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, November 20, 2016

Three Book Reviews … Post Election Blues …

Resurrection Mall, by Dana King … Doc Dougherty is back. The author’s Penns River series is a winner, and the latest installment, Resurrection Mall, tops the list. Penns River is pretty much everywhere in America, a town down on its luck from manufacturing that has flown the coop to foreign shores. It is an economically devastated town with the usual problems that follow: a rising crime rate that includes real estate carpetbaggers seeking a quick property flip or cheap investment and the concomitant crime. Last time we visited Penns River in Grind Joint, a Russian mobster had staked a claim on a casino operation. Casinos are often sold because of all the well-paying jobs they will bring to the community. No matter the same idea is draining money from those with jobs. Now that the casino is up and running in Penns River, the petty crimes have begun to up and run as well. Homes are being ripped off. Tool sheds are missing tools. Citizens are hanging on in what’s left of the good areas but are starting to feel the pinch as burglars look to score a quick fix and expand their territory.

The unavoidable drug trade that is always present in wealthy and/or depressed neighborhoods has staked a claim in Penns River. A Minister Lewis has invested in a mall for the sake of the community and his flock. It is called Resurrection Mall. Lewis is a busy man and requires help in administering all the responsibilities involved in running a church, never mind the reconstruction of an abandoned mall. While malls usually bring the kids in for whatever forms of entertainment are popular at the time, it also brings in the dealers looking to score a new user or ten.

Meanwhile, back at home, Doc’s father is giving him shit about the stolen tools from a friend’s shed and all the other petty crimes going on in the community. Doc has his own official issues to deal with, including the in-house fighting at the department and the influence the casino has with the mayor and the police. Cars are being stolen from the casino lot. Not a good thing. Whether a gambler has won or lost, the last thing he wants to deal with is an empty parking spot where his car used to be.

The in-house Dougherty exchanges are classics. King’s dialogue is top of the line. You quickly latch onto Doc and his family and friends and never want to put the book down.

Shortly after his Sunday night dinner with his parents, Doc is confronted with a big mess, the result of an apparent drug war. Five are killed, but somebody close to Doc, somebody from Grind Joint (see review here:), Wilver Faison, saw the entire thing go down. Doc wants to protect Wilver, but the kid, now 16, is terrified at least one of the hit team saw him.

No spoilers here. Trust me on the author’s ability to write a brilliant novel. Doc Dougherty is the cop we all want in our communities. A veteran at his trade, Doc is smart and disciplined, but not over the top. His best personality trait is the fact he’s reasonable. He’s willing to listen and isn’t easily maneuvered by the powers that be. In Penns River, his immediate boss is a family friend and someone Doc respects, but everybody has to deal with the politicians overseeing the police and those willing to serve the politicians ahead of the community. There’s usually more than one in every precinct, the brown noses, the by-the-book sycophants, and it’s no different in Penns River.

This is a terrific novel you’ll want to read, and if you haven’t read King’s other Penns Rivers novels, you’ll want to read those also.

Check out Down and Out Books here:
Check out Dana’s works here:

Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh … You like dark? You like funny? You like funny-dark? Then get this baby. Eileen is a single 24 year old living with her father, an alcoholic retired cop. Dad verbally abuses Eileen a dozen times a day and for a dozen different reasons. He cracks nasty about her looks, her inability to find a man, and the disparity between her and a more attractive sister who has flown the coop and has her own life. Dad also sees gangsters where they’re not. Eileen tells us she is unhappy and that she hates everything. She’s telling us this some thirty plus years removed from her life with Dad and her job at a prison for boys in Massachusetts. Her alcoholic mother has been dead for five years, but she often recalls lying in bed with the corpse the night Mom died. Her life seems analogous to coexisting alongside the living dead.

She has issues with her body—“I hated my face with a passion”—but she isn’t immune to sexual attraction. There’s a guard at the prison she often stalks on her days off, just to get a look at Randy, and to spark another fantasy or two. She is mostly invisible to everyone, except her father and his abuse. She’s happy to run out to the liquor store and purchase his daily bottle of gin for the sake of peace and quiet once he passes out. She can take some solace in her room in the cold attic because it’s as far away from Dad as possible. Dad tends to fall asleep in a broken recliner in a filthy kitchen neither of them have any intention of cleaning.

It’s a dour look at life, and it reminded me of Bukowski’s Barfly, where one might substitute the sale of a short story and a fling with a publisher for a newfound friendship with a new hire at the prison, somebody who not only sees Eileen, she befriends her. Rebecca is a hot redhead with a Harvard degree and a screw or two loose of her own, albeit for altruistic reasons. That has to do with an ending that is a wonderfully dark surprise. The novel takes course over a seven-day reflection of Eileen’s mostly miserable life in 1960. It’s a PEN/Hemingway Award winner (whatever the fuck that means, but I’ll assume I should always mention a writing award … and so Eileen has also been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize). Bottom line: If you’re into a dark dose of life with some great humor, this baby is something you’ll want to read. I loved it.
Get Eileen here:
Earthquake Weather, Terrill Lankford … Want to know something about Hollywood? Read this baby. It’s a dark but humorous trip to and through Hollywood portraying all the jealousy, deceit, greed, lust, and vengeance required of the players seeking a seat at the table. Mark Hayes is a creative executive with a dream of making his own movies. He works for a top notch scumbag, Dexter Morton, who takes pleasure in his ability to do as he pleases since his recent success with a movie that has earned enough to make him relevant in the industry. Dexter is the big boss man of Prescient Pictures.

The aftermath of a serious earthquake leaves the town in tatters as Mark’s known but not neighborly neighbors filter out of the building where he lives. They are all in an immediate quest for survival from the rubble of aftershocks. Neighbor meets neighbor, and coincidences emerge. A party thrown by the boss man, Dexter Morton, brings some of the coincidental people into play, but when the host is found floating face down in his pool, hairpiece askew, the following morning by Mark, he becomes a prime suspect in Morton’s sudden demise.

The hot girlfriend, Charity James, of the dead man took issue with him the night of the party and stabbed him in the ass. A few others in attendance mentioned how they wouldn’t mind it so much if the boss didn’t wake up one morning, but it’s Mark who found him, so it’s Mark the police are interested in speaking with. And they do, a few times, but in the meantime there’s shenanigans aplenty, including the appearance of a rattlesnake intended to end Mark, a few tussles with gangbangers of consequence (you don’t spit into the wind or insult Bloods or Crips), and there’s the issue of the minor starlet/former girlfriend (Charity) of the dead guy, who has managed to embed herself in Mark’s life because he was told to get her out of there (the party) after the stabbing incident. Of course Mark brought her home, but without ill intentions. Still, she became comfortable with Mark’s roommate, and eventually comfortable in a one-timer with Mark, but her follow-up act was with gangbangers, and nothing good was going to come from that.

The author takes us on a dark but fun trip through the Hollywood subculture of movie makers and shakers. Mark is self-deprecating enough to win our sympathy, even when he does nasty stuff, but we’re with his better angels throughout, including his wanting to help that overthrown starlet. No spoilers here, but the ending occurs just after the O.J. alleged double murder (alleged my ass), and it’s a lot of fun getting there. So much so, I’d intended to write the review for a December post, but wasn’t willing to put this one down long enough to wait.

Get Earthquake Weather here:

The Electoral Blues … never let it be said that Knucks can call a Super Bowl winner … or an election. The shocker on November 8 was met with great joy at Casa Stella, although we had no idea it would happen. Now, to clarify, we weren’t celebrating the Orange Blowhard’s victory. No sir/No ma’am. We were celebrating the temporary death of the Clintons’ presidential aspirations. I say temporary because we all know Chelsea’s “turn” will be coming along soon enough. We’re in no hurry for that spoiled brat (“earning” $600,000 fresh out of college? Really?) to make her way to center stage. Now that the DNC has taken one in the chops, maybe it will clean the sewer it has become and reform itself.

No, we won’t be counting on it. My Demexit remains in place until further notice.

What I’ve found comical (yes, comical) since the election result is the amount of high drama expressed by those who voted blue no matter who (Democrat lemmings) and/or Hillary loyalists. The world is coming to an end. Racism has been validated … Hell, some claim bigotry has been mandated, as if it not only never existed before, but it now has an official call to arms. None of what occurred under Obama’s tenure, much the same way as any of his decisions and/or indecisions, is either remembered or called to account. How could it be? He was the cool president, no drama Obama. It’s a nice crock of shit if you want to swallow it. Sure, some of the yahoos are feeling their oats these days, but how long does anyone really think that’ll last before they’re caught and have to pay the price for being assholes? I’ll go out on a limb and say things will settle down from whatever peak they’ve reached, and I’m not so sure it’s all that much higher than what is normal in our institutionalized racist America.

The bottom line is Progressives will continue the fight for a voice in our government on domestic and foreign policy. We will not capitulate to the corrupt powers all too willing to sellout to corporate and Wall Street interests. We will not buy into the nonsense about the lesser of two evils, which is exactly how the Democrat Party become so powerful and corrupt. Ultimately, it’s how the party shot itself in the foot. The incremental change we’ve been told to swallow for three decades has gone in one direction, and it hasn’t been in the interests of the middle class, the poor, or minorities.


Here’s what we believe has happened to Democrat voters over the years. Carey Wedler seems to have nailed it pretty good. So, hopefully yeah, welcome back to the resistance, bitches.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

2 Days to Armageddon … Kyle Carey Kickstarter … J.R. Jarrod reviews Dr. Strange … The Case for Unaccountable Power … RIP Ed Gorman …

2 Days to Armageddon … while early voting has been going on for a couple of weeks, the rest of America goes to the polls on November 8. The two entries from the two major political parties have the lowest approval/trustworthy numbers in history. One has a huge resume, but a horrendous performance record. Oh, she’s made plenty of decisions, but they’ve mostly turned into monumental disasters (i.e., Iraq, Libya, Syria). The other major participant is a throwback to vaudeville, and that’s being nice. The GOP nominee is without a doubt the most unqualified presidential candidate in my lifetime. He knows little, if anything, about the office he seeks (i.e., what it entails, its constitutional limits, etc.). What Donald Trump does have is a celebrity name at least equal to his main rival, Hillary Clinton. People recognize him and his brand and they aren’t interested in the background details of that brand. Nor do they care that hardly anything that comes out of his mouth is a truth. So what he’s stiffed workers at every opportunity? So what he buys cheap from China and Japan? So what he has more lawsuits pending than, as my Aunt Josephine used to say, Carter has pills?
Clinton is likely to win because Trump is atrocious to people in general. Also, her political machine, exposed as corrupt as the Gambino crime family this past year, is on the ground and running at full speed. She has the big name surrogates pleading her case, even if they hate one another, because the Obama legacy tour is in deep trouble should Clinton lose. If she wins, however, it’ll be because of Trump and all his horrendous behavior. I suspect it’ll be his behavior that trumps, so to speak, his incredible lack of knowledge about pretty much everything.
On the other hand, should Clinton lose, she’ll have nobody to blame but herself. Not the 1-4% of Jill Stein voters like myself, nor James Comey and the FBI. Hillary Clinton is a magnet for scandals of her own doing. Between the emails and her and her husband’s foundation, there are probably 3 or 4 RICO indictments ready to fly. If Trump is the next president (try hearing yourself say that a few times), Clinton is likely to face a genuine prosecution. For now, between Obama and the Justice Department she so sloppily ran while secretary of state, she has built in protections better than the juries John Gotti rigged in two of his criminal trials.
The other candidates, Gary “Aleppo” Johnson and Jill Stein, will be nowhere to be found come election night. Those of us voting for either do not kid ourselves about the votes we’ll make. Neither has a chance in hell of winning, but that’s the way the system is set up: two major parties representing the interests of the corporate elite perform a sideshow election for entertainment and venting purposes. People get to YELL at one another in social media as they argue their candidate’s cases, although this year, the only case to be made for either of the two major candidates is an attack on the other.
But what if Trump wins? He’s stupid and crazy.
What if Clinton wins? She’s corrupt and vindictive.
Frankly, I look forward to next week’s election, and not because it’ll finally be over. I hope for a Clinton loss because of what the DNC did to my candidate of choice and all the money and effort I gave to his campaign. I also think it’ll be a blast if Trump is the winner because he really is kind of what this country deserves, and for obvious reasons. I don’t see the political revolution Bernie Sanders championed before he turned lapdog going anywhere should Clinton or Trump win. On the other hand, under Trump I believe the left will not only survive, it will likely thrive as an obvious response come 2020. Under Clinton, I see the left being ground into dust.
So it goes. Let the best worst candidate win!

Kickstarter for Kyle Carey … we’ve done this before and are proud to do it again. Kyle has a gorgeous voice and we look forward to her next album. She sings beautiful Gaelic songs. We donated … you should too.

Doctor Strange non-spoiler review by J.R. Jarrod.
As a comic book fan I was always a D.C. (Detective Comics) guy, and even then it was pretty much just Batman and The Flash, with an occasional Superman binge. In my teens I began dabbling in Marvel tales like Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Punisher, Alpha Flight and a sprinkling of X-Men. I still have the long boxes at home. However, I always glossed over Doctor Strange on the comic book rack. The reason? Whereas there was something easily digestible about D.C. heroes and their origin stories, aside from Spider-Man, Marvel’s heroes seemed mired in a complex miasma of psychological, astrological, astrophysical, geopolitical and psychedelic undergirdings that were just too daunting for a Saturday morning read. I’ve said all that to underscore how much I now love and embrace Marvel Studios’ Marvel Heroes for Dummies approach to their movies. It just plain works, providing an entry point for both the neophyte and the aficionado.
As a self-proclaimed Marvel Dummy I couldn’t wait to finally enter the universe of Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange, created by the legendary Steve Ditko and who first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963). My wife and I even coughed up the loot to see it in 3-D, since that was part of director Scott Derrickson’s overall design for the film. The movie did not disappoint. Easily the most unabashedly visually complex and indulgent of all the Marvel films, this tale is a feast for the eyes. Within the first ten minutes any lingering questions about “to 3-D or not to 3-D” are laid to rest. Cinematically this flick is equal parts The Matrix, Inception and Harry Potter with a tonal sprinkling of TV’s E.R. (don’t ask, just go see it). And wow just wow.
Albeit the requisite superhero origin story, the movie benefits from the “everything’s better with Benedict Cumberbatch” recipe, and he oh-so subtly chews the scenery with aplomb. Though other reviews have compared the arrogant Dr. Stephen Strange to Marvel’s other haughty bad boy Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), I found Strange arguably more sympathetic. Whereas Stark saved his own neck and turned his fortune to the service of others, he never truly underwent a lasting catharsis; Strange, however, loses everything, and in his vehement quest to restore his world he is both abjectly humbled and ultimately truly repents. When given the choice later in the tale to use his newfound abilities to regain what he’s lost, Strange well let’s just say he’s the Marvel hero we deserve and the one we need right now. Honestly I haven’t had this much fun at the movies in a long time.
I as a writer love science-fiction and the supernatural because those genres allow for a very blatant, if not metaphorical, exploration of the true nature of good and evil. In that way Doctor Strange leads Marvel’s cinematic pack by delving into the bittersweet nature of man’s unending quest for immortality and the subsequent woes man endures in attempting to grasp the eternal with hands of clay. Kaecilius, the villain of the film played by Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, Casino Royale), is the embodiment of that ill-fated quest and, as such, is one of Marvel’s more sympathetic antagonists. The film also benefits from key performances by the other-worldly Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, Benedict Wong, a slightly underused but ever-effective Rachel McAdams, and a fantastic cameo by none other than Benjamin Bratt.
Shot on both film and HD, special effects and production values are top-notch, and the musical score by Michael Giacchino is one to remember. With a screenplay by Jon Spaihts, C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange effectively distills decades of the character’s comic book history into a sturdy cinematic template. Stan Lee, former president and chairman of Marvel Comics and creator of many of Marvel’s signature heroes, has his requisite cameo, occurring, as always, when you least expect it. (I’m sincerely hoping that Marvel Studios has had enough foresight to create a digital body double of Stan so that his cameos will continue for the next 200 years!) Doctor Strange features both a mid-credit and a post-credit scene, both of which contain key plot and character payoffs for subsequent MCU tales, so stay for that extra 10 minutes (you won’t regret it).
As much as I loved D.C. Comics as a kid, Marvel Studios has once again taken D.C.’s parent company Warner Bros. to the woodshed, providing another burnished (though admittedly workmanlike) superhero popcorn flick for the masses. When will it ever stop? Given The Ancient One’s revelation of the multiverse, chances are: never. But fear not, Strange will undoubtedly be there to guide us from his Sanctum Sanctorum. As Stan Lee would say: “Excelsior!” Indeed.
The Case for Unaccountable Power … there is none. Remember Richard Nixon? Well, since Tricky Dick we’ve had scandal upon scandal out of the White House, from Iran-Contra to Monica to Katrina to Fast and Furious, but nothing close to the fiasco going on these days. One candidate has two ongoing FBI criminal investigations. The other should have a few himself. The difference, of course, is the Democrat-selected candidate has a love affair with Nixon’s secretary of state (remember the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia?) … and she’s yet to find a war she didn’t like. Tough, yeah, but her draft-dodging husband and non-volunteer daughter aren’t the ones who will fight the next war, and that one may well be with Russia. Since she’s publicly stated she’d nuke Iran, I’m not feeling as secure with her having the nuclear codes as I am with someone who probably would fight a war with tweets.
Unaccountable power is NEVER a good thing, unless you’re into monarchs, I guess. We’re close enough now as the oligarchs rule America, and if you add up the years of Bush-Clinton, it’s pretty fucking frightening. Twenty years of family rule does not a democratic Republic make.
All that said, most people will vote along lemming party lines and then make believe their either conservative or liberal the day after the election.
So it goes.
Ed Gorman … We all know about his prolific and wonderful writing, but this is about the man. Ed, who didn’t know me outside of crime writing, learned I was seeking a new publisher back in 2009. I was close to falling into the crime writing abyss when Ed read my novel, Johnny Porno, and suggested Greg Shepherd of Stark House Press take a look-see. Until 2010, Stark House Press published reprints of classic noir novels. Greg liked Johnny Porno enough to take it on as Stark House’s first original crime novel. What Ed did was save me from the abyss, but there’s more to the story.
Most of yous know I’m not a shy guy. My politics, too left for most, tends to ruffle feathers. To his credit, even when he didn’t agree with me, and Ed was a true liberal, he always tried to counsel me to take a lighter tone in my political rants. So while Ed couldn’t perform miracles, he never turned his back on me.
Ed did more for new and previously published writers than anyone I can think of, and it has been his example that is the driving force behind my doing the same. I’ve been fortunate enough to help a few people get published, but that has everything to do with their talent and me being able to suggest their work—all born of Ed’s never ending generosity.
He is sorely missed within the crime writing community and to those, like myself, who owe him so much.

The Last InternationaleWorkers of the World Unite …

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A tribut to Ed Gorman ...

Ed Gorman …

We all know about his prolific and wonderful writing, but this is a tribute to the man, Ed Gorman. Except for some very kind reviews he wrote for my novels, Ed didn’t know me outside of crime writing. When he learned I was seeking a new publisher back in 2009, when I was close to the crime writing abyss, Ed asked to read Johnny Porno, and then suggested Greg Shepard of Stark House Press also take a look-see. Until 2010, Stark House Press had published reprints of classic noir novels. Greg liked Johnny Porno enough to take it on as Stark House’s first original crime novel. What Ed did was save me from the crime writing abyss, but there’s more to the story.
Most of yous know I’m not a shy guy. My politics, too left for most, tends to ruffle feathers. Even when he didn’t agree with me, Ed tried to counsel me to try and calm some of my political passions. So, he couldn’t perform miracles. Ed never turned his back on me.
Ed also did more for new and previously published writers than anyone I can think of, and it has been his example that is the driving force behind my attempts to do the same. I’ve been fortunate enough to help a few people get published, but that has everything to do with their talent and me being able to suggest their work—all born of Ed’s never ending generosity.
He is sorely missed within the crime writing community and to those, like myself, who owe him so much.

RIP Mr. Gorman