The Other End of the Tour de France in Max Leonard’s Lantern Rouge

After three weeks of racing across France, across the flats, up and down monstrous hills, through the heat, the wind, and the rain, one man is crowned winner. TV crews and journalists repeat his story to the masses. Perhaps they dash off a story about those who could’ve won or the dozen or so who dropped out or crashed out. But the man who finished last, the Lanterne Rouge, is left to himself. No one tells his story. In his book, Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France, Max Leonard profiles the some of the men who have finished last in the Tour de France. In doing so, he has provided readers with a more complete story of this great race.

The lantern rouge is not an officially recognized honor in the race, at least by the Tour organizers. They want racers to chase the award for first, not last. Some look on the award as a dishonor to the sport. They consider it a disgrace, rather than seeing the award for what it is- an acknowledgment for finishing one of the world’s hardest races.

Immense effort is required to finish each day within the time limits and to get on your bike day after day when you know you have zero chance of winning. It takes courage and strength to fight to win, but what does it take to keep going when the only thing you have to look forward to is finishing? When people ask how you did, all you can say is, ‘I finished.’

But maybe there is something in just finishing.

***

A digression.

Though not on the level of the Tour de France, I’ve participated in my own endurance events. I’ve struggled to finish a long distance cycling event and even dropped out once. That DNF (did not finish), although it could not be avoided, left me with a sinking feeling that lasted longer than the nausea which caused me to quit that day.

A couple of years later, overcome by the same wave of stomach sickness, I pulled off the road, handed my bike to a volunteer, and climbed into the back of the truck. I was going to DNF again. I knew the dread that would stick with me. I wanted to avoid the questions from friends who would ask how I’d done.

While I waited on the volunteer, I talked myself into finishing. I got out of the truck, took my bike back, and started pedaling. Ten minutes later, the stomach cramps returned and I cursed myself for getting out of the truck. Still, I kept on. Two miles from the finish, having been unable to get any food or drink in me for a couple of hours, my legs seized up with cramps and I had to stop at the side of the road. I laid on the ground and watched my legs spasm.

When my legs finished torturing me with spasms, I got up and rode the rest of the way to the finish. To be honest, I pedaled a few strokes, coasted as far as possible, and then pedaled some more.

And I finished. Sickness and soreness accompanied me for days, but the feeling of accomplishment diminished their effects. I made it to the end. No one could take that away.

****

Book after book has been written and will continue to be written about the men who won and win the Tour. People buy these books for the inspiration they provide, but they only tell part of the story. Max Leonard’s Lanterne Rouge completes the picture by telling us the stories of the men at the other end of the Tour de France.

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Still The King – Harry Whittington

They called him ‘The King of the Pulps.’ He wrote over two hundred novels during his career, 85 in a 12 year span, and 7 in one month. His productivity was astonishing, but it’s the quality of his writing that sets him apart. Even after his death in 1989, Harry Whittington is still the king.

fires-that-destroyWho?

Exactly. Like many, that was my reaction the first time I heard the name Harry Whittington. Having read mysteries for years, I’d never heard of, or even come across, his name. A fact I find somewhat embarrassing. How could I have missed one of the best? Recently, his name popped up on a blog post or two and a couple of different books mentioned him. Each writer commented on the Whittington’s greatness. With such ringing endorsements, I had to give a book of his a try and see if he merited such great accolades.

He did.

I started with A Night For Screaming and enjoyed it a great deal. I moved on to Fires That Destroy and liked it even more. Halfway through Fires That Destroy, Whittington had me hooked.

Whittington’s writing is marked by a few things: 1) Brevity- Most of his books clock in under 200 pages, although this does nothing to diminish his ability to tell a story. This happened to be a necessity of the time in which he wrote; 2) Diversity- His crime novels span the genre- the police detective, the man on the run, the ordinary man facing unbelievable odds, and the woman who makes a mistake, just to name a few; 3) Tension- That should be tension with a capital T. If Whittington is known for anything, it’s his ability to start the tension high and keep ratcheting it up page after page.

So far, I’ve managed to read a half-dozen of his books:

  • A Night For Screaming – A man is on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. He gets off the train in a small town and finds work on a farm while trying to avoid the police. The owner of the ranch involves the man on the run in a scheme that will help them both. Nothing goes according to plan.
  • Fires That Destroy – A homely woman kills her boss for the money. She then meets a man more handsome than she could imagine and they get married. Once married, Mr. Right turns out to be Mr. Wrong. Can she kill again? (This might be my favorite so far)
  • You’ll Die Next – Let’s just say this is the epitome of the day from hell. Gorgeous wife, great life, and when you open the door a total stranger attacks you. The day only gets worse.
  • Brute in Brass (Ballard #1) – Mike Ballard is a cop on the take. The higher ups are closing in on him. Is there any good left in Ballard?
  • Any Woman He wanted (Ballard #2) – Ballard wants nothing more than to do his job and go home, but everyone from the honest law enforcement types to the crooked cops want him back in the game on their side. Can Ballard find his own way without becoming a pawn in the hands of others? (Related question: Why aren’t there more Ballard books? Great character!)
  • A Ticket To Hell – A ex-con on a job lets his conscience get the better of him. When he intervenes against his better judgement, all hell ensues.

A number of Whittington’s books have gone out of print, but a few publishers are bringing them back. You can find e-book copies for under six bucks, which is a treat for fans of noir and great writing. Harry Whittington was a master of his craft, and he remains ‘The King of the Pulps.’

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What I’m Reading (April 2015)

April equals noir, at least it did for me when it came to reading. Aside from one book on cycling, I read nothing noir.

BOOKS

Forget book of the month, for April, it’s writer of the month- Harry Whittington. This man could write. Many of his books are out of print, but those that are available you can usually find for $4 or $5. This month, I read the following:

  • A Night For Screaming – Man on the run looking for a way out.
  • Fires That Destroy – A psychological thriller. Might be my favorite. Homely woman kills for money and marries Mr. Wrong thinking he’s Mr. Right. Can she kill again?
  • You’ll Die Next – The epitome of the day from hell.
  • Brute in Brass (Mike Ballard #1) - Does the bad cop have any good left in him?
  • Any Woman He Wanted (Mike Ballard #2) – The former bad cop trying to stay on the straight and narrow.
  • A Ticket To Hell – Bad guy gets a conscience and helps the wrong girl. All hell breaks loose.

****

Woody Haut has written three great books on the history of noir. Heartbreak and the Vine tells about noir writers who tried to ply their trade in Hollywood. This is by far the best of Haut’s books. The other two are good as well: Pop Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War and Neon Noir.

A couple of other books I’ve already written about:

Jo Nesbo released a new book this month and I managed to read it as well- Blood on Snow. Shorter than his typical book, it still packs a violent punch. Hitman is hired to kill his boss’s wife. Instead he falls for her and tries to save her. Carnage ensues.

As for that cycling book: Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France by Max Leonard tells the other side of the story about the world’s most famous professional race. The Lanterne Rouge is unofficially granted to the man who finishes last in the Tour. Leonard’s book provides a fuller description of the Tour, rather than focusing on those who won or came close to winning.

TV & FILM

Justified- The storyline may not have been as tight as in years past, but the dialog and the acting were at an all-time high. The use of language alone makes the show worth watching. I’m gonna miss this one.

The Americans- This show gets better and better every season. I can’t wait for season 4. Also, if you watch the show, you may be interested in a podcast by the show’s creators. Usually no more than 30 minutes, they provide great insights into how the show is made and rotate interviews with each of the cast. Hearing Matthew Rhys (Philip) and his heavy accent will blow your mind.

Wild- Is it trite to say I enjoyed the book more than the movie?

WRITING

Taken For Granted is in the hands of some trusted readers. While I wait to hear from them, I’m hard at work on another writing project.

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Crime and Humor in Eric Beetner’s Rumrunners

Crime and humor are two things not often found together in a crime novel. When people think of noir, they think tension, not laughter. If any humor exists within the story, it comes from the dry, cynical wit of one character. The few times crime novelists have attempted humor, the efforts have felt forced and usually don’t work. In Rumrunners, Eric Beetner, as he did with The Devil Doesn’t Want Me, succeeds in finding the right balance of fun, action, and crime.

Rumrunners revolves around generations of the McGraw family. Calvin, now retired, and his son, Webb, have been drivers for the Stanley family, a crime family in the Midwest. Tucker, Webb’s son, chose the boring life of an insurance agent rather than the criminal life. When Webb goes missing, the Stanley family demands Tucker repay them for the money Webb cost them. Tucker calls his grandfather, Calvin, who jumps at the opportunity to come out of retirement to search for Webb. High speed car chases, violence, mayhem, death, and explosions litter the path of Tucker and Calvin as they search for Webb and the people who took him.

Rumrunners is an action-packed, fast-paced story about a family coming together when their whole world is collapsing and everyone appears set on their demise. Rumrunners is crime told with a smile.

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Despair Runs Deep in Christopher Irvin’s Burn Cards

Despair runs deep in Burn Cards, a novella from Christopher Irvin. The characters in Burn Card don’t dabble in desperation, they inhabit it. Everything they do- from gambling to drugs to sex- is an effort to escape their problems, even if only for the moment.

Mirna’s father gambles away whatever money he has or can borrow. Despite her better judgment and the advice of friends, she can never say no to him, despite the cost to her. She despises herself for giving in to his pleas for money, wanting to believe this time he’ll hit the jackpot, but knowing he never will. He never has. His illusions come at the cost of her future. When he borrows money from the wrong people, Mirna learns the sins of the father extend to her.

The story begins with Mirna shoved into the trunk of a car. She recounts the events that have led her to this place- her gambling father, his murder, her attempt at love, a job at a salon, and her dreams of a better future.

When the people from whom her Dad borrowed money assign the debt to Mirna, she searches for courage and strength. Her Dad might have pushed her around, but she’ll be damned if she’ll let others do the same. The old Mirna died when her Dad did. What will happen when she stands up to the criminals who killed her Dad?

As with Federales, Irvin has written a noir tale that punches the heart and stomach.

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What I’m Reading (March 2015)

Quality over quantity. That’s my excuse for reading fewer books in March. Quality over quantity. Not yard work, longer hours at work, edits on my book, or even being sick for a few weeks. I read some outstanding stuff this month. Nearly every book this month deserved a Book of the Month marker.

BOOKS

Book of the Month: The Marauders by Tom Cooper. Set in a Louisiana shrimping community devastated by an oil disaster, fishermen are worried about how they’ll get by, an oil company representative is offering residents a pittance to settle, a one-armed man is hunting for lost treasures, and two brothers are making money the old-fashioned way- by dealing drugs. Despair and greed all rolled into one. More than a crime novel, The Marauders is the story of a community and a way of life slowly dying away.

Some other good reads:

  • Adrian McKinty has added another fine addition to his crime novels revolving around Detective Sean Duffy during the Troubles era. Gun Street Girl is worth the time.
  • Worm by Anthony Neil Smith is an novel set in the Bakkens, the wild west, where anything seems to go with where oil money and drugs come together. Add a Yugoslavian war criminal and the story gets even more interesting.
  • Fast One by Paul Cain takes a bit of time and effort in the beginning, but it’s worth the effort. Written in the 1930’s, Fast One is a hardcore pulp novel to the nth degree. Mayhem and murder come one after another as the main character, Kells, stumbles into an opportunity for one last big score. Fast-paced and superb. Note: The life of Paul Cain is worth a google as well.
  • The Blind Alley by Jake Hinkson is an overview of noir films of yesterday. More known for his novels, Hinkson has provided a great introduction and history to noir films. I have a list of movies I want to see.
  • The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills tells of the year and a half Mills lived next door to Harper Lee and her sister. This is a fascinating look at a woman who published one book and retreated into her life in a small town.
  • Salt, Sweat, and Tears: The Men Who Rowed the Oceans by Adam Racily. My first thought, what would posses a man to want to row across the Atlantic Ocean? In addition to chronicling the author’s own attempt, he tells the story of the men who succeeded and failed before him.

Most of the time, if I don’t like a book, I’ll mention the title and say nothing about it or leave it off my list altogether. While in Austin, I saw a book, Austin Breakfast Tacos, and my interest was piqued. Among many things, Austin is known for breakfast tacos and a book on the the subject of one of my favorite foods- I was all in. The book is the collection of interviews from people in Austin about breakfast tacos. Every interview is exactly the same. It’s as if the authors sent a questionnaire out to people and slapped those responses into a book. Very disappointing.

TV & FILM

All the usuals here: Better Call Saul, Justified, and The Americans. I believe they all finish in April, so maybe I’ll have more to say then.

On Netflix, I stumbled across a show called The Red Road, a show from Sundance TV. A college student goes missing, a woman has a psychotic break and can’t remember if she hit someone with her car, her policeman husband tries to cover it up, and his only ally is a man recently released from prison for drug trafficking. Season one only contains six episodes and I found myself surprised at how much I liked it.

WRITING

I finished my hand-written edits of Taken For Granted, which is always the hardest. I’ve sent a draft off to a reader, am reading it again myself and making a few revisions. This one is close to being done.

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What I’m Reading (Feb 2015)

It doesn’t seem like I read much this month, but ten books or so is something. Between some changes at work, editing my own book, catching a cold, and lots of other stuff, I’m not sure how I found the time to get any reading in, much less get through ten books. Nonetheless, I did and I discovered two gems.

BOOKS

Book of the Month: The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney. This is why you read- to find an entertaining and unique story. Words like ambitious have been used to describe the book. The Long and Faraway Gone follows two characters haunted by crimes which took place when they were teenagers in Oklahoma City. One is trying to solve the disappearance of her older sister, and the other is a private investigator who can’t escape the fact he was the lone survivor of a movie theater robbery. In most books, the two stories would intersect into one, but Berney takes a different approach. The characters run into each other on a couple of occasions, but their stories never converge. It’s an excellent read. The last two hundred pages, I couldn’t put it down, which is always the sign of a good book. I also read another of Berney’s novels, Gutshot Straight, which is more straightforward noir.

The other good book I read this month: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This is more of a psychological thriller, as the majority of the story is told from one character, who has a drinking problem, which causes her to blackout. She rides the train into work every day and sees a couple in a house nearby. She imagines the life they must live, the life she does not, and then one day she sees something which shatters it all.

Other books I read this month: The Devil Doesn’t Want Me by Eric Beetner (crime novel), all five volumes of The Cycling Anthology (new and original essays on the sport of professional cycling), Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J Mann (covers the events leading up to the murder of William Desmond Taylor and the investigation into his murder- the book is also a primer on the early days of Hollywood and the movie industry), and Why I Watch People Die by Barry Graham (a collection of essays and journalistic pieces about Phoenix, crime, murder, and the death penalty.)

TV & FILM

The documentary, Desert Runners, available on Netflix, follows a group of ultra runners as they attempt to complete a series of ultra races over the period of one year. Fascinating. You will ask yourself why would anyone put themselves through such torture. The blisters on their feet…

I’m continuing to watch and enjoy three shows: Justified, The Americans, and Better Call Saul.

I tried Bosch from Amazon. I gave up after five episodes. I found the storylines predictable and the characters stock. It wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t expect much as I’ve only read a couple of the books and found them okay.

WRITING

I’m doing the slow process of editing my latest book, Taken For Granted, which means I’m going over by hand. I make my edits and then type them into the computer. It takes forever. However, I do recommend this process. There’s something about seeing what you’ve written on paper that helps you see it in a different light.

When my beloved saw me scratching away on my manuscript, she asked me if I thought I was done.

“Eh, somewhat.”

If this is what you call ‘nearly done.’

IMG_1110

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What I’m Reading (Jan. 2015)

2015 started off with a bang, a slew of outstanding books, a handful which qualified as the book of the month.

BOOKS

Book of the month: Stay God, Sweet Angel by Nik Korpon tells the story of a romantic, sad character with a past he wants to remain hidden, a girlfriend he wants to keep, ambition that threatens his present and future, and an escalating sense of paranoia. The writing is fantastic. Korpon’s writing reminded of Will Christopher Baer.

Baer is not a household name, but among those who’ve read his work, he’s highly-regarded. He’s published three books (known a the Phineas Phoe trilogy), Kiss Me, Judas; Penny Dreadful; and Hell’s Half Acre. His writing is violent, captivating, stunning, and unique. Hell’s Half Acre hit the shelves in 2004 and since then… nothing. At one time, there was a listing for a fourth novel, Godspeed, but it’s never seen the light of day and no one seems to know why. In the Internet era in which we live, it’s almost impossible for a person to drop off the face of the earth, but Baer has managed to do so. Nobody seems to know what happened to him, where he is, what he’s doing, or even if he’s writing. His amazon biography identifies him as a teacher as the Memphis College of Art, but a perusal of their faculty names doesn’t list Baer. Google his name and you can find a couple of forum threads where people ask what happened to him. Regardless, he wrote three phenomenal novels.

The Deepening Shade by Jake Hinkson is a collection of previously-published noir short stories. Most deal with the south and fundamentalist religion. The stories are outstanding. I wrote a piece about Hinkson here.

Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer by David Roberts is the non-fiction account of the young American explorer who disappeared and has never been found. I’d never heard of Everett Ruess or the controversy regarding him. The first part of the book covers Ruess until his disappearance. The second part of the book revolves around his parent’s efforts to find him and the people who took advantage of the family. The last part of the book explores the possibilities of what might have happened to Ruess. Fascinating story.

When the Light Bulb is Bare by Barry Graham is an excellent collection of essays on noir and fiction. Kill Your Self: Life After Ego by Barry Graham is a series of short essays on Zen Buddhism. I’ve read ten or so books on Zen before, but Graham’s book helped me understand Zen Buddhism in a way I hadn’t before. He clarified a lot of misunderstandings I had about Zen Buddhism.  I also read two noir novels by Graham, How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy and The Wrong Thing.

Other books I read this month:  Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura, Lamentation by Joe Clifford, The Cleanup by Sean Doolittle,  and Tussinland by Mike Monson

TV & FILM

January means cold, wet weather, which leads to me watching lots of TV while riding the indoor bike.

Hidden, an entertaining 4 episode show from the BBC. A solicitor was involved in a crime years as a young man and his past is catching up with his present. The Fall (Season 2), another series from the BBC available on Netflix. I’m usually out on anything having to do with serial killers, but this one works. My only complaint, they could’ve done without the last 15 minutes of the finale.

Gone Girl is hard to judge having read the book last year. I knew the story hook, so the movie lacked the tension for me. Still, I enjoyed it.

I’ve also started Justified, season 6, and The Americans, season 3. So far so good on those.

WRITING

I finally sent the latest draft of Taken For Granted to a couple of readers. They gave me some great feedback on the story and I’m incorporating their thoughts now. While waiting for them to read it, I launched into another novel and I have written about a quarter of the first draft.

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A Writer Worth Reading- Jake Hinkson

Southern noir with a teaspoon, and sometimes a hammer, of religion. That describes the writing of Jake Hinkson, the author of three novels, one novella, and a short story collection. He might not be known to the masses, but his books are worth your time to read. (Forget about the fact you can own them all for less than $20.) When trying to describe his writing, some have referred to him as a mix of Flannery O’Connor and Jim Thompson, and others have called him a ‘hardboiled hillbilly.’

I first read Hc1e0ee_b3411060ee804f4a98d3f0a628e71136.jpg_srz_349_559_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzinkson in 2014, starting with Hell on Church Street. He hooked me within the first few pages and by the second chapter I couldn’t put it down. I recommended Hell on Church Street more than any other book last year.

In Hell on Church Street, a con man talks himself into the position of a youth minister at a church in a small town in Arkansas. He manipulates the pastor’s underage daughter into a sexual relationship and all hell breaks loose afterwards. Hinkson’s descriptions of religious life and the ease with which a duplicitous person with a kind smile and the right religious platitudes can gain church people’s trust is deadly accurate. The seedy youth minister meets his match and murder ensues.

The Posthumous Man takes a familiar tale and adds a c1e0ee_ce272fd3b5ce478cb5af4da074e17eea.jpg_srz_369_559_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srztwist. Man wakes up in the hospital after attempting to kill himself and falls for the attractive nurse, who is in with the wrong crowd. A criminal gang ready for the one big score. The gang start turning on one another like snakes in a pit- greed rages, lies are told, bodies fall, and then comes the big ending. To tell you about the ending would ruin the story. It was so good, I read it twice.

c1e0ee_c79dd667e854484b883ae5c29af95264.jpg_srz_347_559_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzSaint Homicide. With a title like that, you know religion will play a factor. The novella is told from the viewpoint of a passionate anti-abortionist, who has an ill wife. The anti-abortionist also struggles with lust and self-hatred for his impurity. When the religious man makes a mistake, how can he atone for his sin?

The Big Ugly tells of an ex-con, newly released, hired to c1e0ee_f24873f40ee449b7bcfd67c65e33ae82.jpeg_srz_302_514_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpeg_srzfind a missing woman. She encounters southern politicians, televangelists, petty criminals, while dealing with her own family who doesn’t understand her actions, and others intent on causing her more harm. She struggles to figure out who, if anyone, is telling the truth, and to do so before she and the missing woman are killed.

The Deepening Shade, Hinkson’s collection of short stories, landed this past week. In these stories, Hinkson demonstrates his craft as Covera writer. In each one, he leads you down a path, letting you think you know the outcome, before taking the story in a different direction. Markers and Coke, the first in the collection, tells the sad story of a down on his luck police officer, who can’t bear to face shame and embarrassment. Randy’s Personal Lord and Savior revolves around an employee’s interaction with a zealous Christian. The Empty Sky is the haunting tale of a childless senior citizen. Three of the best of the collection, in my opinion, are: The Serpent Box, which deals with snake handlers, two drifters, the crime they commit, and the agony of revenge; Night Terrors, about a one-night stand gone wrong; and Our Violence, about a widowed father with two sons, a plot of land, and how the father’s intense faith inspires one son and turns the other away.

The goal of a writer is to entertain, and Hinkson does that and more.

His characters, particularly when he mixes in religious fundamentalism, compel you to see them as people, even though you may not like them or agree with them. Sometimes, the danger of fundamentalist and religious zeal is evident (Saint Homicide). At other times, the gullibility of religious people is demonstrated as they are snowed by a smile and the right words (Hell on Church Street). The religious people want to trust someone. In some cases, particularly in the short stories, you see people who believe to their bones. The ripples and dangers of their belief seems apparent to all around, alienating family and friends, but not to them. In a sense, it makes you feel for them, even though they can be held partially responsible for what occurs (Our Violence in The Deepening Shade).

As a reader, I enjoy Hinkson’s writing. I can read these stories again and again. As a writer, he gives me a level to which to aspire.

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What I’m Reading (Dec 2014)

Another Christmas season done and dusted with even a bit of time for reading, watching, and writing. 2015 looks to have some exciting books coming and I am eager for their release.

BOOKS

Book of the Month: A Mysterious Something in the Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler by Tom Williams. For maybe the second time in 2014, a non-fiction book tops the list. Chandler is known for the detective character he created, Philip Marlowe, and the books about him. Chandler wrote some of the first crime novels I read and he played an influential part in my wanting to write crime novels. This is the second biography I’ve read of Chandler and the author provides a thorough and entertaining biography of the writer. Born in the US, reared in England, and Chandler returned to the US in his twenties and settled in Los Angeles just as the city’s boom started. He worked as a bookkeeper for years and never appeared to express interest in writing crime stories until he lost his job. He started out writing for the pulp magazines and a couple of years later, at age 51, he published the first Philip Marlowe novel. Chandler’s books never sold great, but Hollywood recognized his skill and he found work as a screenwriter. A lifelong battle with alcohol proved to be his undoing, and his problem increased after the death of his wife. Fascinating life and a good biography.

The World of Raymond Chandler by Barry Day (his life in words) attempts to tell the life of Chandler through his letters and excerpts from his books.

I read the biography of another crime writer, Dashiel Hammett: Man of Mystery by Sally Cline. Chandler, Hammet, and James Cain were recognized as the three preeminent crime writers of the pulp era. Whereas Chandler’s books didn’t sell great until later, Hammett’s books were an immediate success. He only produced five novels and published nothing over the last half of his life. Like Chandler, Hammett suffered from an addiction to alcohol along with a number of other maladies. Also, a thorough and fascinating biography.

Last month, I raved about Allan Guthrie and this month I completed my reading of his novels. Bad Men is great and Savage Night is superb- both are dark, crime novels. In Savage Night, when you think it can’t get any worse for the characters or any darker, it does. Hilda’s Day Out is a collection of short stories and contains some real gems. I’m awaiting Guthrie’s next release.

Pantani: Debunking the Murder Myth by Andrea Rossini (translated by Matt Rendell) is an intriguing account of the death of Marco Pantani, the great Italian cyclist. The police concluded he died of a cocaine overdose, but recently people have sought to re-open the case, believing Pantani was murdered. The author recounts Pantini’s last days and reviews the evidence, which he concludes points to a cocaine overdose.

I also read Saturday’s Child and Sucker Punch by Ray Banks (the Cal Innes series), The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (a fascinating fable), and Hold the Dark by William Giraldi

TV & FILM

Many have highlighted The Honourable Woman, a spy-thriller set in the Middle East, and produced by the BBC. It is superb. Highly recommended. Available on Netflix.

I made the annual trek to the movie theater, this time for The Hobbit (Part 3). The best part of the movie- my son enjoyed it. Me, not so much.

It seems as though I watched another movie, but I can’t recall what it was, so it must not have been that great.

WRITING

I am polishing up the draft five of my latest book, They Took Me Granted, and then it’s off to a couple of trusted readers for comments. A year ago, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the story and wanted to dump it and start over. While looking out a window, I had an idea. With that idea, I’ve dove back into the book and have worked on it all year long. This might be the hardest I’ve worked on a story.

I held out hopes of publishing it in 2014, but that didn’t happen. Obviously. After publishing 2 books in 2012, and 1 in 2013, I wanted to keep the streak alive, but it didn’t happen. Not for lack of effort.

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