A Kind of Murder (2016)

I was in the mood for a mystery thriller and this one fit the bill in some ways while missing it in others. The film is based on the novel The Blunderer written by Patricia Highsmith in 1954. Highsmith is also known for writing The Talented Mr. Ripley and episodes of Armchair Detective, Tales of the Unexpected, Chillers, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and that’s a small portion of her writing credits.

The plot is contrived; the ending–well, let’s say not entirely satisfying.

I’d give it three monkeys but for the acting and period design which are both excellent and bump it to a 4-monkey rating.

Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel are the leads, as Mr. and Mrs. Stackhouse. They are perfect in their oddities and dysfunction alone and together. She’s unhappy, neurotic, suspicious, which pushes him inevitably towards the beautiful and available young Haley Bennet who is terrific as Stackhouse’s girlfriend.

I’m surprised that Eddie Marsan (I knew him from the series Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) did not get top billing too, as he is a scene stealer, in my opinion, holding back a world of malice behind his glasses.

Mr. Stackhouse is a successful architect who writes crime stories in his free time. His hobby is collecting true crime articles for reference. Things go south quickly when his own wife is found dead at the scene of a recent murder and it becomes apparent that Mr. Stackhouse had previously gone to meet the key suspect. It’s possible Mrs. Stackhouse killed herself, but an obsessed cop is not so sure. Stackhouse is a terrible liar. It was unclear to me why he seems to deliberately make people more suspicious of him. His obsession with the murder and the creepy Mr. Kimmel only makes the cop more anxious to prove him guilty.

Have to assume they intended the play on meaning with the title: a kind-of murder or a type of murder? Did he kill his wife? This title works better for me than The Blunderer for sure.

Honestly, the ending doesn’t quite do it for me, BUT overall, the film kept me guessing. I loved the noir-ish atmosphere. The characters are complicated. Even though I wasn’t enamored with any of them–oh, hold up, I take that back–the girlfriend is likeable–but there was enough mystery to keep me engaged.

I give it four monkeys!

Rainy Days Bring Mushrooms

Living out in the woods, I delight in the ephemeral nature of and variety of mushrooms that abound. They push forth with determination and are gone almost before I can go fetch a camera. On my list to learn more about them and identify them.

This tree came down a few years ago. Standing next to it, the top of it is almost hip height to me and runs half the length of the immediate back yard. Fortunately, it didn’t fall on anything, so there was absolutely no urgency to do anything about it. We cleared around it and left it. The dogs thought it was a great obstacle course challenge. Bugs got to it. Woodpeckers and armadillos dug into it. See how light the soil is around it? Well, three years on, it has decayed quite a bit and it is making the most outstanding mulch and soil, rich and dark.

Same tree now, as seen from opposite end.
It has been fascinating watching its decay and observing all the life that this dead tree has supported.

My Cousin Rachel (1952) Olivia de Haviland/Richard Burton

I have a confession. I’ve never read any Daphne du Maurier. I plan to remedy this soon. She concocts impressive plots and they’ve been made into legendary films.

Saw Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) as a kid of course; fabulous.

Don’t Look Now (1974) with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, well, wow. A fine example of how parents had no idea what we kids were watching. I saw it as a young teen and it scared me silly. It remains one of the weirdest movies that I like. Haunting. Dreamlike. Creepy. I recently got the book, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Eager to know how true to the book the film was. It’s high on the to-read-next-pile.

Rebecca (1940) with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, and a small part by George Sanders who is so much fun to dislike. Also a Hitchcock classic. Perfection.

But last night, watched My Cousin Rachel for the first time. Had never heard of it! How is that possible? Wowee. In the gothic tradition of Rebecca, but directed by David O. Selznick, it should stand firmly with the greats, Rebecca (1940; Wuthering Heights (1939); Laura (1944) Clifton Webb, Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney; and Gaslight (1944) Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotton, Charles Boyer.

The plot is simple enough: a young man (Richard Burton) is raised by his devoted uncle, Ambrose Ashley. His uncle leaves for Italy, but does not return as planned, instead, he marries a distant cousin and remains in Italy. Not long after, the nephew receives two letters indicating that the uncle is unwell and suggests that his wife is killing him. The nephew packs off to Italy only to arrive too late, the uncle has just died and his wife has vacated their home.

It’s all very suspicious. The nephew vows to get revenge. All seems straightforward until he meets his cousin Rachel; she is not at all the gold-digging viper he imagined.

Or is she?

Don’t want to give too much away. This film grabbed me and kept me guessing. Just love it!

And check out how young Richard Burton was! “Introducing Richard Burton!”

The stunning film is in black and white. The cinematography is gorgeous. The acting is superb–and it really was acting, as they seem to have convincing chemistry when in real life Burton had issues with his prima donna leading lady.

Check out the trailer!

https://www.imdb.com/video/vi2525217561/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_4

As with all films it seems, there has been a remake and even a TV mini series. Can’t speak to them; haven’t seen them. Well worth a gander at this original. Atmospheric, and I’ve heard, Burton portrayed a more refined Philip than Daphne du Maurier created. Not surprising.

I loved this film!
FIVE MONKEYS!

Quick Update

Hi folks! Apologies for the recent silence. 2022 has been a tough year. Crafty was diagnosed with epilepsy in November and we’ve had a rough time with his cluster seizures. Getting through a wave right now. Meanwhile, my boyfriend has been trying to get his mother into Hospice and a nursing home. You wouldn’t believe the setbacks. I could write a book. Don’t want to, but my first thought is a reboot of Stephen King’s Misery in the Times of Covid.

Crafty

I hope to do a mid-summer eBook sale on all three Haint books, and will definitely do a blitz for the Christmas book this autumn.

I haven’t started another Monkey book though I have ideas for another one. It will be more like the first one, Monkey Mind. Scruffy Nobthatcher the cryptozoologist is found dead at a Cryptid convention and Haint’s new love interest, Buster is the prime suspect.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on short stories including a ghost story set in the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan in the early 90s (when I lived there.) It will be dropping on Kindle Vella –maybe as soon as September.

What does Jiko Bukken mean? Well, there’s a practical concept in real estate wherein if a property has had a troubled past, violence, lingering illness, death–well, let’s face it, most folks wouldn’t want to live there. So special property agents will rent or sell the property at a deep discount hoping that the new tenant will last a while. Once the new tenant moves on, the property is no longer listed as “stigmatized.” So there is a whole market for property with “history”.

I also got a funny true story picked up on a podcast called Pillow Talk–as soon as I hear when that is going live, I’ll share it.

Big news of this year for me was getting a short story published in the anthology The Book of Carnacki. William Hope Hodgson created Thomas Carnacki, the occult detective at the turn of the last century. It so happened that I had just finished reading the stories and thought, “I ought to write a humorous pastiche of this, with a twist.” I did. And not two weeks later, there was a call for submissions for, of all things, Carnacki stories. Mine was accepted.

https://www.amazon.com/Carnacki-Ghost-Finder-Great-Detective-Universe-ebook/dp/B0B2S1WBVR/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1Y7CHVMNI9E23&keywords=Book+of+Carnacki&qid=1659045466&sprefix=book+of+carnacki%2Caps%2C289&sr=8-1

Yes, it’s a bit pricey! $9.99 for the Kindle book. But it’s 410 pages and includes clever stories by major talents in the modern ghost story tradition.
Truly, a beautiful book.

Sunshine State Book Festival 2022

(Okay, not exactly–I’m a fictional character but my author will be there with my books and a few coffee mugs.)

It’s almost here!

The 2022 Sunshine State Book Festival

Gainesville, Florida

Oaks Mall

Saturday April 9th


She’ll be at Booth #45!


https://www.sunshinestatebookfestival.com/index.html


SUNDAY at the Matheson Museum 620 E. University Avenue, Gainesville, Florida — Guest Speakers every hour beginning at 1PM.

  • 1:00 p.m. Voices of Color: Negro Spirituals to Black Education, Presented by Carol Richardson, Program Director of A. Quinn Jones Museum.
  • 2:00 p.m. Saving Florida’s Springs: A Prescription for Springs’ Health, Presented by Robert Knight, President, Odum Springs Institute.
  • 3:00 p.m. Writing About War: Two Views, Presented by award-winning authors Robert and Patience Mason.
  • 4:00 p.m. The Struggle for Democracy: From Slavery and Colonialism to Black Lives Matter, Presented by Paul Ortiz, Director of the Samuel T. Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Night Watch (1973) Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey

I stumbled on this film at the library recently. Had never heard of it. Perhaps it’s a little slow for today’s standards, and reviews are luke warm, but if you like Hitchcock films, or films from the 60s and 70s in general, this is well worth a look-see. I enjoyed Dame Elizabeth Taylor in this.

A stormy night. Ellen looks out at the decrepit windows of the house next door. The shutters are closed but perhaps one is banging. In a flash of lightning, she sees a bloody body sitting in a chair by the window. She screams and calls for her husband, but of course, by the time he looks out, he sees nothing but the decrepit and closed shutters. She insists that they must call the police. As you might expect, the police arrive, search the house, find nothing. And so begins with what seems to be yet-another-wife-being-gaslit story which may lead you to lose patience with it… yeah, yeah, yeah, okay, either the creepy neighbor dude is up to something, or the husband is gaslighting her. Fine. We get it. Let’s move on.

Oh, it will get on with it! Have a little patience. The ending is worth it.

This was Elizbeth Taylor’s only performance in a “horror” movie. It’s pretty tame for a horror film, but it does qualify. I’d consider it giallo-esque, but then I’ve been deep diving into gialli lately. (Giallo = Italian mystery/slasher film)

Night Watch was based on a play by Lucille Fletcher, who also wrote Sorry, Wrong Number.

Four Monkeys!

Haint Blue Christmas is OUT in three versions

It’s Christmastime in North Central Florida which means temperatures vary in a day like seasons– wintery in the morning and summery by mid-day.

Haint wants to go to the beach–take a break from running her retreat. Relax. Instead, merry mayhem comes for her like an avalanche. Her retreat fills to capacity with friends and strangers.

Haint Blue Christmas is loaded with pictures, and as a holiday book, it seemed only right to publish it in color. It is available in color, black and white, and in Kindle (unfortunately not compatible with a Paperwhite–not my fault, grumble at Amazon–it was the only option to keep my Christmas fonts.)
I know, nothing says holiday cheer like a QR code, but you are a scan and a click away from downloading the book–FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Code for Amazon UK

Happy Halloween!

BOO!

Halloween is almost here — I’m excited and sad at the same time… it’ll be here and gone in no time! Not doing a party this year. That’s okay. Got some spooky movies to watch and an easy puzzle. I’m a jigsaw puzzle fan.

Isn’t this cute?

October/Halloween is my favorite time of year — nostalgia for trick or treating, the smell of leaves, the crisp air, apple cider– it’s not half as excited in Florida as it is up north. I miss the spectacle of the leaves changing colors. Ooh, gotta go pick out pumpkins to carve!

Took this photo a couple years ago.
Must have been fog on the lens,
but it came out cool and spooky. Second hand pumpkin–haunted?

I’ve got some spooky offerings for you–my publisher, Hedonistic Hound Press has a few video stories up on their Facebook page. Here’s a link for a funny and spooky story called “An Old House Just Has So Much Character”:

https://www.facebook.com/HedonisticHoundPress/videos/433699564924254

and this one–a spooky true one about a creepy black cat:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiwDTdTjcMI

I know, I know, you’re asking yourself, why is one on Facebook and one on YouTube? They’re both on Facebook. “Old House” is waiting to get subtitled. I got permission to release it early. It’ll get subtitled and on YouTube properly soon.

And don’t forget, if you like a funny mystery with a Halloween theme, check out:

Best wishes for a safe and
fab-boo-lous weekend!

Fall Promo: The “Monkey” books

The “Monkey” books
Okay, yes, shameless promotion because marketing is soul-sucking,
and hey,
my books, my blog!

But really, if you like humor and mystery and autumn, I bet you’d like my “Monkey” books.

It all started with the soft opening of my meditation retreat. I thought it would be an easy practice run. A handful of guests, yoga, meditation, good food, and relaxation. Yeah, well, there’s always what you want to happen vs. what really happens, right? Let’s just say that the weekend was murder and about killed my business dead.

Business limped along until an uptick at Halloween. All of a sudden, I had Wiccans, preppers, a weight loss club, drag queens and cryptozoologists as guests. All at the same time!

The Wiccans wanted to use my meditation circle for their Samhain ceremonies, while

Dr. Crypto and his pals were setting up trail cameras to catch a Skunk Ape–

The drag queens were rocking it into the night —

The preppers were planning for TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World As We Know It)

And some of the weight loss club members were taking liberties with the diet–

things went French farce as several guests, including my yoga instructor, went missing.

Murder?

Skunk Ape abduction?

Or something else?

Monkey Heart will tickle your funny bones!

So, if you’re looking for something fun to read to get you in the autumn mood, check out the “Monkey” books. More mayhem to come! I’m about to publish the next one in time for Christmas:

Psst! Haint Blue is a fictional character
from Author J. Elliott

Hedonistic Hound Press has a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HedonisticHoundPress/

and a website:

https://hedonistichoundpress.com/