Friday, August 29, 2008

Ingrid Bergman's Birth and Death

The beautiful Ingrid Bergman was born on this day in 1915; she died on the same date in 1982, on her 67th birthday.

One of my favorite mystery movies is Gaslight, for which Bergman won an Oscar. The 1944 George Cukor film starred Bergman as the haunted Paula Alquist, unknowingly persecuted by her husband, the sinister Gregory Anton (played by Charles Boyer). I fell in love with Joseph Cotton for being the cop who didn't think Paula was crazy.

I once blogged about the "Gaslight effect" in my own life; if you enjoyed the movie you might like to read it here.

Bergman won another Oscar in 1956 for Anastasia, but of course she may be best remembered for her role in the classic Casablanca, in which she starred with Humphrey Bogart.

You can learn more about Bergman and the highlights of her career at the official Ingrid Bergman website.

More Fun

I blogged today at The Stiletto Gang. It's a fun romp through the world of video game and mystery violence.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Krakatoa and The Mystery of Disaster

In a stunning reminder not only that the most deeply affecting mysteries are often the mysteries of Nature and when it will show its wrath, today is the 125th anniversary of the eruption of Krakatoa; the tidal waves which resulted claimed more than 36,000 lives on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra. The Tsunami's recent devastation is what we remember, but these long-ago tragedies are a good reminder that Nature is timeless in its power for destruction.

(Image link)

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Decade to Celebrate

My son turns ten today. These old images of him seem unreal to me now (he's the fellow on the left who bears a resemblance to Uncle Fester in a birthday hat). The days of babyhood are now a decade behind me.

But my youngest boy is growing into a great person. He puts up with his brother's teasing--even sometimes philosophically sees it as his birthright (although there are other times when they battle like gladiators on the living room floor). He amuses us all with his wry observations and funny antics. He can whistle better than anyone I know. He is fiercely loyal to his family, and prefers our company to anyone else's. That's a very nice thing about age ten.

When the proofs of my book arrived in the mail, he was the happiest of all. He's a tireless promoter of my work. He is a generous soul who thinks of others. Realistically, though, he also thinks of himself. His request for his birthday (part of which I had to spend at work) was that I cash some of his birthday checks and then take him to Super Target for a shopping extravaganza. :)

Life cannot be lived backwards, and though I miss the fat cheeks and drooly smiles of babyhood, I am much more interested in seeing this little man evolve into the adult he will become.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Most Delicious Thing in the World

I once had a part-time job which involved reading restaurant menus and highlighting new dishes for a man who was creating a restaurant menu website and needed to update it constantly.

The job paid fairly well and I could work my own hours (I had a baby at home), so I was thrilled to get it. After a while, though, it became psychologically painful. Each day I had to read descriptions of delicious food written by people who had probably majored in creative writing in college. The entrees had names like "Macadamia Nut Encrusted Sea Bass with Mango Cream Sauce" and "Goat-Cheese Encrusted Lamb with Fresh Mountain Herbs." Everything was "encrusted" with something else, and it always sounded delicious.

The desserts were even more spectacular. Things like "Hazelnut Chocolate Praline Cake with Chocolate Drizzles and Raspberry Glaze." These menus were a tribute to the power of words. I always left hungry.

I was reminded of the great writers--usually mystery writers--who write so well about food that I have to stop reading and make a snack. Mary Stewart did this so well that I don't think I've found her equal. In Nine Coaches Waiting, she writes about a midnight snack shared between three people and it's one of the loveliest descriptions I've ever read. She does the same in Madam, Will You Talk?

I'll post more about Mary's wonderful gastronomical descriptions later, but in the meantime I have this question:

What's the most delicious thing in the world?

I vote for the chocolate cake I ate at an Italian Restaurant called Marros when my husband and I were on our honeymoon back in 1988. I've tried to find a cake that delicious ever since, and I haven't. Are taste and happy memories entwined? Or is some food just that good? :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Psychology of Lies

My latest book under construction has a recurring theme: the psychology of lying, and the ways that one can tell a person is not telling the truth.

Here's a little quiz I found online, which assures me that I only know when people are lying SOME of the time. Give it a try--can you tell a liar?

You Sometimes Know When Someone's Lying

You can spot a liar if the liar slips up, but you're not always aware of other people's dishonesty.

Eventually a liar will reveal himself, and you usually will figure out if you've been lied to.

However, someone could be duping you without you knowing it. So watch out for the telltale signs of lying!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Coggins on Hammett

San Francisco mystery writer Mark Coggins has a great post today that relates to Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellmann. Check it out here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Farewell, My Lovely Summer

After a short but eventful summer, I am heading back to work today. These times of transition are always a bit disorienting, but as I get older and more philosophical, I realize that one can never be entirely oriented. :)

I'll focus on this picture when things get hectic; I find it endlessly serene.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thriller Writer Gordon Aalborg Reveals His Romantic Nature, His Dual Citizenship, and His Link to Viking Kings

Hi, Gordon! Thanks for chatting with me.
Bonjour and G’day and you are most welcome.

You are originally from Canada, but at least one book review refers to you as “an Australian author.” Do you feel more like a Canadian or an Australian?
A bit of both, since I have dual citizenship. I went to Australia in ’73 and stayed until 2000. There was a time I expected to stay in Australia forever, but--things change. As it is, I now find it handy that I can read, write and especially edit in Canadian, British, Australian, and New Zealand English, as well as what passes for English amongst you Americans with your strange spelling habits. :)

You started out in journalism, and you’ve written a wide variety of books—some as Gordon Aalborg, some as Victoria Gordon. Do you have a favorite genre?
I started out in journalism when I was twenty—-so long ago that journalism was still a respectable profession. :) My favorite genre as a writer is definitely mystery. Which isn’t to say I mightn’t yet try, say, Science Fiction, just to see how that goes. I grew up reading Westerns, Science Fiction, and animal stories—-only came to mysteries as a young adult with—-especially—-John D. MacDonald.

He is a man much-discussed on this blog. Your pseudonym, Victoria Gordon, emerged when you were, in a sense, challenged to write a romance. Who challenged you?
There was a magazine article in Australia in the late ‘70s in which the (then) head of Mills & Boon said that no man could write their style of category romance. Three journalists, over considerable quantities of plonk (wine) determined that we men were more romantic than our respective women—-women being extreme pragmatists—-so we decided to have a go at proving him wrong. I won.

Aalborg is a cool name. Is it Norwegian? Danish?
Danish, although my family is actually Norwegian, and—-if traced back far enough as I did recently—-goes back to the Viking kings of the Isle of Man.

That's fascinating. You'll have to check out the John Dandola interview, since you share an interest in the Vikings.

You have collaborated in the past with your wife, mystery and romance author Denise Dietz. Do you plan to write together again?

Not if I can help it. :)

We have totally different voices and styles and approaches. The once (Finding Bess) was great fun, but you must remember that we were courting, then, and 10,000 miles apart, to boot. It isn’t safe for both of us to be writing romance at the same time with only a staircase between us—-not enough writing ever gets done.

Oh, my. You are a romantic, Gordon!

Your suspense novel The Specialist received rave reviews from noted names like Bill Crider and Lee Child; the latter calls it “a truly exceptional thriller.” It is the story of a serial killer who preys on female bicyclists. How did you come up with the idea for this book?

The first chapter, which is very black, was written long before the rest, and was cathartic in pulling me out of a huge, Huge, HUGE depressive state. I never would have finished the book at all without Deni’s insistence, and have no idea, today, where it was actually supposed to go in the first place.

In April your book Dining with Devils will follow up, in a sense, on The Specialist. What’s the premise of that novel? Will this be an ongoing series?
Dining with Devils involves many of the same characters, and takes place about a year after The Specialist, time-wise. Here’s how it goes:

On a remote Tasmanian grazing property, a gundog judge is murdered, at first glance by a blind man shooting blanks at a dead pigeon in an incident seen but not understood by Tasmania Police Sgt. Charlie Banes and his close friend, visiting Canadian author Teague Kendall.

Meanwhile, Kendall’s almost-lover Kirsten Knelsen, an ardent caving enthusiast, is kidnapped elsewhere in Tasmania, with nothing to even suggest the two incidents might be related. Then Kendall himself goes missing.

It takes all of Charlie’s “country cop” skills to discover the links, which involve Kendall’s vengeful Tasmanian ex-wife, a psychotic, American-hating ex-Viet Nam sniper, and a man believed to have been dead for more than a year!

Charlie’s rush to save his friends and end the killing spree is a race against time through the eucalypt forests of Tasmania’s east-coast highlands. Aided by a cranky old bushman and his even-crankier Jack Russell terrier, Charlie also has help from the ubiquitous Tasmanian Devils--world-class scavengers with their own ideas about appropriate table manners.

Wow. That is some plot. The first book is set in British Columbia, the second in Tasmania. How do you choose your fictional settings?

They choose me. I have a devil of a time (pun intended) writing about any area where I haven’t personally walked the ground and sniffed the air. The Specialist actually began in Tasmania and the action involves both locales. Dining with Devils is totally in Tassie because that’s where my favorites among the characters “are.” And where the story was/is. I’m considering a third tale in the series, and it, too, would be set entirely in Tasmania.

You also have a romance which will be published in the new year, set in post-Custer Montana. As a writer, what draws you to this time and place in history?
The Horse Tamer’s Challenge involves a Canadian Métis and an American woman searching for her twin sister, an Indian captive. I set it where it would have happened, had it been true. My maternal grandfather cowboyed in northern Montana with the later-to-be-famous cowboy artist Charles M. Russell, and having been raised in Alberta on stories of the “real” west, I have always felt some affinity for the genre and time/place. When I was nine years old, my mother had to write a letter to the library so they would let me into the adult section to take out Zane Grey and Max Brand books.

You and your wife Denise got married at a writer’s conference. Denise, a former professional singer, serenaded you with “Evergreen.” What did you sing? :)

“Evergreen?” Is that what it was? I have always sort of wondered. I have a tin ear and couldn’t carry a tune in a sack. “Evergreen,” eh? Fancy that.

Another of your creative pursuits is sculpting in wood. Have you always enjoyed this art form? Did you learn sculpture in school, or are you self-taught?
I am totally self-taught and wish (often!) that I’d had a better teacher. I took it up sort of late in the game, and I’m hoping I live long enough to learn to do it really well.

I often ask well-traveled writers to tell me the most beautiful place in the world. Since you have lived in Australia and North America, (and possibly other places), do you have a vote? Or is it too hard to narrow down?
Too hard to narrow down. I think of Tasmania as my spiritual home, but Vancouver Island, where I live now, is equally beautiful. If I could afford to live there, I’d be tempted, too, by the south island of New Zealand, which is magnificent.

What books did you read this summer?
A whole bunch nobody’s going see until sometime next year, since I do freelance editing on the side, as does Deni. For myself: John Sandford, Steve Hamilton, James Lee Burke, James W. Hall, Jeffrey Deaver, Charles deLint.

Will you be at Bouchercon in the fall?
Not likely—-look what happened the last time I attended a writers’ conference with that woman. :) Deni will be in Hawaii for Left Coast Crime, hopefully with ARCs of Dining with Devils and her latest epic, Strangle a Loaf of Italian Bread.. I shall stay home and dog-sit and work on my next epic.

How can readers find out more about Gordon Aalborg and his pseudonym, Victoria Gordon? I get it updated pdq. Good old Victoria has a new Tasmanian romance—-Wolf in Tiger’s Stripes—coming out sometime in 2010.

Thanks for the great chat, Gordon! Good luck with all of the books.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Poem For My Father

My father and mother were born two years and six days apart. Today my father celebrates his 77th birthday. He told me he'll be spending most of it working on his garden.

In reflecting on his eventful and often very difficult life, I am impressed by the fact that I owe much of my worldview to my father's insistence that I leave my house (where I would have stayed forever with a book in my hand, curled up on the couch) and actually see the country I lived in. Every vacation he bundled us into the car--his wife and five children--after a family meeting where we were allowed, once we were old enough, to vote on a destination (out of a few carefully selected choices). And then we would drive there. Sounds simple, but it must have been a pain: the packing, the planning, the arrangements made for the animals we left behind.

But my father is Hungarian, and must have more than a little of the gypsy in his blood, and he loves to wander. So because of him, I saw many of the fifty states and learned to love the rolling scenery. As a teenager, I hassled him. How fun it must have been to be in the car with me.

"A campground with no showers? Are you KIDDING, Dad?" or "This place is totally full of grasshoppers. We're not STAYING, are we?" We were. And I lived. (Though I'm sure they were close to killing me more than once).

In any case, I wanted to celebrate my father on this most auspicious day. This is a poem I wrote for him long ago.

by Julia Buckley

How much we learned
As vagabonds
Watching the white line
Scenting scenery
Dad always steady at the wheel!

Rolling and unrolling in traveling beds
In many a welcoming forest–
Rain pelted our thin canvas home
As our doused lantern plunged us
Into truthful Darkness.

We learned fresh air, lapped clean water
Smelled pine woods and marched on gravel
In peejays, flashlights cutting the mysterious gloom
On the way to sinister bathrooms.

Mountains loomed and became real–
Pictures can’t do them justice–
Nor give credit to graceful deer, or
Glorious sunsets on untroubled horizons.

We munched from tin bowls in chill morning
Then dozed, drooling against one another
Soon after the car crunched its way back to the Interstate
Seeking new adventure.

We rattled down unlikely rock roads
Frowned over maps in familial conspiracy
Sighed over sunrise and raced scudding clouds;
We ate well at jovial tables.

How much we learned of love
In car and trailer
Day and night
Our rolling world of discovery.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cozy New Reading

I just got a copy of this new mystery by Roberta Isleib. What a great cover! I can't wait to hunker down in my chair and get involved in another Dr. Rebecca Butterman mystery. According to Roberta's website, this is the premise of Asking for Murder:

"Rebecca's good friend, a social worker who does sandplay therapy, is found beaten and left for dead. Rebecca searches for clues in her patients' sand trays to track a would-be killer."

Intriguing, no?

But first I must finish Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, which I am teaching in World Literature this year.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Most of All You've Got to Hide it From the Kids

It's hard to believe that Dustin Hoffman is seventy-one years old today. In his long and accomplished reign as one of Hollywood's serious actors, he has played many a memorable role and won two Oscars. My favorite, though, is still The Graduate, in which he played the young and confused Benjamin Braddock, who is famously seduced by Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson.

In honor of Hoffman and that great role, I offer a You Tube link to a great song: Mrs. Robinson, by Simon and Garfunkel (sung at a reunion concert).

Monday, August 04, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Harmonies

After thoroughly enjoying my trip to the theatre today to see MAMMA MIA! (it was pure nostalgia and fun, especially, I think, for a woman of my age), I came home and viewed another fun musical--Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, created by Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.

The undoubted star of the whole endeavor is Doogie Howser--sorry, I mean Neil Patrick Harris--as the supervillain Dr. Horrible, who aspires to acceptance in the Evil League of Evil.

Harris has a surprisingly great singing voice, and these songs are ultra-catchy. The forty-two minute flick is fun, and can temporarily be viewed for free, so check it out! You'll enjoy it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Life's Little Surprises

I completed my summer graduate class last night; we met to turn in our final projects and fill out course evaluations. Then I strolled back out to the parking lot with some of the other graduate students--younger, more hip people with nicer clothes and better cars (and no children).

I was feeling rather hip myself, intellectual and cool, when I reached my passenger window and saw a squirrel looking back at me from inside the vehicle. This was the quickest way to strip down those illusions of elegance. Thanks to my sons' terrible in-car eating habits and my own irregular cleaning schedule, our car had become a tempting smorgasbord for the fluffy-tailed rodent. Also, because I have no car air conditioner, I tend to leave the windows slightly down to alleviate really intense heat. I may as well have sent the little guy an engraved invitation.

Being cool and hip, I screamed and ran to the front of my car, yelling "Oh my God, there's a squirrel in there!"

My elegant classmates, after raising an eyebrow at what must have seemed like immersion into an episode of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, stepped forward to assist me. "I'll open your side door," one girl offered, pulling the sliding door to reveal the utter grossness of my back seat. My spirits fell as three classmates who, moments before, might have respected me based on my dialogue around the seminar table, now seemed to view me in a different light.

"I have sons," I said weakly, as the nervous squirrel jumped from seat to seat and briefly brained himself on a closed window. He stood there tottering, looking at us with rodenty dislike. "It's hard to keep things clean."

Another classmate opened a couple more of my doors--I kept my distance, still fearing a squirrel attack. "Oh--he's almost there," she said. "He's right on the edge of the doorway."

So we all stood there and waited for the squirrel to emerge, which he eventually did, reluctantly, leaving his feast behind him.

I thanked the young people and climbed into my car, red-faced and humiliated, knowing that I would be the talk of the next class (some of them took two this summer). The elegant girls, their bracelets clinking as they got out their cell phones and stepped into their sleek vehicles, waved at me. I wondered who they were calling; their spouses, perhaps, to tell them about the older woman in their class with the forest creatures in her car?

Geez. I never harbor my delusions of grandeur for long, but it would have been nice if I could have made it to the end of summer.