The Stiletto Gumshoe will be away till the next decade (2020), enjoying an overdue holiday-over-the-holidays.
This eerily foggy Christmas Eve morning feels more like Autumn than December, likely to hit the mid-50’s this afternoon. But last I checked, there’s just a whisker-shy of two feet of snow on the ground where I’m headed, and that ought to be suitably seasonal. While I won’t exactly be ‘off the grid’, I’ll be darn close, with no cable, satellite dish, streaming or internet/email, and wi-fi’s a ten-mile drive away. Heck, cell/text is a bit spotty. That might not sound good to you, but I can’t wait. The halls have already been decked with boughs of holly…or at least, a tree, wreaths and other stuff. Ample provisions have been stowed away, a good supply of firewood piled up, a selection of Xmas CD’s and movies have been packed, the latter a mix of Christmas classics and darker noir and neo-noir-ish faves set at Christmas time (The Stiletto Gumshoe can’t survive on White Christmas alone).
Family will be close at hand. No skiing or snowmobiling planned, but with an aged but beloved furry four-footed friend likely to be having his last Christmas, there’ll be some romps among the snow-covered pines, I’m sure. What there won’t be are day job commutes, last minute client emergencies-that-aren’t, mall trips, parking lots, UPS/FedEx tracking of overdue presents, obligatory extended family get-togethers or jousting with MAGA hat wearing relatives. And no querying, blogging, texting or emailing. If I get the urge, I can always fire up the laptop to pound some keys beside the tree. Fireside reading in a comfy chair? I’m bringing Benjamin Moser’s hefty 800+ page bio of Susan Sontag, Sontag – Her Life And Work, Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon and Marcos Martin’s Batgirl – Year One: The Deluxe Edition hardcover and my first-ever Danielle Steele novel, her new release, Spy. And odd mix? Yeah, I suppose so.
There’ll be a merry missive here tomorrow, but that aside, this is it for 2019. So, my very sincere holiday wishes to all visitors, lurkers and especially my followers here at thestilettogumshoe.com both at WordPress and Tumblr. See you in 2020!
I not entirely sure I want to know what skeletons Santa’s got hiding in his closet. His personal stash of pilfered toys from the workshop? Incriminating photos of Mrs. Claus? The down ‘n dirty scoop on Rudolph? Or is it really where the naughtier elves rendezvous in secret? We’ll never know, unless you can get your mitts on this 1926 issue of Snappy Stories.
If I want some smooth Yule-time tunes — the sort of background music that goes well with an easy chair, beverage of choice and a good book on a cold winter night…or perhaps some keyboard time over a manuscript when the icy winds are audibly howling outside the writing cave’s windows — then Norah Jones, Aimee Mann, She & Him and Sarah McLachlan all have terrific Christmas albums that are suitably seasonal but can be unobtrusive when dialed down low. My fave of that bunch of contemporary softies, though, is Diana Krall’s Christmas Songs from 2005.
On the other hand, if you’re not cozying up beneath a blanket or working your brain in front of a computer screen, but instead, decking the halls for a seasonal soiree, then I recommend the Christmas Cocktails series. I’ve got them all, though I still favor the first album, which was also the first one I happened to buy. Sure, there are a few silly novelty style numbers on those disks, but overall, they make for ideal Christmas party background music.
There are no wild bacchanals on my agenda at the moment, only some restful writing desk time. And the wind is literally howling right outside my windows. So, Diana Krall it is…
I’m usually not that much of a beer person, though I’ve been suckered into those beer paddle samplers of four, six (or ten – Yikes!) brewer’s shots once or twice (with disastrous results).
I do like the occasional Stella, though, and enjoyed one at a day job holiday lunch this week, in fact. Might indulge in another over the holidays, especially if I had this Christmas album to listen to. I think this was from 2011, compiling mid-20th century holiday themed jazz pieces, led by composer/arranger Gordon Minette with Dan Block and Doug Wamble, vocals by Leah Siegel, Antoine Blech and Maddie Myles. I know there was a download version at one time at the Stella site, but don’t know if an actual LP was offered or if that’s just part of the retro vibe (which is pretty cool). So, let the hunt begin…
Think of this 2014 Hard Case Crime paperback as the perfect noir-pulp-hard-boiled enthusiast’s stocking stuffer, particularly since you can still get it new. In Daniel Boyd’s Easy Death, which is set during Christmastime in 1951, two tough guys are hired by a crime boss to rob an armored car. The heist comes off sorta-kinda okay, but a December blizzard screws up their getaway. It pretty much hinders the pursuing police as well, of course, but not so much the female park ranger who becomes involved.
Written by a former real-life cop, Daniel Boyd’s (a pen name, I think) prior novel was a well-received western. His Easy Death is a fast read, action-filled and with a surprising amount of dark humor. But more surprising still is that it actually manages to feel quite ‘Christmasy’ (in its way), even though it’s pure hard-boiled crime fiction throughout.
Like most Hard Case Crime novels, Easy Death is wrapped in eye-catching cover art, this one from the legendary Glen Orbik. Since the book came out less than a year before the artist’s untimely death at only 52, it likely was among his last works.
No, The Stiletto Gumshoe won’t be in anyone’s Christmas stocking this year, least of all mine. Perhaps I spent 2019 being naughty when I should’ve been nice. Still, I’m thinking positive thoughts for 2020, and am one of those naive types who truly believe that diligence pays off (even if I’ve been proven wrong in the past). So I know what I hope to find under my tree next year: Not baubles or bangles. Just a book, and one book in particular…
Good advice back in in 1927 when this National Association Of Publishers poster came out, and it’s still good advice today. (Via Mystery Fanfare)
A holiday homicide cover by San Francisco artist Owen Smith for the December 22nd and 29th 1997 issue of The New Yorker – The Fiction Issue.
Not sure if Smith has been a go-to artist for The New Yorker’s fiction issues, but he has done nearly twenty covers for that publication alone, and below is the Christmas and New Year’s Day issue from the previous year – that one more New Year’s celebratory instead of Xmas. The guy and the gal hunched over their typewriters got it all over the revelers, if you ask me.