No Questions Asked by Ross Thomas read by Malcolm Hillgartner

An old book, a tits and bits insurance agent, an ex-intelligence bully, a rich chick on Malibu beach, a bitter ex-girlfriend somebody called “Virgie”, a short tight crooked alcoholic cop, and a Go-Between man who gets an Eviction Notice and a letter from the Wall Street Journal saying he could get rich if only he subscribed for six months.

In six months and a week, Philip St. Ives has earned $75,000, received 2 invitations to live and play with a woman, one in NYC and one on Malibu Beach, failed but then found an old book, but not before somebody shot a bullet through it.

At the end, on his way back to New York, his trusty helper asks him if there’s anything he can study in University to help him become a Go-Between man. St. Ives thinks about it for a while and says “Ethics, you might study Ethics.”

Bait by Kenneth Abel read by Frank Muller

When and if you have to describe beauty don’t do it from the front. Do it against the public eye, and against the visual. This is a book not a movie, so listen:

He felt her looking at him, her eyes amused behind those little round glasses like the hippies used to wear, blond hair pulled back into a thick braid… He watched her walk back into the file stacks… her legs taut beneath the faded jeans.”

A description is born from an interested perception, inside a relationship, between people or between a person and a thing. Even a measurement is born of a relationship. The blond hair is pulled back, touched, handled by particular hands. Part of what makes this woman a woman Jack meets behind a counter. She is a counter girl, and eventually that counter is bedded down along with the girl, her thighs, her glasses.

No need to use the brand of the jeans — the jeans are not the characters in this book. The characters are cops and the girls they love or fuck, all kinds of cops, old cops, ex-cops, bent cops, divorced cops, cops behind desks and cops in cars, listening in on smart guys-turned-businessmen they are trying to put away…cops in the small towns of Massachusetts.

A description can also be a back road to the mind.

He watched her as she watched back into Electrical… across to Aisle Four … He’d seen women with shorter hair in Harvard Square, maybe Jamaica Plain, even bald, in recent years… When he was in uniform they’d give him hostile looks, waiting for him to make a comment… He’d just shrugged. No stranger than being a cop, walking the streets in a uniform all summer, 15 pounds of gunbelt dragging at your hip. Harder, maybe. All the stares. Her hair was like the crewcuts they used to give kids, but soft, so you want to run your hand over it…

Not visual, not really: a haircut. Not in a book.

Frank Muller reading Chains of Command by William Caunitz

Frank Muller reading William Caunitz

Just a paragraph. Listen to Frank Muller saying: “All in a day. It’s almost like there’s a puppet master pulling all our chains.”

Somehow, he lets the sense roll in and then rides it with his voice so that the words are gathered up in a huge wave which crashes down at the end of the sentence. Not a book but a storm. Not any beach, but the Pacific.

Ah, Treachery! by Ross Thomas read by Frank Muller

The salad dressing was the only one Partain ever used: “9 parts olive oil, one part red wine vinegar, vinegar soaked salt, ground black pepper and more garlic than most people liked.” Write this down. Ross Thomas’ recipes are rare, legendary and authoritative. As are his stories, his characters, and his dialogue.

‘What did you do in the army for fun when you weren’t soldiering?
‘I read a lot.’
‘What?’
‘European history. When I got to World War I, I always stopped.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I already knew how it would end  in 1945.’
‘That was the end of World War II, not I.’
‘Was it?’

Not only authoritative but establishing authority, establishing themselves as authorities.

When he was soldiering, Edd (“Two-Dees”) was Infantry in Vietnam, then the States, then Germany, then Central America (“…not dangerous for an observer.”).  After 19 years he beat up his superior officer and was discharged for the good of the service without a pension or PX privileges. The loss of PX privileges was annoying.

Now Two-Dees is staying in a condo on Wiltshire Boulevard, where he is observing the pretty daughter of Millicent Altford in between jobs and/or lovers. Ask any political geographer to map out D.C. in L.A, and he’ll draw you the route to the 86 volumes of Who’s Who in Millicent Altford’s study, in a luxury building named after a failed British prime minister.

The very femdom, very wily, not so old political rainmaker Millicent Altford is however hiding out in her own ‘significant money salon’ in the extravagantly elegant wing of the exclusive “Olympia” Hospital a few blocks east of Century City, for which she herself raised the seed money. Gourmet meals  and a French menu every morning.

Partain entered Millicent Altford’s hospital room and found her sitting in an armchair, wearing a smoke-grey silk suit, herlong legs tucked back to the left and crossed at the ankles. On her feet were black suede pumps with two inch heels that matched her purse. Next to her feet was a worn black leather suitcase with silver fittings that looked both old and expensive.

Edd Twodees gets shot just before they’re scheduled to fly from LAX. Millicent buys him something temporary to wear at the airport; he takes off the nice blue suit with the bullet holes and says:

‘What I do with my shirt, tie and coat?’
‘I’ll take care of them.’
He handed them over and watched with dismay as she dropped all three into a nearby trash container.
‘That coat could have been re-woven,’ he said when she returned.
‘I told you; we’ll buy you new stuff in Washington. A nice top coat from Burberry’s, some suits and a couple of jackets and pants from Brooks Brothers or Niemann’s.’
‘You ever been inside a J.C. Penny’s?’
‘Not in 42 years,’ she said.

When she is not giving orders, putting together “soft money” and “bundling”, Millicent Altford gives congressmen lectures in the ancient history of campaign financing.

It was a typical campaign office for the times. One big room, lots of desks, typewriters, ringing phones, hot as hell, noisy… and then there was this 50 year old slob sitting behind one of the desks..and a red headed guy. I tell the slob my name and that I want to help out in the campaign and he tells me that they aren’t hiring…The red head of course is Joey Sizemore. He takes me outside where we catch a cab and head for the old Morrison Hotel that they tore down years ago. We ride up to the 11th floor and go into a big room that has two desks, two phones on each desk, a secretary called Norma who’s at least 60, and nothing else. Joey introduces me to Norma. Tells me that she used to be a senior long distance telephone operator with SouthWestern Bell, uses a key to open a desk drawer and hands me a typewritten list of names with addresses and phone numbers thats about an inch thick. It was the fat cat list. Every Democrat in the country who had an estimated net worth of $100,000 or more.. which would be around a million today… All I had to do was call each name and talk whoever answered into contributing a minimum of $1000 to the Stevenson campaign. Norma had this sexy contralto voice and placed each call person to person working east to west — all operator assisted then, no touch tone, no direct dialing.. ancient times. I asked Sizemore what to say. He said since I was in the ad business I’d think up something. There were almost 2000 names on that list and we called every damn one of ’em. A lot of ’em twice.
‘What was your batting average?’, the congressman asked.
‘.593′ That’s when I learned what makes people give money to politicians.
The congressman smiled: “is it a secret?’
She shook her head, “Fear. And Flattery.”
Still smiling, the congressman said: “What about hope for a better tomorrow?”
“Forget hope,” she said.

 

A Little Death in Dixie by Lisa Turner read by Jeffrey Kafer

Big sisters play dirty. So do cops, wives, mothers. So do cities… like Memphis. As always the best mysteries revolve around the murder of a city. And this is one of the best: gritty, angry, twisted…Mississippi Noir.

The giant A & W Root Beer mug shimmered over the rooftop of a roadside stand. The sign’s brown paint, chipped by the weather, left silver patches gleaming in the sun. Broken neon tubing dangled. The mug rocked against sagging guidewires. The sign was a lot like Memphis, seductive, old, with hints of grandeur and an aura of risk.

Mercy is a pastry chef with a  bad scar on  her left cheek, an alcoholic mother, a bitch-sister; she has come back to Memphis to re-visit with family.

Billy is a cool white cop  who grew up singing in black choirs:  poor but good. He protected women who scrubbed their old oak floors with lemon wax, kept their door transoms shiny, and got beaten: weekly, on schedule.

Billy understood what the house meant to a woman like her. She was the same as the women he’d known growing up on the back roads of Mississippi. Hard work, little money, poor education. Not a single step in their lives made easy. She wanted a few nice things in her life and some respect.

His partner, Lou, is an angry 61 year old superhero on the Memphis Homicide Squad. He lives in a hovel which is empty except for “a lawn chair, a TV and a lamp made from a bronzed figure of a nude woman with a clock in her belly.” His refrigerator contains “Wonder Bread, Velveeta, grape Jelly.” Jack Daniels is under  the sink. When Lou  ends up in the Mississippi River after a storm, Billy finds out that his partner wasn’t a very nice man. And that Memphis wasn’t a very nice city.

No, the South, this South is not a nice place, not a pretty place, nothing like sweet tea and charity balls. Its conversations are short and ugly. Its humor is nasty. Its favoritism is thick, and propped by greed, not family values. There is enough hurt to go around and everybody gets seconds…

Special heads up to Jeffrey Kafer who brings back Frank Muller with a vengeance. Thanks.

 

Frank Muller reads James Hall:: Red Sky at Night

It is wrong to suppose that language is about communication. James Hall does not communicate. He sniffs a piece of the invisible, picks it up with his mouth and lays it on our doorstep. What we call language is sometimes a body, sometimes a carcass, sometimes a feather, sometimes a bone.

Reading is not communication. It is something else.

Boom boom boom.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre read by FRANK MULLER. An Original.

How did Muller know that the text could sound like this? How could he make words talk like this? And yet he does. Muller turns them up and over and around so that each one cries out: Me, look! Listen to me! Hear me. And having been read in such a way, by such a voice, a word, a text, remains unspeakable by any other voice.
One listens half-crouched, head tilted, just a little, toward the machine, the voice, because it is inconceivable or almost inconceivable that this is English. For how can one even open one’s mouth when there is someone who makes English like this, makes English sound like this….

Call For the Dead by John Le Carre Narrated by Frank Muller(!)

Smiley receives a letter from his ex, reads (“I want to make you an offer which no gentleman could accept. I want to come back to you. I’m staying at the Baur au Lac in Zurich till the end of the month. Let me know.”) and thinks:

“That was Ann. Let me know. Redeem your life. See whether it can be lived again and let me know. I have wearied my lover, my lover has wearied me. Let me shatter your world again, my own bores me. I want to come back to you…..” Let me know.

Posted By:  ()  Date: 02/11/2005 1:05 pm   Status: Open

THE GAME OF THIRTY by WILLIAM KOTZWINKLE ::FRANK MULLER:

Imagine Frank Muller doing   CZ Sakall, the jowly, bespectacled, hysterical Hungarian who cannot stop wiping his spectacles, shaking his head and concocting scenarios of doom … “today… its going to happen today…” etc.

The stammering, anxious NYC diamond dealer calls Jimmy McShane, well heeled ex-cop and private dick, who bodyguards him,  makes sure disaster doesn’t happen today, and strolls home. Home: to the walk-up on Christopher Street, to the  old hag sitting on her heavy ovaries,   to the next ex-girlfriend re-aligning his Chakras in the flat redecorated by his  old ex-girlfriend,  to the Zelda-esque client who asks him to find her pedophilic father’s killer. Hi, ho. Absolutely funny, absolutely cool, absolutely wonderful.

Mean High Tide by James Hall read by Frank Muller

I know girls who listen to Frank doing the girl-punk-slut Sylvie just to see how its done. How a girl talks when shes talking with her pussy. How to tease an ear with a tongue, at a distance. There’s nobody like Frank doing pussy.

Listen:

“What do you like, Thorn? What do you like to
DO? You know, in the green grass….Outside… Or, inside…”

Or, “Wanna take the afternoon off? Put your mind on hold for a while? Take the stairway to heaven?”

With that low, raspy, throaty voice that is a man’s voice pretending to be a woman’s mouth, this reading is an infinite, indeclinable invitation.