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).

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Book Review: GRAVESEND (William Boyle) … A Convention Game Plan for BERNED Berniecrats …

Gravesend, by William Boyle … once again, bouncing around some of the writers’ pages I haunt on Facebook pays off … and this time it pays off big time.

So far this year, at least for me, Gravesend is one of the very best reads I’ve come across. The staccato narrative and the introspective grit of characters trapped in the mores of anachronistic familial and neighborhood mindsets are simply brilliant.

Ray Boy Calabrese is fresh out of the joint for his participation in the killing of a gay kid chased onto the Belt Parkway at the Plum Beach exit in Brooklyn. Ray Boy has just finished a 16-year bid, no easy shakes, but he’s out and just not the same guy he used to be. He’s a man now, but only sure of one thing--he deserves to die. Ray Boy has a nephew, Eugene, a kid enamored with his uncle for all the wrong reasons. He lives the typical punk fantasy all too familiar from watching movies about bad-asses ruling the roost. This genius wants to take on a local mobster’s card game to declare his bona fides as a criminal worthy of his uncle’s respect.

The gay kid Ray Boy chased onto the Belt 16 years ago, Duncan, had a brother who seems to live for revenge. Conway is the classic underachiever. He has a shit job in a pharmacy and lives a shit life with his father. He hangs out with a guy who fuels his desire for revenge. So Conway drinks and dreams of vengeance. He also dreams of women, especially a girl from the neighborhood who left for Hollywood, but who has also returned at the same time Ray Boy was released. Alessandra hasn’t made it in La-La land and her return to the neighborhood is a depressing one. She looks up an old friend and the two couldn’t be more opposite, but she needs someone to use to get out of the house where her mother’s recent death is a dark cloud her father can’t shake. Alessandra winds up ditching the old friend to head into Manhattan where she meets a movie director-producer seeking an actress and coin for his masterpiece. It just might be a scam, but we won’t find out because Alessandra winds up bedding down a bartender.

It’s the author’s writing that kept me glued to the page and anxious to discuss Gravesend with my wife. She was so intrigued with my enthusiasm, she’s reading the book also now. No spoilers in TK, but the ride you get in Gravesend is well worth the price of admission. It’s a brilliant piece of writing by Mr. Boyle.
Although I was born a Manhattan boy, I was raised in Brooklyn—Canarsie, specifically. Plum beach, so essential to Gravesend, was/is the closest beach to Canarsie. Not only did I go there as a kid, so did my kids, and as it turned out, so did my Mom and Pop back in the day. That’s three generations of Stellas hanging out at Plum Beach. The hate-crime Ray Boy and two of his friends committed when they chased Duncan into parkway traffic is incredibly visual to me. I know the turf well.

If you were born or lived in Brooklyn, pretty much any part of Brooklyn, you’ll want to read Gravesend for the sheer familiarity you’ll feel. If you’re looking for some brilliant writing, Boyle provides it, start to finish. If you’re looking for a read that will keep you turning pages, Gravesend is it. One of the best reads of 2016, if not the best. A truly brilliant novel.

By now it’s all over the place, Bernie Sanders’ answer to an MSNBC question: “Will you vote for Hillary Clinton?” “Yes,” he said.

If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

The way Bernie proved the election process does not require corporate coin, and the way he exposed the DNC’s corruption, top to bottom, with that single “Yes” … he’s likely undone pretty much all that he achieved.

I’m out a substantial amount of coin and effort for supporting a guy who said he'll vote for the person I wasn't backing--not with a gun to my head. The passion is still there, but it’s no longer holding to a cause gone bad. Think about it. How many of his supporters are going to fall for this shit again and contribute to an “outsider” who “claims” he or she is fighting the establishment from within the establishment? And think of the laugh the establishment he claims he was fighting (and who he just announced he was voting for) must be having today. His was the most significant challenge to the DNC I can remember. Ten plus millions voters. Where do they turn now if they remain dedicated to the cause Bernie just abandoned?
Well, most of us who will hold to our beliefs will likely seek the Green Party. I already have, but if too few do the same, the likelihood is that the DNC’s corrupt choice will win the Presidency ... and then you can kiss your “political revolution” from the left good night for a minimum of 4 years, because if you think HRC is going to yield to the left, you’re taking some serious hallucinogens. Already the DNC has shot down the $15.00 minimum wage Sanders was calling for … as if the DNC was going to listen to anything Sanders has to say after they rigged the process so he couldn’t win.

Sanders claims he promised the Democrat Party he would endorse their nominee. After the sabotaging of his campaign by the DNC, I don’t know how he holds to his promise. Yet some of his supporters cling to a fantasy that he’ll still win the nomination. Hallucinogens, I guess.

And speaking of hallucinogens, the amount of flak I took from die-hard Bernie supporters (a.k.a., blind-faithers and quite possibly brand new lemmings) was comical. “How can you abandon Bernie so easily? Bernie didn’t endorse her! Bernie will win the nomination!”

Sweet Jesus, come off your fucking clouds.

Yesterday I proposed the following, to give Sanders (he’s no longer Bernie to me) one last chance to do the right thing by the millions of people who forked over their coin, time and passion for him. I say protestors to the convention take two shirts with them—a Sanders shirt and a Jill Stein (Green Party) shirt. And if or when Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton, his supporters remove their Sanders shirts and put on their Jill Stein shirts to send a clear signal to the DNC. To wit: He may have jerked us off, but you (the DNC) won’t get the same chance.
GO GREEN, AMICI … if Sanders can’t see what he’s doing to a viable third party, he doesn’t want to see it. Rewarding the DNC after what they did to him and to US is no better than stealing our money and efforts. Nice guy, but in the end, just another Pol.

He can do the right thing come the convention or not. That’s up to him. But all that bullshit about a political revolution? Well, action speaks louder than words, my Brooklyn friend. Action speaks louder than words … and talk is always cheap.


Jill Stein invited Bernie Sanders to join the Green Party … he could bring his supporters there and make them a viable third party overnight … so far he hasn’t responded to their requests.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Guest Blogger: Patti Abbott … TK’s review of Shot in Detroit (Patti’s latest) … and is/has Sanders BERNED OUT?

Today we feature author, Patti Abbott (her take on her latest, Shot in Detroit), and our review.

Here’s Patti …
Shot in Detroit is the story of Violet Hart, a photographer, nearing forty, and eager to find artistic success. Through her relationship with a mortician, she comes up with the idea of photographing young black men who have died in Detroit over a six-month period. The novel takes place entirely in Detroit and its near suburbs. Violet Hart is ambitious, a loner, a pest in getting what she wants. She's an artist in other words.

“Photography was a license to go wherever I wanted and to do what I wanted to do.” Diane Arbus

Almost any African-American Detroiter that picks up Shot in Detroit will probably tell you that this is not the real Detroit. That I didn't get Detroit right from my vantage point as a suburbanite. That I didn't get them right. And this was the thought that reverberated in my head through the years I spent writing and rewriting my book. The Detroit in my novel might be one filled with violence, despair and poverty, but it was, and always would be, the view of an outside looking in--someone not, at heart, affected greatly by what was happening inside the city limits in most cases. I might work in Detroit, but I lived elsewhere.

The things I didn't know about Detroit included what the inside of a Detroit public school looked like; how underfinanced and antiquated the fire stations were; what it was like to stand in long lines to cash a check, pay a utility bill, pay a parking fine, see an representative at a Social Security office or at the Secretary of State's office. The hardship of waiting on a cold street corner for a DDOT bus that doesn't come; watching the depopulation of the street you live on, Then watching the houses come down due to arson, neglect, scrapping, mischief. I'd never know the difficulty of grocery shopping in a city with no grocery store chains. No full-scale pharmacies. And being without a car to take you outside city limits. (Most Detroit citizens have no car and this in a city with scant public transportation). City services were shoddy; a mayor was found guilty of many heinous crimes. You only had to look to Chicago or D.C. to see how these issues played out in other cities. But unlike these cities, Detroit had no glamour attached to it.

I conceded these facts. I knew my story would never tell the same story as someone writing from a depopulated street only a mile or two away from me. Other writers faced the same dilemma. Did Elmore Leonard mislead us to some degree with his gift for dialog, his colorful characters? Didn't his entertaining plots serve as the magician's trick of getting us to look at the wrong thing while he performed his magic? His home in Birmingham was as far removed from Detroit as mine.

Of the more than 100 stories I wrote before finishing my first novel, only five were set in Detroit--that's how much I feared getting it wrong. Each of those stories was grim and yet when I look at them now, they share the possibility of redemption, of finding a better life: two children escape their harridan mother, a criminal awakes to find two growths on his back and takes on the duties of an angel; an elderly man enjoys a day with the grandson he never knew he had. None of these stories state their characters are black although you can reasonably assume it.

I have tried to take this on in Shot in Detroit. To confront of fear of being the white outside. In the very first chapter, Violet Hart runs into two cops on Belle Isle. They accuse her of exploiting the people she is photographing. She responds by saying she's an artist. That perhaps her pictures tell their story. Various characters in the book throw this accusation in her face. She does the best she can to respond to it.

And perhaps I did too.

Patti has penned more than 125 stories in all the various venues—on line, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is also the author of two ebooks, MONKEY JUSTICE and HOME INVASION and co-editor of DISCOUNT NOIR. She won a Derringer award for her story "My Hero." She lives outside Detroit. Patti has also authored two terrific novels, Concrete Angel and now Shot in the Detroit.

Our Review of  Shot in Detroit, by Patti Abbott
Violet Hart is a photographer seeking a project that excites. It can be weird, unusual, dark … but it has to be that special something that can stir the creative juices and that makes life, or at least life as it relates to one’s chosen profession, worth living. While she loves her profession, she’s dependent on the usual photographer fare—weddings, bar and bat mitvahs, birthdays, etc., so she’s living hand to mouth while hoping to put together something for a gallery. The works she currently has showing aren’t selling and she’s catching grief for it.

On one of Violet’s trips to Belle Isle to search for that special something, after one trip that ended with police questioning her presence there, she spots something unusual, and then an unusual person, and a young one at that. Derek Olsen is a kid who creates his own sculptures out of weird stuff and then puts them on display along the beach. The two accidentally meet on Belle Isle. Violet initially thinks of Derek as “crazy guy,” but there’s more to this kid than meets the eye.

Violet has a lover, Bill, who owns a funeral parlor and does a respectable business from his years of service in the neighborhood. When Bill asks Violet to photograph one of the bodies he’s prepped for a funeral, a rugby player from London who was killed by an aneurism, she finds the experience more exhilarating than she imagined it could be. The requested photograph came from the family, a simple picture of their loved one in a casket to be shipped home. Developing the film later on in her darkroom, Violet realizes there’s something more to the picture she’s taken … and creative juices flow.

She strikes a deal with her lover and begins taking pictures of young black males he preps for their funerals. Bill makes it legit by ascertaining permission from family members, but he isn’t fully comfortable with the new arrangement he’s agreed to with Violet.

Very much into her new project, filming dead black males in their caskets, Crazy guy (Derek) calls with something extra weird he thinks Violet might be interested in … and oh, boy, is it weird … body parts he’s created a sculpture from. It’s not something Violet is comfortable with, although she takes a number of photographs of the body parts and the sculpture Derek has created from them.

She’s continuing her project filming the young dead black males at her lover’s funeral parlor, but then the scene on the beach involving Derek, his sculpture, and the body parts, comes back to her via the police. She’s told Derek to let the police know about the body parts he’s found and he’s done as she suggested, except the police are now at her doorstep asking questions. Derek called his work “installation art” … but the police have to wonder if maybe Derek and/or Violet provided their own material for the body part project. She did, after all, take pictures of it.

The complications are increased when the guy who owns a gallery showing her stuff, a guy she’s been intimate with for more pragmatic than romantic reasons (even while a noisy neighbor directly upstairs exercises on his bike), sees her growing gallery of dead black males and wants to run with it. This is something she’s also excited about, but there are legal issues involved that may well threaten her relationship with her true lover, Bill, and it’s a relationship that seems to be on the wane of late.

There are chapters with newspaper articles describing the latest deaths of young black males Violet will get a crack at photographing. It’s a very effective way to keep the pace of the novel moving. Violet is an interesting character not only for her photographic talents, but because she’s flawed in the most artistic way. Let’s face it, there’s an extra dose of selfishness many (most, if not all) artists share, and Violet is no exception. She’s an independent woman unwilling to live by social mores that might preclude her quest for creative expression. It’s a fine line she walks, because the idea of photographing dead males can be viewed as more exploitive than creative … but that’s for the naysayers to deal with. Violet is willing to cross lines some feminists might balk at, and like those living with writers undoubtedly come to realize—nothing is safe around an artist.

Violet is also naïve about a particular family secret involving the musician father who abandoned her and her mother years ago, and when she spots Bill with another woman, one with his racial profile, Violet experiences the jealousy a potential rejection inevitably leads to. There are a couple of plot twists and turns in this very interesting novel that strike like sledgehammers, so readers beware. Like most novels worth reading, it’s the journey toward plot twists that keep us interested in what happens next. Violet is a vibrant character. She will keep you interested to the very end, making the plot twists all the more powerful. Shot in the Dark is a wonderful read with an exceptionally interesting female lead, and it is much more than a murder mystery.

Is/Has Sanders BERNED OUT?

It’s perhaps the most asked question going back and forth in social media these days: Will Bernie Sanders abandon the cause and get behind Crooked Hillary Clinton (sorry, but no sincere Sanders supporter and/or progressive can call her anything but Crooked Hillary).

I’ve had my doubts going back to the Arizona debacle, where hundreds of polling locations were reduced from over 200 in 2012 to 60 in 2016. I was pretty sure early on that the Democratic Party would never allow Bernie Sanders to represent them; a party owned by corporate coin wasn’t about to allow someone who refused it take the top spot. Yet, hopeless romantic I am, I was hopeful the huge crowds Bernie was drawing, as opposed to the tiny ones surrounding Crooked Hillary, meant something.

And I did my best to remind myself how in 1960. scores of dead people voted JFK into office in Illinois; if they could do that then and hack into the Pentagon now, what were the odds it wouldn’t happen to voting machines in an election being run by millionaires and billionaires?

Post Arizona, there was no longer a doubt as to what would happen. The question remained, however, would Bernie make the move his supporters so desperately want him to make—would he defy the corruption of the Democratic National Committee and its star corrupt candidate, Crooked Hillary Clinton? Would Bernie start a viable third party with millions of supporters behind him, or even join one already in existence, the Green Party, and help to make it the Progressive Party his supporters want so badly? Or, in the end, would he wind up rewarding the corruption and endorsing Crooked Hillary?

I fear it’ll wind up being the latter, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow suit—not his supporters. Most of us are well aware of the consequences for progressives should Crooked Hillary win the Presidency. First off, we’ll be ignored over the next four years—as if we never existed. Why wouldn’t they ignore us? After what they did to Sanders’ campaign, should he still endorse her, why the hell would the Democratic Party bother giving us lip service, never mind a genuine acknowledgment?

Secondly, nothing changes within the party itself and/or their policies. Absolutely nothing.

Thirdly, everything we feared about Crooked Hillary and her flip-flops will come to pass, to include TPP legislation authored by the same corporate owners who own Crooked Hillary and Barry Obama. She’ll forget $15.00 an hour, her pledge to reduce education costs, single payer health insurance, and we’ll be led right back into the Middle East quagmire via her regime change fetish and love of perpetual war.

So, if Bernie bolts, most of us are with him. If he caves, he does it alone.

We can still love the man for what he tried, but we cannot dismiss the end result. For Bernie to get behind Crooked Hillary is to REWARD the corruption of the party against himself and his supporters … something I’ll never digest.

So, go the convention, Bernie. Show up and let them have it in a much more direct way than they fought you throughout this campaign (as exposed in the latest hack of the DNC server). Take the microphone at center stage and announce that after more than a year of fighting the corruption of the DNC, you’re taking your talents to the GREEN PARTY and establishing a formal Progressive Party to not only challenge for the Presidency, but to establish as a viable political party at every level of government, from local organizations to Governorships.

YES, GO GREEN, BERNIE … it’s where we need you most now.


Jill Stein on the differences between Trump and Crooked Hillary … and the myth of the lesser of two evils.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Interview with Ross Gresham (White Shark) … Book Review: Kill Anything That Moves … The Trump Implosion …

I first met Ross Gresham, his brother Kyle, and sister Nicole, some 42 years ago. Their parents were professors at the college I attended on a football scholarship (Minot State College, now a University). Their father is the guy I mention in every book dedication. He’s definitely the person most responsible for me ever getting published, and probably the person most responsible for me not being in jail and/or dead.

Now, some 42 years later, I get to interview Ross (or, as I call him, Rossman). Like his parents and both siblings, Ross has some serious education chops. He’s also a terrific author with a new book out (reviewed here), White Shark (click on the link for our review).
Ross is the author of the mystery novel White Shark (Gale / Five Star, May 2016). It's the first book in his Jim Hawkins series. His short stories have appeared in Indiana Review, Theaker's, and Front Range Review. Gresham's first book, Andre Dubus Talking (Xavier Review Press, 2003), collected together for the first time all available interviews with Dubus. Gresham is Professor of English at the United States Air Force Academy and fiction editor for the journal War, Literature & the Arts. He lives in Colorado Springs with his family.

1. Where did the idea for Jim Hawkins come from?

Response: Years back a guy told me the basic story of Lawrence Rockwood. Rockwood was a US soldier stationed in Haiti who was appalled by the inhuman prison conditions. He kept complaining through official channels but that worked about as well as you’d expect. Finally he put on his kit and marched in…. Recently the NYT ran a nice piece about one of our soldiers who was sickened by the fact that our Afghan ally kept a little boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. The US soldier kicked the guy’s ass for him (and of course was fired for doing so). I’ve heard a dozen similar stories. Just because it’s the rule doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Perfect kind of character for a crime book.

2. Tell us about old money vs. new. Why did you choose that as one of a few backdrops to what Hawkins unwittingly comes up against?

Response: That’s a great question. I have no idea. In real life I haven’t met that many people with old money, but I’ve liked every single one of them. I wish I had some old money myself.

3. This was one of my favorite passages in the novel, especially the last line, which I believe is a humbling fact for most (if not all) of us. “Now, you may think, Rich Lady! She orders you around like a servant! That wasn’t the situation. Yes, Sarah had her ideas about how things should be. This is the trap of money and Sarah wasn’t immune. No one is. A lady with extensive property makes a decision every ten minutes—which car? Which restaurant? Which house?—and the habit becomes a trait. Authority rewires the brain. You forget what people are for. That happens to everyone.” Has this been your experience? Do people with major coin have rewired brains because of it?

Response: Yeah, authority rewires the brain. Regrettably. A line in a favorite book haunts my life: “Have you ever known a schoolmaster fit to associate with grown men?” I’m a college teacher, prating at college students ten months a year. I go home every night and prate to my poor kids. I’m fated to become an unbearable jackass (what’s that the wife is saying? I’m already…?) Every May, at the end of the school year, I fantasize about moving to a monastery with a vow of silence. I am so fucking tired of my own voice: blah blah blah. What a dick.

4. Picking up on some of the passages I loved, here’s another statement from on high (money): She spun me a theory about great men. It was different for great men. All we could hope for was to be of some assistance. I immediately thought of Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov. Is that what you were aiming at?

Response: Again, great question. I didn’t have Raskolnikov in mind—I don’t know the Russians as well as I should—but I’ll take the Dostoevsky comparison all day long.

5. As much as I hate to admit it, especially since he took a major misrepresentative cheap shot at Bernie Sanders in the Miami paper he writes for, I was immediately comparing White Shark to the Carl Hiaasen environmental novels. Humorous, cynical, clever and cool … very cool. I think I preferred White Shark because of the depth of your cool vs. Hiaasen’s cool. I especially enjoyed how your protagonist was so much more innocent than I remember Hiaasen’s star. Hawkins crept up on me, his military background/prowess, etc., and I thought that was very effective. Even in affairs of the heart, Hawkins was a very reasonable dude. Hiaasen supports a fracking queen, which negates his environmental angst for me. Hawkins doesn’t seem all that concerned with the environment per se, and is more concerned with how people treat one another. Was that a conscious decision you made for him? I like it, because there’s more reality to it (than we’d all like to admit about ourselves). We don’t root for environmental disasters, but we don’t do much to avoid them. Hawkins is focused on people. Is that because of his background experiences in Africa, or is it because there’s only so much room and time for a particular cause/crusade?

Response: Jeez I like your reading of Hawkins. He wouldn’t pay attention to any “-ism,” even a virtuous one like environmentalism. None of them register.

6. White Shark is a page turner, and a fun one at that. It’s also extremely smart writing. The dirty retired government official was all too credible, especially with the shit we see day-to-day from our illustrious government and the clowns holding office. Land development vs. environmental concerns loom in the background of White Shark. Was this all a master plan or did it come about as you progressed in the story. I guess this is a process question. Was it outlined with those ideas in your head or did it come as you wrote?

Response: The choice of bad guys probably reveals my own biases (except they’re not biases but sound political wisdom). I didn’t plan the book very well and had to revise a lot. I went to years of writing school but we wrote short stories and didn’t talk about plotting. Or maybe I wasn’t paying attention. Anyway, no master plan, though I did know the essential crime from the start.

7. Where does Hawkins go after his stint on Nausset Island? Is there another Hawkins novel in the works? I hope so.

Response: One more in the oven. How on earth did Jim Hawkins end up as a substitute Sheriff in rural Wyoming? At least nothing can go wrong in a boring place like that….

8. You grew up in a very literary family, not to mention the ultimate Renaissance man environment. When did you start writing? What age, subject matter, etc.?

Response: I do come from a reading family. Growing up, everyone had a book going—your book—as in, “it’s going to be a long drive, grab your book.” Another nice thing about my family background was that being a writer was about the best thing you could be. Really. Most families would love their kids to be an astronaut or play quarterback for the Cowboys. Or get rich—maybe that’s the most common thing we want for our kids, so that we never have to worry. But my house was wall-to-wall books. I loved everything about them—the musty smell, the covers—these worlds were out of reach.

9. You have an MA and from Southern Mississippi and a PhD from the University of Denver. What are your thoughts on graduate writing schools?

Response: I know that people complain about writing schools, but those years certainly helped me. Going in, my work was terrible. Coming out, my work was somewhat less terrible. I also had a good time. I liked all the people and teachers. I’ll try a New York accent: C’mon, what d’ya want? (forgive me.)

10. Should they entertain genre fiction or continue to exist with a pickle up their asses?

Response: Ha! You know what’s a common phenomenon? You get on an airplane coming home from a big professor conference—MLA or something—and all these scholars are reading Stephen King or Fifty Shades of Grey. Anybody who reads books reads some kind of genre fiction. It’s true that some professors stop reading altogether. On the airplane they’re re-watching The Matrix on DVD.

11. Two Harvard graduates (you and your sister, Nicole), and an Air Force Academy graduate (your brother, Kyle). That’s some seriously impressive parenting. I think I remember your Dad saying he used to pay you guys to read based on the size of the book. X amount for so many pages, etc. Which book was your biggest payday? Did you enjoy it or was it something to bring to the labor board?

Response: I know I didn’t get any money for Elmore Leonard. I got twenty bucks apiece for the Will Durant history series. The whole policy made a lot of sense. My friends were flipping burgers for three bucks an hour. If you were a parent, and you could afford to, who wouldn’t make that deal?

12. Your kids … are you following the free market coin for books approach with them or have you altered the program? If so, how have you altered it?

Response: My kids? They don’t know what books are. They just steal the money out of my wallet when I’m asleep.

13. Your favorite novel and why?

Response: How about Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim? I’ve read it thirty or forty times and each time I’ve laughed aloud.

14. How in the world did you and your brother, two kids growing up in North Dakota (where the closest NFL team was the Minnesota Vikings) wind up Dallas Cowgirl fans? Was it strictly jumping on a winning team bandwagon or was it a romanticized version of rooting for a team full of felons (i.e., the underdogs make good)? And please tell me that you and Kyle haven’t brainwashed Nicole into being a Dallas fan as well.

Response: To some people, I know, it is odd to be a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. I understand that. But remember my childhood was different. I was born here in America.

Kill Anything That Moves, by Nick Turse … An important book, especially to those partway through high school, but also to pretty much everyone else, because it rips away the bloated super-hyped glory of going to war, being in war, and surviving war. It remains a very tough book for me to read. That’s right, I haven’t finished it yet.

So, how do you review it, Knucks?

Calm your jets and I’ll tell you … a little at a time, because the non-stop documentation of the hundreds, maybe thousands of My Lai Massacres that took place over the course of the “conflict in Vietnam” are very tough (at least for me) to comprehend. I don’t intend or want to browbeat the soldiers involved in these massacres, because although there were war crimes pretty much constantly committed, the war crimes themselves were U.S. Military policy. The soldiers, often caught in terrified situations, especially after one of their own was wounded or killed, reacted the way none of us might imagine, yet can understand (if we take the time to visualize the mess). So, yeah, the Lt. William Calley fucked up, but so did all those behind the scenes, from higher-ups in country to the assholes running things in Washington D.C.

I’ll eventually finish reading the book, but I really had to take a break because the documentation of devastation and murder and rape and pillage was just too much to handle straight through. Like I said, it’s an important book … and especially for those young men who think it’s all for glory and honor they’re shipped overseas to kill people who never did a thing against them.

The Trump Implosion … I suspect nobody is more disappointed than me in the Orange Blowhard’s (a.k.a. The Donald’s) self-implosion. Not because I supported this lunatic, but because I believed, and still do, that he’s just a big blowhard with nothing to offer or accomplish if ever elected President. I also thought it would be great for America to be exposed -- how absurd our political system/culture has become—the fact a complete buffoon can win a major party nomination is bad enough, but top it off with the Presidency? Man, that’s just entertainment. Frankly, as a country that can’t manage to achieve (or maybe doesn’t want to) more than 50% of the public to even show up to vote, we deserve the fiasco we’ve sowed.

Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump … a congenital liar, war hawk, bribe-taking, criminal versus an absolute clown. There’s “American Exceptionalism” for you.

As a Bernie supporter, I’ve already turned to the Green Party … I can only hope Sanders doesn’t cave and wind up endorsing the very kind of corruption his campaign fought against. Should he do so, he loses my support and winds up being just another pol in my book. I could care less about best intentions. You don’t endorse what you claim you were fighting (pay attention Mika Brzezinski—your constant complaining about GOP officials supporting the Orange Blowhard are getting old—try asking Elizabeth Warren why she dodged a simple “yes”/”no” question regarding whether or not Hillary Clinton should release her Wall Street transcripts?).

Speaking of Warren, Bernie should pay attention to how unfavorably she’s been received by progressives since her sellout. She’s hated now, and deservedly so.

If Bernie really wants to generate a political revolution, he’d hustle his ass over to the Jill Stein and the Green Party, which has been begging for his presence for years now.


One from Column A and one from Column B …

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Book Review: A Dangerous Lesson (Dana King) … New Hampshire/Spotlight Publicity … Crime Fiction Lover on Tommy Red … Next Week in TK …

Author, Dana King, is having a very good year. The Man in the Window (a Nick Forte Mystery), has been nominated for a Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original. This is King’s second nomination for the Shamus Award. If that isn’t enough, his Pittsburgh Penguins may well win the Stanley Cup tonight out west in San Jose.

And if that isn’t enough, his latest entrée into the world of Private Investigator novels, A Dangerous Lesson, is another rock solid page turner, featuring some of the cleverest writing you’ll find anywhere.

A Dangerous Lesson, by Dana King … Nick Forte always had a rough edge to him, but in this terrific new novel by Dana King, he’s confronted with a situation that could break any man. It’s a throwback style of Private Investigator writing I admire no end—cynical, self-deprecating, sarcastic, and clever as all hell. I started highlighting particular lines that made me smile, but was soon coloring my copy—there are that many. You can open up the book to any page and find one or two, or as many as half a dozen. Here are just a few:

Sharon’s wavy ash-blond hair and green eyes could make a guy falling off a building stop for a closer look.

Sharon got hit on more often than a driving range.

Sharon called us over after Game Two and had me cut the cake: chocolate with white icing, trimmed in black like a horse-drawn hearse. A six-inch tombstone stuck out of the icing with “Happy? 40th” written on it. She and Jan lit forty individual candles, Joey pointing out any they skipped in the midst of the conflagration. A firefighter from the station up the street stood by holding an ax and a garden hose.

Then came the gifts. A cane with wheels and a rearview mirror. Metamucil. Depends. Vanessa said she’d give me her gift later. Tony said he’d figured that and gave me a pill the size of my thumb with “Viagra” written on it.

Sharon’s wavy ash-blond hair and green eyes could make a guy falling off a building stop for a closer look.

Sharon got hit on more often than a driving range.

Even more out of place than I was, he resembled a cop the way Bradley Cooper resembles a garbage man.

“That boy’s so dumb, you moved his plate five inches he’d starve to death. Let’s keep an eye on him when this breaks up.”

Nick Forte is the essence of a Renaissance man. He’s played music with orchestras and knows his musical history, he’s a sports fan, well-read, and a genuine tough enough guy not to have to take shit from punks. He’s also a divorced parent with a very talented and smart daughter, a past career with the police, and a protective streak that can get a person into trouble.

Pay attention to the Friedrich Nietzsche epigraph prior to the prologue. He who fights against monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster in the process. And when you stare persistently into an abyss, the abyss also stares into you.

In the prologue to A Dangerous Lesson, Nick comes across a guy manhandling a woman (his wife). Nick is with his own date, but intervenes. The scene is the perfect backdrop and sign of things to come.

There are no spoilers in TK reviews. We prefer you buy the books, but suffice it to say, the journey the author takes his readers on is one that will never disappoint. The recurring characters in this wonderful series are engaging; the kind of characters you miss when they aren’t on the page you’re reading, and then make you smile when they’re back. In the backdrop to A Dangerous Lesson, a serial killer is terrorizing the city. Although the killer has nothing to with Nick’s initial P.I. job—investigating a meatball apparently looking to rip-off the granddaughter of a monied French woman—the killer does interrupt Nick’s world. The old lady who hired Nick is concerned the guy looking to marry her granddaughter is a gigolo with the worst intentions. She hired Nick to learn as much about the dude as he can, especially if it’ll convince her granddaughter to walk away from the bum.

And then there are those women being cut-up rather surgically in the city, and Nick’s friends on the force (some of those wonderful recurring characters in the series), are frustrated for lack of evidence to capture whomever it is doing the brutal killings.

Back to the Prologue where Nick stopped a woman from being beaten by her husband. There’s been a similar situation in Nick’s past when a lawyer he was trying to help leave her abusive husband didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to. Eloise Marshall haunts Nick and she is on his mind when he helps and then befriends the diminutive Josefina (Josie).

This is a terrific read, start to finish. King’s dialogue is loaded with wittiness and wonderful reflections of the culture we often label Americana. The women Nick deals with are burdened, it seems, by his chivalry, and there are twists and turns in the plot that will further engage readers. Like I said earlier, a page turner.

And remember to pay attention to Mr. Nietzsche.

Dana King’s Nick Forte series is a throwback to the best of yesteryear’s P.I. novels blessed by our modern day madness. A Dangerous Lesson is a brilliant piece of writing, perhaps the best of the series, except I distinctly remember feeling the same way about the others. If there’s a modern day Mike Hammer (minus the superhero persona), it is Nick Forte, except I like Nick a lot more.

King and a few other authors (fearing I’d leave one out, I’ll not name the ones I can remember) have made me a genuine fan of the P.I. novel and tales told in first person. Not an easy task when it comes to this curmudgeon (me). It’s a wonderful read, amici. The entire Nick Forte series is.

Get A Dangerous Lesson here:

In 2014, his P.I. novel, A Small Sacrifice (reviewed here), was nominated for Best Indie P.I. novel.

Visit Dana’s Blog here:

Some pictures from New Hampshire, where we took Tommy Red on the road with the help of Wendie Appel (that's her behind me) and her operation, Spotlight Publicity.


New Hampshire … it was GREAT catching up with so many former teachers and fellow students in New Hampshire last week as we took Tommy Red on the road with the help of Spotlight Publicity … Wendie Appel runs the show at Spotlight. She arranged the signings and a wonderful radio interview with Ken Cail at The Pulse (107.7 WTPL). Ken is the voice of the Manchester Monarchs Hockey Team and he had a bunch of great stories to tell me about some of our Tampa Bay Lightning Bolts (like Brian Boyle sitting in with Ken and doing a game on radio). Aside from visiting with friends, Ken’s broadcast was the highlight of the trip for me.

Visit Spotlights Publicity here:

Crime Fiction Lover review of Tommy Red: “Tommy Red builds to an explosive climax that should satisfy readers looking for action, while at the same time offering complex characterization and thematic complexity that is beyond the reach of most crime novels.”

Next Week in TK … Interview with Ross Gresham, author of White Shark.

— Knucks

It's Charlie these days, but look at what I found ... a Johnny Porno trailer.