A Brit a Day [#1008]

I just finished reading “Cop Hater,” the opening novel of the 87th Precinct series, Ed McBain’s homage to ‘Dragnet’ that virtually created the police procedural genre.  Begun in the 1950’s, “Cop Hater” is the first of a whopping 55 books in the series.  And McBain was only one of a handful of pen names for the author Evan Hunter, and author so prolific he could apparently dash off a novel if he got caught at a red light.

Tom-Hiddleston-as-Freddie-Page suits McBain’s description of lead detective Steve Carella to a T.  But “Cop Hater” isn’t all sticks and stones and blood-sticky sidewalks–Carella’s proposal to his girlfriend is the sweetest I’ve ever read.  I could, of course, hear it in Tom Hiddleston’s voice as I read it.

A Brit a Day [#988]

Around here, we count Australians among our brits.  So today’s honors go without a doubt to John Noble for his incredible performance in last night’s final episode of the beloved “Fringe.”  I haven’t been so moved by a television show since the finale of  “Lost.”  If you’ve had a chance to see the 2-hour ending to Fringe’s 5-season run, you won’t mind the visual spoilers here.  Read the accompanying text, and I’ll pass the tissues.

A Brit a Day [#893]

Henry Ian Cusick’s 5-minutes-on-screen character Udre in the movie “Hitman” fueled reams of some of the best fan fiction I have ever read.  Reading fan fiction has almost taken over my life like a crack addiction. I used to write the stuff, but back in the day, it was fashionable to change the names to protect the innocent–including oneself, from plagerism claims.  Now that original creators have become more forgiving of fans borrowing their characters to assemble their own universes, am I tempted to write more?……Not…..really.

A Brit a Day [#888]

Meet Lauren Fox, author of at least 2 novels and this brilliant short story that I stumbled upon on Salon.com the other day:


Now here’s a huuuuuge stretch–Lauren gets to be Brit of the Day by virtue of being married to a guy from Dublin.  I know that’s beyond suspect as Britishness goes, but I just had to get her onto this blog.  After all, this blog started off as a platform for my own short stories a million years ago, and you see how far that got.  People like Lauren remind me that there are enough awesome writers out there, writing about the things that needle at me, that I don’t have to add my warbling voice to the many others who are singing the song in tune.

Here is how Lauren describes herself on her website:

I was born in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, into a family full of love, support, and very little grist for the dramatic mill. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a writer, and decided that my best bet was to make stuff up. My first attempts at fiction included a tragic story about a blind Mexican orphan, and a tragic tale about a horse who dies, tragically, in a barn fire. 

 By the time I got to college and enrolled in a few creative writing classes, I learned the adage, “write what you know,” and began churning out stories about the unhappy love lives of young, thin-skinned, near-sighted, sarcastic, curly haired girls. My first published short story, which appeared in a nationally distributed college magazine, used the structure of the game show Jeopardy! to trace the demise of a relationship. (I’ll take ‘the slow erosion of my self-esteem’ for $200, Alex.) I was pleased that I had finally created fiction out of my two favorite pastimes: tv-watching and borderline obsessive pining over unavailable men. 

 After college I moved around a bit, living in Washington, DC and then for a while back in Madison, Wisconsin, bravely conducting field research for my stories about lonely women in their twenties who can’t find a date. In graduate school in Minneapolis, I took a brief detour from fiction and began writing about my family’s history and the Holocaust, which was fun. 

 When I was twenty-six, I met a nice boy from Dublin who put an end to my anthropological studies of loneliness and heartbreak. Luckily, I had gathered enough material to last for a while.

In other words, sisters, she opens her heart and our story spills out.

A Brit a Day [#817]

Tom Hiddleston from BBC’s ‘The Hollow Crown’.

“I feel like one who has suddenly awakened out of a feverish delirium, or like a shipwrecked man who has for many days battled with the waves that momentarily threatened to devour him and finally has found a safe shore.”

           –Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs, 1870

A Brit a Day [#692]

I just finished reading Beryl Bainbridge’s novel, The Birthday Boys, an account of Robert Falcon Scott’s tragic march to the South Pole told in turns from the point of view of the five men who died there.  Here is an excerpt from the final section, the words of Captain Titus Oates as Bainbridge imagines them–

And of course that black flag told them that Roald Amundsen and his party of Norwegian explorers had beaten them to the Pole.

The photo of Scott in his Antarctic expedition hut can be opened in another window and examined for incredible detail.  My god, you can almost smell the penguins!

By the by, Beryl Bainbridge was an incredibly talented but unsung author.  She died last year at only 77 of cancer.  Send up some love to her spirit some time by reading one of her books, this one for example, or perhaps An Awfully Big Adventure.

A Brit a Day [#627]

Abandoned by her husband, Raymond Chandler’s mother moved her family to London in 1900 when Ray was 12 years old.  He became a naturalized British subject [and thus eligible to be today’s Brit] and remained so until he regained his US citizenship in 1956.

Chandler’s life story makes your heart ache, and that ache is evident in his masterpieces of fiction.  Joyce Carol Oates said

“The prose rises to heights of unselfconscious eloquence, and we realize with a jolt of excitement that we are in the presence of not a mere action-tale teller, but a stylist, a writer with a vision … The reader is captivated by Chandler’s seductive prose.” 

I’m reading ‘The Long Goodbye’ right now.  But nothing may be as moving as the last chapter of his life which ends right here in San Diego–

[from Wikipedia]

In 1954 Pearl Eugenie (Cissy) Chandler died after a long illness. Heartbroken and drunk, Chandler neglected to inter Cissy’s cremated remains, and they sat for 57 years in a storage locker in the basement of Cypress View Mausoleum.
After Cissy’s death, Chandler’s loneliness worsened his natural propensity for clinical depression; he returned to drink, never quitting it for long, and the quality and quantity of his writing suffered.
After a respite in England, he returned to La Jolla. He died at Scripps Memorial Hospital of pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia (according to the death certificate) in 1959.
Raymond Chandler is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego, California. As Frank MacShane noted in his biography, The Life of Raymond Chandler, Chandler wished to be cremated and placed next to Cissy in Cypress View Mausoleum. Instead, he was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery because he had left no funeral or burial instructions.[12]
In 2010, Chandler historian Loren Latker, with the assistance of attorney Aissa Wayne (daughter of John Wayne), brought a petition to disinter Cissy’s remains and reinter them with Chandler in Mount Hope. After a hearing September 2010 in San Diego Superior Court, Judge Richard S. Whitney entered an order granting Latker’s request.[13]
On Valentine’s Day (February 14) 2011, Cissy’s ashes were conveyed from Cypress View to Mount Hope, and interred under a new grave marker above Chandler’s, as they had wished.[14] About one hundred people attended the ceremony, which included readings by the Rev. Randal Gardner, Powers Boothe, Judith Freeman and Aissa Wayne. The shared gravestone reads “Dead men are heavier than broken hearts”, a quote from The Big Sleep. A video of the ceremony is available at http://raymondchandler.info/reunite. Chandler’s original gravestone, placed by Jean Fracasse, is still at the head of his grave, while the new one is at the foot.

A Brit a Day [#231]

This week’s theme was wholly inspired by the discovery of this delightful picture. Here is Alan Rickman with his significant other of appproximately 40 years, Rima Horton.

In homage to the many titles penned by that Scottish master of gently soothing and amusing prose, Alexander McCall Smith, I’m calling this week’s posts The Significant Comfort of Others.