CASE OF THE MURDERED REDHEAD By Frances and Richard Lockridge


Welcome to Redhead Week! I’m starting the week’s festivities with this puzzler from the 1950s. Case of the Murdered Redhead (aka, The Faceless Adversary) is one of those incredible conspiracy novels popular back in the day. Wealthy banker John Hayward proposes to his girlfriend, Barbara Phillips, and hours later he’s charged with the murder of beautiful redhead Nora Evans–a woman Hayward has never met! Someone framed Hayward, but who? And why? Ms. Phillips believes in her fiancee’s innocence and assists Hayward as he tries to prove to the police he’s innocent. But more and more evidence piles up making the situation look dire. When another woman is murdered, the police are convinced of Hayward’s guilt. Everyone but Detective Nathan Shapiro. Shapiro sees what the other investigators miss. The Lockridges keep the suspense high in this Hitchcockian thriller. GRADE: B+
THE NATHAN SHAPIRO SERIES:
1. Case of the Murdered Redhead (aka, The Faceless Adversary) (1956)
2. Murder and Blueberry Pie (1959)
3. The Drill Is Death (1961)
4. Murder for Art’s Sake (1967)
5. Die Laughing (1969)
6. Preach No More (1971)
7. Write Murder Down (1972)
8. Or Was He Pushed? (1975)
9. A Streak of Light (1976)
10. The Old Die Young (1980)

MURDER FOR TWO, A MUSICAL By Kellan Blair & Joe Kinosian


Murder for Two is a hilarious musical with a mystery plot. Famous mystery writer Arthur Whitney is murdered and the motive seems to be the secrets that were to be exposed in Whitney’s new book, All Them Bananas. Philip Farugia plays “The Detective” who has a very checkered past. Joseph Donohue III plays “The Suspects” including Whitney’s wife, Dahlia Whitney, Whitney’s neighbors, Whitney’s psychiatrist, a beautiful ballerina, a boys chorus, Whitney’s niece, and a fireman. Donohue projects the antic energy of Robin Williams as he cycles through the menagerie of kooky characters. Farugia tries to project confidence during the murder investigation, but he’s dogged by his Past. Both actors take turns playing the piano and singing some silly lyrics. If you’re in the mood for a mashup of a mystery and a screwball comedy, Murder for Two is your ticket. GRADE: B+
SONG LIST:
ACT ONE:
1. “Prelude”
2. “Waiting in the Dark”
3. “Protocol Says”
4. “Dahlia Whitney”
5. “A Perfectly Lovely Surprise”
6. “Murray & Barb Flandon”
7. “It Was Her”
8. Timmy, Yonkers, & Skid
9. “A Lot Woise”
10. “Steph Whitney”
11. “He Needs a Partner”
ACT TWO:
12. “Barrette Lewis”
13. “So What if I Did?”
14. “A Friend Like You”
15. “Henry Vivaldi”
16. “Process of Elimination”
17. “Steppin’ Out of the Shadows”
18. “Finale (I Need a Partner / Protocol Says)”
19. “Finale Ultimo (A Friend Like You)”

MICROSOFT NATURAL ERGONOMIC 4000 KEYBOARD


Diane’s sister, Carol, complained: “The letters on the keys of this keyboard are worn off!” Art Scott, during his last visit to North Tonawanda, also noticed the keys with worn-off letters. But Art’s complaint was the ergonomic design of my Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard. “How do you type with this thing?” Art demanded.

Actually, I type very well on my Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard (I know where the keys are!). When I was teaching at the College, I spent hours typing on the computer answering student emails (thousands!), typing up exams (hundreds), and filling out bureaucratic paperwork (tons!). Using conventional keyboards gave me a painful knot in the base of my neck. I read some reviews about ergonomic keyboards and bought the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard. It was love at first type! I could type for hours and not get that pain in my neck.

I requested a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard for my College computer, too. If you’re tired of neck and back pain from using a conventional keyboard, here’s the solution! Yesterday, the “P” key stopped working so I quickly bought a new Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard and I’m typing this post on the new keyboard right now! What kind of keyboard do you use? GRADE: A

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #488: THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES AND NOVELS: 1956 Edited by T. E. Dikty


I really liked Robert F. Young’s “Jungle Doctor”, but the classic stories in this anthology are “The Game of Rat and Dragon” by Cordwainer Smith and “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. Cordwainer Smith’s story showed a very unique future. Walter M. Miller’s post-nuclear holocaust story captures the role of religion in the hardscrabble life where knowledge and technology are shunned. Frank Riley explores robotics in the legal system. Robert Bloch’s clever story has a sting at the end. All in all, T. E. Dikty’s selection of stories is an accurate reflection of science fiction stories in the mid-Fifties. GRADE: A-
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The Science-Fiction Year, by T. E. Dikty
“Jungle Doctor”, by Robert F. Young (STARTLING STORIES, Fall 1955)
“Judgment Day”, by L. Sprague de Camp (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, August 1955)
“The Game of Rat and Dragon”, by Cordwainer Smith (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, October 1955)
“The Man Who Always Knew”, by Algis Budrys (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, April 1956)
“Dream Street”, by Frank M. Robinson (IMAGINATIVE TALES, March 1955)
“You Created Us”, by Tom Godwin (FANTASTIC UNIVERSE, October 1955)
“Swenson, Dispatcher”, by R. DeWitt Miller (GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, April 1956)
“Thing”, by Ivan Janvier (FANTASTIC UNIVERSE, March 1955)
“I Do Not Love Thee, Doctor Fell”, by Robert Bloch (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, March 1955)
“Clerical Error”, by Mark Clifton (ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, February 1956)
“A Canticle for Leibowitz”, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, April 1955)
“The Cyber and Justice Holmes”, by Frank Riley (IF, March 1955)
“The Shores of Night”, by Thomas N. Scortia (aka, “Sea Change,” ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, June 1956)
The Science-Fiction Book Index, by Earl Kemp

GIVE ME YOUR HAND By Megan Abbott


“Women have to live so much of their life in the in-betweens.” (p. 317) Megan Abbott’s narrator of Give Me Your Hand is Kit Owens, a young scientist laboring in a highly competitive academic lab. Kit is on the cusp of being selected for a position on a potentially ground-breaking study that could lift Kit out of the obscurity of the laboratory to scientific super-stardom. But, in a surprise move, Kit’s boss–the brilliant and ambitious Dr. Severin–announces a new candidate for a position on her prestigious study: Diane Fleming. In a series of flashbacks, we learn Kit and Diane had a friendship in High School when they were lab partners and ran on the track team.

Diane has a secret and Kit has a secret. When the secrets are shared, their friendship ends. But now, 12 years later, Diane and Kit are thrown back together in the high pressure research environment. Megan Abbott captures the stress and strain of academic competition. The suspense ratchets up as both women deal with the consequences of their past. Friendships, rivalries, and the riddles of blood swirl throughout the plot of this suspenseful mystery. Give Me Your Hand is Megan Abbott’s best novel so far! GRADE: A

VICTORY DISC: THE VINYL DETECTIVE #3 By Andrew Cartmel


I’ve enjoyed the previous two volumes of Andrew Cartmel’s “The Vinyl Detective” series (you can read my reviews of Written in Dead Wax here and The Run-Out Groove here). Although the Vinyl Detective specializes in finding rare vinyl records, this time he’s pushed to his limits to find 78 rpm shellac records from World War II featuring the Flare Path Orchestra (who actually beat the Glenn Miller Band in a competition). Of course, the search is complicated with neo-Nazis and a couple of murders. I really enjoy these frothy frolics in mystery and record collecting. Perfect Summer Reading! GRADE: B+

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY [Blu-ray]


I nominate screenwriter and playwright Tracy Letts’s family in August: Osage County (2013) as the most dysfunctional on film. Meryl Streep plays Violet, a troubled woman dying of cancer and who is popping painkilling pills like they were Tic-Tacs. One of Violet’s daughters, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is harboring a Secret. Violet’s husband (Sam Shepard) hires a Native-American woman (Misty Upham) to cook and clean their house and then he “goes fishing.” Violet’s rebellious daughter, Barbara (Julia Roberts), arrives with her soon to be ex-husband (Ewan McGregor) and her sullen teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin). Violet’s “baby” daughter, Karen (Juliette Lewis), has her new “fiancé” Dermot Mulroney) in tow. As if this weren’t enough of a combustable mix, there’s Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) who has nothing but distaste for her son, Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch), and love for her husband (Chris Cooper). The family dinner scene where Violet attacks everyone rockets up the Horrific Scale. You won’t see a more stark and nasty example of verbal abuse. Although unpleasant, August: Osage County packs a punch with its outstanding cast. GRADE: B (for brutal)

Tracy Letts won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play August: Osage County.

ON TRUTH By Simon Blackburn


Simon Blackburn’s slim, 142-page book addresses one of the most vexing problems of our Times: the devaluation of Truth. Blackburn writes that people “have been denied trustworthy sources of information.” The result is they “take refuge in believing whatever they would like to be true.” Yes, Magical Thinking rules right now. Of course, there is a cost to ignoring Truth. Sooner or later, all the Fake News and propaganda lead to disasters. Problems that don’t get addressed tend to grow.

Blackburn criticizes Religion because it “deliberately stupefies the understanding” with “explanations” like “The Lord works in mysterious ways” and “God will provide.” Using Religion to justify polices like Jeff Sessions has done is another perversion of Truth. Lies and exaggerations corrupt. We’re in for some Tough Times ahead. And that’s the Truth! GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Preface
Part I: The Classic Approaches
1. Correspondence
2. Coherence
3. Pragmatism
4. Deflationism
5. Tarski and The Semantic Theory of truth
6. Summary of Part I
Part II: Varieties of enquiry
7. Truths of Taste; Truth in Art
8. Truth in Ethics
9. Reason
10. Religion and Truth
11. Interpretations
Notes
Further investigations
Index

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE–FALLOUT


Action, action, and more action. That’s the strategy behind Mission Impossible–Fallout written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, head of the Impossible Missions team. His sidekicks, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg, provide technical assistance and banter. The Impossible Missions Force faces a nuclear threat by terrorists led by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), a former MI6 agent gone rogue. The plot races from Paris to London to Kashmir. In each location, there’s an eye-popping or jaw-dropping ballet of violence and serious stunt work. Tom Cruise was injured during the incredible helicopter sequence and his face shows it on the screen. No CGI stuff during these wild chases and perilous acts of cinematic physicality! The Real Deal up on the screen crackles with authenticity. Don’t miss this one! GRADE: A