Monday, April 27, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Chicago Syndicate Starring Dennis O'Keefe

This uninspired 1955 mob film stars Dennis O'Keefe, Xavier Cugat, Allison Hayes, and Abbe Lane. O'Keefe, a veteran actor I've enjoyed watching in other crime films, plays a tough guy CPA who infiltrates the Chicago mob to get the right damning ledgers from a mob boss played by Paul Stewart. Allison Hayes plays the daughter of the previous accountant who was exposed while working undercover and gunned down. I won't reveal more about the plot so as not to be a spoiler. Xavier's flashy band does a couple of snappy numbers, and his then-wife Abbe Lane sings a song. Lane is the gangster's girlfriend who knows more about the shady operations than she lets on. Carl Sandburg's famous poem "Chicago" is quoted at the beginning narration to help to set up the movie in the city of the same name. rates Chicago Syndicate at 6.5/10 which sounds like a fair mark to me. Enjoyable but nothing really special.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Married Couples Who Like To Read Books

While I was developing the personality profiles for my married couple who are the mature sleuths featured in my second cozy mystery series, I debated over whether to make the husband and wife as fellow book lovers. In the end, I decided to do it, but I let the husband Bill Robins read his favorite types of books (military, hardboiled, etc.) while his wife Piper Robins read her preferred fiction genres (chick lit, cozy mysteries, etc.). I thought it was an effective way to show their common interests besides just their being sleuths in the series. Their first cozy mystery title is The Corpse Wore Gingham.

I wonder how often do the married couples in real life share a mutual passion for reading books. Is "the he/she must be a reader" on the list of desired traits for finding a mate? :-) My wife and I, for instance, both enjoy reading books, and we recommend titles to each other we think the other might also enjoy reading. Our reading tastes are similar, though I lean more toward nonfiction such as sports and history. We go to the library and to the bookstores together. I just read my first "fun book" this year, an Anne George mystery Murder Boogies With Elvis, which I enjoyed and recommend to other mystery lovers.

Does your significant other also enjoy reading books? Do you read the same types of books?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tuesday's Forgotten Films: The Good Die Young Starring Gloria Grahame

This gritty 1954 crime drama stars Laurence Harvey, Gloria Grahame, John Ireland, Joan Collins, Stanley Baker and Richard Basehart. Robert Morley and Margaret Leighton also are featured. What a good cast. Lewis Gilbert who went on to helm movies like Alfie and James Bonds was the director. Maybe the American actors (Grahame, Ireland, Basehart) were included to make the British production appealing more to the U.S. viewers. The straightforward story involves four men who are strangers hooking up to rob the post office with Harvey as their ringleader. Three men are basically good but need the money for various important reasons. Harvey is a good-for-nothing playboy who was decorated in the war for dubious valor. Each of the men have wives who are also good and bad. Grahame and Collins do a nice job in their roles. Everything climaxes at Heathrow Airport. I got a big kick out of watching The Good Die Young.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What's Playing at the Drive-In Movie Theater?

Asking that question is something from the distant past. I haven't gone to a drive-in movie theater since the early 1980s. The last picture show I can remember seeing at one was a Peter Fonda (who?) movie. I always thought he deserved a lot more credit than he got for an actor. But then that can also be said for many entertainers.

Sadly, the drive-in movie theaters have gone the way of the dinosaur and dodo bird. I can remember passing by one outdoor theater down near Lexington, Virginia, a few years ago. Folks there must still find watching a movie from inside the comfort of their cars to be a relaxing form of entertainment.

When I was a kid, my parents took us to watch such pictures at the drive-in theater as the Jerry Lewis screwball comedies. I remember seeing Western films with The Duke (who else?) and Robert Mitchum. I'm sure there were other movies, but I can't remember any of them by title at the moment. Drive-in movie theaters evoke the nostalgic past in those of us old enough to remember using them. A big box store (one of the chains) now stands where our drive-in movie theater screen once did. The big box store sells the large screen TVs, but it just isn't the same as the drive-in movie theater.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Used Bookstores Found In My Cozy Mysteries

I made the main characters in my first cozy mystery series into avid readers of fiction, particularly mysteries. Isabel and Alma Trumbo, my sister sleuths in the Virginia small town of Quiet Anchorage, make it a practice to visit used (secondhand)bookstores in search of their future reads. It's something alluring about the smells of a used bookstore. You never know what obscure reading treasure you might find in one. Isabel and Alma's habit is to hang on to every book they read because they might want to re-read it. They also discuss what will happen to their trove of mystery books once they are gone. Alma believes the town will use their books to establish the first public library, or perhaps to stock the first used bookstore. Isabel favors both ideas. You can begin reading about Isabel and Alma's love of reading mysteries as well as their sleuthing adventures with the first book in their series, Quiet Anchorage.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: The Boogie Man Will Get You Starring Boris Karoloff & Peter Lorre

This undemanding, fun 1942 horror spoof stars Hollywood giants Boris Karloff paired with Peter Lorre, two excellent reasons why it may be worthwhile to watch. Karloff plays the "mad scientist" at a New England inn, and Lorre is the town sheriff/coroner/physician/or whatever you need. There are lots of moveable corpses and snappy one liners, and I chuckled a few times. The horror element isn't too creepy, so I wasn't looking for much frightening stuff. The film run time is a bit over an hour, so the foolishness isn't carried on for too long. Lorre appears as if he's having a blast, and Karloff's eyeglasses never move from their perch on his forehead. The Boogie Man Will Get You was good stuff, making for a nice change of pace for my old movies viewing.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: "Framed" Starring Glenn Ford and Uncle Joe

Every now and then, I'll run across a film noir that is a fun surprise. Such an entry is the 1947 crime melodrama Framed starring Glenn Ford, Janis Carter, Barry Sullivan, and Edgar Buchanan (later to be Uncle Joe on Petticoat Junction). It's obviously a low-budget "B" picture, but that only adds to its gritty appeal. Glenn Ford plays an out-of-work mining engineer who drives a truck without brakes down into a small mountain town (located probably in northern California). Of course, he runs into bad luck with the local law, and the bar waitress Janis Carter with the seemingly heart of gold pays his court fine. She's too good to be true, and she is just that. Ford teams up with Buchanan playing a silver miner who can't get a loan from Barry Sullivan, the sleazy local bank vice-president. We quickly see Carter and Sullivan are up to no good, and Ford had better watch out. Carter makes for a great icy blonde femme fatale. What a pity she didn't star in more films like this good one. Glenn Ford is always reliable in these films with his low-keyed, earnest performance as seen in this one. Framed was entertaining from start to finish.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Where the Sidewalks Begin and End in My Cozy Mysteries

Something as ordinary as sidewalks has always intrigued me. I grew up in a small rural town with few sidewalks, and I thought of them as a luxury to walk on where I didn't get the mud caked on my shoes. Our Main Street even featured dual sidewalks. Maybe a few of the side streets did, as well. The other small towns I passed through either did or didn't offer its residents sidewalks.

The larger the town was, the more likely it featured sidewalks. Some of the hamlets were no more than a sign staked in the ground at a crossroads or at a railroad crossing. I guess there was no budget to build the sidewalks. Who would use them anyway? So, my small town with its sidewalk had arrived, so to speak.      

Flash forward many years later when we moved to our suburban neighborhood. Sidewalks were one of the criteria we used to pick the neighborhood we wanted to live in. I encounter the sidewalks on every street. Since I'm a big walker, I'm in walking heaven. I make it a point to take a walk daily (doc's orders) and take advantage of the sidewalks found just outside my front door.

When I started writing my Piper & Bill Cozy Mystery Series, they became a married couple who also like to take daily walks in their neighborhood. Bill's doc has told him to walk for health reasons, and Piper sees to it he does.[book:The Corpse Wore Gingham|24404034] is a fun, light-hearted cozy mystery suitable for bedtime reading or anywhere else the reader wants to relax and escape into the entertaining story.