Showing posts sorted by relevance for query The Egypt Game. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query The Egypt Game. Sort by date Show all posts

04 March 2022

Reading in Soccer Bars: The Egypt Game

April is 11 years old when her airhead Hollywood actress mom sends her to live with grandma in Berkeley while Mom gets a little Me Time. Grandma is little off-putting, probably because, as much as she loves her family, she doesn’t relish being the de facto long-term caregiver for her granddaughter. However, it’s not long before April makes two new friends in the Casa Rosada, Grandma’s old apartment building—Melanie and her younger brother Marshall. While playing in the backyard behind an old antiques store, the children discover a beat-up plaster bust of Nefertiti. They carefully install it in a ramshackle outdoor shed, creating a temple to the ancient queen, and then embark on an imaginative, Egyptian-themed role-playing game that will occupy what remains of their summer and alleviate the boredom of life when the new school year begins.

That’s the premise of a middle grade children’s book titled The Egypt Game, the first in a short series numbering just two titles. The first book was published in 1967. The author is Zilpha Keatley Snyder, who wrote 46 books for kids, and was awarded three Newbery Honor awards for three of her titles. Snyder lived and taught school in California, where this book is set. She died in 2014 at the age of 87.

I confess that I’d never heard of the book, or its author, until it was mentioned by the crime writer Laura Lippman during a Bouchercon panel. She described the book as a fascinating work for a specific reason I won’t divulge just yet. I read it last summer at the soccer bar in town, hunched over a pint and some food truck tacos. And as the book wrapped, I wept, so sweet was its conclusion.

At first the two girls and the younger brother are the only players of the game. After reading a book about ancient Egypt at the local library, they design hilarious costumes from everyday items, and concoct bizarre, scary, and often accurate Egyptian rituals which they enact at their homemade temple. Every random piece of junk they find in their urban environment is repurposed in some way for their games. Eventually, as they make more friends, the initial core of three players grows to four, then six, when two older boys join the fun.

It sounds like a sweet, wholesome story. But their neighborhood harbors a horror that most children’s book writers would not dare touch, in 1967 or 2022. As you might imagine, that is the point Laura Lippman made on the panel that day.
“By the next day it was common knowledge. A little girl who lived in the neighborhood had been killed. She hadn’t gone to Wilson School, so April and Melanie had barely known her, but her home was only a few blocks away from the Casa Rosada. Like all children in the neighborhood, and in all neighborhoods for that matter, she had been warned about strangers—but she must have forgotten. She had been on her way to the drugstore—the very one where April had purchased her eyelashes—in the early evening, and she had never returned. The next day her body had been found in the marshland near the bay.

“It was a terrible and shocking thing. But there was something more terrifying and threatening to the parents of the neighborhood. It had happened before. Almost a year before, a little boy from the same area had disappeared in almost the same way; and the police were saying that it looked as if the guilty person was a resident of the neighborhood.”
Mysteries aimed at kids tend to focus on murderless crimes such as stolen objects, secrets, missing people and pets, and the like. A subplot concerning the murder of a child is unthinkable fare, especially in today’s timid publishing market. The new murder appears about a third of the way into the book, and from that point on, all the action is played out against the backdrop of those killings. I read on, wondering just how in the heck Snyder was going to pull this off. She chooses to be completely up front and matter-of-fact about everything, trusting that her readers are mature enough to handle whatever she throws at them. And so we get scenes of anxious parents and teachers trying to micromanage the children’s lives and schedule. And we have the kids sweeping away fear so they can sneak off and play the Egypt game. Along the way, they stumble across clues, mysterious characters, and scenarios that make them wonder such things as, “Why is the man who runs the antiques shop so reclusive?”

I have to admit that I’d be too chicken to attempt such a story. But Snyder gets high marks for creating a very realistic world in the first place. In her preface, she tells us that the kids in the book look like the kids she taught in her classroom back in the day. They are white, African American, Asian, Latino. The grown-ups feel like real people who are struggling with the usual grown-up concerns and trying to put on brave face for the children in their care. There’s a scene where April gets a letter from her vapid Mom. April reads the letter three times, Snyder says, “and felt around inside herself for reactions. She found some, all right, both good and bad; but not nearly as much either way as she would have expected.” That’s a very easy prose for a child to read and understand. It conveys so much. April has grown in the course of the novel. She’s not nearly as concerned as she was in Chapter 1 about her mother’s flakiness. The whole scene subtly teaches how human beings might analyze their emotions in a non-judgmental way.

The dark mystery is indeed resolved by the book’s end. The kids get to play detective, though it’s not their primary focus. They just want to have fun and get on with their adventures. They wish grown-ups would not be so weird.

Ancient Egyptian crown, fashioned out of a plastic bowling pin, and cardboard.

It’s funny, the mix of reactions I’ve gotten on the tale. Lippman is a fan, as is an author friend of mine who writes for kids. (Both are bestselling authors.) Because I was reading this book in a public place, my choice of reading material became fodder for discussion. One woman, a schoolteacher, told me she had the book in her classroom and had used it as a prelude to teaching Egyptian history. “It’s so boring,” she said, guzzling her cocktail. Another woman, slightly younger, ran across the bar at half-time to tell me that this had been her favorite book in childhood. “Are you loving it? I totally looooooooved it!”

Know what? I totally did.

* * * 

24 March 2022

Dark Tales for Children

Thanks to Joseph D'Agnese's Reading in Bars blogpost (HERE), I read Zilpha Keattey Snyder's The Egypt Game, and really enjoyed it. I think Snyder captured childhood obsession and fantasy perfectly. You do the damnedest things in childhood, from time-travel to being horses, from reading every single novel by an author and memorizing every freaking character and plot twist (Tolkein, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Andre Norton, Heinlein, T. H. White, Ray Bradbury, Carolyn Keene, Sherlock Holmes, etc.) to knowing you are going to die if you don't get to watch the latest episode of [fill in the blank here].  

And children know that adults have absolutely no understanding or comprehension of who you are, what you want, or what you're going through, and never will. Deep down, every child completely disbelieves that adults were ever children. They are an alien species, set down among us to tell us what to do and train us for some future role. This is, I think, part of the attraction we had for Stranger in a Strange Land, aside from the sex (which for the 60s was pretty damn racy). The Old Ones raising the Nymphs to become something else made perfect sense. 

But I disagree about the darkness of The Egypt Game. Yes, a child is murdered. And a second one, later on. I know, I know, if that isn't dark, what is? Well, so is child molestation, and in my childhood neighborhood we had a guy across the street who was molesting his foster kids, and our college-age next door neighbor tried to molest me when I was six. That's dark - too dark for most children’s book writers to think about touching, and probably rightly so.  

Anyway, despite the murders, there's a distance kept throughout the novel which makes sense:  children really can ignore almost everything if they're obsessed with something else. And 99% of the adults of The Egypt Game are harmless. Most of the time, the children spook themselves, which is also normal. 

MY NOTE:  In The Headless Horseman, my Laskin character, Linda Thompson, reminisces about how she talked herself into an obsession with a man – who does look pretty odd – that makes her absolutely terrified of him. Meanwhile, in case you haven't guessed, there were worse characters roaming Laskin at the time.  

Anyway, as I thought about it, I realized that children's literature has actually gotten tamer in many ways.  Try Nancy Drew - the books we were reading in the 1960s were still, mostly, the editions of earlier years. And thinking back on those books, what I remember is how in almost every story, Nancy was knocked out, kidnapped, bound, gagged, and taunted at least once, if not more than once. 

Nancy Drew in bondage
Image courtesy of The Paris Review

And sometimes it was Nancy and her chums. Repeatedly. In The Clue of the Velvet Mask, George Fayne, one of Nancy's best friends, was not just chloroformed and kidnapped, but shot up with mind-altering drugs, and - when she's finally rescued - is terrified that they are all going to be killed. Now this is important because George is, throughout the series, just as brave as Nancy, and even more of a daredevil. So for her to be frightened? So frightened that she's screaming at Nancy to give up the investigation? Scary. Also, the villain nearly smothers Nancy to death in that one. In fact, the ruthless, dangerous criminals who Nancy's up against repeatedly drug and physically assault Nancy and her friends. (Wikipedia)  Very dark.  

MY NOTE:  The Clue of the Velvet Mask was the last ghostwritten Nancy Drew by Mildred Benson, who has been credited as Nancy's original creator, and apparently the darkest one she ever wrote. If you want to see how dark it can get, you need to find the original - the 1953 edition - currently out of print.  

SECOND NOTE:  We all knew, BTW, that George was gay, even back in the 1960s, but then we were California girls, and learned stuff early. Didn't bother us a lick. When we role-played Nancy Drew novels, none of us minded being George if we couldn't be Nancy - what we hated was being assigned to play Bess Marvin, George's cousin and Nancy's other best friend, who was always depicted as plump, hungry, and scared of her own shadow.

Yes, children's literature has been tamed. Think about Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. An orphan is almost starved to death in an orphanage, escapes, and is taken in by a young gang of pickpockets and thieves under the tutelage of a career criminal. Among the companions are a young prostitute who is regularly beaten and eventually bludgeoned to death by her brutal criminal lover. Etc. How the hell did this ever get read aloud as a post-supper treat? And yet it was. 

Going back even further in time, there's Martha Sherwood's The History of the Fairchild Family, published in 1818 and remaining in print for over a hundred years, and part of every good Victorian child's library.  Fiercely Calvinist, it's all about the Fairchild parents trying against all odds to save the souls of their little unregenerate children Emily, Lucy, and Henry.  Horrific things happen - Augusta Noble, saucy, pert, and disobedient, plays with candles and burns herself to death, which immediately leads to everyone declaring the obvious truth that she is now burning in hell as well. And, when Emily, Lucy, and Henry fight amongst themselves one day, their father first whips them, then takes them out to see a gibbet, where a rotting corpse is hanging, its chains rattling in the wind, and makes them kneel in the dust and pray underneath it.  Now that's nightmares.

BTW, if you want to read The Fairchild Family in all its horrors, you can read the 1819 text HERE - especially "The Story on the Sixth Commandment."  It explains the early Victorian mindset better than any modern analysis can ever do.

And, finally, Grimm's Fairy Tales. I remember The Robber Bridegroom very well, because for some reason I was fascinated by the fact that the robbers gave the poor victim three glasses of wine:  one white, one red, and one yellow.  Anyway, the miller's daughter goes to see her betrothed in the forest, not knowing he's a robber. At the house both a bird in a cage and an old woman tells her that the people there will kill her and eat her. The old woman hides her behind a cask, and the robber & his gang arrive with a woman whom they proceed to get drunk, and then kill her and chop her up. Luckily the ring finger flies off and lands in the miller's daughter's lap, and she shows it at the pre-wedding banquet. The bad guys are executed, so all is well. Huzzah!

Maybe that's the hallmark of true children's literature - in the end all the bad people are caught, executed, die, are destroyed? And then you grow up, and you find out that the bad guys aren't always caught, executed, die, or destroyed. That's when your heart breaks, and the real nightmares begin.

"Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon."~ G.K. Chesterton, writing the original lines, in Tremendous Trifles, Book XVII: The Red Angel (1909)

02 February 2022

All the Best to You

Personal request: If you cite this list (and I would be happy if you do) please refer to it as "Robert Lopresti’s ‘Best of the Year’ list at SleuthSayers,” not as the SleuthSayers' 'Best of the Year' list.  It's just me bloviating here, not the whole gang.  Thanks.

It is time for the thirteenth annual list of the year's best mystery stories as determined by yours truly.  It goes without saying that the verdicts are subjective, personal, and entirely correct. 

Sixteen stories made the list, one fewer than last year.  Ten stories were by men, six by women.  The big winner was Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine with five stories.  Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine had four.  Two more came from the Mystery Writers of America anthology.

Four of the stories were by my fellow SleuthSayers, a talented bunch.  With no further ado, here is the hit parade:

Allyn, Doug. "Hit and Run," in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November/December 2021.

This is Allyn's third appearance in my best-of list.

Imagine you are stuck in traffic on your way to an important, even life-and-death meeting. Now imagine you get rear-ended by a woman who is not paying attention. But the frosting on the cake is that the accident makes your trunk fly open, revealing the bag of cocaine you are bringing to the meeting.  Many twists and turns...

Aymar, E.A. "The Search for Eric Garcia,"  in Midnight Hour, a Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction From 20 Authors of Color, edited by Abby L. Vandiver, Crooked Lane Books, 2021

The protagonist's life is going down the tubes.  His daughter died in an accident that he feels responsible for, although the authorities disagreed.  His wife is living with Eric Garcia, who owns the store where our hero works.  Eric is everything he is not: a confident, successful man.  And our protagonist feels that the world isn't big enough to hold both of them. This is a very clever story, one where the telling is  essential to the plot. 

Benn, James R., "Glass,"  in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September/October 2021.

A superconducting super-collider goes boom and a piece of 21st-century technology is blasted back through time to 1965 where it is discovered by hapless recently-fired salesman Guy Tupper.  Guy brings it to his cousin Jerry who runs a repair shop.  Together they figure out just enough to get the device working, and then...  One plot twist made me gasp out loud. 


 Cummins, Robert.  "The Phone Message," in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2021.  

This is the author's first story.  The beginning may remind you of Columbo.  In the first scene Carole Donaldson calmly kills her husband.  Later, and just as calmly, she tells the police officer leading the investigation that she had tons of motive.  But she also seems to have an unbreakable alibi...

Fisher, Eve.  "The Sweet Life,"  in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2021.

Eve Fisher is, of course, my fellow SleuthSayer.

Carrie is a teenager who has had a rotten life.  She considers her time with Ethan to have been a highlight because, while he made her sell drugs, he didn't force her into prostitution. 

When that arrangement collapses she lucks into a gig with an agency that cleans houses.  She likes the work, even though some of the customers are a little weird.  But then someone from her previous life threatens to ruin everything.

Goffman, Barb, "A Family Matter," Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, January/February 2021. 

Barb is another fellow SleuthSayer.

It is 1962 and Doris lives in a very nice suburb called The Glen.  Most of her friends are married to men who work for the big pharmaceutical corporation in town.  The neighborhood has standards.  

And the new neighbors do not meet them.   They raise chickens and hang laundry in their yard.  Doris is determined that these offensive violations of community norms will not be permitted.  But when she realizes a very different norm is being broken she has to determine what really matters in the neighborhood.

Harrington, Karen. "Boo Radley College Prep," in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2021. 

Tony is fifteen years old, short on luck and, he will tell you, short on brains.  A hurricane has forced him and his mother to move in with the brother of his deceased father, and it isn't a happy or healthy home. 

Right down the block, however, is what his uncle calls "the Boo Radley house," a spooky-looking joint whose owner never appears in public.  Curiosity - and the hopes of earning chore money - causes Tony to visit.  He meets a grouchy old man with a lot of brains and good reasons to hide.  Can these desperate souls help each other?

Haynes, Dana. "The Waiting Game," in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2021.

This is my first encounter with Fiero and Finnigan who run  St. Nicholas  Salvage & Wrecking, which is actually a bounty hunter firm that chases international bad guys.  Finnigan has been kidnapped by very nasty Russians who want Fiero to revert to her old occupation of assassin. A cunning plan, but neither of the partners intend to play by the rules. I was reminded of that classic TV show The Avengers.

Helms, Richard, "Capes and Masks," Mystery Weekly Magazine, June 2021.

This is Helms's second appearance in my annual best-of-list.  

"You know the story. Stolen by aliens who crashed my fourth birthday party.  Returned when I was seventeen, but I was somehow... different than when I left.  Well, duh,  I was thirteen years older, had all this weird hair growing where it never had, and my voice sounded like I was shaving a cat with a cheese greater."

If that sounds a bit... hardboiled... for a superhero story it is no accident.  He is Captain Courageous but his cover identity is Eddie Shane, private eye.  He mostly deals with divorce work but when a caped dude named Sunburst is found mysteriously dead, this is no job for a superhero.  We need a gumshoe to save the day.  

Jacobs, Tilia Klebenov , "Perfect Strangers,", in When A Stranger Comes To Town, edited by Michael Koryta, Hanover Square Press, 2021.

Gershom is finishing his second prison term for armed robbery when his cellmate Dougal points out the new gold mine: marijuana dispensaries.  Cash-rich and security-poor, they are a robber's dream.  So when he gets out Gershom begins to plan an elaborate robbery, because he does not intend to go down a third time:  "If this went sideways, they'd lock me up and melt down the warden." 

Lansdale, Joe R. "The Skull Collector," in Collectibles, edited by Lawrence Block, LB Productions, 2021.

He was a tough old guy, Ruby said.  Big, could crack walnuts with harsh language, chase a squirrel up a tree with bad breath. She had to use an axe handle to sort the guy out a little.  It wasn't too bad.  He was able to leave on his own, though not without a certain amount of pain and difficulty...  

That tells you a lot about Ruby, sure, but we also find out a lot about the narrator, especially that "It wasn't too bad." What does she consider a real problem?  How about having to steal a skull from a cemetery?

Light, Larry. "The Trouble with Rebecca,"  in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, November/December 2021.

Max is a "tech geek," working for a company that does hush-hush security stuff.  Because he hates the social side of work he invents Rebecca, a non-existent wife.  This imaginary person is his excuse to avoid after-work events and the like.  

Works great until he falls in love with a co-worker.  How do you rid yourself of a wife who does not actually exist? 

Thielman, Mark. "Catch and Release," in The Fish That Got Away, edited by Linda M. Rodriquez, Wildside Press, 2021.

This is the  third appearance in this column by my fellow SleuthSayer.

I let a murderer go today. That's how the tale begins. You might feel that the prosecutor is being a little hard on himself, because he did try his best to get Thomas Edmonds convicted.  (Didn't he?)

He walks you through the trial, through every maddening moment that caused his case to slip away.  And through it all Edmonds sits there, as cool as a bystander at a church picnic.  No wonder the narrator is so upset.  But then unexpected things happen...

Walker, Joseph S.  "Crown Jewel," in Moonlight and Misadventure, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk, Superior Shores Press, 2021. 

The publisher sent me a copy of this book.

Keenan Beech is a compulsive collector of vinyl, and his golden fleece is The Beatles, better known as the White Album.  The first few million copies have a number stamped on the cover and collectors like Keenan keep buying, buying, buying them, trying to get closer to the elusive lower numbers. 

But his big problem is his identical twin Xavier.  Keenan is a hard working guy; Xavier is an unsuccessful scoundrel.  And when a record store offers Keenan a rare copy of the White Album for a mere five grand Xavier somehow gets his hands on it first by, duh, pretending to be Keenan.

Witt, Amanda, "Relative Stranger,"  in When A Stranger Comes To Town, edited by Michael Koryta, Hanover Square Press, 2021.

Glory Crockett lives on a farm and one day a stranger knocks on the door.  What's disturbing is that he resembles her husband, Owen.  Turns out his name is also Owen Crockett.  He's the bad-news cousin who has spent most of his life in prison, "a one-man crime spree."  Now here he is, with a glib charm that rings completely false.  And somewhere outside  is Glory's husband and four young sons...

Zelvin, Elizabeth.  "Who Stole the Afikomen?" in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2021.

My fellow SleuthSayer has written a hilarious story.  Andy is a Catholic and he is about to meet his new fiance's extended family at their Passover dinner - his first experience at a seder.

Uncle Manny kept saying, "Focus, people, focus.  We've got a goal here."
"To get the Jews out of Egypt?" I whispered.
"To get past the rabbis to the gefilte fish," Sharon whispered back.
"Is that the Promised Land?"
"The pot roast is the Promised Land."

15 August 2020

"Just Shoot Anywhere," Tom Said Aimlessly

A little background, here.  A month or two ago, some writer friends and I were having an e-discussion about literary style--which I consider to be grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, sentence and paragraph structure, word choice and usage, etc. The nuts-and-bolts of writing.

During these conversations, we wound up talking a bit about adverbs. (Writers always do.) And anytime you talk about adverbs and their overuse, someone mentions Swifties. Which took us down a whole nother path.

Then, a few weeks after that, Elizabeth Zelvin wrote an interesting SleuthSayers column about adverbs, and in the comments section afterward I mentioned to her the fact that I was thinking about doing an SS post specifically about Swifties. She seconded that idea, and--be careful what you wish for, Liz--here it is.

The term Swifty, as you probably know, comes from the popular series of books starring teenaged action-adventure hero Tom Swift, which always seemed to include passages like "Here I come," Tom shouted bravely, or "Dad helped me with my project," Tom admitted modestly. Eventually good old Tom, despite his bravery and modesty, became not only a hero but something of a literary oddity because of that style of writing, and readers began poking fun at all those pesky and repetitive adverbs. It probably began with "We must hurry," Tom said swiftly, or something like that, and soon folks were coming up with goofy phrases like "Let's visit the tombs," Tom said cryptically
and "I like modern art," Tom said abstractly. By definition, a Tom Swifty is a sentence linked by some kind of pun to the manner in which it is attributed.

Here's a long list of Swifties I put together, about half of them from combing the Internet and about half from my own not-so-swift brain. I warn you, this kind of thing can get old pretty fast, and although some of these are clever, others are just silly, and some of them you've probably heard or seen before. But I think all of 'em are fun. The ones I like the most are the ones with double meanings and a lot of wordplay. Also, I should mention that Swifties don't have to use adverbs. Whatever generally follows the format and is funny, or quirky, is fair game.

I kept inventing more of them and finding more that I wanted to include, but after considerable frustration I narrowed the list down (??) to 75. By the way, I tried to start with the worst first, so don't bail out too soon. Here we go:

"Stop that horse!" Tom cried woefully.

"Parsley, sage, and rosemary," Tom said timelessly.

"I got kicked out of China!" Tom said, disoriented.

"I'm tired of smiling," moaned Lisa.

"I'll dig another ditch around the castle," Tom said remotely.

"I slipped on the hill to Hogwarts," said J. K., rolling. 

"I invented the Internet," Tom said allegorically. 

"Bring me my soup," said Reese, witherspoon.

"Wasn't that Elvis I saw at the party?" Tom Enquired.           

"I make table tops," Tom said counterproductively.

"I want to sketch Goldwater again," said Drew Barrymore.

"I never get to play the friend," said Willem, dafoe.

"For whom is the bell?" Tom extolled.

"Go on in, I'll just sit here and watch," Peter said benchley.

"I have no flowers," Tom said lackadaisically.

"Don't let me drown in Egypt!" Tom said, in denial.

"3.1416," Tom said piously.

"Shaken, not stirred," said Sean and Roger, bonding.

"I can see right through my father," Tom said transparently.

"Damn, I've struck oil!" Tom gushed crudely. 

"I thought you were Madonna," said the lady, gaga.

"To split infinitives no man has split before," Tom boldly said.

"I must find Moby Dick," Ahab wailed.

"This too shall pass," Tom said constipatedly.

"Dorothy, if you go to Oz again, I'm going with you," Em barked.

"I hate this food," Tom said, whining and dining.

"I told you I'm not fonda this script," Hank said, madigan.

"I can't believe I ate the whole pineapple," Tom said dolefully.

"That doesn't look like an evergreen," Tom opined.

"It's better to steal things together," Tom corroborated.

"I left my car in Phoenix," Tom said, Joaquin.

"I can't, I can't," Tom recanted.

"I'm marryin' Marian," said Robin, robbin'.

"That grizzly is climbing the tree after me," Tom said overbearingly.

"I like movies Down Under," Tom said quiggly.

"Honey, put on that see-through thing," Tom said negligently.

"I left the Xena the crime," said Lucy lawlessly.

"I collided with my bed," Tom said rambunctiously.

"I stepped on Harriet Beecher's toe," said Uncle Tom, gabbin'.

"This girl is gone," said Gillian, fleein'.

"Someone stole my movie camera!" Tom bellowed and howled.

"I play a drunk in this movie," said Hugo, weaving.

"I'm sailing with Noah," said Alan, arkin'.

"That's a big shark," Tom said superficially.    

"What a wascally wabbit," Tom said, befuddled.

"She set my car on fire and left me," Burt said, smoky and abandoned.

"No more pastries for me," Tom de-eclaired.

"Practice, practice," said Isaac sternly.

"I'm rereading the second Gospel," Tom remarked.

"We don't have a home-run hitter," Tom said ruthlessly.

"I make dark movies," Shyamalan said nightly.

"That was a tasty hen," said the Roman, gladiator.

"Charles should shorten his name," Tom chuckled.

"Look at that monster's sandals," Tom said, in a thing-thong voice.

"I know I'm going to hit another bad drive," Tom forewarned.

"I'm a singer," said Taylor swiftly.

"Call me Hot Lips," said Loretta switly.

"I will not finish in fifth place," Tom held forth.

"Call me Fitz," F. said, scott free.

"I'm sick of this lisp," Tom said thickly.

"I'll probably do a test drive before the race," Tom prezoomed. 

"My car's in the shop," said Christopher, walken.

"I'm going to see Elijah," said Joanne, woodward.

"I'm staying right here," said William, holden.

"I've already left," said Faye, dunaway.

"Emily's put on weight," Tom said emphatically.

"Did you steal that sunscreen?" Tom demanded, in a copper tone.

"It's the bawdiest house on the prairie," said Laura Ingalls, wilder.

"That's the last time I pet a lion," Tom said offhandedly.

"I'll think about that tomorrow," Scarlett said vivienleigh.

"An African American woman beat me at tennis," Tom said serenely.

"I'm a scientologist," Tom said, cruising.

"Too bad I can't castle now," Tom said, in Czech.

"I need a man," Eve said adamantly.

"This is mutiny!" Tom said bountifully.

If you're still with me, and if that's not enough . . . the following are my Top Twenty Favorites. Again, some of these I dreamed up in weak moments and others I lifted swiftly from the Web:

"I didn't know I got airsick," Tom said, heaving it aloft.

"Who's Victor Hugo?" asked Les miserably.

"I saw a mockingbird peck Gregory," Tom said harperly. 

"Look at those pasties twirl," Tom said fastidiously.

"I punched him in the stomach three times," Tom said triumphantly.

"Last night I dreamed I went to the movies," Laura said manderley.

"You can be my guest host," said Ellen, to begeneres.

"I like the Venus de Milo," Tom said disarmingly.

"What's that in the punchbowl?" Tom said, deterred.

"Y'all, I'm leavin'," said Dolly, partin'.

"I didn't do anything!" Adam cried fruitlessly.

"I dropped the toothpaste," Tom said, crestfallen.

"I ate two cans of American beans," said Vladimir, putin.

"Arghhhhh," Dracula said, painstakingly. 

"I'm having an affair with my gamekeeper," said the lady chattily.

"Whiskey gives me gas," Doc Holliday said, with an earp. 

"About hot dogs, my dear, I don't give a damn," Tom said frankly.

"One out of ten bottoms is too big for an airplane seat," Tom said asininely.

"We didn't inhale," Bill and Hillary announced jointly.

"These aren't the droids you're looking for," Tom said forcefully.

Okay, so I never grew up. What can I tell you?

("Believe me, you don't want to read the hundreds I left out," John said, listlessly.)

Now . . . what are your favorite Swifties?

See you next time.