Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Drabble #2: A story in 100 words

I write my diary on the 7.56 pm local.

I look at the man nodding off on my left. He looks sixty. He is fat and bald. I can see that. He doesn't have hair on his head. He has a large nose and hair on his ears, like vertical eyelashes. He has an ugly mole on his chin.

I turn to look at him. He is staring at me. I jump. “Eeeks! You scared me!”

“Are you making fun of me?” he points at my phone.

“Uh...no...I wasn’t.”


Friday, January 15, 2016

Opening lines: The Wailing Frail by Richard S. Prather, 1956

I bought the ebook edition of The Wailing Frail—the 12th in the popular 40-plus Shell Scott Detective Mystery series by Richard S. Prather—thinking I’d review it for Friday’s Forgotten Books over at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish reading it in time.

Patti is hosting a Richard S. Prather special today and had I finished the book, it’d have been my first by the American mystery novelist who has a cult following among fans of the genre.

I’m a little more than halfway into this hardboiled racy novel and I already like Prather’s style, particularly his use of short sentences that are as crisp as a fried South Indian papad, lines like “Beasley's mouth was working, but he didn't say anything.” He lives much to the reader’s imagination.

I also liked the opening lines a lot. I have a feeling that’s how most of his novels open, with more than just a hint of suspense and humour.

She yanked the door open with a crash and said, "Gran — "but then she stopped and stared at me. She was nude as a noodle.

I stared right back at her.

"Oh!" she squealed. "You're…not Grandma!"

"No," I said, "I'm Shell Scott, and you're not Grandma, either."

She slammed the door in my face.

Yep, I thought, this is the right house. 

I will be reviewing The Wailing Frail in coming weeks.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Revolutionary Road, 2008

This is my entry for Tuesday’s Overlooked Films, Audio and Video over at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

It was a coincidence that just the day before Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet won Golden Globes for The Revenant and Steve Jobs, respectively, I watched the two in Revolutionary Road, an intense and at times depressing family drama that exposes the soft underbelly of “happily” married couples.

In 2008, Winslet won Golden Globes for Best Actress and Actress of the Year, including for The Reader. DiCaprio and director Sam Mendes failed to convert their nominations into what would have been well-deserved awards.

DiCaprio and Winslet play Frank and April Wheeler who live on Revolutionary Road in a Connecticut suburb with their two children. They seem content with their quotidian middle-class existence, he as an ordinary salesman in the company where his father worked for many years and she as a dutiful wife who manages home and the kids.

Mendes doesn’t waste time with the niceties of married life. No sooner the film is underway he tears away the veil of matrimonial bliss, at least in the eyes of their next-door friends Milly Campbell (Kathryn Hahn) and her husband Shep (David Harbour), and their real estate broker Mrs. Givings (Kathy Bates).

At the heart of the story lies April’s plan to migrate to Paris, in search of a new identity and a more fulfilling life as much for herself as for her family, which quickly turns into a nightmare as it conflicts with Frank’s own. From thereon, it’s downhill for the couple who are caught in a tangle of self-deception, frustration, anger, promiscuity, despair, and tragedy.

Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition) has made a powerful film that lays bare the harsh realities of married life, the frailties of ordinary people, and how “happy” couples can be their own worst enemies. Although the director gives equal weightage to the characters of DiCaprio and Winslet, I thought this was actually Alice’s story. Full of zest for life, Alice aspires to become an actress again only to see her dreams crash, after her differences with Frank erupt like a volcano.

Not surprisingly, DiCaprio and Winslet give a splendid performance in Revolutionary Road, particularly in their nasty arguments and fights, their emotions and feelings of guilt, so typical of problems husbands and wives face in the real world. In that sense the film holds a mirror to marriages. DiCaprio deserved an award too.


Saturday, January 09, 2016

Drabble #1: A story in 100 words

A few years ago, I picked up the phone for a colleague and this is what happened.

"Hello, may I speak to Mr. Dinanathrao Harishchandra Bhatavdekar?

"Sure you can, but he is not here."

"Where is he?".

"He left."

"Left office for the day?"

"No, left the organisation."

"How can that be? I spoke to him ten minutes ago!"

"Then you must feel really stupid to let him go."


"Your friendly neighbourhood..."

DHB stood at my elbow, lips compressed and glowering.

“Here, it’s for you.”

Some people have no sense of humour.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2015: The year I didn’t read much

My reading went completely haywire in 2015. It was The year I didn't read much. I’m not putting a number to it because it hardly counts for anything. I probably read less than 25 novels and short stories and most of those in the first-half. I did read a lot, of course, just not books. In contrast, I read 41 novels and novellas and 31 short stories in 2014.

Ditto for reviews and sundry posts on my blog, down from 142 in 2014 to 76 in 2015. I wonder what I did with the extra time.

Something happened. I’m not sure what or why. I simply lost the desire to read, or write. Job transition and a new work routine played a role, I think.

I’m trying not to feel bad about it, because I enjoyed the books I read, and that is how reading should be. I certainly don’t want to be an apologist for tackling fewer books.

In November 2014, I announced a self-styled challenge to read and review at least 50 ‘First Novels’ by writers across genres. Tall order, for my final tally is just 10. I intend to continue with the challenge and see where I will be at this time next year.

My book of the year is British writer Sarah Ward’s debut novel In Bitter Chill, which made it to the ‘First Novels’ category. I reviewed the book and also interviewed Sarah, who was generous with her answers.

I’m looking forward to doing more author-interviews in 2016.

The 10 ‘First Novels,’ some of which I had read before, were:

01. In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward, 2015
02. The Thirteenth Day by Aditya Iyengar, 2015
03. Noble Beginnings by L.T. Ryan, 2012
04. Run Girl by Eva Hudson, 2014
05. America, America by Elia Kazan, 1962
06. No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase, 1939
07. The Case of the Velvet Claws by Erle Stanley Gardner, 1933
08. The Sheriff and His Partner by Frank Harris, 1891
09. War Against the Mafia by Don Pendleton, 1969
10. The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure, 1927

I also read some interesting short stories, including:

01. The Blood of the Fallen by James Reasoner, 2002
02. Harvest of War by Charles Gramlich, 2012
03. Blackskull’s Captive by Tom Doolan, 2012
04. First Offense by Evan Hunter, 1955
05. The Spider by Hanns Heinz Ewers, 1915
06. The Fog Horn by Ray Bradbury, 1951
07. Gladiator by Philip Wylie, 1930

You can read all the reviews under the ‘Rewind’ button on the right.

The other highlight of the year was my interview with prolific writer James Reasoner based on his fascinating story The Blood of the Fallen, an alternate history about Lincoln. I plan to read his westerns and historical fiction in future.

I will finish on a solemn note by remembering my dear blog friend Ron Scheer who passed away last April. He was very supportive of my blog and gave me a new perspective on westerns, or frontier fiction as he called it. I miss him.