The Force is strong in this one.

Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens

After seeing the movie for the first time, I left the theater with a desire to see the movie again. Yes, I think it was that good. The movie is not by any means flawless, but this time around, the ride to a far far away galaxy is one we can enjoy, a guilty pleasure, like chocolate. 

With J.J. Abrams behind the wheel, I confess that during the first twenty minutes I was expecting lens flares. Happy to report it was not the case. In fact, Mr. Abrams kept the Star Wars format to the letter: scrolling text at the beginning, a climax with actions in different places, and the ending with a long scene without dialogues. I hope that was choice and not just obedience to the contract.

We have three new lead characters, always three they are, and we follow the story through their eyes. Okay, maybe four if we count the new droid BB-8. Good choice to cast unknown because it steered fans away from expectations. We have new villain, and he wears a helmet and a red light-saber. The remains of the Empire has reorganized in what is now called The First Order, led by a character we have only met through hologram. It may be fitting, or a bad joke, but that digitally created character was played by Andy Sarkins.

Of course, fans of the original trilogy are pleased to see the comeback of siblings Luke and Leia, and Han Solo. The Millennium Falcon looks more decrepit than ever, but it still had it where it counts and it is by far the damn sexy ship.

Skip the following part if you haven’t seen the movie.

After the excitement subsides, you start to see script as a rehash version of Ep. IV, except everything is bigger in both range and scope. There’s a massive weaponized planet called the Star Killer, which is a Death Star on steroids, and to prove its power Star Killer destroys a planet (Alderaan anybody?). There’s a secret stored away inside a charismatic droid, and its search moves the story forward for quite a bit of the movie. We have a character unaware of The Force living in a desert planet, who also happens to be a marvelous pilot and not bad in hand-to-hand combat. Near the end we witness the passing of a wise old man. These are but a few, enough maybe to make the old fan giggle, and the new one wonder where all that came from.

There’s a few things I didn’t like. For example, Luke Skywalker’s original light-saber lost in Cloud City reappears, except now it is more than a simple object. It has the power to call to people who have The Force, it almost felt like a wand choosing a wizard in the Harry Potter world.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the movie is worth seeing. Twice or more. It had plenty of good new things so the reminiscences of the old don’t overshadow the story. It fact, it has the making of an epic story. And this is just the first of the three. 

But for the record, J J Abrams didn’t mess it up, in fact he infused the franchise with a breath of fresh air.

Audiobooks, Huckleberry Finn, the Sisters Club, and me.

As a no-native English speaker I missed plenty of the required reading books most people have read. Catch 22, Grapes of Wrath, even Frankenstein, I missed them all. I often had felt as an outsider when talking with friends north of the Rio Grande.

There’s always time to catch up, right? Of course there is, and a few years ago I began reading at least one of the golden classics. I’ve read Dracula, Gone With the Wind, The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Rings, and Pride and Prejudice among others.
The bane of my reading existence was Huckleberry Finn. The fact that Mr. Twain had sprinkled the text with lots of phonetic dialogs to signal the different accents proved a problem for me. A problem I tried to overcome about four times before giving up and throwing the book aside until next time.

One sunny morning I received an email saying because I had bought the kindle version, there was now an audiobook of Huck narrated by Elijah Wood. At first I wondered why Frodo Baggins would trouble himself with Huck, then I remembered he played the character for Disney a few years ago. I downloaded the Audible app to my tablet and presto! I was hooked on Huck. I have a daily commute of 90 minutes, so it took me some time, but I managed to finish the book I had started to read more than fifteen years before!

My next adventure with audiobooks was a romance/comedy (or vice versa) by the name of The Sisters Club, by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. This book was narrated by a woman, a pro who managed to change her accent slightly so I was able to distinguish the four female POV’s depicted in the story.

The story centers about four women who had difficult relationships with their own sisters, thus at the prompt of one of them, they get together and start, rocky-road at first, and become as close as sisters.

Diana is a plus-sized Londoner recently married and moved to the US, with no friends or family on this side of the Atlantic. Sylvia is a tough cookie, fitting because she runs a catering business, but the death of her sister is not improving her people’s skills. Liz is a college teacher who dreams of becoming a writer. Cindy, at twenty-four, is the youngest of the circle, and with such low self-esteem she goes through a hellish relationship thinking she deserves all of it.

After the first meeting where Sylvia—who will later become the TV sensation Rude Chef— goes rough on the other three calling on their collective lack of courage and missing their goals. The result: Diana gets a gastric bypass while her husband is away on a business trip, Liz writes a book to the chagrin of her college students, and Cindy does all she can do get pregnant. Obviously, their lives become quite tangled and relationships change, morph and others become close to extinct.

I know that as a thriller author people may expect me to read books in my genre all of the time. And I do, most of the time. Other times I like to read outside of my genre. Getting out of my comfort zone pays off because I find gems like The Sisters Club. 
Of course, I’m already a fan of Mrs. Baratz-Logsted.

Walter Krochmal and Bronx World Film

Walter Krochmal is a veteran actor of stage, independent film and radio, as well as arts promoter and producer. His work has taken him to Festival de Cannes, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and on engagements in Honduras, Mexico, Canada, and across the USA. For his original work he has earned the Franklin Furnace Performance Art Award. He has narrated over 100 audiobooks in English and Spanish.

I first met Walter a few years ago when we exchanged a few emails. At the time I was a novel writer aspiring anybody famous to read my work. Well, he did read my first novel, Treasure Hunt, and he liked it so much. Afterwards we connected via Facebook and have had lengthy discussions about arts, movies, and books.

He founded and organizes Bronx World Film, a world cinema event that focuses on the work of Central America and showcase it. He is a very strict curator though, and would not show anything that it is not up to his high-standards.

This December 5th and 6th, Manhattan welcomes a fifth season of the pioneering arthouse cinema and arts event inspired by Central American culture, Bronx World Film Cycle. Its cutting-edge programming this year includes 28 films from 16 countries and 24 directors, (many of them world, US and New York premieres), in all styles and genres with a strong showing of contemporary Central American film.

How did the idea of the Bronx World Film come about?
In 2009, a short film I acted in and narrated got admitted to Festival de Cannes. I traveled to France for the screening at the Short Film Corner, where you can see works by filmmakers from all over the world in small screening rooms or sign out a computer terminal and watch alone to your heart’s content. It takes place in the less-glamorous basement, but I call it paradise on earth for lovers of foreign films. After watching several dozen films I contacted the filmmakers (many of them travel to Cannes to promote their films, or you can e-mail them from the computer terminals) and loaded myself down with their DVD’s. The experience had planted in my mind the idea of starting my own arthouse film organization in New York City.

I live in The Bronx, the city’s northernmost borough, which suffers from a dearth of arts institutions (in 2009 it had maybe 4 movie theaters for 1.4 million people, now it only has 2) and higher levels of unemployment and poverty than the rest of the city. These deficiencies also represent opportunities, and advances in technology have made film production more accessible to people with little resources and a story to tell. The Bronx also has vast expanses of land at relatively cheap prices and low rents, so it definitely represents the future. These factors led me to base my organization here, not in super-saturated Manhattan. Furthermore, as a Central American who has always felt frustrated at our lack of visibility in this city, I decided to make Central American film the main focus of the programming, and to orient the film work toward integral human development. That is the root of the vision.

The deeper inspiration comes from my childhood, when we lived on top of King’s Hill, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, with a big backyard overlooking the whole island. Dad would invite little playmates over and screen Heckyll and Jeckyll movies for us there with one of those old-school home projectors and a popup screen. Our flagship annual Cycle program brings back some of the magic and human warmth of my childhood experience.

Tell us a bit about the selection process.
Bronx World Film has as its mission to promote all genres of art house, non-commercial and indie films – works that may be low budget but that show off novel, character-based storylines, great acting and directing and a poetic dimension –- with the aim of spurring integral human development, so that criterion leads the selection process. I still carefully handpick each and every film screened, as I have since the first year, scouring the Internet, reaching out to friends and strangers online, and now counting on a body of artists whose work I have come to trust after five years of cultivating relationships with them.

When I receive submissions, I check for the criteria that I seek as a movie-going artist. Once I find the first feature film for each Cycle, it helps set a theme for all the films I choose afterward. The selection process has always favored fiction, however this year for the first time we have a strong documentary component from Central American filmmakers. These works caught my eye because they transcend – or outright puncture -- the conventions of the genre with a strong poetic dimension that uncovers hidden realities or casts a well-known story in an unusual light.

Apart from your curated films, what else would the festival include?
For beginners, the word “festival” raises the expectation of certain conventions. Festivals generally happen once a year and involve competition and prizes, which often get awarded based on hidden agendas having little to do with the art. We brand our main event as a “Cycle” because it’s designed to spin off repeated screenings and programs in other venues and communities. When you walk in, you get greeted with a traditional Central American structure, our signature bamboo and thatch “champa,” which has morphed from a setpiece into our projectionist’s booth. Right off the bat we transport you to that Central American milieu.

All artistic forms converge in film, so the Cycle reflects that, too. Once inside, you encounter handicrafts from Central America, visual arts (now consisting of 2 exhibits, one in large format and one in small) and a lineup that intersperses live music, poetry, dance, and performance with the screenings. You get to sample Central American delicacies throughout the event and become familiar with the region’s gastronomy. We’ve created a unique platform for Central American cultural products and cottage industries. On a broader basis, while people can watch films at home and on their devices, they often can’t find many of these films anywhere, and even if they could, ultimately human beings want to be with other human beings. We create a rich cultural environment to stimulate the feel of a Central American village fair with world-class arts programming. All of that makes the Cycle a unique experience.

This is the fifth year, is it getting easier or harder?
It’s a laborious task to produce an event like this, even with a full staff and a good budget, neither of which we have, and more so in arts-saturated New York City. You have to promote exhaustively and nonstop, which means staying on top of the ever-increasing array of information technologies available nowadays, and you have to do so well in advance. As a Central American artist, you face an even harder challenge because we have no governmental or private-sector structures to support such endeavors, our communities tend to worship soccer and shy away from the arts (even when they’re free), and we also have an overall lack of social cohesiveness and respect for the arts as an instrument for development. You often find yourself working alone with very little recognition, particularly as a Honduran, and that takes a tough constitution.

On the other hand, if you stay abreast of technology and keep acquiring skills, it makes it somewhat easier to accomplish this without a large staff or a fat purse. The more experience, the easier the work to some degree, although if you wish to improve you’ll always have more work cropping up. Putting communities like ours on the map and helping bring world cinema to a broad audience, however, gives you the charge of a lifetime and makes all the struggles worthwhile and somewhat easier.

Now a bit about you, from actor to translator, how did that happen?
I came into this world with the gifts of acting and language. I started acting at around 6, and discovered my gift for translating at 13, when I traveled all over rural Honduras as an interpreter helping Baptist missionaries found churches. I’ve acted in every imaginable form of theater, played a wide range of roles and gotten to see some of the world. I’ve probably translated several thousand pages of literature, theater and poetry, and subtitled several dozen films of all lengths, all amounting to a small library. In the last 15 years I’ve branched out into legal, technical and business translation, then simultaneous interpreting for conferences and television. In 2005 I passed the test as a Federally Certified Court Interpreter, one of the highest qualifications you can receive as a linguist in the United States. This later work has helped subsidize my work as an actor and producer working in the non-commercial periphery, which I embrace because with commercial art pervading everything here in the United States and elsewhere, I fear we stand to lose our soul as a species. Nowadays my acting and language skills enhance each other, so whether I interpret for televised political debates and speeches and news programming or work on voice-over dubbing, it all works together as a single package. Needless to say, being bilingual makes my work doubly valuable in all of my fields.

You recently had to translate for Pope Francis I, what can you tell us about that experience?
Sublime and gratifying! I didn’t get to meet him or anything (some people think I did, and I don’t do anything to discourage them), however even while interpreting his voice into English from an isolated broadcast booth at ABC News in New York City, I got the sense that he’s a breath of fresh air in the Catholic Church and brings hope of breaking through certain serious obstacles that have weighed the church down for generations. As a professional, getting singled out for such a sensitive assignment represents a vindication of a lifetime of hard work at both of my professions and to judge from what others have told me, I managed to capture the strength of his personality and charisma while sounding natural and organic. That to me spells success.

Tell us something you'd like to share but that everybody has failed to ask you about.
Pretty much everything I want to share I do so through social media. I’m an open book (relatively speaking). What I often say in my writings and what my life has been about bear repeating here, in closing: you can’t have civilization and you can’t have development if you choke the arts. That rings as true for Central America at this critical time in its history as it does for The Bronx, both places that need to pay much greater attention to and invest more conscientiously in the creative voices that reside in their midst. Those voices hold the key to cultural identity and memory, which for poverty-stricken societies represents their greatest treasure.

For tickets and more information about the event, please visit 

The Black Stiletto Saga

What happens to super heroes when they grow old? I remember an interview from the late Christopher Reeve where he explained regardless of his own age, he had to play Superman as 35. Superman was perpetually thirty-five, not too young to be punk, but not old enough to be, well, old.

With the five novels of The Black Stiletto author Raymond Benson has given us a glimpse of what happens to heroes after their prime. The first novel was published in 2011 and the last one only last year. So far, I’ve read the first one and last one. Right away I can tell you that Mr. Benson did a good job of not spoiling the previous books, they are one story arc, but self-contained, which is good since I read them out of order.

The Black Stiletto is a masked vigilante that operated in New York and Los Angeles in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Think of a Batman, but without the resources. Judy Cooper is seemingly ordinary girl, tall and pretty, she’s also gifted with a marvelous sixth sense. She can feel danger looming close. Also she can tell when people are lying, pretty much like Wonder Woman, but without the lasso. She trained in boxing, martial arts, and of course she’s most proficient with a knife. (You can substitute “proficient” with “deadly” and that sentence would still hold true.)

The novels occur in two time lines, one in the present day through the eyes of her son and granddaughter, and one in the past in the form of diaries that Judy Cooper filled with her thoughts and escapades.
In the present day Judy Cooper, now Talbot, lives in a home for the elderly and she suffers from Alzheimer’s. As I have relatives suffering from the same illness, I can attest to the novels accurate depiction. It is a heart-breaking disease and it can bring a grown man to tears. The dual time-line is a neat but complicated trick, and the author handles it pretty well.

What I enjoy about the story is the simpler times from days long gone. For example, in one occasion she shed some blood during a fight, but she was unconcerned later as the police could, at most, type her blood but nothing else. Yes, those were the days before DNA tests and caller ID’s so she could phone the police from wherever she felt without compromising her secrets.

Without his knowledge, I think the author may have started a trend, or at least he was ahead of it. In the past few years we have seen aging Rocky / Rambo, an Indiana Jones with a grown-up son, and even a white-haired Terminator.

Although the saga is completed in its novel form, a deal for a TV series was recently announced. The project is attached to Milla Kunis and her production company Orchard Farm Prods.; so we have Black Stiletto for a while longer.

Oh, and Mr. Benson, if you happen to be reading this, I bet you a drink at the next convention where we coincide that the piece Eric Draper was listening to was Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.


Despite the bad reviews that have surfaced lately, I still took the family to see the new James Bond movie. How could I not? I’ve been a fan for the most part of my 43 years. When I was in my teens during the 80s, I was able to see all of the James Bond films from the 60s and 70s. For some reason I can’t recall, the producers saw fit to issue a theater release of them. At a pace of one per month, it took me over a year to catch up. But I consider myself privileged to have experienced all of them in a movie theater, as they were meant to be seen.

I believe every fan grows fond of the first Bond they meet. For me, it was Roger Moore, whom I even met personally when he visited Honduras as a Unicef ambassador. My kids have a soft spot for Pierce Brosnan. However, we all agree that Daniel Craig did a good job of shedding 40 years of patterns and customs with the new beginning that was Casino Royale. That was until now.

So it is safe to say we enjoy the films—all of them, even the maligned Quantum of Solace. Spectre has garnered some bad rep, and yet it is the first movie from Craig that has all the classic elements of a Bond film: the walk down the barrel, the pre-credits sequence, the gadgets, the women, the cars, the unique henchman, and the megalomaniac antagonist with contrived ways of killing 007. Don’t fool yourself, Spectre has it all. In fact, the movie has so many references to previous ones that this should have been the anniversary feature instead of Skyfall.

I think people are put off because we have grown accustomed to a different kind of Bond movie. Daniel Craig’s previous entries have set us up to expect a sober, gadget-free agent, one that is almost too real. So now that we get this throwback action flick which evokes its predecessors it is bad-mouthed. Spectre may not a perfect movie, but I consider it's a good Bond movie if you judge it by the average of 20+ films standards and not just the last three.

Douglas Preston and Lincold Child discuss about Crimson Shore

This month The Big Thrill released my interview of the authors Preston and Child. We had a nice chat about their newest book with protagonist Agent Pendergast.
We also discussed about their method of writing and if it had changed over the years, and of course, as a Honduran myself, I had to ask about the recent descovery that Mr. Preston participated with National Geographic.

Here it is:

2015 Thriller Award Winners.

I share this news basically for two reasons: one that I really really wanted to be present but couldn't make the trip to NYC. And the second, or perhaps the first one if I wanted so damn self-centered (:-) ), is that I coordinated a group of terrific authors/ITW members as a panel for the Best Paperback Original novel. It was an honor and quite a privilege to read so many wonderful novels.

They winners are:


Megan Abbott – THE FEVER (Little, Brown and Company)


Laura McHugh – THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (Spiegel & Grau)


Vincent Zandri – MOONLIGHT WEEPS (Down & Out Books)


Tim L. Williams – “The Last Wrestling Bear in West Kentucky” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)


Elle Cosimano – NEARLY GONE (Kathy Dawson Books)


C.J. Lyons – HARD FALL (Legacy Books)