Sunday, September 30, 2007

A New Era Dawns

The Famous Author is determined to crank out an awesomely funny suspense novel for #3 in the Austin Carr Mystery Series, and he is hard at work. Thus, we say goodbye to the high-spirited summer, those gentle swells and sandy beaches. No more California. No more South Carolina. No more Florida, unless we get accepted into Dennis Lehane's St. Petersburg workshop in January.

With the fall comes a new sense of panic...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Near Security Breach In Georgia

The Famous Author nearly caused a security breach at Savannah International Airport today by packing me in the damn computer case. TFA stuck his toothpaste in with me at the last minute, and the tube was oversize, prompting a poor TSA clerk to peek inside my hiding compartment. Scared her bad when I said, "Hello."

But other than the one-hour body searches, the trip went well. Home 10 minutes early to Newark, which hasn't happened all year. And the weather today in Jersey is better than it was in South Carolina, the heat and humidity awesome down there. Prompted a lot of drinking.

After two cases of Corona, two bottles of rum, plus containers of vodka and Bailey's, TFA and I had a photo contest. I won with the above shot.

What We Left Behind

The Famous Author and I are leaving South Carolina today. The booze is gone and so are the women. All that's left are these egrets, chowing down on frogs and other small creatures of the mud.

Have to call this one a travel day.

Friday, September 28, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 11

In the hallway just outside the dining room, I run into a charging rhinoceros. No wait. It’s the Creeper, crushing me against the wall and emptying my lungs with his horn-like fist. I know rhinos are bigger and stronger than the Creeper, but it doesn’t feel like it. Or maybe I was fooled by Creeper’s soiled, spotted gray coat. It smells like and otherwise resembles animal hide.

Probably a funny thing to notice when you can’t breathe, but I think Creeper’s got that European perspective on bathing, too. You know, only sissies use soap.

“Get up,” he says.

I’m sinking to the floor as he growls this. When my butt hits reaches bottom, I still can’t grab a breath, let alone stand, and since I don’t see or hear Ryan, I choose to stay right here on the hardwood floor, occupy Creeper’s creepy attentions.

Air surges into my lungs as rhino-man yanks me up by the belt, wraps his anaconda arm around me, and spins me horizontal. Holding me on his hip like a small rolled up rug. My lungs and spirit enjoy the newly reacquired air supply until I hear small footsteps in the hall.


“Run, Ryan,” I say.

Holding me with his right arm, Creeper jumps sideways and snatches Ryan with his left.

“Hey,” Ryan says.

I feel like a beetle in the clutches of a six-year-old boy. Helpless and doomed.

My world view begins to bounce, my arm bumps a door jam, and Creeper delivers us like lost pets, one on each hip, back into the dining room. The huge chamber isn’t empty anymore, though. Bluefish relaxes at my old table with Beth. His greasy fingers caress her hair.

My fingernails press into my palms. I’m all out of smart ass.

Every inch of the five-thousand-square-foot dining room smells like Creeper’s unwashed armpits. And I can’t take my eyes off his nose. It has more bends than a toboggan run. I still want to kill Bluefish for touching my daughter’s hair, but I realize now isn’t the best time.

“Have I made my point?” Bluefish says.

He glances at both of my children. Beth's the oldest. Maybe Seaside County’s best teenaged swimmer. And Ryan. My shortstop and Hardy Boys fan. My kids nibble their dinners at one table, Bluefish, Creeper, at another. There’s maybe twenty feet of distance between us. I wish it were twenty miles.

Where in the hell are the other diners? A waiter?

“I understand,” I say. “The point is you’re threatening my children.”

For the kids, I’m forcing a smile. Playing relaxed. Showing them everything’s fine. Both of them keep sneaking glances. How could they not? I have to pretend I’m just dining with an eccentric client who likes to wear black silk suits and eat with his creepy rhino-shaped bodyguard.

No sweat.

So far, Bluefish and Creeper are holding their voices and tempers down, going along with my client act. Although Creeper doesn’t have to say or do much to make things look scary. The bandaged wound Luis put on his temple oozes blood. I hope it hurts like hell.

“My point is you can’t protect them,” Bluefish says. “Not twenty-four hours a day, not for one fucking minute if I choose otherwise.”

“I get it,” I say. My hands ache to snatch this bastard’s slicked-back hair and rip off his scalp. Instead, I’m saying, “I’ll open your account personally.”

I force myself to bite my prime rib dinner, and then beg my jaws to chew. See Ryan, Beth? Everything’s fine. I glance again at Bluefish’s temptingly long, grip-able hairdo, but I’ve got no real options as far as I can see. Getting Beth and Ryan home safely can be my only priority.

“Good,” Bluefish says. “In the trunk of your car you’ll find a red gym bag with one-hundred-thousand in cash and a signed Shore Securities’ account application. Buy me big cap, big name stocks.”

“All right,” I say. “Blue chips for Bluefish.”

I hand the valet his tip with a shaky hand and slide in behind the wheel of my Camry. Because of the wide market for its parts, America’s best-selling automobile is also the country’s most stolen. Wish someone would steal my Camry with Bluefish’s money in the trunk.

“Okay, Pop, we’re in the car,” Ryan says. “So who were those men?”

Both kids buzzed me with questions when Bluefish and Creeper abandoned us in the dining room. I told them we needed to scram, that I’d answer questions when we got to the car. I needed time to think.

Beth saying, “Daddy?”

“They’re friends of Mr. Vick’s,” I say. “The one named Bluefish is mad Vick went away and left me in charge at Shore Securities.”

“Is that why that big creepy guy picked us up like puppies?” Ryan says.

Internally, I can admire my son’s eye for detail. He’s got Bluefish’s driver pegged.

“Max is a little rambunctious,” I say. “Like a big kid.”

The quiet in the back seat indicates a certain skepticism, I suppose, but in this case I think lies are superior to the truth.

Beth says, “Daddy, are those men like the people who tried to kill you last year? Criminals?”

The best lies, however, always offer a bit of truth.

“Maybe, I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. Bluefish isn’t mad anymore.”

“He didn’t exactly look happy,” Ryan says.

Like I said, Ryan’s got an eye for detail.

“If you had to ride around in a car with that smelly guy Max, would you be happy?”

Bouncing into my ex-wife Susan’s driveway ten minutes later, breaking a long silence, Ryan asks if he and Beth need to go into the FBI‘s witness protection program.

“No,” I say. “But I’ll need to if you tell your mother about this.”

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Boca Moon

I met Boca Moon's main character, Lynn Woo, on a trip to Miami Beach earlier this year, and now consider her a friend.

To avoid the grim reaper, us series characters have to stick together! And since The Famous Author and Lynn's creator, Frank Foster, were chatting yesterday, I thought I'd put up Lynn's debut mystery here for my readers (Hi Mom!) to check out.

In Lynn's first story, her former commanding officer in Naval Intelligence is vacationing on a tropical island in Southwest Florida. Retired Admiral Whit Jenkins' son-in-law chooses the wrong night to take his infrared camera to the salty back bays in search of panthers. He pays for it with his life and Lynn discovers his murdered, mutilated body strung between two mangrove trees. It's been years since she's seen the result of violent death and she hasn't missed it.

Go get'em, Lynn!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Recession Depression

The Famous Author and I happened to catch a little TV yesterday. I talked him into watching the stock market channel to see how his portfolio was doing. Turned out this was a big mistake.

Even though his stocks were doing fine, TFA got so upset at what we saw, the things we heard people say, he had to spend cocktail hour in bed.

What made him worry? In a word, recession. The former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Gary Shilling, a bigtime Wall Street economist, and a respected mortgage banker all predicted the U.S. economy will turn to negative growth before the end of this year. Shilling and the mortgage banker said we're already in a recession.

Oh, yeah. And Donald Trump said the current recession will turn into a full-boat depression.

TFA takes these guys seriously. Especially Greenspan. I thought my boss was going to cry.

I know it's hard to make the case that a fictional stockbroker like me, Austin Carr, could possibly know more, or have a better handle on the future, than Alan Greenspan and Gary Shilling. (Everybody knows more than Donald Trump.) But let me lay out a few facts--the same stuff I told TFA to get him out of bed.

1. Unemployment is at one of its lowest points ever. Less than 5%. When almost everybody is working and spending money, recessions are almost unknown. It takes a major disaster to turn things negative. And while Greenspan and Shilling say the housing crunch and the record cost of energy are indeed such a disaster, the statistics say otherwise. The U.S. economy has been growing with both of these negative factors for more than three years.

2. The Federal Reserve Board is lowering interest rates. Dramatically. Last week's half-point cut in the discount rate--the second half-point cut in a month--is almost certain to steady the financial markets and eventually the consumer. It always has, folks.

3. The stock market is close to its earlier all-time high and holding strong. For more than a century, the stock market has easily been the most accurate indicator of future eocnomic growth. Why should this time be different? Because Greenspan and Shilling say so?

4. Small investors are betting on a recession in droves. They are paying huge premiums to buy put options on various markets and stocks. As we pointed out a week or so ago, these small investors are ALWAYS wrong. And I mean ALWAYS.

"You really think you know more than Alan Greenspan?" TFA asked me last night as I tucked him into bed.

"No. He's a smart guy who's forgotten more about economic statistics than I'll ever know," I said. "But he's not the Fed Chairman any more either. Now he's just a mouthpiece for big Wall Street interests. You can never trust those guys to give you the straight scoop. They're making bets on the markets."

TFA pulled the covers tight around his neck. "I hope you're right."

"Of course I'm right, you famous author you. Everything's going to be just fine." I fluffed his pillow.

Geez, my boss is a wimp.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mitzi Gaynor

Mitzi Gaynor was born Francesca Marlene von Gerber in 1931. Her father was a Hungarian musician and her mother a ballroom dancer. Mitzi's parents toured the United States, giving performances in the evening and giving Mitzi dancing lessons by day. Apparently Mitzi was an accomplished dancer by the age of eleven. During her mid-teens, Edwin Lester signed her to dance with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera. Mitzi appeared in revivals of musicals like "The Great Waltz" and "Roberta."

Eventually her work was noticed by 20th Century Fox who gave her a role in "My Blue Heaven" when Mitzi was still in her teens. For three years Mitzi was kept busy in small, undistinguished movies. Major movies followed. Here's a list:

For Love or Money (1963)
Surprise Package (1960)
Happy Anniversary (1959)
South Pacific (1958)
Les Girls (1957)
The Joker Is Wild (1957)
Anything Goes (1956)
The Birds and the Bees (1956)
There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)
Three Young Texans (1954)
Down Among the Sheltering Palms (1953
The I Don't Care Girl (1953)
Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952)
We're Not Married! (1952)
Golden Girl (1951)
Take Care of My Little Girl (1951)
My Blue Heaven (1950)
It's Your Health (1949)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Missing in Action?

The Famous Author didn't come home last night, and while his family and co-travelers aren't worried, I am. Who's going to write my new adventures? TFA was last seen at a Border's store near Hilton Head, South Carolina, accosting potential book buyers with the phrase, "Do you like mysteries?" Having seen TFA in similiar situations, I fear for his health.

TFA is six-two, 215 pounds, with green eyes and graying hair. He wears rose-colored, corrective lenses to compensate for his natural dark outlook. Please, if you see him, would you send TFA home?

I'm going to call the local hospitals.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Beach Day

The Famous Author is up early today, heading off to the local Barnes and Noble to hang out on the front sidewalk and hawk books. Can you believe this guy? He says his sales ranking dropped last week to a five month low and he wants to "keep the pressure on."

Water pressure, maybe. TFA needs a cold shower.

Me, I'm heading for the beach. Looks like the sun is out in South Carolina and there's nothing else to do.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

We're Traveling Again?

The Famous Author is dragging me along on a family vacation to South Carolina. He says he needs me with him to keep working on Big Bigness, the non-working title of number three in the Austin Carr Mystery Series.

Personally, I'd rather stay in the kennel with his dog than recreate in a beach house with THAT crew. Why can't I go back to Mystic, Conn. where the showgirls hang out?

My blogging time could get snipped this week.

Friday, September 21, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 10

Mama Bones saying, “Why you no tell me?”

I wedge the phone against my ear, freeing my hands to sign a stack of checks Carmela’s presented me. We’re busy at Shore today, the guys scoring big working Walter’s accounts. Don’t tell those A.A.S.D. jerks who suspended my license, but I’ve been helping Shore’s bond desk fill orders and racking up a few commission dollars myself. My trades get routed through a phony rep number.

“Hey, I’ma talking here,” Mama Bones says.

Walter’s doing the same--banging the phones--with Shore clients--our clients--whose names and phone numbers he swiped on the way out of here. The bastard. I heard twice today from a customer that Walter called them, said Shore was bound to go broke, that we’ve already hired a bankruptcy lawyer. My pal, Walter.

“Hey,” Mama Bones says.

I should have guessed. Stockbrokering is not a great vocation for maintaining tight personal friendships. I can’t imagine what the business was like during the days of legal dueling.

“Hey, Golly Gee!” Mama Bones says. “Why you no tell me?”

I stop signing checks. Nobody’s called me Golly Gee in a while. Not since I moved here from California and learned to curse like a New Jersey native. I move the phone closer to my mouth. “Mama Bones, I did just tell you. I called to see if you needed help with that bingo-game thing, and when you asked what happened when Bluefish came to Luis’s on Monday, I--”

“Why you no tell me before you call Tony?” she says. “Is abada-bada mistake you ask this man to do something. He and his Brooklyn crew worse than Bluefish, worse than gavones. That Tony devil teach my Vittorio abada-bada things.”

“How did you know Bluefish threatened me at Luis’s?”

“Lucky guess.”

“Mama Bones?”

“I dunno. Maybe I have vision. Bye.”


She’s gone. Strange, as I said nothing to Carmela, Mama Bones’s granddaughter. Although there were lots of people in Luis’s restaurant the other day, saw what happened. Plus Mr. Vick’s bragged many times about his mother’s exercise/bookmaking business. Unless she’s booking all the bets herself, she could be tied to, or even part of, Bluefish’s gambling operation.

One thing I’m not buying is Mama Bones’s voodoo vision theory.

Sixty-six percent of the time eating dinner with my kids on Wednesday night is one-hundred percent predictable. Ryan always picks Burger King. I invariably choose Luis’s Mexican Grill. Only when it’s Beth’s turn might our evening involve actual culinary adventure. Tonight is such a night.

Beth saying, “Is this place cool, or what?”

“Looks like Dracula’s castle,” Ryan says.

I brake for valet parking at the apex of a huge circular driveway. Two-story rhododendrons line the walkway and steps.

The Locust Tree Inn & Restaurant caters to foreign and gourmet tastes, and I should take advantage, try something exotic for dinner tonight. I hear, for instance, the tube steak rocks.

“Does this place have cheeseburgers?” Ryan says.

“Only dorks eat cheeseburgers every night,” Beth says
“Hey,” I say. “Be nice.”

The kids precede me up flagstone steps. One of Branchtown’s earliest settlers snagged a fortune growing corn beside the Navasquan river, boating his crop to Manhattan. Four hundred years later, his three-story, thirty-room Tudor mansion remains the number one venue for weddings in Central New Jersey. And Wednesday through Sunday brunch, Branchtown’s priciest restaurant.

Like her mother, my daughter has Old Money tastes.

Beth saying, “I’m cold.”

“I’ve got the creeps, too,” Ryan says. “Did you see that guy who brought us our Cokes?”

It is a little weird in here. We checked out the ten-pound leather menus, started with Diet Cokes, and just ordered our thirty-dollar entrees. We’re still the only people eating.

“Do you have a jacket in the car?” I say to Beth.

“No. I thought this sweater would be warm enough, but it’s so drafty in here.”

“You picked this creep-o-rama,” Ryan says.

“Shut up,” Beth says.

“Be nice,” I say.

I take off my suit coat and wrap Beth’s shoulders. All four dining-room walls glow with dark, richly oiled wood. Gargoyles with fangs, claws, and bulging angry eyes watch us from all four cornices of the ornamental, hand-plastered ceiling. Truthfully, the monsters look a little dusty.

“Really, Pop. Did you see that waiter?” Ryan says.

“He’s just old,” I say. “People’s ears and noses never stop growing, you know. That’s why almost everybody looks funny when they get old.”

“You don’t look funny,” Ryan says.

Ouch. “Hey. I’m not old.”

Ryan and Beth glance at each other and giggle.

Outside, two pine trees have grown extra-tall, and two perfectly spaced lights shine at me through the forest. Looking out the window, the effect reminds me of giant ears and huge yellow eyes. Like a four-story cat peering at me. I shudder. Maybe Ryan’s right about this place. Creepy.

“What’s the matter, Daddy?” Beth says.

“Guess I’m cold, too.”

“I have to go to the bathroom,” Ryan says.

Figures. One trip for every glass of Coke. “We passed the men’s room on the way in,” I say. “Near the front door.”

“I’ll be right back.”

Ryan takes off at a brisk walk. Iced tea does that to me. Or maybe it’s all liquids. I think the problem might be genetic as my old man was always using the toilet. Our family road trips were planned around the availability of clean public restrooms.

I watch Ryan tack toward the hallway. His shadow dances on the wall a moment after he disappears. I’m about to turn away when a huge second shadow flashes across the same wall. My heart skips when I recognize the profile.

“Ryan!” I jump to my feet and run.

Beth calling, “Daddy, what’s the matter?”

My daughter’s frightened. Behind me, her wavering voice cuts me, makes me want to turn back and comfort her. But I can’t. That second shadow looked like Bluefish’s oversized driver, Max.

The Creeper.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Buying High, Going Low

We call this a Double-Top.

No explanation needed.

About as self-explanatory as financial mumbo jumbo comes, in fact.

What it REALLY means in this case, however, is that the Hot Tipster who got us to start buying Open Energy (OEGY) at 72 cents a share, right at the second, or double, top on this chart should boil in the hot water he's in. Our $7,500 Trading Account is now stuck with 10,000 shares an average cost of 66 cents.


I mean, I listened to what he said. Then checked the company out. Did my research. I even evaluated E-TRADE's excellent charts, and then asked a question. A query about Double-Tops. On no, Hot Tipster said.

I called the bastard last night to complain. "I'm getting killed, Ace. What were you THINKing? It was right there in the charts we were going to get killed."

"Hang on, Austin. I swear OEGY is going to work. We just have to give it more time. And I don't believe in charts."

"Yeah? Well, check out the chart above our dialogue, dude. It's the shape of your head. Two pointy-topped brains, and neither one of them work. OEGY closed at 50 cents today. My blogging account is down over $1,600. I look like a fool instead of the wise, smart investor I am."

Hot Tipster #1 cackles like a duck when he laughs. It's the last thing I hear before the dial tone.


Oh, well. Like Tony Soprano said all night at his mother's funeral, "Whaddaya gonna do?" We're buried with this one. Invested in real estate. I'd rather hang on and hope, not sell out and take this hit.

It's a gamble. As another Hot Tipster likes to say about penny stocks (less than $2 in my book), OEGY is awfully close to zero.

But I feel like gambling on this one. At least for now, it's more fun than giving up on OEGY.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jeffrey Cohen's New One

Elliot Freed, a recovering writer and husband, socked all his savings-and the alimony from his ex-wife-into the Comedy Tonight movie theater, never suspecting it would become a crime scene...

Poisoned popcorn killed the dead guy in Row S, Seat 18, and to the chagrin of the local police, Elliot starts his own investigation, one that may put the theater-and Elliot-on the cutting room floor.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sam Eggar

Born in London, on March 5th 1939, Samantha Eggar was the daughter of a British Army brigadier. Convent educated, Samantha became a stage actress in her teens. While performing in a Shakespeare play, Eggar was discovered by film producer Betty Box, who cast Sam, then 23, in The Wild and the Willing (1961). Real success came with "The Collector" (1965), when she got an Oscar nomination for her performance, and won the Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress. In 2000, she had a brief run on the American soap opera All My Children, and also appeared as the wife of Captain Jean-Luc Picard's brother Robert in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

In Communicado

The Famous Author and I are holed up in a secret Southern California location. TFA is working on #3 in my series. I'm hunting peyote cactus in the desert just behind our ramshackle rented house.

Our available technology is somewhat outdated and it is unlikely you will hear from me again until we return to New Jersey. If I actually find any Williamsii Euphora, we may never come back.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Martini Recovery Day

The Famous Author celebrated last night, and of course I had to join in. Bombay gin martini, up, with an olive? Ooh, that sounds good. I'll have one, too. Or was it one, two, three? Who can remember?

Wonder what we were celebrating? The book signing in Valencia was fun, but not what you'd call a rousing success. TFA snagged four new readers, and a couple of good prospects, including a young couple with more metal on their face than those Greek warriors in the movie "300," but most of the time in Border's was spent asking people if they liked mysteries.

"Sure, I like mysteries," said one middle-aged woman. "But what I really want to know is, where's the bathroom?"

Friday, September 14, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 9

A year ago, I didn’t have diddily squat. I lived in a pickup-mounted camper. My wages were garnished. I was thousands of dollars in debt, including overdue alimony and child-support payments. The ex-wife even had a restraining order preventing me from seeing our children. Very little to lose in those days. Taking risks came smooth and easy.

Now my support payments--all my bills--are current. I get Ryan and Beth every Wednesday night for dinner and again every other weekend. I can afford a two-bedroom apartment and a leased Toyota. More important, my ownership interest in Shore Securities could fund my kids’ college education, provided Carmela and I, the people we hire, run Shore as well as Mr. Vick did.

Point being, all of sudden I’ve got plenty to lose. That’s why I’m pushing Brooklyn Tony on Bluefish. I have no idea what happened to Rags after Tony dragged him out of Shore’s offices last week, but I know Rags hasn’t bothered me or Carmela since. Maybe Tony can pull off the same kind of disappearing act with Bluefish.

Tony examines me standing on his porch with the soft, confident brown eyes of a German Shepherd. Calm, relaxed, just inside the threshold of his home in Graves End, Brooklyn, Mister Handsome extends his paw for me. “Come on in.”

He practically lifts me inside with his giant mitt. Tony’s got on an extra-extra-large gray golf shirt and navy sweats, but there’s no missing the muscle beneath the loose cloth. This guy snatched me off the porch like I was the afternoon newspaper.

“Any trouble finding the place?” he says.

Across my shoulders, his hand weighs like a backpack loaded for an assault on Everest.

“No problem,” I say. “And I really appreciate you’re seeing me. I’m a little embarrassed coming for dinner.”

Tony’s body hardens like fast-drying glue. “Embarrassed?” His brown eyes narrow into a glare that fills my blood with adrenaline. Jesus. Is that what they call the prison stare? “What?” he says. “You got a problem coming to Grave’s End?”

Yipes. “Hell, no. I mean embarrassed about putting you out. Making your wife cook for me. I would have been happy to take you and the wife--”


“--out to dinner.”

Using his hand like a puppeteer, Tony twists both our heads to greet a dark-haired young woman striding our way. She’s wearing a black skirt and a furry, sleeveless sweater with yellow and black horizontal stripes.

“Is this Vick’s friend Austin?” she says.

Tony saying, “My wife Gina.”

Mrs. Tony Farascio is a knockout. Long midnight hair, maybe ten or twelve inches past her shoulders. Huge, oval, yellow-flaked brown eyes. An ear-to-ear smile whose sincerity appears generated by an even bigger heart. The smile and the striped sweater remind me of honey bees and summer days. Sweet stuff, this Gina.

She offers her hand. “Austin.”

I give her the full-boat Carr grin when her fingers brush mine. I feel dizzy, spinning in a field of perfumed July flowers. Hey, wake up, Carr. Time to snap out of Gina’s spell before I erect myself a tower of trouble.

“Can I get you a drink?” she says.

“But Carmela’s doing okay?” Tony says. “That prick Ragsdale was a serious loser.”


“Slip of the tongue. I took him to the ‘splaining department is all, told him what might happen if he ever showed up again at Vick’s place.”

I nod, wondering if my boss Vick picked up the “splaining department joke from Tony, or visa versa. “Great. Thanks. No, Carmela’s doing fine. It’s this other thing with Bluefish why I called.”

Tony and I sip after-dinner sambucas in the Farascio’s downstairs playroom, a tennis-court-size basement with two bowling lanes, a pool table, a card table, a mini-theater with a big screen TV and recliners for eight, a juke box, a soda fountain, and enough cushioned perimeter seating for the Rutgers marching band.

“But you said Bluefish agreed to keep his end of bargain?” Tony says. “I don’t see the problem.”

“Neither I nor Luis trust him.”

Tony’s teeth crunch one of the three coffee beans floating in the sambuca. “I don’t personally know this guy Bluefish, but I heard of him. I don’t see him getting where he is in this world without keeping his word.”

“Even with people he’s about to kill?”

Tony grins. “You got a point there, pal.”

Gina calls from the top of stairs. “Telephone, Tony.”

I can’t see her, but I definitely remember what the touch of her hand did to my heart beat, the circulation in my extremities. Her voice makes me almost smell her.

Tony stands. “Let me check out a few things,” he says. “I’ll get back to yeah.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Believe me, Rags

"I'm in California."

"Right. And last night I humped Britany Spears."

"You did? Way to go, Rags. Does Carmela know?"

"Jerk. Get your butt in here."

"I'm in San Diego, Rags. No kidding. I'm with The Famous Author on a book signing tour."

"It's raining, Carr. You can't play golf today. Get your butt in here!"

"Actually, boss, it's 72 degrees, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. San Diego has the best weather in the world. It only rains about two inches a year, and the--"

"You know what, Carr. Do whatever the hell you want. I'm sick of this crap."

Gee, I wonder why Rags doesn't believe me?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Here's a Good Read

The Famous Author started reading me SILENCE by Thomas Perry last night. It was a cozy little scene, TFA propped up in the hotel bed, me curled up in his computer case. Very touching.

It took us about half a page to get hooked. This guy is a master of suspense, the King of Chase and Dangerous Escape. TFA and I have been reading Thomas Perry since we stumbled across SLEEPING DOGS about 10 years ago and buy each new book now in hardcover because we can't wait for the paperback.

We don't like Tom for masterful use of the language, poetic sentences. We like Tom because he spins a story that grabs you by the neck and won't let go. Like Elmore Leonard, Perry's words tend to disappear on the page as the tale unfolds before our eyes.

I don't think TFA is going work much on my third adventure until we finish this book. Darn. My story was getting good, too. I was just getting ready to bed another redhead.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tina Louise

Born Tina Blacker (1934) in New York City, Tina Louise is best remembered for her three-year (1964 through 1967) television role as movie star Ginger Grant on Gilligan's Island, though she hated the role and reportedly made no secret of it on the set.

Nor did she wish to have anything to do with the Gilligan cartoon and TV movie follow-ups of the 1970s and 1980s. During her Gilligan years, Tina entered into a brief marriage with TV talk-show host Les Crane.

(Man, did Les like to party. Anybody else see that movie about him?)

Tina studied drama at Miami University, the Neighborhood Playhouse, and the Actors' Studio. A nightclub singer in the mid-1950s, Louise came to Broadway as Appasionatta von Climax in the original 1956 production of the musical Li'l Abner. Two years later she made her first film, the then-torrid God's Little Acre.

Thanks to Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide, and Wikipedia.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The San Diego Library

The Famous Author did not discover his stowaway until he was actually in the library conference room, getting ready to speak. "What are YOU doing here?" he said.

"Did you think I was going to stay in Jersey while you galivanted around Southern California? Here, help me out of this computer case."


"Oh, shutup and get me out of this stupid bag, will you? I think my legs are permanently cramped."

Two members of the assembling audience seemed disconcerted as TFA pulled my arms out. I think I heard a shriek. In fact, now that I think about it, my appearance is probably the reason TFA didn't sell more books.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Getting Buried

Non-stockbrokers apply this term (Getting buried) to being overwhelmed with work or chores. Stockbrokers mean something entirely different, say for instance our current position in Open Energy Corp. (OEGY on the OTC Bulletin Board).

We started buying at 72 cents and now own way too many shares (all of our hot tip money is tied up) at an average cost of just over 66 cents. The stock closed Friday at 59 cents. Yikes!

We're buried!

This is not good, incidentally. The stock is down, we're losing money, and--worst of all--we can't play anymore hot tips until we get out of this position. Boring! What the heck am I going to write about every week?

I called our OEGY Hot Tipster last night, asked him what was going on.

"Not much," he said. "But there's news coming."

"That's what you said two weeks ago."

"It's still true. News is coming. Don't give up."

Okay, we're sticking with OEGY another week. But I am losing patience. And these worms are starting to bite!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Travel Day

The Famous Author is speaking tomorrow at the San Diego Public Library. Today he flies west. He said he couldn't take me with him this trip--very vague excuses, if you ask me--and so I face a tough choice: Stay here and blog by myself, or sneak my own way out to Cali and surprise him.

Why should he have all the fun?

Friday, September 7, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 8

Plenty of parking at the Mexican Grill when Luis bounces us back into his gravel lot. With no bartender to mix drinks for over an hour, Luis’s thirsty customers obviously sought refreshment elsewhere. In Branchtown, drinking loyalties have certain limits.

I’m breathing like a normal Labrador again as Luis flips off the engine. My heart-rate’s taken a dive, too. Probably down to a smooth one-eighty. Don’t think I was meant to aim guns at people. Or maybe it’s the dead-ass blank stare Bluefish just gave me. Gives me the passing thought I might be out of my league.

Luis swings his shoulders to confront Bluefish, holds up the car keys like a prize. “You will forget about the favors?”

Good thing I’ve got Luis, El Hombre. Now that man’s in a league of his own.

Bluefish nods, reaches for the keys. “Sure.”

Don’t know about Luis, but Bluefish’s tone and manner do not sate me with confidence. In fact, it’s impossible to even hope he’s telling the truth. Or maybe I’m just the skeptical type. Being a stockbroker, and all.

Bluefish’s fingers snatch air as Luis yanks the keys back. “I would be a fool to let you withdraw if you do not plan to keep your word.”

Guess Luis agreed with my zero reading of Bluefish’s Sincerity Meter. Bluefish better be careful what he says next, too. I know for a fact Luis has the stomach to kill.

“I’ll keep the bargain,” Bluefish says. “I’m pissed off, yeah, so maybe it don’t sound right. But I’ll forget about the favors, wait for Vick to get back.”

He tried that time. I have hope he might live up to his word. No confidence. Just hope. And actually, “forgetting about the favors” isn’t exactly “I won’t have someone shoot you in the head” either.

Luis gives him the keys to the Suburban.

Inside Luis’s Mexican Grill, my favorite bartender has drinks to make. Not everybody’s gone home. I cover a stool at the empty horseshoe bar, right under Luis’s collection of authentic caballista sombreros, order one of Umberto’s green chili burritos, sides of rice and beans, and a Dos Eques to wash it all down.

An hour later Umberto’s gone home and the last two customers, a middle-aged couple, are sipping coffee. Luis flips off the TV and begins to toss trash, wipe glasses, and towel the counter. When the bar’s clean and ready for tomorrow’s setup, Luis finds two shot glasses and pours us Herradura Gold. A nightcap of warriors. Actually, I guess I was more of a foil. Or maybe a prop. Poncho to Luis’s Cisco Kid.

We salute and drink.

“So Luis.”


“I’m starting to wonder if I was really meant to be a stockbroker.”

He grunts. “After tonight, it is not unreasonable to have suspicions.”

Luis makes a joke. Unbelievable. “I’m serious. I need to provide for my children, and right now this is where I can make the most money, have the best chance of scoring enough for their education. But is hawking stocks and bonds really what I was born to do? My life’s purpose?”

Luis pulls our glasses off the bar. Guess it’s just one nightcap tonight. “Only you can answer such a question. But I agree that a man should have purpose.”

“I have an old friend who’s a fireman,” I say. “Doesn’t get paid much, and he’s always arriving at the scene before the ambulance, trying to save or resuscitate the most horribly mangled accident victims. But he loves going to work every day because once or twice a shift he’s allowed to drive a giant red diesel truck as fast as he can. He loved racing cars as a kid. Now he loves racing fire trucks. It’s what he was born to do.”

Luis considers my tale. His long fingers are rinsing glasses, holding one up to the light now and then to check for smudges. “Your friend is a lucky man,” he says. “Also a wise one, I think. He knew his purpose when he encountered her.”

“How did he do that? Recognize it?”

“He realized it was a path with heart,” Luis says. “For the injured, and people in fires, it is important that your friend drive fast and drive well.”

“So because his purpose helps people in great need, it is a path with heart?”


“Unlike our Mr. Bluefish,” I say.

“Yes. Unlike our Mr. Bluefish.” Luis slides the shot glasses into a wooden rack over his head. “Have you given thought to what happened tonight?”

“I’m trying to block it out.”

“Do not,” Luis says. “This is a serious matter.”

I nod. “I know.”

“This man Bluefish will almost certainly try to kill us. Perhaps not right away. He would be wise to wait, let us think he has kept his word.”

“Sounds sneaky enough for Bluefish. Did you get a good look at that creep driving...before you changed the shape of his head, I mean?”

Luis ignores me, says, “We must make plans, take special care. Before this is over, we may decide killing Bluefish is our only protection.”

I pull my wallet, find the yellow scrap of paper Mr. Vick gave me Friday night. I show Luis Tony’s name and telephone number.

“Who is Tony?” Luis says.

“My boss said I should call him in case of trouble with his daughter. I did, and he took care of it. I bet he could take care of Bluefish, too.”

Luis switches off the beer signs. “Is this Tony a lawyer? Or a thug like Bluefish?”

“I don’t know.”

“It is of little consequence, I think. This matter must be settled between us and Bluefish.”

Luis is ready to close up. The old couple finish their tea. I’m not sure, but I think Luis may have himself a steady girlfriend these days.

I slide off the barstool. “You mean you and Bluefish will settle it, Luis. I’m not much of a fighter.”

Luis shakes his head. “This is not true, amigo. Myself, I am experienced with many weapons. My favorite is the switchblade, and I handle even the twelve-inch ones with great skill. Yet your words can be more cutting than my biggest knife. Austin Carr fights with his brain and his mouth. And he fights very well.”

Now that’s an interesting take on my Gift for Gab. I always saw my verbal proficiency as a shield, not a weapon. But who am I to argue with a Toltec warrior.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Secrets of Aging Well

What was he thinking? The Famous Author, white-haired for the beach months of July and August, poses for a photo and consents to its publication on the worldwide internet? Did he think no one would notice, that his small but loyal cadre of fans...his marketing staff...and me, would just let this revelation pass unmentioned?

TFA reports his hairdresser Fredricka said today he looked better with white hair, but she dyed it anyway. TFA says he likes the Hemingway look, maybe even in a few years, Walt Whitman, but for now, his marketing department (which includes Fredricka) is screaming its head off about yesterday's photo. TFA is supposed to look YOUNG for his book audience.

Personally, I think TFA's marketing staff should get off its hairdressing butt and put out the following press release:


Debut mystery novelist Jack Getze lost more than a decade of his life this spring. He went on tour to promote himself and his new book, BIG NUMBERS, and he ended up with one foot--plus a knee and a hip--in the grave.

Look at these before and after shots, folks. It's amazing what travel, bad food, convention hotels, and maintaining a groomed appearance wracked out of the old geezer in six short months.

Blah, blah, blah...his marketing people could go on about the difficulties of book marketing, the tremendous competition, the snubs, the slings, the arrows....What a great story!

I think a few newspapers might run it.

I have to tell TFA about this when he gets back from the manicurist!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

In Search of a Pin

Our pal Kate London's creator, Susan Goodwill, has a contest going on her website.

Send in a photo of her debut novel, BRIGADOOM, on tour somewhere, and Susan will send you a skull and crossbones pin.

Which photo should I send in? I think The Famous Author looks a little old in some of these shots, not to mention fat, but he did get a lovely showgirl from the Mohegan Sun to snap these photographs.

The ancient cemetary is located next to the motel where TFA and I stayed part of this past weekend.

TFA really wants a skull and crossbones pin for that stupid hat he's wearing.

The black baseball cap has pins stuck all over it.

Next month, the old fart is going to install a beanie propeller.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Gates McFadden

As Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Beverly Crusher, of the USS Enterprise, Star Trek's Gates McFadden makes me want to produce the next generation. Her long red hair even makes aliens tremble with lust. Born in 1949, I bet she still looks good enough to beam aboard.

Sorry, Gates. I'm sure you're a lady. It's just that Austin Carr knows no shame.