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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Speak Out Before You Die

We interrupt this blog for another in our continuing series of annoying announcements: the second book in my new “cozy” mystery series is available now as an ebook, and will be published in paperback in August.

For those who write book reviews on their blogs and would be interested, I’ll provide the first five people who email me, a free copy of the ebook (through a coupon on Smashwords to be read on any ereader device or on your computer) or a paperback book, or both if you prefer. My email is Please don’t leave your email or mailing address in the comments section. All emails and mailing addresses will remain private.

The cover is done by that extraordinary talent, Casey Koester, whom you might know better as Noir Girl from her blog.  The vector graphic style used here is the same style she applied on the first book in the series, Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red, and I hope her participation on these covers will continue for several more books. She’s terrific, as you can see. I like the whimsical nature of the illustrations, the feel of being both from the era of the stories (late 1940s, early 1950s), and yet still seeming clean and modern.

And now (drum roll) the blurb: Speak Out Before You Die, the second in the “Double V Mysteries” series reunites wealthy Juliet Van Allen and ex-con Elmer Vartanian on New Year’s Eve, 1949. Guests are gathered in snowbound mansion for the wedding of Juliet’s widowed father to an elegant younger woman just after the clock strikes midnight. When Juliet finds what appears to be a threatening note directed at her father, she calls Elmer to pose as a hired servant to help ferret out the danger…but midnight is approaching and time is running out. There may be murder as the old year dies.

What interests me about these characters of Juliet and Elmer, who began their partnership for mutual survival in the first book Cadmium Yellow, Blood Red -- is that neither is a mastermind sleuth. I’ve always been a bit annoyed at the great literary detectives who possess so much knowledge on bullet wounds and African poison darts, and who also seem to solve the crime in the last few pages of the book by producing evidence which the writer has withheld from the reader. (“I had my assistant wire these documents from the War Office last night which PROOVES that the colonel was a VEGETARIAN!”)

There’s a scene at the end of the movie “Murder by Death” (1976), the Neil Simon parody of great detectives where Truman Capote berates the famous sleuths for withholding clues from the reader until the last minute. When I first saw that scene as a teenager I agreed with his complaint, erupting in righteous indignation.

“Hey...yeah!” I said.

That was pretty much all I said at the time. I never claimed to be articulate, just indigant.

Fast forward to now and my two characters who are not geniuses. Juliet and Elmer are ill-equipped to find murderers. She is the daughter of a wealthy financier and museum administrator, and he is an ex-con, who had made more use of his opportunities to read literature in prison that she did at finishing school. They are intelligent enough, but not more than anybody else. They have no superior gifts. With their back stories, including the pain over the outcomes of their previous marriages, they carry a lot more emotional baggage than most.

The edge they have going for them is their growing relationship. Their trust in each other and their reliance on each other’s opinions and perspectives is what guides them through the sticky mess of who done it. Their relationship, with its ups and downs, will be the engine that drives the series, and takes them through the brave new world of the 1950s.

Speak Out Before You Die (the title, though appropriately lurid, is actually from a line in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson) ebook version will be on sale for the next month at 99 cents, then will be ruthlessly jacked up to $2.99. The paperback will be sold for $12, plus postage. You’ll be able to buy the paperback directly from me, or in the coming weeks from CreateSpace or Amazon. Currently, the ebook is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hindenburg Over Hartford, Connecticut

Have a look at the Hindenburg flying over Hartford, Connecticut in October, 1936, from what is apparently someone's home movie.  Note the Olympic rings on the side.   In that year, both the Summer and the Winter Games were held in Germany, and this logo on the airship was a bit of public relations.  The following spring, of course, the Hindenburg would explode over Lakehurst, New Jersey.  Here it looms over the Traveler's building.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mapping the Way

This map has been making the rounds on the Internet.  I don't know who created it, but I leave you to decide on the accuracy of the cartographer.  When visiting Tanglewood this summer, do be cautious about the dragons.  We've lost more than one motorist on the westernmost stretch of the Pike who decided to stop and feed them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Theatre in Maine - 2012

A look at some current offerings at summer theaters in Maine:

This is the final week for the Rogers & Hammerstein musical “South Pacific” at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Have a look here for the details, a look at their great reviews, and the remaining schedule for the summer. “Damn Yankees” comes up to bat July 25th.

At the famed Lakewood Theater in Skowhegan, “The Fox on the Fairway”, a comedy by Ken Ludwig, starts July 19th. Here’s the synopsis from the Lakewood Theater:

This tribute to the great farces of the 1930's and 1940's has more twists and turns than a par 4 dog-leg or a double breaking, 60 foot putt as sex and water hazards collide in a mapcap adventure about love and golf. It is time for the annual match between rival clubs Quail Valley and Crouching Squirrel. The Squirrel has hoisted the trophy for many years but Baldwin of Quail Hollow is optimistic. He has found a ringer and has made a hefty bet on the outcome. When his secret asset changes teams, Baldwin must hand the ball - and his bank balance - to his nervous assistant, Justin. Justin does surprisingly well until his fiance, ditsy waitress Louise, loses her engagement ring down the toilet. Justin is unable to concentrate and as the match is slipping away Baldwin finds an unlikely replacement who may just save the day. Baldwin's humorless wife Muriel is not amused when she hears about his bet...and we hear her long before we see her. But we will be more than amused as the sturdy harridan arrives to set things straight. Filled with mistaken identities, slamming doors, and over-the-top romantic shenanigans, it’s a furiously paced comedy that recalls the Marx Brothers’ classic. Discussing his play Ludwig concluded "My plays are an attempt to move the ball in the right direction – towards a sense of humanity and good fellow-feeling. I hope (audiences) come away feeling rejuvenated, inspired, and happier than when they went in the door." It's a gimme!

For details and the rest of the season, have a look here.

Rogers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma” runs at the Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick through July 21st. For more details and the rest of the season, have a look at the website.

The Arundel Barn Playhouse in Arudel is celebrating their 15th Season. “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” runs through July 14th, and then Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” takes over on July 17th through August 4th. Have a look at the link for the rest of the season.

As we can see, Rogers and Hammerstein musicals still pack them in.

Please support these fine summer theaters in Maine, and that summer theater near you. You’ll find a bit more on the history of these theaters in my Tragedy and Comedy in New England blog. Though I don’t keep it up with current posts, have a look in the sidebar labels for an archive of blog posts.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bunker Hill Monument - Charlestown, Massachusetts

Pausing to chat, a couple of Colonial soldiers visit with the statue of one of their leaders, Major General Joseph Warren here inside the monument at Bunker Hill.

The battle in June 1775 was actually won by the British, but it was a hollow victory. They lost many more men, and the Colonials -- specifically the militias of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire -- proved they could stand up to the British regular army.  They carried the flag of New England, which you can see in this previous post.

Warren, who had received his promotion to Major General only days before, had actually fought as a volunteer private. He was President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, and his death was a great loss to the Colonials. Historical artist John Trumbull depicted the event in his famous painting: The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17,1775.

Original in collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Photographic reproduction in Public Domain.

Happy Independence Day. Remember what it cost.

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