Wednesday, March 31, 2010


There's a review of THE TOYMAN RIDES AGAIN at

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The George Meme

Or, The Ten Most Influential Books I've Read.

In no particular order they are:

1. Doctor Dan the Bandage Man. The first book I recall owning. The Band Aids in the back made me want to cut myself just so I could use them.

2. The Catcher in the Rye. I identified with the kid who was out of step with the world. Still do.

3. The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I may have the title wrong, but once I read one story I had to read them all.

4. I. the Jury. I was just the right age to appreciate the sex and violence and I always found Hammer's over-the-top emotions amusing in a strange way.

5. Fanny Hill. This combination of Victorian prose and blatant sex made me wish I'd been born a century sooner and a lot richer.

6. Slaughterhouse Five. Which started me on a tear through Vonnegut's work, which I like a lot.

7. Farewell, My Lovely. My first Chandler. I still consider him the best.

8. Son of the Morning Star. The first detailed and balanced biography of George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn I read.

9. Babbitt. Love the zip, zing, and zowee.

10. The Pictorial History of World War II. A four-volume set we had at home when I was a kid, covering the war in stark detail.

I'm not counting comics, though if I did the first Spider-Man would be the one. I left out fantasy and science fiction, too. I was much impressed with Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlien. If I had to choose a Western it would be Shane or True Grit, but I read them too late in life to really call them influential. The illustration that accompanies this post is what is known as gratuitous.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Apology to a Virgin

I've been crowing a lot lately about having a jacket stolen from me when I returned from L.A. via Virgin Airlines. Today I did my laundry and in the botton of the basket I found that jacket. How it got there I don't know. It wasn't even dirty. So I have removed Virgin from my overburdened shit list, sent them an apology, and confessed my sins to a itinerant druid priest.

What bothers me as much as standing here with egg on my face is the fact that I have no recollection whatsoever of tossing that jacket into the laundry basket. Is my mind really that far gone? It's a frightening prospect.

But as long as I have your attention, don't forget to read my new mystery novel, THE TOYMAN RIDES AGAIN. No signs of senility are present in that work.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Header

See my new header? It's not the best job I've ever done, but it might be the most frustrating. The photo is me about 40 pounds ago, I mean 30 years ago. Oh to be young again.

For the last six days I have been trying to find someone, anyone, at Virgin America Airlines to speak with about the jacket stolen from my luggage from one of their fine, fine baggage handlers. Talk about a runaround. Call here. Call there. Go here. E-mail this. Contact that. I'm convinced they intentionally make it impossible to complain about their lousy service. For one thing, they don't publish anything that would direct you to the department that handles the problem. If by some miracle you find the right number to call no one will answer. I'm disgusted. I'll make one more attempt, by writing to the main office, but I have little hope anything will come from it.
I have a lengthy shit list, and Virgin America just got added.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Let's Do Lunch

My cousin Glenn and I ate at LA's famous In-and-Out Burgers when I was there. Some people (like Mark Evanier) swear they are the best burgers anywhere. They're good, but I've had better. The best hamburgers I ever ate were served at a Der Weinerschnitzel in Campbell, California, circa 1977. The franchise was operated by a Middle Eastern family and they flavored their burgers with something that gave them an exotic and wonderful taste.
Not that there's anything wrong with In-and-Out. If nothing else, their order taking should be the blueprint for every fast food business extant. A line of 20 cars can be processed in a matter of minutes, quicker than one person can order at the average McGarbage. It's a marvel of efficiency.
The photo of this Air India 747 on its glide path was taken by cousin Glenn during a different visit. As you might guess, we're close to the airport. You know, LAX, where Virgin America's baggage handlers think we pack our clothes for their use.

Left Coast Crime in Los Angeles

March 11-14 marked another LCC, and since it nearly coincided with the official release date of my second book (order THE TOYMAN RIDES AGAIN on Amazon), I decided to go. I also thought it would be a good chance to see some old and new friends who live down there.
The Good: I enjoyed the convention for the most part. I attended quite a few panels and they were mostly interesting. The one on Chandler's LA contained a few misstatements of fact, but nothing too glaring. I was able to correct one during the Q&A. The book bags were nice, with zippered tops, and the books inside were okay. I kept about half. The staff was friendly and tried to be helpful--not that I needed any help, but I felt they were there if I did. The hotel was very good, with most of the amenities. I'm still not sure why people need a phone next to the toilet, but for them that do, it was there. It was generous of Michael Connelly to provide a free bag lunch on Saturday, but the food was forgettable except for the cookie. But it was free. I saw half a dozen people there I knew from either Dapa-Em or MDM, and a few writers of my acquaintance. Had a nice chat with Parnell Hall, name dropper that I am. I also saw some LA landmarks while being driven around: The Coliseum, USC, train station, Parker Center, LA Times, and the Bradbury Building. I went inside the Bradbury building, which was two streets down from the hotel (Omni Int'l), but couldn't go upstairs because it was closed. Still, I had a good look at the famous grill work, brass, and architecture. From the outside it isn't as eye-catching, and the lower floors house a Sub-Way sandwich shop, a cutlery store, and a cell phone store. The rest of the street is all Mexican shops. Walking along, I felt like I was in Ensenada. On Saturday evening I met my old pal Jan Strand and his wife Julie for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Good food, good conversation, and I learned that one can have margaritas on the rocks. I can't abide crushed ice in my beverages and this was a wonderful revelation. The next day, after I'd left the hotel for a Holiday Inn, Jan and Julie took me to the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage. It took a while to drive the last half mile because the approach is the same road as the LA Zoo, but we had a swell time seeing all the cowboy/Old West exhibits and the Hollywood versions of the Old West. I mean, when you can see John Wayne's shirt, Clint Eastwood's hat, and George Armstrong Custer's pistol in the same building, something's going right.

The Bad: The hospitality suite was a joke. Little or no food and not much of a variety in beverages. All I saw to eat were some apples and a couple of bags of chips. And the room was tiny. The name badges didn't identify the status of the attendee. Writer, Editor, Agent, Fan, Bookseller, etc. Maybe this isn't done anymore, but it should be. Worst of all, some s.o.b. stole my denim jacket from my suitcase at LAX on the return flight. I paid $25 to have that bag sent, and this is how they treat it. Maybe even worse is the fact that I'd planned to spend the week after the con with my cousin when a job opportunity popped up for him. We managed to visit for one day. Now, I learn that the job was canceled. I haven't been in LA for 25 years and the one week I'm there this happens. I could just scream.

The Ugly: Photos of me. Notice that earlier I said there were some people I knew in attendance? That translated to one book sale. Since I wasn't on any panels, I didn't expect a stranger to buy one (at a generous discount), but this...

The next Left Coast Crime convention will be on the tropical seaport city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Do be there.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


The man who portrayed Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone to millions of my generation has passed away at age 85. By all accounts he was a fine gentleman and a kind person. I never met him, but I'll always be grateful for the many entertainments he gave me not only as Davy and Daniel but in movies like THE GREAT LOCOMOTIVE CHASE, WESTWARD HO THE WAGONS, and OLD YELLER. Thanks, Fess.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Toyman Review

The following is the first review I've seen of my latest literary effort, THE TOYMAN RIDES AGAIN. Hey, if Harriet Klausner likes it, I'm happy. She's a dear lady.

In Tacoma, Washington, veteran and former investigative reporter Jack Lorentz enjoys selling collectible toys to baby boomers though he only makes a modest living at the Olden Daze co-op. August Baldwin enters his shop and says he recognizes the smell of death by shooting (see Love, Death, And The Toyman). He explains to Lorentz that he wants to hire him to protect the reenactor Charles Swanson playing the role of General George Armstrong Custer. He feels with Jack’s recent reputation, he might keep away those who want to harm the reenactor playing the role because someone has threatened him.

Jack is to play the part of reporter Mark Kellogg who died at the battle of Little Big Horn. However, after a previous skirmish, on the way to the site where the current battle will rage, Native Americans led by Harold Two Bears and Professor Abigail She Stands In Light attack the company. When the dust settles, Custer-Swanson is dead with Two Bears’ knife in him. Police Sergeant Cooper arrests Two Bears while Abigail asks Jack to snoop as she believes her friend is innocent. Attracted to the professor, Jack knows she had access to Two Bear’s knife. As he makes inquiries, Jack alienates everyone.

This is a fun Reagan era whodunit starring a reluctant former investigative journalist who feels guilty that he failed at his mission though he knows Swanson as Custer was impossible to protect. The story line provides a fascinating deep look at reenactors, but an incident with a new recruit seems over the top of Granite Peak. The whodunit is entertaining as the reader knows whom most likely killed Custer yet not sure how. The Toyman Rides Again is a fun mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Dear John

There's a movie out that I think is titled DEAR JOHN. I also hear it's not very good. I mention it only because someone at work told me that in the beginning it shows a C-17 cargo airplane being loaded. That's what I do for a living, usually driving the big machine that transports the load to the plane. Not rocket science but it pays the bills. The photo depicts a 60K Tunner Loader. It is capable to hauling 60,000 pounds of cargo and named after General Tunner, the architech of the Berlin Air Lift. That's not a C-17 flying past in the picture, by the way. It's a KC-135 air-to-air refueler, which is also capable to carrying cargo loads.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

It Was 174 Years Ago Today

On the 13th day of the siege of the Alamo Santa Ana's forces finally breached the North Wall's defenses in a pre-dawn assault. Once that happened the outcome of the battle was not in question. The defnders were killed to a man. The date was March 6, 1836.

The figures I'm presenting today depict: (left) Col. William Barrett Travis; (center) Jim Bowie, and; (right) Davy Crockett. Despite the recent hoorawing, I firmly believe that Crockett died during the fight and there is firm evidence to support that idea. But I'm not here to argue historical trivia. I wish to pay tribute to the brave defenders of the Alamo, whose lengthy stand served to allow Sam Houston to raise an army as well as cause large, demoralizing casualties in the Mexican ranks.