Author Archives: george

SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS: HOW MOVIES SHAPED DESIRE By David Thomson


David Thomson’s Sleeping With Strangers explores the evolution of sex in movies. He describes the approaches to sex in the movies of Peston Sturgers, Howard Hawks, George Cukor, Ernst Lubitsch, and Alfred Hitchcock among others. Later, Thomson analyzes the on-screen and off-screen relationships of Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly, Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, John Wayne, and dozens of actors and actresses.

The result of all this entertaining knowledge is that I want to go back and rewatch a dozen or so films from the 1940s and 1950s that David Thomson admires. He claims His Girl Friday may be the best movie ever made. It’s been decades since I saw it so I can’t render an opinion. If you’re a movie fan, you’ll find Sleeping With Strangers provocative and stimulating! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction: Naked at the window — 3
The iceman cometh — 15
A powder-puff? — 29
Is this allowed? — 46
Hideaway — 58
Codes and codebreakers — 76
The Goddamn monster — 91
Gable and Cukor — 102
Tracy and Hepburn — 122
Buddies and cowboys — 141
“The cat’s in the bag, the bag’s in the river” — 157
Dead attractive: Cary Grant — 185
Indecency, gross, or mass market? — 198
The male gaze — 218
Perverse — 340
Burning man — 255
Gigolo — 268
Doing it, saying it — 285
An open door — 301
Acknowledgments — 329
Index — 333

RESPIGHI: ROMAN TRILOGY By Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra


The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, led by conductor JoAnn Falletta, recorded several CDs with NAXOS, the classical music company. The latest CD, Respighi: Roman Trilogy, sounds wonderful. I have a number of Respighi CDs, but this one zooms to the top of the list. I love Respighi’s tone poems about festivals, pines, and fountains. The lavish orchestration and lush rhythms, recorded with the excellent NAXOS sound engineers, turns this music into magic. Highly recommended! GRADE: A
TRACK LIST:
Feste romane (Roman Festivals), symphonic poem, P. 157 (1928) 23:59
Fontane di Roma (The Fountains of Rome), symphonic poem, P. 106 (1916) 15:55
Pini di Roma (The Pines of Rome), symphonic poem, P. 141 (1924) 22:01

POE, STORIES AND POEMS: A GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATION By Gareth Hinds


I’ve read some good reviews of Gareth Hinds’s graphic novels of classic literary works like The Odyssey, Beowulf, and Shakespeare’s plays: Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, and The Merchant of Venice. I have some nieces and a nephew who are approaching the age where they might like to read these wonderful graphic adaptations. I enjoyed Hinds’s treatment of Poe’s dark and lurid world. The artwork is exceptional and the stories and poems are compelling. If you’re looking for a way to introduce young people to the joys of reading classics, Poe, Stories and Poems (2017) would be a good place to start. Do you have a favorite Poe story or poem? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The Masque of the Red Death 1
The Cask of Amontillado 17
Annabel Lee 37
The Pit and the Pendulum 43
The Tell-Tale Heart 65
The Bells 83
The Raven 91
Author’s Note 106

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #521: BLACK MOON: The Complete Stories of Jules de Grandin, Volume 5 By Seabury Quinn


I’ve been a big fan of Night Shade Books’s volumes in The Complete Stories of Jules de Grandin series. Black Moon, just published, is the fifth and final volume. Seabury Quinn created a psychic investigator whose cases usually involved weird, occult, and supernatural aspects. For four decades, Seabury Quinn wrote stories that attracted a devoted audience of readers. The stories in this collection bring together Jules de Grandin stories from the late Thirties, all of the Forties, and a couple stories from the Fifties.

As I’ve mentioned in reviews of previous volumes in this series, you will in enjoy these stories a little at a time–no binging! My review of Horror on the Links can be found here, The Devil’s Rosary here, The Dark Angel here, and A Rival From the Grave here. If you’re a fan of classic pulp fiction stories that deal with mysterious and unexplained happenings, you’ll love the Jules de Grandin stories! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction—George A. Vanderburgh and Robert E. Weinberg
Foreword—Stephen Jones

1938
Suicide Chapel (Weird Tales, June 1938*)
The Venomed Breath of Vengeance (Weird Tales, August 1938)
Black Moon (Weird Tales, October 1938)

1939
The Poltergeist of Swan Upping (Weird Tales, February 1939)
The House Where Time Stood Still (Weird Tales, March 1939)
Mansions in the Sky (Weird Tales, June-July 1939)
The House of the Three Corpses (Weird Tales, August 1939)

1942–1945
Stoneman’s Memorial (Weird Tales, May 1942)
Death’s Bookkeeper (Weird Tales, July 1944^)
The Green God’s Ring (Weird Tales, January 1945)
Lords of the Ghostlands (Weird Tales, March 1945^)

1946
Kurban (Weird Tales, January 1946^)
The Man in Crescent Terrace (Weird Tales, March 1946)
Three in Chains (Weird Tales, May 1946)
Catspaws (Weird Tales, July 1946+)
Lottë (Weird Tales, September 1946)
Eyes in the Dark (Weird Tales, November 1946)

1947-1951
Clair de Lune (Weird Tales, November 1947)
Vampire Kith and Kin (Weird Tales, May 1949)
Conscience Maketh Cowards (Weird Tales, November 1949)
The Body Snatchers (Weird Tales, November 1950)
The Ring of Bastet (Weird Tales, September 1951)

*Cover by Margaret Brundage
^Cover by A.R. Tilburne
+Cover by Matt Fox

THE GOLDEN TRESSES OF THE DEAD By Alan Bradley



The tenth Flavia de Luce mystery begins with the wedding of Flavia’s older sister, Ophelia, who is getting married at long last. But, this being a Flavia de Luce novel, you just know something horrible is going to happen. And, of course, it does: when Ophelia cuts into her wedding cake she discovers a severed human finger. Yuck!

Of course, this fickle finger of Fate energizes 12-year-old chemist extraordinaire Flavia de Luce to launch an investigation. Flavia and her trusty gardener, Dogger, form a private detective agency. And sure enough, their first client–who hires them to find some missing letters–ends up dead. Flavia uses her knowledge of chemistry to crack the case and explain all the mysterious happenings. If you’re in the mood for some off-beat and quirky crime-solving, I highly recommend The Golden Tresses of the Dead. GRADE: A

WHISKEY CAVALIER (ABC)


Most “Mid-Season” network TV series suck. But ABC’s “action comedy drama” (their description, not mine!), Whiskey Cavalier, provides some low-level entertainment during the dismal Winter weeks. Here’s ABC’s official representation of Whiskey Cavalier: “Whiskey Cavalier follows the adventures of FBI agent Will Chase (codename: Whiskey Cavalier) who, following an emotional break-up with his girl friend, is assigned to work with CIA operative, Francesca ‘Frankie’ Trowbridge (codename: Fiery Tribune). Together, they lead an inter-agency team of spies who periodically save the world (and each other) while navigating the rocky roads of friendship, romance, and office politics.”

Think of Whiskey Cavalier as a mashup of Remington Steele and Mission Impossible. An FBI agent (Scott Foley) working with a CIA operative (Lauren Cohan) is a situation bound to cause conflict (it does). In addition, the “Team” includes a FBI profiler (Anna Ortiz played by Shannon Sampson), a computer hacker (Tyler James Williams played by Edgar Standish), and a fixer (Vir Das played by Jai Datta).

There’s so little on network TV worth watching that Whiskey Cavalier scores an 85% on ROTTEN TOMATOES. If you set the bar low, you might enjoy this fluffy series. GRADE: C+

MONKEY JUSTICE AND OTHER STORIES By Patti Abbott


Patti Abbott’s latest collection of stories displays her writing skill and her insights into the Dark Side of Life that will leave you breathless with suspense. Lies, betrayal, and treachery fuel many of these stories. I really liked “RE: University Protocol On Incidents of Student Plagiarizing” because I’ve dealt with students plagiarizing Research Papers in my College classes and the current scandal with parents bribing coaches to admit their children to elite schools. Patti captures the situation perfectly! If you’re looking for stories with intensity and intelligence, I highly recommend Monkey Justice and Other Stories. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
“Like A Hawk Rising”
“The Snake Charmer”
“Sleep, Creep, Leap”
“Bit Players”
“The Instrument Of Their Desire”
“Hole in the Wall”
“Escapes”
“Georgie”
“My Hero”
“Monkey Justice”
“On Paladin Road”
“What Happened Next”
“Tongues”
“The Tortoise and the Tortoise”
“The Squatter”
“The Trouble With Trolls”
“A Saving Grace”
“Girl Of My Dreams”
“Raising the Dead”
“I Am Madame X’s Bodyguard”
“Catnap”
“RE: University Protocol On Incidents Of Student Plagiarizing”
“Souris”
“The Frenchies”

DREYER’S ENGLISH: AN UTTERLY CORRECT GUIDE TO CLARITY AND STYLE By Benjamin Dreyer


Benjamin Dreyer is the Copy Chief of Random House. I believe that Dreyer’s experience as a copy editor makes Dreyer’s English stand out from the crowded field of grammar/style books. While William Strunk and E. B. White’s Elements of Style and Lynne Truss’s Eats Shoots and Leaves are useful and fun guides, Dreyer’s English provides a more systematic and organized approach.

Benjamin Dreyer has copyedited books by E. L. Doctorow, Frank Rich, and Elizabeth Strout. I found it revealing that Dreyer’s favorite writer is Shirley Jackson. Dreyer worked on Jackson’s Let Me Tell You, a volume of uncollected work by this underrated writer. If you enjoy reading about grammar and writing style, you’ll find Dreyer’s English a practical and illuminating tour of the writing process delightful. Highly recommended! GRADE: A
Table of Contents
Introduction: By Way of Introduction xi
Part I The Stuff in the Front 1
Chapter 1 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Your Prose) 3
Chapter 2 Rules and Nonrules 6
Chapter 3 67 Assorted Things to Do (and Not to Do) with Punctuation 20
Chapter 4 1, 2, 3, Go: The Treatment of Numbers 67
Chapter 5 Foreign Affairs 74
Chapter 6 A Little Grammar Is a Dangerous Thing 84
Chapter 7 The Realities of Fiction 102
Part II The Stuff in the Back 127
Chapter 8 Notes on, Amid a List of, Frequently and/or Easily Misspelled Words 129
Chapter 9 Peeves and Crotchets 147
Chapter 10 The Confusables 166
Chapter 11 Notes on Proper Nouns 210
Chapter 12 The Trimmables 242
Chapter 13 The Miscellany 252
Outro: By Way of Conclusion 267
Things I Like 269
Acknowledgments 271
Index 279

NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE



I grew up reading the Hardy Boys…and Nancy Drew. Yes, I enjoyed Nancy Drew mysteries just as much as the Hardy Boys series. When I was nine years old, I binged on dozens of mystery novels for kids. In a year or two, I graduated to Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, and The Saint. A year or two after that, I was reading Carter Brown, Mike Shayne mysteries, and plenty of DELL hard-boiled detective paperbacks.

But, my reading passion for mysteries was ignited by the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase movie appealed to me. Sophia Lillis plays the plucky investigator in this updated version of the original The Hidden Staircase first published in 1938 (with revised updated editions appearing every few years). After the death of his wife, Carson Drew (played by Sam Trammell) moves from Chicago to the bucolic small city of River Heights. But Nancy Drew can find mysteries anywhere. She hears that a nearby house might be haunted by ghosts. Nancy Drew investigates and finds…

The key to this kind of movie is the actress who plays Nancy Drew. In this case, I found Sophia Lillis brings a high level of believability blended with curiosity. She’s spunky and clever. The target audience of teenagers will enjoy this movie. And, older fans of Nancy Drew who would like to be teenagers again will also find fun watching Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase.” Are you a fan of Nancy Drew? GRADE: B+