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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, you can find an archive list at the bottom of this page.

Tuesday, June 28

You Can't Go Home Again. Or Can You?

We're getting ready for our flight to South Dakota tomorrow, suitcase on the bed waiting to be filled. But Squeakie thought she'd fill it first. I went in the bedroom and there she was, in the suitcase, sitting there almost pleading with us to take her along. Well, much as we'd like to, we can't leave Dusty alone. Besides, she'd probably never make it through the pre-boarding patdown.

We're both feeling ambivalent about this year's trip--excited to see people we haven't seen for a while, people we may never see again, and nervous about how hectic it will be, seeing all those people. Three different sets of reunion activities--my sixtieth, Rosalie's fifty-fifth, and the Pooley family reunion (all the nieces and nephews on the Zimmer/Pooley side of the family). It will, I'm sure, be another week of getting there and then wishing the days away until we can come home again. Way too much small talk, way too many obligatory meals at one restaurant or club or another, too many nights sleeping on an unfamiliar mattress with an unfamiliar pillow. I'd take my own pillow with me but the airline would probably charge me an extra hundred bucks.

How about a few Mobridge, S.D. photos?

Mobridge High School, where Rosalie and I spent so many enjoyable years. It was torn down this year to make way for a new one. All those memories now in the dumpster.

The old Travis house at 100 7th St. East, on the north side of the city park. I lived there from 1946 until I moved out to marry Rosalie in 1960.

Ah, yes, the West End Tavern as depicted at the Klein Museum. How many hours and how many dollars did I spend there? But I and a lot of other Mobridge males got our sex education there. Now it's gone forever, shut down finally by a group of Mobridge do-gooders.

The Mobridge Country Club, where I first learned the game of golf, a nasty little sand green course now converted to grass greens. Now that brother Dick is gone, I won't mind never playing there again.

One of the Oscar Howe murals that adorn the walls of the auditorium where I played my high school basketball games. This one depicts the agony of the Sioux Sun Dance, the one I used for the cover of my Mobridge novel, Match Play.

And finally, a shot of a Fourth parade, a parade I've seen too many times, almost always the same, small floats with children and adults tossing candy to the kids along the way, horses depositing steaming piles on the asphalt to the dismay of the viewers.

Who says you can't go home again? Thomas Wolfe, that's who. But he must have been wrong. Wasn't he?

Monday, June 27

Songs

I pulled out my notes on songs never quite completed, bits and pieces of clever ideas (at least I think so) that I never got around to finishing. So I finished two of them.

Down from the Mountain

Down from the mountain, / Into the shade, / Life is a fountain, / Death is a blade.

A blade can kill you / Or fill you with rage, / Just climbing the mountain / Won’t make you a sage.

A sage will sit wisely / And bask in the sun, / He knows that his journey / Doesn’t ask him to run.

He’ll saunter up slowly / Till he gets to the crest, / Where he’ll pause and gaze inward, / Then decide what is best.

Then come down from the mountain, / Into the shade, / Life is a fountain, / Death is a blade.

Love at Second Sight

Intro. It’s said that love is better / The second time around, / But sometimes second sightings / Are a lot more sound— / I know form personal experience / And here is what I found.

When I first saw you / I didn’t think much about you. / Then I saw you again / And I knew right then / I couldn’t live life without you.

It was love at second sight, / You and I were right— / How could I fight it? / I couldn’t just write it off. / Love at second sight, / Love at second sight, / It was so right for me.

When I first kissed you, / We just couldn’t get it together. / Then I kissed you again / And I knew right then / I wanted to kiss you forever.

It was love at second sight, / You and I were right— / How could I fight it? / I couldn’t just write it off. / Love at second sight, / Love at second sight, / It was so right for me.

And here are a few of the bits, still incomplete. Anyone out there who might like to give me a hand (or a line or two)?

I like the give and take of living / But there’s a whole lot / More taking than giving. / I like the bump and rub of loving / But there’s too little rubbing / And too much shoving.

I don’t love you anymore / But I sure as hell / Don’t love you any less.

The harder you hang onto love / The more it always seems to slip away

Somewhere I have never loved you, somewhere, / Somehow I have never known your touch.

We must be the most unlikely lovers

Woe to man is woman

Scudder & Two Jokes

Another snippet from Lawrence Block. I’m still not sure what it is about the writing that so impresses me. I mean, it’s not really Block’s voice we hear; it’s Matt Scudder’s. And the style of those words is so characteristic of Scudder, so unadorned, so alcoholic dark. I thought I’d learned all there was to learn about AA from the other books in the series, but this one is really loaded (no pun intended), the plot hinging on Step 9 of the Twelve Steps, the step where one makes amends to all who have ever been harmed by the one making the Step 9 list. But back to the style, listen to what Matt has to say about one of the choices an alcoholic has to make.

"Armstrong’s. When I first got sober I couldn’t see why I couldn’t go there anymore. Whether or not you were drinking, it was a good place to sit, a good place to eat, a good place to meet prospective clients. I heard it said at meetings that one way to avoid a slip was to stay out of slippery places, but on the other hand I kept running into bartenders who’d held on to their jobs after they sobered up. It is, after all, the drink that gets you drunk, not the place where they sell the awful stuff." (p. 138, A Drop of the Hard Stuff)

I can't seem to leave it alone. It's like an itch that won't stop reminding you it's there. Another snippet: "The super at Jack's rooming house was named Ferdie Pardo. Short for Ferdinand, I suppose. He wore a dark blue work shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He had a pack of Kools in his shirt pocket and a pencil behind his ear, and he looked like a man who didn't expect the day to turn out well." (p. 248, A Drop of the Hard Stuff)

And while I’m at it, why not two jokes, one from Hard Stuff and one from Sandford’s Winter Prey.

Mailman brings the mail to this one house and the wife invites him in, gives him a fresh-baked brownie and a cup of coffee. Next thing he knows she’s taking him upstairs to the bedroom. Afterwards she hands him a dollar. And he says, “Hey, what’s this?” “It’s for you,” she says. “It was my husband’s idea.” “Your husband’s Idea?” “Yeah,” she says. “I asked him what should we do for the mailman for Christmas, and he said, Fuck him, give him a dollar. The brownie and coffee were my idea.” (pp. 204-05, A Drop of the Hard Stuff)

Guy walks into a bar, he’s got a head the size of a baseball, says, “Gimme a beer.” The bartender shoves a glass of Bud across the bar and says, “Listen, pal, it’s none of my business, but a big guy like you—how’d you get a little teeny head like that?” The guy says, “Well, I was down in Jamaica, walking on the beach, when I see this bottle. I pull the top off, and holy shit, a genie pops out. I mean, she was gorgeous. She had a body that wouldn’t quit, great ass, tits the size of watermelons. And she says I can have a wish. So I said, ‘Well look, you know, what I'd wish for, is to make love to you.’ And the genie says, ‘Sorry, that’s one thing I’m not allowed to do.’ So then I say, ‘Okay, how about a little head?’ ” (p. 160, Winter Prey)

Sunday, June 26

Herman Golf

I found this old “Herman” that I’d tucked away in one of my books, and it seems to be perfect for my current predicament, the damnable game of golf. I may not cut my clubs into small pieces, but I may put them all out at a garage sale. People (yes, you, Anne) keep telling me that even though I can no longer play as well as I used to, I still play better than nearly all who take up the game. Bah! My present scores wouldn’t be so bad if that’s all I'd ever done, play to a fifteen or sixteen handicap. Then I wouldn’t now be so dissatisfied with the scores I keep making round after round. But in the past, I could always look forward to a round of golf because there was always the possibility of something magical, like a really low score, or a bunch of birdies, or the occasional eagle. Well, that sort of magic is gone and can never return. So, here's to Herman and his hacksaw.

Saturday, June 25

Sport Coat Heaven

I was certainly never a clothes horse, but as I was reading A Drop of the Hard Stuff, Matt talks about the first really good suit he bought when he first made detective, a two-button, single-breasted medium blue suit for which he paid three times more than he normally spent. And that started me thinking about some of the suits and sport coats I’d owned through the years.

I had a suit when I was in high school. I guess everybody did. We wore them on special occasions, like to the prom, or to weddings or funerals. But then, I never went to any weddings or funerals until after I graduated, so it must have been the two or three proms I went to. It was a brownish double-breasted beast and I never felt comfortable wearing it. As I recall, the only tie I ever wore with it was a wide thing displaying a large South Dakota pheasant. Dashing.

After I got out of the army and went to New York to join my buddy Chuck Cavallero, I bought a charcoal-gray Brooks Brothers jacket for $100. You have to understand, that hundred bucks in 1955 would be equivalent to about a thousand today. Why in the world did I feel the need for a BB sport coat? Must have been to impress all the New York women I never met. I wonder what ever happened to it. Must have gone to the sport coat heaven in the sky.

Sometime after I began teaching, I bought a tan jacket from Perron’s Toggery (a toggery in Mobridge—isn’t that an odd bit of pretentiousness?) for $50. With leather elbow patches. And I wore it almost exclusively for the first decade of my teaching career. And then it too went to the SC heaven.

In 1958 or ‘59, Bill Pilgrim gave me a jacket he no longer wanted, a heavy, black-and-white plaid with black leather elbow patches. It was too heavy to wear in school, and I can’t remember ever wearing it anywhere. It must have hung in my closet for years before I passed it off to some poor devil by way of Goodwill.

And during my teaching years in New York, I bought two jackets from Sears, one blue and one maroon. I alternated them daily until the time came when I no longer felt it necessary to wear a jacket and tie to school. I kept both of them until well after I retired, and then they hung in my closet until I no longer had a need to wear them. I mean, when in retirement in Sun City West would I ever have occasion to don a sport coat? Never. They too went to Goodwill a few years ago. And my last purchase was a dark gray pinstripe from Sears that I needed when Lyle Zimmer, Rosalie’s brother, asked me to be his best man at his late-life marriage to Merriel McMacken six years ago. It’s still there in my closet, waiting for the time when it may join me in a crematorium. I’m not sure if a body is dressed up to be cremated. Probably not. So, it too will probably eventually make it to Goodwill.

And that’s it, an entire lifetime of suits and sport coats in a non-clothes horse life.

Friday, June 24

Matt Scudder

I’ve written about John Sandford and what I think makes him such a great writer. Now I’m reading the last book by Lawrence Block, the last in the Matt Scudder series, called A Drop of the Hard Stuff. He hasn’t written a Scudder in quite a few years, so I was looking forward to seeing how Matt was doing. He’s doing just fine. Same old Matt, aging year by year in real time, plodding along as he’s always done. But in this one, he’s telling his old friend Mick Ballou about a childhood friend of his. So it’s a flashback to a time after Matt has left the police force, after he’s finally gotten off the booze and the endless AA meetings he attended. I’ve read the entire series twice because I found Matt and the other characters so interesting. And now I’m trying to understand what makes Block such a unique writer. The style is purely Matt Scudder, nothing fancy, each word simple and straightforward, each scene described in black and white, with booze always at its center. I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to learn about AA and its precepts. But that’s an important part of the series and the style. Matt Scudder is a dark character, much like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, and his style of detecting is dark and plodding, and sometimes violent, especially when he enlists the help of Mick Ballou, who owns a bar and is on the left side of the law. In this one, he tells Mick about meeting Jack Ellery, years after they were in grade school together in the Bronx, each of them going separate ways, Matt into the police, Jack into two-bit burglary and liquor store holdups. But they meet at an AA meeting, with Jack apparently now off the booze and wanting to set his life right. But then he’s killed by someone who shot him in the mouth and between the eyes. And Matt simply has to track the killer down.

Now a semi-long excerpt to give you a taste of this style so difficult to pin down:

So he stayed sober in prison. Then they let him out and he came home to New York and got a room in an SRO hotel a couple of blocks from Penn Station, and by the third night he was drinking blended whiskey around the corner in a place called the Terminal Lounge.

“So called because of its location,” he said, “but the name would have fit the place even if it had been in the middle of Jackson Heights. Fucking joint was the end of the line.”

Except of course it wasn’t. The line ran its zigzag course for another couple of years, during which time he stayed out of trouble with the law but couldn’t stay out of the bars. He’d go to meetings and begin to put a little time together, and then he’d have one of those oh-what-the-hell moments, and the next thing he knew he was in a bar, or taking a long pull on a bottle. He hit a few detoxes, and his blackouts started lasting longer, and he knew what the future held and didn’t see how he could avoid it.

If you’ve never read this series by Lawrence Block, now seventeen books stretching over thirty-five years, you should give him a try. He’s well worth the read.

Tuesday, June 21

Rory's Roar & Sandford

Well, I and other faitful golf fans watched Rory's coronation after his record-breaking performance in this year's U.S. Open. How nice to have someone new to cheer for, to watch to see just how far this young phenom can take it. I still want Tiger to return to form, but now, when and if he comes back, he'll have a legitimate opponent to contend with. Good for him, good for Rory, good for golf.

Back to Sandford for a bit. I’m buzzing through the first in the series, now into Winter Prey, the fifth, and man, is it ever winter in Wisconsin. If you ever want to relive a truly cold night (I don’t know why anyone would want to), then read the first two chapters of Winter Prey and you’ll feel and hear and smell what it’s like when the temperature drops to thirty below. It’s cold enough to kill.

In this one, Lucas first meets Dr. Weather Karkinnen, the woman he would later marry. He’s been called in by the local sheriff, who doesn’t feel adequate to investigate a triple homicide in Grant, a small town in northern Wisconsin. He knew about Lucas’s reputation, knew that Lucas was living in a lakeside cabin not for from the site of the murders, and asked for his help, deputizing him to keep it all legal. It’s hard to explain Sandford’s style, why I think it’s so good. It’s definitely not a literary style. If you’re looking for that in a hard-boiled thriller, you’d have to look into James Lee Burke, who, despite the violence of most of his Dave Robicheaux novels, is as close to Faulkner as any living writer. With Sandford, it’s the authenticity of the dialogue and his attention to sensory detail that makes him so good. For example, “The wind whistled down the frozen run of Shasta Creek, between the blacker-than-black walls of pine. The thin naked swamp alders and slight new birches bent before it. Needle-point ice crystals rode it, like sandpaper grit, carving arabesque whorls in the drifting snow.” Not great, maybe, but very good. Many readers might object to the frequency of the F-bombs, but that’s the way people in a tough trade talk. For example, Gene Climpt, the sheriff’s investigator, is describing to Lucas one of the men they’re going to interrogate: “If that son-of-a-bitch’s heart caught on fire,” Climpt said, “I wouldn’t piss down his throat to put it out.” Again, maybe not great, but unusually good. If you’ve never read Sandford, give him a try. His plots are intricate and surprising, his characters spot-on three dimensional.

Sunday, June 19

Twins Entwined

Another Sunday afternoon and I'm sitting here, fidgeting as I wait for Rory McIlroy to tee off in the U.S. Open. I want to be a spectator to golfing history. I want to see him win by a new record number. I want another Tiger. He seems like such a really nice person. I need another Tiger but one I can appreciate without the sexual baggage that Tiger gave us. Come on, Rory.

A few years ago (Wow, I guess "a few" is really fifteen) when I was teaching creative writing in a nearby junior college, I wrote this story to illustrate the omniscient point of view, loading it with every old omniscient device I could think of. And it came out better than I'd planned. What do you think?

A Tale of Twins Entwined

Once upon a time in a village far far away in a land equally far, there lived a lovely young lady named Maleeva, or Mal to her enemies.

The land was known as Bountiful, the village, Punkydale. However, as our tale begins, the land was anything but bountiful, for a terrible spell had been placed on it and now nothing would grow—no corn nor peas nor beans, no potatoes, no wheat, no barley, no hops (no beer!), no apples nor oranges nor kumquats (but then, who needs kumquats? for that matter, who knows what a kumquat is?). The only thing that grew was the people’s hunger . . . and Maleeva’s sour disposition. You see, Maleeva, though fair of face and form, was foul of feeling, a fearsome fowl of a female. She was lovely outside but inside she was vile, a veritable vial of vile venom.

One day shortly after the spell had been placed, a young man strolled into Bountiful from the adjoining land named William (the land, not the lad, for the lad’s name was Beneeva, or Ben to his friends). You, Dear Reader, have probably noticed the similarities in the names of our two young people, the lad named Beneeva and the lass named Maleeva, or Ben and Mal. The two were outwardly similar, very similar, for they were brother and sister, twins, as a matter of fact. They had been separated at birth through no fault of their parents. The midwife, a wicked woman named Wanda, had taken the girl child and lied to the mother, saying there was only one child born. Wanda took the girl child because of the baby’s outward beauty (a beauty which grew inwardly ugly because of Wanda’s wicked ways) and left behind the boy child because of his outward ugliness (an ugliness which changed to handsomeness as the boy grew up and his grotesque nose diminished).

The two grew to young adulthood unaware of sister, brother, twin, and fate brought them together in this time of unbountiful famine.

It was afternoon when young Ben entered Punkydale. He approached the lovely Maleeva, who was sitting on her front stoop frowning at the ground. He removed his cap and was just about to speak when Maleeva, with a howl of triumph, pounced on a big fat beetle and promptly popped it in her mouth.

“Uhh,” Ben began, “uhh, wasn’t that a beetle you just popped in, chewed up and swallowed?”

“Well, of course it was, you idiot!” she snarled, wiping with the back of her hand a black beetle leg from the corner of her mouth. “Did you think it was a Big Mac or, or, or . . . even a Whopper?” she asked, her eyes going dreamy at the thought of such epicurean delights, such gastronomical pleasures.

“Uhh, I’m not certain,” he replied uncertainly. “What is a Big Mac? What is a Whopper?” Beneeva, you see, was hardly a man of the world and didn’t know a Big Mac from a Whopper, or an epicure from a gastronome. “You idiot!” she screamed, thinking she’d never before seen as silly a young man as this one. “It was a Big Bug I chewed up and swallowed and it was delicious. Who are you and what do you want?” Then she smiled craftily and rubbed her hands together as she realized what this foolish young man might mean to her. “Do you, perchance, have anything to eat? I mean, other than beetles?”

Ben swept his arm and cap to the side and bowed to this fiery female, just as his mother had taught him to do. “My name is Beneeva, but my friends call me, Ben. I have no food, sweet lady, but I would be honored to find you some. Prithee, tell me, oh fair one, what you are called.”

“I am Maleeva, but my enemies call me, Mal. Prithee, tell me, Ben, why are you here if you have no food? There are only so many beetles and I am not one to share.”

“I’ve come to Bountiful to find my fortune. Can you tell me, Mal, of any opportunities for a willing and able young lad seeking his fortune?”

Mal grinned, her eyes little slits of satisfaction. “Why, yes,” she purred. “A handsome young man such as yourself could do handsomely by going up the mountain and slaying the nasty gnomish magician who lives in that distant castle.” The magical gnome she referred to, a gnome named Norman, was the very gnome who had placed the spell of famine on Bountiful. Norman wanted no one not a gnome to live in that land, and since the residents of Bountiful were all tall, handsome folk, nary a gnome among them, Norman would soon be the only gnome left standing.

“And all I need do is go up the mountain and slay a small nasty gnome? And I will have made my fortune? Is there a fortune to be found up there?” He had more questions but he couldn’t think how to phrase them.

Mal kept bobbing her head with head-bobbing answers to Ben’s questions. “That’s it” she answered. “Anyone, even a gnome, who could afford to live in a castle such as the one on that high mountain, must surely have a fortune lying about, and it would have to be a fortune he came by unfairly, illegally, so it would be yours quite fairly, legally, to grab.”

Ben swept his hat from his head and bowed to the lady fair and took his leave, hurrying up the mountain to find his fortune.

Meanwhile, up the mountain, Norman was just getting up from his evening meal, a feast of such gargantuan proportions that his gnomish little body was swollen, his little face red and dripping with the labor of his feasting, his belly a balloon. He wobbled and waddled over to the open window and climbed heavily up onto a small stool to see how his spell was going down in Punkydale. He stood there with chin resting on the sill, his stomach pressed painfully into the stony wall. He was surprised to see a young man struggling up the trail to the wall surrounding Norman’s castle.

“I wonder what he’s up to coming here,” Norman wondered. “Up to nothing good, I’d wager. I certainly hope he isn’t thinking of doing anything drastic about the spell I placed on Bountiful.” Norman decided he should, just to be on the safe side, get his magic wand and turn this young man into a toad or a fly or a wart on a boar’s behind. But when he turned to step down from the stool, he toppled onto his stomach and no matter how he struggled, he couldn’t right himself, his belly just too round and bulbous for his feet to find the floor.

Minutes later, Ben came through the large entrance door and looked down at Norman there on the floor, his little legs and arms futilely flailing the air. Norman peeked over his shoulder and gave Ben his most pathetic look, intending it to appeal to the lad’s good nature. Then Norman glanced at the table where he’d left his wand near the remains of his dinner. He saw the young man’s eyes follow his and Norman knew the mistake he’d made.

“Ah hah!” Ben cried in triumph. “And what do we have here?” He rushed to the table, took the wand and waved it overhead. Then, without really knowing what he was about, he began a strange chant: “Hicka, hacka, hoaka, hum—this gnome is gone with a flick of my thumb.” Ben flicked his thumb and sure enough, Norman disappeared in a little round puff of smoke.

And the evil spell on Bountiful went with him to wherever Norman had gone. Actually, he was transported to an island many many leagues from Bountiful, the island of Punypoo, where all the natives were even shorter than Norman, and Norman couldn’t have been happier, even without his magic wand to aid him.

Ben came down the mountain with the magic wand. There was Mal, about to pop another beetle in her mouth. He pointed the wand at her and, with a voice and words not his own, conjured: “Meely, mally, mimbledy, mole—remove the beetles from this girl’s soul.” Mal’s mouth opened in astonishment. Her eyes grew round and large as kumquats (which aren’t really very large). With four hiccups, three coughs, two gurgles, and one giggle, she bent forward at the waist and from her mouth out poured a stream of beetles. It was a most disgusting sight. To me, to you, that is, but not to Ben, who, like Professor Higgins, could find nothing foul in his fair lady. When the beetle stream diminished and then dribbled to a conclusion, Mal straightened, her face now radiant with her newly cleansed soul. She was now magically as lovely inside as out.

And all would have ended happily ever after if, at the very moment that Ben and Mal were rushing into each other’s arms, the wicked midwife Wanda had not rushed round a corner and skidded to a halt, putting a halt to the rushing couple and the happy ending.

“Desist, you idiots!” she shouted with upraised arms. “Don’t you realize what I now realize, now that I’ve seen this lad who is the very image of Maleeva, and her spitting image at that?”

The couple, not yet arm in arm, looked at each other in wonder, then turned to Wanda and said with one voice, “No. We don’t realize what you now realize. What don’t we realize?”

“You two are brother and sister, twins to be precise, two sides of one coin.” Shocked silence. Ben and Mal looked at each other, then back at wicked Wanda, disbelief plain in their twinned expressions.

“Yes, yes, it’s true,” Wanda went on. “I wickedly stole Maleeva away from your mother just after she was born and I raised her as my own, raised her to be as wicked as I, and I now regret both the stealing and the raising. But you must not make matters worse by falling in love. A brotherly/sisterly hug and a peck on the cheek is one thing, but incest will never do, not even in a fairy tale.”

Ben and Mal believed her. So Ben again raised the wand and waved it over their heads, his and his sister’s, the sister who would have been his wife and lover in another time, another place . . . another story.

“Blinka, Blonka, Beetle-de-bun—make the two of us into one,” he chanted. In an instant they blended, coalesced like smoke, the two now joined at more than hip, male and female together in one harmonious whole, the very “marriage of true minds” to which Shakespeare would not “admit impediments.”

And he—she—they, or with a brand new pronoun for this equal rights occasion, “hesh” lived happily ever after.

The moral? In matters of money, two million is always much better than one. But when it comes to twins in love, one will always be better than two.

Sunday, June 12

Boners & Weiners & Writing

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. We have two congressmen who are stuck with unfortunate surnames, John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House, and Anthony Weiner, Democratic congressman from New York. Weiner is now, and will always be, known for tweeting a photo of his “weiner” to a female college student. As he now says, what a stupid thing to do. But think about what may have been his and John Boehner’s crosses to bear when they were boys and young men: John would have been unhappily called Boner, and Anthony called Weiner, just as it’s pronounced. No wonder he was compelled to send out photos of his penis. I also wonder when John will do the same.

In our present age of texting and tweeting, what will happen to writing for writing’s sake? I guess it will still be in the hands of our professional writers. But how sad for our young people who think a 140-character tweet or the uninspired shorthand of a text is the end all of clever conversation. David McCullough has this to say: “The loss of people writing—writing a composition, a letter or a report—is not just the loss for the record. It’s the loss of the process of working your thoughts out on paper, of having an idea that you would never have had if you weren’t [writing]. And that’s a handicap. People [I research] were writing letters every day. That was calisthenics for the brain.”

More on Sandford and his writing in the Prey series. “They were ten minutes off the expressway, in a neighborhood of tired yards. The postwar frame houses were crumbling from age, poor quality, and neglect: roofs were missing shingles, eaves showed patches of dry rot. In the dim illumination of the streetlights, they could see kids’ bikes dumped unceremoniously on the weedy lawns. The cars parked in the streets were exhausted hulks. Oil stains marked the driveways like Rorschachs of failure.” (p. 219, Shadow Prey) Nice, huh?

Saturday, June 11

SYTYCD

I’ve raved about So You Think You Can Dance before, but here it is again. Last Thursday they announced the top twenty, with those chosen to dance in groups of two to five. And the performances were spectacular. We’ve watched all seven previous seasons, and so far, this season looks like it will outperform all that came before. If you’re not a fan of this show, you should be. We can’t figure out how the dancers can learn as many new routines as they do and still not make any mistakes in their performances. There may be tiny mistakes, but none but the judges and choreographers would pick them up. You can view last Thursday’s routines by going to So You Think You Can Dance and clicking on “Clips.” And here’s one from last season’s show just to give you a taste of what you’ve been missing.

Tuesday, June 7

Rangé Golf Balls

I have so little to write about that I'm resorting to this video about the great game of golf, especially about the kind of balls we should be playing with. Thanks, Larry.

Sunday, June 5

Backyard Critters

Another Sunday. And it’s simply gorgeous—calm as a glassy pond, temps rising to the mid-nineties, cloudless skies. We’re so lucky to be living here. The only negative to life in Arizona is the annual threat of fires up north. Right now we have one covering well over a hundred thousand acres with 0% containment. Nature’s broom, sweeping away old stuff to allow new stuff to grow. Regrettably, some humans get in the way, but Nature doesn’t distinguish between tree and man.

I’ve noticed lately that Fred Lizard is back. Well, maybe he never left and I just haven’t seen him. Last evening, we watched him scuttling across the yard, pausing for a few pushups before he finally made it to his home in one of the oleander bushes. He was much bigger than I remembered, almost a foot from tip of tail to nose. For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, Fred Lizard was one of my characters from Life in the Arbor, the one who dreamed of being a fire-breathing dragon.

And while I’m talking about backyard critters, we now have a pesky woodpecker who found that pounding out his challenges on our metal downspout wasn’t as effective as drilling away on our Direct TV satellite dish. And he loves to do it right around 5:00 in the morning. Nobody I’ve asked knows why woodpeckers do that. Is it a challenge to male rivals or is it a call to area females saying, “Look at me, I’m sooo handsome?”

Wednesday, June 1

Sandford's Prey Series

I’m rereading the Prey series by John Sandford, and I don’t think I ever read the first one, Rules of Prey. But then, I may have just forgotten, having begun the series when it first came out over twenty years ago, and my mind and memory aren’t what they used to be. You know, the old joke about having a library of three books, reading them and rereading them over and over, chuckling every time over a humorous section, shivering every time over a scary section, each chuckle and scare a brand new sensation. Sandford mentions in the introduction to Rules that when he wrote this first one about Lucas Davenport he thought it would be a stand-alone novel. But then he began writing more of them, all Preys, all with Davenport. He’s now up to twenty-three, the last one called Buried Prey, in which he flashes back to when Lucas was a beat cop working his way up to detective. I have a lot of favorite writers and series—Harry Bosch by Connelly, Travis McGee by MacDonald, Spenser by Parker, Elvis Cole by Crais, the 87th Precinct by McBain, Mathew Hope by McBain, Matt Scudder by Block, Dave Robicheaux by James Lee Burke, Jack Reacher by Child, Alex Delaware by Kellerman, and Thorn by James W. Hall—but I’m beginning to think that Lucas Davenport and the Prey series may be my most favorite. The character is so believable and the writing is so first-rate. And Davenport ages in real time, unlike some of the other characters, like Spenser or Travis McGee or Steve Carella or Alex Delaware, all of whom span almost thirty years and yet haven’t aged a bit.

Back to the Prey series and Rules of Prey. Lucas is assigned the maddog case, a serial killer who targets women, carefully stalks them, then subdues them, rapes them, and stabs them to death. But he’s no maddog. He’s methodical and very intelligent, and he makes it a point of following various rules he’s made up, then leaving that rule with the body to confound the police. A good plot device, excellent characters. When I say that Sandford’s novels are well written, I mean it in a technical, commercial sense, not in a literary sense. Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald were great literary stylists, and although they all met with commercial success, their styles weren’t dictated by commerce. For example, Sandford writes of Lucas: “He ate lunch at a McDonald’s on University Avenue, sharing it with a junkie who nodded and nodded and finally fell asleep in his French fries. Lucas left him slumped over the table. The pimple-faced teenager behind the counter watched the bum with the half-hung eyes of a sixteen-year-old who had already seen everything and was willing to leave it alone.” That’s not great but it’s certainly very good. James Lee Burke is the only other who comes close to a style that might be considered literary. More on this when I stumble onto other passages that illustrate my point.

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