Amici:Happy Birthday Charles (not Charlie) Stella … I forget how old he is (28, I’m thinking … he was the ’82 kid, I think). The newly married marathon man is close to finished with his MBA. Charles finished the New York Marathon in 4:08 and had not trained much for it due to work/school. He’s a neat freak of the first order and tall and thin (just like his brother and father) … and he’s sporting a serious Stella widow peak for such a young man.
The Existential Detective … Alice Thompson … I recently had a chance to review and blurb a terrific book of interviews by a scholar of all things literary (crime fiction included), Len Wanner. Mr. Wanner’s back and forth with a group of Scottish Crime Writers was fascinating. While each of the authors intrigued me enough to want to read a book by them (I’m in the process of doing so now), Alice Thompson grabbed my immediate attention (or maybe it was the title of her latest, The Existential Detective) and I ordered a copy through Amazon.UK. Ms. Thompson is a seriously serious writer of literature with a basket of literary awards in Scotland. Until recently, the only author in the collection I’d previously read was Al Guthrie, a terrific writer of the darker slices of Scotland/human nature. While I’ve also read (and praised) Scottish author Russel McLean’s work going back a few years, I had not read any of the other authors in the interview collection … until now.
The fact Ms. Thompson has an incredibly diverse background only triggered my curiosity regarding the title of her book. Good on ya’ Len Wanner for exposing me to Ms. Thompson; the read was more than enjoyable. Intelligent characters and writing and an ability to keep one hooked and anxious for the next clue (so to speak), the author’s existential detective battles with a back story of guilt from being the parent in charge when his young daughter had disappeared while trying to solve a missing person (his client’s wife) case fraught with visions (or are they?) of the missing person (who’d recently perhaps broken into his office)?
This is a smart read and a nice change of pace for me. In the Agatha Christie tradition of the who done it and why, The Existential Detective will keep you turning pages and thoroughly engaged start to finish. I just this morning passed this off to a co-member of The Manhattan Chapter of the Northeast Regional Book Club Association.
My only beef is with the publisher; it wasn’t available on kindle and I had to purchase it through amazon UK (in those silly pounds they use). Hey, come to think of it, I could exchange my body weight and be rich, yeah?
One more thing: We LOVED the cover.
My blurb for Mr. Wanner’s interview book: Some say tomata, others say tomato, but they all share a similar trait; a genuine passion for their chosen craft—crime fiction writers; whether they accept the genre label or not. Interviewer Len Wanner pokes and prods with his usual intellectual inquisitiveness at what makes these Scottish authors tick and then tock … a must read for writers of all genres and their fans alike. —Charlie Stella (author of Johnny Porno)
Lark & Termite … I was actually looking into an MFA program to pursue and sent an email to Rutgers University. I was politely told that previously published authors are not welcomed unless they’re shooting for something literary. Fair enough; at least they didn’t take my application fee (although after seeing the cost for these things, I decided I should probably drive a taxi driver when I retire). The point of the Rutgers background, by the way, is the author of Lark & Termite, Jayne Anne Phillips (she's the director of the program at Rutgers).
This was an engrossing novel about a devoted and curious sister and her severely birth defected brother; they share a mutual mother but different fathers. It is also a tale of sisters, one of which is their missing mother; the other is the aunt who brought them up. There are men involved too, both the fathers of the two kids; one of which was killed early on in Korea and who never saw his boy and the other lives a constant struggle with his mother (and the silent parent of Lark (the girl)) through most of the book. It’s a terrific read, amici. Told through several of the characters’ voices, starting with the father of Termite (the boy) as his troops are overrun in battle, the story unfolds going back and forth in time. I was upset I couldn’t purchase more of the authors’ works on kindle, however … very upset.
My review of a James Crumley short story (Hot Springs) over at Spine Tingler Magazine is here.
Finally Franzen … back a few years when The Corrections had struck literary oil, the ugly one gave it a try (paying full price) but found he could not get beyond the first chapter (or 10-20 pages). At first I figured I was just too stupid to figure it out. It also could’ve been one of my reading tics when I can’t absorb what I’m reading for any number of reasons (I have something I’m juiced about writing, too much caffeine, too little caffeine, etc.). In any event, because we have the book in the house someplace (I hope), I figured I’d take a read at another time. The other reason I wanted to give Franzen another try was all the shit he’s taken from other writers, especially in the crime fiction community, it seems. I figure if the multitudes are this sure about something, they MUST be wrong.
This morning, after falling off the 12-step amazon kindle purchase wagon yet again (twice this week already), I bought Franzen’s latest, Freedom. I’ve just started so all I can say so far is, intriguing (much the way I felt about reading Updike’s Rabbit Run) … so much so, for the 2nd time since I’m working here at the Chrysler Building, I missed my subway stop while reading and finally looked up at 68 Street. So, so far, I’m all in.
WTF … remember that $26K in taxes (extra, besides what they took from our paychecks) the wife and I had to pay for working 7 days a week, writing novels and killing ourselves so the big shots at Goldman Sachs could reward themselves for bankrupting their company and the economy? Well, we were reminded of it this past week and it really stirred some bad blood when (as Doc pointed out), Charlie Rangel was issued a “stern rebuke” for ducking his taxes. Great, I get to pay back 4/5th’s of my 12-14 hour weekend work in taxes but Charlie Rangel gets to skip paying same while not working nearly as hard (and while using rent controlled apartments meant for those who need it). Like Poppa Tommy used to say (emphasis added/sarcasm intended) … “It’s a good country, America.”
Bills-Bengals … normally I’d love for my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills to kick Cincinatti’s asses six ways to Sunday (especially Carson “oops, threw to the wrong team again” Palmer), but there’s too much at stake now. We desperately need that 1st round draft pick and should not run the table now that we’ve lost our virginity in the win column. Keep it close, fellas, but don’t get stupid on me … again.