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Crime HQ
Tue
Jan 27 2015 11:45am

Gotham 1.13: “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”

James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, R) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, L) address corruption within the GCPD in the "Welcome Back, Jim Gordon" episode of Gotham.Welcome back, indeed. This was the most coherent and compelling episode of Gotham to date. Not only did we get the usual surface fun—Oswald and Mama Kapelput, Fish being gleefully defiant—but the story reached far deeper in simultaneously giving Jim and victory and a defeat.

Gotham's unpredictability has always been a strength, and that’s in evidence, too. I expected Fish might die, I expected crazy Mama Kapelput to get caught in a crossfire, and, most of all, I expected Gotham's signature quick cuts between storylines to interfere with the overall impact of the episode. Instead, the police plot and the mobster plot coalesced into something greater than both, while the subplots of Bruce and Selina’s break-up and Eddie’s fumbling courtship of Miss Kringle reinforce the grief and loss of the overall story.

[Let's hope this is the new Gotham...]

Tue
Jan 20 2015 11:00am

Gotham 1.12: “What the Little Bird Told Him”

“You think you’ve been careful so far?”

Lest we forget, Harvey Bullock repeats the phrase three times, each more incredulous than the last in the latest Gotham.

It’s a perfect line, well-delivered by Donal Logue, and points out the single biggest issue with Gotham: Jim Gordon should be dead by now.

But for plot reasons, he lives. It’s certainly not because his skills are invaluable to Gotham.  Oh, he yells at people for being corrupt and he condescends to those not doing real police work but it’s been a long time since we’ve actually seen him do something that makes things better for the city.

But yet Jim holds himself up as better than everyone else. He yells at other cops, various mobsters and the Mayor and the Police Commissioner. Yet no one takes him out.  This frustrates me to no end because the character has such potential.

[Jim, like Gotham, needs to find its identity...]

Tue
Jan 6 2015 11:15am

Gotham 1.11: “Rogues’ Gallery”

Somehow, I expected Gotham’s biggest flaws to have vanished in its return. But the quick cuts between stories, the failure to give Gordon any plan for accomplishing his objectives, and the introduction of Batman villains for no particular reason are all flaws in stark evidence in “Rogues’ Gallery.”

It’s a measure of how off Gotham’s return was that a Shakespeare play performed by the inmates at Arkham Asylum instead reminded me of a King Tut routine from the campy Batman television show of the 1960s.

And then there are the vast issues with the show’s worst-written character: Barbara Kean. We learn why Barbara never left the Clocktower: all she does, apparently, is hang around the place and do drugs, a lifestyle that even Montoya can’t get behind. Montoya claims she and Barbara are “toxic” for each other but it’s Barbara who’s bringing everyone down. (What do Jim and Montoya see in this person?)

[Besides the obvious...]

Thu
Jan 1 2015 8:45am

The Quietest Crime of the Century: Happy New Year!

Is all really quietest on New Year's Day? Ask one of the perpetrators of the “crime of the century,” a self-confessed roaming vagrant.

Oh, um, vagrant, Supertramp, whatever. Our bad.

Enjoy it anyway and Happy 2015!

Leading image via Alex Kaeslin of Switzerland and Emily P's Pinterest.

Tue
Nov 25 2014 1:30pm

Gotham 1.10: Mid-Season Finale “Lovecraft”

In Season 1 Episode 10 of Gotham 1.10 "Lovecraft", teens Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have been surprising bright spots.

I expected a great deal from Gotham. I expected it would be mostly a police procedural. I expected to strongly feature Jim Gordon, one of my favorite comic characters, and I expected it to be a street-level story.

I also expected it to be good. It is good. But not in any way I’d anticipated. After ten episodes, it’s clear there are strengths and weaknesses to the storytelling.

The Good?

1. Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin, brilliantly portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor. He’s creepy, he’s fun, he’s murderous but he’s also the smartest person in Gotham, albeit with a few lapses here and there. He’s also the only character to get a real arc this season, from literal holder of Fish’s umbrella to Falcone’s most trusted advisor. He’s a revelation and the heart of the show.

[There's more good. And some bad. And worse...]

Tue
Nov 18 2014 10:45am

Gotham 1.09: “Harvey Dent”

 Bruce Wayne (David Mazouza) and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) strike a deal in Gotham Season 1 Epiosde 09 "Harvey Dent."

This episode was called “Harvey Dent” but it should have been dubbed “Two-Face,” for the dual nature of nearly everyone involved, starting with those crazy kids, Bruce (David Mazouz) and Selina (Camren Bicondova).

With far more subtlety than this show has shown so far, young Selina brings out the Bruce and eventual Batman selves in the young rich orphan. First, she tells Bruce that his training in boxing and self-discipline won’t help on the streets. “In Gotham, people don’t fight with gloves on.” We know, Selina.

Then Selina brings out the fun side of Bruce, hinting at his later, playboy, persona. She challenges him to a food fight with a kiss from her as the prize and the pair play like, well, the kids they are. She also provides solace when Bruce reveals his regret over not saving his parents. “What could you have done? A gun’s a gun!” Selina states. More than anything, this gets through to him.

[Everyone needs a friend...]

Tue
Nov 11 2014 12:00pm

Gotham 1.08: “The Mask”

In Gotham Season 1 Episode 8 "The Mask" Richard Sionis takes his name quite literally.

You’ll have to excuse me, I’m a little dizzy this morning from all those quick jump edits on Gotham last night. I appreciate the show wants a quick pace but this is becoming ridiculous.

In no particular order, “The Mask” brought us Black Mask Fight Club, Jim getting a Dear John note from Barbara, the GCPD finally finding some semblance of courage, Bullock being awesome, Fish as a believable liar, more crazy Carol Kane/Simka Mom, and Oswald killing people. Oh, and Selina getting caught. Again.

It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, though not Jim Gordon’s. He’s consistently hard-headed and focused on the one goal: clean up Gotham City, and if you stand in his way, he’s had enough of you.

[Barbara's had enough of Jim...]

Tue
Nov 4 2014 1:30pm

Fresh Meat: The Year I Died Seven Times by Eric Beetner

The Year I Died Seven Times, Book #7 by Eric BeetnerThe Year I Died Seven Times by Eric Beetner is a 7-part serialized novel about Ridley Allen, who'll be punished by stubborn love, gnawing curiosity, and a perverse knack for survival after his Japanese girlfriend disappears (Book #7, the final installment, is available November 4, 2014).

Being a fan of short fiction as I am, also of series characters and episodic TV, I'm always excited to see people playing with serials. I'm happy to report this one is a blast, and not least of all because our hero really does die seven times. If you look closely at the title's cover, you'll see blood splotches on the calendar that forms the background. Each splotch marks a month in which an installment (and one of Ridley's deaths) occurs. This is no spoiler. From the scene that kicks off Book #1:

Had to be no more than fifteen seconds and the entire trunk filled, which meant the whole car had gone under. When the last of the air belched out from the seams where the trunk lid met the bodywork, I felt the car get sucked down like some sea monster has a hold of it or something. All I know is I picked up speed in a race to the bottom. I don't remember the moment when I blacked out or anything. I was too stunned and numb from the cold and a little dizzy from the whole lack of breathing thing. I couldn't believe it.

Believe it, reader, he's really dying, and that's where all the fun begins!

[There's dead-dead, but also a little bit dead...]

Tue
Nov 4 2014 11:15am

Gotham 1.07: “Penguin’s Umbrella”

It’s time to give up on my hope that Gotham will become a dark, twisted and deep story that showcases what a scary place a superhero universe can be without extraordinary heroes.

Instead, it’s time to embrace Gotham for what it is: a dark, twisted and sometimes over-the-top story of a city without a Batman. It’s compelling but in a different way than I’d once hoped.

And when it amps up the action, as in this episode, it’s a whole lot of unpredictable fun. There’s very little slow burn. Secrets tumble out fast, sides are chosen and the board is reshuffled. Oh, and Oswald gets to kill someone again.

[It's what we've come to expect...]

Tue
Oct 28 2014 12:00pm

Gotham 1.06: “Spirit of the Goat”

You have to love the way Oswald makes entrances. First, he shows up at Barbara’s clock tower to say “hi” to his good friend, Jim, then he shows up at his mother’s place with “I’m alive!,” and at the end of this episode, he drops the bombshell on everyone by walking into police headquarters.

I love the ending cliffhanger. It feels like an homage to monthly comics, which often end on that kind of big revelation.

And, despite the presence of a serial murderer, Oswald still wins the creepy award this episode, for the disturbing bathtub scene with his mother, who seems like a weirder, more twisted version of Carol Kane’s Valerie from The Princess Bride. I half expected Miracle Max to show up as Oswald’s Dad and for them to start arguing about whether their son was pursuing the right career path or maybe where to get the best pastrami.

[You said something about pastrami?]

Tue
Oct 21 2014 1:00pm

Gotham 1.05: “Viper”

The full scope of the corruption in Gotham and the impossible task that Jim Gordon has taken on himself becomes clear in this fifth episode, where the series finally coalesces into full coherence.

Instead of unrelated quick cuts between the ever-growing cast, Viper pulls them all into one over-reaching plotline: take down Carmine Falcone.

Falcone controls the police, the courts, the mayor and the underworld. Fish and her bondage-loving new boyfriend want to replace Falcone, as does Maroni. Fish’s new weapon is her baby doll, a lethal lady trained to pull at Falcone’s heartstrings and something below belt as well. Maroni’s new weapon is the newly-dubbed Penguin, our old friend Oswald. (Oswald doesn’t kill anyone this episode. That’s a first. Still, I need to give the writers full credit for finding another fun but gruseome way for Gotham denizens to die: crushed by ATM.)

[Gotham owes a hat tip to Breaking Bad for that one...]

Tue
Oct 14 2014 2:30pm

Gotham 1.04: “Arkham”

Gotham should be subtitled “Rise of the Penguin,” as it’s clear by this fourth episode that this season is all about Oswald Cobblepot’s bid for power.

Focusing on the villain is a tradition in Batman screen adaptations, all the way back to Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. And Oswald is perfectly cast to fill this need. Robin Lord Taylor has on-screen charisma to burn, enough so that while he’s a cheerfully unrepentant murderer, I find myself rooting for him. Oswald took a big step forward with this week’s orchestration of a robbery and then dispatching his hired help via poisoned cannoli. (He takes the gun, the cannoli, and the money.)

As I was watching the double-cross, it occurred to me that Oswald is an excellent suspect for the mastermind behind the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Their deaths caused the chaos he needs to thrive and he certainly tried to use the killings as leverage to get rid of Fish, his one miscalculation so far. If this is the case, it adds more resonance to the scene at the end of the pilot in which Jim Gordon, sworn to find the murderer of the Waynes, refuses to kill Oswald. 

[If only, if only...]

Tue
Oct 14 2014 11:30am

Cosplaying the Field at New York Comic Con 2014

New York Comic Con took to New York City's Javit's Center from October 9th through the 12th. Although the thousands of people who turned up arrived for a variety of reasons, one thing was clear: everyone was having a blast being there.

After all, where else can a young Luigi run into a fully operational R2-D2?

No place; that's where.

[See what else went down!]

Tue
Oct 7 2014 11:00am

Gotham 1.03: “The Balloonman”

If one thing is clear from three episodes of Gotham, it’s that the show is going to be obvious in its themes. Jim Gordon is always the “boy scout,” Bruce is the brooding youngster interested in crime, and Gotham officials are corrupt, to the point where a drinking game can be made of any character saying “it’s Gotham,” in the same tone as “It’s Chinatown, Jake.”

If the pilot intrigued me and the second episode disappointed, this third outing, “The Balloonman,” showed some promise that the show is finding its tone: wry humor, some over-the-top situations, and a quick pace.

The return of the humor is particularly welcome after the dreary and dull mystery of episode 2. “The Balloonman” even gets mileage out of the ridiculous idea of rounding up all the street kids to ship them off to juvenile prison facilities upstate, as that serves as motivation for this week’s villain.

[Glad we're revisiting that...]

Wed
Oct 1 2014 8:00am

Hello, October: Crime Writers in the Cemetery

If you know me—or if you’ve read one of my books—you know I have a thing for cemeteries. One of my favorites is Woodlawn, set on 400 acres in the northern reaches of the Bronx. With rolling green hills and its own little lake, it’s a place of beauty and tranquility. And because it’s been operating since 1863, it’s filled with some spectacular history, art and architecture.

There are some 300,000 people buried in Woodlawn, including a lot of famous folks. Herman Melville, Miles Davis, Joseph Pulitzer, Fiorello LaGuardia, Celia Cruz, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, F.W. Woolworth, Robert Moses, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton all made Woodlawn their final resting place. Renowned architects such as Carrère and Hastings, who designed the New York Public Library, and McKim, Mead & White, who designed the Morgan Library, created some of Woodlawn’s spectacular mausoleums. Hidden inside these palaces for the dead are stained-glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany and other artists.

 

This Sunday, October 5th, I’ll be appearing along with authors Linda Fairstein, Lawrence Block, Heather Graham, and Lyndsay Faye in a New York Mystery Writers of America Writers Workshop at Woodlawn event that will be raising funds for the Woodlawn Conservancy. This event also includes a series of presentations that will give visitors special access to some of the cemetery’s hidden treasures and the chance to research backstage operations through guided tours. If you’re in the area, book a ticket now. If not, take a look at a few of the photographs I’ve taken in Woodlawn over the years to find out what makes the place so special.

All images used with permission of the author.

Tue
Sep 30 2014 12:00pm

Gotham 1.02: “Selina Kyle”

Bruno Heller, the co-creater of Gotham, talked in an interview about the influence of 1970s New York City on the show. That’s evident in much of the cinematography, such as the elevated tracks at the murder scene in “Selina Kyle,” very similar to the setting of the car chase in The French Connection.

But what I hoped was also a tone similar to The French Connection.

Instead, from Falcone’s public beating of Fish’s lover, to the too on-the-nose dialogue about being “with the program” from Capt. Essen, and Bullock’s repeated badgerings of Jim Gordon to stop acting all high and mighty, Episode 2, “Selina Kyle” became, at times, almost as silly as its Monday night companion, Sleepy Hollow but not nearly as fun as Sleepy Hollow, which embraces its ridiculousness. (Look, everyone, studly naked torso!)

[The young bat and cat!]

Tue
Sep 23 2014 11:00am

Gotham Series Premiere: You Won’t Miss Batman

If you’re a casual television viewer, you probably remember Jim Gordon as the bumbling commissioner on the Batman live-action television show. If you’ve seen the recent Dark Knight trilogy, you might have a more positive opinion of Gordon as a hero.

But if you’re a reader of comics, especially Batman: Year One, then you know Gordon serves an incredibly important role in the Gotham mythos: he’s Batman’s conscience and the moral center of a city already half in ruins.

This is why he was picked as the centerpoint of Gotham.

The first episode of the series nails Jim Gordon’s essential morality. There’s a line he won’t cross and shortcuts he won’t take. At least so far, because the first hour of Gotham promises some serious challenges to his worldview. It also provides Gordon an excellent counterpoint in cynical, slovenly and yet smart Detective Harvey Bullock. If Ben McKenzie doesn’t watch out, Donal Logue’s Bullock is going to steal the show from his Gordon. Watching the two of them this season together promises to be a lot of fun, especially if they can continue to exchange the wryly funny looks like the ones they gave each other while upside down on meathooks.

[Wait, what was that about meathooks?]

Fri
Sep 19 2014 7:45am

Gotham: Join Us for the Journey Through Batman’s Origins

“The attraction of this story was the chance to tell the origin stories,” said Gotham Executive Producer/Writer Bruno Heller in an interview last week.

Gotham is the story of what went on before Bruce Wayne put on the cape and cowl, seen through the eyes of young Detective Jim Gordon. Not only is it the story of how Gordon struggled to bring some order to Gotham City’s chaos, but it’s the beginning of some of Batman’s iconic villains, such as the Penguin and the Riddler. The story is set against the backdrop of a Gotham City heavily influenced by New York City in the 1970s, a time of great tumult.

Heller says you don’t have to be a fan of the comics to enjoy the show. He’s hoping to grab a wider audience by the strength of the story and the characters.

So follow me here beginning with the premiere on September 22, as I recap each episode on Criminal Element. If the pilot is any indication, we’ll have much to discuss, from the major tweak on Batman’s origin, to the addition of characters who’ve never been seen on-screen before, like Crispus Allen and Barbara Kean, the eventual mother of Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon.

Wed
Sep 10 2014 1:00pm

Gotham’s Girls: Comic Noir’s New Leading Ladies

Noir has long been a male bastion in comics, from Frank Miller reimagining Daredevil and Batman to Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka creating Gotham Central, an inspiration for the upcoming Gotham television series.

Female creators writing noir stories for comics have been few and far between. But that’s changing. Batgirl is being re-imagined by a creative team that includes Babs Tarr and acclaimed artist Becky Cloonan is part of a team working on the all-new Gotham Academy series, both debuting in October.

On the independent side, Erica Schultz is the co-creator of M3, an award-winning independent series with art by Vicente Alcázar. M3 is the story of a female assassin who entered the trade after being raised by the hit man who murdered her parents. Machiavella Maria Marcona’s (hence: M3) always believed her assassinations were for the right reasons and that she was murdering for the greater good. As her story unfolds, mixing flashbacks with the current day, it becomes clear everything she was certain of in her life could be wrong.

[That's a big pill to swallow...]

Thu
Sep 4 2014 12:00pm
Excerpt

“Eldercare”: Exclusive Short Story Excerpt from Family Matters

Triss Stein

Family Matters, A Murder New York Style mystery anthology, edited by Anita Page“Eldercare” by Triss Stein is presented here in its entirety, an exclusive excerpt from Family Matters, edited by Anita Page, the third Murder New York Style mystery anthology (available September 9, 2014).

Come meet the relatives! These twenty short stories by members of the New York/Tri-State chapter will take you from the explosive excitement of the New York City Marathon to a secret cellar in Queens; from the warmth of an immigrant culture to the moneyed New York art world; from brutality and poverty to Wall Street’s privileged thugs. These urban short stories offer action-packed murder and suspense-filled mystery ranging in tone from fun to dark and from cozy to noir. No Metrocard or E-ZPass required to tour these neighborhoods.

She’s yelling at me. Not for the first time today and not even for the twentieth. And certainly not for the last.

She could yell at my big sister for once, the one who walks on water. The one who has the glamorous house on a beach in California. The one who hasn’t been home in two years and hasn’t called in two months. If she wants to yell, why not at her?

Or my older brother, the one who lives on the Jersey shore, but can’t seem to find a good day to hit the Garden State Parkway and give the old lady the thrill of his handsome face. But no. The surfing shop needs him night and day, even in the winter. She could yell at him; he has it coming.

So here I am, still on the same old beach in Brooklyn, still in the same old house where we grew up, still available for yelling.

The honest truth is, she was never sweetness and light. You think it’s just chance, both my siblings live on beaches, like where they grew up? But not THE beach where they DID grow up? They couldn’t wait to be somewhere else. Far enough so the old lady’s tongue couldn’t reach them. Even when all her brain cells were intact—or as intact as they ever were—she could skin you alive with her voice.

Right about the time I was plotting my own escape, she ended up in the hospital a couple of times, and then they said she had the big A and she was losing her brain cells, one cell at a time. They even showed me pictures.

And she wasn’t ever going to get better.

I was kind of hoping that the cells that were getting erased would be the ones that gave her the mean mouth and the vicious temper, but no such luck. They were the ones that told her how to dress herself and cook and eat. She still knew how to set a trap and spring it, with me playing the mouse. Trapped. So here I am, pushing thirty, living in my boyhood room with the Star Wars sheets on the cold twin bed. Making my own meals, cause she was never much of a cook, and now can’t be trusted near a stove. If she blew herself up, I wouldn’t mourn much. Not much, ha. Not at all, but I worry about the house. It’s a good house, brick, front and back yards, garage, three stories cause they built some bedrooms up in the attic. It’s one block from the beach. One freakin’ block. It’s worth real money. And I’ve earned it.

[Continue reading “Eldercare” by Triss Stein]