Tommy Red

Tommy Red
The Progressive Killer

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Book reviews: Craig McDonald’s The Running Kind … Joseph Haske’s North Dixie Highway … Politics: The AfterBern …

The Running Kind by Craig McDonald … crime novelist Hector Lassiter is reunited with an old mate from prior adventures in the Lassiter series, Jimmy Hanrahan. It’s 1950 and too close to Christmas when Hector and Jimmy (a cop) are huddled indoors from an Ohio blizzard and a young girl approaches Hector with a plea for help. Her mom and aunt are in danger because one of them is a Cleveland mafia boss’s wife and the other his girlfriend (comare—pronouced Goomarr if you’re from the East Coast). Hector’s been having a few with Jimmy, but there’s no way he’ll deny the young girl’s request for help. A battle quickly ensues, which is the start of a cross country adventure that involves several notables, to include Elliot Ness and J. Edgar Hoover (and his G-men), still ambivalent about this so-called mafia thing (which is about to hit the television airwaves). There’s also an appearance by a young Rod Serling, and by adventure’s end, old Blue eyes himself, accompanied by the woman he couldn’t wait to own (and never would), Ava Gardner. Frank is there with a message from Momo (Sam Giancana).
As it turns out, the mom and comare have something on the mob boss and are looking to turn witness, which is a tough sell when there are so many in law enforcement enthusiastically on the mob’s payroll. It’s one treachery after another, until it becomes the safer play to head out of town. It is in Missouri where Hector, who’s already had a little fling with one of the two women (the mother or the girlfriend?), and winds up falling for the mother of the mother, as did this reader, has to draw battle lines.
It’s a raucous ride wherein Hector is eventually matched up against a hitman with a scary nickname and mad tracking abilities. Seems everybody is running in this terrific read, and one can only hope Hector can make it back alive for the life he’s often dreamed of, and with a woman he’s always hoped he’d fine.
It’s a start to finish thriller featuring honorable men in a dishonorable world of corruption. Hardboiled and ready to burst, with a wonderful touch of Americana and celebrities. One more from a wonderful series—a hell of a read.
An extra bonus (at least for me) was the dedication.
North Dixie Highway by Joseph Haske … This one quickly became one of my favorite reads of the year, and I look forward to this author’s future works. Buck Metzger is back from the conflict in Bosnia and he’s having problems with the changes that happened at home since he left. Sleep doesn’t come easy, even when he drinks himself into a stupor in his car. He’s haunted by a life he no longer recognizes, and he’s unsure of what his world is supposed to be now that he’s home—home being the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Home is as rural as it gets, except a lot colder in the winter. From an initial ride with family men to a casino where copious amounts of liquor are consumed and tiny stakes of coin are lost (a great touch because it shows just how poor these people are), we are drawn into an unforgiving world where steady employment has fled the scene, and living off the land and/or what swims in the river is more often a must than not. And booze, of course, there’s always booze where employment suffers most, and Buck’s people are no slouches when it comes to consuming alcohol.
Metzger’s story is told in flashbacks from his youth, with lessons learned from hard men living hard lives. It is family loyalty over all else, with whatever is necessary to maintain the code, be it feuding, drinking, and/or promises of revenge. Buck loves his family, no matter the makeup. He’s learned much from his grandfather, from survival skills to a code of honor that offers no excuses. He’s also learned much from his Vietnam veteran dad, including a cruel-to-be-kind slaughter of wild animals when they show up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bear scene alone was worth the price of entry into this state of nature world that exists alongside and within two centuries of progress.
Buck reads to sustain his sanity, and although his friends and family can’t understand the point in doing so while living in a world where it seems to serve no purpose, it is a form of salvation for a man trying to find himself. The old family feud involving the death of his grandfather often consumes his being, but there’s a lesson learned in that dilemma as well.
Ultimately, Buck tells the story of his family and the community they live in, where cold-heartedness and compassion do not mix well. It is not a world devoid of compassion, however, and the men and women (women every bit as hard as the men), provide it in doses when necessary.
Comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Woodrell are justifiable, although I was also reminded of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s wonderful works. There’s a special place on one of my bookshelves at Casa Stella for novels like North Dixie Highway, and Haske’s debut takes its proper place there. Simply put, it is a wonderful read, recommended and sent to me by Gonzalo Baeza. Haske’s debut novel is an intriguing read at least equal to the best of his contemporaries, to include McCarthy, Woodrell, and Campbell.
Feeling the Bern … Assuming Herr Drumpf survives the various investigations seeking to topple his never ending buffoonery, assuming he makes the Over in a 2 year Over/Under, what comes after Trump? Will there be a Trump II?
I’m afraid this is where progressives and/or socialists like myself are feeling the worst of the AfterBern. After the fiasco that was the 2016 Democrat presidential primary, with all that was exposed, and all that is being covered up in a Florida courthouse where former Berners are seeking restitution from the DNC in a FRAUD case for being robbed of our coin, we’re left wondering what might have been. Not if Sanders had won the nomination and then presidency. I’ve never been sure Sanders would’ve beaten the Clown currently occupying the White House, mostly because patriotism, with our collective ignorance, is an easy sell. What troubles those like myself most about the Sanders revolutionary retreat was the missed opportunity for a viable third party.
There’s no denying the strength of the Sanders’ influence in the political arena last year. His message woke up a population used to sleeping through the process, but his eventual capitulation to a party that rejected him to the point of cheating was something many of his new and old supporters have yet to digest. Sanders supporters were selflessly loyal, reaching into their own pockets to fund his campaign over and again, so when the Wikileaks dump exposed how unfairly his campaign was treated, and just how corrupt the entire process is, many Sanders supporters rejected his plea to back the establishment candidate. Some didn’t vote. Others voted Green. And some voted for her opposition. Protests votes all, but all very effective in rejecting Hillary Clinton.
What is most disconcerting about the Sanders capitulation is what might have been. Had Sanders joined the Greens, or went solo and formed a Labor Party, any third party, I’m pretty sure at least half of the 14 million who voted for him in the primary would’ve gone with him. At the very least, he would’ve had a place on the debate stage where he could’ve gone after both Clinton and Trump without DNC handcuffs. At the very least, there would be a viable third party to push forward now, when it is obviously most needed.
In retrospect, I have to believe he was never serious. His reluctance to be another Ralph Nader, what he’s stated, is a pathetic excuse for people seeking political revolution.
While none of us know what will happen down the road, so far the DNC doesn’t look any more interested in shifting to the left now as it did during their fake primary. Those who supported Sanders remain on the outs. Those who supported Clinton cling to the nonsensical Russian conspiracy as the reason for her loss.
In the meantime, Progressives like myself dig our heels deeper. There will be no more a compromise in 2018 or 2020 than there was in 2016. The DNC has retained its corrupt super delegate format, allowing lobbyists to vote alongside establishment politicians to overturn the voice of their own electorate. How does anyone stay with a party that ignores its voters?
Make no mistake, we’ll be around to remind the public how voters in several states might as well stay home come the next Democrat Presidential primary, when super delegates get to ignore wins as big as 12%, 22%, or 88% of the registered democrat voters within each state.
I offered a compromise the DNC so badly needs, but I suspect it too is in vain. Rather than exile Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, how about embracing her efforts to do the right thing during the primary and excuse herself from her co-chair position with the DNC rather than hand off debate questions to the DNC’s choice for nominee? How about one giant apology for the scathing letter sent to her by the DNC for her support of Sanders? (Thank you, Wikileaks.) How about backing off the attacks on Nina Turner (who would be my choice to reform the sewer that is the Democrat Party)? How about a Turner-Gabbard or Gabbard-Turner ticket? Do you really want to shatter glass ceilings? Well, there it is.
Pretty much everyone outside of Sanders sycophants feels as though the Bern left us scorched for all our efforts and coin. Bernie, while continuing his political revolutionary rhetoric, no longer retains our faith or support. We know Bernie talks a great game, but to many of us, he’s proved himself just another good democrat. We can only hope that people like Nina Turner and Tulsi Gabbard leave the mess that is the Democrat Party to establish a third party with the help of former Berners. We were generous with the Sanders campaign only to get doubly screwed. Many of us on the left have pledged to never give our money to any Democrat candidate again. Not while the party maintains super delegates and operates like a third rate, desperate, mafia family waiting for the other party to fall apart.
There’s nothing about the current Democrat Party that inspires. Leaving it seems the way to go, and with Hillary Clinton continuing her excuse/blame tour (currently having the nerve to attack the very organization that rigged the primary for her -- the DNC), it seems her latest round of "Me, Me, Me" will continue to tear the party apart.
RIP, Gregg Allman … The Allman Brothers Band …

Saturday, March 18, 2017

4 Book Reviews … Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayers … Rubdown by Leigh Redhead … American Static by Tom Pitts … and Hunger Knut Hamsun …


Before the reviews, TK regrets to inform its millions of followers that we’ll be taking a temporary break from Temporary Knucksline book reviews for a few months. I’m simply overwhelmed with projects of my own. We’ll do one from time to time, I guess, but please do not send requests or ARCS or books until we announce we’re back in action. Okay, so here are four real good ones in the meantime …

Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayers … Charles “Chowder” Thompson is a rural crime lord, a big fish in a small but secure pond. He has the local law, Sheriff Jimmy Mondale, on his side, along with a couple of cohorts, one of which is feeling ambitious enough to reach toward the bigger fish in the bigger Kansas City pond. Chowder has a daughter rough and tough enough to avoid like the plague. So does Sheriff Jimmy, and although his daughter might be able to spell, she’s also a bit wilder than your average college kid (she likes to fire a gun while getting laid).

Then there’s Terry Hickerson, a supreme fuckup if there ever was one. He also has a cohort, Cal, and when they two aren’t robbing liquor and/or convenience stores, they’re plotting the next great American score, except they may well have pulled one off already. It involved a televangelist preacher, his proclivity for men, and blackmail. Not to be outdone in the family bowl, Terry also has a child, a boy named Wendell, and the author waxes some very humorous parenting via Terry.

Then there’s the apparent gum in the works of a town that has run smooth enough, minus a body or two (including those found burnt to a crisp in their cars) … He’s an assistant state attorney looking to make a name for himself, and he’s rattled the main players on this wonderfully dark rural stage.

What’s a father to do when he learns his daughter has been sexually active with someone they’d rather see dead first? What’s he to do when he also learns his partner’s daughter might’ve had something to do with it?

No spoilers here … Peckerwood features excellent writing, humor, dark that makes so-called “noir” look more albino than black, and some of the most engaging characters you’ll meet on the page. They’re not just mean, cruel, and vicious. Truth be told, you’ll like them, or at least respect them, because they exist in a world where blood comes first, loyalty second, and everything and everybody else are what they sort out, the wheat from the chaff.

Side note: When I first started reading Peckerwood, I thought: These guys make the mob look like cub scouts. It had to do with a particularly brutal scene. By book’s end, I’m forced to reconsider my original thought about rural gangs vs. the more formal mobs. To wit, in the end, they’re all the same. Where they’re successful, corruption holds fast … where they breakdown is where corruption is exposed. The violence, like ISIS beheadings, may be tough as a visual image, but in the end, dead is dead. Whether your head is cut off, you’re burned to death, somebody cracks your skull with a tire iron or Louisville Slugger, or a pair of bullets find their way behind one of your ears, dead is dead.

Get Peckerwood here:

Rubdown by Leigh Redhead … In an age of political correctness that precludes bad habits when speaking and writing (and probably thinking), it was a pleasure to see the word “gash” on the page again. Now, before you lose your shit and hurl “misogynist book reviewer” my way, calm your jets and think context, MFers.

I remember the first time I used that word on the page after meeting my wife. She was horrified (Catholic school girl, you know) … She said to me, she said, “That’s horrible. Do people really talk like that?” Even though she was brought up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (not nearly as tough as Canarsie, obviously), Ann Marie kept her distance from the kinds of crowds I associated with, so she really did draw a blank. “Yeah,” I told her. “Not often, but it’s out there. It’s a niche word, I guess.”

Then she called me an idiot.

By now you’ve figured out Rubdown features said controversial word on the page. It does, and it was a pleasure to see it again. The fact it was used by a female author makes it twice as nice. There’s quite a few politically incorrect words bandied about in this fine, fast, and funny PI crime novel. There’s a touch of the master, Vicki Hendricks, and some wonderful surprises (as those down under words go). It’s another language at times, but easy enough to figure out, and because the character, Simone Kirsch, is a former stripper and doesn’t have much of a filter, it’s a beautiful thing.

The other take I had on this book was, FINALLY, I’m reading a crime novel written by a woman that deals with the kinds of worlds I’m familiar enough with NOT to be offended by so-called misogynistic dialogue. As I stated in a tribute to my favorite crime writer, George V. Higgins, the men AND WOMEN of those worlds (including the Rubdown world) speak another language and are NO LESS men or women for it. It is the Rome they exist in and the language, you better believe, is Roman.

I guess this was the second in the Simone Kirsch mystery series, but it works fine as a standalone. Simone has a PI boss named Tony (the tough as nails type) and they get involved in the search for a missing supposed-to-be debutante (of sorts). The daughter of a high profile lawyer (they call them barristers) is off the reservation, possibly dealing with drugs and the sex industry. Simone is on her tail, except not inside the flat where she apparently kills herself. There’s an ex-boyfriend and his frustrations at failing to get down Simone’s pants/skirt/jogging shorts, etc., and when his current girlfriend gets pissed off enough, well … it’s some of the fun that continues throughout, to include witty sarcasm, some strong sexual tension, and an Aussie-China sex trade connection. The characters that inhabit the sex industry are as sympathetic and/or disturbing as the well-to-do lawyers and their quirks. It always depends on from which angle you get to see them. Ms. Redhead does a GREAT job of making all the peripheral characters in this book interesting, which lends even more credibility to Simone. The fact she has a tongue as sharp as a razor makes it fun to boot.

The author does a wonderful job with the sexual tension (ready, fellas?) … turns out women have the same lustful desires as men, and Simone isn’t shy about them. She’s also fallible, so when she comes very close to being a victim herself, we get to remember she’s one of the good guys (so to speak).

No spoilers here, not ever, but take a bite of this apple and you’re on your way to an entertaining start to finish read. I heard Ms. Redhead read at the Philadelphia Noir at the Bar, and she had the place in stitches at times. She knows how to weave a storyline that draws a reader onto the next page through to the end.

Rubdown is a fast-paced romp through the sex trades of our times, with a dynamic woman armed with witty cynicism and oozing sexuality. Readers are guaranteed to want more of Simone Kirsch as the pages turn with both anticipation and fear. Viva la Ms. Redhead!

Get Rubdown here:

American Static by Tom Pitts … it’s a thriller from very early on straight to the end, with a sadistic SOB (Quinn), a former dirty cop (Trembley), and another former cop, a guy we’d all like to be our grandfather (Carl). When Quinn picks up young Steven after the kid was robbed and left for broke, he takes him for a ride to San Francisco, where the action goes 100 mph to the end. There’s lots of bodies left in a wake of bad blood, and it all has to do with revenge.

Theresa is the woman of the moment in American Static; the daughter of a bad guy[(s)?] with enough clout to make bad things happen. The top dog claiming parental rights is no father of the year, but for some reason he wants his daughter back. Is it because she’s become drug addicted and basically homeless? Is it because he seeks to re-bond with a kid he never bonded with in the first place? Or is it something else? Or is it a combination of all of the above?
Orrrrr, is it politics?
Let's face it, most politicians "would crawl over their mothers to fuck their sisters" (or vice versa). Okay, but what about why the other guys are after her (her non-fathers ... or are they)? What can this poor kid mean to so many mean sons of bitches? And poor Carl, he’s lost his friend and partner on this wild ride … Can Carl save him? Can Carl save Theresa and Steven? Can he save himself? You’ll have to read to find out, but you’ll take a wild ride from the valley to the streets of San Francisco and wind up in the bowels of Oakland. 

American Static is a missile on a rollercoaster of a ride, dripping with blood from blades through the hearts that are lost in San Francisco. You’ll turn the first few pages and won’t stop. It’s as simple as that.

Get American Static here:

Hunger by Knut Hamsun … It’s difficult to say exactly why this novel took me in and refused to let me go. Is it because I’ve gone through similar states of emotional confusion? Is it because my wheels have often turned too fast for the mind to allow rest (i.e., thinking taking the place of sleeping?) … Was it the good me countered by the bad me feeling guilty the good me wasn’t good for the right reasons and therefore was the bad me after all?

Confused? You might think so, but that’s how much of Hunger reads, minus the tirades, dizziness from lack of food, the vomiting from eating too fast after not eating for too long, etc. All I know is I read a book without a plot that I couldn’t put down, and I’ll likely read it again someday. My Facebook hero, Gonzalo Baaeza, recommended it, and it gets a super star review from me. There was more than a touch of Dostoevsky with our protagonist in Hunger, and the self-torture of a mind at battle with itself was every bit as real as caffeine headaches that last for hours (or days) at a time … but in a good way. In such a good way.

I’ll be revisiting Hunger again, but first I’ll want to read some more of what Hamsun wrote, and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, before dying in disgrace for being a Nazi.

Get Hunger here:


Please Note: Temporary Knucksline will be taking a temporary break from book reviews for a few months while I catch up on some projects of my own. We’ll be back, so stay tuned …

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book reviews … McFetridge, Krueger, Kalteis, and Frankson … Cheatriots, Greatest Ever …

One or the Other by John McFetridge … Tensions are running high for the Montreal police a few weeks before the 1976 Summer Olympics. The law is expected to keep the peace for appearance/tourists’ sake, and do their jobs (not just for show). John McFetridge incorporates history, Canadian and world history, like nobody else. There’s some great references to the world that was (1976) throughout this third in a series of Eddie Dougherty mysteries. When a writer can get one to want to do some research on their own, whether it’s because what they just read is interesting or they want verification, it’s a win-win, both for the writer and his reader. McFetridge manages that big time (or is it Big League or Bigly?). Eddie is bucking for detective, and although he’s often put on cases as an acting one, he takes any opportunity to advance to heart. When the bodies of two teenage lovers are discovered on the banks of a river (St. Lawrence), the head honchos in the police department want it off the table as fast as possible. The best way to do that is label it a murder-suicide. Easy enough, except Eddie Dougherty isn’t buying it. Nor is his partner for the case, Sgt. Francine Legault of the Longueuil police (not to worry, I can’t come close to pronouncing Longueuil either). They work the case as best they can, with Eddie stretching the limits of his authority and proper police procedure while his partner (mirroring his girlfriend in many ways) prefers the up and up. Speaking of Eddie’s girlfriend … she’s the lefty, he’s the establishment in their give and take about where to live and when to marry and how much good having a bleeding heart can do in the real world, etc., and it all makes for interesting dynamics.

When Eddie and Legault are pulled from the case, they decide to work it nights/after policing hours, pissing off some of the upper echelon and other police districts. No spoilers here, but if you want a great sense of history, to include Janis Joplin, KC and the Sunshine Band, Idi Amin, labor on strike, an Olympic athlete or two looking for asylum, and the Baader-Meinhof gang, One or the Other is ripe with those bands, incidents, radical causes, and more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, AMICI, a terrific read.

An Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger … This is a terrific read. Forty years down the road, after a particularly bad year (1961) in a small town in Minnesota, Frank Drum, a minister’s son, tells the story of the strange and tragic happenings of that awful year. It is wonderful writing start to finish, something I immediately passed on to my wife (and she’s loving it as well). The tragic death of a young town boy is soon followed by another death, albeit an itinerant nobody knows. Frank and his younger brother, Jake, discover the body of the itinerant and a Native American who they can’t be sure might’ve caused the death of the itinerant. There’s some small town prejudice against the Native American that is heightened because of a policeman who speaks before thinking. The Drums also have a daughter, Ariel, a virtuoso destined to attend Julliard in New York, but suddenly she’s no longer sure it’s what she wants. Mother Drum was once engaged to her daughter’s music instructor, Emil Brandt, a world class musician severely disfigured in the war. Ariel is also transcribing her instructor’s memoir and dating his nephew. Frank catches Ariel leaving the house in the middle of the night and returning in the early mornings. Where is she going? Who is she with? Father Drum, the minister, has a friend who lives in the church basement. Gus and Father Drum went through the Korean War together, and they hold secrets never discussed, although each went in a different direction after the war; Drum to the church and Gus to drink.

No spoilers, but this wonderfully written novel is a pleasure to read. It comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Ride the Lightning by Dietrich Kalteis … Karl Morgen is a bounty hunter. When he finds his prey, Miro, a drug dealer, having his way with an underage girl in Seattle, Karl goes a bit over the top and winds up losing his license. And of course Miro gets off with a suspended sentence.

Karl heads north into the wonderful world of Vancouver, process serving. Ah, Vancouver, “where people settle things with middle fingers instead of guns.” While in Vancouver, he meets his kind of woman, PJ. The two hit it off, but PJ has a daughter who can make one’s head spin, but for all the wrong reasons (like her allegiance to a knucklehead boyfriend).

His old nemesis, Miro, is involved in other drug dealing and wants to set up his old buddy Karl for the embarrassment of being dragged out of a bar (what caused Karl to lose his license). Miro wants a bit more revenge, especially since he’s having to work with people he hates.

It’s a double-edged tale of revenge, because Karl isn’t exactly happy being a process server and would love nothing more than to take Miro down on more time. There’s also an old time gangster, Artie, who prefers spending his waking hours roasting his balls on a beach, but he’s got the clout to do some damage. Miro and Karl want at each other. Artie wants to operate without the law on his back. Vancouver gets the rough and ready treatment, in a tale told by a voice very similar to Elmore Leonard. It’s a fun read with clever dialogue, lots of action, and an intro to that other foreign country on one of our borders (the one without the wall). A fun read, start to finish.

Dark Introductions and Party Girls by Martin J. Frankson … A series of short stories that take dark to a new level, invoking ironic humor at every turn of the page. “Dark Introduction” alone is worth the price of admission, and the stories that follow only enhance the experience. My favorites were “Meet the Parents” (Hannibal Lecter has nothing on this one) and “Stigma and Memory” (the perspective of a plant). You’re into dark, you’ll want to read these. Real good stuff.

Cheatriots, Greatest Ever … “The horror. The horror.” Yep, that pretty much sums up most NFL fans’ feelings about the Cheatriots’ absurd comeback in Super Bowl LI. How does a team with a 25 point lead blow the game? Easy, they get cocky and make incredibly stupid play calls (remember the Sea Pigeons?) … and that’s what ultimately cost Atlanta their Super Bowl win.

And the truth of the matter is there’s only one team in the NFL that could’ve pulled that off and they are (as I swallow humble pie) the greatest team in NFL history with the greatest coach in modern NFL history and the greatest quarterback in modern NFL history. If I had to assign a rating to the great QBs in NFL history, Brady would get the 10 and Montana and anybody else you want to put there starts at an 8. And, yes, there is a very valid argument that rule changes since Montana’s playing days dramatically help quarterbacks, but Brady has done it with different teams almost every time.

I can only assume that the Cheatriots are the karma for all my Hillary/DNC hating, and/or there is a God and she/he is making me pay for past sins via the Cheatriots.

They are the greatest ever … and now I hope they all get diarrhea.


Mozart’s Requiem for my hockey team? Oy vey …

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book Reviews: Cemetery Road, by Gar A. Haywood … Family Portrait with Fidel, by Carlos Franqui … Jewish Noir, from PM Press. Movie Non-spoiler Review of Fences, by J.R. Jarrod … The Tweeter in Chief … The Democrat Party’s Suicidal Contortions … Happy Holidays!

Cemetery Road by Gar A. Haywood … Although originally published in 2009, Cemetery Road and its author turn out to be one of my best finds in 2016. Character introspection isn’t something I usually favor, but when it’s done with grace and sophistication, it is wonderful.
The protagonist and narrator, Errol “Handy” White, tells a tale of guilt and the tragic consequence of best intentions. As a young man, Handy ran with two best friends, R.J. Burrow and O'Neal Holden (a.k.a. O). As young men will sometimes do, they engaged in petty thefts that were as harmless as they were dumb. When a young girl, Olivia, takes one of those regrettable first hits of cocaine, the kind that kill, an act of vengeance via theft becomes a bloodbath of far-reaching proportions. Handy’s brother Chancellor was in love with Olivia, but it was Handy who took her death to heart and felt the person responsible for the cocaine, Excel Rucker, should have to pay. Handy puts a plan of fairly simple vengeance into play, but the unintended consequences affect more lives than Handy or his two best friends could ever have imagined.
In the years that have passed, Handy’s background includes a move to Minneapolis and a marriage that bears a daughter, neither of which event has worked out all that well. The author does a wonderful job of teasing the reader while peeling the onion a layer at a time. Handy has issues with his daughter, who has fallen victim to substance abuse and has a burning desire to know who her mother was and where she might be. Handy also has a trip to make, which after a prologue, starts with a return to L.A. for the funeral of one of his two best friends. J.R. was murdered, but over what is the question. J.R. also had a daughter and wife, and although his murder has thus far been deemed a drug incident, J.R.’s wife refuses to accept the assumptions. J.R.’s daughter is a reporter who also has questions, so when Handy shows up and is also unconvinced about the effort the police are making to find his friend’s killer, he does some investigating of his own.
Nobody likes politicians, and throughout the novel, we’re not quite sure about O’Neal and/or his role in anything that has happened. He’s become a local mayor with more than old friendships to concern himself with, never mind the cause of one of their deaths. It all has to do with the plan of vengeance Handy proposed to his two friends back in the day. Has it come back to haunt them?  No spoilers here, but the trip the author masterfully takes us on is compelling. Just as Handy’s background issues with his daughter and her mother, the act of vengeance is similarly revealed in stages that will keep readers glued to the page. Handling guilt and searching for some measure of redemption are powerful emotional trips to engage. Haywood takes us on such a trip through his wonderfully articulate and soul searching protagonist, Handy White, but perhaps the genius behind this novel for me was the empathy I felt for Handy’s hot-headed friend, J.R. The ghost of guilt that haunted his entire life was ever present, and it lent all the credibility necessary to understand Handy’s seemingly suicidal quest for redemption.
Cemetery Road is smart, sophisticated writing. The collection of starred industry reviews and high praise from newspapers were well deserved back in 2009. Trust me, this baby has staying power. I don’t keep every crime novel I read on the shelves in my writing room at Casa Stella, but this one will take its place on the top shelf along with some of my other favorites.
Family Portrait with Fidel by Carlos Franqui … some background on the author is necessary before a review of his sometimes sad and often times hilarious take on Fidel and the revolution that was, then quickly wasn’t. Franqui was born in a cane field and was a member of the communist party. He joined the 26th of July movement headed by Fidel Castro and co-edited the movement (and later the revolution’s) official newspaper, RevoluciĆ³n. Franqui was a writer, poet, journalist, art critic, and political activist who eventually fell out of favor with Castro due to the abandonment of all principle when it came to human rights and democratic power. Forced to leave Cuba, in 1968 he broke ties with the Cuban government (Castro) with a letter condemning the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Family Portrait was recommended by author Scott Adlerberg, and I had a fun time reading Franqui’s take on everything that went wrong under Fidel Castro and his much more vicious brother, Raul. Franqui’s take also reveals what a horse’s ass Fidel was when it came to doing the right thing and defending the principles of his revolution. What he did was consolidate all the power under an almighty, but not nearly as bright as he needed to be, God—Castro himself. He allowed his thug brother free reign of the military, and it was used just as horribly as can be imagined. Settling scores by taking lives is never a good idea.
Nor was Fidel nearly as smart as he was charismatic (i.e., Barry and The Donald?), but he was clever enough to play off the superpowers and retain his grip on his country. Surviving 11 presidents is no small feat. Still, his revolution was more a convertible one, unfortunately driving with the top up while destroying any sense of transparency. A thug when it came to culture of any kind, Fidel chose unwisely in repressing the poets and other artists of his culture, along with homosexuals. It is what cost him someone as obviously valuable as Franqui, a true voice of reason, but power is a nasty aphrodisiac and Fidel certainly showed no signs of being immune to it. It is obviously what cost him Che Guevara as well, someone Franqui felt was much more the true revolutionary than Fidel.

This book certainly left me with a more critical view of Fidel himself.
A wonderful passage to this informal memoir takes place at the end of Part IV, subtitled “Was Fidel a Communist?” Here’s the passage:
“In effect, did the revolution change anything? Yes, everything in the highest echelons of Cuban society changed: the Party-state was the new ruling class. But nothing changed below. Those of us—almost two million—who have suffered through this process know that the monster is not socialism. The word just has no meaning any more. Each side has its buzzwords. Pinochet and Videla always talk about the “free world,” while Kim Il Sung, Teng Siao-ping, Husak, Pan Van-don, and Brezhnev talk “the proletariat,” “popular democracy,” “communism,” “internationalism,” and “free territory.” No one believes these words anymore because everyday reality gives them the lie. The socialist world is not socialist; it’s a world where the people are forced to work and to endure permanent rationing and scarcity, where they have neither rights nor freedoms. If they are taught to read—an essential prerogative if the wall of ignorance is to be destroyed once and for all—they are deprived of the freedom to read what they like. The increase in literacy is more than offset by the increase in the new elite above. There is no equality in education, because the new elite give special attention to the children of Party members and state officials. The same applies to labor. There is no unemployment, because people are made to work at forced labor, in reeducation camps, and in military service. Salaries are not equal and are insufficient.  This goes as well for housing, medical attention, transportation, and food.
“Those above enjoy privileges. So there are no more old bourgeois around, so what? There are plenty of bureaucrats who administer, control, and enjoy wealth. Above, everything is different, while below it’s the same old thing. In Cuba, we call this system socialismo.*
*There is a pun in which the word socio, meaning “partner” or “buddy,” is blended with socialismo, or ‘socialism.’”
Jewish Noir from PM Press. I haven’t read all the stories, so I can speak to only those I read and enjoyed. Suzanne Solomon’s use of 2nd person in her story, “Silver Alert,” was wonderful. “Twisted Shikse” by Jedidiah Ayers is probably my favorite in the collection thus far. David Zeltserman’s “Something’s Not Right” was a story (fantasy?) I’m thinking most writers can appreciate, and S.J. Rozan’s “The Flowers of Shanghai” was a history lesson (at least for me) regarding how one might think there couldn’t have been more anti-Semitism in a world gone crazy (WWII). I learned it was prevalent in Japanese-occupied Shanghai as well. Nancy Richler’s “Some You Lose” very effectively deals with the difficulties of summing up one man’s life in a eulogy.
Fences, a non-spoiler review by J.R. Jarrod … Unlike many of his peers whose marquee status has faded, Denzel Washington can still “open” a movie. He’s one of my favorite movie stars, hands down, and I’m always eager to see his latest directorial endeavors. As if that wasn’t enough, add Viola Davis and material by August Wilson, and it was enough to get me into the theater, but was it enough to keep me riveted … ?
The Oscar buzz for this film is not without merit. The performances in this film are densely crafted, utterly humanizing, compelling and worthy of a stride along the red carpet. Standouts are of course Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson – a man haunted by opportunities that might have been – and Viola Davis as his indomitable, selfless wife Rose; among the rest of the cast, Stephen Henderson (reprising his Tony-nominated role as Bono) and Mykelti Williamson (as Gabriel) provide the most engaging supporting performances. (Williamson often steals scenes;  his climactic final line of dialogue is no exception.)
Structurally, however, Fences plays like a throwback to Masterpiece Theatre or a made-for-HBO movie of the past. This is primarily because Fences is truly a filmed stage play, substituting real brick & mortar interior and exterior locations for their stage counterparts. We are teased by possible flashbacks, dream sequences and the like, but they never materialize, nor do the walk-ons or other juicy supporting roles evinced in the characters’ lengthy diatribes and soliloquies.  (I’d hazard a guess that Denzel Washington speaks more words in this one film than he has in his entire cinematic career.) With no dam in sight, I found myself quickly drowning in the endless rivers of bombastic dialogue. Any event even remotely dramatic is simply referred to as having taken place off-screen, and the principal cast is never truly untethered from the two-story house, backyard, or locked-down camera. In this respect Fences inadvertently becomes an experimental film (that just happens to boast a stellar cast), but is hardly the cinematic experience I think many are expecting.
In cinema, the writer and director must assume their audience is unfamiliar with the world being depicted onscreen; therefore the filmmaker’s duty is to educate as well as to entertain. An example of where Fences fails to educate can be found in Troy’s tirades to his son Cory (Jovan Adepo) about 1950s race relations. Since the screenplay never provides any three-dimensional malevolent, let alone benevolent, white characters (or outsiders of any other race, for that matter), Troy’s rants seem targeted at straw men. Thus, rather than compelling the filmgoer with this tale of Black family life in the 1950s, such narrative and structural deficits serve to distance if not disenchant the filmgoer.
Having seen the screenplay, I can attest that it is indeed, for all intents and purposes, still formatted like a stage play, with copious runs of dialogue throughout. While August Wilson’s Pulitzer-prize winning genius can’t be contested, it seems this early stage-to-screen adaptation of his own work was deemed by contemporary producers as too sacrosanct to edit. (There is no other screenwriter credited in this production.) Unfortunately Wilson’s material is revered to a fault. Leaving the screenplay untouched (and the footage most likely minimally trimmed in post-production) was a decision by the producers which resulted in a film that mimics the award-winning play but never uses the semiotic tools necessary to dissect, translate or interpret the play for the cinematic medium. This yielded, in my opinion, an extremely claustrophobic movie going experience.
I wanted to love this film … I did. Yet rather than unpack or elevate the material, the artifice of this production undercuts verisimilitude and unintentionally breaks the fourth wall with its lack of cinematic dexterity. Fans of the stage play will find some solace, I’m sure, since they’re essentially getting a stage play redux, albeit in high-definition. Antwone Fisher (2002) and The Great Debaters (2007) are evidence that Denzel Washington is a fine and nuanced director, and though the performances in this film are flawless, I left the theatre feeling that Fences The Movie is unduly haunted by the ghost of August Wilson.

The Tweeter in Chief … or maybe the prestidigitator in chief is more appropriate. While the Orange Blowhard tweets, the media and other Democrat sycophants crack jokes and/or predict a new apocalypse based on the Blowhard’s cast of greedy capitalist/nationalist characters for his cabinet and staff, people who just might remake America in a way the Founding Fathers would most appreciate.
And, no, that isn’t a good thing, certainly not for the lot of us.
I’ve been waiting for the tweets that hint of appointments to whoever might be in charge of the evacuations of the cities and herding of the populaces into feudal land parcels, but even that might be an improvement on where the Blowhard seems to be taking us (somebody say 14 hour workdays, no vacation time, sick time, and/or unions?). Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but no less so than Democrats seem to think.
Maybe he’ll leave those in the cities alone, especially those who can afford the subtle and/or not so subtle gentrifications.
What we should be afraid of, it seems to me, isn’t World War III, whether with China or somebody else nuclear capable. It seems to me the economy is about to take a big league boost for those who can afford it most, while the rest of us get used to lower wages for more production and less value. That seems to be were Herr Drumpf is headed with cabinet picks and staff appointments that defy even a hint of income gap control.
And let’s not get into the environment. Let’s face it, we were doomed a long time ago on that front. Trump will expedite the end of life on planet earth via the further ignoring of climate change. On the other hand, for those of you who might have a few years left before the climate apocalypse of hot air (pun not intended), poisoned water, rising sea levels and unbreathable air, you can always enjoy the time you have left. At least he’s giving you a good reason to go hedonistic.
The Democratic Party’s Suicidal Contortions … and over on the other side of the political aisle are the losers in the 2016 run for the power minus the glory. The Democratic Party and its never ending search for someone to blame for their own misdeeds (i.e., what was exposed in WikiLeaks) seems determined to hold fast and ignore progressives yet again. This week they’re back to blaming Vladimir Putin and his Russian team of hackers for wanting Trump to beat Hillary so bad they forced the DNC to sabotage Bernie Sanders’s campaign.
Just think about the shape-shifting that line of logic requires.
In any event, it is amusing watching Democratic lemmings twist and turn over Trump and all the projections about what the Blowhard will do next, although I sometimes think they forget who actually still is president. Then again why not? They certainly forgot Barry was president the last 7+ years. They were so drunk on the prediction that Trump would kill the Republican Party for good, and/or that they could do whatever they wanted (i.e., DNC sabotaging its own candidates), they didn’t see the train headed straight for their collective power. Well, the train has struck and the power is gone, at least for the next two years. We shall see if the contortions they continue to undertake will leave them any better off in 2018 and/or 2020 than they are right now, which is in the proverbial shitter.
Viva la RevoluciĆ³n!
Happy Holidays … give the gift of Stella. Need something to buy for one of yours? Give the gift of reading about a progressive thinking hit man who has zero respect for organized thugs and (or is it the same thing?) the government in general.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Three Book Reviews … Post Election Blues …

Resurrection Mall, by Dana King … Doc Dougherty is back. The author’s Penns River series is a winner, and the latest installment, Resurrection Mall, tops the list. Penns River is pretty much everywhere in America, a town down on its luck from manufacturing that has flown the coop to foreign shores. It is an economically devastated town with the usual problems that follow: a rising crime rate that includes real estate carpetbaggers seeking a quick property flip or cheap investment and the concomitant crime. Last time we visited Penns River in Grind Joint, a Russian mobster had staked a claim on a casino operation. Casinos are often sold because of all the well-paying jobs they will bring to the community. No matter the same idea is draining money from those with jobs. Now that the casino is up and running in Penns River, the petty crimes have begun to up and run as well. Homes are being ripped off. Tool sheds are missing tools. Citizens are hanging on in what’s left of the good areas but are starting to feel the pinch as burglars look to score a quick fix and expand their territory.

The unavoidable drug trade that is always present in wealthy and/or depressed neighborhoods has staked a claim in Penns River. A Minister Lewis has invested in a mall for the sake of the community and his flock. It is called Resurrection Mall. Lewis is a busy man and requires help in administering all the responsibilities involved in running a church, never mind the reconstruction of an abandoned mall. While malls usually bring the kids in for whatever forms of entertainment are popular at the time, it also brings in the dealers looking to score a new user or ten.

Meanwhile, back at home, Doc’s father is giving him shit about the stolen tools from a friend’s shed and all the other petty crimes going on in the community. Doc has his own official issues to deal with, including the in-house fighting at the department and the influence the casino has with the mayor and the police. Cars are being stolen from the casino lot. Not a good thing. Whether a gambler has won or lost, the last thing he wants to deal with is an empty parking spot where his car used to be.

The in-house Dougherty exchanges are classics. King’s dialogue is top of the line. You quickly latch onto Doc and his family and friends and never want to put the book down.

Shortly after his Sunday night dinner with his parents, Doc is confronted with a big mess, the result of an apparent drug war. Five are killed, but somebody close to Doc, somebody from Grind Joint (see review here:), Wilver Faison, saw the entire thing go down. Doc wants to protect Wilver, but the kid, now 16, is terrified at least one of the hit team saw him.

No spoilers here. Trust me on the author’s ability to write a brilliant novel. Doc Dougherty is the cop we all want in our communities. A veteran at his trade, Doc is smart and disciplined, but not over the top. His best personality trait is the fact he’s reasonable. He’s willing to listen and isn’t easily maneuvered by the powers that be. In Penns River, his immediate boss is a family friend and someone Doc respects, but everybody has to deal with the politicians overseeing the police and those willing to serve the politicians ahead of the community. There’s usually more than one in every precinct, the brown noses, the by-the-book sycophants, and it’s no different in Penns River.

This is a terrific novel you’ll want to read, and if you haven’t read King’s other Penns Rivers novels, you’ll want to read those also.

Check out Down and Out Books here:
Check out Dana’s works here:

Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh … You like dark? You like funny? You like funny-dark? Then get this baby. Eileen is a single 24 year old living with her father, an alcoholic retired cop. Dad verbally abuses Eileen a dozen times a day and for a dozen different reasons. He cracks nasty about her looks, her inability to find a man, and the disparity between her and a more attractive sister who has flown the coop and has her own life. Dad also sees gangsters where they’re not. Eileen tells us she is unhappy and that she hates everything. She’s telling us this some thirty plus years removed from her life with Dad and her job at a prison for boys in Massachusetts. Her alcoholic mother has been dead for five years, but she often recalls lying in bed with the corpse the night Mom died. Her life seems analogous to coexisting alongside the living dead.

She has issues with her body—“I hated my face with a passion”—but she isn’t immune to sexual attraction. There’s a guard at the prison she often stalks on her days off, just to get a look at Randy, and to spark another fantasy or two. She is mostly invisible to everyone, except her father and his abuse. She’s happy to run out to the liquor store and purchase his daily bottle of gin for the sake of peace and quiet once he passes out. She can take some solace in her room in the cold attic because it’s as far away from Dad as possible. Dad tends to fall asleep in a broken recliner in a filthy kitchen neither of them have any intention of cleaning.

It’s a dour look at life, and it reminded me of Bukowski’s Barfly, where one might substitute the sale of a short story and a fling with a publisher for a newfound friendship with a new hire at the prison, somebody who not only sees Eileen, she befriends her. Rebecca is a hot redhead with a Harvard degree and a screw or two loose of her own, albeit for altruistic reasons. That has to do with an ending that is a wonderfully dark surprise. The novel takes course over a seven-day reflection of Eileen’s mostly miserable life in 1960. It’s a PEN/Hemingway Award winner (whatever the fuck that means, but I’ll assume I should always mention a writing award … and so Eileen has also been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize). Bottom line: If you’re into a dark dose of life with some great humor, this baby is something you’ll want to read. I loved it.
Get Eileen here:
Earthquake Weather, Terrill Lankford … Want to know something about Hollywood? Read this baby. It’s a dark but humorous trip to and through Hollywood portraying all the jealousy, deceit, greed, lust, and vengeance required of the players seeking a seat at the table. Mark Hayes is a creative executive with a dream of making his own movies. He works for a top notch scumbag, Dexter Morton, who takes pleasure in his ability to do as he pleases since his recent success with a movie that has earned enough to make him relevant in the industry. Dexter is the big boss man of Prescient Pictures.

The aftermath of a serious earthquake leaves the town in tatters as Mark’s known but not neighborly neighbors filter out of the building where he lives. They are all in an immediate quest for survival from the rubble of aftershocks. Neighbor meets neighbor, and coincidences emerge. A party thrown by the boss man, Dexter Morton, brings some of the coincidental people into play, but when the host is found floating face down in his pool, hairpiece askew, the following morning by Mark, he becomes a prime suspect in Morton’s sudden demise.

The hot girlfriend, Charity James, of the dead man took issue with him the night of the party and stabbed him in the ass. A few others in attendance mentioned how they wouldn’t mind it so much if the boss didn’t wake up one morning, but it’s Mark who found him, so it’s Mark the police are interested in speaking with. And they do, a few times, but in the meantime there’s shenanigans aplenty, including the appearance of a rattlesnake intended to end Mark, a few tussles with gangbangers of consequence (you don’t spit into the wind or insult Bloods or Crips), and there’s the issue of the minor starlet/former girlfriend (Charity) of the dead guy, who has managed to embed herself in Mark’s life because he was told to get her out of there (the party) after the stabbing incident. Of course Mark brought her home, but without ill intentions. Still, she became comfortable with Mark’s roommate, and eventually comfortable in a one-timer with Mark, but her follow-up act was with gangbangers, and nothing good was going to come from that.

The author takes us on a dark but fun trip through the Hollywood subculture of movie makers and shakers. Mark is self-deprecating enough to win our sympathy, even when he does nasty stuff, but we’re with his better angels throughout, including his wanting to help that overthrown starlet. No spoilers here, but the ending occurs just after the O.J. alleged double murder (alleged my ass), and it’s a lot of fun getting there. So much so, I’d intended to write the review for a December post, but wasn’t willing to put this one down long enough to wait.

Get Earthquake Weather here:

The Electoral Blues … never let it be said that Knucks can call a Super Bowl winner … or an election. The shocker on November 8 was met with great joy at Casa Stella, although we had no idea it would happen. Now, to clarify, we weren’t celebrating the Orange Blowhard’s victory. No sir/No ma’am. We were celebrating the temporary death of the Clintons’ presidential aspirations. I say temporary because we all know Chelsea’s “turn” will be coming along soon enough. We’re in no hurry for that spoiled brat (“earning” $600,000 fresh out of college? Really?) to make her way to center stage. Now that the DNC has taken one in the chops, maybe it will clean the sewer it has become and reform itself.

No, we won’t be counting on it. My Demexit remains in place until further notice.

What I’ve found comical (yes, comical) since the election result is the amount of high drama expressed by those who voted blue no matter who (Democrat lemmings) and/or Hillary loyalists. The world is coming to an end. Racism has been validated … Hell, some claim bigotry has been mandated, as if it not only never existed before, but it now has an official call to arms. None of what occurred under Obama’s tenure, much the same way as any of his decisions and/or indecisions, is either remembered or called to account. How could it be? He was the cool president, no drama Obama. It’s a nice crock of shit if you want to swallow it. Sure, some of the yahoos are feeling their oats these days, but how long does anyone really think that’ll last before they’re caught and have to pay the price for being assholes? I’ll go out on a limb and say things will settle down from whatever peak they’ve reached, and I’m not so sure it’s all that much higher than what is normal in our institutionalized racist America.

The bottom line is Progressives will continue the fight for a voice in our government on domestic and foreign policy. We will not capitulate to the corrupt powers all too willing to sellout to corporate and Wall Street interests. We will not buy into the nonsense about the lesser of two evils, which is exactly how the Democrat Party become so powerful and corrupt. Ultimately, it’s how the party shot itself in the foot. The incremental change we’ve been told to swallow for three decades has gone in one direction, and it hasn’t been in the interests of the middle class, the poor, or minorities.


Here’s what we believe has happened to Democrat voters over the years. Carey Wedler seems to have nailed it pretty good. So, hopefully yeah, welcome back to the resistance, bitches.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

2 Days to Armageddon … Kyle Carey Kickstarter … J.R. Jarrod reviews Dr. Strange … The Case for Unaccountable Power … RIP Ed Gorman …

2 Days to Armageddon … while early voting has been going on for a couple of weeks, the rest of America goes to the polls on November 8. The two entries from the two major political parties have the lowest approval/trustworthy numbers in history. One has a huge resume, but a horrendous performance record. Oh, she’s made plenty of decisions, but they’ve mostly turned into monumental disasters (i.e., Iraq, Libya, Syria). The other major participant is a throwback to vaudeville, and that’s being nice. The GOP nominee is without a doubt the most unqualified presidential candidate in my lifetime. He knows little, if anything, about the office he seeks (i.e., what it entails, its constitutional limits, etc.). What Donald Trump does have is a celebrity name at least equal to his main rival, Hillary Clinton. People recognize him and his brand and they aren’t interested in the background details of that brand. Nor do they care that hardly anything that comes out of his mouth is a truth. So what he’s stiffed workers at every opportunity? So what he buys cheap from China and Japan? So what he has more lawsuits pending than, as my Aunt Josephine used to say, Carter has pills?
Clinton is likely to win because Trump is atrocious to people in general. Also, her political machine, exposed as corrupt as the Gambino crime family this past year, is on the ground and running at full speed. She has the big name surrogates pleading her case, even if they hate one another, because the Obama legacy tour is in deep trouble should Clinton lose. If she wins, however, it’ll be because of Trump and all his horrendous behavior. I suspect it’ll be his behavior that trumps, so to speak, his incredible lack of knowledge about pretty much everything.
On the other hand, should Clinton lose, she’ll have nobody to blame but herself. Not the 1-4% of Jill Stein voters like myself, nor James Comey and the FBI. Hillary Clinton is a magnet for scandals of her own doing. Between the emails and her and her husband’s foundation, there are probably 3 or 4 RICO indictments ready to fly. If Trump is the next president (try hearing yourself say that a few times), Clinton is likely to face a genuine prosecution. For now, between Obama and the Justice Department she so sloppily ran while secretary of state, she has built in protections better than the juries John Gotti rigged in two of his criminal trials.
The other candidates, Gary “Aleppo” Johnson and Jill Stein, will be nowhere to be found come election night. Those of us voting for either do not kid ourselves about the votes we’ll make. Neither has a chance in hell of winning, but that’s the way the system is set up: two major parties representing the interests of the corporate elite perform a sideshow election for entertainment and venting purposes. People get to YELL at one another in social media as they argue their candidate’s cases, although this year, the only case to be made for either of the two major candidates is an attack on the other.
But what if Trump wins? He’s stupid and crazy.
What if Clinton wins? She’s corrupt and vindictive.
Frankly, I look forward to next week’s election, and not because it’ll finally be over. I hope for a Clinton loss because of what the DNC did to my candidate of choice and all the money and effort I gave to his campaign. I also think it’ll be a blast if Trump is the winner because he really is kind of what this country deserves, and for obvious reasons. I don’t see the political revolution Bernie Sanders championed before he turned lapdog going anywhere should Clinton or Trump win. On the other hand, under Trump I believe the left will not only survive, it will likely thrive as an obvious response come 2020. Under Clinton, I see the left being ground into dust.
So it goes. Let the best worst candidate win!

Kickstarter for Kyle Carey … we’ve done this before and are proud to do it again. Kyle has a gorgeous voice and we look forward to her next album. She sings beautiful Gaelic songs. We donated … you should too.

Doctor Strange non-spoiler review by J.R. Jarrod.
As a comic book fan I was always a D.C. (Detective Comics) guy, and even then it was pretty much just Batman and The Flash, with an occasional Superman binge. In my teens I began dabbling in Marvel tales like Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Punisher, Alpha Flight and a sprinkling of X-Men. I still have the long boxes at home. However, I always glossed over Doctor Strange on the comic book rack. The reason? Whereas there was something easily digestible about D.C. heroes and their origin stories, aside from Spider-Man, Marvel’s heroes seemed mired in a complex miasma of psychological, astrological, astrophysical, geopolitical and psychedelic undergirdings that were just too daunting for a Saturday morning read. I’ve said all that to underscore how much I now love and embrace Marvel Studios’ Marvel Heroes for Dummies approach to their movies. It just plain works, providing an entry point for both the neophyte and the aficionado.
As a self-proclaimed Marvel Dummy I couldn’t wait to finally enter the universe of Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange, created by the legendary Steve Ditko and who first appeared in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963). My wife and I even coughed up the loot to see it in 3-D, since that was part of director Scott Derrickson’s overall design for the film. The movie did not disappoint. Easily the most unabashedly visually complex and indulgent of all the Marvel films, this tale is a feast for the eyes. Within the first ten minutes any lingering questions about “to 3-D or not to 3-D” are laid to rest. Cinematically this flick is equal parts The Matrix, Inception and Harry Potter with a tonal sprinkling of TV’s E.R. (don’t ask, just go see it). And wow just wow.
Albeit the requisite superhero origin story, the movie benefits from the “everything’s better with Benedict Cumberbatch” recipe, and he oh-so subtly chews the scenery with aplomb. Though other reviews have compared the arrogant Dr. Stephen Strange to Marvel’s other haughty bad boy Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), I found Strange arguably more sympathetic. Whereas Stark saved his own neck and turned his fortune to the service of others, he never truly underwent a lasting catharsis; Strange, however, loses everything, and in his vehement quest to restore his world he is both abjectly humbled and ultimately truly repents. When given the choice later in the tale to use his newfound abilities to regain what he’s lost, Strange well let’s just say he’s the Marvel hero we deserve and the one we need right now. Honestly I haven’t had this much fun at the movies in a long time.
I as a writer love science-fiction and the supernatural because those genres allow for a very blatant, if not metaphorical, exploration of the true nature of good and evil. In that way Doctor Strange leads Marvel’s cinematic pack by delving into the bittersweet nature of man’s unending quest for immortality and the subsequent woes man endures in attempting to grasp the eternal with hands of clay. Kaecilius, the villain of the film played by Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, Casino Royale), is the embodiment of that ill-fated quest and, as such, is one of Marvel’s more sympathetic antagonists. The film also benefits from key performances by the other-worldly Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, Benedict Wong, a slightly underused but ever-effective Rachel McAdams, and a fantastic cameo by none other than Benjamin Bratt.
Shot on both film and HD, special effects and production values are top-notch, and the musical score by Michael Giacchino is one to remember. With a screenplay by Jon Spaihts, C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange effectively distills decades of the character’s comic book history into a sturdy cinematic template. Stan Lee, former president and chairman of Marvel Comics and creator of many of Marvel’s signature heroes, has his requisite cameo, occurring, as always, when you least expect it. (I’m sincerely hoping that Marvel Studios has had enough foresight to create a digital body double of Stan so that his cameos will continue for the next 200 years!) Doctor Strange features both a mid-credit and a post-credit scene, both of which contain key plot and character payoffs for subsequent MCU tales, so stay for that extra 10 minutes (you won’t regret it).
As much as I loved D.C. Comics as a kid, Marvel Studios has once again taken D.C.’s parent company Warner Bros. to the woodshed, providing another burnished (though admittedly workmanlike) superhero popcorn flick for the masses. When will it ever stop? Given The Ancient One’s revelation of the multiverse, chances are: never. But fear not, Strange will undoubtedly be there to guide us from his Sanctum Sanctorum. As Stan Lee would say: “Excelsior!” Indeed.
The Case for Unaccountable Power … there is none. Remember Richard Nixon? Well, since Tricky Dick we’ve had scandal upon scandal out of the White House, from Iran-Contra to Monica to Katrina to Fast and Furious, but nothing close to the fiasco going on these days. One candidate has two ongoing FBI criminal investigations. The other should have a few himself. The difference, of course, is the Democrat-selected candidate has a love affair with Nixon’s secretary of state (remember the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia?) … and she’s yet to find a war she didn’t like. Tough, yeah, but her draft-dodging husband and non-volunteer daughter aren’t the ones who will fight the next war, and that one may well be with Russia. Since she’s publicly stated she’d nuke Iran, I’m not feeling as secure with her having the nuclear codes as I am with someone who probably would fight a war with tweets.
Unaccountable power is NEVER a good thing, unless you’re into monarchs, I guess. We’re close enough now as the oligarchs rule America, and if you add up the years of Bush-Clinton, it’s pretty fucking frightening. Twenty years of family rule does not a democratic Republic make.
All that said, most people will vote along lemming party lines and then make believe their either conservative or liberal the day after the election.
So it goes.
Ed Gorman … We all know about his prolific and wonderful writing, but this is about the man. Ed, who didn’t know me outside of crime writing, learned I was seeking a new publisher back in 2009. I was close to falling into the crime writing abyss when Ed read my novel, Johnny Porno, and suggested Greg Shepherd of Stark House Press take a look-see. Until 2010, Stark House Press published reprints of classic noir novels. Greg liked Johnny Porno enough to take it on as Stark House’s first original crime novel. What Ed did was save me from the abyss, but there’s more to the story.
Most of yous know I’m not a shy guy. My politics, too left for most, tends to ruffle feathers. To his credit, even when he didn’t agree with me, and Ed was a true liberal, he always tried to counsel me to take a lighter tone in my political rants. So while Ed couldn’t perform miracles, he never turned his back on me.
Ed did more for new and previously published writers than anyone I can think of, and it has been his example that is the driving force behind my doing the same. I’ve been fortunate enough to help a few people get published, but that has everything to do with their talent and me being able to suggest their work—all born of Ed’s never ending generosity.
He is sorely missed within the crime writing community and to those, like myself, who owe him so much.

The Last InternationaleWorkers of the World Unite …