Go Green, Bernie

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Book Review: GRAVESEND (William Boyle) … A Convention Game Plan for BERNED Berniecrats …

Gravesend, by William Boyle … once again, bouncing around some of the writers’ pages I haunt on Facebook pays off … and this time it pays off big time.

So far this year, at least for me, Gravesend is one of the very best reads I’ve come across. The staccato narrative and the introspective grit of characters trapped in the mores of anachronistic familial and neighborhood mindsets are simply brilliant.

Ray Boy Calabrese is fresh out of the joint for his participation in the killing of a gay kid chased onto the Belt Parkway at the Plum Beach exit in Brooklyn. Ray Boy has just finished a 16-year bid, no easy shakes, but he’s out and just not the same guy he used to be. He’s a man now, but only sure of one thing--he deserves to die. Ray Boy has a nephew, Eugene, a kid enamored with his uncle for all the wrong reasons. He lives the typical punk fantasy all too familiar from watching movies about bad-asses ruling the roost. This genius wants to take on a local mobster’s card game to declare his bona fides as a criminal worthy of his uncle’s respect.

The gay kid Ray Boy chased onto the Belt 16 years ago, Duncan, had a brother who seems to live for revenge. Conway is the classic underachiever. He has a shit job in a pharmacy and lives a shit life with his father. He hangs out with a guy who fuels his desire for revenge. So Conway drinks and dreams of vengeance. He also dreams of women, especially a girl from the neighborhood who left for Hollywood, but who has also returned at the same time Ray Boy was released. Alessandra hasn’t made it in La-La land and her return to the neighborhood is a depressing one. She looks up an old friend and the two couldn’t be more opposite, but she needs someone to use to get out of the house where her mother’s recent death is a dark cloud her father can’t shake. Alessandra winds up ditching the old friend to head into Manhattan where she meets a movie director-producer seeking an actress and coin for his masterpiece. It just might be a scam, but we won’t find out because Alessandra winds up bedding down a bartender.

It’s the author’s writing that kept me glued to the page and anxious to discuss Gravesend with my wife. She was so intrigued with my enthusiasm, she’s reading the book also now. No spoilers in TK, but the ride you get in Gravesend is well worth the price of admission. It’s a brilliant piece of writing by Mr. Boyle.
Although I was born a Manhattan boy, I was raised in Brooklyn—Canarsie, specifically. Plum beach, so essential to Gravesend, was/is the closest beach to Canarsie. Not only did I go there as a kid, so did my kids, and as it turned out, so did my Mom and Pop back in the day. That’s three generations of Stellas hanging out at Plum Beach. The hate-crime Ray Boy and two of his friends committed when they chased Duncan into parkway traffic is incredibly visual to me. I know the turf well.

If you were born or lived in Brooklyn, pretty much any part of Brooklyn, you’ll want to read Gravesend for the sheer familiarity you’ll feel. If you’re looking for some brilliant writing, Boyle provides it, start to finish. If you’re looking for a read that will keep you turning pages, Gravesend is it. One of the best reads of 2016, if not the best. A truly brilliant novel.

By now it’s all over the place, Bernie Sanders’ answer to an MSNBC question: “Will you vote for Hillary Clinton?” “Yes,” he said.

If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

The way Bernie proved the election process does not require corporate coin, and the way he exposed the DNC’s corruption, top to bottom, with that single “Yes” … he’s likely undone pretty much all that he achieved.

I’m out a substantial amount of coin and effort for supporting a guy who said he'll vote for the person I wasn't backing--not with a gun to my head. The passion is still there, but it’s no longer holding to a cause gone bad. Think about it. How many of his supporters are going to fall for this shit again and contribute to an “outsider” who “claims” he or she is fighting the establishment from within the establishment? And think of the laugh the establishment he claims he was fighting (and who he just announced he was voting for) must be having today. His was the most significant challenge to the DNC I can remember. Ten plus millions voters. Where do they turn now if they remain dedicated to the cause Bernie just abandoned?
Well, most of us who will hold to our beliefs will likely seek the Green Party. I already have, but if too few do the same, the likelihood is that the DNC’s corrupt choice will win the Presidency ... and then you can kiss your “political revolution” from the left good night for a minimum of 4 years, because if you think HRC is going to yield to the left, you’re taking some serious hallucinogens. Already the DNC has shot down the $15.00 minimum wage Sanders was calling for … as if the DNC was going to listen to anything Sanders has to say after they rigged the process so he couldn’t win.

Sanders claims he promised the Democrat Party he would endorse their nominee. After the sabotaging of his campaign by the DNC, I don’t know how he holds to his promise. Yet some of his supporters cling to a fantasy that he’ll still win the nomination. Hallucinogens, I guess.

And speaking of hallucinogens, the amount of flak I took from die-hard Bernie supporters (a.k.a., blind-faithers and quite possibly brand new lemmings) was comical. “How can you abandon Bernie so easily? Bernie didn’t endorse her! Bernie will win the nomination!”

Sweet Jesus, come off your fucking clouds.

Yesterday I proposed the following, to give Sanders (he’s no longer Bernie to me) one last chance to do the right thing by the millions of people who forked over their coin, time and passion for him. I say protestors to the convention take two shirts with them—a Sanders shirt and a Jill Stein (Green Party) shirt. And if or when Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton, his supporters remove their Sanders shirts and put on their Jill Stein shirts to send a clear signal to the DNC. To wit: He may have jerked us off, but you (the DNC) won’t get the same chance.
GO GREEN, AMICI … if Sanders can’t see what he’s doing to a viable third party, he doesn’t want to see it. Rewarding the DNC after what they did to him and to US is no better than stealing our money and efforts. Nice guy, but in the end, just another Pol.

He can do the right thing come the convention or not. That’s up to him. But all that bullshit about a political revolution? Well, action speaks louder than words, my Brooklyn friend. Action speaks louder than words … and talk is always cheap.


Jill Stein invited Bernie Sanders to join the Green Party … he could bring his supporters there and make them a viable third party overnight … so far he hasn’t responded to their requests.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Guest Blogger: Patti Abbott … TK’s review of Shot in Detroit (Patti’s latest) … and is/has Sanders BERNED OUT?

Today we feature author, Patti Abbott (her take on her latest, Shot in Detroit), and our review.

Here’s Patti …
Shot in Detroit is the story of Violet Hart, a photographer, nearing forty, and eager to find artistic success. Through her relationship with a mortician, she comes up with the idea of photographing young black men who have died in Detroit over a six-month period. The novel takes place entirely in Detroit and its near suburbs. Violet Hart is ambitious, a loner, a pest in getting what she wants. She's an artist in other words.

“Photography was a license to go wherever I wanted and to do what I wanted to do.” Diane Arbus

Almost any African-American Detroiter that picks up Shot in Detroit will probably tell you that this is not the real Detroit. That I didn't get Detroit right from my vantage point as a suburbanite. That I didn't get them right. And this was the thought that reverberated in my head through the years I spent writing and rewriting my book. The Detroit in my novel might be one filled with violence, despair and poverty, but it was, and always would be, the view of an outside looking in--someone not, at heart, affected greatly by what was happening inside the city limits in most cases. I might work in Detroit, but I lived elsewhere.

The things I didn't know about Detroit included what the inside of a Detroit public school looked like; how underfinanced and antiquated the fire stations were; what it was like to stand in long lines to cash a check, pay a utility bill, pay a parking fine, see an representative at a Social Security office or at the Secretary of State's office. The hardship of waiting on a cold street corner for a DDOT bus that doesn't come; watching the depopulation of the street you live on, Then watching the houses come down due to arson, neglect, scrapping, mischief. I'd never know the difficulty of grocery shopping in a city with no grocery store chains. No full-scale pharmacies. And being without a car to take you outside city limits. (Most Detroit citizens have no car and this in a city with scant public transportation). City services were shoddy; a mayor was found guilty of many heinous crimes. You only had to look to Chicago or D.C. to see how these issues played out in other cities. But unlike these cities, Detroit had no glamour attached to it.

I conceded these facts. I knew my story would never tell the same story as someone writing from a depopulated street only a mile or two away from me. Other writers faced the same dilemma. Did Elmore Leonard mislead us to some degree with his gift for dialog, his colorful characters? Didn't his entertaining plots serve as the magician's trick of getting us to look at the wrong thing while he performed his magic? His home in Birmingham was as far removed from Detroit as mine.

Of the more than 100 stories I wrote before finishing my first novel, only five were set in Detroit--that's how much I feared getting it wrong. Each of those stories was grim and yet when I look at them now, they share the possibility of redemption, of finding a better life: two children escape their harridan mother, a criminal awakes to find two growths on his back and takes on the duties of an angel; an elderly man enjoys a day with the grandson he never knew he had. None of these stories state their characters are black although you can reasonably assume it.

I have tried to take this on in Shot in Detroit. To confront of fear of being the white outside. In the very first chapter, Violet Hart runs into two cops on Belle Isle. They accuse her of exploiting the people she is photographing. She responds by saying she's an artist. That perhaps her pictures tell their story. Various characters in the book throw this accusation in her face. She does the best she can to respond to it.

And perhaps I did too.

Patti has penned more than 125 stories in all the various venues—on line, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is also the author of two ebooks, MONKEY JUSTICE and HOME INVASION and co-editor of DISCOUNT NOIR. She won a Derringer award for her story "My Hero." She lives outside Detroit. Patti has also authored two terrific novels, Concrete Angel and now Shot in the Detroit.

Our Review of  Shot in Detroit, by Patti Abbott
Violet Hart is a photographer seeking a project that excites. It can be weird, unusual, dark … but it has to be that special something that can stir the creative juices and that makes life, or at least life as it relates to one’s chosen profession, worth living. While she loves her profession, she’s dependent on the usual photographer fare—weddings, bar and bat mitvahs, birthdays, etc., so she’s living hand to mouth while hoping to put together something for a gallery. The works she currently has showing aren’t selling and she’s catching grief for it.

On one of Violet’s trips to Belle Isle to search for that special something, after one trip that ended with police questioning her presence there, she spots something unusual, and then an unusual person, and a young one at that. Derek Olsen is a kid who creates his own sculptures out of weird stuff and then puts them on display along the beach. The two accidentally meet on Belle Isle. Violet initially thinks of Derek as “crazy guy,” but there’s more to this kid than meets the eye.

Violet has a lover, Bill, who owns a funeral parlor and does a respectable business from his years of service in the neighborhood. When Bill asks Violet to photograph one of the bodies he’s prepped for a funeral, a rugby player from London who was killed by an aneurism, she finds the experience more exhilarating than she imagined it could be. The requested photograph came from the family, a simple picture of their loved one in a casket to be shipped home. Developing the film later on in her darkroom, Violet realizes there’s something more to the picture she’s taken … and creative juices flow.

She strikes a deal with her lover and begins taking pictures of young black males he preps for their funerals. Bill makes it legit by ascertaining permission from family members, but he isn’t fully comfortable with the new arrangement he’s agreed to with Violet.

Very much into her new project, filming dead black males in their caskets, Crazy guy (Derek) calls with something extra weird he thinks Violet might be interested in … and oh, boy, is it weird … body parts he’s created a sculpture from. It’s not something Violet is comfortable with, although she takes a number of photographs of the body parts and the sculpture Derek has created from them.

She’s continuing her project filming the young dead black males at her lover’s funeral parlor, but then the scene on the beach involving Derek, his sculpture, and the body parts, comes back to her via the police. She’s told Derek to let the police know about the body parts he’s found and he’s done as she suggested, except the police are now at her doorstep asking questions. Derek called his work “installation art” … but the police have to wonder if maybe Derek and/or Violet provided their own material for the body part project. She did, after all, take pictures of it.

The complications are increased when the guy who owns a gallery showing her stuff, a guy she’s been intimate with for more pragmatic than romantic reasons (even while a noisy neighbor directly upstairs exercises on his bike), sees her growing gallery of dead black males and wants to run with it. This is something she’s also excited about, but there are legal issues involved that may well threaten her relationship with her true lover, Bill, and it’s a relationship that seems to be on the wane of late.

There are chapters with newspaper articles describing the latest deaths of young black males Violet will get a crack at photographing. It’s a very effective way to keep the pace of the novel moving. Violet is an interesting character not only for her photographic talents, but because she’s flawed in the most artistic way. Let’s face it, there’s an extra dose of selfishness many (most, if not all) artists share, and Violet is no exception. She’s an independent woman unwilling to live by social mores that might preclude her quest for creative expression. It’s a fine line she walks, because the idea of photographing dead males can be viewed as more exploitive than creative … but that’s for the naysayers to deal with. Violet is willing to cross lines some feminists might balk at, and like those living with writers undoubtedly come to realize—nothing is safe around an artist.

Violet is also naïve about a particular family secret involving the musician father who abandoned her and her mother years ago, and when she spots Bill with another woman, one with his racial profile, Violet experiences the jealousy a potential rejection inevitably leads to. There are a couple of plot twists and turns in this very interesting novel that strike like sledgehammers, so readers beware. Like most novels worth reading, it’s the journey toward plot twists that keep us interested in what happens next. Violet is a vibrant character. She will keep you interested to the very end, making the plot twists all the more powerful. Shot in the Dark is a wonderful read with an exceptionally interesting female lead, and it is much more than a murder mystery.

Is/Has Sanders BERNED OUT?

It’s perhaps the most asked question going back and forth in social media these days: Will Bernie Sanders abandon the cause and get behind Crooked Hillary Clinton (sorry, but no sincere Sanders supporter and/or progressive can call her anything but Crooked Hillary).

I’ve had my doubts going back to the Arizona debacle, where hundreds of polling locations were reduced from over 200 in 2012 to 60 in 2016. I was pretty sure early on that the Democratic Party would never allow Bernie Sanders to represent them; a party owned by corporate coin wasn’t about to allow someone who refused it take the top spot. Yet, hopeless romantic I am, I was hopeful the huge crowds Bernie was drawing, as opposed to the tiny ones surrounding Crooked Hillary, meant something.

And I did my best to remind myself how in 1960. scores of dead people voted JFK into office in Illinois; if they could do that then and hack into the Pentagon now, what were the odds it wouldn’t happen to voting machines in an election being run by millionaires and billionaires?

Post Arizona, there was no longer a doubt as to what would happen. The question remained, however, would Bernie make the move his supporters so desperately want him to make—would he defy the corruption of the Democratic National Committee and its star corrupt candidate, Crooked Hillary Clinton? Would Bernie start a viable third party with millions of supporters behind him, or even join one already in existence, the Green Party, and help to make it the Progressive Party his supporters want so badly? Or, in the end, would he wind up rewarding the corruption and endorsing Crooked Hillary?

I fear it’ll wind up being the latter, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow suit—not his supporters. Most of us are well aware of the consequences for progressives should Crooked Hillary win the Presidency. First off, we’ll be ignored over the next four years—as if we never existed. Why wouldn’t they ignore us? After what they did to Sanders’ campaign, should he still endorse her, why the hell would the Democratic Party bother giving us lip service, never mind a genuine acknowledgment?

Secondly, nothing changes within the party itself and/or their policies. Absolutely nothing.

Thirdly, everything we feared about Crooked Hillary and her flip-flops will come to pass, to include TPP legislation authored by the same corporate owners who own Crooked Hillary and Barry Obama. She’ll forget $15.00 an hour, her pledge to reduce education costs, single payer health insurance, and we’ll be led right back into the Middle East quagmire via her regime change fetish and love of perpetual war.

So, if Bernie bolts, most of us are with him. If he caves, he does it alone.

We can still love the man for what he tried, but we cannot dismiss the end result. For Bernie to get behind Crooked Hillary is to REWARD the corruption of the party against himself and his supporters … something I’ll never digest.

So, go the convention, Bernie. Show up and let them have it in a much more direct way than they fought you throughout this campaign (as exposed in the latest hack of the DNC server). Take the microphone at center stage and announce that after more than a year of fighting the corruption of the DNC, you’re taking your talents to the GREEN PARTY and establishing a formal Progressive Party to not only challenge for the Presidency, but to establish as a viable political party at every level of government, from local organizations to Governorships.

YES, GO GREEN, BERNIE … it’s where we need you most now.


Jill Stein on the differences between Trump and Crooked Hillary … and the myth of the lesser of two evils.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Interview with Ross Gresham (White Shark) … Book Review: Kill Anything That Moves … The Trump Implosion …

I first met Ross Gresham, his brother Kyle, and sister Nicole, some 42 years ago. Their parents were professors at the college I attended on a football scholarship (Minot State College, now a University). Their father is the guy I mention in every book dedication. He’s definitely the person most responsible for me ever getting published, and probably the person most responsible for me not being in jail and/or dead.

Now, some 42 years later, I get to interview Ross (or, as I call him, Rossman). Like his parents and both siblings, Ross has some serious education chops. He’s also a terrific author with a new book out (reviewed here), White Shark (click on the link for our review).
Ross is the author of the mystery novel White Shark (Gale / Five Star, May 2016). It's the first book in his Jim Hawkins series. His short stories have appeared in Indiana Review, Theaker's, and Front Range Review. Gresham's first book, Andre Dubus Talking (Xavier Review Press, 2003), collected together for the first time all available interviews with Dubus. Gresham is Professor of English at the United States Air Force Academy and fiction editor for the journal War, Literature & the Arts. He lives in Colorado Springs with his family.

1. Where did the idea for Jim Hawkins come from?

Response: Years back a guy told me the basic story of Lawrence Rockwood. Rockwood was a US soldier stationed in Haiti who was appalled by the inhuman prison conditions. He kept complaining through official channels but that worked about as well as you’d expect. Finally he put on his kit and marched in…. Recently the NYT ran a nice piece about one of our soldiers who was sickened by the fact that our Afghan ally kept a little boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. The US soldier kicked the guy’s ass for him (and of course was fired for doing so). I’ve heard a dozen similar stories. Just because it’s the rule doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Perfect kind of character for a crime book.

2. Tell us about old money vs. new. Why did you choose that as one of a few backdrops to what Hawkins unwittingly comes up against?

Response: That’s a great question. I have no idea. In real life I haven’t met that many people with old money, but I’ve liked every single one of them. I wish I had some old money myself.

3. This was one of my favorite passages in the novel, especially the last line, which I believe is a humbling fact for most (if not all) of us. “Now, you may think, Rich Lady! She orders you around like a servant! That wasn’t the situation. Yes, Sarah had her ideas about how things should be. This is the trap of money and Sarah wasn’t immune. No one is. A lady with extensive property makes a decision every ten minutes—which car? Which restaurant? Which house?—and the habit becomes a trait. Authority rewires the brain. You forget what people are for. That happens to everyone.” Has this been your experience? Do people with major coin have rewired brains because of it?

Response: Yeah, authority rewires the brain. Regrettably. A line in a favorite book haunts my life: “Have you ever known a schoolmaster fit to associate with grown men?” I’m a college teacher, prating at college students ten months a year. I go home every night and prate to my poor kids. I’m fated to become an unbearable jackass (what’s that the wife is saying? I’m already…?) Every May, at the end of the school year, I fantasize about moving to a monastery with a vow of silence. I am so fucking tired of my own voice: blah blah blah. What a dick.

4. Picking up on some of the passages I loved, here’s another statement from on high (money): She spun me a theory about great men. It was different for great men. All we could hope for was to be of some assistance. I immediately thought of Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov. Is that what you were aiming at?

Response: Again, great question. I didn’t have Raskolnikov in mind—I don’t know the Russians as well as I should—but I’ll take the Dostoevsky comparison all day long.

5. As much as I hate to admit it, especially since he took a major misrepresentative cheap shot at Bernie Sanders in the Miami paper he writes for, I was immediately comparing White Shark to the Carl Hiaasen environmental novels. Humorous, cynical, clever and cool … very cool. I think I preferred White Shark because of the depth of your cool vs. Hiaasen’s cool. I especially enjoyed how your protagonist was so much more innocent than I remember Hiaasen’s star. Hawkins crept up on me, his military background/prowess, etc., and I thought that was very effective. Even in affairs of the heart, Hawkins was a very reasonable dude. Hiaasen supports a fracking queen, which negates his environmental angst for me. Hawkins doesn’t seem all that concerned with the environment per se, and is more concerned with how people treat one another. Was that a conscious decision you made for him? I like it, because there’s more reality to it (than we’d all like to admit about ourselves). We don’t root for environmental disasters, but we don’t do much to avoid them. Hawkins is focused on people. Is that because of his background experiences in Africa, or is it because there’s only so much room and time for a particular cause/crusade?

Response: Jeez I like your reading of Hawkins. He wouldn’t pay attention to any “-ism,” even a virtuous one like environmentalism. None of them register.

6. White Shark is a page turner, and a fun one at that. It’s also extremely smart writing. The dirty retired government official was all too credible, especially with the shit we see day-to-day from our illustrious government and the clowns holding office. Land development vs. environmental concerns loom in the background of White Shark. Was this all a master plan or did it come about as you progressed in the story. I guess this is a process question. Was it outlined with those ideas in your head or did it come as you wrote?

Response: The choice of bad guys probably reveals my own biases (except they’re not biases but sound political wisdom). I didn’t plan the book very well and had to revise a lot. I went to years of writing school but we wrote short stories and didn’t talk about plotting. Or maybe I wasn’t paying attention. Anyway, no master plan, though I did know the essential crime from the start.

7. Where does Hawkins go after his stint on Nausset Island? Is there another Hawkins novel in the works? I hope so.

Response: One more in the oven. How on earth did Jim Hawkins end up as a substitute Sheriff in rural Wyoming? At least nothing can go wrong in a boring place like that….

8. You grew up in a very literary family, not to mention the ultimate Renaissance man environment. When did you start writing? What age, subject matter, etc.?

Response: I do come from a reading family. Growing up, everyone had a book going—your book—as in, “it’s going to be a long drive, grab your book.” Another nice thing about my family background was that being a writer was about the best thing you could be. Really. Most families would love their kids to be an astronaut or play quarterback for the Cowboys. Or get rich—maybe that’s the most common thing we want for our kids, so that we never have to worry. But my house was wall-to-wall books. I loved everything about them—the musty smell, the covers—these worlds were out of reach.

9. You have an MA and from Southern Mississippi and a PhD from the University of Denver. What are your thoughts on graduate writing schools?

Response: I know that people complain about writing schools, but those years certainly helped me. Going in, my work was terrible. Coming out, my work was somewhat less terrible. I also had a good time. I liked all the people and teachers. I’ll try a New York accent: C’mon, what d’ya want? (forgive me.)

10. Should they entertain genre fiction or continue to exist with a pickle up their asses?

Response: Ha! You know what’s a common phenomenon? You get on an airplane coming home from a big professor conference—MLA or something—and all these scholars are reading Stephen King or Fifty Shades of Grey. Anybody who reads books reads some kind of genre fiction. It’s true that some professors stop reading altogether. On the airplane they’re re-watching The Matrix on DVD.

11. Two Harvard graduates (you and your sister, Nicole), and an Air Force Academy graduate (your brother, Kyle). That’s some seriously impressive parenting. I think I remember your Dad saying he used to pay you guys to read based on the size of the book. X amount for so many pages, etc. Which book was your biggest payday? Did you enjoy it or was it something to bring to the labor board?

Response: I know I didn’t get any money for Elmore Leonard. I got twenty bucks apiece for the Will Durant history series. The whole policy made a lot of sense. My friends were flipping burgers for three bucks an hour. If you were a parent, and you could afford to, who wouldn’t make that deal?

12. Your kids … are you following the free market coin for books approach with them or have you altered the program? If so, how have you altered it?

Response: My kids? They don’t know what books are. They just steal the money out of my wallet when I’m asleep.

13. Your favorite novel and why?

Response: How about Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim? I’ve read it thirty or forty times and each time I’ve laughed aloud.

14. How in the world did you and your brother, two kids growing up in North Dakota (where the closest NFL team was the Minnesota Vikings) wind up Dallas Cowgirl fans? Was it strictly jumping on a winning team bandwagon or was it a romanticized version of rooting for a team full of felons (i.e., the underdogs make good)? And please tell me that you and Kyle haven’t brainwashed Nicole into being a Dallas fan as well.

Response: To some people, I know, it is odd to be a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. I understand that. But remember my childhood was different. I was born here in America.

Kill Anything That Moves, by Nick Turse … An important book, especially to those partway through high school, but also to pretty much everyone else, because it rips away the bloated super-hyped glory of going to war, being in war, and surviving war. It remains a very tough book for me to read. That’s right, I haven’t finished it yet.

So, how do you review it, Knucks?

Calm your jets and I’ll tell you … a little at a time, because the non-stop documentation of the hundreds, maybe thousands of My Lai Massacres that took place over the course of the “conflict in Vietnam” are very tough (at least for me) to comprehend. I don’t intend or want to browbeat the soldiers involved in these massacres, because although there were war crimes pretty much constantly committed, the war crimes themselves were U.S. Military policy. The soldiers, often caught in terrified situations, especially after one of their own was wounded or killed, reacted the way none of us might imagine, yet can understand (if we take the time to visualize the mess). So, yeah, the Lt. William Calley fucked up, but so did all those behind the scenes, from higher-ups in country to the assholes running things in Washington D.C.

I’ll eventually finish reading the book, but I really had to take a break because the documentation of devastation and murder and rape and pillage was just too much to handle straight through. Like I said, it’s an important book … and especially for those young men who think it’s all for glory and honor they’re shipped overseas to kill people who never did a thing against them.

The Trump Implosion … I suspect nobody is more disappointed than me in the Orange Blowhard’s (a.k.a. The Donald’s) self-implosion. Not because I supported this lunatic, but because I believed, and still do, that he’s just a big blowhard with nothing to offer or accomplish if ever elected President. I also thought it would be great for America to be exposed -- how absurd our political system/culture has become—the fact a complete buffoon can win a major party nomination is bad enough, but top it off with the Presidency? Man, that’s just entertainment. Frankly, as a country that can’t manage to achieve (or maybe doesn’t want to) more than 50% of the public to even show up to vote, we deserve the fiasco we’ve sowed.

Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump … a congenital liar, war hawk, bribe-taking, criminal versus an absolute clown. There’s “American Exceptionalism” for you.

As a Bernie supporter, I’ve already turned to the Green Party … I can only hope Sanders doesn’t cave and wind up endorsing the very kind of corruption his campaign fought against. Should he do so, he loses my support and winds up being just another pol in my book. I could care less about best intentions. You don’t endorse what you claim you were fighting (pay attention Mika Brzezinski—your constant complaining about GOP officials supporting the Orange Blowhard are getting old—try asking Elizabeth Warren why she dodged a simple “yes”/”no” question regarding whether or not Hillary Clinton should release her Wall Street transcripts?).

Speaking of Warren, Bernie should pay attention to how unfavorably she’s been received by progressives since her sellout. She’s hated now, and deservedly so.

If Bernie really wants to generate a political revolution, he’d hustle his ass over to the Jill Stein and the Green Party, which has been begging for his presence for years now.


One from Column A and one from Column B …

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Book Review: A Dangerous Lesson (Dana King) … New Hampshire/Spotlight Publicity … Crime Fiction Lover on Tommy Red … Next Week in TK …

Author, Dana King, is having a very good year. The Man in the Window (a Nick Forte Mystery), has been nominated for a Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original. This is King’s second nomination for the Shamus Award. If that isn’t enough, his Pittsburgh Penguins may well win the Stanley Cup tonight out west in San Jose.

And if that isn’t enough, his latest entrée into the world of Private Investigator novels, A Dangerous Lesson, is another rock solid page turner, featuring some of the cleverest writing you’ll find anywhere.

A Dangerous Lesson, by Dana King … Nick Forte always had a rough edge to him, but in this terrific new novel by Dana King, he’s confronted with a situation that could break any man. It’s a throwback style of Private Investigator writing I admire no end—cynical, self-deprecating, sarcastic, and clever as all hell. I started highlighting particular lines that made me smile, but was soon coloring my copy—there are that many. You can open up the book to any page and find one or two, or as many as half a dozen. Here are just a few:

Sharon’s wavy ash-blond hair and green eyes could make a guy falling off a building stop for a closer look.

Sharon got hit on more often than a driving range.

Sharon called us over after Game Two and had me cut the cake: chocolate with white icing, trimmed in black like a horse-drawn hearse. A six-inch tombstone stuck out of the icing with “Happy? 40th” written on it. She and Jan lit forty individual candles, Joey pointing out any they skipped in the midst of the conflagration. A firefighter from the station up the street stood by holding an ax and a garden hose.

Then came the gifts. A cane with wheels and a rearview mirror. Metamucil. Depends. Vanessa said she’d give me her gift later. Tony said he’d figured that and gave me a pill the size of my thumb with “Viagra” written on it.

Sharon’s wavy ash-blond hair and green eyes could make a guy falling off a building stop for a closer look.

Sharon got hit on more often than a driving range.

Even more out of place than I was, he resembled a cop the way Bradley Cooper resembles a garbage man.

“That boy’s so dumb, you moved his plate five inches he’d starve to death. Let’s keep an eye on him when this breaks up.”

Nick Forte is the essence of a Renaissance man. He’s played music with orchestras and knows his musical history, he’s a sports fan, well-read, and a genuine tough enough guy not to have to take shit from punks. He’s also a divorced parent with a very talented and smart daughter, a past career with the police, and a protective streak that can get a person into trouble.

Pay attention to the Friedrich Nietzsche epigraph prior to the prologue. He who fights against monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster in the process. And when you stare persistently into an abyss, the abyss also stares into you.

In the prologue to A Dangerous Lesson, Nick comes across a guy manhandling a woman (his wife). Nick is with his own date, but intervenes. The scene is the perfect backdrop and sign of things to come.

There are no spoilers in TK reviews. We prefer you buy the books, but suffice it to say, the journey the author takes his readers on is one that will never disappoint. The recurring characters in this wonderful series are engaging; the kind of characters you miss when they aren’t on the page you’re reading, and then make you smile when they’re back. In the backdrop to A Dangerous Lesson, a serial killer is terrorizing the city. Although the killer has nothing to with Nick’s initial P.I. job—investigating a meatball apparently looking to rip-off the granddaughter of a monied French woman—the killer does interrupt Nick’s world. The old lady who hired Nick is concerned the guy looking to marry her granddaughter is a gigolo with the worst intentions. She hired Nick to learn as much about the dude as he can, especially if it’ll convince her granddaughter to walk away from the bum.

And then there are those women being cut-up rather surgically in the city, and Nick’s friends on the force (some of those wonderful recurring characters in the series), are frustrated for lack of evidence to capture whomever it is doing the brutal killings.

Back to the Prologue where Nick stopped a woman from being beaten by her husband. There’s been a similar situation in Nick’s past when a lawyer he was trying to help leave her abusive husband didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to. Eloise Marshall haunts Nick and she is on his mind when he helps and then befriends the diminutive Josefina (Josie).

This is a terrific read, start to finish. King’s dialogue is loaded with wittiness and wonderful reflections of the culture we often label Americana. The women Nick deals with are burdened, it seems, by his chivalry, and there are twists and turns in the plot that will further engage readers. Like I said earlier, a page turner.

And remember to pay attention to Mr. Nietzsche.

Dana King’s Nick Forte series is a throwback to the best of yesteryear’s P.I. novels blessed by our modern day madness. A Dangerous Lesson is a brilliant piece of writing, perhaps the best of the series, except I distinctly remember feeling the same way about the others. If there’s a modern day Mike Hammer (minus the superhero persona), it is Nick Forte, except I like Nick a lot more.

King and a few other authors (fearing I’d leave one out, I’ll not name the ones I can remember) have made me a genuine fan of the P.I. novel and tales told in first person. Not an easy task when it comes to this curmudgeon (me). It’s a wonderful read, amici. The entire Nick Forte series is.

Get A Dangerous Lesson here:

In 2014, his P.I. novel, A Small Sacrifice (reviewed here), was nominated for Best Indie P.I. novel.

Visit Dana’s Blog here:

Some pictures from New Hampshire, where we took Tommy Red on the road with the help of Wendie Appel (that's her behind me) and her operation, Spotlight Publicity.


New Hampshire … it was GREAT catching up with so many former teachers and fellow students in New Hampshire last week as we took Tommy Red on the road with the help of Spotlight Publicity … Wendie Appel runs the show at Spotlight. She arranged the signings and a wonderful radio interview with Ken Cail at The Pulse (107.7 WTPL). Ken is the voice of the Manchester Monarchs Hockey Team and he had a bunch of great stories to tell me about some of our Tampa Bay Lightning Bolts (like Brian Boyle sitting in with Ken and doing a game on radio). Aside from visiting with friends, Ken’s broadcast was the highlight of the trip for me.

Visit Spotlights Publicity here:

Crime Fiction Lover review of Tommy Red: “Tommy Red builds to an explosive climax that should satisfy readers looking for action, while at the same time offering complex characterization and thematic complexity that is beyond the reach of most crime novels.”

Next Week in TK … Interview with Ross Gresham, author of White Shark.

— Knucks

It's Charlie these days, but look at what I found ... a Johnny Porno trailer.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Review: Cannibals, by Jen Conley … Trump v. Sanders (the great debate) …

Cannibals, by Jen Conley … a collection of gritty short stories from, according to Wiki, a heavily forested area of coastal plain stretching across more than seven counties of southern New Jersey. Most of us know of the Pine Barrens from a favorite Sopranos episode wherein Paulie and Christopher get lost after trying to whack a Russian mobster.
Conley’s stories are my kind of stories; dark, with a touch of hope, whether it gets crushed out or simply fades … and some of the open endings leave you to thinking about more. Much like my last read and review, Joe Clifford’s, December Boys, Cannibals is a series of verismo operas, one after another. The stories first appeared in Thug Lit, Beat to a Pulp, Yellow Moma, Out of the Gutter, Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey Present: Both Barrels, All Due Respect, Trouble in the Heartland, Literary Orphans and Needle: A Magazine of Noir.
Home Invasion starts the collection and sends a distinct message to the reader: Be prepared, MF’er, this ain’t no cozy you’re reading. I particularly enjoyed this story because I had a night to think about it. I took a look at the index and saw the title, and it made me think back to a time when I sat with two fellow wannabes, one of whom had an idea for a home invasion. It might well have been a test for me; to see if I’d go along, but I’m still proud to say if it was a test, I failed with flying colors. “No way,” I remember saying. “That’s a no-no for me.”  One of them agreed and I was never asked again, nor do I know if there ever was one, and/or, if it was ever pursued. The idea of hurting someone in their home over coin or jewelry is probably the most despicable thing I can think of (along with ripping off the elderly in stock scams). Anyway, Conley’s Home Invasion does justice to Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River. No spoilers here, so you’ll have to buy the book and read it cover to cover—and you really should. The casualness of life can sting worse than stepping on a beehive ... and sometimes there's just no justice anywhere.
Cannibals involves a young girl who separates from her cousin and his friend after being teased about the cannibals in the woods. She’s anxious to assert her independence and she’s a fast runner, but then she finds herself caught in the clasp of a pack of hobos living in the woods. You’ll feel the terror this kid fears and you’ll be afraid for her the same way you’d be afraid as a young kid being terrorized by adults living in, and smelling of, squalor and cheap booze.
Howling deals with a female officer answering a call from an elderly man hearing howls in the woods. She’s having a tough time since losing a husband to a car accident and sometimes answering calls like these can make a cop feel foolish, except sometimes there’s more to the call and what might happen going forward. Life can get lonely a lot sooner than we’d all like to think.
Pipe deals with a young African-American kid in need of retribution for the humiliation he suffers at the hands of a bully, but there’s more to the story, including how relationships between teachers and students, and/or teachers and those marked as lost, evolve and resolve. It’s a surprise ending that caught me off guard and made me enjoy it all the more.
Metalhead Marty in Love the preverbal dorky musician in love with the girl he can’t have … until he can, and then … this one will make you feel it in the gut (unless you’re a sociopath).
June is the daughter of a woman earning her coin as a hooker, and when the girl makes a mistake taking what isn’t hers, the harsh realities of life below the poverty line appear in all its ugliness. People are at their Thomas Hobbes state of nature worst, living a life that is in fact solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
Circling deals with another female officer whom has recently lost her husband. She’s called with a younger cop to a domestic disturbance situation where she recognizes the perp, a man she grew up with and once had a brief relationship with. He’s trying to get busted from fear of presumed gangsters he owes … the background to both characters bubbles throughout. A real good read.
Eleanor … geez, this was my favorite in the collection, especially because of the way I thought something worse than what had already happened was about to happen. This one involves elderly people living in trailer homes, a murder, and an incredibly well told tale of what the elderly have to deal with both emotionally and physically. Terrific read.
Escape … a thriller from the opening page … a woman escaping a jealous ex-boyfriend she’s provided with a restraining order … page turner right to the end.
Milk … at first when I read the title, I thought Harvey Milk, but no, that’s San Francisco and a long time ago now.  This one is a wild ride with a guy told to pick up a container of milk by his often bizarre dad, although they’re on good terms of late … he goes out with a friend and they do a few lines, and even though he’s got something to his future, well … what sometimes happens in life happens.
Debbie the Hero … hey, every grandmother should be like this one … her granddaughter has strayed into the arms of a local dipshit and is pregnant … no spoilers here, but here’s a woman who’s done her time (not prison time, life), and she reflects on enough of it to keep the readers’ eyes on page through to the ending. Real good story. Second favorite so far.

Next up is the Springsteen song made famous: It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City … but I’m about to read that one now and need to post this review up from fear of the ton of stuff I have to do over the next few days getting ready to revisit New Hampshire with Tommy Red. Needless to say, you have more than enough here to be enticed with … it’s a terrific collection of short stories and I’m sure glad I stumbled upon it on Facebook. Actually, I found it on another terrific writer’s blog, Dana King’s One Byte at a Time,where I read the interview he did with this wonderful collection’s author, JenConley.
 Trump v. Sanders (the great debate) … Well, it would be kind of fun to watch these two. All Trump could do with Bernie is continue to call him a crazy communist, but that’s because he doesn’t have any dirt on the man … and let’s face it, Trump understands as much about political ideology as he does about running a casino.
On the other hand, Bernie could let the Orange Blowhard go off the rails a time or two and then turn to him, shake his head, and say: “You really are a moron.”
It probably won’t happen because the Orange Blowhard has balls the size of split peas … his dodge of the Vietnam war over a foot injury (he couldn’t remember which foot) spoke volumes, but what was even better was his shitting his pants when a protestor tried to gain his stage and/or the eagle he had brought in for a photo op nearly gave him a stroke. You can find both on Youtube … under Eagle Scares Trump.
In the meantime, Senate Democrats are furious with Bernie for even entertaining the idea of a debate. They conveniently ignore that fact that their choice for establishment president, Lyin Crooked Hillary, doesn’t have the guts to honor her promise to debate before California … or she’s just too busy hiding behind her staff and letting them magnify the lies about the IG’s report on her email debacle.
The hysterical lemming left runs home to Momma & Poppa (the party). Remember that great opening to The Newsroom, when Jeff Daniels ticks off why America is no longer the greatest country in the world? I really miss that show, but to the point: There’s a rant he does when he turns to the woman representing the left and says, “If liberals are so fuckin’ smart, how come they lose so goddamn always?”
Well, let me offer one suggestion (smiley face). Upon further review of whatever election confronts them, the left can ALWAYS (not sometimes, not almost always, but ALWAYS) retreat to where they are most comfortable – in absolute hysteria. Nothing is funnier to me than watching so-called liberal democrats freak out come election time. Whether it’s a buffoon like Donald Trump (a.k.a., the Orange Blowhard), or John Kasich, or any other candidate who might’ve won the nomination, the one thing the Democratic Party can count on is its liberal base collectively shitting their pants and falling in line behind whomever they (i.e., the party) decides should be the nominee. In this instance, it’s a criminal with more bad baggage than most organized crime family bosses (i.e., she’s responsible for a lot more death and income inequality than the mob).
Does anyone really believe the Orange Blowhard is the glue holding Democratic loyalists/lemmings in place for this coming election. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, wrong. We’d be hearing the same exact thing no matter which GOP nominee won. To wit: Oh, no, we can’t let the Republicans win! They’ll destroy everything we’ve accomplished! The world will be at risk. We’ll be set back 100 years! The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer and they’ll even rewrite the constitution by placing conservative judges on the bench, and so on.
And to that I say: Ronald Reagan was the most destructive force for the middle class in my voting lifetime … yet we’re still here. What happened post-Reagan has made things a lot tougher for the middle class, and it wasn’t just from the GOP that the economic shit storms were delivered.
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall?
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA into law?
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who instituted welfare reform?
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who passed the anti-minority crime bill?
How many Democrats endorsed the war with Iraq?
Wasn't it Obama who gave away the store during the bailout?
Wasn’t it Obama who maintained the Bush tax cuts?
Wasn’t it Obama who went back on his word to fight for unions?
Did the income inequality gap widen or shrink during the last 7 years?
Isn’t it Obama sending troops back to Iraq?
Isn’t it Obama sending troops to Syria?
Isn’t it Lyin’ Crooked Hillary Clinton who wants a no fly zone over Syria?
Isn’t it Lyin’ Crooked Hillary who supported NAFTA and the TPP (before she was against it, and make no mistake, she’ll find it GOLD all over again if given the opportunity)?
Isn’t it Lyin’ Crooked Hillary who was more comfortable with a $12.00 minimum wage rather than $15.00
Did the conservative majority Supreme Court uphold the ACA twice (for the sake of insurance companies, perhaps, but they upheld it)? 
Did the same court deliver marriage equality?
Hysteria, that’s what way too many so-called liberal democrats yield to every single presidential election cycle. It’s how they react to pretty much everything political. Rather than fight within their own party to insist on a progressive agenda (not the bullshit convention platform everybody knows is ignored the day after it’s created), but an actual progressive voice, one that has a say in future policy, the idea of risking a single election cycle (or two), brings on massive diarrhea … they shit their brains out and immediately run home to Momma and Poppa – the party officials who have taken them for granted ever since 1968, after which they created the super delegate system that declares: We don’t give a shit who you voted for or who you want, we’ll make that decision for you. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said exactly that when she declared: “Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.”
Imagine that, the grass roots getting what they voted for?
This is why Bernie or Busters (many of whom had to switch their political affiliation from Independent to Democrat just to vote for Bernie due to closed primary states) aren’t going to vote for Lyin’ Crooked Hillary. Whether they mail in Bernie’s name or vote for Jill Stein or protest vote for the Orange Blowhard … it has to do with sending a very clear message to the DNC. We’re not going to shit our pants and get in line. Either take us serious or lose us. That’s your choice. We’ve already made ours.
The Sopranos ... Pine Barrens …

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Joe Clifford’s December Boys … Game 7 thoughts …. Meet me in New Hampshire … Lyin’ Crooked Hillary …


December Boys: A Jay Porter novel … by Joe Clifford. This is my second Clifford novel and I’ve already ordered the first in the Jay Porter series, Lamentation. Our protagonist, Jay Porter, is an insurance claims investigator, a job he’s not fond of, which adds to a burgeoning set of issues, both personal and financial. The issues mount and serve to heighten the tension throughout this terrific novel.

The backstory to his personal angst are parents killed in a car accident, and the suicide by cop of his junkie brother just over a year ago. He’s feeling guilty about not being able to save his brother (Chris), and he’s getting panic attacks that may be fueled by an increase in alcohol intake. He’s also experiencing paranoia from a lack of sleep. He loves his wife and child, but can’t seem to get out of his own way. They’ve been having marital problems Jay doesn’t understand, mostly because he’s wrapped up in his own guilt and frustration over the circumstances surrounding his brother’s death.

Jay investigates a routine claim and discovers something is amiss. A 16 year old boy confesses to a lie that quickly snowballs into the investigation of what has become the latest scourge of our wonderfully abrasive free market economy—private prisons. Long before we get there, Jay’s wife takes their son and heads to Bernie Sanders’ Burlington, Vermont, where her mother lives. They need time apart, she tells Jay. He needs to get over his brother’s death and seek help.

On a visit to see his son, Jay is set up by his mother-in-law when Jay’s wife returns with their son, and a “friend” (who happens to be a good-looking yuppie), the kind Jay assumes is looking to get down his wife’s pants. Like most men feeling rejected, whether it’s real or not, Jay does the macho dance and puts himself in deeper shit with his wife.

On his own, Jay drinks and accidentally gets a promotion for the kid’s confession to the insurance claim, but when the kid’s mother makes a frantic call to Jay about the kid being hauled off by the police, Jay looks into it (risking his job) and meets a cute courthouse employee, Nicki, who tests the bonds of Jay’s marriage while also supplying him with just enough information to keep Jay sleuthing.

It all takes place in the brutal cold of a New Hampshire winter; brittle temperatures, snow storms, howling winds and the gnawing possibility of an ever anxious to cross the road at the exact wrong time deer and/or moose. Jay has demons he has yet to control, and with everything going down at the same time – the family crisis with his wife, a beating he takes from a couple of cops, the lure of a young beautiful woman looking to be more than friends, the weather, the emotional weight of a dead brother and all that implies, Porter also winds up stepping on some heavy feet, the hated, wealthy and politically established Lombardis, turning his life into a perfect storm of life or death.


Get December Boys here:

Game 7 thoughts …. Well, being totally honest, I never thought we’d get this far without Stralman and Stamkos … and although I was hopeful vs. the Wingless in Detroit, I wasn’t overly confident. I was much more concerned with the Wrong Islanders because of their physical style of play, but 10 games later (truly amazing how both teams were dispatched in 5 games), we were facing the winner of what many believed were the two best teams in the east. And so it’s been the Pipsqueaks from Pittsburgh for 6 rough and tough games. At times they seemed invincible … and then we came back and played hard and fast and rejected their speed and skill.
Our former New York guys, Callahan & Boyle, have been tenacious as always, and when the rest of the team is chipping in with the chippiness, we've taken command ... but there's a difference between chippy and the penalty box, and so far Paquette has managed to avoid confusing the two. We need to stay out, yet be forceful and do some banging. Fight for pucks and never relent along the boards in our end.
It'll be nice to hear this song six or seven times tonight ...

When Bishop went down in Game 1, I didn’t think we had a prayer. I thought game 1 was catching them at the right time, and especially after games 2 and 3, I figured we were done. Wrong again, oh, fat swami of Fords, New Jersey … the Bolts fought back and nearly dominated for 60 minutes, thus scaring the shit out of me yet again after going up 4-0 in two periods, and having to hang on to win 4-3 (for the beating they took in the third period).

I was hoping we’d take Game 6 and preclude tonight’s one and done Game 7, but the Pipsqueaks proved way too good to lose in 6. So tonight all one can do is hope we show up for all three periods, and that we play as if there’s no tomorrow, because the truth of the matter is: lose and there’s no tomorrow.

Get Tommy Red here:

Lyin’ Crooked Hillary … so, now that the State Department, the department she once headed as Secretary of State, has issued its blistering report of her terrible (take your pick here) a) incompetence, b) judgement, c) criminality and/or all of the above, we’ve learned that what she and her campaign have been spewing for the last year is yet another compilation of big fat lies.

Yes, lies.

1) She was NEVER “permitted” to use a private email source (the rules were changed specifically precluding such activity WHILE she was secretary of State);

2) She NEVER reported the attempted hacking of her emails

3) The other Secretaries of States who used their own emails NEVER had a PRIVATE SERVER, NOR a SPECIFIC REGULATION PRECLUDING SUCH USE.

4) Her excuse that it was a matter of “convenience” WAS DIRECTLY CONTRADICTED by her own email stating she was concerned her personal emails would be exposed.


6) There was NO EVIDENCE that she requested or received approval to use her personal account for business.

Bottom Line, Amici: The Orange Blowhard can now add another name to the label he’s assigned her. Instead of Crooked Hillary, she’s now LYIN’ CROOKED HILLARY.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book reviews: Knuckleball, by Tom Pitts ... George V. Higgins Biography ...

Knuckleball, by Tom Pitts … call me old school, but I love it when a story is told in a straightforward manner, without forty pounds of introspection and sixty pounds of fatty narrative. I also prefer stories that reflect life (i.e., real life), where kids are forced to battle demons most parents overlook, where husbands and/or wives cheat on their spouse, where people with the best intentions are too often the victims of their decency, and where the slightest of lies may have the greatest of consequences. Knuckleball features all of the above, which is why I’m so glad I dick around on Facebook enough to occasionally land on a post from a friend or two with a reading recommendation that winds up being the pleasure this one has been.

A good cop, a really good cop, is brutally executed in the city of San Francisco while his partner was busy dealing with personal demons a few blocks away. Somebody sees the killer. Somebody had to have seen the killer, it was in broad daylight out on the streets. Sure people scatter, but …

A young kid at home has to deal with the relentless bullying of an older street punk brother. Their mother works hard just to get bye. There’s no father. There’s no money. There’s no future so long as things remain the same.

Knuckleball features life in a big city with all its virtues and vices. Hugh Patterson is the good cop murdered on the street. Vince Alvarez is his partner. Oscar Flores is a 15-year-old kid and one of the people who witnesses the murder. Ramon Alvarez is Oscar’s bully brother. The novella takes place over a three day/game period between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the home town San Francisco Giants. The murder takes place in The Mission section of Frisco. It is a compelling story.

Knuckleball is verismo opera, where the truth not only hurts, it often survives, whether rightly or wrongly. Knuckleball is a terrific read, and I’ll be reading more of Mr. Pitts in the near future.

George V. Higgins: The Life and Writings,  by Erwin H. Ford II … interesting, sad, and an often funny account of the life and times of one of my favorite writers ever, George V. Higgins. If you don’t know how good this guy was, take a look at my sycophantic love for his writing here: Three Masterpieces Etched in Stone (an article I wrote for the Rap Sheet seven years ago) .

Higgins was a single child brought up by educated parents, and although he clung to his Boston Irish roots, including his religion, he wasn’t a slave to the clergy. He did allow his first marriage to a woman with drinking and mental issues to go on way too long because of the antiquated Catholic Church issues regarding divorce, and it bankrupted him more than once. He was also as brilliant as they come, with a vocabulary that required a dictionary at all times. He was a journalist, a prosecutor/lawyer, a writer of novels and non-fiction, an English professor, and one haughty MF’er, especially when forced to deal with liberals (he was more conservative than liberal), but he was also a very loyal friend and an equally loyal enemy when crossed. Higgins eventually drank himself into a deadly heart attack, but the road of his 59 years was colorful and productive. A workhorse with relentless energy, Higgins wrote for 4 hours every morning, had a 3 hour liquid lunch, then returned to write for another 2 hours in the afternoon. He was constantly working to fight off the IRS and keep his boats (literally) afloat. He defended G. Gordon Liddy and Eldridge Cleaver.
Higgins also felt pigeonholed as a crime writer because of the great success he experienced with The Friends of Eddie Coyle (my favorite crime novel ever). Higgins wanted to be lauded as a great literary figure and felt rejected as such. I often found some of his books, much like some of James Ellroy’s works, unreadable, but his first three and a few others later down the road were simply brilliant. Higgins purposely returned to writing crime because his publishers required it for the sake of earning coin. Glad I finally had the chance to read a biography of him … and the truth is, I couldn’t put the book down.

Next In the cue … Joe Clifford’s December Boys: A Jay Porter Novel … review before we leave for New Hampshire and a return to shutter island? You know, the wife has never experienced life on the rock.


Violence? Really? Vicious? Hey, Eugene Robinson, blow it out your ass.