This song is actually an updated version of the theme song from the soap opera GENERAL HOSPITAL. They started using this version as the music over the closing credits about twenty years ago but still used the original opening for a while. That was the combination I liked the best, because retro guy that I am, I enjoyed seeing the original opening. I haven't watched GH in a long time, so I have no idea what they do now. But I still like this song anyway.
However, I also remember Forrest--the younger brother of actor Dana Andrews--for a variety of his guest-star roles over the years. His résumé was extensive, including appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Arrest and Trial, Burke’s Law, The Name of the Game, The Streets of San Francisco, Ironside, McMillan & Wife, Cannon, Columbo, and … well, this list could go on and on. Interestingly, one of my strongest memories of Forrest is of his playing a condemned killer who was scheduled to die in an early electric chair, in “Hangman’s Wages,” an episode of Hec Ramsey. He did a splendid job defining his character’s long and mutually respectful relationship with small-town Oklahoma lawman Ramsey, played by Richard Boone.
Forrest will definitely be missed.
READ MORE: “R.I.P., Steve Forrest,” by Matthew Bradford/Tanner (Double O Section).
Thayer is not interested in making you comfortable as a reader. He wants you to squirm and recoil and shudder. He's a bit too obsessed with the nastiness and cruelty of life. He revels in pointing out his character's flaws -- their ignorance, their stupidity, their hedonism. The book is, I guess, meant to be a nihilisitc view of the early years of depression era America told mostly from the viewpoint of female characters. But these women are merely symbols and puppets for Thayer's intensely cynical and fatalistic philosophies. Few of them resemble anything approaching a real person. The plot involves an absurd revenge plot decades in the making that stems from the villainess' life of abuse, neglect and bullying. She blames a group of schoolgirls for all her problems and vows vengeance on them all. She devises a ridiculous plan in which she creates the persona of an astrologer who sends letters to all the women in her past. The astrologer fortellls death, suicide and disease for everyone. And when the predictions start to come true one of the women sees not the power of superstition and Fate at work but a very real murder plot starting to unfold at the hands of a mad genius.
Laura Stanhope take her collection of letters to the police along with a packet of powder she received from the astrologer who goes by the preposterous name of Swami Yogadachi (a Japanese swami?). The powder was to be given to her son on his birthday according to the Swami's instructions and is meant to save the boy from a potentially fatal disease he predicts. Laura suspecting it harmful never did a thing but instead of disposing of it she saved it. For five months! She had to or else it wouldn't further the plot, right? The police have the powder analyzed and it turns out to be a highly poisonous compound usually intended as a pesticide for vermin. Thus begins the hunt for the murderous Swami Yogadachi and the search for the other recipients of his letters to prevent any further deaths.
Thirteen Women is told in a hodepodge mess of letters, telegrams and author omniscent narration. We get to know the women through their own voices, but also through the consdescending viewpoint of Thayer's narrator who at times is himself. Often Thayer steps into the story addressing the reader as "you" and giving his opinions of his characters as if they are real people ("You can't have Josephine Turner. Make up your mind to that. In the first place, I want her myself.") It's only one of the many unexpected parts of the book that make it a genuine head-scratcher yet strangely entertaining in a very offbeat way.
Tiffany Thayer's life, however, would make for a much more interesting book than any of his novels. There is a fascinating article here that goes into great detail about his beginings as a writer, his friendship with Charles Fort, the origins of the Fortean Society which Thayer helped found, and his megalomaniac takeover of the society and its first magazine/newsletter Doubt. Someone should write a biography of the man. I'd read that with great interest. But as for further investigating the fiction of Tiffany Thayer I have had my fill after indulging myself in the pages of Thirteen Women.
This review was suggested to me by Curt Evans who has written about Tiffany Thayer's publisher Claude Kendall here. This week we chose to write about Thayer's bookend titles Thirteen Women and Thirteen Men. His review of Thirteen Men can be found at his blog The Passing Tramp.
As for the story itself, it starts off in a typically intriguing Gardner fashion: Perry Mason receives a phone call at his office from a young woman who wants to hire him. It seems that she lives in a trailer, the small kind that can be pulled behind a car, and while she was out sunbathing -- nude, of course -- somebody stole the car and trailer, literally driving off with her home. She wants to hire Mason to bring her some clothes and find out who stole the trailer.
Well, you know there has to be a lot more to it than that in an Erle Stanley Gardner book, and of course, there is. It turns out the young woman is the daughter of a man who is serving time in prison for masterminding an armored car robbery, and wouldn’t you know it, the nearly four hundred thousand dollars in loot that was stolen in that robbery has never been found. The daughter is convinced that her father is really innocent and wants Mason to prove it. Meanwhile, various factions are equally convinced that the daughter really knows where the money is hidden. Sure enough, once Perry Mason gets involved in the case, it’s only a matter of hours before there’s a murder, and Mason’s client is arrested and charged with the crime.
I thought I was doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the plot in this one, something I often have a hard time doing in a Gardner novel. I spotted some clues, recognized some misdirection, and was convinced that I had the solution figured out. Then, with only a few pages left in the book, Gardner throws in a perfectly logical twist that I never saw coming at all. I wound up being about half-right in what I figured, and for a Perry Mason novel, that’s not bad, I suppose.
This book is also interesting because of the trailer angle. Gardner was known for going off to the desert and staying for weeks at a time in a trailer, so he puts his knowledge of such things to good use here, throwing in a few nuggets of information about how such trailers are set up and what they’re worth.
The Mitchell Hooks cover on the paperback edition is okay, but if ever a book was crying out for a McGinnis cover, you’d think that one with a title like THE CASE OF THE SUN BATHER’S DIARY would be it.
As some of you may know, I infrequently (and quite poorly) do a Google+ hangout where, ostensibly, I’m supposed to talk about publishing, but usually the conversations devolve into discussions about all kinds of current events, bizarre fringe cultures, Choose Your Own Adventure readalongs, and God knows what else. The first guest I ever had on the show was @_TheRussian and she had a question for today’s blog post. She wanted a “humorous list of things not to put in your query.” Cool, it’s the Thursday night before a long weekend, but I think I can handle that question. So let me go ahead and handle it.
(1) Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t tell me your book is a “guaranteed bestseller” because nobody knows that kind of thing and if you’re delusional about that, you’re going to be delusional about a bunch of things and I’m too old to deal with that.
(2) Don’t query an agent/publisher for a project that isn’t right for his/her list. There is an abundance of information on what people are looking for on websites, from other authors, even from the acknowledgement page of your favorite book. Your job is to figure out a good fit when you see it, and query those people.
(3) Don’t try to get yourself over at the expense of others. Don’t tell me that Dan Brown’s new book is terrible and your book is 100 times better. You might be right on both particulars, but I won’t ever know because I’m going to read your query and think you’re a bitter and miserable Angst Cauldron, and I’ve been removing all of those people from my life since a Poetry 101 class I took back in college with a girl who never quit wearing a Smiths t-shirt because she thought she was going to marry Morrissey, and I’ll never read your book.
(4) Don’t try to put on the “I’m a professional writer type and I write like a robot with no sense of personality because I’m afraid of being myself” act. I want to know I’m dealing with a real human being and not some robot wearing a Smiths t-shirt writing poems about having tea with soccer hooligans. Nobody likes a robot. Not emotionally. And if they do, then I won’t read their queries either, because robots are NOT EVEN LIVING CREATURES AND DO NOT DESERVE YOUR EMOTIONS.
(5) Make sure you address it to the right person and that you don’t just accidentally leave the name/address of the person you just queried. Because that is embarrassing.
(6) Don’t send “presents” or “food” in an attempt to stand out. Some dude sent me a raccoon skull once. The thing is, I opened it right when I was sitting down to eat my lunch. I mean, sure, I kept it and mounted it on my computer, but I don’t think I ever looked at the guy’s book. It didn’t help the cause.
(7) Don’t list credits that—while impressive to you and your refrigerator—don’t mean anything to the outside world. I see people sometimes try to add something in at the bottom (“I was previously published in my high school annual, the Middlestone Marxist Quarterly”). It’s ok to not have a track record than to sound like you’re desperately grabbing at straws.
Also, “Desperately Grabbing at Straws” sounds like an unrecorded Smiths’ song.
There you go. There’s a list. I legit LOL’d at my own sense of humor. I wrote the whole list in less than ten minutes. If you were expecting more, I guess you’re a little sad right now. Somewhere there’s a girl in the Milwaukee suburbs who used to listen to the Smiths and dream in poetry, but now she probably works for a real estate company and shops at Wal-Mart.
Shoplifters of the World Unite!
Great song from one of the best singer/songwriters around.