In The Delta

In The Delta
In The Delta

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Place Called Locke Free Kindle Download

The quiet nicker of a horse, the song of nightbirds, a chorus of frogs - the background to sleep on tranquil Sutter Island - are replaced by the ringing of a phone.  From Mexico comes a desperate plea disguised as a casual request.

A young doctor has fallen in love with the wrong woman.  His love will lead him into a web of deceit and danger as he is forced to become part of a plan to smuggle drugs up the California coast.

In The Delta, Jessie Red Cloud is returning to her work as a Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy, unaware that she and her friend and former partner Bodie McDonald are about to be drawn into a secretive task force, led by a man who trusts no one.

Two groups of people are on a collision course, one that will lead them to a deadly confrontation in the quiet backwater behind a place called Locke.

A Place Called Locke is the fifth installment in The Delta Mystery Series and the fifth in a series of free Kindle downloads in anticipation of the publication of the latest book New Hope Landing, currently scheduled for the end of 2014.


Friday, October 10, 2014


It's not too early to let everyone who enjoyed the first 4 books in The Delta Mystery series know that the fifth and final (for now) book will be available for Free Kindle download beginning Friday October 17 through Tuesday October 21.

The quiet nicker of a horse, the song of nightbirds, a chorus of frogs - the background to sleep on tranquil Sutter Island - are replaced by the ringing of a phone.  From Mexico comes a desperate plea disguised as a casual request.

A young doctor has fallen in love with the wrong woman.  His love will lead him into a web of deceit and danger as he is forced to become part of a plan to smuggle drugs up the California coast.

In The Delta, Jessie Red Cloud is returning to her work as a Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy, unaware that she and her friend and former partner Bodie McDonald are about to be drawn into a secretive task force, led by a man who trusts no one.

Two groups of people are on a collision course, one that will lead them to a deadly confrontation in the quiet backwater behind a place called Locke.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


In the fourth installment of The Delta Mysteries, Jessie encounters a new and deadly enemy. 

Olivia Winslow is new to The Delta, her past a mystery, her obsession Nick Red Cloud. 

Despite the misgivings of Nick and Susan, Jessie Red Cloud is engaged in a search for her childhood friend Angel, mysteriously missing once again. As Jessie searches for Angel, Olivia Winslow sets in motion a twisted plan to destroy Jessie and have Nick for herself.


Jessie Red Cloud knew all about the tides in the Delta. She knew the water rose 6 feet every 12 hours.
The ropes that bound her to the rotting pilings of the dock that had long ago collapsed into the fetid water at the end of Lost Slough cut into her wrists and ankles.

She reckoned that, at this time of year, in this place, the water would reach its highest level by 8 that night. But long before then, it would begin to fill her mouth and nostrils. She could almost taste the bitter brackish flavor of it in the back of her throat, her throat that was raw from calling for help that did
not come.

There was a subtle shift in the quality of the light that found its way through the lacy green of the branches overhead. The sun was setting. On the edges of the bank across from her, the reeds took on definition. As the day died, the horizon was colored with the hues of a Delta sunset, blue suffused with gold, then pink and salmon as the sun dropped lower. The reeds turned from emerald to sharp black outlined against the darkening cobalt sky. A scene that might have been created by a painter. It was a beautiful place to die.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Beautiful Place To Die FREE download

A Beautiful Place To Die - the fourth book in the Delta Mystery Series - will be available for free download beginning Friday October 10, 2014 through Tuesday October 14, 2014.

Olivia Winslow is new to The Delta, her past a mystery, her obsession -  Nick Red Cloud.

As Jessie searches for a missing friend, Olivia sets in motion a twisted plan to end Jessie's life and make Nick her own.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Meadows FREE Kindle Download

The Meadows - the third book in the Delta Mysteries Series will be available for Free Kindle download beginning Friday Oct 3 through Tues Oct 7.
Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy turned Private Investigator Jessie Red Cloud has suffered a personal tragedy. And Nick Red Cloud has come close to losing Jessie, the woman who means everything to him.
Jessie is retained by wealthy Sacramento businessman turned politician Colin Talbot to uncover the truth behind the death of his small daughter on the family's refuge, a private island in the northern Sacramento River Delta called The Meadows.
Plagued by suspicion, the family claims to want the truth behind their child's murder. But Jessie's investigation is hampered by lies, withheld evidence, and family secrets.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Real Golden Age of Television

Yes, I know.  This topic has been discussed to death, but I have a Blog so I can write about it if I wish. And I wish to add my thoughts.

Movies have, with rare exceptions, become a huge disappointment.  I know, it's because I'm not in the right age demographic for the studios.  Except I must not be the only one, because I just read that the summer box office was a disaster.  No wonder.  When will the studios realize that a lot of people have had their fill of action/adventure, 3D, remakes, and sequels to movies that weren't that good to begin with?  Did we really need a remake of Robocop???

As an aside, Kathryn Bigalow's marvelous Point Break with Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey and Lori Petty is scheduled to be remade.  Please, I beg you, don't do it.  You can't improve on this kind of genius.  I know, some people think it was silly - maybe but if so, it was the best silly ever.

So we turn to television.  The best actors are doing it.  Because they realize that it is the place where serious, quality work is available.

It goes back aways, of course.  All the way to the shows that started it all - Hill Street Blues, Homicide Life on the Streets, The Wire, and what is perhaps the all time best cop show ever The Shield.  Fast forward a few years to Breaking Bad and one of my personal favorites Sons of Anarchy.  Take a look at the unfortunately short-lived Magic City, The Borgias and Boss.

Currently, the crop includes Banshee, Ray Donovan (applause for Jon Voight and Paula Malcomson as well as Liev Shreiber and Steven Bauer of whom we could use a little more), Masters of Sex and The Bridge.

The Honorable Woman held its own almost to the end, which was disappointing since until the last two shows, I felt it was well written.  Sundance also gave us Rectify - the most original drama of the crop and The Red Road, another unique drama.

One show that I include in this list that many people might not is Fox's Gang Related.  Still no word on whether it will be renewed.  Word to Fox, send it over to FX and let them pull out all the stops. It may have some implausibilities, but I couldn't wait to see it every week.  It never bored, never dragged.

On the rarely seen Western front, Hell on Wheels is the freshest look at the old West since Deadwood.  And the unfortunately final season of Longmire was the best of the entire series.  I will truly miss Walt and his posse, especially the wonderful Katee Sackhoff.  Hope someone picks this show up.

Many people criticized The Killing but I found it to be compelling, particularly Linden and Holder and the atmospheric setting.  So happy that Netflix brought it back for a conclusion.

Speaking of Netflix, kudos for Orange is the New Black (group award to its many offbeat characters, the offbeat Lilyhammer and House of Cards. Frank Underwood tells it like it is - politically speaking.

Fargo was a treat, but didn't live up to the movie. Mostly, it was the accents that were missing or inaccurate.  Where was the dialogue coach?  However, I'll watch anything with Keith Carradine.

Justified will have me as a viewer forever - the Elmore Leonard-esque dialogue, Timothy Oliphant and Walt Goggins (another actor I will follow anywhere) make this a delight week after week.

Homeland and The Americans are both brilliant in their own way and I anxiously await the new seasons of both.  Two very different takes on the world of espionage and deeply held secrets.  And I have to admit, that in The Americans, I'm often rooting for the Russians - although Noah Emmerich's conflicted agent is amazing to watch.

New shows I'm looking forward to include The Affair with Dominic West and the new season of American Horror Story.  I watched Season one, started Season two but found it tediously gross, skipped season three.  But Freak Show is poised to bring me back.

I know I've missed some and my comments are only cursory but I have a mystery to get back to.

Hoping for your own comments on these shows and any others that you particularly liked or hated.

The Drop

I'm usually too busy to post movie reviews but just had to take a few minutes away from writing to highly recommend The Drop.  It is getting publicity based on the fact that it is the last screen appearance by the late, lamented James Gandolfini and he is brilliant as always.

The the real reasons to see this movie are two:

The screenplay was written by Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone, Baby, Gone among others.  Those three movies, if you have not had the pleasure,  are also worth seeing.  If you have, a second, even a third viewing only enhances your appreciation for the writing and the performances.

The Drop is based on a Lehane short story Animal Rescue.  It is filled with menace and plot twists that will keep you guessing.  Lehane is simply one of the best fiction writers of all time.

The second reason is the performance of Tom Hardy, whose previous role as Forrest Bondurant in Lawless really turned me on to this fine actor.

Don't wait for it to turn up on Netflix.  See it now.

On Sutter Island is FREE

For you readers out there who enjoyed In The Delta, the second book in the series On Sutter Island will be available for free e download beginning Friday September 26 through Tuesday September 30. Remember, if you don't have a Kindle, you can get the Kindle Reading Ap for free and read on your computer, phone or wherever. Here is a synopsis:
On Sutter Island continues the story of Nick and Jessie, the lovers from In The Delta. Jessie, now a Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy and her partner, Bodie MacDonald, answer a late night call to a local bar, The Landing, and discover the victim of a vicious attack.
Jessie sets out to find the man responsible, but her search puts at risk the life she has built with Nick on Sutter Island as she becomes the obsession of the man she is tracking.
For my week three, promotion look for The Meadows, the third book in the series. You can read them all for free before publication of the newest book - New Hope Landing. Target date for publication is the end of 2014.
Thanks to all of you who read In The Delta. If you liked it, let me know. If not, let me know as well.

Monday, September 15, 2014

In The Delta - Free for 5 days

As I am currently at work on New Hope Landing, the newest Jessie Red Cloud mystery set in the beautiful California Delta, I am beginning a series of free promotions of all of the books in the series for anyone who may have missed the books the first time around.

Free promo begins this Thursday September 18 and continues through Monday September 22.  Just go to - search for In the Delta by Joan Klengler and enjoy.  If you do enjoy the book, look for upcoming free offers for the sequels On Sutter Island, The Meadows, A Beautiful Place to Die and A Place called Locke - coming soon.

A girl named Angel and the boy she loves vanish from a dark and lonely place called Lost Slough.  Their disappearance attracts little attention when it’s assumed they’ve simply moved on.

But for Angel’s friend, LAPD Officer Jessie, a 4-month old Missing Persons Poster turns a houseboat vacation in the California Delta into a desperate search for the couple or their killer - a search that leads Jessie to the Chinese community of Locke and a bar called Al’s Place where she meets the Lakota, Nick Red Cloud.  Their erotic attraction for each other catches fire in a heartbeat and grows in intensity as they explore the Delta together by boat and on horseback.

While Nick and Jessie’s love for each other grows stronger, Angel’s story plays out in flashbacks…  Until, at last, Jessie discovers the terrible truth of what really happened on the banks of Lost Slough.

Ay Caramba

If you are looking for a marvelous meal in a small and charming family owned restaurant, visit Ay Caramba located at 18540 Via Princessa Santa Clarita CA.  (Via Princessa exit off the 14 freeway, turn left and then take the next left into the shopping area and you're there).  For details, check out their website.

We are well acquainted with the owner Alberto, who rides a beautiful Harley Davidson.  His wife Margarita is the chef.  

The menu is extensive.  I can heartily recommend the Quesadilla con Rajas - a Quesadilla fried to golden, served with cream sauce and chile poblano.  The fish tacos are outstanding and their generous size makes an ideal lunch for two, particularly when paired with an appetizer.  

We were really hungry so shared a second entree - Pescado Empapelado - Fish fillet wrapped in aluminum foil. Cooked with butter, herbs and vegetables.  Another winner.

We enjoyed Sangria with our meal, but there is also a nice selection of wine and beer available.

Margarita and Alberto excel at making their customers feel at home and the atmosphere is homey and friendly.

It is well worth the drive - even on a day like today when the temperature tops 100 degrees.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Horses and Their People - A Love Story

Hi All - I am currently collecting stories from people in their own words describing their unique and special bond with their horse(s).  The collection will make up an anthology entitled Horses and Their People - A Love Story.

There is no word limit and people may write on any subject as long as it involves horses.  So far I have one poem, several stories of  childhood memories - a wide range of styles and topics -  funny, inspiring, sad, uplifting.

Some people have said they would love to participate but they aren't writers. As my friend Colin Dangaard so wisely put it, we are all writers or at least have the potential to be - we all have our stories to tell and I am not looking for polished and professional stories - but stories from the heart.

That said, if there is anyone out there who is a little self conscious, I will be happy to review and rework your story as needed, with the understanding that you have the final say over the content.

Each person's story is a chapter, headed by a photo of the person and their horse(s).

I hope to publish by the end of the year, however, it will depend largely on whether I have enough submissions.  So please, do not hesitate to pour out your heart, tell the world how you feel about horses and the influence they have had on your life.

I'm just going to keep nagging until you add your voice.  Thank you.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Message to Richard Hartzell

Hi Richard:  I got a little behind and didn't view comments for months.  When I finally did, yesterday, I found your's from April.  I tried and tried to find you online and FB without success.  If you see this post, please reply and tell me how to reach you.


A Blood Red Sky - Volume 4 in the Rick Sandler/Katie O'Hara series

Okay, so the sky is more salmon than blood red.  I couldn't afford to buy the rights to a bloodier sky.

And so it begins:

He moves through the crowded streets of Hong Kong, in pursuit of his latest victim.  When she turns into a narrow alleyway, he hesitates, but only for a moment.  His greatest gift is his supreme confidence in his own infallibility.

Through the dusty window of a tiny shop, he sees her.  The Chinese characters on the window are meaningless to him, but the displays inside are not.  It is a store selling CD's, DVD's, and videotapes.
He enters and pretends interest in a bin of used videos.  The sign over the box is in English - American Movies – Murder and Mystery.  It is almost the last video in the box.  The cover is a familiar scene - a place he knows well.  It speaks of a place that seems almost like home to him.  The movie's title causes him to laugh aloud.  To anyone else, it would be a simple, fortuitous discovery.  But to him, its meaning is clear.  It is time to return.  To pick up where he left off, so to speak.

In Los Angeles,  as The Doors famously sang 'hills are filled with fire'  It is a time of unrelenting heat giving rise, not only to wild fires, but to a constant sense of oppressive menace.  

Katie O'Hara and Rick Sandler have made their home in a new place.  The Movie Murderer is, if not exactly forgotten, buried somewhere in their consciousness, never completely out of their thoughts, but fading a little more with each passing day.

Until the discovery of a young mother, slaughtered in her home while her husband and baby enjoy their morning in Griffith Park.  She is the first in a series of unspeakable killings, the horror of which can mean only one thing.  The Movie Murderer has returned to take up the game with Rick Sandler and to possess the ultimate prize - Katie O'Hara.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Blood Red Sky - the sequel to The Movie Murderer and the newest Rick Sandler/Katie O'Hara mystery just published and is available in both paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Look for a cover photo and description tomorrow - the bell just tolled and it tolls for me.  Time to feed the horses.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fear-free Horse Training by Neil Davies


Fear-Free Horse Training
Every Step of the Way


Neil Davies

We live in a Hurry Up Quick world, moving a million miles a minute.  We are inundated with information, a constant barrage of data, so much detail, in fact, that there isn’t really enough time to stop and think about what we’re hearing and seeing.

The result of all of this is that, understandably, it takes quite a bit of glitz to get our attention.  We want to be entertained – the more eye-popping the entertainment, the better.  And, because we are short on time, we often look for the quick fix.

And what exactly does this have to do with horse training? 

Go to any equine event.  Watch the “famous” trainers – jumping picnic tables bareback and bridle-less – causing the crowd to ooh and ah and wish they could do that; promising the fast and simple solution to all of our horse related problems.  Just buy their videos, books, special equipment, and you, too, can achieve miracles without putting in any of that pesky hard work. 

Then there are the contests – a group of these famous trainers get together and compete against each other to see which of them can “break” a young, untrained horse the fastest.  These contests generally take place in one day.  Think about it – one day to take a frightened horse that has never been handled and teach it to accept a saddle and rider.  On the surface, at the end of the day, it may look like they’ve succeeded.  But I’d really like to see how that horse behaves on day 2 or 3 or month 2 or 3.

I learned of Australian trainer Neil Davies’ new book Fear-free Horse Training Every Step of the Way from my friend Colin Dangaard, owner of The Australian Stock Saddle Company in Malibu.  Thank goodness for Colin who is pretty much responsible for introducing the Australian Stock Saddle to America.  I confess right up front to being heavily biased in favor of his saddles, wouldn’t ride in anything else, but that’s the subject of another story.

Fear-free Horse Training Every Step of the Way by Neil Davies is unique.  Why?  Because it tells it like it is.  There are no quick fixes, no tricks, no games in horse training.  Sorry about that.

On the surface, Mr. Davies’ training methods appear simple.  One step at a time, advance and retreat, repeat, repeat again. Keep the lessons short.  Don’t frighten the horse. 

The mantra is never frighten the horse.  That means no chasing the horse around a pen, no waving objects to “desensitize” this gentle animal. 

The basic tenet of Neil’s philosophy is teaching a horse to be calm and confident.  It is the foundation for all other training.   And it is achieved by teaching the horse that it is a pleasure to be with you.  Sounds simple, right?  No tricks, no games, no fancy special equipment – just a lot of good rubs.

The book is filled with photographs showing each step of the training process. 

Although much of his discussion addresses starting a young horse, I believe there is no reason you cannot begin again with your own horse.  The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert, a horse whisperer, or famous to follow Neil’s lead.  What you do need is patience and the ability to slow down.  After all, what’s the rush?  Hopefully, you are building a life-long bond with your horse, one that can only be enhanced by teaching without fear.

Which brings me full circle back to my early comment about our desire for eye-popping entertainment.  My concern is that people will not take the time to read a book written not to entertain but to teach.  It seems deceptively simple on the surface.  No one is jumping picnic tables.   But whether your goal is a quiet trail ride (me), a fast gallop in the Malibu mountains (Colin, again) or to one day jump a picnic table, you have to build the foundation.  Neil Davies can show you how to do that.

I do feel the need to address two issues that could potentially bias the American reader.

The first appears in Chapter 11.  Neil indicates that when the horse is relaxed and moving forward, he introduces a rubber garden hose 2 feet long to tap the horse’s rump.  He states that rubber hose is less severe than a conventional crop or stick.  I cringed when I read that so I ran it by several of my horse loving friends and their reactions were identically negative.  This may be a cultural difference.  In the U.S. we’ve all heard the stories about suspects being beaten with rubber hose.  I would hate to see readers turned off the book because of this.  I personally have never tested the rubber hose against a conventional crop but, after reading his book, it is obvious that Neil Davies would not inflict punishment or pain on a horse.

The second is found in Chapter 15, page 150 – “It’s very difficult to gain the confidence of a four or five year old horse that’s frightened of people, or has been left unhandled. There may be exceptions but mostly it’s not worth the effort…..” 

He does go on to state that it is irresponsible to leave a horse unhandled until it is four years old.  And with that, I agree.  However, for me, personally, I cannot accept the statement that it is not worth the effort to attempt to gain the confidence of an older horse that is frightened of people.  Yes, your job will be much more difficult.  But I have seen enough instances of what miracles can occur when a loving and patient rescuer is willing to put in the time with the older horse who has come out of a bad situation.

That said, I heartily recommend this book to horse loving people everywhere.  Go sit close to your horse and read it all the way through.  Better yet, read it aloud to your horse.  It can’t hurt.

Check out Neil’s website Fear Free Horse Training. com for details.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Delta Mystery Writer on

Just linked up with Publicize so have another blog going with Wordpress.  Although I sometimes think I'm fairly tech proficient, I'm not sure what's going on with this new set up.  Wish me luck and if anyone out there knows anything about Publicize or is signed up, I welcome your comments.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Eagles and The New Not So Fabulous Forum

We were there for the grand reopening of The Forum on January 15, 2014.

First things first - The Eagles were as amazing as ever.  The concert was A History of the Eagles. (If you haven't seen the documentary on TV, look for it.  Everyone I know, including us, seems unable to turn it off when its on - even if we've already seen it more than once.)

It was a wonderful surprise to see Bernie Leadon, one of the Eagles' founding members back with the band.  There was even a mention of Randy Meisner by Glenn Frey, who sent Randy best wishes.  But, no mention of Don Felder.  Apparently, that feud is life long.

My only complaint about the concert itself was that it barely scratched the surface of The Eagles' incredibly deep song book.  Put simply, if I could only listen to one band for the rest of my life, it would have to be The Eagles based on the sheer volume and variety of their music. There are bands I like as much, but one would run through their entire catalog of music far too quickly.

As to The Forum - I believe MSG Enterprises spent over $70 million to renovate.  The auditorium itself has good acoustics, comfortable seats (although a little more leg room would be nice) and even the parking was well handled considering the sheer number of people attending.

Now to the negatives - It doesn't appear that one penny of the $70 plus million went to improving the rest rooms.  The ladies room was so tiny, it could not handle the crowd.  Before the show even started, the lines were long and some of the toilets were already non operational.  I did not see any sinks.  They were probably there somewhere but it was so crowded, one just wanted to get in and out as fast as possible.

By the intermission, the line was so long, I couldn't see where it ended and had to skip a restroom visit or risk missing half the show.  Take a lesson from The Greek Theatre and The Hollywood Bowl - MSG - add sufficient restrooms. (Especially if you're serving beer).

Smoking is permitted outside, of course, but all of the doors into the lobby area were open so the entire area was thick with cigarette smoke.

And the auditorium itself was hot and stuffy.  Ventilation is inadequate at best.

Finally- a word about the audience.  Although The Forum asks people not to text, photo or video during the concert - a huge number of people did so - absolutely ruining the experience for people who were there to see and hear The Eagles.

A group of women behind us talked and laughed loudly through most of the first set.  One of them even screeched "Who's Don Henley?"  The man next to me finally turned around and told them to take it outside.  Fortunately - they did - and never came back.  Why do people buy tickets if they are not interested in the concert?

We have become a nation of people with electronics wired to our heads.  We cannot get along without making ourselves part of the show.  Sadly, it makes one think that it might be a more pleasant experience to just stay home and watch The History of The Eagles on TV.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Starting 2014 with a self-indulgent blog on my favorite movies.  Sure to generate controversy and disagreement among movie lovers.

First and foremost - What criteria lands a movie on a Best Movie list?  For me, there is really only one - Watchability.  Let's say you're sitting in front of the TV, flipping through the channels, looking for anything that catches your eye. You land on a movie.  It's a movie you've seen countless times.  You probably own it.  And it's on a channel with commercials  - and even worse, it's been edited for time and content.  And you watch it anyway.  That's Watchability.

Some of the movies on my list are generally agreed upon by both at least some critics and some movie lovers as genuine classics.  Others are so off the wall that people may gasp in disbelief.  But please remember the criteria.  You can't seem to change the channel -  even though......

I've tried to organize these loosely into categories to give the blog some semblance of order.  Some of the movies easily cross over from one to the other - a film noir might also be an L.A. movie but you get the general idea.

Here goes:


All three Godfathers - stop screaming about how much you hated Sophia Coppola.  I'm not even going to bother explaining why The Godfather and The Godfather II are masterpieces.  We all know why. The first time I saw The Godfather III, I would have agreed with you.  Then I revisited it by accident.  It was on TV and I got caught up.  I watched Director Coppola reframe key scenes from the first two movies - among them, notably,  the dance between father and daughter, Sonny's boy Vincent Mancini tracking Joey Zaza through Little Italy in the way that the young Vito Corleone tracked the Black Hand extortionist Fanucci, and in the end, the death of Michael, reminiscent of the death of his father - two men who lived with violence and died as old men in their gardens.  I'll go so far as to defend the casting of Sophia as Mary.  She has an awkward and untutored grace that suits her character.  A more polished professional would not have broken our hearts.

Casablanca - I'm skipping the comments on the obvious works of art.

The Third Man - If you missed this one, you missed the winner of the all time prize for the best black and white cinematography in the history of movies.


Gone With the Wind - With profound apologies to all who are offended by its pretty vision of kindly plantation owners and happy slaves.  For the truth, see 12 Years A Slave.  But this is Hollywood movie making on a grand scale.  Watching the transformation of Scarlett is something like watching the transformation of Michael Corleone.  And love her or hate her, the family wouldn't have survived the Civil War without her.

Legends of the Fall - I have a friend who hates this movie as much as I love it.  She says that every time  the music swells and Brad Pitt gallops into view, she wants to throw up,  I get tears in my eyes.  Poor Julia Ormand,  beautiful Karina Lombard - I thought Tristan would never live to be an old man. I was wrong about that. I was wrong about many things. It was those who loved him most who died young. He was a rock they broke themselves against however much he tried to protect them.


Sad to say, nowadays we have Saw and Hostel - movies that cannot seem to go far enough to shock and disgust viewers.  But in the past we had - 

Black Christmas - the original starring Margot Kidder - if you're going to rent it, make sure you get the right one.  I haven't been up in the attic since.

The Original Halloween - anything that came later doesn't count.  The scariest thing about this movie was the atmosphere - those empty small town streets - and the best was the heroine Jamie Lee Curtis.

Misery - Speaking of great lead performances, they don't come much better than Kathy Bates in her Oscar winning performance as Annie Wilkes. " I thought you were good, Paul. But you're not good. You're just an old dirty birdy".  Now that's high praise for a writer.

Don't Look Now - Not quite sure it belongs in this group, but it is moody, atmospheric and has an ending you don't see coming.

Cat People - Director Paul Shrader - starring John Heard, Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell in an erotic remaking of the 1942 classic.  This one's better.

Silence of The Lambs - First Horror movie to be named Best Picture - deservedly so.  Anthony Hopkins superb portrayal of Hannibal Lector sometimes obscures Jodie Foster's performance but it shouldn't.


Fargo - where to put it.  It's got a lot of funny moments, but it isn't really a conventional comedy - but then, the Coen brothers don't make conventional movies in any genre.  Another brilliant Best Actress Frances McDormand as the very pregnant Police Chief. - "OK, so we got a trooper pulls someone over, we got a shooting, these folks drive by, there's a high-speed pursuit, ends here and then this execution-type deal".

High Anxiety - I'll go on record as saying this is Mel Brooks' funniest movie - a brilliant pastiche of Hitchcock films - far funnier than Blazing Saddles.

The Bird Cage - Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are spectacularly hysterical and don't overlook Gene  Hackman's dead-pan reactionary politico.

Tootsie - Many great moments, but none better than Dorothy's unveiling herself as a male accompanied by a rambling monologue reminiscent of all of the soap operas we loved for years until they were replaced by an endless parade of dull cookie-cutter daytime talk shows.

Mash - I'm a huge fan of the incomparable Robert Altman.  If you've only seen the TV series, take a look at the movie that inspired it.  

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Here we go again - it's funny but not sure it's a comedy.  Ellen Burstyn won her Best Actress Award for this role.  Watch for a terrific turn by Jodie Foster.


I loved the dancing of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse and Leslie Caron but my heart is with more modern musicals - a sampling:

West Side Story - I always side with The Sharks - they have the best songs and the best dances - America.

Cabaret - Not a huge fan of Lisa Minnelli except for her role as the divinely decadent Sally Bowles.  The Academy loved her too.  Another Best Actress.

Phantom of the Opera - Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum  and a splendid sound track.  


This uniquely American genre is very well represented by the three movies that made Clint Eastwood a star - directed by the Italian director Sergio Leone and filmed outside the U.S.  A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More were filmed in Spain and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in Italy and Spain.  The music is an added delight.

The Magnificent Seven - An incredible cast, a timeless story of a few good "bad men" helping a poor Mexican village free itself from the grip of an evil tyrant.  My only complaint is that any of the seven had to die.

Geronimo An American Legend - This is a heartbreaking vision of the systematic destruction of a proud people.  Watch for Steve Reevis getting on and off a horse   I can hit the rewind button on that scene a few times every viewing. (You can also see him in a different light as Shep Proudfoot in Fargo). 

Last of The Mohicans - Forget about Daniel Day Lewis and watch for Eric Schweig as Uncas. 


Not really a fan except for one movie - Blade Runner - the original with Harrison Ford's voiceover.  It's really more of a film noir set in the near future of Los Angeles.  Daryl Hannah's best performance is her portrayal of the replicant Pris.  She's scary.


My favorite category.  So many of these are uniquely L.A. films but one is set in Florida.

Chinatown - Nuff said.

Body Heat - ties with Chinatown for number one.

L.A. Confidential - oh, wait - it's a three way tie.

True Confessions - Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall as brothers - one a powerful monsignor in L.A.'s Catholic diocese, the other a cynical cop, played out against a murder based loosely on the Black Dahlia case.

The Long Goodbye - directed by Robert Altman, starring Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe with terrific performances by Sterling Hayden, Nina Van Pallandt, director Mark Rydell, baseball player Jim Bouton.  Watch for a cameo by a young unknown - Arnold Schwarzenegger.

To Live and Die In L.A. - I fell in love with William Petersen as Chance but don't overlook John Pankow as his partner John Vukovich or Willem Dafoe as the counterfeiter Eric Masters.  Most people think William Friedkin's best picture is The French Connection.  My vote goes to this movie - it's got a sexier protagonist and an even better car chase.


I don't see many of these but I'm not sure where else to put Thelma and Louise.  Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis should have won joint Oscars for this one.


Point Break - Keanu Reeves is beautiful - Gary Busey is funny and ultimately tragic - the action is spectacular - directed by the incomparable Kathryn Bigelow.  One of my favorite movies of all time - is there anything better than surfing bank robbers??


Showgirls - sure, I believe it when Gina Gershon thanks Elizabeth Berkley for breaking her leg so she can have a rest from performing, when Nomi gets away with kicking the shit out of the bad guy, when Nomi gets her nipples iced so that she will be more provocative on stage - the list goes on and on.  It's like the worst freeway multi-vehicle accident in history - you know it's wrong to stop and look, but you can't look away.


The Counselor - written by Cormac McCarthy - author of No Country for Old Men, among other works, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Michael Fassbender and Cameron Diaz, seconded by Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem,  with star cameos by Brad Pitt, Bruno Ganz,  Rosie Perez, Edgar Ramirez, Dean Norris and Ruben Blades, among others.  On the surface, it's about a drug deal gone wrong - but there's a lot more to it. It's a meditation on everything that flows from one bad choice - as an attorney suffering from an excess of hubris ignores all warnings and makes the worst decision of his life.  McCarthy's script is the best original screenplay of the year although it will be ignored by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Academy.


#1 - so far - American Hustle - powered by the greatest ensemble cast imaginable - 
led by an incandescent Amy Adams.  She even manages to outdo Jennifer Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence is pretty splendid.  Bradley Cooper is the best I've ever seen him as a maniac federal agent.  Christian Bale may look like a joke but he is the master of the con.  As NJ Mayor Carmine Polito, Jeremy Renner is at his best since The Hurt Locker.  Michael Pena, one of the best actors around, can do more with a tiny role than most actors can do with a lot more screen time.  A wonderful sound track sets the mood for a wild ride.  Pay attention - the one criticism I've read is that it is difficult to follow what these people are up to. People said the same thing about Chinatown.  Stay focused.  No daydreaming, checking texts and e mails.  Sharpen those intellectual skills.  There's more to movies than 3D, car crashes, explosions and zombies.