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I supported three sons and several bartenders writing this sort of stuff I now give away free in these blogs

crime novel

 

I supported three sons and several bartenders writing this sort of stuff I now give away free in these blogs.

A beautiful young thing called Daisy came for some mysterious reason to interview me last week and told me that journalists no longer make money writing columns. Newspapers now acquire them for next to nothing off the blogs. I was lucky then, being a paid columnist and author of “colour pieces” from 1963 to 1999.

I also now write crime novels for no money at all. I have just published my fifth, Invitation To A Few Murders. My first, Death Dyed Blonde, was published by Quartet. It was half a bestseller, but only made enough money to go up to London for maybe two nights at a hotel, but no eating and no drinking.

The others – Murder In A Cold Climate, The Summer Stock Murders,  and Murder In Arcady  made enough to maybe hop on a bus and have a couple of beers – glasses, not pints.

“If you aren’t making any money, why are you doing it?” asks an old lady breaking into this blog.

It is, I suppose, a reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

It was not always like that. When I was young and lovely and couldn’t walk down a street without sexy blondes fainting, I wrote a novel that actually made money.

I mentioned  this before and I’m mentioning it again because I cannot believe there was an actual time in the long ago days before colour television and mobile phones and trips to the moon when people actually read books. Not only read them but bought them. Libraries also bought books then. You could count on the libraries in England buying 2000 copies of your novel in those days.

Now, alas, I am a lonely old scholar remote from enlightened conversation. I seem unable to know the difference between the Yukon and the Ukraine. My very up to date No 2 son said, “Are you out of your mind? The Yukon is in Alaska.”

“Alaska, like the Ukraine, once belonged to Russia,” I told him.

Who knows what Commissar Vlad Putin is up to?

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One of my Constant Readers expressed surprise that there were tobacco fields in New England, also Indians.

Murder in Arcady

 

One of my Constant Readers expressed surprise that there were tobacco fields in New England, also Indians.

She thought tobacco was only grown Down South and Injuns only lived Out West.

Our tobacco in New England is cigar tobacco – the best outside of Cuba. When I first started Murder In Arcady I very carefully put in the history of tobacco in the Connecticut River Valley. Then, reading it over, it looked exceedingly boring.

Now the Native Americans in Murder In Arcady are somewhat like that wonderful branch of the Algonquins that I covered in South County, Rhode Island, in the 1960s when I was a young reporter on the Providence Journal.

But I juiced them up, under a different name and located in a much different part of New England – on the Mohawk Trail, in fact. This gave me the chance to indulge in colourful speech coming out of the mouths of colourful people.

For instance, Miss Prudence Appleseed writes a novel featuring the sex lives of the people of North Holford.

Shotgun Logan, the chief of the Nonotucks, lives just outside of North Holford. Murder In Arcady contains this:

Out in Frenchtown Shotgun Logan’s wife, Bella, said, “Cigar Store Injun, how come none of our gals is in this filthy book? Ain’t our gals horny enough for that stuck-up Miss Prudence Appleseed?”

Little does Bella know that Miss Prudence is at the moment writing another sex saga, Venus is Overalls, starring Tula Salome, the beautiful Native American princess of the Nonotucks, who is Bella’s granddaughter.

In Murder In Arcady I also thought I might invent a religion, The Holy Astrology Church of Divine Guidance. It is, of course, a total scam, with the Rev Chuck Pierpoint, and his partner Wazoo Annie Longstreet, confidence tricksters taking in the suckers.

What with all this going on I almost forgot the murder, which would give work to my detectives, Boomer Daniels and Davy Shea; also the amorous police doctor, Phyllis Skypeck.

Other dolls include Calypso Mae and Atalanta. Girls for whom foolishness rises like a weed firmly implanted in their unmentionables, creating such an itch.

That is perhaps filthy enough to be in Miss Prudence’s novel, Satan With An Ice Cream Cone. That title comes from…but I’ll stop.

You’ve got to find something to discover in the book.

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Real life is such a miserable affair that I thought it would be better for me (and you) to bring Farce to the rescue.

Murder
Do you Blogland folk ever buy a bloody book?

Well, here goes, I’ve got a new one but I don’t know why I bother when I could be drunk in a nineteenth hole complaining about my putter.

Real life is such a miserable affair that I thought it would be better for me (and you) to bring Farce to the rescue. I hadn’t done any novel-length farce for 50 years (Yes, darling, Papa Stan is that old). I was in my twenties and had something of a success way back then with a satire on the American right-wing. Better Dead Than Red, I called it and it won rave reviews in England, America and in translation in Germany and Italy. The Italians thought I was like Marco Twain.
Satire it was called, but I thought it was farce; doing anything for a laugh, short of farts and belches which is what the half-wit scribes use. I was surprised when I was praised for my dark humour.
At that time I was earning a crust writing a humorous column two days a week for the Guardian, a weekly piece for Punch, and book reviews every month for the New Statesman.
Melancholy used to creep into my work. I don’t think it is supposed to. You won’t find it in Wodehouse. Nor in the great Frenchman, Feydeau.
Voltaire’s Candide is the best ever, and it’s got melancholy.
Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 was the heavyweight champ of the 20th Century. Personally I’d rather read Aldous Huxley. Crome Yellow started him off in 1921. “Delightful, witty, worldly and poetic” The Times called him. Brave New World (1932) was called “the greatest novel of the future ever written.” In it children are produced to order. It is an insane Utopia. In the Fertilizer Rooms the Director of Hatcheries produces Alpha, Beta, Deltas and Epsilons. I think they’re turning out modern Wimbledon lady tennis players now.
I like Huxley better when he’s being comic and poetic, as in Crome Yellow or the first part of After Many A Summer (1939) when he describes the mad people and places in Hollywood, California.

Well, my new one, Murder In Arcady, the fourth Boomer Daniels murder mystery set in the same rural New England town,
is not heavy stuff.

So what is it like?
I don’t think I really know.
I start it off with this:

Arcadian charm wrapped in a summer day luxuriated on the lakeside beaches of the cozy New England township.
Up and down the pure white lakeside sand strolled stunners with sex-stained eyes; and also waddling overgrown tourist ladies of a certain age offering massive views of flesh, some of which was even faraway New Jersey backsides. “Bebop a Lulu you’re my baby.” A radio sang the antique love song. And the air was so wonderful in North Holford that nobody died unless they were murdered.

That’s the way it starts and that is the way I wanted to go on. The critics will shout: “Roll over Voltaire, tell Wodehouse the news.”
I kept it down to 37,000 words – not a shilling shocker but a threepenny novella.
Farce is always full of character who could not really be real – that is the charm of it.
In Murder In Arcady I’ve got Miss Prudence Appleseed, who looked like a chicken who was for some reason wearing a wig. She’s written a saucy novel called Satan with an Ice Cream Cone.
There is her twin sister, Patience, who is writing a history of the 119 species of Connecticut butterflies.

Also a gunman called Sweeney; a crook clergyman, the Rev Chuck of the Holy Astrology Church of Divine Guidance; billionaire Alonzo the Arch Dude Stagg; sexy Savannah Moon, writer of dime novels; Hapless Jones, a journo; Shotgun Logan, Chief of the Nonotuck tribe; his granddaughter, Tula Salome, a beautiful Native American princess. Plus Boomer Daniels, the police chief, his sidekick crazy Sgt Davy Shea; and amorous Dr Phyllis Skypeck, the police doctor.
What I am doing with characters like that, with French Canucks, Bog Irish, Italians and Red Indians, is giving the folks a real New England which is something the late John Updike never did. Ditto the later John Cheever with his Yankee paradise. In other words, farce or no farce, I am truer to life than them guys, as Davy Shea would say.

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The Summer Stock Murders

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Sitting in my bower in the April sunlight reading my friend Sir Max Beerbohm’s one and only novel, Zuleika Dobson, it suddenly struck me how much my latest masterpiece,  is like the tale of Zuleika.

Men, as in Sir Max’s little effort of 1911, cannot keep from falling in love with my femme fatale, Martha Flowers.

Here is an example: “…Martha suddenly looked at him. He was immediately hooked. Martha allowed him to worship her for two days and then on the third day she dumped him….. That was par for the course with Martha.”

Zuleika’s failed lovers threw themselves into the river at Oxford and drowned. (None of the men in love with my Miss Flowers does this. Their thoughts of love turn inevitably to murder.)

But, dear post-feminist readers, fear not. My gal also attracts women. They fall in love with her too. None drowns, but poor love-struck Roz Quilty plans to throw herself off a ferris wheel.

Will she be saved?

Buy the book while stocks last. Meanwhile I shall be sprawled in the April sun dreaming of those magic days I spent with Sir Max at his house at Rapallo on the Italian Riviera.

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“By the waters of the Parrett we sat down and wept remembering a dredged river,”

m2 (2)“By the waters of the Parrett we sat down and wept remembering a dredged river,” I sang to Handel’s Messiah.

I was far away in the Balkans doing my latest study of the leg-dancers of Bosnia when word of a flooded West Country came to me in the Continental edition of the Langport Leveller. I rushed back to a soggy cottage and decided to come to the rescue with Blog 25.

My television, however, that late night and early morning, was filled with men in helmets bumping into one another and then stopping for what seemed like an eternity before doing the bumping into one another all over again. I then saw that this was being performed before 100,000 persons live in a stadium somewhere in New Jersey (“the short-change state”) while 100 million watched it on their television sets. It was not a form of primitive religion.  No, this was American grid-iron football. Or put it another way: Yes, this was American grid-iron football. The Super Bowl.

It was too late outside to escape and go out to what I like to call a ragamadolion with an off-duty waitress from the Pork and Punter public ‘house. One particular waitress is such the ruggedest voluptuary that even the cops cheer the assorted sex stimuli on display.

I digress, but what the hell else can I do in weather like this?

I suppose I could plug my thrilling tale of blood and lust in the snowbanks of rural New England, Murder In A Cold Climate, or my other amazing murder mystery, Death Dyed Blonde. As you can see by that last title, this is pretty high-hat intellectual stuff up there with Kafka and a few more of the boys down at the existential bistro. When the books were not to be translated into the Grecian and Norwegian I was disappointed. Secondary education in or out of Euroland is not what it was.

Never mind, as a member of the British Davis Cup team, which had a victory over America for the first time in 80 years, said, “Colonel Reynolds has a way with words.” And this was before he read the book.

“Definitely a suitable party piece for any country manor house party,” said Lady Marjorie Truman Capote, authoress of Lunch at Boston’s Shrive, Crump and Lowe, and Brunch at Harry Winston’s.

Does what I modestly call my stuff need further booming? No, what about the rain?

Well, there is a moment in one of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words, written when he was two years old, which seems to embody all this West Country flooding – a sense of water, of rainfall repetition, the cry of the wind over an interminable watery expanse. These are the subtler emotions which cannot be translated into words, but are to be hinted at by chords and harmonies.

Will this do?

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I must pause once more from writing my villanelles (pastoral or lyrical poems of 19 lines, with only two rhymes throughout and some lines repeated) and blog again

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I must pause once more from writing my villanelles (pastoral or lyrical poems of 19 lines, with only two rhymes throughout and some lines repeated) and blog again in a desperate attempt to get you to buy my little murder mystery, Murder In a Cold Climate, “a complex mystery with terrific dialogue, an entertaining pastiche with snappy repartee.”

I wish to speak of the enemies of promise which keep the artist from his art. Mostly it is, they tell me, one enemy: the need to earn a living.

The idea is that if the novelist was not forced to dig ditches, plumb plumbing, wait on tables or write light pieces for magazines he would produce War and Peace. Tolstoy, remember, was a Count (repeat Count; last week’s error was a typo) he did not have to earn a living although the old fool tried to turn himself into a peasant and went on working side by side with the boys in the fields. I wonder what they thought of the boss doing that? They thought the old bastard was spying on them, of course they did.

Byron was another lord who was freed from toil. What did he do? Got himself killed in a Greek war. By the way, few people know this, but Byron only scored 4 runs in the Eton v Harrow match at Lords in 18 something or other.)

Cyril Connolly wrote Enemies of Promise (1938) in an attempt to explain why he, the biggest brain in England at the time, only wrote one novel. His genius was locked up while he made a splendid living writing book reviews for the Observer and others.

The Cyril Connolly novel was The Rock Pool (1936), in which a snobbish and mediocre young literary man from Oxford, with a comfortable income, spends a summer on the Riviera in an artists’ and writers’ colony. He studies this collection, seeing them as the denizens of a rock pool. He is, of course, dragged down into it. Compton Mackenzie got in ahead of Connolly with his novels of Capri, and Aldous Huxley got in ahead of all of them with Chrome Yellow (1921).

They are all wonderful reads, much better than anything in busy, busy, grim grey today.

Both Connolly and Huxley went to Eton and Balliol College, Oxford and the slow-paced grand manner of their prose springs from the lives they were born into, as Lucy Tantamount says in Huxley’s fourth novel Point Counter Point (1928), “You can’t cart a wagonload of ideas and romanticisms around with you these days. . . The good old-fashioned soul was all right  when people lived slowly. But it’s too ponderous nowadays.”

What keeps today’s wordsmiths from penning anything wondrous could be the speed of modern life rather than having to earn a living. For example F.Scott Fitzgerald was writing advertising copy when he wrote his first novel, This Side Of Paradise; Ernest  Hemingway was typing out newspaper copy when he published The Sun Also Rises, and William Faulkner was night-watchman at a lumber mill when he wrote As I Lay Dying.

We haven’t heard yet of anyone writing a novel worth reading while writing Blogs.

And what is a Blog? More disgusting-sounding today talk. I really don’t think, after 22 blogs, that I can go on doing this. As another kid with money, Shelley, said:

      “We look before and after,

      And pine for what is not:

      Our sincerest laughter

      With some pain is fraught.”

I think I’ll go out and have a beer. Or at least dream about it.

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Most clichés are true and some are getting truer.

1781486344Most clichés are true and some are getting truer. Like, for example, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

No author is ever happy about his cover, especially if it attempts to illustrate a character in the book. No, he says, she didn’t look nothing like that.

Some authors have suffered so much they stopped complaining. I speak of the Master, P.G.Wodehouse. The Empress of Blandings, Lord Emsworth’s prize pig, is a Berkshire Black, but illustrators present all sorts of white pigs; some with black or brown spots.

A newish edition of Leave it to Psmith  has the Efficient Baxter, Lord Emsworth’s pain in the ass secretary, outside Blandings Castle hurling flower pots through Lord Emsworth’s bedroom window. This truly classic comedy was first published in 1923 so you’d think illustrators would know what’s what by now. Not a bit of it, the excellent cover is ruined because Baxter is wearing green panamas. In the story Baxter is wearing lemon-coloured panamas and they are important because the light colour made Baxter visible to Lord Emsworth.

Another error of colour is the hair of Jane Abbott, the main gal in Summer Moonshine (1937). Wodehouse describes Jane as having “fair hair”, but in the otherwise exceptional drawing her hair is red. Joe, the hero of the book, sometimes calls Jane Ginger. Jane hates that name but I guess that was the reason for the red hair.

From my years at Punch, I learned that cartoonists did not read books; or read at all. The only illustrator who was spot on was Posy Simmons. When I wrote a column for the Guardian she often illustrated it. I was sometimes unhappy about the way Posy drew me. I wanted something more dramatic. “Let’s face it,” she said, “no matter what you do you’ll always be Mr Chips.”

Evelyn Waugh illustrated his first novel, Decline and Fall.  He would dislike the covers Penguin put on the Sword of Honour trilogy. Men at Arms has a soldier who is obviously other ranks and Officers and Gentlemen  has a photograph of sailors running about on the deck of a battleship. This is absolutely wrong. This is a novel about Commandoes, not the Navy.

The final novel, Unconditional Surrender, is not so bad, but also not so good. Penguin fell back on a photograph of a much bombed street. It is the cliché shot. They just about got away with it, but it lacks imagination.

There must be many other examples. I remember Penguin’s first edition of The Natural, a novel about a baseball player. The cover showed men playing softball. It was almost like showing men playing croquet in a novel about cricket.

And what about your covers, Mr Stan?

I hated all the British and American covers of Better Dead Than Red, both the hardback and paperback. For the hardback the cover took longer to do than I took to write the book. The German and Italian covers had excellent illustrations; the German edition took longer to translate than I took writing it; I knocked it off at top speed, twenty hours a day, in one week.

That was when I was a boy in my twenties. My next book, Death Dyed Blonde, was supposed to have a dead, hardly-clothed blonde on the cover. They wrapped her in a rug.

The new number, Murder in a Cold Climate, which predicts the snow America is now having, has a cover which shows a country house that has been turned into a hotel. People are skating on the ice in front of the hotel.

There is a flaw and it is mine and not the illustrator’s. Where is the hottie ice-skating nude? Well, she wasn’t in the book. It is a mistake I will not make again.

From now on I’ll have a looker in the altogether, maybe with a gun in her hand, in all future epics.

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I have hardly ever read Virginia Woolf

sHere at Blog Manor, pouring vintage pre-phylloxera port, only slightly crusted, down the red lane, it comes as a surprise to moi that I have hardly ever read Virginia Woolf.

I wonder what was the reason?

I sent Harrington, the only slightly lame second footman, to the bookshop to correct this fault.

I discover that Ginnie was a gal after my own heart. In Mrs Dalloway (1925) she relates that things went to hell when water closets started to be talked about; and written about in otherwise respectable magazines. Did she mean Plumbers Weekly or the Gentleman’s Quarterly Cistern?

Even more telling was the road to hell being littered by skirts short enough to expose the ankles – particular Arabs will know from whence the Woolfette was speaking. They like their gals wrapped up in cloth with only the eyes looking through.

As well as writing educated chick-lit Virginia was not as other women. Unlike the liberated rug-chewers of today she kept quiet about it.

      An Old Lady enters the Blog

      Old Lady: Young man, must you be so disgusting.

      Me: I’m working my way out of it.

Virginia Woolf is amazing. She should have written poetry. In fact, she does. The first chapter of Night and Day (1919) is like T.S.Eliot; like, in fact, Eliot’s Portrait of a Lady (1917).

Eliot: “Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon/ You have the scene arrange itself…”

Woolf: “It was a Sunday evening in October. . . the remaining parts of her mind leapt over the little barrier of day which interposed between Monday morning and this rather  subdued moment…”

She is very popular among some, mainly intellectual, ladies who are usually professors and make a living out of her. Night and Day and her first novel, The Voyage Out (1913)
were published by her step-brother’s firm Duckworth. After that Virginia started self-publishing with her husband Leonard Woolf at the Hogarth Press at 52 Tavistock Square London WC. To The Lighthouse (1927) was perhaps her best-known and loved novel; a granddaughter of mine did it for A Level.

One of Virginia Woolf’s most talked about novels is Orlando (1928). This is because it was written for Vita Sackville-West and the morons think it might be pretty steamy lesbo fare. It isn’t. It’s fun with history, starting with a page to Queen Elizabeth I and working its way, (with gender changes) to the 20th Century. Orlando stands history on its head and rewrites literature with wit, vigour and exuberance.

Virginia’s one and only big bestseller was The Years (1937); a novel hardly known these days, even by fans.

It sold 40,000 copies and went to number one in the New York Times  bestseller list. It topped the list in June, remained number one in July and only fell off the list in late October.

The Years is the story of the Pargeter from Victorian years (1880 and 1891)to the 20th Century: 1907 to 1918 to “the Present Day”.

Leonard Woolf didn’t like all this success. He said it was the worst thing she ever wrote. One wonders how good he was for Virginia’s brain. All her life she suffered nervous breakdowns. Fearing another coming on in 1941 she filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself.

What, if anything, does this have to do with Murder In A Cold Climate, that jovial stocking-filler now weighing down the library shelves at Blog Manor awaiting the Christmas rush?

Not much. But I counted them and I seem to have eight women in Murder In A Cold Climate, all playing big parts, a couple of them major roles.

      A LITTLE OLD LADY re-enters

OLD LADY: Are there any little old ladies? Do they appear in chemis?

THE AUTHOR: Only young nifty numbers in their step-ins and other unmentionables.

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December 12, 2013 · 2:16 pm

Reviews for ‘Murder In A Cold Climate’

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Reviews for ‘Murder In A Cold Climate’

Agnes Eve
Beyond `Golden Age’ of Crime Writing.

My heart sinks whenever a new crime novel promises to transport me back in time to the Golden Age of crime writing, and so it was with joy and surprise that I discovered the work of Stanley Reynolds whose column in the Guardian I loved, and whose brilliant, satirical first novel `Better Dead than Red’ is in my top ten.

There is nothing arch or derivative in `Murder in a Cold Climate’, no laboured period detail nor over-researched references to brand names etc to unsuspend one’s disbelief, just the natural product of a fine mind and talented writer with an obvious deep love and knowledge of literature applying his skills to this genre and creating the most beautifully written crime novel I have ever read.

For those with a predilection for fictional heroes, unlikely Police Chief, Parker `Boomer’ Daniels is one to fall in love with. together with fellow lost soul and misfit, acting pathologist Dr Phyllis Skypeck. In this, the second novel in what I hope will be a much longer series, no one is what they seem. All the characters have true depth not just in their enigmatic, slowly emerging back-stories (fascinating as these are) but also in the actions that stem from their personalities and how that drives the plot; in fact it is only in Moll, the adorable SBT, that what you see is just what you get. Inhabitants of and visitors to the evocatively described, snow-covered New England small town of North Holford hide their secrets, all as seemingly impenetrable as the glacially frozen lake.

The versatility of style is masterfully handled moving from haunting to poetic to thrillingly exciting (the twists of the plot race along compellingly, at a rate of knots) and often comic especially in the scenes with Sergeant Davy Shea who with Parker makes up one of the oddest couples ever.

In fact it is reductive to go on about the Golden Age at all; this novel is, like all good writing, timeless.

Amie Lister

The Prologue kicks off with sex and literature, but the story soon turns into sex, literature and murder most foul. MURDER IN A COLD CLIMATE is also funny; and an easy read in the great American crime novel style of Raymond “Big Sleep” Chandler and Dashiell “The Maltese Falcon” Hammett. An absorbing read.

Helen Highwater

Set in a poetically described New England town (I mean this literally, the ice cream parlour is called ‘The Emperor of Ice Cream’) during a harsh and snowy winter, this intricate crime novel both lets you in and keeps you guessing just the right amount to make a truly satisfying murder mystery–something of a rarity in recent times.

‘I’m not a real cop’ Parker “Boomer” Daniels speaks this mantra throughout Stanley Reynolds’ subtle and evocative crime novels. And I believe him. He doesn’t always carry a gun, he gets too close to the suspects, he well…muddles along really. But as the crimes are solved, so the characters grow. While Boomer may not be a real cop, his character does resonate as a real person– flawed, emotionally battle scarred, carrying on as best he can.

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It is getting near 35 years since John O’Hara, the drunken American writer, staggered up to the Big Bartender in the sky

ad1It is getting near 35 years since John O’Hara, the drunken American  writer, staggered up to the Big Bartender in the sky, and yet he is still able to spark tremendous hate mail; more than anyone else ever it seems.

I came upon this curious literary scandal when I bought three O’Hara books published by Vintage Classics and looked O’Hara up on the memory machine.

The books were his first two novels, Appointment in Samarra (1934) and Butterfield 8 (1935) and a book of Selected Stories from 1933 to 1947.

It seems the critics didn’t like his politics. He was not a fashionable leftwing liberal. He backed Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. This was like having a good word for old blue eyes himself, Adolph Hitler. O’Hara also thought Martin Luther King shouldn’t get the Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe O’Hara, born an Irish Catholic, remembered that Martin Luther King was not going to vote for Jack Kennedy because he was a Catholic.

Or maybe O’Hara, who was writing a weekly column for Newsday, thought he would write something that would stir them up.

His first Newsday column opened with “Let’s get off to a really bad start.”

In the early 1950s he also wrote a weekly book column called “Sweet and Sour” for the Trenton (New Jersey) Times Advertiser and a bi-weekly column called “Appointment with O’Hara” for Collier’s Magazine. They were, one critic said, “garrulous and outspoken.” O’Hara’s biographer Sheldon Grebstein said O’Hara was “Simultaneously embarrassing  and infuriating in his vaingloriousness, vindictiveness, and general bellicosity.”

Grebstein probably never had to come up with the goods writing columns. You’ve got to keep them awake and not turning to the sports page.

Also: what novels and short stories have these critics written? Nothing that I’d want to read.

“A minor writer and a well-known lout” said Michiko Kakutani (Who he?) of the New York Times.

Writing in the Atlantic Monthly in March 2000, Benjamin and Christina Schwarz claimed: “So widespread is the literary world’s scorn for John O’Hara that the inclusion of Appointment in Samarra on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best English language novels of the 20th Century was used to ridicule the entire project.”

O’Hara’s short stories don’t seem to be so subject to attack by the morons. He had 200 of them published in the New Yorker, more than any other writer. John Updike, another short story champion of the New Yorker,  said O’Hara was as good as Chekhov.

E.L.Doctorow said O’Hara took over the classic short story form developed by James Joyce (Dubliners) and perfected by Ernest Hemingway (In Our Time). In these stories there is some sort of revelation, what Joyce called an epiphany. The start of the action is also close in time to the denouement.

That’s the mark of the great short story writer; nowadays the wannabes have regressed in time to the rambling yarns of the 19th Century.

His enemies also make fun of the way O’Hara was bitter about not going to Yale. What happened was his father died and there was no money. O’Hara had to go to work. He became a journalist, first on a small-town paper in his native Pennsylvania and then for the New York Herald Tribune. In 1928 he broke into the New Yorker. Then his first novel made him rich and famous and this continued through fourteen further novels.

One of them was Pal Joey which was turned into a hit musical with Gene Kelly and later into a movie with Rita Hayworth and Frank Sinatra.

O’Hara should have forgotten Yale. He couldn’t, it was an obsession. All his life he kept going on about it. It coloured his writing, but it made him the best writer about Ivy League characters. One critic said “he was F.Scott Fitzgerald.”

Ernest Hemingway said, “Someone should take up a collection to send John O’Hara to Yale.”

This is my blog so what has this got to do with me?

Well, I didn’t got to Yale although three of my friends did. I also didn’t go to Harvard although two of my friends did, or to Princeton although four of my friends did. Some are dead and the others are all dead drunk.

I worked on a newspaper and went to night school. The hero of my crime novels, Death Dyed Blonde and Murder In A Cold Climate, is like me, a guy with a two dollar education. The Prologue to Murder In A Cold Climate is intended to be like one of the short stories by Joyce, Hemingway and O’Hara that I’ve been talking about.

Unless you get the wrong idea I should perhaps mention that in a sober moment I applied to Harvard. Turned down, I returned to the bar-room and my collection of scarab-cartouches of the Ptolemaic dynasties. They were dulcet years although I recall a bleak time when Bone, my father’s man, who had a cruel mouth something like Bronzino’s portrait of Cosimo de Medici when it wasn’t like Vasari’s medallion portrait of Lorenzo de Medici in the Vecchio Palazzi in Florence, came up from the wine cellar with a bottle of 1878 port and we had to cut the bottle open because the old fool forgot to have it re-corked in 1918.

Murder In A Cold Climate contains no tragedies like these. It is writing from the hip. I keep my monocle in my waistcoat pocket while dictating it to my factotum.

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