Sprung

It’s easy to tell that spring has arrived. Yesterday afternoon my car was absolutely covered in greenish-yellow pollen. When I pulled out of my parking spot, it flowed across the windshield like snow pellets.

Working on essays and book reviews this week. I turned in a piece to FEARnet the other day and now I have a review that has to go into CD by the weekend, although I plan to finish it tomorrow if possible. I have a short story that I need to revise and a stack that I’m going to hunt down new potential markets for, and then it’s off to novel land again. The more I think about this book (and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking but not much writing on it), the more layers I come up with.

Keith Carradine on NCIS reminded me of Dr. Johnny Fever from WKRP.

I saw three shows in the past day or so where the last five minutes (or less) were amazing. On The Americans it was really the final minute when the attempted kidnapping of the physicist goes so very, very wrong. How many times can you slam the trunk on a guy’s hand? For a while, it was the women who were kicking butt, and it was the woman assailant who got the last laugh by driving off and leaving our “heroes” standing gaping in the street. I find it interesting how they’re fighting the battle for the motherland on the grand scale and then the battle for their children’s souls (well, not exactly souls, that’s sort of the issue, but that’s the essence of it) on the home front.

Then there was CSI, where the creepy daughter turned everything on its head in the last couple of minutes. How much of what they thought they knew already was true? In any case, that was one messed up family. And then on Survivor, the newly merged team pulled off a brilliant blindside. It’s not unusual to see the evicted person gape with surprise, but jaws dropped on either side of him, too. It was hilarious to see, and it looks like the implications of that vote may create an interesting and novel situation next week.

You had to be a blind person not to guess that Rizzoli might be pregnant on this weeks Rizzoli & Isles, the first episode to not feature Lee Thomas Young. They haven’t written him out of the show yet, but they did cut the spring season to only a handful of episodes while they figure out what to do about the loss.

It’s rarely funny when a character dies, but Danny Crowe’s swan song on Justified was drop dead hilarious. All season long he’s been going on and on about his 21 foot rule and just when he was about to put it to the test, he goes and falls into his dog’s freshly dug grave and impales himself with the famous knife. Apparently the scene was inspired by something from an Elmore Leonard novel, where a bad guy falls down and accidentally shoots himself. According to the showrunner, Timothy Olyphant could barely stop laughing the whole time they were filming the scene. I also liked the scene where “Officer Buzz Kill” wormed the information out of the two prostitutes.

So, Dickey Bennett was back for a bit. Looks like he’s getting his hair styled at the Boyd Crowder Salon. I loved the way Raylan plunked down on the bench, put his head on his hands and just watched as Dickey spun out another long-winded yarn. There are as many inept crooks in Leonard’s works as ept ones. Take Dewey (“I got your heroin. Well, I got half of it, but it’s the whole half.”) Crowe, releasing his Gremlin on a hill and having to chase after it, running over the same big stone that rips the muffler from the car. “A lot of confidence for a guy who wears shorts with combat boots.”

The Crowe gang is diminishing and now they’re in-fighting. And Ava tried her best not to stab Judith in the prison but ended up having to do it anyway, while at the same time Boyd failed in his quest to get Albert to recant. That’s one twisted little dude. It will be interesting to see how Mary Steenburgen’s character whips things into shape.

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The English are landing

I did something last weekend that I haven’t in a while: I read something quite long in French. The work was “Sale Gosse,” the French translation of the Stephen King novella “Bad Little Kid,” which at present is only available in French and German. I’ve read a few French books in the past and was quite pleased by how little I had to rely on the dictionary. Even the metaphors and idioms came through, although I was at first befuddled by a couple of instances of a phrase that translated literally as “the English are landing.” I had to resort to Google for that one. I learned that it is the way the French refer to a woman’s time of the month. Apparently something to do with the redcoats and the long-running history between the French and the English. I wrote an article for FEARnet about the story, which should appear soon.

Last night, I received a box of contributor copies of Ice Cold: Tales of Intrigue from the Cold War, the MWA anthology edited by Jeffrey Deaver and Raymond Benson, which contains my short story “The Honey Trap.” The book comes out on April 1. I’m really looking forward to reading the other contributions.

Banshee finished its second season with a record-breaking viewership. Paltry by most standards, but it was the largest viewership Cinemax has ever had for its original content. The show has been renewed for a third season. It’s an over-the-top show, pulpy to the max, with impossible violence orchestrated like ballet and soft-core porn-level sex, but it’s interesting, too. They went a tad overboard this season with the concept of parallel structure: similar things happening to different characters at the same time. It was as if they thought they had discovered it, and they almost hammered viewers over the head with it, but that was my biggest complaint. It was an interesting choice to go back in time with Ana, Rabbit and “Hood” to see the things we’ve only heard about in passing until now. I liked the exchange between Ana/Carrie and Hood where he’s talking about his military experience. “How many lives have you lived?” she asks, to which he responds, “None, really.” Give ten bad guys machine guns and they can’t hit crap, but Job and a few other guys hit the mark every time. Rabbit’s final benediction: Somewhere in the future there’s a bench like this waiting for you. Probably true for a guy like “Hood.”

After strewing the church with empty casings and turning the pillars into Swiss cheese, and then dispatching Rabbit once and for all, what was there left to do? Plenty, as it turns out. We got to see the albino once more, in flashback, then Rebecca had the strangest sexual encounter on the show to date (and that’s saying a lot) with Chief “Thunder Man.” What a little sociopath she’s turned into. And then Emmett heads across the border to Maryland, content in thinking he’s out of the fray, only to find himself on the wrong end of a machine gun. Deva drops buy to visit her newly discovered Dad, Rebecca cuddles up with her naked uncle, and the Incredible Hulk decides it’s time to head back to Banshee, setting up next season. Oh, and Hood has a meaningful moment with Siobhan. A lot of the past has been wrapped up, which could open things up for Season 3.

I dropped Bates Motel off my DVR recording schedule. I just don’t care about 85% of what’s going on, and the remaining 15% isn’t enough to keep me hanging around. There are  good ways to handle prequels (e.g. Hannibal) and bad ways. Hannibal is stylistic and it focuses on the central characters. It doesn’t need to go off in 75 directions all at once. There’s Will and Hannibal and everything else arises naturally from that conflict.

We’re about 2/3 of the way through the second season of House of Cards. It probably takes people like Frank and Claire to succeed in that environment, sad to say. Ultimately, everyone is dispensable, a means to an end.

The challenges on The Amazing Race seem really hard this season. The simultaneous martini trick was a real doozy, and the rival DJ scratching seemed just as hard, and impossible of course for the deaf contestant.

The Walking Dead finally did something to make me sit up and pay attention. The end of this week’s episode was quite shocking. Goes to show that characterization trumps horror and special effects. I still am not a huge fan of this fragmented 2014 season in general, though.

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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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