Friday, December 16, 2016


There's still time to get tickets and see Park Square Theater's stellar production of Joe Vass's homage to the talents of an American Klezmer. Ably Directed by Peter Moore, and staged by the theater's outstanding production department, it's a fun and instructive tale of George and Ira Gershwin's development and rise to fame as composer and lyricist in the famous productive years of tin pan alley. The jokes are good, the music varied and wonderful, and the pace precipitous.

Michael Paul Levin is an excellent narrator as the man himself, George Gershwin. Maud Hixson flaunts her vocal expertise as the blond chanteuse, with Maggie Burton capably filling the role of cantor and Geoffrey Jones dominated the stage as Griot.

Joseph Vas also brought to our appreciative ears an outstanding group of musicians in Klezmerica:
Nathan Norman on drums, Doug Haining-woodwinds, Adam Meckler-trumpet, Gary Schulte on violin and Chris Bates at the big string bass. Naturally the pianist's role was capably handled by Joseph Vass.

It's a terrific warm evening of musical theater and not to be missed, especially in our chill December.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


CUBA STRAIT          
By Carsten Stroud
Pocket Books, June, 2003
ISBN: 0743463935

An ex-cop, cashiered for doing his duty takes his attitude to Hollywood, Florida and Cuba and is embroiled in a somewhat unbelievable super-hero black ops action.

This is a well-written, twice-told tale for our times.  Rick Broca, formerly a highly trained cop in a special Swat team is fired for doing his duty as he saw it, but in direct contravention of orders from his lieutenant.  He loses his job and his pension, so now he’s reduced to selling his story to Hollywood and being paid as a technical advisor and, in the Florida Keys, taking care of his boss’s hot cruiser.

The book opens with a major tropical storm which Broca, only three months asea, is able to interpret and figure out how best to survive like an old salt with years of experience.  This guy is a very quick learner.  He’s also a quick healer, but more on that later.  There’s lots of Tom-Clancy-like technical stuff larded throughout this novel, but for the most part that doesn’t get in the way of the story which is more than a little exciting.  Similarly, we learn Broca’s back story, the reasons for his no longer being a super-cop, in judiciously inserted dribs and drabs.  The construction of the novel is almost text-book perfect.  Readers learn about equipment from airplanes and boats to armament of various kinds when it either enhances the story or is needed to control the rampant pace of the book.

Having survived a near-hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, Broca calls on his personal code of ethics and moral values and slams back into the stormy sea to try to save the pilot of a downed aircraft.  In a tense and thrilling and very well-conceived scene, Broca does just that, hauling the injured pilot to the surface from fifty-some feet below the choppy surface of the ocean.

When Broca tries to return the injured pilot to land, the guy persuades his rescuer to let him land privately and surreptitiously outside the scrutiny of Florida and Federal authorities.  In a way, author Stroud calls attention to one of the great security problems we have along our seacoasts.  Now Broca is once again at odds with suspicious law enforcement.

Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, other storm clouds are gathering.  Broca returns to Hollywood where he is confronted by a representative of the FBI, the State Department and some guy who may or not be a spook.  There are a lot of characters in this book.  Many, unfortunately, fit the bad-cop, good-cop mold.  There are few subtle nuances here.

Broca ultimately riding to the rescue of his lady friend, joins forces with the downed pilot, once he resurfaces, and, although grievously wounded in the gut, manages to save the day.  There are a few too many gratuitous rants in this one, but they are more intelligently presented than is the usual case.  Readers will have to hang their disbelief in a dark closet for the duration.  Nevertheless, as a light, rip-roaring adventure story with larger than life politics and characters, this one is a keeper.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Excellent film starring (among several other outstanding actors) Tina Fay as Kim Barker, a reporter for CNN covering Afghanistan during the early and middle phases of the US war there.  I recommend it highly.

BOOK SIGNING, November 26.

I'll be signing books and conversing with mystery fiction fans from 11 to 2 at Book World, in Viking Plaza, Alexandria, Minnesota. Hope to meet you there!

Thursday, November 03, 2016


Our subscription to Minnesota Orchestra day-time coffee concerts for this season just kicked in. We drive half-a-mile to Rosedale Shopping Center where we park and board a comfortable bus. The bus brings us downtown Minneapolis to Orchestra Hall. We disembark, are greeted by smiling staff and make our way to the upper lobby. There we find tables laden with doughnuts, punch and coffee. Plus places to sit and socialize. After a while we wander into the concert hall and  find our seats. This concert is sold out.

Osmo Vanska conducts our world-class orchestra in a nice and  varied program. First, Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait. The music is interesting and the narration is voiced by a retired judge of the Minnesota Supreme Court. His name is Alan Page. Yes, THAT Alan Page.

Next up a spectacular violinist, Esther Yoo. She wears an intensely bright red ball gown, contrasting nicely with the black suits of the orchestra members. Unlike many guest soloists, this young woman connects energetically, first with her music, then with the audience and with the orchestra as well. She performed Max Bruch's Concerto no. 1 in G minor. I had never heard of this composer and it turns out he is not well-known, having composed only this single piece. It's a very pleasant concerto, well-performed by orchestra and soloist.

After intermission the orchestra offered up Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 from the New World.
It is a stirring, marvelous composition, well-known throughout the New World. The orchestra sounded excellent, played with enthusiasm  and the audience responded in kind/

Then we boarded the bus and were deposited back in the Rosedale parking lot, six car-lengths from our own vehicle. We then drove  home under intense blue skies and a radiant sun

Monday, October 24, 2016

Brookins Travels

After the chili feed in Webster, WI, I had  a chance to meet with some enthusiastic readers in Hastings. We were at the Bierstube, which I can recommend with confidence. The meal was large, the service was fast and pleasant, the atmosphere was warm and friendly. My wife and I enjoyed ourselves on our short trip to the historic river town to meet and talk with enthusiastic readers of mystery fiction on the evening of October 20. And, you can me a the library in Becker on Saturday, November 5.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Ellen Hart and I will join the festivities in Webster, WI, for the 4th annual Larsen Family Public Library fundraiser. Today. 5-8:30 pm.
We'll eat chili and answer non-political questions? Give insights into the life of authors of fine crime fikctikon.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Every Boat Turns South
by J.P.White
ISBN: 9781579621889
A 2009 release from
Permanent Press
For a great many people the incalculable persistent rhythms of the seas that surround us, the tides, the fog, crashing surging waves, all serve to remind us of the vast unknown. Water has no permanent shape, it cannot drive a nail. It can form long-enduring shapes on the shores of our continents and drive islands into clusters we label archipelego but no island lasts forever. In the north, when winter comes and water in the ponds freezes into temporary hardness, something often urges us to look to warmer circumstances closer to the equator. We revel in the snow and crave the sun-baked climes of the tropical island.

There are a thousand stories of sailing voyages, likened to the human voyage of life and like life, those voyages are, in turn filled with storm and peace, ecstasy and sorrow. Here is one such filled with rich images, turbulent emotions, sadness, joy and death. After years separated from his family second son Matt returns to his home on a journey of expiation. The family torn apart by the death of the favored first-born, needs to heal, at least a little and Matt tries to make that happen. Of course he fails and in the process weaves a tale of life in the islands off our southern coast, repleate with passion, drugs, storms, smuggling, love and mixed results. For the sailor there's great and kindly detail, for the rest, the relentless drive of the author's poetical structure and language carries us alongside Matt to an uncertain conclusion.

At times the exaulted language and structure may bother some readers, just as other readers may find the quantity of technical detail confusing and off-putting. For those, I suggest trying to relax with the story, enjoy the scenery and the passion, but stay with Matt through his adventure in this fine poetical novel.

Friday, June 03, 2016


Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul staged the prize winner from Stephen Karam. Intense, fast and at times furious, the play is wonderfully staged on the main stage. The acting  is generally good, so the humor comes through even though the subject is difficult and for me, basing a major theatrical work on Kahil Gibran is  not a happy pairing. I like theatre too much. Even if we are not ever alone in our suffering, and always greater than we know, as the poet would have it. The set is a  marvelous creation that enhances the happy pace and the acting is of a high order. The play is not an easy experience and attendees will find some specific explanation of  they read the program before the play begins.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


 A young woman suffering from Parkinson's befriends a drug rep working for Pfizer in 1990s Pittsburgh. Stars are Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. A good supporting cast as well. Watched it last night. Funny, poignant, raunchy sexy comedy. Snappy dialogue appropriately delivered.  Based on a true memoir. Enjoyed it a lot.

Good production, fine acting, very funny in spots. Good sex scenes as well. What sets it apart, is the realization that the way the drug company reps interact with the medical community is all true to life, if a bit exaggerated. And of course, a problematic ending.

Saturday, May 07, 2016


Sunday, April 17, 2016


In the acoustically magnificent United Church of Christ, where Music In the Park has enjoyed over thirty years of musical excellence, Sunday, April 17, 2016, was another winner. Performing for a small but intense audience was the Chira String Quartet, Rebecca Fischer and Hyeyung Julie Yoon-violins, Jonha Sirota viola and Gregory Beaver, cello.

They performed a difficult program superbly. The program led off with Leyendas: An Andean Wlkkabout by Gabriela Leng Frank, Bela Bartok's difficult String Quartet No 4, sz 91 and the program concluded with the eminently listenable quartet No 2 in  A minor, Opus 51 by Johannes Brahms. All in all a most pleasant performance from an expressive, competent quartet.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Feb. 25, morning concert by Minnesota Orchestra. Interesting mix. First a Concerto for seven winds, Tympani, percussion and strings. By Swiss composer, Frank Martin. Fascinating political connections with obstinate separations in the beginning and gradual compromises and final blending for the greater good.

Mozart piano concerto 21 in C Major was next, considered top of the charts, soloist Jon Kimura Parker. An excellent composition, very well performed.

J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #5, in D Major, is a  lovely piece and was well-performed. The trouble is the piece works better in as much smaller hall.

Finally, the orchestra concluded the concert with Arthur Honegger's Symphony NUMBER 2. It's a dark and depressing  work, composed during the height of the Nazi occupation of Paris. It is complex and dark and reminds one of war, occupation and concentration camps.Besides, the hall was cold.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Sibelius Kullervo/Black or White

Minnesota Orchestra at full throttle and in great voice with this piece, plus Finlandia. Program opened with Migrations by Olli Kortekangas, for male chorus and orchestra. It was a powerful, well-imagined concert. The YL male voice choir from Finland was magnificent and Osmos outdid himself. A small morning audience received a great benefit.

Based on a true case, attorney Elliot Anderson has to fight off an attempt by his bi-racial granddaughter's black grandmother to send Eloise to her father after Anderson's wife dies in an auto accident.  The film illuminates all sorts of social and racial cliches in a fairly predictable and obvious manner. The acting is pretty good throughout, as is the direction, but the plot plods along in obvious manner until the last courtroom scene. Still worth seeing.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Thursday, January 11, had the great pleasure of a late morning concert by the Minnesota Orchestra. First we bussed from Rosedale to Orchestra Hall, an excellent convenience. Then, after coffee, juice and donuts, came  the pleasure of part of the symphonic Beethoven Marathon. First, Symphony No.4 in B-Flat major. It is a more modest work than some of Ludwig's bigger, but its lyricism and mood fit a brisk morning well.

Then Yevgeny Sudbin put his tall slender self at the Steinway keyboard for Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major. Sudbin is a prodigious talent and meshes well with Conductor Osmo Vanska's up-tempo style.

Later , after an intermission, contemplating a cold bright January sun over Minneapolis, we sank into the happy rhythms of Beethoven's Symphony Number 6 in F Major. The Pastoral was enthusiastically performed and enthusiastically received by a well-filled house.

Thereafter we were taken by comfortable bus back to Rosedale. Compliments to all involved. A fine concert and performance of sundry servicdes.