The Old Man and the Ocean

I posted my review of What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe, former NASA robiticist and author of the xkcd webcomic, this weekend. The book is fun and funny and educational.

I’m back on my Travis McGee re-read, up to #8, One Fearful Yellow Eye. It’s been over a year since I read #7, but I intend to get through them all again eventually. This one I don’t remember as well as some of the others. It’s set in Chicago and is about an old friend whose husband liquidated several hundred thousand dollars in assets before is anticipated death, and no one knows where the money went.

We watched All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford, on Netflix this weekend. A guy is sailing in the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles from anywhere, when things start to go bad. First, his boat collides with a container full of shoes that must have been washed off a ship. Then his electronics go out. Then…and then…and then…It just goes from bad to worse to worse still. There is a bit of “dialog” at the beginning, as Redford’s character, known only as “our man,” narrates the letter he writes to loved ones back home before tossing it overboard in a bottle. From that point forward, there is no dialog (other than a couple of Hey! Over Here!’s and an expletive or two). Our man does not talk to himself. He does not ruminate over his condition out loud. There are no subsequent voice-overs. In fact, until things get really bad, he is quite serene and placid. He even shaves at one point. But this is a taut, tense drama, man vs. nature more than anything else, but survival at its utmost. Highly recommended.

Yesterday we saw My Old Lady in the local cineplex. It stars Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott-Thomas and Maggie Smith. Kline’s character, a recovering alcoholic with three divorces behind him, thinks his recently deceased father may have left him the solution to all of his economic woes. He inherits a substantial apartment in Paris, conservatively worth €12,000,000. However, there’s a catch. The apartment is attached to a viager, which means that not only can Maggie Smith’s character live there until she dies (she’s 92, but in fine fettle), the apartment owner has to pay her  €2400 per month. He doesn’t have two pennies to rub together, so this is an unpleasant shock. There are many more to follow. Smith’s character’s daughter (Scott-Thomas) hates him. There are family secrets the two women know that Kline’s character does not (and a couple vice-versa). This isn’t entirely a feel good movie, and it’s not at all farcical, though it is funny at times. The emotions that are exposed are too raw for that. There are bottoms to hit before any of the characters can arise again. It is filmed in Paris, which made us nostalgic to go back again. What a lovely city.

We also got caught up on three episodes of Doctor Who. I had seen “Listen” already, but my wife hadn’t, so we watched again. Still charming. Then there was the one about the bank job, which was fun. Finally, the one about the caretaker. Were we not meant to understand how they escaped from their predicament in the opening scene? It felt like we missed something. Maybe it’s not important—maybe it was only meant to show the extremes to which Clara puts herself by frolicking around in time and space. It’s interesting that the Doctor doesn’t really seem to care for himself all that much (underscored in the bank heist episode), and it’s a wonder that Clara still does because he’s not very good with her any more. He seems to have lost his touch with her. Maybe it’s the eyebrows getting in the way.

I also watched a screener of Big Driver, the Lifetime adaptation of King’s novella from Full Dark, No Stars, which airs on October 18. It stars Maria Bello, with appearances by Olympia Dukakis and Joan Jett. There was a lot of concern that, given the venue, the story might get watered down. I’m here to tell you it isn’t. The first half hour has some scenes that are very difficult to watch, and King’s story is 99% there, although a few things are switched around and some scenes condensed. Jett is okay, not great, but Dukakis is fun and Ann Dowd from The Leftovers is fine. I’ll have a longer (p)review closer to air date.

I’m also nearing the end of Season 1 of Hemlock Grove. At 30 minutes a day, while I’m on the elliptical, I should be pretty much done by Friday.

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22 more years on the chain gang

As of today, I have worked for 25 years for the same company, the so-called “day job”. The business’s name has changed a couple of times over the years, but it’s the same place. I’ve meandered through a variety of roles and positions within the company over that quarter of a century, which is not quite half my life, but almost.

All I need is another 20-22 more years to match the record my father set working in the paper mill. He had a head start, though.

I learned one more cool thing about that short story contest sponsored by Hofstra Law School where I finished third. As you may recall, the only stipulation was that the crime story had to have a lawyer as the protagonist. Well, as it turns out, I finished third behind a law school professor and a trial lawyer, so I figure I’m in good company. Given that the judges all went to law school, I must have gotten the details mostly right.

I’ve been on a good reading run lately. There’s Buster Voodoo by Mason James Cole (RJ Sevin), The Children Act by Ian McEwan, The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood, and The Day of Atonement by David Liss, all reviewed at the hyperlinks. I really enjoyed Liss’s book, which is a revenge novel set in Lisbon during the Inquisition that incorporates a number of historical incidents that impact the plot.

Then I decided to take the plunge into Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. I tore through Annihilation, which is relatively brief, and am now in the midst of Authority, which is longer. It’s a fascinating story that is Lost as told by Poe or Lovecraft crossed with Under the Dome, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the allegorical works of C.S. Lewis, but the fusion is very much its own thing. It’s about a coastal region, called Area X, where something strange happened 30 years ago. Exactly what happened is being doled out slowly, but the government agency known as Southern Reach has been sending in teams to explore ever since. There’s an impenetrable border around the place with one massive entrance. Many of the people from previous missions have died or gone missing, whereas others have showed up back at home with no recollection of how they got there or what happened while they were “away.” The first book describes the most recent mission and the second one deals with the aftermath back at Southern Reach. I can’t wait to see where this is going.

I got my wife addicted to The Blacklist, so we’ve been bingeing on that for the past several days. We should be through the first season by the time the new season begins next week. I’m meandering through Hemlock Grove in 30 minute chunks as I do my time on the elliptical trainer in the morning. It’s funny to see Famke Janssen in two different, very different, roles at much the same time—she’s also on season 2 of The Bridge.

Speaking of which, Annabeth Gish went from getting (spoilered) on The Bridge to becoming the new police chief in Charming on Sons of Anarchy. I wonder if there are odds makers taking bets on who survives the series finale. I think it would be the funniest thing in the world if Wayne Unser, the character with a terminal illness, ended up as the last man standing. I didn’t like his odds after Juice got his hands on him, but that ended up okay.

Lots of people talking about the “Listen” episode of Doctor Who, which I quite enjoyed. So far I’ve like three out of the four Capaldi episodes. I wasn’t so hot on the second one. I like the ambiguity inherent in “Listen.” The Doctor hypothesized a species of aliens that were so good at hiding that no one knew they existed, but his hypothesis couldn’t be tested—or at least it wasn’t. In the best Graham Joyce tradition, there was both a rational and a supernatural explanation for everything that happened. The shape under the sheet could have been an alien or a prankster, for example. But that’s not what people have been discussing. The big thing was the fact that SPOILERS AHEAD Clara went back to the barn in Gallifrey when the Doctor was a little boy scared of the dark and basically gave him the tools he needed to become the Doctor. Sure, it was all wibbledy-wobbeldy relative to canon and lore, but I found it a touching scene. I gasped when I realized what was happening. To me, the episode’s biggest mystery was how the hell Clara was able to run in those heels. But she did.

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I need a moment

On some crime show I saw recently, a man suspected of murder has just been told his wife is dead. After being subjected to a brief but intense grilling, he tells the detectives, “I need a moment.” On the off chance that he’s innocent and they may have just broken devastating news to him, they leave him to himself in the interrogation room.

When I heard today that Graham Joyce had died. I needed a moment. I won’t say he lost the battle with cancer, because—as he so eloquently stated in this BBC Radio 4 piece—he rejected that language. He had the same peculiar breed of cancer that my father did, so I knew the prognosis wasn’t great, but still we hope. Alas, it was not to be.

I was introduced to Graham Joyce the writer by Peter Straub. The first time I met Peter, at a book signing in Dallas in the late 1990s, we went to dinner at a barbecue restaurant after his event. We talked about who we were reading, and Peter mentioned Graham. Naturally, I took the recommendation seriously, and thus began my adventure in the fascinating, ambiguous, magical, terrifying and amazing worlds of Graham Joyce. I’ve read virtually everything he’s written—except for a couple of his YA books—and I’ve never been disappointed.

When I started to write novels, it was Graham more than anyone else that I wanted to emulate, not that other guy with whom I’m most strongly associated. I was and continue to be fascinated by the manner in which he was able to present both sides of a possible supernatural occurrence. It either happened or it had a logical, mundane explanation. Both interpretations were valid, both for the characters and for the reader. It’s something I attempted to capture in the first novel my agent tried to sell. Clearly I hadn’t quite learned the lesson well enough yet.

The first time I met Graham the man was, I believe, at the World Horror Convention in Chicago in 2002, though we had already exchanged email by that point. I was at the Subterranean Press booth in the dealer room when Bill Schafer opened a box that contained Graham’s chapbook, Black Dust, fresh from the printer. I bought the first copy, and Graham passed by a few minutes later and I got him to sign it for me.

Our paths have crossed a number of times over the years, in person and online. He was a Guest of Honor at Necon one year and he fit right in to that quirky event. I remember a World Fantasy Convention (Albuquerque, I believe) where he arrived at the  hotel late in the evening straight from his transatlantic flight, to discover that he was scheduled to do a 9 pm reading. I think he’d had a little courage on the long flight, so he was a tad disoriented. I knew where his reading room was, so I got him there on time and he regaled us with an excerpt from his latest work.

I wrote a long essay about Graham’s work for a book that never materialized. I can’t recall at the moment to which point it is current, but I should go back and look at it some day to see if it’s worth an overhaul. I always recommend The Tooth Fairy and Requiem to people, but you can’t go wrong with any of his novels, and he got stronger and more amazing over the years.

Later this summer, PS Publishing is releasing 25 Years in the Word Mines, The Best of Graham Joyce, a collection of his short fiction. I had already sprung for the signed edition (which has a chapbook containing extra stories). Sad to think that this is probably the last we’ll hear from such an exceptional author.

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Ellie Hatcher, Jack Reacher and OJ Simpson

I received word yesterday that my short story “The Best Defense” took third place in the mystery writing competition sponsored by the Law School at Hofstra University and Mulholland Books. The story is a courtroom thriller (the main character had to be a lawyer, per the rules), and the judges were two lawyers and a law school graduate: author Alafair Burke (daughter of James Lee Burke), OJ Simpson prosecutor and author Marcia Clark, and thriller writer Lee Child, creator of Jack Reacher. There were over 130 submissions, so I’m quite pleased by this. Only the first place winner will be published, so now I have to submit the story somewhere for publication.

I’ve been watching Hemlock Grove on Netflix while I exercise in the morning. It’s cute and has my interest, so I think I’ll stick with it. Makes the 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer go by faster, at least.

The kidnapping scenes in this week’s The Bridge were pretty odd. If you’re going to kill someone in a few minutes, do you go to the trouble of helping them go to the bathroom? And Marcus didn’t even give the guy a chance to surrender. Bam! Bit of a blood bath at the end, too.

Part Four of my Haven retrospective is now up at News From the Dead Zone. This installment looks at the events of Season 3, together with an episode guide, a list of Troubles and a list of Stephen King references. I have two more installments to put up before the new season begins on September 11.

This post is brought to you by WordPress 4.0—I took the plunge and upgraded.

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Culture clash

It was supposed to rain a lot this weekend.  It didn’t. We did have a couple of good showers, but nothing near what I was expecting. Instead, it was hot and very humid. The humidex added 20° to the mercury temperature at times, making it feel like it was over 110.

So, as you might imagine, a great portion of the weekend was spent in air conditioning, except for a round of yard work yesterday morning and a carpentry project with my daughter that is finally getting off the ground.

My summaries of Season 1 and Season 2 of Haven are now up. I’m working my way through the seasons as a way of catching up before Season 5 premieres in just over a week.

We went to see The 100 Foot Journey on Saturday. Originally we planned to see Calvary, but it turned out that movie wasn’t showing anywhere within 40 miles of us. The Mirren film was good, though. Charming and quaint. It’s about a family from India who move to Europe after a tragedy. They start out in England, but it’s not to their liking, so they strike out for the continent trying to find a new place to set up a restaurant and settle on a village in the southwest of France mostly because of serendipity. The place the patriarch chooses is directly across the street from a Michelin-rated French restaurant run by Mirren. Thus begins a clash of cultures and palates, with some romance thrown in for good measure. Light entertainment, but it sure did leave me craving a good Indian meal. One scene struck us in particular: the young Indian chef makes Mirren an omelet (her test of a chef’s merits). Filmed from behind, we see a slouching Mirren straighten her neck and then her back as she tastes the unexpected concoction. No words at that moment: it’s all in body language.

Then we watched The Railway Man starring Colin Furth and Nicole Kidman. It’s about a man obsessed with railways who was part of the POW group that were forced to build the Burma railway line by the Japanese during WWII—an event that was fictionalized in The Bridge on the River Kwai. This story is based on a memoir, so was presumably closer to the truth. Furth’s character suffers terrible PTSD. His greatest venom is reserved for a Japanese translator who oversaw his torture. When he finds out that the man is not only still alive all these years later (1980) but running a museum at the prison camp, he decides it’s time to return to Burma and confront and perhaps kill the man. The Japanese officer is played by Hiroyuki Sanada, who was recently in Spiral is currently plays on Extant. A powerful story with a redeeming finale.

Speaking of Extant, we did a five-episode binge on Sunday afternoon to get caught up. We also watched the first episodes of Doctor Who and Intruders, based on the Michael Marshall Smith novel and starring Mira Sorvina and John Simm. The latter has a 10-year-old actress playing a nine-year-old character, and she is astonishingly good. She is both herself and a previous personality, so she gets to switch between little girl and menacing mystery man. I’m impressed.

Our last viewing of the weekend was Darby’s Rangers, the next installment in our gradual James Garner marathon. This, too, is based on a real WWII event about the formation of an elite group of Army Rangers who were trained by British officers and sent into battle in North Africa and Anzio. It’s funny and campy until it gets deadly serious. The second half is far superior to the first, but there are some interesting moments along the way, including the impact billeting soldiers had on some British families.

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Who wants to make a circuit?

So I heard from a bunch of people in Germany last week who saw me on Meister des Grauens, the VOX channel’s 2-hour documentary about King. I haven’t seen it yet, but Robin Furth and author Stewart O’Nan also contributed, along with a bunch of German authors and celebs. Instead of subtitling the English dialog, they did voice-overs, so it will be interesting to hear me speaking German.

The Lilja and Lou Podcast in which we discuss Haven and Under the Dome is now available. I also posted the first segment of a six-part series I’m doing as a build-up to the launch of Season 5 of Haven. The next four segments will look at the individual seasons and the final one will summarize what we know about the main characters after four years and where things might go next.

I posted my review of the new Ian McEwan novel, The Children Act this weekend.

I finally got a chance to see Season 4 of The Killing this weekend. I had to do a little Googling first to remind myself what exactly happened in Season 3 and where things were left. It was pretty good. Condensed to six episodes, they didn’t waste much time. Joan Allen was a force to be reckoned with as the head of the military academy. I was intrigued by what they didn’t show. Even though Netflix had a lot more latitude than AMC (Holder’s language was saltier), they did not show the brutal crime scene. This made it even more impressive when we see it later, with the bodies removed but the blood still in place. It was like a Pollack painting. Jonathan Demme directed the final segment. I would have been happy, I think, if the finale had ended with a certain character driving off from the house, but it did go on and wrap things up more neatly. Perhaps a little too neatly.

I liked this week’s installment of The Leftovers a lot. It was a flashback to the day leading up to the momentous event that’s at the heart of the series. We get to see the two main families—the Garveys and the Dursts—in “happier” times. No one was really all that happy, but things were better than they are now (in story time) three years later. It was a little like a Lost episode seeing all of these familiar characters in different lives. And there is still an air of mystery, even though the inexplicable hasn’t happened yet. What drove the deer crazy? Why are there cracks appearing around future-Chief Garvey? Who were the four older people in the car looking for? What was Patti sensing? And, most importantly, what must it have been like to have your partner vanisher while you’re having sex?

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Whoa. Rented lips.

I’ve been very busy lately, hence a paucity of updates. I have about seven things all going at the same time and I’m hoping to get at least a few of them knocked out by the end of the month. I don’t think multitasking is all that efficient.

Mason James Cole is the pen name of RJ Sevin who, many years ago, published my story “The Smell of Fear” in Corpse Blossoms. He has a new book out called Buster Voodoo, which I liked a lot. You can read my review here.

I’ve been listening to the audio version of the Ice Cold anthology from the MWA that contains my story “The Honey Trap” recently. I’ve had a few of my stories released on audio, but this is the first one I’ve heard from a big audio distributor. The stories are read by different people. Mine is narrated by actress Meredith Mitchell. I enjoyed my story all over again. It’s a cool experience hearing it in someone else’s voice.

Yesterday afternoon, I spend an hour and a half on Skype with Lilja and Lou, recording segments for forthcoming episodes of their podcast. We talked mostly about Haven: where the show is at the end of Season 4 and where it might go in Season 5. We also discussed my visit to the set in June. Then we moved on to Under the Dome, about which many feelings are mixed. I’m not sure exactly when the podcast will debut, but it will probably be before Haven Season 5 begins on September 11.

The day after I visited the Haven set, I spent nearly two hours in front of a camera for an interview with VOX television for a documentary about Stephen King. The show is called Meister des Grauens and it will air in Germany this Thursday evening. Here’s the trailer for it. I don’t expect to be able to understand much of it when I get a copy.

Our slow-motion marathon of James Garner movies continued last weekend with The Children’s Hour and The Thrill of it All. The first starred Audrey Hepburn and Shirley McLaine in a film based on a play by Lillian Hellman. It’s about two close friends who run a school. One irate kid starts a whisper campaign about an inappropriate relationship between them after she’s punished. For 1961, it’s a surprisingly frank movie, although the word “lesbian” is never uttered. It’s an interesting story, but I found the acting to be melodramatic and unconvincing. There were several young children actors, too, and they weren’t terribly good. Garner was his reliably solid self as Hepburn’s fiance. The second film is vastly different, a comedy in the Doris Day / Rock Hudson mold about a housewife who suddenly becomes the star of a series of TV commercials, turning the household dynamics upside down. It’s light and frothy (literally) and funny. Doris Day is impressive: she has a very credible acting presence that matches well with Garner’s. There’s a cameo by the actress who played Mrs. Kravitz on Bewitched, too. Some improbable scenarios, but all in all entertaining.

I’m not sure that I saw the Happy Days episode that debuted Mork, though I probably did. I certainly watched Mork & Mindy. I even had a Robin Williams comedy record that I listened to several times and it never ceased to be funny. He was running on all throttles and when his mouth got ahead of his words he said, “Whoa. Rented lips,” which is a phrase I used to haul out every now and then when I stammered. I can’t say I’ve seen every movie he did, but I’ve seen a lot, including some of his darker performances, such as the ones in One Hour Photo and especially Father of the Year. He was better when a director was willing to reign him in a little, or a lot in some cases, but his mind always seemed to be going at the speed of sound, if not the speed of light. Put him and Jonathan Winters together and you risked achieving critical mass. I’m sorry he’s gone.

 

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Dreaming of October and Hemingway

I don’t often remember my dreams in great detail, but I woke up this morning with last night’s dream bouncing around in my head. I visited a guy who in my dream I knew to be Ernest Hemingway, even though he looked little like him at any point in his life. (In fact, I think he looked like a young Kasey Kasem.) I was young, and felt the need to contribute to the conversation, so I asked him when he moved to Chicago. He talked about how famous he was for suicide—that there had been many attempts. And then he showed me something on YouTube. He had taken a video of a bunch of surfers all riding a wave together and PhotoShopped (VideoShopped?) himself into the scene. “It’s gone viral,” he told me, with no small amount of pride.

So, it was only slightly surreal when I issued a Tweet about my dream this morning and a few minutes later I received a notice that Ernest Hemingway was now following me on Twitter.

I’ve known about this for a while but now that the table of contents has been announced I can say publicly that my story “The Boy in the White Sheet” will be in October Dreams II from Cemetery Dance. The story reveals what happened after the events of my first published story, “Harming Obsession.” I often wondered over the years what took place the day after the end of that tale, which is also my most-reprinted story, and I finally came up with a story. I’m in good company in the anthology: among the marquee contributors are: Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, Robert Bloch, Stewart O’Nan, Joe R. Lansdale and Al Sarrantonio, along with some of my Necon friends, such as Elizabeth Massie, Matthew Costello, Kealan Patrick Burke, Sephera Giron, and many more. Looks like it will be a massive volume.

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Garner

I really liked last night’s episode of The Leftovers. It was another of those single-character pieces that gives the focal actor a chance to shine, and Carrie Coon, as Nora Durst, did just that. She’s always been one of the show’s more intriguing characters, but we got to see her at much greater depth. Her meeting with Holy Wayne obviously changed her—she’s no longer stalking her ex-husband’s lover, or buying cereal for her kids and, more subtly, not influencing her interview subjects. I hope she and the Chief get together.

My latest book review: Riders on the Storm by Ed Gorman. I haven’t read enough by him.

I recorded several of the James Garner films that TCM ran last Monday and we watched two this weekend. First was Marlowe, based on the Chandler novel The Little Sister. It’s from 1969 and Garner’s character is not too many steps away from Jim Rockford. The film also stars Carroll O’Connor, Rita Moreno, William Daniels (St. Elsewhere) and, yes, that’s Bruce Lee martial-arts-ing himself off the edge of a building. I’ve seen this before, but it’s been a long time. Have to say I thought it was only passing fair. Garner is fine, but the story wanders at a leisurely pace and the plot is convoluted. Plus Sharon Farrell as “Orfamay” is annoying.

Then we watched The Americanization of Emily, which I’d never heard of before. Apparently it was only released on DVD in 2005. It was Julie Andrews’ second movie, filmed before Mary Poppins was released. The script is by Paddy Chayefsky and the film also stars James Coburn and has Keenan Wynn in a bit part as a besotted sailor. Garner plays a “dog robber,” a guy who kowtows to the every need of his Admiral. Sort of a Radar O’Reilly crossed with Mr. Carson from Downton Abbey. Personal dresser and procurer. Garner likes this gig because it means he won’t have to face military action. He’s not ashamed to call himself a coward. However, his Admiral goes a bit dotty in the weeks leading up to D-Day and decides that the first man to die on the beaches of Normandy will be a sailor, and he wants it filmed for posterity (and to keep the Navy from being disbanded after the wary). Andrews plays a British driver who catches Garner’s eye: she lost a brother, her father and her husband in war. She refuses Garner’s offer of chocolate (he can get his hands on any luxury item, despite rationing) because the British aren’t supposed to be enjoying the war. It’s from 1964 and is quite surprising for its anti-war stance, given the era. Garner vehemently believes that everyone who dies in war should not be automatically considered a hero. He doesn’t want young men back in the States to be deluged with “hero” stories that will inspire them to sign up and risk their lives. It’s an occasionally hilarious movie (Garner is always walking in on Coburn in bed with a different woman) with a serious message. We both loved it.

I’m watching Haven from the beginning to prepare for an essay I’m going to write in advance of Season 5. It’s surprising how much I’ve forgotten about the story. On one hand, I wish I’d done this before I went to the set, but on the other now that I’ve been to the set I’m picking up on all sorts of little things. For example, the cell door is made of wood, so the sound it makes when it slides open or when someone slams their hand against it is all done in post production. I’ve sat at the Chief’s desk and wandered around inside the offices of the Haven Herald. I saw Vince & Dave’s tandem bicycle and the books stacked up in the stateroom of Duke’s boat. I made it to the end of the second season yesterday, plus the out-of-series Christmas episode, which is a lot of fun, especially since it is in part inspired by Under the Dome.

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In Country

This morning, I started my first new short story in a while. I was inspired by a British news article I saw last week and I’ve been building up an alternate storyline around it for the past couple of nights. It’s not there yet—I have no idea where it’s going—but I wrote out the opening scene that I dreamed up overnight. The characters don’t have names yet, just placeholders, but these couple of pages help set the tone.

I find myself reading two short works based around the Vietnam war. The first is Buddha Hill by Bob Booth, part of the Necon Novella series. It’s about an Air Force newbie who arrives in Vietnam and his experiences on base. It also ties into the monks who used to set themselves on fire in protest. There’s  a cute, oblique Stephen King: The protagonist picks up a copy of Startling Mystery Stories at the BX and likes a story called “The Glass Floor,” except, he says, “There is just no market for this kind of thing…the poor bastard was probably doomed to spend his life working in some factory.”

The other is Riders on the Storm by Ed Gorman, a short novel in his Sam McCain series. It’s set stateside and features a murder where a Vietnam vet is the prime suspect. It deals a lot with the war’s aftermath and the contradiction between its overall unpopularity and the attitude toward people who protested it.

I just finished Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta and posted my review. I tore through this one and now I have to go back and read his other books. Dude can write.

I’m hanging with The Leftovers, although many people are jumping ship because of its lack of incidents. There’s no identifiable villain other than the shadow of the past, the mysterious event that has rocked everyone’s understanding of reality. There are interesting developments, but no real goal. There’s no ultimate mystery to solve, no island to leave, no villain to vanquish. Still, I’m fascinated by it and curious to see where the story is headed.

I recorded the TCM James Garner marathon yesteday, so I know what we’ll be watching this coming weekend, and beyond…

I’d heard a lot of good things about Snowpiercer, so I found it OnDemand this weekend. It’s a fascinating post-apocalyptic story set entirely on a massive train that is a self-contained ecosystem, hurtling on a thousands-of-miles course around the world once per year. It’s been running for over 17 years when the story starts. The world outside is frozen because of an ill-advised strategy to end global warming.

The wealthy are at the front with lavish accommodations, food and perqs, while the poor are back in steerage, jostling for space and eating gooey protein slabs. After yet another insult to their dignity, they decided to press forward to the front of the train to take control and have a variety of encounters along the way, many of them violent. I especially liked the shooting match between train cars that happens when the train is in the middle of a sweeping curve.

Tilda Swinton is the face of the opposition, adorned with big teeth and a funny accent, reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher. Assisting the resistance is a Korean man and his daughter, the latter having been born on the train. He designed the security system, so he knows how to defeat the locks at each stage, and she is prescient, able to sense what they will face when a door opens. They perform this service in return for a drug. Nothing is quite what it seems, though, and there are surprises aplenty as they make their way from car to car. Some stunning visuals and a very clever plot. Though it’s been described as a horror film, I’d categorize it more as a thriller.

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