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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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, 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