Thursday, January 12, 2017

First of the Year: "Willnot" by James Sallis

First of the Year: Willnot by James Sallis, 2016, 9781632864529.

Lamar Hill is a small town doctor/surgeon dealing with the daily health ills of his patients in Willnot. The novel begins with Lamar responding to a mass grave outside of town that holds several bodies. Former child patient and now Marine sniper Bobby appears and acts mysteriously. A FBI Agent and a reporter show up separately and ask the doctor about the former patient.

Bobby gets shot with a .22 and tells Lamar that, "an old friend was saying 'hi'." Bobby slips away from the hospital and travels in and out of town of Willnot and the surrounding woods without being spotted.

Lamar treats heart attacks and removes appendices. Lamar's teacher  husband Richard worries over one of his students with lots of intelligence and a tough home life. Plenty of things happen but the action barely involves Lamar. He is just living his life, working a lot, and only slightly wondering what is going on with Bobby and the FBI.

Lamar ponders on life and death. He reminisces on his famous scifi writer father who died several years ago. He hardly ever talks about his mother and sister and Richard calls him on it - I'm left wondering about that with only a couple clues to make me make wild guesses.

The plot is like taking a mystery or thriller novel and only focusing on the secondary characters like Lamar. Hell, the plot does not matter. Lamar is just a local dude dedicated to his work and possessing a strong moral and ethical center. This is what I'll call an experience novel: you follow the character around and learn about the guy, his life and the small city he lives in.

I suppose this could be a literary novel. There is a small bit of action towards the end. That's about it.

Comic Book Novel: "The Black Beetle in 'No Way Out'" Francesco Francavilla

Comic Book Novel: The Black Beetle in 'No Way Out"; a mystery tale, 2013, 9781616552022.

Compilation of retro style pulp comic featuring a costumed and gun toting vigilante hero. Two separate story lines here. The first one has The Black Beetle in 1939 intercepting a trio of nazi commandos trying to steal an ancient Egyptian relic from the Colt City museum.

The second story has Black Beetle looking to bust a meeting of Colt City mob leaders when the restaurant meeting place explodes. The Black Beetle later runs into a costumed bad guy, Labyrinto. Black Beetle investigates, gets in fist fights, gets in gun fights, escapes death by rat, drives a fast car, and ultimately perseveres. A possible love interest is implied at the end.

Nothing too original in the stories. This is a straightforward "good guy versus bad guys" stuff. I am a sucker for the late '30s setting. I enjoyed the artwork more than the story. I liked both the art style and the perspective.

There are several other Francavilla titles in the library catalog but this is the only Black Beetle one.

1. I will not capitalize nazi.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Heard: "Star Wars: aftermath" by Chuck Wendig

Heard: Star Wars: aftermath by Chuck Wendig, 2015, Overdrive download.

I bought Wendig's The Kick-Ass Writer for work and that thing has circ'ed 18 times. That is a lot of checkouts for a writer's guide.

This has a very enthusiastic narration by Marc Thompson. Thompson also has voiced some characters in a way that reminded me of other actors and characters. Including:

Eugen H. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants.
Patrick Warburton aka Puddy from Seinfeld.
Jimmy Stewart
Father Guido Sarducci. (Ha, just kidding.)

I've heard several Star Wars novels and I wonder if the Star Wars tie-in novel writing guidebook must require multiple planet settings and multiple character lines and points of view. Frequent POV changes must also be required. Same with flashbacks.

This story is set right after the second Death Star was blown up.

Norra is a rebel pilot who just fought in the battle against the second Death Star. She has returned to her home planet of Akiva to collect her son. She left her son in the care of her sister about 4 years ago and is both excited and apprehensive about seeing her 15-year-old.

Temmin is Norra's son. He left his aunt's care a while ago and runs his own shop on Akiva. He is a technical genius and very agnry with his mother. Temmin figures Norra abandoned him - which she mostly did - as she galavanted around with the rebellion. Temmin has no desire to follow Norra's plan to leave Akiva for another planet. He has a droid he named Bones, a former B1 battle droid, and turned into his Temmin's own bodyguard.

Sinjir is a former loyalty officer with the Empire. Sinjir was like a political commissar from the Red Army. He had to snoot out crooks, subversives, and general troublemakers. After the second Death Star exploded he abandoned the Empire and has been hiding out on small planets like Akiva.

Bounty hunter Jas Amari used to hunt down Rebellion/Alliance leaders for the bounty offered by the Empire. Now she does the opposite and while surveilling her target on Akiva recognizes several high-level Empire leaders meeting together. She hopes to catch several at once and score a big payday.

Admiral Rae Sloane is loyal to the Empire and meeting with the several high-level officers to plan for the future now that the Emperor and Darth Vader are dead. She is ambitious and ruthless.

Wedge Antilles was on a scouting mission at Akiva when his small ship was captured by Admiral Rae's cruiser. Wedge is held captive on the planet and undergoing interrogation.

Anyway. Things happen as Temmin and her son clash. Sinjir avoids capture by the Imperials. Jas teams up with Sinjir. Jas, Sinjir, Temmin and Norra team up together.

There are several "Interludes" - introduced as such - at several different points and on other planets. Naboo, Coruscant, Cloud City. With Han Solo, Chewbacca, Admiral Fish-Fishy Fish, others.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last of the Year: "Ridgerunners" by Rusty Barnes

Last of the Year: Ridgerunners by Rusty Barnes, 2016, 9788293326861.

Short and sharp. A style of rural noir similar to Woodrell and Sallis. Hardscrabble life and crime lived in trailers, driven by pick-ups, and shopped at WalMart. I think Anthony Neil Smith recommended this one. I enjoyed the book.

Matt Rider is a part time game warden in Eastern Pennsylvania. He's out on a weekend job trying to catch a couple local no-goodniks from the Pittman family. The Pittman are a low end crime family of dealers and thieves and headed by eldest sibling Soldier. Rider finds two of them near an old house, walks over, gets shot at, runs, falls through a rotted wooden cover into a abandoned well.

Rider is stuck in several inches of water and too injured to climb out. While in the well Matt fires his pistol as a rescue warning and discovers a coffee can sealed in tape. Matt is in too much pain to mess with the can and passes out instead. Rider awakes as the EMTs and a local pal pull him out of the well. Then the trouble starts.

Rider does not consider himself a 'real cop' but he was shot in the line of duty and there is a manhunt across PA and NY states for Soldier and [Other Guy] Pittman. Matt is ticked off and wants to help search but the Pittman's are after him.  Someone cuts his dog's throat, slices his tires and fires shots. Matt's agoraphobic and depressed wife goes to stay with a friend. Matt's 19-year-old daughter left college and went to Florida with a new boyfriend. The new boyfriend is a Pittman.

More trouble happens as Rider and his brother gradually face off with the Pittman's over a slow burn of 75 pages of minor trouble. People are killed. Money is demanded. Barnes does not give flowery descriptions of sunsets or the grit of common country 'folk'.

1. This is the only Barnes book in the library system.
2. I finished this on Dec. 31st and will backdate this post - typed up on January 4 - so I can keep track of how many books I was able to finish last year.
3. Gun love.
4. Gratuitous dog love.
5. Oxycontin poppin' pain relief.
6. I forgot about this: Matt starts carrying a .17 caliber pocket pistol. What the hell is a .17? I very much doubt Barnes meant a .17HMR.
6.A. This is the second novel I recently read where someone has a .17. Is this a copy editing error? Is it a caliber I am completely clueless about?
6.B. The OAL of the HMR is 1.349 inches according to an online source and that's kinda a long for a pocket auto. SAAMI lists the 9mm as a max length of 1.169. The SAAMI max length for for .45ACP is 1.275.
7. I think the important question here is: why am I spending so much time thinking about this?
8. Answer: Because I am.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ebook version: "The Sweet Ride" by Richard S. Prather

Ebook version: The Sweet Ride by Richard S. Prather, 1972. I did not look up the electronic or various print ISBNs.

#38 of the Shell Scott mysteries. Shell gets a late night call from a Mayor in Northern California asking Shell to help investigate municipal corruption and local crime. Shell was recommended by aof past acquaintance.The Mayor has a hot lead on an informant to a murder committed by the Local Crime Lord and needs Shell's help.  Shell agrees to the job and flies out a few hours later.

Shell gets to the boom town of SomethingOrOther north of San Francisco and meets The Mayor. The Mayor seems a little odd and says the case is over. The Mayor says the informant is a drunk and the info bunkum. Shell says, "OK, I'll chat with the informant and head back to Los Angeles." Shell sees the informant but heads back to the The Mayor's house to chat. On the ride back from The Mayor's house Shell is run off the road by a semi.

Shell survives and is not pleased (that someone tried to kill him). He meets with local bigwigs allied with The Mayor. They have not seen The Mayor. More things happen:
Shell discovers he was hoodwinked.
Angst free Shell cracks wise.
Shell comically tries to find out why the last guy who investigated Local Crime Lord was killed.
Shell goes googly eyed for curvy women.
Shell has physical hijinks and violence.
Shell cheats death.
Shell lustily inspects a night club's nude waitresses.
Shell has the sexy sex sex with another curvy gal.

1. I read a Shell Scott description that the novels got progressively wackier as time went on. I've only read/listened to one other so I do not know how this compares.
2. I downloaded three or four Scott novels after Christa Faust mentioned online that the books were free on Amazon.
3. I enjoyed this book quite a bit.
4. I finished this in 2016 so I am backdating the post. I'm writing this January 3, 2017

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Short: "The Outlaw Album" by Daniel Woodrell

Short: The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell, 2011, 9780316057561.

Twelve more stories about the lives of poor people in the Ozarks. There are a couple super creepy ones in here. Uncle has the narrator's rapist uncle who preyed on the female boaters of a nearby river.

Woodrell writes about the same stuff as usual. The rural and wooded areas of southern Missouri with extensive and complicated family relationships. Grudges are remembered. People don't talk to the police.

The economy struggles. In some ways things are not dissimilar to the area's frontier founding. Farms and families can be isolated in the mountains and current day violence is not much different from the marauding murderers during the Civil War. There is a split between North and South, rich and poor, rural and city. Those splits are not amicable.

Photography Book: "Dickey Chapelle Under Fire"

Photography Book: Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: photographs by the first American female war correspondent killed in action by John Garofolo, 2015, 9780870207181

I don't recall how I first heard of Chapelle. Maybe she was written about in Dispatches by Michael Herr. Maybe I saw her in another Vietnam history. Maybe I read a mention as part of Wisconsin history. Anyway.

Chapelle grew up in the Milwaukee suburbs and was fascinated with airplanes. She earned a scholarship to MIT but spent so much time at the local air fields of the Coast Guard and Army that she flunked out. Chapelle went to Florida to live with an aunt and started working as a journalist. She was hired to write copy for an airliner based in NYC and met he future husband when taking a photography class.

During the war Chapelle gained journalist credentials and worked stateside and the Pacific. She lost her credentials after sneaking onto Okinawa and she and her husband traveled around the world on assignments. They did a lot of photography for humanitarian charities.

After her 1953 divorce Chapelle continued to work overseas and visited numerous war zones including the Hugarian uprising and Cuba. She went to Vietnam in 1961. One of her most important photos was won Photograph of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association. That photo "was the first published photography proving that US advisors were actively engaging in combat operations."

Chappelle also wrote an autobio about her career, 1962's What's a Woman Doing Here?, that did so-so Chappelle had to take a woman's lower pay for many assignments and she kept taking assignments to Vietnam - which makes it sound like she was killed by sexism.

I suppose you can have some traction in making a "death by sexism" argument since her career chances would have been limited. But, she was a combat photographer and died from a booby trap in 1965. The buried explosives injured several Marines and cut her carotid and she bled out in a field.

1. Dang. I just discovered that Michael Herr died this past June. I don't think I heard that.
2. This is a WI Historical Society Press item I bought for work.