Author Archives: george

Van der Valk: Love in Amsterdam (PBS)

This new version of Nicholas Freeling’s Van Der Valk takes more of a crime team approach than the novels did. Marc Warren plays his Commisaris Piet Van Der Falk as as an aloof, clever, and chilly detective in charge of a group of useful minions. His chief assistant is lesbian Lucienne Hassell (Maimie McCoy) who manages to stand up to her boss while contributing a human touch to the investigations. Always hungry officer Brad de Vries (Luke Allen-Gale) does a lot of the investigative scut work while a new member of the team–a brilliant, bemused and black–Job Cloovers (Elliot Barnes-Worrell) is the resident genius. Their go-to pathologist, Hendrik Davie (Darrell D’Silva), handles forensics like he handles his liquor and his chess games.

“Love in Amsterdam” has almost nothing to do with Freeling’s first novel other than it’s set in Amsterdam. A botched kidnapping leads to two murders with political implications. Van Der Valk and his team follows the evidence and untangles a web of menace. My favorite scene in “Love in Amsterdam” is Van Der Valk’s blind date where the woman asks him what he does for a living. Van Der Valk lies and claims he’s a “quantum physicist.” Of course, the woman turns out to be a devotee of String Theory.

The second episode, “Only in Amsterdam,” involves religious erotica and identical twins. Not as humorous as “Love in Amsterdam, the story revolves around a dysfunctional family and a sexual predator. GRADE: B (for both)


In a recent poll, 70% of Americans said the country was going in the Wrong Direction. And why are we going in the Wrong Direction? According to Kurt Andersen, it’s because of Evil Geniuses like Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, the Koch brothers, and more recently, Moscow Mitch and Trump.

Kurt Andersen isn’t afraid to go into the political weeds to identify significant but low-profile Evil Geniuses. Take Grover Norquist as an example. Norquist invented “The Pledge” which forces almost all Republicans who take it NEVER to vote for tax increases. So, when the Economy was humming along and small tax increases could have paid for much needed infrastructure projects, more medical research, and preparing for a pandemic, Norquist’s iron hold over Republicans prevented that from happening. Now, we have to live with more trillions in National Debt as a result.

Kurt Andersen also provides revealing looks at some of the minions of the Evil Geniuses: “[David] Stockman’s chief economist at the Office of Management and Budget–who left in 1983 to earn a fortune on Wall Street, then became a cocaine addict and TV pundit… That was thirty-six-year-old Larry Kudlow, defining political economist to mean not an expert on political economics, but an economist willing and eager to disassemble and lie to suit his political masters… (p. 109)

Evil Geniuses is filled with nuggets like this. Very informative and insightful. Highly recommended! GRADE: A


Introduction xiii

Part 1 A Brief History of America

1 Land of the New: America from 1600 to 1865 3

2 Land of the New: An Economic History from the 1770s to the 1970s 11

3 Approaching Peak New: The 1960s 21

Part 2 Turning Point

4 The 1970s: An Equal and Opposite Reaction 33

5 The 1970s: Liberalism Peaks and the Counterrevolution Begins 48

6 The 1970s: Building the Counter-Establishment 61

7 The 1970s: From a Bicentennial Pageant to a Presidency 73

8 The 1970s: Neoliberal Useful Idiots 86

Part 3 Wrong Turn

9 The Reagan Revolution 103

10 Raw Deal What Happened in the 1980s Didn’t Stay in the 1980s 115

11 The Rule of Law 123

12 The Deregulation Generation 136

13 The Culture of Greed Is Good 145

14 How Wall Street Ate America 154

15 Workers of the New World, You Lose 186

16 Insecurity Is a Feature, Not a Bug 203

17 Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative, Generally Complacent 214

18 The Permanent Reagan Revolution 220

19 The 1990s: Restrained and Reckless 231

Part 4 Same Old Same Old

20 Rewind, Pause, Stop: The End of the New 245

21 The Politics of Nostalgia and Stagnation Since the 1990s 259

22 Ruthless Beats Reasonable 271

23 Winners and Losers in the Class War 286

24 American Exceptionalism 303

Part 5 Make America New Again

25 Winners and Losers (So Far) in the Digital Revolution 313

26 How the Future Will Work 323

27 This Strategic Inflection Point 340

28 What Is to Be Done? 347

29 The Plague Year and Beyond 367

Acknowledgments 389

Bibliography 391

Index 407


Susanna Lee’s Detectives in the Shadows: A Hard-Boiled History starts with Carroll John Daly’s “The False Burton Combs,” first published in 1922 in Black Mask and moves on to Daly’s next story Black Mask story, “Three-Gun Terry,” featuring Terry Mack, a detective. But it was the 1923 story, “Knight of the Open Palm,” that introduced the world to Race Williams and true hard-boiled detectives.

Less hard-boiled but just as tough as Race Williams was Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op. Black Mask launched the first installment of Red Harvest in it’s November 1927 issue. A few years later, Raymond Chandler’s short stories appeared and found their way into book form like The Big Sleep (1939), Farewell, My Lovely (1940), High Window (1942), The Lady in the Lake (1943), The Little Sister (1949), and The Long Goodbye (1953).

Susanna Lee explores the long career of Mickey Spillane starting with I, the Jury (1947), My Gun is Quick (1950), Vengeance Is Mine (1950), One Lonely Night (1951), The Big Kill (1951), and Kiss Me, Deadly (1952). Mike Hammer is the quintessential hard-boiled detective who shoots first and asks questions later.

Things became a bit more complicated (and more sophisticated) when Ross Macdonald and Robert Parker showed up with their more modern detectives. Lee writes about TV detectives–James Rockford and Harry O–but ignores the dozens of series detectives that filled the airwaves in the 1960s and 1970s. My only quibble about Detectives in the Shadows: A Hard-Boiled History is that many paperback detectives–Mike Shayne, Shell Scott, Johnny Liddell–are left out of this book. Maybe they’ll show up in the sequel. Who’s your favorite detective? GRADE: B+


Acknowledgments vii
Introduction. A Silhouette 1
Chapter One. Arriving on the Scene 11
Chapter Two. A Moral Compass 51
Chapter Three. A Rugged Individual 85
Chapter Four. A Lone Wolf 123
Chapter Five. A Person of Honor 149
Appendix: Selected Authors’ Fictional Works 169
Notes 183
Bibliography 199
Index 209

ORGANIC By Joe Cocker

I like to listen to Joe Cocker occasionally. His gravelly voice isn’t conducive to lengthy listening, but in small doses I find Cocker’s singing enjoyable. Organic was released in 1996 and I’d classify this CD as “mellow.” Randy Newman plays on it and so does Billy Preston. Cocker does a nice job covering songs like “Into the Mystic” and “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood” (with a reggae arrangement).

My favorite song on this CD is “Can’t Find My Way Home,” the Steve Winwood classic. But there’s plenty to like on this collection of cover songs. Are you a fan of any of these songs? GRADE: B+


  1. Into the Mystic” – 3:31 (Van Morrison)
  2. “Bye Bye Blackbird” – 3:31 (Morton Dixon, Ray Henderson)
  3. “Delta Lady” – 3:16 (Leon Russell)
  4. “Heart Full of Rain” – 4:48 (Michael Dan Ehmig, Tony Joe White)
  5. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” – 3:52 (Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell, Sol Marcus)
  6. Many Rivers to Cross” – 4:23 (Jimmy Cliff)
  7. “High Lonesome Blue” – 4:10 (Cocker, Tony Joe White)
  8. Sail Away” – 3:00 (Randy Newman)
  9. You and I” – 4:35 (Stevie Wonder)
  10. “Darling Be Home Soon” – 4:11 (John Sebastian)
  11. Dignity” – 3:13 (Bob Dylan)
  12. You Can Leave Your Hat On” – 3:46 (Newman)
  13. You Are So Beautiful” – 2:43 (Bruce FisherBilly Preston)
  14. Can’t Find My Way Home” – 3:53 (Steve Winwood)
  15. “Human Touch” – 3:46 (Bruce Springsteen)
  16. “Anybody Seen My Girl” – 3:02 (Kevin Moore)
  17. Something” – 3:18 (George Harrison)


You’ll find some very strange short stories in Angela Slatter’s The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories. Being a fan of Lovecraft’s work, I enjoyed “Reading Off the Curriculum” which features a conniving student who decides he can use The Necronomicon without his professor’s approval. “Lavinia’s Wood” takes Lavina Whatley from Lovecraft’s famous story, “The Dunwich Horror,” and gives her a new eerie story.

Jack the Ripper stories have mined most of the possibilities of that tale, but Angela Slatter decided to see what would happen if a woman explored the Ripper case. “Ripper” presents a different kind of of investigator with surprising results. “Ripper” is the longest story in the book and takes its time to unfold with unpredictable results.

I also enjoyed Slatter’s “Author’s Notes” where she writes about how each story in The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories came about and what effects she was trying to achieve. Angela Slatter is certainly a new author to keep an eye on. I’ll be buying her next book. GRADE: B+


Previous Publication Credits xi

Introduction 1

The Soldier 5

Egyptian Revival 21

Neither Time nor Tears 49

No Good Deed 65

The Little Mermaid, in Passing 87

But for an I. 97

Ripper 119

Better Angels 211

The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners 225

Our Lady of Wicker Bridge 239

Reading Off the Curriculum 255

Change Management 267

Lavinia’s Wood 281

Finnegan’s Field 295

Author’s Notes 327


I enjoyed the Miss Fisher series on PBS and now a DVD of Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears showed up at my local Public Library. Miss Fisher is a wealthy woman who loves to investigate crimes. She also packs a gun.

Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears feels more like an Indiana Jones movie as Miss Fisher (Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher) gets involved in an investigation into a village that was destroyed by a sandstorm. Miss Fisher helps to rescue a young Bedouin girl called Shirin from imprisonment in 1920s Jerusalem. Then, of course, a couple of murders occur and Miss Fisher finds herself embroiled in a complicated plot.

If you’re looking for some light entertainment, you’ll enjoy Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Fears and the Miss Fisher TV series. GRADE: B+


The first thing you’ll notice while reading My Life As A Villainess is the many missing letters. You’ll be reading one of Laura Lippman’s essays and you’ll see “…even if their partner is under twenty fi e.” (p. 62). Every few pages, words will be missing letters which becomes annoying.

If you can get over the missing letters, you’ll find a range of essays where Laura Lippman writes about her life and her career. Lippman worked as a reporter for 20 years so there are some great War Stories about her former profession. I was interested in Lippman’s transition from a reporter to full-time writer. I found these essays revealing and compelling. GRADE: B+


Introduction: The Accidental Essayist – 1

Part I: Game of Crones

The whole 60 — 9

Game of crones — 28

Natural selection — 48

The art of losing friends and alienating people — 67

Part II: This be the other verse

My father’s bar — 91

The thirty-first stocking — 99

Swing, interrupted — 111

Revered ware — 118

Part III: My life as a villainess

The Waco kid — 125

Tweety bird — 149

My life as a villainess — 164

Part IV: Genius

A fine bromance — 179

Saving Mrs. Banks — 202

My brilliant friend — 223

Men explain The wire to me — 243

Acknowledgments — 269

Credits –271


These has to be the weirdest start to an NFL season ever! No OTA’s, no Pre-season games, little hype, and a constant worry that a Covid-19 outbreak could cancel the season.

The Buffalo Bills face the New York Jets in their home opener. Rain is in the forecast. No fans in the stands. The Bills are 6 1/2 point favorites, but who knows what will happen under these bizarre conditions. How will your favorite NFL team fare today?