Saturday, February 26, 2011
I was off line most of Thursday-Friday so I didn't get a chance to mention my mother turned 88 on the 24th. Today, the 26th, my wife hits another birthday milestone. I guess I'm not supposed to mention which one. The photo is my mother about 70 years ago. Can you say Catholic Italian?
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
On this day in 1836 the siege of the Alamo began. The vanguard of Santa Ana's forces came up from the south and invested San Antonio de Bexar. Col. William Barrett Travis and Col. Jim Bowie brought their men to the Alamo mission, determined to stop the advance of "The Napoleon of Mexico." It would take 13 days for the battle's outcome to be determined.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Dog Heavies, the third and final Lucas Hallam mystery by L.J. Washburn, takes us to Texas. Lucas and some other cowboys who work in the picture business are sent to a ranch outside Fort Worth to teach a young actor, Adrian Tremaine, how to appear like an authentic westerner in an upcoming big budget movie. The ranch needs the money it's getting for hosting the group because their cattle are being rustled, but that doesn't endear them to some of the working cowboys, especially the foreman, Armstrong. Armstrong picks on Teddy White Horse, a Native American, worse than the rest. Nice guy. Other than a bit of huffing and puffing, though, things are working out fairly well. The kid is learning the ropes (including roping), and the real cowboys start to respect the intruders. But a murder changes everything. Hallan has to use his private eyes skills to help the accused and discover not only who committed the crime, but who's behind the cattle thefts. No small task when the local law is hostile to his efforts.
A nice extra touch is seeing Lucas Hallam back on the turf he roamed as a youth. He's not one for nostalgia, but being on the ground of his old home pulls at the heartstrings of his memory for a touching moment. There's also the rancher's beautiful daughter and cussed old cook on hand to add a fun touch to the proceedings.
I hope these books sell well enough in their Kindle editons to inspire Washburn to write more. Lucas Hallam is too good a character, and 1920s Hollywood too great an era, to wither away.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
In today's mail I got my final copy of Dapa-Em, #216. It will never be published again, and I'll miss it. The idea of an apa (Amateur Press Association/Alliance) is that a limited membership (35 in Dapa-Em)--usually fans of a genre--produce individual zines, print enough copies to cover the membership plus a couple of extra copies, and send these copies to a single individual, called an Official Editor, or Central Mailer, or Big Toe, etc. The OE then collates each person's zine into one large volume and mails the big volume, called a mailing, back to each member. In the next mailing people can remark or reply to what was in the previous mailing or discuss whatever they want. Dapa-Em was a mystery apa, the only one to ever exist. It started around 1974, under the leadership of Donna Balopole, but it really took off 35 years ago when Art Scott took the helm. I joined in 1979 and have missed only one of the bi-monthly mailings in all that time. But all things must pass, and Art needed a rest after so many years of remarkable service and punctuality. Kudos to him for an incredible service.
The illo shows one of the typical Dapa-Em room parties at a mystery con.
Monday, February 07, 2011
It's not that I'm that much of a Packers fan, but I hate the Stealers and revel in their loss. That said, it was an exciting Superbowl and the officials didn't interfere with the game other than that phantom face mask call against Green Bay, which helped Pittsburgh sustain a scoring drive. Now begins the lull in my sports year. I don't follow hockey or basketball, so until baseball season starts I'll make do with other entertainments. Like staring at Natalie Wood photos. Won't you join me?
Saturday, February 05, 2011
Today I said good-bye to my wonderful 1995 Oldsmobile Regency 98. Alas, it was becoming too unreliable to continue driving. In its place is a 2008 Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck (14,00 miles). I got a good deal on the truck, but it's a bare bones model and I'll miss such amenities as keyless entry and power windows and locks. I also need to replace the radio with a radio/CD player, but I have a very nice one in the garage and I'll have that installed soon.
And if that's not worth a look at Natalie Wood, I don't know what is.
Friday, February 04, 2011
Dead Stick, by L.J. Washburn, is the second Lucas Hallam mystery. I talked about the background of the character and setting in an earlier post. Now, Hallam is hired by a studio to discover who's sabotaging their picture, a WWI flying epic. Suspicion is on a KKK group upset that one of the actors is a former German ace. Also in the movie are four American airmen whose squadron had been betrayed during the war., They were the only survivors. The German was part of the force that set upon the Americans. There are also a couple of jealous hearts in the mix due to some Hollywood bed-hopping, a brash stunt pilot, and an ex-jockey who runs a speakeasy and has a shady reputation. Washburn cleverly works parallel plots, so smoothly you're not aware of it, and brings the story to a satisfying, action-packed climax.
Liz Fletcher, from the first book, Wild Night, reappears, too. She moved from her ghost town saloon to Hallam's apartment building and got a job as an organ player at Graumann's Egyptian Theater. But she's not sure the city life is for her and, well, the course of true love never runs smooth.
Available on Kindle.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Am I wrong or is this the anniversary of The Day the Music Died; i.e., the day Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash in an Iowa cornfield? I was sure Bill Crider would have mentioned it.
Pictured are classic rockers (l-r) me, Dave "Evan" Lewis, & Tough Jim Gaston. We strive to keep the music alive.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Wild Night, by L.J. Washburn, takes place in Depression-era Hollywood. Lucas Hallam is a former lawman, Pinkerton, and cowboy who has also spent a little time on the owlhoot trail during his heyday. Now, in the 1920s, he works part time as a Western movie extra and also maintains a private detective business.
While scouting a ghost town as a possible movie location he gets into a shootout with a couple of thugs. The town's owner and sole inhabitant, Liz Fletcher, thinks they were after her stash of hooch. Back in Hollywood later that day, Hallam is hired by an evangelist, Rev. Forbes, to accompany him to a meeting that evening. They go, and in short order Hallam is knocked out and the two people they went to meet are dead, with the reverend standing over them with a gun in his hand. He swears he didn't do it but the cops toss him in the graybar hotel anyway.
Hallam is asked to clear the minister, and even though Hallam doesn't like the man, he agrees to help. Only he and Forbes know a fact about the night of the crime that no one else does, and they're holding it back.
As Hallam delves into the church and Forbes' past he finds himself the target of a gunman. Seems like someone doesn't want him to find the truth. Or does it?
Washburn writes a strong mystery with an extra twist in the end that I didn't see coming. Her prose is clear and eminently readable. Best of all, Hallam is a wonderful character--strong, simple, honest, brave, and nobody's fool. The early Hollywood setting--with its studios, speakeasys, and cultish temple--captivated this reader and rings true. Some of the luminaries of the day also step in for cameos. I've already started the sequel and I'm grateful that the Kindle has made these hard-to-find books available again. Check them out.