Trafficking Chen by Edmond Gagnon

It’s here – my latest installment in the Norm Strom Crime Series – Trafficking Chen. Tragically, a bit more exciting than the new phone book. Do they even exist anymore?

A young Chinese girl is kidnapped from her home in settlement of her father’s gambling debt. She is forced into slave labor and eventually prostitution. When a new group of Asian dancers lands in a Windsor strip club, Norm Strom joins a task force to investigate.

Trafficking Chen can be purchased locally at Story Tellers in Windsor or River Bookshop in Amherstburg. It is available in paperback or eBook online as of June 1st.

See what all the hype is about and get yourself a copy now.

The Equalizer With Queen Latifah

I’ve been biting my tongue since watching the latest reboot of The Equalizer, starring Queen Latifah. I can’t say I remember much about the original 1980 television series, starring Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a retired CIA agent who spends his time helping desperate people in desperate situations.

The series was rebooted with movies in 2014 and 2018, starring Denzel Washington as McCall. The storyline was the same, and I thought Denzel was perfect for the role, one similar to the character he played in Man on Fire. When I heard of the new TV series coming out I was kind of hoping he would be continuing his role.

To say I was shocked and skeptical when I saw that Queen Latifah was given the role of Robyn McCall is an understatement. Queen Latifah. Really? McCall is now retired, but billed as the best agent the CIA ever had. The woman has to be near 300 pounds, with a caboose that barely makes it though doors. Watching her waddle pains me, trying to believe the fight scenes where camera tricks and edits make her look faster than Bruce Lee.

McCall also has a teenage daughter in this latest version, something else that totally contradicts what the CIA would look for in it’s operatives. But as we’ve always been led to believe, you’re never really out of the company. Perhaps this is why our new Equalizer still has access to professional computer hackers and an assortment of fancy weapons.

I have to admit I’m still watching the show, mostly because I like the storylines, but I wince every time I see Latifah faking an action scene. They don’t even try to make her look thinner or more like an action hero – she has a wardrobe that is very unflattering for a large female spy. I’m sorry but watching her in this role is like seeing Mr. Rogers as the next James Bond.

The Cook’s Shop Redux

Where in Windsor can you find a restaurant with excellent food and service that’s been around for 40 years? The answer is the new old Cook’s Shop Restaurant. Spencer Dawson, took the reigns when the former owner retired from the business he started in 1980. The cozy dining room and Italian menu remain mostly the same, with a few minor changes to both. The old meat display case is gone but the natural stone walls and romantic setting remains the same.

The new owner introduced himself to Cathryn and I, taking the time to explain how he strived to keep fan-favorites on the menu, and brought in a few new recipes handed down by his grandmother. Her homemade bread was the first thing to knock our socks off – a sliced loaf that was crispy golden on the outside and a cornbread texture on the inside, served with a soft herb butter. The wine list covers all bases and quite reasonably priced.

We talked about Dawson’s idol, Lino, the previous owner, who just happened to grace us with his presence moments later. We were lucky enough to chat with both men and capture a few photos of the two most passionate restaurant owners I’ve ever met. Our Caesar salads were delivered on their departure from our table, the original recipe that Dawson said he had to retain in order to prevent a riot.

I forgot about the Escargot – large and tender snails served on a bed of mushrooms sautéed in garlic butter and served in phyllo pastry. We had time for another slice of bread before the salad. Our waiter, Moe, was Johnny-on-the-spot and never far from our table. I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara, with double smoked bacon, and asked to have it on the creamy side. Yep, more sauce to soak up with the bread. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

Cathryn ordered the Rack of Lamb, four thick portions stacked over a pea and mushroom risotto. Sitting on my hands was all I could do to resist snatching some while she was away from the table. It was juicy, tender, and cooked to perfection. Sadly, we couldn’t finish the last two pieces of bread. Our meals were quite generous in size.

Although we were both stuffed, I needed a pieced of cheesecake. They had two and I went for the salted caramel. Not too rich, it had the perfect combination of sweet and saltiness. We both loved every part of our meal and enjoyed the experience of meeting both the old and new regime. Giving the Cook’s Shop a 10 out of 10 was a no-brainer.

Watch for Dawson’s future plans, while he renovates the whole building, possibly adding another restaurant and living quarters above that.

Streaming – The New Normal

I think it’s safe for me to say that 95% of those who read this are now streaming movies and/or television shows via their mobile device or Smart TV. And that’s only because the remaining 5% are either computer illiterates or simply don’t watch the squawk box. And it’s so convenient and easy for us to do nowadays, right? Just sign up for Netflix or one of the other streaming companies that are popping up like dandelions on a Spring lawn.

Or maybe you opt for Prime if you have an Amazon account; it’s only another 5 bucks a month. And there’s Crave for those of you who subscribe to Bell. That’s only 5 bucks too but if you want to watch anything good you need to drop another fiver (each) to get HBO, Showtime, Starz or the Super Channel. Apple TV is another conglomerate that is free, until you find you have to pay for Netflix or Crave or anything else under their umbrella.

Then there’s Gem, CBS All Access, CTV, Tubi, Global, Ted, A & E, Sundance or Sundance Plus if you want to watch anything decent. And I forgot You Tube, which is still free if you can figure out how to navigate the gazillions of videos that everyone with an iPhone has posted. I’ve recently seen Paramount Plus advertised, apparently one of the new ways the company can release movies without having to sell them to Netflix or Prime.

So, what does all this streaming really cost? My wife and I have taken to listing dollar amounts and effective dates on our calendar to keep track. Many say it’s cheaper than going to the movies. Really? Take your $100 to $150 basic cable or satellite bill, then add another $10 a month for one of the big shots like Netflix. But then add another $5 a month so you can binge on one of your favorite TV shows. Then a couple more fives here and there for whatever others you’ve forgotten to cancel, and remember that you’re paying this each and every month!

I know some who are paying $200 a month to watch television. That’s quite a few trips to the movie theater. I don’t know about you but I’m finding it more frustrating every day when I see a new show or movie that’s about to be released, but I have to subscribe to another provider to watch it. If this is the new normal I don’t like it.

Trafficking Chen – Teaser

Here’s a tease for what Norm Strom is up to next:

Human Trafficking is an affliction that has infected countries across the world for centuries, and continues to do so today. There are countless numbers of victims.

Trafficking Chen is the heartfelt story of one victim, a young Chinese girl who is taken from her family home to settle an outstanding gambling debt acquired by her father. She is forced into labor and becomes a servant to the rich.

As Chen comes of age, she has to serve in other ways, using her own body to satisfy her master’s sexual appetite. Later, she is prostituted and moved around the country, eventually being shipped overseas to Canada, where she is put to work as an exotic dancer.

Street Crimes Detective Norm Strom mostly investigates property-related crime, but he receives a tip from a confidential informant who says illegal Asian women are dancing at a local strip club. Trying to ignore personal issues, Strom joins a task force to investigate possible human trafficking in his city.

Les Miserables

Having seen the live stage version at least twice, and the previous movie musical with Russel Crowe and Hugh Jackman, I have to say that I enjoyed the latest BBC production of Les Miserables the best. The new version, which we were able to stream on CBC Gem, is not a musical. And it’s cast is not made up of A-listers, but you should recognize names like Dominic West (the Wire), David Oyelowo (Selma), and Olivia Colman (The Crown).

I found a new appreciation for this latest installment of the timeless classic because I got a better understanding of the story. Perhaps the music and lack of backstory in the stage versions left me with more questions than answers as to the overall plot. For the unaware, Les Miserables takes place in France after Napoleon and the French Revolution.

It’s a sad rags to riches to rags tale that is shown in eight parts, currently available for streaming or downloading. Cathryn and I loved the story and both give it a 9 out of 10.

Please Support Your Local Stores

Book stores are struggling to survive, the same as restaurants and other small businesses in our area. Please shop local when you can, and help your neighbors to keep their businesses running during these trying times.

River Bookshop in Amherstburg, Story Tellers, Juniper, and Biblioasis are all local stores who can use your support. All my books are currently for sale at River Bookshop and Story Tellers. They are both currently open for curbside pickup.

Who needs the Internet?

Fact: Everyone who is reading this is on or has been on the Internet. But those of us wearing reading glasses on to see this should remember a few decades ago, when it never existed. Those were the days of typewriters and carbon paper, cursive writing, and real signatures on things we called letters. For me, I can’t even recall the last time I wrote a letter by hand and mailed it to someone.

The Internet has made our world smaller by connecting people and countries near and far, allowing us to obtain just about anything we need with the simple click of a a mouse. I think it’s one of man’s greatest inventions, but like so many of the drugs we’ve marketed to the masses, have we become addicted to the technology?

Try imagining one day in your life without the Internet. I don’t have to, our router crashed last week while we were streaming a television show. You know, the thing we do now instead of watching programs that have been broadcast over airwaves and sent through cables connected to our homes. For the next couple days it was if someone had cut off my hands and I couldn’t accomplish anything.

The experience made me appreciate my mother-in-law’s predicament, she has no idea how to use a computer and has difficulty using her mobile phone. And because of that she is constantly challenged by our technologically advanced world. She has to physically attend her bank, stare hopelessly at the GPS on her car’s dashboard, and fight with people on the phone who want her to go online to speak with them.

In my case, I couldn’t research my router problem because I couldn’t get online. We had to use Cathryn’s phone data (Internet) to find the phone number for the electronics store because there are no more phone books. And because of our current pandemic, there is nobody available at the store to talk to you. So, after driving to Chatham to get a router that was available here in Windsor, the simple instructions that came with it required me to connect via the Internet.

That time off line made me feel like I was sitting in the dark after a power outage. I couldn’t watch TV, check my mail, social media sites, or do any research for my writing projects. We couldn’t even talk to Alexa. And if Cathryn needed a recipe she had to dig through old magazines and cook books that are buried in the basement. So, are we addicted to the internet or just dependent upon it?

I know the answer, but you won’t be able to respond to my question unless…

News of the World – the Movie

For movie buffs like Cathryn and I, the year 2020 was painful. And because of of the worldwide pandemic with Covid 19, 2021 isn’t shaping up to be much better. Old movies in our DVD collection and streaming companies like Netflix and Crave have been our only saving grace. Even the producers of television shows had to take a hiatus in the name of safety.

After exhausting the list of decent movies to stream, and for a change from binge-watching our favorite TV shows, we’ve taken to searching for decent movies that have to be rented. Major motion picture studios seem to have caught on to our dilemma, and since they can’t release their new movies in theaters, they are making them available to rent.

Last night we rented the latest movie by Tom Hanks, News of the World. We were shocked that we had to pay $25 to watch the new release, but took into consideration that it would have cost us more to see it in a theater. And since we’re not allowed out of our house, what choice did we have. We were able to rent and download the movie through Apple TV.

News of the World is a western with a completely different story line that’s never been done before. It takes place after the American Civil war, when the country is trying to heal, and the south has suffered the most. Tom Hanks’ character travels from town to town, reading from the latest newspaper articles, apprising folk of what’s happening in their part of the world.

I found the movie a bit slow at times, typical of some westerns, but there was enough action and a great story line that kept me interested. We both loved the movie, with Cathryn giving it a big 10. I can’t say there was anything wrong with the flick but I’m giving it a conservative 8, just because I can.