Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Princess Bride, By William Goldman


30th anniversary edition, 414 pages: Harcourt, INC

It took me a long time to watch the movie, The Princess Bride. I was put off by the title, which doesn’t sound like something most youngish men would be attracted to. When I finally watched it with my wife, I loved it. I’m also not a big market for humor but the humor of the movie was subtle and struck just the proper cord with me (other than the Billy Crystal sequence, which I’m not a fan of).

In 2020, again because of my wife, I read a book by Cary Elwes called “As You Wish,” about the making of the movie. He emphasized the respect that director Carl Reiner had for the original book and how almost all of the dialogue that I’d found funny in the movie came directly from the book. So, I ordered the book myself, the 30th anniversary edition, which contains a section of a potential sequel that was never written called “Buttercup’s Baby.” Here is my report.

First and foremost, I liked it. Indeed, all the best dialogue and scenes from the movie appeared in the book first. The one scene in the movie that was most heavily altered was the Billy Crystal/ Miracle Max scene, and that is the only one I don’t care for. That being said, I have to admit I think the movie is better than the book. And I almost never say that. The movie The Outlaw Josey Wales is better than the book it came from. I consider the movie Jaws and the book Jaws to be about even. Other than that, the book is better—always.

So why is The Princess Bride an exception? Please don’t get me wrong, the book is quite good and without it the movie wouldn’t exist. The book can stand on its own and needs make no apologies for what it is. But, the movie is better because of an interesting irony, which is not quite an irony when you look closely!

Throughout the book, William Goldman, the author, maintains a fiction within a fiction that he is not the original writer of the story, that he only abridged a much older classic work by a fellow named S. Morgenstern. He states that what he did is take out everything but the “good parts.” There’s a lengthy section at the front of the book where Goldman sets this inside joke up, and he continues the fiction throughout, with frequent asides (printed in italics) within the body of the book to describe what he left out (supposedly).

Although this was funny initially, it felt to me as if it went on too long, especially with the inserts and asides within the book proper. To me, the joke eventually became a little stale, while the material within the actual story kept moving forward with fresh humor. The movie left most of this material out. Thus the irony. The movie kept only the “good parts” of the book. However, since Goldman wrote the screenplay, too, what we really have is a case of the writer revising his previously work and realizing that certain original bits weren’t necessary.

Anyway, was it worth a read? Absolutely. And if I’d read it before seeing the movie, especially if I’d read it at a young age, I imagine it would have had a far greater impact on me and I probably would have liked it even better!




Monday, November 09, 2020

Six of my favorite hardboiled detective heroes:

Guest Post, By Sidney Williams:

(Thanks to Charles for letting me drop by and chat here a bit.)

I have a new hardboiled novel called Fool’s Run from the Gordian Knot mystery imprint on the horizon. It releases Nov. 22. That means of late, I’m getting asked about favorite fictional detectives.

If I’m pressed to pick a favorite, I have to say all of ‘em because I’ve read and enjoyed detective novels since I was in high school, and I’ve sampled for years.

All are influences of course, though I tried to make my hero, Si Reardon fresh and different. His adventure is a bit of a caper and a bit of mystery at the same time. It’s also a bit noir and a bit hardboiled as well. If you’re in the camp that draws a line, the noir protagonist’s usually an anti-hero. Si’s a bit of that and accepts a dirty job from my hopefully modern variation on a femme fatale. She’s a lawyer working as a “special counsel” who helps fix things, a bit on the dark side, confident and in control. Si’s journey leads him from darkness to a battle for survival.

I guess above all the hardboiled school is about an individual on a tough journey, a matter of quests and questions.

 So, favorites? Well, I can name a few, some you’ll expect, some that might not be as familiar.

Mitchell Tobin created by Tucker Coe (Donald E. Westlake)

Many tend to think of Donald E. Westlake as a comic caper writer because of his Dortmunder books, but he wrote a lot of hardboiled fiction along with the comic and not just as Richard Stark focusing on the thief Parker. Mitch Tobin’s a cop booted from the force because he was busy with an extramarital affair when he should have been on the job. As he works to repair his life and symbolically build a wall around his back yard, he gets roped into some powerful tales with interesting mystery plots, starting with Kind of Love, Kinds of Death. In that one, he’s hired by a mob boss. I discovered that book as a kid when it was reissued by Charter, and happily all the Tobin ebooks are readily available these days.

Matthew Scudder created by Lawrence Block

I read Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine as a kid as well. I first encountered Matt Scudder, another cop who’d left the force, in A Candle for the Bag Lady, a novella. In that tale, Scudder took it upon himself to solve the murder of the titular character. Responsible for a death on the job, Scudder drank and lit candles in Catholic churches, ever seeking rebirth. That story was a great introduction, and later I connected the dots between it and Block’s Writer’s Digest column and other work. The Scudder tales are a powerful character study as Scudder copes with alcoholism, and the tales are great hardboiled novels as well. The flashback entry When the Sacred Ginmill Closes is a standout.

Ed Noon created by Michael Avallone

Writer’s Digest—again—released an audio tape on mystery writing when I was young. It featured Michael Avallone who made mention of his TV tie-in work, and of course his hero Ed Noon. I had to scour used paperback shops to find early ones, but I got a kick out of Noon’s breezy voice. I like the early, traditional hardboiled Noons best including The Tall Dolores, but the spy-era books are fun too. Ed goes to work for the president. Avallone’s son, David, has reissued most of the novels as ebooks these days, usually nicely priced.

 Philip Marlowe created by Raymond Chandler

Of course Marlowe’s a favorite. I started with Farewell, My Lovely and followed Marlowe from there. The Marlowe tales, to me, are the ultimate in romanticized private eye fare. Chandler pretty much defined noir language and offered up a tough sleuth with a soul, and I loved what he was doing.

The Continental Op created by Dashiell Hammett

I read The Maltese Falcon early on in my reading life and when a TV miniseries happened along, I picked up The Dain Curse. That’s a later tale featuring Hammett’s unnamed operative from the Continental Detective Agency. I think he considered Dain a lesser entry. It’s interesting, but above all it was a gateway to the short stories in The Big Knockover including “The Gutting of Couffignal” in which The Op battles heavily robbers on an island that’s home to the very rich. Red Harverst came my way as well, and in later years, I’ve come to like Hammett more and more and to understand what he was doing with The Op’s gritty, pragmatic problem-solving.

 Lew Archer created by Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar)

Around the time I discovered Marlowe, I ran across The Drowning Pool by MacDonald in the tie-in edition with the Paul Newman film. Archer clicked with me the most of all the detective heroes. There’s something spiritual in Archer’s encounters with troubled family and reverberations from the past. I segued from The Drowning Pool to the later works, perhaps not fully appreciating the texture early on. But one summer, I devoured The Moving Target, The Goodbye Look, The Blue Hammer and the rest and waited for more that would sadly never come.

 I could go on and on, of course. I love the early Mac novels from Thomas B. Dewey, Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton, Spenser from Robert B. Parker and a host of newer heroes who’ve come down the pike, but I’ll stop here.

Since it’s a bit different of a different novel for me, there’s a Fool’s Run giveaway going on Goodreads. You might win a free signed copy and get to sample it for free.


Giveaway  Link

Visit Sid online at

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Thomas McNulty's Book Corral

I just discovered Thomas McNulty's Book Corral. Thomas is a lifelong reader, a collector, and a writer himself. He seems to have a particular love for westerns. I haven't met Thomas but he has a lot of interesting stuff to say about his love of reading and about books.

Thomas does some video blogs as well and below I link to one that a friend of mine turned me onto yesterday. Thomas reviews some westerns, both older and newer books. He mentions James Reasoner and Jory Sherman, two fine authors that I read regularly. At about 5:03 in, he also talks about a newer book called "The Scarred One" by Tyler Boone (That would be me).

Thomas's comments made my day.  I recommend them highly. 😉

Check it out!

The Scarred One at Amazon

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Legend of the Black Rose

Though I didn’t grow up in the literal pulp era, I started reading paperback fiction in the 1960s and 70s that was a direct descendent of the pulps. One of the first authors I fell in love with was Louis L’Amour, who started in the pulps. The first published novel that I wrote was Swords of Talera, in the tradition of  Edgar Rice Burroughs, the pulp writer who gave us John Carter of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes. Today, pulp fiction has come to mean colorful, thrilling tales, with plenty of action, larger than life characters, and exciting derring-do. And when I want a fun read I go looking for exactly that kind of work.

Teleport to the present, and I’m both amazed and honored that I’ve been able to write some of the same kind of stories and see them published. Writing is, quite often, hard work. But the sheer joy to be found in immersing oneself in an exciting tale cannot be denied. Quite simply, I love it.

On January 1, 2020, I officially started working on a pulp fiction book to be called Vengeance of the Black Rose. It was to be the 3rd book in a series about a female hero known as “The Black Rose,” who is most directly a literary descendent of such masked avengers as Zorro and the Lone Ranger. That book was just published on October 14, my birthday, and one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever gotten.

The series as a whole is a fun read. Catalina Christina Rivera (The Black Rose) is a young woman who grew up along the Texas/Mexico border in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She has a keen sense of justice and a character that is sometimes prickly but always empathic for the wounded and the frail. She has a great supporting cast around her, and is adept with many weapons but particularly favors the Urumi, the whip-sword—a unique tool to be sure.

Richard Prosch, a friend and an author who frequently gets five star reviews from me for his work, was intimately involved in the development of the Black Rose character, and he wrote the first two books in the series: Legend of the Black Rose, and The Sword of the Black Rose. I read the first one while working on my entry and it sent me enthusiastically to my keyboard to put down my own take on the character.

And so we come to Vengeance of the Black Rose. Catalina travels with several companions to the small mission of San Javier del Amor, only to find the mission burned and many of its inhabitants slain. Others have been taken away in chains, particularly many children. The raider who took the children seems to be more than a bandit, and perhaps more than human. He is called “The Beast,” or sometimes “El Tigre.” Catalina trails him into Mexico, only to discover El Tigre’s plan to raise a new Aztec empire.

In confronting El Tigre, Catalina loses a close friend. She’ll need every ounce of skill she possesses to save her remaining friends and to take her vengeance. I had fun writing this story and I have a feeling you might have fun reading it. I hope you’ll check it out:


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

2019 - 2020 Reading Stats

Some of you may remember that I record my reading year from October 14 (my birthday) to October 13 of the next year. Then I typically give a report on it. So, here is my reading report for October 2019 to October 2020.

I wasn’t particularly surprised that my number of read books this year was down from last year, which was a record setting year for me with 129 completed books. I was somewhat surprised that it was much lower than my typical average of 90 to 100 books read a year. I only finished 66 books this past year, which is my lowest number since 2001/2002.

I’m pretty sure I know the reasons why the number is down so much. First, the Covid pandemic has taken its toll on me. It’s added considerably to my workload at school, requiring both more time reassuring students and much more time learning a whole new approach to teaching. I’m still not satisfied with all my adjustments. Covid has also affected my mood, although as an introvert I don’t think it’s caused me any kind of real depression. But, when I do get a few minutes off I’ve often chosen mindless video games over the cognitive involvement of reading. It’s a stress escape behavior.

The second reason why my reading numbers is down, however, is much more positive. I’ve completed three 74,000 word (roughly) novels in the past year, and I’m proud of all of them. This has upped my nonfiction reading, for research purposes, but a lot of that is on line or articles that don’t get counted in my book totals. In addition, where I used to sit down in the evening for an hour or two with a good book, I’m often returning to my computer these days to finish my word count for the day—a necessary action to meet deadlines and to work around my regular job hours.

As far as details go. My SF reading was up this year, with 12 books in that genre. It was my go to genre apparently. Perhaps another escape since the books I wrote had nothing to do with SF. My westerns and thrillers were at 9 each, which was well down from the 20+ in each last year. The 5 nonfiction books I read were all research related. 2 of the 3 poetry books I read were also research related.

The only other interesting thing is that last year, for the first time, I started separating out “Men’s adventure Novels” as a genre. I had 5 then, and 5 more this year so that seems pretty stable. At any rate, thanks for letting me indulge myself once more in “talkin’ about books.” Till next year!


Friday, September 04, 2020

The Black Rose

There's a long tradition in pulp fiction of the masked avenger, the individual who dispenses justice at the point of a sword or through the barrel of a gun when the authorities can't or won't. From the western/historical genre we have Zorro, the Lone Ranger, The Masked Rider (Hobart),  and others. From the thriller pulps we see such characters as The Shadow, The Spider, The Phantom, and more.  From comics we have Batman, Daredevil, and a host of others. One thing you don't see outside of the rare comic (I can't think of any off the top of my head although I'm sure there's at least one out there) is a masked avenger who is also a woman.

Enter Catalina Christina Rivera--The Black Rose. If I had to draw comparisons, I'd say the Black Rose is most similar to Zorro. But in reality she combines elements of all kinds of masked heroes with a modern pacing. This is the first book in the series and is a lot of fun. Fast action, interesting character with a fascinating back story, a great supporting cast, and headlong pacing. I highly recommend it.

Great cover too!  If you want it, here's the link

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

My First Podcast

Richard Prosch, over at Six-Gun Justice, recently asked me a few questions about writing and reading. It's mostly western related, but not all. We talk about a variety of topics, and get into the books I've written lately for Wolfpack Publishing. This was my very first experience with a podcast but Richard made it easy and I really enjoyed it. 

Richard is a fine writer himself. I've probably read 85 percent of what he's written, and have particularly loved his Dan Spalding Mystery series, which I collect. Check his work out on Amazon

As for my books that we talk about on the podcast, here are the links below: 

As Charles Allen Gramlich: The Talera series

As Tyler Boone (westerns): The Scarred One: Killing Trail

As A. W. Hart: The Wine of Violence

As always, thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

What Happens When You Finish a Book

I have some writer friends, professionals who make much of their living from writing, who finish one book and immediately start another. No downtime. No decompression. No wait between. I don't make my living from writing and don't usually have to do that.

l declared my latest book done this morning and sent it in to the Editor. About 73,000 words. A western/historical. I understand there may be edits down the line but for now I can let that work slip out of my mind. Or can I? Easier said than done.

The first part of the book was a bit of a struggle but once the characters jelled it became a lot of fun. And now it's done. And I don't have another book contract immediately. I have a few minutes to breath. But on my walk I found myself working over the ending of the book again. I had to make myself stop. And last night when I went to bed, I had to force my thoughts into unusual channels because I was not still writing the book, only giving it the final read through to make sure it was as good as I could make it.

Now, what am I going to do with myself today? Well, if you're reading this then you know one thing I'm doing. It's not a book but I'm going to write something today anyway. This blog, and probably a short flash fiction I've been asked to do. But not the book I've lived with for the past four months (give or take).

And what will I do tonight when I lay down to sleep? Every night for months now I've been living inside that book for a little while when I laid down. Tonight I won't need to. Tonight my thoughts will be free. That's kind of scary.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Heroika Skirmishers

Quite a few years ago now I fell in love with the "Thieves World" anthology series. These were one of the very first "shared world" anthologies, in which different writers wrote tales in the same setting and had the characters interact with each other. A writer that really caught my attention from that series was Janet Morris, and I went on to read many books by her. She's one of my favorite fantasy authors.

A couple of years back, I got an opportunity to write a story for an anthology called Heroika Skirmishers, which was conceived by Janet Morris. This is the second in the Heroika series. The first was Dragon Eaters, and I've read and reviewed that one on Goodreads and Amazon. It was an excellent collection.

I was incredibly thrilled to be able to write a story for Ms. Morris and I'm happy with the tale that came out. It's called, "In the Season of Rust." The editor of the anthology, A. L. Butcher, is doing a series of short interviews with the authors in the book, and with their characters. I had fun with that, particularly for my character, who is named "Sheaugu." That interview has gone up now and you can find it here if you're interested. I hope you are.

If you'd like to see more about the book, you can find it on Amazon:

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Avenging Angels Dream

It's been something of a dream of mine to work on a book series beside other writers whose work I value. Finally, it's come true. Late last year I was offered a chance to write a book for Wolfpack Publishing's ongoing western series, The Avenging Angels. I took the leap and am glad I did. That book is out now and is called "Avenging Angels: The Wine of Violence." 

The house name for the series is A. W. Hart, but such writers as Peter Brandvold, Richard Prosch, Wayne Dundee, and Chuck Dixon have handled the reins. I got my chance with book #7. 

The Avenging Angels series features twin brother and sister, Reno and Sara Bass, who become bounty hunters after their family is brutally murdered by outlaws. Their preacher father urged them to root out evil and they are doing it one bullet at a time. 

In The Wine of Violence, Reno and Sara travel to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas (my old stomping grounds), to uncover and stop a plan to build a criminal empire. Reno goes undercover in a town full of outlaws and finds himself caught up in a mystery. Is the preacher who leads the town a voice for good or a ruthless murderer? 

In the end, Reno and Sara have to rely on their guns to survive the day. If you like action oriented westerns, this might be a book for you. The whole series is certainly worth reading. It would tickle me no end if you bought a copy and read it. And if you do, a review would be icing on the cake! It's available in both ebook and print.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

1-18-2020: Local Mysteries Intrigue Author:

Since 2007, I’ve lived in the country outside Abita Springs, Louisiana, on a dirt road surrounded by woods. It lies in a sparse community of mostly trailer houses on other dirt roads. And it is a nexus of mystery. First there was/is the house. While most houses in the area are trailers or modular homes, this is a nice two story, possibly the most beautiful house in the neighborhood. And yet it lies abandoned. For a while, there were clothes hung on the rail of the back porch, as if set out to dry. Those finally rotted away. But at night, lights come on inside and a single ceiling fan begins to rotate. I’ve never seen a car there, or a person. I no longer walk past it.

One day I discovered a whole set of women’s clothes—socks, jeans, sweater—lying just off the ditch on one of the roads. They were arranged in the shape of a person sleeping on their back. Another time I discovered a white van run off the road into the woods. It was empty, with broken windows. I told the police about the clothes and the van. Nothing ever came of it.

My son and I discovered an unfinished wooden shed in the woods about fifty yards behind my house, clearly hidden from the road. It has since nearly rotted into the ground. We also discovered a bloated wild pig carcass in a ditch. I’ve found other unsavory things—deer heads, fish carcasses, and once a huge smear of what looked like blood across a gravel road. I’m pretty sure the dead animals and blood were from hunters throwing out the parts of their hunts that they didn’t want to take home. Pretty sure.

In the last couple of years, periodic explosions have rocked our neighborhood. Usually we’ll hear a big bang, or maybe just feel vibrations. One of these explosions was explained as an accident when someone was burning trash, but the authorities haven’t even acknowledged the others that have been reported by local residents.

In the last few weeks, another little mystery has reared its head. I often pass a house on my walks where there is a strange sound. It sounds like someone slapping their hand on a road sign, a kind of “spang.” And it’s very regular. Each time I’ve heard it, I’ve stopped and tried to figure it out; today, I realized that it’s coming from underground. As a writer, my first thought was, someone imprisoned in a cellar is tapping a metal cup on a water pipe to get attention. Then the rational part of my mind kicked in. It’s far too regular to be a person. It’s clearly mechanical and maybe it has something to do with these folks’ plumbing. Maybe. Or…

They say mystery is the spice of life. My life outside Abita Springs has been pretty spicy.