Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Man Behind Bond

Today is the hundredth anniversary of James Bond creator Ian Fleming's birth. Sandra Parshall of Poe's Deadly Daughters ponders Bond's enduring charm.

I commented:

I discovered James Bond with the movies. Though admittedly uneven, they set a standard for big-budget globe-trotting action that's still followed today. I also appreciate how most of the movies manage to convey sex appeal while keeping a PG rating.

The Bond books were some of the first I read for pleasure, and I found a character more serious and more vulnerable than in many of the movies.

I think Timothy Dalton's Bond was closest to Fleming's intent, and his two movies (THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, LICENCE TO KILL) brought a seriousness and realism to the franchise that hadn't been seen since early Connery.

I think James Bond has endured because he appeals to the enduring fantasies of men and women. He's a sexy character who, when not living dangerously, gets to indulge in the finest life has to offer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pause to Reflect

It's 5:16 the morning after Memorial Day. The house is full but quiet. Much as I've had to adjust to kids running, using my computer or watching DVDs, I've also relished the chance to be with family. Sure, the young'uns aren't into detective fiction or poetry. Maybe they wonder why "Uncle George" doesn't go to an office or go out more often, but maybe they'll get it someday. Meanwhile I'm reminded not everyone can see the work behind art, but the rewards to my soul make other pursuits pale in comparison.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Just back from the 12:01 show at the Court Square Cinemas in Brooklyn.

In 1957, Indy is kidnapped and forced to lead the Russians to a crystal skull and a legendary city of gold. He escapes with the help of motorcycle-riding Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) who has ties to Indy's professor friend Harold Oxley (John Hurt), himself driven mad by exposure to the skull.

When Indy and Mutt find Oxley, they also find Marion Ravenwood. Unfortunately both Ox and Marion have been captured by the Russians. A series of chases and narrow escapes ensues.

I was concerned I would compare every aspect of this movie to the previous three. I had read headlines calling it "charmless" and "a mess." There was a lot of action, some of it scattered, but also enough charm and homage to the series that I sat back and enjoyed Skull as a bonus for Indy fans.

My favorite exchange:

Indy, Marion, and Mutt argue while riding in a Russian truck.

There must have been women after me.

There were a few, but they all had the same problem.

What was that?

They weren't you, honey.

MUTT rolls his eyes.

MARION smiles, smitten.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

DVD: JAG Season 6

The Season 6 set includes no extras, but does feature several of my favorite episodes presented in glorious widescreen:

"Flight Risk" - Harm investigates whether a crash that killed two Naval aviators was caused by upgrades done by a private contractor.

"A Separate Peace" - Up for a plum command, Adm. Boone (Terry O'Quinn) is accused of a war crime dating back to Vietnam.

"Touch and Go" - Caitlin Pike's (Andrea Parker) return to JAG Headquarters leads to a sexual harrassment case against her former CO.

"Iron Coffin" - Harm is torn between duty and his friendship with Russian Capt. Volkonov (Alex Kuznetsov) when a Russian submarine explodes with a U.S. submarine in its baffles.

"To Walk on Wings" - A timely case involving a mishap aboard an Osprey helicopter.

"Past Tense" - Harm must look into the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lt. Cmdr. Jordan Parker (Susan Haskell)

and Part 1 of "Adrift" - Rushing home for Mac's wedding, Harm is forced to eject and gets lost at sea.

Reaper: "Cancun"

While hunting a fortune-telling soul, unsuspecting Sam helps Tony build an underground cage where he and his father (Andrew Airlie) are trapped. In other news, Sock gets it on with a succubus, but blows it when he tries to share her with Ben.

The most compelling aspect of the season finale were the lies between Sam and his parents. What exactly was their deal with The Devil? Is The Devil Sam's real father? I'm glad we have a shot to find out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"How's it sit?"

The pending publication of my poem "Grandpa's Mythology" in Red Fez made me think of the above line from Jayne Cobb upon receiving a gift from his mother.

Red Fez will also be reprinting "Night School", the poem that launched my freelance career.

NCIS: "Judgment Day"

At a retired agent's funeral, Director Shepard intercepts an old codename linked to a ten-year-old mission in Russia. Misleading DiNozzo and David and then refusing their help, Jenny takes on the responsibility of protecting herself and Gibbs from an unknown assailant.

As the show had hinted at Jenny's death since the end of the writer's strike, her murder was not the big shocker of the episode; that came when new director Vance informed Tony, Ziva, and McGee they were being reassigned and presented Gibbs with the dossiers for his new team.

So things are about to get interesting. I just hope the shakeup works better on NCIS than it did on House.

House: "Wilson's Heart"

A recording error cost me much of Part 1 of the House finale, but I caught on pretty quick with Part 2. The usually uncompromising House bends over backwards to respect Wilson's wishes in the wake of Amber's trauma, going so far as to electroshock himself into lucidly remembering the details of the night leading up to the bus crash.

I don't think this season entirely worked—bringing in dozens of candidates while Cameron, Chase, and Foreman hovered like phantoms—but I have to praise the writers for ultimately making me care about Amber.

Bones: "The Pain in the Heart"

I didn't get into the season-long Gormogon killer arc, but that may be because the season was interrupted. More interesting to me, the finale started with everyone except Brennan planning to attend Booth's funeral. As always, Brennan/Deschanel manages to sound spoiled and utterly practical at the same time. I didn't know where Booth was or what shape he was in until the camera caught him in uniform. I think they could have played the possibility of Booth's death for even more drama (He's shot badly enough to go into shock, and two weeks later he's fully mobile with only a patch to show for it?) but anyway, episode writers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan hinted at and hid the identity of Gormogon's apprentice well. As often as it's been done, you don't expect the character who takes the hardest hit near the beginning to be the killer. In the end, the apprentice showed the typical traits of a weak personality seduced by a stronger one. Still, I wouldn't have believed the character could be seduced.

UPDATE - SPOILER (5/21/08): In an interview with TV Guide, Eric Millegan revealed he had no plans to leave Bones; Zack's turning killer was purely a creative decision to make a more dramatic end of the season.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Now that's casting

Tricia Helfer voiced Spidey paramour Black Cat in the latest episode of The Spectacular Spider-man.

Shifting Gears: A Flash Fiction Challenge

Patti Abbott came up with this one:

Write a story 750 words or less incorporating the sentence, "With gas prices rising, their plans had to change."

You may cast the sentence in first- or second-person if you like:

"With gas prices rising, our plans had to change." or "With gas prices rising, your plans had to change."

Post your story on your blog or website on June 15, 2008. Sign up for the event by leaving a comment with your URL. Good luck to all.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another Asinine Acceptance

Four of my poems, two old and two new, will appear in The Journal of Asinine Poetry in the coming months.

A Meme About Various Things

The tag: (from Patti Abbott)

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

A Meme about Various Things

What were you doing ten years ago?

Finishing my Master's in Creative Writing at Queens College.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?

Answer this meme, attend Mass, eat, edit, read.

What are some snacks you enjoy?

Abuelita tortilla chips, granola, raisins, dried apricots.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

Buy the New York Knicks and hire Jerry West as my GM.

What are five places where you have lived?

Queens and Long Island are it, really. I spent three weeks in Baton Rouge in 1991. Does that count?

What are five jobs you have had?

Teacher, editor, writer, H.S. volleyball team manager, H.S. basketball team manager.

What were the last five books you read?

Check my blog.

What are five web sites you visit daily (in no particular order)?

Crimespot, The Rap Sheet, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, IMDb, Crimespree Cinema

Tag 5 People

Dave White

Saturday, May 17, 2008

One small step for man

I recently decided not to renew my subscriptions to Writer's Digest and The Writer magazines. The former has always seemed more commercial and basic to me. The latter is more craft-centered but still perennially offers 8 Steps to Better Screenwriting, 10 Ways to Make Your Characters Come Alive. More experienced writers might appreciate the reminders, but that's all they are. You have to navigate a large part of writing on your own. At the very least, writers have to take a formula (10 Steps to Etc.) and make it seem organic.

Frankly, another reason I didn't renew was to free up cash. $81 isn't much over three years, but renewing every three years is a great temptation. Giving up two magazines, I can subscribe to two others more focused on what I write for pay and read for enjoyment. How-to magazines are useful for tracking trends, but so are fiction and poetry magazines.

My biggest subscriptions currently are Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and Poets & Writers.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Smallville: "Arctic"

Knowing of Michael Rosenbaum's and Kristin Kreuk's departures and Allison Mack's possible departure, there wasn't much drama left to be played in last night's season finale. The biggest surprise to me was Brainiac's masquerading as Kara while the real Super Cuz was trapped in the Phantom Zone.

The episode ends in a climactic Lex-Clark battle with the Fortress of Solitude crashing down around them. Does anyone doubt how that turns out?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Come on, genius."

Three Font friends and I have Fandan-gone tickets to a 12:01 AM showing of Indiana Jones and the Et Cetera, Et Cetera on May 22.

Justine Henin Retires

The AP reports on No. 1-ranked Henin's abrupt, immediate retirement from tennis. This surprises me from someone so dedicated and ambitious as Henin. On the other hand, she may have been such a perfectionist that she couldn't accept less than the best from herself.

NCIS: "About Face"

Preparing to cart a body away from a crime scene, M.E.'s assistant Jimmy Palmer catches sight of the killer. Gibbs and his team spend the episode helping Palmer piece together the man's likeness and identity. I enjoyed this believable look into Palmer's character.

The promo for next week's season finale, "Judgment Day", asks the classic question, "Who will survive?" I haven't seen a finale in recent years in which the tension wasn't jacked up tenfold from the episode before. It feels false, and yet I guess it's a necessary evil dictated by network schedules.

Reaper: "The Leak"

Sam pursues a lothario soul who has swayed Gladys to his side to keep from being sent back to hell. Meanwhile Tony looks for a loophole to save Sam's soul, but by the end of the episode Tony and friends suspect Sam is The Devil's son. This might explain why Sam's father was ripping pages out of his contract and burning them earlier this season. I suspect the underlings are wrong again, but we'll see next week.

Some of my enthusiasm about the 13-episode renewal has cooled. Nikki Finke criticizes CW exec Dawn Ostroff, writing among other things, "A sexed-up Reaper with relationship problems makes no sense for midseason."

The show could be cancelled before it airs in midseason, and if not, what are its chances for a third season? There could also be cast or concept changes ala Lois & Clark's second season emphasis on super-feats over a quirky relationship. Too much worry about the future, perhaps. Come to think of it, I should be grateful something I enjoy airs at all, for however long. You can't take the sky from me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TV Deathwatch

ABC has cancelled Women's Murder Club and Miss/Guided.

CBS has cancelled Moonlight and Shark.

FOX has cancelled Back to You, New Amsterdam, and Canterbury's Law.

Reaper Fans, Rejoice! reports The CW has picked up Reaper for 13 episodes next season.

Bones: "The Wannabe in the Weeds"

This was an okay episode, but one of the plot twists was painfully trumped up. Looking into an aspiring singer's death, Booth unwittingly attracts the attention of a woman obsessed with the victim. Sure enough, the woman fixates on Booth, who doesn't take her seriously at all and in the end gets shot for it. So heading into next week's season finale, Booth is clinging to life.

Twists like this are best when in retrospect they seem unavoidable. I couldn't believe Booth simply brushed off a woman he so recently believed capable of murder. I couldn't believe observant, instinctual Agent Booth neither saw the woman was zeroing in on him nor took more action to stop her.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Before you mail that letter...

Remember, as of today, U.S. First Class postage up to one ounce costs 42 cents.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mike D'Antoni?

Mike D'Antoni, late of the Phoenix Suns, has reportedly agreed to a four-year $24 million deal to coach the Knicks. I don't know what to make of this move yet. I'll have to see what kind of players are brought in.

Thanks, Mom.

My mother was a pioneering pediatric surgeon in the Philippines who gave up her career without hesitation to raise my brother and me as we emigrated to the U.S. and my father continued his practice. I was a very self-motivated child, and while my father encouraged me to do as much as I could, my mother was always concerned for my safety. It made for a good parenting mix.

At the same time, if my father denied me something, I knew I couldn't go around him to my mother. They were together on all the big issues. Both were taken aback when I said I wanted to be a writer/teacher. It was a path no one in our family had taken, but for the most part, my mother trusted my judgment, including which colleges to attend, and when to stop schooling and start writing.

My writing output has spiked the past five years and surprisingly my mother has become one of my best readers. Though I haven't made enough money to buy her a great Mother's Day gift, I'm glad she's seen my talent develop.

Turn that tassel

AP: Vanessa Williams receives diploma

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Vanessa Williams has received her bachelor of fine arts degree from Syracuse University, nearly 25 years after she dropped out to become the first black Miss America.

The 45-year-old actress-singer, who stars in ABC's "Ugly Betty," also delivered the convocation address Saturday to graduates of Syracuse's College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

National Train Day

Trains are especially important to me, a Long Islander without a car. Other commuters like to read, listen to music, or watch DVDs on the train. I'm too caught up in watching the great cross-section of people, wondering what their plans are.

Friday, May 09, 2008

AP: Maid Marion: Karen Allen is thrilled over `Indy' return


LOS ANGELES - Nothing ever seems to change in the stormy love-hate relationship between Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood.

The characters created by Harrison Ford and Karen Allen in 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" are back at it with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," due out May 22.

"As the film begins, they haven't seen each other for a long time, and suddenly, they're thrust back together," Allen told The Associated Press this week. "They kind of pick up from where they left off. A few bumpy roads have passed between them since then that they have to work out with each other."

Allison Mack Leaving Smallville?

TV Guide rounds up the rumors.

The show is on its last legs as is. It might be best to let everything end with next week's season finale. I recall that Catherine Bell had signed on for an eleventh season of JAG and Lois & Clark was picked up for a fifth season, neither of which happened.

Selfishly, if the show ended, The CW would have more reason to pick up Reaper.

Forgotten Book Friday: Bill Granger

Though I officially passed to Jim Winter last week, I wanted to mention a favorite author I had lost for more than ten years. In the late 1970s Chicago reporter Bill Granger started a series of well written, well researched books about American spy Peter Devereaux (The November Man).

Through 1993's Burning The Apostle, Granger plausibly portrayed an aging protagonist. In 2005, Pierce Brosnan signed to play Devereaux in a November Man movie, and I blogged about Granger, finding a comment that he'd suffered a stroke in 2003 that robbed him of most of his memories. He had been committed to a veteran's home where, as of 2007, he still lived.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why do we read crime fiction?

Quoting the following from Dorothy L. Sayers:

"The art of self-tormenting is an ancient one, with a long and honourable literary tradition. Man, not satisfied with the mental confusion and unhappiness to be derived from contemplating the cruelties of life and the riddle of the universe, delights to occupy his leisure moments with puzzles and bugaboos. The pages of every magazine and newspaper swarm with cross-words, mathematical tricks, puzzle-pictures, enigmas, acrostics, and detective-stories, as also with stories of the kind called `powerful' (which means unpleasant), and those which make him afraid to go to bed."

Detectives Beyond Borders's Peter Rozovsky asks:

Sayers' 79-year-old observation may provide fresh insight into contemporary crime stories and why we read them. Does it? To what extent do her observations still hold?

I commented:

I think Sayers' observation speaks to fiction readers' desire to experience something beyond their daily routine. There are any number of reasons we read crime fiction, but I think the main one is to play at being the hero or villain, to consider what we'd do in the same situations.

A "Literary" Licence to Kill?

Responding to author Sam Jordison's Guardian blog post on the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth, The Rap Sheet's Linda L. Richards writes:

Later in the piece, though, Jordison loses me--and possibly you--when he says that “just like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett before him, Fleming is slowly being adopted into the literary fold.”

The Bond books were often fun, the storytelling competent, and a few really good films have been based on those tales. But let’s face it, folks, as a writer Fleming was never in the same league as Chandler and Hammett.

I commented:

In the books that established his reputation, Fleming portrayed Bond as a very believable, well rounded character. That's all I can ask of any writer. It was the movies, for the most part, that stretched plausibility and turned Bond into a caricature.

Some of Fleming's books are better than others. That's true of Chandler and Hammett, too.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Reaper: "Greg, Schmeg"

After the premiere episode of Reaper, I hoped Sam would progress somehow, not be doomed to fight the freak-of-the-week because his future was written. Last night's episode, like most of the series, delivered.

Andi's ex-boyfriend Greg sells his soul for mind control over Andi, and The Devil transforms Greg's pent-up rage into a chainsaw killer. At first, Sam is tempted to kill Greg, simply remove the threat. Then he learns the Devil has no power over true love. After Andi assures Sam she loves him he's able to look past his animosity. He uses his Get-Out-of-Hell-Free card to get Greg off the hook.

All of this is played very naturally, with a minimum of moralizing. Sam is turning out to be quite a foil for Old Scratch.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stark Raving

I've snapped up the Iron Man soundtrack by Ramin Djawdi and the novelization by Peter David.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Just back from watching Iron Man with my friend John. We agree it's one of the best superhero movies ever. Robert Downey Jr. makes you care about Tony Stark as a flawed man trying to atone for past mistakes. His natural delivery makes the jokes better and steers the emotional moments away from melodrama. In short, you hang on his every word. The supporting cast (Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard) likewise bring the full weight of their talents to their roles.

Despite major star power, Iron Man features the attention to detail more common to pet projects. It's the rare superhero movie that raises the bar.

Be sure to stay through the end credits.

Fear Itself pulls a Psych

Psych stars James Roday and Maggie Lawson will appear in an episode of NBC's upcoming horror-suspense anthology series Fear Itself. As described by

"In Sickness and in Health" stars Lawson as a new bride who receives a note on her wedding day claiming that her husband-to-be (Roday) is a serial killer.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


At 6:23 P.M. on Friday, May 4, 2001, my father passed away from pancreatic cancer. He was 66. On July 25, 1995, a cancerous portion of his pancreas was successfully removed, and we were all well aware how close to death he'd come. We were able to make the most of the time we had, to accept the possibility and reality of his death more readily when it happened.

My mother, his sister, my brother, and I were all present when my father breathed his last. I had stopped praying for a miraculous recovery and simply prayed for an end to his pain, accepting that it could come in death.

As a practicing Catholic, I celebrated the Lord's Ascension this past week. The idea of fulfilling one's purpose and moving on is fresh in my mind. Some relatives are in from the Philippines for my cousin's wedding at the end of May, and we'll probably visit the cemetery where my father's body is buried. Before he died, my father told us not to visit often. For us, his family, his soul left his body with that last breath.

I think of my father often. I remember the arguments we had and the quiet moments when neither of us had words for what we felt. At the very least, death is the end of earthly existence, and so end all our flaws, every misinterpretation that leads to miscommunication. I have nothing but love for my father, and I believe he can feel it fully. If I'm somehow cosmically wrong, it's enough that I feel it and allow it to make me a better person.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

MacGyver Following Indy Again?

On the heels of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a childhood friend of MacGyver's roped him into a quest for the Holy Grail ("Legend of the Holy Rose"). With Indy's first film adventure in nineteen years just weeks away, MacGyver creator Lee David Zlotoff lets slip his plans for a film. Join me in calling for the casting of Richard Dean Anderson. There can be only one.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Michael Rosenbaum Leaving Smallville files this report, but Smallville fans knew of Rosenbaum's plans to leave before Season 7 began.

"I hope that I gave you some enjoyment over the years, and that you found my portrayal of Lex Luthor to be satisfying," [Rosenbaum's] statement says.

To me, Lex was the best thing about Smallville while Tom Welling was gaining experience. More interesting than Clark's coming of age was Lex's descent into true evil. You can't have Lex and Clark battling very long before it gets old, but there is no equal to Lex as a foil.

The eighth season will probably be the last, and the only thing more I want to see is Clark and Lois growing closer, building the chemistry they'll have in the future as rival reporters who fall in love.

2008 SMFS Derringer Awards

As voted by the Short Mystery Fiction Society:

"My Hero" by Patricia Abbott
Published in DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash

BEST STORY, 1001 to 4000 WORDS:
"In the Shadows of Wrigley Field" by John Weagly
Published in The Back Alley

BEST STORY, 4001 to 8000 WORDS:
"The Gospel According to Gordon Black" by Richard Helms
Published in The Thrilling Detective

BEST STORY, 8001 to 17500 WORDS:
"Paper Walls/Glass Houses" by Eric Shane
Published in The Back Alley

Congratulations to the winners. We at Thrilling Detective are pleased to have published one of them.

Friday Books You Have to Read

Patti Abbott tagged me to recommend a book that deserves more attention. Given my particular affection for short stories, the first book that came to mind was Spadework by just-named MWA Grandmaster Bill Pronzini. Pronzini's decision not to name his protagonist precluded him from building a reputation on attitude as too many fictional PIs have. As familiar as Nameless has become over the years, what jumps to mind about Pronzini's work is storytelling skill, and this 1996 collection from Crippen & Landru features every flavor of story.

I'd also like to recommend the Collected Poems of 2004 U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Justice. As with Pronzini, Justice's range and genuine voice appeal to me. As Pronzini helps me remember what a story is, Justice helps me remember what a poem is, equally invaluable to a working writer.

I pass this project on to Jim Winter for next Friday.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

BURN Gets Notice!

Matt Nix has won the 2008 Edgar for Best Teleplay for Series Episode for the Burn Notice pilot.

Smallville: "Apocalypse"

Smallville's 150th episode, a spin on It's a Wonderful Life, has Jor-El showing Clark what the world would be like if Kal-El never made it to Earth. In the alternate world, Clark is more driven than we've ever seen in the series, finally willing to act when he must. I just hope more of it translates to the show's regular reality.

Question: In the alternate world, Jonathan and Martha Kent have a biological son named Clark. How is it Classic Clark is able to go around saying he is Clark with no one disputing him?

Bigger Question: Granting that Clark and Kara can go back to past Krypton through the Fortress of Solitude, how is grown Clark able to put baby Kal-El on the ship to Earth? Isn't there a temporal principle prohibiting that?

Still, kudos to writers Al Septien and Turi Meyer and director Tom Welling.

If You Must Know

I've added a Twitter widget to the right sidebar. In addition to hourly updates from this blog and Chatterrific, you can get a sense of what I'm doing in the moment—reading, watching TV, exercising. If it gets too boring, I'll remove it.