Back Story (A Spenser Novel) by Robert B. Parker

Every year I go up to Indiana to visit family and friends. Once a year is all I see many of these people, but because they’re old friends, it’s always a welcome visit. We quickly catch up with where we left off and share tales of things that have happened since we last were together. It’s always fun and I end up looking forward to the next visit as the current one ends.

That’s exactly how it is each time I read a new Spencer novel by Robert B. Parker. Back Story is the latest entry in the Spencer series. [It’s the 30th book, so if you’ve never read any of them, you’re in for a lot of fun!] The Spencer books come out once a year and like my visits to Indiana are always fun.

Spencer is a wise-cracking PI who has guts, intelligence and a strict moral code. His best friend, Hawk, hovers on the edge of the criminal element and although gutsy and intelligent has no qualms with doing what needs to be done. Although Hawk and Spencer are different they are also the same. Their interactions are half the fun.

Back Story finds Spencer investigating a 28 year old murder. Soon he discovers that the FBI, and mobsters want him to drop the case. Things heat up when he doesn’t. Throw in a stone cold killer named Harvey and you have yourself a story!

If you haven’t read any of the Spencer books, you should. You might find that you like them. And then you, too, can look forward to his annual visit!

Who’s “Lucky”?


There’s a new show premiering on Tuesday at 10PM on FX. It’s called “Lucky” and looks like it might be a winner.

Michael “Lucky” Linkletter is a professional poker gambler. He’s cool, supremely smart, but tragically flawed. He’s a compulsive gambler with a conscience. He’s been on top and also bottomed out. He wants to quit gambling but living in Vegas and with a debt to the mob…

I’ll be watching on Tuesday… and if I’m “Lucky” the show will be a winner.

Osbourne & Garner Are Free and Diesel is Apart

I didn’t post anything up yesterday. I could use April Fool’s Day as an excuse. But I won’t. I’m not much for April Fool’s jokes… especially people and websites that post up something which seems like exciting news and then ends with APRIL FOOLS!

Sharon Osbourne is cancer-free. That’s great news. I don’t think that Ozzy could get along without her. Jennifer Garner [Alias] is also free, but this news isn’t happy. She and her husband, Scott Foley [“Below”] have separated.

Vin Diesels “A Man Apart” had its world premiere in Hollywood yesterday and opens everywhere on Friday. Although it’s getting mixed reviews, I’ll probably see it before it leaves theaters. I’m not overly excited about this one. I say bring on “The Riddick Chronicles!”

See you tomorrow. No fooling.

“The Shield”

I was ready to write a ZONE piece about Andrew Vachss, or a cool series of sketchbooks that I found on the web, but then I read this article.

If you’re a ZONE regular then you know that I’m a huge fan of The Shield. I was intrigued by the ads for the premiere and it’s ending hooked me. The writing and acting is first rate. ALL of the characters come off as real people. The Shield racked up numerous positive reviews and awards during it’s first season. The question was could they do it again?

As the second season comes to a close, I find myself enjoying The Shield more than ever. In case you haven’t checked it out, FX is going to run a Shield marathon of all of this season’s episodes. If you’re already a fan, then I’d love to hear your thoughts on the SZ Messageboard.

That’s it until tomorrow, when I’ll probably tell you about Andrew Vachss or this cool series of sketchbooks.

The Art of Sin City

FRANK MILLER is a genius. Although he’s worked in both movies and comics, it is in the latter that he has really made his mark. In the early ’80s, MILLER re-invented Daredevil taking him from a thrid rate hero to one of the most popular comics hitting the stands. After Daredevil came Ronin, and then Dark Knight Returns, the series that woke up mainstream America to the fact that comics were still around. MILLER went on to create Batman: Year One, Sin City and the groundbreaking 300.

But it is MILLER’s SIN CITY series that remains my favorite. All of the stories are set in the same corrupt big city and quite often feature overlapping characters. Every tale is well worth the price of admission and now MILLER even has released a book dedicated to The Art of Sin City. My copy hasn’t made it to the bookshelf yet, as I keep looking through and admiring the genius that is FRANK MILLER.

John Ridley’s Drift

JOHN RIDLEY is best known for his “noir” novels. He wrote Stray Dogs which was turned into the cult classic movie “U-Turn” which starred SEAN PENN, JENNIFER LOPEZ [before she hit it big], and BILLY BOB THORTON. His other books have for the most part been in the same vein…

The Drift is unlike anything that RIDLEY has written before. Well, that’s not exactly true. You see, RIDLEY‘s other book s have all been very good and The Drift is no exception. In fact The Drift may be RIDLEY‘s best book yet.

The Drift is the story of a man[Charles Hanson] who seems to have it all… a good job, a loving wife and a child on the way. Charles sees it differently. He sees his life becoming more and more repetitive. He feels confined… until he decides to leave it all behind for a life on the rails. That’s right, he decides to become a modern day hobo. He meets many strange characters [most who wish to do him harm] and has many adventures in his effort to save a young girl from the life he has chosen for himself. The problem is, he has to find her before she is murdered. To say more would be to say too much.

Vin Diesel is a Man Apart

VIN DIESEL‘s next film,  A Man Apart,  has Diesel playing a narcotics cop whose wife is murdered when when drug dealers attempt to kill him. Man, if they think he was after them before…

Although the advance word has been mixed, the trailer looks pretty good and with Diesel in the lead, ya gotta imagine that it’ll do well.

Personally, I can’t wait until DIESEL returns in “Pitch Black II: The Riddick Chronicles” but this will help get me through the wait.

Narc’s Buzz

It’s been a while since there’s been a movie that I’ve really looked forward to seeing as much as “Narc.” The positive buzz on the film has been building, the trailer makes it look like the real deal and the web site made me want to see it even more.

“Narc” stars
RAY LIOTTA, JASON PATRIC, and CHI McBRIDE. It’s written and directed by JOE CARNAHAN [who may be a guy to watch], and produced by RAY LIOTTA and TOM CRUISE. I’m hoping to catch “Narc” the weekend that it opens. I hope it lives up to my expectations.

A Real Hardcase

Have you heard of Dan Simmons?

Simmons‘ first published story, “The River Styx Runs Upstream,” won the Rod Serling Memorial Award. His first novel, Song of Kali, won the World Fantasy Award. His first horror novel, Carrion Comfort, won the Bram Stoker Award. His first science fiction novel, Hyperion, won the Hugo Award.

Even with all the awards, I was only vaguely familiar with his work. I don’t read fantasy, and very little science fiction or horror. I do love a hardboiled thriller though! You know, the kind written by Vachss, or Izzi, Hunter, or Stark… or Simmons. That’s right! With one book, Simmons has jumped to the top of the list!

Joe Kurtz was a PI… before he was an ex-con. See he killed a man, a couple of men actually. They’d murdered his girl and unborn child. While it’s pretty reasonable to me that he threw one of ’em off a six story building, the jury didn’t see it that way.

Now, out of prison after eleven-and-a-half years…

…you’d think things would be looking up for Kurtz. You’d be wrong. Too many people want him dead…

Hardcase is the best novel that I’ve read this year [tied with Jack Kelly‘s Line of Sight]. For more about Hardcase, click here.

Ever heard of Dan Simmons?

My prediction is that you will. But remember that you FIRST heard about him here!

Hardcase rates an A+

The Mechanic

Charles Bronson had a long career staring and co-staring in a bunch of great movies. “The Dirty Dozen.” “The Magnificent Seven.” “Death Wish.” “Hard Times.” One of my personal favorites is “The Mechanic.”

Never heard of it? Well, it’s coming out on dvd on October 8th and you owe it to yourself to at least check it out.

Bronson is a hit man… perhaps the best in the business. If he takes a job, the target is as good as dead. Jan Michael Vincent is the son of a mafioso who becomes Bronson‘s protoge… not knowing that Bronson has recently murdered his father…

The Mechanic” was directed by Michael Winner [who also directed Bronson in “Death Wish“] with a flair for action without compromising the story. [The opening scene shows Bronson setting up a hit and goes on for several minutes without a word of dialogue!] And although I won’t give it away, be prepared for a great “surprise” ending!

I’m looking forward to adding “The Mechanic” to my dvd collection. Watch it once, and odds are you will too!

The Mechanic” rates an A

Hostage as Cool as Elvis

I was lucky enough to discover Robert Crais with his second novel, Stalking the Angel [ his first was The Monkey’s Raincoat which introduced detectives Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.] The series was modern, well written and reminded me of an updated version of Robert B. Parker‘s Spenser and Hawk [well actually, an updated Spenser and Sylvester Stallone‘s Cobra].

Crais is one of the few authors whose work I buy in hardcover as soon as it’s published. With my time being what it is, I just got around to reading Hostage, Crais‘ latest [which is now out in paperback]. Although not an Elvis Cole novel, it is without a doubt my favorite work by Crais [who as I’ve said is always very good].

The cool thing about this novel is that the suspense starts on page one and continues to build and build and build. The book has received outstanding reviews from critics and fans alike. Bruce Willis has optioned the book for a movie [which would be an excellent vehicle for him]!

So what are you waiting for? Click here to order the paperback… and watch for Elvis and Joe Pike to return soon in Crais The Last Detective!

Bad Ending for Blake

Police went to the home of actor Robert Blake on April 18, 2002 and CNN reported that they were there to arrest him in the death of his wife, who was gunned down outside a Los Angeles restaurant a year ago. Blake is shown in this 1985 publicity photograph from the television program “Hell Town.”

We had just finished watching “Survivor” and I was heading in to check my e-mail when I got a call. “Turn on CNN. They’re getting ready to arrest Robert Blake for the murder of his wife.”

I can’t say that I’m shocked or surprised. Although I wouldn’t be willing to say that he’s guilty, it doesn’t look good. I read quite a bit about the murder (how could you avoid it at the time?) and none of his explanations ever seemed to really make sense.

I’ve always liked Robert Blake‘s acting. “Baretta” was an enjoyable series and he’s been in several very good movies. It’s too bad that this doesn’t look to have a happy ending.

The Men Who Killed Kennedy

Where were you when it happened? If someone asks that question now, we instinctively think of 9-11. There was a time, for many of us, when that question meant one thing… “Where were you when President Kennedy was killed?”

I was barely five years old and yet the memory of that day is burned in my mind. I remember everyone being glued to their television sets for the latest news. The nation seemed to breathe a sigh of releif when the lone gunman was captured… but did he act alone?

I’ve always been intrigued by the various conspiracy theories. In high school I read the Warren Commission report and followed the latest findings. There have been hundreds of books written on the subject, several movies, and many documentaries. “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” is one of the best summaries of the different theories that abound. Chock full of interviews, photos, film and speculation, even if you don’t buy into any of it, you’ll still be impressed by the sincerity of those that do.

Mackey and The Shield: Bad is Good

Michael Chiklis plays Detective Vic Mackey in FX’s acclaimed new show, The Shield. If you haven’t seen The Shield, odds are you’ve heard of it since the pilot was the highest-rated original series premiere in basic cable television history.
I’ve watched The Shield since its premiere and it immediately went to my must see list. Chiklis is, without a doubt, the main draw. He’s an exceptional actor playing a complex role as the leader of a “strike force” of cops dealing with the worst in society. Mackey is as bad as the criminals he takes down… yet he has a code of ethics to “take care of his own” and he does. I’ve never had such mixed emotions about a character before. I want him to get caught and yet I don’t. The rest of the cast and the storylines are excellent as well.
With all of that said, I can’t recommend the show to everyone. It pushes the limits in every way possible (language, violence, sexual situations). But if you like gritty hard-boiled cop shows, then this show is the one for you!

 

UC Goes Way Undercover

I read today that it is unlikely that UC: Undercover will be brought back next season and that’s really too bad. If you never happened to catch the show, then you really missed a good and potentially great series. UC: Undercover was created by Shane Salerno. Oded Fehr, Jon Seda, Vera Farmiga, Bruklin Harris, and Jarrad Paul made up the cast. Guest stars such as William Forsythe, Ving Rhames and Steven Bauer were regularly featured! If the series isn’t renewed, I hope that we’ll get an occasional tv movie.