Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

This past year ranked among the all time greats, thanks to my debut adventure being published. But I'm hoping for even bigger things in 2008. Maybe a movie deal with me in charge of female casting...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 in One Photo

These are the authors who attended Murder in the Grove 2007, a Boise, ID mystery conference held every June, and well known for friendliness to fan and author alike. Robert Crais (second row from bottom, far left) was the guest of honor this year. Our own TFA is in there, too, lost somewhere in the crowd. Can you find him? For me, this shot sort of sums up what it's like being a newbie on the mystery series rack.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

TFA's 2007 Highlights

New Friends, Princess Roxanne of Luxemburg and Her Royal Family

New Milestones, Patrick's Graduation

And New Family, Gracie

Friday, December 28, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 23

At the two-gas-station corner of Broad Street and Willow, a black or midnight-blue new Lincoln Town Car matches my turn. When I straighten out and accelerate, the Lincoln’s wide headlights perfectly mimic my Camry’s modest speed, holding exactly half-a-block back. Like I was towing the puppy.

We’re traveling north on Highway 35, but I’m guessing my Friday evening just turned south.

Figures I’m being followed. In two weeks time, Austin Carr has seen two lifetimes worth of threatened financial ruin, fights, beatings, fires, assaults, and murder. Not to mention interrogations, accusations, and obfuscation. I’ve been betrayed, befuddled, and bewildered. Of course I’m being followed.

I slide the Toyota over a lane and lock the doors. For the umpteenth time since Mr. Vick sailed for Tuscany and Walter sold my friendship for half a million dollars, I ask myself how violence and disaster so easily enter my life? Potential injury or death, a nonexistent love life, and looming bankruptcy stalk my good humor like a trio of vultures.

Just before the next intersection, I flip the wheel hard left, ducking in front of oncoming traffic and bouncing the Camry into a Burger King. A triple-beef, triple cheese sounds good. My libido needs to substitute.

All four of the Camry’s wheels go into a slide, but I swerve and pump the gas pedal just in time, carefully avoiding the eight-foot plastic, TV-commercial famous King character who serves as menu to the drive-thru line.

Think this U.S.-built, Japanese car with Mexican and Chinese parts would have wiped off that happy bastard’s frozen smile?

In my mirror, I see the Lincoln Town Car cruise past the second and final Burger King entrance. I don’t get even a peek at the driver or passengers, thanks to his tinted windows.

I skulk in BK’s back lot five or six minutes. No sign of the Lincoln. I should have ordered a Coke and that triple-triple while I sailed past the King. Maybe a shake and an order of fries.

Two parked cars leave, and I spot an alley. Should I run for it? Seems like the natural thing to do. For me, anyway. I did the peyote thing with a Native American friend once, as a kid, and discovered through trial and hallucination that my animal spirit guide is a horse. Nervous, with extra-long legs for the get-out-of-here giddy-up.

I yank off a nasty, rubber-burning K-turn in front of an angry mom and two wide-eyed kids in a mini-van, hit the unmarked back exit sliding left, doubling back toward Branchtown. Austin Carr is The Transporter.

Must be garbage day tomorrow. Overflowing tin and plastic trash cans litter the dark alley on both sides. Instead of a palomino stallion, I feel like a bowling ball curling down a waxed lane. The Camry racks up two spares and a strike. Trash cans are flying.

I’m twenty-five feet from the next side street when a black shadow fills the alley. I hit the brakes too late, skidding to a bump-stop against the black or midnight blue Lincoln Town Car’s rear door. In the same thumping moment, the Camry’s steering wheel explodes and an air bag punches my face.

By the time I get the giant nylon marshmallow out of my mouth, fight my way outside, I’m standing beside the one and only Tony Farascio. He’s wearing his usual golf magazine apparel, a full-boat grin on his George Clooney lips. His sausage of a thumb points toward the Lincoln that’s been following me.

The shotgun-side window slides down. Gina waves.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 Highlights

After decades of being an Associate (Unpublished) Member, The Famous Author finally earned Active Member status in Mystery Writers of America this year (note round red pin with image of Edgar Allan Poe).

A lady named Diane posted this photo of her recent book purchases.

Wearing his BIG NUMBERS, Darkly Comic T-shirt, writer Dennis Bounds wins the biggest marathon race in Australia.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Favorite Stories--THE BIG SLEEP

"It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars."

The above opening of THE BIG SLEEP hooked me on Philip Marlowe and his creator, Raymond Chandler, forever. Not everybody can agree, of course, but this one paragraph made me love the character and want to follow him into that millionaire's house and anywhere else Chandler wanted to take him.

THE BIG SLEEP's story is complicated, not pure and simple like James M. Cain, but Chandler knows how to keep the tension high and the wisecracks flowing. And the bad guy, Canino, is pretty darn scary for a 1939 novel.

If you want to write private eye stuff, you have to read this book.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

And Happy Birthday to Angelina, The Famous Author's 2004 surprise package from Santa.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Just because you think you're so pretty

Just because you're mother thinks you're hot

Just because you think you've got something that nobody else has got

You cause me to spend all my money

You laugh and call me old Santa Claus

Well, I'm telling you, biddy

I'm through with you


Well well

Just Because

Elvis's cover of this B & J Shelton song was a big hit in the fifties. TFA is always singing it, so I decided to put it up here as our Christmas present to you. If I can find it again, I'll try to link with a visual I found on YouTube. Check upper right. AC

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Okay, Okay. Sorry.

The Famous Author's PR Chief threatened to shut down my blog if I didn't post something on top of that crazy man below. (Think he was having fun? Think he might have been influenced by some organic chemical made from cactus?)

Okay. Okay. So here's the PR Chief's "suggested" replacement, a Golden Shovel shot of TFA (right) and Paul Schroeder, Boss Librarian at the Bound Brook, NJ Memorial Library. Have you ever seen two more uncomfortable men? At least TFA has a nice tan from our Puerto Vallarta adventure.

Paul is a swell guy, incidentally, and I would say that even if Paul hadn't admitted to being an Austin Carr fan. He's a big mystery buff, and very well read (duh!). Right now, Paul has the whole neighborhood (all five copies are out) reading Big Numbers.

I think TFA offered to repaint the basement restroom.

Would You Work For This Man?

Friday, December 21, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 22

Max squeezes into the shotgun seat of Jerry’s rumbling new silver Corvette. Max’s knees stretch the dashboard. His right shoulder bends the door glass. He feels like stick of gum in a shiny metal wrapper.

Max contorts his upper body to reach the window button, uses his hand to tug on his left leg, squashing his nuts to make room for Jerry to work the Corvette’s floor-mounted gear shift.

“Let’s steal a car quick,” Max says. “A big one.”

Jerry guns the loud V-8 engine, racing the car’s four-hundred horsepowers like a NASCAR driver. Or a kid with a new toy. Max knows Jerry four years now and each one is the same. Fast cars and faster women. Only thing new is fancier suits and big diamond earring Jerry wears since he started playing golf with those pro football players.

“You see something with New York plates, holler,” Jerry says. “Otherwise, I know a good spot on the other side of the tunnel.”

Max points with his left hand, his index finger touching the Corvette’s windshield. “Pull into bus lot one mile ahead, right by entrance to Parkway. Many New York cars park there, take bus to Atlantic City casinos.”

“Yeah? All right, let’s try it. Look for a Lincoln Town Car, or a Caddy, some snazzy wheels. I heard the chef at this place we’re going to cooks for gourmets at the James Beard House.”

Max grunts.

“What’s the matter?” Jerry says.

Jerry points the Corvette’s shiny silver nose toward the Garden State Parkway. Road rushes past like black river of individual rocks, the sports car so close to the ground. A cold wind stings Max’s face.

“Come on, Max. I know you. What’s the matter?”

“We should hide, wait for mark in his bedroom,” Max says.

“The boss’s way is better.”

“No mistakes when I catch mark by surprise,” Max says.

Jerry glances at him. “What the hell are you worried about? Not that bartender’s lucky kick?”

Max breathes deeply. “Bartender was quick like cat. Only a little lucky.”

“Nothing like that ever happened before. A freakin’ fluke’s what that was.”

Maybe Jerry is right. “Is true Max only get knocked down twice in whole life.”

Jerry brakes at a red light, hits the right turn signal. Click-click. Click-click. The bus parking lot is just across the street. Max will be much happier in bigger car. So will Max’s nuts.

“I bet the other time was an elephant,” Jerry says.

Max says nothing. Elephants are usually nice. It was a big cat that brought Max to his knees. A mean smelly lion named Victor.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mr. Nice Guy 2007

Meet Jeff Markowitz. He writes the Cassie O'Malley Mystery Series for Five Star, previously mentioned here under laugh-out-loud mysteries. Jeff also wins this year's Nicest Author on the Mystery Tour Award, handed out by The Famous Author. (Who demanded space on my blog to announce this.)

"I met dozens of friendly authors traveling this past year--Sandra, Jane, L.C., Neil, Bruce, RC, Lee, and so many others--but picking one as The Nicest wasn't as hard as I expected," TFA said last night. "Jeff actually showed up at one of my signings. It was amazing."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Deborah Kerr, Redhead of the Week

Deborah Kerr was borne Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer in 1921. Her most famous films were The King and I, An Affair to Remember, From Here to Eternity, Heaven Knows, Mr Allison and Separate Tables, although some fans would say her career boils down to this shot in From Here to Eternity (1953). It helped win her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and The American Film Institute acknowledged the iconic status of this scene by naming it one of "AFI's top 100 Most Romantic Films" of all time.

She and Burt Lancaster make love on a Hawaii beach amidst the crashing waves. Hot stuff for 1953.

Although the Scottish pronunciation of her surname usually sounds like "care," when she was being promoted as a Hollywood actress, Louis B. Mayer decided "Kerr rhymes with Star!"

At the age of 46, she starred in Casino Royale, achieving the distinction of being the oldest Bond Girl in any James Bond film.

Kerr was the patron of Great Britain's National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection from 1992 until her death from the effects of Parkinson's disease on October 16, 2007 at the age of 86 in the village of Botesdale, Suffolk, England.

Deborah Kerr was nominated six times for Best Actress but never won.

Thanks to Deborah and Wikipedia

Monday, December 17, 2007

Vacation Read #3

In BLINDFOLD GAME, by Dana Stabenow, a husband-and-wife team--CIA operative Hugh and U.S. Coast Guard officer Sara--must stop Asian terrorists in the north Pacific. The entertaining action takes us to Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, and Russia, and wraps up just off the Alaskan coast.

Stabenow is the award-winning author of fourteen Kate Shugak mysteries, three Liam Campbell mysteries, and three science fiction novels. The lady can write up a storm, especially the seas, the cold, the winds and ice of Alaska.

It is tribute to Stabenow's impressive writing skills that The Famous Author and I skipped so little of this book's omniscient POV passages. This story would have placed higher in the week's rankings, and we would have cared more about Sara and Hugh, however, if Sara talked more, the author less.

Just Our Humble Opinion

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Vacation Read #2

After WHO IN HELL IS WANDA FUCA?, our second favorite read of the week was NEXT, by Michael Crichton.

There's an orangutan on the cover of NEXT for a good reason. Dave--monkeyboy, the mean kids call him--is the best character in the book, the only one I was rooting for. Well, Dave and the multi-lingual grey parrot, Gerard, who has big-time brains and funny lines, and doesn't know why he gets sick when someone offers him cooked chicken.

Ok, it's true. Mr. C writes basically the same story almost every time out. Science is killing us. Westworld. Jurrasic Park. The Andromeda Strain. Next. But, boy, are they fun.

Westworld, one of my early introductions to Mr. C's marvelous imagination and skill in taking me for a ride, I think is a classic Sci-fi novel.

NEXT isn't one of his best in this Man vs. Technology series. The research plays too prominent a role in the prose. But the story is fascinating, because you learn how much of what we think we know about DNA and genes is superficial crap fed to us, and how little and meek are the safeguards that protect us from what Mr. C imagines.

Someday, this stuff is probably going to happen, and bounty-hunters legally running down the grandchildren of a gene-donor so they can punch a hole in the kid's liver...human genes bred into all sorts of living things...well, it's pretty frightening stuff.

Best, Mike engineers a nifty wrap-up including my favorites, loyal Dave and fast-talking Gerard.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Vacation Read #1

While resting and partying in Puerto Vallarta this past week (scroll down for a more detailed description of our adventures), The Famous Author and I managed to read two mysteries and two speculative thrillers, all this between numerous legal and social obligations. Judged best book of the week is WHO IN HELL IS WANDA FUCA? by G.M. Ford.

TFA and I both liked the protagonist, Leo Waterman, a Seattle private eye who not only knows every drunk in the city, he employs them. The story itself was a ton of fun, with a big ending, even if I'd figured out which villain had to be pulling the strings. Leo's a guy we'd like to see again, so TFA says he's going to buy me a few more.

TFA says Mr. Ford is a very clever, funny writer. I just liked Leo.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An August Panel

"Hey, Brian, are you sure we're in the right courtroom?"

"Absolutely, dude. This is where they told me to go."

"But all these judges, those long robes...feels like you're going to argue a change in the constitution or something?

"Exactly. Our best defense is that the Chief of the Puerto Vallarta Police violated your iguana rights."

"My what?"

"Haha. Did I say iguana? I meant your civil rights."

"Brian, have you been sipping from that brown jug?"

"Si, senor. Ha ha ha ha."

Oh, man, and I thought TFA and I we're in trouble before.

"But Brian, I am not on trial. It's The Famous Author."

"Really? I'm confused. Which one of you was sleeping with the Chief's wife."

"Neither one of us, man. TFA was there, but he's innocent."

"Well, where is he?"

"I dunno. I thought we were going to meet him."

Looks like I'm alone again. Trapped in Puerto Vallarta.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We Need A Lawyer!

Well, Rick was right. The Famous Author met a redhead at the bar Monday afternoon, and many margaritas. And while the night seemed to go well, all hell broke lose when the redhead's husband came home. Turns out Red's hubby was Puerto Vallarta's Chief of Police.

Oh, my, TFA. You sure can pick'em.

Anyway, we're in trouble down here south of the border. No money. No food. No high priced Randall Zimmer Esq. to get my boss out of the small, hot, and dirty jail.

Hey, Jason! How about flying down and bringing one of those hurricanes with you? I think a good wind might provide entry.

I tried to get a shot of TFA's redhead (for our Redhead of the Week spot) but no dice. In fact, I'm hiding from the Mexican nabs right now. Think they'll look in TFA's computer case?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Help! I'm Trapped

What started as an exciting adventure turned to dire circumstances yesterday when The Famous Author said he was going for a drink at the pool bar and never came back. I am waiting, trapped in the Puerto Vallarta hotel room.

Last week, apparently on a wild hair, TFA whisked me off to the Newark Airport and booked us passage to Mexico. "Sounds like fun," I said.

If only I had known.

And after a weekend of drunken debauchery, I thought we were headed home. I mean, we've got a signing this weekend in Eatontown. But as we packed and prepared to leave, TFA said he had to run out for one more margarita.

That was 22 hours ago, and frankly, now I'm worried. Did TFA really leave me here, unattended and unfinanced? Was he the victim of foul play? Another beautiful redhead? One of those dreadrul green iguanas?

Guesses, anyone?

Friday, December 7, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 21

Ms. Strawberry says, “I’m insulted you don’t remember me.”

I give Cutie Pie the full-boat Carr grin. Either I’m a better liar than even I thought--impossible--or this reddish-blond-haired stockbroker is pulling all three of my legs. No way Ms. Strawberry didn’t notice I was staring at her like hungry crabs at a sick fish. “That’s not what I said. More like, this woman is so incredibly attractive, she can’t be real.”

Ms. Strawberry doesn’t blush or blink. Instead, she crosses her legs, showing me enough thigh to arouse dead men. Wonder if producing boners is how she grossed $800,000 last year? She certainly has all the qualifications for leadership. Put Ms. Strawberry in a corporate boardroom, they’d elect her chairman and chief executive. When they voted, more than hands would go up.

“Perhaps your assessment was blurred by too many martinis,” she says.

I roll my chair up close to the desk. Don’t think Ms. Dahler’s quite ready for a complete frontal view of my lap just yet. My appreciation for her thin summer dress is quite formidable.

“Perhaps I was over-served,” I say. “I did have a lot on my mind.”

“You mean Shore’s A.A.S.D. troubles?” She grins, a startling display of pure white, perfectly capped teeth. Another movie-star-quality ranking for Ms. Strawberry’s physical nature.

Wait. How did she know about the A.A.S.D. investigation? Was Ms. Strawberry close enough last night to hear me talking to myself? No, wait...I know what happened.

“Walter mentioned the A.A.S.D. investigation around Jaffy Ritter?”

Ms. Strawberry nods, bouncing her chin-length, wavy blonde hair. “More like he gave lectures on the subject. To me and regular luncheon crowds.”

Sounds like Walter. The bastard. I thought we were pals, so I kept his departure secret two days. Meanwhile, he used that weekend to work on Shore’s client list, including two of my biggest clients. When I lived in California, I might have talked about hurt feelings. In Jersey, we say Walter made me his bitch.

“So why would you want to move to Shore?” I say. “There could be bad publicity, plus you know Shore can’t afford the kind of bonus a big wire firm could pay. Right now, Shore can’t afford to pay any kind of bonus.”

Let’s see how she handles obstacles. And in case she jumps this puppy, I’ve got another one growing in my pants. It’s nature, ladies. Survival of the species.

Franny’s gaze searches mine, then holds me tight. Her chin’s set, too. Like the larger, vertical keystone of a brick window arch. “I don’t want a big bonus,” she says. “I want a bigger percentage of commissions and mutual fund trailers.”

Okay, that figures. Franny Dahler, alias Ms. Strawberry, the Nicole Kidman of Branchtown, knows Shore Securities might flounder without Walter. She’s trying to seize me by the short hairs.

Strawberry saying, “And I’m willing to stick long enough to make the deal pay off for both of us.”

I glance at my empty bourbon glass. I like this blonde lady. And I mean over and above my not-so-secret lust. I know she can sell, for one thing. I know I’d never say no to her. Damn. All of which means I’m probably going to let her squeeze my nuts. My only real hesitation, I sense Ms. Strawberry’s not telling me everything about her desire to change firms. It’s more than money. Swear to God, I’ll bet Walter got her corner glass office overlooking the Navasquan River. Something like that.

“How about fifty percent for five years?” I say.

But white lies and hunches can’t matter in Shore’s current situation. Once I start letting back-office people go, I’ll lose more salesmen. Could become an ugly cycle. Mr. Vick will return next fall to find me and Carmela working in a camper with cell phones.

“How about sixty for three?” she says.

It’s strictly business me wanting to hire her. I’m paying absolutely no attention to whatever is lifting my makeshift desk. The table with three computers and four monitors on it.

“Fifty-five percent is the best I can do, Franny. And that’s if you’ll sign a contract for four years.”

“Commissions and mutual fund trailers?”


“Done,” she says.

I stand in my enthusiasm to shake hands on the deal. Her eyes throw me a slow once over, waist to hairline, roots to flower, then back to roots.

Franny Dahler, Ms. Strawberry, leaves my office grinning like a circus clown.

Think she noticed my enthusiasm?

I have more crap paperwork to sign than a U.S. Army supply sergeant. It’s eight o’clock before I close up Shore Securities for the weekend and begin to dream of Luis’s place, Umberto’s green-chili burritos.

A motion sensor illuminates the back parking lot as I walk to my Camry, but the neighboring businesses are closed, and a solid ring of darkness encircles the well-lighted parking area.

Like a spotlighted performer, my skin tingles with the sensation of being watched.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Favorite Stories--DOUBLE INDEMNITY

When lonely insurance salesman Walter meets seductive Phyllis, the wife of one of his wealthy clients, it takes Walter only minutes to determine she wants to lose her husband. It take him even less time to decide to help her.

Walter knows that accident insurance pays double indemnity on railroad mishaps, so he and Phyllis plot to get hubby on a train. Hard to do without arousing the suspicions of the police, the insurance company, hubby's dishy daughter, her mysterious boyfriend, or hubby himself. But love can conquer all, right Walter?

DOUBLE INDEMNITY, by James M. Cain, is a perfect example of the ordinary-guy-gone-disastrously-wrong story that Cain pulled off brilliantly several times. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE is another example. Both are considered early classics of noir crime novels used later to make noir films.

Back forty years ago, The Famous Author worked in both of Los Angeles's biggest newsrooms. Cain, Chandler, and Hammett were the writers old newsmen told young newsmen about when the kids said they wanted to write novels. According to at least half of these old rimrats, TFA says, Cain was also the author of TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, which carries the mysterious byline of B. Traven. In TREASURE'S case, of course, the evil force is gold, not a woman.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Redhead With Extras

Vanessa Collingridge is a British journalist who started her career in television as a question checker on game shows. Her fourteen-month stint as a weathergirl on BBC Scotland made her a household name.

Who could forget her famous and personal revelations about upper body freckles?

She later worked as a producer and presenter for all five British national television channels, as well as BBC national radio.

In 2000 she quit her television presenter's job on Tonight with Trevor McDonald to author two biographies, one of eighteenth century explorer James Cook (The first European to surf Honolulu), and one of Celtic warrior queen, Boudica.

Collingridge has lived in Scotland since 1989, and resides in a converted farmhouse on the shore of Castle Semple Loch near Lochwinnoch with her partner (Alan Somebody), and sons Archie and Angus. She is currently studying to complete her Ph.D. in historical cartography at the University of Glasgow, while working as a broadcaster for BBC Radio Scotland's Buried Treasure and BBC Radio's Making History.

Thanks to Wikipedia, Google, and Vanessa

Saturday, December 1, 2007


I don't know what Music Boy (Roman White) and The Famous Author (Jack Somebody) were thinking, but I know who I'm picking. Whenever their scheduled caged match takes place--sometime next year at the annual Writers Retreat Workshop Fall confab--I know The Viking will kick the Tennessee Turkey's lilly white ass.

I mean, how much analytical consideration does it take? On one hand you have this peach-faced cherub, on the other...

A viking.

You tell me, folks? Who is going to win?

No, I think the only mystery here is how the heck this whole thing got started. These two former pals have been at each other's throats for years now, and this week tangled seriously in the private quarters of the fair damsel Lorin. Could this woman be at the center of this hot dispute between two old friends?

We called TFA last night to ask him.

"No, this has nothing to do with the fact we're both in love with Lorin. The guy is a bully, pure and simple," TFA said. "I know he looks like a happy, nice, funny, and talented guy..."

(TFA must like cowboy shirts)

"...but he's not. He's really...well, I guess he is talented and funny. But he was very mean to me."

Gee, TFA, get yourself a Kleenx.