June 2011

It must happen with every generation that the icons and heroes of one’s youth (or younger years) die.  Even though we’re all perfectly aware that no one goes on forever, each announcement is a shock.  I’m guessing that in their later years, the actors and actresses slow down, and not as many acting roles come their way.  Poor health might also keep the spotlight from continuing to shine on them, so they fade from view.  Then comes the press release that they’re gone.  Each time it happens, we feel the loss of another cultural touchstone.

This time we lost Peter Falk, so famous as Columbo.  My condolences to Mr. Falk’s family.

On an email list dedicated to mysteries, another list member reminded me about the characters Bertha Cool and Donald Lam in the books written by A.A. Fair (aka Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason’s creator).  Cool & Lam were favorites of mine a long, long time ago (1961 copyright for Shills …) and I wanted to see how well the stories had held up.  The three books available from my library are Shills Can’t Cash Chips, Bachelors Get Lonely (1961), and The Count of Nine (1958).

The upshot of Shills … is that Donald is still, in Gardner’s words “a cocky little bastard,” Bertha is still fat and irascible, and panties.  By the end of the book I felt that if I read the word “panties” one more time, the book might have wound up thrown against the wall.  Granted the book is a creature of its time, contemporaneous with the James Bond stories, but for crying out loud I think the underpants references could have been given a rest.

I’m going to have to try this Word function to keep track of  story developments.  I took a quick look at it (View –> Document map in Word 2003), and the display  reminds me of the bookmarks in a PDF file.  Because I find the the PDF bookmarks useful, I don’t see why this wouldn’t be, too.  I also like playing with functions like this.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a previous life, I was a typesetter — that’s when I wasn’t moonlighting as a tea-swilling cook.

Document Map, Microsoft Office

How to use the Document Map in Microsoft Word, Shauna Kelly

Organizing Your Story Using Document Map, Paula Roe

and, in case it messes up …

My usual style is to work with separate Word.docs for individual chapters.  The thought of scrolling through enough pages to make a book made me cross-eyed, even without having tried an entire novel in one document.

I was glad to find another local chapter of Sisters in Crime, the Border Crimes chapter with Kansas City-area members from both Kansas and Missouri. I’d attended the Partners in Crime chapter meetings years ago (before Life interrupted), but when I last checked, the group’s blog’s last entry was about a year and a half ago. Now that I’m getting out from under the Life interruption, I’d like to get back on track.

One of the exciting aspects of the group meetings is that they’re held in the I Love A Mystery bookstore in Mission, Kansas. As a mystery reader from the days of Freddy the Detective, Nancy Drew and Beverly Gray (even perhaps Rupert, as each of his stories has a puzzling plot for the little bear to untangle), it’s a thrill to find a bookstore dedicated to my favorite genre.

Me, in 1964, reading a Judge Dee mystery: The Emperor’s Pearl.

Around 9AM, I had a nice walk around the neighborhood.  A light breeze carried the scent of honeysuckle and cedar, I caught a whiff of paint as someone spruced up their house, and the smell of freshly mown grass was everywhere.  Hot rubber tire odor crept out from under a pickup while the metal of the engine ticked as it cooled — someone had just come to visit?  A barking Min-Pin fenced in a nearby yard made sure I kept moving along. The neighborhood was a good place to be this morning.

By late afternoon, all that changed.  A full-cloud flash of lightning hurried us into the house faster than we normally went as we called, “See you later, alligator,” to our youngest grandson strapped in his carseat.  He yelled back, “Goodbye, alligator!”  Then the rains came, and are still coming down.  A little while ago I stepped outside to see if the storm had brought any cool air, but had my breath taken away by the humidity. All the humid metaphors apply to the outdoors this evening:  Turkish steam bath, rain forest, soupy air …

This picture doesn’t show fog-in-the-air, it shows condensation-on-the-lens.  The cooler lens of the camera was fogged beyond useful pictures by the moisture in the air.  By the way, the picture is of a geranium in a planter.

I hope this steam dissipates by the time I go out for my walk tomorrow morning.