Thursday, April 06, 2006

Blue Moon of Kentucky, Keep on Shinin'

I'll be heading out early tomorrow for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest, where Bob Morris (author of Jamaica Me Dead) and I will be on a panel entitled "Second Shot: Characters Return for Another Whodunit." And maybe I'll get to meet one of my literary heroes, Pat Conroy.

Any readers in the area, I'd love to see you there...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


At least that's what Graham tells me. We've got some tech issues resolved (hint: don't use Word to draft posts) and we should be back to updating regular-like. If you've missed us, scroll down and see all the bloggy goodness.

Monday, April 03, 2006 Gets Good Day in Hell reviews GDIH, and I have to say that reviewer Joe Hartlaub gets it. From the recognition of William Faulkner as the godfather of redneck noir (not that I'm comparing myself to Faulkner) to the realization that "Rhoades' venue of North Carolina is in such a state of change and growth that he should have plenty to keep him busy in the years to come," it looks like Joe has the best understanding of any reviewer yet as to where I'm coming from. Thanks, folks!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sluice Tundra, Private Eye In: The Case of the Straw Man

Latest Newspaper Column:

The phone rang. I rolled over and looked at the clock. 2 a.m. Who the heck would call at this time of night?

I picked up the phone.

“Mghpnbh?” I asked.

“Dusty,” a voice said. “It’s me.”


“Your old friend. Sluice Tundra, private eye. An honest gumshoe, working the mean streets, walking by night, following the clues that lurk only in the shadows …”

“This better be good,” I interrupted him.

“It is, buddy,” he said. “I found the guy you’re looking for.”

I sat bolt upright in bed. “You mean …”

“No, not that guy, the other one.”

“You mean …”

“No, not him either.”

“You mean …”

“That’s the one,” he said.

“I’ll be right down,” I said.

Sluice’s office was on Mean Street, two blocks from the intersection with Lonely Avenue. It wasn’t a neighborhood I was used to. I’m willing to bet I was the first person on that street in a long time to show up in a bathrobe and bunny slippers. But hey, I was in a hurry. I mounted the creaky steps to Sluice’s office on the second floor and tapped on the door. At his mumbled “come in,” I entered his dingy office.

Sluice Tundra was slumped in a wooden armchair, his fedora pulled low over his eyes. His rumpled trench coat was wrapped around him like newspaper around a freshly purchased sea bass. He was holding a gun on another figure sitting in a chair a few feet away.

“This is the guy,” Tundra said in his familiar baritone slur.

“You mean ..?” I asked.

“Let’s not start that again!” he snapped.

I came closer.

“So,” I said, “After all this time, we meet at last. The Democrat who doesn’t want us to fight the War on Terror with every tool in our arsenal. The Democrat who’d rather give the terrorists cookies and therapy than destroy the threats to our nation. The Democrat who says if you’re Muslim, you can’t be free ….” I stopped.

“Sluice,” I said, “this guy is made of straw.”

“You ain’t exactly a model of stability yourself, there, pal,” the figure said. I jumped a few feet in the air.

“Look,” the straw man said. “I’m not going to run anywhere. Can I stand up?”

Tundra and I looked at each other. “Sure,” I said.

The straw man unfolded himself from the chair. He was dressed in old, cast-off clothing, packed tightly with what looked like pine needles. They jutted out here and there from the nooks and crannies of his clothing.

“Of course,” I said. “It all makes perfect sense now.”

“Mind explaining it to me?” Tundra said.

“A straw man,” I said, “is a dishonest debating technique. It’s used whenever someone can’t successfully address his opponent’s real position, so he claims the opponent said something completely different, usually something ridiculous, and attacks that.”

“I don’t get it,” Tundra said.

“OK,” I said. “Say, for example, you don’t have any problem with fighting terrorism, you just want the government, particularly the president, to obey the law while they do it.”

“Sounds reasonable,” Tundra said.

“Of course,” I replied. “Anyone could agree with that. But if someone didn’t like you criticizing the president, he’d say, for instance, that instead of what you really said, you were advocating that we not fight terrorists at all. That’s a straw man.”

“That’s idiotic,” Tundra protested.

“Hey!” the straw man said.

“No offense,” Tundra said.

“I see it clearly now,” I told the straw man. “You’re a monster, created in the minds of men. The living embodiment of a warped fantasy.”

“I am the Republicans’ words made flesh,” he agreed.

“Straw,” I corrected.


“So you really believe we should surrender to terrorism?”


“You’d like to see us all living under Islamic Law?”

“You got it.”

“But you don’t exist,” Tundra said.

“Neither do you,” the straw man pointed out.

“I’ve heard enough,” Tundra said. He whipped out his trusty Zippo lighter. “How about a little fire, scarecrow?” he sneered.

The straw man screamed. He made as if to run out the door, but when Tundra moved to block his path, he faked left, the right, then bolted for the open window. He dove through it headfirst. Tundra and I ran to the window, but it was too late. The straw man had landed on the pavement below. But as we watched in amazement, he staggered to his feet and ran off into the night.

“There was so little substance to him,” I said, “that he must have made a soft landing.”

“He got away, then,” Tundra said dejectedly.

“He did,” I said. I looked down the darkened alley where the straw man had disappeared. “But it’s an election year. I have the feeling we’ll see him again.”

The End?