Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who paints Three Nosed Santa?
Although you wouldn't know it by the weather, it is holiday season in Chicago. The surest sign of that to me is the presence of Three Nosed Santa.  The anonymous painter who creates these window paintings seems to work on the northside of the city and the adjacent suburbs.  This photo was taken on Church Street in Skokie.  If I see more paintings by this artist I will post them here.
I started calling this version of St. Nicholas Three Nosed Santa because from a distance or in passing the rosy cheeks and nose seem to blur together into three noses.  The artist uses brush strokes that render the features very hard to distinguish from each other.  And this technique makes his or her art immediately identifiable.
  The close up here reveals one more mark of identification.  Santa has leaves (mistletoe?) for eyebrows.
  You'll see window paintings like this around town at small businesses and storefronts.  CVS Drugs or Bennigan's is not about to have corporate messaging weakened by anything approaching localized, individualized creativity.  A merry ho-ho-ho to you, oh anonymous creator.  I hope to see Three Nosed Santa for many Christmases to come.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Turn Banks into Libraries
I've returned from a jaunt to New England.  My wife and I took a trip to her alma mater, The Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.  The school has taken a bank in the city and converted it into a library and dormitories for undergraduates.  Not to burden anyone with my political opinions, but this is something that should happen in every city.  Ponderous multi-story spaces with columns galore and marble to spare were ably converted into a surprisingly warm and welcoming environment.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thoughts on the visuals in A Field Guide to the Elves of Northern Europe

As I think about how a paperback copy of Rod Crenshaw's best-selling work on the identification of Elves might look, it occurs to me that most of us (even the most skilled and highly trained in elf-spotting) will probably only get a fleeting  glimpse of an elf or elves.
  And even then, we would be lucky to catch a silhouette or shadow.  So something like this page from A Pocket Guide to Trees; How to Identify and Enjoy Them by Rutherford Platt (Washington Square Press, 1960) would probably be very useful.
  As we'll see in Book Two, the sudden commercial success of a book originally intended for a scholarly audience will have implications for not only Rod Crenshaw but possibly even Manny Tippitoes.
  And there's something else in Rutherford Platt's Pocket Guide that I want to share with you later.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cast of Characters - Demetrio Chardonnay
If the city had an award for Least Effective Criminal, Demetrio Chardonnay might very well win it. He practically defines the term "petty thief."  A hold-up man who specializes in liquor stores, Chardonnay is always caught shortly after he departs the scene of the crime.
So you can imagine the surprise when Uncle Detective found out that Chardonnay was behind the heist of a shipment of very expensive wine and beer.  Our narrator trailed Chardonnay to the abandoned Blue Plate Factory where he saw some crates being loaded into a building everyone believes to be empty.
 Has Demetrio Chardonnay been reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Criminals?  What's this Academy he talks about?
Who gets a cape when they graduate college?
And what exactly is going on at The Blue Plate Factory?

Friday, November 11, 2011

You better believe I am going to look into this some more
The Ideal Palace of Postman Cheval was planned for twelve years and built for thirty-three. Like many of the concrete parks of Wisconsin (a topic for further posts, to be sure) it was constructed by hand with materials salvaged by the builder.  You can read more in the great Stopping Off Place blog.
As Facteur Cheval said, "Let those who think they can do better try."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Free Short Story: The Contretemps at The Buckles Club
A Lord Murray Eames Bingle Mystery
I've completed a short story featuring the crime-stopping
aristocrat himself, Murray Eames Bingle and his butler duck Muddles.
 It's available here in the ePub format.  Or you can buy a copy at for a measly 99 cents.
Lord Bingle expected a simple dinner with friends at The Buckles Club.  Instead, he was witness to a terrible murder.
How can Lord Bingle free his friend Aubrey Hide when he, and everyone else, saw Aubrey stab someone to death?  Or will Inspector Gage of Scotland Yard take young Hide straight to jail?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!
A portly figure stood beneath the Senate podium. Smoke drifted from the nozzle of a Winchester repeating rifle in his left hand. A ring of dead men lay spread out in front of him as the rotund, mustachioed ex-President stood face to face with a snarling man-wolf. The bandelero of silver bullets across his ample chest was exhausted of ammunition. 
 Grover Cleveland tossed some berries in the air with his free hand. The foaming mouth of the werewolf snapped at each in rapid succession. Slowly and quietly, nation’s twenty-second president, to the astonishment of the assembled legislators, spoke to the werewolf...  
excerpted from Grover Cleveland, Werewolf Whisperer - from The Extravagant Escapades of Manny Tippitoes - Book Two

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fan Mail from some Flounders

Maybe not the first fans of Manny Tippitoes, but definitely the first fans of the author.  
They get it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cast of Characters - Sir Helios Tippitoes
Manny Tippitoe's father was the Lord of Stockington Island and Director of the Tippitoes Wool Concern.  The case files contain an interview between Detective Schuyler Van Stalwert from the city police force and Sir Helios conducted in 1887.
  Sir Helios left the details of running the family business to his personal assistant, Robin Goodfellow.  The mysterious Goodfellow was instrumental in the sudden growth in distribution and popularity of Tippitoes socks and stockings at the end of the 19th Century.  However, to this day there is no documentation concerning who, exactly Robin Goodfellow was.  How a relatively small wool company based on an island in the North Sea came to manufacture and sell socks across the world is, as yet, unknown.  Goodfellow himself disappeared shortly after the birth of Emmanuel Alva Tippitoes on the night of a full moon. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm not familiar with Colson Whitehead's work, and I have zero interest in zombie stories.  But this quote from an Atlantic interview on his new zombie novel Zone Out resonated with me.

What do "literary" fiction and "genre" fiction mean to you? Are these terms helpful to you as a writer, or are they just methods of bookstore organization? 

They don't mean anything to me. They're useful for bookstores, obviously. They're useful for fans. You can figure out what's coming out in the same style of other books you like. But as a writer they have no use for me in my day-to-day work experience. I was inspired to become a writer by horror movies and science fiction. The fantastic effects of magic realism, Garcia Marquez, the crazy, absurd landscapes of Beckett--to me, they're just variations on the fantasy books I grew up on.

I concur.  I have to tell people that The Continuing Case of Manny Tippitoes is a "middle grade" book.  But I didn't write it with that category in mind.  I wrote for the fun of it and with smart, slightly precocious kids in mind.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Continuing Case of Manny Tippitoes: Now available for The Kindle
I'm happy to announce that the Kindle version of the book is
available for purchase on the Amazon website.
We've priced the eBook at $5.99 so there's no reason for you to
delay if you are a Kindle user and want to get a copy of The Continuing Case of Manny Tippitoes for yourself.  I'm very excited that the new version of the Kindle will the capacity for color illustrations.  It's nice to think that Kindle users will have the ability to see Anna Wieszczyk's illustrations in color.
  If you read books on your iPhone or iPad, I should have news on how you can get Manny for your devices within a week or so.  The eBook will be priced just as reasonably for those machines as well.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Irving Klawfeld, circa 1932
Cast of Characters - Irving Klawfeld
 Irving Klawfeld is universally acknowledged as THE Broadway Producer of the 20s, 30s and 40s. His series of touring reviews, Klawfeld's Fancies, brought top level vaudeville and musical comedy acts to every corner of America and were adapted into a series of popular films that can still be seen on late night television.
  Klawfeld was praised as a discoverer and developer of talent, having been behind the careers of actors and musicians as disparate as The Old Man Shirt Band, Central State Novelty Orchestra, William Powell and W.C. Fields.  Klawfeld was also condemned as a "rank vulgarian and threat to people of good posture everywhere" by the social crusader Matilda Pearlclutcher.  Her infamous Corps of the Upright were posed to boycott the Fancies of 1933 in Los Angeles as Mrs. Pearlclutcher took vocal exception to a song in the review that encouraged people to take off their shoes.  Before a mass rally to initiate the boycott could take place, Mrs. Pearlclutcher was hospitalized complaining of chest pains and sour milk.  The record-breaking run the Fancies enjoyed at the El Camino Theater in Los Angeles that year resulted in Klawfeld's movie deal. The subsequent runaway success of the filmed Fancies secured Irving Klawfeld's reputation as the predominant showman of his era.
  The Klawfeld's Fancies of 1933 featured a mysterious performer know only as Manny Tippitoes.  His self-titled theme song, accompanied by an anatomy-defying dance routine, somehow came to the the attention of the city's children, who attended the matinees en masse dragging their reluctant parents with them.
  Irving Klawfeld was once described as "The Clotheshorse of Herald Square" by the columnist Maxine Haltertop.  He was known for his flamboyant taste in clothing.  Bob Hope noted at Klawfeld's funeral in 1963 that "the Russkies could see Irving from Sputnik."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Now available for the Nook!
I'm very happy to announce that the first e-book version of The Continuing Case of Manny Tippitoes is out now.  You can get Manny on your Nook aet Barnes & Noble online

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cast of Characters - The Continuing Case of Manny Tippitoes
Lord Murray Eames Bingle was a famous gentleman (some would say dilettante) detective of the 20s and 30s.  His many adventures have been chronicled in a series of novels (such as The Case of the Floating Currency or An Ear for Murder) and short stories.  
 The seventh in the line of noblemen bearing the title Lord Bingle, Murray Eames was commonly believed to be a loafer and bon vivant by his contemporaries and especially his Great Aunt Ingrid.  The Dowager Duchess seldom wasted an opportunity to express her displeasure with a perceived lack of ambition in the young aristocrat. 
Truth be known, Bingle lived a life on the edge.  Developing a taste for danger in his time as an officer in the British Army in World War One, he was drawn to investigatory work like a bee to honey.  Bingle's foppish exterior (which he exaggerated to great effect) concealed a thoroughly organized mind and a discerning judgement that avoided the prejudices of his time.  Bingle earned the grudging admiration of the policemen he came into contact with both in England and abroad (where many of his most famous cases took place.)
  Still, Bingle's tendency to consort with society's more suspect members like musicians, actors, police and criminals, marked him as a bit risque in more polite society.  And the Gentleman Detective, as newspapers of the time called him, distinguished himself even more by being accompanied on many cases by a waterfowl he called "Muddles, my butler duck."
Eames-Bingle as portrayed in 1934

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cast of Characters - The Continuing Case of Manny Tippitoes
Marcella Higgins
Marcella Higgins is the daughter of Ward and Violet Higgins and lives with her parents in a suburb of the city in the same house where her father grew up.  Her uncle Morris is a detective in the city's police force.  Morris, who Marcella has nicknamed Uncle Detective, has given Marcella a set of notebooks and encouraged her to keep a written diary.
  Although initially skeptical of the need to record the events in her life, Marcella has recently become convinced of the necessity of using her personal journal to detail the strange events happening around the city to her and her friends.  Events that adults cannot seem to notice.
  Marcella collects books in the Magnolia Berwyn, Girl Detective series.  She recently found a copy of Magnolia Berwyn and the Poisoner's Apprentice at a church sale and found the guide to poisonous plants inside the book to be most useful in a visit to the City Conservatory.
  Marcella's favorite band is Dumbcane and she is hoping that her parents will let her see them play when they come to town. Her favorite drink is Ginger Cream Ale, which can only be found at Lucky's Diner in the city.

The publishing process is in its final stages as The Continuing Case of Manny Tippitoes gets converted to the formatting for Kindle.  I know from my experience at independent record labels that this "going to market" time (to use corporatespeak) can be uniquely frustrating.  You know that you have a good product and you want to tell people about it, but the product is not available for them to buy.  Sometime in mid-to-late October there will be a book available on, the e-book will be available via the Kindle and there might even be versions ready on the Nook and Apple formats. 
  Until that happy day arrives, I'm going to post some brief profiles of the major (and minor) characters in the first book of the Manny Tippitoes trilogy.  When available, I'll use some of Anna Wieszczyk's artwork in the book.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gene Colan and Peter Falk

Two great ones passed away this past weekend, prompting a little introspection over here. So much of the content of Manny Tippitoes has been inspired by detective fiction and the TV show that made Peter Falk famous, Columbo, is at the top of the list.
The basic organizing dynamic of the show was, I would argue, class dynamics. In every way, the murderers in each program saw themselves as natural superiors to the seemingly disorganized, frumpy and definitely lower middle class detective. Each murderer du jour is portrayed as accomplished, affluent, and contemptuous of the police to some degree or another. Even the country singer portrayed by Johnny Cash in one episode.
As is the case with Jules Maigret, Lt. Columbo represents the bourgeois order and upholds its value system regardless of the social or economic status of those he deals with. Both detectives, interestingly enough, are identified with a coat. In Columbo's case it was a rumpled raincoat that Falk famously claimed to "leave a saucer of milk for" each night.
My exposure to the work of Gene Colan came through reading Daredevil and The Sub-Mariner comics, along with the odd issue of Iron Man in the 1970s. When it came to Marvel artists, in those days I went for the more assertive work of Jack Kirby and later, John Buscema. Colan's work was and is, unique, though. And when it came to rainy urban streets, fog and bodies throwing themselves across the panel, Colan was beyond compare. I've since come to appreciate Colan's work more than I did as a kid, and get educated on the crime and romance comics he did before Marvel's Silver Age. And Gene Colan's work on the Marvel Dracula comic defined vampire in a way that no-one has equaled to my satisfaction.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Typographical Musings

I took a trip to the eastern shore of Wisconsin to go camping. While there, we stopped by Twin Rivers to visit the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. At the Museum I picked up a replica copy of an 1869 Speciment Book from the Johnson Type Foundry of Philadelphia. Great visual inspiration. The visit to Trivers was a great visual palette cleanser as the topic of design and layout for Manny has been occupying my mind a lot recently. A Campfire Focus Group was formed later on and we went over potential fonts and layouts.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The kicking of the heels.

The first step has been taken and edited text is in the hands of the designer. Only the cover remains to be completed.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Character design and my visual mind.

Writing Manny Tippitoes began with a notebook. I found that I was clipping pictures and sketching people and places as much as I was writing. This process continued and really picked up steam when I began working with illustrator Anna Wieszczyk. I'll have more to write about Anna's amazing work later, what's relevant to this post is that she is Polish. Consequently, I have felt the need to provide her with as many pictures as possible to augment the written descriptions of the people and places I'm asking her to draw.

These are some of the pictures I harvested from the web and shared with Anna. From the git go Manny has been highly influence by comics. Anna's work is primarily in that medium, although her work on the book has really adapted itself to give a gothic/ expressionist level feel. When you see the finished product you'll be as amazed and delighted as I was with her work.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Now Playing

Yes, a long time. Writing, editing, finding an illustrator, finding an editor and now talking with a designer. Options weighed, decisions made, and much is still in the air. But thanks to the new Library of Congress National Jukebox, I now know what the instrumentation of the Manny Tippitoes Theme Song should sound like.