Author Archives: george

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker wraps up the plot that began nine movies ago in a decade (1970s!) far, far away (42 years!). I’ve seen all the Star Wars movies and this latest epic provides plenty of action and adventure. Rey (Daisy Ridley) proves to be a wonderful heroine. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) almost rules the Galaxy. The cast of characters like Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suatamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2-D2 swing into action as the Final Order is about to destroy any planets that resist their rule. Director J. J. Abrams packs drama, fighting, warfare, and destruction as preludes to a touching ending. This is the end of an era. But…what will come next? Are you a Star Wars fan? GRADE: B+

SLEEP NO MORE: SIX MURDEROUS TALES By P. D. James


Rick Robinson beat me to reviewing a traditional Christmas mystery book (Campion at Christmas, you can read Rick’s fine review here), but better late than never. P. D. James’s Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales (2017) features “The Murder of Santa Claus” to add some macabre events to the Holiday Season. Winter also plays a role in “The Yo-Yo,” a tale where a young boy witnesses a murder that is dismissed as an accident. “The Victim” features a perfect crime…with a twist. “The Girl Who Loved Graveyards” recounts a crime in the past. The motive for murder in “A Very Desirable Residence” is…a very desirable residence. “Mr. Millcroft’s Birthday” proves that Senior Citizens can be sharper than their younger, greedy family members. I found Sleep No More a satisfying reading experience with a dash of ho, ho, ho! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Foreword vii
The yo-yo — (THE VERDICT OF US ALL, 2006) 3
The victim — (WINTER’S CRIMES 5, 1973) 27
The murder of Santa Claus — (GREAT DETECTIVES, 1984) 61
The girl who loved graveyards — (WINTER’S CRIMES 15, 1983) 113
A very desirable residence — (WINTER’S CRIMES 8, 1976) 143
Mr. Millcroft’s birthday — (THE MAN WHO…, 1992) 165

NFL WEEK 16


Sadly, the Buffalo Bills lost to the New England Patriots 24-17 yesterday. However, the Bills are still in the Playoffs and I suspect they will “rest” many of their starters next week against the NY Jets to prepare for the Houston Texans. How will your favorite NFL team perform today?

BUFFALO BILLS VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (4:30 P. M. on The NFL Network)


The 10-4 Buffalo Bills are headed for the Playoffs. But first, they have an afternoon game with the 11-3 New England Patriots today. For the Bills to win the AFC East, they would have to defeat the Patriots then beat the NY Jets next week…and the Patriots would have to lose to the Miami Dolphins. Not likely.

So do the Bills rest some of their key players today and next week? Do they treat these games like Preseason games? We’ll find out later today. The one thing that could derail the Bills’ hopes is…injuries. Will you be watching this game? Check out the WALL STREET JOURNAL article about the Buffalo Bills:

If the Bills Shock the Patriots, Should a National Holiday Be Declared?
A pesky Buffalo football club has a small, outside chance to win the AFC East. That’s amazing unto itself.

By Jason Gay

I know the country is roiling right now, ablaze with a president’s impeachment, a clamor of partisan finger-pointing, a lot of Beltway yappers barking in circles on cable news, and, as always, angry tweets. So many angry tweets. Also, there’s a very alarming new “Cats” movie, apparently, with singing, mewling cats.

Still, I need everyone to focus on something much more important:

The Buffalo Bills have a chance to shock the world.

They can topple the mighty, mightily respected, mightily despised New England Patriots.

I know. I told you. It’s a big deal. Knocking off the fancy Death Star Patriots? It’d be more seismic than impeachment. Clocks would stop. Mountains would move. Parents, children and dogs of all sizes would rush to the streets and dance. A national week of celebratory Bills Mafia table smashing would commence.

But…let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

The 10-4 Bills travel to Foxborough, Mass., for a Saturday afternoon contest against an 11-3 Patriots team that does not feel very 11-3. The Patriots have lost two games in December already, and Tom Brady is finally looking his age (a handsome 89) as he struggles to connect with another iffy set of wide receivers the Patriots appear to have found on Etsy.

Meanwhile, the NFL is investigating yet another claim of Patriots cheating shenanigans, and the irritated and anxious New England fandom is behaving like Cape Cod will be closed next summer.

Let’s get some perspective here. There are at least 28 or so teams in the NFL which would love to have the Patriots’ problems. Caution is advisable. New England motivationally feasts on predictions of their demise. We heard a lot of “End is Nigh” speculation around this time last year, and then the Patriots went on to win their nine billionth Super Bowl.

But this could be the moment the Patriots are vulnerable—and not just vulnerable in the playoffs. They’re also potentially vulnerable in their own division, the AFC East, which has been a light appetizer they’ve snacked on for this entire century.

Enter the Bills. Buffalo isn’t a perfect club—they’ve beaten a lot of middling teams on their way to their first 10-win season since Bill Clinton was in office—but they’re feisty, and they’re just one game in the standings behind the Grumpy Lobster Boat Captain, Bill Belichick. They have an excellent defense (third-ranked in NFL total defense) a sturdy secondary (led by Pro Bowler Tre’Davious White) and there’s stability at quarterback, in second-year passer Josh Allen from Wyoming.

Head coach Sean McDermott has taken Buffalo to the playoffs twice in his first three seasons, and he appears to know what he’s doing, which immediately vaults him over basically all of the Bills coaches since Marv Levy left the sideline. McDermott’s turned the Bills into nasty visitors: Buffalo is 6-1 on the road this season after their Sunday night victory over Pittsburgh.

Because of this, they actually have an outside crack at the AFC East. Let’s be clear: the Bills will need to win and get some help to do it. For the Patriots to fork over the division, they would need to lose to Buffalo Saturday and also drop their regular-season finale with fetid Miami.

That’s a big ask. Probably not going to happen.

But the fact that it’s the third week of December and we’re even talking about this is, well, staggering.

That’s because the AFC East has been New England’s sure thing for close to two decades. Since the 2001 season, when Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe and led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title, New England has won the AFC East a startling 16 times, including the last 10 in a row. The only other teams to win the division since 2001 are the 2002 New York Jets, quarterbacked by Chad Pennington, and the 2008 Miami Dolphins, also quarterbacked by Chad Pennington.

I’ll ask it for you: why isn’t Chad Pennington in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for this mere factoid alone?

The Patriots don’t lose this division. The Grumpy Lobster Boat Captain clings onto it like a bow line in a nor’easter. Outside of some mild pestering by the Jets and Rex Ryan 10 or so years ago, no one’s come close to unseating them as the division’s best team. The AFC East has basically operated as a four-team competition featuring the Globetrotters, plus the Generals, the Generals and the Generals. Here’s a fun fact courtesy of the Journal’s football czar Andrew Beaton: The last time the Bills won the division (1995), Josh Allen wasn’t even born. (Beaton himself was playing Legos in Yoda pajamas.)

This all could change over the next couple of weeks. A win by the Bills (5-34 against the Patriots since 2000) would be a mood-changing event. Even if the Patriots cling onto the division, a rival will have made them work for it. New England’s anxiety will intensify. I haven’t even gotten into the latest “scandal.” The league wants to know why a Pats staffer was videotaping the sideline of a Bengals game a week before New England’s game with Cincinnati. This is suspicious because A) it was the Patriots and B) who on earth wants to watch tape from a Bengals game?

For Buffalo, it would be a stunning revival for a club primarily known for a run of early ‘90s Super Bowl losses and—more recently—viral internet videos of their tailgating fans jumping off structures and smashing into cheap plastic tables.

The Buffalo Bills…AFC East champions?

Unimaginable. The skies would thunder. Birds would sing. So would those strange movie cats.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
The AFC East has been New England’s sure thing for close to two decades. Is this the beginning of the end for the Patriots dynasty? Join the discussion.

Write to Jason Gay at Jason.Gay@wsj.com

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #572: THE HOODED GUNMAN: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF COLLINS CRIME CLUB By John Curran


Who wouldn’t want to find a lavish full-color coffee table volume of more than 2000 books by more than 250 authors published by the iconic Crime Club between 1930 and 1994 under their Christmas tree. John Curran performs magic in presenting cover artwork with commentaries, the publishing background of many of the mysteries, and–my favorite feature–the blurbs for each Collins book!

Here’s Curran’s commentary on Evelyn E. Smith’s Miss Melville Regrets (1987): “Unlike the elderly ladies who devote their declining years to the elucidation of crime–Jane Marple and Hildegarde Withers, for instance–Miss Susan Melville has a different agenda. She undertakes, for a fee, to eliminate unpleasant persons from society. And gets to like it. The first three of Miss Melville’s four novels appeared in the Crime Club.” (p. 186)

Here’s the blurb that appeared on The Golden Spiders (May 1954): “The street urchin reported what he had seen to that famous but slothful detective, Nero Wolfe, instead of to the police because: ‘I know how you feel about the lousy cops, just like I do.’ What Peter Drossos had seen, nebulous and improbable as it sounded, in fact led directly to some very solid and dangerous facts. Three murders quickly followed–and the most certain way of getting killed apparently was to come to Wolfe’s house and ask for help: his visitors were apt to be hit on the head or run over by cars shortly after leaving. How was the Association for the Aid of Displaced Persons–known as Assadip–being exploited? Who had to commit three murders to cover their tracks? And, above all, what was the importance of the golden earrings, shaped like spiders, worn by the lady Pete had seen for a fleeting moment in the Cadillac? Nero Wolfe’s cerebral powers, aided possibly by Archie Goodwin’s, and certainly by Archie’s strong-arm methods, lead to a surprising solution, with a great deal of un along the way.” (p. 369)

The Hooded Gunman is one of my favorite books of 2019! This book is a browser’s delight! It would make a wonderful present for that book lover on your Gift List! GRADE: A+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INTRODUCTION 7
The History of Collins 8
COLLINS AND CRIME FICTION 11
The Dawn of a Golden Age 12
The Key to Success 15
The Detective Story Club 19
The Crime Club 21
The Crime Club Cover Story 25
FIRST DECADE – THE 1930s 30
SCECOND DECADE – THE 1940s 62
THIRD DECADE – THE 1950s 86
FOURTH DECADE – THE 1960s 110
FIFTH DECADE – THE 1970s 132
SIXTH DECADE – THE 1980s 160
SEVENTH DECADE – THE 1990s 194
POSTSCRIPT: 65 YEARS OF BRILLIANT CRIME 210
The End of an Era 212
“Phantom” Titles 213
The White Circle 214
Anniversary Volumes 216
The Crime Club Card Games 220
“Only for Dons” Crime Novel Competition 222
MURDER THEY WROTE 225
The Descriptive Blurbs 226
Short Story Collections 386
Omnibuses 387
Duplicate Titles 388
Topics in Crime Club 388
Topics in Crime Club 389
White Circle Paperbacks 390
Elect References 391
Index of Authors 392
Index of Titles 394

WONDER WOMAN BLOODLINES [Blu-ray]


For the Wonder Woman fan on your Gift List, here’s the latest DC Animated adventure. Wonder Woman Bloodlines begins with the origin story on Themyscira, Diana’s home. There’s a brief tour of Wonder Woman’s various adversaries. Then, the real action starts as Wonder Woman’s new villain appears to threaten Themyscira. AMAZON is offering Wonder Woman Bloodlines at a remarkable $9.99! Another great Stocking Stuffer! GRADE: B+