Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review: "You Can Call Me Lucky" (Kit Tolliver #3) by Lawrence Block

She saw him at the craps table. Western clothing in style, but it was the fancy haircut that drew her attention. It stood out and commanded attention from anywhere in the room. Clearly the man is a long
way from home as he works the craps table in the casino in Michigan. He’s noticed her as well in You Can Call Me Lucky by Lawrence Block.

There is a game at work here between these two that has nothing to do with craps or casino action. Much more can’t be said without ruining the story. It is a complicated tale and quite the read from setup to finish. Billed as the third read in the Kit Tolliver stories, You Can Call Me Lucky has a lot going on in these fourteen pages and is well worth it.



You Can Call Me Lucky (Kit Tolliver #3)
Lawrence Block
Amazon Digital Services
 ASIN: B00CAD2Z1W
April 2013
eBook
14 Pages
$2.99

According to Amazon I picked this up back at the end of January. I have no idea now if I got it as a free read offered by the author or by way of funds in my Amazon Associate account.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

HISTORY’S RICH WITH MYSTERIES: "ALICE CRIMMONS – Before Susan Smith and Casey Anthony. . . " by Earl Staggs

As June draws to a close it is time once again for the latest “History’s Rich With Mysteries” column by Texas author Earl Staggs. This time he looks at the case of Alice Crimmons which happened long before the kind of coverage such a situation would bring about these days.


HISTORY’S RICH WITH MYSTERIES

When I look at the past, I find stories about people which fascinate me, particularly those in which there is a curious mixture of fact, legend, and mysterious uncertainty. In this series of articles, I want to explore some of those stories. I think of them as mysteries swaddled in legend. While truth is always desired in most things, truth easily becomes staid and boring. Legend, on the other hand, forever holds a hint of romanticism and an aura of excitement borne of adventure, imagination and, of course, mystery.

ALICE CRIMMONS – Before Susan Smith and Casey Anthony. . .

by Earl Staggs

Alice was born on March 9, 1939 in The Bronx, New York, and married Edmund Crimmins in 1958 when she was nineteen. Seven years later, they were estranged and locked in a bitter custody battle for their two children, five-year-old Eddie and four-year-old Alice Marie, known as “Missy.” Alice and the children lived in the Regal Gardens apartment complex in the New York City borough of Queens.


On the morning of July 14, 1965, Alice called Edmund and accused him of taking the children during the night. The apartment was on the first floor, and a window in the children's bedroom was partially open. Edmund denied taking them and rushed over to the apartment. They called the police and the search began.

Later that day, Missy's body was found in an open lot eight blocks from the apartment. An autopsy confirmed that she had been asphyxiated. No evidence of sexual assault was found. Five days later, little Eddie's body was discovered in a wooded area about a mile from the apartment, near the site of the New York World’s Fair which was then in progress. Decomposition ruled out determining his cause of death.

The police suspected Alice right away. The first detective on the scene felt the striking redhead with thick make-up, hip-hugging toreador slacks, flowered blouse and white high-heeled shoes did not come across as an anxious, grieving mother who had just lost her children. They found a dozen empty liquor bottles in her garbage can.

In his petition for custody of the children, Edmund charged that Alice indulged in sexual encounters with other men before their separation, and that after they separated, she entertained a number of men in her bedroom for overnight visits. He claimed it was not unusual for the children to awake to see a strange man in the house. He also told how he once caught her in bed with a waiter, about her afternoon tryst with another man at the World’s Fair, a 1964 cruise with Anthony “Tony” Grace, a wealthy and married contractor, to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, and her nude swimming experience at the home of another lover, Joe Rorech.

Edmund submitted to a polygraph and persuaded Alice to do the same. She agreed, but after a few preliminary questions, changed her mind and refused to continue.

After two years of investigation, Alice Crimmins was arrested and charged with the murder of her daughter. The DA felt there was not enough evidence to charge her for the death of her son. Her trial began on May 9, 1968.

Most of the trial centered on Alice's titillating and extroverted sex life.

In addition to Edmund's recounting of Alice's exploits, a former maid testified that Alice abandoned the children one weekend and took a boat trip to the Bahamas with Tony Grace and his friends.

An Assistant DA questioned Alice about reports of her having sex with her children's barber in a car behind the barbershop.

A neighbor who lived on Alice's street, told of looking out her window shortly after two a.m. on the morning the children went missing and seeing a man and woman walking down the street. The woman carried what appeared to be a bundle of blankets and had a little boy walking at her side. The man shouted at her to hurry up, and she told him “to be quiet or someone will see us.” The man took the blanket-like bundle and heaved it onto the back seat of an automobile. The woman picked up the little boy and got in the car.

Joe Rorech added to his testimony that Alice told him she had killed Missy and “consented” to the murder of her son.

After those two testimonies, it was easy to form a possible scenario in which Alice strangled Missy in the apartment, wrapped her in a blanket, and the man who drove the car that night, possibly Tony Grace, murdered little Eddie for her.

Alice's defense attorney tried to counter those testimonies by presenting the witnesses as having reputations of not being truthful or reliable.

The trial ended on May 27, 1968. Early the next morning, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter in the first degree for the death of her four-year-old daughter. The judge sentenced Alice to the New York State prison for women in Bedford Hills, New York, for not less than five nor more than twenty years.

That was not the end of it. In 1971, her conviction was set aside on a technicality and she was released. She was almost immediately recharged, retried, and again convicted of manslaughter for Missy's death. She was also convicted for the murder of her son. Those convictions were overturned on appeal in 1973, and Alice was set free until 1975 when she went on trial a third time. The murder conviction was thrown out, but she was once again found guilty of manslaughter and returned to prison.


In January 1976, she became eligible for a work release program and was permitted to leave prison on weekdays to work as a secretary. In July, 1977, while on work release, she married her previous boyfriend, Tony Grace. She was paroled in September 1977 after serving less than nine years and the two of them lived quietly and inconspicuously. It is believed Tony Grace died of natural causes in 1998. Alice would be 77 years old now, but her whereabouts are unknown.


Alice's story became the basis of a 1975 novel, “Where Are the Children,” which launched the career of mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark.  Both Susan Smith who was convicted of drowning her two sons in 1995 and Casey Anthony, tried and acquitted in 2011 for the killing of her daughter, Kaylee, called up comparisons to Alice Crimmins.

In retrospect, there was not a thread of physical evidence linking Alice or anyone else to the two murders. The police and the prosecutor, however, were sure Alice was guilty. The media presented her as the “Sexpot on Trial,” and her sexual exploits were apparently considered evidence to support a murder conviction.

No one has been able to establish a credible motive for Alice to kill her children. There has not been any mention of insurance policies on them. If she wanted to shed the responsibility of raising them, she could simply have let their father, Edmund, take them. If she wanted to keep the children but wanted to get rid of the nasty custody battle, she could better accomplish that by killing Edmund.

Whether Alice Crimmins was guilty remains arguable to this day. A number of people who have studied and written about the case have concluded there was no evidence to tie her to the crimes and no other suspects were ever considered. She was never presumed innocent by the press, the public, or the police, and she may have been convicted more for her sexual appetite and activity than for the crime she was accused of.

Since we don't know for certain if she was guilty or not, we'll have to file her case under Unsolved Mysteries.  I think for certain, however, she would not have been convicted in the legal system as we know it today. Juries now are reluctant to convict unless there is irrefutable evidence in the form of DNA or a true smoking gun and not a whiff of reasonable doubt. 

We've gone from one extreme where an Alice Crimmins can be convicted because everyone is sure she was guilty to another extreme where an OJ Simpson or a Casey Anthony can be declared innocent even though everyone is sure they're not.

It's been called the “CSI Syndrome.” We've been spoiled by what we see on TV.  I'm not sure that's a good thing. 

What do you think?

Earl Staggs ©2016

Texas author Earl Staggs earned all Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars. 
He invites any comments via email at earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net

He also invites you to visit his blog site at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com to learn more about his novels and stories.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mystery Fanfare: Summer Sleuthing: Lazy, Hazy, Murderous Days of Su...

Mystery Fanfare: Summer Sleuthing: Lazy, Hazy, Murderous Days of Su...: Summertime , and the living is easy. Or is it? I got to thinking about all those mysteries that take place during Summer--on the Beach, at...

Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema: Blogger Interview: Patricia Abbott

Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema: Blogger Interview: Patricia Abbott: 'Blogging has given me insight into what people like to read' © Polis Books I remember my first acquaintance with Patti. It...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James R...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James R...: Reviewed by Jeanne Sidney Chambers, vicar of Grantchester, is an unlikely sleuth.   He is as surprised as anyone when he’s appr...

34 Writing Contests in July 2016 - No Entry Fees (Publishing...and Other Forms of Insanity)

34 Writing Contests in July 2016 - No Entry Fees (Publishing...and Other Forms of Insanity)

Review: "Torn And Frayed: The Drifter Detective Series Number 7" by David Cranmer

The night of August 15, 1951 finds Jack Laramie on the road just, outside of Clyde, Texas. The private detective stops for gas and food. The waitress, Vicky Mae, does not appreciate the small joke Jack makes as she serves him a cup of coffee.  His joke was also very much not appreciated by the man who clearly has an ongoing interest in Vicky Mae. Things escalate as Luke decides to go physical with Jack and it isn’t long before the cook has to come out of the back wielding a shotgun to restore order.

Despite what happens, Jack sticks around town. Eventually Laramie, grandson of Cash Laramie, goes to work for a local rancher by the name of Othmer. At first he is just helping the elderly rancher take care of the livestock and property, but things change when Othmer tells him of recent events involving his daughter, Nancy. What Othmer thinks is going on isn’t. As usual, Jack feels a duty to set things as right as he can. Some people are just bad and there are plenty of those types in Torn And Frayed: The Drifter Detective Series Number 7.

This seventh book in the series also includes a bonus short story featuring Cash Laramie, U.S. Marshal in “Missing.” Also seen in the book, Further Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, the short story tells of a time when Cash, known as the “Outlaw Marshal” went missing in 1888 and Gideon Miles had to go looking for him.

Once again, David Cranmer brings readers back into Jack Laramie. A man looking for his place after World War II in a world that is changing. There is a lot of his grandfather in him and one gets the sense that he is a man born to the wrong time. Plenty of mystery and action make this latest installment in the Drifter Detective series another mighty good read. 



Torn And Frayed: The Drifter Detective Series Number 7
David Cranmer
Beat To A Pulp
ASIN: B01E9DSDQQ
eBook (paperback available)
79 Pages
$1.49


Material was purchased back in April to read and review by way of funds in my Amazon Associate account.



Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: FFB: She Got What She Wanted -- Orrie Hitt

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: FFB: She Got What She Wanted -- Orrie Hitt: Okay, this is a brand-new book.  It's not even for sale until August (you can order it now, though).  But it's a reprint of a early ...

Review: Rancher’s Law by Dusty Richards (David Cranmer at CriminalElement.com)

Review: Rancher’s Law by Dusty Richards (David Cranmer at CriminalElement.com)

I Lost $6,500 on My Last Book Launch: Details, final tally, lessons learned (Renegade Writer Press)

I Lost $6,500 on My Last Book Launch: Details, final tally, lessons learned (Renegade Writer Press)

Sweethearts Of The West: RESEARCH INSPIRES AN AUTHOR

Sweethearts Of The West: RESEARCH INSPIRES AN AUTHOR:   My husband and I don’t subscribe to the Hallmark Channel and watched (via Netflix) the great series based on Janet Oke’s writing, ...

TEXAS BOOK LOVER: Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR June 27-Ju...

TEXAS BOOK LOVER: Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR June 27-Ju...: Bookish events in Texas for the week of June 27-July 3, 2016:  Special Events: Summer Book Arts Studio , Houston, June 28-July 1 Ongoi...

Radiation Update

As of this morning Sandi has completed 4 of the planned 25 treatments. So far so good with no obvious side effects. Doctor and staff seem pleased with how she is doing to this point.

Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers (The Practicing Writer)

 Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers (The Practicing Writer)

Monday With Kaye: "The Good Goodbye" by Carla Buckley

Our final Monday in June brings word by way of Kaye George of quite the family drama…


The Good Goodbye by Carla Buckley


Be prepared for one surprise after another as Buckley takes us into the lives, past and present, of two families pulled apart and pushed together by their relationships in this domestic/family saga thriller.



The story starts near the end. The restaurant that was founded by Natalie and Vince is faltering. Natalie is fearful for what the future holds, but by the end of the first chapter her world comes crashing down in ways she couldn’t have predicted.


Arden, the daughter of Natalie and Theo, and Rory, the daughter of Vince and Gabrielle, has both been badly burned in a fire at their dormitory. It’s freshman year for both of them, a year that’s supposed to be full of hope for the future. Instead, they lie in critical condition. They’re better off than their friend Hunter, though. He died in the blaze.


Accusations swirl as the girls’ conditions continue to cause consternation. The girls were raised together, almost as sisters, and had great expectations that have already come tumbling down before the fire. Everyone’s lives start to unravel as the parents go through the agonizing wait, hoping for improvement in the girls’ conditions. Meanwhile, the reader is taken back through their lives to see how they got to this point—and to wonder how they will go forward.


A gripping, emotional read that will have you following the dim pathways through their lives and their hearts.


Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of Eine Kleine Murder, for Suspense Magazine
 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mystery Fanfare: When Selfies Kill

Mystery Fanfare: When Selfies Kill: Looking for a new topic for your mystery novel? How about Death by Selfie. You may think this is funny, but given that there have been hund...

Criminal Minds: So Many Books, So Little Time

Criminal Minds: So Many Books, So Little Time: Once you start a book, do you feel compelled to finish it? If not, what causes you to put it down? by Paul D. Marks No! And ditto for ...

Beneath the Stains of Time: A Veiled Threat

Beneath the Stains of Time: A Veiled Threat: " Sure, it's dangerous. It's been dangerous, it is dangerous, and it's going to be a whole lot more dangerous .&quo...

FROM DUNDEE'S DESK: LUCAS HALLAM RIDES (AND SLEUTHS) !

FROM DUNDEE'S DESK: LUCAS HALLAM RIDES (AND SLEUTHS) !: Lucas Hallam has long been one of my favorite fictional characters. Not only that, but he ranks as a favorite in TWO separate genres ...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Jacqueline Seewald: Short Fiction Opportunities for Writers by Jacquel...

Jacqueline Seewald: Short Fiction Opportunities for Writers by Jacquel...: If you are a writer of short fiction, there are many unique markets constantly popping up. They provide an exciting opportunity for new as ...

Mystery Fanfare: Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology

Mystery Fanfare: Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology: Bouchercon will be invading New Orleans for its annual world mystery convention this September where every year readers, writers, publis...

Market Call: Hard Sentences: Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz

Market Call:  Hard Sentences: Crime Fiction Inspired by Alcatraz

Review: Magazine: Nebula Rift V4N1 (Planetary Defense Command Blog)

Review: Magazine: Nebula Rift V4N1 (Planetary Defense Command Blog)

30 Great Writing Conferences in July 2016 (Publishing.... and Other Forms of Insanity)

30 Great Writing Conferences in July 2016 (Publishing.... and Other Forms of Insanity)

New issue of Crime Review

We feature new 20 reviews in each issue of Crime Review (
www.crimereview.co.uk), together with a top industry interview. This time
it’s author Adam Brookes in the Countdown hot seat.
We’re on Twitter at:
Crime Review: @CrimeReviewUK
Linda Wilson: @CrimeReviewer
Sharon Wheeler: @lartonmedia

This week’s reviews are:

THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE by Philip Kerr, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Bernie Gunther is living a quiet life in the South of France in 1956 when
an old enemy reappears, and he is asked to undertake a sensitive task for
the writer Somerset Maugham.

A HERO IN FRANCE by Alan Furst, reviewed by Sharon Wheeler
Mathieu and his French Resistance colleagues must risk their lives to
smuggle British airmen out of the country and back into the fray.

THE 14TH COLONY by Steve Berry, reviewed by Arnold Taylor
The Cold War has been over for years and Russia has lost it. However, there
is one man who refuses to accept this and has plans to take a horrifying
revenge on the US.

CITY OF JACKALS by Parker Bilal, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Cairo investigator Makana is asked to find a young student who has gone
missing. The next day a human head is fished out of the river next to the
investigator’s houseboat.

SCARLET WIDOW by Graham Masterson, reviewed by John Cleal
Beatrice Scarlet marries a Protestant preacher and emigrates to America.
When animals are found slaughtered, with indications of satanism, she
suspects a human hand.

THE PLEA by Steve Cavanagh, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Lawyer Eddie Flynn is given a proposition by the CIA: he has 48 hours to
get hired by a man accused of murder and persuade him to plead guilty, or
see his wife go to prison.

THE PRINTER’S COFFIN by MJ Carter, reviewed by John Cleal
Blake and Avery are back in England and charged by philanthropist and
social reformer Lord Allington with investigating the strange murders of
two printers.

TIME OF DEATH by Mark Billingham, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Two children are missing from Polesford and hopes of finding them alive are
rapidly fading.

DANGEROUS CARGO by Pauline Rowson, reviewed by Sharon Wheeler
Former marine Art Marvik is roped in by the intelligence services to
investigate the recent death of a man – who was supposed to have died 55
years previously.

THE REVELATION CODE by Andy McDermott, reviewed by Linda Roberts
A cult leader is determined to bring about a biblical apocalypse, and when
archaeologist Nina Wilde is kidnapped to further his plans, it’s up to her
husband Eddie Chase to throw a spanner in the works.

THE MYSTERY OF THE LOST CEZANNE by ML Longworth, reviewed by Arnold Taylor
A friend asks Antoine Verlaque to visit a man called Rene Rouquet, who
lives in an apartment once occupied by Paul Cezanne, and who may have
discovered a lost Cezanne painting. When he arrives at the apartment he
receives a severe shock.

MIDNIGHT SUN by Jo Nesbo, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
Jon Hansen is on the run after betraying Oslo’s biggest crime lord, the
Fisherman. But hiding in a small town in the far north of Norway, close to
the Arctic Circle, brings its own dangers, and the never-ending daylight is
just one of them.

GAME OF MIRRORS by Andrea Camilleri, reviewed by Sylvia Maughan
Inspector Montalbano notices his neighbour, Mrs Lombardo, looking under the
bonnet of her car.  It turns out that the car has been deliberately
damaged.  Meanwhile a bomb has exploded in town, all giving Montalbano a
lot to think about.

RUNAWAY by Peter May, reviewed by John Cleal
Five young Scots run away to swinging 60s London. Their adventure turns
sour when they find few people can be trusted and favours always expect
returns. Fifty years later three return to solve a mystery killing.

THE FORSAKEN by Ace Atkins, reviewed by Chris Roberts
In Jericho, Mississippi, the release from prison of ‘Chains’ LeDoux
re-awakens memories of a brutal lynching nearly 40 years ago.

CALLED BACK by Hugh Conway, reviewed by John Cleal
A blind man stumbles on a murder. Because he cannot see, the assassins
allow him to go. He later recovers his sight and falls in love with a
mysterious girl who is in some way involved in the crime.

THE Z MURDERS by J Jefferson Farjeon, reviewed by Anthea Hawdon
After witnessing an apparently random murder, Richard Temperley sets out to
find some answers.

ART IN THE BLOOD by Bonnie MacBird, reviewed by John Cleal
Sherlock Holmes is approached by a beautiful French cabaret star when her
illegitimate son by an English aristocrat goes missing.

ORANGEBOY by Patrice Lawrence, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Marlon promised his mother that he would have nothing to do with drugs, but
when he falls under Sonya’s spell, keeping that promise suddenly becomes a
lot more difficult.

THE STORM (audiobook) by Virginia Bergin, reviewed by Linda Wilson.
With the killer rain still falling from the sky, teenager Ruby Morris has
to survive in a hostile world.

Best wishes

Sharon

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: Reviewed by Ambrea Suyuan Woo, An-mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying-ying St. Clair are members of the Joy Luck Club, a group of women...

Review: "Off The Grid: A Joe Pickett Novel" by C. J. Box

Nate Romanowski has been found despite his best efforts in staying off the grid. It is October in the Upper North Platte River Valley when the quiet is broken by armed new arrivals at the ranch owned by Dr.
Center Point Large Print Edition
Bucholz. The ranch is large and has provided sanctuary to Nate as he recovers from recent events and hiding from law enforcement. Brian Tyrell and Keith Volk lead a team of special operators that have arrived to make an offer Nate can’t refuse. In exchange for clearing his criminal record they want him to assist them in an operation.

They call themselves “The Wolverines” and are part of a shadowy government within the government. They claim to be in all areas of the government and at all levels. Supposedly they all are united to defend America from the ruling political elite that is only interested in gaining power. All Nate knows for sure is that they are Feds of some type and have him in a box. They want him to go to Wyoming’s legendary “Red Desert” and meet a man known as Muhammad  Ibraaheem who may have been radicalized before coming back to Wyoming. Known as “Ibby” he may be part of recent thefts in the area as well as increasing chatter out of the Middle East about a planned terror attack in the mountain west. Like Nate, Ibby is a falconer, so Tyrell and Volk figure Nate can use that as a cover to meet the man and check him out.

While they know a lot about Nate, Tyrell and Volk know nothing about falconry or being a falconer. They don’t care either. That is Nate’s problem. They insist Nate is going to meet Ibby and check him out. He will cooperate, investigate, and give them detailed information on the target and his activities. Otherwise, they will make sure he winds up in a federal correctional facility to end his days and will take action against anyone Nate cares about. Nate has no choices.

He isn’t the only one. Game Warden Joe Pickett has plenty going on before having a mandatory meeting with soon to be ex-governor Spencer Rulon. The governor, well known not to be a fan of the federal government or any of their representatives, recently got a call from Dr. Bucholz reporting the actions of federal agents on his land and how he and his family were treated. In addition to telling Warden Joe Pickett about what happened to his friend, Nate Romanowski, Rulon wants to know what in the heck is going on with the four federal agents who had the nerve to act like they owned to place and treated his constituents with contempt. Rulon wants Pickett to use a recent bear attack as his cover story and go to the Red Desert and find out what is going on.

Shifting in viewpoint between Nate, Joe Pickett, and several other characters, Off The Grid: A Joe Pickett Novel by C. J. Box eventually brings two primary storylines and a couple of secondary ones together in a very enjoyable read. No new character developments are at work here as the characters were fleshed out long ago. Instead, as expected in this series, characters continue to evolve and change as they gradually get older and are impacted by various events. Some of those events in recent books are mentioned here though the primary focus is on the current events.

As always in a tale by C. J. Box, the author’s love of the Wyoming landscape comes through loud and clear. Off The Grid: A Joe Pickett Novel is another very good read in a long series of very good reads. 


Off The Grid: A Joe Pickett Novel
C. J. Box
Center Point Large Print
ISBN# 978-1628999211
April 2016
Large Print Hardback (also available in eBook, audio, and regular print hardback formats)
445 Pages
$36.95


Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Public Library System.


Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

Lesa's Latest Contest: Give me a B Giveaway

This week, I'm giving away copies of Allison Brennan's Poisonous & War Hawk by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood. Details on my blog, https://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Important note: Because of my schedule next week, this giveaway will be short, ending Tuesday, June 28 at 6 PM CT. I'll put the books in the mail on Wednesday.

Lesa Holstine

Garrison Keillor reads "River" by Ginger Murchison from "A Scrap of Linen, A Bone" at "The Writer's Almanac"

At The Writer’s Almanac, Garrison Keillor once again reads from Ginger Murchison’s a scrap of linen, a bone. Today it’s the poem entitled “River.” Click the link and have a listen.  This follows the readings Garrison Keillor did in April of “Roller Coaster” and in May of “The East Berliner, 1989” from the book. You can find links to all three readings on the author’s page at http://writersalmanac.org/poem_author/ginger-murchison/ 

FFB Review: "THE TWISTED ONES" (1959) by Vin Packer (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

Another new FFB review from Barry today. Make sure you check out the full list over on Todd's blog after you read Barry’s work below.


THE TWISTED ONES (1959) by Vin Packer

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

The Twisted Ones comprises three separate stories about youths driven to extremes by personal and familial issues. 

Sixteen-year-old Brock Brown, a student at the high school in the town of Sykes, New York, is a handsome young man who “dressed meticulously, with a rigid sense of style that he had formulated over the years.” His mother Edith, whose maiden name was Brock, whose family was among the town’s upper crust, and who never wanted children, died when he was seven. His forty-two-year-old father remarried a woman named Clara who is only twelve years older than Brock, and who tries to encourage her loner stepson to participate in normal teenage activities: e.g., to ask Carrie Bates, whom he frequently talks about, to the prom. Brock, who has never had a date, vehemently refuses, contending that Carrie is “fast” and that being with her “‘could get me in a whole big crazy pack of trouble if I didn’t know right from wrong.’” One who thinks of and describes himself as “boy cat, all shook up,” Brock’s rigidity extends beyond superficial style to an off-kilter sense of what is right and wrong, legal and illegal, moral and immoral—with catastrophic consequences.

Charles Berrey is eight years old and has an I.Q. of 165. “The unexpected fruit of Howard and Evelyn Berry’s middle age, [he is going to] make his third appearance on Cash-Answer, the most popular quiz show on television.” Evelyn Berrey is a loving, doting mother. Howard “Duke” Berrey is an ex-Marine who still works out regularly and who sells sporting goods for a living. Conflicted about his son’s success, he appreciates Charles’s ability to win huge sums of money while simultaneously disliking the way people regard him as an aberration. A physically and verbally abusive type, he constantly berates his son about his vocabulary and often talks to him like a drill instructor to a Marine in training. He argues with, and sometimes strikes, his wife. When he orders his son to “spoof” his boss, Paul Carter, the president of the sporting goods company, he inadvertently ignites a flame in Charles, who devours books on a multitude of subjects “like a hungry tomcat devoured mice.” One of the myths he’s read about is a favorite from Polynesia. It drives him to the commission of an act that forever changes lives—his, his parents’, and the lives of some of the residents in his hometown of Reddton, New Jersey.

Nineteen-year-old Reginald Whittier lives in Auburn, Vermont with his mother above their antique shop, Whittier’s Wheel, “as archaic and old-fangled in its appearance as the attitudes and opinions of its proprietress, Miss Ella.” Impregnated by the husband who subsequently abandoned her, she gave her son his father’s first name and her own maiden surname. At her request the town jeweler, Mr. Danker, has become something of a surrogate father to Reggie with regard to certain matters—e.g., the facts of life—although the young man feels uncomfortable around him. (It becomes clear to the reader that Mr. Danker has designs on Reggie of his own.) A stutterer, Reggie has always been shy around people his own age but is nonetheless someone who finds it easier to talk to women than to men. When he becomes involved with eighteen-year-old Laura Lee, who works as a maid at a local junior college, his internal conflict about pleasing her, pleasing his overly protective and possessive mother, and wanting a better life than he’s so far had, results in drastic actions.

A short, absorbing, fast-moving novel, its title and the publisher’s teaser suggest that The Twisted Ones are only Brock Brown, Charles Berrey, and Reginald Whittier. In fact, their parents and some other adult authority figures are equally deserving of that description.

Although I’ve known of Vin Packer (real name Marijane Meaker) for decades, this is the first of her books I’ve read. I hope to read others, which is also a way of saying I highly recommend this one.


© 2016 Barry Ergang

Winner of the 2007 Derringer Award for the best flash fiction story of 2006, Barry Ergang’s fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. His recent e-books, a story for children called The Boy Who Ate Rainbows and a science-fiction parody, The Vole Eater, are available at Amazon and Smashwords. Criminalities: Three Short Crime Stories and an Essay is available for free at Smashwords.