Monday, December 31, 2007

And That's It

Saturday night we had our second Christmas with my brother-in-law's family from Georgia, driving from water scarcity to cold a-plenty. We cheered on Peyton's younger brother, who tried to upend the evil Patriots, the only force capable of stopping the Colts' rightful place at the throne of a second straight Super Bowl. Unfortunately Tom Brady, the spawn of Great Cthulhu who throws out a "Hail Satan" before falling into a drunken stupor every night on a pile of newspapers in the park, is now charted on an inevitable course to face the sainted Peyton Manning, who drinks milk every night before dropping to his knees and praising the Baby Jesus for his God-given talents on this righteous team. If only a wall of holy fire would sweep across Foxboro and wipe this blight from the Earth, our Colts could have what is theirs by right. Soon we will know how it all plays out.

Meanwhile, 2006 kinda sucked but 2007 was better. I had my most productive year freelancing, finishing seven scripts for hire, some of which will hopefully see the light of day in 2008. SEX MACHINE came out in May, THE DA VINCI CURSE came out in Japan on DVD but has yet to appear in the U.S. and AMONG US started playing on the Space Channel in Canada. My day job was fun and challenging. My daughter graduated high school and I started empty nesting. I almost peeled my thumbprint off in an accident. There was a blizzard back there and a trip to Florida and another Microcinema Fest and the Small Press Expo and the Phantoscope Film Fest and a bunch of other stuff. The Colts won the Super Bowl and I have been married for twenty years. For the one zillionth straight year I am holding the course with the same resolutions to lose weight, be more productive and steer my family from danger.

Happy 2008, everybody!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Green Christmas

Not everybody likes a green Christmas, but I do. There's just too much driving around to do. If it starts snowing on a Friday night and stops Sunday night that's about the perfect winter for me.

It was a good Christmas. I got a 32" LCD television from my in-laws, and as I've stated before the bigger the television I own the less liberal I feel. But damn it looks nice. My brother got me Darwyn Cook's THE NEW FRONTIER ABSOLUTE EDITION which is excellent, but at about ninety pounds is hard to read on the toilet. I bought him AXIS AND ALLIES: GUADACANAL which is like buying myself something because we will play it together. My daughter bought me some good 70s compilation CDs and my son bought me a bottle of wine from an Indiana winery. My wife bought me a nice leather coat with a Sopranos-ish feel. I got a bunch of new clothes and two new pairs of shoes with my Christmas money and shaved off a little "mad money" to buy the novel TREE OF SMOKE that I really want to read, as well as THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2007 in hardback, then a GUILD WARS upgrade for my online game. But I was 2/3rds good on my spending, and I still have $25 left.

My son Daniel and my brother Eric and my old pal Hal played the annual seasonal gaming session by re-creating the Battle of Endor with the Star Wars miniatures game. I took the Ewoks because I knew nobody else wanted them. The rebels won fairly handily considering that the Ewok general led them to somewhat gleeful suicide, a fuzzy little shield wall protecting Han, Leia, Chewie, and the droids, who overran the bunker.

I've dozed a bit and eaten pretty well and shopped until I was tired and seen a couple of movies, and it's almost time to face 2008. I hope all of my loyal readers had a good holiday as well.

Until later, holiday wishes can be sent to

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Frosty Eve

We always frost cookies on Christmas Eve, a holiday tradition from my childhood. Naturally, my own children hate this sacred custom.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Hustled

Me at my mother-in-law's Christmas Open House. I always look forward to the liver pate.
I think I won this game when somebody else shot the one black ball in. Paul Newman eat your heart out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Deck the (Day Job) Halls

Me directing the live television side of a local traditional Christmas show simulcast on radio and television in our area.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

From Croatia With Love

Says the Goran Visnjic fan site, about John Oak Dalton's blog, "that one actually made me laugh out loud."

Hey, if you write enough b-movies, you start taking praise where you can get it.

Ever since I posted about my wife stumbling into Goran Visnjic and Maura Tierney in Chicago on a shopping day my site has been getting slammed by hits from Visnijic's fan site, as well as an ER fan site. Fortunately my wife never reads my blog, or she would find out the existence of such places, and she would be gone from me for good, watching THE DEEP END over and over.

She just didn't believe me when I told her I had read in the paper that Visnjic was trying to mend his broken heart--after being dumped by Antonio Banderas--in the arms of George Clooney, himself only recently dumped by Johnny Depp.

You know what would really help me? If Gorn Visnjic would play a gay guy in a movie. My wife's burning passion for James Purefoy, featured in HBO's ROME as Mark Anthony--or as my wife called him, Mark Hotony--cooled a bit when I told her he had also played costar Kevin McKidd's boyfriend in BEDROOMS AND HALLWAYS. When it was all burnished helmets and clashing swords that was one thing, but once the other idea was planted it couldn't quite be shook loose.

You know what is really a pretty good movie with Maura Tierney? SCOTLAND, PA.

Everybody has their "free passes" in their marriages, and my wife suspects mine is Maura Tierney. Even though her rather lengthy list is shared openly, long-married dudes know to keep theirs under wraps. I was a bit astounded at another couple we were having dinner with last Friday, who revealed theirs were Harvey Keitel and Jami Gertz. Harvey Keitel! And the husband's choice of Jami Gertz was not only a shade esoteric--I had to hit IMDB to make sure I knew who he was talking about--but potentially dangerous, because there is always a chance that Ms. Gertz might one day pass through Indiana in some sort of traveling dinner show or something, and your free pass has to be somebody completely unreachable by mortal people.

Husbands, if you want to be safe, mention women that are only accessible by time machine--like Linda Stirling in about 1944 (check out PERILS OF THE DARKEST JUNGLE), Suzanne Pleshette in about 1966 (although 1969's IF IT'S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE BELGIUM got burned into my brain at a young age), Lynda Carter in about 1975 (scratch that, she still looks pretty good, and so does Jaclyn Smith, now that I'm googling names).

In other news, friends in California were facing wildfires, friends in Oklahoma are blacked out and under a sheet of ice, and my brother-in-law in Georgia was within a few short weeks of being COMPLETELY OUT OF WATER because of the draught. There are worse places to live than Indiana, methinks.

Give me a shout at

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Beat December 2007

My latest BOOK BEAT column for "Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence," the magazine of the Magna Cum Murder Mystery Conference:

STALIN’S GHOST by Martin Cruz Smith
Rewarding new entry in the long-running series about Russian police detective Arkady Renko, from Martin Cruz Smith. Every installment reflects something new in the political landscape of Russia, and this one is no different as Renko, long politically out of favor, is put on what seems to be the ludicrous case of several subway passengers seeing Stalin’s ghost. This becomes a jumping-off point for a typically tangled web of lies and murder that stretches all the way from Chechnya back to the New Russia. Really solid entry in the series.

A CINDERELLA AFFIDAVIT by Michael Fredrickson
Very chewy legal thriller features an inexperienced criminal lawyer whose client is killed, and how the lawyer’s insistence on clearing his name uncovers connections to police corruption and an east coast crime lord. Paints a vivid portrayal of various citizens in Boston from the lowest snitch to the future governor, and dense with courtroom scenes; a strong debut from Michael Fredrickson.

VOICES by Arnaldur Indridason
Icelandic crime novelist Arnaldur Indridason is back with mournful Reykjavik policeman Erlendur Sveinsson in tow, this time finding a murdered Santa in a compromising position over the holidays in a nice hotel. Indridason’s writing is dark and often darkly comic, full of clear-eyed observations and hard-boiled plotting; but what I enjoy most is his parallel storytelling, plumbing the depths of his flawed protagonist as his own life is revealed in the tragic crimes he investigates. A new favorite of mine.

LOST by Michael Robotham
Rough-hewn London copper Vincent Ruiz returns in Robotham’s sophomore mystery, which opens with Ruiz shot up and left for dead in the Thames after a botched undercover job. He recovers, but memory gaps leave his colleagues suspicious and the detective straining for answers as he pieces together what happened. A kidnapped girl is at the center of it all, and Ruiz races the clock to save the girl and his reputation. Strong characters buoy a somewhat rickety plot, but remains interesting throughout.

The first in Lee Child’s long-running Jack Reacher series features the hard-nosed ex-military man turned drifter on a “you killed my brother” bent through a sleepy Southern town. Child rather cheerily strains believability, as within a matter of a few days Reacher has the town’s police force answering to him and has bedded the only female police officer in town, and routinely fights four or five men at a time. But Child’s interesting characters, keen eye for detail, and brisk plotting glosses over the gaps.

Absolutely bleak noir, in the Hard Case Crime series of forgotten classics of the genre, from one of my favorite little-known pulp writers David Goodis. Here a frigid wife with repressed memories is in conflict with an alcoholic husband while trying to patch up their marriage at a resort. Bursts of violence shatter their reconciliation, though Goodis allows for the faint whiff of redemption in the closing pages, amidst the spatter. The Hard Case Crime series continues to please with one of my favorite entries in the series to date.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Take the Skinheads Bowling

We've had big slugs of snow, and then rain, and today ice. We are all hunkering down. Normally this would include football but since Thanksgiving--when my wife declared that football ruined Thanksgiving, which to me is like saying turkey ruined Thanksgiving--football has been absorbed in covert glances here and there. Our new neighbors from California looked rather dour when I was at the mailbox yesterday. Y'all are in Indiana now, I thought--and it's only just begun.

Yesterday I bowled four games, two at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Christmas party and two at my nephew Jesse's 11th birthday party. I bought him the RISK board game, which he and his fifth-grade posse fell right on. Last year the same happened when I bought him STRATEGO. Take that, Wii. Earlier I bowled two good games for me--a 121 and a 132--but I've got a blister today that I get reminded of the more I type here.

So signing off at

Friday, December 07, 2007

Life in the ER

Last night was the ER episode that my wife wandered into on a bus trip to Chicago with my mother and mother-in-law. They turned the wrong way off of the bus and soon were in the midst of a bunch of trailers and tents and all of a sudden there was Goran Visnjic and Maura Tierney having a pretend fight. Since my wife loves Goran Visnjic she described him as dashing and handsome in real life and chatting up the crew and since she suspects I like Maura Tierney she described her as pale and wan and standing off by herself with the hood of her coat pulled around her face to ward off the cold. She has since expressed an interest in the movie DOCTOR SLEEP, an agreeable enough supernatural thriller with the faint whiff of crapola wherein Mr. Visnjic plays a psychologist with the psychic power to invade dreams, the kind of stuff my wife would normally avoid with a passion. If Visnjic gets cast on DOCTOR WHO or the STAR TREK movie this might work to my advantage; otherwise I must monitor this situation closely, and Visnjic's career with deep suspicion.

In other movie news, I went to see BEOWULF. I liked it well enough that I am re-reading the great Seamus Heaney translation. But on the other hand I don't know why they felt they had to mess with the story; somehow people have liked it for thousands of years just the way it was. Although I think their depiction of the dangers of sleeping with Angelina Jolie were well documented.

In other entertainment news, I finished a truly excellent book called THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz that I strongly recommend to all of my nerd friends. It's like an urban version of FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE by Jonathan Lethem, one of my favorite books of the last few years (along with THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier and CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL by Glenn Gold).

I'm getting tired of taking the rest of the year off from writing and wondering what the new year will bring. Until then, give me a shout at