Mr. Disco

Ah, Friday, and the weekend looms on the horizon.

Last night was odd; there was some sort of power problem in our neighborhood–a problem I’ve never experienced anything like before. The living room had power; everything in there worked fine. The upstairs lights? Flickering, and out most of the time. Same with the kitchen and the laundry room; the refrigerator was barely on, and the HVAC wasn’t working at all; and this was only affecting our block. So, so weird–and then around eleven thirty we got all the voltage we could possibly want. I’ve never experienced “low” power before; didn’t even know it was a thing, to be honest. But at least nothing in the refrigerator spoiled–always a plus.

The Edgars went smoothly yesterday, and there were some lovely surprises. All the nominees were deserving–they always are–and it’s always fun to see the excitement of those who get the statue. Obviously, it’s way more fun in person–fingers crossed for next year–and yesterday morning as I made condom packs and broke down expired test kits for biohazard disposal (seriously, my life is just a non-stop thrill ride) I remembered past Edgar ceremonies I attended and deeply enjoyed. I inevitably drink too much–it’s the free wine, always a danger for one Gregalicious–but my favorite ceremony remains the very first one I attended, when I wore a kilt and then took the train with friends the following morning to Washington for Malice Domestic. As I have mentioned before, my memory–once sterling and dependable–is now in tatters, so am trying to remember that first ceremony and evening and am finding it difficult, to be completely honest. I think that was the year Charlaine Harris was MWA president, and Carolyn Hart and Robert Crais were named grand masters, but I could be wrong. I also don’t remember which year Stephen King won for best novel–but it was the year Sara Paretsky was president of MWA, because I have a great picture of the two of them together from the cocktail reception before the ceremony. The third and final time I went–I think I’ve only attended three times–was the year my friend William J. Mann won for Best Fact Crime for Tinseltown. I always enjoy the Edgars and Edgar week activities; missing out on a ceremony the last two years was disappointing. I am hopeful next year we will be able to have it in person again.

Fingers crossed!

I also managed to get deeper into the revision of the book last evening before Paul got home and we settled in for three episodes of season 4 of Line of Duty–and Acorn loaded the fifth season yesterday as well.So, that’s the weekend pretty sorted. I also want to spend some time with The Butcher’s Boy, perhaps even finishing it–so I can dive into my next Mary Russell adventure. I am also currently reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Zimmerman Telegram–and it occurs to me that all the espionage and so forth that went on before the American entry into the first World War between the Germans and Mexico (trying to keep the US occupied and distracted from what was going on in Europe, as well as disrupting the supplying of the Allies) could make for a wonderful “Holmes in New Orleans” story. New Orleans was a major port (still is, actually) and fairly close to Mexico…hmmm. I was also thinking about the banana intrigues–seriously, that is one of the most fascinating times in New Orleans history!

We really are enjoying Line of Duty, which is an interesting take on your typical crime show. The heroes of the stories–each season is relatively self-contained, although there was an over-all arc that tied all the first three seasons together–are an anti-corruption division; so the good guys are cops, but so are the bad guys. It is chilling to see how easy it is for the cops (at least in the show; I don’t know enough to comment on reality) to corrupt and divert an investigation; falsify evidence and so forth; with no concept of how deep and how high up the corruption actually runs. Thandie Newton is the dirty cop in season four, and like the previous villains/guest stars of previous seasons, she is terrific in the role. Can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

Yesterday afternoon as I made condom packs, I watched North Dallas Forty. This is a 1979 film starring Nick Note and Mac Davis (!), and was adapted from Peter Gent’s novel. I had read the novel, but had never seen the movie; it came up on Twitter a week or so ago when someone asked people for the best sports movie (I said Brian’s Song, and stand by my answer). Laura Lippman brought up North Dallas Forty, which made me think of Semi-Tough, another pro football novel and movie from the same period (remember? I tried to reread it and the blatant racism was so horrific I put it in the donate box after rereading the first page?). I’d like to reread the Gent novel–it was very dark; painkillers and drugs and alcohol and rapes and sexual assaults and racism and all kinds of horrible behavior–but unlike Semi-Tough, the Gent took those issues seriously and didn’t try to play them for laughs. The movie takes the same tone as the book–dark–and Nolte is really good as the wide receiver whose years playing have battered and broken his body and left him needing painkilling shots to play and swallowing pain killers to get through the day, and the alcohol and drug abuse. Mac Davis is surprisingly good as his best friend, the quarterback–who eventually betrays him in the end to keep his own contract alive. The game scenes are particularly funny; even in the 1970’s professional football stadiums were better than where these scenes were filmed; the “stadiums” they play in look like high school football fields–and not even the better ones. It definitely fits into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival–it exposes the “team as a family” mentality as the crock that it is, and that the players are all just cogs in a money-making machine for the owners, and the coaches don’t give two shits about their players, either.

I still stick with Brian’s Song as the best sports movie, though.

And on that note, this data isn’t going to enter itself nor are these condoms going pack themselves, so it’s off to the spice mines with me.

Jungle Boogie

Yesterday, much to my delight and astonishment, Raven Award winning mystery reviewer and critic Oline Cogdill included Florida Happens on her annual “best-of” list for 2018. Check it out here, along with some other amazing books.

Being on a list–even merely as the editor of an anthology–with writers like Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott Alison Gaylin, Lou Berney, Jeff Abbott, Alafair Burke, Michael Connelly, and Lori Roy, among so many others, is/was a bit overwhelming. Florida Happens was such a dream project; perhaps one of the easiest open call anthologies I’ve ever worked on (with the caveat that selecting the stories was probably the hardest job; we had such a bounty of riches submitted I could have easily done three fantastic volumes), and all the contributors were dreams to work with, in addition to their exceptional talent and their amazing stories.

It’s also kind of interesting that in a year I sort of dedicated myself to reading and writing more short stories, that the first anthology I’ve done in two years should get such an honor, and it is an honor.  I am still shaking my head in disbelief, but this is a credit to the fantastic stories my contributors wrote. Brava, one and all. (They also were ALL dreams to work with; completely professional and utterly reliable.)

So, here’s another short story I read recently, “From the Queen” by Carolyn Hart, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Annie Darling shivered as she sloshed through puddles. Usually she stopped to admire boats in the marina, everything from majestic ocean-going yachts to jaunty Sunfish. On this February day, she kept her head ducked under her umbrella and didn’t spare a glance at gray water flecked with white caps and a horizon obscured by slanting rain. She reached the covered boardwalk in front of the shops, grateful for a respite. She paused at the door of Death on Demand, shook her umbrella, and inserted the key.

The chill of the morning lessened as she stepped inside her beloved bookstore. In her view, Death on Demand was the literary center of the small South Carolina sea island of Broward’s Rock. She tipped the umbrella into a ceramic stand, wiped her boots on the welcome mat, and drew in the scent of books, old and new. She clicked on the lights, taking pleasure from the new book table with its glorious array of the best mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels of the month.

I was more than a little surprised–yet pleased–to see Carolyn Hart’s name in the TOC of this volume. She is certainly, if not the queen, a member of the royal court of the cozy mystery. I don’t recall reading Hart before–I do remember meeting her at my one appearance at Malice Domestic; I think we may have even been on a panel together–but she absolutely charmed me with her generosity of spirit and kindness. I’ve always meant to read her work–again, a most prodigious back-list–and have several of her works on my shelves and TBR piles…yet “From the Queen” is my first (I believe) experience reading any of her work.

More’s the pity, too, as this story is carefully and meticulously crafted, completely believable, and her characters drawn so fully, deftly, and completely that I felt I knew them as well as most of my real-life friends and acquaintances. At the center of Hart’s story is an exceptionally rare book–a first edition of Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie that is not only signed but inscribed to the Queen of England (Mary of Teck, grandmother to the current Queen and wife to George V), which only makes it even more valuable. It is come into the hands of a friend of Annie’s, someone who is financially struggling and has no idea of its worth (bless her heart, she thinks it might be worth a hundred dollars) and is quite overwhelmed when Annie delicately tells her that it is not only worth much more than that, but so valuable as to be life-changing. The book is stolen, and it’s up to Annie to figure out who the thief is and get the book back for her poor friend. Wonderful, just wonderful.

And like Elizabeth George did in her story in this volume, Hart liberally sprinkles call-outs to many terrific writers and their books throughout the story, showing off not only her impressive knowledge of the genre but how much she loves it.

That only added to the story’s value for me, but I loved it regardless. Perhaps it’s time to move Ms. Hart higher up in the TBR pile, for certain.

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