Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Death in a Bowl by Raoul Whitfield

I've been reading Whitfield's Death in a Bowl (1931) for the last couple of nights. Lest you think this is some artsy music-lover cozy-type mystery:

Frey shrugged his broad shoulders, gestured helplessly with spread hands, palms upturned. His face was white and drawn; his eyes, streaked with red, held a weary expression. He said flatly:
     "She wouldn't scream like that. She's been shot in the stomach--she wouldn't scream like that."

I'm still undecided on this one, but then I'm not quite a quarter of the way in. Out of curiosity, I was poking around the web, and found this site which focuses on fiction set in California, which I thought was great! There's a nice little mini-review there.

I'll report back when I've finished, but my general impression is Whitfield was maybe trying too hard for the tough guy thing. Possibly feeling that setting a story at the Hollywood Bowl would require extra doses of vitamin lead to beef it up?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sleep, My Love

Mr. Thrilling and I were trying to come up with something to watch the other night. We’ve got two Netflix discs of The Hour sitting here, but I wasn’t in the mood. Anyway, we couldn’t agree on anything to rent, so back we headed to our Netflix Instant Queue and low and behold I spotted a film I’d tucked aside for a rainy day. Or night.

Sleep, My Love is a 1948 psychological thriller starring Claudette Colbert, Bob Cummings, and Don Ameche. To Mr. Thrilling’s and my own great delight we’d neither of us seen it and it turned out to be pretty good!

Allie Courtland wakes on a train in the middle of the night and she can’t remember how she got there or where she’s supposed to be headed. Her last memory is of wishing her husband goodnight. She promptly throws a hysterical fit, which I guess is not entirely unreasonable, though I found it annoying. Eventually she calls her husband, Richard, who has already summoned the police.

Only the slowest of viewers will not instantly recognize that Richard is trying to work a gaslight on poor Allie. He claims she’s been sleepwalking for a while now and that the previous night she stole his gun, shot him, and ran away.

Irritatingly, Alison buys this without a quibble. Really? If Mr. Thrilling accused me of any of this without more evidence than a gun in my bag and a sleeper berth on a train, I would have more than a quibble. He’d be lucky if I didn’t shoot him for reals on the spot. Of course that’s because I have a suspicious nature and was weaned on crime fiction. Apparently Allie missed Gaslight when the remake came out in 1944.

Anyway, Allie agrees to see a shrink and so this very creepy bespectacled and mustachioed weirdo shows up and proceeds to freak her out by leering at her and scratching the upholstery and fiddling with the fireplace poker. It unsurprisingly results in another bout of hysterics and a dead faint.

Meanwhile, Bruce, a charming young man she met on the original train, and who was not one whit put off by all signs pointing to Allie having Issues, shows up and begins to get instantly suspicious. Everyone keeps saying how wholesome and healthy and well-balanced Allie is, and that just doesn’t jibe with her husband’s tales of sleepwalking wackiness. Besides, Bruce fell for Allie the second he saw her.

Anyway, Richard hopes to use Bruce to help prove Allie is suicidally unstable, so he lets Bruce escort Allie to a party – instead Bruce takes her to a Chinese wedding -- and then the fun really begins!

This is a great little period piece – all the more charming for a few unexpected touches like Bruce’s Chinese adopted brother, and Richard having to dose himself to prove to Allie he's not drugging her cocoa, and crazy bad girl Daphne's endless supply of lingerie and venom. Smooth performances on the part of all the players help pull it off.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Little Slices of Death

Where was I?

Oh yes. briefly condense the last few years, my writing career took off in a wildly unexpected direction, I wrote a zillion stories, found I could make a decent living writing fiction I am passionate about (oh yes, it does indeed happen), found I couldn't even pretend to keep up with Diana Killian...and let myself drop off the map.

I fell asleep for a thousand years.

That's how it feels anyway. And, to be perfectly honest, I don't know that I want to be on the map anymore; I doubt I will ever have the kind of spare time I had way back when my writing career was first taking off, but I thought I would perhaps go back to chattering about vintage movies and vintage mysteries on an irregular basis. I really don't have any other outlet for such bloggings and yet I'm every bit as compulsive about buying old books and watching old films as I ever was. THAT is one thing that has never changed. Never will, I suppose.

So I've pushed the button and made Girl-Detective live again and every couple of weeks or so I'll share what I'm reading or viewing.

Nothing formal, nothing structured, the mood takes me.  You are welcome to stop by and read along as the mood takes you.

What I cannot seem to adjust to are the changes in blogger. Ack! The templates just don't seem to go with my Girl Detective theme. The words on a page background was too...wordy. I was finally torn between this nice dark brown map background and the pink hummingbirds. Maybe I'll go dark for autumn and stay pink for summer. I'm rather attached to pink. And hummingbirds.

As for the rest of it, I'm still happily married to Mr. Thrilling. (Ha! They said it would never last!) Yes, I wrote a fourth book in the Poetic Death series -- Docketful of Poesy -- I wrote four books in the Mantra for Murder series, and yes both series do eventually need to be wrapped up, and I do have the best intentions of getting around to that one of these days. But it's unlikely (in either case) to be before 2014. And no promises for 2014.

I've started a regular blog for newsy type updates and thoughts, but posts there will likely be even more sporadic than posts here!