Thursday, December 8, 2016

Listened To: "The Tilted World" by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

Listened To: The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, 2014, download.

I listened to Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter a while ago and thought it was good but not great. But, the book was better than I realized because I would think back to the characters and some of the scenes.

Tilted is set in 1927 right before and during the massive floods on the Mississippi in April. The book's preface gives a description of the floods and their aftermath. I readily admit to knowing little about the event and what a disaster it was.

Two revenue agents working under J. Edgar Hoover's authority are sent to MS to find missing revenue agents. Ted and Ham have known each other since service the the Great War. Hoover is using the natural disaster produced by months of rain to promote himself. Months of rain have already flooded the fields and farms and some locals are in desperate straits with no income. Hoover doesn't want bad news about missing federal police and puts the pressure on Ted and Ham.

Ted and Ham come across the aftermath of a deadly burglary. The robbers were killed and left an infant that Ted decides to watch over until he can find a caretaker. Well, Ted hears that a rural woman may take the orphaned boy in, so Ted goes to her house. Dixie answers the door and the two of them have a spark. Dixie takes the boy, Ted goes back to work.

Things happen. Ted and Ham meet a local bootlegger who is vain and charismatic. Bootlegger is married to Dixie. Bootlegger probably killed the missing men. Ted and Ham are undercover and pose as engineers there to inspect the river levee. The levee is 30 feet high and going higher with new sandbags. The river surge is coming and the levee may not be enough. Especially now that word is out about stolen dynamite that may be used by downstreamers to blow the levee.

More things happen. We learn about Ted's growing up an orphan. His time in the Army. His time with Ham. We learn about Dixie growing up in AR and being swept away by handsome Bootlegger. How Dixie and Bootlegger's son died a couple years ago and left Dixie in the doldrums of depression. Bootlegger is scheming asshole who uses his wife, pays off the cops, and wants to blow small town MS for New Orleans.

1. Sharpshooter love.
2. White whiskey love.
3. Lots of mud.
4. Lots of rain.
5. Lots of disaster after the levee breaks.

I Read A Book: "The Tattooed Duchess" by Victor Gischler

I Read A Book: The Tattooed Duchess, 2015, 9781503948228.

The second novel in Gischler's fantasy trilogy, A Fire Beneath the Skin. You need not read the first novel because Gischler fills things in as needed and starts a new story in this one.

The novel has the standard fantasy setting: horses and swords, castles and armies. Gischler's twist is that our main character, Rina, has magic tattoos that give her specific powers. She received those tattoos - a bull for strength, wings for speed, etc. - in the first book. The wizards in the novel also have powers but use spells. (Rina has an advantage in that her power is built in with the ink.) The priests in the novel don't have powers but do, on occasion, received guidance from one of the many gods.

Anyway. In the last book Rina drove an invading army of Perranese soldiers out of her Duchy after her family was killed and the duchy defeated. The Klaar duchy is a back water region without much money so Rina and Co. are mostly ignored by the ruling King. Rina is learning how to lead and administer her lands and government while also hunting down the Quisling betrayed her family to the Perranese.

Meanwhile, Rina is also making the hot sexy lovey dovey with the young stable master. Her rakish cousin is being forced to marry a now pregnant conquest. Rina's main man-at-arms is working with a new security force. The Quisling and some remaining Perranese keep sending assassins. The Perranese are planning a bigger invasion from their home islands. The King wants to forcefully marry his gay relative to Rina. The gods seem to be fighting one another. So on. So forth.

Gischler never writes crap. So you know this is a solid story. He doesn't lay it heavy with making up a complete new world with it's own wacky cultures and mores.

I was kind of annoyed that the second Perranese invasion never came off - I suppose that is in book three. Book three is around here somewhere... let me check.

Nope. It's checked out and due back on December 20.

Done: "One Endless Hour" by Dan J. Marlowe

Done: One Endless Hour by Dan J. Marlowe, 1969 and 2013. 9781933586441.

The second part of Stark House's two-fer republication. Chet (or whatever his name is) from The Name of the Game is Death is vegetating in a prison hospital. Chet was badly burned at the end of the last novel and has been faking a mental shut down. Chet barely speaks and sits quiet for most of the day. But, Chet is just scheming his diabolical brains out. He is avoiding the continuing investigation into his dirty deeds in Florida and plotting his escape. By buying off a gifted surgeon he has extensive plastic surgery to repair the facial scars from Name.

Chet told the surgeon where to find a cache of Chet's stolen loot and the surgeon takes a portion and gives some cash to Chet. Chet uses the dough to pay off a hospital warder and get Chet out of prison. Of course things to not go well and Chet ends up killing the warder and the warder's pal.

Chet hits the road. He left the hospital before his final round of surgial bandages were removed and now, with a new face, he cannot be identified. Unfortunately, that also means other crooks do not recognize him and he has no one to work with.

Chet needs money. He has one more cache of hidden cash but holds that back for a dire emergency.  Chet ends up buying a robbery plan from a broker in D.C. He joins up with two crooks that the broker refers to him. One crook is a full time pornographer and sex fiend who uses robbery money to fund his films. The other crook is a full-time gambler who needs to pad his gambling roll.

Chet and Co. end up doing a quit and dirty robbery in D.C. Partly because the other job is in Pittsburgh and needs time to study, partly because they need fast cash, and partly to prove themselves to each other.

More things happen. The Porno guy is a creep who travel everywhere with a small movie camera and films women walking around. During the first bank robbery in D.C. he forces several bank teller women to disrobe and bend over for his camera. The Pittsburgh robbery is a kidnapping robbery where both the bank's manager and assistant manager need to be abducted and used to open the bank vault.

There is more plotting. More killing. More sneakiness. More sexual hijinks from Porno Crook. More fascinating reader for you.

1. At one time Chet mentions about how the robbery will net less cash than just ten years ago. When the robbers take bank vault bags they get "paper" of checks. How difficult it must be in 2016 to find a cash heavy business to rob.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Something I Heard: "The Truth is Out There" edited by Jonathan Maberry

Something I heard: The Truth is Out There: the X-files, Volume Two edited by Jonathan Maberry, 2016, download.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. But, I cannot recall any stories in particular. Well worth your time if you are a fan of the television series.

Heard: "Kings of Clonmel" by John Flanagan

Heard: Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan, 2008, download.

Eight book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. For the uninformed, the series setting is comparable to Robin Hood but with a stable monarchy, distinct regional government districts, and nothing is English - there are pretend names for places.

Will is now a Ranger after a few years serving as an apprentice under Halt. Rangers are like a national police force and assigned to certain districts within the country. There is one Ranger per district and a handful of apprentices across the country.

Halt has been investigating a band of religious con men who come into a rural town and say only our 'good god' can save you from 'bad god'. Meanwhile, the con men's killers will go around slaughtering farmers in the name of 'bad god'. Con men say, "Hey, we need a golden altar to pray to 'good god'. Give us your gold to build the altar and we will defeat 'bad god'."

Halt finds out the con men have been coming over from Hibernia (Ireland) and Halt, Will and a knight named Horace travel to stop the problem at the source.  They travel to Hibernia and the Kingdom of Clonmel. Difficulties ensue. The con men murder whole families - children included - to sow fear among the people. We learn that Halt is the son of Clonmel's dead king and left Hibernia when Halt's nutty brother tried to kill Halt to gain the throne. Halt and Co. jhave to be circumspect - foreigners cannot waltz in and start ordering everyone around. The Main Con Man is very charismatic and has a silver tongue.

Deadly archery. Smart horses, Outdoor camping. Beheadings. Duels to the death. Treachery. Assassins. Fun, escapist lit aimed at young adults.

1. Lots of violence but chaste love.

Finished: "The Name of the Game is Death" by Dan J. Marlowe

Finished: The Name of the Game is Death by Dan J Marlowe, 1962 but a 2013 reprint from Stark House, 9781933586441.

This is one of Stark House's reprints with two novels together. I'm going to list the book by itself. The Marlowe biography in here is a neat read. This novel was Marlowe's big hit.

Career criminal Chet Arnold (he has many aliases but uses this one through the book) robs a Phoenix bank but gets shot. A couple people are killed in the robbery so Chet and his partner Bunny separate. Chet hangs around to recuperate - and kill the doctor who treats him - and Bunny goes to Florida with most of the cash. Bunny sends money to General Delivery and the money stops coming. Chet knows something is wrong and drives to Florida.

Chet stops off for fake ID in Alabama and gets to Hudson, FL and looks for Bunny. Bunny must be dead and Chet wants the money and some revenge.  Chet does itinerant work as a tree doctor and uses that as a cover. (Years ago he learned "no known means of support" worked against you in court.) He starts asking around town and searching the abandoned rural roads around Hudson. He takes in a stray dog. He sexes up the local bar owner. He makes pals with a young earl estate agent.

The novel is Chet's search for Bunny and the money. He meets people, he makes friends, he asks questions, he uses several flashbacks to fill us in on his life. Chet has always been a bit of a sociopath. As a boy he had a favorite kitten that a neighborhood boy's dog kills. Chet beats the other boy with every chance he gets.

No matter that Chet's sisters, his mother and his father tell him to let the dead cat go. Chet endures the beatings of his father, pleadings of his sister, and threats of the police. The situation does not resolve until the other boy's family leaves town. Later on as a 18-year-old Chet gets in an argument with a bully cop and ends up in jail and with a beating. Chet's response is to bide his time and catch all three of the offending Officers off-duty and pounds on them. Chet eaves town, ends up in Northern Ohio where the cops, again, prove lousy. Chet murders one of the Officers and decides on a life of crime. He rejects society and starts as an armed robber.

Anyway. Chet is a killer. He's Robert DeNiro's character in Heat. Chet doesn't care who you are, if you're in the way you're going down. At one point during Chet's getaway he is resolved to killing his real estate agent pal because the pal is out in front of a roadblock. Chet only turns away when Chet's dog appears next to the fella.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Zip: "Others of My Kind" by James Sallis

Zip: Others of My Kind by James Sallis, 2013, 9781620402092.

I was cleaning out older items from the New Book shelf and was reminded Sallis has a recent book there. This novel is Sallis length at 116 pages. Like other Sallis novels this has a lead character who is a loner. A person who prefers solitude and cannot also connect with others. (Well, that is the kind of Sallis characters I have run across before. I'm not saying I've read all his material.) I read this in KS during Thanksgiving vacation.

Jenny Rowan was eight when she was kidnapped, kept in a locked box under the kidnapper's bed for four years. (I think it was four years). The kidnapper started taking Jenny on outings and during a shopping mall trip she escaped. For 18 months Jenny lived in the mall. She became an urban legend as Mall Girl. Once she was finally nabbed by an authority she spent some time in state care until she petitioned for legal emancipation and started work as a waitress.

Anyhoo. Rowan is working as a video editor for a local TV station in D.C. when a Police Detective asks for her help in speaking to a young woman who was found under similar circumstances: kidnapped, held for a long time and sexually assaulted.

This isn't a crime novel. Rowan helps the other woman and even gives her a place to stay. The Vice President has her son kidnapped and Rowan writes a letter saying, Hey, I kinda know what you're going through, give me a call if you need to talk. Rowan date the Detective a couple times. Rowan is a video editing savant. Rowan never speaks of her past - the reader is one of the few people who know. Rowan severs all ties - except to fellow abductee - and moves to Florida.

I don't know if Sallis was working with a theme or goal in mind. I took a couple things away from the book, the first thing was Rowan's resilience. She almost completely forgot her life before her abduction. She lived under the abuse of her abductor for years. As a 12 year old she lived and survived on her for 18 months. After emancipation she worked as a waitress and then worked her way through her GED and college degree and then into a career.

Heck. Rowan's success and emotional stability are a bit too far fetched to believe in fiction. I suppose her narration might be glossing over a lot of her own trouble but the character always seemed honest to me. But, Rowan dates or mates with different men over time. She works a lot. She stays at home and reads. She throws out rare words like an auto-didacts I have known. She is incredibly empathetic.

That empathy is the second thing I remember from the novel. Whether as a waitress or her nurse work in the end of the novel Rowan's happiness and friendliness draw attention. Her kindness is turned into a vocational skill after she goes back to school to be a nurse.

1. Anyone heard Sallis's band perform? He has audio on his band website and they sound pretty good to me. No surprise that they perform a lot at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale.
2. Sallis looks a lot like the system admin guy for my library system.