NEW FICTION: Bourbon & Blondes has arrived!

From the bus stations of Rt. 66 to the smoky, neon-tinged jazz dives of the big cities, these wanton tales of longing introduce us to vixens on the fringe and those shifty men that drove them there.

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Watch: The 'Bourbon & Blondes' Book Trailer

Get your shot glass ready because you're about to enter a retro world of showgirls, drifters, barmaids and thieves.

The eternal question for scribes?

In this new social media landscape, the question becomes: Is blogging dead? It just may be...

Watch: The 'Front Page Palooka' Book Trailer

Read the pulp novella that one reviewer called 'A potboiler in the style of old school writers like Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler...'

Monday, December 26, 2011


While it has nothing realllllly to do with what we now consider boxing, celebrate Boxing Day with these two stupendous ring documentaries and a link to "Felony Fists," a fabulous e-book by my friend and fellow scribe Paul Bishop (written under the pseudonym Jack Tunney).

 In fact, the whole Fight Card series (with one coming from me soon), is a fun throwback to the days of dimestore boxing pulps and noir. Check out Bishop's entry and then purchase the rest of the books in the line: "The Cutman" (Eric Beetner)  and "Split Decision" (Mel Odom).

Sunday, December 25, 2011


... And happy holidays to everyone! Meet me under the mistletoe...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Brilliant ... Just brilliant.  Is there a better reason now to drink the spirit. Admitted scotch drinker Christina Hendricks ("Mad Men") is the new face for Johnnie Walker. She revealed that it was her husband Geoffrey Arend who got her interested in the hooch. "I always thought it was sexy when he ordered scotch and I'd take little sips of his drink,' she told Men's Health in October. That interview (and photo spread) prompted the booze company to contact the actress to endorse their product.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Every awards season, The Hollywood Reporter gathers the screenwriters of the year’s best films for an informal roundtable.

For this year's chat, they assembled Moneyball‘s Steve Zaillan and Aaron Sorkin, The Skin I Live In‘s Pedro Almodovar, J. Edgar‘s Dustin Lance Black, Rampart‘s Oren Moverman and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close‘s Eric Roth to discuss their own, and each others’, scripts, all of which have a shot at multiple awards and nominations.

Grab some java and enjoy...

Monday, December 12, 2011


Always cool... Your legend lives on...

Monday, December 5, 2011



This week: Written by Howard Korder and directed by Allen Coulter, "Under God's Power She Flourishes" wrapped up only a minor bit of business leftover from last week. Still, the last five-minutes made up for it. While the situation with Jimmy and the fallout from Angela being murdered wasn't emotionally explored to the fullest, a few key events at the end of the episode will surely have consequences and/or repercussions.

Some key events:

•With Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) pondering the consequences of sin, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) prepares her for a worst-case scenario as Esther Randolph (Julianne Nicholson) plays out her trump cards -- or at least what she THINKS are trump cards.

• In a stupor, Jimmy (Michael Pitt) revisits his college days when the lines of his wife-to-be Angela (Aleksa Palladino) and Gillian (Gretchen Mol) first became blurred.

• Ever the odd man out, a slightly toughened-up Mickey Doyle (Paul Sparks) chafes at sharing his liquor profits.

•Sheriff Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham) refuses to cop a plea. Or will he?

• Nelson Van Alden's (Michael Shannon) past comes back to haunt him and, lo and behold, tips the scale in Nuckyʼs favor.

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit

Tuesday, November 29, 2011



This week: Written by Dave Flebotte and directed by Jeremy Podeswa, "Georgia Peaches" was a doozy. After last week's transitional episode, this one not only moved the situations along but last us with the series' best cliffhanger.
Some key events:

• Dumbstruck by Nucky Thompson's new source for alcohol, Jimmy and his partners look to cultivate a new revenue stream in Atlantic City.

• With the peak tourist season in full flux, the Commodoreʼs crew faces a choice in dealing with the cityʼs striking workers: Negotiate or fight back.

• Fearing that her sins of temptation have led to her daughter's misfortune, Margaret approaches Father Brennan with an “act of devotion.”

• Nucky gets a new lawyer courtesy of Arnold Rothstein.

• Manny Horvitz takes exception to a debt payment and embarks on the ultimate act of revenge.

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Here's wishing everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011



This week: Written by Steve Kornacki and directed by Brad Anderson, "Battle of the Century" is a slower paced and shorter episode than we've been getting. And it feels like a vacation of sorts. And that's not bad. The action and developments have been so fast and furious, it was good to sit back and let the cadence slow down a bit and watch Anderson's low-key direction. Definitely a transitional episode and a damn good one at that. Some key events:

• Arriving in Belfast, Nucky Thompson and right-hand man Owen Sleater meet with IRA leaders with a barter proposition.

• In Atlantic City, Jimmy Darmody and his partners broker a deal with George Remus for his medicinal alcohol before taking a break to take in the Dempsey-Carpentier fight.

• Margaret Schroeder frets when Emilyʼs sudden illness takes a turn for the worse.

• Former Chalky White cellmate Dunn Purnsley orchestrates a workerʼs strike at the Ritz-Carlton.

• Philly bootlegger Waxey Gordon takes action against Manny Horvitz in Philadelphia but the butcher turns out to be much tougher than expected.

• U.S. Attorney Esther Randolph and Agent Clifford Lathrop grill Deputy Halloran about Nuckyʼs past and Eli's involvement with the Hans Schroeder murder.

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit

Monday, November 14, 2011



THIS WEEK: Written by series creator Terence Winter and directed by 'Empire' and 'The Sopranos' vet Tim Van Patten, "Two Boats and a Lifeguard" explores the theme of the relationship between and father and son.
Some key moments:

• In the wake of a personal loss, Nucky Thompson seeks advice on his political and municipal trouble from Arnold Rothstein and Johnny Torrio.

• Eli -- being Eli -- remains suspicious of brother Nucky's actions and feels that Jimmy may be ill-equipped to take those reins.

• Nucky finds himself in the unfamiliar position of showing gratitude toward a federal agent.

• After eavesdropping on her husband's treachery, Jimmy's wife Angela meets a new 'friend' on the beach.

• G-Man Nelson Van Alden hires a live-in nanny to take care of his little girl Abigail.

• Nucky approaches his right-hand man Owen Sleater with an overseas proposition.

• Jimmy Darmody flexes his muscles at poor Mickey Doyle's expense.

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


This is a guest post by Caleb J Ross (also known as Caleb Ross, to people who hate Js) as part of his "Stranger Will Tour for Strange" blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, "I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin" and novella, "As a Machine and Parts," in November 2011.

If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contact him. To be a groupie and follow this tour, subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: Friend him on Facebook:


Am I the only one who sees construction sites and bridge embankments not as evidenc
e of urban sprawl but as potential office space? I often romanticize writing not just in terms of capital-A Art, but in terms of environment, too. Writing, to me, means dank bars, an unfinished basement corner, a notebook on a park bench, and every time I pass them, construction sites and bridge embankments. They aren’t just for homeless people.

I have this idea for a novella series. Each book would be written in a different setting. I’d spend a week on a Florida beach and crank out a draft of a novella, possibly set at that beach, possibly only subconsciously influenced by the beach. The title of the novella would contain a reference to the setting. Maybe simply The Ocean. Then, I’d spend a week in fleabag motels, doing the same. Then a week at a hostel in Chicago. Then a week under a highway bridge. A week at the same stool in the same bar. Literary tourism, but on a much more focused scale.

Who’s done this? Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises (Madrid and Pamplona, Spain). John Kennedy Toole in A Confederacy of Dunces (New Orleans, Louisiana). But these examples explore real cities on a macro level. I want to explore the micro. Hemingway describes much of Madrid and Pamplona. I want an entire novella in Botin’s restaurant in Madrid. Toole uses food carts throughout his book. I want an entire novella about a single, specific food cart.

A vintage hotel just down the street from my house, The White Haven, was recently torn down. The lot is empty. Maybe, The White Haven would be a great name for a book about the old getting obliterated for the sake of the new. One underpass in particular, just a few miles north, shelters an unusually large number of homeless people. Maybe 670 & Truman would be a good name for a book about a group of homeless trying to survive in Kansas City.

The trick would be to keep these novellas free of gimmickry. These would be legitimate stories, not dependent on the setting, but instead leveraging the setting to inform the story. Is it possible? Would anyone care to read these things?

Photo credit:

Monday, November 7, 2011



THIS WEEK: Directed by Allen Coulter and written by Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki and Bathsheba Doran, "Peg of Old" delved in the concept of family, isolation and secrecy.

Some key moments:

• Nucky enlists heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey to promote the wireless broadcast of his upcoming Jersey City bout.

• Receiving pressure from his mini-syndicate, Jimmy Darmody faces a decision that could shape the future of Atlantic City. But is it the right one?

• Margaret Schroeder travels to Brooklyn for a bittersweet reunion with the family she left behind in Ireland. In the process, she soul searches with the help of someone very unlikely.

• Irked by the arrival of Attorney General Harry Daughertyʼs new federal prosecutor, Esther Randolph, Nelson Van Alden weighs his options as his personal and professional problems converge.

• Badly in need of financial support, Lucy visits old flame Nucky.

• Owen Sleater settles an old score, sets his sights on a new conquest and drops the ball on a major responsibility.

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit

Monday, October 31, 2011



THIS WEEK: Written by Bathsheba Doran and directed by Jeremy Podeswa, "The Age of Reason," explores the notion of forgiveness as well as confession. Some key moments:

• After getting ships seized by the Coast Guard a few weeks back, Nucky orchestrates a risky liquor delivery in Philadelphia via bootleggers Waxey Gordon and Arnold Rothstein.

• Attorney General Harry Daugherty faces a political quandary and throws a monkey wrench into Nucky's election fraud case.

• Jimmy Darmody finds a new mentor in the mutton-chopped Leander Whitlock, the Commodore's longtime lawyer.

• Margaret Schroeder digs deep into her soul and confesses her sins - especially one she'd been hiding.

• Lucy Danziger struggles with her solitude while Treasury Agent Nelson Van Alden wrestles with his conscience.

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit NJ.COM

Friday, October 28, 2011

LITTLE DEMON GIRL (#fridayflash)

Press play for some mood music

Not sure how else to put this but I think Sadie loved being possessed.

You might think that's a harsh thing to write but it's true. I remember hearing about her around town when she was around a year old. People called it a freak accident but the story always stuck with me.

One night, as a babysitter dry humped her boyfriends downstairs, Sadie crawled out of her crib and suffocated her big sister while she was sleeping.

My boy eventually went to preschool with her and at the time, I just figured that she was just a little snot of a kid. A few head butts and bloody noses later, I warned my wife to keep our son away from her.

Then again, maybe I should have warned my wife. I told her not to go to that Halloween party at school because she wasn't feeling well. But who was I to tell a fun mom what to do, right? She would dress up each year with the kid and that year it was some sort of female wizard made popular in some children's novel. Instead of buying an off-the-rack costume-in-a bag you see at Halloween superstores, she wanted to make her own and went into the attic for the materials. The costume was an elaborate success - save for the fact that it was impossible to get out of easily.

That day, when she went outside for a smoke, Sadie was slightly above lighting a Jack-o-Lantern in her classroom window. She threw the match and it ignited my wife and she was burnt to a crisp in that horrid costume. Sadie saw the whole thing and was the first to alert the teacher.

As I got drunk night after night, I couldn't help but hold that little girl responsible somehow. Was that wrong of me?

I muddled through the grief with my son and a few years later, we adjusted. When he was around 12 or so, the school held a graduation party during the day. As usual, there were all sorts of pot luck goodies that the parents brought in. I didn't cook but I did manage to pick up incredible pastries from an old Italian bakery a few towns over. I heard they went over quite well.

Ethan, my boy, complained that night of belly pain. I fluffed it off at first but it intensified in the middle of the night. The E.R. was packed but we managed to get in on the pediatric side but it didn't look good for him.

He died of peritonitis. That's an infection for those in the cheap seats. Apparently, fragments of a shoddy wooden toothpick managed to impale his little abdomen.

At this point, should I have been shocked to learn that Sadie brought in a certain treat that used toothpicks?

Digging deep in myself, I yearned for the will to press on. In the middle of the night, a lightbulb went off and I lived for only one thing...

I write this from a jail cell. It seems as though I tried to choke Sadie tonight but a bunch of dads on soccer coach duty managed to yank me off of her small frame.

That evil smile she shot me is burned in my brain and that's all I think about now. I look at the concrete cinder-blocks around me. My lawyer says I might be here a while... But I can wait.

It will be easier when she's older...

MUSIC: SMPC Children's Chime Choir - Holy Manna. Click HERE.

Monday, October 24, 2011



THIS WEEK: Written by Howard Korder and directed by series vet Tim Van Patten, 'Gimcrack and Bunkum' elevated the 'Empire' game. While we've been building on character nuances from the get-go, elements are starting to fall into place and the action is amping up -- in a big way. The result? Chatter for the water cooler.

Some key moments:

• With his opposition imploding, Nucky's election-fraud case is about to fall into federal jurisdiction. But is that a good thing after all?

• Richard Harrow embarks on a bit of soul-searching deep in the heart of the woods and meets a couple of down-home moonshining squirrel trappers

• With The Commodore ailing, Jimmy Darmody clashes with Atlantic City's ruling class and is taught a painful lesson.

• Eli lets his anger get the best of him and lands himself in a more-than-desperate situation.

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit NJ.COM

Friday, October 21, 2011

VALKA (#fridayflash)

Press play for some mood music

We all have shitty neighbors from time to time. They may play music too loud, leave their barking dogs outside or merely leave trashcans on the curb for far too long. It's all part of being a member of any given community. And we usually deal.

And sure, I have my own bad habits. Frequently, I'd leave my car parked on the street overnight, my newspapers would flood the unkempt lawn and my porch was sort of an eyesore.

That said, I often look the other way. It was hard, though, when the noises started roughly a month ago from the rectory next door.

Because the damn novel doesn't seem to formulate in my head during the waking hours, I often find myself backwards when it comes to sleep. And if it's one thing I know is that the mind can play tricks during the hush of night.

I'm going on record and telling you that I always thought Father Valka was different. He rarely said hello and when he did, it seemed forced. But in the pulpit, he was dynamic and engaging. He was a paradox.

When the noises started, I crept up to the window and peered out. Valka was carrying a bunch of stuff in a crate from an old station wagon the priests used. He walked into the rectory and slammed the door. And that was pretty much that.

A few days later, the clanking started. But it was a muffled kind of clatter. Still, in my attic, if you tried to hear it, you usually could. I shook my head and went back to the book that didn't want to end.

At Sunday mass, I noticed Valka was absent and thought it was odd since I was almost positive the clanks I heard during the witching hour the night before were certainly his.

By Wednesday of the next week, instead of ruckus there were now wails. They were agonizing. Like a dying cat. I opened the window and let in the crisp Autumn air. And those moans... Funny enough, the damn feline helped the writing.

It was the annual pilgrimage to Padre Pio in Pennsylvania where all the kooks go to pray to a statue and yellow school buses clogged the street. I was kind of happy the rectory would be empty for a few days because quite frankly, the noises were not only starting to get creepy but now I began to question most of them.

Typing. I went back to typing.

But it started again. Wails turned into a steady level of crying. Haunting. Enough was enough. I went into my backyard, hopped the fence and tiptoed around the perimeter. When I made it to the rectory backyard, the cries were evident. It was no cat. How did I know? Because cats don't speak.
"Jesus, please save me..." was all I kept hearing in a drone. That was it. I kicked in the screen door that led to the back hallway and crept down a dark, dank staircase to the cellar. The cries were louder now but I couldn't tell where they were coming from.

I picked up a large hammer on a workbench and crept around in the dark -- my hands as my guide. They led me to a makeshift room, padlocked.

She cried when I told her that I was there to help. My adrenaline kicked in and I began to hammer at the lock furiously. Eventually I was able to kick in the door enough to see a prisoner.

It was Sister Mary Marie. She was chained and tied up. The blindfold was so tight, it barely came off. Scribbled in blood on the wall was one message:


She was young nun who arrived at the convent about a month ago, fresh faced and just way too good looking to be in a habit. Looking at her it dawned on me what the public still doesn't get about these men of the faith is that -- they're men. And men will be men.

All half dozen of the priests were questioned by detectives the next day and it was pretty easy to surmise that Valka was their man. He told them that he never intended to hurt Mary Marie but simply wanted to see who would come to her aid first -- God or Satan.

It's some months later and Mary Marie is bouncing back with the help of generous amounts of prayer and head shrinking. She teaches third grade at the Catholic School up the street where my daughter attends.

Me? I was back in the attic typing away, questioning the nature of our demons, their challenges and the people we become as a result. And Valka? Funny enough, Satan got the best of him in a damp jail cell in Marion County, Georgia. The guards found him strangled.

The weird part? Legend has it the videotape went black at the time of his death.

Monday, October 17, 2011



It's getting hot in the kitchen... Written by Steve Kornacki and directed by Ed Bianchi, "What Does the Bee Do?" has Nucky's tide turning. Or so we're led to believe... Some key moments:

• Nucky's attorney has a legal brainstorm that just may have his election-rigging case squashed;

• Facing a local liquor surplus, Jimmy Darmody and Mickey Doyle head to Philadelphia in search of buyers -- meeting up with gangster Manny Hurvitz;

• Nucky calls an old enemy and strikes an unlikely deal to get his booze flowing back into Atlantic City;

• As the The Commodore suffers a horrific ailment, Eli questions his ability to lead;

• Bootlegger Chalky White feels stifled in his work and at his home;

• Irish revolutionary Owen Sleater puts his munitions expertise to work;

• Gillian Darmody recalls her "first time" with the Commodore

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit NJ.COM

Friday, October 14, 2011

THE VANISHING CLOWN (#fridayflash)

Press play for some mood music

We went to see the clowns right around the time I started having the dreams -- the horrid ones where the teeth crumbled out of my mouth.

As I remember them, they'd be no stronger than a Corn Flake and would inexplicably loosen and flick right off of my gums until the innards of my mouth were a bloody, brittle mess.

Because my dad never made it home from the war, mom tried to overcompensate with every guy that winked in her direction. And when they were out on their benders, Uncle Andy would usually foot the bill.

He was only about five years older than me so he sort of lacked in that Uncle department. I didn't even call him Uncle because it just seemed silly. The uncles I saw on TV usually tassled hair, bragged about their new Caddie and drank Whiskey Sours till the sun came up. Andy give incessant wedgies, bragged about his driver's license and drank RC.


It was just before Halloween and Andy snagged free tickets for the graduation show over at the at Peoria Clown College. The ceremony was more or less a showcase for the graduates and it was usually a packed event. Mom gave me a dollar, kissed my cheek and whooshed me into Uncle Andy's car. It must have been date night.

I remember staring at them. They were colorful and grand. Dumb as it sounded, these chaps chucked it all and gathered enough scratch to put themselves through a fucking clown college during the Great Depression.

Some would stowaway to Europe and practice their craft in an elegant manner while others would stay in the States, hopping onto carnies in the Dust Bowl that migrated towards California and the movies.

The rugged types, though, usually headed towards either the big rodeos of the Southwest or The Steel Pier in Atlantic City (the latter needing brutish men for that inhumane diving horses act).

Some would merely disappear after the ceremony, never to be heard of again. Those were the ones that scared me.

Whatever the case, the audience bought their act while some made jokes. At the end of the day, though, they now had a craft. A trade. And taking it in the nuts during a vaudeville show certainly beat standing on the bread line in the rain.

Throughout the ceremony, I couldn't help but notice one of the clowns. He didn't move from his wooden stool. In fact, it's almost as if he wasn't really there. Yet I saw him plain as day. He smiled at me and I quickly grabbed Andy's arm and pointed him out but my uncle couldn't place him. The clown had vanished.

When the graduation ended, it had turned cold and dark and I remember the drive home seemed different. There was fog on the road and it felt like we were lost.

I asked Uncle Andy if he knew where we were. He said he missed a turn somewhere back and the road was now getting darker. I told him to turn around. He insisted the highway was up ahead and as I fussed with the radio, I shrieked.

It was that vanishing clown.

He was now on on the side of the road, waving at us.

Uncle Andy told me that he no longer had control of the car and the clown kept reappearing along the edge of the thoroughfare for about a mile.

The last thing I remember was a screech.

I've asked my mother repeatedly through the years about what happened that night but she always maintained the car accident was the primary reason I lost all my teeth. Imagine -- dentures at twelve years-old.

I knew better, though. I didn't get a scratch anywhere else. As for Uncle Andy? He died that night. The papers said that he burned in the wreckage, but mom let it slip once under the influence of some cheap screwtop vino that they never found his body. I'd say I got off cheap. I just want to know why he needed my goddamn teeth.

It's well over a decade later and I don't go within fifty miles of a circus and as my daughter cries for the clowns and elephants, I usually make up a lie.

Do you blame me? Especially because the dreams are starting up once again...

Monday, October 10, 2011



The third episode of this season, the conflict continues to come fast and furious with a slick script by Itamar Moses and taut direction provided by Susanna White. “A Dangerous Maid” moved the series along nicely. Some key events:

• The Commodore uses his Coast Guard connections to put the squeeze on Atlantic City's liquor shipments.

• Nucky reaches out to Washington's new Attorney General, Harry Daugherty to return a political favor but finds up he may be out of luck.

• In an effort to prove his worth, Owen Sleater intervenes on a delivery intended for struggling casino operator Lolly Steinman .

• Margaret sheds her pretense with maid Katie and the rest of her household staff only to think that it may have been a mistake.

• Lucy Danziger wallows in her pregnant loneliness at the hands on Treasury Agent Nelson Van Alden.

• Nucky clashes with The Commodore, Jimmy and Governor Edwards at Babette’s Supper Club.

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit NJ.COM

Friday, October 7, 2011

ATHENA (#fridayflash)

Press play for some mood music

The first thing I noticed on her when I stepped into Tully's Towne Pub were the hips. She was dancing in front of the juke to Van Halen and it was the fucking sexiest thing I ever saw.

She clutched a long neck in one hand and took a drag of an unfiltered cigarette with the other. The smoke enveloped her like some kind of Gothic specter.

"Holy Christ... Those hips are gonna bear my kids," I told Pam behind the bar. She fetched my beer, opened it and rolled her eyes.

"She looks like a slut to me..." she growled. "Men... "

I stared at the auburn hair and how it flowed to her shoulders. She had deep, piercing emerald eyes that were both welcoming and alarming.

"Somewhere in Athens there's a damn statue that's jealous," I said to Pam but she was now on the other side of the bar.

David Lee Roth's wails were coming to an end and she smiled. I walked over to her and asked if she needed a refill.

"Where's your girlfriend?" she asked.

"Gave her the night off..."

"Then yeah..."

For hours we spoke. She told me her name was Athena (if you can imagine), was fiercely loyal to her father and had been in the country about 10 years. She had an odd accent that sounded like it came from another time. When I asked where she was from all she said was, "Europe..."

Athena almost didn't seem real. She smelled too good. But she made my Levis rise and that's all that mattered after four beers and God knows how many Jacks.

It was almost closing time and Athena took my hand and led me out.

# # #

Passing the posers with their Harleys, Athena and I walked towards the back of the bar. All grew quiet except for the crunching of gravel underneath our feet and the occasional clack of pool balls from an open window. The beer neon sizzled. A distant horn honked.

We settled at the side of a dumpster and I became cold. Frigid, in fact, but I labored through it. I also felt a dampness in the air but there was no rain. Oddly, now, Athena looked wet but I didn't care. It was going where I wanted it to.

Her tongue felt strangely large and it almost slithered inside my mouth hitting the back of my neck. I gagged. In an instant, her perfume went foul. I stopped kissing her and scrunched my nose to see if it was the stench of the dumpster.

But she was now different, no longer the beauty of Tully's Towne Tavern. As cold as the air became outside, her palm was hot, but not clammy. It went underneath my shirt and felt my abs and settled upon my chest.

The last image I had of Athena was her eyes, now black shells. She took a drag of her cigarette and blew smoke in my face and laughed.

The cackle grew stronger, maniacal. Then I felt my flesh rip, but oddly it didn't hurt. Maybe because I was already dead.

As my body plopped to the ground I watched her eat my heart, its dying thumps growing louder as she chewed the life from it. All I heard was a distant voice yelling, "Someone turn the bass on that radio down!" But it was no radio. My heart was losing its life and I was now falling down the cold and wet mineshaft of an unknown plane. Bats flapped all around me.

I'm now a soulmurk. I'm not human. I'm not dead and certainly far from alive. I'm matter. Strictly and purely evil.

I live in the ether.

I go where I'm needed. I serve Athena.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



• Concerned about losing his grip on Atlantic City, Nucky deliberates a countermove as he attempts to discover who in his inner circle betrayed him.

• As agents scour Nuck's suite at The Ritz for incriminating evidence, Margaret strikes a pose from the past in an attempt to help her man out of trouble.

• In New York, Arnold Rothstein turns Jimmy's offer down but Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano loom as possible trading partners.

• In the jailhouse, Chalky is badgered by Dunn Purnsley, a jailmate with an ax to grind.

• Owen Sleater, an advance man for Irish nationalist John McGarrigle, scouts Margaret's residence.

• The Commodore takes Nucky's Ward Bosses underneath his wing and introduces Eli to "the men who made Atlantic City."

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, visit NJ.COM

Monday, September 26, 2011


"Boardwalk Empire," HBO's Prohibition drama returned Sunday night after a year of critical acclaim and sweeping several awards. It's now 1921 in Atlantic City and although his fortunes have soared in the wake of the enactment of Prohibition, Nucky Thompson is paying a steep price for wielding ultimate power in The Queen of Resorts -- that's where we are in Season Two.

And while Nucky and his ward bosses may have solidified their hold on the city, enemies are watching. Just how long, though, before Nucky starts to figure it all that out?

Some key events:

♠ Chalky White's (Michael Kenneth Williams) life and livelihood are threatened by a vicious Ku Klux Klan attack on his bootlegging warehouse where there were many casualties. Chalky may be getting more than he bargained for when the Klan member he shoots in self-defense winds up dying.

♣ Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) copes with her son's (Rory and Declan McTigue) disciplinary problems and urges Nucky to talk to him.

♥ The Commodore (Dabney Coleman), Sherrif Eli Thompson (She Wigham) and Jimmy Darmody continue their plans for domination of the city. While Eli is nervous that the vicious KKK attack will be linked to them, no one is calmer than The Commodore who urges Jimmy to start making connections and meet with various politicos.

♦ Jimmy's wife Angela Darmody (Aleksa Palladino) vies with Gillian (Gretchen Mol) for Jimmy's (Michael Pitt) affections at home;

♠ Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon) shows his wife Rose (Enid Graham) around town as an anniversary present and in the process raids a posh eatery while out with her.

♣ Nucky gets arrested by a deputy for the state's attorney -- not for bootlegging -- but election fraud.

For my full scene-by-scene annotated recap, historical footnotes, episode videos, tunes from the era and other thoughts, click HERE.

Sunday, September 18, 2011



or THIS???

Decisions... Decisions...

Friday, September 16, 2011

THIRTEEN MEN (#fridayflash)

Press play for some groovy mood music

I tended bar at Tony's Tap Room up on Biltmore Avenue.

The gig was good enough and while I wasn't a Rockefeller by any stretch, I didn't need much. At the end of the week, my rent was paid, the cupboard was stocked and if I was lucky, I'd be able to spring for some English Leather for the weekends.

That said, I sometimes felt I wasn't paid enough to deal with the occasional bullshit that came with the gig. We had our share of regulars. There was Shade, half-hustler, half lover; Tino, the cool cat with the cool car; O'Toole, the crazy mick that everyone seemed to love; Auggie, the portly everyman and Bobby C., who was plum convinced he'd be the next Frankie Valli. And then there was Linky... He was a fucking moron.

Taking care of the guys was usually Elsa. She was Danish and gorgeous. Being that I also managed the place, Tony threw in some extra cash for some eye candy and I only hired top-shelf. And why not? If I have to look at these mooks all day long, I should be able to stare at something that jiggled once in a while. Plus, this was just the kind of watering hole men where men escaped their wives and Elsa was the icing on this crummy cake.

Looking back, maybe Linky shouldn't have said what he said. But hey, that was Linky -- half stupid, half insensitive. It all started when he bet Elsa fifty beans that she couldn't dance a whole tune without spilling the drinks on her tray. He tossed her a coin and she trotted up to the juke, choosing a song and she cut her rug.

It was the best three minutes of my shitty week. in fact, there were thirteen of us in there and I think, they'd all agree. When she finished, we all clapped except for Linky, who told her that she had lost the bet.

Perplexed, she asked why. Linky told everyone that he had to pick out the song so it was a natural forfeit. We all groaned at him and it didn't take long for tears to well up in Elsa's big brown peepers.

She looked around the joint and recognition reared its ugly head. It was obvious that Elsa had enough. She charged toward Linky and hurled that plastic blue tray right at him. He ducked so most of the glasses hit my pinball machine -- which was on its way out anyway.

Elsa grabbed her coat, told me she was sorry and walked across the street to the diner, where I see her everyday waiting tables with a smile.

She was a good kid and I'm glad for her. I'm even happier that there's no jukebox in there.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


... That glorious skyline...

Friday, September 2, 2011

DECISIONS, DECISIONS (#friday flash)

Press play for some mood music

Aggie slipped into Nunzio's Tavern at about half past ten. The bar was one of those dark daytime joints where lost souls came to meet, greet and get behind that cork with a blinding vengeance. It all reeked of regret and shame.

During this early hour there wasn't much going on except for a morning poker game buried under the neon fizzle of a Lowenbrau sign. Aggie's heels on the linoleum floor seemed to wake the place up for a moment until they realized she was there to make her own act of contrition.

At the bar, she ordered a rye. When Smitty asked what kind, Aggie replied, "The kind that'll do the trick." Then she smiled politely before placing down her purse and heading to the jukebox. No sense in drowning your sorrows if there's no song, she thought.

* * *

She thought of her three men and how they each weren't worth a squirt of piss between them. She also wondered which one was responsible. Dickie, a Salvation Army Santa, was good and honest enough but only seemed to show up when the gettin' was good. Then there was Louie, whose good looks and padded wallet didn't make up for the left hook and apology Aggie sometimes received. And Pete? He was her boss, a stoic leader who unfortunately came with a wife.

More rye. More quarters. More songs.

Lunch came in the form of a BLT ordered from the greasy spoon up the block that delivered. It was better than she expected -- as was her day at Nunzio's.

She marveled at the wisdom but wondered, though, at the same time. How could these dampened men give such great advice when they've made such poor decisions in their own life? By three o' clock she pretty much understood what was so very unspoken in that dark bar to begin with and through everyone's help, Aggie knew what she needed to do.

She kissed the men goodbye, thanked them and stumbled home.

Music: Sam Taylor - Harlem Nocturne

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Listen to the title track from Tom Waits’ upcoming album "Bad As Me," due in stores on Oct. 25. on limited edition deluxe CD, CD, and LP.

Via Tom The disc is Waits’ first studio album of all new music in seven years and refines the music that has come before and signals a new direction. Waits, in possibly the finest voice of his career, worked with a veteran team of gifted musicians and longtime co-writer/producer Kathleen Brennan. From the opening horn-fueled chug of “Chicago,” to the closing barroom chorale of “New Year’s Eve,” "Bad As Me" displays the full career range of Waits’ songwriting, from beautiful ballads like “Last Leaf,” to the avant cinematic soundscape of “Hell Broke Luce,” a battlefront dispatch.

On tracks like “Talking at the Same Time,” Waits shows off a supple falsetto, while on blues burners like “Raised Right Men” and the gospel tinged “Satisfied” he spits, stutters and howls. Like a good boxer, these songs are lean and mean, with strong hooks and tight running times. A pervasive sense of players delighting in each other’s musical company brings a feeling of loose joy even to the album’s saddest songs.


You’re the head on the spear
You’re the nail on the cross
You’re the fly in my beer
You’re the key that got lost
You’re the letter from Jesus on the bathroom wall
You’re mother superior in only a bra
You’re the same kind of bad as me

I’m the hat on the bed
I’m the coffee instead
The fish or cut bait
I’m the detective up late
I’m the blood on the floor
The thunder and the roar
The boat that won’t sink
I just won’t sleep a wink
You’re the same kind of bad as me

No good you say
Well that’s good enough for me

You’re the wreath that caught fire
You’re the preach to the choir
You bite down on the sheet
But your teeth have been wired
You skid in the rain
You’re trying to shift
You’re grinding the gears
You’re trying to shift
And you’re the same kind of bad as me

They told me you were no good
I know you’ll take care of all my needs
You’re the same kind of bad as me

I’m the mattress in the back
I’m the old gunnysack
I’m the one with the gun
Most likely to run
I’m the car in the weeds
If you cut me I’ll bleed
You’re the same kind of bad as me
You’re the same kind of bad as me

Tom Waits - Bad As Me by antirecords

Friday, August 26, 2011


Press play for some mood music

Havana, 1953.

I told her there was nothing worse than waiting for the hurricane. And this phone call.

She ignored me. Cracking her gum, she bopped around the room and looked for her beach towel.

"You comin'?"

I shook my head and blew her a kiss. She shrugged her shoulders, blew me a kiss and slammed the door. Suddenly the room was quiet. That glorious kind of quiet that almost hums. But man, the air was as heavy as my great Aunt Millie after Thanksgiving dinner.

I paced, played with the radio, and discovered a young musician named Tito Puente. The sweat now dripped down my neck. Even though it was barely noon, I was dying for some whiskey -- something from Kentucky. The way I felt, I'd even go for some of that rotgut hooch mixed with Passaic River sold during Prohibition. But all they seemed to have down here was Rum. Tons of it. To me, the swill tasted like coffin varnish.

But there was a storm coming and it was all I had.

* * *

Three hours later, I couldn't see a hole in a ladder. She'd been at Cafe' Sunburn all afternoon and trotted back into the bungalow looking like a ripe Jersey tomato.

"Did you fall asleep in the sun?" I asked.

She told me instead of tanning lotion she rubbed on some Cuban paprika to get some color. I'd say it worked.

"Whatcha doin'?" she asked.

I pointed to the phone. It meant that I was still waiting for the phone call that would bring me to him.

General Fulgencio Batista.

The magazine wanted me to find his human side. Whatever that meant. A dictator was a dictator any way I sliced it and this Clyde's tale was a common one: Seized power in a military coup, banned elections and followed up with right wing policies.

I was instructed by Esquire to specifically ask him about a charismatic young revolutionary named Castro and what's being discussed in hush-hush circles as 'The Movement.'

She noticed the music and started to bob her head. We were dime grinding a few minutes later when the phone rang.

I was expecting The General but instead, it was Castro's people. They, too, wanted to talk to me.

Before I left the shack, I couldn't help but notice the storm clouds roll in. I wiped the sweat off my brow and took one last swig of the rum. By now, it tasted like that Kentucky nectar.

"Will you be back for dinner?" she asked.

I assured her that I would be and kissed her on her head. "Here's hoping that Castro's not such a bad guy..."

Music: Tito Puente & His Orchestra - Timbalero

Friday, August 19, 2011


Please press play for some mood music

Root Riley hitched all the way from Socorro, New Mexico.

Root was good at beatin' the devil around the stump -- which basically meant that he was lazier than a hound dog on a Sunday afternoon.

His father Buck arrived in Socorro in the Forties to con some money out of Conrad Hilton. That part worked. But when ol' Connie found out, Buck wound up on the clink and Root grew up visiting his poppa every other weekend at the pen three hours away.

Besides, it was time to leave Socorro. Just before he skipped town, some copper swore he saw little green men over a hill on top of a mesa. G-men, the Air-Force and every hack reporter from La La Land to the Big Apple swarmed into the small town.

It was too much action. Too much heat. So he split.

# # #

Laziness aside, Root sure knew how to cut a swell with the ladies. He asked the trucker he was hitching with where there was some good fandango.

That was easy, the trucker told him -- Collins, Texas. "It's as hot as a whorehouse on nickel night..."

"That'll do.." Root said.

He asked to be dropped him off in the town square. It was a Saturday afternoon and between the Gimbel's, coffee shop and pool hall, there'd be all sorts of townsfolk Root could scope.

The ride had him dragged out so he found a stool and downed a few cups of Arbuckle's. He bent an elbow for a bit, jabbering away with some bazoo who was in from Seattle. He was selling somebody something that didn't matter all that much to Bart. But it passed the time.

But then he saw them.

They were as fine as cream gravy. The two ladies looked like they were from the Old States... High-falutin. He watched them eat lunch -- one had a BLT and the other had some lemon meringue pie.

Another hour passed and Root knew that these two were it. They chirpily paid their bill and wandered across the street to the bus depot where telephone booths lined up like militia men.

The bank was all picked. That was the easy part.

All he needed now was an alibi and ditching one of these pigeons would be easy. Didn't matter which since they both looked the same.

Root entered the booth next to them and fiddled with the phone. He pretended to fuss about with the receiver before asking them, "Would either of you lovely ladies have another dime? This dang phone doesn't want mine."

He tipped his hat and let his smile do the rest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Charles Bukowski -- The namesake of this blog -- would have turned 91 today... Enjoy these two audio readings of his poems and pour yourself a stiff one in his honor.

Here's to you, Hank...


TOM WAITS READS NIRVANA (stupendous, eerie and gorgeous)

Monday, August 15, 2011


I'm a sucker for writer documentaries and I'll be the first to admit that I can't get enough of them.

I'm compelled to watch them because as a wannabe scribe, I know first hand how hard this craft can be. Anyone who says it comes easy, is full of horseshit.

Applying our craft, throwing ourselves into a project (both physically and metaphorically), is something that only other scribes can identify with. We don't just sit in front of a computer ... and type. These films usually explore the creative process and what goes on inside an author's brain... That's prolly why I find solace in these films.

Some favorites include:
# # #

I stumbled across "My Life on Spec" on the blog of "Sideways" novelist Rex Pickett. While the video is just a conceptual promo, (shot by Marco Mannone and his brother Al), it hits every note. If you're a writer, you need to watch. If you're a fan of "Sideways," even more so... Check it out:

Says Rex on his blog: "I had an idea last December to do a kind of quasi-documentary on my writing life — my life on spec, as it were — and the promo uses footage from what would end up being the going-back-to Sideways-turf segment. Then, things just got so busy we had to put it on hold. ... We shot for three days up in Sideways country, visiting many of the locations in the movie, and some that were only in the book. It’s well-edited and moves, I think, pretty quickly. Saying anything more about a documentary on me would be too self-aggrandizing, and I’m not that guy."

He's not... But I am!

After roughly 13 minutes, I must say that I'm jonesing for more. "Sideways" was an important book and film for me and the story of Miles and Jack transcends that of "Oh, isn't that the wine movie." Pickett's book (and subsequent film adaptation) is about friendship, loss, pain, yearning, love and yes, writing... In fact, the tale has spawned a forthcoming play (staged at the end of the year at the Ruskin Group Theater) as well as an interesting 9and gorgeously bizarre) foreign language Japanese adaptation -- "Saidoweizu."

Pickett's road-novel sequel "Vertical," published earlier this year, follows Miles and Jack once again. It flashes-forward seven years after "Sideways" and Miles has written a novel that has been made into a wildly successful movie (sound familiar?) Jack is divorced (no shock there), has a child and is on the skids. Miles's mom has suffered a stroke that's left her wheelchair-bound and wasting away in assisted-living. She desperately wants to live with her sister in Wisconsin. When Miles gets invited to be master of ceremonies at a Pinot Noir festival in Oregon, he hatches a road trip. Needless to say, hi-jinks ensue.

While the novel started out at Alfred A. Knopf (a lit division of Random House), there were creative differences when Pickett decided he wanted to write a sequel. As a result, Pickett said 'sayonara' and found equity funding from private investor Tim Moore to go the intrepid self-imprint route.

The guy keeps busy -- currently he's writing an HBO wine-themed show and there's even a fun new Facebook page 'Miles and Jack' that's dedicated to the interaction of the beloved characters. Definitely check it out.

For even more Pickett, the fine folks at Mahalo have shot several quick vignettes where the scribe fields questions from fans. It's chock full of great stuff... Here's the PLAYLIST.

Some favorites:

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Next on my reading list and released about two weeks ago.

Via AMAZON: Tom Waits, even with his barnyard growl and urban hipster yawp, may just be what the Daily Telegraph calls him: “the greatest entertainer on Planet Earth.” Over a span of almost four decades, he has transformed his music and persona not to suit the times but his whims. But along with Bob Dylan, he stands as one of the last elder statesmen still capable of putting out music that matters.

Journalists intent upon cracking the code are more likely to come out of a Waits interview with anecdotes about the weather, insects, or medieval medicine. He is, in essence, the teacher we wished we had, dispensing insights such as: “Vocabulary is my main instrument;” “We all like music, but what we really want is for music to like us;” “Anything you absorb you will ultimately secrete;” “Growth is scary, because you’re a seed and you’re in the dark and you don’t know which way is up, and down might take you down further into a darker place . . .;” and “There is no such thing as nonfiction. ...People who really know what happened aren’t talking.  Show More

"Tom Waits on Tom Waits" is a selection of over fifty interviews from the more than five hundred available. Here Waits delivers prose as crafted, poetic, potent, and haunting as the lyrics of his best songs.