SUMMERTIME AND I HAVEN”T WRITTEN SQUAT!!!

I’m sitting here listening to Eddie Cochran sing his 1958 hit SUMMERTIME BLUES Paul’s video jukebox (http://www.1959bhsmustangs.com/VideoJukebox.htm#) on my PC and when I hear the lyric “You can’t have the car because you didn’t work a lick” I realize that I haven’t written a lick since May! (I still get the car though, one of the benies of making the payments.) I pledge to give myself a swift kick in the keester and then put that off (are you like me in summer–able to procrastinate about procrastinating. Yeah, I can put off putting things off.)

Vaughn

I have to be fair with myself we all know Maine summers are short (especially up here in THE COUNTY where we have nine months of winter and three months to get ready for it). and I live in a house built in 1900, which means there’s always something needing fixin’. This summer I’ve only had three things on my plate: (1) a farmer porch runs along two walls of my house and over the years the outside has settled, pulling it away from the house (it sure makes a good rain interesting . . . watching the water pour–not drip–through the wainscotting), (2) a section of roof over the bathroom (Inside, thank God–yes, believe it or not indoor plumbing has come to Aroostook County!) needs repailacement. Then there’s (3) replacing the shelter that collapsed last winter. Include the temptation to put the boat in the water and go fishing (which I been successful in doing) and taking those day-long ATV rides through the abundant forests (which based upon the amount of logging I’ve seen aren’t really abundant anymore. By the way mystery writers and fans did you catch the clue in this statement? Yeah, I haven’t succeeded putting off my ATV rides.)

Then there are the usual maintenance chores like cutting the grass (which in early summer is a twice-a-week job, not to mention that the house sits on .85 of an acre) which can take anywhere from 3 to 4 hours, depending on how fussy I get.

Maybe if I live here until I’m 99 it will no longer be Fred Anderson’s House

We mustn’t forget sitting on the porch performing my self-appointed job as neighborhood watch, watching the aforementioned grass grow, and watching the hummingbirds. It’s no wonder I don’t get much written done.

Did I mention that my publisher seems to like to release my books in the summer. In summer I attend Thursdays on Sweden in Caribou(I blogged about this last year) and appearances at the Caribou and Presque Isle libraries (average attendance two, the librarianand one other. However TOS has been a success. There are no major book sellers north of Bangor and only one smaller store that sells new books (everything else is a used book store–which I enjoy perusing, but it’s tough to sell new books when there could be copies of some of yours on the shelf for a dollar or two.)

This is why it’s so easy to write during winter! (Must have been October or November–I can still see the first floor and porch from the road!)

I’ve considered putting in a vegetable garden, but have no idea which of the above listed activities I’d be willing to give up. Then there’s the fact that I’ve never in my life gardened and haven’t a single clue how to do it. So, in closing, what do you use to keep from writing in the summer? Maybe in a couple of months I’ll do a blog on why it’s so darned hard for me to write in autumn!

 

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Leave The Gun. Take The Pizza. New York City, Part II

In my last blog, I spoke in detail about pizza, how much I enjoy pizza, and it’s complicated relationship to crime. In this blog, I will discuss six NYC pizza places that I recently visited, as well as some crime statistics. Because, after all, this is a crime writing blog.

One month ago my son and I visited New York City on the premise that it would be a ‘college trip’ (wink wink). This ‘college trip’ allowed me to indulge my infinite passion for sampling the finest pizzas on the planet. Initially, I figured I’d get to visit, maximum, three pizzerias. But I’m an ambitious guy when it comes to this sort of stuff, a real go-getter, which meant that we would be eating pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After all, I’m trying to raise my boy the right way.

But first I must indulge you with some interesting crime stats (Come on! I have to somehow justify writing this blog). As I emerged out of the subway station and onto Fordham Road, the first thing I heard was the sound of police sirens blaring everywhere. They seemed ubiquitous, lights flashing as they careened down the wide boulevard we were walking along. It got me to thinking: how many police officers are in NYC. I was amazed to learn that NYC employs over 34,000 officers! Yowza! Portland, Maine, in comparison, employs 163 police officers. And if you’re visiting NYC, you’ll be happy to know that, overall, crime rates are down in that city. Yes, subway crimes have jumped, so be extra careful when riding to your next pizza destination.

Now onto the good stuff. Starting from my least favorite to my fave, I’ll rate the pizzerias I sampled, using police officers as stars.

6. John’s of Bleeker Street. I was seriously looking forward to this legendary joint. The exterior is cool and the interior has that grungy feel that gives it serious character and hipness. The wooden chairs are all scratched with the names of people who’ve eaten there, and the walls are painted with scenic vistas. But the pizza fell flat. The sauce had a tinniness that left an odd taste in my mouth. Althougn they used a coal fired oven to cook their pizzas, the crust lacked that distinct flavor and texture that comes from blazing hot charcoals. The cheese was bit globby and gummy for my tastes, and I thought it might come with a Honus Wagner baseball card. Overall, the sum of this pizza’s parts didn’t do it for this crime writer, as I left a few slices on the plate in order to save my appetite for bigger game. 👮🏽‍♀️👮🏻‍♀️hardworking police officers.

5. Lombardi’s. This is supposedly the first pizzeria in New York City. Back in the early days, poor Italian factory workers used to buy wrapped pizzas from there and take them to work, warming them up on the radiators before lunch. Here we have another coal fired joint, and it was quite evident in this pizza. I could actually taste the strong tang of coal in the charred thin crust. It was a good pizza, but it definitely did not live up to its legendary status. The sauce and cheese were adequate at best, and I felt it was dry and could have used more olive oil liberally sprinkled over the top. The restaurant also seemed to be an advertisement for its cultish owner, with glitzy photographs of him hanging on the walls as if he was a third world dictator of North Pizzastan. It spooked me a little, and I hope he doesn’t hunt me down for this review. Maybe expectations got the best of me, but I left slightly disappointed with Lombardi’s. And at thirty bucks a pizza, there’s much better pizza bang for your buck in NYC. 👮‍♀️👮🏽‍♀️👮🏿‍♀️ patrol officers.

4. Famous Ben’s Pizza. This was a happenstance pizzeria we stopped at late one night in Soho. And boy was it good. Again, my expectations were low, and I was hungry like a wolf, so maybe that played into it. This is a classic NYC slice bar that one hits after a late night on the town, Ben’s had all varieties and toppings and stayed open late into the night. And Sicilian pizza too, which they claim is the best in the city. The crust was nice; crispy and chewy. Lots of fresh toppings with a nice tangy sauce. And shamefully, Ben’s hooked me with their life-sized statue of a pizza chef standing in front of their happy establishment. Would certainly go there again after hitting the Soho Room down the street. Next time I’ll try the Sicilian slice despite being a thin cruster. 👮🏻‍♀️👮🏼‍♀️👮‍♀️.5 canine officers.

3. Joe’s Pizza. Everything advertised, Joe’s is a legendary slice bar serving classic New York style, thin crust pizza for those in a hurry. Small and efficient, this place rocks it out of the park with speed and gooey pizza deliciousness. The warming up aspect gives their slices a beautiful, toothsome crispiness, which I love. Everything about it was masterful. Tasty cheese and a rocking, salty sauce. Just the right amount of grease where you have to do the pizza lean-to in order to avoid getting grease all over your brand new shoes. Fantastic! And of course I loved the name of this place. 👮‍♀️👮🏼‍♀️👮🏽‍♀️👮🏿‍♀️veterans of the NYPD.

 

 

2. Lucali’s. When we arrived at this pizzeria, located in a beautiful, affluent Brooklyn neighborhood, I wondered if this would be another disappointment. Yuppie pizza. Beastie Boy wannabes. Do The Right Thing. Crooklyn Brooklyn. But boy, was I ever wrong. There really is no sleep till Brooklyn when this place is rocking the Za. A relative newcomer to NYC pizzeria’s, Lucali’s has made its indelible–and highly edible–mark on the scene. Mark Iacono, a man clinically obsessed with pizza, has opened up a remarkable temple to pizza worshippers everywhere. A star on The Pizza Show, Mark takes his newfound celebrity in stride, and was more than happy to take a pic with yours truly. We strolled up to the storefront and were told that it was an hour wait to get in. Huh? The host then informed us that we were very lucky because it’s usually a two or three hour wait, and we came on a slow night. So me and Dan-the-Pizza-Man walked around the corner to the local store. My boy got a soda pop and I got a few cold ones, and we sat down outside, at the picnic table, and waited the long wait (you can bring your own wine and beer inside!). Was it worth it? Yes! Si, señorita! Oui! Ja! Dimly lit inside, and with the brick oven glowing like some sort of ancient tribal pyre, we waited impatiently for our pies to come out of that oven. The pizza, when it came to our table, was a thing of beauty. I nearly didn’t take a picture, I was so eager to feed my inner pizza troll. An amazing crust cooked golden by the wonderful wood Mark uses, the pizza comes out bubbling like molten lava. What a sauce! And the cheese he uses was top quality mootz. Then he finishes it off with a healthy heaping of fresh green basil, which practically melts onto the surface of the pie. God will look kindly on Mark when he reaches the pearly gates of heaven. Bravo! 👮🏿‍♀️👮‍♀️👮🏼‍♀️👮🏽‍♀️👮🏿‍♀️lieutenants!

Here’s me and my new pizza celebrity/friend Mark Iacono.

 

1. Di Fara’s. An eighty-three year old Italian dude named Don DeMarco who still makes da pizzas? Huh? The only Italian store in a predominantly orthodox Jewish neighborhood? Say what? Next to the overhead subway that causes the ground to rumble? A rundown building that looks like something Travis Bickle might lean against after a bad day of taxi driving? “You talking to me?” I’ve seen better interiors in abandoned, condemned buildings. Crappy wooden tables sit haphazardly across the small, stifling hot waiting room. Crowded. Long lines. Long waits. Sweat dripping down the pizza maker’s forehead. But when I bit into that hot pizza something magical happened–this is where the angels’ harps come in. All my problems in life melted away and crime ceased to exist in this cruel cruel world. Despite using traditional ovens, the crust that emerges is something bordering on mystical. Then you taste the sauce. How can tomato sauce be so good, you ask? It’s unctuous. I think the Japanese have a specific word for it: umami. Then the mootz and olive oil enter in like French horns joining the entire symphony. The pepperonis were the hard-to-find variety that curl up like saucer cups so they can hold all that wonderful, delicious pork grease. This is hardcore stuff, folks, and if you’ve managed to read this far into my blog you’re as sick as I am and in serious need of help. The people I talked to inside Di Fara’s came from all corners of the country to try this legendary pizza, and they were as obsessed as I was. In fact, I struck up a conversation with one fellow and we talked pizza nonstop while Dan-the-Pizza-Man watched on in stunned silence. Di Fara’s ranks up there as one of the best I’ve ever eaten. In fact, I liked it so much it almost caused me to miss my flight, and I ended up at LaGuardia instead of JFK, my mind back in Brooklyn, and ended up having to spend an extra fifty buck to catch a cab back to JFK during rush hour traffic. But no matter, it was worth it to eat that slice of heaven. Di Fara’s is straight outta Brooklyn! 👮👮🏻👮🏼👮🏽captains and 1👮🏿‍♀️commissioner!

How does this relate to crime? I don’t really know. It there were pizzas worth commiting a crime for, Lucali’s and Di Fara’s were it.

Don’t forget to pre-order my psychological suspense thriller, THE NEIGHBOR, coming in hardback April, 2018. https://www.amazon.com/Neighbor-Joseph-Souza-ebook/dp/B074DGFKS8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1503365997&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Neighbor%2C+joseph+souza

 

 

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If It Rhymes?

Dorothy Cannell: My mother’s birthday is coming up.  She was born on September 5th, 1910, and I have been combing through memories of what made her magical.  She loved poetry, could recite whole stretches of Tennyson and Longfellow.  Also in her repertoire were verses she skipped rope to as a child.  They belong to a time now fading from memory and I have been meaning to write them down for years.  So here are the first three that came to mind:

Little fly upon the wall,

Ain’t you got no clothes at all?

Ain’t you got a petticoat?

Ain’t you got a shimmy shirt?

Poor little fly, ain’t you cold?

There are several versions of this.

Harry went to Hampstead,

Harry lost his hat.

Harry’s mother said to Harry

Harry, where’s your hat?

Hanging on the hook in the hall.

Harry, if you don’t hang your hat

On the hat peg in the hall

I’ll hit you on the head

With a heavy, hard hammer

And make you howl horrible.

This can be recited cockney fashion with the ‘aitches’ off, or posh with them on.

And now for a Victorian chiller if ever there was one:

 

 

 

 

 

One day Mamma said Conrad dear,

“I must go out and leave you here

But mind now, Conrad, what I say,

Don’t suck your thumb while I’m away.

The great tall tailor always comes

To little boys who suck their thumbs.

And ‘ere they dream what he’s about.

He takes his great sharp scissors out,

And cuts their thumbs clean off an’ then,

You, know they never grow again”.

 

Mamma had scarcely turned her back,

The thumb was in, Alack! Alack!

The door flew open, in he ran,

The great long, red-legged scissor man.

Oh! Children see! The tailor’s come

And caught out little Suck-a-Thumb

Snip! Snip! Snip! The scissors go,

And Conrad cries out “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast

That both his thumbs are off at last.

 

Mamma comes home, there Conrad stands

And looks quite sad, and shows his hands.

“Ah!” said Mamma “I knew he’d come

To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb.”

 

My Husband Julian refers to these poems as ‘Goose Mother Rhymes’.

Dorothy

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Weekend Update: August 19-20, 2017

Next week at Maine Crime Writers, there will be posts by Dorothy Cannell (Monday), Joe Souza (Tuesday), Vaughan Hardacker (Wednesday), Jen Blood (Thursday), and Lea Wait (Friday).

In the news department, here’s what’s happening with some of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers:

Barb: On Tuesday, August 22, at 7:00 pm, I’ll be at the Bacon Free Library in Natick, Massachusetts for a Sisters in Crime panel. Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Sheila Connolly, and I will construct a mystery, thriller or suspense novel on the fly from audience suggestions. It’s a lot of fun. Would love to see you there.

Lea: (And Jen Blood and Maureen Milliken) will be at the 11th Annual Designing Women  Craft Show (all women venders, to benefit the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center in Winthrop) Saturday, August 26, at Longfellow’s Greenhouses, Puddledock Road, in Manchester,Maine. Hours:  9:30 until 4, rain or shine.

Kate: On Sunday, August 27th, I’ll be at the Palermo, Maine Library at 2:00 p.m.

From time to time, we offer books and other prizes to our readers. The winner of the July prize, a copy of The Maine Mulch Murder, goes to C. T. Collier. We’ll be contacting you for an address.

The winner of a copy of Death Warmed Over is Elaine Roberson. Again, we’ll be contacting you, Elaine.

And in case you were busy yesterday seizing the rapidly dwindling days of August, there’s another book offer in the Friday post, Crime Writers in Shorts.

 

 

An invitation to readers of this blog: Do you have news relating to Maine, Crime, or Writing? We’d love to hear from you. Just comment below to share.

And a reminder: If your library, school, or organization is looking for a speaker, we are often available to talk about the writing process, research, where we get our ideas, and other mysteries of the business. Contact Kate Flora

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Crime Writers in Shorts

Ha! We know you were hoping for pictures of our knobby knees, but they are mostly hidden beneath our desks. This post is really about short story collections, either compilations of our own work or collections in which we have stories. Perhaps even some comments on collections we are reading. Do you read short stories? A lot of people tell us that they don’t, but short stories are a wonderful way for us to hone our craft, and you to get a snapshot of the kind of writing we do. They’re also great for carrying with you to read while waiting for the child at sports practice, or your doctor, dentist or during other perpetually delayed life events. NOTE, however, much as we love to be read, please don’t read at traffic lights.

Kate Flora: I am extremely excited to be included in a wild and crazy anthology that is a homage to the Obama era, called: The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir http://amzn.to/2uQNiv3 

My story is called “Michelle in Hot Water.” You’ll have to read it to find out why. It is quite a departure from most of the other crime stories that I’ve written, and was tremendously fun to write. It’s also exciting to be in the company of writers like Gary Phillips and Walter Mosley.

I just learned that my story is the first one in the collection. Don’t know if this means I’m the band that opens for the main act, or if hooking the reader falls on my shoulders. I guess you’ll have to read it and decide for yourselves.

 

Kathy Lynn Emerson: I’ve had a pretty good year in short stories. Not only did I have stories in the Level Best’s Windward and Malice Domestic’s Mystery Most Historical anthologies, I also had a collection of my stories published by Wildside Press as Different Times, Different Crimes. You can find it at https://www.amazon.com/Different-Times-Crimes-Kathy-Emerson-ebook/dp/B071F9NLJF/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501280126&sr=1-1&keywords=Different+Times%2C+Different+Crimes This is my second collection of short stories. The first was Murders and Other Confusions, published by Crippen & Landru back in 2004. That one included only stories related to my Face Down series, set in sixteenth century England. This new one has stories from many eras, starting with medieval times in “The Reiving of Bonville Keep” (originally published in the Murder Most Medieval anthology) and going right up to the present with two previously unpublished stories (“Calendar Gal” and “Death in the Dealer Room”) featuring Valentine Veilleux, a character spun off from The Scottie Barked at Midnight. One advantage of putting together a collection of my own stories is that it can be a combination of previously published short stories and stories that were never able to find a home. In Different Crimes, Different Times, ten of the stories have been in print before, five of them in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and three are seeing print for the first time. The third of those is set in 1888 and features a minor character from my Diana Spaulding Mystery Quartet in “The Curse of the Vampire’s Ghost.” All this is quite miraculous to me, since it usually takes me as long to write a short story as it does to write an entire novel. The record is held by “The Boston Post Cane.” The first version was written in 1987. It didn’t make the cut for Level Best’s Red Dawn, but I tried again the next year and it was accepted for Windward. It is also in Different Times, Different Crimes. In this version, the protagonist, in 2015, is telling the story of events that took place in 1987.

Joseph Souza: Ha! Short stuff. Strawberry books decided to publish this crazy little book of shorts. As you can tell from the cover, the opening short story, which is actually a long short story, is about a crazy bunch of tornado chasers. But you’ll be surprised what they’re really searching for. If you like Kurt Vonnegut or George Saunders, you’ll most likely enjoy the story Fujita’s Itch”. The second story is a crime tale called “The Stone Walls of Lebanon” and it received runner-up for The Al Blanchard Award at Crime Bake. It’s tells of two mobsters who travel from New York to New Hampshire in order to take apart and steal a historic old stone wall for a corrupt Wall Street executive. Seems this wall has quite a murderous past. The third story takes place during a terrorist attack. A young couple honeymooning in England have been quarantined during a chemical attack that turns the male population gay. Needless to say, the two struggle to consummate their marriage under the considerable weight of the attack, and because of that their true differences emerge.  Check it out if you’re looking for something funny and completely different. And don’t forget to order THE NEIGHBOR, my twisty domestic thriller that comes out April 24th, 2018. https://www.amazon.com/Neighbor-Joseph-Souza-ebook/dp/B074DGFKS8/ref=la_B0083J9IZ8_1_9_twi_kin_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502730996&sr=1-9

 

Bruce Robert Coffin: I will admit that I haven’t had as much time as I would like to continue crafting short stories, although I keep squirreling away ideas for the future. My most recent published short was a devilish little tale titled Bygones. It appears in the Level Best Anthology Busted: Arresting Stories from the Beat. https://www.amazon.com/Busted-Arresting-Stories-Dames-Detection-ebook/dp/B071DMTFDL/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1502972993&sr=8-2&keywords=Busted+stories Busted is a great collection containing stories from many of my accomplished writing friends. Be sure to check it out!

 

Maureen Milliken: I don’t write short stories (too hard!) but I do read them. Actually, I’ve been heard to say that I don’t enjoy reading them because they’re too short. But, I actually do enjoy reading them.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” is my all-time favorite short story. Would love to credit this photo, but can’t find the source.

As an English major at Holy Cross, I took a course, “American Short Story,” which spurred by love of Flannery O’Connor. She wrote my all-time favorite short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” It’s a classic, not only for those who love crime (creepy serial killer The Misfit!), but for those who love literature.

If you haven’t read “A Good Man is Hard to Find” you’re missing out. Among other things, it has one of the best closing quotes in all of literature. Do yourself a huge favor and read it, or better yet, listen to Flannery O’Connor reading it, which can easily be found online.

I’m also a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, the patron writer of all of us mystery writers.

Which is not to say I don’t also read my colleagues’ short stories! I enjoy them, too and look forward to checking out all the new offerings in this post!

Barb: I haven’t written many short stories lately because I’ve been writing the Maine Clambake Mysteries, but this year “Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody,” was published in Noir at the Salad Bar, a new book from the new editors at Level Best Books. It introduces a new character and setting for me. More on that to come!

For my money, the best mystery short story is “The Woman in the Wardrobe,” by Robert Barnard from Death of a Salesperson and Other Untimely Events. My favorite literary short story is “The Horseman,” by Richard Russo, because it is perfect. It’s recently been re-released in Trajectory, a collection of four of Russo’s long shorts. Plus anything at all by Alice Munro.

John: I’m in two this summer. My story “With Great Relish” is in Noir at the Salad Bar, while I have a dandy one called “Relatively Annoying” in Day of the Dark-Stories of Eclipse edited by Kaye George.

And if you are the type of reader who likes goodies…leave us a comment and some lucky sort will win an arc of The Obama Inheritance. So keep those cards and letters coming, crime fans.

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