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).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book and Movie Reviews … Out of the Bubble ... Big Daddy Book Launch ... So Long Choketriots … Hello Hockey!

The Gin Closet … Leslie Jamison’s debut novel is a gritty work that drives the reader across the country in an attempt to solve a family puzzle (or two); a missing daughter/aunt/sister. Matilda (Tilly) was the directionless odd daughter compared to her determined and focused sister, but how (and why) does a mother let a daughter go? The opening scene is a grabber for sure; Stella (not me) finds Lucy (her Grandmother) on the floor—she’s been there for a while. While being cared for, Lucy mentions her missing daughter. Stella is Tilly’s idealistic niece and after learning from her grandmother about a missing daughter, an aunt Stella never knew about, she wants to know more. Stella has been anorexic (definitely not me) and has been on the bad end of a relationships with a married man (pregnancy = abortion). Before her grandmother (Lucy) dies, Stella confronts her overly focused/rigid mother (Dora) about her Mom’s missing sister (Matilda/Tilly), then seeks Matilda to tell her in person (before her missing aunt receives a cold letter from a lawyer) about the death of her mother … and a journey begins.
Tilly has lived a dire life. Prostitution and booze haunt her. Prostitution served as a means of survival, the booze as a means to dull her pain. Tilly is also a mother and an extremely perceptive person. In fact, Tilly sums up Stella (and herself) very accurately with these passages:
She was looking to help. That much was clear. She wanted to help Haitian kids, her whore aunt, everyone. She was still trying to figure out what her life was becoming, like it already had a shape and all she needed to do was squint hard enough to see it.
Every week for months, we got something in the mail from Haitian Smiles, a free calendar or a despairing letter, all of it addressed to Stella by name. I cared about them, too, those smiling and not-smiling thin folks down south; they just didn’t know it.
Tilly is a great character and so is Stella. She’s also a very perceptive woman, especially as regards the emptiness in her own life. When the entire process of her abortion is regurgitated for Tilly’s sake, from her married lover’s cowardly wishes to the actual termination procedure, the reader is reminded this is no fairytale being told.
There are no spoilers in TK reviews, so you’ll have to read to find out how Stella’s trip to visit an aunt she never knew existed turns out. What she finds upon arrival is an overweight, alcoholic aunt. What she (Stella) learns includes: Tilly’s past prostitution; that she has a cousin, Tilly’s successful son who lives in San Francisco, and things heat up another notch. Read this one, amici. It’s more than worth the price of admission.
A novel loaded with gravitas, poetic and gritty, The Gin Closet is an engrossing read start to finish. A TK Very Highly recommended read.—Temporary Knucksline
The Book of Ruth ... never mind that Jane Hamilton’s 1988 debut novel won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for best first novel in 1988 and/or that it was an Oprah book club pick in November 1996 (because ALL awards are fugazy). I’m tellin’ yous that this is a terrific read much easier to navigate and comprehend than William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Told in a brilliant stream of consciousness-like point of view, the author’s protagonist, Ruth, breaks our hearts while making us smile. She also keeps us keenly aware that a tragedy is surely unfolding and it is a payoff no reader will turn away from once the journey begins. A very good read.—Temporary Knucksline
Blue Valentine ... another GREAT performance by Michelle Williams with an equally GREAT performance by Ryan Gosling. A back and forth (past and current) look at a couple in crisis; one more in love than the other. Poignant and heartbreaking, start to finish. Very highly recommended ... and how Michelle Williams is passed over by the group of Hollywood politicians who decide the nominations for the Academy Awards confirms my belief that ALL awards are 100% horseshit and 0% credible, except she was nominated for this movie along with Gosling (so there, Knucks).  The awards are still fugazy, but her performances are always brilliant.  The last two movies I’ve seen with her, Take This Waltz, and now Blue Valentine, were over the top great performances by her and both casts.
SNHU MFA alums have put together a newsletter and a webpage ... pretty cool beans. Outside the Bubble ... SNHU MFA alum newsletter ...
BIG DADDY’S BOOK LAUNCH … Book Launch for THE HARD BOUNCE is TONIGHT! Friday at 6:00pm, at The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, New York, 58 Warren St, New York, New York 10007-1099
And if that’s not enough of Big Daddy, there’s more ... N@B NYC 3 will be on Sunday January 27th, at the Shade Bar, 241 Sullivan Street (Corner of W 3rd) 6p.m. Readers include: Big Daddy his own bad self, SJ Rozan, Matthew McBride, Hilary Davidson, Reed Farrel Coleman, Seamus Scanlon, Kathleen Gernert Ryan, Thomas Pluck, Justin Porter, Albert Tucher, and Terrence McCauley.

I still wear the 4X Thug Lit t-shirt Todd sent me a few years back at least once a week … it’s a beautiful thing … even on me.
So Long Choketriots … Did you hear Cosell’s voice raining down over this vast great land of ours? Down Go the Choketriots! Down Go the Choketriots! Down Go the Choketriots!
And is it coincidence that Terrell Suggs said the same thing the ugly Knuckster has been saying for years now ... to wit: The Cheatriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since being caught cheating! It’s a fact, look it up. Negate the wins they did manage during their cheating era and they become the best 2nd place finisher of all time.
As regards last Sunday, it was a beautiful thing, to say the least … and even though I couldn’t watch it (our dish had been knocked out of line by the roofers and wouldn’t be restored until Monday), I was able to listen to the second half in the Stellamobile on the radio (reading a very good book, The Gin Closet {reviewed above} when the Cheatriots had the ball and occasionally turning up the radio to check the score) … and wasn’t I surprised when the Wes Cravens scored their last TD? I’d thought the score was 21-13 (distracted by the book I was reading) … so when I heard it was 28-13 and not much time left in the game, well, I was all smiles.
Bottom line: my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills finish on a great note (no, not beating the Moonachie Green team in the last game of the season) but making room on the couch for the Cheatriots to watch the super bowl! The great “dynasty” team with all the stats (Brady beats Montana’s playoff record, the Cheatriot offense runs a play every 27 seconds, netting them an average of 13 plays more than the rest of the league, they score a gazillion points a game ... bla, bla, bla) ... the bottom line is they can now proudly wear the moniker of “dynasty choke artists” ... that’s right, the Choketriots and their classless Belicheat (and his gimmick offenses) have now FAILED so many times when it counts, is there any reason to take them seriously anymore?
Okay, so I’m having some extra fun at their expense. Tom Brady, to my mind, is the best QB ever, hands down. They are an offensive machine, but something is missing that would put them over the top. The other day I listened to a Boston sports reporter with Mike Francessa on the FAN and he believes what I suspect is the case: They play way too soft a schedule and are in way too soft a division to make it past the tougher competition they meet in the playoffs. I’ve always thought that about Moonachie Blue, by the way; that their schedule is what makes them so tough come playoff time. Yes, playing my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills twice a year is a gift. Add two more against a chaotic Moonachie Green team and an up and coming Dolphination squad and that’s 5-6 easy ones every year ... or, what the Boston sports writer called them: “Tomato can” teams you can kick around.
Still, in the end, it was refreshing to see that not only does Eli Manning own Giselle’s husband, so does Joe Flacco ...
Go Bills!
Speaking of the crying game (what the Cheatriots do every time they lose) ... how about that dirty Tom Brady?
I say suspend him against all their division rivals and thus better prepare them for their next playoff run ...
Gaboritrik! Hello Hockey! ... Co-worker, Sue Bennett, is responsible for my newfound love of all things hockey ... and author, Dana King, explains the game I’m watching from time to time ... and isn’t it great those crazy SOB’s on skates are back? I’ve watched three games in a row, including two nights ago—the Rangers’ OT win over the Bruins of Cheatriot town ... another beautiful thing (Gaborik ending it with a hat trick) ... how cool was that?
So last night it was the Rangers and the Flyers of Freedom Town ... how these guys play back-to-backers is beyond me. The Rangers looked exhausted on the ice last night (and probably were) ... one can only hope the capitalist owners are compensating the workers for breaking down their bodies ...
I couldn’t resist.
For Tom Brady and all his loyal Cheatriot fans ...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Quintan Lawman, MFA Graduate … DRL (again) ... Book reviews: Townie ... and Rîmaru: The Butcher of Burcharest … Noir Bar in New York event ... More Glib than Profound …

The short story below is a wonderful piece Quinton wrote while in prison (Star Island) last summer; a rewrite of Genesis in third person, which he says was a lot of fun. Quinton also has started a blog: Q Continuously

Quinton’s thesis is tentatively titled War Puppets. The book takes current events, along with human behavior, and magnifies them. By the time he’s done with the story (at least two more books), he hopes to have an explanation in place as to why so many morons seem to sit on seats of power … how is it we can repeatedly fail to learn from history, and why we have so hard a time with this whole "global society" thing.

Here’s the short Star (Shutter) Island piece Quinton wrote last summer.

Your God

You think this is easy? You think you can just snap your fingers and create Heaven and Earth? Well, if you’re God, you can. You flip the switch, and you get light—good to go. The explosion is awesome, and makes one hell of a bang.

There still isn't much to look at, so you make both night and day by spinning the blue planet hanging in the third slot. Sometimes it faces the sun, and sometimes it doesn’t.

You want more? What are you going to do about it? Right now, you’ve got a spinning ball of water flying through space. Sure, you could create some underwater plants and coral, but what else? You need some land. No problem. You pull, drawing up a massive continent from beneath the water. It’s heavy, but it gives you what you need: another environment in which to create. Not too shabby.

You go on a gardening kick, creating grass, herbs, fruits, and all that good stuff. These change, growing and waning with the seasons you’ve created by making the planets orbit the Sun.

You’re particularly proud of the Sun, but you also like the Moon. You made it orbit the Earth as a little accent piece, like planetary jewelry, to light up the night a little. Earth, by the way, is what you call this third planet. You’re quite pleased with yourself, oh great creator of things.

As you measure them, you’re about four days into creation now, but still bored. So you throw some life into the mix. You think it’s easy to just pop creatures with brains into being? You think wiring a neural network together to form thought is a cake-walk? Again, you’re God. Creating things is kind of your bag. Snap your fingers, and you’ve got birds, fish, and even a few sea mammals. Pretty slick, huh?

You watch this all for a day, really enjoying it. You're not really sure where you came up with the idea of "days" to measure time because you live in all times and all places. You shrug, not worrying about it because you've got an idea brewing in your head.

Day five brings back the boredom. So far, your creations have multiplied, mutated, and grown—and that’s great. Hell, you even smack them with a meteor once just to see what happens. Poor bastards.

This fifth day, however, is special. It’s this day you figure out the ultimate in reality entertainment—humans. You make them interesting, capable of conniving, loving, and fighting. You give them paradise, but you also give them free will. You rub your hands together maniacally as you consider the possibilities.

For fun, you make these humans look a little like you. They’re smaller, and a whole lot less omniscient, but you’re particularly proud of the free will thing. You bless them and send them on their way, warning them of bad apples.

Congrats to Quinton!

Quick follow-up on D.R.L. (lasts week’s graduate profile) ... Darren has a wonderful blog called Thought Vomit (highly recommended reading)  ... and this series of posts ) is flat out terrific.

Townie Andrew Dubus III … a recommended reading from two of the faculty at Southern New Hampshire University (Ben Nugent & Diane Les Becquets), the son of the great master of the short story permits a look into his troubled upbringing. Specifically, the lack of a father’s guidance, continuously moving from one tough neighborhood to another from a lack of funds, dealing with his initial fear of violence and later conquering it, only to find a need to suppress the anger and urge to violence that ensues. While I was mostly interested in the author’s relationship with his father (which is perhaps why it was suggested reading for me—my thesis deals with father-son issues), much of how he (the author) dealt with his demon’s were too close to home; perhaps a sense of been there, done that. Ultimately, the author’s life experiences, especially those without so many of the distractions many of us consider necessities, was what won this reader over. At one point, he was literally clueless about a baseball game when he first attended one with a friend. He also learned construction the old fashioned way and worked hard to support himself doing odd jobs (learning as he went). How he first fell in love with an Iranian woman and didn’t recognize her love for him was intriguing. By Part III, Townie resonated well, not because of the violence the author had to experience, but because of the father-son relationship, and all of the author’s internal conflicts; conflicts that perhaps made better sense of his world and his place in it.

Get Townie here ... 

Rîmaru - Butcher of Bucharest … Ion Rîmaru was a Romania serial killer from May of 1970 to May of 1971. The book from Pro Fusion Crime, by Mike Phillips, Stejarel Olaru, Ramona Mitrica (editor) is a well documented tale of not only the killer, his family, and the victims, it also serves as a condemnation of the aftereffects of years of communist rule, whereby citizens were so suspect of authorities, those who admittedly overheard the screams of several of Rîmaru’s victims (since most were attacked in populated buildings/areas), they did nothing. The authors give a detailed historical look at the indifference of those citizens, including actual interviews with a few who heard and/or saw some of Rîmaru’s attacks taking place.

The book might be more intriguing to fans of true crime and/or serial killers, but it did remind me of the horrific murder of Kitty Genovese and how our citizens (in a free society) didn’t bother getting involved.

As for police corruption … the list is too long to document, but the rise of organized crime within the various immigrant neighborhoods of big cities was a direct result of people not trusting the authorities here in America. As for institutionalized corruption, it is more than well-documented throughout American history.

Rimaru - Butcher of Bucharest is a fine glimpse into the mind of a notorious serial killer and an intriguing read. It’s great to see an Eastern European publisher of crime make it here. Definitely recommended reading for those with that special interest in psychopathic behavior.

Get Rimaru - Butcher of Bucharest here ... 

 Noir Bar in the City … Todd (Big Daddy) Robinson has a debut novel, The Hard Bounce, with Tyrus books. Todd will be reading along with some other big time names in the crime fiction world at the Shade Bar, 241 Sullivan Street (Corner of W 3rd) 6pm on Sunday, January 27, 2013. Those big name readers include, SJ Rozan, Matthew McBride, Hilary Davidson, Reed Farrel Coleman, Seamus Scanlon, Kathleen Gernert Ryan, Thomas Pluck, Justin Porter, Albert Tucher, and Terrence McCauley.

I still wear the 4X Thug Lit t-shirt Todd sent me a few years back at least once a week … it’s a beautiful thing … even on me.

 More Glib than Profoundformer high school football mate (we played next to each other on the offensive line one year), Steve Edelblum, writes one of the funniest and informative blogs around these days … after many years of not seeing one another, I met him while with wife #3 in Atlantic City. He was dealing craps and I was throwing money away (one of my last ever gambling fiascos). Then we met again and we shared a few walks along the Point Pleasant boardwalk (post wife #3). Through emails and yapping, I could tell Steve had/has an undeniable gift–writing. Check him out and see what I mean. Balls out funny and always informative.

We used to walk the Boardwalk in Point Pleasant back in the day ... what a pair of nerds.


 I’ve been giving some wake-up FB shout-outs to my fellow SNHU 4th semesterites this week ... if the ugly one has to get up at 3:15 a.m. to work on his thesis, so (theoretically) do my compatriots ... here’s three of the wake-ups. Yes, I can be one annoying MF’er ...

Manhattan Transfer ... Java Jive

The Andrew Sisters ... Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy


And Wham ... Wake me up before you Go Go


Friday, January 11, 2013

SNHU MFA Winter Residency … Graduation … D.R. Leo … Krista Zobel … Dinner with Rick Ollerman ...


Aside from the Principessa Ann Marie catching pneumonia for the second time in 8 weeks, and the Twilight Zone drive I had to make to the hospital in Littleton, New Hampshire, at ten o’clock last Sunday night (on a road covered with snow, zero lights along the way, hills that were steep enough to feel as though they wouldn’t end until the Stellamobile was swallowed into the abyss, and followed by a caravan of angry New Hampshire drivers way more used to driving the 55+ MPH than the 30 MPH I was moving at), the winter residency up at the Mountain View Grand really was the best of the four I’ve attended.

Between new faculty and those who’ve been at SNHU, the craft workshops were brilliantly animated, chock full of exercises, and useful way beyond my expectations. For the first time in my writing life, I’ll be outlining my work, something I’ve never done writing crime fiction (ever). I’ve even ordered a whiteboard to pepper with post-its and adorn with some nifty crayola crayon markers. And for my final semester, I have the energetic director of our program as my final mentor, Diane Les Becquets (La-Beck for you nons) . Diane is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, and was nicknamed Lil’ Vince (because she gets the job done) by me way back during my first semester …

Season of Ice

Here was my take on Diane after our first residency: Our director at the SNHU program may have an unpronounceable name in Brooklynese (Diane Les Becquets), but she’s a hell of a writer and a Vince Lombardi reincarnation (in the best possible way) ... so TK anointed Diane “Little Vince” this week. I read Season of Ice a few months before the program began and it was terrific (you’ll feel the chill in the air she describes). Remember Lombardi time? Now there’s Les Becquets (pronounced Le Beck) time ... don’t be late!

The Mountain View Grand … Our winter residency was held at the posh (with The Shining-like hallways) Mountain View Grand and once again, the food was absolutely excellent (as was the accommodations), although this was the first time I learned of the “ax throwing” that goes on near the ice skating rink … apparently it’s one of the features … pretty neat stuff, you ask me. Sickness and all, the drives to and from (not the one to the hospital—that was terrifying) the Mountain View Grand were wonderful; the views are truly majestic.

The Graduates ...

This past week our MFA graduates included a Rhodes Scholar and an accompanying cast of terrific writers; authors, one and all: Kimberly Agurkis Catron, Sarah E. Caouette, Elizabeth Clark, Suzanne (Shumaker) Hogan, Natalie Kenney, Quinton Honor Lawman, Emma Findlen LeBlanc, Darren R. Leo, Jacob Lucas, Tyler Schild, Adam Sharp and Adam Zobel.

First up for some TK light is Darren Leo Rome … my former competition in the MFA coffee black market. Darren is an award-winning hospitality executive. His work has appeared in several industry trade publications, and he is the author of the novella Keeping Score: a short heroic journey. His thesis, Trees and Other Remedies, is a novel and an existential consideration of how one man copes with tragedy and grief as he seeks the solace of nature on the Appalachian Trail. Darren has hiked over six hundred miles of the trail and didn’t know at the time it would help him earn a graduate degree. He plans to hike the entire two thousand miles of the trail and see if there is another book to be found. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Utah.

Congrats to Darren!  I'm looking forward to reading both his books.

A Mother’s Angst and Pride … by Krista Zobel. This selection is part of a short story, Krista submitted to the Amoskeag Contest. It picks up where she and her husband resigned themselves to the fact that their son Curtis would one day be a Marine. Her brother, Adam, is one of our graduates mentioned above.

Curtis attacked his high school studies with the same vigor and intensity with which he attacked everything else, and managed to graduate a year early. It was inevitable that on July 28, 2010, when he turned seventeen, his father and I would find ourselves in the recruiter’s office signing papers to allow him to enlist. Curtis began the conditioning program for “poolies,” those who had enlisted but were waiting for a boot camp training cycle to begin. He memorized pages of regulations, charts of ranks, and other military knowledge. He also ran countless miles and did pushups and sit ups constantly.

In September, our family gathered in Manchester to say goodbye to my husband, who was deploying to Kuwait for a year with the Army National Guard. Curtis swelled with pride. He was so very eager to be wearing a uniform of his own.

On November 15, Curtis took that famous bus ride to Parris Island. For thirty six hours, I sat by the phone waiting for the promised call. Finally, at 3:00 a.m., my cell phone rang. I snatched it up and heard Curtis’ voice, as hoarse again as it was when he was a bossy baby in diapers:

I have arrived safely at Parris Island.

Please do not send any food or bulky items.

I will contact you in 3 to 5 days via postcard with my new mailing address.

Thank you for your support.

I was tempted to talk over him, to tell him how much I loved him and was praying for him, but I was torn between the desire to get my own words out and the longing to hear his voice. I interrupted his goodbye and managed to get in “I love you, Curdie,” before the line went dead. I sat on the edge of my empty double bed and looked at my husband’s pillow.

“This is really hard,” I said aloud to nobody. “It’s harder than I thought it’d be.”

The letters came steadily during boot camp. Curtis was finding it difficult, but he was alright. I wrote back, pouring out encouragement through humor, family news, and transcribed Psalms.

Finally, February came. My son Chris and I flew down to South Carolina to attend the graduation ceremony at Parris Island. It pained me that my husband was still overseas. It was wrong that he should miss this important day.

The ceremony was precise, magnificent, and inspiring – bursting with all the pageantry for which the Marine Corps is so famous. Curtis looked perfect in his uniform – perfect, but also small. How could he belong here with all of these men -- my Curtis who was not yet eighteen?

When the ceremony had ended, Curtis was allowed to spend several hours with his family before boarding a bus to Camp Geiger to begin Marine Combat Training. When the moment came to say goodbye, I clung to him and pressed him close, but I did not shed any tears. I had to be strong for him. I could not make this any more difficult than it already was.

As he turned and walked away, I felt tightness in my chest and constriction in my throat. I labored to breathe, then labored not to breathe too much. I realized that what I was feeling was panic.

It’s been two years now, and I still fight this feeling every time we said goodbye – at every military base and airport and bus station. I expect it now, but I cannot ward it off. I have my little rituals, the things I use to cope. When Curtis calls, I never hang up until after the line goes dead. When he boards a plane, I never turn away until he has disappeared down the gangway, and I never leave the airport until his plane is in the air. I have to be there to catch that last word, see that last look, receive that last text. It is okay that he has to hang up or walk away, but I could never bear for him to speak or turn and find that I was already gone. I sleep with my cell phone within reach in case, forgetting he’s in another time zone, he texts me in the night to say hi. I have to be there for him, no matter what.

On January 10, 2013, Curtis will deploy to Afghanistan. He is busily doing paper work in preparation for his departure. He texted me the other day about a glitch in his files.

He wrote: So…for my next of kin it didn’t say krista graham it sed Kelsey grassbough… so she’s my mommy.


Of course I’m joking, but it still feels good to say the words.

Sometimes I’m tempted to curse the day I signed those papers allowing my son to enlist. But then I remind myself I could never have stopped him. I could not have stood between him and what, deep down, his father and I knew he would one day become. But it’s a comfort to me to know that beneath the crisp uniform and the short haircut, and in spite of all the training in the tactics of war, Curtis is still the same boy with the big voice and bigger dreams. He is still a patriot, an idealist, an artist; and above all, my son.

Note to readers: Yesterday was the 10th ... we all wish Curtis the very best and a speedy trip back home to his family.

Dinner with Rick and Melissa Ollerman ... Stark House Press’s Associate Editor, Rick Ollerman, lives in the town where I brought the Principessa Ann Marie to the hospital last Sunday night--to the emergency room at Littleton Regional Hospital. The staff there was wonderful, especially the doctor and head nurse. We were supposed to have a four-way dinner with Rick and his lovely wife, but they had to put up with just me (all 350 pounds of just me--the diet started yesterday ... again) ... but is this a small world or what? The associate editor of my publisher lives in a town near the hotel where we were doing our MFA residency. Pretty cool. It’s actually the second dinner I had at the Mountain View Grand and Rick said he’ll do his best to attend our June graduation. You better believe I talked up some of SNHU’s writers with Rick ... Stark House used to be a publisher of exclusively classic crime novels, but they started publishing original novels a few years back with some book called Johnny Porno by a thinner me. Next year they’ll be publishing another original crime novel by one of my favorite crime writers around, Dana King. They’ve opened their doors and I can flat out say I’ve never been happier in my published life as I am with Greg Shepard and Rick Ollerman at Stark House.

Check out Stark House Press here ...

Check out fatso here ...

And for a really painful look at what once was (one has to wonder WTF happened, right)?


A victory song for all the SNHU MFA Graduates … (pay attention to those last lines) …

Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!

As D.L.R. often said, “You got this.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Gone Fishing ...


One Day More ...

And one for the fun of it ... “Now, yous can’t leave.”

See yous January 13, 2013 ...


Baby, it’s cold outside ... The Gleekinators ...