Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

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).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Doc says ...


The Doc is back ... and in rare form ... and if it ain't at Obama's expense, it's at mine ... oy vey.

First of all, Chaz, a Merry Christmas to you and your family and of course the ever-lovely Principessa.

Secondly, a Happy Birthday to your Moms.

Thirdly, what the fuck exactly is this?

Even Ann-Marie seems to be praying to become invisible before the flash goes off. Couldn’t you have borrowed some meat outfit from Lady Gaga?

You look like the cult leader of some bizarre Western NY hillbilly religion involving snakes and Chivas induced miracles.

“Welcome my friends to the Holy Apostolic Church of the Buffalo Bills. In our cathedral we extol the mystery and beatific virtue of The Bills, Vince Lombardi, canned lunch meat, DW drums, opera and that pizza with the cheese inside the crust. Join us brothers and sisters as we find answers to all of life’s unanswerable questions.

Is Vince Lombardi really still dead?
How come Obama doesn’t look Hawaiian?
In the midst of global warming, why is it so freaking cold?
Why does pulling someone’s finger make them fart?
How come all the pretty girls like Doc?
Why is that focking pizza delivery guy taking so long?

After the service we will go up to the roof of our cathedral (garage) and wait for extra-terrestrials to come and beam all the faithful up to my home planet. Your tour guide will be Spartacus, my talking rodent.”

Really, Chaz, you are in dire need of a fashion intervention.

I had an intervention once. You know you need to calm your lifestyle when you walk into your intervention and Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan are sitting there with your family.

Happy New Year to you, Big Guy and all the Amicis


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Momma Stella’s 81st Birthday ... Christmas Pics ...


Spiranza Telese (My Mommy) was born in the town of Settefrati (7 brothers), Italy, the day after Christmas in 1929. Today she turns 81. As I tell her every day when I call from work and/or home ... I LOVE MY MOMMY!

The video below is from her home town in Italia. It was brought to my attention by my former sister-in-law, Roseanne DiPreta Schreuder (who is married to my first wife’s brother, Billy). How’s this for a small world ... Roseanne’s parents were born in the same tiny small town (Setttefrati).

Thanks for this, very much, Roseanne.

Roe typed up my very first manuscript some 30+ years ago when I first tried to get something published.

We’ll be with Momma Stella again today ... 81 years old and 54 of them putting up with me? forgetaboutit ... she’s the champ.

Some Christmas Pics ... It was a Buffalo Bills Christmas ... and the Doc will be more than happy to see my slave to fashion wardrobe has been fully replenished (including outerwear!).

Casa Stella ...

Our snowman ...

Me (in my Bills blanket Santa brought me) and the boss (my doll) ...

Our tree ...

Look what else Santa left ...

And this outerwear ...

And these too ...
You know what, amici? Santa truly is a Bills fan ...

Okay, funs over ... tomorrow its back to the Knuckmeter and the diet/gym.

Oy vey ...


Friday, December 24, 2010

Knucks’ best 2010s … Knucklespeare ...


Reading is an integral part of the ugly one’s life these past several years … so are writing, drumming, eating, drinking, occasionally working out, ball breaking, eating, drinking … yous get the picture.

So Knucks best of reading list for 2010 consists of the following books that include reads and rereads and after #1, are in no particular order; they were all very good. These are the ones I can remember and there's no doubt I'm leaving quite a few terrific reads off this list from simple lack of memory (or maybe it's not so simple):

My favorite read of the year was Pike, by Benjamin Whitmer.

The following books were also excellent reads: Late Rain, Lynn Kostoff; Lark and Termite, Jayne Ann Phillips; Print the Legend, Craig McDonald; The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky; The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Digger’s Game and Cogan’s Trade, George V. Higgins; Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy; Will You Be Quiet, Please?, Raymond Carver; Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street, David Payne ... these are the ones I can remember ... there were several more.

Music ... hearing/seeing Mahler’s Titan live was the treat of the year for the Principessa Ann Marie & myself … having the chance to see/hear it conducted by Gustavo Dudamel & the Los Angeles Philharmonic was extra special and remains the highlight of the year. Also, practicing jazz fills with Joe Morello’s book has been fun when I find the time to do it.

Weightlifting ... recovering from the squat the killed my back about 6 months ago now, I guess. That injury has seriously put doubts about any future attempts at all three lifts ... at least until I lose 60 pounds or so.

Food ... Porridge. My wife makes the bestist porridge.

Drink ... Chivas, hands down. A single Becks after a second healthy glass of Chivas and we’re talking paradise.

For Mrs. Knuckleklaus (her favorite):

A Christmas poem ...

Twas the night before Christmas and all through Casa Stella;
Wifey was making lasagna for her big fat fella;
Rigoletto was snoring to beat our latest band,
while Spartacus was feasting on leftover baked lamb.

When up on the roof there arose such a racket,
Off the couch I went to get my fat jacket.
Out on the porch I stepped lightly and curious,
as to what the motherpluck had made me so furious.

The moon, bla, bla, bla, there wasn’t any snow,
Just a guy named Rafael calling to his buddy, Juan (or was it Joe?);
They were clipping our satellite dish from up above;
Dressed in black, wearing ski masks and wearing black gloves.

Hey, “numb nuts”, I called to bring attention not fear;
“The dish is disconnected, we use cable in here.”
“Oh, chit (it sounded like) Rafael did say;
While Juan (or was it Joe) pointed to their ladder, “this way”.
When out of the house with her new toy came my hon;
In her nurse outfit (it’s private) and her shiny shotgun.

“Don’t fock with us!” she said in her bestist Nurse yell;
“It’s Christmas, you fools, if you steal, you’ll go to hell!”
“But dear, show some spirit,” said I to my wife.
“It’s Christmas, my love, invite them in for the night.”

“Over your dead body, now get back in the house;
Start wrapping some presents, but none for your mouse;
I have my own gift for your pal, little Spartacus, this year;
.a box of 12 gauge bird shot I'll lodge in his ear.”

“But dear,” I did cry, “it’s Christmas, be kind;
Peace, love and understanding on this day should shine.”
“Out of the way, fatty,” wifey said and quite clear;
“I have a shot at their balding back tires from here.”

Poor Rafael and his good buddy Juan (or was it Joe)?
Caught birdshot in their taillights as they raced to and fro;
While wifey was smiling from one ear to the other;
And poor Knucks sighed with a shrug and a shudder.

“Lordy, what has happened to my dear Ann Marie;
She used to be nice before she met me?”
And the Lord looked down from the heavens above;
And said, “Think about it, chubby, you’re not easy to love.
You’ve got a good heart, but you’re annoying as heck;
If she were me, she’d break your thick neck;
You eat all the food and curse blue streaks when you’re cranky;
which is 90% of the time, it seems, quite frankly;
So take a note from God and be quick about it too;
It’s only her and your mother that truly love you.
Two out of a ga-zillion aren’t very good odds;
You’re a walking DNA statistic and way too large;
Leave food for others, including your mouse;
And don’t invite thieves (those two weren’t mine) into your house;
For sooner or later, you’ll answer to me;
And I’m not inclined to be number three (see above);
Now listen to wifey, she really knows best;
She’s way smarter than you; she got a 91 on her last nursing test;
That’s cumulative, you putz; while working full time;
While you write dopey mob books from your fat behind;
Now I gotta go, Saint Nick needs my help;
Try and stay out of her way ... and trim your fat self."

Then God took off and what did I hear?
But Spartacus and Rigoletto on the porch did appear.
“You guys alright?” I asked both with some hopeful glee.
“Yeah, come back in the house,” Sparty said, “You’re letting out the heat.”

“It’s okay, Dad,” Riggie whispered in my ear.
“Come inside, do another shot and have a beer.”
Then the three of us went back inside casa Stella;
Where wifey was back to making lasagna for her fat fella.

With all so right in our world of Chivas and beer;
Merry Christmas to all (especially yous amicis) and a very Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Doc says ...

Hey Chaz,

Do you think it would be okay if I scare the shit out of the amicis just one more time before we do the whole “Peace on Earth” schtick? It is only December 23rd. We can do the “Good will towards men (and women and transgendered Americans and every other freaking whackjob group out there who will eventually sue you) tomorrow.

Recently, Janet Napolitano assured the American people that Homeland Security is protecting them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year. Does that mean that we have one “wild card” day? Sometime this year all of the hundreds of thousands of Homeland Security people will be where? At Obama’s Wednesday Cocktail Party… Michelle’s “Bring in the White House Organic Garden Crop Day… the Rodeo? WTF is that? A disclaimer? Like the car lease legalese that shoots by so fast on the TV screen that it’s more of a subliminal message?

As you would say in the old neighborhood… “Not for nothing, I’m just saying.”

Happy Thursday

PS: I ran into one of your ex-wives last night. Then again, it’s hard not to.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Johnny Porno makes a “best of 2010” list ...


Johnny Porno Makes January Magazine Best of 2010 List.

Johnny Porno by Charlie Stella (Stark House) The amazing thing about Charlie Stella’s mob novel is that, while it feels like it could exist in the world of Goodfellas and Mean Streets, it doesn’t actually copycat those films. Set in New York City back in 1973, Stella’s excellent seventh crime story catches the cadence and blue-collar vibe of low-level mafiosi. John Albano, who lost his carpenter job and his union card because he punched out his foreman, now collects cash receipts for the mob from illicit screenings of Deep Throat, the supposedly mob-produced pornographic film that reportedly earned more than $600 million, so he can pay child support to his harpy of an ex-wife, who in turn is helping her boyfriend to rob Albano of the mob money he carries. (In an example of this book’s understated sense of humor, the Mafia tries to get extra money out of the film by selling posters of Linda Lovelace, supposedly signed by the star herself. Of course, the mook assigned to the task spells her name wrong, putting an “s” in Lovelace.) Stella’s underground is a simple one. A bribe of $50 going through channels can solve offenses, hurt pride can mean your death, and falling into the mob life when you’re desperate is easier than you would think, even for the most law-abiding citizen. Stella brings a fascination to life in the mafia, a world where psychopaths think they’re better than the average criminal because they wear fancy suits and spout buzz words like omerta, and whatever else they’re copying from the movie The Godfather. Stella’s novel almost feels autobiographical, because he lived in New York during the ’70s, and he strips away the mystique of the mob, revealing its members as the dumb psychopaths they really were, people who’d kill you over a sum as low as 200 bucks. Johnny Porno is a great slice-of-life novel. It feels like the book Stella has been building up to for years, and I’m comfortable calling it his masterpiece. Read it and see if you don’t agree. -- Cameron Hughes

Bills vs. Patriots this week ... go Bills!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Doc says ...


He's back from his censored hissy fit ... le Doc:

Hey Chaz,

It seems for once I can contribute to the jock love fest that is Knucksline. Michael Vick has mentioned that he would like to have a dog again. He thinks it will aid in his rehabilitation. Can you imagine the terror shooting up and down the puppy aisle in Pets R Us when he walks through the door?

He said his kids were used to having dogs hanging around. I would guess that “hanging around” would be the key phrase there. Part of his sentence was that he could never have dogs again. So, the courts don’t trust him enough to own a dog, but they have no problem with him raising children.

In a similar story, Julian Assange of Wikileaks was released from prison today. He asked President Obama for the nuclear launch codes to show that there were no hard feelings. Obama said it would not be a problem as he was going on vacation anyway and that would be one less thing for him to worry about.

So the Bamster now has just as many enemies on the left as on the right. Isn’t life grand?

My favorite quote about the November election comes from P.J. O’Rourke. He said, “It wasn’t an election. It was a restraining order.” In spite of that, the Democrats are determined to shove just one more trillion dollar crap sandwich down our throats before they leave. Once again, the Republicans are talking about compromise. I swear, these Republicans have the survival instinct of a radish.

I’m looking forward to Saturday. My drinking shoes are polished. In the true spirit of Christmas, the fair-hearted Irish shall sit down with the felonious Eye-talian and break bread (pizza) and sip wine (Coors) in the house of the Lord (Casa Stella). Then we can discuss how you can curse like a tenth avenue hooker in Knucksline and I get edited for the vaguest reference to Michelle O’s gi-normous caboose.

“And the lion shall lie down with the lamb”
(of course you will have to replace the lamb every now and again)

See you on Saturday, brother

A little holiday cheer ...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reviews ... Jets cheap shot coach ... Rex Ryan ... The ESPN/NFL Punk factor ...


Lethal Injection ... Jim Nisbet’s ironic novel about the injustice this life sometimes metes out to its inhabitants (no matter how well-meaning they may be). A doctor down on his marriage and luck has taken a job administering his medical services to a prison population and is there to prepare a condemned man (wrongly convicted) to meet his maker. During the condemned man’s stay at the prison, he’s been subject to some genuinely mean shit in the form of one particular correction officer and when his hour is up, he has a surprise for that particular CO. The doctor can feel the condemned man’s innocence (in the crime for which he was convicted) and after the final hour has come and gone, the doctor’s conscience (and a desire to escape his miserable marriage) send him on a quest to find out the truth. Along the lines of “no good deed goes unpunished”, the doctor winds up in the middle of something life altering (for lack of a better description). There is true irony in this dark tale of life around the justice system. It is also a well written novel that ends (for this reader) right where it’s supposed to ... and there will be more Nisbet in this reader’s future. (Available on kindle, where this reader purchased it)

James Reasoner ... big ups to Nigel Bird's blog site (Sea Minor) once again for giving this reader (sick of that saying yet?) yet another author and series to follow. The ugly one (moi) is a civil war buff and upon learning about Mr. Reasoner’s historical novels from the blog, I immediately ordered Manassas (the first in the series). This is the tale of a southern family (the Brannons) as it goes through the lead up to the war between the states and the first of the big battles between the North and the South (The First Manassas = The First Bull Run). The eldest son (Will) is the sheriff of Culpepper County and has issues with a particularly nasty family (the Fogerty’s) ... but a trip to Richmond for the state fair at the height of secession, brings unwanted and undeserved wrath from some what appear to be misguided abolitionists. Then war breaks out and there will be no spoilers here, except to say this is a fine read that provides some welcomed historical context and facts and is about as fair as they come. I will be moving on to the others in this series for sure.

Manassas, Book 1 in the series.

Where’s the Doc?

He’ll be at casa Stella Saturday spreading holiday cheer ... and since today was the last of my Dental visits (until the next tooth/gum abscess), three days of no smoking/drinking will (by Saturday) cease and desist so's I can get shit-faced while smoking my brains out upon the Doc's holiday visit.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Jets cheap shot coach ... what’s to say? The Yets (and the NFL) should be embarrassed for not firing this asswipe 5 seconds after he apologized/admitted what he’d done. He was screwing with the career of another man, end of story. If there’s any truth to him plotting the despicable act, anybody involved (players or otherwise) should be suspended for the rest of the season and the Yets should be fined. It is truly unbelievable to me that anybody would do something so low and stupid ... and in a televised game in this day and age. Coach moron, I hope they called him.

As for the Yets themselves ... if they can’t BEAT the Pittsburgh Steelers this week (no easy task), Rex Ryan should crawl across the field and beg forgiveness for contributing to the proliferation of noise in the NFL akin to “... a tale: Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Speaking of which, that PUNK on Philadelphia (Desean Jackson) really showed some class (extreme sarcasm intended) last week against the Cowgirls.

To be clear, a punk can be 6, 10, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and/or older. You can also be an NFL superstar (Desean Jackson) or a super rich wrassling promoter (Vince McMahon) or a former heavyweight champion of the world (Mike Tyson) and still be a punk. A punk (where I come from) doesn’t shed the title with age and or celebrity status. A punk is somebody who does what punks do ... and Desean Jackson’s stopping on the 1 yard line to embarrass the Cowgirls last week was about one of the most punk-ass moves I’ve ever seen.

And just to show you the history of this punk (although “asshole” might be a better description here), Desean’s been doing this forever:

Yes, amici, those were TURNOVERS ...

ESPN highlights has truly ruined most sports. It has become way more important that we witness some Defensive Tackle earning $10 million a year beat his chest after making a single tackle (what he’s paid to do) 1 minute into the first quarter when there’s no score yet (or worse, when his team is already down by 7 or more), than the same guy return to his huddle without having to dramatize his performance whenever he does anything he’s paid to do.

I guess I wouldn’t mind it if the same slob crawled across the field and begged forgiveness for getting his ass kicked when he’s been successfully blocked (the way Muhammad Ali was supposed to crawl across the ring after he lost to Joe Frazier in their first fight) but that isn’t going to happen. Unfortunately, the chest beating that goes on today in the NFL has filtered down to college and high school. It’s all about ME and shows no respect for a team concept or the other players on the field. How about you play the game for a change, the full sixty minutes, before you celebrate? And maybe you should concern yourself with the score and make sure you “win” before you celebrate. Maybe even think about how classless it looks to strut your stuff and consider being fucking humble in victory because ...

"For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting." —Gen. George C. Patton

Not only that, imagine how fucking long each game would take if we had to do the chariot thing after each tackle! Oy vey ...

The Eaglettes of Philadelphia show no class when it comes to most things (Michael “the Dog Killer” Vick immediately comes to mind), so it doesn’t surprise me that Desean Jackson wasn’t suspended by his coach/owner for being a punk yet again. This clown has a history of doing really stupid shit on his way to the end zone going back to his college days (as we’ve seen above):

But here’s Desean “the punk” Jackson’s move against the Cowgirls last week that should’ve earned him a big-ass fine and some time on the pine:

Seriously, if somebody on the Cowgirls had taken a punch at Jackson after this, I would’ve contributed a few bucks to paying his fine.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Last Good Kiss ... More Joe Morello ... HBO’s Lombardi ... Just say NO MORE!


The Last Good Kiss happens to be my first James Crumley novel ... most of yous know how behind I am in most things, but this one was a crime. I was asked to read and review a Crumley short story not long ago and had been warned by several people I implicitly trust that Crumley was good for two books (at best) and some say one. Dancing Bear seems to be the other favorite (alongside Last Good Kiss), but I’m going to have to read one or two others to be convinced this guy didn’t maintain what he’d started. I’m not a big PI reader and often place huge reality based hurtles in front of such stories, but Last Good Kiss was so well written it was easy to ignore everything else. Then again, Last Good Kiss is probably a lot more true to the test than most PI novels. I know DOC will love Crumley (for breaking on Volvo owners if nothing else) but it was a genuine pleasure for me to see his reference to Deep Throat early on in the book. A great hardboiled read that makes it pretty easy to see why it’s a classic. His opening line to the novel is considered THE opening line every crime novel aspires to:

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”

The fact Crumley didn’t do as well here in the states as he did in Europe is a crime in itself, but there’s no denying the overwhelming talent in this man’s writing. It’s a shame he’s gone.

Joe Morella getting even fancier with Take Five ... these guys must’ve played this tune 100,000 x’s and that’s the beauty of jazz ... each time it was different. That’s Joe on DW’s above ... and Joe showing his speed below ...

Joe giving lessons ...

Okay, by now Doc’s drinking double handed from the drumming videos, so it’s time to move on to his favorite topic ... Lombardi?

Casa Stella was silent last night at 8:00 p.m. when HBO aired its special on the Italian fella from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn for whom the NFL’s World Championship trophy is named. I suspect I’ll be re-watching that one ON DEMAND as often as I re-watch anything about The Fight I or The Thriller in Manilla (I re-watched Thrilla yesterday afternoon when taking a break from playwriting). I’m a huge Joe Frazier fan and believe Muhammed Ali isn’t one billionth the radical saint he’s been made out to be.

A Times article on the piece, how it came about , etc., right here.

Lombardi experienced some anti-Italian prejudice on his road to being a head football coach post-high school sports. Think he made them pay for it? The world championship now ends in a vowel ...

Just say NO MORE ... One more for Doc ... but no, it’s not opera ... it’s time to pick on his party of no again. They’re threatening to suspend unemployment benefits unless they’re rich friends (including corporations) get yet another “tax break”?

President Obama can make believe he’s Harry Truman (and grow a pair) and then run a patriotic American flag up the poles in front of every corporation in the country and seize their assets. Next he can have the CEO’s and Board of Directors of the same corporations and all Republican Party representatives in the House and Senate marched up to the roofs of their buildings (or borrow one if the building is less than 20 stories tall) and one by one ask them the following: “You’re either with me ... or off the motherfucking roof. You have ten seconds to answer. What’ll it be, Hojo?”

Unemployment gets suspended so these jerkoffs can get an even bigger slice of the pie?

The sad reality is that’s what’ll happen (they'll get their "tax break") and the suddenly quiet liberal wing of the democratic party (too embarrassed at the Republican Party’s now more than obvious victories in 2008) will get back in line and follow their feckless leaders until the other Republican Party wins in 2012 (at which point they’ll grow their mostly "for show" balls back and start rifling off one one-liner after another about how the neo-fascists, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, are ruining their country, etc., etc., etc. ...

And they claimed I’m a broken record?

Someone say lemmings?

They were right.

And ... finally ... how could I not?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hardball ... David Brubeck ... Matterhorn Review ... the Yets ...


It’s official, the biggest kiss-ass in the history of political television is now Chris “Hardball” Matthews ... to borrow a phrase from a more clever writer than myself, “sweet Jesus on a Vespa” ... is this guy kidding me? To listen to Matthews, President Obama didn’t collapse on Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy, he single-handedly outsmarted the Republican Party and now has them over a barrel. I haven’t heard the “professional left” get this sandbagged since it was first proclaimed the “professional left” by the White House itself.

Ignoring the fact the Democratic Party had an overwhelming majority (the same one it finally figured out how to use to push through a watered-down to nothing health care bill), you’d think it was Obama vs. the Republican Senate Majority ... except the Republicans don’t own the Senate -- just a House majority (the House majority Democrats managed to blow in two years flat).

If this guy (Matthews) was to bend over any further, he’d literally be upside down.

This is what has happened to the Democratic Party (the party of the people); it’s the Republican Party ... and why I continue to call “liberal democrats” suckers and/or “so-called liberals” ... because if the only answer they can offer the rest of us is: “It’s better than the alternative” ... they suffer from some serious short-sightedness complicated by overwhelming denial ... and perhaps most frustrating is now they've adopted the politics of "compromise" ... while the MINORITY Republicans continue to back them into their shameless hole.

For those who still insist “a third party will NEVER win the white house” ... take a better look-see at that dopey tea party and the effect they had on their true party (the GOP). You may not like them (I sure don’t), but they were more effective than the “professional left” ... because instead of ranting like fools on blogs and feeding one-liners to their choir, they removed a few of the GOP’s incumbents. What the democratic left will probably do is what Matthews had some spineless Congressman from Ohio do yesterday on his show: Stutter, cower and then quickly get back in line.

Liberals have nothing better? The guy who can quote his favorite Supreme Court cases, has written a few memoirs at a rather young age, has a Harvard law degree, a great family and undeniable charisma is now proving just as effective (sarcasm intended) as the last intellectual to sit in the White House -- the former submarine commander, Jimmy Carter (who also had issues with the “professional left”). Coincidence Matthews was a Carter speech writer?

I can’t help but think back to first burning my fingers on a radiator when I was a kid and then doing it again ... and my father saying: “Hey, putz, how’s that working out for ya?”

David Brubeck (piano) turned 90 on December 6 ... that’s a young Joe Morello on the skins ... I have a few of his books (rudiments) ... the guy can still play 1000 MPH with either hand ... Yous all know this one: Take Five ...

Matterhorn ... a tough book to read and/or put down once you start reading ... a Vietnam war novel that is moving, gritty and very frightening (40+ years down the road). This involves the Marines and the politics of the times; class, race, ambitiousness and some very sobering battle scenes that would make any parent question letting their kid go off to war while those making the tough decisions (including going to war in the first place) have little more than personal ambition invested. This book also permits former veterans of wars to maintain their well-deserved pride for doing a job they may (or may not have) believed in before (or after) their incredibly traumatic experiences in battle.

A little about the author (that will humble most other authors no end): A graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals. His debut novel, Matterhorn, will be published in April 2010 by Grove/Atlantic.

Rex Ryan’s funeral ... the other day, Ryan buried the game ball from Monday night's slaughter. A neat coaching trick or a distraction? At this point, what's the difference? Look, TK appreciates the humor this guy brings to the game, but he’s proved that old cliché (learned from a few high school coaches through college) “talk is cheap” ain’t just a cliché. The Yets haven’t played well since the first few games of this season. Their vaunted “defense” has yielded lots of yards and points. Their “explosive” offense has proved a dud. Until Monday night, the only aspect(s) of the game playing somewhat consistent were their special teams ... and then Monday their punter didn’t show up.

45-3 ... the Patriots aren’t THAT good (but they are very good) ... I guess I’m not so sure the Jets aren’t THAT bad. Until they win a few games in a row convincingly, Rex needs to put a plug in it or risk becoming the biggest joke in the NFL since ... well, Monday night.

Hey, Rex, instead of telling us how good your Yets are, try this approach. It seems to have worked for this fella ...


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Doc says ... and new Reviews of Johnny Porno & Lynn Kostoff’s Late Rain ...


First, the reviews of my dopey book and Lynn Kostoff’s terrific Late Rain are up at Crimeculture.

And here’s le Doc ...
So Chaz,

You are now jumping on the bandwagon of beating up on Sarah Palin? What are you lefties so afraid of? She’s just a girl from a small town in Alaska with a pretty face, great body and a nails-on-the-blackboard voice. If Joe Lieberman ever formed a vocal group, he would have Sarah Palin as the opening act. She actually makes him sound good.

She wasn’t even the Republicans first choice. When they decided that it was the Democrats turn to be president their original pick for the presidential running mates was Abe Vigoda and Lil’ Kim. Cooler heads prevailed and they decided that Abe was a little too vibrant and they settled on John McCain.

She is currently the most powerful woman in America. She has a highly rated reality show, has a nice gig at Fox News and is the rock star of the Tea Party. Face it Chaz, her fans even got her piano-legged daughter into the Finals of Dancing With The Stars. You don’t often see legs like that on TV unless you frequent the Roller Derby channel

More importantly, she is the only person who can assure the Bamster’s victory in 2012. Personally, I’d rather see her on DWTS. At least this time, you could figure out which of the dancers is the “Star”.

Charlie Rangel got censured: Don’t be so outraged, Charlie. Most people who did what you did end up in Ossining with a roommate named Big Frankie. If you want to know what that’s like, get stuck in the congressional elevator, over the weekend, with Barney Frank.

Wikileaks: I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. It’s good to air out the dirty laundry once in a while. Hillary actually stated that while she was making apologetic phone calls to her peers in other countries, one of them said, “Don’t feel bad. You should hear how we talk about you.”

Of course, I would expect the little hump who released the 250,000 secret documents to be executed under the treason laws. For good measure let’s throw in the officer who gave the aforementioned little hump access to those records.

The Bamster visited our troops in Afghanistan because:

1) He wanted to show his admiration of America’s warriors.
2) He wanted to be out of town when the latest unemployment figures hit.

Which one do you think?

Have a good week, Knuckster

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Franzen’s Freedom ... Hornet’s Nest ... Kids are alright ... the shafting of the slugs ... Uncle Joe ...


Walter & Patty Berglund, sitting in a tree … gazing at birds? Well, after spending too much of his life in awe of the woman he loves (who doesn’t really love him back/or does she?), Walter is, in fact, not only bird gazing, he’s trying to save them (one in particular for starters) but pretty much all wildlife from the dangers of overpopulation, among other things (i.e., cats).

Patty, a former basketball star (once and for too long obsessed with Walter’s best friend, Richard, a wannabe then finally rock star), is a woman caught betwixt and between … well, life. Her life, to be more exact, because she’s complicated it with A) Walter … eventually B) Richard … and C) she’s had two kids along the way to add to life’s maze she’s trying to find her way out of.

Franzen’s Freedom is a humor-filled adventure into and with the lives of the Berglunds, some of their extended family and closest friends. The stories cover much ground and time, but never at a lapse for entertaining details and/or day-to-day intrigue. Franzen touches on and then engages both liberal and conservative dynamics (overpopulation, the war in Iraq, wildlife preservation, strip mining … you name it) and his characters are either involved in them or have strong opinions about them.

In the end, I typecast the author as just another curmudgeon (God bless him) … and his wonderful novel as a lot of complaining about what seems so obvious it should be smacking us across the chops six times a day: Freedom has a lot more to do with accepting oneself than pursuing what one thinks Freedom might be.

Big ups to Mr. Franzen on his novel; among my very top reads of 2011 ... but if this baby gets a national book nomination, so should Benjamin Whitmer's Pike.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest ... big fans of Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist and the Stieg Larsson Millenium Series, we were front and center for the final in the film versions of the trilogy. The Principessa Ann Marie liked it a little more than I did, but we both thought it was the weakest of the three. Still worth the price, however ... because how can you see the first two without seeing the finale? Both stars shine in this Swedish thriller.

The Kids Are Alright ... fun movie we got to see On Demand. I’m a Julianne Moore stalker (those freckles ... good Lord, those freckles) and Ann Marie has the hots for Marc Ruffalo so there was no way we weren’t going to watch this. It was fine and fun and Annette Benning was especially good as the “gorilla of the family” ... fun stuff. I’ve always had Ruffalo in mind when writing (as characters in a book to film fantasy ... I reserve fat actors for my fantasies about being connected).

And on the Political front ...

Republicans threaten to keep tax breaks for the slugs (middle class and lower) out of bounds ... while cutting off unemployment benefits? Why do they do this, yous ask? Well, we don’t claim to be wizards or anything that knowledgeable about the mystical, but the fact we (slugs, etc.) continue to vote for a party that had the power and did nothing with it (Democrats) or a party that smiles while it pisses on the slugs (Republicans) instead of a few parties that actually speak to slug concerns (Green/Independent, socialist, communist, etc.), well, we get what we voted for -- the shaft.

All TK hopes is that the next grouping of suddenly unemployed and homeless breadwinners who think it best to kill their families first, then themselves, think harder and go kill a few of those 2%’ers who Republicans insist need more of a tax break before or instead of killing themselves (but they should definitely leave their other family members alone). Surely yous remember the 2%’ers; the ones we slugs had to bail out so they could reward themselves with “record breaking” bonuses for bankrupting their companies and the economy. The funny thing is, it was Republicans who started bailouts under Bush (AIG) and Democrats under Obama (you name them, they bailed them out) who put them on steroids and neither party bothered to worry about the jobs of those they took the money from.

Sounds like a call for armed insurrection to me ...

Uncle Joe Scarborough ... My wife has dreams about Joe showing up to the house in a raincoat and then asking her if she would mind washing his clothes. Oy vey ... I kind of like Joe (sometimes--when he’s honest about his party of choice) but especially here, I like him ... where he advises his party of choice to grow a pair (somebody say “man up”?) and tell Sarah Palin to take a hike.

Scarborough on Palin ...


Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Doc's Thanksgiving wishes ...


The Doc had written me this before I did the Thanksgiving post, but I hadn’t seen it until after. So here now, delayed a few days, the Doc’s Thanksgiving wishes. He really is a great guy ...

First, here's me and Momma Stella (in her turkey hat) ...

Come on, Chaz,

Not even a simple Happy Thanksgiving wish for we amicis? A holiday best epitomized by the first Thanksgiving. The native Americans shared with us their food and knowledge of hunting, farming and survival. We in turn shared with them smallpox, syphilis and the promise of high stakes gambling casinos and tax free cigarettes.

In spite of my seemingly jaded introduction this really is my favorite holiday… no cards, no gifts, no rules. Just family and friends gathering to share a meal together and offer thanks to whatever higher spirit they choose. A holiday to celebrate the chaotic wonder of human relations… who would have thunk it?

Happy Thanksgiving Chaz, the Principessa and all the amicis.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

News around the horn ... Franzen Freedom Update ... Pike getting press ... Happy Thanksgiving!


Bill (the buffoon) O’Reilly calls them Pinheads and Patriots ... Knucks calls them Perfect Jerk-offs.
Kanye West ... once more, what a dick. He's no Biggie Smalls ...

Speaking of jerk-offs ... here's Tom Delay ... guilty of money laundering ... justice would be the justice department using RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization) to finish this clown off, but let’s face it, that’s only for eye-talians ... and yous tell me, which is more organized, the crimes of this government (somebody say Wall Street Bailout?) or the action your local bookmaker takes?

Wasn’t this the guy in that Hangover movie? Now his imbecile son is starting a Korean Conflict Part II. Great, just what we need ... maybe it’s me, but I’m pretty tired of all this conflict/operation freedom/war by any other name bullshit. TK says no more boots on the ground ... and if we’re gonna get inolved again, do it from the air ... and if the bad guys don’t get the message and/or rain bombs indiscriminately on the south, nuke’m and have done with it already.

Probably why yous (or the rest of the world) wouldn’t want Knucks with the keys to the big war toy chest ... because he gets bored dicking around ...

Speaking of getting tired of it ... (i.e. Afghanistan) ... even Maureen Dowd in today’s Times column is poking fun at our Afghan policy after an apparent “imposter” made fools of us once again; it seems some guy wasn’t really a “friend of ours (or theirs)” but there we were shelling out good old taxpayer money to fund the fiasco. Bernie Madoff does the Pentagon?

More good news ... our government is not only crooked, it's stupid too ...

Skankie Pride? ... orrrrr capitalism at its best ... the Skankies say: What have you done for me lately, Mr. Jeter? If you can’t live with $15 million per year, go find someone who will give you $16 million ... nothing quite like pinstripe loyalty.

Remember that the next time you (Jeter) wanna dive face first into the stands for a foul ball (which I, as a former baseball fan, appreciate) ... he’s one of the only Skankies I like and the pricks he plays for play him like a fool. Wouldn’t you like to smack the shit out of Brian Cashman?

And by the way, Mr. CASHman/Steinbrenner, et al ... how’d that big fat payroll work out for you this year?

Franzen Update ... 65% (kindle-speak) in and I’m enjoying it thoroughly, but there are a few so-called “crime novels” I still think are better reads (although Freedom is extremely well written) ... (Craig McDonald) Print the Legend, (Lynn Kostoff) Late Rain and my favorite of the year remains (Benjamin Whitmer) Pike.

Speaking of Pike, it’s getting some nice recognition and for me it started with Nigel Bird’s blog (Sea Minor), where you can catch Vickie Hendricks (the Queen of Noir) interviewing herself right now at Sea Minor. John McFetridge over at Do Some Damage will be hosting a discussion of Pike (I tried joining this GoodReads thing but remain technologically challenged and screwed it up). Go here for the details, amici.

And finally, Happy Thanksgiving to all a yous’ Knucklemaniacs ... and you normal types too!

Stay safe, stay healthy and do be thankful ... for family, friends, our beloved New York State Buffalo Bills (2 in a row) and, of course, Benny Goodman (and youtube) ... with Gene Krupa on drums ... Harry James on the horn and Benny on the licorice stick ... this don’t make you jump, check your pulse.

The full recording ...

Happy Thanksgiving!

What’cha think we’re gonna eat today? We're eye-talians ...


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Draft Picks? We don’t need no stinkin’ draft picks!


Draft Picks? We don’t need no stinkin’ draft picks!

Nobody circles the wagons like the New York State Buffalo Bills!

The kids ... they're so cute ...

Buffalo 49
Cincinatti 31

Forgetaboutit ... we’re running the table now!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday … Reviews … Finally Franzen …WTF … Bills-Bengals …


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.