Weather in Western New York has been more February than April. We’ve had over 8 inches of snow with high winds. Temperatures for April have been “Below Average” for 19 of the 20 days so far. During a recent wind storm, one of our trees got blown over. Today, Diane and I met with a landscaping guy who gave us a good estimate on removing the downed tree and filling the hole. We hired him and by next week this eye-sore will be gone. Have you sustained any storm damage lately?


Stark House continues its reprinting of Al Wheeler mysteries by “carter brown” (pseudonym of Alan Geoffrey Yates). This new omnibus edition includes mysteries from 1956 (mysteries 4-6 in the series). I was fascinated by the way “carter brown” developed the unorthodox Homicide detective, Lieutenant Al Wheeler. Wheeler is not only a canny puzzle solver, he also has a eye for women. Yes, this is frothy story-telling, but for the men in the audience “carter brown” was writing for, these slim books were ideal entertainment (over 100 million copies of “carter brown” books were sold!).

No Harp for My Angel takes the reader on a vacation in Florida with Al Wheeler. But, of course, Wheeler finds trouble when he tries to pick up a gangster’s girlfriend. Wheeler finds himself framed and his only option is to go undercover for the local police to investigate the schemes behind the disappearance of several young women. Explosive conclusion!

Booty for a Babe is set at a Science Fiction convention. One of the featured speakers is killed in front of his audience. Al Wheeler races against the clock (the convention is about to end!) to figure out the motive and method behind this bizarre murder. The plotting in Booty for a Babe is superior to all the previous Al Wheeler mysteries. There’s plenty of humor in this book, too!

Eve, It’s Extortion (aka, The Victim) challenges Al Wheeler with a death that might or might not be a murder. A drunk is fatally struck down by a hit-and-run driver. His beautiful widow stands to collect a large insurance settlement. Wheeler suspects there might be more to this case and unravels a conspiracy. But evidence is in short supply so Wheeler decides to manufacture his own.

If you’re looking for fast-paced, clever, and enjoyable mysteries this Stark House omnibus triples your pleasure! GRADE: B+


J. M. Coetzee was the recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature. He once taught briefly at SUNY at Buffalo so there’s a local connection. Coetzee’s essays show he’s a thoughtful reader. In “What is a classic?” Coetzee addresses the question of why some books last and hold their readership while others disappear. I enjoyed Coetzee’s essays on major writers like DeFoe, Richardson, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Borges, and Byatt. Coetzee’s taste for world literature includes writers I was not familiar with like Emants, Mulisch, Nooteboom, Skvorecky, Phillips, Appelfeld, and Pringle (although I have enjoyed many Pringles!). If you’re in the mood for reading some intelligent literary essays, I highly recommend Stranger Shores. GRADE: A
What is a classic? : a lecture 1
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe 17
Samuel Richardson, Clarissa 23
Marcellus Emants, a posthumous confession 34
Harry Mulisch, the discovery of heaven 39
Cees Nooteboom, novelist and traveler 49
William Gass’s Rilke 60
Translating Kafka 74
Robert Musil’s diaries 88
Josef Skvorecky 104
Dostoevsky : the miraculous years 114
The essays of Joseph Brodsky 127
J.L. Borges, collected fictions 139
A.S. Byatt 151
Caryl Phillips 160
Salman Rushdie, the moor’s last sigh 169
Aharon Appelfeld, the iron tracks 179
Amos Oz 184
Naguib Mahfouz, the harafish 191
The poems of Thomas Pringle 203
Daphne Rooke 208
Gordimer and Turgenev 219
The autobiography of Doris Lessing 232
The memoirs of Breyten Breytenbach 249
South African Liberals : Alan Paton, Helen Suzman 261
Noël Mostert and the eastern Cape frontier 272
Notes 282


Felix Cassius Tiberius Carmer III is an orphan who is an apprentice to Antoine the Amazifier, a traveling magician. The Amazifier decides to enter the competition of magicians at the Seminal Symposium of Magickal Arts in the city of Skemantis. In Skemantis, in a beautiful park called the Aboretum, faeries face the threat of human technology. Grit is the young princess of the faeries, but she’s handicapped because she only has one wing. Grit can’t fly, but she can sure get around with the help of her friendly owl. Grit rescues Carmer when he’s attacked by thuggish teenagers and the human and the faerie make a deal to solve the mystery of the vanishing faeries.

Carmer and Grit (2017) is Sarah Jean Horwitz’s first novel. It has a few dull patches that a good editor should have fixed. But, this story of two very different youngsters coming of age and solving a mystery ends up being an entertaining Young Adult novel. I’ll be looking forward to the sequel. GRADE: B-


I’m a fan of DC Universe Animated movies. This new feature, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, launches a band of criminal misfits into a mission filled with danger and deception. This version of the Suicide Squad is made up of Deadshot, Killer Frost, Captain Boomerang, and Harley Quinn. Of course, Harley Quinn provides the much needed “comic relief.” The Suicide Squad need to recover a very special card, but they’re not alone in their quest. Professor Zoom, Silver Banshee, and Blockbuster also want the card and the conflict produces some epic battles. If you’re looking for action and suspense, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay delivers. GRADE: B+
Outback Rogue: Captain Boomerang
Nice Shot, Floyd! The Greatest Marksman in the DCU
The Power of Plot Devices, MacGuffins and Red Herrings
The Death of Superman preview


Night-Gaunts takes its name from a H. P. Lovecraft poem of the same name. “Night-Gaunts” tells the atmospheric story of a young boy who is abused by his father. When his father dies, the young boy is threatened by creatures–the Night-Gaunts–that only he can see. The Necronomicon makes an appearance. In The Woman in the Window a young woman waits for her lover in the nude, except for her spiky pair of shoes. An unstable wife of a college professor suspects her husband of having an affair with “The Long-Legged Girl” and takes action. “Sign of the Beast” shows what happens when a college student becomes the focus of an unethical science experiment. A young man battling cancer starts stalking a woman in “Walking Wounded.” As you can see, these stories are firmly planted in Joyce Carol Oates country. Oates knows how to modulate the tone of these stories from sinister to creepy to horrific. The ever generous Beth Fedyn sent me this Advanced Reading Copy (Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense will be published on June 5, 2018). Thanks, Beth! GRADE: B
The Woman in the Window 1
The Long-Legged Girl 31
Sign of the Beast 73
The Experimental Subject 121
Walking Wounded 223
Night-Gaunts 277


Steve Martin, Martin Short, and The Steep Canyon Rangers rolled into Buffalo for an evening of comedy and music at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. There was an “audience participation” skit based on The Three Amigos. The Steep Canyon Rangers played a song from their new Blue Grass album. My favorite part of the performance was Steve Martin’s “ventriloquist” bit where Martin Short appears as the “dummy.” Very funny. To jog memories, an overhead video showed some of the highlights of both Steve Martin and Martin Short on Saturday Night Live and scenes from their movies, too. If you’re in the mood for a couple hours of laughs, I’d recommend the Martin & Short comedy evening (aka, “Glad We Saw Them Before They’re Dead”). MARTIN SHORT: GRADE: A


A Quiet Place starts with the words “DAY 89” flashed on the screen. A family is rummaging around in a looted pharmacy in a deserted town. They are all being very very quiet. They communicate with hand signals. It doesn’t take long before you find out why they’re being so quiet. Emily Blunt is fabulous in this movie. Her birthing scene–with an alien monster lurking in the background–is classic! I also admire the performance of Millicent Simmonds (a deaf actress) as teenage daughter, Regan, who wears a cochlear implant that provides minimal hearing. John Krasinski directs A Quiet Place and stars as the father of the embattled family surrounded by ravenous aliens who attack at the slightest sound. This is the quietest movie since The Artist. My only quibble is too much “shhhhhing” in the movie. Everyone knows the dangers of sound. GRADE: B


Henry Kane is best known for his private eye series (1947-1972) featuring Peter Chambers in 19 novels. But Henry Kane was a versatile writer. He wrote scripts for NBC’s Peter Gunn and 60 novels. Frenzy of Evil (1963) is one of Henry Kane’s stand-alone novels. The plot revolves around a group of friends who all harbor secrets. Successful lawyer Jonathan Joseph Carson hides the biggest secret: he abuses women. Carson’s new wife is in her 20s–40 years younger than he is. And, of course, secrets have a way of leaking out. Someone in Carson’s group decides that murder might be the best solution to Carson’s spousal abuse. If you’re looking for a psychological thriller with plenty of twists and turns, check out Frenzy of Evil–another classic STARK HOUSE BLACK GAT book! GRADE: B+

THE ELDER ICE By David Hambling

I’d like to thank for recommending this book. The Elder Ice is a 74-page tale of what Ernest Shackleton really found on his Antarctic explorations is narrated by ex-boxer Harry Stubbs. Stubbs works for a legal firm and finds himself involved in the famous polar explorer’s legacy which is full of Lovecraftian secrets. David Hambling has really done his homework on Shackleton. I learned a lot about Antarctic exploration with a Mythos twist. I enjoyed this unusual story and I’m eager to read more of David Hambling’s work! GRADE: A-
The Elder Ice (2014)
Broken Meats (2015)
Alien Stars (2017)
Shadows from Norwood (2013)
The Dulwich Horror & Others (2015)
Short Fiction
A Question of Blood (2016)
The Mystery of the Cursed Cottage (2017)