Thursday, April 20, 2017

Finally Heard: "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn

Finally Heard: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 2012, download.

I read Flynn's first two books and enjoyed them. I especially liked the Kansas one, Dark Places, and emailed her saying as much. At that time she had not published Gone Girl and had the time to actually respond to fan mail.

I enjoyed this book too but do not quite understand the massive popularity and success it achieved. The book certainly hit the zeitgest though and left us with girl this and girl that. I mentioned to my wife I was finally listening to this and she said the hated the novel. She was specific in saying the actually hated the book because she did not find any of the characters likeable.

Crime novelists have discussed the topic of likeability plenty of times and how those unlikeable people can be one of the points of a story. Well, tell my wife that and she'll let you know her opinion. She also disliked Dark Places because Flynn wrote about Salina's suburbs. Salina has no suburbs. I was more willing to go along with Flynn's artistic license.

Anyhoo. Spoilers await.

Nick and Amy live in fictional North Carthage, MO along the Mississippi and not far from Hannibal. Nick is a native of Carthage and met New Yorker Amy when he was a journalist in NYC. They married and after they both lost their writing jobs they moved back to MO to assist with Nick's cancer stricken mother and Alzheimer's father.

One morning Amy disappears. The house has signs of a struggle. Nick calls the police. Amy is a Pretty Blond In Danger and hits the news. [I mentioned to my wife the other day that if anything happened to her at least she'd fall in that category and hit the news. She did not appreciate that observation.] Nick gets sympathy and help but falls under suspicion of the police.

The story is told through the journal entries of both characters. Bother characters are selfish. Both characters are lying. Halfway through Flynn has a big reveal that Amy's diary entries in the first half of the novel were all faked. Amy spent a year setting up Nick for a murder wrap. x

Amy's entries paint Nick as a woman hating jerk. A baby hating jerk. An abusive jerk. A jerky jerk. Nick, on the other side, admits to us he lied several times to the police. Nick has been stepping out on Amy with another woman for a year now. He has paid little attention to Amy - a nutbag sociopath. Amy tightly strings Nick up with clues and evidence and Nick is arrested. Amy returns home only when she runs out of money and the old friend she relied on turns out to be a good back-up plan. That back-up plan lets Amy set up the friend as a bad guy kidnapper to take the fall for a fake abduction.

Things happen and you wonder if Amy will get away with things or if Nick will be declared the innocent victim of a vindictive nut. The real fun is in Flynn using the characters to cover so many different topics of family, marriage, hate and revenge, sex roles, sociopathy, and sexism. Amy writes about things I never realized - even minor facts like how women despise the word "panties". Good, I don't like the word either.

I think the novel dragged things out for too long but Flynn wrote a good ending. She has murderous Amy pregnant and Nick forced to stay with her or Amy will abort the child.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Comic Novel: "The Fade Out: Act Three" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Comic Novel: The Fade Out: Act Three by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2016, 9781632156297.

Third and last compilation of the Hollywood murder mystery set in the 1950s.

Screenwriter Charlie and his secret writing partner Gil still want to know who killed starlet Valeria. Charlie was secretly shtupping Valeria and woke up in a bungalo to a hang over and a Valeria's dead body.

More things happen and you'll want to read the first two entries. You could still read this by itself I suppose. That is up to you.

Anyhoo. Gil has been trying to stir the pot with studio security and he and Charlie team up. They find photo evidence that the old studio boss was not only running a casting couch but also running a pedophile rape couch. Charlie has a couple women after him but is still a mess after his war experience. Gill is still a impulsive drunk. The security chief is a goon with a goon squad. The FBI is on a red hunt. The studio wants more money and everything that gets in the way - including dead bodies - gets swept under or out.

1. I like this artwork. I enjoy the art style and some of the panels have really neat perspectives.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Long: "Little Heaven" by Nick Cutter

Long: Little Heaven by Nick Cutter (Craig Davidson), 2017, 9781501104213.

Man, this was a long book for me. 486 pages. Set in 1965 and 1980. 1965 has a trio of hired killers in a loose alliance working various robbery and burglary jobs in the Southwest.

One-eyed Micah is a heartless hitman and Korean War vet. Minerva is an orphan and bounty hunter but gets nervous in gunfights. Ebenezer is English and also a Korean War vet.

1965: Micah is approached by the sister of a woman he used to run with. The sister, Ellen, offers to pay Micah to help Ellen find her young nephew and ex-brother-in-law who joined a remote religious camp in New Mexico. Micah is not a kind man but he likes Ellen and has nothing else going on. Minerva and Ebenezer tag along.

1980: Micah's young daughter is kidnapped by a tall, gangly monster. Micah knows who took the girl and that the reason for the abduction traces back to 1965. Micah finds Minerva and Ebenezer to help out.

Micah and Co. went to the forest camp in 1965 and discovered a Jim Jones style preacher who brought his church from San Francisco. The preacher, Flesher, is a rotten guy who only wants money and power. Micah and Co.'s travel to the camp includes surviving an attack by monsters in the woods. They arrive and are sheltered by the camp but are considered 'outsiders' and untrustworthy.

The camp is in an uproar after a young boy goes missing. A massive search does not find the boy and then the boy's parents also go missing while searching the forest. Flesher the Preacher refuses to go down the mountain to ask for police assistance.

Other things happen. It's basically a monster story with an evil entity at the core. We spend a lot of time with each member of Micah and Co.'s group and I enjoyed learning about those people.

Of the three Cutter penned horror novels I think I enjoyed The Troop the most. All three are decent books but this novel was too long for my taste.

DNF: "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea" by Yukio Mishima.

DNF: The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima, John Nathan translation, 1965, 1993, 9780679750154.

I first learned of Yukio Mishima back when I studied the annual Roger Ebert guides and read his reviews. I watched the film Ebert reviewed, Mishima, but I was probably about 16-17-years-old and not too interested in the flick.

I recently read a couple articles and on Mishima and his work. Mishima's story is fascinating: accomplished novelist and playwrite, actor, and all around super celebrity of 1960s Japan. He was also a nut and tried overthrow the Japanese government and committed ritual suicide after the spectacular failure.

Anyhoo, I figured I'd try out one of Mishima's books and this came recommended by the article. I never got into it because, mainly, I had a stack of other stuff to read. I also was not in the mood for a more reflective and philosophical book. I've had this way too long and will send it back to Mukwonago P.L.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Heard: "Silkworm" by Robert Galbraith

Heard: Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), 2014, download.

Another long one by Rowling. Second in the Cormoran Strike series. According to the internets this is being adapted by BBC television.

Short: a novel about the London publishing world.

Long: Cormoran Strike is sleep-deprived and angry at an entitled client when he decides to accept a missing person case. A wife asks him to find her missing author husband. Cormoran starts sleuthing among the man's agent, publisher, editor, not-so-secret girlfriend and others.

Missing Author had just written roman a clef featuring many people in publishing plus several of Missing Author's friends and former friends. [I'd like to point out that I remembered what a roman a clef is all on my own.] Cormoran finds Missing Author in a half-abandoned house dead and gutted like a turkey.  Things get interesting.

Rowling has us following Comoran and, to a lesser extent, his assistant Robin. Comoran is not a particularly complex person, but he does get grouchy. He was raised by an itinerant mother and has only once met his famous musician father. Half a leg was lost to an IED in Afghanistan and he abhors the attention that the injury sometimes brings him.

Cormoran's amputation is always there but Rowling does not delve deeper into how that effects Coromoran until later in the book.  We're left to infer Strike's issues. He hates missing the leg, getting sympathy or pity.  He also hates having to adjust his physical efforts when the stump is overworked and brings sharp pain.He often times refuses to even talk about the leg.

The mystery tale is okay. This is more of a procedural with several suspects and Cormoran announcing the killer in a final confrontation. Most of the time is spent interviewing the suspects, meeting some of Cormoran's long time friends and relatives, and finding out how Robin's relationship with her fiancee seems like co-dependent trouble. Never mind the lingering love/obsession between Strike and his former long term girlfriend.

1. I won't say the novel is great but Rowling is a heck of a story teller and kept me interested the whole way. The characters do not always ring true at times but I still enjoy the visit.
2. What's with introducing each chapter with quotes by another author? Who was the first novelist to do that? I used to think having quotes was neat. Now I think introducing quotes are lame-ass. That's right, I just wrote that J.K. Rowling is doing lame-ass things. So there.
3. I did ponder looking up some of the books she quoted. I won't.
4. The narration is uneven. I was annoyed by the little emotion in one scene of  dialogue but then thought he was better. I think the narrator does better with the male characters. There is a dinner scene in a men's club where a drunken editor answers his mobile. His wife is on the line and he yells, "I drink because I'm fucking married to you!" The narrator's reading of that part made me sit up straight and my eyes went wide same as if I had been there in person.
5. A lot of time spent wondering what and what real people Rowling may be complaining about. Other talk that I assume is part of Rowling's meteoric rise in publishing. Needing a thick skin for reviews. Nepotism in the industry - going as far to publish a spouse's novel even if the novel is crap. Drunken editors. Backstabbing authors.
6. How can a rise be meteoric when meteors fall to earth.

DNF: Doctor Who: The Macra Terror" by BBC Audiobooks

DNF: Doctor Who: the Macra Terror by BBC Audiobooks, Overdrive download.

The second Doctor and companions land the Tardis in an underground colony. The colony is run by some weird utopian/fascist ideal.

That is about all you'll learn until you quite listening due to the horrible audio quality.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Months to Finish: "Mr. Standfast" by John Buchan

Months to Finish: Mr Standfast by John Buchan, 1919, downloaded off Project Gutenberg.

I downloaded this onto my old, broken phone several months ago. I would read the book when I had to sit around or stand in line somewhere. Fortunately I was using Google Books and able to finish the book after buying the replacement mobile phone.

It's late 1917, and into 1918 I think, and Richard Hannay has worked his way up the ranks of the British Army and is now a General. Hannay is in England recovering from injuries when the spymaster from the previous two novels recruits Hannay for more work.

Hannay goes undercover as a anti-war protester up north. He's not too keen on the anti-war angle but takes the job on. His task is to help discover the men behind a spy ring operating out of Northern England and Scotland. He heads north under an assumed name, works with a couple men involved with British intelligence and meets stunning young woman, Mary. It turns out Mary is his contact. Hannay is hot for Mary.

Things happen with Hannay going north to Scotland trying to track the spies. He walks and boats around Scotland. He also gets pursued by the police - gee, what a surprise, Buchan rehashes the same damn chases as the past two books. Hannay finds out how messages are leaving Scotland for Germany. Hannay use The Pilgrim's Progress as a cypher for secret spy messages.

He meets up once again with the American, Blenkiron. He thinks fondly of his long time Boer friend, Peter, who was captured by the Germans when his Royal Flying Corps plane was shot down.  Hannay figures out who the bad guy is. The same guy from Book #1 who is a master of disguise and fools anyone. But, Hannay sees Bad Guy in a fevered panic when hidding in the London Underground during a bombing raid. Hannay says he can never be fooled by Bad Guy's disguises after seeing Bad Guy emotionally stripped down by terror.

Hannay finishes his job, returns to London, and then leaves for the Western Front. Hannay fights in France for several months as spy stuff and general dirty deeds go on without him. But, Hannay serendipitously runs across information and gives it to his handlers. Hannay is recruited again to join the spy fight.

More things happen. Hannay works with Belnkiron. Hannay and Mary make goo-goo eyes at one another. Hannay takes manly risks. Hanny is loyal to the England. Hannay is very English in general.

More things happen again and Hannay travels in France, Switzerland and Italy and then finally - FINALLY - the novel ends after a big multi-army battle in France.

This was an okay novel. My interest is in seeing things from someone in 1919. Hannay's views on politics, war, social behavior, etc. The book is really two novels in one. The first part is the Scotland escapade with sleuthing and escapes. The second half is more spy and war stuff in France and Switzerland.

1. More "No Girls Allowed Club" stuff. Hannay is in his forties and has spent little to no time with women. You wonder about the author and the audience. Was it manly to be with manly man? Or, was it kinda gay?  The entire series has felt like the nonstop adventures of a latent homosexual. Dick goes after manly pursuits and manly doings: mining engineer, big game hunter, explorer, spy, soldier. Kinda like he's avoiding women to hang out with dudes.
2. It reminds me of an SNL sketch with Michael Palin. I looked the episode up and it was from Season 4, episode 18. The sketch was "Miles Cowperthwaite, Part Two: I Am Nailed to the Hull," As I recall, Palin is a young, upper-class man captured by pirates. The pirates are manly pirates who are most concerned with manly doings. After capturing Cowperthwaites ship they only seem concerned with whether there are any equally manly men are on the captured ship.
3.  When Dick and Mary do come together it is instant love. They immediately want to spend their lives together and a marriage proposal is a formality. It's goofy. Buchan has no interest in creating a romance. After two novels with no women he must have needed one here.
4.  Dick has this unsettling paternal view of Mary. He describes her in child like terms and refers to her schoolboy mannerisms during dinner. Mary is a child and he will be her owner - er, I mean protective companion. There is no lust here.
5. Hannay maintains a chivalric view of soldiering.  You live through the Somme and don't want to shoot a German in the back?  Yeah. Right.
6. So very preachy at times. How Germans are not original thinkers. How being a 'businessman' does not automatically make you smart (I do agree with that). The purity of women. Left winger anti-war guys with plenty of speeches and no clue. Lots of period views on people and culture that make for interesting reading.
7. Pilgrim's Progress is discussed several times by the characters. I was thinking I should try reading Progress and decided absolutely no. The books sounds horribly boring and preachy. Which is a little ironic because I, too, can be horribly boring and preachy.