Saturday, September 19, 2015

Class Is Now in Session

The beginning of a new school year in the United States led me to investigate vintage education-themed paperback novels. I've showcased 86 enticing specimens in one of my other blogs, Killer Covers. Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Taking the Bouchercon Stage

I see that other crime-fiction bloggers, including Peter Rozovsky and Les Blatt, are telling their readers what appearances they will be making during Bouchercon 2015 (October 8-11) in Raleigh, North Carolina. So I guess I should share my own such information.

By my choice, I am slated to take part in only one panel discussion, on Thursday, October 8: “Stop! Tell Us Your Favorite Crime, Mystery, & Thrillers.” Despite that title’s stumbling grammar, the round table conversation itself should be fun. We’ve been asked to share some of our most satisfying and surprising reading experiences within the genre. Stan Ulrich and Lucinda Surbur from the Web site Stop, You’re Killing Me! are to be the panel’s co-moderators, while my fellow “guests of honor” will be George Easter, editor of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, and Janet Rudolph, who edits Mystery Readers Journal and the blog Mystery Fanfare. I shall undoubtedly be the most nervous and uncomfortable member of this group, as I abhor speaking in public; I’m a much better writer than I am an orator, and if it weren’t for the fact that my good friend Ali Karim has been so deeply involved in programming events for this convention, and asked me to take on this panel assignment, I would’ve gladly remained in the audience at Bouchercon events.

According to this updated schedule, there will be half a dozen other Bouchercon events taking place at the same time as my panel talk, some of which will likely draw larger crowds (including one that features both Reed Farrel Coleman and Michael Koryta). But if you’re interested in hearing what books Easter, Rudolph, and I think ought not be overlooked, note that “Stop! Tell Us Your Favorite Crime, Mystery & Thrillers” will be held in meeting room Congressional AB, beginning at 1 p.m. on Thursday the 8th.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

How Far Down Can They Go?

This cartoon is the work of Randy Moulton, who works for the Asheville, North Carolina, Mountain XPress.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Come Hell and High Water

It’s no coincidence that I have been listening recently to CDs by New Orleans street musicians, wearing T-shirts I picked up during Mardi Gras more than a decade ago, and gorging myself on episodes of David Simon’s wonderful HBO-TV series, Treme (a show I had never watched until this month). I knew today was coming--the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s deadly assault on Louisiana’s most beautiful city.

It should really be New Orleanians commenting on this occasion, as they are doing in the pages of The Times-Picayune newspaper. I’m not a native of the city, and have visited there only a handful of times, most recently in 2007. I can’t speak for the people who weathered Katrina’s wrath or aftermath. But I wrote a great deal about the storm and the flooding and the incompetence of George W. Bush’s administration back in 2005 and 2006, when the disaster occurred. And I’ve kept up ever since with efforts to restore New Orleans in ways that don’t steal away its charm or historical significance. I even trained, shortly after Katrina struck, to be a Red Cross volunteer, hoping to be dispatched to help residents of the flooded Big Easy recover from the devastation. (Unfortunately, the Red Cross stopped sending people there before I had completed my preparation.) So I feel compelled to at least acknowledge this anniversary and send my best wishes to everyone in New Orleans who is still trying to get back what they lost in the storm, whether it be a home or a job or a familiar way of life.

I was pleased earlier this week to see President Barack Obama visit New Orleans, to hear him speak about the vast social inequalities that had weakened the Crescent City even before Katrina’s approach, and to hear about the extraordinary efforts by his administration to put the metropolis back on its feet. I am no less pleased to read this editorial in The Times-Picayune, which maintains that “The progress is palpable in New Orleans”--even if crime rates are still up, school quality is down, “African-American residents especially feel the unevenness of recovery,” and many folks have not yet received the loans or insurance money they need in order to rebuild. Someday I hope to see New Orleans again, and find that--as it did after another Category 4 hurricane, the one that struck a century ago, in 1915--the city has made a new order for itself and achieved a new vitality, even if it’s not exactly the same place it was.

On this anniversary Saturday, here are a few other related stories worth reading: “Anatomy of a Flood: How New Orleans Flooded During Hurricane Katrina,’ by Dan Swenson (The Times-Picayune); “These Maps Show the Severe Impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans,” by Esri, Katie Nodjimbadem (; “Hurricana Katrina, in 7 Essential Facts,” by German Lopez (Vox); “The Flooding of America” (The New Republic); “People of New Orleans Say Government Didn’t Do Enough After Katrina,” by Natalie Jackson (The Huffington Post); “These New Orleans Residents Are Still Trying to Go Home,” by Bryce Covert (Think Progress); “Images of Abandoned Iconic Spots in New Orleans Urge Us Not to ‘Forget’ About Katrina 10 Years Later,” by Eleanor Goldberg (The Huffington Post); “‘It’s Not Just a Party, It’s Our Life’: Jazz Musicians Led the Way Back to the City After Katrina--But What Is This ‘New’ New Orleans?,” by Larry Blumfeld (Salon); “Gulf Coast Residents Mark Katrina Anniversary: ‘We Saved Each Other’,” by Rebecca Santana and Kevin McGill (Talking Points Media); Front Pages from Katrina’s 10th Anniversary,” by Kristen Hare (Poynter); “Unnatural Disasters, or Queering Katrina,” by Jonathan Alexander (Los Angeles Review of Books); “17 of the Best Things Ever Written About Hurricane Katrina,” by Nick Baumann (The Huffington Post); “Ex-Aides: Bush Never Recovered from Katrina” (Associated Press); “After Katrina, Disgraced Former FEMA Director Continued Disaster Aid. It Didn’t Go Well,” by Emily Atkin (Think Progress); Jeb’s Massive Katrina Fail: New Campaign Ad Features Infamous ‘Heckauva Job Brownie’,” by Sophia Tesfaye (Salon); “Is Your City Ready for the Next Katrina?,” by Rebecca Leber (The New Republic).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Batgirl Hangs Up Her Cowl

This is very sad news, coming from The Catacombs:
On Monday actress Yvonne Craig lost her grueling two-year battle with breast cancer. Of course everyone knew her as “Batgirl” from the classic 1960s television series, but she made memorable impressions on other well-loved series such as Star Trek, The Mod Squad, 77 Sunset Strip, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and many others. She appeared twice on film with Elvis Presley. Her trained dancer’s figure made her a popular glamour, pin-up and ad model during her heyday, and her long film and television resume belies the fact that she did not originally pursue an acting career.
READ MORE:Yvonne Craig, TV’s Sexy Batgirl of the 1960s, Dies at 78,” by Mike Barnes (The Hollywood Reporter); “Yvonne Craig, TV’s Batgirl, Dies at 78,” by Bill Koenig (The Spy Command); “The Late Great Yvonne Craig,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts); “Yvonne Craig, 1937-2015” (; “Yvonne Craig, R.I.P.,” by Mitchell Hadley (It’s About TV!).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

GOPers Fear the Monster They Made

In a piece posted today on the Washington Post Web site, columnist Paul Waldman nicely sums up the nightmare Republicans face as they try desperately to figure out what they can do to prevent off-the-rails presidential candidate Donald Trump from further damaging the GOP’s chances with America’s minority and mainstream voters:
I think there’s something going on here that goes beyond Trump, and beyond the issue of immigration (on which all the Republican candidates have essentially the same position). It’s been said before that Democrats hate their base while Republicans fear their base, and the second part seems to be more true now than ever. The Tea Party experience of the last six years, which helped them win off-year elections and also produced rebellions against incumbent Republicans, has left them living in abject terror of their own voters.

It’s as though the GOP got itself a vicious dog because it was having an argument with its neighbor, only to find that the dog kept biting members of its own family. And now it finds itself tiptoeing around the house, paralyzed by the fear that it might startle the dog and get a set of jaws clamped around its ankle.
READ MORE:Why Trump’s Surge Among GOP Voters Matters,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “How Did This Monster Get Created? The Decades of GOP Lies that Brought Us Donald Trump, Republican Frontrunner,” by Heather Cox Richardson (Salon).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Good Gaul-ly!

Today is of course Bastille Day, marking the 136th anniversary of the public storming of Paris’ Bastille Saint-Antoine and the start of the French Revolution. By way of celebrating this occasion, I’ve put together--in my Killer Covers blog--what I think is a rather handsome selection of more than 50 book fronts that owe their inspiration to France or, specifically, Paris. Click here to enjoy the whole set.

READ MORE:Bastille Day: Mysteries Set in France,” by Janet Rudolph (Mystery Fanfare).

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ah, the Beauty and Power of Words


“Obamacare” Wins Again!

This will undoubtedly be the best news I hear all this week. As reported by The Huffington Post:
The latest and possibly the last serious effort to cripple Obamacare through the courts has just failed.

On Thursday, for the second time in three years, the Supreme Court rejected a major lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act--thereby preserving the largest expansion in health coverage since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid half a century ago.

The stakes of the case,
King v. Burwell, were enormous. Had the plaintiffs prevailed, millions of people who depend upon the Affordable Care Act for insurance would have lost financial assistance from the federal government. Without that money, most of them would have had to give up coverage altogether. But two of the court’s conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined the court’s four liberals in rejecting the lawsuit in a 6-3 decision. Roberts delivered the opinion for the majority.

The decision is a major defeat for conservatives, who have been trying to wipe Obamacare off the books ever since its enactment in 2010. The sweeping reform law, a key component of President Barack Obama’s legacy, now appears to be secure at least through the 2016 elections. Its fate beyond that will depend on who becomes president next year--and whether Republicans in Congress are willing to keep fighting for repeal.
Republicans on Capitol Hill and in red states nationwide were so sure that their right-wing allies on the U.S. Supreme Court would do whatever it took to undermine and destroy the Affordable Care Act, even if it meant damaging the Court’s reputation. Yet … that didn’t happen. Justice and progressive values won the day. The U.S. economy won’t have to suffer again under ever-escalating health-care costs and Americans won’t be forced once more to sell off their futures in order to obtain health insurance. It’s a good day, indeed.

READ MORE:They Won’t Admit It, but Republicans Dodged a Health Care Bullet,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

So What Else Is on the Menu?

Late last week, when I published my Rap Sheet piece about Roger Kastel’s work on the Jaws film poster and paperback cover, I noted that his artistry had inspired myriad thematic imitations. Since then, I’ve come across two more posters that probably would not have existed without Kastel’s influence. Below, please enjoy an advertisement for the 2011 direct-to-video horror flick Sand Sharks and another one touting the 1981 film Piranha II: The Spawning, a sequel to 1978’s Piranha.

Interestingly, Pirahna II was one of the early motion-pictures directed by James Cameron, who later gave us Aliens, Titanic, and Avatar.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Open Wide

Today marks 40 years since the cinematic debut of Steven Speilberg’s 1975 summer blockbuster horror yarn, Jaws. To commemorate this occasion, I have posted in The Rap Sheet a gallery of book and magazine covers by Roger Kastel, the artist responsible for the 1975 paperback front of Peter Benchley’s novel as well as the iconic poster advertising Spielberg’s box-office hit. Check it out here.

READ MORE:So What Else Is on the Menu?” by J. Kingston
Pierce (Limbo).

Friday, April 24, 2015

Show Your “Cards”


If, in this second decade of the 21st century, the popularity of a TV series can be judged by the number of folks who want to try their hands at refashioning its opening title sequence, then Netflix’s often-cutthroat American political drama, House of Cards--now in its third season--is very popular indeed.

The fan-made videos below were found on YouTube. They all employ the same sort of time-lapse photography used in the original House of Cards introduction (embedded above), and every one of them features Jeff Beal’s theme music. However, the first nine imagine the series’ action being moved to other cities than Washington, D.C. (a real treat for someone like me, who enjoys traveling). Clips 10 and 11 provide an identical style of opening, but adapt it to other familiar TV programs, while the final clip reworks the House of Cards introduction in imitation of another admired political drama.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Vienna, Austria

Budapest, Hungary

Paris, France

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Hague, The Netherlands

Pisa, Italy

Brasília, Brazil

Beijing, China

Breaking Bad TV opening, House of Cards-style

Sherlock TV opening, House of Cards-style

House of Cards TV opening, The West Wing-style

Bogie Beyond the Grave

Emma Myers has a thoughtful piece in The Dissolve that looks at Humphrey Bogart’s posthumous film roles and portrayals. “Overindulging in noir conventions,” she concludes, “the post-Bogart comedies merely set out to remind viewers of a world that was once filled with dames and bourbon, quixotic ideals, and perpetually wet pavement. This world no longer exists, and perhaps it never really did. No man will ever really be a Humphrey Bogart character. But while we can’t help but move relentlessly forward, all we want to do is look back and have him play it again.”

Friday, February 27, 2015

Good-bye, Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

READ MORE:Leonard Nimoy, Spock of Star Trek, Dies at 83,” by Virginia Heffernan (The New York Times); “Star Trek Is Great, and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock Was the Greatest Thing About It,” by Matthew Yglesias (Vox); “Leonard Nimoy, R.I.P.,” by Michael Hadley (It’s About TV!); “Mort: Mr. Spock,” by Don Herron (Up and Down These Mean Streets); “A Word About Leonard Nimoy,” by Jeri Westerson (Getting Medieval); “The Iconic ‘Live Long and Prosper’ Hand Gesture Was Originally a Jewish Sign,” by Daven Hiskey (Today I Found Out); “How Leonard Nimoy Made Spock an American Jewish Icon,” by Matthew Rozsa (Salon); “Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83, Dabbled in Spy Entertainment,” by Bill Koenig (The Spy Command); “R.I.P., Leonard Nimoy: We’ll Always Have Paris,” by Matthew Bradford/Tanner (Double O Section); “Leonard Nimoy, You Will Be Sorely Missed,” by Paul Morris (Little Things); “‘I Have Been--and Always Shall Be--Your Friend,’” by Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo); “Remembering Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015” (

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Front and Center

If you can pull yourself away for a moment from today’s revelations in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Bush-era torture techniques, click on over to The Rap Sheet, where you’ll find a poll asking readers to choose the best crime novel covers of 2014. There are 20 nominees, from both sides of the Atlantic. Feel free to pick as many covers as you think deserve praise. Just know that voting will remain open until midnight on Sunday, December 21, after which the results will be tallied and announced. So don’t wait. Vote now!

UPDATE: The top six winners of The Rap Sheet’s 2014 Best Crime Fiction Covers contest were announced on December 30.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reasons to Be Thankful

Can You Dig It?

Author and sometime Rap Sheet writer Gary Phillips dropped me a note over the weekend, saying that he and David Walker--the latter of whom is writing the new Shaft comic-book series for Dynamite Entertainment--“are putting together the first-ever anthology of [John] Shaft short stories … set in the ’70s of course.” As somebody who, over the years, has developed an unexpected fondness for Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft series, I look forward to seeing that black private eye’s return in any form possible.