Monday, November 01, 2004

Halloween and Other Catching Up

The past couple of days have been spent mostly in front of the computer, trying to get to the end of the current book (which refuses to go quietly into that good night). I did make a library and Half Price Books run today, but more on that later.

Since we live out in the country, we never get trick or treaters on Halloween, so I usually don't get much sense of that particular holiday having come and gone. My one Halloween tradition is to watch IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN. I recorded it last week when it was on TV and watched it over the weekend. Since it came out in 1966, I think there were a couple of years when it didn't run on TV, and one year I completely forgot about it, so this was probably my 35th time to watch it. And I still enjoyed it. "I got a rock" is still funny. And I've always enjoyed the Snoopy vs. the Red Baron bit. One minor annoyance is that it hardly ever runs in its complete form. For years CBS cut the "I got a rock" bit, and now ABC cuts short Lucy's dog lips rant. Great music, funny stuff, and quite touching in places. A classic, in my opinion. Some people seem to think this was the second Charlie Brown cartoon, after A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, but it's actually the third. The second one was the not-seen-for-years baseball-themed cartoon. It's been so long I'm not sure of the title. CHARLIE BROWN'S ALL-STARS, maybe?

One of the regular plots in Gold Medal novels was that of the regular joe who winds up being blamed for a murder he didn’t commit, so that he has to discover the identity of the real killer in order to save his own skin. This plot sort of crops up again in Domenic Stansberry’s new novel from Hardcase Crime, THE CONFESSION, which is a clever, very well-written, and very dark updating of the sort of psychological thriller that used to be written by Dorothy B. Hughes and Margaret Millar, among others. Jake Danser may have a regular joe sort of name, but he’s far from that. A forensic psychologist, he’s married to a beautiful, wealthy woman, but he also has a mistress on the side. The mistress winds up dead, and the clues not only point to Jake as being the killer but the investigation also turns up evidence possibly linking him to a whole string of similar murders. This novel is positively crowded with clues. The trick isn’t spotting them; it’s figuring out what to make of them. Stansberry also does a masterful job of playing with the reader’s sympathies. The first person narration makes us want to believe that Jake is really innocent. After all, he’s letting us into his head and telling us his story, so he can’t really be that bad a guy, now can he? Well, maybe . . . and maybe not. Good stuff all around. This is the first book I’ve read from Hardcase Crime, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Pretty slim pickings at Half Price Books today. I picked up three issues of the old Warren black-and-white horror magazine, CREEPY. This was always my least favorite of Warren's horror titles, but I still buy them when I run across them these days.

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