Jun 23, 2008

Laughing through the Tears

I can’t believe the news today…

George Carlin… gone??? Insert all seven expletives here, add a few for good measure. It’s been a tough couple of weeks in Celeb obits. Everyone knows Carlin. His seven words you can’t say on television cemented that. Pro or Con , any age you know this man. But what Carlin do you know? Do you know the elder statesman of comedy? He of the gravelly voice who appeared in Kevin Smith Movies? And really, he almost made Jersey Girl watchable… Do you know the cab driver of his short lived T.V. show, The George Carlin Show? Do you know the ranting comedian of the HBO specials, a man whose Ideas had become a melding of extreme right and extreme left, peppered with truths at once frightening and comforting. He made us laugh at our own hypocrisy , an uncomfortable laughter that left us wanting to do better at the end of his set.

To know my Carlin you have to be between the ages of 44-55. The first time I heard the seven words I wasn’t yet ten years old but circumstances got me beyond the giggles quickly. Swear words on a comedy album were not unheard of, but there were a lot strung together, and hell, I was a kid. This was in the day where kids collected record albums with their allowance money. And many of us liked the comedy records. The comedy on these albums was a far cry from that of sitcom T.V. , Archie Bunker and his flushing toilet noted. But while Cosby and Newhart and Mort Saul and yes Joan Rivers made me laugh they didn’t really speak to my psyche. Richard Belzer and Gary Sandling’s comedy had an underlying meanness. It was Carlin who made me begin to think with my comedy. It was Carlin who seemed to offer hope at a time when it was hard to find. Although much too young to be children of counter culture, those of us in the 44-55 age group saw evidence of “establishment” betrayal every night on the evening news. Vietnam, Watergate, Woman’s “Rights”, The Energy Crisis. And we weren’t even teenagers yet. Carlin’s comedy gave our early cynicism validation…. Fuck WIN buttons. And we watched his case go through the court system, praying that our Supreme Court would uphold freedom of speech… And once again we were let down on the evening news.

Carlin was one of many comedians influenced by the incomparable Lenny Bruce. In 1976, with his new found infamy he ushered in a little late night television show, featuring players from the comedy club circuit. The Show was called Saturday Night Live and for its first four years was not to be missed even though it was on Saturday Night and I was becoming a teenager. This was a group of people who could make me laugh at the absurdity of American life and for 90 minutes forget how much my voice didn’t seem to count. It’s right that Carlin got the show started.

He had health issues all the while. A heart attack when he was very young may have changed his path but it never changed his humanism. I remember thinking while watching Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure that he wasn’t my Carlin anymore. He’d become a brand name, used to validate lesser comedic projects. But still there were moments in his stand up… Shining moments. His Diatribes on AIDS spoke to everyone, his frustration with racism, sexism and the onslaught of pop culture as opposed to news were, at moments brilliant. So I’ve always found it sad that this man who made you think of your fellows in one breath, would use the next to call voting the illusion of choice. He shared his reasons for not voting in stand up, encouraging the same apathy he reviled. For some, it made his later work unwatchable. Me? I always took him in, and sifted the material.

The recent death of Tim Russert left me saddened and concerned for the future of informative Sunday morning television. The death of Sydney Pollack reminded me of how important his body of work was to me. The death of Cyd Charrise leaves a little less beauty in the world. The death of Paul Sands marks the demise of the man who taught me the importance of story interpretation, and the beauty of classic fables. But Carlin … gone… it comes as a shock even though it should have been expected for the last 25 years. I’m not alone in this, the early obituaries are far from complete, celebrity quotes coming in slowly. For those of us who had our eyes opened by this man and used his comedy as a bell weather for formulating our own ideas about the world around us, it’s impossible to think of him as gone. Because he’s part of us. And for now we swear a little and mourn a lot.

Jun 21, 2008

Deaver, Connolly, Singer

Tuesday Night in Muskego Wisconsin

The Muskego Public Library will host

Jeffery Deaver, John Connolly and Nathan Singer

Directions can be found here:
Muskego Public Library

Deaver goes on at 5:00

Connolly and Singer at 7:00

Books will be for sale by all authors


Any one buying a copy of the Nathan Singer Book
will get a free copy of

Jun 18, 2008

Mannix TV Series - Season 1 - 1967

Season one is out on DVD and it's great.
Mike Conners rocks. The extra features include a new interview with Conners and his co-star from season one, Joe Campanella.

The show is obviously a bit dated being filmed in the late 60s but it still holds up well, a great PI is still a great PI.

Jun 15, 2008

Robert Crais talks about Chasing Darkness

Cool video with Robert Crais discussing his new book.

Crais Rocks. And so does the new book!

Jun 12, 2008

Forgotton Book Friday

So a wonderful fellow blogger and all around groovy human being, Patti over at Pattinase asked if we wold like to contribute to her Friday tradition. Well Ruth jumped at the chance:

The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins

We all remember the glorious day when our parents said, “you’re ready for “our” books.” There are many variations of this I know, but you remember that first experience with a bookcase full of the battered paper backs that stood there inviting you to discover a new world of reading. The summer I moved away from the classics and was allowed access to my parents stash was glorious. I read all kinds of books that will remain amongst my favorites forever but only one traveled with me, wherever I went , until I returned it to them in the ‘90s. When I opened The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins I was introduced to the anti hero. Eddie, a small time hood with zero luck. When Eddie gets popped by the feds his options begin to get smaller, the danger more palpable. The cops and crooks in this book were unlike any others I had read. There was no honor, there wasn’t any gallantry, nor was there a big score.

Two things made this book sing to me, first was location. I knew Boston, knew route seven. So did Mr. Higgins. As Eddie traveled through the narrative of this book. I was with him. The book is the first I read where setting became character. Where with a few descriptive sentences, I traveled the road with the people in Higgins fictional world. It was mine, amped up and inhabited by gangsters.

The dialogue in the Friends Of Eddie Coyle did more than convey words, it made me part of the conversation. I’d heard these people with their BAWSTAN dialect, could read this narrative as though I were there. George V. Higgins was the first contemporary master of dialogue I read and spoiled me for all to come.

All this work still comes together for me, I still want Eddie to wiggle his way out of the mess that is his world. Can he stay out of jail and not be branded as a snitch? This book introduced me to everyman crook and the intimate story. Almost 40 years later, I recommend this book to all who write and read Crime Fiction. I didn’t know it the day I pulled that book from the shelf but Higgins was amongst the first to tap into this style of writing and it opened up a whole new style of crime fiction. One admired by many who write and read today. If you haven’t read it yet…..

Ruth Jordan

I'd like to throw in a title which was written in 1903 and originally published by Henneberry Company of Chicago. THE STORY OF COLE YOUNGER by Himself ( meaning of course Cole Younger). The edition I read is published by the
Minnesota Historical Society Press and has a wonderful forward by Marley Brant.

I've been fascinated by the James Gang and The Younger Gang since I was a wee lad, I've watched most of the movies and read a lot of books about them. There is no doubt that these were some rough dudes, and depending who you listen to they were ruthless or misunderstood.

The real interesting thing about this book is that it brings to mind something a friend of mine named Brian said. "No one thinks they are the villain in their own story" This is certainly the case here as Cole spends most of the book claiming he didn't do it. It is however great reading as it's almost fiction by Cole about himself. His take on the events and his seeming self denial abouth the events is actually rather timeless. This is a great book for anyone interested in crime fiction.

Jun 8, 2008


When I signed my first contract with Midnight Ink they said they loved my manuscript but they wanted to change the title. They said that they hoped it wasn’t a deal breaker because they were insistent. The title?

Duffy’s Nuts.

You see Duffy Dombrowski is a low level social worker with crazy clients, he’s a little wacky himself and he adopts an obstinate basset hound who repeatedly jumps up and kicks Duff in the …well, you know.

I thought it was genius. The folks at Midnight Ink thought customers wouldn’t want to approach the help desk at the bookstore and say:

“I’d like Duffy’s Nuts.”

“Do you have Duffy’s Nuts?”

“Where can I find Duffy’s Nuts?”

Maybe they had a point.

They wanted a title that reflected a boxing theme and, though I came up with some alternatives, they liked “On the Ropes.” It seemed kind of cliché to me but what do I know?

My second book was just released and it is entitled “TKO”. Now, this was my original title and my publisher liked it enough to keep it. I like titles to subtly reflect some key themes in a book without hitting you over the head with it.

I also work as a pro fight judge. I’ve judged a bunch of world title fights and I take a lot of pride in knowing the fight game and knowing how to fight. I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and I’ve boxed for 25 years. I say that not because I want you to think I’m Barney badass but so that you know that I know a little of what I’m talking about.
A TKO is short for a “Technical Knockout.” A knockout in pro boxing is when a fighter gets knocked to the canvas and doesn’t make it back to his feet while the referee counts to ten. A “Technical Knockout” is when a referee rules that even if the boxer gets to his feet he’s in no shape to continue and ends the fight.

There’s a couple of TKO’s in TKO both figuratively and literally. Remember when a fighter gets TKO’d they’re not out even if they are ruled “technically” out.

As far as I’m concerned my character Duffy is never out of it. When you read TKO watch for the knockdowns, the TKO’s and pay attention to who gets up when you think they’ve been counted out.

If you get the symbolism, email me at tom@tomschreck.com.


Ps—Oh, and my next book is entitled “Out Cold”. My publicist extraordinaire Brian Farrey at MI noted that Duffy keeps getting in deeper and deeper trouble in the ring—he’s been “On the Ropes”, “TKO’d” and soon he’ll be “Out Cold”. I didn’t even notice the progression. What could be next?

Well, in my fourth book he goes to Las Vegas. Any ideas?

Jun 7, 2008

June is Here and the books are busting out all over

I love summer. And it arrived with a bang here in southern Wisconsin yesterday. The bruised skies and threatening humidity of Tornado watches snatching any promise of Spring away. We went from early March weather to July in a single stroke. Looks like the bedroom paint job may wait until Fall.

Jordans being Jordans, we spent the evening with author Craig Johnson and his lovely wife Judy. Craig was in town for the tour of ANOTHER MAN’S MOCCASINS. Fan’s of the Walt Longmire series will want to read this one soonest for Johnson’s reveals a part of the good Sherriff’s past through a plot that investigates two mysteries, decades apart.

ANOTHER MAN’S MOCCASINS isn’t the only book to recommend to our blog readers. The reading is good this month and I have a rundown of a few of the highlights. The best sellers are out in full force. Steve Martini, David Baldacci and Elizabeth George all have berths on the NYTBS List. And on the extended list are two of our favorites; Charlaine Harris returns with Sookie in FROM DEAD TO WORSE, while John Connolly’s THE REAPERS brings back Charlie Parker.

And “Holy Bookworm’s Cornucopia, Batman” the choices are about to get tougher. For thrills there’s Lee Child’s NOTHING TO LOSE, Jeffrey Deaver’s BROKEN WINDOW and Martin Cruz Smith’s STALIN’S GHOSTS. Do you prefer paperback perusing in the summertime? Richard Hawke’s COLD DAY IN HELL is an option. I thoroughly enjoyed this book last year in Hard Cover format and can guarantee it will make the humidity go away for a few hours.

For the PI enthusiast or those wanting a change of pace we have Loren Estleman’s FRAMES, Dave White’s THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, and lo and behold a new Milan Jacovich from Les Roberts, THE KING OF THE HOLLY HOP has Milan attending the high school reunion from hell. And a word from your blogger on Don Winslow’s THE DAWN PATROL. Read this book, revel in the writing and enjoy the plot, characters and San Diego.

For a police procedural p.o.v. we have Deborah Crombie’s WHERE MEMORIES LIE and C.J. Box’s BLOODTRAIL, two go to reads for everybody. And let’s have a shout out for THE DEMON OF DAKAR, Kjell Eriksson is a master of the police procedural new to American readers. Canadian Sandra Ruttan’s WHAT BURNS WITHIN is police procedural with a twist. Available in Mass Market Paperback, this book comes from one of Mystery’s newest voices.

It says something about the strength of a traditional written series when it sells out at our local bookstore in four days, but sure as s#@t, When I went to grab the latest Julia Spencer Fleming from Richard last night he was sold out (and had re-ordered). I SHALL NOT WANT is another strong book from the damme who’s made Millers Kill a go to destination in Crime Fiction. And hey folks, Sujata Massey has a new book, the first not sent to Crimespree for review, but that’s okay, Pat and Gary at ONCE UPON A CRIME in Minneapolis can hook me up with a signed copy of SHIMURA TROUBLE and all will be right in my world. Massey has a gift with the written word and I, for one, will never miss a book.

From Dutton comes THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB from Meg Gardiner. I’m excited that Gardiner is in print stateside, have to admit when it comes to book recommendations I don’t often find Stephen King wrong. We’re reading these books for Crimespree but enjoying them as Jordans.

And I’ll finish up with two books I’ve been pounding the drums for right along. Val McDermid’s THE GRAVE TATTOO is now available in paperback, if you haven’t read it yet…… join the animated conversation amongst mystery aficionados, this is a book sure to get you talking. And tad um….

SEVERANCE PACKAGE. Duane Swierczynski has a lot to say about the post modern office dynamic in this highly humorous and sociopathic take on corporate America. This book is a cure to “a bad day at work”. You’ll find yourself cheering on despicable characters, applauding at ghastly violence, looking at your co-workers with fresh eyes. It’s better than a year of therapy or a case of your favorite Red. Swierczynski has an energy no one else writing has tapped into and an imagination that makes me a little afraid. SEVERANCE PACKAGE will wash that job right out of your hair. Perfect.