Category Archives: Uncategorized

Gideon Lowry – John Leslie’s Key West PI

Leslie_NightDaySo, I finished my three-post series on the late, great Tony Hillerman over at BlackGate.com. You can find links to all three of them in this final post. I thoroughly enjoy his stuff and I recommend you check him out. Or at least read my posts!

I also did a post on a serial killer loose in Austin, TX back in 1885. That’s three years before Jack the Ripper, yet it’s a largely forgotten horror in American crime history. Go ahead and give it a quick look.

In between, I wrote a post on Key West’s finest private eye, Gideon Lowry. I really enjoy this four book series which John Leslie wrote back in the nineties. Lowry, who is in his late fifties, makes as much money playing piano in Key West bars as he does doing PI work. Leslie has created an interesting character.

And Key West becomes an essential element in the series. The ebooks are only $2.99 at Amazon (and free for Kindle unlimited!) and well worth the price. If you’re looking for a good PI series that is a bit different than the rest, check it out. After you read my post, of course!

 

 

 

 

Writing about Tony Hillerman Over at BlackGate.com

Hillerman_BlessingWay

UPDATE – Post two, focusing mostly on Joe Leaphorn, is live and you can read it here.

This week over at Black Gate, ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ (that’s me) talked a bit about Tony Hillerman. Years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Thief of Time, which I thought was a captivating book. I went back to the beginning of the Navajo Tribal Police series, The Blessing Way, and continued reading the series until Hillerman died of cancer in 2008. His daughter, Anne, has written two additional books since his passing.

This coming Monday (April 25), a second post about Hillerman’s books will go up. I delve into the first three in the series; all of which feature Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn. Then, the week after that, I’ll look at books four, five and six, which feature Jim Chee, a younger, lower-ranked officer. In book seven, Skinwalkers, Hillerman brought Leaphorn and Chee together for the rest of the series.

I hope you read along with me, as this is one of my favorite mystery series. Hillerman (who not an Indian) really immerses the reader in Navajo culture and life in the Four Corners Region.

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This Day in Baseball History: March 23, 1938 – Landis Frees the Minor Leaguers

FederalLeagueI love baseball history and I enjoy writing short bits about it. I frequently write a ‘This Day in Baseball History’ post at my Facebook page.  I thought this one was worth posting here on my blog. It ties in my second-favorite player of all time towards the end.

In 1913, the newly formed Federal League began play as a baseball minor league. In 1914, it became the third major league, throwing (for the time) big money at current National and American League players to entice them to switch teams. Several, including a few Hall of Famers, did. In January of 1915, the Federals filed an antitrust lawsuit against the other two major leagues.

The federal judge assigned stalled the case until the Federal League signed an agreement with the other two leagues, dropped the suit and folded. The owners of the Baltimore Terrapins were the only team to object to the agreement. They would then file their own suit, leading to the famous Supreme Court ruling that baseball was not interstate commerce and therefore not subject to anti-trust laws (what a joke!).

Kennesaw Mountain Landis was the federal judge who oversaw that first lawsuit and kept it from progressing – to the great benefit of the Major League Baseball. Then, after the famous Black Sox Scandal of 1919, the baseball owners begged Landis to become the first Commissioner, in an attempt to restore the public image of the National Pastime.

Landis_FistHe accepted, receiving a lifetime appointment and total authority. Later, the owners would regret creating this Frankenstein, but they were desperate in 1920. He was a supporter of the reserve clause and had no mercy on players suspected of gambling. While the owners certainly played a large part, Landis enforced segregation in the game. His successor, former US Senator Albert ‘Happy’ Chandler, supported Jackie Robinson’s signing.

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Nero Wolfe & Stop the Presses!

Wolfe_CoincidenceBetween 1986 and 1994, Robert Goldsborough wrote seven official Nero Wolfe pastiches, authorized by the Wolfe Estate. I’ve said many times that Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books are my all time favorite mysteries. Much as I love Sherlock Holmes and Solar Pons: and enjoy Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee; James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, Joe Gore’s DKA books, Glen Cook’s Garret PI and many, many  more mysteries and hard boiled writers and characters, Wolfe is #1.

So, when I say that Goldsborough’s first seven pastiches are good but not great, I am NOT damning with faint praise. I enjoyed them overall and he did a good job taking on one of the genre’s greatest characters. But then Goldsborough decided to stop writing about the Brownstone and its cast of characters. After almost a two decade hiatus, he took up Archie Goodwin’s pen again and has published four new novels since 2012, with the latest, Stop the Presses!, just coming out this month.

Sadly, these four new Wolfe books have not matched the standard he set with the first seven. Archie Meets Nero Wolfe (2012) relates the story that Stout referenced but never told, of their joining together. Frankly it was a disappointment and Charles E. Burns’ story, “Firecrackers,” is a better version of the tale.

Murder in the Ballpark (2014) followed and is about a shooting at a baseball game attended by Archie and Saul. Goldsborough still hadn’t regained his touch and the characterizations were just off. This one and the prior book are my two least favorite pastiches.

Archie in the Crosshairs (2015) sees someone focused on killing Archie as a way to get at Wolfe. It was better than the previous two books, but still not as good as the first seven.

Wolfe_PressesI just finished Stop the Presses!, book number four in the second series. It is the best of the new run. But to me, the problem is that it doesn’t feel like a pastiche of Stout’s books. It reads like a pastiche of Goldbsorough’s first seven books.

Several times, Wolfe criticizes Archie’s methods of getting guests to the brownstone. That doesn’t ring true. And Wolfe says that Inspector Cramer will “bring our old friend Sergeant Stebbins with him.”  That doesn’t sound right.

I re-read all seven of Goldsborough’s first series early in 2015 and this second series just doesn’t measure up. I’d guess that the 18 year layoff was simply too much to completely recapture that original feel.

I’d still rather read Goldsborough writing Wolfe than about 90% of the plethora of Holmes pastiches we’re inundated with. And I’m glad there are continuing to be new tales. But four books in, it’s just not the same.

 

 

I’m back!

Wow. I didn’t realize that it has been two months since I posted here. ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ has continued appearing every Monday morning over at Black Gate . In fact, I hit the hundred post mark last month!

A few weeks ago, I put up a post with links to every single post I made in 2015, which should prove useful if you actually want to read any of what I’ve been writing…

Bogart_FalconPosterThis coming Monday, February 8, I’ve got one coming with a whole lot of info related to ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ I’m primarily focusing on the 1941 film, starring Humphrey Bogart, but I cover a wide range of stuff, including radio, earlier films, the book, a play, and more. I think it’s the greatest private eye novel ever written and the best private eye film ever made. So, worth checking out.

Two weeks ago, I wrote my second post on Nero Wolfe. If you’re here, you probably know that I can hold my own in the world of Sherlock Holmes, and I’m working on a Solar Pons revival. And John D. MacDonald is my all time favorite author. But Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective is actually my favorite series in any genre. I’d write about Wolfe, fiction and non, exclusively if I had the time.

I’ve read an awful lot of fantasy over the years (not really so much anymore) and I’ve been into Terry Brooks’ ‘Shannara’ series from the start. Anybody watching MTV’s ‘The Shannara Chronicles,’ which I posted about? It’s not terrible, but I think it could have been a lot better. I re-read ‘The Elfstones’ for the post and it was actually better than I remembered. The series is more of a the CW network version of Shannara.

I plan on getting back to my weekly posting, and baseball season is almost upon us, so you’ll be seeing a bit about Jackie Robinson soon. But don’t forget you can type my name (Bob Byrne) over at Black Gate and see what I’m putting up every Monday. Plus a bonus post or two.

I’m also pretty active on Facebook and try to post informative and interesting stuff related to Holmes and other mystery subjects.

Oh yeah: how could I forget? After appearing in the initial The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories (it’s a trilogy – I’m in Volume III), I’m going to be in Volume IV as well! And after I finish the actual story, I’ll be in Volume V, which are all Christmas tales. So, that’s also keeping me busy.

So, while I haven’t been here, I have been writing.

Killing your Darlings

William Faulkner famously advised that when writing, you must “kill your darlings.” Stephen King elaborated, “…kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Meaning, sometimes, you have to cut out parts of your story that you like. Maybe you really, really like it, whether it’s a chapter, a character or absolutely brilliant banter. But for one reason or another, it doesn’t enhance the story and it must go.

I’m working on a Holmes short story. It’s got a scene where Holmes does a little cooking experiment while Mrs. Hudson is out. Now, I’m not saying this is classic writing, and it still would have quite a bit of refining and rewriting before it was good enough, but I do think it’s a fun premise. But it’s too long and it can be handled in a much more efficient way. So, in movie-making parlance, it is now on the cutting room floor.

Holmes has cooked a few turnovers – some with arsenic in the batter, some without arsenic. He’s done all this in Mrs. Hudson’s kitchen. He also experimented on some knives with arsenic. Now, picture Holmes baking, apron on, and imagine Mrs. Hudson’s reaction later to finding he did some of his crazy experimenting, with poison, in her kitchen, with her pots and pans!

“That is not all Watson. Last night, I removed two kitchen knives from downstairs and placed a minimal amount of arsenic on one and a moderate amount on the other. As you can see” (here he unwrapped a kerchief he had removed from a drawer)   “they are completely unchanged. Applying arsenic to a knife does not blacken it. We have now refuted two pieces of evidence cited against Ms. Fanning. We are off to a strong start.”

“Come now, we must not keep the Turners waiting. If you would be so kind?” He wrapped the knives back up and gestured for me to take the tray with the now-covered dumplings. I bundled up for the cold weather and picked up the metal tray.

“Watson” he said, quietly. “I think it would be best if you not mention any of this to Mrs. Hudson. I have scoured every implement, pot and pan that had even a possibility of coming into contact with the arsenic. I burned the other dumplings and threw the ashes in the dustbin. I will of course scrub the covered tray you hold in you hands. As for the knives, I shall clean and dispose of them, telling our landlady I misplaced them, should she notice their absence. I shall purchase two exact replacements, as well as additional ones to recompense her. I do not believe she would approve of my experiments, were she to learn of them.” He said the last with a pained smile.

Holmes_MaryGordonI wholeheartedly agreed. Mrs. Hudson was a proper matron of conservative values. I cannot imagine her response to being informed foods containing arsenic had been made in her very kitchen. Upon reflection, I could imagine. She would be appalled, and would likely insist that everything used in preparing the food must be disposed of and replaced. She had suffered many indignities during our time in her abode, but this might be too much for even her.

“Holmes, if this case proves worthy of writing up, I might even omit that you conducted the experiments in our kitchen. I fear that her discovery of such, even years after the fact, might be ill-received.”

He chuckled at that. “Doctor, that may be the most accurate deduction you have made in our experiences together.” Laughing with him, we left our rooms and headed to the Turners

A Great Week for Solar Pons – Sort Of

FinalAdventuresPonsIn one week during October of 1929, August Derleth wrote six Solar Pons stories: three of them in one day! However, a certain stock market crash occurred, causing Derleth some consternation. Check out when the stories were actually published:

The Adventure of the Viennese Musician – (1998)
The Adventure of the Limping Man (1929)
The Adventure of Gresham Old Place (1998)
The Adventure of the Muttering Man (1998)
The Adventure of the Black Cardinal (1930)
The Adventure of The Sotheby Salesman (1945)

So, two of the six appeared in magazines shortly after being written. Another was included in the first collection of Pons stories, sixteen years later. And three others did not appear (in The Final Adventures of Solar Pons) until sixty-nine years after being written! Which was twenty-seven years after Derleth died.

Discovering Robert E. Howard at Black Gate

CoolandLam_HEap1I’m a binge reader and writer. I go all in on a subject for a period of time and immerse myself in it. I might still be reading one or two other things at the same time, but most of the focus is in one area.

For example, I read/re-read about a dozen of Erle Stanley Gardner’s ‘Cool and Lam’ books for an upcoming Black Gate post. At the same time, I’ve re-read a couple of Wade Miller’s Max Thursday books for the same purpose. I also re-read one of Basil Copper’s collections just to keep Solar Pons on my radar. And I was actually enjoying Raymond Chandler for the first time (I’ve not been a fan).

But for the past few months, it’s mostly been Robert E. Howard on my screen. I posted earlier about the summer series Black Gate is doing on Howard. After writing a post on REH’s private eye, Steve Harrison, I asked Paul Bishop to do a piece on Howard’s boxing stories. And I thought about all the other good stuff Howard wrote. And other areas of interest, like comics, the man himself, and so on. So I asked a couple other folks if they’d like to contribute. And those people gave me names of others (fortunately, all who knew much more about Howard and the various subjects than I did). And people who liked what they were reading actually contacted Black Gate to volunteer to write something!
HyboriaMapThis is all a testament to what a fantastic writer Howard was. This week, we’ll likely have our eleventh post in the series, and it will be no surprise to me if we hit two dozen before we’re done! Here’s a link to the latest, which includes links to all the prior posts.

Now, I’m a big fan of Howard’s Conan tales. But if that’s all you know of the man, you are missing out on some first class stuff. My current binge is El Borak and I think it’s got some of his best writing, in any genre!

We’ve got all kinds of subjects coming in this series: Cthulhu, westerns, poetry, horror, Bran Mak Morn, El Borak, role playing games, historicals, etc. If you are a fan of Howard: or you think you’d like to learn a little more about him and his works, head over to http://www.BlackGate.com and search on Robert E. Howard.

Robert Bloch – Poet

BlochRobert Bloch is best known as the author of Psycho, which became a spine-chilling movie by Alfred Hitchcock. He authored several books and short stories. He also was a fan of the Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street. In fact, he even wrote a poet about Pons, working several well-known detectives and private eyes in. So, I give  you, Robert Bloch’s A Toast To Solar Pons.

We don’t dispute the toil
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Invested in creating Sherlock Holmes;

And Miss Marple, fat and frisky,
Thanks to Miss Agatha Christie
Appears in a variety of tomes.

And a MacDonald – Ross –
Is never at a loss
For getting Archer into quite a bind;

While MacDonald’s namesake – John D. –
Created Travis McGee
Whose problem is that he is color-blind.

Wolfe, Poirot and Vance
Perchance enhance romance
Detection and deduction are their field;

And while Philip Marlowe guzzles,
Charlie Chan solves Chinese puzzles
And Perry Mason’s cases aren’t appealed.

But we salute a sleuth
Who dignifies, in truth,
The mantle of the master that he dons;

All the others, irrespective,
Must defer to our detective-
So, gentlemen-I give you -Solar Pons!

Black Gate Looks at the Works of Robert E. Howard This Summer

REH_IronManWith his books about Conan, I think Robert E. Howard is the best writer in the fantasy/swords and sorcery genre. I marvel at the way he could put words together in a sentence. One sample from The Scarlet Citadel:

The clash and clangor of steel was as that of a million sledges on as many anvils. The watchers on the walls were stunned and deafened by the thunder as they gripped the battlements and watched the steel maelstrom swirl and eddy, where plumes tossed high among the flashing swords, and standards dipped and reeled.

Of course, he wrote much more than just tales about Conan. Back in March of this year, I wrote a Public Life of Sherlock Holmes post on Robert E.Howard’s hard boiled/adventure private eye stories starring Steve Harrison. At the time, I thought it would be neat to see a post on Howards’ boxing stories. And I knew I was completely unqualifed to write it. So I asked Paul Bishop, the man behind the Fight Card series of books, to write such a post. He did in this great guest post.

Which gave me the idea to ask some other notable folks to write posts on other aspects of Howard’s works. The response was quite positive! So, we’ll be seeing posts this summer at Black Gate on various Howard subjects, such as his westerns, comic books, Howard Days (an annual REH fesitval) and Solomon Kane. I’ve got inquiries out on more subjects and have high hopes for them.

So, if you’re a Robert E. Howard fan, there’s some good stuff coming your way from the web’s leading fantasy website, Black Gate.