MURDOCH MYSTERIES

Tired of gritty, violent cop shows? Had enough of today’s most heinous crimes retold in thinly disguised fiction?  Need a show with wit and style? Want to escape back to a more genteel time?  If you haven’t discovered this polished gem, it’s not too late to get in on the action.

At first glance, Murdoch Mysteries might appear British, but, no, it’s Canadian. This excellent show is currently a huge hit in 120 countries; it’s only America that’s been slow to catch on. Set at the turn of the 20th century, in a Toronto police station, it chronicles the cases of Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) with great attention to period detail and history (especially, but not limited to, Canadian history.) Murdoch solves homicides with the aid of Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris) and one time medical examiner, Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy.) Murdoch’s boss, Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig) provides comic relief.

Based on the novels of Maureen Jennings, the stories are all fair play mysteries. We are given the suspects and clues, as is Murdoch.  By paying close attention we should be able to solve the cases along with him.

Yannick Bisson as Murdoch

Then there are the characters and subplots. Murdoch and Dr. Ogden are in love with each other, yet circumstances keep them apart for the longest time. Constable Crabtree has an eye for Dr. Ogden’s replacement as medical examiner, Doctor Emily Grace (Georgina Reilly), and  Inspector Brackenreid has a difficult relationship with his wife , Margaret (Arwen Humphreys.)

Helene Joy as Dr. Julia Ogden

The turn of the century setting gives the show a wonderful atmosphere. The use of clothing, language, and props of the time make it all appear very believable. In addition, the Murdoch character seems to be something of a genius, often building devices that appear to anticipate later inventions not yet known, such as sonar, the fax machine, phone wiretaps, the polygraph, and many others. There are also guest appearances by numerous well-known people of the period including HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Queen Victoria, Alexander Graham Bell, Emma Goldman, Jack London, and Thomas Edison. In addition, the program sometimes blends fantastical elements into the stories, such as science fiction and fantasy, while still maintaining a completely believable, logical integrity.

Murdoch Mysteries also tackles politics, philosophy, social issues and psychology along with its crimes. Any way you look it, Murdoch Mysteries is a lot of fun. Check your local TV listings for times and channels near you.

SECOND ANNIVERSARY

This month marks the second year of my blog. I’d like to thank my many readers (and there are well over a dozen!) The second anniversary is traditionally cotton.  To celebrate,  I just went out and bought myself a box of Q-tips.

And speaking of blogs, here are a few cool ones that are definitely worth checking out:

black wingsBILL CRIDER’S POP CULTURE MAGAZINE.  Bill Crider is a very prolific writer of both mystery and western novels. His blog is a compendium of book covers, movie posters, old magazine ads, celebrities and anything else that Bill thinks is interesting, funny, odd or entertaining. And all of it is. This guy takes trivia to a whole new level. Reading his blog is like walking into a combination museum, library, and nostalgia store. It’s fun to see all the stuff that he tosses into this vast buffet.
i married a monster from outer space

GREAT BUT FORGOTTEN, is a blog with a self explanatory title. It highlights movies, books, music, actors, singers, comedians, writers and others who are, well, great but forgotten. The blogger is Chuck Rothman, a writer of science fiction, who is on a mission to get recognition for people and work that  has been either overlooked or lost to history. He profiles each of his subjects and also tells you why they deserve more attention. Some of his picks were known to me, but quite a few weren’t. It’s exciting to discover a really good writer, movie, or musician you weren’t familiar with.

dirty martini JA KONRATH’S BLOG. Joe Konrath is a self-publishing legend. He is one of the most successful writers and publishers of ebooks on the web. He is also among the most prolific. The guy is a one man writing empire. His blog is a must read for anyone who writes, whether or not you self publish or are with a traditional publisher. (Or both! Or neither!) He writes about all aspects of writing with particular emphasis on self publishing. He has a unique view of both writing and publishing worth looking at.

groo NEWS FROM ME, is a daily blog written by another excellent writer, Mark Evanier. On the off chance that you haven’t already seen this very popular blog, by all means take a look.  How Mark writes this much every single day is a wonder in itself. The fact that it’s so well done is even more amazing.  Mark’s zillions of credits include, writing for TV sitcoms, the Garfield TV show (and comic book), and the Groo The Wanderer comic book, which is drawn by the great Sergio Aragones.  News From Me, has show business news of all kinds, including, stuff about TV, movies, plays, comedians, nightclubs, cartoons and comics, both strips and books. Plus there’s also plenty of posts on some of Mark’s favorite topics such as, TV animation of the 60s, Laurel and Hardy and all things comedy. Especially worth reading are his serious and often poignant posts about his family, friends, people he’s known and his many experiences as a working writer.

 

STAR TREK BOOK REVIEW

these are the voyages by osborn and cushmanStar Trek may be the most written about TV show in the history of the medium. Now celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, (1966-2016), there are thousands of magazine and newspaper articles, blogposts, and hundreds of books about every aspect of the original show. The idea that someone could write a book about this phenomenon with brand new information in it seemed remote, and yet, that is exactly what Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn have done. In fact, they have not just written one book, they have written three, one about each season of the show. The books are These Are The Voyages, Season One, Two and Three.

Unlike many books about this much-chronicled subject, which repeat previously published accounts, these volumes draw heavily upon series creator Gene Roddenberry’s private files (which the authors were give exclusive access to) that have never been seen by the general public. These files contain interoffice memos, letters, unproduced script proposals, notes, correspondence with network executives and much more. The results add up to an unprecedented cornucopia of inside information, new to anyone outside Roddenberry’s immediate circle. All this is augmented by interviews with writers, actors, and production people that worked on the series, as well as newspaper and magazine articles on Star Trek published over the last fifty years. The scholarship is nothing short of astounding. The mix of the new with the old, often from obscure sources, is staggering.

One of the myths about Star Trek that is laid to rest by Cushman and Osborn is that the show was a ratings failure during its original run. To counter this oft repeated falsehood, the authors cite actual Nielson ratings for that time which prove beyond a doubt that Star Trek was consistently in the top ten. Why do people to this day believe that Star Trek was a flop? Cushman and Osborn explain that this idea was a piece of disinformation concocted by NBC executives at the time, as a justification to cancel the show. In fact, the real reason was that the network could not get along with Roddenberry, and wanted a cover story to use in order to cancel the show. This scenario sounds more like a plot for an episode of Mission Impossible (shot on the same studio lot) than Star Trek.

inside star trek by justman and solowThese Are The Voyages have their share of humorous moments too, especially the memos between Roddenberry and series associate producer (then co-producer), Robert Justman. These highly amusing missives alone are worth the price of the books.  Justman, who wrote his own excellent book (with Herbert F. Solow) about Star Trek (Inside Star Trek:The Real Story) was in charge, among other tasks, of keeping the show on budget. His intelligent, (dare I say logical) criticism of the scripts along with his often vetoing of various sets, special effects, and outside locations in favor of cheaper in studio shoots, are often laugh out loud funny. Justman seemed like the ego to Rodenberry’s id, always trying to keep things sensible.

Also of particular interest in these books are the accounts of the writers who worked on scripts for Star Trek. The books track the genesis of many now classic episodes, from their original inceptions, to the early drafts and the inevitable rewrites at the hands of one or more of the show’s staffers. The process was difficult and frustrating, especially for some of the excellent prose writers who were not used to working in the collaborative medium of TV.  Also of note are the rejected and unproduced ideas for episodes.

These Are The Voyages, like Star Trek itself, work on many levels. They are at once a history and a sociological study of a cultural phenomenon, but they also provide an inside look at Hollywood, complete with all the politics and infighting that goes on during any production. In addition, these books are also a time capsule of an era when there were only three networks and mass media, compared to today, was in its infancy. These Are The Voyages are a fascinating reading experience and a must for any serious fan of the show.

A few other excellent books about Star Trek, well worth reading:

making of star trek by stephen whitfieldThe Making Of Star Trek, by Stephen E. Whitfield, is the granddaddy of not only Star Trek books, but all books about TV production. This book was first published when Star Trek was still on the air, and offers a unique portrait of the show, in its preproduction and first and second seasons.

the world of star trek by david gerrold The World Of Star Trek and The Trouble With Tribbles, both by David Gerrold, a wonderful writer of his own (non-Star Trek) novels, and short stories. The World Of Star Trek has excellent insights, ideas, and observations about the show. The Trouble With Tribbles, is a great memoir of his experience writing that excellent episode and seeing it through to the actual production. A unique and one of a kind book.

the longest trek by grace lee whitneyThe Longest Trek: My Tour Of The Galaxy, by Grace Lee Whitney. Written by the woman who played Yeoman Rand during the first season of Star Trek, this honest and often heart-breaking book stands out from others because of its brutal portrayal of a life with incredible triumphs and equally horrible losses. Whitney tells of her journey from successful singer, film and TV actress, to her decline into alcoholism, drug addiction and homelessness. Her rise back to sobriety, and success over adversity is truly inspiring. As much as The Longest Trek is a behind the scenes show business story, it is also an important book on recovery, healing, faith and one woman’s struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.star trek logo

HUMOROUS FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW (BUT MAY GROW TO LOVE)

mind swap by robert sheckleyYou’ve read all of Douglas Adams, Terry Prachett, Piers Anthony and Robert Asprin, so what do you do now?  I’m glad you asked! Here are a few other authors who wrote very funny fantasy and science fiction books you might also like.

Robert Sheckley wrote hilarious science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories years before Douglas Adams. In fact, Douglas Adams said, “Sheckley is one of the great funny writers.” Read MindSwap, a funny SF novel or any of Sheckley’s many other novels or collections of short stories such as, Untouched By Human Hands, or, Do You Feel Anything When I Do This? Sheckley’s work is witty, surreal, satirical and always funny.

John Collier wrote what might be called magical realism before the term existed. Or maybe he wrote contemporary fantasy, slipstream or fabulist fiction. Don’t worry about the labels just read one of his collections of short stories like Fancies and GoodNights. If you like stories set in our world with magic, all told in a dry but always funny way try him. Neil Gaiman loves his work and you will too.fanices and goodnights by john collier
William F Nolan Look Out For Space

William F. Nolan, the co-author (with George Clayton Johnson) of the science fiction classic, Logan’s Run, also wrote (and writes) very funny short stories and novels. Check out the Sam Space series. These laugh out loud stories and novels are about a wise cracking private eye that works out of a seedy office on Mars. Imagine Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in outer space and you get the idea. Try the collection, Seven For Space, or the novel, Look Out For Space. (For more about William F. Nolan read my January 16, 2015 blog post on him at www.marcbilgrey.com)

kiss kiss by ronald dahlRoald Dahl, the children’s book author writes funny novels? Oh, I’m not talking about his books for kids; I’m referring to his short stories for adults. These are humorous in an ironic and sardonic way. Dahl’s stories range from dark fantasy to horror to crime to just plain weird. All his tales are creepy and filled with macabre humor that makes the Addams family look tame. Try his collections, Kiss Kiss, and Switch Bitch. These books are definitely not for children.

Now don’t tell me that you have nothing to read!

Marc Bilgrey is the author of two humorous fantasy novels, And Don’t Forget To Rescue The Princess, and, And Don’t Forget To Rescue The OTHER Princess.  He is also the author/ cartoonist of, Cubist In A Cubicle, a book of business cartoons. All three books are available on Amazon for Kindle. To learn more about Marc’s work go to: www. marcbilgrey.com

This post originally appeared on the blog of author, CE Lawrence.

 

MARIA SCRIVAN – CARTOONIST

scrivan snowman selfieMaria Scrivan’s cartoon panel, Half Full, was recently syndicated by Tribune Content Agency. Maria’s cartoons are a rare combination of cute and funny. Maria’s single panel cartoons are about daily life, including such subjects as dating, marriage, doctors, pets, all written and drawn in her unique style and voice. Maria also has lots of cartoons about technology and how people deal with it, adapt to it or have problems with it. Then there are her animals. These include flamingos, penguins, cats, caterpillars, butterflies, and a variety of insects. Usually they are juxtaposed into ordinary human life.

scrivan pavlovs puppy Maria’s cartoons are filled with bright, primal colors. This mirrors her outlook on life which is clearly upbeat, positive and dare I say it, happy. Her cartoons are witty, clever, and optimistic but never cutting or cruel. This is in sharp contrast to much of the cynical and dark humor often found in today’s world. Maria’s work is life affirming. She laughs with us, not at us. Her view is that we’re all in this life together so we may as well have some fun along the way. Maria’s cartoons have a universal quality about them. They’re easy to relate to. Anyone of almost any age or background can see themselves or someone they know in them. Maria’s depiction of suburban life will be instantly recognizable yet curiously funny. But she also does cartoons about urban and rural life too.

scrivan way too young Maria’s panel cartoons have appeared in many magazines including, Mad, Parade, Prospect Magazine, Highlights, and Funny Times. She’s also been on Salon.com and Mashable. And let’s not forget about her greeting cards, such as Recycled Paper Greeting and Nobleworks.

If you read newspapers on paper, look for her panel, Half Full, in The Los Angeles Times and many other papers across the country. But the easiest way to see Maria’s cartoons every day is to head to Gocomics.com and also check out her website, mariascrivan.com. for some cool merch.

Daily Panel:
Website
Facebook:
Twitter:
@mariascrivan
Instagram: 
@mariascrivan

 

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