Summer Reading

With the unofficial start of summer less than two weeks away, it’s a good time to take a look at some of what’s out there to read while you are at the beach, pool or at home with your air conditioning turned up high.  Here are some books that are on my list to read this summer.

spenserI have been a big admirer of Robert B. Parker’s sparse style for many years. Since his  death Ace Atkins has primarily taken over writing his Spenser series, and doing it with the same sharp dialogue and flavor as the master. Little White Lies is the latest. 

SinceJust published, Dennis Lehane’s latest has been getting rave reviews. I have to admit, I have not read any of Lehane’s earlier books, however from what I have read, Since We Fell, is a bit different from his previous endeavors. That’s fine with me, since I am coming to him with fresh eyes.

jacksonShirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin came out in September of last year. It’s been on my read list since I read the many positive reviews. The book made both the New York Times and Washington Post notable picks for 2016.

Wrong Side  Late

 

I have been reading, and listening to Michael Connelly a lot lately. Watching Amazon’s fantastic Bosch series sparked my interest to dig into Connelly’s backlog of work. Not one disappointing read yet.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye is Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch novel (published 11/16) which I still have not read. Coming in July is The Late Show with  a new character, Renee Ballard, a once on the rise detective, now stuck on the night shift.

Forever JuneIn June, Hard Case Crime will publish legendary crime novelist, Donald Westlake’s Forever and a Death. The backstory on this never before released work is fascinating. About twenty years ago, the producers of the James Bond films hired Westlake to write a story treatment for a new Bond film. The treatment was never used due to political concerns at the time with China. Westlake took the story and turned it into an original novel which was never published during his lifetime.  It’s seeing the light of day for the first time.

ExposureStuart Woods’ Stone Barrington is a guilty pleasure. Barrington is one of those characters who has it all: looks, money, beautiful women and influential friends. He also manages to get himself in plenty of trouble, but not before buying another house, he has at least five, and bedding just about every woman he meets. The books have varied in quality lately, but are light fun reads.

HighCasa

Three film related books on my shelf that sound like absorbing reads are Glenn Frankel’s High Noon: Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic and Noah Isenberg’s We’ll Always Have Casablanca. Being an admirer of both films, these books are making me salivate. You can read a review I wrote on High Noon here.

IMG_4817.JPGLast but not least on the film front is Dan Van Neste’s new biography of Ricardo Cortez which is a must read.

HemingwayHemingway’s Cats – This book  came out in 2015, but it only recently came to my attention while I was doing some research about authors and cats for a future post I am looking to write. The macho Hemingway love animals and had a special affection for cats.  Throughout his life, from childhood to his suicidal end, the author had cats in his life. Author Carlene Brennan chronicles the felines in Hemingway’s life in words and photos.

Libraries Are Essential!

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Libraries are sanctuaries for learning. They are storage facilities filled with knowledge providing precious resources for current and future generations. Many books and periodicals no longer available anywhere else are preserved in libraries. Libraries are essential research conduits for writers, doctors, business people, scientist and just about everyone else. They are also on the frontlines against censorship.IMG_1486Bette Davis fights censorship in Storm Center

Today, libraries are not just for books and periodicals. Today, libraries have audio books and movies available for loan. They provide free classes on computer training and other educational opportunities. They present art exhibits, film showings, author presentations, talks, and a multitude of other programs for adults and kids. Libraries are a central part of your home town.

The first modern day public supported library opened in Peterborough, New  Hampshire back in 1833.

Don’t let local politicians ever tell you, when they want to cut funding, libraries are not essential. Today, more than ever, they are a fundamental fabric of each and every community.

The first two images below are of the New York Public Library (main branch). It’s the second largest in the world.

Public

 

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The following photographs are of two small libraries in quaint  New England towns.

Southwest Harbor Public Library Maine-0336

Southwest Harbor, Maine Library

Hancock Vt. Library-DSCN0952-0952

Hancock, Vermont Library

Use, support, defend and fight for your library!

New Release: Devious Tales

devious-tales-book-cover-final-1-of-1Devious Tales is my new collection of short stories consisting of 12 dark tales with a twist. It’s available as both an e-book and a paperback from Amazon and as a paperback from CreateSpace. The paperback edition contains two bonus stories. Check out the summary below.

Holcomb Bridge
Holcomb Bridge has been a secluded and romantic make out spot for the local teenagers for many years, but that changed one late night.

Amanda
Photographer Derek Shaw’s life changes in both good and bad ways after he meets Karen, the new love in his life, and her two kids, Gerald and Amanda.

Late Night Diner
Some people like working the over night shift. Others need to. It gives their demons and nightmares a place to escape.

Smart Like Dillinger
Love, even in old age, can take an unforeseen turn.

An Almost Perfect Woman
Judy was perfect…well almost. She did have one little problem.

Life Lesson
For young Bobby Smithfield there are some lessons you never recover from.

The Organic Garden
A bad marriage and an organic garden make for a delicious mix of ingredients that will make your garden grow.

An Office Romance
Office romances can be great; they can also be bad. However, sometimes it’s just what you need when your life is about to take a deadly turn.

The Anniversary Surprise
As Brad Hollis discovers, surprises do not always turn out quite as you anticipate.

The Old Man
Young Billy Atwood becomes friends with an old man who lives in his apartment building. Their relationship is short lived, but for Billy there’s an unexpected twist of fate.

A Merry Little Christmas Gift
The holidays can brings out the worst in everyone, and does in this Christmas treat.

Call Waiting
Can old lovers come back and haunt you? Well, not if they are dead…or can they?

Devious Tales – Now Available as a Paperback

devious-tales-book-cover-final-1-of-1Devious Tales: 12 Short Stories is now available as a paperback! The paperback version includes two bonus stories. Both were previously published in Murder with a Twist. You can get you copy here at CreateSpace. It will also be available on Amazon in  a few days. The e-book is now available here at Amazon.

Devious Tales – New e-Book Coming Soon

devious-tales-book-cover-final-1-of-1My latest e-book of short stories is nearing completion. I am happy to share some information including the book cover and title. The collection will consist of twelve tasty tales of twisted love, revenge, money, lust and murder. Here are the titles of the stories included:

Holcomb Bridge

Late Night Diner

Smart Like Dillinger

The Old Man

Amanda

Call Waiting

An Anniversary Surprise

An Almost Perfect Woman

An Office Romance

Life Lesson

 A Merry Little  Christmas Gift

The Organic Garden

That’s it for now. Will keep you posted.

 

Coming Soon to TCM

golddiggers-of-1933Two films featured in my book, Lessons in the Dark, will be coming soon to TCM. Tonight at 10:15PM (Eastern) the superb Great Depression era musical Gold Diggers on 1933. The film stars Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell along with an excellent supporting cast that includes Aline McMahon, Ned Sparks, Guy Kibbee and Billy Barty.

grapes-of-wrath-3On Friday (Feb. 10th) at 8PM (Eastern) don’t miss John Ford’s masterful production of John Steinbeck’s classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Henry Fonda stars as Tom Joad. The cast includes Academy Award winner Jane Darwell and John Carradine. Look for a very young Darryl Hickman (Dobie Gillis) in a small role.

You can read more about both of these films plus others in Lessons in the Dark. Below I have reprinted the Introduction to the book.

Introduction – Lessons in the Dark

Why these films, why this book and why this collection you ask? It’s simple enough to answer. A few years ago I did a series of articles for Halo-17, a now defunct Australian music and arts website. One of the editors discovered my blog, I assume liked it, and asked if I would be interested in writing a column about classic films. The only caveat was that I had to make the films I wrote about connect to what was happening in today’s world. I needed to show readers how these old black and white films were still relevant. Illustrate how history repeats itself and there are lessons to be learned even from a film that is seventy years old.

   Well, the requirement set forth by the folks at Halo-17 turned out to be simpler than I thought. As I began to look at films from this perspective I realized many films whether twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years old or more remain relevant. They had something to say about us today as well as years ago. Life and art repeat themselves. As the poet, novelist and philosopher, George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” Classic films help us remember the past, both the good and the bad. Sometimes they even predict the future as it did in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957) and Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), both which forecast the reality TV and political circus we are forced to endure today. A film like Black Legion (1937) teaches us about hating someone who’s different, how people get sucked into hatred or blaming immigrants for taking jobs from “real Americans.” Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of Will (1935) presented Adolph Hitler as Germany’s savior, a leader who would bring glory back to Germany by once again making it a great power! This Nazi rhetoric, the fear mongering, is awfully familiar to what we hear today from plastic gods with simplistic solutions promising to make America great again as they feed on the hate.

This collection of essays is divided into various sections focusing on specific themes. Each contains essays on films. Though “old” they speak about or reflect on the times we are living in today. Every one of these films remains pertinent to our current lives. Not all are great cinematically, yet there are lessons or messages to be learned. Some films are more direct in their ideas, others are more understated. There are even a few films that put forth a message or point of view for most of the film and then reverse course in the final moments. Why? Censorship sometimes exposes its ugly head or maybe the filmmakers or the studios got cold feet. Whatever the reason, it’s all part of what makes these films fascinating and worth watching and discussing.

    Part One looks at films from or about the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  As we continue to come out of our recent Great Recession that has been hanging over us since 2008, one can read into many of these films the similarities, the hard times and uncertainty we have all recently endured. In Part Two there are films exploring the absurdities of war and its effects on the men and women on the front line and back at home. Part Three contains a couple of films that reveal the influences of the news media on our lives. Part Four takes a look at social injustice. In Part Five we look at films about discrimination. In Part Six we see how the pre-code era gave us a look at tough, strong, independent and progressive women. Finally, in Part Seven, a section that is a catch all. It contains a variety of topics that we still deal with and affect our lives today.

   “Old” films are not just nostalgic. They entertain, or at least attempt to, however, they are also avenues for learning and a passageway to take a look at ourselves as we were then and are now. Movies hold up a mirror to both our past, our lives today and our future. We can see how far we have come; the mistakes that we made, the choices we made, both the good and the bad. Hopefully we are able to learn, realize the bad and not repeat them.

   The majority of these essays first appeared on my blog, Twenty Four Frames. I began the blog almost eight years ago, like many others, as a place to share my love of movies. The blog has evolved over time as I believe I have myself. During a lifetime of watching movies I have discovered new roads to travel and lessons learned. I hope you, the reader, will too.