They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Red State Showdown

Another national championship with Florida vs. Ohio State. The two states most responsible for the moron in the White House in the battle for supremacy among the mediocre schools.

And to think that it was almost Georgetown vs. UCLA.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Bye Bye Briny Breezes

In the late 1950's, my parents and I would drive to Florida for 3 weeks each February - March. We would pull a travel trailer with us and stay at a trailer park called Briny Breezes, right on the coast between Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. In 1958 they offered the lots for sale. Lots near the ocean went for $2500, while the lots on the other side of AIA were $2000. (Prices are from wikipedia, I don't actually remember the amounts.) My dad turned down the opportunity, but would later say that he probably should have taken the deal. We went back one more time and rented a space from someone who had bought one. We went to Florida one more time and stayed in Hollywood in what was then the only other ocean front trailer park on Florida's Atlantic coast. We didn't like that place, primarily because it was predominately populated with French Canadians. I looked for the place in Hollywood years later and saw that it had been replaced by high rise condominiums. My dad would not be pleased to learn the latest, as Briny Breezes, the last trailer park on the coast, is being purchased by a developer who is paying over half a BILLION dollars for the place. Each lot owner will receive over $1,000,000. Not bad for a $2500 investment. Article here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


John says in his blog that he doesn't know how to make links work. I will demonstrate here so that he will know how to do it AND to see if he reads this... (actually I will probably put a comment in his blog about it to see if he looks at comments.)

When composing a post, select some text and click on the link icon.

That will bring up a dialog box in which you enter the URL. Leave the dropdown list as "http:"

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Up in Honey's Room

I should start out by saying that I feel ripped off. This is a reflection on the situation, not the book or the author. The first Elmore Leonard novel that I read was Cuba Libre, in late 1999. Over the next year or so I managed to read all of the non-western books that he had written. Since then, a new Leonard novel has been an event for me. I have everything from Pagan Babies forward in hardback, not because I am a collector or want them as trophies, I just haven’t been able to wait. But then when I would have one in my hands, I wouldn't read it right away. I would save it for the right moment. Tishomingo Blues, for example, I read in a deck chair on a Panama Canal cruise. In some cases I saved it so long that the paperback was out before I read it. This time was different. I received a copy of Up in Honey's Room, which will be on sale May 8, before it was released. I was one of a handful of regulars in the online forum at Elmore Leonard's website who were given advanced copies. The catch was that you had to write a review. No savoring, no waiting, just read it. The book isn't even out yet and I am already done with it, waiting for the next one. It would have been worth the wait.

Up in Honey's Room is the third story featuring U.S. Marshall Carl Webster. The first, 2005's The Hot Kid, introduced us to the young lawman, who in the story would be glorified in True Detective and the book-within-the book Carl Webster: The Hot Kid of the Marshalls Service. "If I have to pull my weapon I'll shoot to kill." We also meet his wife-to-be Louly, who wants the world to think she is Pretty Boy Floyd's girlfriend. It was set in the 1930s in Oklahoma. Carl's father Virgil, who he lives with, had been a supporting character in Cuba Libre, a Marine who had been blown off the deck of the USS Maine when the Spanish blew it up.

The second installment, Comfort to the Enemy, was not a book at all, but rather a 14 part serial that ran in the New York Times Sunday Magazine from September to December of 2005. Set during World War II, we saw Carl investigating a murder of a German POW at a camp in Oklahoma, his relationship with one of the prisoners, Jurgen Schrenk, and the ultimate escape of Jurgen and another one of the prisoners.

Up in Honey's Room takes us to Detroit, where Carl is tracking the escaped Jurgen Schrenk. It is April of 1945 and the war in Europe is winding down.

So the debate goes: What makes an Elmore Leonard novel so interesting? Is it the characters, the plot, or maybe the dialog?

First let's look at the characters.

One of my problems here is that I finally realized that I don't particularly like Carl Webster. In many ways he is a typical Leonard protagonist, a man of few words, strong on principle, attractive to women, handy with a gun, etc. Most of the books have a main character that is a variation on this theme, sometimes a law enforcement type, sometimes not. There are a few things about Carlos that don't sit right, though. He seems to be more of a publicity hound than he should be, had read his own publicity one time too many. The part where he made a conscious decision to cheat on his wife, a situation eventually avoided by happenstance rather than a change of heart, bothered the hell out of me.

I actually found the escaped German tank commander to be a more compelling character than Carl, wished we had learned more about him. He seemed like he would have been a fascinating person to meet, have a drink with, discuss the differences between our cultures, etc. I find myself wondering what became of him. Did he fulfill his fantasy about becoming a cowboy?

I was not real fond of the villain here. Leonard's bad guys can be right scary. In my mind, part of that scariness can be attributed to my willingness to believe in the character. Clement Mansell, Ordell Robbie, Lionel Tavalera, Dr. Taulbee, these were all people I could believe existed. I just could not accept Bohdan Krevchenko. The Ukrainian transvestite assassin seemed like too much of a comic book character.

Honey Deal (the family name Diehl was changed at Ellis Island) was a wonderful character. A gold digger with a library card, she worked at J. L. Hudson's in Better Dresses. Otto Penzler, the Waffen-SS officer who escaped with Jurgen, got interesting just before he disappeared from the story on page 83. On the cover of the Advance Reader's Edition of the book, Leonard says that he auditions his characters in the opening scenes and by page 100, if they haven't found their voice, they are out. In this case, it looks to me like Otto found his voice in the part where he was being written out. Darcy Deal was the obligatory redneck, surprisingly not connected (so far as I could find) with Leonard's The Moonshine War, although the time and setting would have fit. Walter Schoen, Honey's ex-husband and Himmler wannabe, managed to be convincing and almost sadly sympathetic. Vera Mezwa, the head of the "spy ring" bothered me at first, I more or less lumped her into the same comic book as her boy Bohdan, but she got better.

There is not a lot of plot in this book but it has some unexpected subtleties to it. You would expect this story to be about Carl tracking down and capturing Jurgen, but that is more of the context than the story. The spy ring (or rather Walter) is hatching a plot. Honey is trying to seduce Carl. What has happened to Otto? Is Darcy going to cause trouble? And so on. This all leads to a confrontation that we see coming for some time, which is resolved in a manner that we don’t see coming.

It’s all pretty satisfying, but the real reason that this book is so enjoyable is the dialog, particularly the conversations that include Honey. There are some great lines, like when Honey says to Jurgen “I got to know more about you, Hun”, but it is the give and take amongst the characters that kept my interest. Carl and Jurgen discussing bull riding and then making fun of “Valter” and his doomed plan to take out FDR. Honey and the FBI guy Kevin talking about the war. Otto and the woman he would run away with, discussing Bertold Brecht.

So what did I think, did I like the book? Definitely. Is this among my favorite Elmore Leonard books? No. I am kind of glad to be done with Mr. Carlos Huntington Webster, actually. Hopefully he welcomes Louly home from the war and he reconsiders the desk assignment, his luck can’t last forever. With Cuba Libre the exception to the rule, I prefer the books written about the present. Elmore Leonard’s sound is at its best when it is the sound of today’s street. I wouldn’t mind finding out what happened to Honey and Jurgen, though.

The complete Up In Honey's Room Reviews thread on The Dutch Forum

Friday, March 16, 2007

Picture from Willo Home Tour 2007

Learning how to provide title and caption.

Phone Stuff

I am experimenting with sending things from my phone to this blog. The previous post was a picture that I sent directly. This post contains a video that I took with the phone. There is supposed to be a "send to blog" feature in pocketcaster that will allow me to send the video direct to the blog, but I can't get that to work yet.

My corner of my lab