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).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Island Light ... Memorial Day ... Snow Shoveling Hurts ...


Island Light (Katherine Towler) ... Nick (Alice’s son; Alice is the protagonist from the 1st of the trilogy, Snow Island) is back after his stint in Vietnam and his life off the island working as an engineer. Before he’d been drafted into the military, however, he was a kid in love with his teacher (Rachel--the protagonist from Evening Ferry--the second book in the trilogy). Using her better judgment at the time, she rebuffed his advances and tried to get him to defer the war for college instead. But Nick was too heartbroken and determined to stay and off to Vietnam he went. In Island Light he’s been back on Snow Island a while and he's involved with Rachel after all ... except she’s now married (to a guy I had been rooting for in Evening Ferry; perhaps explaining why I continue to root for my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills).

Things are complicated before you know it and there’s so much more the author hooks the reader with (for there are never just one or even two protagonists in her novels; there are several) and in Island Light, we also have an aging lesbian (once married) and her lover (who remains married) but her husband is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s ... and she had kids who may or may not know about her secret life ...

Another woman, somewhere in her thirties (who is a photographer determined to do a daily photographic journal while on Snow Island), is also a lesbian and the daughter of one the characters from the first novel. Her uncle (her mother’s twin brother) was just about to take care of Alice’s problem at the end of book one (Snow Island) when ... (no spoilers--don’t be cheap, buy the book or get it from a library) ... and now our 30 year old lesbian photographer may be thinking about men in Island Light; specifically, our Vietnam Vet (Nick) who is already involved in that affair with his former teacher (a married woman).

Enough intrigue? Well, aside from the intrigue, there’s history in abundance in Island Light that will leave you hoping for at least one more island tale (this one is set in the early 1990’s) ... the trilogy has spanned a lot of Americana and it is an engrossing adventure I’m still having discussions about with my wife. Aside from wanting more, these books will leave you wanting to discuss so much of what we all go through over the course of our short lives (whether we take them for granted or not).

These are works of art, amici ... absolutely wonderful reads.

Memorial Day (Harry Shannon) ... this one is Harry’s first venture into the PI world and it’s a quick, fun and very affordable Kindle read. Mick Callahan has led an interesting life; he’s been an actor, singer, Emmy-nominated songwriter and a counselor. He’s also a recovering alcoholic and a former TV psychologist. He’s almost been a Navy SEAL ... and has come back home (to Dry Wells, Nevada) to host a radio talk show. Bodies start surfacing, one while he’s taking a run and another the following day (but that one is someone who called his radio show) ... he owes a sheriff a favor but he’s also still got a heart and decides to investigate ... no spoilers here, except to say it’ll be a fun read start to finish.

All this snow ... oy vey, can an old fat guy do any more damage to his pathetic self than shoveling snow at 4:00 o’clock in the morning? The verdict is still out, but after feeling the pressure to get to work of late, I was up extra early trying to beat mother nature ... except there’s no beating that broad. First, the plows reburied me ... then the Staten Island trains and buses were suspended (I smell conspiracy) ... then I sat around waiting to hear if Staten Island was a go again and the back stiffened up like I’d just shoveled snow for two hours.

I literally Googled “fat guy with back pain” for the above picture.

Then I took a muscle relaxant and saw pretty things with what the boss (wife) described as “a big dopey smile” on my fat face. It could be I was seeing her beautiful freckles, her gorgeous blue eyes ... or, let’s face it, a gigantic pot of beef stew.

Oy vey ... now it’s 10:00 a.m. and I’m hoping the last of the pills will put me back under so I can recover some of my back muscle movement before I get try this again tomorrow morning.

Wish we could do this again ... and with this broad, I'd do it another dozen times, no problem.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

When characters grab hold and won’t let go ... True Grit ... Bigger Balls ...


A few years back (when we still lived in Brooklyn), I read a book about life on a small island off the New England/New Hampshire coast. It was called Snow Island (by Katherine Towler). As it turns out, I had written the author after first reading this book (after my wife had read it and loved it). It was a wonderful read. Life interrupted my next read of Ms. Towler’s works until recently (I was working 7 days a week, training for dopey powerlifting meets and writing my own books). I recently applied and was accepted to an MFA program for June 2011 and thought I’d read some of the staff’s books. Not remembering the book, I purchased Snow Island (the first in the series) on kindle. I started discussing the book with Nurse Annie and she kept saying, “This sounds so familiar. I think I read this book.” I read some more and was thoroughly hooked, then brought up the author’s webpage and Ann Marie said, “I did read that book. It’s in the basement somewhere.”

I then read the second book, Evening Ferry, and found myself so engaged with the characters (from the first book), I couldn’t put it down. I was on the train coming home when I finished Evening Ferry and immediately ordered Island Light on my kindle. Then I made the mistake of starting to read it (I had intended to wait until Monday but will probably finish it before then) ... and was re-hooked (so to speak) all over again. These are wonderful characters I’ve come to have a relationship with (and it doesn’t get better than when a reader feels that way).

Snow Island deals with a young girl’s coming of age, her first love and disappointments, a man confronted with the ghosts of a tragic incident from his past (upon returning from WWI), the relationships between husbands and wives, the start of WWII and its effects on an island life cut off from the mainland except for a ferry. The book serves as a wonderful hook into the rest of the series (which spans a few generations of the island’s inhabitants and their relatives). Readers will quickly become involved with these characters, identifying with the problems they are confronted with in a culture of isolated island life ... where problems, big and small, aren't so different from those we all have to deal with.

Evening Ferry deals with another of the characters (a girl a few years younger than Alice from Snow Island) and her family, the weight religion can bring to bear on a woman feeling lost in life, down syndrome, a potentially taboo relationship, a journal left by a mother that is both enlightening and frightening and the Vietnam war. This story will glue readers to the characters even more so than the first and lead to the next book in the series with great anticipation.

Island Light has so far parlayed all that has come before the 1990’s ... but I’m still reading it so yous will have to wait.

But don’t wait to try the first one, Snow Island. It’s terrific.

True Grit ... onto a more depressing topic. The boss and I just saw the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit. It was excellent, a terrific remake and Jeff Bridges once again was extraordinary (the Dude playing the Duke with true, true grit). Matt Damon surprised me in this (his casting) but was his usual good self (convincing and not overdone) ... but the actor/actress who stole the show was Hailee Steinfeld. Truly terrific ...

So, if you and your smarter, better looking half liked it so much, what’s the issue, Knucks?

Bigger Balls ... I’ll tell yous what the issue was/is: The AMC theatre in our neighborhood (Menlo Park) is now a Diner-Theater, but ... and it is a BIG but ... there’s no option to go as formerly ripped off customers used to go (without having to pay an extra $10.00 for food/beverages whether you want them or not). Now the prices are: $10.00 per ticket per person per movie PLUS $10.00 for food and beverages ($20.00, whether you want them or not/use the $10.00 or lose the $10.00). Then they sit you in very comfortable chairs but ... (ready for another cost?) your food (popcorn, etc.) comes via waiters/waitresses so unless you’re a skinflint/cheap SOB, you need to tip them. I had started to walk out soon as I heard the scam at the ticket booth, but my wife said we had coupons so we used them, $35.00 worth, leaving us $5.00 short before we added anything “extra.”

So, thank you Hollywood ... for now making going to the movies absolutely obscene. How families are supposed to attend these theatres is beyond me (i.e., a family of four gets nailed for $80.00, whether they choose to use all the value of the shakedown or not). Whether it's producers who insist on making hundreds of millions per movie or actors who insist on $20 million per picture or whatever else goes into the obscene cost eventually dumped on the consumer, it/they deserve boycotting. Thank God for Foreign Films.

I made a promise to my wife (she loves going to the movies). That was my last one. I have no problem waiting for the DVDs of American movies I'll really have to want to see ... none whatsoever.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ricky Gervais ...


"It must be good because it was nominated, so shut up."

Imagine being irreverent about awards? Frankly, I thought it was a beautiful thing, but it seems that some of the “cool” people in Hollywood were upset at having fun poked at them this past Sunday night. It made some of them uncomfortable. These, some of them, are totally okay with poking similar and/or more harsh fun at those with contrary political views ... and they’ll laugh as hard as the next guy/gal when the person taking the funny hit isn’t one of them (or one of their ilk) but let someone have a laugh at their expense and ... well, the guy telling the joke gets the ax.

It’s our ball and if you don’t play by our rules, you don’t get to play.

Isn’t that what dictators do when someone makes them unhappy?

So much for freedom of speech.

The politics of awards (any awards not based on statistics) remain subject to what the gatekeepers regard as sacrosanct and woe unto those who poke fun at it.

Now, truth be told, even the ugly one cringed a few times at Mr. Gervais’ (and Mr. De Niro’s barbs/jokes ... I even felt sorry for that crazy Mel Gibson fella a moment or two ... but I did get over it and pretty fast. It's not like Mel Gibson didn't deserve it). Is it possible the Hollywood crowd is getting a little stiff in their older ages? These are people who earn gazillions of dollars for their work and sometimes their work is great and way more often it is pure garbage. Foreign movies, let’s face it, are usually much better. On the whole, no matter what the Hollywood anointed produce, they’re still getting those gazillions of dollars to produce it. Doesn’t that permit the rest of us to have a laugh at their expense?

I cringed a few times Sunday night and then was pissed off Monday afternoon when I read Gervais was fired (or precluded from doing future Golden Globe nonsense). I now have a lot more respect for Gervais for not playing “by the rules” expected of him. The wife and I loved his EXTRAS show on HBO and thought the funniest moments came when high profile actors/actresses made fun of themselves. Kate Winslet & Ben Stiller immediately come to mind. Those were some very funny scenes.

Ms. Winslet:

Mr. Stiller:

So God bless Ricky Gervais ... and Kate Winslet ... and Ben Stiller ... and irreverence in general, the gatekeepers be damned.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Rigoletto takes down the Cheaterfaces of New England—Fact.


Yesterday our super dog, Rigoletto, was responsible for the Yets beating the Cheaterfaces. We all have our superstitions (especially those who played sports of any kind) but mine really are the real thing; the guide by which the universe ebbs and flows, yings and yangs, starsky and hutch's ... and here’s a brief breakdown of how it all went down yesterday:

1) Start of game, standing 2 feet from the big ass flat screen TV I’ve hated since the wife bought it ... Yets aren’t doing so good (missed field goal, etc.) ...

2) It becomes apparent, the football Gods want something new ... I remove my chilly, pizza, coffee and egg stained Buffalo Bills hooded sweatshirt and reveal my relatively clean (coffee & egg stained Buffalo Bills T-shirt) and the Yets are quickly off to the races ...

3) Things are turning sour as the Cheaterfaces move down the field and score quickly ... I look to Rigoletto (snoring loudly on the ottoman). “Okay, boy, it’s all on you now,” I say. I put one foot on the ottoman alongside Rigoletto and the Yets answer instantly.

4) The one time I remove my foot from the ottoman, the Cheaterfaces start to move again. I quickly put my foot back on the ottoman and say, “You’re a good boy, Rigoletto.”

5) And you could put that game to sleep.

New England Arrogance ... it’s kind of like the political argument against the “elites” ... the Patriots, while showing graciousness in defeat yesterday, believed they didn’t play well (why they lost). While players and coaches are allowed to swallow that bullshit (as opposed to the fact they got their asses handed to them), it strikes me (and most everybody else) that their fans don’t get to spin the loss the same way. When Tom (Goldie Locks) Brady throws a BAD pass and he stands staring at the spot where the ball landed (5 yards behind his receiver), that doesn’t mean it was supposed to be a perfect pass. What it probably means is he was rushed to throw (because a few downs ago, his arm was almost severed from his shoulder) and he was probably a little wet in the pants from being sacked over and over) ... or maybe the receiver was thinking, “Shit, you catch it, Mr. Perfect. This kid, Eric Smith, isn't taking prisoners today.” One of our commentators yesterday coined it perfectly ... they (New England fans) are the brie and wine crowd ...

All I know is that after going 18-1, now 14-2, the New England Cheaterfaces (minus the ADMITTED cheating they did to win a few super bowls), have as many LEGITIMATE super bowl wins as my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills ... NONE.

And let’s face it, our guys were much more comfortable yesterday watching from the couch (where the Pats will be watching next week’s games) than were the cheaterfaces.

The following is the Facebook commentary by the ugly one and some others during the Yets-Patriots game (comments between slices of pizza) ... please excuse typos/misspellings, etc., ... I was very excited; there was pizza in the house.

Melanie Juisti Hock: oh sound like Andy..We all came upstairs while he is down stairs to stressful..LOL

Dustin Stella: They're going to need those points. The Pats are having little trouble moving the ball on Rex's D.

Michelle Turlock Isler: Okay Charlie, you got the Chivas within reach!!

Tommy Isler: Kind of ironic that he was betrayed by de-feet. And it was just a foot wide. The guy probably feels like a heel.

Charlie Stella: The Jets are playing like they were coached a by high schooler ... bad tackling, stupid mistakes in the backfield. They're gonna need help today. That kicker ... let him park cars. I can't drink until later, have to pick up Ann Marie later ... total torture!

Dustin Stella: I might steal Tommy's post. That's status worthy.

Charlie Stella: Tommy's a clever guy. Now, no Norwide comments, please ...

Charlie Stella: Sanuseless, 4 BAD passes ... real bad. Oy vey, I hope the next Yet interception is by somebody who can outrun the Pats Offense.

Charlie Stella: Hey, Melanie, keep Andy calm ... I can only imagine the damage to that basement if he gets upset ...

Dustin Stella: Teflon quarterback. He misses an open Keller by a country mile and Boomer calls it a tough throw to make.

Charlie Stella: I got it! I took of my chilli, pizza, egg and coffee stained Bills sweatshirt and am wearing my relatively clean (coffee) stained Bills T-shirt. That was the trick. Yets went right down the field. Go Yets!

Charlie Stella: It's the T-shirt! Three & OUT for Goldie Locks Brady ...

Charlie Stella: Cromartie if fucking retarded! North, idiot, run north!

Charlie Stella: Rex can put the Yets kickers on fucking ebay after this game.

Charlie Stella: I love Eric Smith. kid can HIT!

Charlie Stella: this is GREAT. No let up ... keep the cheaterface c___suckers down!

Gary Stevens: The Steelers WRs love Eric Smith, too. They're gonna love to see him next week.

Tommy Isler: Game is definitely setting up the way the Jets would have wanted it scripted - taking advantage Patriot mistakes, getting a lead and then trying to sit on it in the second half. If the weather gets wrose it will make it hard for the brie and wine eaters to come back on a tough Jets defense.

Charlie Stella: Not a problem, Gary. Next week I'll be rooting for the Steelers! Go Yets ... Go injuries! Bills Rule!

Charlie Stella: brie and wine eaters ... I'm slow ... just got that. Good one! They cheer like they're at an opera ...

Harry Shannon: GAAAAH

Charlie Stella: It's the Bills T-shirt, I'm tellin' yous! 3 and OUT!

Charlie Stella: Well, maybe 5 or 6 and OUT but that works too ...

Charlie Stella: I ate a pizza (8 slices) ... now I have a stomach ache. These Yets better goddamn win!

Charlie Stella: Goldie Locks got hurt ... go Yets!

Charlie Stella: Don't sweat it, sports fans ... just ordered another pie!

Charlie Stella: Cheaters score here, I change the T-shirt.

Charlie Stella: It wasn't the T-shirt. I was standing too close to the television. Sat on the couch with Rigoletto (another sworn cheaterface hater) and the Yets went down the field. I love my dog!

Charlie Stella: Branch, talking shit on the sideline ... down by 10 and who drops the big pass? Na, na, na, na ... hey, hey, hey ... goodbye ...

Charlie Stella: Big mouth Branch ... talking trash ... who drops the big pass? I'm loving it ... second pizza just arrived ... God is GREAT!

Charlie Stella: Yets act like assholes ... but today I'll accept it ... now, Go Steelers!

Charlie Stella: Rigoletto defeats the Cheaterfaces!

Michelle Turlock Isler: Rigoletto still rules!

Charlie Stella: La Maledizione! The curse of Rigoletto! Anybody want a few left over slices?

Tommy Isler: Mama Ryan is apparently getting new shoes tonight. Great game - should be 4 really god games next weekend.

Oh ... I probably put a few pounds back on this weekend. Ooops ...


Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Doc says ...

The Doc was up early sharpening his knives this morning, amici. Here he is:

Pizza Boxes & Football: So, I guess the Knucksline Lard-o-Meter will be put off for till after the Super Bowl, eh? (Sorry about the “eh”. I’ve been working with Canadians.)

Sarah Palin: When will the media just leave the girl alone? That half-baked sheriff basically accused her of being an accomplice to the shooting. You expected her to say nothing? On the bright side, the Docster Dictionary has a new entry thanks to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.

dupnik: (dup’-nik) – noun – one who plays the fool with relish and abandon.

Let’s be honest. This Loughner is crazier than a shithouse rat. It’s more likely that he was set off by a Happy Meal with no toy than whatever Sarah Palin had to say. I think Dupnik is trying to steer people away from the fact that they had a political event with absolutely no police presence. All the Pima County flatfoots were busy raiding the local titty bar for the fifth time that week.

The Memorial Service: Tee-shirts? Really? I mean, I’m Irish. At a memorial (wake) we’ll have numerous brewskies and shots. At least the men will. The women are obligated by Irish law to actually stay in the funeral home with the stiff. But we don’t have no freakin’ tee-shirts. I guess we should be happy that the Bamster didn’t have 14,000 leftover vuvuzela horns shipped over from the Olympics.

I loved the Bamster’s two muppets, Holder and Incompetano reading passages from the bible… easy way to give a criticism-proof speech and put absolutely no effort into it. The bible would have to be the only literary work they’ve read less than the Constitution.

And Congress gave themselves the week off. For what… mourning? She’s not dead yet, dupniks. I don’t mean to be cold here, but half of congress wouldn’t piss on Giffords if she was on fire, but who doesn’t like a week off from work?

Supposedly, they work for us, but as everyone knows, you cannot have employees who can vote themselves raises and time off.

Speechifying: Bush vs. Obama: You got me there, Chaz. Fredo is one speechifying son of a bitch. Bush would stumble and mumble and make up words. (My favorite Bushword is “strategery” and I use it regularly.) Americans probably would have been more critical of Bush’s weak oratory skills, but they were too busy going to work. We don’t have that problem now.

I think the Bamster should have the State of the Union speech at about 2:00 pm. All of his supporters are at home and nicely buzzed by 2:00 pm. He’ll interrupt “The Bold and The Beautiful”, but hey… in a progressive democracy some sacrifices have to be made. He could be done by 2:45 and we could all go out and buy more beer before the school kids come and crowd up the deli at 3:00.

“Together We Thrive”, brother


A little Steve Goodman, just because.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Review … Playoffs … Speechifying … Ooops … Will the GOP muffle Palin?


The Dead Women of Juarez, Sam Hawkin … 2011 is proving to be a terrific year for reading and author Sam Hawkin’s, The Dead Women of Juarez, maintains the momentum in this extremely well written debut novel. Kelly Courter is a boxer with a drug-addled past that precludes him from boxing where the money is (back in the states). But across the border, Kelly can play the token white boy to be beat on by Mexican pugilists and for a crowd more than happy to see a gringo get his. The background to the book and its title are the horrific statistics of the missing (presumed dead) women of Ciudad Juárez; statistical facts that would mortify anyone with a heart. The missing women are those who’ve been abducted/raped/abused and murdered (feminicidios/“femicides”) due to the absolute indifference to human life amongst the drug traffickers and the corrupt police they own. It is a problem that continues to this day.

The book initially features the gringo boxer Kelly, his Mexican girlfriend Paloma and her drug dealing brother, Estéban. Kelly is down on his luck and knows he can only live by his fists and by working for Estéban. Paloma works for a support group of women trying to find justicia for the missing women of Juarez. There’s also a police detective, Rafael Sevilla, whom we meet early on and as the novel progresses (with wonderfully compelling twists), the story becomes the detective’s; his battles with past ghosts of his own, Johnnie Walker Black (Red when Black isn’t available), police corruption and ultimately justicia itself.

There will be no spoilers here. The book is extremely well written and so documentary-like, it will feel as real as it gets. You will feel the relentless heat of the Mexican sun and taste the dust from the roads; you’ll smell the odors of the rankest parts of the city and feel the pain of innocent men tortured to protect the guilty. Mostly you won’t put this book down once you start.

This is one hell of a debut from an author with the chops Hollywood should be watching. The Dead Women of Juarez deserves a trip to the big screen. More importantly, it deserves to be read by the lot of us. It is that compelling. It is that good.

The Playoffs … Okay, so the Y-E-T-S, Yets, Yets, Yets may be real after all. Their victory over the Coltless last week was impressive (the ground game anyway). I’m still not so sure about their defense (it was the ground game that kept Manning off the field and thus the scoring down). We won’t know until, as Tom Goldie Locks Brady said, about 7:30 p.m. Sunday night. Personally, I’d love to see Mr. foot-in-mouth disease get the win (because I really don’t like the Patriots) but there’s no doubting the greatness of old Cheaterface himself (Belichik) or Tom Brady. I’ll be glued to the couch (with pizza boxes stacked alongside me) from 4:30 on …

Who’s not rooting for the Sea Pigeons? Even with Running for Cover Pete Carroll at the helm, you gotta root for the Sea Pigeons. And let’s face it … the Cubs just aren’t that good a football team. As my son Dustin pointed out to me: “How cool would it be if Green Bay beats the Bears and Seattle beats Atlanta and the Packers had to travel to a 7-9 team for the NFC Championship?”

Way cool, Knucks says … and the NFL deserves it for making their playoffs a tournament more than a genuine championship.

Knucks' Locks of the Week … Wes Cravens fall short again to the Steelers … Yets lose in OT … Seattle can’t get it done in the dome … and the Pack is back.

Speachifying … President Obama gave one of his signature speeches for unity last week that more resembled a political rally than a memorial but how could we possibly think a politician would do such a thing?

Exacatamundo … while I’m sure his intentions were sincere, I sincerely doubt his motivations to fly to Arizona were anything more than political.

But I digress … what bothers me more are the facts being ignored in the middle of all the left-right hoopla stirred by the event. Since the Congresswoman was shot, how many other American citizens were killed by gunshots in the United States? While the numbers (taken individually or as a total) may not be as sexy to the media and probably lack the circus atmosphere of the Arizona shooting (having been a political event and/or adding the death of a nine year old child to the mix), somewhere in this country someone younger or about the same age was also murdered (for whatever insane reason). This is not to marginalize what happened in Arizona by any means, but something tells me there were other tragedies coast to coast/islands to Alaska that just didn’t guarantee the media spotlight politicians (all of them) can score points off.

No, I don’t think President Obama was happy a Congresswoman (even a blue dog) was shot and maimed and that six others died (including a nine-year-old) and/or that fourteen others were wounded by a madman in a political hotbed of a state … but make no mistake that his appearance there was way more political opportunity than any heartfelt need to address the nation.

Does that make him a bad person? No, it makes him a politician. You’ll have to take it from there.

Oooops … The Labor Department said first-time applications for unemployment benefits jumped 35,000 from the week before, to 445,000.

As to Sarah “Blood Libel” Palin … is there anybody in her camp that can shut this broad up? Seriously, how fucking obtuse can one person be? As her loyal ranks decrease daily, it will be interesting to see just how far the GOP will be willing to let her speak as the Presidential elections draw nearer.

I couldn’t embed this because of NBC … if this isn’t scary (Tina Fey playing Sarah and then Sarah playing Sarah), I don’t know what the MF is.

Oy-fucking-vey …


Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Very Powerful Book … Eddie’s World on kindle … Kindle formats and book covers yous should know about …


The Chieu Hoi Saloon, by Michael Harris … a powerful novel that will quickly hook and won’t let go. Harry Hudson has a shitty past he can’t escape; a mistaken kill in Vietnam and a daughter he wasn’t paying attention to who drowned a few feet from where he’d set his Jack Daniel’s bottle. He’s also a chronic stutterer, a bit naïve and the type of good man who can’t help wanting the best for and from others no matter the cost to himself. He’s down on his luck when we first meet him (and his blood) at the Chieu Hoi Saloon. He’s left his wife and son and needs to find love (of one form or another) to survive.

You can’t help but root for Harry to conquer his demons and at times will wish the man were a bit of a sociopath to shield him from the demons of his past, but there’s much more to Harry’s story. Author Michael Harris delves into much more than one man’s struggle with his past. The author also deals with Harry’s present and future and when Harry finds himself in a grungy porn showcase joint, he also finds comfort in a world without restraints and judgment. The irony, of course, is that as fast as Harry can be comfortable the real world reminds him he really can’t enjoy himself (not for a minute, it seems) and a new form of guilt claws at his soul.

To complicate his life further, there’s the owner of the bar, Mama Thuy, a beautiful, pragmatic, savvy woman with a boatload of enthusiastic admirers (Harry becomes one) and a family overseas she’s sending coin in hopes of bringing them here. There’s Kelly Crenshaw, a black prostitute with a husband in the joint and a baby on the way (could it be Harry’s? He can only hope so.). Both women need Harry (at times desperately), but not for what Harry wishes to be needed … but having them want to need him is almost as good and Harry is always there to deliver.

Harry was fortunate to find a job with the local newspaper (he’s a journalist at heart, hearing voices from his past that involve a Japanese girl he inadvertently insulted long ago) but the more involved he becomes in other people’s lives (and the more he wants them involved in his), the more he forgets his responsibilities on the job. Then there are offshoots from each character and their entourages and the backdrop of the Rodney King Simi Valley verdict about to explode on the scene.

This was a very powerful read start to finish. The story will flip back and forth, present to past and back again several times over, which makes it all the more intriguing. Harris writes with literary authority and spits dialogue so real you’ll be wiping your chin. This is a very highly recommended read ... another MUST READ from PM Press.

The opening line to the book which was featured in a recent best opening line contest over at Spinetingler Magazine. Author Michael Harris delivers a fine one: “A year later, when it was Harry Hudson’s blood on the floor of the Chieu Hoi Saloon, Mama Thuy remembered the first time she’d seen him — a big guy in a tweed jacket, helping Rita and Navy Swede mop somebody else’s blood from around the legs of the pool table.” — The Chieu Hoi Saloon by Michael Harris.

Speaking of books (not nearly as good as the one reviewed above), my first ever published crime novel is now available on kindle for ’tree big ones (i.e., fazools … $3.00 American) … the story behind Eddie’s World was born from revenge (the background in the book) and written to try and impress the Principessa Ann Marie a long time ago now (it seems).

Eddie’s World also introduces my fictional crime family (the Vignieri’s) along with several other character who appear and reappear in the rest of my dopey mob books. Here’s the inside jacket cover: Eddie Senta has a problem, in this hard-boiled, fast-paced novel of crime. His attractive second wife, a highly successful marketing research executive who hears her biological clock loudly ticking, wants a baby. She also wants Eddie to clean up his act. Their marriage is going bad.

Nothing's going great for Eddie, in fact. His stints as a firecracker word processor in the legitimate business world dull him, and the kick he once got running for the mob has turned into mere efficiency. Maybe it's a midlife crisis, like his wife's unsympathetic therapist says.

Uneasy with the feeling that his world is daily shrinking, Eddie seizes the opportunity, when it presents itself, to make an easy score and at the same time to help out a friend. While Eddie by no means needs the five grand he'll make on the deal, he longs for the thrill--and the reinvigoration of his stale fortyish self--that a quick, uncomplicated robbery might bring.

Eddie’s World earned me my first ever *Starred Review* from Kirkus (or anybody else). Get it for kindle here.

“Fresh, fast and darkly-funny. A sure-footed debut from a writer with a spare, no-nonsense prose style who can make you like characters you think you shouldn't.” – Kirkus *Starred* Review

About that Kindle Stuff … currently, I get the books I've retained my rights to kindleized (if you will) by Joshua Talent’s wonderful service, ebook architects. I’ve read quite a few kindle books since I first purchased the thing and usually can readily tell the difference between those handled professionally and those done on the fly (which are quite often terribly formatted). Joshua literally wrote the book on how to do this stuff, but if you’re computer challenged like myself (even after 28 years of on and off word processing), you’ll pay the very reasonable freight and have THE pro at this stuff do it.

Contact Joshua Talent and his wonderful service here.

The Eddie’s World/Charlie Opera kindle book covers, which we’ve received some nice compliments on, were done by another wonderful service, GOS Mutlimedia has designed several outstanding book covers for me, including Charlie Opera, Eddie's World, (and coming soon Jimmy Bench-Press, and Cheapskates). In addition to book covers, GOS Multimedia offers additional self-publishing services such as editing, ebook conversions, print layout, graphic design, video book ads, websites, and marketing. GOS Multimedia aims to do everything a publishing house does but distribute the books and keep all the profits. Please visit them at their website, or email Steven at or call at 818-585-9945.

And/or check out one of their excellent video book ads on YouTube:

One last plug for this Stella character ... Charlie Opera is still just $2.00 fazools ... mostly because the author remains computer challenged and has to figure out how to amend the price to $3.00 fazools ... but here’s some Charlie Opera plugs ... from the inside jacket: A gritty underworld thriller that takes mob bosses, hit men, and gangland wannabes to Las Vegas where the name of their game is Charlie Opera.

A guy goes to Las Vegas for a holiday. In a matter of hours he gets drunk, gets mugged, and gets dumped by his wife. Things could get worse, and do, in this new crime novel from Charlie Stella, whose work, says the San Diego Union Tribune, not only recalls George V. Higgins but also “stacks up well against the master.”

With bravura, alternating brutality with humor and high-octane action with virtuoso tough-guy dialogue, Stella crafts his story of Charlie Pellecchia, whose unwitting entanglement with New York mobster Nicky Cuccia plops him in the path of the DEA, FBI, and Las Vegas police. Law enforcement may find Charlie awkwardly in its way, but elsewhere—in deluxe casino hotel suites, at deserted construction sites, on quiet residential streets—a bodybuilding punk looking to be made, a professional killer, a mob chief’s double-dealing accountant, and a pair of Vietnamese gangbangers are all trying to put Charlie permanently out of the way. All because he broke a wiseguy’s jaw.

Add to the mix hookers with felonious kinks, a cop deeply troubled by his wife’s infidelity, a ham-fisted redneck with vengeance on his mind and some bad faith between a Brooklyn crime family and the Russian mob. Things go down tough in Charlie’s opera.

Some of our fortunate reviews for Charlie Opera ...

“For his third brilliant crime novel, following Jimmy Bench-Press (2002)...Stella’s dialogue is electric and funny...This outing Stella offers us quite a few sympathetic characters, from Charlie and the cocktail waitress he’s falling for, to strong-arm men Francone and Lano. You actually feel sorry for the poor New York Mafioso, dropped in Las Vegas like sharks flipped into a pool of piranhas.” Publishers Weekly *Starred* Review

A Mystery Book of the Year 2003 Selection – Publishers Weekly

“Stella is carving himself a niche in crime literature somewhere between the late Eugene Izzi’s street noir and Elmore Leonard’s ironic tragicomedies. Bottom line: it works. Stella is a rising star.” Wes Lukowsky (Booklist *Starred* Review)

Booklist runner-up to the Top Ten Mysteries of late 2003/early 2004 – Booklist

“Stella’s Goodfellas do their wild and crazy thing once more … the pace never slows, and you’ll like tough, tenderhearted Charlie a lot.” Kirkus Reviews

“Combine Mario Puzo and Elmore Leonard, add a dash of George V. Higgins and what do you get? Charlie Stella, that’s what. His flamboyant characters, violent action and picturesque dialogue place his work among the best of underworld thrillers, past and present.” San Diego Union Tribune


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hellooooo Nurse!


Graduate Annie … last night was her graduation (pinning) ceremony and although she missed rehearsals Monday night due to pneumonia, Ann Marie was there with her classmates (some I’ve come to know well from their study groups at Casa Stella) to receive their official paperwork and pins. The boss won’t let me call her Nurse Annie yet because she has to pass the state boards in another month or so (she earned a 91 on the practice state boards 2 days after her final). She’s very superstitious and abides by her graduate status until she takes the boards and passes them.

In the meantime, all I can say is congratulations to her and her classmates for successfully navigating an incredibly difficult journey. The RN programs are very intense and stressful and require an enormous amount of attention to detail and time (2 nights a week after working full-time all day and all day Saturdays at a NY hospital). The fact she and many of her classmates did it while working full time and raising families is extra special. We’re all planning a big party after the boards but soon it’s me and my graduate at a Russian joint highly recommended by a Scotsman, Russell McLean, Mari Vanna.

Congrats again to all those who worked hard to DEFEAT OUTSOURCING in our time, the graduates of the BMCC Nursing Program. You go Nurses!

The ugly one was so inspired by the wife’s efforts at defeating OUTSOURCING, he too will be back to school (if accepted) in an attempt to gain an MFA to teach with.

Just say no to outsourcing … become a Nurse!

Some pics from Annie’s big night ...

Leaving home (with pneumonia) to attend her gradumacationals ...

On deck

Nurses Judy (the study kids) & Ann Marie

In the procession

As sick as she was, she could still flash that smile.

The Candle ceremony (oy vey, they’ll burn the joint down)

With future nurse Vanessa

With her son Tim

With the ugly one (is that fat guy’s head big or what?)

More of the Casa Stella study group (Barbara & Lauren)

Hellooooo Registered Nurse!

Book Review ...

Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand) … Louis Zamperini’s story is one for the ages. What this man went through after his plane was shot down over the Pacific during World War II is nothing short of a modern day Job (Biblical) story. A mile runner through high school and college and a competitor at the 1936 Jesse Owens Olympics in Berlin (just say no to Hitler), Zamperini was close to breaking the four minute mile before he enlisted in the US Army Air Forces. What transpired over the next few years of his life would kill the vast majority of us; the ones it didn’t drive mad. Torture and abuse that would make Abu Ghraib seem like Disneyland (make no mistake), Zamperini was hounded and seemingly stalked by one of Japan’s most notorious war crimes convicts, Matsuhiro Watanabe. What this lunatic did to Zamperini and countless others is the stuff sweet revenge is bred of. Unbroken is a riveting account of an incredible life and something that will keep your eyes glued to the pages start to finish. Very highly recommended.

The state of my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills Union ...

Above on the left, the Bills offense … above on the right, the Bills Defense.

My 2010 beloved New York State Buffalo Bills overall performance was testimony to any Libertarian anti-union argument. Their performance the last two weekends of the season proved “guaranteed incomes” are a truly bad thing. Unfortunately for all yous happier than a lark capitalists out there (yes, Doc, you), the owner (Ralph Wilson)’s guaranteed profits from the same performance are even more criminal. Profit from that? Nobody on the Buffalo side of the ball (owner, coaches and players alike) deserved any more than minimum wage for the absolute sellout the last two weeks of the season.

Remember, amici, this coming from a left of the left leftist.

The last game of the season was the only Bills game I was able to watch all year and I was back at my computer shortly after the start of the 3rd quarter. It was a disgraceful performance. I know they played at least equally bad against New England the week before, but I didn’t see that fiasco. I considered writing an open letter to the Bills coaches and players … then thought better of it because as angry as I was at Chan Gailey for permitting his team to go through the motions (and badly at that), nobody can coach that badly; it was the players who mailed it in.

To offset the disservice they did to union workers everywhere this past Sunday, the Bills players should contribute their final paychecks (at least part of them) to charity. They did nothing to win the support of loyal fans. If anything, they made this one say, “Hey, Canada, they’re all yours.”

Above, the Bills organization.

The new Knuckmeter ...

That’s right, amici, it’s back on now ... the weigh-in Saturday afternoon (January 1, 2011) was 320 (Ooops) ... but now that Moi no longer has to drive back to Manhattan to pick up the wife after nursing classes (that’s what I’m talking about), it’s been back to the gym at 4:30 a.m. when it opens. So far so good, too ... I’m back on Isagenix protein shakes for dinner and determined to drop 60 before I turn 55 in June.

An upcoming Review of The Chieu Hoi Saloon by Michael Harris (which is absolutely brilliant) from Quality Driven Publishers, PM Press, next post.

Brian Lindenmuth of Spinetingler magazine liked Johnny Porno enough to place it on his best or 2010 amongst some much more deserving company. A few of my favorites were on there as well (so I’m more than honored). Ben Whitmer’s Pike and Lynn Kostoff’s Late Rain (Brian’s #1 pick) among them.