Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Justified: "Fixer"

Justified is another show I like. Along with many critics, I thought its premiere episode matched Elmore Leonard's tone perfectly. I've worried from the beginning, though, that the trademark twists of a Leonard book—he writes mostly standalones—might become predictable in a series. Two episodes in a row the supposed low-level flunky has double-crossed the big shot mastermind. Last night I saw the twist coming from a long way off.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Castle: "Boom!"

I'm a fan of Castle. Its lighter tone reminds me of the more mystery-driven (not forensics-driven) shows from the 70s and 80s. I'm sorry to say I was thrown off last night's conclusion to a two-parter early.

Last week, a serial killer obsessed with the Beckett-based Nikki Heat toyed with our heroes, finally setting off a fiery explosion in Beckett's apartment with her in the tub. The tub saves Beckett's life a la the convenient refrigerator in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. What threw me was that Castle was able to get to Beckett's apartment through the conflagration without an oxygen mask and had time to banter with her and walk her barefoot out of the apartment. Hello? Smoke inhalation? Lacerations?

I would have believed Castle going in with his hands and mouth covered, carrying Beckett out. It was still a tense and riveting episode, but come on.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Can we talk?

Until about a year ago, my P.I. fiction discussion list DetecToday sponsored regular chats with the authors whose work we were reading. The transcripts of these chats are posted at Chatterrific.

Since I've been busy with The Lineup and The Short Mystery Fiction Society and had less money for the newest books, discussion has dropped off on DetecToday, and so have the chats. To rectify that, I've opened Chatterrific up to anyone in the fiction, poetry, television, or film field. If you have a new project, I'd love to hear about it.

Today, I welcome Stephen D. Rogers back to Chatterrific to talk about his newly published collection of thirty-one short stories, Shot to Death.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I made a difficult decision this week, drawing criticism from two good friends so far, maybe more later. It was nonetheless the right decision for me, and has shown me there's a limit to how deeply any two people can understand each other.

It was not a religious decision, but I've taken solace in The Prayer of St. Thomas More, introduced to me by one of my favorite teachers in college, particularly the first lines:

Give me Thy grace, good Lord
to set the world at nought;
To set my mind fast upon Thee,
and not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths;
To be content to be solitary,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Victor Gischler reviews The Lineup #3

One of my favorite authors, Victor Gischler, blogged his honest take on The Lineup #3 today. I've reprinted it on The Lineup blog, but since I appreciate honesty in my life as covered on this blog, I'm reprinting it here as well:

Gerald So was kind enough to fix me up with with a .pdf copy of THE LINEUP #3 and I have to say I'm impressed. In my opinion, most of the poetry written in the world is utter garbage. When you pick up a Norton Anthology of literature and read some of the classic poems within, you have to understand that each of those gems represents thousands of discarded turds that poets have penned over the centuries. So when I open the pages of The Lineup #3 and see that 75% of the poems within are actually good, I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised. You beat the odds, guys. Congratulations.

Not all the poems hit the mark, and without bothering to name names, I'll simply say that some selections suffer from that age old poetry problem -- prose with line breaks. Taking run-of-the mill sentences and giving them neat little line breaks so you have a narrow column of words skipping down the page does not a poem make. Hey, I'm guilty of this myself. One time, I took a crime "poem" I'd written and took out the line breaks and sold it to Crimestalker Casebook as a short-short piece of fiction. It happens.

But many more of the poems are quite enjoyable. I suppose I could go poem by poem and point out some nice use of language and some vivid imagery I think works pretty well ... but I'm a lazy lazy man. Trust me. It's in there, and you should take a look for yourself. I will say that the James Sallis and James W. Hall poems were among the most memorable. Many of the selections are expertly rendered, yet simultaneously accessible to the reader that might not normally make a habit of reading poetry. Try it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Higher Standard

Today on Do Some Damage, novelist and screenwriter John McFetridge blogs:

In the pilot episode of the TV show I worked on, The Bridge, a lawyer says to a cop, “Shouldn’t the police be held to a higher standard?” And he says, “Not when it’s used to screw with them.”

Now, that episode was filmed before the rest of the writing team was hired, but it was something we discussed quite a bit in the writer’s room. The show is about a cop who becomes head of the police union and works to, as the union slogan says, “Protect Those Who Protect Us.”

I kept insisting that the police aren’t held to a higher standard, they’re held to the police standard. The same way doctors are held to their standard and engineers and lawyers and truck drivers are held to their own standards – every profession has a set of standards and all the members are held to it – or should be.

...I’d like crime fiction to reflect the reality of the world the same way literary fiction does and not be held to a “higher standard” where justice must always be served. Literature – art - isn’t comfort food, it isn’t a security blanket.

Literature – art – has kick-started many a public discussion that has then led to changes, maybe even improvements, in peoples’ lives. Now, I’m not saying all books should do that – or even try to do that.

But if we never try to do that then we’re supporting the status quo. Our books and stories become, “unlikely – and therefore unthreatening.”

Crime fiction can, and should, be many things but it should never be unthreatening. It should challenge and upset and get people arguing.

It shouldn’t be held to a “higher standard.”

I commented:

I agree, John. In fact, I agree with those who say literary fiction is genre fiction: the "literary" genre, with standards of its own.

If literary fiction reflected life so well, there wouldn't be the need for a branch of fiction that reflects the reality of crime. More power to you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thursday, March 04, 2010

National Grammar Day

Today is National Grammar Day, and I am a loyal disciple. Know it. Use it. Love it.

"Grammar is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."