Thursday, November 20, 2014

Observations — 1951, The Calm Before The Calm

Korea seesawed between communist and democratic rule. Communists forced the Dalai Lama to surrender his army to Beijing. Libyans tossed off Italian shackles.  The 22nd Amendment passed — presidents are limited to two terms. President Harry S. Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur. The general retired.   Accused spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death. The first nuclear power plant was built.  Fidel Castro was ejected from a baseball game for beaning a batter. Color TV was made available. Joe DiMaggio retired.  Sugar Ray Robinson defeated Jake La Motta for the Middleweight title. Rocky Marciano defeated Joe Louis at Madison Square Garden. Igor Stravinsky’s opera, Rake’s Progress, opened in Venice. Benjamin Britten’s Opera, Billy Budd, premiered in London.  The King and I opened on Broadway. “Search for Tomorrow,”  “I Love Lucy,“ “The Ernie Kovacs Show” and “Dragnet” premiered on the small screen. On the large screen we watched Showboat, Alice in Wonderland, Strangers On A Train, The Day The Earth Stood Still, A Place In The Sun, A Streetcar Named Desire, An American in Paris, The African Queen, and The Thing From Another World.  All About Eve picked up the Oscar.  Conrad Richter won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for The Tower. Other notable books included Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers, The Grass Harp by Truman Capote, From Here To Eternity by James Jones, Moses by Sholem Asch, and A Woman called Fancy by Frank Yerby. We listened to Nat “King” Cole sing “Too Young,” and Tony Bennett sang “Pleasure of You.” We also listened to “How High The Moon” by Les Paul and Mary Ford, “Be My Love” by Mario Lanza, “On Top of Old Smokey” by the Weavers, “Cold, Cold Heart” by Tony Bennett, “If” by Perry Como and ‘The Tennessee Waltz” by Patti Page. André Gide died. So did Robert Walker, Fanny Brice, William Randolph Hearst, Maria Montez, Sinclair Lewis and Eddy Duchin.   Those1951 babies who would become notables were Phil Collins, Mark Harmon, Robin Williams, Sting, Sally Ride, Michael Keaton, Jane Seymour, Joey Ramone, Luther Vandross, Angelica Huston and John Mellencamp. If you were around during this year of the metal rabbit, what were you doing?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Notes — A Krueger Sweep of 2014 Awards, And Best Crime Writers Of The 21ST Century?

Winning Mystery
It is award season for crime writers.  Each year there are hundreds of awards given for mystery-related writing. To give you an idea of what company the current winners keep, the list that follows is a list for the top awards since the new century began, including this year’s choices. 

William Kent Krueger
This list includes only “best novel” of the year awards as determined by the genre’s most established award givers — Mystery Writers of America (The Edgar and Anthony),  Private Eye Writers of America (The Shamus), Mystery Readers International (The Macavity) and the comprehensive mystery review quarterly, Deadly Pleasures (The Barry).

In an unusual turn of events, one author, William Kent Krueger, won all of the above-mentioned awards for “Best Novel,” except the Shamus, for which it was not eligible*.

Congratulations to all the 2014 winners (published in 2013) and to all of the nominees. Check the organizations’ web sites for best first novels, best short stories and other outstanding accomplishments by today’s crime writers. 

2000   Jan Burke, Bones, Edgar
 Don Winslow, California Fire and Life, Shamus
           Peter Robinson, In a Dry Season, Anthony
           Sujata Massey, The Flower Master, Macavity
           Peter Robinson, In a Dry Season, Barry

2001   Joe R. Lansdale, The Bottoms, Edgar
           Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Havana Heat, Shamus
           Val McDermid, A Place of Execution, Anthony
 Val McDermid, A Place of Execution, Macavity
 Nevada Barr Deep South, Barry

2002   T. Jefferson Parker, California Girl, Edgar
           S. J. Rozan, Reflecting the Sky, Shamus
           Dennis Lehane, Mystic River, Anthony
           Laurie R. King, Folly, Macavity
           Dennis Lehane, Mystic River, Barry

2003   S. J. Rozan, Winter and Night, Edgar
           James W. Hall, Blackwater Sound, Shamus
           Michael Connelly, City of Bones, Anthony
           S.J. Rozan, Winter and Night, Macavity
           Michael Connelly, City of Bones, Barry

2004   Ian Rankin, Resurrection Men, Edgar
           Ken Bruen, The Guards, Shamus
           Laura Lippman, Every Secret Thing, Anthony
           Peter Lovesey, The House Sitter, Macavity
           Laura Lippman, Every Secret Thing, Barry

2005   T. Jefferson Parker, California Girl, Edgar
           Ed Wright, While I Disappear, Shamus
           William Kent Krueger, Blood Hollow, Anthony
           Ken Bruen, The Killing of the Tinkers, Macavity
           Lee Child, The Enemy, Barry

2006   Jess Walter, Citizen Vince, Edgar
           Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer, Shamus
           William Kent Krueger, Mercy Falls, Anthony
           Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer, Macavity
           Thomas H. Cook, Red Leaves, Barry

2007   Jason Goodwin, The Janissary Tree, Edgar
           Ken Bruen, The Dramatist, Shamus
           Laura Lippman, No Good Deeds, Anthony
           Nancy Pickard, The Virgin of Small Plains, Macavity
           George Pelecanos, The Night Gardener, Barry

2008   John Hart, Down River, Edgar
           Reed Farrel Coleman, Soul Patch, Shamus
           Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know, Anthony
           Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know, Macavity
           Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know, Barry

2009   C. J. Box, Blue Heaven, Edgar
           Reed Farrel Coleman, Empty Ever After, Shamus
           Michael Connelly, The Brass Verdict, Anthony
           Deborah Crombie, Where Memories Lie, Macavity
           Arnaldur Indridason, The Draining Lake, Barry

2010   John Hart, The Last Child, Edgar
           Marcia Muller, Locked In, Shamus
           Louise Penny, The Brutal Telling, Anthony
           John Hart, The Last Child, Macavity
           John Hart, The Last Child, Barry

2011   Steve Hamilton, The Lock Artist, Edgar
           Lori Armstrong, No Merci, Shamus
           Louise Penny, Bury Your Dead, Anthony
           Louise Penny, Bury Your Dead, Macavity
           Steve Hamilton, The Lock Artist, Barry

2012   Mo Hayder, Gone, Edgar
           Michael Wiley, A Bad Night's Sleep, Shamus
           Louise Penny, A Trick of the Light, Anthony
           Susan Gran, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Macavity
           Jussi Adler Olsen, The Keeper of Lost Causes, Barry
2013   Dennis Lehane, Live By Night, Edgar
           Robert Crais, Taken, Shamus
 Louise Penny, The Beautiful Mystery, Anthony
Brad Parks
           Louise Penny, The Beautiful Mystery, Macavity
 Peter May, The Blackhouse, Barry


William Kent Krueger, Ordinary Grace, Edgar, Macavity, Barry & Anthony

Brad Parks, The Good Cop, Shamus


*The Shamus Awards are reserved for work featuring ptivate eyes. In general, the PWA defines a "private eye" as any mystery protagonist who is a professional investigator, but not a police officer or government agent.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Observations — 1945, The Great War Ends

Franklin D. Roosevelt won an unprecedented fourth term as president.  Germany surrendered. Concentration camps liberated. Adolf Hitler killed himself.  Crocodiles in Burma killed 980 Japanese soldiers.  FDR died. Harry S. Truman became president. The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities.  Japan surrendered. Italy’s Benito Mussolini was arrested and later executed, hung upside down in Milan. Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence from France.  Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first city to accept fluoride in its water. The World Bank was created. Pepe Le Pew debuted.  Arthur Godfrey began his legendary run on radio.  Kiss Me Kate opened in London. The Glass Menagerie opened on Broadway. The Pulitzer prizes went to: Aaron Copland (music) for Appalachian Spring, John Hershey (literature) for Bell For Adano, and Mary Chase (drama) for Harvey. We read W. H. Auden’s Collected Poems, The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Black Rose by A. J. Cronin, Black Boy by Richard Wright, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, and The Black Rose by Thomas B. Chastain. In film, we watched The Lost Weekend, Mildred Pierce, National Velvet, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Spellbound, Children of Paradise, Picture of Dorian Gray, Blithe spirit, Scarlet Street, And Then There Were None, The Body Snatchers and Detour. Top of the music charts were: “Rum and Coca Cola” by The Andrew Sisters, “Sentimental Journey” by Les Brown, Till The End Of Time by Perry Como, On The Atchison, Topeka And Santa Fe by Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers, “At Mail Call Today” by Gene Autry, “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” by Bing Crosby, “This Heart of Mine” by Judy Garland and “Put Your Dreams Away” by Frank Sinatra.  Departed Souls: Anne Frank, Jerome Kern, Theodore Dreiser, Ernie Pyle, Robert Benchley, George Patton, and Béla Bartok. Arriving Souls included: Bob Marley, Diane Sawyer, Helen Mirren, Eric Clapton, Tom Selleck, Rod Stewart, Goldie Hawn, Carly Simon, Bette Midler, Steve Martin, Bob Seger, Linda Hunt, Jose Feleciano, and Pete Townsend.  If you we’re around, what were you doing during this year of the wood rooster?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Writing — Thank Heaven For Editors And Proof Readers, Plus Misc. Business

Bless every editor, copy editor and especially the proofreader.  What brought this up was a recent post to my blog where I not only committed the sin of putting “it’s” for “its” (I do know better), but also left a clause at the end when I had already moved it to an earlier spot in the sentence.  I’m sure there are other errors, probably some serious comma issues.

When I write novels, I send the draft through a few readers before sending it on to the publisher.  Two of my brothers read it for content, clarity, believability, character consistency and whether or not it is a good read.  I have a talented friend who does the same, but also does more detailed copyediting and proofing. To those who have heard writers say “everyone needs an editor,” believe them. It’s Gospel. Next for the manuscript is the publisher’s editor, another edit by me and still another by a professional proofreader. No doubt there is one more proof before the book goes to the printer. The published book is in pretty good shape by the time it makes its debut.  This isn’t true for what I post here. Though I do proof — sometimes I go over it more than once — there are no fresh eyes.

Since beginning this blog nearly four years ago, I have written more than 500 posts (roughly 250,000 words) without a net.  Too often it shows. Sometimes I find and correct a glitch days later.  I know other errors are living on in cyberspace in perpetuity or eternity, which ever is longer.  I apologize for my transgressions.  I know many people consider perfect grammar a requirement for a professional writer.  Those who have that ability should thank whoever or whatever they believe in for the gift or curse of meticulousness. While in a general sense of the word, I am a decent overall editor, I do not have and will not have in this lifetime the knowledge and skill it takes to excel at copy-editing and proofing. My brain, quite often, will register what ought to be there rather than what is no matter how many times I reread it.  It’s wired that way.  ”Furthermore,” quoth the Raven, as I age some of the wiring is coming loose or corroding. I ask that you forgive me for my lack of meticulosity.

To Edit Or Not To Edit: Mann and Hesse

Hermann Hesse & Thomas Mann
I’ve tried to find a source to back this up.  I didn’t.  However, if you are willing to assume the risk of my rickety memory, I once read that Thomas Mann held a kindly and respectful envy of his contemporary Hermann Hesse, whose first and final draft of his fiction flowed freely, flawlessly, and unedited from his pen.  Mann’s manuscripts, on the other hand, bled profusely with corrections and rewritten passages.  Both are Nobel Prize recipients.

How’s Your Ego Doing?  If You re A Writer, How Much Control Do You Want?

The other day I read an article by author Paul D. Marks, a Shamus Award winner (for White Heat). He talks about writing screenplays and novels and what fulfillment one might or might not expect from each. While my experience hasn’t the breadth or depth of his, I have a similar view based on the limited exposure I’ve had with plays and novels. Plays and screenplays must, by definition, be joint efforts. There are actors and directors and, in the case of film, a stream of rewriters as well as cinematographers, costume designers, lighting designers and set decorators, all inserting layer upon layer of influence never imagined by the original writer.  Only in the case of novel writing can the original creator claim any serious ownership.  He or she must only share the work’s interpretation with the reader. I like that concept.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Observations — 1955, Old Order Failing, New World Just Ahead

James Dean
Winston Churchill resigned. Argentina tossed Juan Perón aside. The U.S. began their entanglement in Vietnam.  Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus.  Martin Luther King organized a boycott of the Montgomery Alabama bus system.  U.S. Supreme Court ordered school desegregation. Emmett Till was murdered. President Eisenhower had a heart attack. First televised presidential news conference aired. U.S. signed Panama Canal Treaty. Fiber Optics were developed. Anti-matter was discovered. First Atomic Sub was launched. Prednisone was created.  First music synthesizer was developed. Sony announced first transistor radio. The AFL and CIO merged.  Hurricane Diane killed 400 in U.S.  Hurricane Janet killed 500 in the Caribbean. Disneyland opened. “The Lawrence Welk” Show premiered on TV, as did “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” William Inge’s Bus Stop premiered on Broadway. The ACLU defended poet Allen Ginsberg’s Howl from obscenity charges. The Pulitzer Prize for drama went to Tennessee Williams for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.  The Pulitzer for Literature went to William Faulkner for A Fable.  The Mystery Writers of America gave Raymond Chandler its top prize for The Long Goodbye.  We also read Notes of A Native Son by James Baldwin, Pictures of A Gone World by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, The Recognitions by William Gaddis, A Charmed Life by Mary McCarthy, Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov, and A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O’Connor.  On The Waterfront swept the Academy Awards this year. We also watched Rebel Without A Cause, Marty, East of Eden, Bad Day At Black Rock, and Picnic.  We listened to “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by Perez Prado, “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” by Mitch Miller, “Autumn Leaves” by Roger Williams, “Unchained Melody” by Les Baxter, “The Ballad of Davey Crocket” by Bill Hayes, “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing” by the Four Aces, “Ain’t That A Shame” by Pat Boone, “Dance With Me Henry,” by Georgia Gibbs and “Sincerely” by the McGuire Sisters. Among the departed were James Dean, Theda Bara, Carmen Miranda, James Agee, Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, Dale Carnegie, and Fred Allen.  Arrivals included Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Billy Bob Thornton, Willem Dafoe, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleason, Steve Jobs, Whoopi Goldberg and Kelsey Grammar.  If you were around, what were you doing during this year of the wood sheep?