Nov 30, 2006

St. Elsewhere

CENTURY CITY , Calif. – Before ER and Chicago Hope , audiences were mesmerized by the dramatic triumphs and humorous failings of Doctors Craig, Westphall and Ehrlich of Boston's St. Eligius Hospital – an understaffed, underfunded and always chaotic teaching facility – better known as “ St. Elsewhere .” Now, the first season of this critically-acclaimed, one-of-a-kind series arrives on DVD November 28, 2006 from Fox Home Entertainment. Setting the standard for the socially relevant ensemble medical dramas of the future, “ St. Elsewhere ” offered viewers a gritty and realistic portrayal of the health care industry and the lives of those who work in it. While “ St. Elsewhere” dealt with life and death issues on a daily basis, the doctors and staff were able to maintain balance – and viewer affection – with a healthy dose of quirky humor. The first season of this compelling series introduced many notable actors including Academy Award®-winner Denzel Washington* ( Training Day, Man on Fire ), Howie Mandel (“Deal Or No Deal,” “The Outer Limits”), Ed Begley Jr . (“Arrested Development,” “Six Feet Under”), Ed Flanders ( Bye Bye Love ), David Morse ( The Green Mile , “Hack”) and Tim Robbins ( War of the Worlds, Mystic River ). Over its six seasons, the series was nominated for 63 Emmy Awards and won 13 . The four-disc DVD collection includes all 22 first-season episodes, as well commentary on select episodes and multiple featurettes including “St. Elsewhere: The Place To Be.” The “ St. Elsewhere ” Season One DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $39 .98 U.S./$54.98 Canada . Prebook is November 1.

Synopsis :

With its unique blend of intense medical drama, off-beat humor and imaginative storytelling, “St. Elsewhere” paved the way for later TV classics, while introducing America to future superstars Mark Harmon, Howie Mandel and Denzel Washington. Over its six-season run, the ground-breaking, critically acclaimed “ St. Elsewhere ” won 13 Emmy Awards and was nominated for over 60. Eccentric, insightful, and intelligent, “ St. Elsewhere ” is considered to be one of the best dramas ever to air on broadcast television.

DVD Episodes and Special Features:

The “St. Elsewhere” Season One DVD set includes all 22 episodes of the first season and three unique featurettes including “ St. Elsewhere: The Place To Be,” a Tim Robbins featurette and a David Morse featurette. Additionally, commentary is available on selected episodes including “Cora & Arnie: An Outstanding Episode.” Presented in full screen 1:33:1 aspect ratio, the set also features English Stereo and Spanish Mono and select episode commentary. Individual disc content is as follows:

Disc 1 – Side A
• Pilot
• Bypass
• Down's Syndrome
• Cora & Arnie
• “Cora & Arnie: An Outstanding Episode”

Disc 1 – Side B
• Samuels & The Kid
• Legionnaires (Part 1)

Disc 2 – Side A
• Legionnaires (Part 2)
• Tweety & Ralph
• Rain
• Hearts

Disc 2 – Side B
• Graveyard
• Release

Disc 3 – Side A
• Family History
• Remission
• Monday, Tuesday, Sven's Day
• The Count

Disc 3 – Side B
• Brothers
• Dog Day Hospital

Disc 4 – Side A
• Working
• Craig In Love

Disc 4 – Side B
• Baron Von Munchausen
• Addition
• “ St. Elsewhere: The Place To Be”
• Tim Robbins Featurette
• David Morse Featurette

# # #

Street Date: November 28, 2006
Pre-Book Date: November 1, 2006
DVD Price: $39.98 U.S. / $54.98 Canada
Total Running Time: 1078 minutes
DVD Catalog Number: 2236076
U.S. Rating: NR
Canadian Rating: NR
Closed Captioned: Yes

Nov 22, 2006

Robert Altman 1925-2006

Robert Altman was my favorite director. While I would not call him the greatest, I would call him one of the most original. Sitting down to view his latest, I never knew if I was going to get something amazing like Short Cuts, or something horrid like Prêt-à-Porter.

One thing was for certain, you would get something unlike the typical Hollywood fodder. Actors loved him and would often drop everything to work for him. Looking at the cast listing for an Altman film was often a who's who of talent.

My heart sunk when I heard of his passing. His vision and originality was something special in this time of cinematic mediocrity. His only interest was in making a film whose final cut would interest him. He was known as an actor's director, one that rarely told an actor what to do, he would simply have them do what they thought they should do. This is part of reason actors were willing to put salaries aside to join an Altman production.

Over the span of his career, he was nominated for Seven Oscars before getting an Honorary Oscar for "For a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike."
He also won an Emmy for "Tanner 88" and a Golden Globe for Gosford Park.

His passing saddens me for quite selfish reasons, I know I shall never again experience anything quite so magical as an Altman film. I will to go back and revisit such classics as M*A*S*H*, Short Cuts, The Player, Nashville and Gosford Park.

Jeremy Lynch

The following is a release from Altman's Sandcastle 5 Productions:

NEW YORK (November 21, 2006) - Academy Award® winning film director Robert Altman died Monday, November 20 in Los Angeles from complications due to cancer. He was 81. He had lived and worked with the disease for the last 18 months, a period that included the making of his film A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, which was released this summer. His death was, nevertheless, a surprise: Altman was in pre-production on a film he had planned to start shooting in February.

Altman is survived by his wife, Kathryn Reed Altman and six children, Christine Westphal, Michael Altman, Stephen Altman, Connie Corriere, Robert Reed Altman and Matthew Altman, twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Altman died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, surrounded by his wife and children. Memorial services are being planned.

* * *

Throughout his extraordinary career, Robert Altman surprised, entertained and challenged audiences with vibrant, freewheeling films that stretch the boundaries of the medium. He was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award at the 78th Academy Awards presentation on March 5, 2006, in a ceremony recognizing “a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike."

Altman’s more than thirty features bear witness to an extraordinary creative range: films made with enormous casts (NASHVILLE, SHORT CUTS), as well as with a solitary cast member (SECRET HONOR); films celebrating male camaraderie (M*A*S*H*, CALIFORNIA SPLIT) and those exploring women’s consciousness (IMAGES, THREE WOMEN, COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN). He inverted, satirized and enriched genres like the western (McCABE AND MRS. MILLER), the gangster melodrama (THIEVES LIKE US), the detective film (THE LONG GOODBYE), the biography (VINCENT AND THEO) and the English drawing-room whodunit (GOSFORD PARK). His source material included comics (POPEYE), the ballet (THE COMPANY), the theatre (STREAMERS, FOOL FOR LOVE, Harold Pinter’s THE ROOM and THE DUMB WAITER), contemporary politics (“Tanner ’88” and “Tanner on Tanner”) and contemporary literature (SHORT CUTS).

Altman’s work with actors was legendary. His use of music broke ground in films as different as McCABE AND MRS. MILLER, NASHVILLE, and KANSAS CITY. He was applauded for the technical innovation of multi-layered soundtracks and for his pioneering use of the zoom lens. While his subjects and themes were diverse, he often cast an irreverent eye on the institutions, mores and foibles of American life, matching that with an encompassing, unsentimental humanism.

Altman received five Academy Award® nominations for Best Director (GOSFORD PARK, SHORT CUTS, THE PLAYER, M*A*S*H*, and NASHVILLE), and three for Best Film (GOSFORD PARK, M*A*S*H*, and NASHVILLE).

Altman’s numerous awards include: at Cannes, the Palme d’Or/Best Film (M*A*S*H*), and Best Director (THE PLAYER); the New York Film Critics Circle, Best Film (THE PLAYER, NASHVILLE) and Best Director (GOSFORD PARK, THE PLAYER, NASHVILLE); the Venice Film Festival Grand Prix, Best Film (SHORT CUTS); the British Academy Award (BAFTA) for Best British Film (GOSFORD PARK), Best Director (THE PLAYER) and Best Foreign Television Series (“Tanner 88”); opening night of the New York Film Festival (SHORT CUTS, A WEDDING); and an Emmy for Best Director (“Tanner ’88”).

Career honors have been bestowed by, among others, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Venice Film Festival, the American Film Institute, the Directors Guild of America, the Society of American Cinema Editors, the Cinema Audio Society, the American Society of Cinematographers and the Independent Feature Project.

* * *

“I was friends with Bob for 20 years before we worked together on GOSFORD PARK. It was then that I experienced the real magic of Robert Altman. When he was working he had a youthful joyfulness that was just amazing.” – Bob Balaban

“I have always admired Robert Altman's films and it was an honor to work with him on A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. We had so much fun working on that project over the past year and I know that he went out ‘with his boots on’.” – Bob Berney, President of Picturehouse

“He was a great man of the cinema and a great man. Everybody who had the privilege to know him will miss him hugely.” - Kenneth Branagh

“There’s no one I’m prouder to have worked with. He was an ecstatic…a magician…a conjurer…a mischievous boy. Perhaps unprecedented. He understood and could express that uniquely American shapeshifting goofiness more than anyone. He was the deepest ocean and the lightest feather at the same time…we all loved him so very much.” - Richard Gere

“Mr. Altman loved making movies. He loved the chaos of shooting and the sociability of the crew and actors --- he adored actors --- and he loved the editing room and he especially loved sitting in a screening room and watching the thing over and over with other people. He didn’t care for the money end of things, he didn’t mind doing publicity, but when he was working he was in heaven.

He and I once talked about making a movie about a man coming back to Lake Wobegon to bury his father, and Mr. Altman said, “The death of an old man is not a tragedy.” I used that line in the movie we wound up making --- the Angel of Death says it to the Lunch Lady, comforting her on the death of her lover Chuck Akers in his dressing room, “The death of an old man is not a tragedy.” Mr. Altman’s death seems so honorable and righteous --- to go in full-flight, doing what you love --- like his comrades in the Army Air Force in WWII who got shot out of the sky and simply vanished into blue air --- and all of us who worked with him had the great privilege of seeing an 81-year-old guy doing what he loved to do. I’m sorry that our movie turned out to be his last, but I do know that he loved making it. It’s a great thing to be 81 and in love.” – Garrison Keillor

“It was inspiring to know that Robert was in preproduction on his next film. Working with him was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I am blessed to have worked with him and to have known him as Bob. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Kathryn and his children.” – Virginia Madsen

"A great man has left this stage. If Bob had his way I'm sure he would want the speeches about him to be short and to the point. In my too brief time with him, his life seemed to be concerned with two things, telling it like it is and having fun. Every one of us has a lot of living to do if we are to follow his example. My thoughts and prayers are with Kathryn and his family, the immediate family and the gloriously extended one. I guess I'll see him in the next reel as he used to say." – John C. Reilly

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of Robert Altman, a great friend and inspiration to me since I had the honor of meeting him in 1990. His unique vision and maverick sensibilities in filmmaking have inspired countless directors of my generation and will continue to inspire future filmmakers. He leaves behind a legacy of great American films and he will be deeply missed." – Tim Robbins

“Bob's restless spirit has moved on -- I have to say, when I spoke with him last week, he seemed impatient for the future. He still had the generous, optimistic appetite for the next thing, and we planned the next film laughing in anticipation of the laughs we'd have. What a gent, what a guy, what a great heart. There's no one like him and we'll miss him so.” – Meryl Streep

* * *

Donations in his name can be made to the Cedars-Sinai Hospital Heart and Lung Transplant Unit.

Nov 21, 2006

A Quick Five With Mark Billingham

1.) DEATH MESSAGE. I want to put an exclamation point after that. It's so very dramatic. Tell me about this next book and how you came up with this fabulous title. And, yes, despite the lack of a question mark, this is a question.

"Delivering the 'death message'" is what police officers call it when they have to tell someone that a loved one has died. When I heard that the hairs on my neck stood up and I knew what I wanted to write about. I knew the book would begin with someone receiving a death message in the worst possible circumstances. It's a Columbo type book, in that the issue is never who the killer is. I bloody LOVE Columbo. Did you know it was based on "Crime And Punishment"? Really. Almost as good as the fact that it had Johnny Cash in it*. DEATH MESSAGE draws a line under a few of the stories that have been evolving through the series. It's one of the reasons that the next book will be a standalone.

2.) "If at the end of a chapter I look back and think I'm in exactly the same place as when that chapter started, then I know it needn't be there. Literary fiction can do this, crime fiction can't." What else differentiates mystery from other genres and are those reasons why you chose this genre to write?

I write crime fiction because it's what I love to read. It's what I've ALWAYS loved to read. Without wishing to crack open the literary vs mystery can of worms, I don't think anyone ever read a mystery novel because some literary critic told them that they should. Not too many people plough through dreary mystery novels because they think there's something wrong with them if they aren't enjoying it; because they feel that it must be good for them. What else? Er...There aren't nearly enough car chases in literary fiction, or people named Bubba. But then again, not that many literary novels have quilting patterns or pasta recipes, so maybe it all evens out.

3.) What made you evolve from the fresh-faced lad of the SLEEPYHEAD author photo to the rock star scruff of the BURIED author photo?

Bloody hell, it's only been six years! OK, well let's say that we (A) accept your cavalier usage of the word "scruff" and (B) ignore the fact that I was eventually given a photographer who didn't believe in touching up photos...I can only put it down to the heavy, dread step of Old Father Time.

And beer.

And fags.

4.) Why is there such a difference between English and Amerispeak, as I refer to it? My spellcheck goes into overdrive with UK email.

You're right of course. There is a world of difference between the two, as witnessed by the fact that several VERY juvenile Americans (and John Connolly) will have tittered at the use of the word "fags" in my previous answer. I don't know why there is such a difference, but it does provide bartenders in Madison with a good laugh when Brits ask for Worcestershire Sauce and insist on pronouncing "aluminium" as it should be pronounced, with ALL FIVE SYLLABLES. It's a fine language we gave you. I don't know why you went and messed it up.

5.) What do you most regret having spent money on?

Beer and fags. (Shut up, Connolly). And helping that Nigerian millionaire move money out of the country. And Viagra...

Nov 17, 2006

Film Preview: Casino Royale

For the last few years, there has been much speculation as to who would be the latest actor to take up the role of James Bond. Six actors have picked up 007’s license to kill, to varying degrees of success.

Virtually every popular actor with an accent has been rumored to be in the running at one point or another, from Clive Owen to Jude Law to Hugh Jackman. For a while, it certainly seemed as though they would simply sign whoever was the most popular at the moment, but finally the announcement came: little known actor Daniel Craig would be replacing Pierce Brosnan as the iconic superspy. Initial reactions were almost completely identical: Who? (Craig costarred with Eric Banna in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, as well as in Michael Vaugn’s Layer Cake.)
Bond's first 007 mission takes him to Madagascar where he is to spy on a terrorist, Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan). Not everything goes according to plan, and Bond decides to investigate--independently of MI6--in attempt to track down the rest of the terrorist cell. Following a lead to the Bahamas, he encounters Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian) and his girlfriend, Solange (Caterina Murino). He learns that Dimitrios is involved with Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to the world's terrorist organizations.

Bond (Daniel Craig) has a chat while Solange (Caterina Murino) looks on.
Secret Service intelligence reveals that Le Chiffre is planning to raise money in a high-stakes poker game in Montenegro, at Le Casino Royale. MI6 assigns 007 to play against him, knowing that if Le Chiffre loses, it will destroy his organization. M (Judi Dench) places Bond under the watchful eye of the beguiling Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). At first skeptical of what value Vesper can provide, Bond's interest in her deepens as they brave danger and even torture at the hands of Le Chiffre. In Montenegro, Bond allies himself with Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) MI6's local field agent, and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) who is representing the interests of the CIA.
The marathon game proceeds with dirty tricks and violence, raising the stakes beyond blood money and reaching a terrifying climax.

Mads Mikkelsen is Le Chiffre.
Looking at the trailer, Craig appears to be taking the character back to the days of Sean Connery; a time that many would say was the heyday of the character. It also looks like they are giving the character a bit of an edge, something that was present in the Flemming novels, and missing from some of the films.

In this day and age, the concept of a super smooth spy seems outdated. I grew up with Roger Moore and if there was one issue I had with his Bond, it was that he never seemed too concerned with his predicament: if he was not worried about the death ray or sharks that were about to eat him, why should I be worried?

While part of the allure of Bond is that he is the best in his unusual profession, he has--at least for me--felt one step removed from the real world. This may not have been a problem during the Cold War, but it is a new world with new adversaries; we can't always tell who the enemy is, and slick, stylish resolutions seem less plausible.
The Bourne Identity has done so well, in part, because the audience can sympathize with Jason Bourne, who is portrayed as a flawed and somewhat vulnerable human being, who just happens to be an assassin. Paul Haggis (Crash) has proven he is able to write characters that viewers can connect with; his contribution to the script of Casino Royale appear to have helped give Bond back his grit, making him less of a superhero and more of a man. It is a welcome change, ushering 007 into the 21st century.

Jeremy Lynch

Click here for official site.
Click here for Trailer.

Chicago Stylings

I like my hot dogs done Chicago style, and I like my Pizza done Chicago style too.
I also like Chicago Mysteries.
That's why I read The Outfit Blog

Nov 16, 2006

DVD Review: The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code
Sony Home Entertainment

My name is Jeremy and up to recently, I had neither read nor seen The Da Vinci Code. I know, I know, it is what EVERYBODY is reading and watching. That is why I had not. Call it snobbery, but if that many folk are praising it, it must be run of the mill stuff. How can something appeal to that many non-readers, and still be good?

I sat down, feeling rather indifferent and watched The Da Vinci Code. Know what? I enjoyed it immensely. I thought it was a fun yarn with enough history thrown in to make it sound plausible. Of course there are about one hundred non-fiction books disputing the story's accuracy, though Dan Brown himself says it is a fictional story. (Move on guys! Certainly there is something else for you to overreact to.)

Director Ron Howard keeps this blockbuster on course. My opinion of Howard is that he is a journeyman director. While he is not a visionary or a master, he is one that can be counted on not to drop the ball. When hundreds of millions are being invested, you need a director that can handle the pressure and give the audience what they want. Ron Howard is that man.

My review for this is also tempered by the fact that I saw National Treasure a couple of months ago. Having seen that lousy rip-off, TDVC came across even better by comparison. If there is anyone that was not impressed by Tom Hank’s understated performance, go watch Nicolas Cage and you will appreciate Mr. Hanks like never before.

But this is not about National Treasure; it is about The Da Vinci Code, so let us chat about it. The producers did everything right: They put together an excellent cast, got an outstanding screenwriter and used a director that would not crack under the pressure of adapting the most popular novel in the history of popular novels (Ok, there may have been bigger ones, but I am too lazy to look it up. Even if I did, I might lose the ability to use that hyperbole.) As I said, Ron Howard has proven he has ice water in his veins; he shall not crack under pressure like a lesser man would. Now there may be one or two of you that have not heard of The Da Vinci, actually I don’t think that is possible. You all have some idea of what the Code is about.

Tom Hanks stars as Robert Langdon, a professor that studies symbols. Rather than make his character a know it all, he comes across as a very bright man, but still the kind of person that might really exist.
He is drawn into a murder investigation when a museum curator that he was supposed to meet with is found murdered. The body is arranged like Leonardo Da Vinci's famous Vitruvian man, and a cryptic message has been written in the dead man’s blood.

Upon finding out he is a suspect; Langdon is the run, trying to solve the puzzle left by a dying man. He teams with that man’s niece as they race against sinister forces, as well as the police, to unlock a mystery that may rock the very foundation of modern Christianity.

The two DVD collection takes a look at the history that influenced the writing, as well as the making of the film. It is the non-film related featurettes that make this particularly compelling. Loaded up with several featurettes, you get a look at everyone from the director, author, and actors all the way down to the Dolly Grip. These all seem to be a part of one larger telling of the creation of the film. Since a lot of it is about the book and actors, these featurettes will appeal to more casual fans than many of the more technical featurettes that often fill DVDs,

There is also a gift set available that has a full sized replica of Langdon's journal.

If you are looking for a fun yarn that does not insult your intelligence, this is for you. I should also point out that if having tenets of Christianity questioned bothers you and would interfere with your ability to enjoy what is a delightful yarn, this is not for you. If you were one of those that were up in arms about it the first time around, you might want to pick National Treasure. The historical suppositions are the least of that film’s crimes.

Jeremy Lynch
P.S. Even though I saw the film, I doubt I will get around to picking up the book.

DVD Review: The Chairman

The Chairman
Fox Home Entertainment

1969's The Chairman, directed by J. Lee Thompson, is expectedly, a little dated. What passes for high tech gizmos is downright laughable in this age of Bondish excess. Still it never set out to be the Belle of the Ball, just a decent thriller. Which it is.

The premise is that China, Maos' China, has developed an enzyme that enables any crop to grow in any climate. Our Government is interested enough to have climbed into bed with Russia, a shocking notion at the time, as whoever feeds the third world pretty much owns it. They want Prof. Hathaway (Gregory Peck) to go to China, also mostly unheard of at the time, and beg, borrow or steal it from an old friend and mentor played by Keye Luke. The high-tech whiz-bang is a one way satellite mic implanted in his head. We later find out it is also a bomb in case things go very wrong. The General (Aurther Hill) does not burden him with the last part of this information.

With two titans like Peck and Hill doing the heavy lifting, I think this appears to be a better film than it is, though I must admit I enjoyed it. The ending is as tense as you could ask for. If sixties spy thrillers ring your chimes, you could do worse and at last there are Special Features I can enthusiastically endorse. The voice over narration by a film historian and a critic, whose names escape me because...I don't care, do a credible job and occasionally drop in an interesting nugget to the point that I listened to seventy or eighty percent of it. The jewel in the crown though, is the inclusion of the European versions of the self conscious sexy bits (this was the sixties).

There is a brief nude scene by an actress named Zienia Merton (damn she's cute) trying to seduce the Prof. in his hotel room. Very brief. Not so much for our brothers on the Continent, it's about five times as long and I am flat in love again. I would not purchase the DVD on the strength of this alone, but I'd be tempted.

Lee Crawford

Nov 15, 2006

Those Wacky Killer Year Kids

Well, the Killer Year authors have pulled another pretty damn cool move. They will have an anthology out next year from St. Martin's edited by one Lee Child. Stories from killer year members and some of thier mentors from the Thrillers Witers International. From what I understand it went for 5 figures.

This is from a phone call received here at the home of Crimespree. I'm sure a press release will follow so keep your eyes open.

Nov 13, 2006

Murder and Mayhem in Muskego

This past saturday we were at a wonderful event. The Second annual Murder & Mayhem in Muskego. The line up was great. Tess Gerritesen, David Morrell, John Connolly, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Libby Hellman,JA Konrath,Blake Crouch, Judy Clemons, Nathan Singer, John Galligan, Michael Allen Dymmoch, and Sandy Balzo. Authors in the crowd too, including Marcus Sakey.

The whole day was a lot of fun.

Murder and Mayhem Chili

2 lbs pork – ½ inch chunks
3 lbs beef – ½ inch chunks
1 lb bacon – pieces
3 lbs hamburger

1 carrot
1 stalk celery
4 green pepper
6 onions
6 –7 fresh tomatoes
3 cans chopped tomatoes
4 cans chili beans
half can corn
splash of black coffee

cook all meat together, add ¼ cup brown sugar and tablespoon paprika when it starts to brown
cook onions with butter and teaspoon of paprika and tablespoon of brown sugar.
when onions are see through add to meat with a quick drizzle of maple syrup.
add veggies and beans.
let cook on low heat.
an hour before serving, spice to taste.


Librarians are the best people in the world

For anyone who is unaware of just how great librarians are, I’m going to tell you now. They go to college for seven years to get their degree. After those seven years they get to enter a job market where they make between 15,000 and 25,000 dollars a year to start. Pay your student loans off with that baby. You have to love reading to become a librarian.

That said, I know several librarians . You meet them when you become involved in the reading community. Of all the people involved with “literature”, genre or non, they are the “go to” gang. They go to school longer than a dentist and all a librarian gets out of it is spreading the
word. Reading really is fundamental.

This weekend Crimespree was part of a library event. It was wonderful. On a budget, they got the message out. Readers came. Readers found new authors. “Mystery fiction” was given a legitimacy it seldom finds. People left with books they wouldn’t have found. I am synergized.

And we talked. The local personalities. Milwaukee has a very strong mystery community. So do other locales throughout our country. This weekend? It was about books. Writing books, publishing books and reading books. The community of Muskego ponnied up and brought in a group of mystery novelists all different from and respective of one another. And I lost my cherry
again. I am in awe of mystery. The differences between styles, the dyadic experience. Are you strong enough? Go to the writers you know. Go to your favorite librarians. Make it work. The writers at Muskego and the Librarians ? I saw a magic yesterday that is indescribable.
Penny? Jane?
You are wonderful. The community of Muskego? Fantastic. Friends of the Library in Muskego? WOW. It is heartening to know that in a thirty second world there are communities willing to invest in reading. It is fundamental.

Crimespree thanks you.

Nov 12, 2006

DVD releases for Nov 14th

Nov 14th
Columbo: The Complete Sixth & Seventh Season Three-disc set, $39.98. (Universal).

Da Vinci Code, The (2006) Dir.: Ron Howard; Tom Hanks, Jean Reno, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Paul Bettany, Jurgen Prochnow. Available as a two-disc special edition and a gift set. Packaging will feature hidden phrases from the film that can be viewed only with a black light or a magnifying glass. One hidden message leads to exclusive online content. Extras: Featurettes: "First Day on the Set With Ron Howard," "A Discussion With Dan Brown," "A Portrait of Langdon," "Who is Sophie Neveu?" "Unusual Suspects," "Magical Places" locations, "Close-up on Mona Lisa," "The Filmmaking Experience," "The Codes of The Da Vinci Code," "The Music of The Da Vinci Code," DVD ROM "Da Vinci Code Puzzle Game" PC demo. Gift set includes full-sized movie prop reproduction of Robert Langdon's (Tom Hanks) journal containing notes, symbols and codes used to decipher the truth behind the Da Vinci Code; and a working replica of the cryptex featured in the film. (Sony).
I am fairly confident that you are all familiar with this story. You might also have heard of the director (Ron Howard) or the star (Tom Hanks).
This edition of the blockbuster film contains quite a few features looking at the cast, director as well as the author of the novel. The two DVD set gives you some bang for your buck.
There is also a gift set that contains a full sized copy of Langdon’s journal. Cool stuff.

The Green Mile: Special Edition
(1999) Dir.: Frank Darabont; Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Morse, Gary Sinise, Bonnie Hunt, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper. Two-disc set. Extras: Commentary by writer-director Darabont, deleted scenes, Tom Hanks makeup tests, Michael Clarke Duncan screen test, "The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study," "Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile" documentary, "Miracles and Mystery: Creating The Green Mile" six-part gallery of featurettes: "Stephen King: Storyteller," "The Art of Adaptation," "Acting on the Mile," "Designing the Mile," "The Magic of the Mile," "The Tail of Mr. Jingles." (Warner).
Based on the Stephen King serial novel (ever notice that Mr. King’s non horror stuff ends up making damn good movies?), Tom Hanks stars as a former prison guard. The movie tells the tale of an extraordinary prisoner and his stay on the Green Mile.

King Kong: Deluxe Extended Limited Edition (2005) Three-disc set of Peter Jackson's take on King Kong, with new bonus content including nearly 40 minutes of deleted scenes, 13 additional minutes of never-before-seen footage, 230 new visual effects shots, special introductions by the director, mini-featurettes, concept art galleries, outtakes and gag reels, trailers, commentary by Jackson for the first time, and much much more; $34.98. A limited edition $79.98 gift set is also available housed in a specially designed collectable packaging with a King Kong figurine created exclusively for the package by the Oscar-winning artists at Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, the company responsible for the film's creature design, special makeups, miniatures and visual effects. (Universal).
An extended release of a Peter Jackson film? I am shocked! Yes folks, Mr. Jackson has put together a three disc set of all things Monkey. For an extra $45 you can get a Kong figurine and have it climb your limited edition Lord of the Rings bookshelves. This nifty action figure…sorry, FIGURINE was designed by Academy Award-winners Weta Workshop and Digital. They did all of the effects for the movie.

NCIS: The Complete Second Season (2004-05) Six-disc set with 23 episodes, $64.99. Extras: Commentary on select episodes, "Investigating Season 2," "What's New in Season 2," "The Real N.C.I.S.," "Lab Tour With Pauley Perrette. (Paramount).

The Paul Newman Collection Seven-disc set with new-to-DVD "Harper," "The Drowning Pool," "The Left Handed Gun," "Mackintosh Man," "Pocket Money," "Somebody Up There Likes Me" and "The Young Philadelphians"; $59.92. "Harper" will be available separately for $19.97. (Warner).
Harper (1966) Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Arthur Hill, Janet Leigh, Pamela Tiffin, Robert Wagner, Robert Webber, Shelley Winters, Harold Gould, Roy Jenson, Strother Martin. Extras: Commentary by screenwriter William Goldman, introduction by TCM host Robert Osborne.
Drowning Pool (1975) Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa, Murray Hamilton, Gail Strickland, Melanie Griffith, Linda Haynes, Richard Jaeckel. Extras: Vintage featurette "Harper Days Are Here Again."
The Left Handed Gun (1958) Dir.: Arthur Penn; Paul Newman, Lita Milan, John Dehner. Extras: Commentary by Penn.
The Mackintosh Man (1973) Dir.: John Huston; Paul Newman, Dominique Sanda, James Mason, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen. Extras: Vintage featurette "John Huston: The Man, the Myth, the Moviemaker."
Pocket Money (1972) Paul Newman, Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, Wayne Rogers, Hector Elizondo.
Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) Dir.: Robert Wise; Paul Newman, Pier Angeli, Everett Sloane, Eileen Heckart, Sal Mineo,Harold J. Stone. Extras: Commentary by Newman, Robert Loggia, Wise, Martin Scorsese and film historian Richard Schickel.
The Young Philadelphians (1959) Dir.: Vincent Sherman; Paul Newman, Barbara Rush, Alexis Smith, Brian Keith, Diane Brewster, Billie Burke, John Williams, Robert Vaughn, Otto Kruger. Extras: Commentary by Sherman and film historian Drew Casper.
Mystery fans will be interested in Harper and The Drowning Pool, both are from Ross McDonald novels featuring Lew Archer. While the protagonist’s name has been changed, it is indeed Archer that Mr. Newman is playing.

Quantum Leap: The Complete Fifth Season Three-disc set with 21 episodes, $49.98. (Universal).
End of the road for a very creative series. While based on a science fiction premise, QL rarely wandered into the realms of Sci-fi, instead they used the fantastic concept to create a wonderfully imaginative show. The final episode was not meant to be the series finale, but when it was not renewed they re-edited it and used it to wrap up their run.

Nov 9, 2006

A Quick Five With Laura Lippman

What's your next book about and why should people buy it?

It's about how people disappear, in every meaning of the word, and people should buy it because that would make me less neurotic.

What's really made you laugh hard in the last month?

Mark Billingham's utterly sincere contention that he wants to try that Kentucky Fried Chicken dish, the one where they put everything in a bowl -- the chicken, the corn, mashed potatoes, topped with cheese and gravy. (To be fair to Mark, he might want to point out here that a woman who insisted on going to Culver's Custard for butter burgers and cheese curds shouldn't be amused by anyone's fast food leanings.)

What's better, getting up early or staying up late?

Late nights are best with great company, early mornings are meant for solitude.

Finish this sentence: I love being an author because.....

I'm the best boss I ever had.

What's the latest book you've read?

THE SONG IS YOU, by Megan Abbott. It's the cats. Or whatever the appropriate lingo would be, circa 1948. I thought I was an ace student when it came to Hollywood Babylon-type stories, but Megan leaves me in the dust. Leaves me in the dust, throws her Lucky in my face and grinds it out with a dainty twist of her stiletto.

Nov 8, 2006

DVD Review: A Prairie Home Companion

A Prairie Home Companion
New Line Cinema

A Prairie Home Companion is a look at the final broadcast of an old fashioned radio variety show--based, of course, on Garrison Keillor's actual show of the same name, which continues to go strong.

The film has something in it for both fans and non-fans of the homespun radio program from which it takes its inspiration. Director Robert Altman gives us a look at the people behind the show, in all their eccentric glory. As it often the case with Altman’s films, APHC is not so much about a central story as it is about the interactions behind the scenes. I would like to point out that there is some delightfully dark aspects that I had not expected from Keillor.

I found the film fascinating as it brings together an amazing cast and allows them to make their characters their own. The heavy lifting is left to Meryl Streep, with Kevin Kline providing some wonderful comedic moments. If you are looking for a film in which the story is king, this is not for you. If you enjoy rich, multi-faceted characters and like the journey as much as the destination, APHC will draw you in and enthrall you.

The special features are nothing beyond the usual, but some of the backstage interaction is interesting, particularly between Altman and Keillor.

Jeremy Lynch

DVD Review: James Bond Ultimate Edition Collections 1 & 2

James Bond Ultimate Edition Collections 1 & 2
Fox Home Entertainment

I think it is safe to say that each and every person reading this has seen one or more of the films covering the exploits of James Bond. Whether you can remember seeing Dr. No in the theatres, or perhaps started with a later one (For me, it was Moonraker.).

Over the last 2 ½ years, James Lowry, the man behind the restoration of such classics as Casablanca and Citizen Cane, has headed a team that has completely remastering the first 20 Bond films. This process has not simply consisted of repair the extensive damage of the earlier films, but bringing them all BEYOND their original quality, including reworking the audio so as to include a track of 5.1 DTS surround sound. . We have come to expect perfect quality from modern films, but the older ones are truly going to “shock and awe” the viewers.

In addition to repairing the films from ravages of time, these sets include some amazing outtakes and featurettes. While there are some that look back at the films, others are from the original releases of the films and are a treasure to watch. Interviews from the original publicity events. It is fun watching a much younger Sean Connery on the set of Goldfinger.
Any fan of James Bond will be in absolute heaven with these sets.

Collection 1 contains Goldfinger, The Man With The Golden Gun, Diamonds
Are Forever, The Living Daylights and The World Is Not Enough.

Collection 2 contains Thunderball, A View To A Kill, The Spy Who Loved
Me, License To Kill and Die Another Day.

Jeremy Lynch

DVD releases for Nov 7th

I got a couple of emails asking why had I not posted dvd releases in the last couple of weeks. Good question..... I got lazy. Sorry bout that, I shall be diligent in updates from here on in.

Nov 7th
Homicide: Life on the Street: The Complete Series Megaset 35-disc set with all 122 episodes of the critically acclaimed series, plus a new bonus DVD with the three "Law & Order" crossover episodes and "Homicide: the Movie"; $299.95. Extras: Commentary on select episodes, interviews with Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana, Henry Bromell, David Simon, and James Yoshimura; "To Catch a Killer: Homicide Detectives" episode of A&E's signature series "American Justice"; Superbowl XXVII commercials for Season One premiere; "Homicide: Life on the Street" song listings; "Inside Homicide" with David Simon and James Yoshimura; feature-length documentary "Anatomy of a Homicide"; VSDA panel and live DVD commentary with Tom Fontana, Barry Levinson, James Yoshimura, and David Simon; Barry Levinson's acceptance speech for the 2004 VSDA Career Achievement Award; cast biographies; more. (A&E Home Video).
If you enjoy cop shows, you absolutely must pick up this incredible set. Homicide, by the creator of the HBO hit The Wire, was one of the best police shows to come along in the last 20 years. If you watch this, you may never be able to watch NYPD Blue again.

JAG: The Complete Second Season (1996-97) Four-disc set, $64.99. Extras: Commentary on select episodes, "Setting Sail With Season 2," "Inside the Real JAG Corps." (Paramount).

James Bond Ultimate Editions Volumes 1 and 2 released November 7; Features state-of-the-art Lowey Process digital frame-by-frame restoration and new 5.1 DTS Surround Sound. Each film gets a two-disc treatment with such extras as never-before-seen footage from the Bond archives, rare interviews, deleted scenes, documentaries, interactive film guides, more.
Volume 1: "Goldfinger," "The World Is not Enough," "Diamonds Are Forever," "The Man With the Golden Gun" and "The Living Daylights."
Volume 2: "Thunderball," "Die Another Day," "The Spy Who Loved Me," "A View to a Kill" and "Licence to Kill." $89.98 each volume.(MGM).
Click here to see details for each movie.
James Bond fans will be in absolute heaven with these collections. Loaded to the gills with bonus features, both old and new.

ShadowBoxer (2006) Helen Mirren, Cuba Gooding Jr., Stephen Dorff, Vanessa Ferlito, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Macy Gray. Pair of assassins (Helen Mirren, Cuba Gooding Jr.) take a pregnant intended victim under their wing -- and on the run). (Vivendi Visual Entertainment).

Jeremy Lynch

Radio Script Competition

2nd Annual Imagination Theatre Radio Script Competition, 2007

Are you one of the many writers who would like to try their hand at writing a radio script? If so, have we got the contest for you. Jim French Productions has been producing commercial radio drama for decades; our contributing writers come from the United States, Canada, England and Scotland and we'd like to add you to that list.

Scripts can be in any genre and must be between 19 and 23 pages in proper format. Proper format for radio scripts is very important so please see our website for additional information. Scripts can also be a pastiche of one of our current series.

First prize: The Phil Harper Award, is $150 plus production and a book from Michael Wiese Productions ( First Prize will be awarded to the script that can be produced "straight out of the envelope."

Second Prize is $100 plus production and a book from Michael Wiese Productions. Prize will go to the script that is very good, but still needs a little work.

Third prize receives $50 and a book. Third prize is awarded to the script that has good writing and inventive ideas, but needs more work.

Three honorable mentions receive CD.

Fee is $10 per script. All scripts must be postmarked no later than February 19, 2007

Complete information and application forms can be found at:

Nov 7, 2006

A Quick Five with Julia Spencer-Fleming

What’s the latest book you’ve read?

Jodi Picoult's Perfect Match--I picked it up at an airport bookstore after I had finished all the "have-to-read" books I took along with me on tour. It was the first thing I've read purely for pleasure in months!

What’s your latest book and why should people read it?

All Mortal Flesh is the latest. Hot off the presses this month! People should read it because 1) they've read the past four books and are chomping at the bit to find out what's happening with Russ Van Alstyne and Clare Fergusson 2) they haven't read anything of mine but are intrigued by the reviews in the New York Times, Kirkus, etc. 3) they're under the impression that, having "Flesh" in the title, the book must be filled with sex, zombies, cannibalism or all of the above.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done in the last six months?

It's a toss-up between a white-water-rafting/cliff-climbing expedition on the Saco River (in a raging thunderstorm; don't ask) and hitting the Booksense bestseller list in hardcover for the first time.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Catch up on all the sleep, family time, and Battlestar Galactica episodes I missed while traveling around the country on book tour. I believe Crimespree alerted me to BG. Thank you Thank you Jeremy Lynch and Netflix!

What’s up next for Julia Spencer-Fleming?

I'm hard at work on the sixth book featuring the Episcopal priest, chief of police, and people of the small town of Millers Kill, NY. And something in my head keeps shouting "stand a-lone, stand a-lone! Or maybe that's Sly Stallone, Sly Stallone!"

And about those drinks:

Fave hot drink: Tea. Hot, black and extremely sweet. Fave tipple: G&T with lemon. Fave non-alcoholoc cold drink: Coke. The traditional version, of course.

Nov 4, 2006

Sex and Violence

Ah, a comment heard around the world… Yes I’m referring to the Rankin comment made for a daily newspaper. I’m going to thank him for this comment, which I’m certain was taken a.) out of context and b.) with tongue firmly in cheek rather than foot in mouth.

I mean this thing is so big it’s gone beyond the “genre” media straight to .

Without the “lesbian” bit the subject of graphic violence and the gender of the writer has been a staple of every convention I’ve attended. It is pondered by fans, writers, editors, publishers and publicists. The evolution of these discussions usually becomes “was the violence merited within the context of the story?” It is my opinion that this is where the discussion gets interesting. Because any group’s consensus or non seems to split down gender and economic lines.

People who read and write crime fiction novels are interested in the consequences of violence for the main (and those who aren’t, that’s a different running dialog). Does our sex and sexuality have something to do with what we can write and what we can’t? What is acceptable to us as readers?

Of course it does. Men and women are different. We’re raised differently, are exposed to different options in our early development, have been given different attitudes towards sex and violence just through the cautionary tales we are given as youngsters. It is a truism that females are exposed to violence personally in middle class society at a rate of four to one over their male counterparts. We see the resulting behaviors of victims far more frequently than the men who are our contemporaries.

Guy writers all want to be Wojohowitz and the chicks, why we want to be something different. Do you know Wojo? He was the ethnic, working class police on the seventy’s sitcom Barney Miller. Not as smart as some of his squad but with a “goodness” about him, a naïve honesty. Wojo was forever trying to save hookers from the life. “Why do that when you could have me?” He truly didn’t understand. And in sitcom land it usually meant Wojo got laid and then either a.) dumped or b.) had to set Ms. Hooker free to relocate somewhere in white picket fence America to become a teacher or a nurse or a waitress. There were a lot of reborn virgins on Barney Miller. There’s a lot of Wojo in the male perspective when we look at “graphic violence” in crime fiction. Blatant or non, intentional or no. Whether the protagonist marries his hooker (Matt Scudder) or has to be avenging when the hooker trying to escape the life is murdered (John Rebus, Charlie Parker), this trend clearly exists. Lawrence Block, Ian Rankin and John Connelly are three of our best writers. That is why I use them in my dialog. The individual stories make the theme work.

I’m generalizing which is bad. Fiction cannot be delegated down gender lines. It must be sorted by good and bad. I’m not stopping though. Mystery comes down to the three. The root of crime is sex, money, or ennui.

Here in lies the difference between male and female voice. A male writer will present you with a crime and then get on with the business of solving it. Along the path to plot resolution motivation and background will be explored. In the end though the conclusion seems to be neatly tied. A pretty package wrapped up in string. Brutal or not, the crime was put there for the protagonist to solve. Graphic violence is present, but usually with a bit of gauze over the lens. And if a violent act is given a page or two of description more often than not it is directed towards our hero. Look at the rape scene featuring Mark Billingham’s Thorne, brilliantly done, graphic and frightening, it was presented to forward character as much as plot. Aha you say, character development.

Plenty of femmes use this approach too. But some go beyond this to the root of the story. If the focus of investigation is the brutalizing rape of a series of females or children should the act be “off stage left” or is there a responsibility to present the very real violence that has occurred before you go on to the business of resolving your story and developing your character. There are women (and men) who are willing to share the truth that is behind their readers’ evening entertainment. Sometimes it is done badly. And then I’m all about the “violence for violence sake” argument. Sometimes though, it is done with a deftness and beauty that belies contemplation. It also brings the reader closer to the subject of their nightly read.

I’m back to, ”It is a truism that females are exposed to violence personally in middle class society at a rate of four to one over their male counterparts.” Let’s use a writer that Rankin mentioned. Karen Slaughter introduced Lena as a victim. Her sister is brutally murdered in the very first chapter of her very first book. Both Lena and her murdered sister have overcome tragedy. Lena is police. The “my way or no way” kind of police we’ve all seen portrayed time and time again. And this time from the very beginning of our narrative and before, she’s risen above the odds. Lena has balls. The male balls of McBain’s Ollie. Solve the crime, and it will be okay. She rushes through the first half of that first book as gung ho as Steven Segal. And then…. she’s taken captive by a killer. A spree killer with a personal directive. Crucified in a basement, personality being sucked out by the leech that is our villain, she understands that his motivation is somehow this series other female lead. And she is rescued. By the other female. Intelligent, proactive Lena goes back to her job. A dynamic has been born. In the evolution of this series Slaughter has shown more truth of the actuality of violence through this character than any other series I read. You do not overcome. You do not move on. If something this dehumanizing happens to you the therapy and concern cannot overcome. It will stay with you. Lena reacts by becoming self destructive. In real life not all victims do, at least outside of their own nightmares. But the truth in the disintegration of Lena’s self is magnificent. She must now find and react towards violence. To stay alive. This is a character of beauty. She is bold and unique within our world of crime fiction.

For many this series is unreadable. There is too much truth. That’s fine. I can’t read MacDonald. Never could. My background makes his women an undoing. I personally cannot get beyond the female stereotype in his books. It is the same with Sayers’ (and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s) racism for me. Certain things will leave an individual cold as they are reading. The dialog of graphic violence is not one of those for me. It is a truth that many of today’s female writers are allowed access to places their male counterparts wouldn’t feel comfortable. The survival groups where victims present their reality is a place where most male writers would feel vastly uncomfortable. Not many male authors have had their door knocked upon at four in the morning by a friend, beaten and terrified, blaming themselves. Nor have they been railed upon by someone they loved in the dark, in the post colitis position. Subjected to an unfounded jealousy and slapped so hard they saw sparks. Most women have, or it’s so close they can feel it. There are different truths for boys and girls. Because, well, we’re boys and girls.

In writing fiction, if you do it well, you do not want to cover territory already covered. There’s a new breed of fiction I call female hardboiled. Writers who although they may be presenting their story from the same premise as their male counterpart have a different working background. They are adding to the genre’s strength by presenting a prospective towards violence that has been unmined until now. While those passages of violence that are pages long rather than an aside may be hard to stomach there is a breed of female writer who realizes the act of violence is the story. They present the violence and then develop the narrative, plot, and characters. If the central part of the story is violence is it wrong to type it?

I vote no. I also agree that there are more females than males using violence in the personal rather than the impersonal. It is a part of the continuing evolution of Crime Fiction. Gratuitous and Graphic are different. And it is interesting to the self critic within me that even as I type this diatribe I’m thinking the most hardboiled female book out there is MIAMI PURITY by Vicki Hendricks. This is a story of a female for whom violence even directed at self is impersonal. So anesthetized is our heroine towards violence by her circumstance that she moves throughout graphic rather “off stage right” violence until there is an end where hope is stripped away not for our heroine but for her reader. It is the power of the writer that makes this a book reread annually, certainly not a neatly tied ending.

Will the boys catch up with this particular trend? I’m not sure they have to. An equality of the sexes means we should embrace the differences. Appreciate the craft. Allow that being exposed to things we haven’t is part of why we look for different voices amongst the authors we read. The best of today’s writers expand our genre by folding in that something that makes their work unique even as it’s compared to the writer de jour. Girls are raised with a knowledge that the threat of violence is there. It determines how we walk down the street, where we’ll go alone, what we wear and how we behave. We are raised trying to not become victims while men are raised trying to save victims. Different realities make for different psyches. In the end the parts equal the whole.

If, as I suspect, that original comment by Sir Ian was given to make the article’s author think a bit about Crime Fiction I think it worked. She threw it out there. People are discussing it. In the end though this doesn’t belong on For it’s a question of sex not sexuality. Political correctness be damned.

Ruth Jordan