Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Music: Duper Sessions, by Sondre Lerche & The Faces Down Quartet (2006)

Ed Gorman – who’s now blogging again at Mystery*File, which is good news for everyone – once memorably described John D. McDonald’s character Travis McGee as “a Rotarian’s idea of a cool guy.”

I did something the other day that has me well on my way to becoming the same thing. I bought a record that I first heard at Starbucks.

Yes, I go there to work occasionally. But I always buy a drink and I never stretch my laptop cord across heavily-trafficked areas. That’s only because I don’t own a laptop, but still. I deserve some credit.

So I’m sitting there trying to work, which in this case means reading the sports pages, when a new tune starts on the stereo. A beat later I realize it’s familiar. It’s a cover of “Human Hands,” one of my favorite Elvis Costello songs. Which makes it one of my favorite songs. Delivered here by a coolly ethereal voice backed up by some dandy stride piano.

Sondre Lerche is a whelp of a Norwegian singer who toured with EC last year. Duper Sessions is his winning album of jazz-inflected pop, including standards (“Night and Day”) and solid originals (“Everyone’s Rooting For You,” “Minor Details”). It’s now a part of my regular soundtrack, the Starbucks connection be damned.

As for the Rotarians, don’t sell them short. They’re up to something.

Books: Scudder, Who? Scudder, Hey!

Last night Lawrence Block was on Craig Ferguson’s show to promote Hit Parade, his new Keller novel. Craig, a huge Block fan, asked about the Matt Scudder books. Block said that after the 16th title in the series, last year’s All The Flowers Are Dying, “I can’t imagine writing another one.”

I’m going to need a minute here.

I say without a trace of exaggeration that the Scudder novels are one of the key influences in my life. As a writer, as a New Yorker, as a man, they’ve taught me a great deal.

When I read Flowers, it felt like the end of the line. And who can blame Block for wanting to bring the series to a close on his terms? Better that than to leave the character in limbo.

Of course, if he were to write another one, I’d read it at once.

Sports: Baseball Recap

At the All-Star Break, not only do the New York Mets have the best record in the National League, they also have the widest lead – 12 games! – of any division leader. As for my adopted hometown Mariners, they’re only two-and-a-half games back. They’re also under .500, which shows you how soft the AL West is this year. Still, I should be able to root for my teams deep into September for once.