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).

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Book Review: In the Evil Day: Violence comes to one small town … This week in the NFL …

On August 19, 1997, 67-year-old Carl Drega, a man holding property ordinance grudges against city officials, was pulled over for what appeared to be a routine traffic stop. In actuality, Drega was being pulled over because of the threatening nature of some recent activity he exhibited against a local lawyer and part-time judge, Vickie Bunnell. What Drega did once he was pulled over was release a wrath he’d been holding onto apparently for years. Convinced local officials were out to get him in the most petty of ways (i.e., fining him for not having a building construction permit, writing him up for a vehicle violation that was subsequently dismissed, etc.), Drega’s paranoia served to fuel a rage no one could have expected, least of all the state trooper who’d stepped out of his vehicle to approach Drega, Scott Phillips. Phillips, 32, was met with a volley of shots fired from an AR-15 rifle. A few minutes later, a second police cruiser pulled into the same parking lot (that of a local grocery store), and Les Lord, 46, was killed before he could react as Drega peppered the cruiser’s windshield with shot after shot.
In the meantime, Phillips had attempted to crawl away from the lot and any innocents who might pull into the parking lot and/or in the grocery store. Drega made his way to Phillips and fired four more shots as the trooper attempted to shield himself with both hands.
The carnage continued when Drega took Phillips cruiser and drove to the News and Sentinel building. Staffers inside the building, upon seeing Drega carrying the rifle, locked the front door and fled out the back door into a rear parking lot. What they couldn’t know was that Drega had already walked through an alley and was headed in the same direction. When he spotted who he perceived to be one of his main antagonists, 45 year old, Vickie Bunnell, Drega shot her in the back. Dennis Joos, 51, a co-editor of The News and Sentinel, attempted to disarm Drega, and although he most likely saved the lives of all the others fleeing the scene, he lost his own life when Drega managed to keep his rifle and shoot Joos dead.
Unsatisfied with having killed four people, and most likely accepting his own death by eventual gunfire, Drega took off with the police cruiser yet again. In the end he would set up an ambush, whether by design or happenstance, but three more law enforcement officials would be wounded, one very seriously, before the madman was finally stopped.
In the Evil Day: Violence Comes to One Small Town, author Richard Adams Carey tells the heartbreaking tale of all those affected by Carl Drega’s deadly rampage. This compelling work of non-fiction is the end result of a 13 year project for Carey, during which he conducted interviews with many of the people directly involved in the events. It is a brilliantly told story that includes several different perspectives of the horror that befell the town of Colebrook on that fateful August afternoon.

Carey’s recounting of that day will have you sniffling and shedding tears long before the end. I was so intrigued by the story, I’ve gone to Google maps several times just to see the close proximity of the town where Drega (and Bunnell) lived, its closeness to Colebrook, the LePerl’s iga parking lot where the two state troopers were killed, and The News and Sentinel building and its parking lot, where Bunnell and Joos were murdered. It is a terrifying gaze at a community that suffered a living nightmare on a hot August afternoon.
You’ll also get a history lesson in this book that provides a more detailed accounting of the now infamous AR-15 rifle, the prototype of the U.S. military’s M-16. Although it can be used to hunt, that was never the intent of its design.
The author does justice to the victims of Carl Drega, as well as the survivors of Colebrook, by providing the details of their lives and avoiding the short-form journalism we so often read in newspaper accounts of such tragedies. Carey goes further than short-form, where people are introduced (like above), and the reader is provided a name and age before quickly moving on to the next victim, the next short-form detail, etc.
There is always so much more to each victim and the survivors, their families, friends, pets, etc. As Carey puts it: “The truths of who people are—the breadth of their identities, the way their lives fold into the lives of others—become shrunken and compressed. Multiply that through many newspaper stories, through many spot descriptions, and a composite portrait of Colebrook emerges that not only collapses short of reality but is weirdly skewed by the gravity of one day in its history.”
I can’t say enough about this book. It is a wonderful, compelling, intriguing, and ultimately the heartbreaking accounting of a horrible day in a small New Hampshire town victimized by a man haunted by demons none of us can ever understand. The concomitant rage and bloodshed of Carl Drega’s paranoiac rampage have since been replayed way too often in America … in schools like Sandy Hook elementary in Connecticut, a Colorado movie theatre, Fort Hood in Texas, New York City (where another two police officers were gunned down in cold blood ... there are so many others … far too many to list here.
On and off again love interest of Ms. Bunnell, owner and publisher of The News and Sentinel, and lifetime libertarian, John Harrigan, said of Carl Drega, “He was just a piece of space junk that happened to get us.  It was our turn.”
One has to wonder, with all the similar and/or much worse mass murders that have occurred since August 19, 1997, when is it our turn (our communities/our loved ones/friends and/or innocents we never met)?
“Carey’s tension-filled report of a small town’s terror is portrayed with surprising love, bittersweetness, and hope, resulting in a beautifully written and enthralling true-crime tale.” —Booklist (*STARRED REVIEW*)

This week in the NFL …
Let’s face it, amici, there’s only ONE game that counts and that’s being played in Orchard Park, where Rex Ryan (for President?) and my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills take on Bill BeliCHEAT and his New England CHEATRIOTS. Last week the Bills shut down Andrew Luckless and left the Colts Coltless, but today they face a much tougher challenge. How does a team handle the cheating ways of New England?
Suffice it to say, when we win, it’ll be because the CHEATRIOTS couldn’t cheat (like all those years they didn’t win a so-called championship—all so-called wins***** with Asterisks since BeliCHEAT came to town (for those keeping score)) and should the Bills lose, well, the CHEATRIOTS “more likely than not” stole our playbooks, game signals, game plans … you name it.
Here are the more meaningless games around the NFL …
The Houston Texanoughts blew my first pick in my son’s suicide pool, so screw them. Patherless 30-21.
The new kid, Mariotta vs. the other somewhat new kid, Johnny football … Titans 30-20.
The Arizona by way of St. Louis Red boids clip the Cubbies, 24-17.
Chargerless over the Bangles, 34-28.
Lionettes crush the Minnesota Wagnerites, 31-13. 
The Aints over Buckless, 30-10.
Moonachie Blue over the Tweetie boids from Atlanta, 21-20.
The Numbers route the Steeless in Pittsburg, 33-17.
Ramettes are for real … the Washington Idgits aren’t. Ramettes, 38-10.
Wes Cravens over the Raiderettes, 24-17.
Dolphinations over the Leopard spotted Jagwires, 24-13.
Eaglettes over the Bryantless Cowgirls, 27-20.
Packerless over the still hung over Sea Pigeons, 34-20.
And in the Monday nighter, the Moonachie Green team continues what Buffalo started against the Luckless Coltless. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, 24-20.

And in just 18 more days, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Philadelphia Fryers … GO BOLTS!

Go Bills!

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Women’s Week of Reviews: Once Upon a River (Bonnie Jo Campbell) … The movie “Wild” … The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis and A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin … and a poem by Knucklespeare …

Once Upon A River, Bonnie Jo Campbell … need a strong female lead? Meet Margo Crane. A sharpshooting, young girl/woman who lives off the land and learns to love in the process. Social norms need not apply. After taking down a couple of deer against her father’s instructions and the laws of the state, Margo shoots the tip of her uncle’s dick off (I kid yous not). There’s a reason she does this, but the bad situation turns worse when unforeseen circumstances, the kind you never see coming, even when you’re staring at them, arrive in a split second. Margo moves up and down the river, learning to survive and to love, even when the love requires using a rifle a time or two.

Her mother took off after a self-inflicted family scandal and Margo misses and wants to see her. But Momma's got a new deal she doesn't want ruffled, not by the likes of her river girl. It's a complex relationship Margo strives to understand, but she makes friends in the interim, friends and lovers. 
It’s rare that I pay attention to descriptive narrative. A writer has to do his/her job to get me to care. That may be a deficiency in my reading skills, or just a plain old lack of interest to descriptive detail. Some of my favorite John Updike novels often put me to sleep when he went on about the landscape along a highway in the Rabbit, Run series. When I do pay attention, I find myself intrigued and this is where Bonnie Jo joins the ranks of Steinbeck, Bausch, and a newfound wonder, Lucia Berlin, for this reader (there are more but my brain isn't functioning at 80% this morning). Bottom line: The river is as much a character in this novel as are the people.

Ultimately it’s the characters that drive a story for me. Margo, her family, friends and enemies more than get the job done. Ultimately, this is the story of a woman conquering life via true freedom, something her estranged mother yearned for and nearly achieved (but for selling out to easier cash). Margo does for herself and does so with a fierce determination that traverses her youthful naivety. Each stage of her life (the parts of the book) prove a relentless path to finding her place in a world she’s claimed for herself. It was difficult to stop reading this book, so I made sure to have it when I found a parking space in Brooklyn the night of the David Payne reading. I sat in my car and read for two straight hours without wanting to stop.
I’ve been a fan of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s works since Patti Abbott (Concrete Angel) first suggested Campbell’s brilliant short story collection, American Salvage, a few years back.


Wild … based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Wild. Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern are magical in this gritty adventure about finding self along the Pacific Crest Trail, a 1,200 mile trek from the Mojave Desert up to the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon-Washington State border. It’s a very good movie, but professional hiker/author, Darren Rome Leo (The Trees Beneath Us) says the memoir is even better.
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. I started reading this collection yesterday and I’m hooked big time. Great stuff. Some of the stream of consciousness style has kept me glued to the page.
Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women has been every bit as wonderful as the hype in The New York Times … a wonderful collection. The stories are gritty and the narrator is often self-effacingly honest, speaking a truth to power. Unashamed about making choices others, including family, more than frown on.
All the women authors mini-reviewed above are tough ladies telling gritty tales of lives lived without shame. These are all HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READS (and a movie watch/read the memoir), amici. All three. 
The DNC has a problem
His name is Bernie Sanders;
But they wanted Hillary Clinton,
Bernie’s surging in the polls;
her campaign’s just a scandal;
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz won’t give us our debates;
She wants to hide Queen Hillary behind the starting gates.
What happened to the fairness the DNC espouses?
They’re looking like they’re running scared, the dirty corrupt louses.
Authenticity never a Focus Group has made;
when you don’t have it, you’re just another fake;
Bernie’s up by 20, and then it’s 22,
While Hillary falls fast; what’s the DNC to do?
Can they draft Joe Biden,
and ignore their left again?
And risk the left ignores them back,
and no longer calls them friend?
Will the DNC get a clue, will they ever learn,
that Bernie’s Army is of the people,
and the people are feeling The Bern!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

An evolution of my music tastes … SNHU MFA stars shining bright …


A rough sketch of my tastes in music by memory. I’m sure I’m leaving out many, but I’m old and this is as good as it gets this fine day.

Al Jolson
The Shangri-las
The Beatles
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels
The Temptations
Led Zeppelin (first 3 albums, couldn’t stand most of their stuff afterward)
Joe Cocker
Jeff Beck
Sinatra (again)
Benny Goodman (and swing in general)
Stevie Ray Vaughan
The Allman Brothers
Cream (again)/Blind Faith
Italian opera
Classical (Beethoven, Mozart & Mahler)
French opera
German opera
Rap (an appreciation of some of it)
Sinatra (yet again)
Dean Martin
Stevie Ray Vaughan (again)
German opera (for specific writing reasons)

I’ve always been a compulsive-obsessive person … from being a baseball fanatic when I was a kid (playing Strat-O-Matic up to 8 hours a day when it was raining outside and we couldn't play in the streets), to playing in 3 leagues (Canarsie Little League, the PAL and St. Jude's CYO league), to playing drums as a young teen, to weightlifting and running for football as an older teenager, to reading and writing through college and afterward ... the diets, the gambling, the drinking, the eating, the weightlifting meets, the writing, football, and of now hockey (many of my obsessions became wash, rinse, repeats).

These days, as far as music goes, I’ll listen to pretty much anything that feels right, except when I’m searching for something that will directly influence what I’m writing. This month, after finishing a screenplay I’m letting sit before I attack it with edits, I decided it was time to finish my first finished attempt at a literary novel, something with a Liebestod (Love-Death) theme, so I returned to Tristan und Isolde and the Tristan chord that continues to possess my interest.

Wagner was an anti-Semitic, so I don’t have to like him, but for my money he wrote the most beautiful musical passage ever with his prelude to Tristan und Isolde, wherein he introduced the famous Tristan chord. It is a long opera that can wear on one if you’re not into it, for sure. My wife once bought me tickets for Wagner’s, Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) and halfway through it, she said to me, she said, "Never again."
She meant German opera. She's attended a few Italian operas with me since.

I loved it.

Tristan und Isolde, on the other hand, I more than loved and have seen it performed a few times with Jane Eaglen singing Isolde. The Liebesnacht duet is one of my favorites in all of opera … and Liebestod is my single favorite dramatic music. A recent Youtube find from a Munich production featuring Waltraud Meier rocked me with a double casket ending. I suppose some might find it too obvious, but I found/find it haunting (in the best way).

And Waltraud Meier ... wow, just wow ...

SNHU MFA week of stars …
Richard Adams Carey (Booklist *STARRED* review) account of a horrific day of murder in a small town, In the Evil Day: Violence Comes to One Small Town
And then there’s been double **STARRED** reviews (Kirkus & Publishers Weekly) for Pratima Cranse’s debut novel, All the Major Constellations

Even the Pope likes Darren Rome Leo’s wonderful novel, The Trees Beneath Us

Get it here:

Kelly Stone Gamble’s novel, They Call Me Crazy, is still rolling thunder …

Get it here:

Let’s hear it for some of the many who’ve made it to the wonderful (and often frustrating) world of publishing out of the SNHU MFA program …

Liebesnacht …