Star

Well, I survived my first ever colonoscopy, with an endoscopy thrown in for good measure (my gastroenterologist was concerned about the heartburn medication I take daily, so he wanted to take a look around in there). It was a thing, really. The colonoscopy was originally supposed to be in 2018, but there was a problem with my insurance (insurance companies are really of Satan) so it was rescheduled for last April…and then pandemic. Men really should get their first at fifty; so of course I got mine at sixty.

But ugh, what an unpleasant experience prepping for the procedure was. I didn’t sleep at all Wednesday night because I was getting up all the time to run to the bathroom; the final dose of the purge medication was supposed to be taken at 1 a.m. (!!!!), along with another 42 ounces of water–following the first dose and 42 ounces of water five hours earlier. Oh, and you’re supposed to drink all the water over an hour. So I went to bed finally at two in the morning, and then UP DOWN UP DOWN UP DOWN all night, plus the stress of worrying about sleeping through the alarm because I was up so late…yeah, it was pretty ugly around the Lost Apartment yesterday morning before we summoned the Lyft to whisk us off to Touro Infirmary. They had also originally told me I needed to stop in and get a COVID test the day before “around four”; you can imagine my horror to get the confirmation call Wednesday afternoon at two-forty-five, which was when I was informed that they cut off testing if you aren’t there by two-thirty.

Womp womp.

So then I had the added stress of oh my God what if I am doing all this prep and my test comes back positive? (It didn’t.) But they couldn’t do anything with me as far as anything actually medical is concerned, until the results came back (negative, around nine thirty). I got wheeled in and anesthetized around eleven thirty, and we were home before one. Exhausted, hungry, and still wonky from the anesthetic, I decided to take their advice and just relax and chill at home and not worry about anything pending; my body, after all, had two invasive procedures (and any procedure is traumatic to the body), so I figured–and still think–that I was allowed to have the day free from any worries or constraints about anything else. I was very tired–no coffee, no sleep, anesthetic–to the point that my joints ached from exhaustion, which also was rather unpleasant. I was too tired to do much of anything, really, and actually dozed off in my chair for a while (I did, however, stream the first half hour of Dune; and it looks incredible.) I did go to bed early and I think I slept deeply all night; at some point will have to download the Fitbit data to get an idea of just how much sleep I did or didn’t get over the last few days.

I wound up working from home needlessly on Wednesday (I read the prep instructions wrong; I thought I was supposed to start at eight a.m.–but it was actually eight pm); but I was very low energy all day anyway so it was probably best that I not see clients when I am in a low-energy place; undoubtedly it was stress about the procedure sapping my energy. I made condom packs and did some data entry and other work-at-home things while bingeing the non-Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween movies. As I have said before, I came to the Halloween (and most other non-Freddy Krueger slasher fare) late in life; in fact, it was Paul who got me to start watching. Anyway, I had realized that I’d never seen any of the other ones from the original series that don’t have Jamie Lee Curtis in them….so for my Halloween Horror Film Festival what could be more apt than finally watching the rest of those movies?

Maybe apt, but seriously–if Jamie Lee Curtis isn’t in it, why bother making it? I mean, seriously. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was just terrible. I’d heard at the time it was released that it wasn’t good, but I thought I had seen that people had revisited it and it was becoming a cult classic, under-appreciated at the time and now coming into its own? It had lesser production quality than any old made-for-television movie from the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. The plot made no sense whatsoever; the acting, editing and production quality was horrific–I kept watching all the way to the bitter end, waiting for something, anything, that would make me think I was correct in seeing that it had been rediscovered as better than originally thought? Stonehenge, some weird plan to turn children and people into androids…fucking weird. I did research it, though, and apparently John Carpenter wanted to do the films as an anthology series built around Halloween; kind of like American Horror Story, only with films. The film tanked, so they brought back Michael Myers with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which had Sasha Jenson, my crush fromDazed and Confused, as a supporting character. I went on to watch Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers–but again, no Jamie Lee Curtis. Instead, these two movies focused on Laurie Strode’s DAUGHTER (!!!!) who was a child; Laurie and her husband died in a car accident or something, and so the little girl was staying with a foster family, and Michael came for her.

As far as slasher movies go, these last two weren’t bad; they just didn’t feel like Halloween movies. It was also unsettling because he was psycho-stalking a child, and that just didn’t feel right or fun to watch. I mean, it’s one thing when the victims are relatively attracted and slightly talented twenty-somethings pretending (badly) to be teenagers…but a little girl? Too may squick factors there for me to enjoy the movies as much. But…now I can say I’ve seen practically all of them, so that’s something, I guess?

And now it’s Friday morning, and I need to, once again, reconnect to my life and everything that’s going on and everything I need to get done. The Lost Apartment is again a disaster area, I haven’t been to the gym all week, and…ugh. All I really want to do is go back to bed and sleep for the rest of the weekend, frankly. But I am way behind (my constant refrain) and need to get caught up. The Saints are on Monday night football (note to self: alternate route home from work Monday night) so I have all day Sunday to get stuff done, and of course the LSU-Mississippi game isn’t until two-thirty on CBS Saturday, so I have most of Saturday morning as well to get things done. I think we’re going to watch Dune tonight; I just wanted to get a feel for the movie last night, which is why I started watching and it looks amazing in scope and style and visuals.

I first read Dune when I was in high school, and loved it. At that point there were only three books–the original trilogy; the other two being Dune Messiah (which I didn’t like near as much) and Children of Dune (which I did enjoy very much) and was very excited when Mr. Herbert continued the series; I think I only read the next three (God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse: Dune) and loved them all. (I stopped reading the books when Mr. Herbert died and his son took over; no offense to his son, but…it just didn’t feel right to me. And while I appreciate series being continued by new authors after the original passes, I’m not interested in reading them because the original mind behind them isn’t controlling the direction anymore, if that makes sense? This is entirely different to me than authors who become brands and new authors come in as “co-writers”; I don’t expect those books to be the same as those by the original, brand name author–like James Patterson and Robert Ludlum) Dune was my first forage into science fiction, actually; I’d never read any before, and that’s another reason why I am so partial to the book/series: it was my gateway drug. The next summer Star Wars came out, and by the end of the decade I was reading Azimov* and other science fiction writers, like Heinlein and Bradbury and an entire new world had opened for me in fiction. (I feel like this might be the proper place to mention how much I admire science fiction/fantasy authors; the world building alone requires so much work and so much attention to detail that I cannot wrap my mind around it, let alone attempt doing it.)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and deepest apologies for not checking in with you yesterday.

*I have also started watching Foundation on Apple Plus; but more on that in a later post.

A Little Respect

Well, hello, Wednesday morning, how are you doing? I am at home today because I am doing the prep work necessary for tomorrow morning’s procedure (it’s a colonoscopy; I am not sure why I am being so coy about it. I am over sixty now and this is long overdue; the hurdles I had to clear and hoops I had to jump through to get this thing scheduled….oy. I don’t understand the mentality of the people who defend our health care/insurance system…and sadly, it’s better now than it was when I first got health insurance back in 2006), and the doctor recommended being in close reach of a bathroom for most of the day. I have to get up at midnight to begin Stage II, then I have to get up and be at Touro for the procedure by seven tomorrow morning. I also have to go to Touro later today to get a rapid COVID test to get clearance.

Seriously, with my luck I’ll test positive and then not only have to reschedule the entire thing but have to quarantine for fourteen more days.

That sure took a turn, didn’t it?That should give an indication of my late October mood, though, shouldn’t it? I don’t know, maybe it’s the procedure and having to go underneath anesthetic for the first time in a really long time; or perhaps it’s the whole Halloween thing? Who knows? Halloween is certainly a time for darkness and the macabre; which is interesting, since the name is a contraction of all hallows eve, which means, really, the eve of All Saints Day, which you’d think would be more celebratory? It also occurs to me that I’ve never actually written about Halloween, and given what a popular holiday it is in New Orleans, that’s kind of odd. Jackson Square Jazz is set just before Halloween; I think in the afterward Scotty mentions the costumes he and the boys were to the Halloween Ball? It’s been a hot minute, so I can’t remember…but I know there’s not a Scotty Halloween book, and I know I never did one with Chanse–who couldn’t be bothered to wear a costume; he’d find the whole thing tiresome. But not even a short story! (“The Snow Globe,” in fairness, began as a Halloween story and was originally titled “All Hallows Eve”; obviously I changed that.)

Unfortunately, given the timeline I’ve got going with the Scotty books now, I don’t know that the next one can be a Halloween book. Although I could play with the timeline a little more, I suppose. Royal Street Reveillon was set during the Christmas season, and I’ve always thought of it as Christmas 2019 (which means it became cemented into my brain as set in that year; and my stubborn subconscious never lets it go until my conscious mind realizes how stupid I am actually being)….with a pandemic just around the corner. But the book itself came out in October 2019, so I finished writing it earlier that year so there’s no reason it can’t be 2018…or 2017 for that matter, and I can also go back and put books in between the ones I’ve already published, if I so desire…ah, the Godlike power of being an author! What, though, would be a good Scotty Halloween title? Hmmmm…Halloween Season Hijinks? Halloween Party Horror?

Sigh. This will be in the back of my head now for awhile, which is how this always goes, doesn’t it?

I did sleep very well last night, which was lovely. (I set the alarm of course, reflexively, as I slipped into bed last night) We finished the first season of Only Murders in the Building, which resolved the first season but ended with a cliffhanger setting up Season 2–something I was wondering about–and thoroughly enjoyed it. We also started watching Dopesick, a fictionalized version of how the Sackler family single-handedly created the opioid crisis in this country so they can make billions. It’s very well done–I’d watched the documentary version of this already, whose name I cannot recall–and the acting is stellar. It’s powerful, too; I love that they are showing how this all happened through the eyes of a doctor in Appalachia (played by Michael Keaton), as well as showing the lives of some of his patients and how they got sucked into oxycontin addiction. I don’t know how anyone can watch this (or the original documentary) without burning with rage at the Sackler family and the politicians they fucking bought off so they could exploit the pain of the working class for profit, and what a classic example this is of how an unmonitored and unregulated capitalism–the ideal of the conservatives (let the market decide!)–can not only be damaging but lethal. We are still cleaning up the mess this created, while they sip expensive wine and eat caviar and fly to glamorous places on private jets. (I think the next time someone pulls some of that Ayn Rand libertarian “no regulation” bullshit on me I’m just going to smile and say “Oxycontin and the Sackler family disprove her theories on everything.”)

I also got Dr. Alecia P. Long’s latest book yesterday, Cruising for Conspirators: How a New Orleans DA Prosecuted the Kennedy Assassination as a Sex Crime, which I am really looking forward to reading. This is, of course, about the Clay Shaw trials here in New Orleans, and how Jim Garrison abused his power as district attorney; Oliver Stone based JFK on this, treating Garrison as an unsung American hero when he was anything but that–I’ve not seen the film, nor any other Oliver Stone film since this piece of propaganda and packet of lies was filmed. I also don’t trust anything Stone did, or does, anymore to be honest and truthful and factual. He basically ignored all the evidence–and there was plenty of it–and turned Garrison into some kind of folk-hero when he truly was a corrupt monster who tainted everything he touched and made the Puritans look like sex maniacs. And this country being what it is, the completely fictional film JFK and its conclusions and accusations are now seen by people as being factual. I’ve always been interested in writing about this case fictionally–seriously, the history of New Orleans and Louisiana is so rich and deep and rife with potential for writing, I could never run out of material here–and have done some loose reading up on it…and I’ve never come across anything backing up Garrison or his claims that didn’t originate in some insane right-wing crackpot conspiracy generator. I could be wrong, but I feel Dr. Long–whose The Great Southern Babylon is also a must-read for people interested in New Orleans and her history–is not a Garrison sympathizer; certainly the book’s title implies that; but I also trust Dr. Long, her scholarship, and her dedication to research. This will inevitably prove to be the definitive book on the subject.

I’m also still reading Robert A. Caro’s massive The Power Broker: Bob Moses and the Fall of New York, which, like all of Caro’s work, is exceptional. I’m perhaps about a quarter of the way through the book, but it’s also fascinating; a history of the New York parks and recreational facilities and the building of highways and parkways and roads so that New Yorkers could escape the city and enjoy the outside recreationally on the weekends. The power struggle over making Long Island more accessible to the city dwellers is deeply fascinating, as is watching how another idealistic young man slowly realizes that politics is more about reality and power than ideals, and learns to use politics and power to get what he wants–even if doing so might not be exactly legal. (This was my primary takeaway from Huey Long by Harry Williams.) I hope to read more of Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock with an eye to finishing it, over the course of the next few days and the weekend. Tremblay is becoming one of my favorite horror writers; I’ve certainly loved everything he’s written thus far, and would like to get some more horror read this month before Halloween and we move into the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s holiday cycle.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone, and I will check in with you again tomorrow after the procedure. (Depending on how it goes and how drugged I am and how quickly the drugs wear off.)

Drama!

Monday morning never gives me a warning, you know what I mean?

But that’s just how it goes, isn’t it? Weekends are never quite long enough to get everything done that needs to get done, let alone get in the rest and relaxation necessary to get through another week. I don’t have to go into the office every day this week, because of the procedure on Thursday; I get to work at home on Wednesday my procedure prep day, yet have to get up insanely and ridiculously early for the procedure, so that’s not exactly a win. But I am glad to get this needed and necessary part of getting older out of the way once and for all; and here’s hoping the scope finds nothing untoward inside of me.

Ugh, how…icky that last sentence sounds!

Yesterday LSU announced that Coach Orgeron (Coach O) will be finished at the end of this season. This saddened me–it still does–because I love Coach O and was all about the Coach O train when he stepped in as interim coach after Les Miles was fired in 2016. I thought he deserved a shot at the job, I love that he so perfectly embodies Louisiana Cajun country, and he loves LSU as much as anyone. There have been times I’ve not been pleased with him–just as there were times when I wasn’t pleased with Coach Miles–but the news didn’t make me happy. I wanted him to continue to succeed. He gave us the best season of LSU football in over sixty years, possibly one of the greatest football seasons of all time, and to see him ousted a mere two years later doesn’t make me happy. I know it was necessary–after the shock of the UCLA game, followed by the embarrassing losses to Auburn and Kentucky, it was clear some shake-up was needed, but I don’t know. Maybe give him and his new assistants another season to right the ship? I can see why the big donors and the administration didn’t want to wait–the rest of the SEC West alone is catching up, if not already passing us, and the longer it dragged out the more painful it could become (let’s be honest, Miles should have really been let go after the enormously disappointing 2014 season; but he’d succeeded and there was loyalty there–clearly misplaced, given everything that’s come out recently–but LSU is too big of a brand and a marquee name to allow anyone more than one season of mediocrity. Coach O will always be a beloved legend in Louisiana, and that, while small consolation for what he and his family must be feeling this morning, is more than many coaches get when they are let go.

I started reading Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil Rock yesterday rather than a Stephen King; I started to reach for The Institute, but pulled back when I realized just how thick the book is. I mean, it took me over six weeks to read a 240 page noir novel; how long would it take for me to get through something that enormous? It was disheartening to turn down a book to read simply because of its length–I used to love long books, and the longer the better; poor James Michener could never get published today, let alone an agent, because I can’t imagine anyone looking at the length of Hawaii and thinking, yeah, can’t wait to get through THIS! But Tremblay is a terrific writer, and soon I was very much sucked into the book. I picked it up to spend a little time with while i was taking a break from my chores and working on a revision of Never Kiss a Stranger–which of course is the last thing I should be working on right now, but it’s in my head and I can’t stop until I get through this revision, which has already made it a lot better than it was in the first draft–and had to force myself to put the book down and get back to revising and cleaning, which inevitably makes me always feel better anyway. It was very strange to break the routine of a Saints game on a Sunday–which made the entire day open with possibility, and of course then made me feel as though the entire day was being wasted because I was unfocused for most of it.

We watched a Polish film last night on Netflix, Operation Hyacinth, based on a true story about a police investigation/crackdown on gay men in the 1980’s, including murders covered up by the police, which was deeply sad and tragic and somewhat hard to watch–also bearing in mind this happened during my lifetime, which is constantly sobering (an issue for writing Never Kiss a Stranger–having to remember how much more homophobic American society was in the 1990’s than it is now; also a sobering thought, and the chilling reminder that there are a lot of people want us to go back even further to the time where homosexuality was considered a mental illness as well as a crime). It was good and thought provoking, and then we got caught up on The Morning Show before turning in for the night so I can get up this early.

Of course I am behind–I didn’t get nearly as caught up as I would have liked to this past weekend, as always–and now am trying to get my to-do list for the week caught up. I have an event tonight for Sisters in Crime for a library–a diversity discussion–which is going to wear me out (I’ll already be tired from my work day) and make it much easier for me to go to bed this evening and fall asleep. I feel relatively well rested this morning; we’ll see how the day goes, shan’t we?

And on that note, I need to start getting ready for work. I didn’t even pack my backpack last night! Tis off to the mines of spice for me now, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

Girl, You Make My Day

One of the things I’ve greatly enjoyed over the last few years has been the sea change in how publishing views works by non-white and non-straight authors; the push for more diverse voices in the publishing community has already borne wonderful fruit. I’ve been saying for years that the world of crime fiction was in danger of getting stale again, much as it did in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s; particularly the private eye novel. The arrival of Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Marcia Muller on the scene shook things up and shook things out; the private eye novel got a much-needed shot in the arm of adrenaline with these three women and the others their work inspired; I strongly believe the move toward diversity is going to bear fruit in much the same manner–and it already has, frankly; the works of diverse writers like S. A. Cosby, Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Alex Segura, Tracy Clark, Cheryl Head, and so many others have joined the great pioneers like Walter Mosley and the wonderful Barbara Neely to open up new perspectives on crime and crime fiction; our society and world; and again, this was desperately needed–and is necessary every so often, for our genre to refresh and expand and become more inclusive. We’re also seeing more queer books being sent out into the world from the big houses in New York, which is also incredibly exciting (another shout out to Yes Daddy By Jonathan Parks-Ramage and A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen).

It’s a very exciting time to be a fan of crime fiction.

Noir has always been one of my favorite sub-genres of crime fiction, and I always enjoy reading modern takes on it. I want to write more noir, quite frankly; Chlorine would be the first of at least four I want to write, if not more (for now, I have ideas for four of them, with Chlorine being the most full formed). I always enjoy modern takes on noir–Laura Lippman’s Sunburn was quite marvelous, as was Christa Faust’s Money Shot and Choke Hold)–and of course, S. A. Cosby is a master of rural Southern noir; both Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears are destined to be considered classics, I think.

So, I was very curious to read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s take on modern noir, Velvet Was the Night. It took me a very long time to finish–which is not indicative of the quality of the book, I hasten to add–because after I read so much during the post-Ida power outage, I kind of broke my brain and thus haven’t been able to really focus as much on reading as I would like; yesterday after the LSU game I sat down and finished it with Georgia-Kentucky on as background noise.

And what a fun ride it was.

He didn’t like beating people.

El Elvis realized this was ironic considering his line of work. Imagine that: a thug who wanted to hold his punches. Then again, life is full of such ironies. Consider Ritchie Valens, who was afraid of flying and died the first time he set foot on an airplane. Damn shame that, and the other dudes who died, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” Richardson; they weren’t half bad either. Or there was that playwright Aeschylus. He was afraid of being killed inside his house, and then he steps outside and wham, an eagle tosses a tortoise at him, cracking his head open. Murdered, right there in the stupidest possible way.

Often life doesn’t make sense, and if Elvis had a motto it was that: life’s a mess. That’s probably why he loved music and factoids. They helped him construct a more organized world. When he wasn’t listening to his records, he was poring over the dictionary, trying to memorize a new word, or plowing through one of those almanacs full of stats.

No, sir. Elvis wasn’t like some of the perverts he worked with, who got excited smashing a dude’s kidneys. He would have been happy solving crosswords and sipping coffee like their boss, El Mago, and maybe one day he would be an accomplished man of that sort, but for now there was work to be done, and this time Elvis was actually eager to beat a few motherfuckers up.

He hadn’t developed a sudden taste for blood and cracking bones, no, but El Güero had been at him again.

The recent rise of Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been meteoric, although I am sure to her it has seemed anything but. I read her terrific vampire novel, Certain Dark Things, a while back, loved it, and have been following her career ever since as she has turned out novels at a terrific rate–Gods of Jade and Shadow, Untamed Shore, Mexican Gothic–all of which have been critically acclaimed and sold very well; I love that she bounces from genre to genre–horror to fantasy to crime; even bouncing around in the sub-categories of the crime genre. This is only my second read of her work–I have them all, of course–and had been meaning to get around to her take on noir with a Mexican flourish for quite some time. (I am really sorry I broke my brain with all the reading I did after the power went out; I greatly enjoyed this book, but it was so hard for me to focus for some reason…but am glad I sat down yesterday with the book, determined to finish it at last.)

One of the things that strikes me about Moreno-Garcia’s work is that I am seeing Mexico, a place I greatly love, through a fresh new perspective; like all Yanquis, I always view Mexico through the prism of a tourist. I’ve always wanted to write about Mexico, and have several short stories in the files that are set there (I did write one erotica story as Todd Gregory set in Acapulco; from the perspective of a tourist, of course: “Oh, What A Friend I Have in Jesus”)…but reading Moreno-Garcia makes me aware of how scant my knowledge of our Southern neighbor is–all of the counties south of the Rio Grande, frankly–which is a stinging indictment of our education system. (Don’t even get me started on the concept of Latin America vs. “America”) I know very little of Mexican history after the Spanish conquest, other than the Mexican War and the French empire set up under a Hapsburg by Napoleon III during our civil war. I know very little history of any of the countries that make up the rest of the American continents, really–and isn’t that more than a little bit disgraceful? I also know very little about their cultures, their politics, and what goes on there; a quick glance through the news also will show very little information or news being reported about those non-United States/Canada American countries, which is really a shame.

Velvet Was the Night is set un 1971, a particularly politically rife period in Mexico. The US was terribly concerned about communism being spread by the Soviets in what has always been considered the American soft underbelly–I mean, look at our reaction to Cuba–and there’s no question that CIA operatives and money were working to subvert Communism while supporting borderline Fascist governments because that was preferable to Washington than another potential Soviet satellite state in our hemisphere. The vast paranoia of that time–which really lasted from 1945-1990, really–cannot be underestimated or understated. By rooting her story in actual events of 1971–the crackdown of the Mexican government on dissidents–Moreno-Garcia slyly gives us a taste of how American foreign policy of the time affected everyone in Mexico, as well as a history lesson. (One of the great modern deceptions of our society is this idea that we always act benevolently as a nation; we’re doing this for your own good.) The book has two point of view characters; one, depicted in the opening above, is “Elvis”, a very young man who works as a thug, basically, for an oppressive group of anti-Communists that try to infiltrate dissident groups and haunt protests in order to make them turn violent, so the military can intervene on behalf of the “people.” Elvis grew up very poor and sometimes imagines what his life would be like if he were able to pursue his primary interests–educating himself and music. He doesn’t know what his future holds but is vaguely aware the path he is on–violence and more violence–will not end well. Over the course of the book he begins to question the values he’s been taught to believe in his gang, and begins to aspire to get out of it.

The other main character is Maite, a legal secretary barely getting by on her low salary and barely able to afford food. Her car has been in the shop unclaimed because she cannot afford the mechanics’ bill. She leads a lonely and solitary life, has a very vivid imagination and fantasy world she prefers to inhabit, colored strongly by her love of romance comic books and the music she likes to listen to. Maite’s lovely neighbor, Leonora, asks her to feed her cat while she is away, and when she agreed, Maite unknowingly enters the world of political struggle and upheaval. The riot depicted in the first chapter, that Elvis helps engineer? A friend of Leonora’s has taken pictures that prove that the riot was started by government forces, and those two rolls of film are the McGuffin everyone in the book is after–except poor innocent Maite, who, like any main character in a great Hitchcock film, becomes involved in something life threatening by simply agreeing to feed a neighbor’s cat–something she resents agreeing to do. When Leonora doesn’t come back, Maite starts looking for her–primarily motivated by the fact she can’t afford to keep feeding the car, and Leonora promised her money for feeding it–money she needs to get her car back. Motivated by her own poverty, Maite finds herself getting involved more and more in this clandestine world, and her own life is in danger soon.

The true strength of the book lies in the careful characterizations of both Elvis and Maite; two desperate people trapped by poverty in lives they want to escape, and the parallel journeys they both follow that lead their paths to cross; and the richness of the reality of what life in Mexico City was like during the turbulent time when the book is set. Moreno-Garcia shows us, as she did in Certain Dark Things, what the reality of life is like in one of the world’s largest cities, the reality the tourists rarely, if ever, get a chance to see. And while the hopelessness of both their situations seem unresolvable at times, the pacing is strong and the story construction so tight, and you the readers finds yourself rooting for them both to get out safely.

I really loved this book, and am sorry my inability to focus forced me to take so long to finish reading it. It’s extraordinary, and I recommend it highly.

Ship of Fools

G’morning, Sunday. How’s everyone doing today?

Yesterday was a weird one, beginning with the stunning LSU 49-42 upset of Florida. For the second year in a row, an underachieving LSU team riddled and depleted by injuries, somehow managed to outscore and upset Florida (a third consecutive win over the Gators, no less) that will quiet the complaints about the coaching staff and the team for at least a week–until the Mississippi game on the road this week, followed by a trip to Alabama two weeks later. The game was also ridiculously early–11 am start time–so the game was well over by two thirty, but I was too worn down from the rollercoaster of the game to have much energy to do much of anything else for the rest of the day. Being an LSU fan is a rollercoaster, and sometimes it’s not very fun; but no matter how bad of a season the Tigers might be having, they always manage to somehow beat someone they shouldn’t–for the last two seasons, that has been Florida. As I said to Paul as time ran out yesterday and the Tigers managed to wreck yet another season for the Gators, “No wonder they hate us so much.” That’s three losses for a Gator team that everyone thought would challenge Georgia for the East title, and might even have a shot at beating Alabama during the regular season (they lost by two points)…and they still have yet to play Georgia, who remained undefeated by shellacking an also undefeated Kentucky team yesterday.

I finished reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night at long last (I cannot reiterate how much that has to do with my inability to focus rather than the quality of the book; the book is quite marvelous; a modern take on a historical noir built around events that actually happened) and then moved on to finish watching the rest of Eli Roth’s History of Horror, (I skipped the episodes on body horror and torture porn–no thanks!) before tuning in to see the ridiculous and insane end of the Tennessee-Mississippi game–which people are still talking about today. There were some extremely questionable calls in the LSU game; while there’s no excuse for the way the fans in Neyland Stadium reacted, they were also reacting to an incredibly bad call that was upheld under review (!) that essentially took their chance to win the game away from them. After the incident was over and they were able to finish the final 54 seconds of the game, Tennessee managed to get the ball back with another shot at winning, only to fail in the end.

Today is one of those days where I get to play catch-up. I didn’t get nearly as much done yesterday–once I am ensconced in my easy chair, with the cat in my lap and college football on the television, it’s hard for me to get back up out of it to do anything. I did get the dishes done–still have some to put away–and I didn’t get around to the floors or anything else that I wanted to get done yesterday, which means I have to get to it today. I also need to get some serious writing done today–I am much too far behind, and the clock is ticking on everything–so I also need, once I am finished here and after I write my entry about Velvet Was the Night, to make a to-do list. I still have a lot of filing and organizing to get done as well; which I am hoping to do while I wake up and drink my coffee this morning. I need to make it to the gym at some point today, and I should see what time the Saints game is; oh, look at that, it’s the BYE WEEK, so there’s no reason to turn on the television at all; they also don’t play next Sunday–the next game is on Monday Night Football. So that’s two free Sundays I have ahead of me on the agenda, and this is a lovely, very lovely, thing. In fact, that weekend of the Saints on Monday night is also LSU’s bye week, so again–no need to turn on the television at all that weekend….so I should make that my most productive weekend of the month.

This week is also going to be weird because I have a procedure scheduled for Thursday morning; a way overdue colonoscopy. The saga of the colonoscopy is a long messy one, having to do with insurance issues, out of network charges, and so on. I finally had everything finally sorted and it scheduled last spring…only to have it canceled because of COVID-19 and then the endless attempts to get it rescheduled and out of the way. In a way, my colonoscopy feels almost like a quest for the Holy Grail–alway unattainable, so close sometimes you can almost touch it, but then it skitters away again, out of reach. I’m nervous about it, of course; any kind of medical testing can lead to bad news; any procedure can take am unexpected left turn at any time–not pleasant to consider or think about, really. But it’s always better to know something’s wrong than to go on like nothing is…until you can’t pretend anymore because your health takes a particularly nasty turn. But I am sixty, and I have to stop playing groundhog with my health. My body isn’t young anymore, and while I still feel good and go to the gym on a (fairly) regular basis, I’ve also eaten crap most of my life and have really beaten and battered my body during my younger years. (Teaching aerobics 7-21 hours a week wreaks havoc on your leg joints–and mine weren’t so great to begin with.)

The weather also turned cooler this weekend; dropping into the high sixties over night. The time change is coming soon, as well…autumn is here, clearly, and soon I’ll be leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark, which I hate because it feels like your day has been completely used up and is over by the time you get home. I also have to pick out my next book to read; since my reading has been so off lately I am going to pick out one of my unread Stephen Kings (if someone would have told me thirty years ago that I would have King novels on my shelves I hadn’t read, I would have laughed hysterically in their face) to read in honor of Halloween season; I try to read horror every October. There’s also a Paul Tremblay or two I’ve not gotten to yet as well; if I can get through whichever King I choose before the end of the month (and with a football free weekend coming up shortly, it’s possible) then I will move on to another Tremblay, who’s becoming my current favorite contemporary horror writer very rapidly; the books of his I’ve read still haunt me.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. You have a great Sunday, Constant Reader–will check in with you again later with my thoughts on the Moreno-Garcia novel, and then will check in again on the morrow.

Chains of Love

Thursday morning coming at you like a burning ball of pitch hurled at the city walls from a catapult by the invading Huns.

I did two entries yesterday, neither of which was blatant self-promotion (I know, right?); one was my regular entry for the day and the other was…well, it was a really old entry I started writing a long time ago, about my love for Superman and how that actually began when I was a kid. I never finished the post–there are about thirty post drafts that I will someday finish, even though some of them are now YEARS old–but when the news broke about Superman’s bisexuality this week, I knew it was time to finish it and put it out into the world. I also knew when I read that piece of shit’s post on Medium that I was going to conclude by mentioning it, and taking a few nasty digs at his sorry, pathetic, will-die-alone-and-unmourned self. Was I perhaps more petty and mean-spirited, even perhaps nastier, than I usually allow myself to be on here over the last twelve or so years? Probably. Am I sorry? Not in the fucking least.

I woke up this morning at five, as I am wont to do every morning, and moaned a little softly to myself, well, at least I have another hour before I have to get up and then it hit me: It’s Thursday, fuckwit, you don’t have to get up before the sun comes up today, and thus happily burrowed back into my blankets and went back to sleep for a bit. It was lovely, frankly; I feel very good this morning and very alive and ready to get to it. I have a bunch of trainings I have to do on-line today around the condom packing and the data entry (the data entry website was updated, one of the trainings is on that); there’s laundry to do; files to file and an inbox to empty; Leg Day to get through; and of course the apartment is, as always, an utter disaster area. Typical Thursday, really, when you think about it. Yesterday was actually relatively lovely, for the most part; my piece on my favorite Gothic inspirations went live on Crime Reads’ website yesterday, and received an absolutely lovely response–and the afore-mentioned Superman blog piece I did yesterday also got a lot of attention and shares, which was also very nice. The event with Murder by the Book went well for the wonderful John McDougall, our wonderful host and moderator, and I really enjoyed listening to David R. Slayton talk. (I am reading his White Trash Warlock and really, it’s quite marvelous; do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.) Paul had dinner plans last night with friends, so I had the apartment to myself for most of the evening; by the time he got home we were both already exhausted–doing public things always drains me on all three levels (physical, emotional, intellectual) and so we both went to bed relatively early.

So, Bury Me in Shadows is out into the world, and it really was a nice, somewhat soft, release; one of the things I hate about the business side of being a writer is the self-promotion. I was raised in the worst possible way when you want to become a writer; I don’t know if my reluctance to promote myself and push myself on people is inherent, or if it was something I was trained from childhood to have. I was always told if you do good work, let others decide rather than telling them; if the work is good it will speak for itself. That doesn’t really work in this business, and while I am always comfortable to talk about books and writing publicly, I am not very comfortable with talking about myself or my own work or trying to convince people to read/buy it; I can sort of do that kind of thing on here because, well, it’s written and I am not speaking in front of an audience or for a camera. It’s always difficult, and I never think quickly enough to come up with good answers for the questions. I also tend to ramble and get sidetracked and go off on tangents when I talk–as anyone who has ever had a conversation with me in person can easily and happily attest to–which, when you are sharing the stage with another writer, isn’t a good thing. So, with much thanks to John and Murder by the Book for setting the entire thing up and for hosting, and to David for being so gracious and fun to chat with; and I will add my deepest apologies for my feral self and my incompetence at presenting myself as a competent publishing professional.

I also suppose I am far too old to get better at it, as well.

I also got my copy of Best American Mystery and Suspense Stories 2021, edited by Steph Cha and guest editor Alafair Burke–you know, the one where I am mentioned in the back for my story “The Dreadful Scott Decision” from The Faking of the President, as “other distinguished work”, which is still an enormous thrill (I may still be picking up the book and opening to that page and marveling at the appearance of my name there)–which I am very excited to start dipping into again. My Halloween Horror Month hasn’t exactly worked out the way I had planned; too much other stuff going on, the release of a book, so on and so on and so on–but that’s okay. Things happen, life happens, and things get thrown off track, but I do always believe things work out the way they are supposed to in the end.

And on that note, I am going to get some things done before it’s time for me to start the endless rounds of training courses and meetings I have to attend virtually today. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again on the morrow.

Heavenly Action

I’ve always been—undoubtedly in part because I love history so much—an enormous fan of books where secrets from the past (even the far distant past) play an enormous part in the present lives of the characters in the story, and that solving those mysteries, learning the truth about the past, is necessary in the present for conflict resolution. As a history buff, the lack of a lengthy history as a nation is something I’ve always thought unfortunate; without ancient buildings and the way that history isn’t sort of always there in our faces the way it is in Italy or other older nations, it’s difficult for many Americans to either grasp, be interested in, or give a shit about our history—we have as a nation the attention span of a goldfish (thanks, Ted Lasso, for that reference).

To make a side by side historical comparison, for example, the Habsburg dynasty dominated central Europe for almost six hundred years, whereas the first European to actually arrive and establish a colony were under the aegis and flag of the Habsburg king of Spain—and that was in the early sixteenth century.

Secrets of the past casting a shadow over the lives of the living is often a theme in Gothics, my favorite style of novel/writing (noir is a close second). Rebecca is of course the master class in secrets of the past; the first Mrs. deWinter might not actually be haunting the halls of Manderley literally, but her ghost is definitely there. Victoria Holt’s romantic suspense novels inevitably were set in some enormous old mansion or castle, with potential ghosts a-plenty everywhere you turn. Phyllis A. Whitney’s one novel set in Britain—Hunter’s Green—also has a classic old British mansion with a potential ghost in it. Maybe it was the childhood interest in kids’ series, with the reliance on secret passages, hidden rooms, and proving that ghosts were frauds; every episode of Scooby Doo Where Are You? had the gang proving something supernatural was quite human in origin.

One of my favorite Nancy Drew books when I was a kid was The Ghost of Blackwood Hall; I don’t really remember much of the story now, other than a fraudulent haunting was involved and a woman—Mrs. Putney—was being swindled by a medium? (Reading the synopses on a Nancy Drew website, apparently part of the story involves Nancy and the gang coming to New Orleans, which I absolutely do not remember; my only Nancy Drew-New Orleans memory is The Haunted Showboat—involving yet another haunting. Interesting.) When I was writing the original short story (“Ruins”) I needed a name for the old burned-out plantation house; I decided to pay homage to Nancy Drew by naming it Blackwood Hall, and naming Jake’s maternal ancestor’s family Blackwood (his grandmother was a Blackwood, married a Donelson; Jake has his father’s last name, which is Chapman). I did think about changing this from time to time during the drafting of Bury Me in Shadows, but finally decided to leave it as it was. It might make Nancy Drew readers smile and wonder, and those who didn’t read Nancy Drew, obviously won’t catch it.

Hey, at least I didn’t call it Hill House.

But writing about ghosts inevitably makes one wonder about the afterlife and how it all works; if there is such a thing as ghosts, ergo it means that we all have souls and spirits that can remain behind or move on after we die. So what does writing about ghosts—or writing a ghost story—mean for the writer as far as their beliefs are concerned?

Religion primarily came into existence because ignorant humans needed an explanation for the world around them, combined with a terror about dying. It is impossible for a human mind to comprehend nothingness (whenever I try, I can’t get past “there has to be something in order for there to be nothing, you cannot have nothing unless you have something” and that just bounces around in my head until it starts to hurt); likewise, whenever I try to imagine even the Big Bang Theory, I can’t get past “but there had to be something to explode” and yeah, my head starts to hurt. Even as a kid in church, studying the Old Testament and Genesis, I could never get past “but where did God come from?” I don’t begrudge anyone anything that gives them comfort—unless it starts to impede on me. I’ve studied religions and myths on my own since I was a kid; the commonalities between them all speak to a common experience and need in humanity, regardless of where in the world those humans evolved; a fear of the unknown, and an attempt to explain those fears away by coming up with a mythology that explains how everything exists, why things happen, and what happens when you die. (I am hardly an expert, but theology is an amateur interest of mine, along with Biblical history, the history of the development of Christianity, and end-times beliefs.)

Ghosts, and spirits, have been used since humanity drew art on cave walls with charcoal to explain mysterious happenings that couldn’t be otherwise explained. I am not as interested in malevolent spirits—ghosts that do harm—as I am in those who, for whatever reason, are trapped on this plane and need to be freed. This was a common theme in Barbara Michaels’ ghost stories (see: Ammie Come Home, House of Many Shadows, Witch, Be Buried in the Rain, The Crying Child) in which the present-day characters must solve the mystery from the past; why is the ghost haunting this house and what happened to them that caused them to remain behind? I used this theme—spirits trapped by violent deaths in this plane whose truth must be uncovered in so they can be put to rest—in Lake Thirteen and returned to it with Bury Me in Shadows. I did, of course, worry that I was simply writing the same book over again; repeating myself is one of my biggest fears (how many car accidents has Scotty been in?), but the two books, I think, are different enough that it’s not the same story.

At least I can convince myself of that, at any rate.

There’s a few more ghost stories I want to write, actually; (it also just occurred to me that there was a ghost in Jackson Square Jazz, the second Scotty book) any number of which come from those legends my grandmother used to tell me as a child. I have this great idea for one I’ve been wanting to write set here in New Orleans for a very long time called “The Weeping Nun;” I have the entire ghost’s story written in my head, I just don’t have a modern story to wrap around it (same issue I have with my New Orleans ghost story book, Voices in an Empty Room) and of course there’s “The Scent of Lilacs in the Rain,” a short story about another Corinth County ghost I started writing and got to about five thousand words before the ghost even made an appearance. That great length is why I shelved the story—and now, of course, I realize I can do it as a novella, which is amazing news and life-changing, really. “Whim of the Wind,” the very first Corinth County story I ever wrote, is also kind of a ghost story, and maybe someday I’ll find the key to making it publishable (although I think I already did figure it out, thanks to the brilliance of an Art Taylor short story).

I’ve always believed part of the reason I was drawn so strongly to New Orleans is because the past is still very much a part of the present here—though not so much as we New Orleanians would like to believe, as several Facebook groups I belong to about the history of New Orleans often show how often and rapidly the cityscape has changed over the years—and you can sometimes even feel here, at times, under the right conditions (fog and/or mist are usually involved) like you’ve gone back in time, through a rip in the time/space continuum; which is something I’d actually like to write someday here—but that’s just an amorphous idea skittering through my brain.

And of course, I have an idea for a paranormal series set in a fictional parish here in Louisiana. I think about it every now and again, but am really not sure how I want to do it. I know doing a paranormal Louisiana town series will get me accused of ripping off Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, but that’s fine. I don’t think I would be doing vampire kings or queens or any of the directions Ms. Harris went with her series. (Monsters of Louisiana and Monsters of New Orleans—paranormal/crime short story collections—may also still happen; one never knows, really.)

As hard as it was sometimes to write, I think Bury Me in Shadows turned out better than I could have hoped. I think it captured the mood and atmosphere I was going for; I think I made my narrator just unreliable enough to keep the reader unsure of what’s going on in the story; and I think I managed to tell a Civil War ghost story (it’s more than just that, but that’s how I’ve always thought of it and that’s a very hard, apparently, habit for me to break.

I hope people do read and like it. We shall see how it goes, shall we not?

Love Must Be The Answer

And here we are on Monday again. It was overall a pleasant weekend, really; I love being able to get up without an alarm, whenever I simply decide I’ve had enough of being lazy and lolling about beneath the covers and so forth. I was deeply asleep when the alarm woke up–I was charging the Fitbit, so have on report on how the sleep actually was, but I think it was deep for most of the night. The alarm was definitely invasive and jarring this morning. But I do feel very well rested and awake–even though I do think I could very easily fall right back asleep if I got back into my bed–and that’s a very good sign for a day in which I have a lot of things to get done.

(Incidentally, I did look up what the normal stages of sleep are at night for a good sleep, and I am hitting the percentages properly every night per my Fitbit–who knew you only needed about two hours of DEEP SLEEP and ninety minutes of REM to be and feel perfectly rested the next day, and that those hours of light sleep aren’t, in fact, a bad thing at all? The more you know…)

I went to the gym during the Saints game–it really is much easier on my stress levels and blood pressure to just periodically check in on the score, or to have the game on while I do other things. AND THEY WON! YAY! GEAUX SAINTS! I’m also following Joey Burrow and Cincinnati–I will always be a fan of Joey B–and they lost in overtime, but they don’t seem like the Bengals of old anymore. I think they will be in the Super Bowl within a very few years.

The gym felt marvelous, as it always does once you get past that deeply painful “back-to-the-gym-after-a-break” workout. For the first time in a while yesterday, I noticed in the gym mirrors that my muscles were responding to the working out and were getting pumped up, which was a shock and a pleasant surprise at the same time; as always an extremist, I think my muscles shrink and fade away if I don’t work them out regularly and I forget sometimes that I am actually fairly big in muscle mass…but all I see, of course, is spaghetti arms, drooping moobs, love handles a gang can grasp, and a big belly. I also am enjoying seeing my flexibility slowly coming back from the abyss; I was able to stretch more deeply yesterday than I have in a very long time. Once I get going again and am doing three sets with added weights for several weeks in a row, I am going to add some more exercises and increase the difficulty of the workouts. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it, frankly–although I am going to be missing two weeks in November (two trips planned!).

And yes, I am very excited to be traveling again. I am going to New York for MWA business for a few days, then taking the train to Boston for Crime Bake, a joint event sponsored by MWA’s New England chapter and the local Sisters in Crime chapter. I’ll be going to visit my parents for Thanksgiving, so that will be quite the lengthy drive to and fro; I believe I will listen to books on tape that I will get from the library; and who better to while a lengthy drive away with than Stephen King? I think I’ll listen to Black House on the way up and Dr. Sleep on the way home. That definitely sounds like a plan, does it not?

I’m also going to have to be very careful and keep an eye on my schedule so my writing schedule doesn’t get fucked up by these trips. Deadline is 1/15 for A Streetcar Named Murder; definitely need to keep my eyes on that prize; I am going to start revising the first four chapters this week and hopefully will get the ball going again on that.

I’ve been seeing a lot of hate for Nate the Great from Ted Lasso recently on Twitter, and while I can certainly understand the turn of the audience–what a terrific job they did on this villain origin story–I also kind of understand where Nate is coming from, if that makes sense? Yes, his behavior is shocking, but it’s not unearned and it didn’t come from left field, and kudos of all kinds to the writers for not taking the easy way out with this character. It would have been very easy for Nate, who was so shy and reticent and cowed by being bullied by everyone on the team and his father, to slowly bloom under Ted and Beard’s belief in him, and how the team has not only stopped bullying him but come to accept him as one of them….as I said, that story was easy; all that was left for the icing on the cake was for Nate’s confidence to keep growing and for him to fall in love and so on and so forth; a nice easy audience-pleasing character arc for the poor bullied boy everyone felt sorry for in the beginning. But the underdog we always want to root for isn’t always this nice person being held down by others. Bullying, and being bullied, isn’t really that simple, nor are all the bullied kids lonely and desperate for just a chance, any chance, and once given that chance, blossom into great people and achieve the potential they’ve always had. Being bullied–and I am speaking as someone here who has been bullied, for most of my childhood and some of my early adulthood–has a very toxic effect on the victim. You often wind up hating yourself intensely; after all, they have a reason for bullying you, don’t they? You must deserve what’s happening to you. And when people cut you down and insult you, you always respond in your head, hating them, wishing you had the courage to say something nasty right back to them. You spend your alone time reliving the humiliations and embarrassments, practicing the vicious and nasty things you should have said in response. There’s a lot of anger there, and often, in the narratives we are used to seeing in fiction, that anger never gets resolved; it just magically dissolves away once the bullying ends. I think that the show writers are doing an excellent job of showing how Nate’s character development/arc has run; remember, he has always lashed out angrily when he felt safe enough to do so; and people who are bullied often become bullies themselves; it’s really the only interpersonal interaction they are most familiar with. Nate began coming out of his shell with the encouragement of Ted and Beard and the acceptance from the team; the promotion to coach; and actually being good at soccer. When he began to see Ted and the others no longer applauding him, giving him the attention he believes he has earned and now deserved, that anger that was always there began to curdle within him. The final episode turn didn’t come as a terrible surprise to me; I saw it building all season, really. I applaud them for taking Nate–obviously a fan favorite–and turning him into the antagonist for Season Three.

Although it must be a strange ride for actor Nick Mohammed, who went from being beloved to reviled over the course of twelve episodes.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, everyone.

We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Saturday morning in New Orleans and all is right–for now–in the world. I slept in this morning, which felt great, and while I have some errands to run–mail, drop off a return, make groceries, take books to the library sale–overall I pretty much have the day free. The LSU-Kentucky game isn’t until six thirty, and I don’t have any need to actually watch any of the other games today–although I will undoubtedly have the television on and tuned into said games–but I want to work on cleaning today, getting organized, and potentially doing some writing. I started writing another Blatant Self Promotion (BSP) post for Bury Me in Shadows the other night, and I really would like to get that finished and posted (I had hoped to write a post a day to try to sway you, Constant Reader, into opening your wallet and buying the book, but there’s only so much time in a day and I do need to rest and refresh both body and brain) at some point either today or tomorrow. But the book–and therefore the self-promotion–walk a line that I have to be very careful with, which always makes me nervous. It’s never my intent to ever offend or upset anyone, but my books are my books and my personal politics, values, and beliefs do affect what I choose to write about–and if you’re looking for a conservative point of view (or a white supremacist one) you are definitely buying the wrong books should you buy one of mine.

Yesterday was actually kind of lovely. I did some work, I made some condom packs, and I rewatched a film from the 1970’s that fits both into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival as well as the Halloween Horror Film Festival: Brian de Palma’s The Fury, based on a book by John Farris, which I read at the time (I eventually originally saw the film on HBO; I never rented it nor saw it in the theater). Horror fiction and films made an enormous comeback in the 1970’s; one could see the genre actually achieved never before see heights in that decade. Part of this, naturally, was the publication of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, and the enormously successful, Oscar-nominated film adaptation of it a few years later (still one of the best King adaptations of all time). Both publishing and film responded accordingly, and also in the late 1970’s the one-two punch of Halloween and Friday the 13th took the slasher film to new heights, taking the horror genre along with them. The 1970’s also saw the debut of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, which wound up spawning an enormously successful series of books that completely changed the vampire dynamic in fiction–following the lead of Dark Shadows and making vampires into deeply flawed, romantic heroes. But horror was everywhere in the latter part of the decade (you should really check out Grady Hendrix’ marvelous Paperbacks from Hell, which examines the proliferation of horror titles in the 1970’s and 1980’s, through the window of their cover art), and so, naturally, The Fury–with the same director as Carrie, Brian de Palma–was primarily viewed as a rip-off trying to cash in on the success of Carrie.

But if The Fury is similar to Carrie in some ways, it is much more like Firestarter than any other King work; as I rewatched I kept being reminded of Firestarter and thinking about it (and thinking it, too, was due for a reread). The premise of the film/book is that there is a secret government agency (1970’s paranoia again) tasked with exploring and examining the potential of young people with some psychic gifts, whether it’s ESP, telekinesis, etc., with an eye to weaponizing them as well as advancing science (the government will turn anything into a weapon of war; this moral debate is mentioned very briefly during the film but to no great degree). Kirk Douglas plays the father of an extremely gifted young man, played by Andrew Stevens (which may or may not have been my first exposure to the handsome son of Stella Stevens; he also appeared in a two-part television adaptation of John Jakes’ The Bastard, and I don’t remember which came first. Nevertheless, he was quite handsome and had a terrific, sexy body). The very first scene of the film shows them on the beach somewhere in the Middle East; there’s a terrorist attack and Douglas is the target, but Stevens is kidnapped by the bad guys and Douglas manages to escape, embarking on a lifelong quest to find and rescue his son from these bad guys operating under the aegis of the government (I cannot emphasize how deeply distrust of the government ran in this time, in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam, there was a definite shift in public perception). The movie then switches over to Amy Irving, daughter of wealthy parents attending an extremely exclusive girls’ school in Chicago. Amy (another tie to Carrie) also has powers she doesn’t understand and can’t control; a bully starts harassing her in the cafeteria, and Amy blurts out the girl is pregnant–and the girl starts bleeding from her nose profusely, causing a panic, etc. Amy is then recruited to a school to test her talents–the same people who kidnapped Andrew Stevens, but their end game is never really explained; they’re all just bad guys who work amorphously for the government. Amy and Andrew are somehow connected; being able to see each other’s thoughts and so forth, so Douglas helps her escape from the school and they go looking for Stevens. SPOILERS: Stevens and Douglas finally end up dead, basically killed by the government people–not really, but they are definitely the reason they do–and in the final scene Amy uses her powers to punish the bad guys (again, very similar to Firestarter, which The Fury predates by several years). It’s not a bad movie, per se, but it’s also not a great one; it’s certainly not as engaging as Carrie–and I remember thinking that about the book as well; that it was just a quickly written attempt to cash in on King’s success.

What was interesting–what is always interesting–about watching these old movies is seeing actors who have not yet made it big in bit roles. There were three I picked out in this one: Melody Thomas, yet to become Nikki Newman on The Young and the Restless for decades; Daryl Hannah as one of the bitchy mean girls at the private school Irving attends; and Dennis Franz, playing a cop years before NYPD Blue.

We watched the season finale of Ted Lasso (oh, Nate, you poor broken man) which made us both laugh and cry, as it always does; the show really is a joy and I am rather distraught we have to wait now for the next season, and then a new show on Apple TV called Acapulco. This show is interesting; a wealthy older Latino man is explaining to his nephew his life story; how he came up from nothing to become wealthy, and how it all began with him getting his first job at a ritzy resort hotel in Acapulco called Las Casinas when he was a teenager. The parts with the older man talking to his young nephew are not engaging at all; there’s a mimicry of The Princess Bride with just a hint of the story-telling structure of How I Met Your Mother as well; it didn’t work for me in this instance. But the teenagers working at Las Casinas back in the 1980’s? Very charming, engaging, and likable. We’ll keep watching, but I want to see less of the present and more of the past, which is the show’s true strength.

That’s about it here from the spice mines. I think I’ll have some more coffee and try to get that BSP post finished. Have a great Saturday, Constant Reader!

As Long As You’re There

And now it’s Friday.

I slept very well again last night, which was lovely–I’ve really been getting excellent sleep ever since The Power Came Back On, which is delightful–and I am looking ahead to this lovely weekend with great excitement and joy. The LSU game tomorrow is a night game, at undefeated Kentucky (when was the last time the teams played and KENTUCKY was the undefeated and ranked team of the two? Probably never), so I have tomorrow’s entirety free to get things done, run errands, go to the gym, and essentially do as I please until the game. I also am working at home today, and thus trying to find some horror to watch while I make the condom packs.

I started watching Friday the 13th Part II yesterday, and wasn’t far along into it before it started seeming familiar, like I’d seen it before–and I soon realized that I probably had, last year in October, so I switched it off in disappointment (not really; it was actually quite terrible) and switched over to the final episodes of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which I had not been watching because I was sick to death of Erika Girardi using the show to try to gain sympathy for herself as one of her husband’s “victims.” But I had read a piece somewhere about the show being the “best thing on television right now”, and then I read a piece run recently in the Los Angeles Times, an interview with the three ‘outsiders’ on the show (Garcelle, Sutton, and Crystal) talking about the season and the filming of the lengthy finale, and I thought, swallow your disgust at the behavior of this criminal accomplice and watch. Interestingly enough, the cringe-aspect of watching I was experiencing before taking a break was now gone; and while I still felt a bit squeamish about watching–de facto condoning her behavior by giving them ratings, which will lead to her getting signed for another season, which is again a reward for her terrible behavior–I found myself actually enjoying watching again. I still loathe two members of the cast completely–looking at you, Kyle and Lisa Rinna, and will continue to hope to see them humbled, humiliated and (best case) let go–but I think I can watch again. The show, which the cast had been overly producing for quite some time, kind of had that rigid artifice stripped away from it with the Girardi criminal case; there really was no way they could escape the litigation or comment on the investigations of the growing scandal.

Or maybe I’m not in a really dark place anymore? There’s still something that seems wrong about watching this…but I can’t get to the bottom of it, frankly. I guess I’ll just keeping discussing it here until i get to the bottom of why it feels so wrong.

Who knows? I may never get to the bottom of it.

We got caught up on some of our shows last night–Only Murders in the Building, American Horror Story: Double Feature, and Archer–which was lovely and relaxing. I think it was the last episode of Archer ever; it ended with a tribute to Jessica Walter, and I can’t imagine having the show without her character, so it most likely was. Archer has never been as funny in its later seasons as it was in its earlier ones, alas; and while I appreciated the show’s attempts to keep it fresh by changing things up with seasons devoted to a theme–outer space, becoming a drug cartel, doing a noir Hollywood story–they never quite equalled the humor of the original seasons. Pity. I am also kind of intrigued by the second half of this AHS season; the alien stuff is very strange and weird, even by AHS standards, and I am not really sure where this is going, but it’s holding our interest. Only Murders continues to hold its charm; I had assumed it was rushing to a conclusion, only to have a twist at the end of the latest episode that ensure that no, indeed, the season is not finished quite yet. And we have our other shows to watch this weekend, as well as some movies–Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the very top of the list, of course–and perhaps there are some other shows we can look into on the streaming services. (I really want to check out Stephen Amell’s new wrestling show on Showtime, Heels–which looks like it could be pretty good.)

So, I have some nice plans for the weekend–catching up on things, cleaning, organizing, writing, dropping off books to the library sale–and am really excited about possibly doing the writing part of the to-do list this weekend. I also want to fucking finally finish the book I am reading–which I am not going to name; my inability to stay focused and read lately has been really annoying and I no longer want to even hint at the possibility that I am not finishing the book because it isn’t good because it it very excellent; I may have to finish and then move on to short stories again. Short stories could also work very well for Halloween Horror Month; it never can hurt to dig into Stephen King or Shirley Jackson short stories, and of course Daphne du Maurier’s are often macabre and haunting. So, we shall see. I am going to try to finish the book I’m reading now, possibly reread The Haunting of Hill House, and if my reading focus remains fucked up, move on to short stories.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and will check in with you again tomorrow.