Southern Hospitality

Catching up with the last part of the Raleigh trip: it sure is good to visit Susan and Ron and get some kitty time. Even better when Byron and Star make the drive over from the west. I am grateful to you all.

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Happy Birthday to a Legend (or two)

two legends

I should be on my way across the Atlantic at present, but I have to be sure to say a happy birthday to a couple of legends today: Tony Hancock and Paul D. Brazill. They both make me laugh like a crazy person, so if you don’t know them already, you shouldn’t waste any time in making their acquaintance.

Here’s a story of mine that pays homage to Hancock and Sid James (pictured above) and here’s a fave episode from Hancock’s Half Hour.

And you should drop by Mr B’s Facebook page or his website to wish him Happy Birthday — or just buy all his books so he can make you laugh, too. You won’t regret it.

Now, blow out your candle!

New Orleans Idling

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I loved the yak skull at the Roosevelt

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Miss Wendy in the lobby bar: the one place we were sure to run into folks

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Love the little courtyards which are cool enough at night

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Unexpected Ganesh!

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Pralines are calling…

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Shakers and a cat: I’m sure there’s a theme here

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Le noir New Orleans

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Crescent City Books has a good selection of Himes though mostly in French and Spanish


NoirCon 2014 – Part 4

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Let me wrap things up: I’ve let them drag on too long, probably because I have been busier than a one-armed paper hanger since I got back. Or something like that. Fun ends and work returns and there is so much to do: I was grading papers on the train and sketching out a story in the hotel. There are no breaks for writers: there’s only writing and not writing.

There was the party though: or rather, the awards dinner. Some people really swanked up for it. I was, alas, short of any sparkling wardrobe options so I went as I was and hey, writers — so there were a lot of people to blend in with. Once again Absolutely*Kate whipped the troops into cabs, though at least a couple of the cabs had trouble getting their GPS to locate the Sheet Metal Worker’s Union Hall on the river. Swanky place!

None of the writers could quite believe that there was an open bar, but when the word spread it was like seeing a fire pass through a forest.

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There was singing, there was dancing there were ravens on the table. We had a very nice meal and a lot of chat, quite like a shindig and many tasty treats.The 4th David L. Goodis Award was presented to Fuminori Nakamura
 and the 4th Jay and Deen Kogan Award was presented to Bronwen Hruska
. Howard Rodman presented Eddie Muller with the Anne Friedberg Award for Noir Film Appreciation and Preservation and there was live music courtesy of The All Star Jazz Trio: Bruce Klauber, Bruce Kaminsky,and Andy Kahn. We danced. At some point I was inducted into the mystical order of the Black Rose Society (but my lips are sealed — for now). And there was a piñata that looked like Frank Sidebottom at the Day of the Dead. Nakamura cracked it open with a few good whacks. And then we went to the Marriott for more drinks.

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The next morning we were all (when I say “all” of course I mean those of us who were not drinking late into the night) up early for Steve Hodel’s second talk “Most Evil” in which he sketched in the case for his father as a potential candidate for Zodiac. “I’m not saying ‘he did it’ but I think he should move toward the top of the list of suspects.” Wow, it’s chilling. The weight of the evidence is really quite compelling and the thought of discovering your father as not just a killer but perhaps one of the most notorious killers of the 20th century is gob-stoppingly shocking. Despite a lot of the Black Dahlia evidence conveniently disappearing (George Hodel had procured abortions for a number of Hollywood and LAPD folks in the 40s and 50s) and Zodiac evidence being unavailable, Hodel makes a solid argument for the connections that will chill you to the bone. Do pick up his books if this is something you’re up on because wow.

I had to catch a train and missed the closing ceremony at Port Richmond Books as well as Godwin and Jay Gertzman’s Hybrid Noir panel, which I would have *loved* to see, but duty beckoned. Two years until the next one — can we wait that long?

Many thanks to the fabulous organisers, Lou Boxer and Deen Kogan, who manage to pull off an amazing experience.

NoirCon 2014 – Part 2

2014-10-31 16.06.52After a drink with Patti and her husband Phil in the Belgian beer place on South Street, we headed back to catch the Ross MacDonald panel with Tom Nolan and Jeff Wong and a whole host of images including personal photos and memorabilia. Really fascinating and sometime sad, as there were a lot of problems with their daughter being involved in a major accident and the fallout from it. We writers are always curious about other writers’ lives, I think.

Then it was time for the Three Minutes of Terror, AKA speed reading. Joe Samuel Starnes
 kept us all to our time limit with a flashlight and a toy chainsaw. Because he’d come the furthest of the readers, Richard went first and read a bit from Meaningful Conversations (which I’ve reviewed), kicking us off in style. A wide range of readers and texts, including Patti and myself. I read the bathtub scene from Extricate which was just about the right length and seemed to please. It’s a challenge to choose something for such a short slot, but I’ve been well-trained by 2nd Sundays at the Arts Center.

Then we headed back to the hotel to change for the Halloween party. Absolutely*Kate took on the mantle of carpool organiser for the weekend and had everyone down in the lobby at the appropriate time and Christa Faust whipped us all into shape, so we hopped into a string of cabs and headed to the gig hosted by Soho Press. Fuminori Nakamura and Stuart Neville gave the event an international flair. Nakamura is a rising star from Japan (more on him later) and Neville writes of the mean streets of Northern Ireland. Soho really seems to be picking the talent and it was great to have a couple of brief readings before the showing of Get Carter, which I admit I skipped because I know it well and love it and was having a nice chat and some good beer and besides there were the birds!

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And Absolutely*Kate and me — see, I did wear a costume. Thanks for the orange scarf, Byron! But my picture of Poe and his raven was a bit too dark to show up.

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Next part: onward to Saturday — maybe I can cover a whole day in one post…

Goodbye, Kipper

Kipper in Window

He is gone, he of the splay foot and the silky coat. My little buddy, my little Jean Marais beastie. He’s Connor’s cuddle buddy. He’s my alarm clock; even this morning I awoke thinking I’d heard that impatient yowl. He was always quite the talker. And always underfoot: I always feared one day I’d trip down the stairs as he wound around my feet.

Things happened pretty fast. What we thought was his teeth flaring up again turned about to be a combination of underlying problems. He went from appearing fine and healthy just a few days ago to this. The vet — who’s so very English but kind — let me be with him as he slipped away. Bertie came home at lunchtime to help me bury him. I put a veve for Erzulie on the little white cardboard coffin and we wrapped him in the Gossip Girl lap blanket (thanks, Brenda) that he loved to lie on, so he went off in style.

So now we have a pet cemetery at the house. Robert’s going to put Jordan’s ashes next to Kipper’s marble slab. It’s so strange to be without him.

Celebrating Graham Joyce

I found out that Graham died just before I headed off to Poland. Stuck in the Warsaw airport for seven unexpected and very long hours, I found it impossible to put away the thought that I was living in a world without Graham Joyce. I’m sure the sight of a woman bursting into tears is not at all uncommon in that airport, or so my two lengthy experiences lead me to believe. He was ailing for a long time so I suppose we should have all braced ourselves for the worst and yet — how can you?

I have continued a terrible lifelong habit of having my last words to friends be bad jokes, kidding him about the frighteningly huge scar from his last surgery by suggesting they’d left the zipper off. But he liked it. He always had that wit. I remember first meeting him at Necon of all places. I can’t remember when I first read Requiem but I know it’s the first one I read. He was among those telling ghost stories in the first night tradition and I recognised the folk tale he was telling anew so I paid more attention to how he told it, the delight and the timing. I was too much in awe to talk to him much but we ended up opposite each other at a meal and chatted away quite naturally because he was always so direct. He was surprised to find me an Arsenal fan.

I find it hard to sort out timing. I am pretty sure that I wrote the essay on Memoirs of a Master Forger [never mind the terrible American name for it] for the 21st Century Gothic collection before we read together at my first Alt-Fiction. I was nervous. What if he hated what I wrote? Of course I loved the book. I love fakes and hoaxes especially when you try to make them true and there’s a heart-breaking honesty that lying allows you to be truthful about. The forger William Heaney at the end of the book realises the irony of this:

What an odd group. I loved them all. I fancied that I could see myself in the shining brilliance of their eyes. They reflected back at me, which was appropriate because the biggest demon I faced was the one I saw in the mirror. Because he was the master of all the others. What should I say? I had lived in the shadow of a wrong I didn’t commit and in doing so made a counterfeit of my own life. Faked my own death in a way… You let go. No one needs to hang on to a first edition.” (307)

We sat at opposite ends of a big table and read from our books. People sat in between — people who were almost surely all there to hear him. He read from The Silent Land and I don’t know what I read from, Owl Stretching maybe. And we talked after it and I was delighted to find that he had read the essay and was pleased that I saw the strands of Yeats running through the book and understood what he meant to capture in those pages.

I never lost my awe of him. He was a writer I admire and yearn to be like — to slip between genres and make everything so very real especially when it seemed fantastical. I remember the shocked wonder of reading the ARC I got of Some Kind of Fairy Tale in the Russell Square Hotel, that rare feeling of this book has been written especially for me! Thousands may feel the same but you think it anyway. And then we were on the panel together at another Alt-Fiction talking about the Extremely Dangerous Fairy Folk and how people misunderstand them. I don’t remember what all we said but it was one of my best panels ever because we were just delighting in the conversation and other people happened to be there.

Grief in the social media era is still a weird thing. Dead friends appear in my timeline on Facebook unexpectedly, due to whatever mystical metrics. Depending on how my day is going I smile to see them or cry again to know they’re gone. Phil will forever have Gene Hunt’s face; Jack will forever have the Facebook default picture, a gap of white in blue. Mostly they’re all writers, so you mourn all the things they will never write.

But they will live forever as long as we read their books and that is a great comfort. The pages spring to life again and a voice like Graham’s is as vivid as breath all over again. It’s not enough, but it is much to celebrate.