Friday, March 7, 2014


Jacque Wachs was born in a Selma, California, sanitarium.  Even though that was how  hospitals were often referred to at the time and her birth had nothing to do with mental patients,  she insists somehow the implications of "life-long craziness" has wrung true nonetheless. 
Her older brother by three years did not interacted with much with her because of the age difference when growing up.  She describes herself as a "bossy kid who did not understand how her behavior hurt other people".
Jacque was raised on a ranch ten miles in a small agricultural town -- Kingsford -- of three thousand people.  In 1971, after junior college, at eighteen years of age, Jacque moved to Orange County, California, and while naive, scared, and
In her mid-twenties, Jacque moved back to attend Fresno State (more to come)...

Saturday, February 22, 2014


The next Dolce Vita di Libro meeting will take place on Friday, March 14, 2014 at 6 pm to 9 pm.  Esteemed Members Jacque and Brian Wachs will be hosting in Palm Springs.  Esteemed Member Brother Andy will serve as Facilitator.  The selected book is "Death at La Fenice" by Donna Leon.  The meeting's theme is "Dark Mysterious: Mardi Gras" (with color choices of black, white, gray and red).

Please RSVP to Jacque at


It's A Mystery To Me: Vanishing Thoughts -- A Reoccurring Book Club Meeting Dilemma

Dear Mysterious --

At our wonderful monthly book club meetings, the club's rule during discussions is to raise our hands when we want to speak and the facilitator calls on us in turn.  This works fine and we're happy to do so out of respect.  Yet, when several members want to speak at once, we each have to wait occasionally while others speak before our individual turn.  In this situation, by the time it is my turn to speak, I have forgotten what I was going to say.  It's embarrassing to then be called on and have nothing to say because I've gotten so engrossed in what others have to say the thoughts have left me and the context and relevance of my thoughts has shifted to other subjects. Any suggestions? It's a mystery to me...

Sign me...


Dearest Ponderous --

Book club discussions are yet another opportunity to learn, just as when you read the book selections.  Perhaps keeping a notepad and pen handy during the discussions and jotting down notes, as you would when reading the books, would be a useful tool.  When several people raise their hands at once -- including you -- and someone else is called first, quickly write down a key word or sentence that will jog your memory when it is your turn to speak. When you do speak, make reference to what you are commenting about so others can then follow your train of thought.

Secondly, note commentary on what other people are speaking about throughout the discussion and perhaps keep most of your commentary on several subjects to one turn.  Also, by listening, often times, someone else will share similar ideas, addressing what you were going to say.

Perhaps you could think about what you want to say about the book before the book club meeting, crystallizing your ideas.  When the discussion begins, raise your hand, and outline the different aspects you'd like to talk about.  Then, open the discussion to the group.

Lastly, book club discussions should be invigorating and inspiring.  If you feel embarrassed, frustrated, over-looked, hurried or put down -- then speak privately to the person acting as facilitator at first opportunity about your feelings.  If nothing changes after a couple of meetings, bring the subject up during the meeting discussions, as you are probably not the only one feeling this way, and a solution needs to be found. Feeling as though not being heard damages the purpose of the group, acting as a destructive cancer that could lead to the group's eventual disbanding.  Group leaders and facilitators can only help you if you speak up.

Thank you for sharing your experience. Another mystery solved!

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Twenty-odd (!?) devoted Esteemed Members of the Dolce Vita di Libro Book Club once again joined together on Friday, February 14 to share their love of books with each other -- the fifth such book club meeting assembled in as many months. 
The hosts' beautiful house (provided generously by Esteemed Member Karen Laird and her husband, Jere) was decked out in full Saint Valentine's glory with lacy paper hearts, red candles, and vibrant pink roses.  Wonderful Esteemed Member Jennifer Johnson, who is "The Heart of DVdL", made sure everyone was alerted to time and place.  Attendees came dressed in white, red and pink to commemorate the special event.  As always, the pot luck food was extraordinarily delicious, with Esteemed Members out-doing themselves with hours of preparation.  Various types of wine was served to those who looked forward to refreshments -- counting the minutes to begin celebrating the day.
A rousing discussion ensued concerning everything from suggested reading of books otherwise not chosen by the group, to the process members use to enjoy and appreciate books, to illuminating the "pros and cons" of the month's book selection.  One aspect of the in-depth talk centered on the comfort level of the group as a whole, resulting in individual members feeling free to speak openly without fear of reprisal. Gregarious Esteemed Member Brother Andy acted as facilitator in a feeble attempt to disguise the fact he never reads the selected books.
The next meeting is only four short weeks away, but too long to wait for those of us who excitedly anticipate what will take place.  Thanks to all!



Isabel Allende, better known for magical realism, has angered the crime fiction community after admitting that Ripper, her first foray into mysteries, was written as "a joke" - and that she is "not a fan" of the genre.

"An atmospheric, fast-paced mystery involving a brilliant teenage sleuth who must unmask a serial killer in San Francisco," according to its publisher, Ripper is just out, and to mark its publication the acclaimed Chilean author spoke with NPR in the US. "The book is tongue in cheek. It's very ironic," she said, adding that "I'm not a fan of mysteries, so to prepare for this experience of writing a mystery I started reading the most successful ones in the market in 2012".

"I realised I cannot write that kind of book. It's too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there's no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people. Very entertaining, but really bad people," said Allende. "So I thought, I will take the genre, write a mystery that is faithful to the formula and to what the readers expect, but it is a joke. My sleuth will not be this handsome detective or journalist or policeman or whatever. It will be a … 16-year-old nerd"

But readers, booksellers and fellow authors were unimpressed with Allende's analysis of mystery fiction. Houston bookshop Murder by the Book had ordered 20 signed copies of Ripper – but sent them back after hearing the author's interview. Owner McKenna Jordan told her local paper the Houston Chronicle that "mystery and genre writers deal with this all the time from so-called literary authors. But for her to have gotten paid to write a mystery when she doesn't even like the genre – how would she expect mystery readers to react to that?"

"That's one of the benefits of having a small business," the bookseller told the Houston paper. "If you don't want to stock something, you don't have to."

Readers were also furious, taking issue with Allende's "snotty elitism", and advising the author to "stick to what she knows [if she] sees the genre as being beneath her". Sookie Stackhouse's bestselling creator Charlaine Harris took Allende to task on her blog for comments which "translate … [as] I'm so amazingly 'literary' that condescending to write a genre novel is incredibly funny … I considered buying it. But having devoted my professional life to genre literature, I don't think I will," wrote Harris.

In the UK, the bestselling authors Val McDermid and Mark Billingham also laid into Allende for dismissing their genre. "It's great to see the crime-writing community rising up in its own defence," said McDermid. "For years we've been the butt of ignorant prejudice from the literary genre and we've taken it on the chin, muttering in corners and up our sleeves about how misunderstood we are. But clearly we're not going to stand for it any longer. The great thing about this backlash is that it's coming from readers as well as writers – it can't just be written off as wounded amour propre. (Is that a bit too literary? Using French?)"

Billingham added that "as a crime writer I'm obviously not well inclined towards any writer who professes to 'make fun of mysteries'", but speculated if Allende was "only now describing her book as a 'joke' after seeing the universally savage reviews it's received".

"Those poor, ignorant reviewers are simply not getting her fantastic 'joke'," said Billingham. "Allende claims that she's not a fan of mysteries, which is her prerogative, but she happens to be married to a mystery writer. I'm guessing it's been an interesting Valentine's day in the Allende household."

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Submitted By Esttemed Member Jacqueline Wachs

16 oz. semisweet chocolate, divided

2 oz unsweetened chocolate

6 eggs, separated

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 C. butter, softened

1 c. sugar, divided

2 tsp. lemon extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 C. whole almonds, finely ground

1/2 C. seedless raspberry all fruit

3/4 C. Heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9" spring form pan; line with waxed paper, then grease and lightly flour paper.
In medium saucepan, melt 8 oz. semisweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate over low heat, stirring; cool slightly. In bowl, with mixer at high, beat egg whites and salt to stiff peaks. In another bowl, with same beaters beat butter, sugar and extracts until light and fluffy; gradually beat in egg yolks. Fold in melted chocolate, almonds, all-fruit and egg whites. Spoon into pan.
Bake 50 minutes or until pick inserted comes out clean. Cool slightly. Remove sides of pan and cool on wire rack. In saucepan, bring cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 8 oz semisweet chocolate until smooth; cool 15 minutes. Spread on cake and decorate as desired.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Esteemed Member Karen Laid
Photo by Brother Andy

"I love people," said Karen Laird, a Palm Springs resident of nearly two years.  "I make friends easily.  That's why I was a good salesman -- I could ask anybody anything."

Karen is an active Esteemed Member of the DVdL Book Club.  Her early career was raising three daughters while working in the advertising business for radio and television in Portland, Oregon, AND earning a Masters and Bachelors degrees along the way.  She and her first husband divorced and he subsequently died, leaving Karen to support the family as a single mother.  She had no intention of every marrying again.

As can happen, she changed her mind when she met her husband, Jere (pronounced Jerry) Laird while visiting where father had a yacht parked in Long Beach, California, slip for forty five years.  Jere was visiting friends at the yacht club as well who invited them both for breakfast one morning.  The two chatted casually about "red convertibles", began talking on the telephone thereafter, courted through the internet and married not that long after meeting.  "I told people I was pregnant," jokes Karen.

Jere had been an award-winning radio announcer for KNX for thirty-some years, covering such historic events as the Watts riots and the Manson trial. "Those of us in the advertising field worked hard," insists Karen, "While 'talent', like Jere, was thought of as less strenuous of a profession, let's say." Jere retired from reporting and took cruises around the world for three years.

Together, they were settled in a condo in San Pedro when someone made an offer that was impossible to resist and Karen and Jere then serendipitously moved to Palm Springs. 

One accomplishment Karen is especially proud of -- that of being a "Biker Babe", as members of a cycling club were referred to -- and bicycling across the entire state of Iowa.  Karen currently enjoys water aerobics, knitting, hiking, reading and studying Spanish.

Yet, Karen seeks an outlet to develop a creative skill.  Taking a class on mosaics from well-known local fine artist Jennifer Johnson who is a founding member of DVdL, Karen meet several other members and knew the club was something special she wanted to participate in.  "I'm curious about people and the book club is nothing less than a spectacular way to socialize with some very intelligent individuals who keep me challenged," Karen says.


Saturday, February 8, 2014


Brother Andy portrait by artist
Shahram Farshadfar from the video project,
"Art Never Dies"

I began Dolce Vita di Cinema ("The Sweet Life of Movies") at the end of last December 2013 (a month-and-a-half ago) as a sister blog to the wildly popular Dolce Vita di Libro ("The Sweet Life of Books") blog, which is used as a clearinghouse for all kinds of media for the murder mystery book club in Palm Springs (of the same name) and for entertaining/educating murder mystery book clubs anywhere in the world -- filled with feature films, in-house videos, retro radio programs, reviews, interviews, member profiles, meeting up-dates, images, games, and tons of other stuff. The response to Dolce Vita di Libro has been positively mind-blowing.

Dolce Vita di Cinema was consciously designed to be a kind of on-line film class, to concentrate on hard-to-find features, insightful documentaries, and other educational materials.  The work of incredibly talented geniuses are free to see in full, uncensored. I wanted the blog to become a handy source of inspiration for artists, writers, directors, actors and editors -- anyone with a serious interest in films -- as a kind of free-form library. To help beginners in the film business, I wrote a free PDF downloadable book ("Brother Andy's Notes To The Actor") about my experiences with actors in my films and included it in the blog materials, as well as posting my own independently-produced feature films, open to critique and questioning, such as "The Mummy's Desire" (a satire of Hammer films), "I Am...Dead" (a film noir zombie thriller), and "The Rush of the River" (a Western with a twist).

Now, Dolce Vita di Cinema has built an amazingly loyal following, without a scrap of advertising or promotion.  I am extremely proud of what has been accomplished in such a short period of time. 

Next, I am hoping to not only continue to scavenge the vaults for lost film treasures, but to give a platform to new creative visionaries who have something to say.  Thank you to everyone who has supported this worthy endeavor.

Brother Andy

Writer, Producer, Director, Editor, Actor

Intriguism Moving Pictures

Palm Springs, California

Thursday, February 6, 2014




The book is well-written.  I especially liked the elaborate descriptions of the food and the picturesque settings, sort of travelogue-ish, taking place in a small village in the countryside. 

The main character, Sam Levitt, is supposed to be a typical English Lord who makes money doing illegal activities and wouldn't hesitate to do whatever it takes to get what he wants -- including doing harm to anyone in his way.  His girlfriend, Annabella, was interesting and intriguing.  Philippe, the Public Relations guy, did nothing but seek sensational headlines.  Great addition.

The plot was a well-thought-out caper set against French politics and how the French handle things with greed and impatience. Yet, as a "light read", the story wasn't so complicated that you couldn't obviously know what would happen and who the murderer was. Still, the book was fun to read because of the amount of little tid-bits of insight into this world.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best book ever, I would give "The Marseille Caper" a solid "8".  I would recommend this book to others.


A book club meeting reminder: The next Dolce Vita di Libro Book Club meeting will be held on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 6 pm.  The special evening will be hosted by Esteemed Member Karen Laird.  The facilitator will once again be Brother Andy. The meeting will be held at the home of Karen Laird.
The book selection is "The Marseille Caper" by Peter Mayle.  The theme this month is "Valentine's Day" and anyone wishing to participate in the "Celebration of Love" is asked to wear red, white or pink clothing.

Monday, January 27, 2014


An man insanely jealous of his wife, believing she has been unfaithful, devises a fiendish method of dealing with her and her lover. Starring Bela Lugosi, John Carradine and Lurene Tuttle.
. . .



For information about the author of the next DVdL book selection, "The Marseilles Caper", please see: www.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


What a fabulous fourth meeting!!  Esteemed Members who could not attend were surely missed, as this special evening was exactly what we started the Dolce Vita di Libro book club for -- interesting and insightful conversation, great food and wine, lovely decorations, and fun!!!!
Thanks must go to Jennifer and Hunter Johnson for use of the hall. Having a gathering in one's home can sometimes feel invasive, but the gracious Hunter and Jennifer are incredibly welcoming. 
The effervescent Lois Granziano was outstanding (as usual) in tirelessly helping manage the event.  She's a real trouper. Legendary local artist, Peggy Vermeer (who has a work of art on permanent display at the Palm Springs Art Museum) provided much of the wine and more-than-some show-stopping laughs throughout the evening. She's definitely the life of the party!
The whole of the Esteemed Membership is to be praised for reading a somewhat challenging book through the busy holiday season and showing up with superb food.  The attention to detail and care that goes into making the food is amazing.  Not only were Esteemed Members polite and tidy and showed up on time (for the most part), they were a well-groomed bunch who obviously understands the importance of dressing appropriately for such a prestigious occasion. From sharing heart-felt personal stories to actively listening -- the discussion was adult, open, honest and relaxed.
The suggestions that were made over the last months to improve the book club experience were noted and implemented, to the betterment of the group, and it showed.  I, for one, am very proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to the next meeting with excited anticipation!  Thank you all so very much!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014


People love a "safe thrill".  As part of the biological human need to survive, the psychology of acting out scenerios in which a "hero" (as stand-in for the average person) can resolve life-threatening issues is in the same manner children play house, play doctor, or play war to work out psychically -- in their limited experiences -- the anxieties of life as they mature.  People are social animals.
Horror stories, with their various exaggerated monstrocities, would, therefore, be an acting out scenerio of the audiences' fear of "The Other", the threat of a stranger, or addressing a deeply-rooted fear of deformity (another kind of threat to survival -- a mutation which may harm the gene pool).  "The Monster" is the repulsion within one's self, the opposite of attraction, and may be sexual in nature.  If "Dracula" is about repressive Victorian seduction and "Frankenstien" is about Alpha male territory anxieties (including that of acting as God), why the "murder mystery"?  What is entertaining about murder?
Perhaps the answer is in the development of the plots within the genre itself.  Since one is satistically murdered by someone known (not a stranger), the fear of intimacy may be part of the audiences' emotional connection to the stories. Ultimately, in a "survival of the fittest" mode, who is to be trusted? To have the highest survival rate, one must remain an independant adaptable individual within a group where set rules of engagement are spelled out and expectations met. To kill someone is to love them, to care what they say, do and are, because ambivilance isn't a motivating force for anything.
Secondly, a parental figure -- a detective usually -- is involved in the resolution, someone who is smarter than the rest. This character's job is to reassure the audience of their trust in authority and assure the gene pool is safe.  When children died of disease in the past, it left confusion to the surviving children and murder mysteries may be a way of making sense of the "randomness" of death.
Another aspect might well be that the "cupcake murder mysteries" genre is about a "mother" anxiety, using food as a symbolic gesture of reassurance, sensory recall (oral developmental stage), and reward. Is the culinary art murder mystery really about sibling rivalry, fighting over and murdering over food and needing "mommy" to rescue the situation?
As adults, the need to seek out these kind of mythic stories -- as pure fiction -- must have some underlying real-life reward or people simply wouldn't do it.  From the primitive cavemen's fireside story-telling to the computerized Information Age inter-active games, the story hasn't changed all that much.  The ultimate fear is of death, which, of course, is really about living.  Dolce Vita di Libro has represented itself as not only a book club centering discussions on death, but in the promotion of living life to the fullest through lifestyle choices. The ironic juxtaposition of a "sweet life" in contrast to ugly murder and mayhem is the drama that Shakespear speaks of: all the world's a stage...After all, if you can't act out murder plots with friends, what's the point?