Updated: July 30, 2013 6:36AM
With summer finally upon us, it’s time to unearth, track down or discover those seasonal essentials — summertime books, music, movies, and things to do.
Today’s column will kick-start your search with recommended reading material for those lazy, hazy days at the beach, on your back porch, or while on vacation at an exotic locale.
Starting locally, Ruth Foster of Valparaiso has penned three mystery novels for an ongoing series that features a fictional female heroine in 14th-century England named Lady Apollonia. The first novel, “Effigy of the Cloven Hoof,” is based where Foster’s family is from, a tiny village in western England called Aust.
“This series began in the village of Aust and it will end there,” said Foster, who volunteered as a docent at a 14th-century English cathedral to better learn and understand the culture, language and people of that time.
“In the Middle Ages, the situation for women was very limited, even for women of nobility,” Foster told me at her Pines Village home. “For a woman to achieve sovereignty — the right to be oneself — it was an extraordinary thing back then. Even today, it is the greatest gift for any woman.”
Each novel is historically accurate, aided by painstaking research by the 75-year-old Foster, a former docent at the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University, with assistance from her longtime husband, Lou, 82, a former VU professor.
“I provide the technical support, some research, and format the books,” he noted.
His wife’s two previous books are “Plague of a Green Man” and “Memento Mori,” and each one written under her middle name, Ellen.
“We’ll go back again to England early next year,” said Foster, who is working on her fourth book, due for release next year, in a series of seven.
Foster’s novels are not only clever mysteries but also stories of British history, which would make a good TV miniseries on the History Channel. She chose that time period to echo the famous writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature.
“I have to keep writing because I have a long way to go,” she said with a smile.
Foster’s novels can be found online on Amazon.com and other sites, and electronic versions can ordered through Lulu, Barnes and Noble, and Apple iTunes. For more info, visit blogs.valpo.edu/ellenfoster, email her at email@example.com or call 462-8338.
Another local author with two books completed and another on its way is Brent David Schroeder, also of Valparaiso. His genre is entirely different than Foster’s, first with “Heaven Became Hell … Hollywood Be Thy Name!” followed by “The Lycan Chronicles.”
The first book reveals the seedy, sexy and torrid underground rock scene in Hollywood during the ’80s and early ’90s, based on Schroeder’s rock-n-roll lifestyle back then.
“This book includes my adventures with dozens of celebrities, from famous musicians to Hollywood actors and known underworld figures,” he writes. “Before long, I was working for organized crime, doing business deals with outlaw motorcycle gangs, staying one step ahead of the FBI and losing touch with the world I had once known.”
“My guitar cases were now filled with deadly weapons. Love, betrayal, Wicca, crystal meth, and a crippling blast from a sawed-off shot gun would all have roles in bringing me to my knees.”
His second book, about a small, secluded town in southern Indiana that holds dark and sinister secrets, is “not just another vampire/werewolf love story,” according to one reviewer, Timothy Gray of Variety magazine.
“How you came up with such an original idea on a subject that has been beaten to death by crap is shocking in itself,” Gray wrote. “Quentin Tarantino better look out, there is a new sheriff in the horror business.”
(Schroeder, a longtime reader of my column, was kind enough to name a character in this book after me, a newspaper reporter who, surprisingly, doesn’t get killed off like most everyone else.)
Schroeder has a third book coming out this summer, “Ol’ Man Johnson’s Dead-Time Tales,” and he says a movie and miniseries will be coming soon from his earlier book projects.
My favorite book this summer is from 2012 but I recently stumbled on it while browsing for something else. It’s “Tough Sh*t: Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good,” by filmmaker Kevin “Silent Bob” Smith, of “Clerks” fame.
From the book’s opening line, which I can’t print in this column, to its last line, I was gripped by its hilarious insights, candid confessions, and behind-the-scenes Hollywood gossip. Not to mention his nonstop cursing and sexually graphic writing, which I loved.
Smith, who also directed “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma,” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” has often been labeled as the “smartest guy in the room — any room.” This book proves that. Through its humor, cussing, and conversational tone, it left me pondering his life, my life, and life itself.
“When (expletive) gets tough (and it will), simply tell yourself, ‘If an (expletive)-hat like fat Kev Smith can succeed, then what the (expletive) is stopping me from doing the same,’” he writes early in the book.
Smith then goes on to explain how he became successful while chasing the American dream: “My American Dream has always been simple, and it’s one I encourage you to adopt as your own: Figure out what you love to so, then figure out how to get paid to do it. Film would become that for me — a passion I got paid to pursue — but the theory can be applied to almost anything.”
Amen, I say. I’ve shared the same American dream for many years, and this book is a funny as (expletive) reminder that all of us have a (expletive) shot at making it.
Today, on my Casual Fridays radio show from noon to 1 p.m., I will suggest other summertime books, movies, songs, and fun things to do. Tune in at 89.1-FM, streaming at www.lakeshorepublicmedia.org. Call in with your suggestions at 769-9577.