Charles Stross just won the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novella of 2014 with “Equoid.” To celebrate Stross’ win, I want to recommend three novels in his Laundry series since “Equoid” is a “prequel” to these three novels. For those of you who haven’t read any of the Laundry series, think H. P. Lovecraft meets James Bond. The Laundry is a super-secret British spy agency that deals with X-File-type threats.

The Fuller Memorandum features Bob Howard, a rising spy, who discovers the Laundry has a mole. Plenty of black magic and intrigue in this book! A tele-evangelist attempts to awaken a powerful alien entity in The Apocalypse Codex. Much of the action takes place in Colorado. The Rhesus Chart, just published, involves a magic conspiracy that goes back to the being of the Laundry. Bob Howard has to do some clever detective work to figure this plot out. If you’re looking for some off-beat spy novels, don’t miss Charles Stross’ Laundry series. GRADE: B+ (for all three books)


I’ve read all of Bill Granger’s NOVEEMBER MAN series so I was intrigued by this movie version. Pierce Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, a retired CIA agent. Devereaux is reactivated to bring an “asset” out of Moscow. That extraction goes wrong and Deveroux finds himself involved in a plot that involves a beautiful Russian assassin and an aspiring general who wants to be President of Russia. There’s plenty of explosions and gunplay. Brosnan’s character is much tougher than James Bond. The November Man is based on There are No Spies (1987), the seventh book in the series. Admittedly, some of the dialogue is clunky. But Director Roger Donaldson has a feel for this kind of movie. If they make another November Man movie, I’ll go see it. GRADE: B


where the summer ends
Two of Karl Edward Wagner’s best stories, “In the Pines” and “Sticks,” are included in this Centipede Press collection. “In the Pines” is a terrific ghost story. “Sticks” is one of the best H. P. Lovecraft pastiche’s ever written. Stephen Jones’ “Foreward: My Friend Karl” is a moving tribute to this talented writer. Laird Barron’s “Afterword” celebrates Wagner’s life. Where the Summer Ends: The Best Horror Stories of Karl Edward Wagner, Volume 1 should give this talented, forgotten writer a new audience.
Foreword: My Friend Karl By Stephen Jones
Introduction: Unthreatened by the Morning Light By Karl Edward Wagner
In the Pines
The Fourth Seal
Where the Summer Ends
.220 Swift
The River of Night’s Dreaming
Beyond Any Measure
Neither Brute Nor Human
Blue Lady, Come Back
Afterward: In the Shadows of the Pines By Laird Barron

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #45: The Ballads Collection – RCA 100th Anniversary Series By Hall & Oates

While rooting around in my basement looking for a book, I ran across this CD from the 1990s. I’m a big fan of Daryl Hall and John Oates and their unique version of “Blue-Eyed Soul.” “Sara Smile” was a big hit for them as was “Everytime You Go Away.” I like the cover of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” My favorite song on this CD is “Possession Obsession.” Check out the live version from The Liberty Concert (1985) below. What’s your favorite Hall & Oates song?
1 Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid 5:28
2 Do What You Want, Be What You Are 4:37
3 Someone Like You 5:32
4 Melody for a Memory 4:55
5 Everytime You Go Away 5:09
6 Have I Been Away Too Long 4:23
7 You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ 4:38
8 Go Solo 4:36
9 Sara Smile 3:09
10 Bigger Than Both of Us 4:30
11 August Day 3:07
12 Open All Night 4:35
13 Possession Obsession 4:38
14 One on One 5:31

THE HEIST By Daniel Silva

I’ve read over a dozen Daniel Silva spy novels. Silva’s spy, Gabriel Allon, is an art restorer and spies for Israel. In The Heist, Allon searches for a stolen masterpiece by Caravaggio. But, sometimes the best way to find a stolen masterpiece is to steal another one to tempt the secret owner to come forward. There are plenty of red herrings and plot twists so typical of Silva’s previous spy novels. My only quibble is Daniel Silva sometimes makes things a little too easy for Gabriel Allon. I would have enjoyed this book more if Allon had to stretch a bit. If you’re looking for a competent, engaging spy novel, The Heist delivers. GRADE: B


Magic in the Moonlight is a low-wattage Woody Allen movie. Colin Firth plays a magician who is called in to expose a medium (played by Emma Stone) who is engaged to a wealthy young man who worships her (and serenades her with a ukulele). The views of southern France are gorgeous. The antique cars are spectacular. You’ll find few surprises in this movie. GRADE: B-


Dear committee members
Dear Committee Members is a snarky, funny, and witty novel. Julie Schmacher captures the entropic decline of an English Department at a second-tier Midwestern college. She creates a cantankerous Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Payne University, Jason Fitger. The novel is told through a series of Letters of Recommendation, some for students and some for colleagues. Anyone who ever taught at a college (or attended one) will instantly relate to Jason Fitger’s acerbic comments about funding cuts and diminished resources for the humanities while departments like Economics get showered with money and staff. This slim novel (180 pages) displays the frustration and disillusionment of senior faculty in a time when higher education is in decline. But Dear Committee Members achieves its effects with humor. There were times I Laughed Out Loud while reading this book. It’s been a long time since that has happened! Don’t miss this funny book! Check out the sample LOR below. GRADE: B+

September 14, 2009

Ted Boti, Resident Sociologist and Chair
Department of English

Dear Ted:
You’ve asked me to write a letter seconding the
nomination of Franklin Kentrell for the University’s
coveted Davidson Chair. I assume Kentrell is behind this
request; no sane person would nominate a man whose only
recent publications consist of personal genealogical
material and who wears visible sock garters in class–all he
lacks is a white tin basin to resemble a 19th century
But if you want me to endorse his nomination in order to
keep him quiet and away from your office (you will find him
as persistent and maddening as a fly), you may excerpt the
following sentences and affix my name to them:
“Professor Franklin Kentrell has a singular mind and a
unique approach to the discipline. He is sui
generis. The Davidson Chair has never seen his like
A word on the call for official, written letters of
recommendation, Ted: I hope for the sake of all concerned,
you will cut back on these as much as possible. The LOR has
become a rampant absurdity, usurping the place of the quick
consultation and the two-minute phone call–not to mention
the teaching and research that faculty were supposedly hired
to perform. I haven’t published a novel in six years;
instead, I fill my departmental hours casting words of
praise into the bureaucratic abyss. On multiple occasions,
serving on awards committees, I was actually required to
write LORs to myself.
Keeping my temper under wraps for the present,
J. Fitger
Professor of English/Creative Writing and Upholder of the Ancient Flame
Payne University

P.S.: I couldn’t help but notice,
following the departure of the Economists, that our Tech
Help office has been largely vacated as well, a single
employee–the appropriately named Mr. Duffy Napp–left
behind to respond to faculty requests for computer
assistance. This surly somnambulist rarely deigns to answer
the most basic of questions, and treats with exhausted
dismay any individual who is not a specialist in computer
arcana. Might it be possible to exchange “the
Napper” for someone more civil and less lethargic?
P.P.S.: Thank you for your attention to
my office window, which now closes; but due to an impressive
crack in the frame–presumably due to the earsplitting
construction on the second floor–rainwater is trickling
merrily down the inside of the glass and, as I type
these words, entering the rusted slats of the heater. You
might want to send someone to take a look.


Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt,Rosario Dawson,Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Jaime King, and Juno Temple are the ensemble cast of the sensational Sin City 2: A Dame to Die For. Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller create a noirish world of violence and vengeance and betrayal. Based on Frank Miller’s classic graphic novels, this movie captures the look and feel of the comics yet delivers a visual punch. If you’re going to see Sin City 2 I highly recommend you see it in 3D. The effects are eye-popping! I know this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found Sin City 2: A Dame to Die For compelling. GRADE: A-


I confess: I have reservations about the new Doctor. For many people, Matt Smith’s performance as Doctor Who over the past few seasons is a high point in the series. And, before Matt Smith took over, David Tennant turned in some excellent performances as The Doctor. So now we have a much older and more alien Twelfth Doctor (played by Peter Capaldi). Will this work out? I’ll be turning in to tonight’s episode on BBC America to find out. The good thing is that the Doctor’s companion, the fetching Clara Oswald (played by Jenna Coleman), returns to give the series some much needed continuity. Obviously, for you Doctor Who newbies out there, this is the perfect time to give this wonderful series a try.