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, February 22, 2013

The Turner Erotica … Ruby Thursday ... William Weidner ... Baby Shower Pics ... Flyers-Penguins ...

From the author, Bob Begiebing’s page: J. M. W. Turner, the greatest British landscape painter and one of the most revolutionary influences on Western art since the eighteenth century, left upon his death a rich and varied legacy to Britain’s National Gallery, including more than 19,000 sketch studies containing considerable erotica. When John Ruskin, Turner’s greatest supporter at the time, discovered the erotic works, he, with the help of National Gallery Keeper Ralph Wornum, burned most of the material they found offensive. The Turner Erotica follows narrator William James Stillman (the young American artist, Consul to Rome and Crete, friend of Ruskin, and acquaintance of Turner) as he pursues a dangerous quest across Britain, Europe, and New England to discover and save the few remaining studies that through theft and betrayal escaped Ruskin’s outraged fire. In his quest, Stillman enlists the help of Pre-Raphaelite William Rossetti, the liberated American painter Allegra Fullerton, and Sir Richard Burton (the greatest linguist, swordsman, pistol-shot, and covert agent for the British government in the 19th century). Stillman’s obsession with the surviving erotic studies arises out of their potential value to British art history and his deep sense that the studies contain a secret clue to the master’s celebrated body of public work.
The above is the background, amici. Here’s TK’s Review: Intrigue abounds in this wonderful biographical novel. Whether Stillman is re-stealing the once stolen remaining Turner sketches that weren’t burned, or trying to find the person(s) the sketches have been given for safekeeping, the Turner Erotica pulls you along the way a classic mystery does—keeping you engaged, interested and anxious to know what comes next. And there's no shortage of politics and/or religous zealotry (the cause of the initial burning--puritanical insanity).
When Stillman first re-steals the sketches, it is during a very comical yet tension filled scene, after which he becomes the prime suspect in a private investigation. Stillman goes through some personal hells, including his first wife’s suicide from melancholia and his son’s sudden fall, injury and disease (but there’s even more regarding his personal tragedies). Even after Stillman falls for a younger woman from a wealthy family (who is also an artist and a model), there’s always another obstacle in Stillman’s path to finding peace. Securing the missing Turner sketches becomes secondary several times through this adventure, including after a hired thug tries to steal them back, after which Stillman falls prey to his own jealousy over his beautiful wife ... and, well, no spoilers here, amici. You’ll have to read to find out.
TK’s favorite passage: The sketches tracings were then tracings of the eye through memory; the paintings, the synthesis of the particular and the universal. If one was the basis of the old master’s art, the other was the end of the act: the essential reality behind the optical appearances carefully studied through thousands of sketches.
A side note for SNHU MFA’ers ... the author mentions the White Mountains of New Hampshire at least 8 times (I was marking as I read and stopped at #8).
TK says: The Turner Erotica is a page turner containing all the ingredients necessary for a top notch mystery; an ongoing anxiety dream that keeps you following what happens next. This wonderful novel isn’t just for art enthusiasts ... it’s a great read for everyone.
Visit the author at his website here. And check out the accompanying music selected by TK at the bottom ... from Tosca.
Check out the other Stones’ song mentioned in Rick’s short story, Ruby Thursday, at the bottom of this post ...
The Strength to Wage War, by William Weidner ... a fascinating article about the politics of war during WWII, wherein Great Britain had to hold fast, for political and moral reasons (both on battlefronts and at home), to General Montgomery, Eisenhower chewed glass (more or less) while waiting for dear Monty to break out at Caen, and ultimately he did the politically correct thing and allowed Churchill to have his way (and save Monty). You can find Mr. Weidner's article in the Early Fall '2012 Issue of WWII History.
Author William Weidner is a veteran of the U.S. Army. His book Eisenhower AND Montgomery at the Falaise Gap was selected by the Military Writers Society of America as its book of the month in January 2011 and nominated by the group for its 2011 Non-Fiction History Award. He resides in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Pictures from the First Grandchild’s Baby Shower (is that what they call these things?) … First up: Phat Dad and the expecting Dad ... notice the similarity in body types. 
Phat Dad and his boyos ...
Phat Dad and his figlia (daughter to yous nons) ...
Who’s more pregnant, the Phat Dad or Leslie (the Mom)?
That baby Stella girl is gonna have one fat Grandpa, eh?
Wednesday night is Rivalry Night on NBC Sports channel … and this past week it was the Flyers at the Penguins for one of the wildest games I’ve ever seen. What impressed me most was the non-stop tenacity of each team. I’d missed much of the first period (when the game was tied 2-2) but the rest of the game was an incredible display of determination by both teams. The Flyers went up 5-3 at one point and then took back-to-back-to-back penalties and the Penguins capitalized on their power play with two goals, but one was called off because the puck was kicked into the net. Not a problem, they quickly tied the game anyway. I thought the momentum had swung for good until there was a minute or so left in the game and the Flyers managed to put one behind the Penguin’s goalie’s back. Forgetaboutit … so I don’t know all the names yet … I probably couldn’t spell them anyway. What a game!
And then Thursday night I had to watch our Rangers blow another game ... oy vey, it’s like rooting for the Bills all over ... but at least now I can ignore baseball … again.
Go Bills!
Speaking of erotica ... the most erotic aria ever ... the wonderful Bryn Terfel as Scarpia, singing the Te Deum, from Tosca ...
As a follow-up to Rick’s story up above (and because it’s mentioned in the story), my favorite Stones’ song ... what else? Sympathy for the Devil ...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Spiral ... Peter Rabe ... The Women on the Sixth Floor ... DRL story from Atticus Review … The Living Legend ...

In 2005 the French put together a crime series known over there as Engrenages. Here, on Netflix, it goes by the name Spiral, and it is Magnifique! I watched 3 seasons immediately after sending off the first half of my thesis … it was a cool-down relax period for me and this show kept me intrigued from start to finish (including waking up at 3:00 a.m. to watch the last two episodes of season three before going to work). Wonderful stuff … and here’s the cast:
Caroline Proust: Police Captain Laure Berthaud (TOUGH AS NAILS AND CAN CURSE WITH KNUCKS!). A skilled Paris criminal police officer who leads an investigation group from a territorial division (2nd DPJ), she is known for her energy and tenacity but also for her tough and sometimes borderline methods. Devoted to her work, she is very attached to her men and would do anything to protect them when they make a mistake. While she is quite successful with men, her private life is a mess and she seems unable to build a lasting relationship.
Grégory Fitoussi: Assistant Prosecutor Pierre Clément. A young magistrate (AN EXCELLENT CHARACTER; THE DO-GOODER IN A BAD WORLD) with a promising career, he believes in his profession and in the integrity of justice. But his success and his righteousness provoke the hostility of his superior, the powerful Republic Prosecutor of Paris. He is close friends with Captain Berthaud and Judge Roban but also, more surprisingly, with Joséphine Karlsson.
Philippe Duclos: Judge François Roban (JAVERT WITH A TWIST). An experienced investigating magistrate (juge d'instruction), solitary and hardworking, he knows all the tricks of his trade. Often reproached for his coldness and even cruelty with suspects and witnesses, he attaches a lot of importance to his independence from the executive powers. But he is aware that his job has nearly destroyed his life and the people he loved.
Thierry Godard: Police Lieutenant Gilles "Gilou" Escoffier (GREAT CHARACTER). Berthaud's long-time team member, they are practically family. With methods as borderline as his captain's, they often cover each other to escape disciplinary inquiries. Having difficulties enduring the toughness of his work, he has a long history of drug abuse.
Fred Bianconi: Police Lieutenant Frédéric "Tintin" Fromentin (PERFECT CHARACTER FOR THE TEAM DYNAMICS). Responsible and reasonable, good in proceedings, he is the stable element of Berthaud's group. He generally disapproves of his colleagues' methods and therefore is often torn between straying into illegality and betraying his friends.
Audrey Fleurot: Lawyer Joséphine Karlsson. A clever, beautiful (amici, she’s friggin’ GORGEOUS) and highly cynical young lawyer, she is extremely ambitious and always looking for cases that will earn her a maximum of fame and money. She finds it exciting to defend monsters and does not hesitate to cross or double-cross to get what she wants. However, her shady dealings and her hate for police eventually get her into trouble. Freckles galore!
The Silent Wall, by Peter Rabe ... what happens here stays here? Never mind Las Vegas, try the town of Forza d’Aguil in Sicilia … Matty Matthews revisits Forza d’Aguil in Sicilia where he was stationed during World War II. He goes in search of a former lover and winds up in a Mafioso abyss. He wants out, but out isn’t so easy … not after he offends a local Mafioso by paying for a bottle of wine … crazy is as crazy does, but Rabe does a magnificent job of building the tension … written is a kind of stream of consciousness that will lead the reader in this absolutely intriguing read to its finish.
And, hey, the forward to this book is not too shabby either. This guy over at Stark House Press, Rick Ollerman (who I had the pleasure of having dinner with twice in the White Mountains of New Hampshire) does a great job of making readers want what they’re about to engage. And it’s no surprise to this author how even more debts of gratitude are owed Mr. Ed Gorman (who saved me from crime writing oblivion a few years back). Starkhouse Press rocks!
Join Stark House Press today, amici … and check out the Peter Rabe page here.
The Women on the 6th Floor … a wonderful feel good movie that takes place in France … the aristocracy vs. the workers? Close enough for jazz … wonderful stuff, start to finish. You wanna feel good, watch this flick. My favorite character, of course, was the communist maid ... hilarious.
Remember this fella? Well, you should. A graduate of the Southern New Hampshire University MFA program, Darren Rome Leo (DRL) is getting some notice. Check out this wonderful short of his at Atticus Review, The Big John River Bridge
Above picture by Shane Remer, another very talented good guy from the SNHU MFA program.
Finalmentamia! Bruno in the Hall of Fame ... you might have to be at least 50 to appreciate this, but Bruno Sammartino was a hero when I was a kid (40 years ago, when wrestling was REAL ... okay, so maybe not real, but it didn’t look as dopey as it does today) ... My grandfather used to translate the Italian Bruno spoke each Saturday morning after he was jumped by one of the bad guys while being interviewed by Ray Morgan ... and if George “the Animal” Steele says Bruno was the best ever ... than Bruno was (God damn it)! Never mind Jurassic Park (when dinosaurs ruled the world) ... this was back when eye-talians ruled the world ... Bruno! Bruno! Bruno!
The wife was upset when she learned that Joe Cocker didn’t have some form of MS … not because she’s mean, but because she felt extra love for him thinking he had the disease all hese years (40+ now) … when I told her it was Joe playing the “air guitar” (his form of coming up with a shtick) … she became very angry at him … not me. Uncle Joe Cocker … with a little help from Me Friends (remember it) …

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rick Marinick’s CRIME: Inside Out ... the author of Boyos will soon have a radio show ...

“The FBI couldn’t catch a cold in a pneumonia ward without a rat.”
That remains one of my favorite quotes by a dear friend and a great author, Rick Marinick. If you don’t know Rick’s story, you should check it out—it’s a fascinating one.
The long story short, how’s this for a few career twists: a bouncer, a DA’s assistant, a martial arts expert (the kind that actually used it outside of a Dojo and not in front of some mirror), a Massachusetts (Statie) State Trooper and later an armored car robber, for which he eventually served 10 plus years inside (where he earned his BA and an MA in creative writing from the Boston University Prison Education Program). Once Rick was out, he never looked back. He worked on Boston’s big dig while writing one of the best crime novels of our time, Boyos.
He’s an intense guy, extremely disciplined and he’s more than generous. He’s been trying to get me to give up the heavy weights and return to human form for a long time now, but my discipline is not anywhere close to Rick’s. Two thousand sit-ups a day? At this point it’d take me two thousand years to do two thousand sit-ups (maybe three thousand years). Rick can knock that off in an hour.
There’s no smoke blowing here, amici. Rick is the real deal; tough as nails and authentic as authentic can be. He’s been featured on the A&E Irish mob series Paddy Whacked (see video at bottom) and he’s been a Boston Globe best-selling author.
Also check out the video on Rick’s site ... then listen to the Podcasts. His first guest is a legend in non-fiction crime writing—T. J. English, who wrote an incredible account of the Irish gang on the West Side of Manhattan, appropriately titled: The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob.
I read that book three times when it first came out and will reread it at least once more.
Rick has written two crime novels, one of them a legend now in Boston, called Boyos. It is EXTREMELY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED reading for anyone into crime fiction and/or what I’m calling urban literature from now on (because really, who’s gonna stop me?)
And below is my review of Boyos after it first came out.
Boyos ... a crime fiction classic. One time short-order cook, junior civil engineer, automobile painter, nightclub bouncer, and “Statie” (a Massachusetts State Trooper), Richard Marinick learned to write in prison. After getting involved “in the life” in South Boston’s underworld, Marinick graduated to armored car heists, and in 1986 “the life” came crashing down on him.
He spent more than ten years in prison where he took creative writing courses, as well as earning two honors degrees (BA and MA) through the Boston University Prison Educational System.
When released from prison, Marinick worked on Boston’s “Big Dig”, and in his spare time on and off the job, wrote what will one day be regarded as a classic crime novel, Boyos.
Boyos is raw and pure magic. It sings the street song in rhythms Marinick no doubt had burned into his being from his years on South Boston’s streets and all the contemplation ten years in prison will provide. A background story that mirrors that of Whitey Bulger (a guy on the FBI’s Most Wanted list prior to 9-11, who managed to fool and make a fool of the entire federal witness protection program, and whose brother was a Massachusetts State Senator and college President), Marinick’s tale of two brothers working under a Bulger-like Irish mobster is riveting from start to finish.
It is a song of South Boston’s streets that will stay in your head long after you’ve finished this compelling read and one that rivals the classic, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (the original Boston born masterpiece by George V. Higgins).
If you’re familiar with the life of any city’s streets, there won’t be much to guess at in Boyos ... the idea of honor amongst thieves has long been put to rest. Government deals rule ... deals that not only forgive murders already committed, but also those yet to come.
The thing that will grip you about Boyos is Marinick’s voice. It is as unique as was Higgins. It is pure. It is brutally honest. It is magic.
And if you’re not familiar with a street life of any kind, Boyos is your new Bible, brother. Take it at face value, because the man knows of what he writes.
Twenty-eight years ago, Dave Gresham read from The Friends of Eddie Coyle in an English class I had the good sense not to sleep through (I never missed Dave’s classes, but often slept through most of my others to be well-rested for football practice--I was never accused of being the sharpest knife in any drawer). That George V. Higgins classic crime novel changed my life. Along with Dave’s help and encouragement over the years, I stuck to a silly dream and continued to write whenever I had the chance.
In an essay for the reader, Marinick describes writing every chance he had while working the Big Dig (after serving more than 10 years for armed robbery). I smiled remembering how I used to try and write scenes to plays between shifts answering phones in a bookmaking office.
Marinick’s voice in Boyos, I have to believe, will catch some other wannabe writer’s ear the way Eddie Coyle had caught my ear so long ago ... and maybe it’ll give them a new direction in life the way The Friends of Eddie Coyle eventually gave me one. It certainly rates right up there with the Higgins classic crime novel of life in and around the Boston underworld.
If you’re into hardboiled crime fiction, Boyos is one you really shouldn’t pass on people. It will be a classic in the genre. It already is for me.
Rick and I, and probably most writers and readers of crime novels and/or urban literature everywhere, share a love of George V. Higgins, especially The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Here’s my tribute to Mr. Higgins over at The Rap Sheet.
Hopefully, I’ll get to keep doing tributes to my friend Rick for a long time to come. Rick, along with Dana King and John McFetridge, write the best organized crime novels around, fact.
Paddy Whacked Part 8 ... with Rick doing some of the narrating ...
And here’s the intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana ...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Good Kids … The Art of Character … Panhandler Party … Super Bowl Sunday …

Good Kids … one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. A laugh a page, often a laugh a line. Josh and Khadijah are fifteen-year-old friends who inadvertently observe a kiss between their parents; Josh’s father and Khadijah’s mother (although both kids consider Khadijah’s Mom a dad). The kids become close as they attempt to gauge the weight of the kiss; was it the real deal or something inconsequential? They engage in some sleuthing to figure it all out and eventually come to the obvious conclusion: Josh’s Dad and Khadijah’s Mom are having an affair. A lifelong pact is the result: the kids will never cheat on their partners.
Alas Josh and Khadijah are parted once the inevitable divorces come to pass; Khadijah moves away with her mother while Josh, still carrying strong feelings for Khadijah, lives with his Mom until he hits the road with his band.
Josh is the narrator of this adventure. He’s the musician son of hippy parents, and his pursuit of becoming a rock star nearly materializes, except it doesn’t, leaving him a young man with some residual royalties from overseas, where his music serves as background filler for a few Pepsi commercials, but without a career. Lucky for him, his first big relationship is with a television personality from a very wealthy family. Not necessarily by design, but let’s face it, income problem solved.
It is an ironic twist of fate that his father seems to hop from one very wealthy woman to another in his never-ending pursuit of free-time to write essays he never writes, but that’s a fractal (as the author might point out) of the bigger through-line of the novel. There are many such fractals in this hilarious tale, some of which include politics, race relations and the homeless situation. The politics includes some ivory tower liberalism versus libertarian tunnel vision and is funny stuff. And then, of course, there’s the no-cheating pact (sorry, no spoilers) …
Josh has a do-gooder sister, Rachel, who goes out of her way to help shelter the homeless. A family discussion between Josh’s family and his fiancée’s family is one of the funniest scenes in the book, especially when Josh’s liberal sister is pitted against Julie’s (Josh’s fiancée) very wealthy libertarian father.
Coming of Age for a kid as bright as Josh (Khadijah is no slough either) makes the trip all the more fun for the reader. His dialogue is super sophisticated (think Big Bang Theory), yet believable. The ironies in this tale are wonderfully scripted, as is the clever repartee. Bottom line: you’ll laugh your ass off while visiting Massachusetts, California and some familiar turf (for me) in Greenwich Village. And American nostalgia abounds, including in one of my favorite passages:
Khadijah and I were forty minutes late, in the end. Dinner might have been torture, except that Ted and Khadijah turned out to have an artful and mesmerizing couple-shtick, a routine developed unconsciously over years of get-togethers, a performance of themselves. It was like RUN-DMC.
And Good Kids is way too much fun to pass on, amici. A very funny read and highly recommended.
Speaking of good reads, ESPECIALLY for writers, here’s one by an amico with much vested in this weekend’s football game. David Corbett’s, The Art of Character. I’ve been working with writing text guides for the past two years in an MFA program and none of those have anything on what my brother from another mother has to offer. Visit David’s website and learn more about his work and his literary aid here:
Bio: David Corbett worked as a private investigator for fifteen years before becoming the widely acclaimed author of four novels, with short fiction twice chosen for Best American Mystery Stories. He has taught at the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, 826 Valencia, Chuck Palahniuk's LitReactor, and the San Francisco Writers' Grotto.
Panhandler Party … a friend of my son-in-law’s pulled this one off on the #4 train … funny stuff.
Breakfast of Champions ...
The Super Bowl (to me it’ll always be filled with pasta) … let’s face it, if yous read this far, it’s what yous have no doubt been waiting for, the ugly Knuckster’s lock of the year … or, as it’s known around bookmaking offices everywhere: money in the bank (for bookmakers).
The ugly one’s pre-season super bowl picks were the San Fernando 49’ers and the Texas Two-Steppers … but Texas proved themselves pretenders when it counted and were routed by the Foxboro Choketriots … who were then routed by the Wes Cravens of Baltimore (by way of Cleveland) … so where does this all go (yous ask)?
The Knuckster still holds a grudge with the San Fernandians over the Alex Smith situation, even though the K-kid has more than proved his worth. This is probably more a dinosaur issue for moi, much like having to accept C.J. Spiller has proven himself over Fred Jackson as the feature running back for my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills, but that doesn’t change the fact that the San Fernandoians would still be playing in the big game if Alex Smith was their QB (just like my Bills would still suck if Jackson was the feature back).
So … because I left my heart in Alex Smith’s locker, I’ll be rooting for the Wes Cravens of The Wire fame, because … I want the 49’ers to have to wonder about that mid-season choice they made (even though it will have nothing to do with anything should the Wes Cravens actually beat them) ... and let’s face it, they’re among the elite capitalists of the NFL (5 rings already).
This is all very scientific stuff, amici … much the way my wife picks horses (and wins) while I study the Racing Form (and lose).
The reality is I’m not particular about who wins this game. Both teams have rings, the 49’ers several, and more important than who wins or loses, the Choketriots have the worst seat on the couch ... for getting there so late ... AGAIN.
The Cheatriots are out, so the Bills win.
Go either or ...
And for the Mack the Knife routine the 46’ers (they lose 3 points having Ackers) pulled on Alex Smith ... 

And because my wife loves this one ...