here, I think.  Fritz Lang made an astute observation (which would bear fruit in how Peter conducted himself later).  Is telling the truth like that, being ruthlessly candid like he was, even though nobody asked him to do that -- does that qualify as evil?



Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Dead Files

By Claire Booth

I took a road trip yesterday to another city in California’s Central Valley to film an appearance on a TV show called The Dead Files. I’ve done quite a few crime shows, and this one definitely will turn out to be the most unique.

It’s a long-running Travel Channel show that features a former NYPD homicide detective who looks into locations that could be haunted. Yep. Steve DiSchiavi investigates past incidents, usually crimes, that might factor into what’s going on at the building. The other half of the show (which I didn’t do) features medium Amy Allan, who examines the physical location.

I, naturally, talked about a crime. I can’t say much about it yet, but I met with DiSchiavi to discuss something that happened in 1910. That was another change for me. I usually talk about current crimes. To delve into the past was a different kind of interesting and it was great.

The episode should air early next year, and I share more as it gets closer.