Friday, November 30, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 20

In Vick’s old office, I touch a sterling picture frame with strange reverence. Not sure why I left hanging this mid-ocean action photo of Mr. Vick’s forty-four-foot motor yacht, the “Triple-A.” Don’t need visual reminders of my mortality, how close death by drowning came last year. But maybe I relish how much boats like this cost, how much money Mr. Vick made all those years as sole owner of Shore Securities. See, with room and board, figure I’ll need half-a-million for Beth’s and Ryan’s college education, and it’s always good to have hope. Especially in the midst of Shore’s latest tornado.

Except for the yacht shot, most of the rest of the boss’s office crap has pretty much disappeared, casualties of an unbending policy: The Austin Carr Touch, currently amplified I’m sure by the key to Mr. Vick’s well-stocked, well-heeled, and normally well-locked mahogany liquor cabinet. My motto after two weeks of many forty-year-old double-bourbons: Make yourself at home.

A fold-up card table with a nifty Swedish coffee drip machine, straw baskets of sweeteners, nondairy creamer, spoons, paper cups, and napkins replaces Mr. Vick’s antique glass-front lawyer’s bookcase.

If I want to read books, I can go to the library.

A longer, rectangular fold-up table bumps Vick’s ten-ton cluttered desk. Three black trash bags full of knickknacks--Vick can’t remember what his family looks like?--gives me enough room for a cushy swivel chair, four eighteen-inch computer monitors, three state-of-the-art laptops, and a laser printer that could publish the Washington Post. Plus, I can slide my chair underneath and back and forth along the whole table, do four internet dating applications and interviews at the same time.

Just kidding.

The paneled wall’s invisible closet holds half my suits, half my dress shirts, drawers of socks and underwear, and a rack of suitably-conservative neckties. All this so I can dress here or at home, depending on mood, circumstance, and the number of elapsed hours since my latest adventure inside a flaming restaurant.

If this means an occasional wee-bity pile of dirty, smoky laundry, it’s exactly the kind of necessary office evil Austin Carr can live with. Function, not form, is another one of my mottoes, bourbon or no.

The intercom buzzes. Nasty noise, that. Another Mr. Vick leftover I could do without.

I touch the black button. “Carmela, after you call the hospital about Luis, call the electrician for me, will you? I want this intercom--”

“Your appointment is here,” Carmela says.

“It’s four-thirty already?”

My new partner sighs. The sound is breathy and sexy. “It’s five-forty-five,” Carmela says. “You told me to set it up after work, right?”

I sign off my AOL account. This new dating site offers no one worth chasing. Hope I didn’t click myself into the annual membership. I do remember typing in my credit card number. “This appointment is the big hitter from Jaffy Ritter Clark?” I say.


“Frank something?”

“Franny Dahler,” Carmela says. “This hitter’s a female. Did over eight-hundred last year.”

“Oh, my.”

“Right. Should I send her in?”

Talking all day, working her dad’s accounts and helping field my calls, Carmela’s voice grows huskier each day. Sends a low lovely tingle deep in my waist. Jesus, I’m so horny even Miss Butterface is starting to arouse me. Well, everything but her face.

“By all means,” I say. “Send in Ms. Dahler.”

I swear I’m not really cruel. It’s my endless search for sarcasm that leads me astray. Besides, Carmela can’t hear what I’m thinking.

“Hire her,” Carmela says.

Mr. Vick’s daughter has been hurling little tips on running the business my entire two weeks as chief. Even before I ransacked Mr. Vick’s office. I think the busty new college graduate’s heady with power, although it can’t hurt to listen. She already came up with one idea that clicked like the trunk of a new Mercedes: Firing Mr. Vick’s crabby, overpaid secretary was a slash of genius.

What do we care if she’s Vick’s sister?

I stand to greet the hitter from across the street, Franny Dahler. She’s been calling since Monday, one week after Walter left us for Dahler’s current employer, Jaffy Ritter Clark. According to Carmela, Ms. Dahler wants to talk about switching firms.

Bet Jaffy Ritter gave her office to Walter.

My door cracks open.

The loss of Walter’s production hurts Shore badly. And not just in profits for the owners. Shore Securities needs a certain flow of business to justify four back-office people, three secretaries, and two traders, not to mention minimum clearing fees with a New York bank and fifty other expenses included in the cost of selling stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Peoples’ jobs depend on me lining up a new hitter to pick up Walter’s slack.

The door swings open. Oh. My. God.

“You’re Austin Carr?” Ms. Strawberry says.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Best Crime Novel of 2007

Since I discovered Robert Crais's books five years ago, and in particular the Elvis Cole P.I. series, I've taken a huge shine to one of his characters, Joe Pike. Joe is Elvis's sidekick, his silent partner in the P.I. business, and a close friend who often comes to Elvis's rescue. Joe is a former L.A. cop, a former U.S. Marine scout/sniper, part of Force Recon's hunter/killer team, a mercenary, and an all round, bad-ass dude. With weapons or bare hands, you do not want to mess with Joe Pike. In an earlier novel, we glimpsed Joe's childhood and his abusive father, and in almost every Elvis Cole novel, we see Joe at work, silently stalking and taking care of the bad guys.

But in THE WATCHMAN, Crais's latest work published this spring, Joe Pike is revealed like never before. In fact, Crais calls THE WATCHMAN his "first Joe Pike novel." We stay inside Joe's head for chapters and chapters at a time. We understand why cleaning his guns is so important to him. He learn exactly why he left the LAPD. He see and hear his reactions to all kinds of outside stimuli, including a young, beautiful woman who is at the center of this story.

Joe's feelings about her will surprise you.

And this is Joe's story, top to bottom. Elvis pitches in, of course, and there are scenes with our favorite horny forensics examiner, John Chen. Even the girl gets a chapter or two of her own. But this is Joe's adventure, a man trying to protect a young woman from drug dealers, bad cops, crooked lawyers, and maybe even her father. Joe has to kill at least nine different bad guys before the outcome is decided.

For us Joe Pike fans, THE WATCHMAN is the book we've been waiting for. It's one of the best darn crime books I've ever enjoyed, and certainly my pick for best fiction of the year.

Thank you, Mr. Crais. Please keep'em coming.

P.S. -- That's Robert Crais on the left, and guess who on the right. That's right, TFA actually sat at the same table with Mr. Crais last June in Boise, Idaho, at Murder in the Grove, a mystery convention for fans and authors. Crais and TFA both answered some mystery fan questions about funny things that happened on the way to bookstore. TFA wrote a little piece on his time with Crais. I've put a link up at the top right hand column if you'd like to check that out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


The Famous Author once again hijacked me on a field trip, this one to the frozen north of Connecticut. And once again to a retreat that hates smokers, drinkers, snackers, sassy characters, and anyone who would dare flaunt a rule. Of course, we fit right in.

Last night TFA came in from the tundra after a smoke, ice cycles dripping from his beard. "You finally look like a viking," I told him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Redhead of the Week

Born June 20, 1967, Nicole Kidman is an Academy Award-winning actress, and reportedly the highest paid one in Hollywood. After making various appearances in film and television, Kidman received her breakthrough role in the 1989 thriller Dead Calm.

Since then, Kidman's acting career has developed greatly. Her performances in several films, such as To Die For (1995), Moulin Rouge! (2001), and The Hours (2002), have won her not only critical acclaim but also many film awards. In 2003, Kidman received her Star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California. Kidman is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a singer and a successful recording artist.

She is also well-known for her former marriage to Tom Cruise, as well as her later marriage to singer Keith Urban. Because she was born to Australian parents in Honolulu, Hawaii, Kidman has dual citizenship of Australia and the United States.

Thanks to Nicole and Wikipedia

Monday, November 26, 2007

Turbans and Turkeys

Open Energy (OEGY) is on its ass. The stock market not only didn't hit a new high by Thanksgiving (as I humbly predicted), stocks have been crashing. A modest rebound Friday has not quelled the Little Guy's pessimism. Those Who Are Alway Wrong say the market is going down, fast and hard.

Okay, I was wrong. My timing was off. No turban for me. Don't call me The Swami. But I still say The Little Guy is wrong again. Retail sales were strong this weekend, and 95% of Americans who can work and want a job actually have one. Those who predict a recession--some say it's already started--are just wrong.

Of course, this comes to you from a man who not only had his turban withheld, but who bought OEGY at 66 cents a share. (Top chart is the S&P 500, bottom is OEGY, both courtesy of E-TRADE).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Free Crime Fiction Browser

Over at Liz Clifford's website,, some well known authors showed up today offering sample chapters of their books. I'm talking about writers like Elaine Viets, Donna Andrews, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Vicki Lane, N. J. Lindquist, Kate Pepper, and numerous others. You can jump over to Liz's and click on some sample chapters at the top right link^

The Famous Author's hanging us out there again, too. How many Sundays in a row is TFA going to hog space on Liz's sofa?

Saturday, November 24, 2007


That's right, the so-called newspaper of record did not make my list of America's most noteable papers of 2007. My critics might argue I'm merely retaliating for being left off the NY Times list of most noteable books of 2007, and those critics would by one-hundred percent right. It's a cheap shot. A feel-good move for myself at the expense of others.

Tough. Let'em drink Drano. I bet they never even read Big Numbers.

Friday, November 23, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 19

The smoke forces me down, the evil, hell-hot stuff stronger than Creeper’s hands. My nose is inches from the stained linoleum floor. A long gray bug with hundreds of synchronized legs runs for his life, tries hiding in my nostril. I snort to blow him away.

Maybe sniffing like that enhances the senses because suddenly I can smell the cotton-blend material of my suit warming to ignition.

Sirens blare on Broad Street. The floor begins to heat up like a pancake griddle.

I wiggle beside Luis to see what’s snagging him. Whoa. No accident here. Luis’s wrists are bound with rope and tied to the stainless steel leg of his four-hundred-pound ice maker. No time to untangle knots. I need a sharp edge.

I spasm makes me cough. Smoke fills my throat and makes me cough again. Dizziness blurs my vision. Probably the first stage of carbon monoxide poisoning.

My heart’s skipping rope as I yank Luis’s new switchblade from his right back pocket.

I hack at the ropes.

But I run out of air before I can free him.

My lips kiss the floor, searching for the smallest taste of oxygen. I cough again, then choke. Maybe getting a spoonful of air. No matter. Smoke fills the restaurant, floor to ceiling. That has to be my last breath inside this burning coffin.

Praying adrenaline will help, I finally slash the rope in two. I jerk Luis’s body from underneath the bar and onto my shoulder. I stagger, reel backward under his weight, but the bar backs me up. I stay on my feet. This is it. Get out now. I can’t take a breath and I can’t stop walking.

Reminds me of my marriage to Susan somehow. I never liked any of the choices she offered.

Through the black rolling smoke and heat, I stumble past the basement stairway, bank left off the twin sinks, then grope along the kitchen’s wooden table. My lungs want to burst.

My head and shoulders begin to outrun my feet, stealing my balance. I can’t see my nose in the blackness.

My right hip bumps the last corner of the kitchen table, then empty space, and I pitch Luis and myself toward a memory of the back door. My shoulder crashes something hard, and I spin onto steps, stumbling enough to lose Luis and fall.

Luis lands in the sturdy arms of a Branchtown fireman.

Nobody bothers to catch me.

It’s early afternoon before the nurses let me in to see a very woozy Luis. The smoke and fire did some minor damage to his lungs, but it’s the concussion that’s going to keep him in the hospital at least over night. The doctors think someone hit him with a pipe.

“What do you mean you can’t do it?” I say. “You have to do it, Susan. Bluefish threatened them. Now he tried to kill Luis.”

“So you claim,” my ex-wife says. “But your word doesn’t count much.”

“I would never lie about our children. How can you even think that?”

“Where am I going to send them, Austin? Disney World? Both my parents are sick. It’s too late to book a sitter for the weekend. And I was counting on you picking them up tomorrow. I’ve got plans. You can’t decide to back out at the last minute.”

“That’s what you think? This story is bullshit just to get out of taking my weekend with them?”

“It’s the kind of thing an unreliable person like yourself would do.”

I take a breath. And another.


“You going to be home for a while?” I say.

“I’m picking up the kids at school in twenty minutes.”

“I’ll try to have someone else call you.”

“Yeah? Who, Carmela? Your secretary?”

“How about Detective Jim Mallory?”

Don’t know exactly what my B.P.D. connections earned Susan in the way of clarification, but I hear later somebody convinced her to swallow my idea. Mallory or a patrolman on Mallory’s orders must have explained why I couldn’t know where the kids were headed, either. Otherwise I’m sure Susan would have called me.

Ha ha.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


The Famous Author is thankful for his grandchildren, newborne Grace and Angelina, three.

I am grateful to be alive.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Better Than Sex

That's what this French lady reportedly said after fighting this 900-pound Giant Bluefin for three and a half hours. For sure it lasted longer, right guys?

In my current adventure, I get dragged overboard by one of these puppies, the largest member of the tuna family. It is one heck of a ride, let me tell you. Like all tuna, these fish fight like no other. It is rare that a Giant Bluefin is still alive by the time you get it alongside the boat. They literally spend their last ounce of energy fighting that hook.

A true story about a New Jersey fisherman being yanked off his boat by a Giant Bluefin is among the tales that sparked The Famous Author to write Big Numbers. In that real incident, the fisherman was strapped into a fighting chair bolted to the boat deck. Guess the bolts were old and rusted because Big Tuna ripped that chair right out of the wood.

Splash, and the fisherman was gone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Redhead of the Week

Lee Grant, born in 1927, is an Academy Award-winning, Golden Globe-nominated American theater, film and television actress, and film director who was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses in the 1950s.

Grant was born Lyova Haskell Rosenthal in New York City, daughter of Eastern European Jewish immigrants Witia (née Haskell), a teacher, and A. W. Rosenthal, a realtor and educator. Her stage name, Lee Grant, is a compilation of the two leading U.S. Civil War generals. Grant performed as a ballerina with the New York Metropolitan Opera at the age of four, and during her childhood studied dance and acting.

She established herself as a dramatic actress on Broadway while a teenager and was praised for her role as a shoplifter in the play Detective Story. Grant made her film debut in the movie version of Detective Story and received her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination, and won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to testify against her husband, the playwright Arnold Manoff, the father of her only child, her daughter, actress Dinah Manoff, Grant refused to testify and was ultimately blacklisted. She continued to work in theater and resumed her film career in the early 1960s, and also appeared in the television series "Peyton Place", for which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama.

Grant received subsequent Academy Award nominations for The Landlord (1970), and Voyage of the Damned (1976). She won an Oscar for Shampoo (1975). She has also directed several documentary films, including Down and Out in America (1986) which won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. In recent years she has directed a series of Intimate Portrait episodes (for Lifetime Television) that celebrate a diverse range of accomplished women.

Her movies:
Detective Story (1951)
Storm Fear (1955)
Middle of the Night (1959)
The Blue Angel (1959)
The Balcony (1963)
An Affair of the Skin (1963)
Terror in the City (1964)
Divorce American Style (1967)
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Valley of the Dolls (1967)
Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968)
The Big Bounce (1969)
Marooned (1969)
The Landlord (1970)
There Was a Crooked Man... (1970)
The Last Generation (1971)
Plaza Suite (1971)
Portnoy's Complaint (1972)
The Internecine Project (1974)
Shampoo (1975)
Voyage of the Damned (1976)
Airport '77 (1977)
Damien: Omen II (1978)
The Swarm (1978)
The Mafu Cage (1978)
When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder? (1979)
Little Miss Marker (1980)
Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)
Visiting Hours (1982)
Billions for Boris (1984)
Constance (1984)
Teachers (1984)
Sanford Meisner: The American Theatre's Best Kept Secret (1985) (documentary)
The Big Town (1987)
Defending Your Life (1991)
Something to Live for: The Alison Gertz Story (1992)
Earth and the American Dream (1992) (documentary) (narrator)
It's My Party (1996)
The Substance of Fire (1996)
Under Heat (1996)
Poor Liza (1998)
Dr. T & the Women (2000)
The Amati Girls (2000)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
The Needs of Kim Stanley (2005) (documentary)
Going Shopping (2005)

Way to go Lee. How could they think someoned named Lee and Grant could be unpatriotic? Bastards.
Thanks to Wikipedia and Lee.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hollywood Calls

Marshal Zeringue runs a couple of great websites for crime fiction fans, including the Page 69 test, the Page 99 test, and My Book, The Movie, where authors speculate on which actors should play the parts should the book be made into a movie. Not much chance--too many books, not enough movies--but The Famous Author threw his two cents in for Marshal's latest fantasy.

Check the link on the upper right. Edward James Olmos? Hulk Hogan? What kind of movie is this?

One of TFA's picks I found especially surprising was Molly Ringwald. TFA thinks Molly would make a wonderful Kelly Burns, the redheaded femme fatale who leads me astray. Now where did he get that idea, I wonder? Has TFA been raiding my Redheads of the Week? Hmmmm.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

On Being Chosen

A pal saw this blogger's post yesterday, forwarded it to The Famous Author, who in turn showed it to me. It was a happy shared moment for us, and there haven't been a lot of those lately. TFA and I have been very busy working on my third adventure, which necessitates a certain amount of isolation.

Even when we're working on the same story. Go figure.

Anyway, Blogger Diane of NANNERS AND NOODLES (link at upper right) says she just received a shipment of books from Amazon and posted a photo of her assorted purchases. Oh, my. There's BIG NUMBERS by TFA!

Since Diane hasn't read the book yet, I won't get too gushy. Maybe she won't like me and the crazy things I do. But thumbs up or thumbs down, Diane gets a big thank you for giving us a chance. There are 100 news mysteries and crime novels published every month. Hundreds of thousands of books available to buy.

Diane picked us.

Oh, happy day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Howling Dog

And this barker's name is OEGY, or Open Energy Corp.

BIG MONEY, Chapter 18

The truth about what?

That’s the question I keep asking myself as I shower, smear Jif Chunky on wheat toast, and natty-up for work in a Navy blue Canali, white button-down shirt, and a maroon tie embroidered with tiny gold clocks.

The Canali’s secondhand, mind you. An unshaved, greasy-looking guy comes by the office every few months with a rack or two of little-worn expensive suits. Rumor is he buys them from recent Wall Street widows.

Wearing dead-man suits is as close to The Street as most Branchtown brokers will ever get.

Or maybe Gina’s message--putting my suit aside for a minute--is just her way of tugging my chain about her unfaithful husband. Maybe her message is a kind of red herring. A McGuffin. She could be so mad at Tony, so fed up with his cheating, she won’t believe a word the dumb bastard says.

Been there, done that. Wonder if Mrs. Tony Farascio’s pissed enough to take a lover?

Not that I discerned any direct or indirect offers earlier this morning. I trust my instincts to have mentioned such sweet intelligence. Not that I’d even consider an affair with a married woman, mind you...although consideration is a tricky word. I’m not counting brief flashes of wicked fantasy.

I crank open the Camry’s sky roof as I roll onto Shrewsbury Avenue. Except for parallel golden streaks of airplane condensation, a few puffs of pink candy-cotton on the eastern horizon, the windy sky sets a clean palate for the coming day. The crystal air tastes like pine forests and snow-topped mountains.

I’m headed to work earlier than usual today, the sun still a yellow bulb playing peek-a-boo behind Branchtown’s century-old sycamores and oaks. The kind of trouble I’m in--Bluefish threatening Ryan and Beth, Walter leaving, Talbot’s charges, then her murder, Big Tony’s wife giving me stiff ones--sleeping wasn’t an option. My mind buzzes.

One good thing, an idea that came to me as I spread my peanut butter, I’ve decided to send Ryan and Beth away from Branchtown. By good, I mean they’ll be safe. Missed but safe. My ex-wife Susan won’t go along at first, but I think she’ll cooperate after I describe Bluefish, the Creeper, the stories about Anne Marie Talbot’s body I overheard at the Branchtown Police station.

For twenty-four hours, I guess I figured Beth and Ryan would be safe as long as I did what Bluefish wanted. But Tony disappearing with the bookie’s hundred grand, and Talbot’s murder, definitely changes my assessment. Branchtown’s turning ugly, especially for me and mine. Susan has to relocate our children someplace even I don’t know about.

A man doesn’t like to think he could be tortured into giving up his children’s whereabouts. But why even take the chance? I’m a stockbroker, not special ops.

Crossing the train tracks, I glance across Broad Street toward Luis’s Mexican Grill. Luis’s and Umberto’s cars are parked there every day except Monday, but I’m earlier than usual, curious if I’ve beat them to work.

Both cars are there, Umberto’s fifteen-year-old Ford clunker and Luis’s well-maintained red Jeep, but something else quickly grabs my eye. Something that kicks my heart into race mode. A fast-rising column of black smoke gushes from one of the restaurant’s side windows.


I have the Camry in a left turn anyway, so all I have to do is hold the wheel a little longer to snap a U across both northbound lanes of Broad Street. See how easy? Now my little Japanese import points right back into Luis’s gravel parking lot. Who cares if a Branchtown cabby honks and shows me his middle finger?

I dig inside my coat for the cell phone as I bounce into the lot. The front suspension bottoms on the cement driveway, skids across the gravel. A double-boogie rhythm grabs hold of my heart.

The 9-1-1 lady takes my name and Luis’s address, but I say no when she asks me to stay on.

“I’m going inside,” I say.

Black smoke chokes the kitchen from ceiling to my waist, a solid hot mass, the line between black and clear a sharply defined slash across the rectangular space. The top of the long, food-prep table is already invisible.

I fall to my hands and knees and scurry like a rat along the wooden legs. Heat radiates on my back like the noon summer sun. My knees crack and shout with pain on Luis’s imported Mexican tile.

Shit. I had to wear the Canali, right?

Umberto lies near the kitchen’s twin stainless steel sinks he uses to wash vegetables. My fingers check the chef’s pulse. The heartbeat feels strong and steady. I check around us, but there’s no sign of Luis.

I grab Umberto’s collar and drag him toward the back door. I duck walk to keep my head out of the smoke. Thank God the pint-sized Umberto doesn’t weigh much more than Beth. I have him outside on the back steps before I can say roasted pablano chili.

He coughs. Breathing fine on his own.

Crawling back inside, I see the mass of hot black smoke engulfs the top three-quarters of the kitchen. I have to crouch lower than before, finally crawling, snaking along like some Marine recruit dodging barbed-wire.

The clean air tastes hotter than before, too. My lungs tell me to turn back.

I wheel right at the twin sinks on my way into the main dining room. My slacks begin to shred at the knees and elbows. Nobody’s ever going to wear this imported puppy again.

The fire must have started in the basement. Flames almost eat me as I approach the burning cellar stairway. I push the door closed, blocking the flames, to make it past.

In the dining room, I see nothing on my right, but to the left, I spot a black Reebok poking out from behind the bar. Luis. I wriggle closer, the cloud of searing smoke warming my back like a red-hot poker.

I tug on his ankle but can’t move him. I inch closer. My back feels like it’s about to explode in flames. I grip him with both hands and yank. Nothing. He’s stuck like a long-term investor.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Book for Your Man

"Crushing your enemies, driving them before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women? It doesn't get any better than this." –Eugene Robinson.

Ah, a man after The Famous Author's heart. Although he could best be described as a bespectacled scribe, TFA likes to think of himself as a fearless viking, so Robinson's book sounds perfect for his Christmas stocking.

I mean, how's this for a title: Fight: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Ass-Kicking but Were Afraid You'd Get Your Ass Kicked for Asking

Some of you out there might think this book doesn't actually fit in the crime fiction category. Well, you haven't been seated next to its author, Eugene S. Robinson, and had Eugene explain what he would do if his book failed to appear on your crime fiction blog.

TFA had the experience at his son's wedding not long ago, and my boss described it as "life-changing." In fact, TFA says it is clear to him now that Eugene's book is a must for all crime fiction writers, maybe everyone living.

A former body–builder, one–time bouncer, and lifelong fight connoisseur, Eugene is apparently very convincing. So is his book. FIGHT takes readers on a no–holds–barred plunge into what fighting is all about, and what fighters live for.

When Robinson and his fellow fighters mix it up, they live completely for the moment--absorbed in the feel of muscles slippery with sweat; the metallic tang of blood mingling with saliva in the mouth; the sweet, firm thud of taped knuckles impacting flesh. They fight because it feels good. They fight because they want to win. And even if they get their asses kicked, they fight because they love fighting.

Personally, I'd rather be taking out the garbage than experience that little scene. But for guys who secretly want to be vikings, maybe sweat and bloody spit are more appealing.

FIGHT is part encyclopedia and part a personal tour of fighting in all its forms. Robinson's tough–guy narrative covers everything from wrestling, jiu–jitsu, boxing and muay thai to bar fighting, hand–to–hand combat, prison fighting and hockey fights. An illustrated book as edgy and interesting as it is gorgeous.

Eugene has written for GQ, The Wire, Grappling Magazine, LA Weekly, Vice Magazine, Hustler, and Decibel, among many others. He's studied boxing, Kenpo karate, muay thai (mixed martial arts), wrestling, and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Robinson is also the vocalist and front man for Oxbow, a rock group-cum-fight club whose most recent album, The Narcotic Story, will be released very shortly. He lives in the San Francisco area.

Ok, Eugene, I hope this gets TFA off the hook. Please don't hurt him. He really needs to work on my third adventure.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

He Wrote Some Good Ones

Ira Levin, author of ROSEMARY'S BABY, THE STEPFORD WIVES, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, A KISS BEFORE DYING, and other bestsellers, is dead at 78.

From a New York Times profile, here's what Mr. Levin had to say about genre vs. literary:

''I don't mind the thriller label at all,'' he says. ''They're the kind of books I enjoy reading. I know I get pretty bored with books and plays that are about a writer's coming of age, or the breakup of a marriage. I mean, we've all been through that. We don't have to go to the theater or pick up a book to have that experience.

''When I was young and starting out,'' he says, ''I thought, 'Well, someday, I'm going to write the great American novel - or several of them.' But as I got older I was perfectly content with suspense, with thrillers. I think they very well may last longer than the more serious types of fiction.

''I think most of the classical novelists who are still popular were the popular writers of their day,'' he adds. ''Certainly Dickens. And I don't know what else was published the year 'Dracula' came out, but what other book from that year has lasted as long?''

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jersey Girl Makes Redhead of the Week

KIRSTEN DUNST was born in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, and attended the Ranney School.

Dunst got her start as a child fashion model at the age of three in television commercials. She was signed with Ford Models and Elite Model Management. Dunst made her film debut in Woody Allen's Oedipus Wrecks, a short film that was released as one-third of the anthology film New York Stories.

Soon after, she landed a small part in The Bonfire of the Vanities as Tom Hanks' daughter. In 1993, Dunst played Hedril in the seventh season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called "Dark Page". She also had a recurring role as a child prostitute, Charlie Chiemingo, on ER.

Her feature film breakthrough came in Interview with the Vampire, a 1994 film based on Anne Rice's novel. The movie featured a scene in which Dunst, then aged eleven, received her first kiss from Brad Pitt, who was 29. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination, the MTV Award for Best Breakthrough Performance and the Saturn Award for Best Young Actress.

Dunst is best known for her portrayal of Mary Jane Watson in the Spider-Man film series based on Stan Lee's comic serial Spider-Man. She portrayed the neighbor and romantic interest of the mild-mannered superhero in the original Spider-Man in 2002.

Thanks to Wikipedia and Kirsten

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Swamie Says "Oops"

I knew I was jinxing myself last week when I suggested I might have nailed another short-term bottom in the stock market.

The Standard & Poors 500 (SPY) was 154 then, off my called bottom of 150. Now the popular stock index is 145, and last week's action on SPY's chart looks like the cliffs of Dover.

I'm not ready to give up on my prediction of a new high by Thanksgiving, nor am I ready to say the Little Guy was/is right. He's never right.

But someone may be writing that on The Swamie's tombstone.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wake Up, America!

Stop watching television.

Other forms of entertainment require you to DO something. Read and turn the page. Respond on a keyboard.

Television does YOU. Having TV feed you sight and sound even changes your brainwaves. It makes you slubbish. You actually get closer to sleep.

So wake up, America. Read a book.

Don't tell me they cost too much. Ask for something at the library.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Deperate Man

The Bronx can be a tough place. And Luis Ramos can tell you it’s even tougher to raise a daughter there. How can he keep her safe when every street leads to a new threat, an unseen danger?

Now his daughter, Jasmine, is missing, and Luis will stop at nothing to get her back. He’s a desperate man, willing to do whatever it takes to find her in the endless maze of the city. Nothing—and no one—will stand in his way.

Whoever took Jasmine is about to find out just how tough the Bronx can get.

"...tough, fast-paced, gripping, and hard-boiled to the bone..."
- Jason Starr

"...a dark, wondrous jewel of a book." - Ken Bruen

"...a tough, brutal and disturbing story. This is fiction that hurts." - Manuel Ramos

The author if CONCRETE MAZE, Steven Torres, is also the author of the PRECINCT PUERTO RICO series (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur), featuring Luis Gonzalo, the sheriff of Angustias, a fictionalized small town nestled in the mountainous heart of Puerto Rico.

Steven was born in the Bronx in 1969. Steven's parents moved to the United States from Puerto Rico in the 1950's. In 1980, Steven and his family briefly moved to the outskirts of a small town in western Puerto Rico called Moca. Moca was part of the inspiration for the fictionalized town of Angustias.

Friday, November 9, 2007

BIG MONEY, Chapter 17

A hard noise echoes inside my apartment. Rapping at the door. Who the hell needs me so badly at--I check the digital clock on my night stand--three o’clock in the morning? Mallory had enough of me by midnight. And it sure ain’t Anne Marie Talbot. Is it wishful thinking to hope it might be Tony? With Bluefish’s missing cash?

I slide out of bed. The toasted cheese smell of tomato pie lingers in my living room, but the sensation’s not exactly pleasant. I stopped for eats on the way home from Branchtown’s ancient brick police station, and my stomach tells me I should have chosen lighter than Roman Ricco’s greasy pizza. Ricco’s idea of an olive oil drizzle resembles what’s left in the pan after you fry a pound of bacon.

Bang, bang, bang. Can’t be the Creeper. The front door would already be lying flat.

Peeking through a slit in the curtains, I see Gina Farascio huddled at my door. She’s wearing the same torn sweater and wild eyes I saw at the Martha.

What I don’t see until I open the door is Gina’s handgun. She yanks some kind of shiny chrome revolver from her black purse, pushes it against my chest, and rushes me back inside.

“Where’s Tony?” she says.

Her voice wavers with emotion. Fear or anger, I can’t tell which. I’ve been too interested in her comely smell, the shape of her anatomy, that inner radiance shining from her eyes. And not in any particular order.

Gina kicks the door shut behind her. “Tell me where he is or I’ll pull the trigger.”

Where’s Mallory when I need him? I’d even settle for the Eagle Scout. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen Tony since about six. Before the fire.”

The good news, Gina removes the revolver from my chest. The bad news, she lifts the gun’s muzzle level with my nose. The ugly headline, her thumb cocks the hammer.

Judging by the large bore on this chrome puppy, I’m a few pounds per square inch away from decapitation.

“Turn around and walk me through the house,” she says. “Slowly. No tricks.”

Gina drops her lusciousness onto my leather couch and stuffs the gun back in her purse. “Sorry,” she says. “I figured he’d be here.”

Her huge brown oval eyes gaze intently at me. My fear turned quickly to anger when she lowered the weapon a minute ago, but now I feel like reaching out to embrace her. And it’s more than just my groin talking. I want to soothe her soul. Honest.

“You have any scotch?” she says.


“Make it a double,” she says.

Mrs. Tony Farascio’s feeling better. She stretches her feet out on my couch and rattles her ice, sips what watery whisky remains, and nestles the now-empty drink into my carpet.

“Why were you with Tony at that hotel?” she says.

“Actually, he was with me. I had a meeting with the A.A.S.D. and Tony wanted to help.”

Gina snorts. Like Tony might have had some other motive besides kindness. Gee, why didn’t I think of that?

“What were you doing there?” I say.

“Following Tony. I know he’s been cheating on me practically since the day we were married. I’ve just never actually caught him at it. If I could be one-hundred percent sure--find him just once in the sack--I’d have the strength to leave him.”

I watch Gina push her shoes off, let them tumble to the floor. The black skirt rides up, showing me white thighs and making me dream higher. This is not a healthy or morally correct line of thought.

“The woman he went to see is an auditor with the American Association of Securities Dealers,” I say. “She’s threatening to file a damaging report about my firm. I don’t think he was up there cheating on you.”

“You think Tony was in that woman’s room on business?” she says.

“Yeah. She was in town to see me, not him.”

Gina shakes her head at me like a scolding teacher, then reaches over her head for the light switch. “I’m sleeping on your couch tonight. I don’t have to sleep with Tony’s gun under my pillow, right?”

I stand up. “Right.”

She flips off the light. “You’re a nice guy, Austin, but you don’t know shit.”

I wake up the next morning hard at work on Gina’s naked body. Only trouble, I’m dreaming. Gina’s not sharing intimate touches. She’s not sharing my bed. Mrs. Tony Farascio’s not even in my apartment.

The blanket I gave her is neatly folded on the couch. The coffee machine still drips, and a clean cup awaits me on the counter; the cup and a scribbled warning: “Make Tony tell you the truth.”

Thursday, November 8, 2007


"Hey, Rags. Vick asked me to call you. We're short a fourth at Spring Lake Country Club. Tee time is one hour away. Can you make it?"

"Vick wants me to play with you guys?"

"Yes. Today. Right now. Can you get to Spring Lake in an hour?"

"Sure. My clubs are in the car."

"Well, Vick says get moving. We'll be waiting for you on the first tee."

"I'm leaving right now. Spring Lake Country Club, right?"

"Right." I hang up and push out of the phone booth. I join Vick and Tony in the coffee shop.

"Is he coming?" Vick says.

"Said he's on his way," I say. "He didn't seem thrilled about driving to Foresgate, but he'll probably show up."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A New Kid in Town

Joining the band yesterday was Grace Eloise Getze, latest grandaughter of The Famous Author. He now has two, Grace and Angelina. They sound like sweet little cherubs, don't they? All sweetness and lace. Why do I have the feeling it'll be a different story in high school?

Grace Eloise is the first child of John and Julie. Congrats, kids. And good luck with those night feedings.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Redhead of the Week

Born Maureen Fitzsimons, August 17, 1920, in Ranelagh, County Dublin, Ireland, film star and singer MAUREEN O'HARA is famous for playing fiercely passionate heroines. She worked many times with director John Ford and longtime friend John Wayne.

(I'm not asking.)

Maureen was accepted into the prestigious Abbey Theatre in Dublin at the age of 14. Not too many years later, actor Charles Laughton saw a London screen test, and believed Maureen had "something special." Her first major film was Jamaica Inn, (1939), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Laughton next cast her in the role of Esmeralda opposite him in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, to be filmed at RKO Studios in Hollywood that same year. Hours before boarding the Queen Mary to sail to America, a young man from the studio, George Brown, who had a crush on her, convinced Maureen to marry him. Mom and Laughton found out, whisked her away from altar to boat.

The marriage was never consummated and later annulled. George was not happy.

After Hunchback, World War II began, and Laughton, realizing his studio could no longer film in London, sold her contract to RKO, where director John Ford cast her in How Green Was My Valley.

Bingo. Audiences loved her. I'm not the only guy who likes redheads.

Maureen says her first love is singing. In 1960 she starred on Broadway in the musical Christine and released two successful recordings, Love Letters from Maureen O'Hara and Maureen O'Hara Sings her Favorite Irish Songs. Throughout the 1960s she was a sought-after guest on musical variety shows, appearing with Perry Como, Andy Williams, Betty Grable and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

At the height of her career, Maureen was considered one of the world's most beautiful women.

She is also remembered for her chemistry with legendary John Wayne. She made five films with The Duke - Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, McLintock!, and Big Jake.

Maureen married her third husband, Charles Blair, in 1968. Blair was a pioneer of transatlantic aviation, a former Brigadier General of the US Air Force and a former Chief Pilot at Pan Am. A few years after her marriage to Blair, O'Hara for the most part retired from acting.

Blair died in 1978 when the engine of a Grumman Goose he was flying from St. Croix to St. Thomas exploded.

In 2004, Maureen O'Hara released her autobiography 'Tis Herself, published by Simon & Schuster. In the same year she was also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Irish Film and Television Academy in her native Dublin, Ireland.

In 2006, Maureen O'Hara Blair attended the Grand Reopening and Expansion of the Flying Boats Museum in Foynes, Limerick, Ireland - as a patron of the Museum. A significant portion of the Museum is dedicated to her late Husband Charles Blair.

Thanks to Wikipedia, Maureen O'Hara, and all you fiery redheads.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Elmore Leonard

My brother Mike called me from California 25 years ago and said I might like a crime writer he'd found. Elmore Leonard. Can't remember if it was STICK or LA BRAVA, that first one, but it was a flurry for the next few years, catching up with all Elmore had put out.

I was surprised the first time I saw Elmore's name on a western, but that's where he started. If you've seen Paul Newman play HOMBRE, you know that Elmore's cowboys and cops have a whole lot in common.

They're tough.

They don't say a lot.

They know neat stuff.

They take no shit.

These are some of my favorites. KILLSHOT will soon be a movie. LA BRAVA is considered a classic by crime fiction writers. GET SHORTY was written as a dig at Dustin Hoffman because of the actor's behavior on another Elmore movie project.