Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
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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, February 28, 2016

Andrea Crossley Spencer WINS! Movie Review: Spotlight … What happened to the 4th Estate … South Carolina Blues … Shawn Milnes on Sexism in Opera …


In early February we introduced author Andrea Crossley Spender to all of yous when her novel, The Promise of Water, made the finals for the Caledonia Award … this week we’re happy to announce she’s the winner!

“The cold beauty and sheer vastness of Lake Superior is the dramatic setting for this story of a family faced with the heart-breaking loss of their daughter and sister, Nora in a sailing accident. This is confident storytelling, rich in detail and with an elegiac quality. The characters are strong and Nate in particular is well drawn and believable. I liked the fact that the writer had the courage to keep the pace slow at the start and to let the extraordinary secrets of these ordinary people’s lives unfold gradually. Nate’s efforts to keep hope alive for his own and his parents’ sake and his increasingly desperate search for why his twin sister Nora went missing feel emotionally truthful and satisfying and the writing kept me hooked even when the pace and structure faltered towards the end. This is the story that I keep coming back to, these are the characters who touched me most deeply and this is the novel I most want to read when it is published.”

Check out Andrea’s webpage here:

Spotlight … we sat down to watch this movie Saturday morning at home and had doubts before renting it. We just weren’t sure we wanted to get pissed off again. My wife said, “This will make you angry again.” I assured her I was over it (the Catholic Church pedophile priest scandal), but by the end of the movie, when the list of countries affected by pedophile priests filled a few screens, it turned out she was right: I was angry all over again. I don’t take issue with people who insist on having faith. I think they may be wasting their time and energy along with curtailing some open-mindedness, but to each his or her own. What I do take issue with is the institution itself, whether it’s the Catholic Church or any other bureaucracy seeking to retain power for the sake of power. Spotlight is a terrific movie about perhaps the last time the 4th estate meant something in this country; when the Boston Globe Spotlight (feature) team, went after and unveiled the number of pedophile priests in the immediate Boston area. The numbers were/are staggering, and the fact that the person most responsible, Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, was allowed to escape to the sanctuary of the Vatican remains a stain on the institution. He remains there to this day, untouched by his crimes. His case is testament to the hypocrisy and corruption of the Catholic Church.

This movie is highly recommended, but be prepared to be pissed off, and not only at pedophile priests and their church, but also how far the 4th estate has fallen since the scandal first broke. The media today has become a corporate tool; a vehicle of corporate mission statements. They are one method by which corrupt powerbrokers control the flow of information to a public content enough (or too busy surviving) to accept what they are presented blindly.

What happened to the 4th Estate and all the good purpose it was supposed to offer? It’s a good question, but one we have to assume has an obvious answer: it has been melded into a society either too busy to notice the lack of good purpose, or too trained not to care. The media today comes to us with specific agendas, none of which serve the public unless by accident. The corporations that own the media have vested interests that preclude open and honest journalism. Entire networks are devoted to specific political agendas. In this election year, the media has tried its best to offset the voice of the people on both sides of the political aisle, in each instance supporting the establishment candidates and either ignoring or downplaying the so-called outsiders. It’s been relatively easy for the Democratic Party’s media, because deals were struck long ago as to who would run because it was “her turn” and the DNC continues to run interference for her. On the Republican side, the corporate message via the media hasn’t been nearly as easy. Donald Trump, blowhard, TV Reality star, billionaire (sexist, racist, xenophobe, etc.) has tapped into a resentful public and is leading the day, despite the many efforts of FOX news to disembowel him in debates. Both the DNC and the RNC have their marching orders from above, and although both have followed their scripts, there’s been enough revolt to suggest not everybody is asleep on their couches.

What happens moving forward, perhaps depends on that Democratic race. Should the corporate owners of Hillary Clinton prevail, you won’t see Citizens United going anywhere anytime soon. Clinton has been totally dependent on corporate coin throughout her campaign, and no one doubts the greatest fear the DNC had of a Sanders presidency is his refusal to accept corporate coin. Imagine their concerns moving forward having to depend on the people they represent to fund them? While Sanders proved it can be done, it’s more than obvious Hillary Clinton would’ve been truly dead broke early on if she had to depend on the public’s support of her brand of corporate democracy.

And behind it all is a 4th estate that caters to their owners, the corporations behind the entire American political process.

South Carolina Blues … what’s to say? The African-American community duped itself in the worst possible way this weekend. It will suffer the consequences come the final vote tally, no matter which side of the aisle wins, but it has already suffered quite a bit with a mixed race president they’ve called their own the last 8 years. While I understand the racial bonding, the results of 7+ years of Barry suggest maybe all that blind support was a mistake. Compounding it behind a person as untrustworthy as Hillary Clinton defies logic, but there isn’t much about this election cycle that suggests logic is involved in decision making. On the other hand, the Clinton campaign’s African-American pandering may well cost them should she find herself running against Donald Trump (or any other GOP candidate aside from Ted Cruz). There’s a very good chance Trump will find a boatload of Reagan democrats headed his way come November. He may very well win New York and/or New Jersey. The DNC has gone out of its way to ignore the Clinton fatigue factor I insist will cost her the election, and that’s without the help of Bernie supporters like myself who will NEVER vote for her. Blue collar democrats may be crossing the aisle over more than just Clinton fatigue. Hillary Clinton’s newfound civil righteousness (remember she was a Goldwater Girl who endorsed a candidate who voted against civil rights legislation) may well serve as a reminder to white blue collar workers across the nation that they have a stake in this game too. For whatever reason, economic dependency, regional loyalty, and/or ugly racism, I suspect that Hillary Clinton will find it difficult attracting enough votes to win in November, no matter who opposes her, but especially if she’s running against Trump.

A telling fact was the South Carolina primary. The GOP primary drew nearly twice as many voters as the Democratic primary. Sure she won big vs. Sanders there, but the numbers suggest she’s toast in the general there.

Trump may be clueless and a blowhard, but he’s already silenced her attempts to paint him as a sexist with some devastating reminders about her and her husband’s past. What he’ll do to her on a debate stage with all the scandals suggests to me, she’ll win the woman’s vote, the Hispanic vote and the African-American vote, but that’s it. Hillary will still need Bernie’s enthusiastic millennials, but will only get a portion of them. She’ll need Bernie’s older supporters, but will only get a portion of them. She’ll need blue collar democrats and those, I suspect, she’ll lose in big numbers, along with independents sick and tired of the Clintons.

A couple of anecdotes: My wife mentioned several times how some of her friends at work in Manhattan said they’d vote for anybody but Clinton. I’ve heard that same ABC theme where I work. Angry white guys (for whatever reason they’re angry) aren’t going to support Hillary Clinton and may well vote against her. I know I'll vote against her.

Shawn Milnes on Sexism in Opera click on the link and read this fascinating article.


Tommy Dalton’s ex-wife is on an honesty kick with their daughter, Alysha. She tells her that her dad kills people. Which, of course, he does. But that’s not the kind of information he wants shared with his kids. Particularly now that he’s working on a new job. Dominick Farase, ready to testify against the Cirelli family, needs silencing. An ex-cop spots him and lets Gasper Cirelli know where to find him. Not a difficult job for Tommy Red. But the Cirellis get nervous about this one, and decide to remove all evidence of the hit including Tommy. More hits are called, and some of them get sloppy. A couple of FBI agents get involved. Frank Cirelli, Gasper’s son and acting head of the family, has to make some tough decisions. Sacrifices must be made. But as far as Tommy is concerned, the Cirellis make their biggest mistake when they fail in their efforts to take him out. A fatal mistake. Now he’s after the family--still trying to keep his daughter out of it, too, of course because when you threaten Tommy or his family, the only response is retribution.

Tommy Red was born from a short story of mine in the collection of shorty stories from Baltimore Noir.

Charlie Stella’s on-target dialog spotlights mob efficiency in “Ode to the O’s.” — Library Journal

Charlie Stella’s mob story, “Ode to the O’s,” is brutally direct — Publisher’s Weekly

Charlie Stella’s excellent “Ode to the O’s” may not evoke Baltimore particularly strongly, but it’s a fine piece of crime writing. — Chicago Sun Times