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, June 28, 2013

SNHU MFA Graduate: Rebel Sowell … Movie Review ... So Long DOMA … My Time Out … Zimmerman vs. Life Threatening … Aaron Hernandez …



Rebel Sowell … This Southern Belle hails from Texas and has a B.A. in Literature from The University of Texas of the Permian Basin. She has published several poems and short stories in local literary contests. While working on the university newspaper, she received two awards through the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association. She was an elementary school teacher for thirteen years and then became an adjunct writing instructor at Midland College. Married with two daughters and two stepsons, Rebel lives in Midland, Texas.


That’s Rebel with the Godmother of the MFA program, Katie Towler ...

Rebel’s thesis, Daughter of the Bride, is a historical YA novel about Ellen Cook, whose recently widowed mother marries a young farmer after answering a newspaper advertisement. Ellen fights her infatuation for her new step father, but some emotions are unstoppable. As she blossoms into a young lady she deals with circumstances and negative judgments of the townspeople forcing her to make difficult decisions. The setting is in the 1890s in Texas hill country.

Here’s Rebel reading from her thesis, The Daughter of the Bride.

Rebel is a genuine sweetheart … and her family is wonderful. Great Texas people. We’re honored to know her and her family.


Killing Them Softly ... See the ad above? They got the “Brutal” part right ... it was Brutal (as in bad) ... and I can’t say I wasn’t warned. The Godmother, Michelle Turlock Isla, told me it was one of the worst movies she’d ever seen. So did a few other people, but there it was on our pay per view Dish TV (or whatever it is we use) for $5.99 (probably because of James Gandolfini’s untimely death) ... the Principessa Ann Marie said, “It looks terrible” from the previews ... but I’m a George V. Higgins devotee and had to watch it eventually.

Man was everybody right. Cogan’s Trade was one of Higgins’ first 3 masterpieces.  It is often filled with better dialogue than The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Frankly, it’s just brilliant ... and funny. I’m surprised at Brad Pitt for letting this one see the light of day. Horrible ... truly horrible ... an Aussie? Really? McCain vs. Obama TV ads in the background every ten minutes? Oy vey ... what a bomb. Ann Marie was out cold ten minutes into the thing. I suffered through to the end, cursing under (and over) my breath every so often, often repeating: “Are you fucking kidding me?” It’d be nice if someone took the last of the three masterpieces (The Digger’s Game) a bit more seriously and produced something closer to the movie version of Eddie Coyle (which was wonderful).


So Long Doma … Defense of What Act? Consider this country having moved one small step closer to all men being creating equal … and there are plenty more steps to go … good for the gay community, of which my sister was a part, but this NEVER, EVER should’ve been an issue …


Time Out … I’ve been given a Time Out from the conservative blog where I often visit, debate, argue, accuse, get accused, etc. (although this time I really tried to restrain myself). It’s a place to kill time when I’m bored and to engage in some debate when I feel like doing so. I do have some fun there, as well as enjoy some of the debates (and some of the people there are actually very nice), but it’s been taken over by a lunatic (in my opinion), and he didn’t seem to enjoy my pointing his apparent racism out to him in my most annoying way (without calling him names). So it goes … here’s the Zimmerman trial exchange that kind of did it for me … although telling him to Go and fuck himself later on is what seemed to banish me from the world of make believe back into the real world …

Me: The issue in the Martin case is pretty obvious, I think … an unarmed black kid was profiled by a wannabe cop, told not to pursue, followed anyway, and things got out of hand real fast … and the kid with the skittles was dead and the guy with the gun said his life was in danger.

Great law, Stand your ground … shoot first and claim self defense later …

Him: Yes, Charlie, Stand Your Ground is a perfect law! It tells criminals they are no longer in charge and cannot just terrify people with their actions. I love it, know why? I’m not a criminal. I’m not going to attack anybody, so those that chose to attack a weaker person should meet a bullet, head on.

If it were up to me, I’d whack every gangbanger out there and put their heads on posts at the entryways to each city with a sign that says, “This is what gangbangers get in this city”. Add a few more heads that say “this is what happens to wife beaters and pedophile’s too”

They are barbarians, the only way to stop them is to kill them, they are no better than a terrorist Jihad killer. Fuck them all!

Me: Spoken like a true lunatic, __ … be proud … But please wear your hood when commandeering the troops so your friends know not to shoot you too

Him: I don’t wear hoods, I’ll leave that to the criminals like Martin

Like I said, so it goes … now that all the lefty pinko commies like myself have either ran for the hills or been banished from the site, wingies like this one are forced to play with those willing to tolerate him … all 6 or 7 or 8 of them … mostly the site has become a whining festival aimed at Progressive Statists and their evil plans to redistribute the wealth, take over the world, kill all the babies and what else? Bring back disco?

You can’t make this stuff up …
Zimmerman vs. Life Threatening … okay, so here is what I call life threatening, this animal beating some women for God only knows what reason (click on the link and scroll to the bottom for the video--this is an affluent New Jersey neighborhood)  The guy in this video (link) ... they could shoot him and/or put him through a meat grinder an inch at a time and I wouldn't have a problem with it. The beating this poor woman took was a life threatening situation. I just don't see the scratches on Mr, Zimmerman below as the same level of life threatening. Frankly, I've been marked up worse in fights that I won. These scratches below could've been made after he shot the kid--something we'll probably never know.

I guess my issue with the Zimmerman case has more to do with the "Stand Your Ground" law than the specific case. I don’t like a law that permits one person to kill another and then claim “self-defense” ... and then the victim/state is required to prove it wasn’t self defense. Huh? There’s already a self-defense law on the books … why invite people to use a “fear for their life” defense when they may have started the fight and maybe lost something as simple as a fist fight/shoving match. It’s way too subjective: one person’s fear of life and limb can far outweigh another person’s same fear.

As to the specific case, I find it way too hard to believe Mr. Zimmerman’s life was actually in danger … he just didn’t have enough bodily harm for me to digest his side of the story. And, of course, Trayvon Martin can’t give his side of the story. Add to the circumstance the fact that Zimmerman was a wannabe cop who felt the need to carry a gun everywhere is a little too much for me to believe “his” life was the one in danger.

Aaron Hernandez … he’s gonna need those muscles up above now ... but what’s to say about this moron? Anybody this stupid (yes, I’m prejudging) deserves the maximum the state can toss his way. Yesterday there was talk about tying him to a drive-bye killing (2 more victims) in Boston a year ago. Then there’s the guy in Florida who claims Hernandez shot his eye out. Oy vey ... I can’t help but wonder if he’ll do one of his dopey TD celebration dances in the prison yard end zones if/when he gets to play there …

Think he was digging his own grave?


Angela Gheorghiu, singing O mio babbino caro, from Gianni Schicchi. I was searching for the scene in Serpico when Al Pacino sings the title aria (a horrible high C) in his car, but no luck.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Graduates, Part I: Daniel Mitchell and ... A very weird/sad week ... Rangers new coach ... NBA... my Graduate speech ...


Last Saturday we flung our hats (first adding our initials inside) ... we’re officially out of the bubble ... Go us!

Daniel Mitchell ... MFA Graduate, class of 2013 ... Seduced by the book mobile at an early age, Daniel Mitchell grew up in a family made up equally of outdoorsmen and teachers. He later became a public school teacher of both English and Science in Oklahoma, Australia, and Alaska. He is married and the father of one (soon to be two) unexplainably attractive and intelligent children. He holds a BA in English from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and an MFA in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University. His novel, Arbuckle, describes the struggle for sanity and survival of a teen hiding in a cave after witnessing the murder of his best friend. Fearing for his life as the only witness of the crime, he discovers a grisly connection between himself and the reclusive man living across the river, as they work together to overcome the men who have destroyed both their lives.


That's Daniel's wife and son above ... and here's a scene from Daniel’s novel that he cut ...


One of the best things about living on a dirt road was that Joseph could leave the truck in the shade and ride his 4wheeler the ten miles to Dougherty, when he had the urge for something besides his own cooking or just needed to pick up a few things. Today he was on a beer run.

It was one of those fall days that sometimes grace Oklahoma between late September and early November, what the old folks called Indian Summer. Most of the leaves were still on the trees in a crazy quilt of colors, a cool breeze was flowing down from the northeast and dandelion clouds chased each other across the sky. He gave the Rancher its head and slid around the curves on gravel and red-orange dirt all the way to town, only letting up when he came in sight of Jan’s Country Store. He knew from experience Jan was likely to refuse him service for a week if he threw gravel in her parking lot.

Jan was one of those crusty crones who seemed convinced all men were actually disobedient boys, desperately in need of a good switching, and wasted no opportunity in taking them down a notch or two. Joseph always made a point of smiling and complimenting her beauty every time he came in. The more she snapped, the more he flirted. They both knew he did it on purpose. That was what made it so much fun.

“Afternoon, Miss Jan.”

“I ain’t been a Miss in forty years and you know it,” she said.

“Miss Jan, you can’t be much more than fresh out of high school with such a lovely smile and figure.” She glared, but there was no real heat in her eyes. Joseph suspected she enjoyed his visits as much as he did.

“They fired you yet?”

“No ma'am. They tried, but the place dang near shuts down every time I take a pee break. Just can’t make it without me,” I said.

“Boy, you’re more full of it than my daddy’s back pasture.”

“Why thank you, Miss Jan. That’s what my Momma always used to say too.”

“She sounds like a smart woman. You want something or did you just come in to ruin my day?”

“I came to raid your beer supply and bask in the glory of your presence.”

“Get on with it then and get going. I got better things to do than listen to your mouth flap.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Joseph grabbed a case of Busch from the cooler and a bag of chips from the shelf. Then he took his time looking around as if he’d forgotten something, mostly to irritate Jan. When he finally walked up to the counter he read her faded t-shirt that said, “Protected by Smith and Wesson” across the breast.

“You looking at something?” she said.

“Just admiring that shirt, almost as much as the loveliness it’s hiding.”

“Boy, don’t make me call the dog,” she said. She meant too. Not that it was much of a dog. Joseph glanced to where the half toothless basset hound lay stinking in the corner. By the time it got up, he could be probably be long gone, but if he really wanted the beer, Jan would take her time ringing it up, making him stand there while Prince Albert slobbered all over his leg in senile fury.

He was outside, using bungee cords to secure the beer and chips in the ice chest on the back rack of his Honda, when he heard the light crunch of gravel under boots and heard a voice like silky heaven say, “Nice 4wheeler.”

He glanced up into the most amazing brown eyes and was caught like a rabbit in headlights. He realized his mouth had been hanging open for some seconds after she laughed and walked inside, brushing him with a swaying hip as she passed.

He glanced to the gas pumps and saw she had arrived on a new Honda Foreman with chrome rims and Mud Gator tires. It was glossy black and exactly the 4wheeler he would have wanted if he hadn’t been too cheap to buy new.

She came back out, and he took a quick glance at her left hand. When he saw no ring, his left knee buckled slightly. Raven hair was tied back in a long tail over blue flannel and dark skin. Her high cheekbones left little doubt about her Native blood. Every thing about her was grace and beauty.

“That’s uh, a nice Foreman. If you ever want to go riding by the river, I’d be happy to keep you company or whatever,” Joseph said so fast even he could barely make out the words.

She smiled and he swore he could hear music coming from someplace. “I’ll tell you what. You pack a picnic on that thing and I’ll meet you in the woods above your place tomorrow at noon.”

“Done,” he said. “Wait, what’s your name?” She just started up her 4wheeler, smiled like a new dawn and drove away.

He dropped his keys twice trying to start his Honda. Just before he got it right he caught Jan smirking at him from the door.

“Who was that?” He asked her.

“Boy, I believe you’re about to find out,” she said. “Yes, indeed.”

Dan is already catching anticipated looks from agents and publishers alike ...

A very weird and sad week ...
James Gandolfini ... very sad news about the sudden passing of James Gandolfini (51), but it affirms what I truly believe: Gandolfini’s passing is a sobering reminder of how short this life is ... make the best of it ... put nothing you want aside ... make the best of what you have ... and RIP Mr. Gandolfini ...

Vince Flynn ... another sad story, one of my wife’s favorite authors also passed this week ... Flynn wrote a number of best sellers and was just 47 ... Flynn wrote 14 books (with a total of 15 million copies sold in the United States) ...
Dave Jennings ... and then punter and analyst, Dave Jennings lost his long bout with Parkinson’s at age 61 ... a rough week all around ...

Alain Vigneault will be the next coach of the New York Rangers. The cup is ours, baby! I know nothing about this guy (I’m still a novice) except he’s put teams in the playoffs 6 out of 7 years ... and that’s good enough for the ugly Knuckster ... Go Rangers! I can’t wait until November!

NBA Championship ... oy vey ... Manu Ginobli obviously went to the Fitzpatrick school of turnovers ... too bad he took his lack of passing (talents) to Miami ... the Heat deserved the series for what they did in game 6 (not that I want to mention Ginobli missing a critical free throw in that one) ... but there’s no denying James’ greatness ... he’s a phenom ... oy vey, vey iz mir ...

Lebron James was the hero ... and Ginobli?



The intro from our MFA Program Director, Diane Les Becquets (Leh-Beck) ... a correction to the speech: I attended and played college football at a small school in North Dakota (Minot State College/now Minot University) ... UND was way over my head and abilities ... once again big ups to Dave Gresham (my original writing mentor) for allowing me to pester him with really horrible attempts at writing crime novels through my 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s ... and check out my Rangers bling shirt at the end of the speech ...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Graduation Weekend … Momma Stella and My Speech … MFA Graduate, Rob Greene … Happy Fathers Day …



Well, it’s just about over … two fun years of reading and writing and some very wonderful times. Tomorrow morning the Principessa Ann Marie and I head up to New Hampshire for the graduation ceremony … and my daughter and son-in-law will be there Saturday night for the festivities, and to record some of the evening (for your entertainment in about a week or so).

It’s a scary thought, but I’ll be giving the student graduation speech … I’ll have props (like movie props—a lesson I learned from Marketing Research whiz, Steve Roth) … I’ll not talk about the 25 pounds I’ve gained since the program started (4 of which I’ve lost back this past week) … or the fact that the Boston Brunettes won the Stanley Cup during my first summer residency and are poised to win it again (starting tonight) … I will not discuss the see-through coffee on Shutter—I mean Star Island … I will not mention falling off the ten step cussing wagon due to the long drives to and from New Hampshire alongside the Divine Miss Potty Mouth Mae Caldwell (you cannot believe the mouth on that woman …), nor will I discuss trying to follow Steph Mario Andretti Milligan up Mountain Roads at 95 MPH … and I will never bring up the hustle my third semester mentor, Rick Adams, handed me on the basketball court on Botany Bay—I mean Star Island. I’m sure Rick is taking good care of our Volvo …

It’ll all be program-related with some nicknaming (no more clues) … and of course, Momma Stella has some advice for me …

MS: Watch your mouth, you.
Me: Ma, I already told Diane, I’ll be cool.
MS: Who’s Diane?
Me: The program director. She warned me too.
MS: Oh, she must’ve read something you wrote.
Me: Ma, she was my final semester mentor.
MS: The hell is that?
Me: She was my teacher.
MS: And she didn’t smack you?
Me: Of course not. You gonna miss me while I’m away?
MS: How long you going for?
Me: Three days of fun and music and nothing but fun and music.
MS: The hell are you talkin’ about, you stupid ass?
Me: Three days. I’ll be gone for three days. You gonna be alright?
MS: I’m 84 years old, you moron. I think I’ll survive.
Me: I’m gonna mention you in the speech.
MS: I’ll say a prayer.

I love my Mommy!

Speaking of Momma Stella … it may’ve taken me some extra time to join the graduate crowd, but the real Don of the Stella familgia did alright (with absolutely ZERO help from her ex-husband) … my sister earned her Masters in English a long time ago … getting my MFA will seal the deal … both her kids finished what they started … and we both owed (and owe) just about everything to her.
So here she is with her great granddaughter, my granddaughter, Evelyn Amelia Stella ...


Here’s to my Mommy!


Charles Thomas (the Dad) and Evelyn Amelia Stella

And for all a’yous Fathers out there, especially my oldest boy (who also has his masters, an MBA he earned while working full-time), HAPPY FATHERS DAY …


Next weekend, we’ll be playing some blues at Casa Stella … here’s some of the selections for our first get together …

Sweet Home Chicago …

Hoochie-Coochie Man …

Roadhouse Blues …

Friday, June 7, 2013

8 Days to Graduation ... James Seals ... my Maestro and the Pulitzer ... Hockey Playoffs ...


Next Saturday, June 15th, the class of 2013 graduates from the Southern New Hampshire University MFA program. I can’t tell yous how much fun I had in this program ... whether it related to writing or finding authors I hadn’t read (or heard about) during my 55 year coma ... my fellow classmates are a very cool group of writers (and people) ... and starting the week after June 15, I’ll be posting here about my classmates and some of their writing achievements and samples ... so here’s to us, the class of 2013.

The last two years absolutely flew ... but they were two very good years.


Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, by Gilbert King (review next post) … a compelling read about Thurgood Marshall and the absolute insanity he had to deal with as a young lawyer seeking justice for African-Americans. I’m reading this book not only because it was this years Pulitzer Prize winner for General Non-fiction, but because the editor of all my published crime novels (and a few short stories), Peter Skutches, also edited this compelling account of a true national hero.

Frankly, I’m not able to put this baby down. It is an incredibly compelling (can I use that word a few more times?) read ... and how cool is it that Peter took the time to deal with my silly stuff? This Pulitzer isn’t Peter’s only prominent achievement. He’s edited other Pulitzer Price and National Book award nominees and winners ... not to mention a few books he’s authored and/or co-authored ... get it here:

Not too shabby, Maestro.

Hockey Rocks, Rolls and Rules!

Dana King sent me this article the other day … the morning after his team lost a heartbreaking game to the Boston Brunettes in double overtime (one I stayed up to watch until 12:20 a.m.) … probably because my hockey love affair is just two years old, I thought the game Wednesday night was the best hockey game I’ve ever watched … and for almost all of the reasons listed in this article about the TOP TWENTY REASONS HOCKEY RULES …

And then there was this ... talk about tough ... Gregory Campbell’s broken leg ... incredible ... check the video out.

Right now it’s looking like the Blackhawks and the Brunettes for the cup. Two years ago, when I showed up for my first semester in the SNHU MFA program, the Brunettes won the cup ... and all those silly Brunette fans on campus kept flaunting their favorite team garb. Isn’t it silly when people do that, wear team t-shirts and sweatshirts until you can see what they ate the last few weeks on them? Being a member of the fashion police since I was sixteen, I had to restrain myself from giving out fashion tickets ...

I thought the semi-series would be much more exciting than it has been, but it looks like the final match-up should be a wild one.

Go Blackhawks/Kings ... anybody but the Brunettes ...


Victory/Joy ... for the SNHU MFA class of 2013 ... and whichever teams wins the Stanley Cup ... even if it is the Brunettes ...