Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ever Read John D. Macdonald?

"A woman who does not guard and treasure herself cannot be of very much value to anyone else... Only a woman of pride, complexity, and emotional tension is genuinely worth the act of love, and there are only two ways to get yourself one of them. Either you lie, and stain the relationship with your own sense of guile, or you accept the involvement, the emotional responsibility, the permanence she must by nature crave. I love you can be said only two ways."

The Deep Blue Good-by introduces readers to protagonist Travis McGee, his place of residence, the Busted Flush (a houseboat he won in a poker game), and its mooring place, slip F-18 at the Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In the early chapters we learn that McGee is a bachelor, a man who can be friends with ladies as well as have a passion for them, and a man of principle. We also learn that McGee is by occupation a salvage consultant, a concept almost certainly coined and developed by MacDonald. (As a "salvage consultant," McGee undertakes to recover for its rightful owner money or property of which the owner has been wrongfully deprived and has no other hope of recovering, taking half its value as his fee.) McGee works when he has to, almost always only taking jobs when his supply of money (kept in an ingenious "hidey-hole" aboard the ""Flush"") is low.

Thanks to John and Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Redhead of the Week

Rose McGowan is an Italian-born American actress best known for her role as Paige Matthews in the TV series Charmed, and the cult film, The Doom Generation. She has also appeared in several major Hollywood films, with leading roles in Jawbreaker and the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double-feature Grindhouse, and a supporting role in Scream.

The second-eldest of six children, Rose was born in Florence, Italy. McGowan spent her early childhood traveling Europe with her parents. Through her father's art contacts in Italy, McGowan became a child model and appeared in Vogue Bambini and various other Italian magazines. Her parents returned to the United States when she was 10 and learned to speak English.

McGowan made her first appearance in a Hollywood film with a bit role in the 1992 Pauly Shore comedy Encino Man. Her role in the 1995 dark comedy The Doom Generation brought her to the attention of film critics, and she received a nomination for "Best Debut Performance" at the 1996 Independent Spirit Awards. McGowan was subsequently cast in a supporting role in the 1996 hit horror film Scream.

In May 2005, McGowan portrayed actress/singer Ann-Margret in Elvis, a Golden Globe-winning CBS mini-series about the life of Elvis Presley. That same year, she lent her voice to the video game Darkwatch as a femme fatale named Tala. The game was published by Capcom for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

In 2006, McGowan had a brief role in Brian De Palma's Academy Award-nominated film The Black Dahlia. The following year, she starred in the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double-feature Grindhouse, released on April 6, 2007. Cast in utterly divergent roles, McGowan appears in both portions of the film, as go-go dancing Cherry Darling in Planet Terror, and as Pam in Death Proof.

Thanks to Rose and Wikipedia

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Three Es

The Central Jersey Chapter of Sisters in Crime held a mystery symposium this past Saturday. Much fun was had by all, and several authors made interesting presentations, including Steve Rigliosi, Jeffrey Cohen, and Shirley Hairstock. But for this character, the highlight was Shobhan Bantwal's call to writers:

"Think of the three Es when you write," Shobhan said. "Enlighten, educate, and entertain."

For new writers, getting published seems the ultimate goal. Even talent, persistance, and luck don't always work. But what is a writer's ultimate goal -- to get rich? To have a million fans? The Tonight Show? Or should it be Shobhan's, that is, to educate, enlighten and entertain? Do writers have a duty to shed light on the darkness? Or are we just here to entertain our readers?

I asked The Famous Author, but he doesn't know. "Heck, I'm still on my first draft."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Giant NJ Book Festival Planned

The Bergen County Cooperative Library System has set June 14 for its first BooksNJ, an annual event for readers and writers of books. More than 70 authors, illustrators, and poets, up close and personal, talking about their books and their craft.

Readings, panels, crafts for kids, and storytelling. The event is FREE and open to everyone.

"This is our first book festival," a BCCLS spokesperson said. "We hope to model it very modestly after the National Book Festival with a few tents for different genres and have simultaneous events going on throughout our four hour day."

Here's a partial list of attending authors.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ever Read James M. Cain?

She talked along, and there was nothing I could do but go along with it. But you sell as many people as I do, you don’t go by what they say. You feel it, how the deal is going. And after a while I knew this woman didn’t care anything about the Automobile Club. Maybe her husband did, but she didn’t. There was something else, and this was nothing but a stall. I figured it would be some kind of proposition to split the commission...And I was just wondering what I would say to her. A reputable agent don’t get mixed up in stuff like that, but she was walking around the room, and I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. Under those blue pajamas was a shape to set a man nuts, and how good I was going to sound when I started explaining the high ethics of the insurance business I didn’t exactly know.

But all of a sudden she looked at me, and I felt a chill creep straight up my back and into the roots of my hair. “Do you handle accident insurance?”

Classic noir doesn't get more classic than DOUBLE INDEMNITY by James M. Cain. The hero is lured into crime by the femme fatale. (Hey, that sounds like my first adventure. You don't think TFA might have borrowed a bit from here, do you?) Review
When smalltime insurance salesman Walter Huff meets seductive Phyllis Nirdlinger, the wife of one of his wealthy clients, it takes him only minutes to determine that she wants to get rid of her husband--and not much longer to decide to help her do it. Walter knows that accident insurance pays double indemnity on railroad mishaps, so he and Phyllis plot frantically to get Nirdlinger on--and off--a train without arousing the suspicions of the police, the insurance company, Nirdlinger's dishy daughter, her mysterious boyfriend, or Nirdlinger himself.

Read some of the 50 reviews on Amazon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Investment Club

The wild ride is over -- for now. Nyx's proposed merger of Image Entertainment (DISK) was terminated Saturday after Nyx once again failed to show up with a promised check. That makes about five missing checks in the last two months, so the market wasn't surprised. But look for DISK to drop below $1.20 a share on Monday.

Here's the press release from DISK: Image Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ:DISK), a leading independent licensee, producer and distributor of home entertainment programming in North America, announced today that it has notified Nyx Acquisitions, Inc., an affiliate of Q-Black, LLC, that due to Nyx's failure to pay an additional $1.0 million to Image as required by the merger agreement, Image Entertainment has terminated the merger agreement.

Jeff Framer, President of Image Entertainment, said, "Despite Image's willingness to close the merger, Nyx was unable to finance the transaction. The Company is well-positioned to grow and remains committed to enhancing shareholder value. In this difficult economic environment, we believe the immediate need is to focus our energies on our business."

Since Corkface and I both loaded up on DISK, this is a bit of a disappointment. But since Corkface's bank put-options lost most of their value this past week (Bank stocks are rocking. Too bad I didn't hold onto those BAC calls!), me and Grandma are catching up. I sold my DISK at Friday's close of $1.35, a $400 profit.

Corkface is hanging onto DISK for the long run. Or he's back in Rome, with his hottie Anne Marie, and forgot to check in. I might be tempted back into DISK Monday if it drops below a buck. First reason, we know DISK wants to sell itself. Current ownership has better things to do with the cash. Second, DISK is in demand. Nyx is DISK's third announced suitor in three years, one of which, Lion's Gate of London, offered over $4 a share. Third reason, darn if DISK didn't start making money last quarter. They're signed several promising new distribution deals since the first of the year. Business is growing again.

So what the stock market crashed, lending virtually dried up, and Nyx couldn't get financing. DVD production and distribution is a very hot package. DISK could be a hot item again when Bernacke's Billions find their way into the system and lending picks up. I like the idea of buying DISK Monday at 90 cents and selling next winter at $2 or $3 when the new merger comes along.

The latest stats:

Corkface’s Portfolio
20 June 20 puts HBC 700
2000 shares MBRK 2,700
500 shares TSYS 4,435
4000 DISK 5,400
Cash $672
TOTAL $13,325

Austin’s Portfolio
2000 OMEX 6,760
Cash $5620
TOTAL $ 12,380

Grandma's Portfolio
13 shares of SPY 1,132
Cash $9,039
TOTAL $10,171

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ever Read Raymond Chandler?

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.

Now you have. That's the opening paragraph of THE BIG SLEEP, Ray's first novel. One thing that gets lost in the translation: Published in 1939, four million dollars was a whopping number. In today's dollars, almost $400 million.

My boss, The Famous Author, read that paragraph for the first time in 1969. TFA mentioned he was working on a novel, and the old rim rats at the newspaper told him to forget it, he'd never write anything as good as this. Be a bitch if the bastards were right, but TFA keeps trying.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Three New Mysteries

Anybody out there like a little humor with their mystery? If not belly laughs, then at least a likeable, good-natured, and reasonably sane protagonist who isn't a drunk misanthrope? Here's three brand new mysteries from active members of the Mystery Writers of America, New York Chapter, all popular, all well received by critics. And yes, The Famous Author is sometimes allowed to hang out with them.

One of the mainstays of Josie Prescott’s Antiques and Appraisals has always been the cheerful and helpful assistant, Gretchen, who turned up unexpectedly just as Josie was setting up shop in New Hampshire. Gretchen has always been so dependable that it seems odd when she doesn’t show up for work one day. Surprise soon turns to alarm when a dead body is found in Gretchen’s house, with Gretchen the prime suspect. How much does Josie know about Gretchen, anyway? Enough to believe she isn’t capable of murder, so Josie, with a crack team of antiques appraisers at her side, sets out to find the real killer and bring Gretchen home safely, no matter the cost.

Something stinks to Paula Holliday, and it isn’t just the corpse flower, titan arum, named for its off-putting fragrance. When Paula’s friend Lucy asks her to tag along on an all-expense-paid junket to the Titans Hotel, it seems like a good idea. But when her friend is unavoidably detained, a would-be suitor is found with a gaping hole in his head, and the corpse flower refuses to bloom, the entire venture starts to seem like less of a good idea. Brimming with wit and wisecracks, The Big Dirt Nap is sure to win rising mystery star Rosemary Harris a whole new slew of ardent fans.

Jeffrey Cohen provides readers with a twisty plot that completely surprises even the most jaded mystery fan and the ending is satisfying to both Elliot and the reader. Here's to hoping that the series continues to entertain readers with humor, movie lore, and just plain good writing. -- Cindy Chow

Each of these book descriptions contains a link that will take you to AMAZON or maybe BARNES & NOBLE. If you prefer (we sure do!) click on Indie Bound for an independent book store near you.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Redhead of the Week

A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Jennifer Anne Lee, 29, is an anchor on the Fox Business Network. Lee, who co-anchors the network's early-morning business news program, Fox Business Morning, with Connell McShane, also holds a Master of Science degree in Journalism from Columbia University.

Before joining FBN, Lee worked for as a news anchor and reporter. During that time, she conducted interviews with various leaders in the business community, both on-set and in the field, and covered multiple beats, including investing, the leisure industry, alternative business practices and international news.

Jenna Lee's father Bob Lee was an NFL quarterback, and her brother Zac Lee is currently projected to be the starting quarterback at the University of Nebraska for the 2009 season. Jenna played college softball at UC Santa Barbara while in college.

Jenna appears every weekday afternoon on Sky News in the UK, broadcasting live from Fox Business News studio, updating viewers on the state of the US economy. She has appeared on Fox Business from San Francisco and London, and is based in New York City.

Thanks to Jenna and Wikipedia

Monday, April 6, 2009

Double Your Money?

Image Entertainment (DISK), that penny stock we bought at $1.25 in hopes the announced take-out at $2.75 will actually take place, closed Friday at $1.18. Why? Maybe because DISK said Thursday Nyx will exercise its option to extend the merger closing date (Gee, what a surprise! This is like what, the fourth time?) from April 6 to April 20. The extension only becomes effective, however, upon Nyx's deposit of an additional $1.5 million by 5:00 p.m. local time, today.

And good luck with that, Senor.

Read all of DISK's press releases, including this most recent one. You can even sign up to receive email notification when they post new stuff.

As you can see by the E-Trade chart above, the market says DISK's merger is doomed. With all the delays and negotiations, nobody believes this merger will really happen. If by some chance it does, remember, that's $2.75 a share coming, in cash, for a $1.18 stock. Me and Corkface decided to take our chances with a few shares.

For one thing, these Nyx guys have put up a million or more of their own money already. And they must have showed DISK's board SOMETHING pretty good about financing last week when they renegotiated. Plus, worst case, we watch our investment fall to 85, 90 cents for a while, but probably not more than a few months. DISK has negotiated with three suitors in the past two years, including Great Britain's Lions Gate.

Image Entertainment owns 3,500 exclusive DVD titles, and 370 exclusive CD titles in domestic release, not to mention 600 programs internationally via sublicense agreements. The Company is headquartered in Chatsworth, California.

WARNING: Remember, if you lose money and sue me, you'll have to tell the judge you took advice from a fictional character.

Friday, April 3, 2009

One of Next Month's Bestsellers

Elmore Leonard's latest novel, ROAD DOGS, is due May 12, and The Famous Author, a big Leonard fan, wants to click that Amazon button and order one. Normally, he'd order from one of our friendly independent bookstores (who stock a few of our books), but with Elmore's brand new one, I think TFA NEEDS to be among the very first to hold this puppy.

I told him why not read the first eight chapters online through Elmore's website but he says it might kill him to read some, but not all. Kind of like getting to second or third base with a sexy babe.

Here's what Publishers Weekly says about ROAD DOGS:

Leonard launches three characters from previous novels on a collision course in this seemingly effortless performance. After prison buddy Cundo Rey (last seen in LaBrava) drops a bundle on a shark attorney, celebrity bank robber Jack Foley (from Out of Sight) gets his 30-year prison sentence reduced to 30 months. Jack's quickly back in the world, living large in one of Cundo's two multimillion-dollar houses in Venice, Calif., juggling a fast seduction with fortune-teller (from Riding the Rap) Dawn Navarro (who is now Cundo's lady) and the untoward attention of rogue FBI agent Lou Adams, who's waiting for Foley to rob another bank. While Dawn tries to enlist Foley in a scheme to steal Cundo's off-the-books fortune, Cundo surprises them with an early release. Betrayal simmers while Foley considers going semi-straight-with the help of a widowed starlet-Dawn hatches a plan that could get her rich and rid her of all her problems, and Cundo's associates and neighborhood toughs get sucked into the fray. The plot isn't as tight as it could be, but Leonard's singular way with words is reason enough to read it.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Read Elmore's full bio here.

To read my previous blogs on Elmore, click here and scroll backward through time.