Friday Roundup: Free books, Ithaca vacation, Pawn Sacrifice, Man From U.N.C.L.E.

First up: Free stuff! Luft Books is giving away some free Kindle-formatted eBooks at Amazon today (and, in some cases, for the next few days). My books Demon City, Charlotte Dent (2008 ABNA semifinalist. Per Publishers Weekly: “From start to end, this is a crisp, fun treatment of Hollywood life”), and Preppies of the Apocalypse are all free right now, as is Four Emperors, the sleazy-yet-fun gay supernatural romance I wrote under the nom de plume Evan Allen. It’s a good time to scoop ‘em up. No Kindle, no worries: Amazon offers free apps to let you read Kindle-formatted content on your computer or most devices. Easy-peasy. (With the exception of Four Emperors, all my books are also available in paperback.)

Unsure where to start with my books? I usual point people in the direction of my all-purpose crowd-pleasing mystery Bias Cut (2012 ABNA semifinalist, 2013 IPPY medalist), which isn’t free today, but which, at a very reasonable $2.99, probably isn’t going to break anyone’s budget. Or you can check out the full Luft catalogue here.

My sister and I took an impromptu jaunt up to Ithaca last weekend to visit her alma mater, Cornell. The Cornell campus is huge and sprawling and gorgeous (or, to make the obvious Ithaca joke, gorges. Because the campus is surrounded by gorges, geddit?). Whenever I visit, I develop a huge, burning case of campus envy. My alma mater USC has a perfectly nice campus, but it’s smack in the middle of Los Angeles, and thus it doesn’t have room to sprawl (my sister works at Columbia University in Manhattan, and the problem there is even worse. Columbia has a lovely old campus, but the gorgeous old buildings are all smooshed right up against each other in a claustrophobic manner).

For comparison’s sake, this was my old dormitory at USC:

Here’s Ingrid’s old dormitory at Cornell:

Yeah. She lived in the tower. Her dining hall was modeled after Christ Church at Oxford.

Cornell is also surrounded by stuff like this:

At this point, that’s just rubbing it in.

Here’s me looking grumpy and mean at the monument to my sister’s former professor, the legendary Carl Sagan, on the Ithaca Commons. Despite being really rather mild-natured and pleasant in person, I always look grumpy and mean in photos. In the immortal words of Ringo, it’s just me face.

While in Ithaca, we took in a screening of Pawn Sacrifice, Edward Zwick’s fictionalized version of the sad, bizarre life of chess legend Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire), which centers around the pivotal 1972 Fischer-Spassky match. As a couple of hardcore chess junkies, Ingrid and I both loved it. It’s beautifully cast—Liev Schreiber is wonderfully cool and charming as Soviet chess icon Boris Spassky, and Peter Sarsgaard almost steals the movie as Fischer’s long-suffering friend/advisor. Totally entertaining. Bonus points for the soundtrack, which includes a hilariously on-the-nose use of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” as Fischer spirals further into madness (“When men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go/And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom, and your mind is moving low…”).

My chess game is slow and unglamorous, yet inexorable. I’m a bulldozer on the board. I’m a mediocre good player; if you don’t play much chess, I’ll beat you, simply because I do play a lot of chess. For years, it was a point of pride for me that I was a better chess player than either my father or my sister (this despite being three years younger than Ingrid, and despite being a freaking screenwriting major while she was a math major). Ingrid and I have lived together four years now; in those four years, we’ve played two games of chess against each other every night, with relatively few exceptions. Hey, guess what? She’s now better than I am. This annoys me more than words can say. Anyway, while I’m really a very mild-natured and polite person most of the time, losing at chess can turn me into a raging asshole, as Ingrid can testify. So in Pawn Sacrifice, while I certainly couldn’t condone Bobby Fischer’s rampant egotism and wild paranoia and general insufferability… I could sort of understand it.

Continuing from last week, here are some more amazing illustrations from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Calcutta Affair, which is probably the best thing I’ve ever received from eBay. Dig Illya's blue-green shoes and the way he sits in a chair in this first one:

Because Duran Duran is touring right now, and because they just released their new album, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in Duranalysis, which is very, very cool. I’ll try to get some fresh Duran content out in the coming weeks. Here are my five most popular Duranalysis posts of all time:

1. Duranalysis Book Report: In the Pleasure Groove versus Wild Boy (this is popular because everyone likes hearing Andy gleefully talk trash about Nick)
2. Wild Boys (my first Duranalysis, and an excellent place for newbies to start with all this nonsense)
3. Hungry Like the Wolf (of course)
4. Girl Panic! (…I actually have no idea why this one gets so much traffic)
5. Save a Prayer (though New Moon On Monday is surging lately and will probably overtake it in a few days)

In honor of Pawn Sacrifice, I’m leaving you with Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”:

 That’s all I’ve got. Stay warm and dry, fellow East Coasters, and have a good weekend.


Ingrid Richter said…
Heh, you're far too kind with chess, sister of mine. I seem to recall you *creaming* me both games last night.

Love those Man from UNCLE pics! Fine, fine stuff...
Morgan Richter said…
And you beat me both games night before last. Winning both games is an increasingly rare occurrence for me.

I don't know what it is about chess that makes us all so gleefully obnoxious and mean-spirited and odious. I was just thinking of what was probably my last game against dad before his death: I beat him, he complained bitterly that the pawns looked too similar to the bishops (in his defense, it was an unfamiliar board and the pawns did look like bishops), I accused him of being an ungracious loser, he conceded this but insisted he was always a gracious winner, whereupon I said, "Well, I wouldn't know that, would I?"

...we are, on occasion, awful people.
Ingrid Richter said…
But ever so clever :-)

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