Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Reviews … SNHU MFA’ers kicking ass and taking names … Tony Dungy … Political pictures of the week … Stella book deal ... Jesus debate …

Amici:


The Execution of Willie Francis, Gilbert King … a wonderfully written book about one of the more embarrassing moments in American history (not just the south because this was a case that could’ve been overturned). Willie Francis, wrongfully accused and convicted and then sentenced to death twice, as it turned out, was 15 years old at the time of his arrest, 16 when he was sentenced. Without going into the details of how this poor kid was railroaded by the criminals wearing badges and sitting on benches (judges) in Louisiana in 1946 (you’ll have to read the book), Willie Francis was electrocuted during his first execution, but survived because of the chair’s failure to exact the necessary amount of electricity (faulty wiring, maybe?) to kill. Instead, he suffered electrocution just short of death and was re-sentenced to go through the same ordeal 6 days later. The book tells the tales of the battles of two lawyers working the same side of the tracks, but from different angles (an NAACP lawyer attempting to appeal on the law, and a local lawyer from the town of St. Martinsville (where Willie lived) shooting for an emotional appeal to the judges (one of which was the judge who heard Willie's case). This is a heartbreaking tale, but one that should be required reading for those in high schools across this country. The Trayvon Martin murder two years ago (I still consider it a murder), especially the law that allowed a grown man to shoot and kill a 17 year old because the grown man was losing a fight he’d instigated, is not so far removed from a state execution wherein the arrest, trial and sentence are all rigged in advance, and the result is the same thing—a dead black kid.

And remember, Gilbert King’s last book won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America.

Read the New York Times review here:

Gilbert and I shared the best editor in the world, Peter Skutches (the Maestro).

ALL OF GILBERT’S BOOKS COME VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Get THE EXECUTION OF WILLIE FRANCIES here:



Life After Life, Kate Atkinson … Your born, you die, your born again, you die again, and so on. And all the people and circumstances in life that occur between life and death (like whacking Adolf Hitler before he becomes Der Fuehrer) can alter all what might happen before your next death (in the case mentioned above, not very long as some of the future SS exacts immediate revenge). Confusing? It can be, but really isn’t once you’re into this novel about a girl/woman Ursula and her family as the forever changing tides of life ebb and flow, ultimately leading to a darkness none of us can escape. An interesting read that will leave the reader asking “what if” questions. What if there was never a village? After all, we are not born alone to die alone. Be prepared to feel stumped from time to time, at least until you get used to Ursula (and some of her family) dying off and returning with other chances at the same situations.

Recommended reading for the especially curious.

Get it here:

Next week’s book reviews include Steve Weddle’s Country Hardball and Christian Winn’s Naked Me, two short story collections.


SNHU MFA’ers kicking ass and taking names …


Kelly Stone Gamble continues on her tear through the literary world as The Choosing Game, is published in the Red Earth Review. Kelly Stone Gamble already has a couple of novels she’s shopping and one under contract. They Call Me Crazy is under contract with Red Adept Publishing. Currently in content editing, no release date yet.

Kelly Stone Gamble has a Bachelor of Arts in the Integrated Studies of History and Business Administration from Nevada State College, a Master of Arts in Humanities from California State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. Not too shabby, amici.

Check out the Red Earth Review publication here:

Kelly’s website is here:



Mike Hancock … The release of his debut novel, Fallen, happened yesterday. Mike is a graduate of the SNHU MFA program and has an incredible story behind this wonderful book. Check it out by clicking on the link.

Mike Hancock is a former wilderness guide and commercial fisherman, having spent seven years working in the mountains of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Prior to that, he spent two seasons as a deckhand on board a factory trawler in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Now living in South Padre Island, Texas, he is an Adjunct Professor of English and freelance writer. He holds a B.A. in English Literature, and a M.F.A. in Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. Fallen has been edited by noted fiction and non-fiction writers Richard Adams Carey, Diane Les Becquets, Merle Drown, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes.


Susan Kennedy editor of two books released this week.

In Susan’s words: On Tuesday, July 22, my client Bishop O'Connell's debut novel, titled The Stolen, was released in ebook format by Harper Voyager Impulse. It is an urban fantasy that dares to wonder would happen if an ordinary person were thrown into a world of magic that she thought existed only in children's stories. That person is single mother Caitlin Brady, and she's thrown into that world by the kidnapping of her young daughter by dark faeries. She finds that determination alone is not enough to rescue her daughter and must accept help from three unlikely allies: a Fian warrior, a mysterious elf, and her closest friend--who is actually a novice wizard, but that is something he has never told her. Through the suburbs of Manchester, New Hampshire, and down the busy streets of Boston, Massachusetts, to the fabled land of Tir na nOg, the quartet race against time to unravel the faeries' plans and rescue Caitlin's daughter.



 
You can also learn more about Bishop at his blog, A Quiet Pint:

The Stolen will be available in paperback on August 5th. It is the first book in the An American Faerie Tale Series. The second book, titled The Forgotten, will be published in 2015.

Mike Hancock (Fallen) and I were classmates at Southern New Hampshire University's MFA Program (class of 2008, the MFA's inaugural class) and he was my first freelance client.

I'm thrilled that both of these books have been published. They're both great stories, compelling in their individual ways, and it was a privilege to work with both Mike and Bishop. I know they both have bright literary careers ahead of them.


Susan has worked as the Editorial Assistant of NH Writer at New Hampshire Writers' Project, Membership and Publications Coordinator at New Hampshire Writers' Project and a Graduate Assistant at Southern New Hampshire University


All THREE ABOVE, KELLY, MIKE AND SUSAN ARE GRADUATES OF THE SNHU MFA PROGRAM … PRETTY COOL, AMICI … PRETTY DAMN COOL.



Tony Dungy … I don’t think anybody has anything bad to say about Mr. Dungy. I doubt his comments about the Michael Sam situation bore any malicious intent (to his mind). They were a bit offensive, as one person (a woman) wrote on a twitter to ESPN (I don’t have the quote exactly), but paraphrasing it here, it’s a pretty good knockdown. Dungy said he wouldn’t have drafted Sam because of the distractions it would cause (at some point) during a football season. As a coach, he represents the owners and all the owners (the vast majority, at least) want is to win. It’s a business based comment with the heightened awareness that NFL players come from mostly homophobic environments. Like I said, Dungy wasn’t being malicious (to his mind). What the woman wrote to ESPN went something like this: “And what about the rapists, murderers, wife-beaters, drug addicts, DWI’s? Aren’t they distractions, or is the NFL happy to look the other way because the players involved in such criminal behavior are superstars?”

I’m not sure she added that last line, but her point was well-made.


To the woman who tweeted: Women beating must not be a distraction in the NFL.

Maybe it’s his faith based world view that prompted Dungy’s comments. Maybe it was just what he considered the business of winning in the NFL. The bottom line is the woman made a much more valid point than did Dungy. Does that make him a bad person? I don’t think so, but I don’t like the implications of his comments one way or the other (i.e., his opinion isn’t digesting well). It’s a shame Michael Sam has to be scrutinized the way he is because of his sexual orientation, but this is an America that for many the teachings of their Jesus’ (or whatever other God they worship) are ignored for the most part. Look to the border situation and these days and listen to some of the protesters … and then look at these Bible passages:

Leviticus 19:33-34 … “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”


Matthew 25:35 … “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me …”

Exodus 22:21 … “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

Then there’s our own Knucks and his quote of the day: “Every single non-Native American in this country is here without an open invitation. Get over it border protesters and do the right thing.”

Eloquent, SOB, that Knucks fella, huh?



The above six are available right now for $.99 ... oy vey, what a deal! 



A Jesus debate … it’s a short one … the guy was explaining to me how we were all intended to be eternal (i.e., in God’s image) and I asked: “Then what was/is the point of life? If God is all knowing, omnipotent, and so on, why didn’t he just make us eternal? Why the big test? Why see if we’re subservient enough during a lifetime? Isn’t that a bit cruel? I mean, it’s like we’re taking this high school test for something that God already knows some of us won’t pass.” And the Jesus freak said, “God didn’t go to no stupid human high school.”

And I say: “Okay, but does He at least like pastrami?”


—Knucks



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Book Review (Obedience) … Series Review: The Killing … Diet Review (Moi) …

Amici:


Obedience, by Jacqueline Yallop … an interesting tale that is slowly revealed around the tortured life of Sister Bernard, a 93 year old nun when we first meet her. Her past, particularly when she was 30 years old and serving at a convent in occupied French territory during WWII, is what this novel deals with; her past and its influence on her and those around her. God speaks to her, mostly criticizing and often yelling at her; reminding her of her faults and what needs to be done to stay in his best stead, but she had an inconvenient truth called desire that superseded his will. Her sexual relationship with a German soldier during the occupation yields far more than she could have expected. The good nun fell in love and while in love she mentioned something about the resistance movement to her lover and, well … no spoilers here. I enjoyed the back and forth timeline throughout the novel and was intrigued with each new twist to the story. This is a recommended read for everyone except those who cannot permit themselves to read anything outside of the fiction in the Bible, which they take as fact (oy friggin’ vey).

So, it’s a highly recommended read.

Get it here:



The Killing … Oh, Snap, I have a new favorite … and I’m even willing to ignore the sanctified politician (his very few flaws aren’t enough to be anywhere near what it takes to be what the majority of politicians are or become—soul selling scumbags) … even the stretching of plot and pretty much anything else one could criticize this series with doesn’t bother me because I (and the Principessa) absolutely loved the actors/characters/writing and directing. We were hooked instantly watching it on Netflix (Season 1/Episode 1) and binge-watched the first 3 seasons over four days and then wanted more (which comes as a Netflix production (so cursing/real dialogue will be permitted) starting August 1st.

Mireille Enos (Linden) was so good, I went so far as to watch her extremely limited role in that horrendous piece of shit movie with Brad Smith (World War Z), but quickly re-watched Season 1 of The Killing to remind myself how good an actress she really is (she wasn’t bad at all in the dopey zombie movie, but she wasn’t in it very much and the movie was just too stupid to acknowledge—it also took me 4 days to watch, but for very different reasons).

That said, Joel Kinnaman (Holder) was the character I enjoyed most throughout the series. Whoever wrote his lines, or if he adlibbed, they/he were/was great. “Oh, Snap, Linden rocked the booty call. 1-900 Linden.”



The entire cast was terrific, but special kudos to Brent Sexton, Jamie Anne Allman and Michelle Forbes … actually everybody was terrific in this … and August 1st can’t get here fast enough.

Reading Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson, this week. What’s with all the female authors, Knucks?

I don’t know, but I’m sure enjoying them.

Next two reads (in whichever order they arrive):

The Execution of Willie Francis, by Pulitzer Prize winning author of Devil in the Grove, Gilbert King

Naked Me, by Christian Winn

The Diet Review ... (what I forgot in the original post) ... 358 on March 5, 2014 ... 285 this morning (7-21-14) ... 27 pounds to 1 bill. Listen to me: I'm running a marathon next year ... even if it's to a pizza parlor where I can eat myself back to a Phat Dad.


—Knucks

Jefferson Airplane … Volunteers


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Reviews: A Small Sacrifice and All the Young Warriors … Two Fine Documentaries … A Terrific Movie … and Lebron who?

Amici:


A Small Sacrifice … by Dana King … the JonBenét Ramsey story, Chicago Outfit style … Nick Forte has a sharp tongue, a very sharp tongue … but he’s also clever and full of righteousness … when he’s asked to take on a case to improve the public relations of the father of the murdered child (in this case, to prove a negative), he quickly finds himself the target of Chicago mobsters (the outfit) … hard guys who avoid the flash that brought down New York, but are every bit as ruthless. The narrative is crisp and full of sarcasm, the dialogue loaded with smart wisecracking, and the story moves quickly. It’s a first person noir delight with a couple of well-timed punches to the gut. King is one of the best around these days, so don’t miss out on this Shamus nominated thriller. Highly Recommended.

Get it here:



All the Young Warriors … by Anthony Neil Smith … a tight and compelling read that starts in the harsh cold of Minnesota, where two cops are slaughtered, and ends under the burning hot sun in Somalia. Things happen fast in this one. You’ll be hooked early on as one of the two cops murdered after a routine roadside stop is pregnant. Her lover (Bleeker) is also a cop, but he’s not on the scene. The killer, Jibrill, is a young Somali raised in the states but devoted to the Islamic fundamentalists seeking to transform the world by way of Sharia law. Alongside the killer is his best friend, Adem, whose father is a former radical Islamist who changed his ways for the sake of his son. Mustafa (Adem’s Dad) foresaw the direction all the young warriors were headed and decided to steer his blood away from the extremism. Adem is curious and wants to learn what it’s all about to be a Somali, not just one of those who’ve wound up in Minneapolis-St. Paul, but what it’s like back in the mother country. Then there’s Bleeker, hell bent on avenging his lover and child’s death. He wants the killer bad enough to chase him across the globe.

When the action turns to Somalia, it’s bloody and scary and well-research material. At first I wasn’t thrilled about the trip there, but I was quickly anxious to remain under the burning hot sun after reading just a few passages. Thomas Hobbes wasn’t kidding about the state of nature being nasty, brutish and short (and Somalia probably gets as close to a state of nature as is possible). One would think Hobbes ventured into the future to spend some time amongst all the young warriors.

This novel becomes more intriguing with each new scene, making it difficult to stop reading. I did so today on the way to the Dentist, while in the office (only stopping while I was being tortured), and then again on the way home (I read and walk all the time), and then finishing the epilogue at home before sitting down to write this review. In fact, I purposely put off posting the blog Friday (our usual posting date) because I wanted to finish All the Young Warriors after starting it earlier in the week (it was scheduled for review next week).

I say buy it and enjoy the adventure. It’s a compelling read you won’t want to put down. Anthony Neil Smith turns out yet another winner. This one is a current events, as well as a history lesson. It will hook you early and keep you entertained through to the finish. A compelling and exciting read, start to finish. Highly Recommended.

Get it here:






Hendrix … who knew he was a paratrooper? I didn’t. Who knew a guy that talented could be so shy? Who knew his first love was the blues? I didn’t. Who knew how often he carried a guitar around with him 24/7? A fine documentary available on Netflix. I was never a huge Hendrix fan because of some of the loud stuff (although I really enjoyed watching his drummer, Mitch Mitchell). Some of Hendrix music remains classic for me (Hey, Joe), but I always thought (and continue to think) that nobody played the guitar as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan. Hendrix certainly wasn’t any slouch. I just wished he would’ve had more time to explore what he apparently loved, the blues. Recommended.
 



 
Bettie Page … I’ve seen a movie about her, read some, too, but this one really goes into the background, especially late in life, about America’s favorite pin-up. The ultimate pioneer against the hypocrisy of censorship in the 50’s, she was also a strong-willed woman who didn’t take much shit from men. She was also fiercely loyal to friends. Unfortunately, she was affected (or infected) by the religious bug at a crucial point in her life and she suffered some mental issues, but she came back swinging and remains a fascinating woman to this day (six years after her passing). Highly recommended and also available on Netflix.




 
Two Lives … a movie about the double-dealing life of a spy in post-WWII East Germany and Norway … there’s nothing else to say without ruining this one with a spoiler, but it is an intriguing and wonderful (and heartbreaking) movie. EXTREMELY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Liv Ullmann stars …
 


LeBron who?

Well, actually, I’m really very happy that LeBron James is returning to the team he abandoned for the sake of buying champion rings. Although it didn’t turn out quite the way he wanted, only winning 2 out of 4 chances, this is probably the ONLY way he gets to challenge the all-time throne still owned by Michael Jordan. If he can win in Cleveland without amassing another big 3, he’ll gain some ground. Even a single championship in Cleveland will go a long way to restoring some of his glitter, but until then, his Airness continues to be #1 all time for us here at TK.

Now, anybody realize how close it is to hockey season again?




Stay thirsty, my friends …


—Knucks

Think these two are in love? Well, they’re married … the singers, I mean. Wonderful stuff … and two of the lines from the duet are inside our wedding rings, me and my bella, the Principessa Ann Marie.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Book Review (Unexploded) … Charlie Mantle at The Long Island Film Expo … Rangers no more (Callahan and Company) …

Amici:


Unexploded … Alison MacLeod’s wonderful novel about a Brighton couple’s marital deterioration during World War II. The disaster that was Dunkirk has recently occurred. All of England is on alert for an invasion by Hitler’s Wehrmacht. German propaganda broadcasts warn the Brits daily, heightening the tension of those in Brighton. Evelyn and Geoffrey are a solid couple with a single son, Philip. Geoffrey is loyal to his banking job, but has also been assigned as head of an internment camp. Evelyn longs to do something other than wait for what everyone suspect is the worse. In the course of their trying times, Evelyn learns things about her husband she never knew before; his anti-Semitism for one thing; his willingness to abandon his family for the sake of his bank for another. She was from money with similar prejudices, except she hasn’t any, and had been anxious to marry Geoffrey just to get away from such nonsense.

Geoffrey has hid two cyanide capsules in a tin with money for his wife and child should the German’s invade and he’s already gone … but of course Evelyn finds them and their marriage deteriorates at great speed as

Upset at Geoffrey’s decision to save the bank and not his family leads Evelyn to discover the cyanide pills and their marriage begins a tailspin. She is forced to rethink everything … including some memories she once thought harmless. When she begins to read to patients at the camp for a sense of purpose, well, things change even more rapidly. She meets a German born artist, Otto, at the camp who has recently attempted to kill himself by swimming into the channel. Meantime, Geoffrey has developed an issue in the marital bed and he seeks comfort elsewhere.

There’s a wonderful subplot involving the 8 year old son, Philip and his friends, the anti-Semitism in the country and even Virginia Wolf makes an appearance and later disappears against the backdrop of the hell England suffered during the war.

The book is written in changing perspectives, which creates constant suspense for what comes next. Those two cyanide pills leave the reader dangling (and racing) to an ending that will surprise, yet fulfill expectations.
 

A wonderful read and VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Next books up are crime fiction … A small Sacrifice, by Dana King (review next week) and All the Young Warriors, by Anthony Neil Smith (review the week after) …



Long Island International Film Expo will be held at the Bellmore Movies from July 9 - 27, 2014 … a dear friend, Paul Vario, plays Detective Burns in a new Fred Carpenter film, called Charlie Mantle. It premieres July 12 in at the Bellmore film festival on Long Island. Armand Assante and Robert Funaro star. And for Howard Stern fans from the past, Jackie Martling is also in the film.

Check out the movie here:

and here ...

Read about the festival here.


Rangers no more …

Anton Stralman

Brian Boyle


Callahan and Company … the big hockey news this week had to do with July 1st Unrestricted Free Agency … and guess who’s coming to dinner in Tampa Bay? Defenseman, Anton Stralman (who was marvelous during his playoff performance this year) and one of my favorite Rangers, Brian Boyle … like Callahan, Boyle is a selfless player who throws himself in front of pucks and can hit with the best of them. This year in the finals, he tied for the Ranger lead in goals scored vs. the Kings with 2 in 5 games. Not too shabby. Tampa Bay gets two very seasoned veterans with playoffs experience who aren’t afraid to get down and dirty along the boards. The Bolts are making all the right moves … they have a wealth of young talent, a super-duper star in Stamkos, our main man, Callahan, and now three of the toughest and seasoned Rangers. 100 days to hockey season … I can’t wait!

Stralman on Clifford …




Boyle’s shorthanded magic …




—Knucks

The Doors Roadhouse Blues …




The Allman BrothersOne Way Out


Friday, June 27, 2014

Callahan signs with Tampa Bay … What we’re reading now/will be reading next week … Ann Coulter’s problem with soccer (and immigrants) …

Amici:


It’s done, Ryan Callahan signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and we couldn’t be happier for him and his family. Callahan is the kid who turned me into a hockey fan. The label given him by New York fans while he was a Ranger will no doubt carry over to Tampa Bay. A “heart and soul” player who plays both ends of the game—offense and defense; a professional who gives 100%, 100% of the time.

Tampa Bay is a young team loaded with young talent, a perfect fit for a guy who leads by example. Tampa Bay made it to the playoffs last year, but suffered a sweep versus a team they’d handled during the regular season (the Montreal Canadians). Then again, Tampa Bay was playing without their Vezina nominated goalie, Ben Bishop. Their youth on defense showed in front of their second and third string goalies. Still, there’s a very talented bunch of kids on the ice for Tampa Bay. Some, no doubt, destined to be future stars. Several were nominated for NHL awards the other night in Las Vegas.

Callahan leads by example. He does his talking on the ice and will dive in front of pucks on defense for his teammates and his goalie(s). I’ve never seen a more selfless player in any sport. Derek Jeter comes to mind in baseball … Tim Duncan in basketball … Earl Campbell back in the 70’s in the NFL; players who selflessly commit their bodies to a common TEAM cause. Callahan is also the personification of work ethic. Professional sports, for all the celebrity and dollars, offer short careers by any standard. Callahan’s six year deal includes a partial no trade clause (what he sought with New York), thus providing him with a new home for the foreseeable future.

Tampa Bay gets a gritty workhorse who will inspire his teammates by giving his maximum effort all the time. The Lightning will thrive over the next few years and hopefully, with a superstar like Steven Stamkos, and the pool of young talent they have now, they’ll get their shot at the Stanley Cup. I hope for Callahan’s sake that he gets that shot. I can think of no one who deserves it more.

Journeying through a Rangers Facebook site the other day, I noticed a few nasty comments hurled Callahan’s way, but for the most part, Ranger fans (I believe) wish their former Captain the best. For the few morons who take cheap shot comments, calling him a traitor, of all things, well … they’re morons. How does seeking a no trade clause equate to being a traitor? It doesn’t. Like I said, the comment came from a moron.

A lot of “what ifs” have followed the Callahan-St. Louis trade back in March. Would the Rangers have gone to the finals without Martin St. Louis? Would Callahan have held them back? I can’t believe anyone could even suggest such nonsense. St. Louis wasn’t even close to the leading goal scorer for the Rangers in the 19 games he played at the end of the season and Brian Boyle, another of my favorite Rangers, had the same number of goals in the finals as St. Louis.

The Rangers made it to the playoffs with Cally a bunch of times. Hell, he sent them there a couple of years ago with a birthday overtime goal vs. Detroit.



Imagine what an overtime goal would’ve meant in the finals this year. No need to imagine, Kings' Captain, Dustin Brown, scored one in the second game of the finals, a double overtime win for the Kings.

As far as the Rangers run to the finals this year, I think it’s pretty obvious that they were as fortunate as the Canadians were unfortunate when Carey Price went down in the first game of the series and the Canadians were forced to play with a third string goalie brought up at the last minute for games 2-6. Does anyone seriously think the Rangers would’ve gotten past the Flyers without Lundqvist in Net? It took them 7 games to move on with the King.

I saw some missing net presence for the Rangers throughout the finals, but that’s all water under the bridge now. All I know is that captains make a difference … and it was fitting that the team with a captain won the finals … and that the captain (Dustin Brown) got to hoist the cup for his teammates and their city.

Last year Callahan had shoulder surgery and missed training camp and some early season games (although he was back in action much sooner than anyone expected--no surprise here). This year he's healthy ... so come on, hockey season!

The wife is very happy it’s Tampa because she wants to retire where it’s warm. I would’ve preferred Montana or Maine, but I’m still happy Callahan is with a team that’s destined to be great in the near future.

So, congrats to our guy, Ryan Callahan. And Go Bolts!

His first of many, many more. Net presence, baby. Net presence.



Side note: Congrats to a few of my favorite Rangers for making it so deep into the playoffs (and for the great efforts they give on the ice) … Dan Girardi, Brian Boyle, Mats Zuccarello, Dominick Moore, Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Kris Kreider and the King, Henrik Lundqvist.

Because this is a family blog (cough, cough), I won’t say what I think of Glen Sather.


What we’re reading now/next weeks …



Unexploded, by Alison MacLeod … a wonderful novel set in Brighton, England during World War II … A husband and wife become estranged as tensions mount over the expected Nazi invasion of England. Review next week.

And then the next few weeks, it’ll be crime fiction week …



A Small Sacrifice, by Dana King … nominated for a Shamus Award.


All the Young Warriors, by Anthony Neil Smith …




Oy vey … can anyone shut her up?


—Knucks

Melanie, Lay It Down (Candles in the Rain)…


Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Dana King Special Offer … My Granddaughter has her license … SNHU (Popeye voice) gradumacats … Thug Lit/The Dogfella … Tommy Red excerpt …

Amici:

 
And listen to me: It’s an offer yous can’t refuseDana King has a special deal for all yous fans of quality crime fiction. He’s making all four of his books available for free on Kindle from June 25 – 29. That’s Wild Bill, Worst Enemies, Grind Joint and A Small Sacrifice. I haven’t gotten to A Small Sacrifice yet myself, but I will be taking advantage of this dynamite offer and getting to it June 25. Just to note: A Small Sacrifice is a Shamus Nominated Nick Forte Mystery.

Dana is one of the very best around. This is a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED deal. Don’t miss out.

Start checking out his books here:

And read his blog, One Bite at a Time, here:



My granddaughter has her driver’s license …


SNHU MFA 2014 (Popeye voice) GRADUMACATS ...




SNHU MFA 2014 Graduations … we’re waiting for the details, but the graduation took place last week … very cool. Check out the best sellers up above giving testimonials (at least 3) … not to mention they’re mentors in the program. Some wonderful people in that program, amici.


First brother and sister pair ever to get their MFA at SNHU. Adam Zobel got his MFA in Fiction last year, and Krista followed in his footsteps. Not bad, amici … two very excellent writers!



Sporting the Thug Lit Logo T-shirt … that’s me holding up a draft of Chapter 4 from The Dogfella

Chapter 4 – The Gotti Years and Prison (1985 - 1995)
“If you're going through hell, keep going.”
― Winston Churchill

Not much else to report on these days. I’m busy working with James on his book and there’s no hockey for me until Callahan re-signs with Tampa Bay or moves to another franchise. I’ve already booked my Super Bowl tickets to watch my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills win it all this year and I continue to drop some tonnage.

My next crime novel, Tommy Red, awaits the free time necessary to get it in good enough shape for my agent ... and ... here’s a draft/taste of the start to this thing.


Chapter 1

Atlantic City

“I says to him, I says, ‘I wouldn’t send a knight out on a dog like this,’” Tommy Dalton said. He looked at his daughter, gave it a moment, and smiled. “Get it?”

Alysha Dalton didn’t smile. “Mom said you’re a killer,” she said. “A contract killer.”

Someone playing a nearby slot machine hit the progressive jackpot. The bells and whistles were loud until the screaming started. Tommy and his daughter were having drinks at a bar in the center of the casino. It had been noisy without the slot machine clanging, but the winner was less than ten feet from their table on the other side of a railing.

Tommy turned toward the noise.

“Dad?” Alysha said.

“What?” Tommy said. “How’m I supposed to answer something like that? Your mother said. You gonna believe me, what I say?”

“Are you or not?”

A large crowd was gathering around the winning slot machine. “Holy shit!” somebody yelled.

“You went to prison,” Alysha said. “I know that much.”

“For a bank job,” Tommy said. “For which I did six of an eight year bid. I was the driver, by the way. I wasn’t waving a gun in anybody’s face, and I didn’t have one on me when I was arrested. Once I was out the joint, I worked hauling soda skids the warehouse six blocks from where I lived. I didn’t live where you lived because two years before I come out, your mother shows up the prison there, she says to me, she says, she don’t love me no more, she met somebody. I didn’t ask who, when, what or why. Shit like that, it happens. A guy is away, it’s the price he pays. I says to her, I says, you want out, I won’t get in the way. You bring the guy home, make sure he don’t get stupid with my girls or I’ll kill him. Maybe that’s what she was talking about, your mother.”

Alysha frowned. “Mom said there was something that happened in Annapolis [READ ODE TO THE O’S IN BALTIMORE NOIR FOR THE BACKGROUND, AMICI]. You and some older mobster.”

“What she says to you, I don’t know. What happened was I almost got in trouble for something down Annapolis, but I was lucky. I was in a car when somebody was killed, but I didn’t kill him. I got no reason lie to you about that. I was never charged, so neither did the police believe I killed the guy.”

The chaos in the casino grew louder. Somebody rushed into the bar and yelled out the jackpot, twelve million. Gasps filled the room. Some of the people seated at the bar and the surrounding tables gathered near the railing to better view the commotion. Tommy waived the waitress over, paid the tab, and guided his daughter out of the bar. They walked the length of the casino floor to the Boardwalk exit and stepped outside. The August sun was intense. Both father and daughter shielded their eyes.

“So, how are you surviving?” Alysha said. “How do you live?”

Tommy removed his hand and squinted from the sun’s glare. He turned his head and felt a much needed ocean breeze. He made his way to the boardwalk railing, turned and leaned against it so the beach was behind him.

“I saw you playing cards last night, Dad,” Alysha said. “Twenty-five dollars a hand, seventy-five dollars a pop on that Let It Ride game you were playing.”

Tommy slid a hand across the iron railing. It was hot to the touch. He quickly removed it. “This fuckin’ heat,” he said. “Let’s find some shade.”

They walked along the beach side of the boardwalk toward the Ocean One mall. Tommy used the back of his right wrist to wipe the sweat from his forehead. Alysha kept a hand up to shade her eyes.

“What’s it about, these questions?” Tommy said. “I was gonna tell you another joke, a real one, happened last night. A story.”

“Another Honeymooner joke? Please Dad.”

“No, listen, it’s funny. I’m out to dinner with some broad last night, she’s not too bright. She’s not sure what to order off the menu this fancy place we’re at. She says to me, she says, ‘Can you order my appetizer?’ ‘Sure,’ I says. What do you like? Before she answers the waiter comes over to read the specials. He starts with something French, Fromage Frais he says, whatever the fuck that is. This broad, she looks at me like the guy just upchucked his oatmeal on the table. She says to me, she says, do they have pictures?”

Alysha frowned.

“What? It’s not funny?”

“Broad, Dad? Some broad?”

“Alright, she was an escort.”

“God, you’re impossible.”

“What, you didn’t think it was funny?”

“Not at all. Not the story or that you pay for sex.”

“I paid for an escort. There wasn’t any sex.”

Alysha held both hands up, shook her head and said, “Fine. Whatever. Can we get back to—”

“You grilling me? Sure, that’s how you want to spend our time, go ’head.”

Alysha frowned.

“Go ’head,” Tommy said.

“I always wondered,” Alysha said. “I’d heard stories growing up, but nothing about you being a killer.”

“Jesus Christ, Alysha, because I wasn’t.”

“Mom told me this a few weeks ago, when she said you were a killer.”

“She spewing this shit to your sisters?”

“No. Not that I know of. I don’t think so.”

Tommy stopped to catch a breeze. He turned to face the ocean. “That feels better,” he said.

“Maybe we should go back inside,” Alysha said. “Maybe up to your room. Or mine.”

Tommy looked into his daughter’s eyes. “What happened a few weeks ago?”

Alysha shook her head.

“Well?” Tommy said.

“She got dumped.”

Tommy smiled. “The lawyer?”

“She blames you.”

“Of course, but why?”

“He found out about your past. He’s planning to run for something. Some local political office or something, said he couldn’t because of your past. Some newspaper learned about it.”

“She never told him, that’d be her fault.”

“That’s her, Dad. I want to know from you.”

“No. Okay? The answer is no.”

Alysha wasn’t ready to let it go. “How do you live? How do you earn money?”

Tommy wiped his forehead again. “I’m a consultant, Alysha. You know that.”

“I know that’s a bullshit job you don’t really do. And even if you did, how could you afford this place, Atlantic City? Coming here, I mean. Gambling the way I saw you last night, the hookers, escorts, whatever you call them. You’re doing that as a consultant?”

“I could ask the same thing of you,” Tommy said. “What’re you doing here, Atlantic City? And she was an escort, but I didn’t take her back to my room.”

“I told you why I’m here. A bachelorette party. I’ve been here twice in my life. I don’t even like it here. And I wasn’t gambling. I don’t gamble. It’s stupid.”

Tommy smiled. “Well, you’re a lot smarter’n me, except how did you see me playing cards, you weren’t inna’ casino?”

“We were walking through the casino to get to the nightclub.”

Tommy was still smiling. She’d become the beautiful woman her mother was at the same age, twenty-two—tall and lean with blonde hair and blue eyes. She’d only disappointed him twice he could remember. The first time when she quit college after two years, then again when she told him she was engaged. She’d since returned to school and had dumped the fiancé. Now she wanted to be a veterinarian, something that couldn’t make him more proud. He’d already put aside the cost for veterinarian school, but he couldn’t tell her. Not yet.

And here she was asking the questions he’d dreaded from the time her mother asked him to leave.

He guided her toward the mall again, taking slow steps as they walked. “You’re asking me am I still dirty?” he said. “Yeah, a little, but I used to be a bartender and I have managed bars, so I’m not exactly running a scam with the consultant business. It’s complicated, my life. I don’t blame nobody for that. It’s my mess and I’ll deal with it, but you’re asking me I’m a killer. I said no, end of story. I won’t say it again, so don’t ask it again.”

“I was hoping you’d be honest with me, Dad.”

Tommy put a hand on his daughter’s arm, felt the smooth skin, leaned in close and kissed her shoulder. “Those freckles,” he said. “You’re beautiful, kid.”

Alysha didn’t flinch. “Dad?”

“Look,” Tommy said, “this is a world I don’t fit. I can’t explain it better’n that. I have issues, no doubt. We all do. Mine are more complicated. I don’t believe in a world where workers have to take it up the ass to earn a paycheck. I don’t believe in being somebody’s piss boy. This world isn’t fair, kiddo. That’s nothing new or profound, but it’s something I’m not willing to accept. I have one obligation, to make sure you and your sisters have enough to become independent. I’ll protect you in whatever way is necessary, including providing in whatever way is necessary. After that, you’re all three on your own. Me, too, but that’s my business. Okay?”

Alysha frowned. “Mom said you had a weird sense of right and wrong.”

“Distorted is what she said. Distorted sense of right and wrong, and she’s not the only one says it, but that too is my business. Now, what’s going on with school? You accepted to a vet school yet or no?”

“I have another year,” Alysha said. “But I’m pretty sure I’ll get accepted. My grades are good enough.”

“And when it’s time I’ll have the money,” Tommy said. “You’ll apply for the loans and I’ll feed you the cash to pay them, so no flags are raised. Not you or your mother have anything to say about that, how or where I get the money. That’s my business. She says it’s my fault she didn’t mention the details to the latest love of her life? She ever tell the first guy? The one she married, that jerkoff?”

“When he got abusive, yeah, she did.”

Tommy stopped walking. “Abusive?”

Alysha shrugged. “He was an asshole,” she said. “We hated him from the day she brought him home. He liked to call us his stepchildren, but we never referred to him like that. He was Joe, that’s it. Just Joe.”

“Well, she never told me about that either, her husband was abusive. He ever touch one of you, you or your sisters?”

Alysha looked away as she shook her head. “No, never.”

“You sure?”

“No, Dad, he didn’t. I swear it.”

He could tell she was holding back, probably because she still believed what her mother had told her.

“Alright, then let’s just drop all this shit for now,” Tommy said. “I was surprised to see you here last night, especially in that dress you painted on. I know it’s been a few months.”

“Seven.”

“Seven. So, what say we go in the mall there, I buy you something to wear back to that yuppie school in New York doesn’t look like you’re hooking to pay the tuition, okay? Maybe some perfume, too. So’s it keeps the assholes away. That smell you’re wearing now, that natural summer smell? Irresistible.”

Alysha smiled. “That’s what you used to say about Mom, that you loved her summer smell.”

“Yeah,” Tommy said, “I used to say that.”


—Knucks


Stevie Ray not included? Are they kidding us?




My favorite … Texas Flood


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Missing Net Presence … the Knicks? … Last Love … Mission Accomplished …

Amici:

Martin Biron voice: And now to da hockey.


The Games … last night’s game may have been the best I’ve ever watched. The Rangers had chances throughout the series (and the game last night), but the elite scorers didn’t deliver. On the other hand, the Kings spread the scoring around … Nash remained a no-show as far as goal scoring (that’s 2 years in a row) … St. Louis played well, but missed on several key opportunities … Zuccarello always plays hard and he did so again through every series … Kreider, who I thought propelled the Rangers through the earlier series with his speed and size, missed at least 4 breakaways during the series and two big ones in overtime (it happens) … Boyle was terrific throughout and seemed to pick-up some of the shot blocking they miss without Callahan … it looked as though Stralman played his best defense of the year, but there were a lot of turnovers off the starting duo of Girardi and McDonaugh, but Girardi was playing hurt and McMonster was on the ice longer than anybody ... and let’s give some credit to the Kings forechecking (it was ferocious throughout the series). The announcers were giving Richards a lot of praise last night, but I didn’t see the same thing. I saw a lot of missed shots. I thought the Ranger defense played hard, but their forwards didn’t seem to put forth the same effort as the Kings forwards. Lundqvist was more brilliant than I’ve ever seen him (remember I’m only a 3 year fan of the sport), but Quick somehow managed to make the timely saves. The Flyers and Blue Jackets have to be kicking themselves in the head for dealing away Carter … and Justin Williams (Conn Smythe winner) was magnificent throughout … Doughty played mad minutes and delivered … and Captain Brown (2 goals in the series; 1 the OT winner in game 2) was diving to make passes and maintain puck possession (somebody say Callahan?) … so did all of the Kings. I suspect Gaborik is haunting Ranger management about now … good. They (management) deserve it.

I’m sure I’m missing key players above, but I didn't sleep much last night (leftover adrenaline, plus my tongue is still on fire from smoking my pipe like a chimney throughout the game).
 
Seriously, dude, find something less painful to do when you're nervous (or when you're writing).

It seemed to me what the Rangers were missing most was net presence (somebody say Callahan?) … it seemed as though nobody was willing to take the beating it requires in front of the net with any consistency (somebody say Callahan?) … that said, they probably exceeded expectations.

Earlier Games: The first two games were also incredible and could’ve been won by either team. The fact the Rangers blew 2 goal leads three times in two games is difficult to defend, but they still had several chances to win each game in regulation and OT. The non-call in game 2 was terrible, but it wasn’t the first time there was a bad call/non-call in this year’s (or any years’) playoffs.

Remember this call in the first round?




The bottom line was the Kings found a way, the Rangers didn’t. What came to mind after the second game double OT winner put in by Captain Dustin Brown was: Man, it’s great to have a CAPTAIN.

Game 3 was a different animal. Jonathan Quick saved the day and made it appear as though a Kings win was never in doubt. For me, the goal scored with less than a full second on the clock before the end of the first period was critical. It would require the Rangers to come out at the start of the second period full speed and banging. They didn’t. They took unfortunate penalties instead. And then there were follow-up goals in the second period that were daggers the Rangers never answered.

All week long there was talk about how when the Kings went up 2 goals, they were unbeatable. I didn’t believe that based on how well the Rangers had played them in games 1 and 2, but in game 3 it seemed as if the Rangers were accepting defeat. As Mike Keenan noted after the game, there was no passion on the ice. No pushing and shoving. No roughhousing that might spur the team on. Where was the extra effort? I saw Dustin Brown dive for a puck to make a pass and I know I’ve seen that before when Callahan was still a Ranger, but not during game 3, not from the Rangers. It looked like the often talked about dual locker room leadership of Richards and St. Louis had faded.

Or maybe it never was there.

Game 4 was Ranger puck luck, end of story. The hockey Gods gave one back … the Kings completely outplayed the Rangers from Dustin (there’s that Captain thing again) Brown’s breakaway goal to the end of the game. Not sure how those two pucks didn’t cross the line, but Lundqvist was brilliant all game long without the luck. He deserved that win.

If there’s an excuse for the Rangers, I suspect it’s their overall youth and inexperience going so deep in the playoffs. On the other hand, if Montreal doesn’t upset Boston, maybe the Rangers don’t escape the second round. On the “other” other hand, maybe if Carey Price isn’t knocked out of the series in the first game of the series, the Rangers aren’t in the finals.

It just seems as though whatever spirit and moxie they had developed after the stinker they put up in game 4 versus the Penguins, whether it was a response from embarrassment or bonding behind the tragic passing of St. Louis’ mother, it was missing in the finals (somebody say Callahan?). That or the Kings are just a much better team. While I think they (the Kings) are far more experienced and tenacious, I don't believe the Rangers couldn't beat them in a 4 out of 7.

The speed game may still be there, but there’s an edge missing that is undeniable … I suspect the missing edge is spelled CALLAHAN.

The intangibles a player like Callahan brings to the table didn’t compute for Vigneault and/or Sather. The wanted elite goal scorers who might speed the plow. They didn’t. Somehow it doesn’t bother the organization, and/or too many of its blue bleeding fans, to pay such “elite” goal scorers such big money with such meager results. By playoff end, some 25 games (plus OTs), the Rangers top goal scorer through all of the series combined is Martin St. Louis with 8 goals. Two guys from Chicago had the same amount of goals or more in 5 less games, and two Kings had more (Carter and another Ranger trade-off, Marian Gaborik). That's not putting blame on St. Louis, but one does have to measure what they gained vs. what they gave up.  St. Louis scored twice in the 5 games of the final. Brad Richards didn't score. Neither did Rick Nash. Maybe the speed game needs something more than flash.

I’m not saying the Rangers would’ve won the cup if Ryan Callahan was still with the team. I am saying they still would’ve been there. We know they didn’t win it without him. I’m also saying that the edge and extra efforts that Callahan brings to the ice are exactly what the Rangers needed all series long. The Rangers would’ve done no worse getting past either the faltering Penguins or the crippled Canadians (playing with a 3rd string goalie) with Callahan. The difference, of course, is they’d have him for 6 or 7 more years. Now they’re lacking a selfless grinder who can score and is willing to sacrifice his body to stop someone else from scoring. What they gained was an aging goal scorer (no longer near his prime) who’s missed a lot more open nets than he’s found. I'm not sure the media will be able to milk his emotional story (and it was tragic) through to next season, but I'm sure they'll try.
 
And it doesn't get unnoticed that a team loaded with grinders won the cup.




Here’s the kind of leadership (and guts) that the Rangers are missing, except in this clip Callahan does it without his stick.  When the goal is scored, he's off the ice.




The Rangers lost a lead by example style of play and it has been missed, especially against a team with another Callahan type player, Dustin Brown. It’s fitting that the Kings win another cup and that their captain gets to hoist the Stanley Cup one more time in his career. The Rangers opted to trade their captain and have been without one since March 5 (when I started my Callahan diet and dropped 62 pounds and counting, yo!). He's very missed by the team and fans who appreciate a work ethic an entire city could be proud of.




Listen to Joe (above) on this one: “You follow your captain. When something needs to get done, you need your captain to step up.”

Make no mistake, having a CAPTAIN means something.

Now for the TK awards:

Official Best TV coverage shot of the series so far ... Justin Williams blowing a booger out his nose on the bench ... thank God my wife was shopping on line in the dining room.

Official best MSG shot … fans still wearing Captain Callahan jersies.

Official best hockey voice award goes to … former Ranger backup goalie, Martin Biron …






The Knicks? More talk and spending by the New York Knicks, the gift that keeps on giving to comedians everywhere … first they hired a guy with ZERO GM experience for $12 million a year … a legendary coach who maybe had a little help from his friends on the court (Jordan, Pippin, Bryant and Shaq), so when his hubris winds up bitch-slapped by the guy he expected to hire (another apostle of the triangle offense, Jeff Kerr--and another guy with ZERO coaching experience), the Zen Master hires another friend/guy with ZERO coaching experience … for how much? How about $5 million a year for 5 years? I’m sure he’s a nice guy, this Dereck fella, but really, the Knicks' roster blows. If the Knicks have proved one thing (Pat Dolan), it’s that they know how to blow some coin.

Nobody flushes the cash down the toilet like the New York Knicks.




 
Last Love … Wow, what a movie. I watched this one while the wife was at work and it scared me the way these types of movies always scare me. There are some great shots of Paris throughout. Even the dancing scenes were fun. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Might not be for everybody, but if you’re sentimental, this one’ll do the trick.  Me, I'm a sentimental SOB.  I cry at the Rangers Beginnings shows about their players and their families. Very highly recommended.



Mission Accomplished … well, now that it’s been a few years since regime change in Iraq and we FINALLY got the hell out, it looks as though we left that terra firma fertile for the kind of revolution that winds up making things much worse than before (i.e., under Saddam). You’d think we learned, but we haven’t. We did this in Vietnam and Cambodia (and Cambodia was a neutral state) … we were responsible for Pol Pot and Khmer revolution that ended in Killing Fields, but those lessons obviously weren’t enough. Listen, I was hoodwinked right along with much of America (and it’s not like those with better foresight didn’t try and warn me). I fell for the bullshit and supported both wars. Now I know better than to ever believe anything I can’t see, touch, feel and witness for myself.

Read more about it here:

—Knucks

Congrats to the Kings ...




They are the Champions …