THE BLOG
12/08/2014 08:06 pm ET Updated Feb 07, 2015

Flesh and Blood Thrills and Disturbs... Nina Simone Documented... More Barbra and Angie!

"THERE are two kinds of people who sit around all day thinking about killing people...mystery writers and serial killers," said Richard Castle. 

•WHAT successful author Patricia Cornwell has shown us in her many terrific novels about forensic crime detection merely precedes the immediate future of solving mysteries in the lab.

She is already into the realms of fresh scientific discoveries...the latest about copper bullets...how new sniper's guns can't miss...super hacking on the Internet...the uses and misuses of DNA...methods of severing the spinal cord...the use of security cameras everywhere...the on-going feud between the FBI and local police... psychological worry, anxiety and testing.  Well, it all "tests" the reader's nerves because thriller fiction has seldom required so much of us!

Her new book is Flesh and Blood, starring again Dr. Kay Scarpetta and her handsome FBI-man husband. Kay's usual hand-wringing, insecurity -- about their pets, their food, their relatives and co-workers -- is in full force. Plus, worry over Kay's tempestuous niece, a helicopter pilot cum genius at doing her own thing! (This lesbian individualist is quite something and makes you wonder how anyone puts up with her. You also wonder when she's finally going to go over to dark side of her brilliant but sometimes seemingly dangerous, conflicted nature.)  
         
Kay and hubby want to go on a brief vacation but a lined-up bunch of copper pennies; dated 1981 (of all things useless) give them pause.

Cornwell's thrillers don't yield easily to the casual reader but are a real education -- and represent another winner for the author of such gems as The Bone Bed...The Scarpetta Factor... Book of the Dead..."and 1990's Postmortem. I won't bother to list all her best-sellers and I prefer the novels to her other works. 
   
     The fiction, however, is often over my head and I have to re-read and go on to ferret out what I don't know, which is a lot in crime detection and the latest discoveries.  Cornwell has written books now in 36 languages published in more than 120 countries and while I prefer the Scarpetta ones, I do wonder at her heroine's insecurity and inner turmoil. And why she puts up with her vulgar longtime partner Marino and would confuse the reader with another new character, named Machado, I don't know.  It's like the Italian food Dr. Scarpetta keeps cooking -- she can't resist Italy.

       Let me add. These novels aren't for the faint of heart. Their vicious mysterious sadistic doings require vast amounts of tolerance on the leading woman's nerves -- and yours, too! I say don't ever miss a Patricia Çornwell outing and just think of all the good charitable things she does with her money!

•WELL, AS if House of Cards wasn't enough to lure you to Netflix, now comes word of a an extraordinary documentary being prepared for that cable outlet. It's about the great singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone, titled, What Happened , Miss Simone? Liz Garbus will direct. (Ms. Garbus offered the touching documentary, Love, Marilyn last year.)

The Simone film will present never-before-heard audio of the singer in the studio. If by some sad chance you know nothing about Nina, go to ITunes and download her astonishing version of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A' Changin'" You won't stop there!

•OUR FRIEND Dick Guttman sends word that Barbra Streisand actually liked several current books out on her. James Spada's lavish photo book, Barbra Streisand: In the Camera Eye and another collection by Larry Schiller and Steve Schapiro. That one is called Barbra Streisand's Early Years in Hollywood: 1968-1976.

She didn't mention to Dick that she approves of Spada's update on his biography of the legend. But that's the kind of thing she'll never like, no matter how fair and balanced.

Guttman has also been a friend to Angie Dickinson for 20 years and has repped her for the past 10. He remarked on our recent column celebrating Angie, complimenting the photo choices and agreeing with our love for the star. He says: "She is one of the most un-phony people I have ever known. Her feelings are honest, direct and passionate, and that's a remarkable thing."

Couldn't have said it better. Miss D., who hasn't been to Manhattan in two years, called the other day, to thank us. She didn't have to, but of course she did. She was terribly sweet and funny and promises to come to New York and visit me. Of the column item, she said: "That is the nicest damn thing anybody ever wrote about me! I wish everybody in the world could see it!"

Ah, but I don't think the world needs to read that. People can tell Angie is the real deal.

•YOU HAVE until December 15 to see items being auctioned for my pet charity Literacy Partners, including lunch with New York Social Diary's editor, David Patrick Columbia. You'd eat with him at the famous media hot spot, Michael's. Go to this link to place your bid.

https://www.charitybuzz.com/support/884