Category Archives: Books

Pulp Fiction Thursday: First He Died

It’s time for some sci-fi noir:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Hotel Doctor

Today’s entry continues our medical theme. I think he’s a doctor feelgood but who am I to judge?

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Border Lord

I usually avoid posting “bodice ripping” romance novel covers. The one on the left, however, has a ripping good tagline: “A saucy wench defies her king for love.” Red sauce or white?

Pulp Fiction Thursday: A Bullet For Cinderella

Was Prince Charming aware that Cinderella was in trouble? Probably not. The dude was clueless.

I’m a John D. MacDonald fan but I haven’t read this book. I suspect that the British paperback on the right is more accurate in its depiction of the story.

I have a rather disturbing earworm:

I never expected to post a Disney Princess video in this feature but you never can tell.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Rage

Richard Bachman was Steven King’s pseudonym when he was an overly prolific young writer. It was all the rage:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Rodent Mutation

The title of this 1961 sci-fi potboiler speaks for itself: it’s about mutated rodents. Bron Fane, however, is a pseudonym for Lionel Fanthorpe. It’s also an anagram for Boner Fan, which may or may not be an accident.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Ward 20

In addition to writing this lurid potboiler, James Warner Bellah worked on five John Ford films. Bellah represented the dark side of Ford’s vision. Many of the bigoted bits in his Westerns were down to Bellah.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Yellow Room

This is another one of those “I found this while searching for something else” PFT entries. The second cover is intriguing. Is it telling readers that this is a good book to read at the beach? There’s nary a yellow room in sight.

I, Captain Bligh

Captains Bligh: Charles Laughton, Trevor Howard, Anthony Hopkins.

I’m out of the habit of posting the Impeached Insult Comedian’s tweets. He spends so much time preening, posturing, bragging, and lying on tevee that his Twitter feed feels redundant. I wish *he* were redundant in the British sense: out of work. Let’s make it so in November.

Back to President* Pennywise’s latest weird tweet. I’m not sure if he wrote it himself since there are some big words in it but it’s revealing nonetheless:

Invigorating? Too fancy for the Kaiser of Chaos who speaks and “writes” in what the late Philip Roth called “jerkish.” Or as Truman Capote said about Jack Kerouac, “it’s not writing, it’s typing.” Capote’s beatdown of the beat writer was rooted in jealousy. Like Trump, he always had to be the center of attention.

The tweet is also vague as to which version of Mutiny on the Bounty Trump prefers:

  • The 1935 Frank Lloyd-Charles Laughton-Clark Gable version?
  • The 1962 Lewis Milestone-Carol Reed-Trevor Howard-Marlon Brando version?
  • The 1984 Roger Donaldson-Anthony Hopkins-Mel Gibson version is called The Bounty but it’s about mutiny, not a candy bar. It’s even based on a different book, but a mutiny is a mutiny is a mutiny.

Trump seems to identify with Captain Bligh. He’s under the mistaken impression that Captain Bligh was the hero of the piece. That’s another figment of his fertile fantasy life. The American Film Institute named Captain Bligh the #19th most loathsome screen villain ever. Btw, the feature is interactive: another time killer for the pandemic.

I suspect most governors would be glad to be identified with the big screen Fletcher Christians except for the one on the right in the triptych below:

Fletcher Christians: Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Mel Gibson.

Fletcher Christian was the bull goose mutineer and the hero of the first two bounteous films. The 1984 movie was more ambiguous properly befitting a movie starring anti-Semitic nut job Mel Gibson. Not that President* Pennywise and ambiguity are on speaking terms or even passing acquaintances. I’d pass on meeting him myself…

Marlon Brando over-identified with Fletcher Christian. He staged his own mutiny against original director Carol Reed. Brando denounced the maker of Odd Man Out and The Third Man as a hack unworthy of sailing on the same tall ship as the great Marlon Brando. He engineered Reed’s firing in favor of the more pliable Lewis Milestone. It was a tantrum worthy of the Kaiser of Chaos or even the original Kaiser Bill:

What’s the purpose of this post? Other than making my readers laugh? The proof is in this pudding: the Kaiser of Chaos has delusions of grandeur and fantasies of exiling Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsome to Pitcairn Island. If, that is, he had a clue as to what I’m talking about. Maybe I should make a Survivor exile island analogy instead, the president* and Mark Burnett are bosom buddies, after all. Not to be confused with Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari in the sitcom of that name:

I’m terribly fond of the novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman. It was the first grown-up book I ever read. I recall devouring Mutiny on the Bounty while bedridden with some malady when I was 11 or 12 years old. I never for a second identified with Captain Bligh. Just as I’d rather walk the plank or swing from the yardarm than vote for Donald Trump.

The last word goes to Bugs Bunny in Mutiny on the Bunny:

Bugs morphed into Captain Bligh in Buccaneer Bunny:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Walking On A Wire

Gas Station by Edward Hopper.

Edward Hopper is associated with scenes of urban isolation and alienation. As you can see, the same thing applies to his rural scenes. That gas station isn’t hopping, which is par for the course for Hopper.

The Gret Stet of Louisiana is making progress with the pandemic. The curve is flattening slightly BUT there’s a big problem with racial disparity among the afflicted. Twice as many black folks have died of COVID-19 related illnesses as white folks. Terrible is an accurate but still inadequate word to capture the horror of this discrepancy. If I believed in using emojis here, I’d insert a sad face BUT:

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson in 1981 for the final Richard and Linda Thompson duo effort, Shoot Out The Lights.

Walking On A Wire is one of the ultimate breakup songs. It’s some serious shit, y’all. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a recent solo acoustic version by the songwriter.

I’m still feeling wiry. Time for some Leonard Cohen as channeled by Aaron Neville.

I’m a bit wired from all that walking on a wire. Keep your balance as we jump to the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Nightmare In Manhattan

This book only sounds ripped from the headlines, it was published in 1955.

To lighten things up, the last word goes to Ella Fitzgerald with Manhattan by Rodgers and Hart:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Dig That Crazy Grave

I’ve been keeping it light this week because we’re all in need of comic relief. This feature is uniquely suited to black humor, which is useful in times like these. If we can laugh at our deepest fears, we have a better chance to survive them; at least I hope so.

On to this week’s book cover. As far as I know, none of the 3-dozen Shell Scott books were ever filmed. It’s a pity: Leslie Nielsen would have been perfect casting.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Time To Kill

The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins.

This week’s featured image is one of the most famous American paintings of the 19th Century. I’ve posted it to honor all the medical professionals who are fighting the good fight against COVID-19 but who wear masks and gloves unlike Dr. Gross and his cohort. Thanks, y’all.

I prefer to keep this weekly feature light but it’s hard to do in these tough times. The second act is kind of heavy, but the jokes return in our third act. Laughs are precious right now when fear is abroad in the world and our government in the hands of an evil clown, President* Pennywise. Oy just oy.

At the risk of being a pest, a reminder to support Chef’s Brigade NOLA for all the reasons set forth in this post. Thanks again, y’all.

This week’s theme song was written by Robbie Robertson in 1970 for The Band’s third album Stage Fright. It’s a joyful tune with a somewhat dark lyrical subtext.

We have two versions of Time To Kill for your listening pleasure:  the Todd Rundgren produced studio original and a live version from the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen: a 1973 festival starring The Band, The Dead, and the Allman Brothers Band.

The title certainly resonates in our era:, we all have time to kill. One of my mottos as a blogger is: When in doubt, post a Kinks song:

Now that we’ve killed time, let’s jump to the break. It won’t kill you.

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An Experiment: Tongue In The Mail, Chapter 1

Times are weird so I thought I’d do something extra weird for First Draft. In the late 1990’s, I wrote a novel set during my time as a student at Tulane Law. It’s a murder mystery with a title taken from the opening lines of a Neil Finn song:

I spent years trying to sell it. I got some very nice rejection letters and took any editorial suggestions offered including a title change from the more generic Hearsay. Eventually, I let Tongue In The Mail rest on my computer. I haven’t looked at it in many years. In 2020, it qualifies as a historical mystery since it was set, in part, during the Edwards-Duke governor’s race from hell.

I tried not to do too much rewriting. I’m pleased that it still reads well. The style is *close* to my current writing style as Adrastos, but there are fewer puns. One major difference is the use of exclamation points, which I left in because some people speak in them. I guess that makes me a reformed exclamation point sinner. Some of you will have a field day with this. I welcome your scorn.

I’m not sure if I’ll keep the experiment going, so please let me know either here, on social media or via email if I should. I’m trying to entertain the masses, not indulge in an exercise of Trumpian egomania. In fact, I’m nervous as hell about posting this.

The first chapter is set at a wedding. I stole the idea from The Godfather. When in doubt, steal from the best. It’s heavy on exposition, the action revs up in chapter 2.

The characters are composites of people I knew at the time, not ripped from the headlines. The narrator, however, bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain blogger.

Our story begins after the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Cross On The Drum

This week’s selection is the tale of a missionary and a Voodoo houngan:

The last word goes to the Neville Brothers doing that Voodoo that they do so well:

We’re All Milo Minderbinder Now

A brief update from the contagion belt. You may have seen this last night on The Rachel Maddow Show:

We’re sixth in the nation BUT we’re the lone non-New York state hotspot in the top 11 with Jefferson Parish chiming in at #15. Believe me, that’s not where we want to be. Apologies for using one of the Impeached Insult Comedian’s tells: believe me = I am lying like a cheap flea market rug.

My latest at the Bayou Brief will be published either today or tomorrow. It’s, in part, inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez but I prefer to keep it shrouded in mystery. Suffice it to say that every day feels surreal; like a chapter out of a magic realist novel.

Spring has sprung but we will not be sprung from our internal exile any time soon. Let President* Pennywise rant: I’m staying home, staying put, staying out of mischief. I will not be swayed, which reminds me of a song:

In case you were wondering about the post title. Dr. A went to three groceries and CVS to piece together our supply chain yesterday. Milo Minderbinder was the mess officer and master scrounger in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, which is one of the books that most impressed my young, impressionable self. If you’ve never read it, there’s no time like the present. It was magic realism before the term was coined.

Life is not a Cabaret old chum, it’s an extended Catch-22 situation. Here’s how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes Catch-22:

The original catch-22 was a governmental loophole involved in Joseph Heller’s satirical novel Catch-22. Heller’s novel follows the exploits of a bombardier in World War II, and in doing so shines a light on the relentless and circular bureaucracy of war and wartime governments. The term is introduced to describe the apparent loophole, or catch, that prevents a pilot from asking for a mental evaluation to determine if he’s fit to fly:

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.”

The second paragraph was Joseph Heller speaking. We’re all more or less in a Catch-22 situation in 2020. We’re all Yossarian. We’re all Major Major Major. We’re all Milo Minderbinder now; forever refighting the Toilet Paper Apocalypse. Heaven help us.

That concludes the inaugural edition of Life Imitates Catch-22.

The last word goes to Talking Heads; a song in which “heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.” Sounds a lot like social distancing to me, y’all.

Shecky’s Bleak Week In Review

I added my nickname to the post title as a signal that my satirical mojo appears to be rising. What the world needs now is to live up to Chuckles the Clown’s motto: ” A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants.” But at a safe distance.

When times are tough, it’s time for the tough to get going. I have no idea what that means but it sounds like inspirational coach speech to me. It’s time for some random and scattershot observations about the latest week from hell.

Insider Trading: The news about 3 GOP Senators selling stocks after a January COVID-19 briefing has resulted in a well-deserved epidemic of condemnation. North Carolina’s Richard Burr is the best known culprit, Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe is the dumbest, and Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler is the richest. Dollars to doughnuts that when Trump is asked about this story, he’ll comment on Loeffler’s looks.

ProPublica described Burr’s action as a stock dump. He took such a big dump on the country that even Tucker Fucking Carlson is calling for his head on a platter:

I’m unsure if this is the sort of insider trading covered by the securities laws but if it is, Burr and his colleagues are in deep shit. My friend Kevin Allman has a novel notion about how this should be treated:

Using my best Ted Allen voice, Senator you have been chopped.

The last word of the segment goes to Van Fucking Morrison:

Kung Flu Fighting? Republican racists are at it again. Following the lead of the Impeached Insult Comedian, they’re calling a stateless bug the Chinese Virus. Past malaka of the week and infamous asshole Texas Senator John Cornyn’s comments were typical:

“China is to blame because the culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that,” Cornyn told reporters. “These viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people, and that’s why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses like SARS, like MERS, the swine flu, and now the coronavirus.”

That’s why I call him Senator Cornhole. Go eat an armadillo or a rattlesnake, asswipe.

An unknown White House staffer made like the Unknown Comic and called it the Kung Flu.

The origins of the following proverb are in dispute but it surely fits a party whose leader is President* Pennywise:  A FISH ROTS FROM THE HEAD DOWN.

The last word of this segment is beyond obvious:

Let’s close things out with something positive even if it’s a teevee series based on a dystopian work of what-if historical fiction.

The Plot Against America: I read Philip Roth’s brilliant book when it came out in 2004. The David Simon-Ed Burns 6-part adaptation debuted on HBO this week. The first episode is as good as it gets. No, not the Jack Nicholson flick…

Roth’s premise was that FDR lost the 1940 election to Charles Lindbergh. Lucky Lindy’s  fictional win turned out to be bad luck for America. The premise is plausible: the GOP did not nominate an isolationist to run against FDR. The Barefoot Boy from Wall Street, Wendell Wilkie, was an avowed internationalist with few differences on foreign policy with the incumbent. I think Lindbergh would have lost in the real world BUT he might have done much better than Wilkie.

I considered recapping the series but the only show I could do that for was cancelled in 1994: Short Attention Span Theatre.

Finally, please consider contacting your local blood bank about donating blood. I’m not sure what the pandemic process will be but they’re bound to need your blood but not your sweat or tears.

The last word goes to Pete Townshend and David Gilmour:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Plague

I can’t remember if I first read The Plague in high school or college.But I recall the profound impact it had it on me. It’s a powerful book that, according to a French speaking friend, is one of the best French to English translations ever. It’s certainly timely in the age of COVID-19.

There are many swell covers to choose from. We begin with the original hardback dust jackets.

I had to include the paperback cover on the left. It was the edition I read. It may be time to revisit it.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Epidemic

This 1961 novel continues this week’s theme; only without the exclamation point. Things are bad enough without using one.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Get Happy

Painting by Piet Mondrian.

My stomach bug was a persistent bugger. It slowly got better but I lived without coffee for four days; an experiment I’m not eager to repeat. It’s hard to be alert when you’re under-caffeinated, Coke Zero and tea don’t quite do it. The result was a groggy unprolific blogger. So it goes.

A quick note about the featured art and its influence on the Krewe of Spank. Our theme this year was NOLAOPOLY and our float was designed to be a rolling version of the game board. I suggested that the sides should look like a Mondrian painting. Our float captain, Greg, went for it with gusto.

I may not be able to paint or draw but I have a good eye. Besides, Di Stijl is always in style.

I decided to try and put some pep in my step with this week’s theme song. It was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler in 1930 for a Ruth Etting movie, The Nine-Fifteen Revue. Etting was later played by Doris Day in the 1956 movie Love Me or Leave Me with Jimmy Cagney as her gangster husband.

We have two versions of Get Happy for your listening pleasure. The artists need no introduction but get one anyway: Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald.

Since we’re trying to get happy, it’s time for Keith Richards’ signature song:

Let’s join hands and happily jump to the break.

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