August 19, 2014 by Larry Grinnell · Comments Off on Candy, or How My Mind Was Turned to Mush by a Dangerous Book
When I was 12 years old, I was curious about a lot of things. In junior high school, in the locker room and other bastions of “maleness,” I often heard discussion of this mythical book, Candy, by satirist Terry Southern (also author of the Magic Christian, and many others) and Mason Hoffenberg, that it was supposed to be the dirtiest (and therefore, most exciting) book around; worthy of the prurient attention of typical preteen and early teenaged boys. Read more
February 4, 2013 by Larry Grinnell · Comments Off on The Riptide Ultra-Glide: A Book Review
Tampa-based Tim Dorsey has written over a dozen humorous crime-fiction novels based around the continuing adventures of Serge Storms, manic and psychotic mass murderer who also happens to have a soft spot for obscure bits of Florida history. His associate, Coleman, is a wreck, consuming every form of alcohol and drug he can get his hands on, though somehow seems never to be the worse for wear for his excesses. Read more
May 4, 2012 by Larry Grinnell · Comments Off on Stealing Ali: A Book Review
Imagine if you will that you are newly married — to a wonderful woman who had two daughters from previous marriages. Imagine that your new spouse’s ex-husband, of Lebanese descent, kidnapped the younger of the two daughters and took her back to his ancestral home in Lebanon, leaving her with his family while he went on to work elsewhere in the Middle East. Imagine that your new wife traveled to Lebanon to find and retrieve the kidnapped daughter. Imagine that a few months later, he did it again. this time, taking her to Bahrain, a small island in the Persian Gulf! Read more
March 18, 2012 by Larry Grinnell · Comments Off on Studebaker: The Complete History
Patrick Foster has put together a great reference book on the history of what was the oldest vehicle manufacturer in the United States. While a little weak on the early days, Studebaker’s most interesting period started with the end of WWII. While they emerged from WWII with lots of cash, management squandered a number of opportunities, engineering could have been better, and with the sales wars between Chevrolet and Ford in the early 50s, Studebaker was doomed in any case, as were most of the remaining independent manufacturers, such as Kaiser, Frazier, Willys, Nash, Hudson, and Packard. The book is well-illustrated with rare factory photos and magazine ad illustrations. Some might not be of the best quality, but it’s all about the content, isn’t it? While not necessarily the complete history, it’s one of the better ones out there. I guess my only quibble is that Foster clearly shows his favoritism for Studebaker that perhaps could have been toned down a bit in spots.
March 18, 2012 by Larry Grinnell · Comments Off on What’s Your Poison?: Addictive Advertising of the ’40s-’60s
Remember all those wonderful things from the 40s through the 60s that could kill you? You remember…things like cigarettes and alcohol? Kirven Blount has assembled some of the best of the tobacco and alcohol magazine ads from that era. Oh, the glamor! Oh, the magic! Seems like almost every cigarette brand at one time or another showed “documentary proof” that their product was milder, had lower nicotine, was preferred by more doctors, etc. One they didn’t show here was a 1955 Philip Morris (coincidentally, my preferred brand when I was a smoker–something I only grudgingly gave up almost 20 years ago) magazine ad that showed a mother holding her child, a Philip Morris cigarette burning in the ashtray, and the caption, “Born Gentle”. Innocent times indeed. Then there was the Marlboro ad (back in the early 50s, Marlboro was a very different brand, marketed toward women), with a picture of a baby, and the caption “Before you scold me, Mom, better light up a Marlboro”. And the brands, long gone…Fatima, Old Gold, Regent, Herbert Tareyton, Hit Parade, and Cavalier. Then there were the festive holiday cigarette cartons, decorated with messages of the season, illustrated with Santa and other seasonal characters–the ads encouraging the purchase of cartons of whichever brand as a Christmas present. The other subject in this book shows ads of our favorite beers, whiskeys, vodkas, and other delightful and refreshing beverages. Again, the glamor and fun outweigh any potential harm. It was an innocent time when advertising reigned supreme, and the buying public accepted what the advertisers presented: hook, line, and sinker. The author’s tongue-in-cheek commentary adds just the right amount of humor and thoughtfulness to what would otherwise be a picture book without context. God help me, I love those old ads!
March 18, 2012 by Larry Grinnell · Comments Off on Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker
This is the tale of one of the finer jazz trumpeters and vocalists that came out of the 1950s, and his sad descent into drug addiction and eventual death. Gavin marks the highs and lows of Baker’s career, which finally ended in an alley in Amsterdam after falling/jumping out of a hotel room window. Yes, Baker’s life was tragic, but if you take a moment think about it, he made it abundantly clear that he was totally unapologetic about how he lived his life. This attitude didn’t exactly endear him to family, nor to friends who knew him the best. First and foremost, it was all about getting that next fix. If it took signing multiple record deals to get enough money to buy drugs for awhile, he did it. The result of this is that Chet’s musical career was extremely well-documented (good and bad), especially in Europe, where his addictions were mostly overlooked. This is a great bio of a great musician, who was all too human and who took the path less taken.
March 18, 2012 by Larry Grinnell · Comments Off on Excelsior, You Fathead!: The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd
Eugene B. Bergmann has written the first in-depth biography of one of radio’s great personalities and storytellers. Jean Parker Shepherd was raised in Hammond, Indiana, a steel mill town near Chicago. He told wonderful tales of his childhood in Hammond, his time in the Army, and about life in general. Shepherd’s 45 minute daily radio show on New York’s WOR, was almost completely unscripted. He bobbed, weaved, jumped from topic to topic, but by the time the opening chords of the closing theme song started, he had pulled it all back together and completed the story, usually on the very last note of his theme, and did this night after night. Jazz fans know this as riffing. Read more
Driving Like Crazy: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending, Celebrating America the Way It’s Supposed To Be — With an Oil Well in Every Backyard, a … of the Federal Reserve Mowing Our Lawn
March 18, 2012 by Larry Grinnell · Comments Off on Driving Like Crazy: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending, Celebrating America the Way It’s Supposed To Be — With an Oil Well in Every Backyard, a … of the Federal Reserve Mowing Our Lawn
Gonzo writing for the Brooks Brothers crowd. This is a collection of P.J. O’Rourke’s writings from his days at Car and Driver, where many, many debaucheries in the name of automotive journalism were committed, along with stuff that previously appeared in Rolling Stone and the National Lampoon (in the early days when it was still really funny–in a college humor sort of way). Jean Jennings of Automobile Magazine, in the July 2009 issue, alluded to one essay that didn’t appear in this collection, about his weekend in Palm Beach with an Aston Martin Volante roadster that originally appeared in Car and Driver in 1977. It was a story that managed to insult, revolt, and disgust anyone with a modicum of good taste. For the rest of us, however, it was screamingly, fall-on-the-floor, diaphragm-paralyzingly funny, and got P.J. and editor David E. Davis, Jr. into a whole lot of trouble with publisher William Ziff, Jr. and the hundreds (if not thousands) of angry and (rightfully) highly offended readers who took the time to write letters to the editor. That was my introduction to P.J. as an automotive journalist, and to this day has caused me to seek out and take delight in his work. Read more
March 18, 2012 by Larry Grinnell · Comments Off on Conversations with Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists
Author Jim Carlton has done a wonderful service to the jazz guitar community with this collection of conversations with a number of outstanding guitarists from the jazz and studio fields. Jim, an industry “insider,” has known a number of his subjects for many years. This friendship and familiarity made them more likely to open up as they never had previously with interviewers. We also get to hear many “inside baseball” anecdotes from the folks who were there, playing in historical sessions, and whose dropped names range from the Beach Boys to Frank Sinatra to Bill Haley’s Comets to Barbra Streisand. Read more