Travel agents

I finished the first draft of a story I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. It’s been tough going for a couple of reasons. First, I used the bones of an old, unfinished story as the basis for it, but I had to pick all the pieces out and reassemble them in a different shape, so it’s kind of a Franken-story. Second, I didn’t want to start writing until I could figure out a solution to the story problem. I was worried I had set up an unsolvable situation and I didn’t want to write myself into a corner.

I figured out the ending late last week and it’s been full speed ahead, more or less, ever since. The next problem: it came in at 5100 words and the market has a cap of 3500. I can generally get rid of 10-15% of the text in the first round or two of edits, but almost a third of it has to go. I’m pretty sure its do-able, but it’s going to take work.

One of my stories will be featured this June in Season 4 of The Wicked Library podcast. Looking forward to hearing how they adapt it for voice.

What is it with FX and travel agencies? First, KGB agents Philip and Elizabeth use one as their cover on The Americans and now there’s one on Fargo that’s cover for a team of hit men. I enjoyed the first episode of Fargo. It’s got such a great cast. All these wonderful people keep showing up. It was hilarious to see Kate (Addison from Private Practice) Walsh as a trash-talking widow. Bob Odenkirk as a deputy with a weak stomach. Colin Hanks as a cop who has a face-to-face with a seriously scary guy, and blinks. Keith Carradine, Martin Freeman and a host of others. Billy Bob Thornton plays a hit man, but he’s also something of an imp, stirring up shit just for fun. For example, he calls the elder son of a man he just killed and tells him that their father left everything to the other brother. For no reason other than to set them against each other, a payoff he won’t even get to see. And then he tells a badgered son how he handled someone who insulted him and promptly calls the mother when the son follows suit. He’s just handing out misery with a trace of a smile on his face. It’s goofy and funny and violent, but not completely Twin Peaks out-there wacky. This is a limited run series, just 10 episodes, so all bets are off right out of the gate.

I started watching the SyFy series Helix, which has finished its first season and has been renewed. It’s not bad, and it has a cast of actors you might sorta recognize from other places. That politician from The Killing. The Japanese guy from Lost. It’s about a viral outbreak in an Arctic experimental station and the CDC team that’s sent in to deal with it. Sort of The Andromeda Strain with more deaths and explosions. It has suspense and science fiction tropes aplenty.

There’s a new mayor of Loose Cannon-ville on Survivor. I have to wonder what sort of cop Tony is in the real world. He lies, manipulates, plants evidence and then goes all paranoid when he realizes that other people are playing the game as hard as he is, only with a tad more subtlety. Looks like everyone has given up on searching for immunity idols. They didn’t even bother to look for a clue at the spa resort. Spencer’s sitting in an okay position right now. He’s a strong player, and he’s got an idol. Another dumb move or two by Tony and he could be on the top of the heap.

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Carrie at 40 57

Matthew Craig has devoted most of his blog in April to celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication of Carrie. He invited me to write one of the entries, along with others like Sarah Langan, John Connolly, Simon Clark and Mark West. My entry, Carrie White at 57, went up today. Though there is a little inconsistency regarding Carrie’s age in the novel, by my estimate she would by now be a card-carrying member of the AARP and contemplating what she’d do when she retires, if she’d managed to survive prom night.

Here’s an interview with Raymond Benson and Jeffery Deaver, editors of Ice Cold, which was selected by Reader’s Digest as one of seven books that “make it clear that short is good.”

I’m all caught up on The Blacklist and can’t wait for the final four episodes of the first season. I’m really glad I decided to give this show a chance. Reddington is one of the most complex characters on TV. He’s delightful and ruthless. His mind works in so many different directions at the same time, and you never know what’s going to pop out of his mouth. In the midst of an escape through a restaurant kitchen, he coerces someone into transferring millions of dollars into his bank account using a tablet computer. After the transaction is confirmed, he says, “Do you find all the little fingerprints on the screen distracting or does that sort of thing not bother you?” It seems like an unscripted moment but it is so totally in character. The story is really heating up now that Lizzie believes him about [spoiler] and they’re starting to take action on that suspicion. One of my favorite Reddington-isms so far is a warning to an FBI agent hell-bent on revenge: “Once you cross over, there are things in the darkness that can keep your heart from ever feeling the light again.”

This week’s Survivor wasn’t quite as gonzo as the promos indicated. Okay, sure, everyone was searching for the idol at the same time, but it wasn’t the idol. The one with super-magical mystery powers. It was just a normal, regular, get-out-of-jail-free idol. The other one remains to be found. I also think they sort of wimped out by voting Morgan off the island. She was the easy target, someone who was no threat to anyone. I expected a big move, but they all played it safe. Their digs for Ponderosa are rather upscale this season. Looks like they’re staying at a luxury hotel instead of a campground.

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Olfactory hallucination

I like winning contests. Gives me a boost. The theme for the 2014 AE Micro contest was “senses,” so I wrote a flash story called “Phantosmia,” which was one of the five entries selected for publication in this little do-it-yourself booklet. It’s a neat concept. If you’re so inclined, you can print the pdf and follow the instructions to assemble a booklet containing the winning entries. Not quite as hard as putting together IKEA furniture. Otherwise, you can just read the five stories at their website. Mine is on page 5.

Phantosmia means phantom smells, which is a symptom some people who have seizures experience. Unfortunately, the smells are generally bad odors rather than something you might appreciate, like chocolate. The story is only 200 words, so it won’t take more than a minute or two for you to digest.

I’m about 2/3 of the way caught up on The Blacklist. What a delightfully immoral/amoral character Red Reddington is, and I couldn’t picture anyone else doing it the service that James Spader does. He is a Renaissance man and a hedonist who cares deeply for those in his inner circle but who is willing to pull the trigger on anyone who crosses him. He is judge, jury and executioner. He denies that he’s Lizzy’s father, but he thanked her adoptive father for raising her (before putting a pillow over his face). He insists her husband Tom is bad news without providing any evidence to back up his allegations. I wonder why he doesn’t just take Tom out if he perceives him as such a threat. Good to see Alan Alda pop up, too.

The penultimate season of Justified finished last night. Quite a few bangs, but also a big setup for the context of Season 6. Raylan’s gambit with Kendal makes more sense now: he wasn’t expecting Daryl to leap to his nephew’s defense. He was expecting Kendal to grasp the seriousness of his situation and recant his confession. I liked Raylan’s monologue about being forced to kill a pig by his father. Also the way he handled Kendal, threatening adult repercussions, but getting him a hot cocoa. Turns out, Raylan’s ploy went somewhere in the middle: he convinced Wendy, who was the one who ultimately got her son out of trouble. He didn’t interfere when she decided how to handle her brother, and he got his last lick in at Daryl, too. “Didn’t I tell you you were gonna wish I’d killed you? Well. Dontcha?”

Tim’s a pretty fearless guy, standing up to Daryl Crowe, who must have five or six inches and a good chunk of pounds on him. But Tim has been in dark places and confronted people vastly more dangerous than Daryl. He tends to take risks, though, like trying to follow his prey through a live intersection, a decision for which he paid the rest of the episode. Notice how he’s taking ibuprofen and rubbing his temples later on. Rachel’s no slouch, either, confronting the three Mexicans (“In case it wasn’t obvious, this is the part where you drop your guns”) and caressing Boyd’s coat as she tells him that getting him is now her personal mission in life.

Boyd was in a major pickle, but he put all his eggs in one basket: Raylan. He figured his old nemesis would get him out of trouble, and it paid off. Poor old Jimmy didn’t have such luck, and Boyd himself narrowly avoided becoming someone’s skin suit, and also being stuck in a cage, like a parrot. What exactly does Yoon do with the flesh of his enemies, that’s what I want to know. Boyd pulls of a neat little behind-the-back shot that he boasts about to Tim, who responds, “Good guys don’t need to shoot people with their hands cuffed.” At least Boyd had the decency to fix up Ava’s place after the shootout. One of the Mexicans was played by the actor who was one of those chilling Salamanca brothers from Breaking Bad.

Ava proved she could handle herself in tight spots but her overall situation in prison was becoming untenable. She had a perpetual target on her back. So when Raylan came back with another offer, she didn’t have much choice. It wasn’t quite as good as the last one: instead of getting Boyd to cooperate with the Feds, she now has to spy on him. Raylan was all set to go to Florida (so Winona can finally take a nap), and was deflecting all objections to his departure until the idea of taking on Boyd arose. It’s funny that he thought the person at the center of all the calamity in Kentucky was himself at first.

So, not exactly an explosive season finale, as these things go, but rather a launching pad for things to come. Boyd seems thrilled at the prospect of getting back to robbing banks, and it’s not entirely clear whether Vasquez is really after Boyd or Katherine Hale, who may have been the brains of her husband’s operation, if that smile of hers is to be interpreted.

Don’t be scared. Everything’s gonna be fine.

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Good for the goose

I finished reading Ice Cold this weekend. I even re-read my own story. It’s an impressively solid anthology that tackles the Cold War from so many different angles. There’s even a Hemingway “Crook Factory” inspired story and one that was inspired by a real life experience of a famous author. Our first review, from bookreporter.com, is both lengthy and effusive. The blurbable quote is: “It is a must-have volume for your bookshelf” and it ends by saying, “The stories are not long, but run deep and are memorable, particularly for those of us who remember the dawn of that cold conflict.”

I’m currently reading an ARC of No Safe House by Canadian crimewriter Linwood Barclay. It’s a sequel to No Time for Goodbye and takes place seven years after the events in that book. As a sequel, it does a couple of things particularly well. First, it contains enough backstory for anyone who hasn’t read the earlier book (like me) to understand what’s going on. Second, it doesn’t reveal so much of the earlier book that someone wouldn’t want to go back and read it.

I went on a Netflix binge this weekend, clearing out a few things from my list. On Friday night, I watched Exile, a three part BBC crime drama starring John Simm (Doctor Who, Life on Mars), Olivia Coleman (Broadchurch), Jim Broadbent and Claire Goose (Waking the Dead). Simm plays a disgraced journalist who scampers back to his family home. He’s been estranged for many years from his father (Broadbent), who is now suffering from Alzheimer’s. His sister (Coleman) has been caring for him, and she’s had it up to here. They come to an understanding and he agrees to help out. However, their father’s mind is fixated on some strange parts of his life and the more Simm digs into it, the more he turns up. It’s a family drama and a mystery where the major clues are all locked inside his father’s mind. Powerful people don’t want him stirring up old crimes. Quite a good tale. Claire Goose plays his new (but married to one of his best friends from high school) love interest.

Then on Saturday, I watched Headhunters, a Norwegian film based on a standalone novel by Jo Nesbø. I hadn’t read the book, but I’ve read all of Nesbø’s Harry Hole novels, and the film came recommended to me by Michael Slade. It’s a quirky, oddball film that reminded me at times of Fargo. The main character is a business headhunter who is 5′ 6″ and declares in the opening moments that he tends to overcompensate for his shortcomings. He’s married to a statuesque blonde and he’s so insecure that he steals artwork so he can buy her a nice house and other nice things. He’s quite successful at it. His partner works for a security company and can shut off alarms at will, so that helps. He interviews a candidate for a high tech company, but when the guy seduces his wife (something he learns while he’s in the middle of robbing the guy’s flat), of course there’s no job offer pending. From there, things devolve very fast, and the main character ends up running for his life, arrested, shot, stabbed, slashed, bitten by a dog, run off the road while in police custody, and so on. Quite exhilarating and mordantly funny at times. I especially got a kick out of the scene where his partner and a Russian prostitute are engaged in a game of naked “laser tag,” using real guns.

Yesterday, three more double episodes of Waking the Dead. I’m nearing the end of the fourth season, where I understand dire things are going to happen to a character. Her goose is cooked, so to speak. I found it funny that they decided to address Boyd’s anger management issues. That’s one thing I’ve commented on before: everyone seems angry on this show. Shouty.

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They didn’t even name him Mr. Black

I don’t take on new series lightly. In fact, I’ve become somewhat mercenary. In recent days, I deleted Bates Motel and The Walking Dead from my DVR series recordings.

However, I’ve been meaning to check out The Blacklist, having heard good things about it, and since the episodes are piling up I decided to see if it was worthwhile. It had one strike against it from the get-go: It was on NBC. Of all the shows I watch at present, only two are on that network, and the ones I’ve tried out in recent years have either been disappointments or canceled when they were getting interesting. Or both. However, The Blacklist has enough episodes under its belt that it looks like it will be around for a while, and I’ve heard good things about it from others, without paying too close attention to what it’s about.

James Spader (Boston Legal) plays Reddington, who has been on the FBI’s most wanted list for 20 years. In the first episode, he walks into the agency headquarters and surrenders himself. He is a valuable font of information; however, he has a condition. He will only talk to Elizabeth Keen, a newbie profiler fresh from Quantico. In fact, it’s her first day at her new job. No one knows why he picked her, and he’s not saying. She bears scars, literal and metaphorical, from her past. In the first episode, she and her husband are in the late stages of adopting. By the second episode, she’s not sure who her husband is any more.

Reddington has a list, which he calls his blacklist for the sake of drama (by his own admission). This mental list contains names of criminals, many of whom the Feds don’t even know exist. If some of his other conditions are met, he will divulge names and details, which he does on a week-by-week basis. Though in general he’s working on the side of good after two decades, he has hidden motives and sometimes uses the Feds to his own benefit. He’s a real card: Alan Shore if things had gone another route. He’s smooth and skillful and charming and lethal. It’s not clear why he’s so interested in Elizabeth, but he knows a lot about her. At this early stage, three episodes in, I’m open to the idea that he might be her real father. We’ll see. It’s a crime-of-the-week show with an through-line. I like that.


This week’s Survivor was a real wowser. Tribal Council was the best part. Two people played idols on behalf of other people, unplanned, but the vote from the other tribe was aimed at someone else, so it was a useless gesture. Except, just when it seemed like they were going to lose someone, a player on the other team flipped and broke the tie in the opposite direction. My jaw dropped. It will be interesting to see the repercussions, but it seems like next week will focus on this new immunity idol with secret special powers.

It was nice seeing Stuart Margolin on NCIS this week. People of a certain age will remember him as Angel on The Rockford Files, Jim’s jailhouse friend who was always trying to run a con of some sort.

Talking about jaw-dropping, Raylan’s gambit at the end of this week’s Justified is a real hail mary. By upping the ante, having Kendall charged as an adult, he’s really putting the screws to Daryl Crowe, Jr. Crowe thought a few years in juvie would toughen up his brother slash nephew, but this is a whole new game. Only one episode left to see how it resolves.

The running joke of the past few episodes has been the bartender in Boyd’s joint. “This is the worst job in the world,” he says after being shot in the knee, a week after being coshed and tied up. The comedy continued with Dewey’s run-in with the old lady from whom he was “borrowing” some gasoline to keep his smokey Gremlin going. “You’re a little touched, aintcha child?” she asked, moments before she went after him with her shotgun. Finally, Dewey gets caught incriminating himself and demands some final respect from Raylan. “My advice: stop talking about yourself in the third person. Makes you sound like a fool.” Dewey doesn’t understand the literary reference. “Third person? You mean, this guy?” he asks, pointing at the driver. “I don’t understand you,” he says to Raylan, and not for the first time.

Ava’s in a tight spot, and she missed her chance to use Boyd to improve her situation. Hard to imagine that ending well, unless Boyd can make another deal. The savior with the silver tongue has talked himself out of corners before, when he’s not resorting to a “redneck I.E.D.” But what about poor Jimmy? Is he going to be on the receiving end of a skin-related procedure?

A nice nod to Elmore Leonard when Tim cuts Boyd’s long-winded story off: Why don’t you leave out the parts we’d like to skip?”

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Endings are hard

Awoke this morning to news of another short story sale. This one is for a flash fiction piece that was one of the winners of a contest. The official announcement hasn’t been made yet, so I won’t say where until it has.

Today is also the day Ice Cold goes on sale in just about every format known to mankind. That’s the back cover over there. I’m about halfway through it (I received my contributor copies a while back) and I am impressed by all the various ways people approached the general theme of Cold War. It’s really an excellent anthology. I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it to They Mysterious Bookstore in NYC at the end of the month for the official launch.

So, a couple of days have passed since the season ending of The Walking Dead. My preliminary reaction to it: I removed the series from my DVR recording schedule. I gave it a chance and, in the end, I just didn’t care about any of the characters or what happened to them. Yeah, the bunch at Terminus are probably luring people to the site because it’s easier to have food come to you than it is to go out and get it. As for who among the cast of familiars might already have become barbecue, I really don’t care. The show has never really engaged me after Darabont left.

Last night was the series finale of How I Met Your Mother and I’m still processing how I feel about it. A lot of people hated it; I didn’t. I didn’t love the first half hour, mostly because it seemed altogether too real for a sitcom. I didn’t hate it, but it certainly didn’t provide the warm fuzzy feeling I was expecting from the finale. The second half was better. I loved the moment under the umbrella when they first truly met each other. I liked the stories of their lives in the future. Some people didn’t like what Robin turned into, but it made sense to me: that level of success was always her dream. It’s what she came to NY for in the first place. I have to say, though, that as cute and likable as the mother, Tracy, was, she seemed like an interloper in the future scenes, hanging out with “our five” like she belonged there. They didn’t show us enough of her for her to have earned that place, kidding Barney about “Number 31″ and “where are you registered?” It was nice seeing her there, but we should have seen more of her to get to that point. This conceit of making the entire final season about Barney and Robin’s wedding wasn’t a good one, in my opinion, because the wedding was really only important in that it was the place where Ted met Tracy. Otherwise, it probably wasn’t as memorable an event in their lives as we were led to believe. However, the last five minutes repaid all, in my opinion, and it’s where the showrunners always meant to go. The final bit between Ted and his kids (the kids part, at least) was filmed eight or nine years ago so the actors would still be kids (the actress who plays his daughter is now 27), and it’s the way I always hoped things would work out. BTW: According to my calculations, Ted is my age in that final moment.

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Everyone sees him through your eyes now

This is about Homeland, season 3. If you haven’t seen it, then you should probably quickly avert your eyes.

The theme of the season was redemption: Carrie’s for being right about Brody all along and Brody’s attempt to atone for some of the bad things he did in the past.

The entire season can be summed up simply: Saul and Carrie concoct a plan to turn a high-ranking Iranian official so that he can influence internal policy and open the country to the west. They will insert Brody into the country as an asylum seeker so he can remove an obstacle to this official’s advancement.

Of course, nothing is simple on Homeland. To get the Iranians to take the bait, Saul has to leave Carrie hanging after she has another meltdown. She has to seem vulnerable, and it has to be more than just a cover story. Saul keeps this plan so close to the vest that no one else in the agency knows what’s going on until the plan kicks into high gear. There are two catches. 1) Saul thought he was going to become the agency director, but it turns out that a senator has been picked for that spot, so Saul is something of a lame duck, with little power or leverage. 2) Carrie is pregnant with Brody’s child, a fact she does not reveal to Saul.

I was aware of a lot of muttering and murmuring about the third season on Facebook and Twitter as it was airing, but I didn’t look into it at the time. Binge-watching a show is a different experience. If you think things are going too slowly or that side plots are taking up too much air time, you only have to wait an hour for it to change, not a week, or weeks. Few people seemed interested in Dana’s story, which did take up a lot of the first several episodes and ultimately didn’t go anywhere meaningful, even after Brody gets to talk to her one last time. Might the season have gone better without all of the Brody family drama? Perhaps, but Brody was back on American soil and to totally ignore the family would have seemed strange. So I didn’t mind.

The scenes in Caracas were interesting. I visited that city a couple of decades ago. I didn’t get into lawless areas like the Tower of David, but I was warned after the fact that I hadn’t been terribly smart in wandering around the city on my own. I didn’t run into any problems but I guess I might have. I liked the ambiguity of Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham). I didn’t trust him for much of the season, and in truth it would be wise not to trust him as he operated with his own agenda, which sometimes aligned with Saul’s and sometimes it didn’t. I loved the scene where he and Saul locked Lockhart in the conference room so they’d have time to get Javadi out of the country. Despite Lockhart’s smug overconfident demeanor, he wasn’t often wrong. Seen impartially, his views usually made sense.

Javadi was a fascinating character. Not entirely evil but far from good, too. He was willing to murder two women to settle an old score but more importantly to stick it to Saul in the only way left to him before the boot came down. I liked him, most of the time. He was one of the few sane people amidst all that madness—certainly saner than Carrie most of the time. But, speaking of Carrie, don’t you think Saul would lend her theories a bit more credence after a while? After she’d been proven right time and time again?

There were some dropped ideas. Quinn’s angst and intent to leave the agency, inspired by his accidental shooting of the boy in Caracas withered on the vine. He’s still there four months after the operation ends, and all that stuff with the police over the Javadi murders had no real impact. I also thought they missed a huge crossover opportunity with the homicide cop, played by the actor who was Meldrick Lewis on Homicide: Life on the Streets.

What about the law firm that was acting on Iran’s behalf? What became of Fara, who clearly had issues with some of Saul’s measures? And what happened with the Mossad agent after he was arrested for spying on Saul (and sleeping with his wife)?

And it is rather incredible that Carrie’s baby is healthy after all the drugs and alcohol she consumed, not to mention the constant state of stress. Plus, I never really bought her as a pregnant woman in the last episode. She certainly didn’t walk like one.

I’m glad they decided not to rescue Brody at the eleventh hour. His death made sense. His earlier misdeeds “cast a long shadow,” and he himself realized that redeeming yourself for murder by killing someone else was twisted logic.

There were some really great tense scenes, although I guessed in advance that there would be a false scare with Brody and his ID card after he killed Akbari. By the end of the twelve episodes, the slate is wiped clean. The Brody mess is over, once and for all, and the show can move on. With or without Saul? That’s an open question. Dar Adal (he of the “old school” breakfast) thinks he’d come back in a heartbeat if asked, but I can’t seem him working with Lockhart. Carrie is moving on to a new opportunity to handle Javadi, with or without this daughter.

I was expecting a train wreck of a season, but it wasn’t bad at all. Glad I saved all the episodes and watched them in a few sittings. It’s no Breaking Bad, but that’s okay. Few shows are.

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The empress of ice cream

I submitted a short story this morning to the Elmore Leonard tribute anthology. I had a good draft finished for a while but had some feedback from a first reader that I needed to consider. I ended up making some fairly drastic revisions and I’m quite happy with the way it turned out. This is a non-paying market (royalties-only anthology, which is pretty much the same thing), but I’m willing to make an exception in this case because I’m a big fan of Mr. Leonard’s work. Fingers crossed that I at least make the short list.

My review of the French King e-short “Sale Gosse” went up on FEARnet yesterday. I called it “Pardon my French.”

Last night’s NCIS was the first part of a two-part franchise spin-off for the New Orleans incarnation starring Scott Bakula. I’m not a huge fan of spin-off episodes. They try to hard, as a rule. There’s too much for them to do in too short a time. And this being New Orleans, they also tried to cram in everything associated with the city, which made it feel almost like a cliche or a parody. I’m not sure I’ll add the spin-off to my weekly viewing. I gave the L.A. version a shot and it didn’t work for me.

It’s hard to believe that, after nine years, there’s only one episode of How I Met Your Mother left. I can count on the fingers of half a hand the number of sitcoms I watch, and losing HIMYM is going to reduce the number by half. The show is sort of Friends crossed with Seinfeld. Not exactly about nothing, but neither was Seinfeld, really. Great, memorable, funny characters, improbable, implausible situations, but a good, good heart. I still think Ted should have ended up with Robin, but that’s my only quibble. This final season has been erratic, but each episode always had at least one exceptional moment, and many of them had more than that.

So, Stephen King is going to get an invite to Castle & Beckett’s wedding. What does one get another author and his cop fiancee for a wedding gift? Kill them off in your next book?

Last week’s preview for Justified robbed the shooting scene in this week’s show of much of its tension. It was pretty obvious that it wasn’t Allison who was shot. There’s no way that could have happened given the geometry of the situation. Still, it was a good cheat, having Art not realize where the bullet went, as cheats go. I learned that the actress who plays Art’s wife is Nick Searcy’s wife. Keeping it in the family.

The big gag of the show, though, was Boyd’s cigarette, which I thought up until the Face Off moment was a bug. Famous last words: Shit’ll kill you. I think they’re going to have to pay that non-smoking room violation fine after all. “I may not know a lot about a lot of things, but I do know how to blow shit up.” Picker doesn’t need to worry about Tim getting on his case any more.

I loved the scene between Mary Steenburgen’s Katherine Hale and Vasquez. There’s a lot of history there, as evidenced by her description of him as a “smug little hobbit-looking beaner shitbird.”

Ever notice how people in prison on TV and in movies seem to be able to move around a lot and get up to stuff? The scene where Judith’s old gang dubbed Ava the Empress of Ice Cream was pretty cool. Hope she doesn’t let all the power go to her head. But she solved her problem and was richly rewarded for it. Except, can a person really eat all that ice cream in one sitting?

It was pretty obvious Kendel was lying. After all, his story didn’t match up with the way things happened at all. Raylan knows that intuitively but if Art recovers the lie will be exposed, too. Now it’s all down to Raylan vs. Darryl, which should make for an interesting final two episodes. Rachel’s in charge, and Raylan is doing his best to not be too Raylan-esque (he turned down Tim’s offer to go all Raylan on Darryl before he turned himself in). He promises not to kill Darryl but destroy everything around him. Which amounts to…what, exactly?

I’m binge-watching the third season of Homeland. Halfway through. I was aware of some grumbling about the season as it aired, but didn’t look too closely at what people were complaining about. Granted, after six episodes not a whole lot has happened. The kind of plot developments that Breaking Bad would probably have covered in two episodes at the most. I did like Esme, though. She reminded me of Nova from Planet of the Apes.

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The hand that launched a thousand signatures

Maybe closer to 1500. I received the signature pages for the Cemetery Dance S/L of The Dark Tower Companion this weekend. It’s limited to 1000 copies plus 52 lettered. There are always extra sheets in case of spoilage and loss, so I probably signed something like 1200 or 1300 times. I didn’t count. It’s a mind-numbing process, out of necessity. If I focus on it too much, I start forgetting how to form my letters. Whenever I get to the point that I can’t remember how to write the initial B, I take a break. I did most of them yesterday afternoon in maybe eight or ten separate sessions. Now they’re all boxed up and headed back to CD.

I submitted a 1500-word review of Mr. Mercedes to CD this weekend, too. If all goes according to plan, it should be in an issue that comes out shortly before the book does in June.

I posted a couple of reviews this weekend, both for books that I really enjoyed: The Fever by Megan Abbott and Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd. This is my first Todd and I was really impressed by how well these two Americans, mother and son, capture the feel of an early 20th century England. Now I’m about ¾ of the way through The Leopard by Jo Nesbø. I’ve always enjoyed his books, though I wish he didn’t feel obligated to include these little italicized passages from the killer’s point of view. They don’t really contribute much to the story, in my opinion. I’m also almost halfway through Death Without Company, the second Longmire novel by Craig Johnson, which I’m reading to my wife.

I got a kick out of the audience warning before this week’s episode of Hannibal. It had the usual advisory about mature content, but expanded it to say that there were flashing lights with strobe effects, which I guess can cause seizures in some people. They didn’t warn us, though, that a psycho lady was going to stick big pointy things into people’s eyes. That almost gave me a seizure.

We finished the last four episodes of the second season of House of Cards this weekend. We could tell that he was manipulating the president and his wife into something all season long, but it wasn’t until the end that the whole scheme fell into place. So many things could have gone wrong along the way that it’s hard to fathom how anyone could plot out such a byzantine scheme and hope that it would work, but it did. Alas, Frank’s going to have to proceed without his henchman, Doug, from the looks of things. One of the season’s biggest surprises was the menage-a-trois with the Secret Service agent. Of course, it solved the problem of trying to get up to stuff while being under constant surveillance, but Frank’s participation felt unmotivated. There didn’t seem to be any precedent. He and Claire sure did leave a lot of damaged individuals in their wake. Can’t wait to see where the next season goes.

We have a bunch of old Graham Norton shows on the DVR, so we picked one at random and it was hilarious: Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Hugh Bonneville promoting The Monuments Men. I’ve always had the impression that Murray could be a tough interview, but he warmed up quickly (after downing a couple of flutes of champagne), and the trio had good chemistry together. At one point Damon said, “This is the most fun I’ve ever had on a talk show,” and he seemed to mean it.

Only one more episode of The Walking Dead left, thankfully. I decided to stick with it to the end of the season, but then I’m done. I quit once before, got talked back into it, but it’s been a slog. None of the characters seem terribly real, and the dialog is just plain bad most of the time.

I thought for a while they were going to send Rigsby out of The Mentalist with a real bang, and they sort of did, but not in a final way. He took a couple to the chest but was still able to save the day.

Tough challenge on The Amazing Race. It was fun to see the Harlem Globetrotter entertaining the workers while his partner labored away, and to see him toss the b-ball to Phil at the mat. Alas, a missed flight put one team so far behind they could never get back in the game and, as they said, there wasn’t anything they could have done about that once they decided to go standby. Them’s the brakes.

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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.

Posted in CSI, Justified, NCIS, Rizzoli and Isles, Survivor, The Americans | Leave a comment