Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Kevin Burton Smith posted the Spring '09 issue of Thrilling Detective last night, featuring the original stories "Love is For Suckers" by Robert Petyo, "Terra Bella" by Robert Stevens, and "Love Don't Mean a Thing" by Jim Winter, and the usual plethora of good stuff. A little late for Valentine's Day, but then love is a timeless motive.

NCIS: "Legend, Part One"

This episode opens with the NCIS: OSP team in Los Angeles tracking a Marine meeting with an arms dealer. Said Marine slips their surveillance and, after the credits, turns up dead in D.C. Gibbs and McGee go to L.A. to aid OSP's investigation, while Tony concerns himself with Ziva's strange behavior the past two days.

I'm not sure what to make of Part One. It wasn't as different from NCIS as NCIS was from JAG. We meet the new cast, two of whom have history with Gibbs, but neither history is explained in much detail. Part Two will supposedly go into that.

The transition from JAG to NCIS was helped by the recognizability of Mark Harmon and David McCallum. OSP has LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell, but neither has had time to really distinguish himself. More next week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On Walkabout

New York has had three or four days of summery weather, so instead of blogging I've been out walking and generally exercising more. My computer time has been devoted to The Lineup: Poems on Crime, not only publishing our second issue on Lulu, but also shopping both issues to independent bookstores around the country.

Last week I revised my seventh C.J. Stone story, "Artifacts", to be published this July in Beat to a Pulp. In the meantime, I just might write an eighth story.

Today marks nine years in existence for my contempory P.I. fiction discussion list, DetecToday, and while it does feel like nine years, I wouldn't trade a day of it.

Tonight or tomorrow I'll post about Part 1 of the NCIS spinoff backdoor pilot.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Smallville: "Stiletto"

Starved for a hot story and a way to draw out the Red-Blue Blur, Lois creates her own superhero identity after saving Chloe from a carjacker. She's in over her head when said carjacker happens to be connected to Bruno Manheim and the beginnings of Intergang.

This episode had lots of Lois and Clark friendly rivalry, very nuanced and foreshadowy dialogue, and well drawn subplots for Chloe and Jimmy. I especially liked Lois in full Stiletto garb having to crash through a skylight to save Clark, who was trapped near a kryptonite-powered counterfeit press and getting the crap kicked out of him to boot. Then, still weak, Clark lunges in front of a bullet to save Lois.

Wrapping up, Lois finally gets a call from the Blur (Clark using a voice-changer), and their conversation is so full of good stuff, it would have made a great series finale.

But of course, it's not.

I'm no longer surprised to learn my favorite episodes are written by Caroline Dries.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

storySouth's Notable Stories of 2008

Released April 19, the list includes two Thrilling Detective stories: "The Truth About Lang Tri" by Robert Petyo and "Lady Luck" by J. Winter.

The list will be narrowed to ten stories announced May 15, and a popular vote on those will decide the winner of the Million Writers Award.

My thanks to the preliminary judges. Congratulations and good luck to the nominees.

Chuck: "Chuck Versus The Colonel"

Against Gen. Beckman's orders, Chuck and Sarah continue the search for Chuck's father. From Fulcrum's underground complex, Steve Bartowski (Scott Bakula) monitors Chuck and Sarah's progress while the newly promoted Lt. Col. Casey is ordered to bring them in dead or alive.

I was never very fond of the Buy More portion of the show, and now that the adventure has become really compelling, it's obvious how much the Buy More scenes slow the show down. Steve is apparently finally able to stop Chuck's flashes, but as with most second-to-last episodes of the season, the Big Bad survives for one last round.

It's a shame I'll miss it watching The Big Bang Theory next week

Monday, April 20, 2009


Charlotte Maughton hires burned-out "private researcher" Fernández Britten to find the truth behind her fiancé's apparent suicide, leading him down a trail of family secrets reminiscent of Ross Macdonald and Robert Towne. The book description from Henry Holt calls Britten's partner Stewart Brulightly "unconventional," which didn't give me the first clue he was a teabag. Upbeat and raunchy of humor, Brulightly balances Britten's world-weary doggedness.

The plot will be familiar to crime fiction fans, but its presentation is what's truly original here. A mature graphic novel drawn in the style of a children's book, its finish is as noir as it gets. I look forward to more from Berry, but something tells me she won't cover the same ground twice. On sale since March 17th.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

C.S.I.: "A Space Oddity"

The only other time I've watched C.S.I. was when Liev Schreiber subbed four episodes for William Petersen. I can't watch the glow-in-the-dark, blue-washed look of everything on a regular basis, but I had to watch "A Space Oddity" as a Trekkie. Hodges and Wendy bump into each other at WhatIfItCon, where the star of Astro Quest is murdered. I'm sure I didn't catch all the nods to Star Trek and other sci-fi shows, but Hodges' Astro Quest fantasies about Wendy were funny and easy to relate to.

It also reminded me fondly of Mr. Monk in Outer Space by Lee Goldberg.

Raymond Chandler and the Surprising Metaphor

Detectives Beyond Borders' Peter Rozovsky is reading Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely and praising the writer's use of figurative language. He asks, "Is surprise the key to vivid description and successful metaphor?"

I don't believe it is. As often as not, extended metaphor and quirky description can distract readers from the image the writer means to present. I think it's more important to deliver a clear picture than one that is surprising or unnecessarily embroidered. Figurative as metaphors are, it's easy to get carried away using them. They should be controlled to lead readers to the intended mental image. One shouldn't use figurative language simply for style or surprise. Some of Chandler's metaphors and similes are great, but their overall impact is diluted by how often he used them.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bones: "Mayhem on a Cross"

When an American skeleton is discovered at a death metal concert in Norway, the Norwegian authorities decide to hand off to the Jeffersonian, where Brennan, Booth and friends take up the investigation. This episode is most notable for the reappearance of Stephen Fry as retiring FBI psychologist Gordon Wyatt. Until the midpoint of this season, I had felt Dr. Sweets was a poor substitute for Dr. Wyatt, and in this episode Wyatt manages to tear Sweets down and build him up, all while maintaining an endearing charm.

Wyatt was not-so-subtly annointing Sweets, but I'd enjoy seeing him again in his new culinary career.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"What are you looking at, mister?"

Today on Poe's Deadly Daughters, Sandra Parshall ponders TV's fantasy image of female cops. I commented:

I'm generally not into cop shows, but I agree that many of the female cops on TV seem to dress too provocatively for the job. If they dressed more professionally, their beauty would still come through, in my opinion.

A few portrayals I have enjoyed:

Elisabeth Rohm as Det. Kate Lockley on "Angel", back when Shawn Ryan worked on the show. Ryan went on to create FX's "The Shield".

Sasha Alexander as Special Agent Kate Todd on "NCIS". She was undeniably attractive, but dressed conservatively, and never failed to call the men on their sexist remarks.

Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane on "Lois & Clark". Not a cop, of course, but the same sort of professionalism is expected of journalists. Hatcher is also quite attractive, but in the first season of the show, Lois didn't seem to go out of her way with makeup, hair, dress, or shoes. She wore what made sense and looked real.

In subsequent seasons, after show developer Deborah Joy Levine left, Lois's outfits were silver, purple, fluorescent orange—an obvious attempt to make her look more "comic book".

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Superman is the Man of Steel..."

...but he ain't no match for a Navy SEAL.

As a teenager, I wanted to write spy fiction, to create a character as loved as James Bond, and somewhere along the line I decided he should be a Navy SEAL, framed for a crime he didn't commit, who faked his death and became a spy...

And then I read about "Mr. Clark," Tom Clancy's former Navy SEAL-turned-spook, and decided to shelve my guy for good. Of course, if I didn't enjoy writing those first stories, I wouldn't be writing now, but I'm embarrassed to even mention my character's name.

What I don't regret is my research into the SEALs. They are not the mavericks of much fiction. Teamwork is at the heart of SEAL training. The precise work of small squads sets "SpecWarriors" apart from conventional forces. They guard against and regret wasting even one bullet.

When I heard "Navy snipers" had rescued Capt. Richard Phillips, I soberly reported the news to extended family over for Easter. While they cheered, as I'm sure many Americans have, I imagined the SEALs' mindset and doubted they took any joy in having to use deadly force.

I salute them.

Castle: "Always Buy Retail"

In this, my new favorite episode of Castle, we meet his ex-wife Meredith (Darby Stanchfield). I thought she might be the grounded one, passing that demeanor on to Alexis. Instead, she's an actress, with whom Castle has great bedroom chemistry, but whose whimsy makes him seem positively responsible.

After a night of dalliance with Meredith, Castle helps Beckett find out why a woman was murdered. Leverage's Aldis Hodge played one of the suspects, pulling off a convincing West African accent.

At the climax, Castle joins Beckett and her fellow officers on a raid, worrying me that he might be implausibly heroic. Before he goes too far, though, he gets a cell phone call and has to step aside to answer it. Brilliance.

Later, in a standoff with the armed culprit, Castle is heroic, but in an improvised, believable way.

I wondered where I'd seen Darby Stanchfield before. Checking IMDb, she played Shannon Gibbs in the NCIS episodes "Hiatus" and "Requiem", but in this season's "Heartland", a younger Shannon was played by Aviva Farber. I also discovered that in "Heartland", Mark Harmon's son Sean played the young Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Whedon Fandom in a Nutshell

Lee Goldberg posted his thoughts on FOX's decision not to air the thirteenth episode of Dollhouse, and the comments evolved into a discussion of Joss Whedon's body of work. I commented:

I wasn't much into BUFFY, but I respected it for breaking stereotypes and giving gravitas to a concept that flopped at the movies.

I was a fan of ANGEL having seen the character on BUFFY, and because I have a preference for P.I. shows. As ANGEL evolved into an ensemble fantasy show, my interest waned, but I still saw just about every episode.

I can see why FIREFLY was a difficult show for people to get into, but I liked it from first airing to last. I found the mix of Western and Eastern cultures and the new frontier mentality appealing. I liked that the dialogue was nuanced and yet fairly easy to grasp. FIREFLY is the kind of show you appreciate more with a second look, and I think that's why it succeeded on DVD. SERENITY wasn't profitable enough to greenlight a sequel, but [if you combine its worldwide box office take with its DVD sales, it has made a profit].

DOLLHOUSE lost me with its second episode. As Lee has pointed out, it's too similar in concept to MY OWN WORST ENEMY and THE PRETENDER. Its quirky questions of identity aside, Whedon is covering the same ground he broke with BUFFY--minus Buffy's personality.

FIREFLY may not have lasted sixty episodes, but FOX is partly to blame for viewers not finding it. First, FOX inexplicably did not like the original two-hour pilot, forcing Whedon and Tim Minear to write a substitute pilot over a weekend. Second, FOX pre-empted FIREFLY several times with its MLB playoff coverage, before any ratings trend had developed.

By contrast, I think FOX has given DOLLHOUSE ample opportunity to succeed, but its concept, as the folks on FIREFLY would say, is "weak tea."

How did I get here?

Don't eat me, giant people.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What to Watch?

Pondering his TV viewing habits, Jeremy Lynch was curious "what shows are drawing us in each week. Are there other shows that you buy, but do not watch live?"

You may remember my deciding against a DVR cable box. Considering the many shows viewable online and the money I spend on DVDs as it is, I can't justify an extra $10 a month to record TV.

On Mondays, I watch The Big Bang Theory over House and Chuck. I'll still buy the latter two on DVD, but week to week, I'm not curious enough to flip channels. Greg House's quirky brilliance is firmly established, so it seems as if the writers have to trump up challenges for him, dating back to Tritter, to his new team, to his falling out with Wilson, to his complicated relationship with Cuddy. I've never much liked Chuck's spy element. I don't think it's blended very well with his everyday life.

Since March, I've been watching the pleasant Castle Mondays at 10.

Tuesday has traditionally been NCIS night. Since Reaper returned in March, I've been watching that live and catching NCIS online. I have to admit my interest in Reaper has flagged since news of its creators leaving, but I'll still buy Season 2 on DVD.

Tuesdays at 10, I watched TNT's Leverage, which finished its first season in February. Having a friend on the writing staff made it like a viewing party every week.

Wednesdays nothing has held my interest. Life feels oddly different from last season, and Lie to Me seems repetitive.

Thursdays at 8 are a toss-up between Smallville and Bones. My frustration with Smallville is well documented, but some Bones plots have seemed just as silly.

When it's in season, I watch Burn Notice Thursdays at 10, a textbook example of multi-episode plotting. I wish all shows held together as well.

Fridays Dollhouse lost me with Episode 2. I'm still Huluing it, but sorry, Joss and Tim.

When it's on, I watch Psych at 10, an old-fashioned good time.

Good and Busy

This has been a good Good Friday. The Lineup editors and I discussed blurbs for Issue 2, and I've received permission to have some Lineup poems read on an episode of Seth Harwood's CrimeWAV. Despite the busy, I felt very present at today's services and prayers. Because of the busy, I haven't thought much about the meals and meat I've given up today.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Chuck: "Chuck vs. The Dream Job"

The Big Bang Theory was a rerun last night, so I watched this season's big Chuck event, guest-starring Scott Bakula and Chevy Chase. As believable as Bakula was as Chuck's reclusive nebbish father, I also enjoyed his turning on a dime into super-spy Orion.

While the continuation isn't enough to make me miss next week's new Big Bang, I will go for the Season 2 DVDs.

Monday, April 06, 2009 R.I.P. 'Reaper'?'s Hanh Nguyen reports creators Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters have signed with 20th Century Fox TV, calling for them to leave Reaper. While the show could conceivably continue, I shudder to think what it would be without their touch. I hope this season ends with some closure for Sam. Thanks to everyone involved with Reaper.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Forgotten Short Stories: PRIVATE EYES ed. Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Patti Abbott asked me for some forgotten short stories this week. Private Eyes may have been the first anthology of short stories I bought outside of school. To call these stories forgotten isn't quite right. I remember many of them vividly ten years later, Kaminsky's "Snow Birds" and Ted Fitzgerald's "Nicole" especially. With more and more hardcover and trade anthologies, it's easy to forget the sheer value of this sixteen-story mass market edition.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Prime Time

Today marks eleven years in existence for The Thrilling Detective Web Site. I've had the privilege of editing the site's original fiction for eight years. My thanks to Kevin Burton Smith, former fiction editor Victoria Esposito-Shea, our contributors, and readers.