Thursday, August 18, 2016

Completed: "U.S. World War Two Amphibious Tactics" by Gordon L. Rottman

Completed: U.S. World War Two Amphibious Tactics: Mediterranean and European Theaters by Gordon L. Rottman, 2006, 9781841769547.

Another Osprey war history and only 64 pages. Kinda neat but to read through but even at 64 pages there were some boring parts where the author lists and discusses the table of organization for all the navy and army units.

This book focuses more on the different landing ships used during the war. The changing designs for size, position of controls or ramps or defensive guns. How the newer ships were designed to be stacked for overseas storage.  The differing boat needs between the Pacific and European campaigns.

There is small portion discussing how and what troops were sent ashore and when. Riflemen, machine guns, mortar men. Units had to be split up among several smaller landing craft and organized to fight on their own on the beach.

Also touches on the vital need of offloading supplies. Building floating piers. Transitioning vehicles from boat to land. Making vehicle paths across sand and headlands. Dealing with the tides.

I enjoyed the illustrations and photographs.

Heard a bit ago: "Paperboy" by Pete Dexter

Heard a bit ago: Paperboy by Pete Dexter, 1995, Overdrive.com download.

Dang. I got all confused, I was thinking Pete Hamill wrote this novel. An odd thing to think when I was recalling some of Dexter's Paris Trout as I listened to this novel.

Anyhoo.

Short: 20-year-old college U of Florida dropout is driving a delivery truck for his small town newspaper owning father. Dropout's brother reports for the Miami Herald and comes to town to investigate the arrest, trial and conviction of a local no goodnick convicted of murdering the local sheriff. Dropout is hired to help out and many things happen. This was a good book.

Long: It's the late 1960s and Jack James is driftless after getting kicked off the Gator swim team and expelled for emptying the team pool. Jack has been getting up at 4AM each morning to deliver the daily papers around Moat County, FL for his father, WW, who owns the paper.  Jack has looked up to his older brother, Ward, who is now a star reporter in Miami. Ward lost his license in a DUI and he hires Jack to drive Ward and Ward's writing partner, Yardley, around Moat County.

Moat County county is rural with small cities and plenty of swamp. Rocking the boat by questioning the local police and court authorities is a risk but Ward does not care. Ward's only life is work. He is a research and interview fiend. Ward is naturally withdrawn and quiet but he does not back down; he'll stake out the Sheriff's office for a week until he gets an answer. Ward is a reporter.

Yardely is a entitled douchebag in love with himself and looking to climb the ladders at work and society. He considers himself writer. An auteur. A artist. He regularly cheats on his fiancee and starts drinking at 10AM. He's no reporter, he is a journalist.

Things happen as Ward and Yardley investigate the death row case of Hillary. Hillary's court case was a sham with poor legal representation missing evidence, not attempt to contact witnesses and corroborate alibi. But, Charlotte is a 40-year-old mail clerk from New Orleans who regularly exchanged letters with several death row inmates. (Yeah, she's got a problem.) Charlotte is now in love and engaged to Hillary and convinces Ward and Yardley to look into the case.

Hillary himself is a very scary dude. He is exudes menace and the reporters prison visits are tense. Hillary does not care about an appeal. To him Ward and Yardley are effeminate, soft handed, paperboys. Hillary just wants to stare at Charlotte during their visits. Hillary wants Charlotte to wear dresses. To cross her legs, To lick her lips. During the first visit Hillary orgasms inside his pants in front of all four visitors.

More things happen with family dynamics of Jack, his father and Ward. Charlotte and Yardley carrying on. Longtime single WW taking up with a younger employee. Jack not knowing how to relate or talk to women and his frustrated sexual needs. The 1960s newspaper business and WW's loss of ad revenue. Daily and weekly newspapers were everywhere. Papers looked for front page scoops and WW's Moat County paper has financial trouble from withdrawing advertisers after Hillary is released from prison.

The newspaper business is an integral part of the story. The importance of investigative journalism. The importance of personal integrity by the reporter. Publishers who adhere to the story no matter who is hurt - even Jack when he has a short, nationwide byline after a jellyfish poisoning.

Comments:
1. For years the local paper's publisher was good pals with a local manufacturer. The manufacturer seems to have quite a history as a polluter. I wonder what stories never made the paper because of that relationship.
2. Creepy swamp trash families and brutality.
3. This is the third novel I where someone has eye damage or eye loss. City of Heretics has the protagonist slashed across the face and over the eye. 361 has the protagonist lose an eye. Paperboy has Ward lose in eye in a vicious beating.

Heard: "Girl Walks Into A Bar" by Rachel Dratsch

Heard: Girl Walks Into A Bar by Rachel Dratsch, 2012, Overdrive.com donwload.

Standard celebrity autobio and very well narrated by Dratsch. I don't much care for biographies in general and care even less about celebrity books. (Excluding Norm MacDonald's forthcoming book and Jenna Jameson's book on her bizarrely fascinating as a porn actress.) But, I always thought Dratsch was funny and enjoyed her sketches on SNL.

Dratsch follows the standard story line of family life, pre-professional entertainment background, friends and funny stories, and entertainment career. The meat of the story is Dratch's unusual family situation. Over 40 Dratsch ends up "casually" dating a wine importer living in Northern California. Dratsch still lives in New York and they travel to meet one another. Dratsch has a surprise pregnancy. But, the two of them are not close enough to marry. CA Guy is a good dude though and moves to New York and gets his own apartment to be with his upcoming son. The book ends with the two on very good terms and seemingly still in a romantic relationship. Dratsch does not go into too much detail there.

Anyhoo. How does an actress spend seven years on Saturday Night Live and then mostly disappear from entertainment? She hits 40.  Dratsch wrote this shortly after her well publicized firing from 30 Rock and, at the time at least, the only acting roles she was offered were overweight-lesbian-secretary-best friends. I wonder if that is also what happened with Cheri Oteri. She, too, was a heck of a good comedic actress.

One of Dratsch's detriments is that she is not tall, blond, and thin. As Dratsch says, you would see her on the street and see a regular person. But, producers see Dratsch and mark her as a hag. It's very weird and Dratsch tells of her difficulty in not taking personal insult by Hollywood's Bizarro World.

This book had quite a few laugh out loud moments for me.

Comments:
1. Lorne Michaels as the aloof guru. No one seems to actually know the guy. They just take orders and hope for the best.
2. I don't think I ever heard of Bizarro World until that Seinfeld episode.
3. I sent a Tweet to Dratsch telling her I enjoyed the book and she liked the Tweet. I feel an odd sense of approval when a author "likes" something or responds to my online comments. I do admit to being a bit of a suck-up though.
4. Except Neil Smith. Screw that guy.
5. Just kidding. I like Smith, he's a good dude.
EDIT:
6. Re: Lorne Michaels. I was just reading a Washington Post profile of Norm MacDonald. The writer includes several text messages he and Norm exchanged. There is this comment by Norm regarding Lorne Michaels.
As concerns Lorne, all the things said about him don't interest me and I think miss where the success of Lorne lies. He is one of the funniest people ever. And he has better taste in comedy than anyone. The latter is obvious. But the most interesting thing about Lorne Michaels to me is that when I am with him, I always find myself genuinely laughing. When people think of the funniest people to ever be at SNL, they overlook Lorne, whose right there fighting for top spot.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Completed: "Gestapo Mars" by Victor Gischler

Completed: Gestapo Mars by Victor Gischler, 2015, 9781783297351.

Space opera with nazis. I know this is an over the top version of a 1950s science fiction novel but I tend to take things too literally. I am very gullible. And I don't always recognize over the top situations in writing. So, I was left wondering, "What the hell? Why choose space nazis for the book?" Especially since there is nothing particularly nazi-like about the future space nazis. The only connections are the fascist salute, some spaceship names, and the swastika.

Anyhoo. Carter Sloan awakes from suspended sleep after 200+ years. Super-special-secret-deadly-agent Sloan is brought awake for a new mission but the facility he is in is attacked and Sloan himself is captured by rebels. Sloan bounces back and forth between a rebel group and the nazis who run most of the universe. He is alternately assigned to kill or capture a woman behind the rebellion.

Sloan is indoctrinated to obey orders and finish any assigned  mission. He cannot easily follow his own wishes or desires. Things happen with sex, violence, space ships, gelatinous aliens, destroyed planets, faster than light travel, super sexy women, etc.

I enjoyed the book.

Comments: 

  1. I suppose I do recognize the silliness of much of the book - Gischler excels at silly insertions (yeah, twist that however you like) - but I hate nazis.
  2. Of course I enjoy most everything Gischler writes. The man has abundant skill and talent. I even read those endless Tweets about how much he misses Disneyland. 
    • Or those endless Tweets about how much he wants wine in his mouth. 
    • Or those endless Tweets about grilling. 
    • Or cleaning the kitchen. 
    • Or waiting for producers and publishers to return calls about work.
  3. Gischler finished his fantasy trilogy if you're looking for some swords and sorcery stuff. I bought series for my library.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Heard: "361" by Donald E. Westlake

Heard: 361 by Donald E. Westlake, 2005 (Hard Case Crime edition), 978-0857683038.

Hard Case Crime reprint. Back in May I read Deadly Honeymoon by Lawrence Block. Block used a story idea by Westlake. This feels very similar. Two people with no criminal background are out for revenge.

Ray Kelly is back from three years in Germany with the Air Force. He is freshly mustered out and meeting his father in New York City before they head northwest their home in Binghampton. Ray's dad is reluctant to hit the town but they have a grand time. The next Ray's attorney father is driving home in the Chrysler when another car pulls alongside and the passenger starts shooting. Ray's father falls dead over into Ray's lap right before their car hits a roadside piling.

A month later Ray wakes up in the hospital less one eye and with a badly injured ankle. Ray's father is dead and Ray's older brother Red Head breaks the news that Red Head's wife is also dead - she was walking on the sidewalk when a car jumped the curb, ran her over, and the car kept going.  Ray knows something is up. Ray wants revenge: for his eye, for his dead father, for the sister-in-law he never met, for the half-orphaned niece he never met.

Ray and Red Head pull some money from the bank and head back to NYC. The start searching and hunting and discover their father was a mob lawyer in the '30s. He left NYC for Binghampton in 1940. 1940 was also the time Ray Cap was convicted of tax fraud and sent away. Well, Cap is due for release and Ray and Red figure Cap is behind things.

Anyhoo. Ray narrates the whole tale and it is a humdinger. Plenty of angst and anger and confusion. Ray wonders what he is doing, what he should be doing after his life was destroyed. Ray has more drive than his older brother Red Head and Ray takes the leadership role.

Everything lives happily ever after - excluding many several dead people, a con game, a mob war, an a alcoholic breakdown.

Done: "City of Heretics" by Heath Lowrance

Done: City of Heretics by Heath Lowrance, 2012, 9781484022962.

I collected about 30 books before going to Scout Camp for the week. I winnowed those titles down to about 20. This novel did not make the cut. Lowrance was in some discussion on the facebook and I remembered I had his book sitting in my house. So I read it.

I was disappointed at first. This starts as standard crime stuff with an ex-con pushing 50 and out for revenge. But, Lowrance was telling the story well and I stayed with it. Then the plot veered into conspiracy and crazy church people and I started digging it.

Crowe has finished his 7 year prison term and is almost 50 years old. He is back in Memphis and looking to kill a his former best pal and the local crime lord who sent a hit man after Crowe in prison. But, Crowe has to get his feet back under him. When Crime Lord offers Crowe a job Crowe takes it to take the money. The job? Crime Lord wants Crowe to kill the serial killer responsible for the murder of Crime Lord's wife. Or, even better, break Serial Killer out of jail so Crime Lord can kill Serial Killer.

Things take a another turn when mysterious and dangerous dudes ambush Serial Killer's prison transfer and shoot up Crowe at the same time. Crowe hunts for the bad guys, plans to kill Crime Lord, sees plenty of meanness and cruelty, so on, so forth.

I enjoyed it. The book is worth your time if you like very anti anti-heroes. Crowe is a dick. He is not sociopath but other people just don't matter to him.  Before prison Crowe was a goon for the Memphis mob. He ended up in prison because one of his usual beat-people-to-hell jobs went over the top and someone died. That's not even including Crowe's occasional murders for hire.

Edit:
1. Oh. Hey, I just looked up Lowrance's other books and realized I have Axeman of Storyville on my Kindle. I have not read the novel yet, I picked it up when it was a daily deal.

Short: "Into the Valley" by John Hersey

Short: Into the Valley by John Hersey, 1943? (a reprint from 1980 or so, and the book is not at hand).

I weeded this from the library collection within the last couple years. I set the book aside to read later and brought it to Scout Camp. Hersey wrote this after working as a war correspondent for Time/Life in the Pacific.


Hersey was eager to see combat and joined a Marine weapons company on Guadalcanal. The weapons company was involved in an advance against the Japanese. After crossing through mountain terrain and criss-crossing a meandering river the company was caught by Japanese snipers and machine guns in a narrow valley. The unit retreated with several casualties. Hersey was with the unit the whole time and was injured himself with broken ribs.

Hersey was sent back to the U.S. to recuperate, visited the New York family of the weapons company commander, and wrote this piece for his magazine.

This brief at about 120 pages and a good read. Hersey's introduction explaining the background of the story is almost as long as the article itself.

Anyhoo. It's Hersey's view of combat and his discussions with the Marines on the ground. Hersey's intro suggest that one Marines response of "apple pie" to the question "What are you fighting for?" started the modern saying. Hersey's question made the men think of what they missed from home. There plenty of other answers by the Marines - many of them written down by Hersey - but the apple pie quote stuck.

The story is also a reminder of how so many of battles, gunfights, shellings, and skirmishes are forgotten or never known. The attack Hersey witnessed was a failure. The weapons company was maneuvering around with several other companies against the Japanese and nothing came of their action. Most of the Marines - and Hersey - never saw the Japanese who were trying to kill them.

Heck, Hersey repeats what you'll read in so many other places: the terrain, weather, and disease were more dangerous than the Japanese.

Comments:
1. Hersey mentions that this piece had a lasting impact - and repeated repubbing - because it was a predecessor of New Journalism.
2. Ugh. I am not feeling well. I wish I could go to bed.