Saturday, December 31, 2005
Friday, December 30, 2005
The King of cool
It was then, staring numbly at the screen as the studio audience launched into applause, that the ugly truth presented itself. When you get right down to it, Fonzie wasn't cool.
Normally smug publishers and hotshot movie producers fawn over him. "Yes sir, Mr. King. Whatever you'd like, Mr. King." He jams with a band just for kicks, as if terrorizing the world isn't enough. Best of all, King plays God and gets paid hugely for it. He creates worlds populated by characters who have no choice but to do his bidding. Cool characters, sad characters. Elegant convicts and clowns that swallow children whole. King wiped out 99 percent of the world's population and sprung vampires on Maine. Kinda makes Fonzie's trick with the jukebox kinda weenie, doesn't it?
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Pretty in Pink
Saturday, December 17,2005
Reporter Mark LaFlamme has his first novel published, "The Pink Room."
LEWISTON - Writer Mark LaFlamme sat on the couch of his home office and fidgeted beneath a poster of "Night of the Living Dead."
"You're going to out me, aren't you?" he asked, perched on the edge of his seat.
The veteran Sun Journal reporter wants people to know about his first published novel, a horror story titled "The Pink Room." That's why he agreed to the interview.
He doesn't want people to know his age.
"I've been lying about my age since I was 27," he said. His knees bounced in place. His eyes scanned the familiar room, as if searching for a place to hide.
"I didn't realize how hard this was," LaFlamme said of his first interview as subject rather than writer.
It's likely to be the first of many.
LaFlamme's novel is scheduled to arrive in local stores this week. Several Internet booksellers have begun peddling the story, and the author is already scheduling signings.
"The Pink Room" tells the story of a world-class physicist who retreats to Aroostook County where he builds a house in the woods. There, he hopes to bring his daughter back to life using a theoretical arm of quantum physics known as string theory.
The result is a bit of Stephen Hawking and a lot of Stephen King.
"I don't think I could avoid reminding people of King," said LaFlamme, a lifelong fan. However, he figures he owes more to Edgar Allen Poe.
"Everything he loved died," LaFlamme said. "I think what appealed to me was his rejection of the finality of death."
He was 6 or 7 years old when he discovered the author of "The Raven."
"I was a normal kid, but I had a creepy side," said LaFlamme, who grew up in Waterville. When his mom gave him a record album of Poe readings titled "Ghost Stories," he was hooked.
"I'd go in my room, turn out the lights and listen over and over," he said.
Soon he was writing his own short stories. By the time he was 12 or 13, he was composing long horror tales on a battered electric typewriter.
He sent a few off to magazines as he grew older. Some were published, but he cared little whether anyone read them.
"They were for me," he said. "I showed them to my mom or friends."
But the fiction never quite took. When he finished high school, he worked lots of different jobs, eventually landing at the Sun Journal. He was 27.
His job: covering the sometimes graphic crimes of Lewiston-Auburn.
It somehow meshed with his interest in horror.
"Mark's got a sick mind," said Dave Griffiths, a former Sun Journal editor. "It's a good kind of sick, though."
Both his home office and his newsroom desk are decorated with assorted haunted-house paraphernalia: fake rats, severed heads and limbs, witches and photos of Poe.
None of it is mean-spirited, though.
"It's how he handles the pressure of daily journalism," Griffiths said.
LaFlamme has done a lot of it.
A search of the newspaper's archives finds 3,800 stories by LaFlamme. Of those, "murder" is mentioned 200 times and "fire" shows up 777 times. He also writes a regular column and hosts a blog on the newspaper's Web site.
All of that experience informs the mayhem of LaFlamme's fiction.
Griffiths, who was one of the first people to read "The Pink Room," said the reporting has given LaFlamme's work enormous discipline
"Journalism is a great training ground for any kind of writing," he said. "You can't ramble on and on."
It has helped the content, too. LaFlamme has been to plenty of crime scenes, knows lots of cops and has interviewed FBI agents.
All appear in "The Pink Room."
He wrote it over six or eight weeks, pounding out 2,000 words a night after returning home from his beat. He finished the book one morning this spring at 4 a.m.
"I wanted to have a party and celebrate," he said. His wife, Corey, was sleeping. So were his neighbors.
"Instead, I went to bed," he said.
Perhaps middle age has set in.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
A very LaFlamme Christmas
Joel Krupnik and Mildred Castellanos decked the front of their Manhattan mansion this year with a scene that includes a knife-wielding 5-foot-tall St. Nick and a tree full of decapitated Barbie dolls. Hidden partly behind a tree, the merry old elf grasps a disembodied doll's head with fake blood streaming from its eye sockets.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Krupnik explained that his family thought it would be a fun way to make a comment about the commercialization and secularization of Christmas.
"It is a religious holiday, but they have turned it into a business. And it shouldn't be," he said. "We didn't put it up to offend anybody. It was just something that came out of our imagination."
More than a few people passing by the brownstone were a little puzzled about the message behind the massacre. There were a few signs the macabre theme is a year-round thing - the facade of the building was covered with leering gargoyles. A statue of Death, hooded and grim-looking, stood outside.
Peter Nardoza, 81, of Manhattan, shook his head and chuckled.
"Sick, sick, sick," he said. "What kind of a world is this that we live in?"
Ronnie Santiago, a deliveryman on his route, speculated that something bad must have happened once to the homeowner at Christmas. A few spectators wondered whether the campy gore would bother children.
The family is far from the only one making an editorial comment this year on how Americans celebrate Christmas, although it may be the only one doing it by depicting Santa Claus as a killer.
Pope Benedict XVI complained this week that Christmas festivities have been "subjected to a sort of commercial pollution." Christian conservatives have launched campaigns to reintroduce a religious component to Christmastime decor in schools and public squares, chiding even President Bush this year for sending out cards wishing supporters a happy "holiday season."
But despite the home's gruesome exterior, some visitors appreciated it.
Bucky Turco, 31, of Manhattan, said the display captured how he felt when watching someone costumed as SpongeBob SquarePants promote products at Rockefeller Center.
"This is brilliant," said Turco.
Walter Garofalo, a musician from Brooklyn who wandered by wearing a black bandanna covered in skulls, was awe-struck.
"I wonder if these people would let me use this as our next album cover," he said. "It's perfect!"
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Mandibles of death
I really miss that ferocious, dog-eating monster. Last summer, I got weeks worth of stories from it and I wanted more.
A fisher? Ha! So say more than a half-dozen people who have contacted me. "There's been talk of a strange animal out here for years," said Steve Theberge, who lives in the Wales area. "They say it stands about 4 feet tall. I hear it's a pretty strange-looking creature."
Theberge is not making this up. His father-in-law has seen the creature. His son has seen it and his wife had an up-close look six years ago.
"This thing, it just hopped over the road and then it stood there," said Brenda Theberge. "It was tan and gray and it had these weird eyes. It was sunset and those eyes were just glowing."
It had the physical characteristics of a hyena, she said. It stood maybe 4 feet tall and it stared with those glowing eyes in a most menacing way. It was almost hairless.
"It was definitely scary to look at," Brenda said. "It was like the size of a pony."
For all his fascination with the creature, Steve has never seen it himself. But he says he was treated to the chilling scream of the beast just a short time ago. It sounded like a baby at first, then the creature began to growl and it was like no sound Theberge had ever heard.
Shortly after hearing the spine-tingling scream, Steve found tracks through dirt and mud in his yard. The tracks were bigger than his hand and bore the imprints of three claws.
"I've spent a lot of time in the Maine woods," Theberge said. "I've never seen a track like that."
When confronted with something that seems alien in the familiar surroundings of our homes, a primitive chill crawls up the spine. As evolved humans, we are at once terrified and fascinated by the unknown. We are a superior species, we reason, and thus we have control over our wildlife.
So when Leo Michaud reported that something had crept from the woods behind his Wales home and killed his Doberman pinscher, wildlife experts nodded knowingly. It was a fisher, they said. A small but vicious animal with a nasty reputation in the Maine woods. It was certainly not some exotic beast that crept down from the mountains.
Calls and letters about the mystery creature have been coming in since a story about the Doberman appeared in the paper. Almost nobody believes the ferocious, but relatively wee fisher, is responsible for the attack. The mystery creature of the Wales woods is the No. 1 suspect.
I know what you're thinking. You live in Lewiston where the only wildlife to be seen is in the downtown area, right? You scoff. You mock. You laugh until coffee comes out your nose and hum the theme from "Deliverance."
Don't get too comfortable just yet, naysayer. A letter-writer named Jamie Tapley tells me he has twice seen a large, fearsome creature in his Sabattus Road yard. He reported the sighting and a Maine Game Warden called him back. The Warden's guess? It was a fisher.
"I researched fishers online and this thing is bigger than a fisher," Jamie said. "This thing is nearly as tall as my collie."
Earlier this week, I was talking to Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout about a completely unrelated matter. I happened to mention what I was hearing about this mystery creature. Strout turned quiet a moment. As it happened, he had received a call earlier that day from a woman on Old Greene Road in Lewiston. The woman had seen a strange creature near the power lines by her home. The critter was at least 18 inches high with a long tail and she wanted to know what it was.
"She drew me a picture," Strout said. "It didn't look like anything I've seen before."
The number of reports alone is enough evidence for me. I'm thinking I should take a week off, pitch my tent in the Wales woods and wait for an encounter with this mystery beast. Sooner or later, it would find me. If the creature were really mean, I might not be back. But I'm pretty sure I know what it would say in a news story about the tragedy.
"It looks like LaFlamme was eaten," said wildlife experts. "It was probably a fisher."
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Please feed dog
Avert your eyes if depictions of grim death disturb you. Look away if images of loneliness, pain and despair offend your delicate sensibilities. The following is the paradigmatic face of suffering.
Or maybe the pooch was hit by a car on Route 375 and left beside the road. Some yucksters may have discovered the corpse weeks later while taking a leak during a drunken ride through the desert. This wits could have created the sign with a magic marker and assembled the grim scene in seconds. You can see this group wetting their pants in merriment as they envision the horror on faces of tourists.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Dancin' with myself
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
To Clyde, with love
The concept jars lose an unsettling thought. When does writing for an audience of zero become akin to schizophrenia? At what point will I be talking to myself and settling comfortably into that relationship? What if I start posting responses to my own blogs but don't realize I'm doing it? I might have back and forth exchanges with a man named Lou or a young lady named Sandy Sue. I might get into heated arguments with identities created by myself in a fugue state. Frankly, I'm looking forward to it.
Many people read my Street Talk blog which can be found here. Maintaining that daily dialogue is easy because we have established a known environment, like a bar will establish a regular clientele. In here, there has been no give and take on which to mold such an environment. That is, at the bar known as The Screaming Room, nobody has placed an order or even asked for directions. In here it's just me and a bunch of figurative taps I can't get a drop of beer out of. An empty bar, a silent blog and the blossoming stage of schizophrenia.
Please come back, Clyde. Won't you please come back?
Friday, December 02, 2005
Words in a crack pipe
Hello. My name is Mark LaFlamme. I cover crime for the Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine where I write news stories about the evil that men do. I also write a weekly column for the newspaper. I also maintain a daily blog on their website. At home, I write short stories. Hundreds of short stories. In the past year, I've written two novels. I have started a website on which to compile all this information. I try to write new stuff for it constantly. And now, another blog.
I think I might have a real problem. Words have become more than a mere avocation. It has become like a substance to which I am addicted. All my hours are filled with words, which fly from my finger tips after brewing and forming inside my head. Like a man addicted to the pipe, my fingers are sometimes blackened by newsprint or the keyboards. Soon I'll be shivering outside the 7-Eleven, hitting up good people like your for spare words... really, man. Anything you can spare.
Of course, there's also a good chance that I'm raving. I rave quite often, which is why I have a column and a blog. And that leads me to the big question here: what madness will fill this new space? Over what shall I rave?
I have no idea, frankly. It could become one of those highbrow places where we babble about the art of writing and the richness of literature. Bring your own flavored coffee and delicate wines I could never afford. Me, I'm a beer man.
It could be a place where lunacy reigns, like the news blog where I tend to talk a lot about monkey nipples, horse semen and nasty outhouse mishaps. The truth is, I don't know. I just know the world is full of words. I just hope somebody will be here to read mine and maybe set the tone with their own. And if you, stranger, happen to be the first, thanks for stopping by. I was jonesing, man. Jonesing real bad.