Shanah tovah to my friends who celebrate! I was born on Rosh Hashanah in 1965, when my dad was working at Percy Cohen in Nashville as an interior decorator/salesman. In celebration of that auspicious event (my birth), Mr. Cohen bought my dad a new suit, which I presume came in handy for interviews a month or two later when Dad got sacked.
While we amongst the goyim mark my birthday on 27 Sep, I always get a smile out of my connection to the Jewish New Year. And now on with the show.
By the way, although I’m not asking for new suits from anyone, if you’re feeling charitable, I’m hosting a small fundraiser on the Book of Faces for my employers. The college does great good with relatively few resources, and if you can help, that’ll do more good. So if you can donate, I’ll appreciate it.
On a different note, today is the ninth anniversary of the day that we learned my brother’s fate, as the jury recommended two sentences of life without parole for the murders of our parents. A few years later, I learned that Michael had come within a single vote of the death penalty; one juror had believed she was capable of voting for capital punishment, but had a change of heart during the trial. After that initial 11-1 vote for the needle, the jurors quickly agreed on the life sentences.
I had testified for the Commonwealth that morning, during the penalty phase of the trial. Because of this, at least one news broadcast announced that I wanted Michael dead. That wasn’t the case. I had hoped against hope that the threat of the death penalty would press him to plead to life terms. He chose not to do so, and I was willing to let him approach this on his own terms, figuring (rightly, as it turned out) that this might well be the final free choice he might make. I thought then as I think now, that the sentence he received was the best one for the circumstances.
I have no direct contact with my brother — I hear about him occasionally from other relatives, but that’s about it. The years have quieted the Big Noise in many ways, but the echoes remain, and some days are louder than others.
In other news, one of the books I brought back from Bouchercon was Everybody Knows, the new novel from Jordan Harper. I read it last week — it’s terrific. Because the story deals with the seamy side of Hollywood (Wait — is there some other side?), there are moments that feel to me to have a James Ellroy vibe and intensity, but the story and tone are distinctly Now, and Harper’s voice is his own.
The novel alternates between the voices of the two protagonists, a PR “fixer” and her ex-lover, a disgraced former cop. When Mae (the fixer)’s boss is murdered after telling her he was on the cusp of Something Big, she tries to figure out what happened and why. Chris (the ex-cop) is also brought into the case by a piece of what Mae calls The Beast (the people and organizations that run things in Hollywood for their own profit, gratification, and depravity.) Eventually, the two meet up again, and we encounter the story from both of their perspectives.
The pace is frantic, and the senses of risk and corruption are strong throughout. The book is a fine example of contemporary noir, and some of the characters are, um, strongly reminiscent of folks we may have encountered in the occasional headline, whether in the entertainment section or elsewhere.
Everybody Knows comes out on 10 January. Get it.
In the much nearer future, Mr. Block’s The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown will be released in a couple of weeks. I’ll tell you more about that soon, but I will let you know that it’s well worth your time and money. So get it too, huh?
It looks like my teaching schedule next year will include two sections of FroshComp, along with my turn in the Shakespeare course and a fiction workshop. But I’m enjoying this term as well. We’re starting to look at Peter S. Beagle’s short fiction in my fantasy class, and the story we opened with also features Avram Davidson as a character, so I was able to plug two terrific writers for the price of one.
I feel a little less sure-footed in my Conspiracy Theory class, but I’m not sure if that’s because of the subject matter or simply that I haven’t taught it before. Still, we muddle along.
I think that will do for this installment, but that only means that it’s time for a bit of music.
A while back, noted ex-Herman’s Hermit frontman Peter Noone did a spectacular job guesting on popsters The Red Button’s “Ooh Girl.” Well, Noone has struck again, this time working with New Jersey-based retro rockers the Weeklings on a cover of the Easybeats’ classic, “Friday on My Mind.” Enjoy!
Once more, Happy New Year, and see you soon!