Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Keno’s Animal Shelter Fund Raiser … this Friday night, May 2nd at 10:00 p.m. at the Cutting Room in MANHATTAN!!!!!!



And here’s the OTHER GOOD NEWS … The Diamond Collar goes global and will be aired in Europe/the United Kingdom on May 15thon ANIMAL PLANET!!!!

Premieres Thursdays from 15th May, 8.00pm & 8.30pm

New series DIAMOND COLLAR follows the day-to-day life of James Guiliani, a former street enforcer for the mafia, who spent years running with John Gotti's crew, but after a life-changing encounter with a stray dog James found a new purpose, and now runs a top dog grooming parlour in Brooklyn. Along with wife Lena, James aims to rescue abused and abandoned animals and transforms them by with pamper treatments saving them from the rough streets of the city in his pooch parlour The Diamond Collar. But, life as Brooklyn's top dog groomer and rescuer is more complicated than it ever was in the mob. With a constant battle to pay the bills, stick to the right side of the law and a revolving door of colourful and demanding customers, James and Lena have their hands full. From old associates to unpredictable rescue missions and unruly employees, James and Lena try to maintain some semblance of normalcy in their bizarre, heartfelt and hilarious life.
Meet the Cast!

Lena and James …

Dr. Salvatore Pernice … DR. SAL SAVED OUR RIGOLETTO!

The crew, featuring Banged-Out Frankie!


He went from a thug to a lover of pugs (and all other animals) …

Even the most interesting man in the world!  He went from famous beer guy to animal lover!

Remember what it’s all about, amici … saving animals!

Come to the Cutting Room and listen to Erin Sax!

Come to the Cutting Room and listen to Brad Cole!

Hey, listen to me, it’s all for a GREAT CAUSE!


Watch Nickie and Banged-out Frankie trick James!

Nobody gives Primo away!

And Rigoletto sends his love!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Midnight Cowboy … Cherry Blossoms … Buffalo Jills … The Likely Combatants … A new Chew Toy … Fund Raiser for an animal rescue …


Midnight CowboyJames Leo Herlihy’s second novel and perhaps his best. Written in 1965, the story of the awkward life of one Joe Buck is a compelling read. I’ve yet to see the movie, so I’m not sure when the Ratso Rizzo character appears in the flick, but it is beyond than halfway point of the novel. What comes before Joe’s trip to New York is as compelling and painful as his eventual move to New York and then Florida. Herlihy was an amazing writer, one of many I was completely unaware of (in my literary ignorance), but I’m sure happy I found this guy. Joe Buck has issues, both mental and emotional, and his life is series of bad choices and worse breaks, but it takes at least a temporary turn for the better (at least as regards what counts in his life) when he’s duped by Rizzo. What happens after is the tough stuff this life (especially Joe’s and Rizzo’s) is sometimes made of. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READ.

Cherry Blossoms … heartbreaking story with a twist that had tears pouring from mine eyes (always wanted to use that phrase) … A German couple in their senior years … the wife learns of the husband’s illness but doesn’t share it with the kids (who are so self-center and ungrateful to their parents, you want to smack them all with a baseball bat) … the wife takes the doctors’ advice and gets him to take a vacation (visit the ungrateful brats and their brood), visit the sea, etc. … really heartbreaking and well worth the time (except you’ll need tissues, no doubt)… starts in Germany and ends in Japan (with Bhuto dancing) at Mt. Fuji, before returning to Deutschland … GREAT movie.
The likely combatants … in this corner:

Forgetting the fiasco her husband embroiled her in during his disastrous presidency (although the right seemed to think he was the 2nd coming of Ronald Reagan during Obama’s 1st term, and the left forgets how to the right he played his hand as regards banking deregulation, including the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act) … anyway, Hillary has her own debacles to own up to … including voting for the Iraq War, Benghazi, her Bosnia “coming under fire” fantasy, and then blowing her shoe-in candidacy to Obama in 2008.

It would be nice to see Bernie Sanders in the race, but it won’t happen … loyalist Democrats, first and foremost, would crap their collective diapers, claiming he’d split the party … but he’s the only one TK would openly support.
The only other candidate we’d consider supporting (quietly), but only against our absolute dread of the party behind her, is Elizabeth Warren. Now that could be a knock-down, drag out brawl between her and Hillary, but something tells me the deals the big H will make behind the scenes with Wall Street, et al, would probably crush Warren’s limited resources (and let’s face it, that’s all these bullshit elections come down to in the end—money & the corruption it can buy).

On the right, TK suspects the two front runners will be:

He’s actually the smart Bush, but Jeb is still a Bush, and he’s a Republican, and he’ll have to sell-out just as much as whoever else wants the top spot. Working against him will be his last name. Working for him will be his Latino connections/wife … he’ll have to fight off the Tea Party whackjobs, but we suspect if he runs, he’ll be the nominee.

He’s fat and often mean, and he’s got Bridge-Gate to dance around, but he could well delivery New Jersey if he could survive the onslaught from the extreme right. He just might be heavy enough to be standing once the tea party tornados blow themselves out.


The gift Democrats are crossing their fingers for. This little shit probably can’t deliver his own state, but he has no problem lying through his teeth, whether it’s about his love of Ayn Rand or his willingness to cave into special interests. We don’t see him making it all the way, not at all.

The two whackjobs on the extreme right, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, would be handing the Democrats the keys to the car for another 4 years at least, and we don’t think the GOP is that crazy just yet.

TK says: Enjoy the show …
Buffalo Jills … not only does our overall management stink, they don’t pay our cheerleaders. What’s up with that? Pay the women … for cryin’ out loud, imagine having to cheer for the Bills in the winter? As for seeing what parts of their body can jiggle, that should cost the Bills a million a jiggle, Knucks says.

 Nice ...

The Moonachie Dog Killers (formerly known as the Moonachie Green Team a.k.a. the Moonachie Y-E-T-S, Yets, Yets, Yets signed Michael (the dog killer) Vick … show how much you appreciate the new Moonachie QB and get your Michael Vick chew toy today!

A fund raiser to an animal Sanctuary … and you’re ALL INVITED! James (The Diamond Collar) Giuliani and the entire cast of the show (Lena, Dr. Sal, Irene and Primo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) will be there. There will be two bands, raffles, celebrities, forgetaboutit … a beautiful thing!

Hey, I’m going … the Principessa Ann Marie will be there (dancing fools that we are) … and the last time I saw James, I was 355 … I could weigh in around 310 (give or take a few tons) … guess the weight and win a book (or a cookie). Not to worry, I’ll bring plenty of cookies.


It’s a nice thought, but let’s face it, it’s just a song (with great lyrics) … although I’ll never get busting up your equipment … that’s just dumb.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Berkshire Boyhood … Season of the Witch … Fundraiser for an animal shelter …


A Berkshire Boyhood … an interesting memoir by Bob Begiebing, founder of the SNHU MFA program. A 1946 baby boomer, young Robert hated both school and church, and often sought the comfort of the woods outside a later Begiebing home in Williamstown, Massachusetts (which I took a look-see at with Google Maps—cool place at Idle and Gayle Roads alongside the Taconic Golf Club).  His dad, in the Navy during World War II, also played trumpet for both jazz and big bands. As so many musicians were (are?), he was also a ladies man who found comfort outside his marital bed, at least partly due to the sexual restrictions of his wife’s devotion to her religion. Somehow the two remained together and never divorced. Bob dedicated his memoir to his parents ... "Who found peace beyond this world."

I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised to find so many similarities in Bob’s baby-boomer youth and my own (I was born ten years AB—After Bob). Mostly what I enjoyed was reading how the boys of Bob’s youth were being boys (desperate for girls and some of the wilder forms of excitement). Breaking up the home of a friend was even wilder than anything we did in my Brooklyn youth. How the boys were caught up in a frenzy was interesting (we’ve all done things we knew were wrong and did them anyway), but busting up a house was somewhat shocking. Those crazy country kids! I nicknamed Bob, Bobby Bada-Bing at my graduation a couple of years ago (2 already?) … but that was because I struggled pronouncing his last name. After reading about some of his escapades as a young man, I’d say he earned Bada-Bing at age fifteen.

Bob’s reflections on family and friends brought about some calm to this getting-up-there-way-too-fast-for-comfort middle-aged Brooklyn boy. I especially liked his reflection on Catholic confessions, citing Mary McCarthy’s Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood. “… Like Mary McCarthy, I began to feel I could spend the rest of my life oscillating between guilt and forgiveness, damnation and salvation …” I do wonder if creative minds not only require mental space to roam and be inquisitive, but also view all forms of dogma as restrictive and more often harmful than helpful.

Falling in love as a kid was/is easy. Getting the girl you’re in love with to notice was/is something else. Bob found himself in close proximity to the girl he loved (Samantha), but their age difference (he was two years younger) precluded any real shot at landing the lass (and who hasn’t been there before?) Some of the hijinks of the Gale Road gang (Bob and his friends on his street) were pretty commonplace, but one can feel the angst in getting caught sneaking peeks through a wall with a view into a shower.

Bob was one of 4 Begiebings, brought up in Massachusetts and later in California. Bob opted for a life of literature after going through a bout with farm work when he was younger. Determined not to have to lift and haul the rest of his life, he began to take reading and writing seriously about the time he went to college. I remember working construction two summers and learning fast how inept I was at all things “construction” … it didn’t stop me from becoming a window cleaner first, but window cleaning sure pushed me back to college and a pursuit of something I suspect creative minds cannot live without—to be creative.

There’s a nice Q and A at the end of Bob’s memoir in which Bob explains to an anonymous colleague some of what moved him and the Gale Road gang. From comedians (Mort Sahl), to books and drama (Catcher in the Rye, Death of a Salesman, Salinger’s Glass family stories, etc.). There was something beneath the counter-revolutionary protests and other escapades of the 60’s ("the excesses and silliness") that was sparked during Bob’s 1950’s youth. I often wonder what lies ahead for my granddaughter and all the other kids her age. Further enlightenment or a grounding into dust of the human spirit. Me, I’m not so sure what comes next, but at this stage of my life, I’ll be glad not to have to bear witness to it.

A Berkshire Boyhood is a fun and an interesting read, whether you know the author or not. I only know Bob in a fairly cursory manner (he was the guy I spoke to when I first began the enrollment process to the SNHU MFA program he founded). We spoke just a very words to one another (with Bob saying something nice about my fiction submission—a short story I continue to write 3 years down the road), and I hoping to hell that my physical appearance didn’t make him think, “Oh, Jesus, now we did it. We let in one of the cretins.”

Robert J. Begiebing is the author of thirty articles and stories, a play, and six books, including an historical New England trilogy of novels spanning 1648-1850. His final novel in the trilogy Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction (UPNE, 2003), won the Langum Prize for historical fiction in 2003. The first novel in the trilogy The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin (Algonquin, 1991, 1996) was chosen as a Main Selection for the Mystery and Literary Guild Book Clubs, has been optioned for a film, and is now available from the University Press of New England in a new 20th anniversary e-book and hardcopy edition. His novels, including a third book in the trilogy The Adventures of Allegra Fullerton (UPNE 1999, 2001), have been widely and favorably reviewed in The New York Times, The Times of London, The Los Angeles Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Yankee Magazine, and Library Journal, among many other national and regional periodicals. He is also the author of two critical books on twentieth-century fiction and an historical anthology of nature writing in English since the 18th century.

His fiction writing has been supported by grants from the Lila-Wallace Foundation and the New Hampshire Council for the Arts. In 2007, Governor John Lynch appointed Begiebing to the Council for the Arts. In 2009 he served as one of the inaugural faculty members at the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. He has been a finalist judge for the Langum Prize in historical fiction twice (2009-2010) and a member of the board of trustees for the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. He currently serves on the board of the Norman Mailer Society and on the editorial board of The Mailer Review.

He is Founding Director of the Low-Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction at Southern NH University, where he has won three awards for excellence in teaching and is currently Professor of English Emeritus.

Season of the Witch … James Leo Herlihy, a look back at the wild and crazy late 60’s early 70’s through the eyes of a young woman (Gloria) and her gay friend (Roy) as they reject the bourgeois life and opt for tree-hugging in various urban cities, including New York and Toronto. They live the commune life amongst other hipsters, exploring drugs and sex while pursuing a search for Gloria’s father (which winds up a bit too close for comfort). It’s written in journalistic style, but is really a series of stream of consciousness Gloria can’t stop herself from writing. Interesting, but not as good as All Fall Down (last week’sreview). Midnight Cowboy just arrived at Casa Stella Friday afternoon so I’ll be on to that very soon. James Leo Herlihy was a GREAT writer and extremely creative soul I knew nothing about until I decided to explore some used books on amazon.

A fund raiser to an animal Sanctuary … and you’re ALL INVITED! James (The Diamond Collar) Giuliani and the entire cast of the show (Lena, Dr. Sal, Irene and Primo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) will be there. There will be two bands, raffles, celebrities, forgetaboutit … a beautiful thing!

Friday, May 2nd at 10:00 p.m. at the Cutting Room ...

Hey, I’m going … the Principessa Ann Marie will be there (dancing fools that we are) … and the last time I saw James, I was 355 … I could weigh in around 315 (give or take a few tons) … guess the weight and win a book (or a cookie). Not to worry, I’ll bring plenty of cookies.


The Bands that will perform at the Fund Raiser at The Cutting Room (Thursday, May 2nd, 10:00 p.m.) …

Erin Sax …

Brad Cole …

Monday, April 14, 2014

Black Rock … SNHU MFA EN FUEGO PART DEUX (Mike Hancock … Leslie Jamison) … King Joffrey?


Black Rock, by John McFetridge … who knew what was going on in Montreal in 1970? Not me, that’s for sure. I’m not sure I knew what was going on in New York in 1970. I was 14 and just discovering the adolescent joys of Daily News Playtex living Bra ads, but what was going on in Montreal in 1970 was a series of terrorist bombings by The Front de libération du Québec (FLQ—over 200 attempts), kidnappings, and a serial killer was on the loose (The Vampire Killer). John McFetridge’s brilliant new novel, Black Rock, is a step back in history and is one hell of a crime novel.

Eddie Dougherty, a mixed breed (French, Irish and Canadian) constable, is two years on the job and stuck doing the routine work that follows bombings and kidnappings, but when a third woman is found strangled, Eddie is willing to prove himself. Aided by an experienced homicide copper who becomes his rabbi, Eddie diligently chases clues during his off hours. After dating a woman (Ruth) who is studying theories on progression murders, Eddie finds another source for his criminal science education.

There are riots at universities and the Canadian Army eventually takes to the streets focused on the bombings and the kidnappings. Eddie remains focused on the Vampire Killer and eventually snags a clue in the form of a car that keeps the tension and drives the novel forward. Also in the background is the student unrest across the border, where the Vietnam War has alienated America’s youth.

Black Rock is a page-turner, start to finish, and a must read crime novel that provides Canadian history and some vivid city settings that are nothing less than brilliant.



Mike Hancock is another SNHU MFA graduate sustaining en fuego … his debut novel, Fallen, will be published by Black Rose Writing.

“A legend, shared among Montana locals, is that if one hikes the path along Lion Creek and doesn’t make it back to the trailhead before nightfall, a distant chant can be heard coming from the forested ridges. It’s the voice of a long dead Piegan warrior named Grey Bear, lamenting the loss of his son, drowned in the icy Marias River to the east. But, he only speaks to a heart he sees.”

Fallen”, a novel to be released on July 24th by San Antonio, Texas’ Black Rose Writing, intertwines the lives of Grey Bear, in the aftermath of the Marias Massacre of 1870, and Calvin, the son of an alcoholic, abusive father, escaping to the wilderness of Northwest Montana in 1997. Central to Grey Bear’s story is the relationship with his son, a strong-spirited, inquisitive boy of ten named Running Dog. After Grey Bear’s tribe is decimated by a ruthless Cavalry brigade, it is up to Grey Bear and Running Dog to lead what’s left of their people back to safety in the dead of winter. Almost home, Running Dog’s death drives an agonized Grey Bear to the mountains, in search of his spirit animal. Calvin’s tale begins with a lonely, tormented childhood riddled with abuses by his father, who ultimately abandons him. After witnessing his father’s suicide on an attempted reunion with him at thirteen, Calvin takes solace in the only father he has known, his doting grandfather. Upon his grandfather’s death, Calvin, spiraling out of control, leaves his home in Texas and winds up in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, guiding hunters along the remote woods of Lion Creek. It’s here where the fate of both protagonists meet, finding each other, and ultimately, redemption.

Mike Hancock, the author of Fallen, has led a Forrest Gump life: a former college linebacker, he spent two seasons as a deckhand on board factory trawler in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, then the next seven years was spent as a wilderness guide in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. These days, he spends his time teaching English, writing short stories, sailing, and shark fishing at his home on South Padre Island, Texas.

Mike will be reading from his work from August to December in the following cities:

Boston, MA
New York City (and we hope to host his stay at Casa Stella)
Manchester, NH
Dallas, TX
San Antonio, TX
Eureka Springs, AR
Missoula, MT
Colorado Springs, CO

Mike’s website will be up in another week or so. Please look for updates, blurbs, and information about Fallen at

Get the Empathy Essays here … I did …

And how ‘bout The Game of hrones! We thought it was a shocker when Ned Stark lost his noggin, but King Joffrey passed up on the cassata cake (cannoli to youse nons) and bada-boom, bada-bing ….


Mozart’s overturne to Die Zauberflöte (the Magic Flute) …

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

SNHU MFA’S en fuego! (Book Contracts galore) … Down in the River (book review) … Girl on a Bicycle … it’s almost playoff time …


Kelly Stone Gamble … from the former SNHU MFA graduate: With a finished thesis in hand, I started writing They Call Me Crazy at Mountainview Grand the weekend I was graduating with my MFA. It was a story I had wanted to write for some time, but of course I had been occupied with my thesis, Ragtown, for the previous two years. I started writing at MVG, and 17 days later (or something like that) I had a first draft. They Call Me Crazy is nothing like Ragtown.

I've had three publishing offers for Crazy. The first I ran from, on the advice of several friends who were much more 'in the know' than I was. The second, I walked away from very quickly. I got an agent to help me understand some of this craziness, she queried some of the larger houses, and finally, I was offered a contract through Red Adept Publishing---a good contract, one I am happy with, no, thrilled about.

I have a first draft of They Call Me Chief, a second book that takes place in small town Deacon, Kansas and I continue to rework, rewrite Ragtown.

From Lynn McNamee at Red Adept Publishing: “We feel Kelly Gamble’s book contains a unique storyline, and her writing style makes the characters leap off the page.”

One cool and CRAZY Video …

I (Charlie) originally read this book (They Call Me Crazy) before Kelly took it to market and was awed by the power of the manuscript. I thought it was a winner when I read it and was very happy to learn this past weekend that it has found a home.

And while we’re feeling the heat of SNHU MFA en fuego … here’s one of our MFA mentors …

Richard Adams Carey … Rick was my second semester mentor in the MFA program. He’s probably the kindest guy I’ve ever met. I certainly wanted him for what I was submitting (some personal stuff I hadn’t shared with anyone on paper before), and that proved to be the right choice (I don’t make those often, but when I do (Principessa Ann Marie), they’re usually home runs. Rick was a home run. He also has game (as I learned on Shutter Island—my .5” vertical jump shot just wasn’t enough …

A little about Rick: Richard Adams Carey grew up in Connecticut, studied drama and American literature at Harvard, taught school in several Yupik Eskimo villages of western Alaska, and has lived in New Hampshire since 1984. His essays and short fiction have appeared in a number of journals and magazines. He is the author of three books of narrative nonfiction: Raven’s Children: An Alaskan Culture at Twilight (Houghton Mifflin, 1992); Against the Tide: The Fate of the New England Fisherman (Houghton Mifflin, 1999); and The Philosopher Fish: Sturgeon, Caviar, and the Geography of Desire (Counterpoint Press, 2005). Raven’s Children was chosen as a New York Public Library Book to Remember, and Against the Tide won the 2001 New Hampshire Literary Prize for Nonfiction. He teaches in Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA program in writing and is president ex officio of the New Hampshire Writer’s Project.

From Rick’s FACEBOOK page this past week: I signed contracts yesterday with the University Press of New England, who will publish “Their Town,” my story of a 1997 New Hampshire gun rampage. It'll have a different and better title, though “Their Town” served me well as the story's working title. I announce this with deep gratitude to all who have listened to me read from the manuscript over the years, and who helped to keep me going. Whew.

Excerpt here: A 67-year-old gunman apparently intent on settling a grudge killed four people in a remote northern New Hampshire town today and wounded four law-enforcement officials, the authorities said. He then led the police on a chase that ended when he was killed in a shootout with about 20 officers.

Witnesses said the man, Carl Drega, began the violence this afternoon at a supermarket in Colebrook, N.H., a town of about 2,000 that is on the Vermont border and near Canada. Colebrook residents described Mr. Drega as militantly anti-government.

Armed with a semiautomatic weapon, Mr. Drega shot a state trooper at the supermarket, the authorities said, then killed a highway inspector in a nearby field and set off in a stolen police cruiser to the office of the local newspaper, The News and Sentinel.

The newspaper shared its building with Vickie Bunnel, a lawyer, associate judge and selectman who had angered Mr. Drega with a property tax ruling several years ago. Ms. Bunnel had feared Mr. Drega so much since then that she had carried a handgun and kept her dog with her at the office, acquaintances said.

Down in the River, Ryan Blacketter … a debut novel with punch, Down in the River is the story of a family shredded by religion, mental illness, drugs and death. Lyle is a kid caught in the crazy maze of his overzealously religious brother and mother. He also has issues of his own that require medication. His twin, Lila, committed suicide at fifteen, but was a crack addict often restrained with rope by Craig (his brother), who believed she was possessed. Her body was found in the river, the same place Lyle is sure Craig unceremoniously tossed her ashes. The family was temporarily excommunicated from the church/town and were forced to move.

Lyle has issues and is often numbed with lithium and Haldol to keep him calm and steady, but he resents the religious persecution his twin sister suffered (what definitely contributed to her drug addiction and suicide). Taking her place in the “devil made me do it” blame game hasn’t been a joy ride, and Lyle resents his mother and brother for their incessant religious fervor. Lyle has a friend (Martin) he’d like to be more like (one who reads and paints and has a challenging vocabulary). He’s also met a girl (Rosa) he’s come to love … but when a mission of best intent finds him in the most macabre of situations, well, that would be spoiling it, and that isn’t going to happen here, amici.

Suffice it to say, there’s a Valjean-Javert theme working behind the scenes here. Imagine the two living under the same roof, with Javert being the much stronger of the two, and ALWAYS having the advantage. You better believe Valjean (Lyle) would flee. The black and white world Lyle’s brother Craig requires has no place for the gray areas of mental illness nor drug addiction. Any deviation is the work of the devil. As Craig tells Lyle (regarding their sister having once read a book on good witches): “That’s the devil talking. Here’s the news. There’s good,” he said, and held a stiff hand near his chest, “and there’s evil,” and he moved his hand at a distance from himself. “It’s that simple. God and the devil. That’s it.”

I’ve been on a religious crusade of sorts myself of late (recently having purchased Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great) for the sake of something I’m writing with a religious theme. That aspect of Down in the River remains especially interesting. How do people fall into that kind (the repressive, Evangelical extremist kind) of a religious trap? Not that Catholics or Muslims take a back seat when it comes to extremism, but it seems to me the born again crowd has discovered how the power of politics in America, especially when pursued with such fierce determination, often yields Taliban-like results (restricting freedoms during one’s time on earth and then condemning blasphemers to eternal damnation).

Lyle doesn’t get it either … nor is he willing to take it.

“You’re like some kind of protector,” she (Rosa) said.

Lyle is a protector, but he couldn’t protect his twin sister, Lila, from the insanity of his brother’s religious zeal. Protection, doing the right thing, and compassion are what Lyle desires and strives to accomplish, whether it has to do with a dead Jewish girl’s final resting place, a wounded goose he finds at the end of a bridge, or the injustice of religious bullies driving people to suicide.

Justice is another Valjean-Javert motif in this fine novel. Seeking and understanding justice is an undercurrent theme for Lyle as he innocently, albeit naively, pursues righting what he believes has been a wrong. Toward the end of the journey, in the town that forced his family to leave, Lyle spots something he’d long admired—the statue of a cowboy. From a thousand angles, over many years, Lyle had seen the giant man. Even as a small boy he liked the toughness in his stone face. The cowboy’s mouth was open and one shoulder was raised. There was justice in him.

In the midst of an outlaw scramble, Rosa tells Lyle what the reader already knows, “You’re a good person.”

Down in the River is a compelling read that kept me glued to its pages for two days (restricting my time-out reads between hockey periods for the first of the three Deutscher Trotsky biographies, The Prophet Armed). Down in the River was recommended by my first MFA mentor, Mitch Wieland (who also turned this neophyte reader onto Richard Bausch and Frederick Busch, amongst others). When Mitch makes a suggestion, Charlie takes heed … and he’s glad he did so again with this wonderful debut novel by Ryan Blacketter. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Girl on a Bicycle … A silly, but fun movie that takes place (mostly) in Paris … an eye-talian tour bus operator in Paris and German stewardess are in love. He’s proposing and she’s catching extra marital advances from a French pilot friend to offset a potential infidelity by her fiancé … the bus drive sees a pretty woman on a bicycle and is temporarily thunderstruck (the lightning bolt is much more obvious) … Paulo (the bus driver) has a British friend he depends on for pretty much everything … and when the bus driver runs over the Girl on the Bicycle, Madonna mia, the silliness is heartwarming … watch the movie, it’s fun. A good one when you need it.

It’s almost playoff time … and the much maligned (here at TK and throughout Casa Stella) trade between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers, sending the heart and soul, 28-year-old mucker/Olympian, Ryan Callahan, to Tampa for the 38-year-old, future hall-of-famer, Martin St. Louis … and this is what my granddaughter thinks of the travesty.

So far the stats speak for themselves … thus far Callahan has 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in 16 games … Martin St. Louis has 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) … in 17 games. No wonder Evelyn Amelia Stella (my granddaughter) was shocked!


Remember those $20.00 NJPAC tickets (anywhere you wanted to sit) for a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute Overture, Beethoven’s Symphony #6 (Pastoral) and Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto #3. The daughter, son-in-law, wife and the ugly Knuckster (moi) will be going this Sunday …

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Books … Movies … A Book of Essays by Leslie Jamison … Momma Stella and Ann Marie’s Omnipotent Card Reader … The Knuckmeter …


All Fall Down, James Leo Herlihy … the father (Ralph) is a somewhat retired socialist/communist, and he spends way too much time in the basement doing jigsaw puzzles. When he’s out at bars (or used to go out to bars), he was extolling the virtues of the working class … a nice enough fellow, but maybe he’s taken it too far by disengaging from the real world? His wife, Annabelle, does her best not to annoy poor Ralph, but she isn’t very good at it. Clint, who writes down everything he hears/sees, is the youngest son caught in the headlights of big brother worship, which might not be too bad if the brother (Berry-Berry) wasn’t a scumbag. Berry-Berry took off and is always on the run, it seems. If he’s not robbing something, he’s running a whorehouse, and/or stabbing people, or asking for money from home. Clint wants to be with his brother, he wants to run off with him (and does for a short while, but only to find Berry-Berry is no longer where he said he’d be). Annabelle’s friend, Echo, becomes the love interest (or is it love?) of Berry-Berry, even though Clint has totally fallen for her as well. No spoilers here … there was a movie made from this novel by the multi-talented author, actor, playwright and poet (Herlihy), but the movie seems to have been panned. Read the book, it’s a good one … and so good was the writing, I immediately ordered two others of the author’s novels from similar used book stores on amazon (Midnight Cowboy and Season of the Witch) … and I can’t wait to get my mitts on them.


S., A Novel about the Balkans, Slavenka Drakulić … S. is giving birth in a Stockholm hospital to a rape baby she wants nothing to do with. Her son isn’t hers. She gives him up for adoption. She had been repeatedly raped by several different Serbian soldiers. She has no idea who the father is. The opening salvo to this gritty and compelling read ends with S. wondering what she will do with all the milk from her breasts. From that point on, the book returns to the scene of the crimes; the village from where S. was taken, how she was taken, to where she was taken, and all the abuses heaped on the women in the camps they are brought to by their enemy. Her father was a Muslim and that’s all that is needed to know in a country being shredded by civil and ethnic war. Ultimately, S. is a graphic war story about the victims of the Bosnian war who weren’t killed, but were insidiously tortured and raped instead. It is a compelling read, start to finish; from capture to liberation and beyond.

Movies ...
Mother of Mine … a heartbreaking movie about one of the many Finnish refugee children sent to live in Sweden during the Russian invasion of Finland. There is redemption in this story, although you’ll have to wait for it, and it is the wait that is every bit as touching as it is heartbreaking. A wonderful movie.

Terraferma … When Linosa (Sicilian Island) Fishermen save the lives of boat people/illegal immigrants, they catch hell for it (seizing of their boats, fines, etc.). Three generations of a fishing family are faced with the problem (and deal with it differently) in this very touching movie. The politics of immigration rear its ugly head everywhere, even on a poor island off Sicily. Two sides of an immigration are presented, although one side, the one sanctioned by the government (and police) and the second generation of this family, ignores the third side—that of the boat people. Highly recommended.

And as Patti Abbott alerted us to the Italian Film Festival running throughout the country, I wrote to them asking about New York. What can I say, I’m a dumbski … there’s the Angelica in the Village, et al for foreign movies … but they/Barbara were/was very helpful and provided me with a list of past Festival Italian movies to watch (and we will). So, Grazie, Patti and Barbara, and the Italian Film Festival.

Surely you remember our plugging of one of the SNHU MFA mentors, Leslie Jamison … Harvard and Yale and Iowa’s Writers Workshop are on her resume … so is a list of the best literary magazines, including Harpers. Read a review of her latest in from the New York Times The Empathy Essays here ... summed up quite nicely here: Ms. Jamison is that rare writer whose prose contains not a shred of self-help imbecility yet is capable of flatly declaring something like this: “I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.”

Her tiny rogue beat box makes an indelible noise.

I ordered her new one, The Empathy Essays today and we'll review it soon as we get the chance to read it … in the meantime, get it here:

And here is Leslie Jamison reading from her wonderful debut novel (Ann Marie and I both loved this book), The Gin Closet

Momma Stella and Ann Marie’s Omnipotent Card Reader …

Me: See the Rangers game last night? Marty St. Louis didn’t score again.
MS: What?
Me: Fourteen games in a row, no goals. Callahan has 5 already.
MS: The hell are you talkin’ about?
Me: The malocchio you put on St. Louis. It’s working.
MS: (waves me off) How’s Annie, you stupid bastid?
Me: She went to a card reader tonight.
MS: (sudden enthusiasm) Oooh, yeah?
Me: Yeah, she’s crazy too.
MS: Never mind. What she say, the reader?
Me: I don’t know, she’s not home yet.
MS: Where’d she go?
Me: Brooklyn.
MS: I used to go.
Me: And you call me a stupid bastid.
MS: Shut up. Tell her to call me when she’s done. I want to know what they said.
Me: Seriously, you’re both nuts.
MS: Shut up. Tell her to call me.
Me: She said her niece predicted she’d have a baby girl and she did have one.
MS: They can do that.
Me: Wow. They have a fifty-fifty shot.
MS: Shut up.
Me: Annie took pictures with her.
MS: Yeah, I used to do that too. That’s what they do, work with the pictures.
Me: Yeah, they see I’m a horse and tell her there’s a fat man in her life.
MS: Shut up. Tell her to call me.
Me: Tell me again, ma. I forgot. You want her to call you?
MS: Shut up.
Me: (I put a hand to my ear) What’s that?
MS: Hey, moron, just tell her to call me.
Me: I think you’re both crazy, tell you the truth.
MS: That’s how I found out about your father cheating, moron.
Me: Which time?
MS: Shut up. It’s how I found out about Gang Bang.
Me: No, somebody told you about her. You told me that already.
MS: Shut up. Go home now. Tell Annie to call me when she’s home.
Me: Right. Meantime, we’re playing Montreal tomorrow night.
MS: Good for you.
Me: We gonna win?
MS: The hell cares? You should’ve asked Annie to ask the reader.
Me: Wait, I’m having a premonition. (I put a hand to my ear and fart). Ooops.
MS: Get the hell out of here, you sick bastid.
[We both laugh--me harder].
MS: You’re gonna shit your pants someday. And then—
Me: I’ll have to run out of here with shit in my pants. I know. A reader told me.
MS: (Still laughing, points to the door). Go, nut job.

I love my Mommy!

Momma Stella and her great granddaughter, Evelyn Amelia.


The Knuckmeter … like most forms of starvation, the medifast diet really does work well … I dropped 28 pounds in 28 days (with another 125 to go—the goal is an absurd one, but I intend to get there—202, preferably without the cancer that has killed off two my immediate family) … the food tastes like shit and I may wind-up glowing in the dark from the shit this stuff leaves on my bowls (literally, there are rings around the bowls after using their soups—and you have to scrub it off), but … but … but … it isn’t really starvation and isn’t nearly as difficult to do (for me) as attempting to lose weight the way we’re supposed to do (1-2 pounds every couple-three weeks). Forgetaboutit … I’m a compulsive MF’er and this is the ONLY way I can drop the tonnage (same way I did it a dozen or so years ago when I dropped 85-90 big ones). I also think this Medifast method will make it much easier to maintain a weight once the goal is reached (no matter where the needle ultimately lands) … but that’s putting the cart way before the horse (literally) for now … so, stay tuned.


Maestro Luciano Pavarotti … Ignore the dyed hair (and eyebrows) and some of the silly outfits … the man was one of the greatest tenors ever and had a heart as big as his belly (organizing and donating fundraisers for kids all over the globe, including those in war tone Bosnia-Herzegovina during and after the insane war there). This is a nice tribute and documentary for the King of the High C’sthe voice.