Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Read: "Clear by Fire" by Joshua Hood

Read: Clear by Fire by Joshua Hood, 2015, 9781501105715.

I ran across a writer's blog where Hood was a guest and writing about guns and gin information within novels. I'm fairly certain I spotted a gun error in the article about avoiding gun errors. The irony was delicious. But - big but - I could easily be wrong. Anyhoo.  Hood's shoot-em-up novels sounded like they'd be worth a try. This came from Waukesha PL and I ordered the paperback version of this for my library.

Two main characters. Mason Kane is a former Super-Duper-Commando-Master-Operator-Tactically-Operating-in-Tactical-Operations-With-Fancy-Guns. Kane's unit was sneaking around Libya when Kane was betrayed by the unit and left behind to die. He has since made super good friends with a former head of the Libyan secret police. Kane has been bumming around North Africa avoiding assassination and plotting revenge on the U.S. Army goons who tried to kill him.

Renee Hart is the first woman in a Super-Duper-Commando-Action-Adventure-and-Excitement-and-Explosions unit. Hart is sent to California to work with local Dep. of Defense agents who are investigating whether a local scientist is manufacturing and selling nerve agents.

The two characters follow independent storylines. Mason is eager to get revenge on his old unit buddies plus the CIA people trying to kill him. Mason's unit was an assassination squad and working black ops. Renee is trying to track missing nerve agent and starts after Mason's old unit when that unit destroys a small CIA base in Afghanistan and uses the nerve agent to murder everyone in the local village.

Things happen. The two team up to stop the unit that is traveling through Afghanistan and killing any suspected AG bad guys. The unit is also planning to widen the war - they'd rather nuke the whole region and hope to get things really riled up.

Mason is not a good guy. He is an assassin and burns a man to death out of revenge. Renee is forced to do a number of unethical and immoral things to finish the job. The two make lovey-dovey eyes at each other but this is an action and regret novel. Hood gives us shoot outs and sorrow. Manly men bond under extreme circumstances while politicians and high ranking officers send them to certain death.

1. I enjoyed the book but sometimes it was confusing. The story kinda swerved around and did not always make sense.
2. Lots of neat little details about how army and spy guys do things. How they attack a building or prepare for a mission. How people on the run contact colleagues or avoid trouble. Where do you set an ambush? How you react to an ambush. Things I have no clue about. Except for driving a car. I know how to drive car.

Heard: "The Crossing" by Michael Connelly.

Heard: The Crossing by Michael Connelly, 2015, Overdrive download.

Narrated by Titus Welliver who plays Bosch on the TV show.

Bosch is retired after being forced into retirement. He's been mostly taking it easy over the past few months but his half-brother Mickey 'Lincoln Lawyer' Haller is suing the department on Bosch's behalf to try and get Bosch reinstated.

Haller continues to work other cases and has a high profile murder case he is defending. The case involves the rape and beating-to-death of a official of the City of Beverly Hills. Or, was it Hollywood? No mind. The case brought a lot of press and the woman was married to a County Deputy.

Haller is convinced of the Defendant's innocence - a rare thing - and asks Bosch to look at the file and talk to the Defendant. Bosch thinks, "Bullshit! He did it." But, Bosch is also aimless without murders to investigate. Bosch realizes that is Defendant is innocent than the real killer is going unpunished. Bosch is all about catching people. But, Bosch is also wary of crossing the line from police work to defense work. He does it anyway.

Things happen. Bosch asks questions. A couple jewelry store owners are murdered after some of those questions are asked. Bad guy vice cops are on that take. Prostitutes are being used in an extortion racket. Bosch starts to dig into a second murder, the murder of the prostitute who cemented Defendant's alibi. Bosch's daughter thinks he drinks too much and soon she goes to college in Orange County.

Meanwhile, you are re-watching Season Two of Bosch and getting the two story lines confused.

1. Connelly writes about how every murder investgatd by LAP is still recorded in bound ledgers. Bosch would read those books during downtime at work. Other characters remark how odd they think that is and how could Bosch remember the unexceptional things he has remembered from those ledgers. But, Connelly uses the murder of Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer from teh Our Gang comedies as his example. Who wouldn't remember reading about how Alfalfa was shot to death over a few hunting dogs? Hell, I remember that I never read a damn murder ledger.
2. Connelly loves having the police use security camera footage and analyze what they see.,
3. Connelly tells some really interesting stories. One thing about the way he shows Bosch work is that everyone Bosch does seems obvious to me. In reality I would be clueless and bumbling, but following Bosch around makes all the work seem intuitive. It's neat to see from inside the character's head.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Read Weeks Ago: "Revolver" by Duane Swierczynski

Read Weeks Ago: Revolver by Duane Swierczynski, 2016, 9780316403238.

I think this is the best of Swiierczzonshi's novels. And he has written a lot of nice novels.

Swirrichinksi writes a lot of crime and comics and fast paced thrillers. This one has mystery and murder but, I assume, will appeal to more mainstream adult fic readers. But, what do I know?

Set in three different timelines in Philadelphia:1965, 1995, and 2015. Swwirynsskkkiush rotates among the three timelines to tell the story. I assume this was not an easy book to put together by joining three different stories. Especially since the stories lines will dovetail together.

1965. Black and white cops team together in the middle of a summer of street protests and riots. The cops - well one of them - are trying to track down the person who tried to drop a couch off a roof onto the cops's heads. On the way they run into a drug trafficking conspiracy. The two Officers are later murdered in a small bar.

1995. The son of one dead 1965 officer hears the man suspected in the '65 murders is out of prison. He starts to shadow the suspect. He also starts investigating the rape and murder of a young woman whose body was left in the City's star neighborhood.

2015. The daughter of 1995 Cop flies back to Philadelphia from Houston for the anniversary and plaque dedication to, her grandfather cop's 1965 murder. She is close to being kicked out of her grad school crime science program and proposes a project to investigate the grandfather's murder with modern science.

Many things happen. We learn Philadelphia history and race relations. We learn about boozing, and sorrow, and dysfunctional families. We follow investigators from three eras. We learn about bad guys doing bad things. We learn about good guys who have drinking problems.

Comments and Spoilers:
1. Other things we learn. We learn that 2015 Daughter's secret son in Houston could have been cut from the story because it feels like filler.
2. We later read how reviewers say the novel is a treatise on race relations over the decades. We say, "OK, but it's really a family novel with shit going on. This is a Philly novel starring a Philly family."
3. We remind ourselves about It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and wonder how truthful that show is.
4. We think, "C'mon there is no way the city is that bad. But, maybe... I mean they do film in Los Angeles, maybe that is for more than reasons of economy and convenience."
5. We then think, "I keep reading this Schweinhuntinski guy's books. Maybe I should learn to spell his name. Nah, screw it."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Comic: "Criminal: Lawless" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Comic: Criminal: Lawless by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2015, 9781632152039.

Ok. I remember this series. I had to look it up but I read an entry in 2010. Crime stories that each involve The Undertow bar. This four episode story arc involves Army veteran Tracy Lawless. Lawless saw action in several places overseas and was locked up when he heard his younger brother died.

Lawless and his younger brother Rick were raised by a dirtbag father after their mother left. Tracy took off when he was only 14 and lived on his own until he ended up in court and joined the service to avoid conviction.

Tracy did not keep track of Rick while Tracy was gone but he now returns to town to avenge his death. He finds out Rick was a full time crook and his crew has continued on without him. He figures the crew are to blame. Since no one - well, almost no one - recalls who Tracy is after twenty years he fakes his identity and gets hired by Rick's old crew as a get away driver.

Things happen. Tracy keeps his eyes and ears open and asks probing questions. Tracy starts to lovey-dovey with the female crook who was seeing Rick before Rick was killed. Tracy remembers his past. Tracy gets violent. Tracy tries to avoid the gangster he stole from for seed money. Tracy gets it all figured out but ends up under the thumb of the gangster he was avoiding.

1. I read my notes from 2010 and that reminded me about how incredibly annoying the underlined words of dialogue are. The underlining seems random at times and really stuck in my craw. Let me read the damn dialogue without direction.

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

Comic: The Fade Out: Act Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2015, 9781632154477.

Part two gives us more about Charlie Parrish, his life, and his relationship with the dead actress. Charlie had a thing for Dead Actress. They got to be good friends and were secretly screwing. But, Charlie also knows that as a lowly screenwriter he'd get pushed to the side when Dead Actress's star started to rise.

Charlie helps Dead Actress deal with her scuzzy ex-husband. He helps her deal with the scuzzy studio boss. Charlie remembers seeing someone from his black-out when Dead Actress was murdered. Charlie starts asking around.

Meanwhile, Charlie's writing partner, Gil, is also mad about Dead Actress's murder and starts to run on angle on the studio boss by running a blackmail scheme to shake information loose. Trouble is brewing.

1. Seeing as how Dead Actress becomes integral to the story during several long flashbacks shouldn't I look up the character's name?
2. Yes.
3. But, I won't.
4. The artwork is still great.
5. I have volume three at home.

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

Comic: The Fade Out: Act One by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2015, 9781632151711.

When I put these on hold I knew I would forget how I heard about them.

Compilation of four issues.

1948 Los Angeles and screenwriter Charlie Parish wakes up hungover in a bathtub. The bathtub is in a bungalow. The Bungalow is in Studio City. The bungalow belongs to the dead blonde actress in the other room.  Uh-oh. Charlie sees that the actress, the lead in the picture Charlie 'wrote', has been strangled. Charlie removes all evidence of his presence and slips away.

Charlie has had trouble since the war ended. He is unable to write and is teaming up with a pal whose been blackballed since the HUAC hearings. His pal, Gil, does all the story and dialogue and Charlie types it up.

Things happen. Charlie saw obvious signs of murder. But, the police rule actress's death a suicide by hanging. Charlie was at a show business party the night of the murder and tries to piece together his black-out drunk. Charlie doesn't want her murder written off. Charlie wants to know what happened.

Lots of characters based on real actors and studio execs. An Errol Flynn playboy. A Montgomery Clift. Dime a dozen blondes. Scuzzy studio execs working the casting couch. Studio security willing to beat and kill to keep scandal under wraps.

The artwork is excellent. This is some of the best work I've read in a while.

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.