Friday, August 1, 2014

To Be Read With Utmost Dispatch - My Current TBR Pile of Books

I know, I know, I didn't realize she'd written another Richard Jury book either. Rushed to the library and there it was waiting for me. I gasped with delight. I've read every single Jury book so a new one is Big News. At some point I've always meant to re-read the entire canon again since you know what my memory is like. I adore this arcane, hard to get into, occasionally hard to fathom series. If you, like me, enjoy finding moments of absolute brilliance here and there in the middle of a mystery series, this is the one.

Read about VERTIGO 42 and Martha Grimes' books here.

Thanks to long-time blog fan Kathy's generosity, I now own my very own copy of a book which sounds like an absolute delight. I am very fond of stories narrated in the first person by a 12 year old if they are well conceptualized and well written and this one looks like it fits the bill.

Read about THE EARTH HUMS IN B FLAThere.

I've never forgotten (hard to believe, I know) a book I read many MANY years ago: THE LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Conrad Richter. All about a young white boy kidnapped in a raid by the Lenni Lenapi and then the eventual trials and tribulations when, as a grown man, he is reunited with his white family. It was made into a film starring James MacArther (Helen Hayes' son) by the Disney people and it was pretty good. Anyway, when I read the synopsis of FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW and found it was based on an actual kidnapping of a Puritan minister's wife back in the 1600's, I was rightly intrigued.

Read more about FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW by Amy Belding Brown, here .
And to read more about THE LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Conrad Richter, please go here.

The MacLean book I really want to read is THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (remember the movie with Gregory Peck and David Niven?), but my library is unfortunately very limited in this author's books and this is one they had. Definitely a 'must be in the mood' book though I read that it is one of the very best of the WWII sea faring sagas.

To read about H.M.S. ULYSSES (1955), please go here.

Yes I know Robert Galbraith is really J.K. Rowling but I enjoyed the Harry Potter books and I'm curious to see what Rowling does with the mystery/thriller genre. PLUS I've read good things about this even if the book is being described as noir. PLUS how can I resist a book in which the hero is named Cormoran Strike? Will report when I've finally gotten to it.

To learn more about THE CUCKOO'S CALLING, please go here.

And odd story about a slightly odd, woebegone (and rather cranky) widower who owns a bookstore in a place called Alice Island in which he is fortunate enough to be the only game in town - book-wise. When I read that a book is about 'redemption and reformation' I usually run the other way. Those two words mean 'book club book' to me and that's not my gig. But occasionally one will slip in under my guard.

So far (I'm currently reading this beside my Tolkien THE TWO TOWERS book - yeah, go figure) this is an engaging and even absorbing book about spiritual loneliness, the love of books, the workings of a bookstore and the often confounding unexpectedness of life. I'm having a lovely time.

To read about THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY, please go here.

I read the previous two in this gentle (well, gentle with a murder or two thrown in) self-effacing series set in the 1950's, about a British clergyman who gets involved in mystery solving and though, to me, this seems a highly improbably concept, I still am enjoying the reading of it. Primarily because I like the canonical hero, Sidney Chambers and I love the English countryside setting. In this third book, Sidney is adjusting to married life and ready to solve whatever crimes might come his way. These books are really short story collections since Sidney gets involved in several unrelated crimes in each book, but it's handled so well I don't mind.

Just found out there's a television series in the works. To read more about this and see a clip and to read about author James Runcie and the Sidney Chambers books, please go here.

The last three titles on my list this time out are non-fiction books I'm eagerly looking forward to because I've read these authors before and know how good they can be at what they do.

I've never read a book about the Kennedy assassination (except for Stephen King's ll/22/63 which is high concept fiction highly recommended by me) and I'm not at all sure, even now, that I'm ready to read this non-fiction moment by moment account of a day people my age will never forget - probably one of the most harrowing events in my life. After all these years it still hurts to read about and it still seems like it happened just yesterday - it was THAT earth-shattering.

Anyway, I'm going to give this book a go and see if I can take it. I read James Swanson's MANHUNT The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer and liked it very much. It's the sort of book that reads like fiction and is even more amazing for that fact that it's all true. Highly recommended.

To read more about author James Swanson and his books, please go here.

I've read and recommend OPERATION MINCEMEAT and AGENT ZIGZAG, both by this author and so I'm looking forward to heading back to WWII to find out more about the ultra secret war behind the scenes and the eccentric bunch of agents who helped make the invasion of Normandy possible.

These stories are all the more implausible when one considers that they really and truly actually happened. I love this stuff especially when it's so well written.

To learn more about author Ben MacIntyre and his books, please go here.

A book I've been looking forward to for a while: A SPY AMONG FRIENDS Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. I think the title says it all. What drives a person to betray his family, his friends and his country? I love MacIntyre's work (see above) and this is one I may have to drop everything else to read next or at least, sooner than soon.

To read more about Ben MacIntyre's books, please go here.


I wish I could read multiple books all at the same time. I've always thought there must be a way but if so, it continues to elude me. Not an original idea but one that haunts people - like me - who can't read quite fast enough to suit them.

This is not technically a 'forgotten book' list since only one book qualifies, I suppose: H.M.S. ULYSSES by Alistair Maclean, but what the heck. It is what it is.

Todd Mason is doing hosting duties this week in place of Patti Abbott at whose blog we generally congregate for FFB, so don't forget to check in at Todd's blog, Sweet Freedom - to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Posters I LOVE For Movies I've Never Seen and Don't Want To

Something rings a bell here. (I LOVE A MYSTERY used to be a radio show.) There's a slim possibility I might actually have seen this on television at some point. Maybe. Nowadays the inclusion of George Macready and Nina Foch in the cast might tempt me. I do like the sound of a 'weird death sentence from the mystic East' - but I doubt I have the necessary endurance anymore. poster source

Despite the great poster and much as I love Gale Sondergaard, I KNOW I've never seen this continuation (I'm guessing) of the character she played in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDER WOMAN. Who she's striking back at in this movie I don't know but her character's name is Zenobia Dollard - that alone is enough to give me pause. But I notice that creepy Rondo Hatton shows up as well. You see Rondo, you know it's not a feel-good fest. poster source

I've read that this is not a great movie. Still, I do like that poster. PLUS I love Warren William. But no fun seeing the dapper and dashing WW humiliated by Gracie Allen, yes, yes, of the Burns and Allen comedy team. S.S. Van Dine actually wrote this?
poster source

Fabulous poster featuring the ever popular screen duo of William Henry and Linda Stirling. Wait. WHO? P.S. What is that guy sniffing from that beaker and why? poster source

Another terrific poster - this one with a wonderful rendering of a very sinister looking Bela Lugosi. But I'm afraid that's not enough. Maybe if they'd featured a black dragon or two breathing fire....Nah, even that wouldn't change my mind. Call me shallow, I just can't get over that woman's hairdo. poster source

Helen Gahagan billed over Randolph Scott? Excuse me? I'm not making this up. That's what it says down there in the lower right hand corner. Oh and I see Nigel Bruce. Let me think a moment...Nope, even Nigel (who went on to bigger and better playing Dr. Watson opposite Basil Rathbone in the Sherlock Holmes movies) can't make me want to watch this. I must disobey She Who Must Be Obeyed. poster source

Look, I love a man in a fez as much as the next woman, but I'm going to skip this movie anyway. Though I must admit the cast is tempting: Gene Tierney, Walter Huston, Victor Mature and Ona Munson. Maybe not entirely household names, but close. And directed by Josef von Sternberg too....Jeez, that fez sure is tempting. Hard to imagine Victor in a fez. Well, maybe at a jaunty angle. poster source

I probably read the Perry Mason book this movie is based on, but never mind. Ann Dvorak and Donald Woods are playing, I suppose, Perry and Della. Here's my question: Where's Warren William? (Be still my fluttering heart.) Now HE, I'd go see - starring as Perry, that is. I've been meaning to buy the WW Perry Mason movies - only way I'm ever going to see them, that much I know. But Donald Woods? Gotta' admit though, that title is one of the very best Erle Stanley Gardner ever came up with. poster source


I've never seen these films and I don't really want to. Please don't make me. Please nobody tell me I'm overlooking a gem, I simply refuse to believe it. But there's no getting around the fact that the posters are spectacular. I'd love to hang these on my walls (if I had any space left, that is).

Okay, okay, I admit it: Back in the day, I'd probably be lured into the theater in spite of the  posters. What did I know? I was young then and lacked taste and discrimination. Ha.

Since it's Tuesday once again, don't forget to check in at Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom, to see what other movies, television or other audio/visuals, other bloggers are talking about today. We're a delightful bunch.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

DICKENS IN LUST: THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (2013) starring Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones.

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN is a film directed by Ralph Fiennes with a screenplay by Abi Morgan, starring Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones and is based on the book of the same name by Claire Tomalin. It seemed the kind of period Victorian thing I'd probably like. The film centers on the story of how Charles Dickens, rightly beloved by all and sundry for his brilliant literary gifts, behaved caddishly towards his wife (she'd dared put on weight after giving birth to ten children in 22 years - horrors!), caused a public separation (scandalous in those tight-laced Victorian times) by 'carrying on' with an eighteen year old girl who would later become his mistress for the rest of the aging author's life.

Or so the story goes. Of course we weren't there and much of the correspondence was burned by those involved so who knows what really happened.

Felicity Jones and Ralph Fiennes - source

The film, directed by Ralph Fiennes is a major disappointment and you know how I love to write about Major Disappointments.  Hence, today's post to call attention to a film I'm NOT recommending. (I'm quirky that way.)

To be fair, there are one or two well done moments: One is the racing scene, the grouping (and costumes) of which is apparently based on a painting by the British genre artist, William Powell Frith.

'Derby Day' by William Powell Frith (Detail) - source

The second scene is the wrenching train wreck in which Dickens is forced by the strictures of convention to maintain he is traveling alone even as Nelly lies hurt at his feet. Not a proud moment.

The film's costumes and sets are, of course, perfection (the Brits excel at this) and the actors are pretty good except for one thing: Felicity Jones in the lead playing Nelly Ternan - The Woman. She is actually invisible, that is, she is so boring, so bland, so self-effacing, so laid back, so pale, so...yes, dare I say it? - so INVISIBLE! (Sad to say, the camera doesn't love her.) Well, okay, in keeping with the symbolic title of the film, you might say that that was the director's point. (Dickens did keep his personal drama behind the scenes as much as possible in those scandal loving/scandal abhorring days. Mistresses were not the sort of thing one generally paraded about in public.)

'the invisible woman' Felicity Jones as Nelly Ternan - source

But to make the woman such a non-entity beggars the point of what Dickens saw in her to begin with. (Yes, yes, actresses then had to be self-effacing and fearful of their reputations since they were regarded as little more than prostitutes.) But ladies and gents: what about this particular woman turned the elderly genius on? Merely the fact that she was young and thin and his wife was fat? Maybe. Wouldn't be the first time. Certainly there was nothing about Nelly's personality (as shown in the film) which would cause a man of a certain age to flaunt convention, create scandal and fall madly in love -  even if he was close friends with scandal-prone fellow author Wilkie Collins. (A tale for another day.)

You know as well as I that most Victorians were one thing in public and quite another behind closed doors - but it's hard to imagine - I really can't conjure it up - Charles Dickens in bed with anyone. Come on, try it - see if you can do it. That's one of the film's problems as well.

And yet the man had ten children, at least. So there is that to ponder on if we must.

But the fact is that some stories are better left to the imagination - or not, as the case may be. This is definitely one of them.

To paraphrase an old Victorian chestnut: I don't care what people do behind closed doors as long as they don't do it in the street and scare the horses.

Yeah, I'm down with that.

Have you seen this film? Do we agree or disagree? Come on, speak up. I can take it.

P.S. I haven't read the book. Source

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Film: Tom Conway as The Falcon

Apropos of nothing much (except that I'm very fond of Tom Conway (1904 - 1967), I'm declaring today Tom Conway Day primarily because I ran across two terrific blog posts lauding the Falcon movies in which he starred.

Back at the dawn of time when I had cable (and even before then on good old, plain old, television Channels 11 and 5 and 9 - New York) I was always on the look-out for Falcon movies, most especially those with Tom Conway as the star. Though the series began with the more famous George Sanders in the lead, it's really Tom (Sanders' real-life brother, playing the Falcon's film brother) who made the role his own.

There's no topping Conway's insouciant screen presence as the charmingly witty, wily, happy go lucky solver of mysteries, catcher of criminals and chaser of dames. Sanders apparently found it all a dead bore, but Conway didn't. It shows.

Check out The Nitrate Diva's post on The Falcon series here.

And Classic Movie Guys' Falcon post here.

Both are terrific.

Also, don't forget to look in at Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom to see what other Forgotten (or Overlooked) Films and/or Television, other bloggers are talking about today. We're a lively bunch.

Friday, July 18, 2014

And Oh, By the Way: For you movie mavens out there...

That guy standing sure looks like Cecil B. DeMille. source

100 FAMOUS DIRECTORS RULES OF FILM-MAKING. So intriguing to read. I'm always fascinated by how creative people do or think about their work.

FFB: THE ENGLISH AIR (1940) and SARAH MORRIS REMEMBERS (1967) by D.E. Stevenson

D.E. Stevenson (1892 - 1973) - source

You all know that lately I've become a VERY ENTHUSIASTIC D.E. STEVENSON FAN GIRL - right? Well, even if you didn't know it before, please be aware of it now and forever more. Dorothy Emily Stevenson was a talented and prolific English author who created some of the most satisfying, engaging, endearing and gently bred stories and characters in the history of the English language. How's that? No, no  exaggeration - I NEVER exaggerate.

I've been reading all the Stevenson books (a sojourn begun a couple of months ago with THE HOUSE ON THE CLIFF ) in my library and now it appears I've come to the end and must begin looking far afield - online, probably.

In the meantime, and finishing up my library's stash, I've just happened to read two of the very best Stevenson books - one, THE ENGLISH AIR, is highly recommended by Lyn at I PREFER READING and one, SARAH MORRIS REMEMBERS, a book I knew nothing about but fell madly in love with almost from the first, is highly recommended by me. Well, both are equally highly recommended, but you know what I mean.

My library actually has this copy. 

Both books feature events which take place at around the same time and both books feature two young and attractive German speaking male characters. SARAH MORRIS REMEMBERS begins as a gentle coming-of-age story in which Sarah recounts an idyllic childhood in the English countryside where her father was the much loved village vicar. Sarah is one of those coltish young English girls in literature whom we instantly like and want the best for.

Time passes.

In later years, we meet Ludovic Charles Edward Reeder (called Charles), a charming Austrian friend come down from Oxford with one of Sarah's older brothers, to visit the vicarage. The fourteen year old Sarah unknowingly charms Charles with her naturally direct manner and as time goes by, they become good friends, exchanging letters and such.

How you may imagine an English vicarage to be is exactly how the author imagines it as well - that's one of the things about Stevenson that I like so much, she always seems to be on a similar wavelength with her readers. Or more likely, we readers were on a similar wavelength with her. The best of D.E. Stevenson's books resonate with a capital R.  There is so much familiar imagery. There was a world once upon a time, that sort of thing.

Any way, back home in Austria, Charles's father (the family owns a huge estate) is an outspoken opponent of Hitler and the son worries that father will get into trouble as war looms on the horizon. But he (Charles) is not the favorite and not the heir (he has an older brother) so Charles must fend for himself though the entire family appears to depend on his good common sense - something they apparently lack. Though he'd rather stay in England, Charles returns to Austria to temporarily take charge of the estate which has been foundering under the auspices of his father and hapless brother.

Time passes.

When Charles finally returns to England and begins the naturalization process, he and Sarah decide to marry since she is now of age. He wants to give her a diamond, she prefers his signet pinky ring. Stevenson heroines will always prefer the signet pinky ring.

But before they can be married, fate interferes once again.

After the Anschluss in 1938, Charles' imprudent father is taken into custody and Charles must once again head back to Austria to see what he can do, insisting that he will return soon. Not so unexpectedly, he disappears as war is officially declared.

In England, Sarah's father, the vicar, insists on giving up his 'living' and the two head to London to see what he can do to aid in the war effort as the city faces nightly bombing. All the while Sarah, working as an interpreter, fears she'll never see Charles again. These chapters set in war-torn London are especially effective as Sarah, doing her best in a city under siege, is thrown in with a new set of intriguing characters.

Time passes.

Of course, this being a D.E. Stevenson book, idyllic scenes set in Scotland will be slipped in and probably a happy ending. But it's the journey, you know. It's the journey. I loved this book.

THE ENGLISH AIR (1940) features a young German character name Franz Von Heiden who arrives in England in 1938 to stay with his English cousins at their family home, Fernacres. Sophie Braithwaite and her daughter Wynne are prepared to welcome the son of Sophie's favorite long ago cousin Elsie even if, as it turns out, his father is currently a Nazi. The Braithwaites live with Sophie's brother-in-law (he has his own suite of rooms in the house), the elegant and enigmatic Dane Worthington who, apparently involved in some sort of espionage, decides to keep a careful eye on their guest.

Cousin Elsie was a lively and beautiful English girl who unadvisedly married Franz's father and went off to live with him in Germany a few years before WWI. As you may imagine, the marriage did not have a good outcome and Elsie passed away, sad and disillusioned.

Now, years later, Elsie's widower is a devoted Nazi party member. He's sent his son to England to find out about the English - how they live and behave. At first, Franz is gun-ho to do his father's bidding, but as he begins to learn the freedom of English ways, and befriends his cousins, all the while growing closer to Wynne, Frank (as he's now called) is torn between his parental duty and his duty to himself.

Refusing to believe that Hitler really wants war with England, Frank views as proof, English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's fateful words, '...peace in our time.'  Naturally enough, Frank (and everyone else) is devastated when Hitler breaks his word and marches into Poland.

The effect of war from the German point of view is briefly but unflinchingly depicted as Frank goes back to try and reconcile with his father - but then determines that there will be no place for him in this 'new' Germany. He must return to England somehow and do what he can to aid the British cause. All very well written and imagined  by D.E. Stevenson at a time (1940) when England and Germany were actually at war.

How Franz and Wynne finally end up together (at least briefly before Frank is shipped off to Finland to work for the Allies) makes for a very satisfying story

One evening per book is just about right. You know how that goes. Sleep can wait.

Since it's Friday, don't forget to check in at Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tuesday (Not so) Forgotten Film and/or Television: FOYLE'S WAR - Series 8 - Starring Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks

I don't know how certain series do it, but do it they do: keep getting better and better, I mean. FOYLE'S WAR is a long running ITV series created by Anthony Horowitz and begun all the way back in 2002. The ambience was, then, the approach to WWII in England followed by the turbulent war years. Lots of policing to be done: murder doesn't stop for war.

The indescribably wonderful Michael Kitchen (where do the Brits come up with these intriguing actors?) stars as Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, a widower, a decent man, and a stalwart, intuitive and very canny cop, whose territory, in the earlier series, is the green countryside of Hastings, Sussex, England. (You know how the hedgerows of England fairly reek with murder and chicanery.)

Honeysuckle Weeks, Anthony Howell and Michael Kitchen

Honeysuckle Weeks (she of the adorable name and equally adorable mien) also returns as Foyle's young driver and kind of, sort of, fellow cop. In the earlier series, Foyle had an associate, a wounded vet played by Anthony Howell, but so far he doesn't seem to be in the new series 8, currently available on Netflix.

Hadn't even realized the series had returned until recently and now it seems that there's another three episodes in the works for next year. Great news for Foyle Fan Girls (of which I am one).

It's 1946 and the fighting war is technically over, but as one of the characters pronounces, ' the real war begins.' Meaning of course, the cut-throat espionage, reconstruction and the Soviet menace. As Sam says in one scene "We did win the war didn't we?" She's exasperated by bread rationing and other economic privations, but the question speaks volumes about life in this 'new' England.

Foyle has been roped in (reluctantly) to serve with MI5 who recognize Foyle's intuitive genius for this sort of work - even if he is a bit of a loose cannon. In the meantime, Samantha has married a nice young man who is running for local government. But when Foyle, in the course of his first case with the intelligence agency (a case which hits very close to home), meets up with Sam once again - as a suspect -  she is soon back in her old role at Foyle's side.

Spies are everywhere in this often bleak, post war England and now it's up to Foyle and MI5 to settle their hash and keep the country safe from communism. The country couldn't be in better hands.

Since it's Tuesday, don't forget to check in at Todd's blog, Sweet Freedom (he's running a little late today) to see what other films, television and/or whatnot other bloggers are talking about today.

A bit off youtube about Michael Kitchen in his role as Foyle:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Salon: Messing About in Boats

French painter Raoul du Gardier  (1871 - 1952) - source

American painter Scott Burdick - source

British painter Harry Leith Ross (1886 - 1973) - source

French painter Claude Monet  (1840 - 1926)- source

American painter Scott Burdick - source

French painter Raoul du Gardier - source

Irish painter Sir John Lavery (1856 - 1941) - source

Colliers cover art: Walter Appleton Clark (1876 - 1906)

American painter Victor C. Anderson (1882 - 1937) - source

French painter Raoul du Gardier - source

American painter William J. Aylward (1875 - 1956) - source

British painter Thomas Henslow Barnard (1898 - 1992) - source

Austrian painter Egon Schiele (1890 - 1918) - source

American painter Edward Alfred Cucuel (1875 - 1954) - source

American painter Julius LeBlanc Stewart (1855 - 1919) - source

Uruguayan born American painter Francis Luis Mora - source

"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows