Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 25, 2018

(from the archives) le0pard13 is the internet moniker of a father of two, spouse to one, who blogs out of The City of the Angels. He owns a first edition copy of the book below and one day hopes to have the author autograph for him.

The Ninth Configuration, by William Peter Blatty (Harper & Row 1978)

Just say the name, William Peter Blatty. It does have its own sense of meter as it rolls off the tongue, now doesn't it? You'll most likely recognize it, too. Just the same, saying it three times in front of a mirror won’t cause anything bad to happen, either -- contrary to urban legend. If you love books and reading, whether you are a baby boomer or Generation X, Y, or even Z, odds-on you've heard of him. Such is the legacy of authoring a horror novel as famous as 1971's The Exorcist (which would go on to even greater notoriety when it was adapted to the screen in 1973's film of the novel). However, along with the popularity and fame for a book that became an all-encompassing event, it can be too much of good thing. 'Event' novels can take on a life of their own, and they can build to the point that all other work by the same author lies in its shadow. Obscured because they are not anything like that book. Such was the consequence for the next novel by author Blatty that it seemed to fall by the wayside when it was published in 1978. That forgotten, but wonderful, piece of elegant writing was, The Ninth Configuration.
What was released that year actually germinated from a hasty 1966 novel titled, Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane! From his author's note: "Its basic concept was surely the best I have ever created, but what was published was just as surely no more than the notes for a novel -- some sketches, unformed, unfinished, lacking even a plot." Luckily, for those of us who read the re-envisioned work in the late 70's (and those who would go on to discover and appreciate it decades later), it is an overlooked book worth remembering. Ironically, WPB has said more than once he considers it his unofficial sequel to The Exorcist. Although The Ninth Configuration shares a very loose connection (via an unnamed character) from that novel, the genre and plot line couldn't be more divergent. Plus, it works whether or not you've read the legendary blockbuster that preceded it.
The novel's story centers upon a select small group of military men secluded away with what are believed to be inexplicable mental disorders. Or, being highly intelligent men, they could be faking it--which could be the reason nothing has worked and why they continue their stay at a decaying Gothic mansion. Their treatment, and sanity, ultimately hinges upon one Marine Colonel Kane (a psychiatrist who may have his own issues) brought to the sheltered facility to seek the answers in the most unexpected of ways. Blatty crafts the story as a mystery to be solved, planting its seeds in the unusual interactions that take place. The author’s dialogue between the patients and staff are quite purpose-built, madcap, and unexpected. I cannot describe it any better than what a good friend wrote in a review of his, "Because the story is relatively brief, no words are wasted in an attempt to be lyrical or poetic. Yet somehow there are moments of utter poetry in the exchanges between doctor and patients, and in Kane's own introspective reasonings." While the material covered is meaty, it is one of the few novels that made be laugh out loud, and had my eyes welling by the time I finished it.
One could describe WPB as an author who writes eloquent, thought provoking fiction that draws in his readers with clever, humorous dialogue (keep in mind, he also wrote the screenplay for the comedy, A Shot In The Dark). Or put another way, he’s a humorous, clever writer who puts out eloquent novels that catch the readers off guard by being thought provoking. I'd say both are true. He just happened to author a chart topping novel of horror that eclipsed everything before, or since, in his bibliography. However, The Ninth Configuration remains perhaps a more intriguing read, and worth exploration by those who haven't experienced it. As well, for those of us who are film buffs, sprinkled throughout, the author references classic movie moments and dialogue within this novel. A few years after its publication, William Peter Blatty would pen and direct its film adaptation in 1980. Not surprisingly, it has developed a strong cult following, and many believe the story is more immersive on the screen (consider me in both groups). The 1978 novel is a svelte 135-page work, and next year TNC will be re-released by Centipede Press as a new edition. Purportedly, it will combine both novels and will include a long essay by film scholar Mark Kermode in a 292-page hardcover. So on this Friday, The Ninth Configuration is not forgotten (at least, by me anyways).

Les Blatt, FIRE IN THE THATCH, E.C.R. Lorac 
Elgin Bleecker, THE MEN FROM THE BOYS, Ed Lacy 
Brian Busby, MY LADY GREENSLEEVES, Constance Beresford -Howe
Curt Evans, SWING, SWING TOGETHER, Peter Lovesey
Richard Horton,The Chauffeur and the Chaperon, by C. N. and A. M. Williamson 
Nick Jones, Larry Niven's A World Out of Time, Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars, Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, et al.

George Kelley, WAYWARD GIRL/THE WIDOW, Orrie Hitt
Margot Kinberg, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukerjee
Rob Kitchin, THE KEPT WOMAN, Karen Slaughter 
B.V.. Lawson, THIS ROUGH MAGIC, Mary Stewart
Evan Lewis,  BILL CRIDER'S Intro to The Body Looks Familiar / The Late Mrs.Five by Richard Wormser
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, CROOKED MAN, Tony Dunbar 
Todd Mason,  FFM: STREET & SMITH'S DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, September 1946, edited by Daisy Bacon; ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, September 1945, edited by Frederic Dannay; NEW WORLD WRITING 16: Tillie Olsen, Thomas Pynchon, Anne Sexton, Kingsley Amis, et alia...edited by Stewart Richardson and Corlies M. Smith
Matt Paust, A TRAITOR'S PURSE, Margery Allingham 
James Reasoner, WAYWARD GIRL, Orrie Hitt 
Richard Robinson, WHAT I READ, Part 5 
Gerard Saylor, MONTANA HITCH, Richard Wheeler
Kerrie Smith, THE SANS PAREIL MYSTERY, Karen Charlton 
Kevin Tipple, A LITTLE DARLING, DEAD, Jack S. Scott 
TomCat, THE MISADVENTURES OF ELLERY QUEEN, ed. Josh Pachter and Dale Andrews
Tracy K, Patricia Wentworth

Monday, May 21, 2018


Megan came out for two days. It was nice to have her around although for too short a time. We saw a rather bad movie, she installed Roku for us so we could get Filmstruck on our TV, we celebrated Josh and Julie's 23rd anniversary, went out for three good restaurant meals and ate Arab food at home. We found a terrific new takeout place in a gas station. Am still hunting for a book to read.

Megan will shoot the pilot for DARE ME in August / Sept. Her new book GIVE ME YOUR HAND has been purchased by AMC and YOU WILL KNOW ME by Marti Noxon so lots of excitement for Megan.

Finished watching SAFE on Netflix and found it disappointing. Hate it when too much comes out at the end. Although I thought there was some nice moments and good acting.

Is there anything prettier than a redbud in bloom?

So what are you up to?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 18, 2018

 THE LAST GOOD KISS, James Crumley 

Crumley’s detective hero/antihero is C.W. Sughrue,is  a war veteran who handles low-level P.I. jobs like spying on wayward spouses for divorce cases or locating deadbeats for bill collectors. While tracking down a troublesome author named Trahearne for the man’s ex-wife, Sughrue takes on a second job locating a missing daughter.
Tracking down Betty Sue is the main plot point that drives the novel forward, but it’s Trahearne, that makes the novel fun to read. When the two men strike up an odd friendship and Sughrue’s hired to find Betty Sue, Trahearne cajoles Sughrue into letting him tag along.
Sughrue often takes a backseat to both Traherne and to the beer-swilling bulldog Fireball.
The real star of the book, however, is the prose, the setting, the atmosphere. Lots of fun.

Brian Busby, GANG OF FOUR
Martin Edwards, MYSTERY AT OLYMPIA, John Rhode
Richard Horton, The Stars are Ours!, by Andre Norton/Three Faces of Time, by Sam Merwin, Jr.
Jerry House, NOT THIS AUGUST, C.M. Kornbluth
George Kelley,  THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1951 Edited By E. F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
Margot Kinberg, SILENT SCREAM, Angela Marson
Rob Kitchin, PARIS, TROUT, Pete Dexter
B.V.  Lawson, THE DEATH OF A CELEBRITY, Hulbert Footner
Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, THE SPOOK HILLS MYSTERY, B.M. Bower 
Todd Mason,  FANTASTIC STORIES, August 1976, edited by Ted White; THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, August and September 1976, edited by Edward Ferman 
Matt Paust, A FAR, FAR BETTER THING, Jens Soering and Ted Sizemore
Richard Robinson, What I Read, Part 4
Gerard Saylor, SPECIAL FORCES BERLIN, James Stejskal
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THIEVES'S DOZEN, Donald E. Westlake
TomCat, DEAD MAN TWICE, Christopher Bush
TracyK, GOLDFINGER, Ian Fleming

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Deborah Kerr and Robert Donat play two naive people who marry without much in common. The war breaks out and both of them enlist. (She in the Waves). Their wartime service changes them into more independent people and also adults. When the war ends, both are convinced their marriage is over based on what they know about their partner.

Alexander Korda directed this in 1945. It is also called PERFECT STRANGERS. It was quite a decent little film and treated a serious subject in a respectful way. It is the kind of movie you might like if you stumble on it, but perhaps not the sort you would rent on Amazon.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mondays Are Murder

Things That Are Making Me Happy

RBG, the biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, which was more like a fan letter than any sort of critical study, but so what. Maybe she deserves it when you go through her accomplishments. She is certainly a role model for many young women. And managed to have a loving marriage too.

Enjoying THE LAST GOOD KISS by James Crumley and MAD MEN CAROUSEL by Matt Zoller Seitz as I rewatch seven seasons of MAD MEN. Yes, it holds up very well. And it seems even more relevant today than three years ago.

Sorry the series ATLANTA is over for the year. Each episode was special, different, sad. Donald Glover is a genius.

Finished my story for the Lawrence Block antho. Hope he likes it. And thanks to Jeff for reading it for me.

Incessant rain makes for green grass. But it also makes for incessant rain.