Category Archives: Books

Saturday Odds & Sods: Deeper Water

Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer.

Since we have something of a nautical-as opposed to naughty-theme I thought we’d dive right in without any dockside formalities. I won’t invite you into my stateroom because this might happen:

I would never take a cruise. The thought of doing so reminds me of the not so great Poop Cruise of 2013. Hell, I get seasick contemplating the Winslow Homer painting above.

Let’s move on to this week’s theme song. Singer-songwriter Paul Kelly is often called the Bob Dylan of Australia but he never broke through stateside. Kelly co-wrote Deeper Water in 1994 with Randy Jacobs of Was (Not Was) in case you was (not was) wondering.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. First, the 1995 studio version that was the title track of Kelly’s tenth album. Second, a 2013 live version from a show Kelly did with Neil Finn. For some reason it’s listed as Deep Water but it’s the same tune. Wow, that’s deep, man.

I hope we’re not in over our heads. Let’s mount the diving board and jump to the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Hippie Doctor

The guy on this cover looks like a regular guy circa 2019. Times have changed.

I wonder if the Hippie Doctor was at Woodstock? They needed help with the brown and flat blue acid, man. He looks tough enough to subsist on apples, gruel, and JCC sammiches, man.

The last word goes to CSNY, man:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Wrecking Crew

Dr. A and I saw Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood last weekend. We both loved it. I thought it was his best movie since Jackie Brown.

Anyway, Sharon Tate is a character in the movie and went to the cinema to watch her own movie, The Wrecking Crew. Here’s a side-by-side image of Donald Hamilton’s book and the poster for the Dean Martin movie.

It’s trailer time:

The Wrecking Crew became the nickname of a group of elite LA studio musicians. They were celebrated in a documentary of that title in 2015:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Salome

You’re not seeing double. This Salome is Oscar Wilde’s play with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley. You know, the book that provided the book for the Strauss opera featured yesterday. The mind still reels.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Washable Ink

Salome With The Head Of John The Baptist by Aubrey Beardsley.

My first day of jury duty was uneventful. We waited to be called for voir dire but the call never came and we were out of there by 11 AM. They’re trying fewer cases at Criminal District Court since the DA’s office stopped prosecuting possession of small amounts of weed. An odd but effective move by our old school tough-on-crime DA. Ironies abound.

This week’s theme song was written by a very young John Hiatt for his 1979 album Slug Line. It was so long ago that he had a full head of hair as well as a unibrow.

We have two versions of Washable Ink for your listening pleasure: the Hiatt original and a cover by the Neville Brothers.

Let’s check if this spilled ink is really washable. Color me skeptical: black, red, or blue.

Do they still call newspaper reporters ink-stained wretches? Probably not but it was swell slang.

Time to ink up and jump to the break. I’m not sure what ink up means in this context, but I’m always talking shit. Y’all should know that by now.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: My Wicked, Wicked Ways

My Wicked, Wicked Ways is technically not fiction as it’s a memoir. But like most memoirs, it takes substantial liberties with the truth, which makes it faction but not factional. It’s definitely pulpy.

I chose Flynn’s memoirs because I’ve been watching some of his classic movies lately, I saw Dodge City for the first time the other day. A major omission as it’s the town-taming movie that Blazing Saddles parodies along with Destry Rides Again.

I guess that covers it. Here are the book covers.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Key Witness

This week’s selection is inspired by Muellerpalooza:

John Paul Stevens & Jim Bouton, R.I.P.

You’re not hallucinating. That is indeed a signed John Paul Stevens baseball card. It was created by David Mitchner who mailed it to Justice Stevens during the 2016 World Series. You know, the Cubs’ first championship since 1908. Justice Stevens returned the signed card and the rest is history. The photo of Stevens in Cubs gear dates from 2005 when he threw out the first pitch at a Cubs-Reds game in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

You’re probably wondering why I paired Justice Stevens and pitcher/author Jim Bouton in a tribute. They’re both people I admired who died recently, that’s why. Besides, I’m notorious for my oddball combinations. Stevens and Bouton were both genial, kindly men who loved baseball. It’s time to uncouple this Odd Couple; one that’s almost worthy of the late Neil Simon.

Let’s take them in order of demise. We’ll use the time-honored Odds & Sods device of the New York Times link thingamabob as subject headers/dividers.

 

I failed to pay proper tribute to Jim Bouton last week because of the Wednesday flood and the approach of Whatever That Was Barry. He had a mediocre career highlighted by two fine seasons with the New York Yankees in 1963 and 1964. He blew out his arm in 1965 and by 1969 was trying to make a comeback as a knuckleball pitcher with the expansion Seattle Pilots. The Pilots lasted one year before being sold and moved to Milwaukee where they ditched the awful uniforms and became the Brewers.

1969 was the dividing line in Jim Bouton’s life. It was the year that he recorded the diary entries that would become the sensation that was Ball Four. Bouton was pilloried by the stuffy, ultra-conservative baseball establishment for admitting that ballplayers were human beings. Mickey Mantle drank and played hungover? A huge shocker in 1970 but no surprise to anyone who actually knew the Mick.

Along with Catch-22, Burr, and Breakfast of Champions, Ball Four was my favorite book of that era. Heller, Vidal, and Vonnegut were pretty lofty company for a washed-up pitcher to keep. But all four books were irreverent and hilarious; influences I try to put to good use as a writer.

Teen-age me was thrilled to learn that someone who played my favorite sport was an anti-war liberal with a wicked sense of humor. Ballplayers pretended to be apolitical paragons in those days. Bouton was a breath of fresh air.

One of the best tributes I’ve read to Bouton is by my friend Vince Filak. He focuses on Bouton’s unique voice and exceptional story-telling ability. It’s a helluva good read.

I’ll give Jim Bouton the last word of the segment:

“A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

Let’s move on from a former Yankees/Pilots/Astros/Braves pitcher to a zealous Cubs fan.

John Paul Stevens always maintained that he was a conservative and that SCOTUS had moved so far to the right that he looked like a liberal in contrast. I think of Stevens as the sort of liberal Republican that is largely extinct in 2019.

He grew up in Chicago, which was a town dominated by a corrupt Democratic political machine. The natural thing for an independent minded lawyer was to become a liberal Republican in the tradition of fellow Supremes Charles Evans Hughes, Harlan Stone, and Earl Warren. Stevens’ appointment was by far and away the best thing that Jerry Ford did during his brief presidency.

As a Supreme, Stevens was an independent force with a fervent belief in the rule of law. I think Jeffrey Rosen best summed up Stevens’ credo as a judge:

In our conversation, three consistent themes in his jurisprudence emerged: his belief in the duty of the government to be neutral; the duty of judges to be transparent; and the need for judges to interpret the Constitution in light of the entire scope of its history, including the post–Civil War amendments, rather than stopping in the founding era.

Those are themes that all judges should aspire to but are sadly lacking among today’s conservative justices who are eager to gut precedents they dislike. That’s what John Paul Stevens meant when he called himself a conservative. He wanted to conserve what was best in the law and reform the worst.

Circling back to our baseball theme. As a young lawyer, Stevens was involved in Congressional hearings that addressed baseball’s anti-trust exemption. There’s a swell piece in the archives of the Atlantic about how Stevens changed baseball.

That concludes this odd couple tribute to two men I admired. Jim Bouton and John Paul Stevens made the world a better and livelier place. They will be missed.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Maynard Dixon/Dane Coolidge

To go along with the Happy Trails post, I searched for “western paperback covers” and stumbled into some early 20th Century dust jackets. Dane Coolidge was a California writer of genre fiction; mostly Westerns. His first two books featured covers by the great painter Maynard Dixon who got first billing in the post title because I’m very familiar with his work. The only Coolidge whose work I’m familiar with is Calvin and I’m not a fan.

Hidden Water was published in 1910 and The Texican in 1911. Sometimes it’s fun to fall down an internet rabbit hole.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Murder Me For Nickels

Five nickels bought Murder Me For Nickels back in the day but they’d purchase next to nothing in 2019. Holy inflationary spiral, Batman.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Gypsy Rose Lee

Gypsy Rose Lee was the exotic dancer as proto-rock star. I recall seeing her on teevee chat, variety, and game shows when I was a tadpole. And her memoirs were adapted into the great 1959 musical, Gypsy.

Lee “wrote” two successful crime fiction books. New Yorker staff writer Janet Flanner aka Genet was her ghostwriter. Flanner was best known for writing the Letter From Paris feature, and her attempt to referee Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer during their legendary verbal brawl on The Dick Cavett Show.

Let’s get bookish:

The last word goes to the Divine Miss M with a showstopper from a 1993 version of Gypsy:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Go West, Young Writer

Elmore Leonard is best known for urbane urban crime stories set in Detroit or South Florida. In his early days, he wrote a string of successful westerns. Boy howdy.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Pale Moon

W.R. Burnett is best known for hardboiled crime fiction novels that were turned into movies: Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle, and Nobody Lives Forever. He also wrote the odd book set in the West. Pale Moon is one of them:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wooden Ships

A New Frontier by Alan Bean

Summer colds are the worst. I have one so I’m keeping this introduction brief. This time I mean it.

This week’s theme song, Wooden Ships, was written in 1968 by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills. There are two original versions of this song but I’m posting the Crosby, Stills & Nash one first because it was released in May of 1969 whereas Jefferson Airplane’s version came out that November.

Now that we’ve fled planet Earth, let’s jump into the void, I mean, jump to the break. I’m not sure if Kantner, Crosby, and Stills provided parachutes. They were hippies so I have my doubts. I’ll guess we’ll find out on the other side.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Dead Ringer

The Dead Ringer is set in a carnival, which explains the peeping gorilla. But was its name Tom?

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Toff On The Farm

John Creasey was a successful and highly prolific crime fiction writer. And when I say prolific, I mean it: he wrote over 600 novels using 28 pen names. He made Stephen King look like a slacker.

The Toff was one of Creasey’s best-loved series. He was a gentleman detective who specialized in “fish out water” stories: hence the urban and urbane Brit at a farm.

My late mother was a fan of Creasey’s work and they were among the first grown-up books I read as a tadpole. No wonder I’m an Anglophile, eh wot?

Pulp Fiction Thursday: A Night For Treason

It’s time for another classic pulp image by Verne Tossey. The femme fatale on the cover may be ruthless but she’s well put together.

1956’s A Night For Treason was an early book by John Jakes who became famous for writing best-selling historical novels such as North and South. I don’t believe that there’s a A Night For Treason mini-series but Revlon or another lipstick company would have been a perfect sponsor. Oh well, there’s always Netflix.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Jazzman In Nudetown

Initially, I thought this was a parody book cover because of the ridiculous title. It is not. This fakakta book was published in 1964:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Back In The High Life Again

Mesas In Shadows by Maynard Dixon

I had a stupid kitchen accident this week. The sink was full-ish so I decided to pour boiling water into an airborne/hand-held colander. I missed and mildly scalded my left hand. It hurt like hell for a day or so but barely qualified as a first degree burn. I did, however, feel like a first degree dumbass. It was not unlike being an honorary Trump.

I just finished reading John Farrell’s fine 2017 biography of Richard Nixon. I learned two positive things about Tricky Dick. First, he broke his arm as a young politician after slipping on the ice outside his DC area home. The break occurred because he held onto his daughter instead of bracing for the fall with his hands. Second, Nixon was a good tipper. He tipped 25% in the late Sixties when 10% when standard and 15% was a big tip. Hell has frozen over: I just said something nice about Nixon.

After last week’s sad theme songs, I decided to elevate the tone a bit. Back In The High Life Again was written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings in 1986. It was a big hit; surely aided by James Taylor’s gorgeous harmony vocals.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Winwood’s chirpy original and a mournful interpretation by Warren Zevon, another wry and sardonic guy. We’re everywhere, y’all.

Now I want some Miller High Life, which is my favorite cheap beer. It’s even good enough for my beer snob/home brewer friend Greg. On that note, let’s take a swig of Miller, then jump to the break. Try not to spill any. Wasting beer is a sin.

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