Swarp meet — November 23, 2022

Swarp meet

I recently made a glorious discovery – a Waylon station on the radio music streaming service that I utilize for free. And by Waylon I mean Jennings. After all, there is but one Waylon.

I grew up listening to Waylon and other stars of outlaw country. Indeed, Waylon was a favorite of my dad’s. (By the way, Daddy pronounced his name Wayling.) When I was a wee lass growing up on the Goff Estate, at Daddy’s instruction, my oldest sister played Waylon’s greatest hits on her record player after everyone went to bed. Waylon serenaded us as we met Mr. Sandman. Well, everyone but me. Even as a wee lass, I couldn’t sleep with distractions like Waylon’s deep voice wafting through the house.

Before I made my glorious discovery, I had already been listening to Waylon’s songs and those by other musicians from my youth. In fact, I did so on the daily. Still, once I started listening to Waylon radio, I did hear songs, his and others’, I hadn’t heard in dozens of years. As these tunes, both familiar and unfamiliar, worked their way into my consciousness, I detected themes. Actually, I noticed one theme in particular – swarping.

Swarping, for those of you who don’t know, basically means to party. In other words, to raise some expletive. It’s not that I was surprised singers featured on the station, including Waylon, Willie, and Merle, sang about swarping. But I was surprised by the volume of these swarping songs.

And when Willie and Merle’s Reasons To Quit came on, I said to myself, “Self, they might be listing all the reasons to quit swarping, but they sure make it sound like a lot of fun.”

By the way, Waylon’s Lonesome, On’ry and Mean, which depicts a dark tale of swarping gone wrong, makes swarping sound like anything but fun. The song, one of my all-time favorites, speaks to me.

Although Conway Twitty wasn’t part of the outlaw genre, his songs provide a different aspect of swarping. Why are his tunes on Waylon radio, you ask? Because one song leads to another on these streaming services and the next thing you know, you’re hearing Conway croon about yet another conquest. During Tight Fitting Jeans, I said to myself, “Self, is he saying what I think he’s saying? Did I know what that song meant when I was a wee lass?”

All this reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend weeks ago. Whilst at lunch, a Rod Stewart song came on the restaurant’s jukebox. (Yes, you read that right.) We agreed we’re not fans of his, but I said I do like a couple of his songs. I couldn’t remember the name of one of them, so I looked it up. When I told said friend it was Do Ya Think I’m Sexy, she laughed and said, “I knew it” and joked about me liking pornography.

As I countered, that song represents the music I grew up listening to. If I had thought about it, I could have mentioned to her that I also listened to Donna Summer moaning on the radio, Conway crooning about making out with strangers, and Waylon and the other outlaws singing the praises of swarping.

Gosh. It was a glorious time to be a wee lass.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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It’s a mystery — November 9, 2022

It’s a mystery

As you might recall, a few years ago I penned a cozy mystery series. I decided to take a break from that and focus on a new series and a new set of characters.

Characters like these … A thrice-married aging bombshell. Her respectable sworn enemy. A scheming young executive. A long-absent father. A bored daughter with a secret romance.

These characters and others populate A Fatal Reception, An Ashton Arbor Mystery. As the first installment in the serialized saga begins, the beautiful Jenna and handsome Greg are preparing for their wedding, unaware a murder will mar their special day. With elements of a soap opera, the mystery features blackmail, double crossings, affairs, decades-long grudges, corporate espionage, and a whodunnit cliffhanger.

The book blends elements of two of my favorite genres – mysteries and soaps. In fact, I wrote the mystery because, like one of the characters in the book, I miss soap operas of my youth. Alas, unlike the character, no one could ever describe me as a bombshell.

You might be asking yourself, “Self, if this book contains elements of soaps, does this mean it will include an amnesiac evil twin who returns from the dead?”

Spoiler alert: There are no amnesiacs as well as no twins, evil or otherwise, in this book. I also don’t plan to raise characters from the dead in the series. Instead of focusing on those types of tropes, I want to celebrate the soapy goodness of betrayal, secrets, and lies.

A couple times whilst writing, I had ideas for character motivation or plot movement and said to myself, “Self, this is so soapy. Dare you include it?”

Spoiler alert: I absolutely did.

A Fatal Reception is different from my previous cozy mystery series in a few ways. For starters, it’s not set in Eastern Kentucky. Also, it’s not a cozy. But it’s cozy-adjacent. It’s certainly not a hardboiled mystery. After all, the murder occurs off stage. And while there are a few four-letter words here and there, it’s nothing I wouldn’t have heard on a soap when I was a wee lass.

There are also no explicit love scenes, so imagine my surprise when a friend who’s read the book described it as racy. Spoiler alert: It’s not racy. Maybe a little suggestive, but not racy.

Said friend redeemed himself when he told me that the story reminded him of soaps he watched with his mom. Huh. What do you know? That’s exactly the mood I wanted to create.

The ebook version of A Fatal Reception can be purchased at www.amazon.com/dp/B0BL43ZVYX and the paperback at www.amazon.com/dp/B0BL9V455Y

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Funny is in the eye of the beholder — October 26, 2022

Funny is in the eye of the beholder

Last week during the call of an NFL game, legendary announcer Al Michaels shared that he doesn’t like horror movies. In case you’re wondering, Al prefers musicals.

I felt a kinship with Al because, as I’ve mentioned here and there, I also am not a fan of the horror genre. It’s not that I think I’m too good for horror movies or that they’re bad films. It’s just that I find real life horrifying enough. Besides, most of the so-called scary movies I’ve seen have had the opposite effect on me.

Take the vampire genre, for example.

If I’m not mistaken, my introduction to the genre occurred in high school when a teacher showed us the classic 1931 version of Dracula. I love old movies, but I was not impressed in part because of those squeaking expletive bats.

Unlike so many others in my generation – and my circle – I haven’t read one word written by Anne Rice. When friends urged me to read her books, I’m fairly certain I politely explained that I didn’t want to spend my time reading about the undead. I’m fairly certain I politely explained.

Nonetheless, it was with great enthusiasm that, back in the day, I rented the 1994 film adaptation of her novel, Interview with the Vampire. Why? Because it starred Brad Pitt as one of the sulking vampires.

Surprisingly, the film entertained me. I thought it was funny. When I shared that last thought with folks, they told me the film wasn’t supposed to be funny.

Oh.

Nonetheless, they encouraged me to watch the 1992 film adaptation, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’m open-minded and the film starred a few of my favorite performers, so I rented the movie from the video store.

It was so over-the-top and the way Gary Oldman, as the title character, enunciated his dialogue had me in stitches. When I shared this with folks, they told me the film wasn’t supposed to be funny.

Oh.

For the most part, I called it quits with vampires. At some point, I found the old, campy vampire-themed soap opera, Dark Shadows, on the TV. I watched a few seasons and, much later, the film adaptation. Both made me laugh, but I’m fairly certain they were supposed to be funny. I’m fairly certain of this.

Nonetheless, a few years ago there was a show on one of the premium channels called True Blood. It featured sultry vampires. That’s another thing. Unlike oodles of others, I do not find vampires sultry. (Nope. Not even an undead Brad Pitt.) Anyway, I ran across a scene of these True Blood vampires online. I laughed and laughed.

I was told it wasn’t supposed to be funny. It was supposed to be sultry.

Oh.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

That’s comforting — October 12, 2022

That’s comforting

I’ve needed comfort food of late, so I’ve turned to two staples – mashed potatoes and Bewitched.

As my bowl of mashed potatoes and I settled in to spend time with my old friend, Samantha Stephens, I said to myself, “Self, skip ahead to the second season of Bewitched so you can avoid the black and white episodes.”

Before anyone has a virtual breakdown and accuses me of being too uncouth to appreciate black and white media, you can simmer down. I have written before about my appreciation for shows like Leave It to Beaver as well as early seasons of The Andy Griffith Show. What’s more, I love old Hollywood aka classic cinema. In fact, you could describe me as a devotee of black and white movies.

But I didn’t grow up watching black and white episodes of Bewitched. When I think of the show, I see Endora, Samantha’s mom (played to perfection by Agnes Moorehead), resplendent in a green and purple robe as she glares at “Durwood” with eyes made up with bright blue eye shadow. Black and white does not convey Endora’s essence as good as color does.

Anyway, after I watched three episodes of season two on the Roku channel, I consulted our friends at Wikipedia because I had a question about the show. There, I read the following words, which rocked my world: “Later, seasons 1–2 were colorized and made available for syndication.”

As Sam would say, “Oh, my stars!”

As you might have gathered from the aforementioned paragraph, neither season one nor two were filmed in color. But there’s more. My memory of growing up watching only episodes in color was accurate. Once again, I’ll let our friends at Wikipedia explain: “The cable television channel WTBS carried seasons 3–8 throughout the 1980s and 1990s…”

At some point, though, I became aware of the existence of the black and white episodes. Indeed, I remember watching part of the first episode, in which Sam and Darrin wed, probably on TV Land. I didn’t finish watching. If I turned the channel to Bewitched and saw that a black and white episode was airing, I continued flipping the remote.

So, even though I’m a traditionalist when it comes to film and TV and even though I don’t really understand when this colorization took place, I am thrilled to learn that it happened. I don’t care if you accuse of me of being uncouth.

I plan to mash some potatoes and spend more time with my old friend, Samantha, starting with the colorized season one episodes.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Know your limits — September 28, 2022

Know your limits

As I’ve noted before in this-here space, I’ve become aware that my tastes have changed.

Indeed, I’ve realized in the past few years that, for the most part, I have trouble getting into a new TV series unless it features stories or characters with whom I’m already familiar. The Crown sheds a light on the British Royal Family, whom I’ve followed since the Diana years. The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi continue the Star Wars saga, which I’ve followed for decades.

Occasionally I find myself enjoying a new show (see last week’s review of Abbott Elementary). Other recent exceptions are Hacks and Only Murders in the Building. But those last two feature actors I grew accustomed to dozens of years ago. Hacks revolves around Jean Smart, aka Designing Women’s Charlene Frazier Stillfield, whilst veteran actors Steven Martin and Martin Short lead the cast of Only Murders.

Anyway, I’ve also noticed that I avoid shows and movies with dark or disturbing themes. I’m not talking about the horror genre. I’ve never been a fan of that.

Here’s an example of a recent show I vetoed watching. Steve Carell, aka The Office’s Michael Scott, can currently be seen in Hulu’s The Patient. When a friend asked if I planned to watch the psychological thriller, in which a therapist is held captive by a patient who wants him to help cure his homicidal urges, I said no.

I’ve seen the ads for the show and it looks amazing. But I can’t watch things like that anymore.

I considered watching Yellowstone, but when I remembered that someone told me there were a lot of killings on the show, I decided to turn to my comfort zone — sports — instead.

Knowing that I watch Dateline and 48 Hours, folks recommend true life documentaries. I also pass on those because there’s only so much murder I can take.

But here’s what stumped me: I can still read books with dark or disturbing themes.

I recently shared the discovery of my aversion to watching shows and movies with dark or disturbing themes with a friend. When I told her that I can still read those kinds of books, she said, “Hmm.” Then, she studied on it and said it probably has something to do with seeing the action presented visually.

I studied on that and came up with a perfect case in point. I previously recommended to you, dear readers, Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. The book delves into the damage wrought by OxyContin. It’s a great book. But you already know that if you followed my recommendation and read the book.

There’s a series on Hulu called Dopesick. Based on another book about the opioid industry, Dopesick fictionalizes the damage wrought by OxyContin. Michael Keaton, aka a Batman and the Beetlejuice, stars in the ensemble cast.

I will not even try to watch the show because I know my limitations.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Back to school — September 21, 2022

Back to school

When I saw commercials for the first season of Abbott Elementary, a comedy on ABC, I chuckled. I didn’t, however, consider watching the show. After all, it’s on a network. With the exception of the CSI reboot, which I only watched for Gil Grissom, I haven’t tuned into a network show in eons.

But last week, three things reminded me of Abbott Elementary’s existence: I saw commercials for its upcoming second season; I heard that the show won some Emmys; and my streaming service emailed me, suggesting that I check out the show.

So, I watched an episode with low expectations. After all, it’s on a network. How good could it be?

Pretty expletive good.

Told in a mockumentary style and set in a fictional Philadelphia elementary school – hence the title – the show follows Janine Teagues, a young, idealistic second grade teacher, as she navigates the harsh realities of the classroom. No matter how many setbacks she encounters, Janine keeps trying, even when she gets electrocuted.

Janine strives to be as good as Barbara, a veteran teacher who has command of her classroom and who possesses a presence that inspires respect. Other characters include Jacob, a history teacher who is as idealistic and awkward as Janine; Melissa, a teacher who wears lots of animal prints; Gregory, a substitute teacher who has a crush on Janine; Mr. Johnson, the eccentric custodian; and Ava, the unprincipled principal.

Ava deserves a separate paragraph because she’s my favorite character. She’s terrible and I mean that in the best possible way. She makes fun of the other characters to their faces. She’s selfish, self-absorbed, and shallow. She’s horrible at her job. She knows nothing about the students or education. She passes her days by making personal videos and wasting school funds on ridiculous projects. Gregory justifiably despises her because he knows he should be the principal and because Ava constantly harasses him. But when she shows up on screen, I go ahead and start laughing because I know she’s going to deliver. This is due, in part, to the writing, but mostly to the actress. She is just so funny.

Of course, the entire cast is funny. I enjoy them separately or in pairs, but I prefer scenes that feature most of the ensemble. My favorite scene of the first season was the one when Gregory admits he doesn’t like a particular food that is enjoyed by most Americans. The look of shock on the other characters faces made me laugh and laugh. What’s more, as a picky eater who has been poked fun of her entire life for her food preferences, I felt Gregory’s pain when he finally makes the admission.

Abbott Elementary’s second season begins Wednesday, Sept. 21 on ABC. I hope the show doesn’t suffer a sophomore slump. Maybe it’s because of Janine’s optimism and the general goodness of the characters (well, except for Ava), but the show seems so wholesome. And not in a way that makes you want to vomit. Instead, in a way that makes you smile.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The good old days — August 10, 2022

The good old days

Last week NBC announced that it’s moving Days of Our Lives to the streaming service Peacock, ending the soap opera’s 57-year run on broadcast television. Days will switch to Peacock starting Sept. 12.

I have not faithfully watched Days in dozens of years, but my mom and oldest sister offer occasional updates on the goings on in Salem, the town in which the soap is set. So, I still have a general idea of what’s happening with characters like John and Marlena and families such as the Hortons and Bradys.

As I’ve mentioned previously, some of my first memories are of watching Days and other soaps. Whilst other kids learned certain life lessons from Mr. Rogers and Big Bird, I learned entirely different lessons from Stefano.

If Stefano helped me see the world for how it is, the woman he dubbed Queen of the Night, Dr. Marlena Evans, helped me develop self-awareness. Even as a kid, I appreciated how Marlena, a psychiatrist, would tilt her head and ask her patients (or friends and family members), “How did that make you feel?”

I wanted, no I needed, a Marlena in my life, someone to pop up when I was stressed or after I had experienced a slight and ask how the situation had made me feel. Then, I had an epiphany and realized I could ask myself how that – whatever that was – had made me feel. A therapist once congratulated me on my self-awareness and on being able to look at things from other people’s perspectives. We have Doc to thank for that.

Speaking of Doc, I will always consider the man who gave Marlena that nickname, Original Recipe Roman, one of my all-time favorite soap characters. That is why I loathed John Black for the longest time. He was an interloper. Sure, it wasn’t his fault. He thought he was Roman because of Stefano’s machinations … I’m not getting into all of that. There’s not enough time or space. I’ll just say that a few years ago when I was still tuning into the show every now and then, I finally warmed to John’s character and his portrayer’s, well, let’s call it acting. He really is a gift, and I was a dumb expletive for not accepting that gift sooner.

I don’t watch Days now so I’m not going to follow the show to Peacock. But I would embrace the opportunity to re-watch classic episodes of the show. I could finally make amends to John Black.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Heard it in a movie — June 29, 2022

Heard it in a movie

I’m not into supernatural and/or paranormal stuff, so I don’t watch Stranger Things, a Netflix series set in the 1980s that features supernatural and paranormal stuff. Yeah, I’ve been told I would dig all the ’80s pop culture references and homages as well as Winona Ryder, who appears in the show. But this is a case of risk – supernatural/paranormal – versus reward – the ’80s and Winona. Reward doesn’t stand a chance.

Apparently in this season, its fourth, Stranger Things uses Kate Bush’s 1985 song, Running Up That Hill. After being featured in the show, the song became a hit again, nearly 40 years after its original release. Although I’m happy for Kate Bush, I harbor an irrational hatred of that song, which only solidified my stance against watching Stranger Things.

The renewed attention to Running Up That Hill reminded me of songs I had never paid attention to until hearing them in movies, proving that the combination of song in scene can be just as important as words or costumes or actors or etc. in scene. With that in mind, here is an incomplete list of songs I discovered in movies. (The movies are in parathesis.)

  • Maybe I’m Amazed (An Unmarried Woman): I have a confession. Whilst I’m a fan of The Beatles, I’m not a fan of Paul McCartney’s band, Wings. Thus, Wings’ Maybe I’m Amazed was just another song for me until I watched 1978’s An Unmarried Woman and saw Jill Clayburgh and her movie daughter sit at a piano and belt out the song. Now when I hear Maybe I’m Amazed, I think of that scene, which shows the close relationship between mother and daughter in a flick about Clayburgh, a married woman (at the beginning of the movie) who learns her husband has been unfaithful.
  • Misunderstanding (Mona Lisa): This song, by the group Genesis, was so off my radar that I thought it was called Understanding. I can’t remember exactly when Misunderstanding is played in Mona Lisa, a 1986 British crime drama, but it undoubtedly left its mark because I sought out the song afterward. I still do.
  • I Got a Name (Django Unchained): Jim Croce’s 1973 tune, which had never before made an impression on me, was a perfect choice for this 2012 movie. I loved the scene where it’s played: Django and the dentist ride horses over snowy landscapes as mountains loom in the distance. But I hated the rest of the movie so much that I swore off the director’s subsequent work. I did not develop an irrational hatred for the Croce song, though. On the contrary, I developed a fondness for it.
  • Levon (The Ice Storm): When I was fact checking myself, I saw that Croce’s I Got a Name was also on The Ice Storm’s 1997 soundtrack. (I told you it didn’t make an impression before Django.) Until The Ice Storm, to the best of my knowledge, I had never heard Sir Elton John’s 1971 song, Levon. I became consumed with it afterward. Written by Sir Elton’s longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, the song’s lyrics have been the subject of much speculation. Taupin told Rolling Stone he didn’t know what he intended as the meaning and that the lyrics were just lines that were interesting. The lyrics, including “Jesus blows up balloons all day, Sits on the porch swing watching them fly” certainly caught my interest.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Event planner — May 11, 2022

Event planner

When I discover a writer whose work I enjoy, I make it a goal to read that writer’s entire bibliography.

Such was the case with Australian author Liane Moriarty. So excited was I when discovered her novel, Three Wishes, that I shared this find with my bestie. Imagine my surprise when said bestie told me she was familiar with Moriarty. My surprise deepened when I spied another of Moriarty’s novels, Big Little Lies, on a shelf in a coworker/friend’s office.

As it turned out, by the time I discovered her, Moriarty was not a relatively unknown writer who needed me to spread the word about her funny (and occasionally dark-ish), intricately-woven stories of suburban Australia.

Although Moriarty doesn’t need my help to garner readers, now that I have read her complete bibliography (well, at least the books geared toward adults), I have written mini reviews of each novel.

  • Three Wishes (2003): The book that introduced me to Moriarty, it remains my favorite. As is the case with most of her books, she begins with a traumatic event and works back and forth in time to reveal what lead to the traumatic event. Three Wishes’ traumatic event – an argument among thirtysomething triplet sisters that results in a fork protruding from the pregnant sister’s stomach – is told from the point of view of the triplets’ fellow diners in a fancy restaurant. By the way, one of the triplet’s names is Catriona. I pronounced it Cat-ree-on-uh whilst reading the book. It’s Catrina.
  • The Last Anniversary (2006): This is one of the few Moriarty books I don’t recommend. It centers around a woman who inherits a house from her ex-boyfriend’s aunt. The house is located on a mysterious island. I figured out the mystery by the end of the prologue and spent the book rolling my eyes at the characters for not seeing the obvious.
  • What Alice Forgot (2009): The traumatic event is that Alice falls during exercise class and bumps her head. When she wakes up, she’s a decade younger, but life has marched on. She’s frightened by her husband as well as the changes in her life and in herself. Moriarty’s books always have a deeper level and this one made me wonder if my younger selves would recognize the current me and if they would approve.
  • The Hypnotist’s Love Story (2011): This one doesn’t have a traumatic event or much of a mystery. It did make me chuckle, in part, because the hypnotist and her mom are serious eavesdroppers. They legit stop talking at dinner so they can listen to the conversation at the next table, which leads me to another thing I love about Moriarty. It’s like she’s in my head.
  • The Husband’s Secret (2013): I call this one the Easter book because the characters legit go all out for Easter. They hide eggs and/or candy the night before the holiday and I feared a kangaroo or a koala would snatch the candy. Alas, my major complaint about Moriarty is that no kangas or koalas make appearances. The traumatic event concerns a wife learning her husband has a secret. Hence, the title. This is one of her darker books, and it’s also one of her best books.
  • Big Little Lies (2014): Another dark one, it’s probably the most popular but not in my top three. The traumatic event, a parent’s death, occurs at a school’s trivia night. Oh, I should mention that I love how most of her male characters call one another “mate.”
  • Truly Madly Guilty (2016): The one fans refer to as the barbeque book, this is another one I don’t recommend. When I consider her books, I ask myself, “Self, did it hold your interest after she revealed the truth behind the traumatic event?” The answer with this book was “NO!” The characters bored me. I simply didn’t care.
  • Nine Perfect Strangers (2018): Controversial among fans, this book doesn’t have a traumatic event. Instead, Moriarty put nine people in a health resort run by a woman who might be a lunatic. I love the main character, Frances. She licks the inside of a candy wrapper to ensure no chocolate is left behind. Who among us hasn’t?
  • Apples Never Fall (2021): Controversial for the ending, this book entertained me. Joy Delaney has gone missing. That’s the traumatic event. As the book unfolds, we meet Joy, her husband of 50 years, their four adult children, and a mysterious young woman. The Delaneys are tall. When a character sees one of Joy’s daughters, she speculates that she’s fixing to perform the long jump. Get out of my head, Liane Moriarty, and write another book.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A good read and watch — April 20, 2022

A good read and watch

As a teen reader, I discovered the mysteries of Agatha Christie. And although I eventually read oodles of Christie’s books, I don’t think I ever figured out whodunit. (By the way, Christie’s And Then There Were None is one of only a handful of books I’ve read in one day. Indeed, I might have read it in one sitting. Yes, it’s that good.)

Anyway, even though I tried – and failed – to solve the mysteries, for me it was more about the characters and the settings. I enjoyed being transported from the holler to grand manors or English villages.

I thought of those books again recently after watching the most recent adaptations of two of Christie’s mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile.

Parts of both movies are boring, but overall they entertained me. I preferred Orient Express because I’ve always favored that story – it’s one of Christie’s most memorable – and because of the stunning shots of snowy mountains and landscapes.

Nile, as the title suggests, is set in Egypt and also features stunning shots. But most of them look like they were created by CGI (computer generated imagery) … because they were. Here’s the thing: CGI is kinda like wigs, hair extensions, and cosmetic surgery. If I notice them, then they must be really obvious.

My only other major complaint of both movies is with the character Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the movies. In the books and earlier adaptations, the Belgian detective – the world’s greatest detective (he proclaims this statement frequently) – is conceited, egotistical, and mannered. In fact, David Suchet played him to perfection in the aptly-titled BBC series, Poirot.

Branagh’s Poirot, whilst conceited, egotistical, and mannered, is also so morose and devoid of any spark that, if not for his signature moustache and accent (and for the fact that everyone calls him Det. Poirot), I wouldn’t know who he was supposed to be.

These movies center around murder and death. Not exactly fun-filled times. And in the case of Orient Express, it’s a sad, sad story. I legit became emotional at one point whilst watching that flick. But most of Christie’s mysteries are so over-the-top and filled with such hyperbolic characters that I can’t take them seriously. This includes Nile. More than once whilst watching that flick, I legit rolled my eyes at the characters’ hysterics.

So I’d really like Poirot to be outrageous as well and not constantly moping around with a bad case of the sads. (I’ve read that another adaptation of another book with another actor features an even sadder Poirot. I implore filmmakers and actors to please stop this nonsense.)

Nevertheless, I recommend the Branagh movies. And, of course, Christie’s books. I’m happy to report that after I watched the films, I advised a younger person in my life to read Orient Express. She took my advice.

As should you.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.