The dark has a lot more territory

True Detective ended its eight-week first season on Sunday night and it seems that a fair number of people aren’t all that happy with how it turned out. There are two major camps on that side, as far as I can suss out. One group doesn’t like it that the top guns got away: the politicians and the well connected. Well, that’s life in a nutshell, pretty much, so it should come as no surprise that the series reflected that. The other group wasn’t keen on Rust’s epiphany. Some aren’t even pleased that he survived at all.

Okay, so maybe the ending was a little Pollyanna-esque. The scales fall from the curmudgeon’s eyes and the universe isn’t as terrible a place as he thought for the past 50 years. I can buy into that, or not. Rust’s been having waking visions all his life, so why should an unconscious one have that much effect on him? Shrug. Because it apparently did, I guess. None of that vitiates my appreciation for the show. It dared us to look in a very dark place and, more importantly, it made us look at people who are looking at a very dark place. We don’t see the video: we see how it makes Rust and Marty and even the shifty cop react. And we get to see Carcosa, the manifestation of a seriously mangled mind. We don’t understand everything that happened to that guy to make him the way he was. At times he seems juvenile, but his James Mason voice was creepy and very much a man’s voice. He’s been left alone for far too long, though. How long would it take to create a twisted, mangled maze like the one he built? Wild stuff. Hoarders would have had a field day with that house, which would never be a contender for Good Housekeeping. There simply aren’t enough air fresheners in the world to make that place tolerable.

If I was disappointed with anything in the finale, it was the fact that apparently Marty can no longer shoot worth a damn. He took several shots at the killer, who was no shrinking violet, and only managed to wing him. That hammer claw to the chest was icky, especially since it didn’t seem to make a sound when it went in. I will say this: Rust’s threat of a random sniper ready to take care of the cop if he went against them was a lot more effective than Walt’s threat against Gretchen and Elliott on Breaking Bad. All in all, it was a worthwhile experience, and I look forward to watching it all again very soon.

There’s only one episode of Banshee left for the second season, and once again we’re gearing up for a big confrontation with Rabbit. The question asked by the second season seems to be: Who is Hood? Or, rather, who is the guy who adopted Hood’s persona? It was challenged in early episodes when the real Hood’s son showed up, and in more recent episodes people have been asking him to his face, “Who are you?” That was answered, in part, in episode 9. The secret’s out: He’s Dayva’s father. There’s an ID he can hang his hat on. I loved the scene between Proctor and his mother.

The interesting thing that’s happening on The Americans this season is that, for the first time since we met this happy little spy family, they are in peril, and they have no idea where the danger is coming from. Who can they trust? They’re becoming paranoid, but with good reason.

That river challenge on The Amazing Race is one of the most brutal I’ve seen in a long time. They had to make their own raft and then navigate through some impressive rapids. It’s a wonder no one was seriously hurt. As is often the case, a taxi was the main culprit in a team being eliminated, but in this case it was because they forgot to tell their driver to wait for them at their remote location.

I was getting ready to pull the plug on The Walking Dead if this episode didn’t impress me. I know that we’re supposed to be getting to know some of these more minor characters better, but they’re like the folks from the tail section on Lost as far as I’m concerned. They entered the story too late for me to want to get to know them. This week was marginally better than last, and there are only three episodes left in the season, so I guess I’ll stick it out to see if they all end up at this magical Terminus, which has a rather fatalistic sound to it rather than an optimistic one.

I’d almost forgotten that The Mentalist existed, only to have it pop back up again this week. Took me a while to remember what all was going on, especially the bit back in Sacramento with the bugged phones. Poor LaRoche. Hope he pulls through. An oddball character, but an interesting one. Maybe they’re trying to tie up any loose ends back in California. Rigsby and Van Pelt are supposed to be off the show, too.

Bates Motel is one seriously creepy show, and it’s all thanks to Vera Farmiga. The ways she can mess up her son are legion. And then she pulls off this Patty Lupone showstopper of a performance at the auditions. Whoa.

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Move me onto any black square

Yesterday I posted about two unusual writing places: the elliptical trainer and the shower. When I started writing seriously, I was an avid cyclist. I used to go out for 15-mile rides each day, 30- or 45-miles on the weekends, and I used to do some of my best troubleshooting on those rides.

Nowadays, I write until 7:00 am, then I do 30 minutes on the elliptical and then I get in the shower. This week I’ve been working on a new short story. Each morning I’d write about 800-1000 words and then finish up at a point where I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen next. During my exercise session, I’d let my mind wander and invariably I came up with the next scene. Before hitting the shower, I’d go back to my PC and enter 50-150 words of notes to cue me for the next morning. I should finish the first draft tomorrow morning. It’s been fun, and it’s fairly typical of how I work when I’m writing fiction.

It was good to see Ron Glass (of Barney Miller and Firefly) on CSI last night. Of course, when you see a familiar face like that, you can’t help but think he’s the perp, but they fooled me this time, despite The Who’s admonishment. Special kudos for the use of Yes’s “I’ve Seen All Good People,” which has the subject line as part of its lyrics.

On the other hand, I thought Criminal Minds was a tad obvious in the identity of the perp. Sure, they tried hard to make it seem like the putative leader of the group was “talking to Jacob,” (as in Lost) but it came as no surprise that he wasn’t.

Poor old Raylan. He can’t win for losing. He has this nice getaway planned to go visit his kid in Florida with his girlfriend and he gets called away by Wendy Crowe because her “nephew” has been kidnapped by his “uncle.” Raylan wants to give her the old “You’ve mistaken me for someone who cares” line but Allison convinces him he needs to get out there and find the kid. Which he does, with surprisingly little trouble and no fisticuffs or gunplay. We never did find out how Michael got there first, but in the end it didn’t matter much. Raylan tried to bond with Kendell, telling him about how he’d had trouble with his kin growing up, too, but didn’t gain much traction, even after he gave away his ill-gotten radio gains. Then, having fallen for Wendy’s promise of evidence against her kin, he ends up with bupkis. Maybe now that he’s a free man again, he can explore Wendy’s apparent interest in him.

Boyd’s still in Mexico, trying to get a truck full of drugs and dead bodies into Texas. I told myself, after the cops drove off with the truck, that I bet he had moved the drugs to the car that was requested by the contingent that had to sit in the back of the truck with the bodies. Dewey wisely asked for A/C. And, lo and behold, I was right. Remains to be seen, though, what the next play is, as it appears the Crowes aren’t on the up and up. Surprisingly. Are you sure  you want to be considered my family, Boyd asks, considering I just executed the last blood relative that I have.

If he messes around in Mexico too long, though, Ava might be in big trouble when it comes time for the next expected heroin shipment.

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Where I write

Some people write like this:

Others still write like this:

I imagine there are a few people who even do this:

For all I know, there may even be some of this going on out there:

I do some of my best writing here:

And here:

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Nothing grows in the right direction

On Saturday afternoon it was 80°. This morning it was 26°, and there’s a freezing rain alert out for tomorrow morning. The kind that could, depending on how the thermometer swings, end up in ice on power lines and trees. In March. In Texas.

When I moved to Texas 25 years ago, I went to a lot of concerts. A new pavilion opened close to where I lived and a lot of great acts played there, people I’d always liked but never had a chance to see live. Then I went through a phase where I hardly went to any shows. In the past six months, though, we’ve gone to three concerts, and they couldn’t be any more different from each other. First there was Sarah Brightman last fall. She was the original star of The Phantom of the Opera and combines opera with classical and classics. Then a couple of weeks ago we saw Gordon Lightfoot.

Saturday night, we experienced Shpongle, in the person of Simon Posford. I discovered Shpongle after Posford collaborated with Alan Parsons on his album A Valid Path. They’re a trance band, heavily drug influenced, mostly instrumental, and I love to write to them. To my surprise, my wife likes them, too, so when the concert was announced last fall, I snapped up a few tickets. They played at the House of Blues, a place I’ve never been before, and the price was right: $20 per. I’ve seen a few of their concerts on YouTube with the whole band: it’s quite a show. Here’s one song: Dorset Perception. I was hoping for a big performance like this, but it was a one-man DJ band, which was okay in its own way. The opening group, Desert Dwellers, consisted of two guys with laptops and a whole mess of cables. At one point I thought one of the DJs was checking his email or, perhaps, his twitter feed. They were okay, but they didn’t quite have the musicality of Shpongle and their hour-long set outstayed their welcome by a good 30 minutes. 

Posford came on at something after 10 pm in his Shpongletron, which looked something like the ELO space ship from way back. His DJ station is in the midst of it (see photo), and the periphery is a screen upon which things are projected that look like a cross between the cartoons of Monty Python and the weirdness of Hieronymus Bosch. There were growing mushrooms and floating molecules and snakes and all manner of things going on. The music, much of it could be a playback from one of their recordings with some improv thrown in, but it was an experience unlike anything we’ve ever had before. We splurged on a VIP table, which put us in a restricted area with a table and a server, whereas the rest of the audience was in front of us in an open standing area. Part of the experience was in watching these people, including one guy who was dressed like a dog or a sheep or something. There were a surprising number of people approaching our age, but they mostly hung out on the periphery. By the time the show ended (after midnight, well past my normal bed time!) we were well and truly Shpongled.

I didn’t watch the Academy Award presentations. I’m sure they were fine, but I’m content with a list of winners and a clip of the best moments that can be watched in five minutes or less. Instead I watched The Amazing Race. I’ve never seen a pile-up like that on the mat. Often teams have no idea in what order the others arrived or when, but everyone was there to see the Kentucky team go home after they forgot a backpack and had to go back to reclaim it. Tough call.

Was it just me, or was that one of the worst episodes of The Walking Dead ever? The poor actress who plays Beth isn’t terribly good, something I noticed before, and to have to carry a two-person episode, well, she wasn’t quite up to the task. Normally Darryl-centric episodes are the bomb, but this one just bombed.

So, we’re down to the final True Detective episode and we have at last seen the face of evil. It’s good to see the two guys becoming friends again. Talking. They’re both lonely men, so I think the chance to talk to another human being is welcome to them. Marty proves his mettle as a detective. I’m always amazed by those scenes where someone is shown a storeroom full of file boxes and then the skip-cut to later, with the results. Seldom do you get to see the drudgery in between. More philosophizing: Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing, so you have to be careful what you get good at. And Rust’s observation about the backwaters of Louisiana where they end up at the heart of the case, which forms the title of today’s post.

Only two more episodes of Banshee, too. Hood’s war with Proctor is heating up. “We’ve all been living in the dark long enough.” And then there’s Emmett and his test. And another crack at Rabbit. It’s gonna be tough to beat last season’s rocket launcher finale, but I’m sure they’ll give it a shot.

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Even vultures can fly south for the winter

Yesterday, I spent a little over an hour at the front of a classroom. My buddy Danel Olson invited me to speak to his Gothic class at a local college, something I’ve done once previously. It was a relatively small group, perhaps 16 students, but they seemed interested and engaged and asked good questions. Several of them admitted to being aspiring writers, and one was a musician. The latter asked if I ever got story ideas from dreams (answer: rarely, although I do sometimes work on story problems while I’m first going to sleep), because he sometimes came up with song fragments that way. Another asked how I went about researching weird story details without having people think I was weird or plotting a homicide.

I got up early on Sunday morning to watch Canada’s gold medal-winning hockey match. Well, I time-shifted it and stayed off social media, so it was almost like watching it live. Man, they played well. Hard to believe they’d only been a team for a couple of weeks. They played like they’d been together for years.

The PLRC check arrived yesterday, and the exchange rate wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’ve made more money from When the Night Comes Down via the PLRC than I have from direct sales! And I only get fractional credit for that book since it has three other authors. PLRC is gearing up to handle eBooks in the future, which should be interesting.

I put up a couple of reviews: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris and The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. I liked the Ferris book well enough except it sort of fell apart at the end. The Evanovich book is the first by her that I’ve read (she writes the Stephanie Plum novels). It’s a check-your-brain-at-the-door frolic, which was a lot of fun.

A lot of crap went down on Justified this week. Most dramatically, Raylan issued a put-up-or-shut-up ultimatum to Art (treat me the way you always did or transfer me). I wonder what mayhem Raylan will get up to during his vacation to Florida. Boyd and Cousin Johnny finally had their reckoning. I loved their little tete-a-tete scene, sitting side by side revisiting the past. The Crows blew everything out of the water with their trigger fingers, though. What was up with that? And Wendy Crow getting all flirty with Raylan.

Then Ava made a risky move with the heroin traders in her prison, one that could come back to bite her given Boyd’s sudden problems south of the border. The bit with the one-legged hacker was pretty funny. Raylan half-liked the guy, wanted to be the one to catch him and bring him in. “What if I teach you how to be caller #7?” He was so proud of the fact that he cleaned out Raylan’s bank account, but I was wondering: how much could that be?

The Amazing Race is off and running. Really glad the annoying “twinnies” got eliminated. They were so determined not to repeat their former mistakes and then set about repeating them time and time again. And Survivor, too. I can’t believe J’tia survived not just one but two tribals after her dismal performances and then her outrageous behavior at camp. Both votes were something of a surprise, but the latter caught me flatfooted. Did not see that coming at all. I have a suspicion this is going to be a rainy season.

Rizzoli & Isles is back. It’s more than a little weird to still see Lee Thompson Young all these months later. And season two of The Americans got off to a good start, from the disastrous encounter with the Afghans at the beginning to the cataclysmic discovery in the hotel room at the end, which will no doubt have a far-reaching impact on the season. And poor old Stan. It’s hard to know which side Nina is really on, or if she’s on a side at all. Is there a degree beyond double agent? Triple agent?

And, finally, we get down to episode 6 of True Detective, which, according to Nic Pizolatto, is the end of the second act. All the cards are on the table and, in 1995, Marty and Rust have hit rock bottom in their relationship (that was one heck of a running tackle), while in the modern day it is just being rekindled. Now we know the reason for their falling out, and it’s sort of what we expected, but not quite. I love how Marty’s wife sat there lying to the cops and you could tell she wasn’t as good a liar as Rust and Marty, but she still got through it. It was sort of sad to learn that they didn’t really save that little girl from the meth farm, that she was mostly catatonic years later. One amusing set piece was the positioning of the little angel and demon figurines on the counter while Marty was indulging himself with Proctor’s niece from Banshee. Meanwhile, over on Banshee, the last guy she slept with got turned into hamburger…

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A curling stone gathers no moss

Chilling Tales: In Words, Alas, Drown I received a very nice review from Publishers Weekly. It says, in part, “the prose itself is of a solidly consistent level, the work of professionals experienced at their chosen genre. Collectively, the authors prove expert at reinterpreting anxieties old and modern in ways carefully designed to entertain and horrify.”

Issue 14 of Dead Reckonings, the review journal to which I have been contributing for a number of years, is out now. Hank Wagner and I started doing conversational reviews in an earlier issue, discussing the book in question by email and then converting our dialog into something approaching a review. In Issue 14, we do this with Dan Simmons’ The Abominable. It’s fun having someone to bounce thoughts off, and Hank and I could talk about books all day long, and well into the night.

I’m really getting a kick out of  To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. If forced to describe it briefly, I would say it’s like Dave Barry crossed with Umberto Eco, with maybe some Douglas Adams thrown in for good measure. How many people have to believe something happened before it is generally considered to be real? That’s one question the narrative poses.

The Public Lending Rights Commission cheques are starting to roll out from Ottawa. Canadian citizens get paid for having their books in Canadian libraries each year. It’s a nice little lagniappe. This year, the exchange rate is so dismal that I might hold onto the cheque for a while. Of course, it could get worse.

I don’t really pay much attention to the Olympic games, but when I do I have a favorite sport: curling. I know that sounds weird, but I really do enjoy watching the sport. Women’s curling, more specifically. I was able to find the gold medal contest between Canada and Sweden online this morning. By then it was into the 7th end and it was tied, so I listened to and watched the rest of it. Good game, and I was pleased, of course, by the way it came out. I do like hockey, too, but I haven’t managed to turn on the TV at the right time to see any of the games. Alas, the women seem to be trailing the US in the gold medal game this afternoon. Of course, since I’m a dual citizen I shouldn’t play favorites, but I can’t help myself. [Update: never write off the Canadians!]

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This is a world where nothing is solved

On Friday, we went to see Gordon Lightfoot at the Cullen Performance Hall at the University of Houston. I’ve never seen him live before, but growing up in Canada, he was as omnipresent as snow and moose. The hall was pretty much full (about 1500 people), and there were a couple of people who probably haven’t received letters from AARP in the audience, but they were definitely in the minority. Lightfoot came out exactly on time with his four-piece band (bass, lead guitar, drums, keyboards) and launched into songs without any preamble. He did all the familiar ones plus a number I didn’t know. The guy is 75 years old, so he can be forgiven if his voice is a little reedy in the higher registers. A couple of people in the audience shouted at him between tunes (“We love you, Gordon”) to which he gave his standard response, “I love the work.” They took a 15 minute intermission but played for the better part of two hours. Then they got on a plane and headed back to Toronto. It was a nice way to spend Valentine’s Day.

I finished The Year of the Storm by John Mantooth and started To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. The latter is a horror novel set in Alabama. Given the number of twisters in the story (and not all in the same year), it might have been called The Book of Storms. It is an excellent novel that I highly recommend. I’ve never read anything else by Mantooth, but I certainly hope to in the future. The Ferris novel just showed up on the doorstep last week. I don’t recall requesting it, though I suppose I might have gotten it via Goodreads. I knew nothing about the author, but I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad I did. It’s been a long time since a book has made me laugh out loud, and this one has several times, and I’m only a hundred pages in. The main character is a dentist, and he should by all rights be unlikable because he’s so self-absorbed, but his observations are amusing and his situation is getting interesting.

Last night’s Castle was a riff on Carrie, perhaps inspired by that viral video that was set in a coffee shop where everything went flying. King is name checked in the episode (Castle couldn’t wait to tell Stephen about the situation) and a copy of Carrie is found among the suspected telekinetic’s things.

There’s a trope in action movies that I despise. The hero (or anti-hero) meets up with his nemesis. The fight to end all fights is looming. To even the playing field, the hero sets down his weapons and they go at it mano-a-mano. He what? Why would anyone want to level the playing field in a fight to the death? I noticed (and objected to) this in Reacher and it happened again in last week’s Banshee. I was wondering why Hood didn’t shoot his adversary when the guy turned around to look at the car trunk, where he had a guy locked up. Instead, no, they had to go at it like macho men. With all the transports zipping past, I figured someone was going to end up in front of one. I was right, but not exactly in the way I thought it would happen. They conveniently didn’t mention how the transport driver felt about that.

People in Banshee seem to have anger management issues. Hood got into two melees this week. “That’s starting to be a thing,” Sugar observed. The young Hood should have listened to Sugar when he said that Lili was all kinds of trouble. Not the good kind, as young Hood claimed.  She and Procter have a disconcerting relationship, to say the least. And that Burton character (Proctor’s cleaner) is one weird dude. I wonder who’s at the other end of that whip. I can’t see how he possibly missed the watch, though. And the kicker of the episode: the diamonds Hood went to prison for were glass.

Only three True Detective episodes left and we now have some idea of what it’s all about. The interrogation room scenes have all been leading up to the fact that there’s a new murder in Lake Charles that looks like the old one from ’95, and the cops think Rust was behind it. Rust has been sly like a wolf: he knows about the murder and he’s been trying to see what the cops can tell him about it rather than the other way around. The fact that he’s been drinking beer the whole time makes anything he says inadmissible. Not that he’s learned much. Given that about 20 years have passed since the murder that got this ball rolling, the killer must be getting along in years.

Listening to Marty and Rust describe the scene at the meth lab as it played out was an exercise in cognitive dissonance. They made up a story to cover the fact that Marty popped a cap on the cook after finding the locked up kids. Rust covered for him, so their bond became tighter than ever. Remains to be seen what happened in the future to bust them up. Rust even had a girlfriend for a while, imagine that, and Marty’s wife let him go back home. For a second, when Marty’s kids were playing with that tiara that ended up in the tree, I was worried they were going to go after it and fall, given what Marty was talking about at the time. One of my favorite lines from the episode: Death created time to grow the things that it would kill. Rust thinks that we’re caught in an endless loop of repetition. Now where have I heard that idea before?

For anyone interested in delving deeper into the show’s mythology, The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers is free for Kindle. This is a cobbled-together eBook that apparently has formatting issues, so caveat emptor.

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Ice Cold — anthology release

On April 29th, the MWA will launch its newest anthology, Ice Cold, edited by Jeffery Deaver and Raymond Benson. The launch party will be held at The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, starting at 6:00 p.m. Many of the contributors (alas, not me) are scheduled to appear, as well as many of the 2014 Edgar® Award nominees. Ice Cold, a collection of Cold War-themed short stories, will be available on April 1, and it contains stories from Joseph Finder, John Lescroart, Laura Lippman, J. A. Jance, T. Jefferson Parker, Sara Paretsky, Katherine Neville, Gayle Lynds with John Sheldon—and me. My contribution is called “The Honey Trap.”

We watched another couple of episodes of Michael Palin’s Full Circle last night. Watching him trying to wrangle a camel in northern Australia was pretty funny, but I was especially intrigued by the journey up the coast of Chile. I hadn’t realized the extent of the desert there. According to Palin, in some spots it has never, ever rained.

It’s funny how Art and Raylan “resolved” their issue on Justified. Sort of like a dysfunctional father and son. Raylan showed up at a bar where Art was drowning his sorrows, and the next day Art has a bandaged hand and Raylan has a black eye. Plus Raylan is feeling penitent, taking on drudge work like a kid who agrees to mow the lawn after getting in trouble. Speaking of trouble, Raylan and Rachel probably thought the Crowes and the Crowders were going to take care of each other—instead they’ve joined forces, and that won’t be good for the peaceful people in Harlan County. The unpeaceable ones, either. Darryl, at least, is pretty smart as well as fearsome. Danny is, as Raylan puts it, a “world class dumbass” who looks and acts like a reject from Duck Dynasty, even when he’s having “a good hair day.” Not smart enough to know that poking Raylan is not a good idea, but at least swift enough to play along with Carl’s explanation for why he was duct-taped to a chair in a remote cabin. Safe word, indeed.

And the hapless Dewey’s luck continues to be bad. Trying to sell off his dream (his above ground swimming pool that Raylan ventilated a few weeks ago) so he can get away. Then he ends up on the wrong end of the worst ransom phone call ever and skitters off into the woods when the law arrives. “I went to get help, but I got lost in the woods.” Again. And how much worse luck can Ava have than when the woman who was supposed to be looking out for her in the penitentiary is the one who kicks her ass and cuts her hair? Hopefully that lawyer can pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Speaking of Rabbits, this weeks Banshee was their trippiest episode ever. Also unusual in that Sheriff Hood got through the whole thing without getting beaten up once. True, he did get shot at in the midst of an awesome scene in a wheat field. Filmed from above, you could see the sniper’s trail through the grain and then Hood and Carrie converging on him. There were several fantasy sequences, especially the ones when Hood picked Carrie up and they both thought about how they wanted to behave toward the other and then the rather cool greeting they ended up with. Lots of quick time shifts and locations shifts that were somewhat disorienting. Just when Hood was planning his exit strategy from Banshee, things get complicated. Again.

In preparation for the second season, I re-watched Orphan Black. If you haven’t seen this series, you should. It’s as original as they come. A woman sees another woman jump in front of a train. Thing is, the woman looks exactly like her, so she decides to steal the woman’s identity to evade some personal trouble. Problem is, the other woman is a cop under investigation for a civilian-involved shooting. And then she finds out that there are other people who look exactly like her, more than just a few of them. And someone is trying to kill them. And someone else is monitoring and performing experiments on them. And Matt Frewer is in it. Can’t wait to see where they go next with the concept.

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Six minutes in a stash house

I posted two new book reviews this weekend:  Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto and Murder in the Ball Park by Robert Goldsborough. I really liked Galveston and intend to read Pizolatto’s recent short story collection soon. I’m currently reading The Troop by Nick Cutter, which is the pseudonym of Canadian author Craig Davidson. The book has been compared to Lord of the Flies, but it reminds me more of Dreamcatcher. Five 14-year-old Boy Scouts and their troopmaster are on uninhabited island off the coast of PEI when a man stumbles ashore and he’s infected with something ghastly and contagious. This isn’t a book for the queasy.

This week on The Walking Dead: Michonne walks through the woods and kills zombies. Carl is a spoiled brat. Rick is an ineffective leader. Original air date: every effing week. I did like the Michonne “flashback” and the closing line (“It’s for you”) was the funniest thing on the show in a long time.

I enjoyed the Grammy tribute to The Beatles last night. There were some excellent performances. I especially liked Jeff Lynne and Joe Walsh, with Dhani Harrison covering “Something.” The Eurythmics rebanded to do “Fool on the Hill,” which was not terrible. I thought Katy Perry was brave to take on “Yesterday,” and don’t quite get the flack over the fact that she changed the narrator’s gender to match hers. Dave Grohl was impressive, too, and his cute little daughter melted many hearts as she made a heart with her hands during his performance. The pièce de résistance, of course, was Ringo and then Paul and then Ringo and Paul at the end. I wasn’t old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan episode they first appeared on, but my sister bought all the singles and my father grumbled about John Lennon, who he pigeon-holed as a communist, so I was certainly aware of them from an early age.

That was an impressive piece of cinematography on last night’s True Detective. From the moment Cohle entered the stash house until he got into Marty’s back seat, there wasn’t a single cut. One continuous shot that lasted over six minutes. The director has a history of doing long shots (as in Jane Eyre), but this one covered a lot of territory and involved a lot of characters. It wouldn’t have taken much to mess it up. The camera even had to go over a wrought-iron fence at one point. It was breathtaking.

One of the more interesting aspects of this show is the fact that these two partners really don’t like each other. That’s been done before, of course, but never so effectively. I thought it was funny when Marty said to the guy in the lockup, referring to the prisoner’s former cellmate, “Gotta be tough living with someone spouting insane shit in your ear all day long,” looking at Cohle the whole time. Marty, the one who I formerly thought of as the saner partner, is now giving Cohle a run for his money. Not that he’s getting much sympathy from Cohle, which is understandable since Marty always cut Cohle off when he was talking before. Sons of Anarchy used to set the bar for gritty thuggery, but the bikers in this show would eat SAMCRO for lunch. They certainly made for a mangy looking bunch of cops. Cohle’s observation that the evidence locker “should have a better system than this” seemed a little self-serving. I did like Marty’s accusation that Cohle was “the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch.”

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Snowpocalypse 2014

It’s a good thing they didn’t have a good handle on this morning’s weather or else everything in Houston might have been canceled again. As it turns out, we saw more winter precipitation at our house today than during the previous two events. My wife (and several others) referred to the precip as “dippin’ dots,” something with which I wasn’t familiar but apparently it’s some kind of ice cream treat. What fell was a combination of hail, sleet and snow that pebbled on top of things like our patio table. I heard it pinging against the windows a little after 7 a.m. and reports came in on Twitter from all around the Houston metro area. It didn’t last long, didn’t accumulate and appeared to cause few problems on the roads.

I finished Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto. Review forthcoming, even though it’s not a new book. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading his recent short story collection. The novel has a bit of a Pelecanos vibe. Now I’m reading Murder in the Ball Park by Robert Goldsborough, his latest Nero Wolfe novel. I also posted my review of Killer by Jonathan Kellerman, the best Alex Delaware novel in a while.

The one-hour pilot of Bosch, the Amazon Studios adaptation of the Michael Connelly novels featuring LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch, is now streaming for free on Amazon. The plot is based on his novel City of Bones and the biggest shame of this is that the story isn’t wrapped up in the pilot. There are two main storylines. In one, Harry (Titus Welliver) is being sued in civil court over an alley shooting two years earlier. The LAPD could have settled, but Harry being the stubborn S.O.B. that he is, refused. By the end of the pilot, the jury has been selected and opening arguments presented. Because he’s bored to tears by the whole thing, Harry ends up getting involved in what could be a cold case. A doctor (Hershel from The Walking Dead) finds the humerus of a child in the woods behind his place. The forensic pathologist (an excellent Alan Rosenberg from L. A. Law) figures it was a little boy who was terribly abused. Bosch also has time to get involved with a “new” beat cop played by Annie Wersching from 24.

I never had a preconceived notion of what Harry Bosch looked like, or if I did I thought he looked like Michael Connelly (who has a subtle cameo in the pilot), so I’m rolling along with Welliver (the Man in Black from Lost), who seems to have the character down cold, including a jaw muscle tremor thing. It’s all shot in L.A. and the scenes at the homicide division were actually filmed in Hollywood Station, with real officers and real perps in the background. It all looks really good, including the rainy scene at the beginning. Bosch’s house is something I’d envisioned before and the location they got for it is perfect, as is the ambiance of the jazz music when he’s at home. The show is off to a good, strong start and I hope it gets picked up as a series. Since this is streaming, you’ll find more than your fair share of the word which you’ll never hear on Sons of Anarchy, even, so it’s TV-MA. Check it out at the link above.

There were a lot of developments on this week’s Justified. First off we got Alan Tudyk from Firefly playing Theo Tonin’s guy. He’s out to figure out who knows what about Sammy’s murder, so he shoots a Canadian (after tossing a toonie his way) and, later, shows up with a shotgun / submachine gun combo which is one of the most awesome weapons I’ve ever seen. He gets into a verbal joust with Art (“I got a friend in Jesus and I support youth baseball. Whatever you’re selling, not buying.”) and a standoff in a diner during which Wynn Duffy tries to defuse tensions by asking if anyone minds if he orders his meal. Showdown ensues with Raylan saving the day and advising Art to spend some time on the firing range. I did not think the episode was going to end well for Art. Any cop who is fixin’ to retire generally has a bad day coming. I guess Raylan’s subtle confession at the end qualifies.

Then there’s Boyd’s way of settling his problems, which includes faking Paxton’s suicide and hiring a terminally ill coal miner to take care of the hinky sheriff. All’s for naught, though, because the midget stormtrooper at Ava’s jail throws a major monkey wrench into the works. And then there’s the Haitian, who challenged the Crowe brother who looks like an outcast from Duck Dynasty. Everyone thought he was going to be more of a player this season but I guess no one could figure out to do with him, so they did to him what you do to characters you can’t figure out anything to do with. And then there’s Boyd and Hot Rod and Johnny and Hot Rod and Hot Rod’s guys vs. Johnny and Hot Rod’s guys vs. Hot Rod. Lots of switch-ups to keep things interesting there. And finally there was Dewey’s existential angst. An oddly filmed scene that took a while to reveal its composition completely. Dewey giving away his most prized possessions (they weren’t exactly appreciated by their recipients) does not bode well for his mental state. Another good season so far.

One of the frustrating things about plots like last night’s Criminal Minds is that if someone is kidnapped so the thugs can extract their passwords from them, and people know why they’ve been kidnapped, why not just change the codes. I know they tried to hand-wave it way with mumbo-jumbo, but I didn’t buy it.

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