Thursday, January 16, 2020

Dreary: "Knuckledragger" by Rusty Barnes

Dreary: Knuckledragger by Rusty Barnes, 2017, 9781946502070.

Sheesh, that was a bit dark.

Short version: Small time goon for a Boston crook falls into big trouble with his boss.

Long version: Jason "Candy" Stahl likes eating candy, lifting weights, and works as a collector and people pounder for his loanshark boss, Otis. Otis has a diversified portfolio of crime operations and Candy is on the lower half of the staff rankings. Candy is a big dude and was hired by Otis after Otis beat up a few guys as a bar bouncer.

Candy's sorta girlfriend is a curvy Puerto Rican (Dominican?), Rosario, who is more into Candy than Candy is into her.  One day Candy is hanging out at a public park used by the gang as a meeting place. Candy has made some big collections and is there to pass off money. While waiting he says hello to a comely woman and her young son, Candy then meets with the boss guy who introduces the woman as his wife, Nina.

Turns out Otis the Boss is a very jealous man. Turns out the Wife likes to cause trouble and sleep around. A day later while, Candy is on a short vacation funded by a cash gift form Otis, Otis and a couple goons show up in Candy's hotel room and beat Candy bloody. Otis thinks Candy was making eyes at Nina.

Wellll.... I'm thinking Candy needs to change jobs. Rosario is thinking Candy should change jobs. Candy is thinking he just wants to heal up and maybe get even. Then a couple goons from Boston start following and threatening Candy for Candy's work with Otis that involved pounding on another crook. Things are looking dicey. Candy and Rosario's trip to New Hampshire (Vermont?) is getting spoiled. Rosario is making girlfriends sounds.

Things happen. Things devolve. Candy and Co. go on the run. Murders happen. Fear is deep.

A decent novel. I enjoyed it. Violent and scary but with a happiness from Candy and Rosario's relationship. A relationship that grows against Candy's initial wishes.

A low-end-gangster-on-the-run-with-his-girl story. Candy is not a guy who plans ahead very well. He at least had some cash and guns secreted away and he is not stupid. Candy ends up in a crap situation with no way out.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Short French: "Frantic" by Nol Calef

Short French: Frantic by Noel Calef, 1956 for France and 2019 from Stark House, 9781944520663.

When this started I was expecting a murder thriller as the protagonist tries to clean up the mistakes he made in the murder. That main character - one of several - has murdered a loanshark in the office building both men use. Murderer is leaving the building for the weekend when he recalls he left evidence behind. He rushes back into the building and is taking the elevator up to a top floor when the building manager shuts down all the power in the building. Murderer is stuck there.

Meanwhile Murderer's wife is eagerly awaiting the cad. She's a nervous and troubled woman. She is expecting the philanderer home after a loving phone call with him where murderer was feeling lovey-dovey. Murderer was feeling intense relief by dodging his debt to the now dead loanshark and made promises to his wife. when Murderer does not appear the Wife goes looking for Murderer at his building. She sees his car parked on the street. While she checks inside a Teen Jackass steals the car. Wife comes out, sees the car gone, fears her husband split with his latest dolly.

Anyhoo things happen. The guessed at thriller of guy-stuck-in-elevator turns into something else. Wife runs to her ever attentive brother. Brother has a habit of fixing her problems. Brother's own wife is pissed at Wife for being such a over emotional and manipulative pain in the ass.

Meanwhile Teen Jackass takes his girlfriend for a drive in the stolen car and a weekend in the country. Teen Jackass is full of himself as a soon-to-famous film director, as a man of great intelligence and insight, as a fighter of all that is bourgouise. Girlfriend is pregnant and just wants a reliable guy - her bad luck is to be in love to a jackass.

More things happen, there is another murder, and we mostly leave Murderer in his elevator box. Mid '50s France isn't so bad. Society and economy are still being rebuilt after the war. Manners and morals are changing.

Calef explores different relationships among couples:
- the young lovers with Teen Jackass.
- the disintegrating marriage of Murderer and his unstable wife.
- the Brother's marriage and the tensions caused by his needy sister
 - an older couple who own a rural hotel where Jackass and his girlfriend stay. The older couple love each other and still have their differences
- a final couple where the husband is trying to care for a mentally ill wife.

1. The weekend at that time is a lousy one-day weekend. "Weekend" just means a day off for Sunday after a 6 day work week.
2. I made notes about the How the Dead Live and that both world wars were still a part of daily life. Dead Live is set 30 years after this novel and the war is never much an issue in this story.

Belfast Noir: "Belfast Noir" edited by Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville

Belfast Noir: Belfast Noir by Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville, 2014, 9781617752919.

I went along with my wife to her job a week or two ago because a snow storm was predicted. I hung out for four hours and prowled the stacks a bit. I ran across this and took it home. I've enjoyed McKinty and Neville's novels so that was a big selling point on trying the collection.

Akashic has done so many of these damn books. I've been kinda hesitant to try one because I presume the authors have to have a relationship with the chosen city. For places like Los Angeles, New York, London, etc. that should not be a problem because those places bred or housed are a ton of authors over the years. With smaller cities I figure they gotta hunt for writers and stories. Expanding into the rest of Northern Ireland makes sense.

I did enjoy several of these stories but have to say a couple tales were duds. I'm glad not everything had to be an IRA or Provo story. I also don't have the book to hand so you're shit out of luck if you're expecting me to list favorites. But, I'll check the list of story titles and give it a shot - Hey, I found it on Google Books and it is letting me read through.

Lee Child: Child is one dark motherfucker.
Brian McGillory: an undertaker is forced to smuggle something across the Irish border. Interesting but not fantastic.
Lucy Caldwell: a story about the narrator as a teen girl besotted with a HS teacher. She acts horribly and manipulatively.

That is it. Fun reading - except for a couple duds - but no work that really impressed me enough to track down more of their work.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Doctor Who Yeti: "Web of Fear"

Doctor Who Yeti: Web of Fear by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln (according to the internets), downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Another audiobook that is the audio from a Doctor Who story arc with added descriptive narration. The audio quality on this sucks, sucks, sucks. Don't bother unless you are hard core.

The Doctor and his pals jamie and Victoria land in the London Underground. The place is dark and abandoned and locked up. Meanwhile, Professor Travers is back. He was in a Abominable Snowman arc - which I actually listened to a couple years ago! - but is now 40 years older for this 1967 time setting. He brought home to London a mechanical Yeti or two. The Yeti monsters were controlled by a remote device and have now wandered off to do something or other.

The Doctor and Co. find out the Underground has been set with explosives for demolition. The Yeti are wandering around killing people. London has been evacuated. Some sort of spider webby fungus is growing on everything. Soldiers and the Professor are the only people around. Blah, blah, blah.

Like I said above, skip this one. The old TV sound goes up in down in volume and with sharp bursts of sound. If you want a big rundown on the plot you can check the internet fan peoples.

Back dating this to December 31 because I heard it in 2019. Written on January 9, 2020.

WHO Audio: "Prisoner of the Daleks" by Trevor Baxendale

WHO Audio: Prisoner of the Daleks by Trevor Baxendale, 2009, Wisconsin Digital Library.

An original novel and enjoyable.

The Doctor is by himself when the Tardis makes a goofy landing on a abandoned planet that was once used as a refueling place for starships. When poking around he gets locked into a room. Six days later the small crew of a privateer lands and lets him out. Then some Daleks show up.

The Daleks are there to EXTERMINATE. The spaceship crew are there as Dalek bounty hunters. the Doctor is there to be the Doctor.

When a Dalek follows the crew onto their ship a crew member is killed before the Dalek can be frozen and ultimately defeated and killed. These is immediate distrust and dislike of the Doctor by the rough guy crew who end up blaming him for their crewmate's death.

The Doctor does not ease the relationship by advocating against torturing the surviving Dalek squid-thing-creature after he is pulled from his robot shell. It doesn't matter because everything is a set-up anyway as the Doctor and crew arrive at the remains of a destroyed planet, are captured by new Daleks, and discover they have stumbled into a trap for EXTERMINATION.

We get the irrepressible Doctor. The gruff ship's captain. The gruff ex-soldier crewman. The tech crewman. The last surviving member of her planet crewmember. Dalek X who is the Dalek's supreme inquisitor. Plus some: scary Daleks, some sort of ghost creatures, a planet cut in half, humans worked to death as miners, a massive Dalek command ship, more details on the Human-Dalek War.

All fun. All better than the many WHO TV story arcs I have listened to on audio. Those TV shows with descriptive narration can have really spotty audio.


Irish Audio: "Gun Street Girl" by Adrian McKinty

Irish Audio: Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty, 2015, download from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I enjoyed this quote a bit. The narrator's American accents were pretty awful though. Accents so awful that I enjoyed them.

I just read my notes from reading McKinty's The Cold, Cold Ground and that novel set me on the same path as this novel. I started reading rereading about The Troubles and all the craziness of of 20+ years of simmering civil war. I had forgotten something McKinty covered in that novel which is that the head of IRA's squad to find, torture, and murder informants (The Nutting Squad) was himself an informant for the English.

Sean Duffy is the 2nd ranking cop at the Carrickfergus police station in Northern Ireland. He has some privilege with his rank but is called out by a colleague to help out with a murder. There is a dispute over jurisdiction and after Duffy sorts that issue he gets involved with the investigation of a murdered married couple and their now missing adult son. The son turns up dead as a cliff diving suicide and a note claiming responsibility for the murder. Duffy and Co. are still suspicious.

More things happen and Duffy and Co. visit England to investigate the son's background. The run into stonewalling and screw-ups. They find Son had a background in weapons. They run into Special Branch. They run into Short Brothers of Northern Ireland which is the last remaining manufacturer of any note in NI. Short Brothers is a weapons manufacturer. Short Brothers is missing Javelin missiles (a super fancy and high tech anti-tank missile).

OK. That's all good and fine. McKinty puts all this standard police procedural stuff together with skill. Secrets are revealed. Danger is threatened. Mysterious people appear. The fun stuff is that McKinty is taking real events and shaping those into the story.

We get the IRA goons. The Ulster Defense goons. The Ulster Volunteer Force goons. The British government goons. The true believers. The con men posing as true believers. The patriots that are nothing but goons and con men.

All of the above includes a look at 1985 NI and England. Thatcher wields all the power and the recession is grinding most people. Short Brothers stays open only by the grace of the government's support and contracts. NI is over a decade into the active war of The Troubles and the English seem perfectly happen to let the blood flow. As one character says, the 25% of the IRA's men are informants or otherwise compromised by the English. The English know most of what is going on with the other side but also participate in keeping it going.

Really great stuff and after a some good guy losses the bad guys pay a price. Of course, the bad guys at the top never really get in trouble.

1. An Oliver North appearance in a character named Connelly. In real life: North traveled to Iran under a Irish passport. McKinty ties in Reagan's arms dealing with Iran. During the same time period there were arrests over missile technology being sold to embargoed South Africa.
2. Short Brothers in N.I. had a simulator stolen in the '80s and Javelin and Blowpipe parts went missing. The novel has Javelin missile system missing-but-actually-stolen for resale to embargoed countries that would then reverse engineer the systems.
3.  The fact that 25% of the IRA were informants or compromised one some way. That the English had turned high ranking IRA men. Never mind all the state sanctioned murders by English soldiers and policemen who moonlighted with terrorist groups.
4. The IRA was no better and would claim the murders of people like Jean McCanville were justified killings of spies during wartime - McCannville who was the 38-year-old widow of 10 children - and then cry foul when armed IRA men would be shot down during IRA attacks instead of being arrested. 5. Claims of national security to hide misdeeds.
6. Of course Reagan knew what was going on with Iran Contra. Don't be fucking dense.
7. Duffy's personal car is a BMW. He checks the undercarriage for bombs every time he needs to drive.
8. Glock love.
9. Pharmaceutical cocaine love.

Paper: "Tijuana Mean" by Jesse James Kennedy

Paper: Tijuana Mean by Jesse James Kennedy, 2019, 9781724161628.

Someone online plugged Kennedy's first novel Missouri Homegrown and it was violent anti-heroes in the Ozarks. I enjoyed that novel a decent amount and I bought this one for work.

Be aware that if you don't want read this if you don't want the bad guys to win. Most everyone here is a bad guy except for one or two FBI guys. I suppose Kennedy putting his trio of killers in narcocorrido land makes sense because this is the same thing but (all) fictional.

Anyhoo. Jimbo, Jay and Jack McKay killed off a bunch of Police Officers and narco traffickers in the last novel and fled their Missouri marijuana farm. Tijuana has the three teaming up with a Mexican drug lord after a truce at the end of the last novel. The four of them are driving cross country to get to Mexico. Along the way they steal some cars and murder a couple state troopers.

Meanwhile, their cousin WhatsHerFace is back in MO and taking over their marijuana outfit. She takes in a couple young cousins and has to fight off a new biker gang that is moving in to fill the vacuum left by the McKays.

The FBI undercover from the last novel and her partner are drinking too much and paired with a new supervisor who is chasing the multi-murderer Mckays. FBI Undercover Woman has the hots for one of the McKay men.

Things happen as the McKays participate in a private MMA fight. Kill people. Do heroin, alcohol, weed, and pills. Ambush narcos with IEDs. Continue to team up with the Mexican narco as the narco battles against his own uncle for supremacy in Tijuana.

There is:
1. Lots of violence.
2. Lots of swagger and boasting.
3. Lots of both casual and calculated cruelty.
4. Child abuse.

This is a popcorn and soda story. This is not Rust Belt drama or Daniel Woodrell family trouble.