Monday, November 26, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A World Without Wonder (Bread)

With the recent headlines of Hostess going out of business, many people are wondering how a company so old, so ingrained in American pop culture could close up shop overnight. Well, it’s a sad tail of greed, mismanagement and indifference, but that’s not what this article is about.

This article is about losing things you love.

So many of us who have a soft spot for mid-20th century pop have had to endure icon after icon fall from grace, only to be replaced by plastic-y, cookie cutter crap and chain-restaurant-ish dullsville blobs of made-in-China neveau detritus. From the demolition of almost all of America’s grand Tiki restaurants, to the destruction of the great movie palaces; from the downfall of America’s greatest music to its bubblegum-pop hip hop noise; we’ve seen way too many of the things that helped make America the great country it is get plowed down and swept away to make room for cardboard casinos and mislabeled “healthy” vitamin waters.  

Hostess pies, Devil Dogs, and yes, Twinkies – although, let’s face it, they are crap too, have stood the test of time, and have been with us our entire lives. Personally, I’m not a big Twinkie fan. But I do enjoy a Devil Dog now and then (our wedding cake was made from them...long story, for another post) and like to splurge on a Hostess apple pie when I want my sugar count to soar to give my doctor a premature heart attack.

But there is one thing that I cannot live without.

Wonder Bread.

I know, I know, many of you will say it’s the nutritional equivalent of eating Elmer’s glue and White Out. I don’t care. It’s the only bread I can eat a PB&J on. And it’s because that’s what I’ve always had my PB&J on, from when I was a little kid in the know, back when bread was bread, and Moms bought Wonder Bread because it tasted good and had the fun polka dots on the bag.

With Hostess making headlines last week as they close the company, apparently shutting their doors forever and denying future generations of Twinkies and Devil Dogs, something occured to me:

I can’t imagine a world without Wonder Bread.

The good news is, I probably won’t have to. In today’s society, there is a BIG difference between a successful BRAND and successful company. The company, run by a flock of who-the-hell-cares-as-long-as-our-bottom-line-stays-high investment firms, is worthless. The brand, however, is worth billions.

What I’m getting at is that just because Hostess the company goes out of business, it doesn’t mean Hostess the brand will go away.

Think about Monopoly, the game that’s been around since the 1930s. It was originally made by Parker Brothers games. Do you think Parker Bros. is still making Monopoly? Nope. Parker Brothers became part of General Mills, which merged it with Kenner, which was bought out by Tonka, which was in turn bought out by Hasbro. Still the same Monopoly, just a different company building it.

Same thing goes with a candy bar I really dig. I think it’s a Philly/Jersey area thing, or at least used to be, because few people I talk to in Florida ever heard of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. They disappeared about 10 years ago when a new company (Just Born) bought them out. They dropped the Goldenberg’s name, and sales fell. But they wised up...the brought the name back, and now I can buy Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews again, just like I did 30 years ago.

So will it be a world without Wonder Bread? I don’t think so. I have a feeling that great polka dot packaging and paste-like bread will be around for a long time. I’m pretty sure Devil Dogs and Twinkies will, too, possibly even with the name “Hostess” blazoned in red lettering across the top of the package. In a few years, will anyone remember there was a time when that “name” stood for a company that went out of business, and caused a blip on the news headlines of 2012? Probably not.

-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Free Kindle ebook: A Flash of Noir by Christopher Pinto


What's better than a free ebook?

A really good free ebook.

"A FLASH OF NOIR" by Christopher Pinto is available today, Sunday, May 27 & tomorrow, Monday, May 28 for FREE at Here's the link:

A Flash of Noir free ebook at

A Flash of Noir is a 5-star rated collection of flash fiction and short, short stories, laid down old-school style by Amazon bestselling master mystery writer Christopher Pinto. Writing in the genre of gumshoe detectives and sultry dames, creepy horror and hep cat jive, Pinto has put together a series of mostly one-page, 60-second reads that will transport you to another time...a darker, more sinister time.

From smokey bars in New York City to the tropical islands of the Florida keys, A Flash of Noir takes you for a spin through the seediest gin joints and darkest alleys. One minute you're speeding down I-95 in a hot rod, the next you're tasting cheap whiskey in a basement tap room where the women are heartless and the men are unforgiving. Gangsters, cops, private eyes, strippers, murderers, a few comedy pieces to keep you from wanting to slit your wrists.

Over 40 stories of crime fiction, ghost stories, retro fiction and short beatnik poetry plus noir-esque original photographs by the author make this a fast, fun read. There's even a flash written entirely of song titles...see if you can list every one!

Pinto is author of the new, up-and-coming Detective Bill Riggins paranormal mystery series, of which Murder Behind the Closet Door and Murder on Tiki Island have already been met with rave reviews. Murder Under the Boards, The Atlantic City Murder Mystery is due out next...soon. For more information on the series and the author, visit Stardust Mysteries Publishing at

-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
A Flash of Noir
Murder Under the Boards (coming Soon)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review of Chumpy Walnut by Will Viharo

Chumpy Walnut

Chumpy Walnut
written by Will Viharo 

202 Pages (paperback)
$15.00 Paperback, $3.99 Kindle
ISBN-10: 0557600375
ISBN-13: 978-0557600373

Master Neo-Noir writer Will Viharo is known for his extreme, iconic, sci-fi-blood-bath-sex-party-mystery-insanity books with a retro cocktail kick, but he has a dirty little secret: When he was young, he wrote a very different kind of story, one that’s both heartwarming and highly original. This is the story of Chumpy Walnut, a little guy trying to make it in a big, cruel world.

The first thing I noticed about this story was that from the first paragraph Viharo creates a very distinct mood, something you can’t quite put your finger on but you know is there. The best way I can describe it is as a mix between Guys and Dolls and Little Red Riding Hood, giving the reader a sense of another, ambiguous time, and of a place that is strange yet oddly familiar all at once.

The story seems mostly lighthearted, but once you get to know the characters and see the trials they endure, it quickly turns into a journey for Chumpy and the people he meets along the way. There are some heavy moments, offset by some very funny, vaudeville-ish humor. And unlike most of Viharo’s other books (which will probably get an X rating when they hit the big screen) this book is appropriate for teens and adults (I don’t think there was a single four-letter word, and no explicit sex or gore scenes in this one.)

The writing flows very nicely, coercing you to keep reading, egging you on to find out what will happen next to the poor little guy who just doesn’t seem to ever get a break in life. Yet with all his hardships, he realizes just how lucky he is to have the family and friends that he comes to rely on. I feel this story parallels that of many people, in one way or another, which makes it easy to identify with Chumpy no matter how different he seems to be.

Viharo wrote this story many years ago, then dusted it off and re-edited it more recently, no doubt incorporating some of the writing techniques he learned over the years; however the story still rings of a young, ambitious writer, full of excitement and expression. It’s a real treat to read such an early work from an established writer.

Chumpy Walnut will appeal to many people on many levels, but I believe people who enjoy the works of authors like Damon Runyon and Raymond Chandler will find this book to their liking most of all. The style is characteristic of a by-gone era, and the reader must keep in mind that “voice” to fully enjoy this book.

-Christopher Pinto, author of

Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Woman in Black, Starring Daniel Radcliffe: Retro Movie Review

Hammer Productions is back, and spookier than ever, baby!

One of the posters for "The Woman in Black". If this doesn't look like a 1950's Hammer movie poster, I don't know what does.
"One of the posters for "The Woman in Black". If this doesn't look like a 1950's Hammer movie know what does."

Daniel Radcliffe, all grown upSome of the best horror and sci-fi movies of the 1950s, 60s and 70s came out of a movie studio in England that went under the name of Hammer Films. Started in 1934, Hammer Films went on to bring us the series of Dracula films that starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and thrillers such as The Vampire Lovers and One Million Years B.C. But by the 1980's Hammer Films had lost its spark, and basically went into hiatus, making a few TV projects and straight-to-video releases. Well, in 2007 they dusted off the moniker and have been quietly making films...until now. There's nothing quiet about The Woman in Black, or its star, Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame.  

The Story (no spoilers): Radcliffe plays a man who is constantly tormented by the loss of his wife (in childbirth), yet hangs on to take care of his son (who seems to be around six). Working for a law firm in London around 1910 or so, he is sent to a secluded village to take care of the estate and mansion of a woman recently deceased. He soon finds that the villagers do not like strangers (of course), warn him against going to the secluded mansion (of course), and blame him for some misfortunes that occur while he is in town (of course). He ignores them all, goes to the mansion, and the ghost story begins.  

A very Hammer-like scene from The Woman in Black. It's almost as if Christoper Lee is about to jump out and bite somebody. 

The Atmosphere (tiny little spoilers, nothing to worry about): Honestly, I don't know if the director did this intentionally or if it is just a happy coincidence, but this movie has the look, feel and overall creepiness of the OLD Hammer films of the 1950s and 60s, while being well-filmed with modern techniques. In other words it looks great, has a great retro feel but doesn't look "dated". The lighting effects are perfect in every scene, being just dark enough to be spooky while you can actually see what's going on. The phantoms are realistically scary, the special effects aren't overdone.  

Why does it have that old-time Hammer feel? Well, for one thing, the film includes some of the same stylistic elements that the old classics embraced: A very convincing "haunted mansion", set far off from the rest of the world, at the end of a long winding road that cuts through the marsh and gets flooded out at every high tide. There are long shots of the road, both dry and flooded. There village is sublimely gray and gloomy, and every building is made of stone, adding to the Gothic feel. Horse-drawn wagons appear out of the fog. A spooky, dilapidated graveyard sits next to the house. Creepy antique toys and dolls fill the nursery, and seem to "come to life". And there are plenty of shots of lavish 19th century homes, furnishings, trains and people to set the mood.  

Daniel Radcliffe: Does a bang-up job in his first starring role outside of the Harry Potter series. There's really not a lot of dialog for most of the movie, and Radcliffe pulls off his emotions with facial expressions and body language that is not overdone. I, like most people, went into this movie fearing he would just act like an older Harry Potter. Not so. The only connection is that his character had the same kind of dread for life, except played to the extreme.  

Harry Potter References? (Spoiler Alert!): There were three references that I noticed in the flick that seemed to be inside jokes for Harry Potter fans. Now, I don't know if these were intentional...I may be stretching it...but, A) He falls asleep on a train, in a booth facing the booth across from him. When he awakens there's someone sitting across from him; the shot looks just like one of the Hogwarts Express scenes (I'll let you decide which one). B) When he gets a room in the attic at the Inn, there's a Myna bird in a cage. The cage is nearly identical in style to Harry's owl's cage. And C) when he first goes to the mansion, he is seen coming out of a closet with papers...the closet is built in under the staircase. Now, it seems to me they didn't have to put that scene in...but they did.

Audience Reaction: We went to a 7:45 show on a Saturday Night at The Sawgrass Mall in South Florida. So of course, there were about a million teenage girls that came just to see Harry Potter. Well, they got a hell of a surprise when things started jumping out at them. Screaming, laughing, screaming again, the audience was eating it up.
Nothing like a spooky doll to get your horror movie going. 
Why you should see it: This movie is pure fun, and isn't above some musical stabs and sudden flashes of scary faces to make you jump out of your seat. It's not a particularly deep story, so if you miss a few lines of dialog because someone was screaming, it won't matter much. The shots of the mansion, causeway, and village are classic horror film Noir and the movie is definitely worth watching on a big screen. For those of you who dig retro-style horror films, you'll really enjoy all the little nuances that make this film as fun as the old Hammer films of the mid-20th century.

A thoroughly haunted mansion, necessary for any classic horror flick.BTW: As of February 5, the film took in $8.3 million and is expected to bring in over $20M for the weekend, surpassing its $17M budget.  

One last note: There is almost no blood in this movie. This is a film that relies on screwing with you mind, with your sense of perception, and your ability to try not to jump when a big black crow comes flying out at you. I think a lot of people will say that this movie isn't so great, because of that. But let me assure you, there's a decent body count, the overall mood of the movie is spooky as hell, and it will have you in suspense until the final minute of the flick. Watch the trailer, and you'll see some of the "long shots" that I was talking about, along with some fast clips of the mansion and the people who make this a very spooky, old-fashioned horror movie.

-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The King of Marvin Gardens, 1972 for Mod Movie Monday, Atlantic City Style

Mod Movie Mondays are BACK at Tiki Lounge Talk!

This week,
The King of Marvin Gardens, 1972 for Mod Movie Monday, Atlantic City Style
starring Jack Nicholson. Filmed in Atlantic City, it's a great time capsule of the world's playground before the introduction of casinos.
Photos, video, stories at Tiki Lounge Talk!

-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Writing a new book: Where to start?

Christopher Pinto, Rat Packer
 It's been almost a year since I published my last novel, Murder on Tiki Island, and I feel that I haven't really done a lot of writing since then. Sure, I have the blogs, and I released my book of flash fiction. But what about the next novel?

The holidays always throw a wrench into my writing machine. I go absolutely bananas at Halloween, spending most of my free time in September and October decorating for a huge party I throw. Then I have to take all that decor down by Thanksgiving, then there's Christmas...It just leaves little time for me to write.

Well, it's late January. All the Christmas stuff is packed away, and I have no more excused.

So, where do I start? How does a person get back into swing of writing every day?

Well, first off, I have two pretty good ideas in the hopper, "Murder Under the Boards, The Atlantic City Murder Mystery" and "Murder Over The Airwaves", both featuring Detective Bill Riggins, the hero of my previous two books. I've started both, I have a basic outline for both (in my head), but that's about it. Now what?

Snapping out of it

The past few weeks, I've felt like I'm kind of in a fog, just sort of existing. The days go by at work, the nights go by and home and I don't feel like I've accomplished anything. So, I've tried a few things to "snap out of it".

First, I tried huge amounts of caffeine. I thought that might jump start things. It did a little, and I managed to get some notes down, but that's all.
You never know where you'll find inspiration to write.

Second, I tried my old pal, booze. Now, I'm not saying any of you should go out and get plastered, hoping it would get your creativity flowing. But it is a fun way to pass the time, when you're not in the mood to write. And, for me, it paid off...It got me in the mood to write this. So if there are a lot of typos, you'lkl nokw whyy.

The next step will be to find some inspiration. You never know where inspiration will come from. With the first book I wrote, the inspiration came from moving to Florida from south Jersey. With the second, it came from a combination of things, including visits to the Florida Keys, to some very kool Tiki bars, and from a friend that happened to be going through some crazy stuff in her life. The elements all came together and Murder on Tiki Island practically wrote itself.

I wonder where the inspiration for the next book will come from. And I wonder when. Seems like I'm going to need a shot soon, something really exciting or life-changing or just plain fun to get me back on track.

-Christopher Pinto, author of
Murder Behind The Closet Door
Murder on Tiki Island
Tiki Lounge Talk 

(This blog was written late at night after a few cocktails. It is unedited, and hasn't even been proofed. It's just some stuff off the top of my head - so if there are some typos, or something sounds out of whack, just let me know in the comments and I'll fix it. =CP)