Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Curzio Malaparte and James Ellroy: History, truth, and everything

A comment on Sunday's post about James Ellroy's "Underworld U.S.A." novels is pertinent to both the novels your humble blogkeeper is reading.

Dana King, that fine author, nice guy, and skilled horn blower, said Ellroy has:
"a keener understanding of American history, and of the true ethos that has driven American society and history, than do many others."
Not "grasp of the facts," but "keener understanding" of American history and the ethos behind it.  Were Ellroy's tycoons, FBI chiefs, and gangsters as deranged in real life as they are in his books? Do his killer protagonists have real-counterparts? Does this matter, as long as the fiction makes sense, or feels right? What truth must a historian serve? A writer of fiction? Is historical fiction the same as fiction that takes history as its theme?  Or is Ellroy just doing what all fiction arguably should do but so little does: portray real life, comment on real life, and entertain readers all at the same time?

Besides Ellroy's American Tabloid, the other novel that sparked these questions is Curzio Malaparte's The Skin. That shocking, dark, graphic, and very blackly funny 1949 novel, banned by the church, banned by the Neapolitans, tells the story of the American military and the misery of Naples toward the end of World War II. "The book caused a scandal," one commentator said, "because it was mistaken for a realistic work."

Here's a bit of The Skin:
"`We are the volunteers of Freedom, the soldiers of a new Italy, It is our duty to fight the Germans, to drive them out of our homeland ... It is our duty once more to hoist the flag that has fallen in the mire, to set an example to all in the midst of so much shame, to show ourselves worthy of the task that our country entrusts to us.' ... When I had finished speaking Colonel Palese said to the soldiers: `Now one of you will repeat what your commanding officer has said. I want to be sure you understand. You!' he said, pointing to a soldier. `Repeat what your commanding officer said.'
"The soldier looked at me; he was pale, he had the thin, bloodless lips of a dead man. Slowly, in a dreadful gurgling voice, he said: `It is our duty to show ourselves worthy of the shame of Italy."

"Colonel Palese came up close to me. `They understand,' he said in a low voice, and moved silently away."
I might not make American Tabloid the textbook for a course on twentieth-century American history or The Skin for a course on Italy during and after World War II. But both would make fine collateral reading.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

"We're self-absorbed and confuse our lives with history" Discuss

"`We should have had a child together.'
"Jack squeezed her arm, soft. `I remember the first time you said that.'
"`When was it?'
"`Fall '54. The Army-McCarthy hearings were on TV.'
"`Why do we remember things that way?'
"`Pure arrogance. We're self-absorbed and confuse our lives with history.'"
James Ellroy, Blood's A Rover

That exchange comes near the end of James Ellroy's "Underworld U.S.A." trilogy of novels (previous volumes: American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand). The trilogy begins with an introductory note that reads, in part:
"America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can't ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. ... Mass-market nostalgia gets you hopped up for a past that never existed. ... The real Trinity of Camelot was Look Good, Kick Ass, Get Laid. Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He talked a slick line and wore a world-class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive scrutiny and a few rolls of flab."
Taking the two passages into consideration, how would you characterize Ellroy's view of history? Are the two selections consistent? Did Ellroy's conception of American history change from 1995, when American Tabloid appeared, to Blood's A Rover (2009)? Did Ellroy become more introspective, perhaps? Is the snippet of dialogue, set in 1972, from Blood's A Rover a rueful commentary on the tumultuous years covered by the book and on Americans' attitudes towards those years?  Extra credit if you've read all three novels and can cite examples.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

L.A. is my Ellroy: Fiction, setting, and history

I browsed some James Ellroy before my recent trip to Los Angeles, and I've been reading his novel Blood's a Rover since I got back. One can enjoy Ellroy without having been to L.A., but, having just returned, I got a special kick out of lines such as:
"Canter's Deli in Fairfax. The 3:00 a.m. clientele: cops and ultra-soiled hippies."
I was there!!! though not at 3 a.m., and the clientele I most remember were two middle-aged working guys who did not look Jewish but who nonetheless gave the waiter a lesson in Yiddish.

Ellroy's earlier novel, The Black Dahlia, dating from a time when his books were much closer to conventional crime writing than they became, includes a long scene that, having read Kevin Starr's California, I now know was based on the Zoot Suit Riots.

Ellroy gets tons of publicity for his eccentricities and his dark past. Less noticed is his fascination with the history of Los Angeles. He may thrive on depravity, greed, and perversion, but he wants to get the historical details right. And now your questions, Part I: What novels and stories, crime or otherwise, are inextricably bound up with their settings? What stories make you feel like you're there? How do they accomplish this?  (And what cities or other settings make you feel like you're in the middle of a story?)

And Part II: Ellroy has peopled his more recent novels with historical figures and built them around historical events. Is his work historical fiction? Why? Why not?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Some good books I've read so far in 2013

The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil. No big deal that this book is on some crime fiction blog's top-books list; it's one of the great novels of the twentieth century. It's funny, it's acute in its analysis of social types, a kind of grimly prophetic social comedy. (Musil fled Austria with his Jewish wife and died in 1942 in Switzerland.)

Maifya, Charlie Stella.  A bit different from Stella's previous novels at first, with less humor and characters more savage and vicious. But the same multiple viewpoints he uses in the other books—Stella loves to show men and women at work, out, and at home, doing what they do in their daily lives—here make the vicious Russian gangsters even more chilling. The humor picks up  when Stella introduces a few Italian cops and agents, and Stella's sympathy for working men and women struck a chord with me even though my collar would be decidedly white if I didn't wear T-shirts or sweaters to work most days.

Graveland, Alan Glynn. Words are weapons, and Alan Glynn knows weapons can be evasive and defensive as well as offensive. Anyone who says "going forward" clearly would prefer that you not examine what he or she has left behind. Glynn's sensitivity to the evasions that lurk behind fashions in everyday speech are one reason his tales of corporate and government infiltration are so convincing.

A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962, Alistair Horne.  Here's an excerpt from one amateur review of Horne's history of the Franco-Algerian war: “Alistair Horne … is first and foremost hopelessly biased in favor of the Algerians.” Here’s a bit from another: “This epic work … remains a remarkably racist work loved by State Department officials and neocons alike … Alistair Horne describes in gory detail atrocities committed by the FLN, or Algerian nationalist rebels, while skimming over far worse atrocities committed by the nice white-guy French."  Horne must have done something right.

The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth. For all its thriller trappings, this story of a plot to assassinate Charles de Gaulle is really a police procedural—and a damned good one—that has marked affinities with hard-boiled P.I. stories as well. No wonder it won the best-novel Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1972.

Pop. 1280, Jim Thompson. Dark, hilarious, a stunning performance that sustains its mood in every word, far and away the best of Thompson's work that I've read.

Pike, Benjamin Whitmer. This 2010 novel is like Daniel Woodrell, but with a tougher edge, maybe with a shot of Jim Thompson mixed in.

Laidlaw, William McIlvanney. Start with compassion and humor. End with such telling detail that one feels one is reading novel observation rather that obligatory place-holders. Here's how the novel opens: "Running was a strange thing. The sound was your feet slapping the pavement. The lights of passing cars batted your eyeballs. ..." Find me a better description of alienation than that, of feeling inside one's body and removed from it at the same time. If you do, I bet it won't end on McIlvanney's humorous note:  "A voice with a cap on said. `Where's the fire, son?'"

Europe Between the Oceans and Britain BeginsBarry Cunliffe; Origins of the British: The New Prehistory of Britain, Stephen Oppenheimer.  Three stimulating books on the origins of Europe's populations that debunk old theories without drifting off into bloviating self-congratulation.

Gun Work, David J. Schow. A perfect "new" hard-boiled novel in significant ways. It captures the hard edge of post-war pulp without seeming campy or nostalgic on the one hand or veering into smirky self-consciousness or jokey, over-the-top violence on the other. (Events obliged Schow. Gun Work is set in Mexico, the country's explosion in kidnapping last decade permitting a plausible recycling of that old hard-boiled stand-by, the dangerous trip south of the border.)

Bluffing Mr. Churchill, John Lawton. Lawton's Troy novels are a delicious social comedy and social history of England in the mid-twentieth century: "Interned, released, enlisted, trained and promoted all in less than three months. The insignia of rank barely tacked onto his sleeve. If the next promotion were as swift as the first he’d be a Flight Lieutenant by the end of the month. This had baffled Rod. He had tried to explain it to his father some time ago. ‘I said the obvious thing. “Are you sure I’m ready for this?” Sort of expecting the genial “Of course, old chap” by way of answer – and they said “Ready? Of course you’re not ready. Ready’s got bugger all to do with it. You’re thirty-three, man, you’ve held a pilot’s licence for ten years. We need people who can fly, people who can command a bit of authority, people who might look as though they know what they’re doing even if they don’t. You couldn’t grow a moustache, could you?’”

Tapestry, J. Robert Janes. Tapestry's moral, ethical, and physical environments are the darkest I have read in crime fiction. Kohler and St. Cyr are called on to work in a city so darkened by blackouts that characters must feel their way through the streets at night. Plunder, greed, puritanism, lust, patriotism, violence, and luxury in the face of deprivation slip in and out of focus, the reader never sure if any one is staged to cover for another.

The Generals, Thomas E. Ricks; Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, H.R. McMaster. Some of what these two books taught me: 1) High respect for the skill, tact, wisdom, foresight, and calculation of the good generals: George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Matthew Ridgway. 2) Hatred of the sloppy invocation of military metaphors in areas of civilian life whose laughable triviality is matched only by the self-seriousness of the morons who invoke them. Every football coach who likens his game to war. Every corporate executive who issues a mission statement. Every middle manager who expects his or her underlings to take that crap seriously. Every business person who invokes The Art of War

The Hunter and Other Stories, Dashiell Hammett. Includes twenty stories uncollected or unpublished during Hammett's lifetime, plus a tantalizing fragment of an uncompleted Sam Spade story. E-book editions include three additional pieces of what Hammett hoped would turn into political novels, according to Julie M. Rivett, Hammett's granddaughter and a co-editor of the new volume. Rivett invokes The Maltese Falcon in discussing "The Secret Emperor," but I'm reminded of The Glass Key. Like that novel, which appeared in 1931, "The Secret Emperor" feels like it could have been written decades later, even today.

Criminal EnterpriseOwen Laukkanen. Laukkanen's second novel does some familiar crime-fiction tricks well, and it rings refreshing changes on others. It manages the considerable feat of keeping all its subplots interesting, and its twists are surprising but plausible.

Interface, Joe Gores. If you like Dashiell Hammett and Donald Westlake, you'll like Interface. If don't like Hammett and Westlake, as Thomas Jefferson said, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

HHhH, Laurent Binet. Binet's 2010 novel is a thriller; a history lesson; a lesson on the importance of history (which is not the same thing); and a meditation on how we read, write, and experience fiction and history; and it has, as almost any serious book will, good jokes.

California, Kevin Starr. Starr is a passionate, engaging writer and a great lover of California, which he served as state librarian. Yet he is fair-minded in dealing with the violence that has attended the on-going birth of this strange piece of the planet. He is the sort who can give history a good name. He's also savvy enough to tie the state's raucous, dream-filled history to the crime writing that arose there.

Blood's A Rover, James Ellroy.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

More from Starr on noir

Kevin Starr's California mentions noir again, this time at the beginning of a chapter on the arts:
"The twentieth century witnessed the debut of three entertainment media—film, radio, and television—dependent upon electronic technologies developed in California. Each of these media, film especially, took root in Southern California as it matured. To the traditional concerns of literature in California—nature, naturalism, and bohemia—were added the noir worldview and the apocalypse."
Has anyone ever argued with a lighter touch that crime movies and novels ought to be taken seriously? It's a truism that the hard-boiled loner of American crime fiction sprang from the Western, but how many people have  found a geographic source for noir? Instead of asking "What is noir?" (and risking decapitation by Anthony Neil Smith), perhaps we might more fruitfully ask where noir came from—and why.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Kevin Starr, film noir, crime fiction, and (California) history

Kevin Starr's California will make my books-of-the-year list if I prepare one, and I can hardly wait to finish this one-volume history so I can start on his seven-volume version, each book of which has the word dream in its title.

Starr is a passionate, engaging writer and a great lover of California, which he served as state librarian. Yet he is fair-minded in dealing with the violence that has attended the on-going birth of this strange piece of the planet. He is the sort who can give history a good name.

He's also savvy enough to tie the state's raucous, dream-filled history to the crime writing that arose there. (It's no accident that Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler lived in California and set some of their most celebrated work there.) Starr makes the connection during a discussion of a period perhaps surprisingly early: the 1870's and 1880s, when promoters touted California as an El Dorado of health. After citing examples of recovery from consumption and other complaints, Starr notes that:
"Many. however, lost their struggle for health and succumbed, and this drama of hope and defeat conferred upon Southern California a certain interplay of healthfulness and morbidity that in various forms, including the hard-boiled detective story and film noir, would persist into the mid-twentieth century."
Elsewhere California history is filled with colorful episodes and characters: the San Francisco Vigilance Committee of 1856. The settlement during California's American period of land claims dating from its Spanish and Mexican eras ("That meant that lawyers got rich.") Great engineering feats, but also environmental depredations. (Starr mentions Chinatown in a discussion of the mammoth problems that attended getting water to San Francisco and Los Angeles.) And that's just a few decades.   Some of California's prospectors and health seekers were doomed disappointment, but crime writers looking for material struck it rich.

What can match California as a location for crime stories, and why?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

One city, one crime novel — but which novel?

I have in the past gently chided the Free Library of Philadelphia for the high-mindedness of its "One City, One Book" choices. Why can't Philadelphia do what other cities and institutions have done and sneak a Chandler or a Hammett in there once in a while?

Hammett has long enjoyed popular and critical esteem, and his work, I was surprised to learn recently, can appeal to younger readers. Julie M. Rivett, Hammett's granddaughter and recent editor, told me last week: "I talk to kids about Hammett. The Maltese Falcon has helped reach some reluctant readers."  Teenagers, she said, responded especially to the novel's celebrated "Flitcraft Parable," a story of sudden, cataclysmic, arbitrary change.

Alan Glynn's novels could serve as a springboard for discussion of corporate and government infiltration into our lives. Kevin McCarthy's could meet American interest in its immigrant populations and their histories. So could Paco Ignacio Taibo II's. Same with Andrea Camilleri's, which would also tally nicely with the boom of interest in cable television food shows and diversity in dining. Want a contemporary view of China? How about Qiu Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine?

If Philadelphia wants to stay local, why not David Goodis' Black Friday? Sympathy for the downtrodden. Survival against daunting odds. Finding one's own destiny.  Black Friday is full of big themes, the sort of thing to generate big discussion and draw in even readers who have not read the novel. Or how about Hammett's Red Harvest? That book would lend itself easily and deliciously to discussion of Philadelphia's history of rotten politics.

Or what about— But that's where you come in. What crime novel or story collection would you have your city, county, province, state, or country read? And why? It's not enough that the book be good or great. It must have the potential to appeal to readers young and old, to crime fans as well as to those who normally don't touch the stuff, and to those who might need a nudge to pick up a book in the first place. How does your choice meet these criteria? How will it grab readers the way "The Flitcraft Parable" snared Julie Rivett's teenage existentialists?
 © Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Friday, December 20, 2013

A fond farewell to L.A.

Los Angeles is an easy target, and the jokes are as cheap as they are deserved. The smog. The corruption. The shallow garishness of the parvenu. In fact, there is much of beauty to see here (OK, there; I'm back home now), some of it due uniquely to the city's social and historical circumstances. While I catch up on work and recover from jet lag, I'll show you a bit of it before returning to my normal programming later this week. All photos by your humble blogkeeper.

Los Angeles has some fine older buildings, though it has leveled many and done less than it might have to preserve the rest.

Its industrialists and other moneymakers caught the art bug later than did their East Coast counterparts, which means they were left to acquire unusual and eccentric pieces by European artists after the artists' major works had been scooped up by rich, socially ambitious collectors in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington.

The Norton Simon Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have excellent collections of Asian art, and the Getty has all kinds of good things, both at its main museum and also at the Getty Villa. And you may have heard about the city's sunsets and magnificent trees. Have a good night. I'll be back.

(A weather-related note: I began this journey in Chicago, where the locals went out in T-shirts when temperatures hit the low 50s. I ended it in Los Angeles, where Angelenos shivered in coats, hats, scarves, and gloves in 60-degree weather my first two days in town. The United States is one big country.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Detectives Beyond Borders' life of Johnson

Dr. Samuel Johnson (aka Blinking 
Sam), by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 
the Huntington
Vacation: 1. Intermission of juridical proceedings, or any other stated employments; recess of courts or senates. ...
2. Leisure, freedom from trouble or perplexity
Samuel Johnson, Dictionary of the English Language
I consulted my copy of Johnson's dictionary for terms related to law and murder (you know, to crime fiction), and I found the above — apt, since I bought the book during my most recent respite from trouble and perplexity.

Johnson was a man of words, but I bought the book because of a picture. I'd always associated Sir Joshua Reynolds with those endless English eighteenth-century society portraits by him, George Romney, and others, but this dynamic, loosely executed picture made me realize that Reynolds could do a fine job when he got hold of a worthwhile subject. And what the hell; the society pictures probably earned Reynolds and the others a nice living.

(Henry E. Huntington, who founded the collection where the Johnson picture hangs, loved eighteenth-century English portraits, and the Huntington has a room full of them. It's probably no accident that the most congenial portrait in the room to my eyes was Reynolds' of the celebrated English actress Sarah Siddons portraying the dramatic muse. It was about the only painting in the room whose subject is pictured doing something other than showing off his or her era's new attitudes to leisure. The same room, by the way, includes this impressive young man.)

Back to Johnson, whose portrait hangs upstairs from the society pictures opposite Henry Raeburn's portrait of James Watt (left). Can you imagine a scientist as a celebrity today?  Suddenly the eighteenth century's painting seems more like the century's literature, which included men like Hume, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau writing for an educated public as well as for themselves and one another. It's still not my favorite period in art, but it's a lot more interesting to me than it was before this week.

(Detectives Beyond Borders readers may soon read more about Dr. Johnson. The preface to his dictionary includes an assessment of the dictionary maker's place in the public esteem that, with the substitution of one job title for another, would describe perfectly the lot of a modern-day newspaper copy editor in America.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Santa Monica noir, or Nighttime at the heister's hideaway

That's the beach in Santa Monica (all photos by your humble blogkeeper).  It is not to be confused with the icy steps I salted down when I got back home to Philadelphia this evening.  While I wallow in self-pity, here are some superlatives from the Los Angeles leg of my trip:

1) Most evocative Raymond Chandler destination: A tie between Laurel Canyon and the Baldwin Hills oilfields. Or maybe the "Lido" Pier.

2) Best place to eat: The Astro Burger at Melrose and Gower.

3) Most heartening blend of artifacts, history, pop culture, and cultural sensitivity in a museum exhibition: "Junípero Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions" at the Huntington. This exhibit on the life and work of the Spanish missionary who worked in Mexico on his way to setting up the mission system in California offers the basics about Serra's fascinating life. The man was one hell of a traveller, among other things. It also offers entertaining examples of the cultural kitsch that ensued once the missions caught the popular imagination, as well as a section on the California Indian tribes among whom Serra evangelized. Traditional history, pop culture, and cultural diversity co-exist in a harmony almost unimaginable amid the shrill, deafening, witless clamor that passes for cultural discourse in America.

This is the motel/motor court off the Pacific Coast Highway where I'd hole up if I were a desperate man on the run for something he didn't do. Lush scenery. Cabins set back from the Pacific Coast Highway. I bet heisters waiting for the heat to cool down or for their new faces to heal have the place booked years in advance.
And now, as sands through an hourglass, so are the days of our vacations. One good thing about being back from this trip is that I can begin planning my next one.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Down this mean street a man walked ...

Raymond Chandler's home at 6520 Drexel Ave, 
photo by your humble blogkeeper, information 
from Shamustown

... from October 1944 to 1946, when he worked for Paramount studios.  6520 Drexel Avenue is one of many places Raymond Chandler lived in and around Los Angeles. Visit Shamustown for the complete list.

This is the Malibu Pier, which Chandler turned into the Lido Pier in The Big Sleep. Remember when Marlowe gets called down to the pier to watch General Sternwood's Packard fished out of Santa Monica Bay with Owen Taylor in it? It happened here.

At right, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which appears in The Long Goodbye as the Ritz-Beverly. Dashiell Hammett also lived here from October 1934. Sounds like a pilgrimage site to me.

More to come!

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Los Angeles daily views

(Photos by your humble blogkeeper)
Hiking up Assisi's medieval streets to the Rocca Maggiore years ago, I imagined Dante taking the same path 700 years before and being inspired to write the Inferno: Narrow streets, the night patch black, my way lit only by the blue glare of televisions from inside the ancient houses.

I felt something like that driving through Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon yesterday: Houses perched on hill tops, ready to tumble down on passing tourists, vistas of stunning beauty that plunge suddenly into the darkness, and, of course, winding roads populated by incautious drivers.

It's not a route calculated to induce tranquility, and I can well understand why Raymond Chandler has the pornographer Arthur Gwynne Geiger live up there in The Big Sleep. The only trouble is that the narrow streets afford few opportunities for leisurely photography, so some of these pictures come from the more expansive precincts of the Griffith Park Observatory or other flatter, straighter parts of town.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Friday, December 13, 2013

L.A. in words and shadowy pictures

Shiva as the Lord of Dance, India, Tamil Nadu, 
ca 950-1000, Copper alloy, Los Angeles County 
Museum of Art. (Photos by your humble blogkeeper)
Shiva (left) both destroys the world, which seems pretty noir to me, and restores it, which sounds like something Philip Marlowe would do. Here's Shiva as John Alton would have photographed him had The Crooked Way included Hindu deities.

West Third Street, Los Angeles
I don't generally read much on vacation; I buy books when I travel, and I read them when I get home. But L.A. is a great, big, shadowy freeway, where walking the streets or taking a bus (yeah, Los Angeles has them) is like watching a film noir and being part of it at the same time. Did harsh sunlight and sharp shadows mean anything before noir was invented?
West Third Street, Los Angeles

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tales From a Train: The Judy Bobalik Dia Sin Pantalones

(Photos by your humble blogkeeper_
My second day on the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles began with words no leisure traveller wants to hear: "LAST CALL FOR BREAKFAST!" So I high-tailed it to the dining car wearing nothing but a pair of lounge pants (just a fancy word for pajamas or long underwear), a T-shirt, my gray sweater, and my brown Rockports, and I stayed that way the entire day, except for a brief stop in Raton, New Mexico, when I put on pants to brave the high-desert snow. Just try that on a plane.
The multi-headed sculpture above lives at the Art Institute of Chicago and depicts Karttikeya, the principal Hindu god of war.  Its 12th-century sculptor, and the tradition in which he or she worked, must have had some clear-headed ideas about the effects of war if they depicted its god as able to see in all directions.

These dancing beauties from the Khmer period in Cambodia (c. 10th century), on the other hand, are apt to encourage more cheerful thoughts.

And finally, just because this would not be a Detectives Beyond Borders travel post without a photo of buildings or trees, here's a photo, also from Chicago, of buildings and trees.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Things to do in Pasadena and Los Angeles

1) Do as I have done, and visit Book 'Em Mysteries and Book Alley. Support your local independents.

2) Look at Los Angeles City Hall, and think: "Hmm, that looks familiar."

3) Plan sequel to The Eastern Shore Caper, tentative title: It Started With Gas:
"When Palmqvist threw the door open,  the pump burst into flames and I rolled toward the Beetle like an overweight tumbleweed...."

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Crime scene: California

 We wait for the cops to fish Owen Taylor out of 
the Pacific Ocean. (Photo by your humble blogkeeper)

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Tales From a Train: Introduction

It was quiet as the train pulled into Dodge City—too quiet, because we weren't in Dodge City at all.

I'd hoped to be awake when we passed through Dodge, just so I could say I was there, and my watch told me we had another twenty-five minutes to go.  Then I realized I had reset my watch from Central to Mountain time before retiring for the evening, so Dodge was already thirty-five minutes in the past.

It was quiet as the train pulled out of Dodge City ...
Somewhere in New Mexico (Photos
by your humble blogkeeper)
The train ride from Chicago was leisurely, pleasant, companionable, and entertaining in a way only travel by a method other than flying can be.  In the coming days, I hope to bring you tales of technologically advanced Amish, a convention devoted to gourds, and an old guy named Shaky Ray who has an elevator in his closet and who just can't stop performing surgery.

Fullerton, Calif.
In the meantime, the Southwest Chief got me to L.A. an hour ahead of schedule. When was the last time a plane did that?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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