Friday, January 31, 2014

Status Update & New Front Cover For My Second Private Eye Novel

My blogs have settled down to appear a couple of times a week right now as I finish up a couple of book projects. I usually run a Tuesday's Overlooked Films entry and one other blog. One of my current projects is finishing Frank's next hard-boiled adventure titled After the Big Noise. Meantime this is the new cover for my second P.I. Frank Johnson novel The Dirt-Brown Derby. Here is the book description:

Private Investigator Frank Johnson in his second exciting caper is hired by Mary Taliaferro, a wealthy aristocrat owning a horse estate near the affluent city of Middleburg, Virginia. Mary’s teenage daughter Emily has died in a horse riding tragedy. The local law enforcement says it is an accident. However, the grieving Mary thinks it is murder. Frank is broke, and the pile of money Mary offers is too good to pass up, but his case quickly becomes more complicated when her stable manager is murdered one day after he begins his investigation. Frank soon discovers that there is a lot more going on here, and he is determined to get at the truth, even if it kills him!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: The Hatchet Man

Edward G. Robinson stars as a Chinese "hatchet man" (i.e., hit man) in a San Francisco tong (i.e., gang). The 1932 movie was made before the Production Code went into effect, allowing the picture to include and show adultery, narcotics, and a gory hatchet that EGR wields with deadly impact. I liked this short picture even if the Chinese culture is filtered through the 1930s Hollywood prism. Of course, it is non-PC. The always reliable EGR is the main reason to watch The Hatchet Man if you are a fan of his work which I am. The romance angle in the plot works with a real nifty twist at the end. Loretta Young (I didn't even recognize her) plays EGR's young wife who is wooed by a smarmy young Chinese bodyguard (Leslie Felton). I wished some Asian actors (none are used) had appeared in the cast. Entertaining and fairly short, The Hatchet Man earns a 7.0/10.0 rating from me.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

When Typewriters Once Wrote The Words

Meet Hobart Reese of Washington, D.C. This picture of him is from the U.S. Library of Congress archives. In 1922, he created a stir with his dramatic typewriter art. He specialized in doing presidential and movie star portraits. Little is known of what became of Mr. Reese. In the computer age, what he did is easily done with the push of a button. The article caught my eye because his dexterity with a typewriter is in direct contrast with my typist skills. I was all thumbs in trying to type. I took a typing class in the tenth grade and abhorred the typing tests. We had to type as many words possible in a set time and make as few mistakes as possible. My typing tests had all sorts of red corrections made on them. I only passed the class because a buddy who was a natural typist did a few tests for me. I learned on a manual typewriter. The electric ones were too expensive. At any rate, I thought I'd never be worth a spit as a typist. Flash forward a few decades, and I've published fifteen books. So, I guess in that respect I haven't done too badly. But I'd never do the spectacular artwork Hobart Reese did with his typewriter.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Books On My Nightstand Right Now

 I have large nightstand filled with books, of course. I decided to survey what books are currently cluttering up my nightstand. I bought Strunk and White's The Elements of Style while I was in college, and I still have my copy of it. The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing by Richard Hugo is also a favorite book on writing I read. Hugo, a celebrated poet, also wrote murder mysteries. My wife gave me John Grant's fabulous A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide for Christmas. I enjoy watching film noir and Mr. Grant's opinions are similar to my own, so I'll keep it around closeby. My basic Kindle also shares space with my paper books. Right now I'm reading Charles Williams' fine crime pulp noir Nothing In Her Way on my Kindle. There are a few Sports sections because I fall behind in my reading the columns. At times, I have library books, but there are none this week. I don't know what the reading contents of my nightstand says about me, but it sure is handy to have one next to my bed.

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Phone Call From A Stranger

This 1952 melodrama starring Bette Davis isn't really much of a film noir. Still it's an entertaining movie that I got caught up in watching, so I stuck with it. Gary Merrill (Bette Davis' real life husband) plays a lawyer who leaves his cheating wife. On the plane to the West Coast, he ends up with fellow passengers Shelley Winters, Michael Rennie, and Keenan Wynn. They form an informal "Four Musketeers" club and agree to stay in touch with each other. It is well-acted and, I liked the script. The flashbacks are handled nicely, and there's a life lesson to be learned from the picture. Michael Rennie for some reason looks to me a bit like Michael Richards (Cosmo Cramer on Seinfeld). Shelley Winters is brash and funny in her role as an aspiring actress. IMDb rates it 7.3/10.0, so its popularity is there. Phone Call From A Stranger just isn't my usual cup of tea.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Repeat Secondary Characters In A Mystery Series

I've been working my way the through the final edits on my new P.I. Frank Johnson title (#7 in the series), and I've noticed several of the secondary characters have appeared in all or most of the previous titles. That got me to thinking about the repeat secondary characters. They are as important as the protagonist is to make the series a successful continuation. I like seeing the familiar face(s) come up in a series novel because I feel like I already know them. I may or may not particularly like them, but I am reassured to know they are still around. They are like the guideposts to look for. I like to have Frank interact with his friends and loved ones. My favorite of the secondary characters is his sidekick, Gerald Peyton, who is a bounty hunter with a reckless, fearless streak a mile wide. They play off each other well. One thing I have resisted doing is having Gerald do the dirty work that Frank won't do. After all, partners share everything, even the bad stuff. I hope Frank and Gerald will be around for a few more adventures. They have been fun company for me.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pinterest for Dummies (Like Me)

For the past couple weeks, I've been working on my new Pinterest account's boards. In case you don't know, Pinterest is a social media platform which allows you to "pin" images taken from the internet in one central location. Of course, it's a lot more involved than just that, but I'm still learning the ropes there.

When I first made my foray into the twitter world, I blogged a few times about my experiences/adventures there. Going on 18,000 tweets later, and I'm not sure I'm an experienced user because I learn something new about twitter daily, it seems.

At any rate, I thought it would be fun to blog about my also taking the plunge at Pinterest. Since I enjoy watching film noir, I set up a board on the different recent movies I've liked viewing. The other boards have been more challenging to identify and select. I included one on D.C. baseball and the new movies in 2014 I'll see.

I'm sure I'll have new ideas as time goes by. Today I "followed" three other accounts, including one that had "pinned" one of my old book's cover which is pretty cool to see. Anyway, this is where I hang my hat, so to speak, on Pinterest:

I plan do a couple of future blogs about what I've learn as I tackle trying to understand what Pinterest is all about. I don't spend a lot of my social media time there right now, but I have made it part of my weekly regimen.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Beware, My Lovely

This 1952 film noir was produced by Collier Young/Ida Lupino's movie production company The Filmakers. They also made other films like The Hitchhiker and Private Hell 36, both of which are entertaining crime films from this same period. Beware, My Lovely is a bit different. A young Robert Ryan plays an odd jobs man from back in 1918, and Ida Lupino, who runs a boardinghouse, hires him with no references. Big mistake. It is Christmas and her boarders have all left town to visit family. So, she and Ryan are the only ones left in the house. He turns out to be a schizophrenic who at times can be dangerous, even a killer as suggested in the opening scene. At other times, he's gentle and vulnerable. The film is based on a play, and all of the action is set inside the rooms at the boardinghouse. This sounds like a boring movie, but in the hands of Ryan, the film turns into something else. If you are a fan as I am of his work, you should check out his performance in this flick. Ida Lupino also holds her own. gives it a 6.5/10.0 rating, but that is too low in my opinion. I'd go a solid 7 based on Ryan's character.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The New Cover For My Private Eye Frank Johnson Novel Troglodytes

I redid the front cover for my P.I. Frank Johnson title Troglodytes. It is set in Turkey, my only novel set exclusively outside the United States. I spent some time working in Turkey during the early 1990s. I reprinted the review appearing in the Lansing State Journal by Ray Walsh:

Crime, mayhem and murder are the focal points of two recent crime novels that are mostly set in far-off countries. Each is full of intriguing characters and violent action, but differ greatly in their approach.

"Troglodytes," by Ed Lynskey is considerably darker, showcasing private investigator Frank Johnson, who's appeared in two earlier novels.
This classic hardboiled tale in mostly set in Ankara, a bustling city in Turkey.
American diplomat Sylvester Mercedes has vanished from his hotel room. Lois, his prominent socialite wife, hires Johnson to find out what happened to him.
Johnson needs the money to pay the IRS, so he takes the case. He stays in a seedy hotel room and tries to follow minimal leads. As he investigates, possible suspects emerge, including a loudmouth beer salesman and a sleazy hotel manager.
The diligent private eye gets assistance and has unexpected results, leading to a realistic, satisfying conclusion.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Reading the Complete Series in Order

Once in awhile, a reader will start at Book #1 (Pelham Fell Here) of my P.I. Frank Johnson Mystery Series and read each title in subsequent order until the final book (The Zinc Zoo). I've got to love such readers. I guess the appeal is to stick with the one main character they like and follow his or her series of adventures. The readers can see the peaks and the valleys to the main character's life. Views and attitudes change as the main character grows older (perhaps even wiser). I believe Frank is less wild and impulsive than he was in his younger days. When I wrote the series, I decided to try and make each title stand on its own power without readers having to read the other books. The other thing I wanted to do was keep out any spoilers to give away the endings in Frank's other titles. The first reader I know of who enthusiastically read the series (it was a shorter series back then) was on MySpace. After it tanked, I lost track of Helen. So it goes. Meantime Frank and I keep on trucking. His next book is titled AFTER THE BIG NOISE, due out later this year.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Going Home Again to A Familiar Place Called Quiet Anchorage

Yesterday morning when I went down to start my coffee perking and get breakfast ready, I saw the thermometer reading was "5" degrees. I tapped on the gauge, thinking it was on the fritz again. But, no, the reading was the accurate one. A "polar vortex" had gripped most of the U.S., and it was a deep freeze. My Facebook friends reported in their temperatures as falling in the negative numbers. That was serious cold. I went ahead with my day's activities while keeping an eye on the outdoors. We got by okay enough without any of our pipes freezing. I got to thinking about my cozy mystery series (Quiet Anchorage and The Cashmere Shroud), and my reasons for setting it in the summertime. Things just seem pleasanter (or is it more pleasant?) and nicer when the weather is sunny and mild. The next two titles in my cozy mystery series are also summertime stories. Do you like to read books that are set in a different season than the one when you are reading them in? I do. I just finished reading Stephen King's Joyland which happens during a summer. We're supposed to be turning warmer and thaw out over the weekend.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Kansas City Confidential

This 1952 film noir crime film directed by Phil Karlson stars John Payne, Coleen Gray, Preston Foster, Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam. I'm not sure how forgotten it is because KCC is a sturdy entry in the movie genre and is frequently seen on the Best Of Film Noir lists. rates it 7.4/10.0 which gives you some idea of its excellence. John Payne is the main character, and I'm liking his gritty acting style the more I watch him. He reminds me of John Garfield though perhaps not as polished and expressive. Brand, Van Cleef, and Jack Elam all play vicious, greedy hoodlums with convincing success. Neville Brand just looks like a street thug. Wikipedia says he was a big reader. Go figure. Preston Foster as the mastermind of the bank robbery has a sneaky while avuncular manner about him. Coleen Gray plays the romance interest attracting the John Payne character. Phil Karlson went on to direct Ben (the rat movie with the Michael Jackson song) and Walking Tall during the 1970s. KCC kept me entertained from start to finish.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Look At My Reading List From 2013

The start of a new year marks the point where we do a lot of gazing back at the previous year's event. Our reading lists are also of interest to look at if just to see what in print captured our attention. I mainly track my books read on Goodreads although I also use Shelfari and to a lesser extent, Library Thing. I read 37 books for my leisurely fun, and I read considerably more for my professional reviews. But here I am discussing just the 37 titles. Most of them are fiction, but there are a few nonfiction books, including a biography of Reggie Jackson as well as Robert Mitchum and a book on the making of Hitchcock's famous movie Psycho. I also re-read a couple of YA books I first devoured as a kid which I found to be enjoyable. Surprisingly, I see I didn't read as many Westerns as I would have expected. But then I got to a few of the old pulp writers I really like, including Ed Lacy and John D. MacDonald. Gail Godwin had a nice Southern novel in [book:Flora|16034245], and Michael Connelly's [book:The Black Box|13495034] was quite riveting. The rest of my 2013 book list can found at the Goodreads link:

Happy reading to you and yours throughout 2014!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

One of My Excellent Wintertime Reads

I read where this past Sunday marks the halfway point between the last out of the World Series and the start of spring training for the 2014 baseball season. Every January, I get antsy and restless to watch baseball. At one time, I had hoped I might outgrow my baseball craze, but it has only gotten worse. So, one of my favorite wintertime reads is the biographies of baseball greats. Right now I'm reading The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream by Tom Clavin. It is a different type of biography in that it tells the stories of three brothers who made it to the big leagues, something not very many families can make the claim for doing. Joltin' Joe, of course, was the megastar with the New York Yankees who also married Marilyn Monroe. However, the other two brothers, Dominic and Vince, were standouts in their own ways. Dominic was one of the early baseball labor proponents, something today's well-paid MLB players should feel a debt of gratitude about. It is a breezy read other baseball fans might enjoy. So, reading the baseball biographies helps me to get through the cold winters until spring finally arrives.