Category Archives: Books

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Chain

At The First Clear Word by Max Ernst.

It still feels like summer in New Orleans. I’ve been so focused on the Kavanaugh mess that I’ve been a local news slacker with one exception: last Monday, our local utility company, Entergy, blamed a cat for a major power outage. Della Street and Paul Drake are in the clear: I’m their alibi. This is proof positive that my town is weirder than your town. Neener, neener, neener.

What is it with the news cycle in the Trump era? Every Friday it blows up after I tuck this post in bed and kiss it good night. I have a few quick thoughts on today’s two big stories. First, the Rod Rosenstein story is a set-up, the Failing New York Times got played by Trumpers. Second, Chuck Grassley’s ultimatum to Christine Blasey Ford is egregious extortionate excrement.

What do these fuckers have in store next? A 21st Century Reichstag fire? This is the face of American fascism.

It’s time to tune out the jackboots and return to our regularly scheduled programming.

This week’s theme song was written by  Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie for an album that you may have heard of: Rumours. The Chain is the only tune on that record credited to all five members of Fleetwood Mac Mach 9. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio track and a recent live version featuring new members, Neil Finn and Mike Campbell.

I’m not sure if jumping to the break constitutes breaking the chain but we’re going to do it anyway. Now that I think of it, it’s closer to yanking your chain. What’s a little chain yanking among friends?

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: Cape Fear

Hurricane Florence has me thinking of North Carolina. When I heard a reference to Cape Fear on teevee, I knew what to select for this feature.

John D. MacDonald was among the best hard-boiled crime fiction writers of his era. The book was originally titled The Executioners. It was renamed Cape Fear in Hollywood because that’s where the story’s climax takes place.  It’s one of the few times that movie people improved upon a book title. Subsequent editions of The Executioners all bore the title Cape Fear.

One of the few movie remakes that’s worth a damn is Martin Scorsese’s 1991 version of the original 1962 Peck-Mitchum film. Here’s the poster for Marty’s movie:

 

Book Review: Fear by Bob Woodward

When reading a book like this, you usually learn that its subject has some redeeming characteristics. That’s never been the case with any book about Donald Trump; even Hitler liked children and dogs whereas Trump is indifferent to the former and hates the latter. Trump always comes off worse than expected. That’s the case in Fear by Bob Woodward.

The Insult Comedian and his idiotic minions have attacked the book as “fake news” and “fiction” and denounced Woodward as a tool of the Democrats. Woodward is, of course, hawkish and quite conservative: I’m unsure if he’s still a registered Republican but he used to be.

The White House has even strong-armed sources such as Jim Mattis, Rob Porter, and Gary Cohn into issuing non-denial denials. But none of them has disputed the truth of Woodward’s damning narrative. How could they?

I do not understand why Gary Cohn, who is much richer than Trump, issued such a statement. One would hope he would like to recover at least part of his good name after his time as a Trump dignity wraith. He’s also a registered Democrat who should not give a shit how the GOP does in November. Here’s my conclusion: Gary Cohn is a pussy. He should grab himself.

Yeah, I know. I used that line in my Everybody Hates Ted post. It’s too good not to recycle.

I read Fear in two days, which is fast by my standards. When the writing is excellent, I like to luxuriate in the prose. It’s not something I do when reading Woodward: he’s a plodder, not a stylist. That approach tends to *further* his credibility. Even after all the acclaim, he’s the Joe Friday of American journalism:

I guess that makes Carl Bernstein the Bill Gannon of American journalism. I’d rather be Sherman T. Potter myself…

Woodward’s book has caused the Insult Comedian to have his 19th Nervous Breakdown as president*. His frenzied tweeting makes him the book-salesman-in-chief. The book has sold 750,000 copies since its publication: I picked up one of the last copies at my local Costco on publication eve. Woodward is known for his exquisite manners, so I wonder if he plans to write the president* a thank you note. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

Fear is written in the classic Woodward voice: omniscient narration with dialogue based on his recordings. Like Tricky Dick and Omarosa, Woodward records his interviews, which is why Team Trump cannot possibly win its pissing match with the WaPo legend. Hell, they’ve lost to the dread Omaraosa.

The content of the book has been widely discussed. Woodward sticks to important subjects such as trade and national security; eschewing the gossipy approach of Michael Wolff and Omarosa. The most interesting segments involve Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd who may have violated attorney-client privilege by being so garrulous with Woodward. I’m glad he talked: we learn a lot about Dowdy’s view of the Mueller probe. I don’t agree with his take but it gives us insight into how Team Mueller operates. As a prosecutor, Bobby Three Sticks is a helluva poker player. He’s acting like he has an ace in the hole, y’all.

You can tell that Trump has not read the book or he’d understand that Woodward is fair to him. Woodward is something of a Kremlingate skeptic and buys into much of Dowd’s blather. I do not: Dowd assumes that the witnesses whose testimony he’s familiar with have told the truth to the FBI, Congress, and Grand Jury. In many cases, I assume the opposite. Ain’t no way Trump Junior didn’t lie to protect his father. Lying is in the genes.

The Trump White House is full of potty-mouthed officials. I remember when the Nixon White House Transcripts came out. People were shocked over the expletives deleted. Nobody’s shocked by all the cursing in Fear, I fear. Fuckin’ A.

My major takeaway from reading Woodward’s latest is that Trump is every bit as jaw droppingly stupid as we’ve all feared. 63 million Americans voted for a fucking moron who is incapable of admitting error or absorbing new information. I remain appalled that the many Trump officials who know that he is unfit for office have not resigned. Other than Secretary Mattis, whose continued presence may deter a deranged president* from going to war, they have no excuse for putting party and self above country.

The last word goes to Bob Woodward:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: If Death Ever Slept

I tried a new method in selecting this week’s, uh, selection. I looked at the bookcase in my study and picked the first crime fiction title that caught my eye. That’s how Nero Wolfe’s If Death Ever Slept wound up on First Draft. It beats the hell out of a lottery.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Coffin Corner

I’m not quite sure what inspired this week’s theme but I don’t think it was Della or Paul coffin up a hairball.

First Draft Potpourri: Of Violence, Wise Guys & Peckerwoods

I have a dream that some day soon we will have a normal news cycle. Every time I step away from the computer and/or iPhone to focus on personal and/or local news, all hell breaks loose. (It also makes me type and/or twice in one sentence, which is lazy writing.) But that’s life in the Trump era where even a news junkie like me craves a respite of dullness from the dullards running the government.

That was a long-winded of way of introducing a potpourri post. It’s the only way I can keep up with the news of day since, unlike some other bloggers, I decline to do so on the tweeter tube. Truman Capote once said of Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” When I see a 20 part thread, my response is: That’s not writing, that’s tweeting. It’s fine for short bursts but I prefer writing to typing and/or tweeting. Uh oh, another and/or. Next thing I’ll want to fire Bruce Ohr and/or someone else…

Violence: The Insult Comedian loves scaring the shit out of people. He did it the other night during an event with evangelical supporters. Trumpy claimed that violence will ensue if Democrats win the midterms. He’s projecting once again: his supporters are the ones apt to riot. Hell, Rudy’s already promised that as a response to attempts to remove the president* from office. Bullshit: most Trumpers can barely get off the couch to find the remote. Besides they only watch Fox News so why get up at all?

Speaking of Violence,  it’s time for a good old-fashioned punch-up, glam rock style. No guns allowed, just fists.

Unfortunately Trumpberius and company are apt to agree with Ian Hunter’s lyrics:

Violence, violence, it’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense.

Back to the couch and stay there, motherfuckers. It’s time for Michael F’s image from earlier this morning to play a repeat performance:

Life Imitates Billy Bathgate: Very little scares a white-collar criminal more than hearing that their accountant has made a deal with Federal prosecutors. And (but not or) Allen Weisselberg is not just a bookkeeper, he’s the Trump Organization’s CFO. He also happens to be one of the people running the company while the boss is ruining the country.

At first I wondered if Weisselberg would be the token Trump loyalist instead of a snitch and/or rat; there I go again with the and/ors. Then I read this:

Last month, the New York State Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, sued the Trump Foundation. Weisselberg had been deposed and showed a surprising willingness to give answers that put the President in an unflattering light. In January, 2016, during Trump’s Presidential campaign, his foundation made a series of donations to veterans-advocacy organizations in Iowa that were explicitly designed to gain support for his candidacy. Weisselberg filled out the checks. In his deposition, he volunteered that the Trump Foundation had no procedures in place to insure it followed the law and that Trump himself knew of and directed Weisselberg’s participation in the scheme to pay those Iowa veterans groups. Were Weisselberg eager to protect his longtime boss, he could have answered the questions far more narrowly. It was an early hint that Weisselberg, like Cohen, may not jeopardize his own freedom to defend Trump. News that Weisselberg had accepted immunity so that he could share potentially damaging information in the Cohen case provides more support for the view that Weisselberg is ready to share whatever information he has. And he has a lot.

It increasingly appears that Trump’s downfall will be his sleazy business tactics. Holy money laundering, Batman. Allen Weisselberg knows more than the Fixer or the Pecker notwithstanding the latter’s cache of Trump dirt. Why do you think the president* has been melting down even by his own standards?

You’re probably wondering why I titled this segment Life Imitates Billy Bathgate. Here’s why: EL Docotorow’s novel is based on the life and times of Dutch Schultz nee Arthur Flegenheimer. (I’d change my name too if it was Flegenheimer. Who wants a name that sounds like phlegm?) Dutch’s numbers wizard was a guy named Otto Berman who everybody called Abbadabba. Tom Dewey’s “racket busters” considered him the linchpin to unraveling Shultz’s rackets but Lucky Luciano whacked Abbadabba before prosecutors could flip him. End of arcane mob history lesson.

In Billy Bathgate, Abbadabba Berman was the most interesting character. He mentored the title character and protected him from Flegenheimer’s unphlegmatic wrath. The movie version was not as good as the book but the cast was excellent: Dustin Hoffman played Schultz, and Steven Hill played Abbadabba. Ironies abound as Steven Hill also played the Manhattan DA in Law & Order who shares a name with one of Trump’s pursuers, Adam Schiff. I am not making this up. I even posted about the Adams when the Kaiser of Chaos was a mere birther.

In the Trump Organization’s saga, Allen Weisselberg is Abbadabba Berman. And an Abbadabba trumps a Fixer or a Pecker any day.

It was harder than hell to find pictures of either numbers wizard. I skipped the picture of Abbadabba after he was whacked. Abbadabba-doo. You knew that was coming, right?

That concludes the wise guy part of the post, let’s move on to the peckerwoods.

The Senate Building Flap: It hasn’t been a great week for Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. His deal with Chinless Mitch to let his members go home and campaign has been roundly criticized.  But he did put some points on the board when he suggested that the Richard Russell Senate office building be renamed for John McCain.

The name change should have been easy: Russell, one of the most powerful Senators of his time, was an avowed racist and white supremacist. Unlike some of his fellow Southerners, Russell never became reconciled to Civil Rights. He was a Lost Causer til the bitter end.

It appeared that the name change would sail through until some Southern GOPers expressed concerns about it. The Turtle punted it to a “bipartisan gang.” It’s unclear if members of the Russian mafia and/or La Cosa Nostra will have any input. It’s a pity that the Fixer flipped because he’d know how to set it up…

Think about it: Southern Republicans were afraid of removing the name of a Southern Democrat from a building. They’re obviously scared of alienating their white nationalist base and/or the Racist-in-Chief. They’ve lost Pecker, so they can’t afford to lose the peckerwoods.

So much for all those GOPers who have bashed reformed segregationists like Robert Byrd, Russell Long and, yes. even Richard Russell’s protegé, Lyndon Johnson.

LBJ didn’t really “threaten” Russell. He presented him with a fait accompli that obliged him to serve on the Warren Commission.

It’s time for me to stop stirring the potpourri and writing and/ors. The last word goes to Randy Newman. Some Southern Republicans are still rednecks and/or peckerwoods who “don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.”

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Edgar Wallace

Edgar Wallace was a prolific English writer who is best known as one of the screenwriters of the original King Kong, He could also be dubbed one of the founders of pulp fiction.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: I, The Jury

All the talk about the Manafort jury got me thinking of this Mike Hammer tome. It was one of Mickey’s most popular books. If it had flopped, he would have had some Spillane-ing to do…

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Glitter and the Greed

This book is NOT about the Trump administration but someone should use the title for a book that is.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Last Hurrah

The Last Hurrah is the story of Frank Skeffington an Irish pol based on Massachusetts legend, James Michael Curley. It’s about his last campaign, which took place in the teevee era thereby dooming a dinosaur like Skeffington. It was made into a helluva movie by John Ford who knew from Irish-American politicians.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Deadly Mermaid

This book has nothing to with either the movie Splash or my friend Charlotte’s post-K blog, Traveling Mermaid.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The High Window

I’m in a Marlowe mood this week: Philip, not Christopher.

The High Window was Raymond Chandler’s third book featuring Marlowe. It’s been published with a wide array of covers over the last 76 years. Here are two representative ones:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Nice Guys Finish Dead

It’s all in the title this week.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dimming Of The Day

New Orleans Window by Lee Friedlander.

Happy Bastille Day. I’m not planning on storming anything, it’s too damn hot for that. I *am* spending some time in the heat by attending San Fermin New Orleans. It’s our zany version of the running of the bulls in which the bulls are rollergirls with plastic bats. I’m not running, I’m drinking mimosas, eating donuts, and hanging out with Dr. A, our friend Cait, the child army, and whoever else shows up. It’s a sweaty, fun, and deeply silly time.

I predicted that the president* would make an ass of himself in the UK and he has done so. He gave an inflammatory interview to the Murdoch owned Sun wherein he praised Boris Johnson, criticized Theresa May, bashed immigrants, and wished people would call the country England again. He apparently re-annexed Ireland while he was at it. The next day, he denied attacking May and called The Sun “fake news” even though it’s owned by his pal Rupert. It was just another day in Trump World.

The featured image is one of my favorite photographs from the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Lee Friedlander in Louisiana exhibit. The New York based photographer has a passion for New Orleans, which is on display at NOMA until August 12th.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for Pour Down Like Silver the third album he and then wife Linda recorded together. We have three versions for your listening pleasure. The original version followed by covers by the Neville Brothers and Bonnie Raitt. RT plays on the latter recording.

Now that we’re feeling a bit on the dim side,  let’s brighten things up by jumping to the break.

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Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Cave

I mentioned this book in my post about the Thai cave rescues. It’s one of those books that lodged itself in my consciousness when I read it many years ago. It’s the story of a young man trapped in a cave in Tennessee. I won’t tell you what happened since the book is well-worth reading for both the tale and the telling.

A point of order: my LSU friends are likely to object to a Warren book popping up in this feature. The Cave is literary fiction but the paperback covers are on the pulpy side. Besides, its my party and I’ll cry it I want to.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: If Wishes Were Hearses

What’s not to love about this book title? In a word: nothing.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Psycho Circus

This book is not about the Trump White House but if they’re in need of an “evening reader,” they could use the title.

This book title has given me a wee earworm. It’s got me singing “Psycho Circus, qu’est-ce que c’est.”

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Chessmen Of Mars

I was a devoted reader of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books as a tadpole. The Chessmen of Mars was one of my favorites. I somehow doubt if those books inspired Trumpy’s space proposal. Reading is too hard.

There are many editions of The Chessmen of Mars. I like these two early paperback editions that I found on the interweb.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Judas Cat

I’m not sure which of the covers below is from the first paperback edition. I have a guess, it’s the one with the old man and the cat. What’s a vintage pulp fiction cover without either a femme fatale or damsel in distress?

Pulp Fiction Thursday: James Meese

James Meese week continues at First Draft. He’s something of an internet man of mystery. I wasn’t able to learn much about him other than he was as short-lived as he was as prolific as a pulp fiction illustrator. I’ll just have to let his work speak for itself:

I don’t want to give you the impression Meese never did covers for some of the more popular crime fictionistas. Here are two he did for Agatha Christie paperbacks: