Category Archives: Books

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Hot Rod Mania

Anyone who has ever seen Rebel Without A Cause, can attest that hot rods were a big deal in the 1950’s. Here are two more examples of hot rod mania:

John Fogerty gets the last word:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Here’s Blood In Your Eye

I identify with this book title because I have allergy related bloodshot eyes. Note that the cover on the left was published under the Harlequin imprint. It’s obviously not a romance novel. Ain’t nothing romantic about bloody eyes.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Rod Serling

Submitted for your approval:

Today On Adrastos’ Obsession With Robert Caro

Regular readers of Saturday Odds & Sods are already aware of my Robert Caro obsession. I usually like post to pieces about and by him there. I thought it was time to let my inner fan boy shine on a school day. I don’t have an apple for the teacher but I do have some unsyrupy thoughts about Caro.

I first heard about Robert Caro from a Gore Vidal review of The Power Broker. I read the book and was enthralled by this, unknown to me, story. As a baseball history buff, I was particularly interested to learn that Robert Moses was one of the reasons the Dodgers left Brooklyn. Walter O’Malley had an inner city Brooklyn site in mind for a new ballpark that would be accessible to public transit. Moses wanted a more car-friendly location and insisted that the Dodgers move to the site where Shea Stadium was later built. O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles instead.

One of the reasons I’m so drawn to Caro’s magisterial Years of Lyndon Johnson series is that he’s such a great storyteller. Who else would talk to LBJ’s high school and college friends as a way of illuminating his style as a politician? A typical biographer/reporter would talk only to the “important people.” I was raised to believe that how one treats the “little people” is more revealing of one’s character. Caro gets that as did David Halberstam before him.

Anyway, Robert Caro recently sat for an interview with David Marchese for the New York Times Magazine. I was particularly interested in how he used Georgia Senator Richard Russell to explain the South and Civil Rights:

So there’s this character, Senator Richard Russell. He’s fascinating because he’s so smart, he’s so learned. In foreign affairs he’s like a consul of Rome. He sees the whole world, you know? But he’s this son of a bitch.

And a racist. Yes. Here’s how I boiled that book down: I said that two things come together. It’s the South that raises Johnson to power in the Senate, and it’s the South that says, “You’re never going to pass a civil rights bill.” So to tell that story you have to show the power of the South and the horribleness of the South, and also how Johnson defeated the South. I said, “I can do all that through Richard Russell,” because he’s the Senate leader of the South, and he embodies this absolute, disgusting hatred of black people. I thought that if I could do Russell right, I wouldn’t have to stop the momentum of the book to give a whole lecture on the South and civil rights. What I’m trying to say is that if you can figure out what your book is about and boil it down into a couple of paragraphs, then all of a sudden a mass of other stuff is much simpler to fit into your longer outline.

Caro declined to be drawn into a discussion of the Trump presidency*. I’m glad: I want him to live to publish the final book in the LBJ series. Discussing Trump is bad for one’s health. Believe me.

While running a search on the NYT web site, I learned that late night funnyman Conan O’Brien shares my obsession with Robert Caro. His dream as a chat show host is to have Caro as a guest. I can’t  resist posting the full NYT link because the image is such a hoot:

Here’s one of many money quotes from the Conan piece:

Mr. O’Brien was insistent that Mr. Caro’s team has been nothing but polite in sending its regrets. In fact, a few years ago, Mr. O’Brien received a signed copy of “The Path to Power” with the inscription: “To Conan O’Brien. From A Fan — Robert A. Caro.”

The gift only confused matters.

“It just cracks me up,” Mr. O’Brien said. “It’s like the White Whale writing Ahab a note, saying, ‘Hey, man. We’ve got to get together. I’m a fan!’”

So, Mr. Caro, be well and finish that book. When it’s done, cut Coco some slack and grant him an interview. Then I can write a post titled When Caro Met Coco.

UPDATE: A pox on me for not googling Caro + Conan. I missed a piece in Vulture wherein we learn that Coco’s dream will come true later this month. Thanks to Mr. Cosmic Ray for the correction.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Letter

Another day, another epistolary title. W. Somerset Maugham had a long run as a popular writer. He is only remembered today, if at all, because of some first class movie adaptations of his work. The Bette Davis-William Wyler version of The Letter is the best one of all.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Hand Of Kindness

Still Life with Onions by Paul Cezanne

March is the cruelest month in New Orleans for allergy sufferers like me. The weather has been sunny and cool; perfect for outdoor activity. The rub is the oak pollen that can be found everywhere. It coats cars, sidewalks, and any surface it can light on. It makes me feel itchy and my nose run like a broken faucet. The most dramatic symptom involves my eyes, which resemble red gravy in sockets if such a thing is possible.

Enough bitching about my allergies. This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson and was the title track of his 1983 solo album. It was his first record after breaking up personally and professionally with Linda Thompson. It’s one of his finest albums featuring some of his best songs and that’s saying a lot.

We have two versions of Hand Of Kindness for your listening pleasure. The studio original and a live version from Cropredy circa beats the hell outta me.

Now that I’ve extended the hand of kindness, it’s time to jump to the break. Given the RT album cover, we may have to do so at the Chelsea Embankment. Splash.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Mr. Angel Comes Aboard/Johnny Angel

I’m working on a Movies Set In Louisiana piece for the Bayou Brief. It’s taking a bit longer than anticipated but it has a lot of moving parts; pun intended, it always is. It should be out sometime next week.

One of the moving parts is a nifty film noir set in New Orleans, Johnny Angel, which is based on a book by Charles B. Booth, Mr. Angel Comes Aboard.

The book cover is so torn and frayed that it gave me an earworm:

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Deadly Dove

Rufus King had a long run as a crime fiction writer. 1945’s The Deadly Dove was published smack dab in the middle of that lengthy career. Both editions have a strong tagline game.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Lou Marchetti

Every once and awhile I like to honor the illustrators of vintage pulp paperbacks. This week, we’re featuring two covers by Lou Marchetti whose daughter Louise has assembled a terrific website in honor of her late father.

The tagline for The Mugger has given me an earworm so Genesis gets the last word:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Case Of The Shoplifter’s Shoe

I’ve never deliberately repeated a PFT entry before. This was first posted  2/8/18. Why am I doing this? It’s Muses Thursday and half the city is coming to our house. That’s why:

I know what you’re thinking: when in pulp fiction doubt, post a Perry Mason cover. Guilty as charged. It’s also relevant this Muses Thursday. That all chick krewe throws decorated shoes.

I’ve also posted a cleaned up version of the cover that I stumbled into on the artist’s website. Thanks to John Farr.

It’s ALL About Money

I look forward to this explanation of how church and “civic life” are entirely divorced from economics because everyone knows you don’t need money to buy, say, land to build your sanctuary on, or textbooks: 

Why do so many people believe that the American dream is no longer within reach? Growing inequality, stubborn pockets of immobility, rising rates of deadly addiction, the increasing and troubling fact that where you start determines where you end up, heightening political strife—these are the disturbing realities threatening ordinary American lives today.

The standard accounts pointed to economic problems among the working class, but the root was a cultural collapse: While the educated and wealthy elites still enjoy strong communities, most blue-collar Americans lack strong communities and institutions that bind them to their neighbors. And outside of the elites, the central American institution has been religion.

That is, it’s not the factory closings that have torn us apart; it’s the church closings. The dissolution of our most cherished institutions—nuclear families, places of worship, civic organizations—has not only divided us, but eroded our sense of worth, belief in opportunity, and connection to one another.

Let’s ignore for a moment three generations of people subjected to a national media narrative driven by a 24-hour propaganda network telling them to feel alienated from modern life, and pretend they arrived at this feeling of alienation independently.

Let’s take this nonsense on its face for a moment because there’s a romanticism to this argument that a lot of people passively watching this guy get interviewed on GMA will find persuasive.

It’s entirely CRAP to say “factory closings” are somehow separate from “church closings” or that the loss of civic institutions isn’t economic. You know what closes a church? MONEY. If people can’t afford to send their kids to the local Catholic school, and can’t put anything in the collection plate, the lights won’t stay on. God may take an IOU but the electric company won’t.

That’s not “morality,” that’s reality.

Morality isn’t just mouthing words at a podium, or bowing your head once a week, or joining a bowling league. Morality is your actions toward others, the way you construct your days, the world you decide to build.

If you build a world without libraries, without schools, without roads and water pipes and snowplows and street sweeping, that will erode the feeling of community connection. If you replace every small music venue with a Starbucks, that will erode the feeling of community connection. If you make seeing a dentist a disaster on par with the car breaking down or your house catching fire, that will erode the feeling of community connection.

If you make it impossible for the elderly to stay in their homes and put decent retirement out of reach. If you stop picking up litter in neighborhoods where people aren’t likely to have time to complain. If you pay people sub-minimum wages so that they have to work two or three jobs and don’t have time to take their kids to the park much less join the damn bowling league.

All of that is immoral. All of that will erode the ties that bind us to one another. I understand the appeal of this argument that modern life sucks so hard because young people would rather be on their phones than attend church services. It lets us all off the hook for the world that we have built, and lets us sit back and judge others as silly and shallow without even once talking to them about how they feel and what they need.

I am happy to have a conversation about the morality of the way we build our lives now. I am beyond thrilled for us to start talking about why our sense of responsibility to one another is disappearing. I would LOVE the chance to explain, on national TV or with a Big 5 book deal, just how it is the world of the middle class disappeared and all the churches closed.

But somehow that conversation is never about money, and it needs to be.

Also? Not for nothing, but the bona fides of this whisperer of the great unwashed?

Timothy P. Carney is the commentary editor at the Washington Examiner and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money and Obamanomics: How Barack Obama is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

I’m sure he’s welcome to move to a small town in Idaho and run their community rec center anytime he likes. Amazing how all these extollers of the virtues of Heartland poverty run zero risk of encountering it in the wild.

A.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Darkness At Noon

Taglines can be misleading. Darkness At Noon is the tale of an old Bolshevik caught up in Stalin’s great purge. It’s a serious and highly-regarded look at the horrors of the Soviet system but Signet had books to sell. As long as Arthur Koestler got his fair share I have no beef with that. It was the way of the pulps.

Quote Of The Day: The Case Of The Unfit President*

Former FBI honcho Andrew McCabe has been ubiquitous of late. His description  of his encounters with the Insult Comedian are either bone-chilling or blood-curdling. Pick your metaphor.

Today’s quote comes from McCabe’s new tome, The Threat:

People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily. He is not just sounding a dog whistle. He is lobbying for a result. The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them. Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants. If he were “on the box” at Quantico, he would break the machine.

The desire to distract attention from the McCabe book was clearly a factor in Trump’s manufactured “national emergency.” Oy just oy.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Bleeding Scissors

I originally thought that Bruno Fischer was the pen name of an overly prolific pulp practitioner. I was wrong. Ya learn something new every day.

The last word goes to the Rolling Stones. Why? Why the hell not?

Pulp Fiction Thursday: New Orleans Mourning/The Axeman’s Jazz

I rarely post any book  covers released after 1970 but there are always exceptions. These two novels by Julie Smith are set in New Orleans. And 1990’s New Orleans Mourning features a spectacular crime: Rex, King of Carnival, is murdered on his float on Mardi Gras day.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rainy Night In Georgia

Hummingbirds by Walter Inglis Anderson

The Super Bowl  will be played tomorrow in Atlanta, but ratings in New Orleans will be abysmal because of the infamous blown call. The game is being boycotted by most locals: Dr. A and I are going to two non-watching parties. I’m unsure if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be burnt in effigy at either soiree. One of them is a birthday party so perhaps there will be a Goodell pinata. Probably not: my friends Clay and Candice have a small child and the sight of Goodell is traumatic to most New Orleanians.

New Orleans and Atlanta have a longstanding and intense rivalry. And not just in football. They’ve topped us economically but we have better food as well as charm up the proverbial wazoo. Saints fans are also disappointed not to be Super Bowling in Atlanta because they’re losing out on some trash talking opportunities. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written in 1967 by Louisiana native Tony Joe White who died last fall at the age of 75. Rainy Night In Georgia is a song that proves the adage that the best songs are sad songs: “looks like it’s raining all over the world.”

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the songwriter’s original, Brook Benton’s 1970 hit version, and a mournful 2013 interpretation by Boz Scaggs.

Let’s put away our umbrellas and jump to the break. We’ll try not to splash land.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Highways In Hiding/Space Plague

It’s sci-fi time here at First Draft. The original title is on the left. I prefer Space Plague. It’s catchy; in fact, it’s contagious.

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Back To Black

Bird Collage by Max Ernst

It was overwrought drama week in New Orleans. Saints fans are genuinely angry in the aftermath of the blown call but things have gotten silly. There’s a futile lawsuit filed by lawyer Frank D’Amico who advertises his services on the tube. He’s getting some free publicity by filing what is best described as a “feel-good frivolous” lawsuit seeking a Saints-Rams rematch. It has as much chance at success as I have of playing in the NBA.

My Congressman, Cedric Richmond, is doing a major pander by threatening a Congressional hearing over the blown call. Hey, Cedric, we’re having a constitutional crisis, and you want to spend time grilling Roger Goddam Goodell?

This week’s theme song was written in 2007 by Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson. Black To Black was the title track of Amy’s final studio album and the sub-title of the great documentary about her life. We have two versions for your listening pleasure:

While we’re at it, let’s throw two more blackened songs into the musical skillet:

Did I really use the term musical skillet? I must be slipping. Speaking of which, let’s slip away and jump to the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: My Love Wears Black

Believe it or not, Octavus Roy Cohen is NOT a pen name.

The Women Have Always Been Here

Yep: 

Before lifelong activist Florence Reece took the stage to sing her now-iconic labor anthems, she sat at the kitchen table writing those songs from the perspective as a mother and wife—and as a union agitator. “Unofficial social worker” Edith Easterling leveraged her local knowledge, and the federal resources she gained access to as a staffer for the anti-poverty program known as Appalachian Volunteers, to launch her own personal war on poverty at home in Pike County, Kentucky, with the Marrowbone Folk School—and saw her daughter Sue Ella follow her footsteps straight into the civil rights movement via multiracial youth organizing efforts. When Appalachian health activist Eula Hall opened the Mud Creek Clinic and Dr. Elinor Graham taught mountain women how to self-administer breast and pelvic exams and provided information on birth control, they were enabling poor women to take control of their own bodies and make their own childbearing decisions.

Discussions of women’s movements that leave out poor and lower-middle-class women who have always had to work and fight and scrap and “resist” for what they needed drive me bonkers. We have these “lean in” moments where it seems like it’s all about our personal fulfillment and our private desires, instead of about the baby eating or the roof getting fixed. Women have had to fight for those things long before (and will long after) the slogan-embossed tote bags wear out.

A.