Friday, May 27, 2011

Favorite Authors - Continued

The thing I love about Rex Stout is that he is a writer whose work has stood the test of time.  His stories are just as entertaining and exciting now as they were when they were written in the 1930s all the way up to the 1970s.  His main character Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin are two of the most well written and interesting people you will ever have the pleasure to meet. 

Stout was born in 1886 and died in 1975.  I can only imagine how wonderful it was to experience life over the course of the changing of the century and millennium when there was so much technological and social changes.  When we baby boomers witnessed our own century/millennium change it was without quite the same impact as the horses to jet planes that the 19th to 20th had.

The Nero Wolfe novels have everything you could want.  A good mystery wrapped around wonderful characters and interesting circumstances.  Gourmet food, orchid growing, clever, snappy dialogue and interplay that rivals Aaron Sorkin, and language that plays to the fact that readers are smart and ”get it.”  Stout mixed social commentary into his stories too, but he did not beat the reader over the head with it.  His political opinions landed him on the FBI watch list during the McCarthy era, but he continued to make his points none the less and stirred them into the mix so that the reader could take it or leave it and not miss a beat in the story.  His views were not the main focus of the stories, more like asides that added to his characters more than preached to the reader.

I discovered the Stout books in college at the end of his life and was thrilled to go on a treasure hunt to find all that I could.  I had a great appetite for them and cobbled them up as fast as I could find them and then re-read them again, enjoying every savory bite.

If you have not read a Stout novel, or only seen the TV shows of Nero Wolfe stories (Timothy Hutton was a great Archie Goodwin by the way) do yourself a favor and read the books, they are a treat.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I have had a subscription to PLAYBOY magazine for as long as I have had the resources to pay for it.  In fact I can’t remember a time when I purchased it in a store.  My entire adult life I have had it delivered to my door and looked forward to it arriving every month.  In these times of unlimited access to any form of image imaginable (thanks to the Internet) I can say with a straight face and total truthfulness that I get PLAYBOY magazine so that I can read the articles. 

That used to be a joke of course.  Why would any person of the male gender pay good money to “read” a magazine like PLAYBOY?  The answer is quite complex.  At the root is the fact that the magazine is well written.  Even the stories that go along with the pictures of women in various states of undress are well written.  Now don’t get me wrong; I DO look at the pictures, but usually with an eye for the photographic skill or curiosity at the latest celebrity who decides that it would be a good career move to pose for the magazine sans clothes.  But the point is that the pictures are not my main motivation in obtaining the magazine.  It takes me on the average about an hour to read everything in PLAYBOY I wish to read.  Of that time I spend maybe 2 minutes looking at the pictures, maybe. 
The other factor, in the magazine being more satisfying to read than look at the pictures, is because, quite frankly, the pictures are boring.  Airbrushed (Photoshopped) to perfection they do not represent the girl next door, but rather the “fantasy” of the girl next door.  Now these images might be exciting to teenage boys or even young adult males looking to make their way in the world, but I believe a well grounded “Adult” male knows what the reality is and even bachelor “players” know that the a real woman does not look like that.  It’s like looking at a picture taken by the Hubble telescope.  It might be pretty to look at, but I’m never going to be able to get there, really.

So, “What kind of man reads PLAYBOY?”  I think…..All kinds; and some women too.  The articles are insightful, informative, educational, entertaining, and sometimes sexy and titillating.  (A lot more than the pictures.)  Exactly what a good magazine should be.  They take contributions from some of the best writers in the world.  They cover a variety of subjects including current events and past history, politics, fashion, sports, humor, celebrity, sexuality and media entertainment.  And if you agree with Mr. Hefner’s politics and philosophies or not, his editorials do provide some food for thought, and invite debate, if nothing else.  That’s why I read the articles.  They are a Good Read, and worth the 40 bucks a year.  The pictures are just an added bonus.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Favorite Authors 3

One of my favorite authors is a relatively lesser known guy named James Swain.  He writes a series of Detective mysteries.  He actually writes a couple but I really like his "Tony Valentine" series.  Tony is an ex-cop, private investigator in Atlantic City who specializes in "cheaters" who rip off casinos and other navarious, dastardly deeds. 

Mr. Swain's obvious expertise in the subject of gambling, and the crimes and characters that go with it, makes this series entertaining and believable and exciting.   His hero characters are well defined and human; with flaws to go with their heroics.  His bad guys are really bad and his plots are not so technical as to be confusing but rather have just enough insight into the methods used by cheaters to be interesting.

I like the glitz and glamour of the casino locales mixed with the seedy underbelly of the criminal goings on.

I just wish there were more of them.  I really enjoy Tony's adventures.  I wish Mr. Swain a lot of luck in the future, and I am sure he is happy to be on my humble Favorites list.