Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Time & Place, Abe & Edgar

From Paul...

No one writing fiction today evokes setting better than our Jacqueline. "Among the Mad" is a magic carpet that will transport you to London in 1931. What authors do you like for effortlessly describing time and place?

R.I.P. RALPH: Ralph Kaplowitz, one of the original New York Knicks (1946), has died at age 89. Basketball was different then. Kaplowitz, a 6-2 guard, led the league in scoring, averaging 7 points a game, though he weighed less than one of Shaquille O'Neal's thighs. His teammates, Schectman, Hertzberg, Weber, and Gottlieb sound more like a C.P.A. firm than a starting five.

NOT AN OPTICAL ILLUSION: Not Photo-shopped either. A Stealth Bomber zoomed low (and almost silently) over the Rose Bowl on January 1. I know. I was there, as you can see in Section 17, Row 35, seat 1. I'm a Penn State alum, so the flyover was the high point of the game for me.

IT'S NOT JUST O.J. SIMPSON: What the running of the bulls is to Pamplona, what greed is to Wall Street, car chases are to L.A. On an average day, 16 people run from the police in Los Angeles County.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A BOOK REVIEWER: Reviewers at Publishers Weekly were paid $45 a review until June 2008 when the magazine reduced the fee to $25.

Both Abraham Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe recently celebrated their 200th birthdays. (Did they really celebrate?) There have been thousands (yes, thousands) of books written about Lincoln, and several about Poe. "On a Raven's Wing" (Harper Collins) is a new anthology edited by Stuart Kaminsky and published by the Mystery Writers of America. There are stories by Mary Higgins Clark and 19 others, including your humble scribbler. My piece, Development Hell," imagines Poe pitching "The Pit and the Pendulum" to a Hollywood studio exec. Here's the opening:

Marvin Beazle slipped off his tinted shades, tugged at his ponytail and studied the emaciated writer sitting across from him. Skin the texture of paraffin. Stained trousers, moth-eaten frock coat, and a silk cravat dangling like an tattered curtain.

“Love the Johnny Depp look,” Beazle said. “But why the long face, Eddie?”

AND SPEAKING OF SHORT STORIES: If you know of a better short story in 2008 than Laura Lippman's "Scratch a Woman" (contained in "Hardly Knew Her"), please tell me so I can read it.



  1. Yeow! Don't remember legs that skinny on any basketball player. Ever.

    What was the band trying to hide from the Stealth? That field formation looks like a spider, not a rose.

    Marvin Beazle? Love the name. Love the opening.

  2. How many mystery writers are going to start setting their mysteries in past times, even as recent as the Eighties or early Nineties? After all, the pervading presence of the ubiquitous cell phone immediately bespoils so many suspenseful plot possibilities nowadays.

    On the other hand, I'm also reasonably certain that from now on, when favorite character Eugene Barstok morphs into Bix Waverly, he'll very carefully ensure that his cell phone is turned emphatically off, and use something else to take pictures.

    On the pretext, of course, that a purpose built digital camera takes far better pictures. For evidence, you see.

  3. By the way, a question I want to ask, Paul--if a Stealth bomber went over the stadium, what was above it to take the picture--and why?

    All right, so that's two questions...

  4. I zoomed into Section 17 on the photo. That was you waving, wasn't it?

  5. I'm very excited for Abe & Edgar, but Darwin also celebrated his 200th birthday last week.

    Yeah, I'm a nerd.

  6. Jeff,
    Re: The picture of the bomber? Maybe shot from the Blimp? Not sure.

    Completely forgot about Darwin. It was a helluva year for births.

  7. Who took the photo of the Stealth bomber?

    Good post, Paul.


  8. Martin Beazle is a great name, and more than a little Dickensian (sort of a cross between Martin Chuzzlewit and the beadle). And I think that shot of the Stealth is amazing ("stealthy as she goes, me 'earties!)

    Oh, and thanks for that lovely comment, Paul - I think time and place is the thing we all work hardest at getting right, after all, if the reader isn't exactly in the time and place, then they aren't really with the story.

  9. Ah, Jeff, Eugene would be tickled that you remembered him. I also wondered who took the stealth pic.