Thursday, September 18, 2014

Listened: "Crashed" by Timothy Hallinan

Listened: Crashed by Timothy Hallinan, 2012, Overdrive.com download.

Short: Career burglar extorted to help out porn production.

Long: Gentleman criminal Junior Bender is hired to burgle a big, fancy house and take a big, expensive painting.  He nabs the painting, barely escapes the vicious guard dogs, and is nabbed by a cop.  Cop takes him to Local Crook.  Crook says, "We got you on video stealing from Deadly Crime Lord's house. We'll get him the video if you don't do something for us." Junior says, "I like living.  Okay."

Junior helped out a couple crook friends in his past and earned a reputation as a problem solver.  Not a knee breaker problem solver, a let-me-think-about-this problem solver.  Woman Crime Lord Trey wants someone to keep her porn production on track.  Trey has hired a Massively Famous Child Actress who has become a Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend to perform in a trilogy of porn films.  Trey has spent a lot of money on sets, scripts, costumes, and crew. Recent sabotage has tried to wreck the production.  Junior is hired to shepherd Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend and keep things running.

Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend is a mix of Lindsey Lohan the Olsen Twins and Every Other Failed Teeny Bopper Actress on Dope.  Junior never watches TV and has no idea who the Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend is but her innate kindness and beauty get him on her side.

Other things happen.  Someone tries to get Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend to overdose.  Junior asks a pal to watch Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend's place at night and the pal is murdered. Junior is being followed. Junior's ex-wife is threatening to try and severe Junior's custody  with their daughter. So on. So forth.

A fun story and fairly light read (listen).  Junior is a kind guy - although a dirty thief - working hard to do the right thing while his life gets legitimate death threats.  I'll check out the other books in the series.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Done: "The Martian" by Andy Weir

Done: The Martian by Andy Weir, 2014,will find ISBN later.

Very good.  Astronaut is stranded on Mars.

The third Mars mission gets to the planet, lands and the astronauts start their studies and experiments.  After only 10 days (or so) NASA sees a massive dust storm with high winds coming across Mars.  Mars dust storms are hundreds of kilometers wide. The canvas roofed living and working shelter - the HUB - is rated for high winds but the spaceship - the one-use ascender that delivers astronauts up to the orbiting spaceship that returns the astronauts to Earth - is fragile and cannot handle the winds.  NASA says, "Head to orbit!"  Astronauts say, "Dang, we took months to get here and now we have to leave. Okay, those are the breaks, lets get on our spacesuits and walk over to the spaceship."

On the walk over the high winds are throwing dust, pebbles and - uh-oh - pieces of antennae.  One of those pieces pierces Astronaut Mark Watney's suit and sends him tumbling along.  The impact damages his suit and his monitors checking heartbeat, blood pressure, air supply go dead.  Astronaut Watney is hidden by the swirling dust clouds.  Other astronauts cannot find him.  The ascender's spacesuit monitoring equipment says Astronaut Watney is dead.  The ascender is about to be blown over by the dust winds and would then be destroyed stranding everyone.  Remaining Astronauts take off (literally and figuratively).

Astronaut Watney comes to with his faceplate in the sand.  The antennae pierced his suit and stabbed him, but the material was twisted and his coagulated blood sealed the leak.  Astronaut yanks out the antennae from his suit, patches the hole with emergency sealant, walks back to the HUB. "Nuts," says Astronaut Watney "I missed the trip back.  I'm fucked. The crew is gone, the ship is gone, and the radios are broken."
The next 300 pages are fast and compelling.  Astronaut Watney is stuck on Mars but still alive and knows a fourth Mars mission is due to arrive in a couple years. How can I survive? Do I have enough food? Can I grow food?  Astronaut Watney solves all the problems Weir throws at him: no growing soil, no fertilizer, not enough water, breaking parts, finding communication, making and remaking and remaking plans.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, NASA sees Astronaut Watney is still alive and also starts making and remaking and remaking plans to rescue him.

The great strength of the novel is that Weir takes a neat idea and explains the scientific and Mars conditions so well. How the spacecraft work, how the life support works, how to make Martian soil arable.  He gives Astronaut Watney a sense of humor and irrepressible spirit. 

Comments:
1. I recommended the novel to my 11.5 year old who likes science topics but he went "humph" or "erm" or whatever that sound is that he makes when he does not want to answer.  I bet if I start reading it aloud he'll take it.  I can try reading it aloud to the 8.5 year old but will have to substitute the curse words and not let him read it himself so I can explain some of the adult concepts.

Heard: "I,Sniper" by Stephen Hunter

Heard: I, Sniper by Stephen Hunter, 2009, overdrive.com download.

The story goes something like this:

"Sniper, you're one tough sniping sniper, made of steel and sinew, a real Warrior Sniper. Gosh darn you're a tough, fast-twitch muscle, hand eye coordinating, stubborn snipery Marine sniper, Sniper"
"Shucks, I'm just a one, dumb Marine, Sniper. You and all the others got all the brains."
"Well, Sniper, you sure are tough and full of  .308 168 grain Black Hills sniping hardness, ready to go until dead, full of integrity unlike all these anti-sniper left-wing weenies and D.C. Dickweeds who wouldn't know a rifle from a stick, you're Greatest Sniper Who Ever Lived And Ever Will Live Until the End of Time and Through The Age of Ray Guns."
"Aw schucks, Sniper. I just want to Sniper On with some .308 n168 grain Black Hills Sniping with my trusty sniper rifle I use for Sniping. Gillie suit."

Throw in some Hunter-style big government and big business conspiracies and some right-wing and anti-press rants for the characters.  Make it super cheesy and add plenty saccharine. Hunter sure did lay it on heavy in this one.  Slathered it on like a kid icing a cupcake. I don't recall him throwing if out so heavy in previous novels.  Maybe something happened in 2008 or 2009 to set him off. The Third Bullet (2013) was much more mystery and thrills.

To be fair it is the characters yammering about hypocritical lefties and the awfulness of the New York Times.  And some characters are lefties whining about guns, and rednecks and killers.  But, it's pretty damn clear whose side Hunter is on.  Heck, that's fine.  Hunter has always made that clear and I've continued to enjoy the books.  But, I, Sniper really veered off in political and cultural noise.

Comments:
1. How many times was the word "sniper" used? Was Hunter paid by the word like a pulp writer? Except he was paid by the word "sniper"?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Comic Book Novel: "Kiss Me, Satan" by Victor Gischler and art by Abel Ferrerya

Comic Book Novel: Kiss Me, Satan!: New Orleans is a werewolf town by Victor Gischler and art by Juan Ferrerya, 2014, 9781616554361. Compilation of individual issues.

A few days ago Gischler was using Twitter to promote his latest comic book.  While doing so he praised the talent and skill of the comic's artist.  I responded back saying the artist for Clown Fatale was very good.  Gischler responded in turn and wrote "so was the colorist."  Colorist?  What the hell is a colorist?

Werewolves run a crime family in New Orleans. Some werewolf children are not werewolves.  Those kids are dog-free and all human.  A local witch divines the local werewolf crime lord's child's future and sees the boy will not be a werewolf.  With a non-lupine child Crime Lord knows he will lose his position without a kid to take over the empire. So, werewolf lord wants to kill his son.

But, the witch saw the future and crime lord has to kill her as well.  Whoops, witch has three apprentices so he better kill them as well.  Witch and apprentices go on the run.  Werewolf calls out the dogs (Get it? The werewolf calls out the dogs? Must I explain all my jokes?) and puts a bounty on their heads.

Meanwhile, demon from hell is living on land.  Demon is in human form.  Demon is hoping for forgiveness and return to Heaven.  Demon is tasked by an angel to protect the witches.  Violence happens.  Lots of violence happens.  Lots of bloody violence with mangled bodies and blood and gore.  Sex happens, too.  With big boobs and muscles. Don't forget the amateur surgery to remove and then implant a magical mechanic eye (designed to look kinda Cthulhu-y and Geiger-y.)

Demon rescues the witches from various bad dudes but witches are gradually killed off.  One magician is very powerful and a big threat.  We learn more about Demon.  Meanwhile, back at werewolf mansion, Crime Lord's wife wants to escape with her son and Crime Lord is sweating his perilous position.

A fun story and the artwork had some really neat touches with smaller drawings inset within the larger panels and some nice perspectives.  Gischler and Ferrerya do well in collaboration by drawing and explaining the characters with the dialogue and artwork.


Comments:
1. I just found out the catalog record is screwed up.  The subtitle is listed as main title.  Dang it.
2. Something I was writing up above reminded me of Green Bay from when I was taking a long walk and listening to Pessl's Night Film. I'm not sure what it was.
3. The comic suffers like other Gischler comics because Gischler always tells a very good story but the comic format has such limited space.  I reckon the author could do even more with additional  space and time.  Oh, well, so it goes, just read the next one.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Read: "Drama City" by George Pelecanos

Read: Drama City by George Pelecanos, 2005, 9780316608213.

Another withdrawn novel as I'm working through the stack of things I own.  I started this novel and then figured, Hey, I may as well try out The Wire on TV.  Since we bought a Roku unit in preparation for dumping cable TV I've been watching The Wire through Amazon Prime.  I would often get characters confused between the two stories.


Lorenzo Brown was in prison for eight years. He's out and hooked up a job as a dog catcher with the Humane Society (HS).  "Dog Police" in neighborhood parlance.  Lorenzo us much more than dog catcher though, he investigates cruelty complaints, wears a uniform and badge, and has authority to capture animals.  He and cohorts have plenty of dogs to look after in D.C. with the usual animal abuse plus drug dealer status animals like Pits and Rotties.  (Pelecanos obviously does not keep track of Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine because there is not one drug dealer owned alligator in the novel.)

Rachel Lopez is Lorenzo's probation officer.  Lorenzo is one of the few parolees Rachel has hope for because Lorenzo has a good job, shows up to work, attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and stays away from any gangster friends that are still alive and working the street.  Rachel also drinks to excess and dresses up for one-night stand hook-ups in a few of D.C.'s boutique hotels.

Things happen.  Lorenzo and his HS partner investigate a dogfight and Lorenzo is confronted by a couple dealers.  The two dealers have been getting into it with Lorenzo's past gang leader/ drug employer.  Rachel is supervising one of those dealers.

Things escalate and Pelecanos explores some of his favorite themes:

1. Life in the slums can be bad but people are still people.  They love, they fall out of love, they go to work (legal and illegal), and sometimes they just cope.
2. The importance of family.  Family keeps people together for good and bad.  Those without blood relatives make their own family and those with no family spiral into oblivion.
3. '70s and '80s R&B.
4. Detailed D.C. geography as characters drive around and Pelecanos describes neighborhoods.
5. Culture clash of white and black, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, violent neighborhoods versus safe neighborhoods.
6. Learned behavior - using violence - and how to break away from it.
Fear of the ghetto: How dangerous is a neighborhood?  How safe is it?
7. Metaphors.  Man, The Wire has a ton of those things.
8. Social rules of behavior and status.

Gripes:
1. Gun errors.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Been Around A While: "So Long As You Both Shall LIve" by Ed McBain

Been Around A While: So Long As You Both Shall Live by Ed McBain, 1976, no ISBN or LC number.

When I worked at MCLD I weeded a bunch of McBain books that never circ'ed.  I bought'em off the used shelf. Almost all of the novels were 87th Precinct novels, like this one. This is short at 147 pages and Fat Ollie Weeks comes to the rescue.

Bert Kling marries a fashion model, Augusta.  The Klings have big reception and fill the hotel ballroom with cops, models, photographers and agents.  Mr. and Mrs. Kling go up to their hotel room and Bert gets in the shower.  Bert comes out of the shower and Gus is gone.  "Huh. Maybe my cop pals spirited her away for a drink."  Minutes pass.  Nope.  She's gone.  Bert finds a cloth with chloroform in the hotel room.  Bert calls Carella.

Carella and the other precinct cops take over.  They figure it must be a kidnapping. They wait in the room for a ransom call.  They go over the reception guest list.  They work some informers.  Fat Ollie shows up at Carella's squad room desk.  Fat Ollie is as socially inept, clueless, and bigoted as usual.  He's also as sharp a detective as ever.

Things happen. Bert is worried.  Detectives interview men the informers put them on.  The wedding photographer is brought in by Fat Ollie and they identify a nameless suspect from the photos.  Fat Ollie talks to the only witness and gets much more info than Carella did. 

Meanwhile, Augusta is locked in a windowless room.  Her kidnapper sneaked into the hotel room, chloroformed her, carried her down fire stairs and spirited her away.  Her kidnapper threatens her with a scalpel and tells her they will marry.  "But, I'm already married" says Augusta. "No matter," says her stalker.  He's been following her fashion career for a long time and he's insane.

Augusta is saved at the last moment when Carella, Kling and Fat Ollie burst through the door and Fat Ollie shoots the kidnapper.

Comments:
1. I did not use "snuck". I am sure there are other grammatical errors, read the blog heading.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Done: "The Twisted Thing" by Mickey Spillane

Done: The Twisted Thing by Mickey Spillane, 1966, no date on this printing.

A whodunit with Mike Hammer in upstate New York.  Thelma Velma never appears and Pat Chambers makes a very brief appearance.

Mike is telephoned by a ex-con he is friendly with.  Ex-Con has gone straight and is working as chauffeur for a wealthy scientist in upstate NY.  Scientist's famously brilliant 14-year-old son, Ruston, has gone missing and is presumed kidnapped.  The local small town cops are goons and proceed to beat upon Ex-Con and try to force a confession.  Ex-Con makes his one call to Mike.

Mike springs Ex-Con and makes big enemies with the goon cop Dilwick. Mike takes Ex-Con back to Scientist's mansion and is hired by Scientist to find the missing boy. Scientist is very rich and has mooching relatives so Mike has plenty of suspects.  But, Mike doesn't take long to find the kid and rescue him.  Mike also hears the bad guys say a name, "Mallory".  Mike brings Ruston back home and tells Scientist that he heard "Mallory". Scientist goes pale. Scientist sneaks out and Mike figures he is off to confront Scientist's lesbian assistant.  Mike is late to follow and finds Scientist dead with a cleaver in his head. The plot thickens.

Mike is stuck trying to figure things out.  He really likes Ruston and thinks he's a good kid for being a hyper-genius.  Mike tries to figure out who set-up the kidnapping and why Scientist was killed.  He has plenty of trouble and has to run in circles.  He's after bad cops, lesbians, ruthless relatives, a missing greedy assistant, and a missing librarian.  There is punching, threats, slapping, car chases, shootings, kicking, baton beatings, sneaking, ambushes, bad cops out to murder, car crashes, shoot outs and more.

Hammer figures things out of course but it takes a while because nothing quite makes sense.  It's a bit of a "shocker" when the killer is figured out but Spillane did not leave many suspects left for us to choose from anyway.

Comments:
1. Hammer is always after justice but always on his terms.  He'll bull people over with both his personality and his arguments.  Hammer is rarely wrong.  Sure, he'll miss things during a case but he'll never apologize for belting out concussions and contusions.  He'll also never lose his nerve after blowing another guy's brains out.
2. I bought this and two other Hammer paperbacks at the Lindsborg PL during vacation.I cannot tell when it was printed.  It is a Signet with a code listing 451-AJ1400.  The cover has two photos on it.  In the lower right is a male model prone on a hardwood floor pointing a revolver at slightly off camera. In the upper left is Spillane at a typewriter with a big bottle of Miller Lite on his desk.
3. Ruston is the killer. Spillane gives Ruston a long speech about his treatment at the hands of his father to make Ruston a genius.  Spillane gives a theory that even though Ruston is 14-years-old his intellect is like a fifty-year old.  Okay, I can go with him being as smart as a 50-year-old but Spillane says he is also that age emotionally.  That Ruston is a grown man stuck in a teen boy's body and that Ruston was frustrated and upset about this.  That Ruston loved his nurse but could do nothing about it. Yeah, that theory does not hold after almost 50 years.
4. Lesbians are considered half-man and half-woman.