Saturday, August 19, 2017

Done: "The Card Catalog" by The Library of Congress

Done: The Card Catalog by The Library of Congress, 2017, 9781452145402.

I do not see many corporate author headings. I'm surprised no main editor is listed. I put this on reserve for some reason I cannot recall. Maybe I felt I should read for library reasons.

Kind of a mini-coffee table book. I would type down the book's dimensions but, curiously enough, the LOC cataloging-in-publication data does not list dimensions. In a book about cataloging no less.

Anyhoo. The book has plenty of nice photos of old books, old cat cards, and other ephemeria. The text is a brief history on libraries and how library records were organized. From listing of title and author to the first methods of categorizing by subject.

Keep in mind that most libraries were stand alone institutions with their own record schemes. There was sharing of information among some institutions but finding information could be difficult. The printing press meant some standardization started by listing title, author, publisher, place of pub., and subject matter were easy to find in the front pages.

Records went from bound books listing collections to initial attempts of using playing cards as cat. cards.  All the way to the ultimately unwieldy size of card catalog collections that necessitated digitization.

The book was interesting enough to me, I don't know if you will care.  The text itself is a pretty fast read as long as no one is interrupting you and you don't mind holding a book with odd dimensions as you lay in bed.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Listened To: "8th Circle" by Sarah Cain

Listened To: The 8th Circle by Sarah Cain, 2016. Overdrive download.

I was thinking this was kinda so-so as a novel. But, I just read this last line in the Kirkus review: This dark debut isn’t for everyone, but it’s great for what it is: tight, well-crafted, and nasty. It nails the noir. Well, they liked the novel more than I did.

The book wasn't bad but the story did not offer anything new - investigative reporter discovers sex crime conspiracy among the wealthy and powerful - and I never felt like I had to know what would happen next. I thought the book was decent but average.

Anyway. Danny Ryan has been in mourning and seclusion for the past 18 months after his wife and young son died in a car wreck. Ryan won a Pulitzer a few years ago for his reporting in Philadelphia and became a famous columnist in the city. Still under 40 years old Danny has been shut up in his big house and doesn't have to work after his wife's millions went to him. One night a car crash in a neighboring duck pond. The driver is Danny's pal and also the son of the newspaper editor. The driver has also been shot, says "Inferno" to Danny, and dies. Well. Dang. That's odd.

Police ask questions. The buddy is buried. An intimidating caller tells Danny that the caller wants a "package" the dead guy gave Danny. Danny got no package. Things happen. Danny discovers Inferno ties into a serial killer case that his abusive, alcoholic, and now dead father investigated with Philadelphia PD. Local cop investigating Dead Buddy's death is a former FBI guy who also investigated Inferno. Inferno leads to expensive sex clubs that also - apparently - deal with child rape and murder. Inferno has ties to people Danny knows, including his former father-in-law who is a U.S. Senator.

Basically, Cain gave us the full list: investigative reporter, sex crimes, murder, violent family past, dead son, dead wife, mysterious and beautiful woman, sex clubs, sociopath serial killer who was in a mental hospital, rich and powerful politicians, rich and powerful man protecting his killer son, plaster faced political wives, so on, so forth.

Like I said, the book isn't bad but it's about average. Cain has skill because I did keep rolling along with the story but I wasn't compelled to listen.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Finally Got To: "Once A Warrior" by Anthony Neil Smith

Finally Got To: Once A Warrior by Anthony Neil Smith, 2014, 9781499714012


I'm sitting at a table in the elementary school gym during picture day for the local school district. We are signing up people for new cards, replacement cards and 'Read Away Your Fines' cards. There have been no takers and I have no other work I can complete using my laptop. So, here you go.

This is the second novel featuring Mustafa and his son Adem. Mustafa immigrated from Somalia as a boy and his son Adem was born in MN. The first novel had college kid Adem embracing Islam and traveling with his best friend back to Somalia to join an Islamic movement. Before leaving the U.S. Adem and that friend murdered a small town Police Officer. Adem's father and the murdered woman's boyfriend traveled to Africa to find Adem and his pal.

-- Interrupted to sign people up for library cards. Good. --

Adem did not thrive with the Islamist nuts in Somalia and ended up taking on the pseudonym of Mr. Mohammed and became a lead ransom negotiator for Somali pirates.  Adem fell in love with a local woman before his own rescue. The woman's face was later burned with acid, she was left in Africa,  and Adem now pines for her. You don't need all this info to read the second novel but there you go anyway.

The second novel starts four years after Mustafa and Adem's return from Africa.  Adem has just graduated college and wants to take a religious pilgrimage to the East. Mustafa is not happy with that. Mustafa's wife, WhatsHerName, is not happy with that. The government will likely not be happy with that. But off Adem goes because he wants to rescue his acid burned would-be girlie friend.

Meanwhile, Mustafa takes a call from the African cousin who helped Mustafa rescue Adem four years ago. The cousin requests Mustafa find the cousin's daughter who has disappeared from Kenya and is now in the Twin Cities as a sex slave. Mustafa quits his job at Target and goes back to the violent street gang he founded, and then left, years ago. Now Mustafa is overthrowing the current gang leader to use the gang as a tool in his search to find Missing Girl.

Many things happen. Mustafa overthrows the young man currently in charge of the South Side Killaz and Mustafa pretends he is the heartless crook he used to be. Adem is played like a fiddle and repeatedly hoodwinked by African pirates, the CIA, and other nefarious types. Mustafa's secret plan to use the gang to find Missing Girl puts him back into violent street work he no longer wants. By finding Missing Girl Mustafa will also be ruining one the gang's main incomes - a sex slavery ring. Adem continues to believe his bullshit fantasy of rescuing Burned Girl, bringing her to the U.S., and showing her how awesome he is.

Both characters are tossed on the seas and spend time reacting when their plans are ruined.

Smith's characters are usually unsettled and shifty. They may have steady jobs and loving families but they are always a hair away from fucking things up or just bailing on life. They are generally untrustworthy and out for themselves. Mustafa is a bit of a change from that because he is driven by family loyalty and love rather than narcissistic issues.

Comments:
1.  The ending leaves Adem's future up in the air.  I don't know if Smith is going to do a third novel or not. He gets rightfully bummed after spends months of work on a novel to get tepid sales.
2. Some things are a stretch: The niece ending up in Twin Cities where Mustafa lives. The CIA with it's all seeing agents everywhere. The FBI and CIA so forgiving of Adem's previous work as pirate negotiator. Adem not being recognized as the famous and infamous Mr. Muhammed.
3. Smith's most recent novel Castle Danger: woman on ice came out two days ago. Take a look, I have the book on my Kindle but am working on a back log of other books.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Heard: "Deadman's Road" by Joe R. Lansdale

Heard: Deadman's Road by Joe R. Lansdale, 2010, the Overdrive.com edition says it was available in 2014. I'm not sure if the 2014 date is a pub date for the audio or the date available through purchase with Overdrive.

Several novellas of Reverend Jedidiah Mercer who travels wild west Texas fighting demons and other evil creatures. Not much to say. There are episodes of Jedidiah fighting evil around the state with vampires, cave trolls, and other deadly beings from hell.

Mercer has been cursed by God to travel the west wreaking Old Testament style justice. Mercer is not happy with God for forcing the job upon him. But, since Mercer was once caught having sex with Mercer's own sister he kinda understands the punishment.

Lots of filthy people. Six gun blasting. Dead horses. Wanton women. An angry Jedidiah Mercer who quickly kills when suspecting danger. Booze. Dust. Danger. So on. So forth.

The real interest in these stories is that Lansdale writes them. If you like Lansdale we'll like this. I liked this.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Withdrawn Novel: "Kiwi Wars" Garry Kilworth

Withdrawn Novel: Kiwi Wars Garry Kilworth,

No one checked this novel out so I had to weed it. I've 2-3 others in the series so I bought this used copy. Comparable to the Sharpe series by Cornwell where Kilworth has Fancy Jack Crossman going from the Crimean War to India to New Zealand.


The books go fairly fast and a lot of what does on in the stories is us reading about soldiering at the time. Kilworth does not go into elaborate plots or mysteries. We get a good dose of historical doings and the author does not focus on personal drama.

Fancy Jack Crossman, British Army mapmaker and spy, is sent to New Zealand in 1862 to help fight an insurrection by the native Maori. Crossman is great as a spy and scout and the three soldiers who report to him don't get along all that well but are successful at their work. The unit reports to a Colonel (hell, maybe it was a Major, I don't recall) and mapmaking is mostly a cover story to hide their real job of gathering intelligence on the enemy.

Crossman and Co. land on the North Island of New Zealand as the English settlers and native Maori are warring over land. The English started coming over several years ago and Maori did not mind. But, now that the English are buying or taking land the Maori are getting pissed off. The Treaty of Waitangi was supposed to settle land disputes and sovereignty but did not quite work out. Since there is not much in the way of inteliigence gathering in this slowly simmering battle Crossman and Co are sent out to make maps.

Things happen. Crossman pines for his wife but gets a Maori girlfriend. Both Crossman and one of his soldiers are lost in the bush. His no-goodnik Private discovers that his no-goodnik brother is now a wealthy no-goodnik in New Zealand. Crossman and a Maori scout go on a 2-week trek through the bush.

Fun stuff.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Paperback Reprint: "The Man on the Balcony" by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Paperback Reprint: "The Man on the Balcony" by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, 1968 from a 1993 reprint with 9780679745969. Translated by Alan Blair.

I am at Boy Scout camp all week. I will not try typing into my magic telephone box. I also cannot find an embed code using the youtube app.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Heard: "The Glass Key" by Dashiell Hammett

Heard: The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett, 1931, audio version is listed as 2011 in Overdrive. That date might be electronic version and not production date.

I cannot recall if I read this before or not. I've always enjoyed Hammett's books but did most of that reading in middle or high school. My interest was always the Continental Op so I think I might have skipped this novel.

As I was listening to the first part of the book I thought, "Hey, this is the plot of Miller's Crossing." Well, yeah. Sort of. The first part of the film is much like the first part of the novel and then the stories diverge. I'm not bothering to research and see if the Coen's credited Hammett.

Ned Beaumont works for Paul Madvig. Madvig is a political fixer in a medium sized town not far from New York. Madvig has most politicians under his thumb and an upcoming election has him working to get his senator reelected. Madvig makes money of the government contract scams and the usual illegal enterprises. Ned Beaumont came to town about 18 months ago, started working for Paul and the two of them became tight.

Ned has been the strategic might behind Madvig's dealings. Ned has the brains and the foresight. But, when the senator's son is beaten to death on the street things start to happen. Ned is the first to find the body and walks up the block to Paul's night club. The first concern is for how this will hurt the election. Paul is concerned how the death will effect his pining and mooning love for the Senator's young daughter. Paul is about 20 years the woman's senior but madly in love with her.

Things happen in a Hammett fashion. People lie. Hoodlums enjoy hurting people. Drinking and smoking are vital to daily life. Hats are worn. So on. So forth. Ned splits from Madvig but still helps him out.

I was struck how Hammett would let us know what characters were thinking. His common tactic was to describe their faces - a droop to a lip, eyes looking elsewhere - but I have not firm examples to type in. Hammett also used the word "mien" several times. That's a word that is fallen out of fashion.

I really enjoyed this novel but do wonder if the author's name was part of that. Are my memories of the first readings of his work stronger than the work? If this were printed under another name would I like it as much? If pigs had wings would they fly? If you give a mouse a cookie will he ask for a glass of milk?

EDIT: OK. Fine. I looked. The Coen's did mix The Glass Key and Red Harvest. That's what I was guessing.