Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Sales

An anonymous donation of 2,000 Western books bolstered the supply that the friends of the Kirk-Bear Canyon Library had been collecting for its annual book sale held Saturday and Sunday. (This is from a headline on the net from a Tucson paper. The sale was 20-21 Feb, darn it! Would've liked to browse through "them" books and would have probably been there had I known about it.)

Another sale I missed again this year was the annual sale held at the fairgrounds in Phoenix that happens every year on Lincoln's Birthday or the weekend nearest to it. This year it was held Feb 13-14. Other things were more pressing at the time.

I visited the Barnes and Noble outlet in Arrowhead shopping mall recently and they ordered some copies of The Stranger from the Valley for their Western shelves. I talked to them about a possible book signing event to which they seemed amenable after the book arrives. We'll see if it happens. It'll be the first official book signing not counting the mini thing at our small condo group's annual luncheon.

I decided that a trip to Quartzite for book signing wouldn't be profitable after adding up expected expenses for gas and lunch. The prospect of any or many sales seemed pretty dim at the "naked man's" bookstore. I might have a different opinion when I have another book or two to sell giving prospective customers more options. I'll reconsider next year, if it's still available.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Some British Writers

A writer from England whose works I enjoyed was Eric Ambler who passed away in 1998. I remember reading This Gun For Hire. Coffin for Demetrios (U.S. edition of The Mask of Demetrios), and others, some of which were made into films. His books were prominently displayed on the racks of the U. S. stores and he was a popular author. He wrote some books as Eliot Reed with Charles Rodda among which were The Maras Affair and Passport to Panic.

Everyone, just about, has heard of P. G. Wodehouse, author of the Bertie Wooster stories and Jeeves. I read all of these I could find and ran across over the years because of their comedy. Anything that was written that I found to be funny was immediately procured and I devoured it with relish. I still enjoy reading Wodehouse and read a collection of his stories not too long ago. They crack me up.

Tobias Smollet from Scotland was another writer whose stories I enjoyed and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker remains on my shelf in a paperback edition. First printed in 1771 it was the last of his novels and, I think, one of the funniest.

Charles Darwin's Origin of Species and the Descent of Man even had some comedy in it, at least, there was some of it that was funny to me when I read it years ago. Not his theory, of course, but his wording in some instances. When I began reading it, I remember thinking that this is going to be a BORING book, but it wasn't all that bad or as technically diffiicut as I thought it would be.

George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm. I guess his predictions didn't pan out in 1984 exactly as he had propounded, not from my understanding and perspective over 25 years later, but his book was interesting at the time it came out and caused a lot of philosophical rewiring it seems to me. He wrote only six novels according to Wikipedia, so I'm thinking he was more of a deep-thinker than the average bear. Just look at the number of references listed on Wikipedia concerning Orwell and it gives you an idea that he had mucho on his mind beside entertaining the public with his novels. I wonder how he would have gone about writing a shoot-'em-up. The main character would have much to think about as he went about his business.

Clinton Virgefield, author of The Beaches of Clunchyshire, a romantic intertwining of lives in a small seaside village on the English coast near Duverdown.  I'm not too much on books about romance and such, but I found this one to be particularly fascinating on the whole, an interesting collection with a smattering of comedy and serious drama thrown in. Most of the stories are about Midge Shewly, a pretty blond of 26 years and her hoped-to-be future husband, Rommelly Fybush, a devil-may-care aristocrat who is only looking for a good time most of the time. The other times, he is deeply engrossed in researching crime and police misbehaviour, a pastime that gets him into trouble and mayhem. A very good ending is well described and Midge has found her t........, well, you'll just have to read the book. One of the better writers on the English scene, Virgefield covers all aspects of romance, mystery, and suspense in a beach setting with amazingingly beautiful sunsets in the way a British writer only could uniquely compose. I came away thinking I had read another masterpiece of short-story writing.      

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Author J. P. Donleavy

One of the funniest books I've ever glommed onto was The Ginger Man, by J. P. Donleavy, an American who lives in Ireland and became an Irish citizen. The novel, according to Wikipedia, is based on an American emigre, Gainor Crist. His character Sidney Dangerfield has great comical adventures as I followed him through Dublin chasing the women, drinking, chasing the women and drinking, and so forth. The book is on the Best 100 list of the Modern Library. See  If you haven't read it, you may want to pick up a copy or check it out at the library (if they have it on the shelf).

Mr. Donleavy has written several other books, both fiction and non-fiction, including A Singular Man and The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival and Manners. I've read both of these, although I don't remember much of either, especially A Singular Man. I enjoyed some chuckles while reading The Unexpurgated Code and passed it on to my nephew with a box of other books. If I ever get out of the western-genre mode I will enjoy reading more of his works, and if I was able to write something as full of comedy as The Ginger Man, I would have done it by now.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writer James T. Farrell

One of the books I enjoyed as a teenager was Studs Lonigan, a trilogy by James T. Farrell, a story of an Irish-Catholic growing up in Chicago. Farrell was a Socialist, something I didn't know at the time and didn't care anyway, since I had no clue at age 15 or 16 as to the connection between a person's writing and his political beliefs. He was born in 1904 and died in 1979 and began writing the trilogy in 1932 with Young Lonigan. Wikipedia states that the Studs Lonigan trilogy was number 29 on the best 100 novels of the Modern Library's list for the Twentieth Century.

As a high school student I enjoyed the descriptions and antics of Studs even though some of the language wouldn't have met the Mormon morality requirements. I read the book "in secret", that is, my parents never cared to ask about my reading material and I didn't talk much about it to anyone anyway. If there was a political message in it, it was not clear to me, but I thought it was a good book. That's the trouble with remembering the books I read so long ago (60 years), that I remember them at all is amazing to me. I guess it's because those books were well written and put forth a good story to an impressionable young mind.

Wikipedia states that Studs Lonigan was made into a movie in 1960 directed by Irving Lerner and starring
Christopher Knight in the title role. Other cast members were Frank Gorshin, Venetia Stevenson, and JACK NICHOLSON in one of his first movie roles. In 1979 it was made into a TV series starring Harry Hamlin, Colleen Dewhurst, Brad Dourif, Dan Shor and Charles Durning. I never saw either as I recall.

You can get info here on the movie: and on the TV series here:

Farrell wrote several other books over his long career including some short story collections, but Studs was the only one I recall reading.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

James M. Cain, Author

The Postman Always Rings Twice is one of James M. Cain's novels that was made into a movie as was Double Indemnity. Lana Turner as the wife and John Garfield as the drifter starred in The Postman, which came out in 1946. They plot to murder her husband and then must live with the consequences. I remember seeing the movie when I was in high school, but don't remember much about it other than a lot of publicity building up to the movie release. More on this at

Double Indemnity came out in 1944, starring Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson, directed by Billy Wilder, screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, the writer of the Philip Marlowe detective books. An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigor's suspicions. Robinson is the investigator, McMurray the insurance salesman, and Stanwyck the wife of Actor Tom Powers, who is tricked into signing a double indemnity policy before he is killed. I don't remember much about this movie, either, it's been a long time. I'll have to check them out and watch them again. And more on this at

When I read about Paul Cain on I thought of James M. Cain, so I went to Wikipedia,, and reviewed his writings. He also wrote Mildred Pierce, which was also made into a movie, a boring movie in my estimation.  I remember reading his Serenade in a pocket book edition, as I recall, but have no idea what it was about.

Just yesterday, James M. Cain was mentioned in (The Education of a Pulp Writer) in connection with the latest Beat to a Pulp story.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Header/Library

The picture in the heading is the upper facade of the saloon-restaurant-tourist trap at Arizona's Tortilla Flats on Apache Lake, which, prior to improvements you reached by dirt road with treacherous hairpin turns and steep hills. This road was used to transport materials by mule train when the dam was built on Roosevelt Lake in the early 1900's. The road is not so bad now having been paved and straightened a bit, but it is still a colorful and exciting excursion for a day trip from Phoenix. Whenever relatives show up, that's where we take them, usually stopping at the Mining Camp Restaurant for lunch or dinner. The photo when copied and reprinted comes out a little fuzzy, but I'm not a pro at this photography stuff and it was probably taken with a throw-away camera.

I made a visit to the Peoria Library (a branch of the county system) just to see how many western novels they had on the shelf. Looking under "Western Fiction" on the computer at the library, up popped a list of 25 books. I didn't think that was unusual after my trip a couple years ago where I just looked on the shelf and found maybe 15 or 20 books available for checkout. The authors this time included Thoene Brock, Lauran Paine, Jake Logan, Connie Mason, Louis L'Amour, Frederic Bean, Nelson C. Nye, Jeff Sadler, Chuck Martin,  Max Brand, Allan K. Echols, Loren D. Estleman, James Michener (Centennial), Peter Brown, Edward Gorman, Luke Short, and Lee Floren.

I thought this was a pretty skimpy representation, so I looked under another subject, "Western Stories." This time up popped a list of 1,788 items. It would have taken me all day or longer to go through item by item and I just glanced at three or four pages to get a taste of it. They were not all fiction, as I saw two or three biographical titles, but the majority I saw was fiction, like Louis L'Amour, Elmore Leonard, Elmore Kelton, etc. I knew from experience that they wouldn't all be on the shelf, so I concluded that this was the central depository listing for the county, but what do I know. Tomorrow or the next day I'll visit another library to see what I can find there. If I find the same number, it'll confirm my conclusion = big, bloody deal of a hoot! Simple minds, simple pleasures.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Larry McMurtry's "Sin Killer"

Finished reading Volume l of the four-volume Larry McMurtry saga of the Berrybenders. This first one is entitled Sin Killer, published by Simon and Schuster, copyright 2002, and has been on my shelf for a couple of years waiting to be read.

As the steamboat makes its way up the Missouri River, the family and its valets, maids, cooks, gunbearers, etc., have their problems, several of them dying or getting killed or lost on the prairie in one fashion or another. The oldest daughter finds herself alone in a small boat and is saved by the prairieman/mountainman, Jim Snow, also known as Sin Killer and Raven Brave, a man of the outdoors who instills fright in the Indians. She soon finds herself in love with Jim with all its ramifications and her father would have a fit if he knew what was going on.

One predicament after another befalls the characters, be it the weather and freezing, or capture by the Indians, or plain stupidity, they manage, or what's left of them, manage to get stranded by the frozen river some miles from their destination, Yellowstone, to the consternation of the boat's captain, where this volume ends.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to starting the second one, The Wandering Hill. Whether or not the four volumes live up to the reputation of Lonesome Dove remains to be seen, but I think he is off to a great start. The other two books in the series are By Sorrows River and Folly and Glory.

(No money or gift was received for mentioning this book.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Beginning of Chapter One, Murder under the Cliffs:

"My Pa found Grady on his front porch with a knife sticking out of his ribs," Julie told me.

After Julie left, I was going over in my mind my conversation with Grady as I laid on my cot in the small jail cell accused of murdering the old man. It all started this way.

I rode into Bluff on my horse, Bounder, leading my other animal and checked into one of the two small hotels built for the tourists who come down here to visit Monument Valley. I put my horses in the town stable and was talking to the hotel clerk trying to get a lead on someone who could enlighten me on the history of the area. I planned to write a book about it. The clerk told me about old man Grady, one of the first settlers, and told me where he lived. I found him at home the next day and got right into my business of being in Bluff. He told me the following:

"Well, let me see now, I guess it was about 1875 when I came into this area. I liked what I saw when I came down into this valley and saw the San Jhu-on River and those high red cliffs that run along by it. They wasn't nobody around and that was just what I was looking for, a nice quiet place to do my prospecting, archeology, and stuff like that. Once in awhile a Navajo or two would bring a herd of sheep through here going or coming from the reservation on the other side of the San Jhu-on and down south and west of here."

I interrupted and said, "San Wan. The river is called San Wan, but it's spelled S-A-N J-UA-N. It's a Spanish name."

The old man gave me a dirty look and continued, "Went throught that Monument Valley once, but it was too dry and flat for me. Them rocks that are still standing was a pretty sight. I liked that about it, but I took a closer look at a number of them and didn't find much that would tell me to build a house or something down there, so I came on up here. That place was just too dry for me. Yup, came up through that Mexican Hat place and on along the river 'til lI ran into this spot. I knew as soon as my eyes laid sight of it that it was the ideal place. Them cliffs that border the river back a ways and leaving some nice agricultural-type ground to plant a garden, called out to me to take a rest and build a house, and I been here ever since.

"It wasn't long after I had my cabin built on a piece of the high ground that a couple of outlaws decided to call this place home, fellers by the names of Grumpy Knight and Walter "Wally" Burnseed, tough characters the like of which I never seen before. That Burnseed was the fastest thing with a gun I ever saw. Could pull it and shoot off six shots before you could wink your eye. They were looking for a place to hide out. Had a stash of gold with them that was from the Durango bank and had given the posse the ditch down in in New Mexico. Of course, I didn't know it at the time they first hit the place, and they didn't talk much about where they was from or such, but the longer they stayed here, the more it came out."

The man doing all the talking was called Grady. That's all anyone around here knew him by. He was about seventy-five or eighty years old, wrinkly face, gray hair that handn't been cut in quite awhile, of average height, wearing old dirty brown trousers, a dirty brown shirt, dirty brown cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He was watching me all the time with his rheumy gray eyes under the bushy gray eyebrows. I was surprised that he could still see pretty good, since I'd heard that the sun ruined a man's eyes in this country and the older you got the greater the chances of losing your sight. We were sitting on his front porch where we had a good view of the San Juan as it drifted by to the southwest in a long curve.

 "As I recollect, the Mormons came in about 1880 or thereabouts with all those people sent by their church to settle here," he said, talkiing again after a long pause. "The two oulaws became scarce and only came into town one at a time. Grumpy told me that with all these people around somebody had to guard the gold. Those people have been looking into every nook and cranny up and down the the San Jhu-on, he said, and we don't want them to come looking around our place without one of us there. That was the first time I heard about the gold, and I sure didn't ask him any questions about it, either. He told me that they had been moving around, staying in different spots, acting like prospectors, just biding time until they decide to go somewhre. You tell anybody about us and one of us'll be down to see you, and you won't be able to talk to anybody anymore. Understand? He looked at me with his brown eyes carrying a threatening look to them, and I told him I understood him perfectly."

Grady looked over his shoulder at the red cliffs, didn't say anything for a couple of minutes, letting the words sink in about what Grumpy told him.

"Can you beat that?" he finally said. "Me and those two outlaws were the only ones here for two or three years, excluding a Navajo now and then that didn't understand any English anyway, and that Mormon party shows up and he starts getting belligerent. I said to him, I don't even see you more than once every two or three months, and as far as the newcomers, I don't see any of them any oftener. Hell, I don't know whether you're telling me the truth or just telling me a bunch of nonsense. Grumpy looked at me kind of funny like and pulled his pistol and says to me, don't go squealing to these damn Mormons about what we're doing here or where we came  from or you're a dead man. Got that?

"Sure, sure, I got it. Don't worry. I ain't going to say anything to anybody about you and that Wally feller. I want to keep my hair, I told him."

(All this stuff is copyrighted, of course.)