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Been a good week.



I finally caught up with "The Wrong Side of Goodbye," the newest Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly, who continues to provide the written version of the soulful, driving jazz that his protagonist loves. In this latest in the long-running series, Bosch has retired from the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was one of its finest homicide detectives, and has begun working as a private detective. In that role he has taken on a job from an aging, dying billionaire, who has asked him to find out if he fathered an heir decades earlier. It is a probe with both economic and cultural implications, and dark forces gather to prevent Bosch from accomplishing his goal. (Plus, for those of us who love mysteries, Bosch's initial meeting with the billionaire has echoes of both "The Big Sleep" and "The Judas Goat," among others.)

At the same time, Bosch has taken on an unpaid job as an investigator for a small, underfunded local police department, just to keep his hand in ... and he finds himself heavily involved in the search for a serial rapist.

The two tracks are intertwined beautifully, and while Bosch remains one of the genre's great inventions, Connelly's writing consistently transcends the genre. The great Robert B. Parker told me once that he believed that one reason people liked his Spenser novels is that, even though they read them, they liked the sound, the musicality of the language. Connelly certainly is a great example of that, and "The Wrong Side Of Goodbye" carries the reader along with themes and riffs that make the book impossible to put down.

Connelly's books always have been strong on both plot and characterization, but the best part of them always have been the ride - through the neighborhoods and mean streets of Los Angeles, and through the psyche of his driven, principled, flawed protagonist. "The Wrong Side Of Goodbye" is as good as it gets.



Speaking of Los Angeles, I saw La La Land last weekend, and it portrays a very different side of the city. The movie, which has gotten raves from most critics and almost certainly will be a big player during awards season, is a modern musical about Mia, an aspiring and frustrated actress, and Sebastian, a jazz musician who fears the decline of the music to which he has dedicated his life.

Directed by Damien Chazelle, who last gave us the fabulous Whiplash, La La Land is very original, and I give the moviemakers a ton of credit for being willing to try something so different. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are excellent in the leads - not exactly Fred and Ginger, but closer to Gene and Debbie.

That said ... I have to admit that it took me some time to get into La La Land. Unlike most people, I'm not an enormous fan of the much-talked about opening number, and I found the early scenes, which show Mia getting rejected during the audition process, rough going. (This may be personal. I went through that experience back in the mid-seventies, and hated it ... so much so that I abandoned acting. I found it almost too painful to watch.) But once Mia and Sebastian get together, I found myself relaxing into the experience, and more willing to go along for the ride ... and by the end, I was enchanted.



This week we also had the opportunity to go see Billy Joel in concert at Madison Square Garden, and I will tell you that if you are in the metropolitan area, or if he comes to your area on tour, you should make every effort to go see him.

Joel, who is in his mid-sixties, is a very different singer than he was when he broke into the business and seemed to come up with a hit every other week. He's bald and chubby and not as lithe as he used to be - he spends most of the time sitting on a stool, playing the piano. But while his voice has deepened, it also has gotten more soulful, and man, does he still have the pipes.

Joel is very funny in between songs (he seems a little amazed by his recent concert successes), but mostly he just sings - "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)," "Vienna," "The Entertainer," "Movin' Out," "She's Got A Way," "My Life," "She's Always A Woman," "Only The Good Die Young," "Uptown Girl," and on and on and on and on.

It is just magical - but no moment was more magical than when he sang "Piano Man," and when the sold-out audience sang along with him - it simply is one of the best songs ever, and at one point he stopped singing and let the 20,000 people in audience carry the tune ... and even Billy Joel seemed a little awed.

Great concert. Great night.



I have two wines to recommend to you this week, both from Carlton Cellars, a small vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley that is one of my favorites.

First, the 2015 Dolcetto - a robust Italian-style wine that we had with a wonderful spaghetti-and-bolognese. I think this may be their first shot at a Dolcetto, and it is wonderful.

And then, the 2015 Pinot Blanc, which is a lovely and balanced white wine that we had with a salmon ... but which is just great to sit and sip.

It is hard to find Carlton Cellars' wonderful wines around the country, but it is certainly worth checking them out and ordering online here. A hint - the Roads End is as nice a Pinot Noir as you can find, and the Auxerrois is both unusual and distinctive.



That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday. (Hopefully at NRF!)

Slàinte!
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