[Amazon Link]

I'm working my way through older Dick Francis novels (while also trying to keep up with his Designated Successor, son Felix). I thought I'd read them all at least once, but I was surprised to find that I seemed to have missed this 1993 one.

Or maybe I forgot. But I think I would have remembered. Right?

I got a "Used - Very Good" copy of the paperback from an Amazon seller. It had stickers that told of its travels to Pun Salad Manor: a remainder table at some Barnes & Noble; a stop at a Goodwill store. And finally, a UPS ride from Plainfield, Indiana to here. I feel it should be retired to a good home.

The hero here is Lee Morris, a builder/architect specializing in the restoration of ruins into attractive and liveable abodes. He's a family man, with six sturdy sons and a wife from whom he's growing increasingly distant. He needs to hustle to make ends meet, and it doesn't help that he's decided to keep his latest project as a place to live instead of selling it. But he's the usual Francis hero: professionally ultra-competent, personally a mensch, but still recognizably human.

Into this situation is dropped the violent turmoil of the Stratton family; Lee's mother was previously married to one of its least appealing members, and Lee feels both obligated and reluctant to respond to a situation caused by the recent death of the family head, Lord Stratton. At issue is the fate of Stratton Park racecourse: some Strattons want to sell, some want to renovate, some want to maintain the status quo. And it just so happens that Lee controls some of the voting shares in the track.

Lee winds up taking the five oldest sons for what he hopes will be a quick resolution, after which he can forget about the Strattons altogether. He turns out to be wrong, wrong, wrong: his efforts put (mostly) him and (occasionally) his kids in peril. Since this is a Dick Francis book, Lee handles the situation with courage, stoicism, perception, and intelligence.

Last Modified 2017-12-01 10:39 AM EDT

The Giant Mechanical Man

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A perfectly fine, albeit totally formulaic, romantic comedy. (Although IMDB classifies it in the "Drama" genre as well—I don't think so, not really.) It's a product of the arty Tribeca film people, so I though it was filmed in New York. But no, that's Detroit. The movie apparently appeared in one movie theater, one week, and IMDB claims it made $5,360 at the box office. If you have Amazon Prime, you can click the link over there to see it for free.

This movie may have been used to grab Michigan tax credits, or to launder Mob money. Or both.

The two romantic protagonists are Janice (the lovely Jenna Fischer) and Tim (the not quite as lovely Chris Messina). Each has their problems: Janice is a female slacker who manages to get fired from a temp agency. Tim is a street performance artist who puts on stilts, silver makeup and a big shiny suit to act as a… um… giant mechanical man for anyone who'll toss some money in his open briefcase. Both Tim and Janice need to deal with challenges: Janice, it's her bossy younger sister and nebbish brother-in-law. Tim its an impatient, verging-on-bitchy girlfriend.

The movie worked for me because, well, who doesn't want things to come out well for Jenna Fischer? There are more than a few laughs, and especially good is Topher Grace playing an irritating third-rate self-help guru.

Last Modified 2013-06-19 9:13 AM EDT