I’ve spent the afternoon doing lesson planning, but I thought I’d take a break to get caught up on the blogging end of things. But first…
Remember the ’50s Big Bug movie Them!, with its tale of giant mutated ants defying mankind (and the Square-Cube law) to wreak havoc in the American Southwest? I saw it in my childhood, thanks to Channel 5’s afternoon movie in Nashville in the 70s.
Anyway, I got to experience the road company version in my office this past week. On Monday, Ms. Retha (the building custodian and beloved campus fixture) told me she had found ants in my office trash can, but that she had sprayed and thought she had gotten them all. And indeed, everything was fine in my office. . . at first (Cue the theremin.)
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I have lunch in my office between classes — I go home on the other two weekdays. I threw my lunch away, and turned to grab my supplies for class, only to be confronted by a significant expeditonary force of formicidae, with what looked like a couple of hundred or so having crept in while I was eating my sandwich. I did a fair amount of stomping, but quickly realized I was out of my depth, so I made my way to class. After I got the kids started on their paper in progress, I sent an urgent message to our physical plant people, letting them know that my office was due for some chemical warfare.
But it was Friday afternoon, and I didn’t know whether my message would reach the appropriate eyes before everyone took off for the weekend. So it was with some trepidation when I opened my office door this afternoon.
But, no — things seem calm enough.
For now. (Muted cello section plays tritones.)
Friday, I read Love Me Fierce in Danger, Steven Powell’s bio of James Ellroy. Writing a bio of Ellroy strikes me as a particularly challenging task, as Ellroy himself has written two memoirs and a significant number of other self-revelatory pieces. It really seems as though there’s little new territory to survey in a new volume.
Indeed, Powell’s work reminded me of the bios of folks like Heinlein and Harlan Ellison — none of them really seemed to offer much beyond what the assiduous reader of the bio’s subject would have picked up anyway. I think the book is useful enough as a one-stop shopping spot for Ellroy information, from birth to his 2019 visit to Real City (where Your Genial Host got to meet the Demon Dog — who wasn’t the least bit demonic, in the event.) The work is also exhaustively footnoted — about a fourth of it is taken up by the notes section. Ellroy’s major works receive critical consideration, and I think would be useful to readers who are only moderately familiar with his corpus.
But a great deal of the book seems to operate on a surface level — Ellroy meets a wide range of women and has relatively brief liaisons with them. Periodically he goes off the rails because of addictions to substances, work, or fame. The book offers narrative accounts of these events (often via participants given the semi-anonymity of a first-name-only citation.) The book does go at some depth into Ellroy’s relationship with Nat Sobel, the agent who did as much as anyone to foster the writer’s career.
Powell is willing to remind us that a significant portion of Ellroy’s public schtick is, indeed, schtick, but to get beyond that to the person wearing the mask is harder to do — not least because the subject has so explicitly revealed at least some of what’s underneath. I would have enjoyed the book more had Powell tried to see how much of that was a mask as well. Still, it made for an engaging couple of hours reading, and makes an interesting companion piece to Ellroy’s own memoirs.
Speaking of writing, I’m happy to report that my story “Bear Hunt” will be appearing in the second issue of Eryk Pruitt’s Dark Yonder magazine, coming out in April both in electronic and dead tree form. Like a lot of my recent work, the story is inspired by one of my father’s paintings, to wit:
I’ll give you more information as it becomes available.
Meanwhile, I hope you haven’t forgotten about “Lightning Round,” my story in El Bee’s Playing Games antho. There’s plenty of good stuff in the book, and I’ll provide you a full review when my copy arrives, which I hope will be soon.
On top of that, I’ve registered for this year’s Bouchercon, which takes place Labor Day weekend in San Diego. I’d love to see you there!
All right — I had best get back to my school work, but here’s a little more music to send you on your way. Given my recent siege, this one seems like a gimme. After a young British fop named Stuart Goddard (working under the name Adam Ant) was introduced to Sex Pistols Svengali Malcolm McLaren (who promptly stole his band and turned them into Bow Wow Wow), he hooked up with a couple of drummers who were influenced by the beats of Burundi and guitarist Marco Pirroni. The resulting album, Kings of the Wild Frontier, became a centerpiece of what was called the New Romantic movement. It included this single.
See you soon!
Love that painting. Something captivating about it. Your father was very talented.
Thanks so much. I wish he had realized how much better he was than he thought.