Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Quick: "The Highway Kind" edited by Patrick Milliken

Quick: The Highway Kind: tales of fast cars, desperate drivers, and dark roads edited by Patrick Millikin, 2016, 9780316394864.

Stories by (in order) Ben H. Winters, C.J. Box, Michael Connelly, Kelly Braffet, Wallace Stroby, James Sallis, George Pelecanos, Diana Gabaldon, Patterson Hood, Joe R. Lansdale, Sara Gran, Ace Atkins, Gary Phillips, Willy Vlautin, Luis Alberto Urrea.

This was a very good collection. I really enjoyed it. Milliken works at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale. I lived in the Valley for five years and visited there just once. Driving from Peoria on the west side to the East Valley was a freaking chore. Especially on a weekend. The 101 freeway was in place by the time we moved there and getting into Scottsdale itself was not too difficult but it still knocked out several hours in a day.

We did go to Scottsdale often enough, every other month or so, I would guess. I always wanted to visit the gun stores. Bear Arms was always a neat one to visit. There was another store, since out of business, that I never went back to again. I was there one day wandering around, looking in the glass display cases as the owner was chatting with another customer. The guy spoke loudly and his conversation could be heard throughout the store. I heard him insult or degrade gay people, black people, Jewish people, and a few other groups. What a dirtbag. I never went back to the store and warned others away from the place. I just learned that the owner retired in 2005 and closed the store. I assume he is still the same miserable SOB he was then. Vile jerk.

Traveling from Peoria to to a southeast valley city like Gilbert or Mesa felt like I was driving to Denver. I'd be in the car for what felt like forever crossing along the freeways and arterial roads until I reached the gun or book store I wanted to visit.

Speaking of Phoenix and driving, James Sallis's Driven captures what I feel is great view of Phoenix. Sallis's story in this collection is not set in Phoenix.

This book has a really nice mix of author styles and stories. There hard core crook stories and regular people stories. I've not much else to say about this but have a couple comments.

Comments:
1. I've not yet read any novels by Gary Phillips's. That's how I ended up reading this book, I searched the library catalog for Phillips and this popped up.
2. I associate Diana Gabaldon with romances. I don't read romances and so have never read any of her novels. Her story is set in 1937 Germany and feature Dr. Porsche investigating the crash of one of his race cars. I'd heard before about the speed attempts set on the German Autobahn in 1937 and the fatal crash as one car was pushed by the wind, spun, and flew into a bridge abutment or embankment. The story was very well done.
3. That's it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Told To Me: "Rusty Puppy" by Joe R Lansdale

Told To Me: Rusty Puppy by Joe R. Lansdale, 2016, Overdrive.com download.

This is another Hap and Leonard novel by Lansdale. That is really all you need to know. That means the novel is well worth your time and that all the usual stuff happens: Hap and Leonard act like borderline idiots, Leonard gets angry and has a lousy love life, Hap gets a little maudlin at times and is lovey-dovey, most everyone insults the heroic duo, bad guys are both bad and despicable, really stupid people populate the landscape. Hap and Leonard insult most everyone including one another.

This go around has a neighbor across the street from the duo's detecting business storefront asking for help. She says her teenage son was murdered in a neighboring town and that the cops are to blame. Hap starts asking around the neighboring housing project to talk to a witness and Leonard sorta rescues Hap. They keep asking questions and start getting push back from the local cops. One of those cops is a guy who beat Leonard in a kick boxing match and Leonard is still peeved that the guy won on points.

More things happen with all the Lansdale goodness you could want. Bad cops staging bare knuckle fights and dog fights. Town Fathers and Mothers are in on things. Bad cops murdering people. Bad cops harassing women. Characters with lots of character including a foul-mouthed 10-year-old Leonard proclaims as a 400 Year Old Vampire.

Comments:
1. The plot starting point of the teen boy's death .
2. Teen boy's sister not that great a character, she seemed like more of a throwaway.
3. No big shootouts like in some Hap and Leonard books.
4. Leonard is an asshole and a half. He is always looking for a fight and always willing to insult someone. He's very judgmental as well and will rag on anyone. His volubility and criticizing the black kids in the housing project makes you wonder what we'd think of the guy if he were white.
5. For that matter what criticism has Lansdale run across? Do people read his black characters as a white guy's projections? I don't know Lansdale but have read enough of his work and commentary, and read enough about him, to know he is not a racist a-hole. He seems to not abide jerks though.
6. Good stuff. If you've not read any Hap and Leonard novels I do suggest reading them in order if only because

Finished: "Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat" by Andrez Bergen

Finished: Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat by Andrez Bergen, 2011,9780984559701.

Let me immediately come to the most important point if you decide to read this novel: There Is No Anthropomorphic Goat. The absence of such a goat - as promised to me by the cover illustration - was very disappointing. I still enjoyed the novel though.

Brief: a mix between Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Long: Floyd Maquina lives in Melbourne and works for the government as a Seeker. Seeker are sent to find fugitive Deviants, capture them - or kill them if needed, and get them sent away. At a population of 20 million people Melbourne is the biggest city in the world. Melbourne is also the only city in the world after an unexplained mini-apacolypse. There is a constant acid rain, a domed section of the city for The Rich, collapsing insfrastructure, and other dystopian stuff.

Floyd is in a bad way. His wife was struck sick by a plague and he joined the Seekers to cover his wife's Hospitalization costs. Yes, the novel capitalizes all those words. Maquina drinks A LOT, smokes too much, hates his mother, gets along with his sister, and has blacked out the memory of when he killed a Deviant.

Floyd associates most everything with old movies. He is particularly found of actor George Saunders, The Third Man, and other films running from about 1930 to 1960. Floyd ends up in trouble with his employers over his drinking but gain a sudden celebrity status when a news reporter and cameraman join him on a stake-out and the resulting half hour show is a hit. Floyd also starts getting into more trouble and has to figure out what is happening

I liked the book. It's a neat SciFi unlike the space epics and military shoot-outs I've usually read. More Philip K. Dick than David Drake. The novel is more about the character of Floyd. Missing his wife and boozing it up. Shutting himself off from the world. Mostly hating his job of taking "Devaints" and sending them to a short life in prison. Fearing his employers will mark him a Deviant. Slowly tracking down Deviants in the run-down areas of Melbourne.

Comments:
1. Purchased for the library in 2012 after a Bill Crider recommendation.
2. Similarities with the setting of Sleepless got me confused. Both plots involve a civililation slowly falling apart with infrastructure and government services failing or non- existant.
3. Bergen's narrator name checks multiple actors, books, writers and films throughout the book. Bergen provides a glossary, bibliography and filmography at the end.
4. According to my magic internet box Bergen has three other novels. Tobacco was his first novel and his second One Hundred Years of Vicissitude is available from the library's digital collection.

Quit Listening: "In the Woods" by Tana French

Quit Listening: "In the Woods" by Tana French, 2007, Overdrive.com download.

My phone's Micro SD card stopped working which means I do not have access to the damn novel. I was at least half way through and very much enjoying the story. Either I'll get the damn Micro SD card working or I'll have to buy another Micro SD card and wait in line to check out In the Woods  again.

On Saturday I went by Walgreens to just buy another Micro SD before I drove the five hours north to Hayward, WI for a mountain bike race. I found the memory card display and - Hey! That Micro SD is on sale for $17! So I grabbed the card, got in line, and picked a couple packs of gum from the impulse buyer's rack.

As the cashier rang up the sale both the gum and memory card came up at a higher price. "You'll need to enter your 'advantage' number for the sale price."

I key in my phone number and the gum price is now cheaper, but the Micro SD is still $30. Turns out the shelf labeling was poorly arranged and the $17.99 sale price is for a different brand of memory card. So, I accept that new item, pay for my stuff, and go home.

I get home, evict Boy #2 from the computer, and sit down to open the package and get the SD card working for an audiobook download. Nope. The sale item was for an SD card, not a Micro SD. I ended up buying a damn SD by mistake. An SD card, of course, is 4-5 times too large to fit. Damn it.

I did end up clearing off some of the phone's internal memory and downloaded Edgar Burrows's  John Carter of Mars and Sleepless by Charlie Huston.  I quite listening to Sleepless a year or two ago (Correction: three years ago) but am enjoying it now.

Still reading? Have you seen the news about those new corduroy pillows? They've been making headlines.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Heard: "Shoedog" by George Pelecanos.

Heard: Shoedog by George Pelecanos, 1994, Overdrive.com download and I do not recall the audio pub year.

A good book. Plenty of Pelecanos style with nihilists, family men, drifters, journeymen crooks, and guys who dig clothes, women, cars and music.

It's 1994 and Constantine is back in D.C. Constantine bolted town once he was old enough to join the Marines. His alcoholic mother was long dead and his father didn't much give a flying fuck about Constantine. After three years in the Corps Constantine hit the road. Working bar and restaurant jobs Constantine stayed in South Carolina long enough to earn  B.A. After that he traveled the United States, Pacific countries, South America (or maybe not) and into Europe. It's about 15 years later and Constantine has drifted into the D.C. area. When his car breaks down Constantine hitches a ride with a guy pushing 60 and they make friends.

Constantine and the guy, Old Guy, head out to a big house in the country where Old Guy rings a bell at the entry gate, demands his $20,000 and gets the shove off - literally - by a couple goons who tell him to come back tomorrow.  Old Guy is a long time heister and robber. He tells Constantine that the money is as good as in hand. When Constantine and Old Guy return the next day they got a job offer from Crime Boss to do a simultaneous pair of liquor store robberies. They accept the offer.

Meanwhile, Raymond is at work slinging shoes at a popular D.C. shoe store. Raymond is a slick salesman with regular customers. He scopes out the buyers, steals customers off other salesman, and jealously guards with regulars. Raymond is "asked" to be a wheelman by Crime Boss.

The rest of the characters are introduced: lifetime losers, guys in debt to the crime boss, lifelong crooks, Crime Boss's kept wife, so on, so forth. The focus starts with Constantine and then shifts among Raymond and a few other characters about 1/5 of the way in.

Pelecanos always seems to lay heavy on music, fashion, and pop culture of the time. Both for this novel which was contemporary and the other historical settings he uses. Men are always chasing women and usually taking them for gratned. Close friends talk about everything. Muscle, power, and prestige are very important.

Comments:
1. While searching the Google box to recall character names I saw that a movie version is listed in IMDB as pre-production with a recent update in May. But, I also read a announcement from 2011 about a production to star "P Diddy" and actors from The Wire. Who knows what is going on.
2. I do not keep track of regular characters from Pelecanos novels. I do not know where this novel fits in.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Finish: "Gun Church" by Reed Farrel Coleman

Finish: Gun Church by Reed Farrel Coleman, 2012, 9781440551703.

I really enjoyed the first part of the story but the ending was far fetched. Even more far fetched than The Complaints which I just wrote my notes about.

Former 1980s wunderkind author Kip Weiler barely survived his years long binges on cocaine, women and booze. His literary career started huger and petered out as he self destructed over several years. Kip's novels got worse, he stopped writing and he was fired from several university teaching jobs until he landed in a Nowheresville community college.

Kip has cleaned up though. The depressed mining town he lives in does not have the drugs and women and nightlife that set him off before. He has spent seven years teaching writing classes and his fame only goes as far as the bookstore remainder bin.

Kip's been killing time in Brixton County Community College. He holds no long term relationships or friendships beyond cheating wives, short term adjunct professors, and the occasional co-ed. He's been pining for the wife who left his drunken, coked up, philandering self ten years ago.

That all changes when a student pulls a handgun out at the end of Kip's class and holds everyone hostage. Kip is not gun guy but recognizes the gun from when he had to pick a gun for a character to write about. Kip engages the student in conversation, grabs the revolver, urges everyone to flee the classroom, and watches as a police sniper shoots the gun wielding student.

After those heroics Kip spends a couple weeks back in the national limelight. He goes on TV, articles are written, and Kip has reason to write again. Even more: Kip's agent calls for the first time in years. Even, even more: the super hot co-ed in Kip's class comes on to him, gives him a blowjob and takes him to Gun Church.

Hidden within a hangar on the local abandoned military base is a concrete block structure where Gun Church takes place inside a room padded against sound. On Kip's first night at Church he witnesses two men wearing Kevlar vests duel with handguns. Gun Church is like Fight Club - but with guns. Kip is an addict the rush of firearms and dueling juices him up.

Kip is also juiced up by the Hot Co-ed, who he calls St. Pauli Girl. Kip makes best friends with a 20-year-old student named Jim who runs the Church, teaches Kip to shoot, and gets Kip to start jogging every day. Kip keeps writing. Kip plays house with St. Pauli Girl. Kip's career has a chance at resurgence as his new fame makes his backlist republished.

Then things go weird. Kip moves back to New York. Kip reconects with ex-wife. Kip thinks he hears Jim's distinctly sounding F150. The book turns into an evil mastermind novel with Jim as an obsessed fan. Jim pulling the strings. Jim killing off people. Jim setting up Kip for murder. Jim thinking Kip should be the 80s gonzo that Jim sees him as.

The entire conspiracy plot was silly. I did not care too much though. I rolled my eyes at the 20-year-old Jim having a years long plan to set-up Kip. That Jim forced St. Pauli Girl to bang Kip. That Jim did all sorts of underhanded scheming. That St. Pauli Girl really did love the much older Kip and Jim forced her to do what she did.  I ignored that and rolled along with the story.

Comments:
1. I just saw that this was published by Tyrus Books. Are they still around? Let me check... nope. I recalled that they were bought a while ago. Simon and Schuster was the final owner and closed them down in April of this year.
2. Ben Leroy started Tyrus and before that he began Bleak House. Both publishers put out a lot of books I enjoyed. Leroy was, maybe still is, based in Madison and Bleak House sent us something once, maybe something simple like bookmarks.
3. A few days ago someone checked out one of Coleman's books that he wrote under the Tony Spinosa name. The two Spinosa books were good fun, I liked those.

In My Ears: "The Complaints" by Ian Rankin

In My Ears: The Complaints by Ian Rankin, 2009, Overdrive.com download.

I am not sure how many Rankin novels I have read or heard. I did watch a couple of the Rebus movies/episodes with John WhatsHisNameFromScotlandWhoWasInTheMummyandAgentsofSHIELD. According to Rankin's web page he has published 38 novels. That is a lot of books. If he cannot find a foot ladder he could stack all those books up and reach a high shelf.

This is the first novel in the Malcom Fox series. I don't think I've met anyone named Malcolm. I heard this novel a while ago and I enjoyed the book. I also do not recall too much about the plot so I won't give a long summary like I usually do. After all, these notes are for me more than anyone else who might read it. That sure doesn't stop me from checking the statistics on the blog.

Malcolm is a single cop in Scotland working for internal affairs - The Complaints - and he is asked to help the secretive sex crimes unit from across the hall. Sex Crimes has word that a Scottish cop named Breck is involved in a online pedophile ring. Malcolm already investigated a different cop from Breck's  division and Sex Crimes figures Malcolm can use that as excuse to feel out Breck without Breck getting suspicious and destroying evidence.

Breck also gets romantically interested in the Sex Crimes detective, WhatsHerFace. WhatsHerFace gives Breck plenty of information to convince Malcolm that Breck may be guilty. Malcolm also has to deal with the violent death of his sister's physically abusive partner. The abusive partner was found beaten to death at a construction site and now Malcolm, protective brother, is being investigated.

Spoiler Ahead.
Pretty soon things start to go bad for Malcolm and Breck. They are both suspended from work and it looks like they are being set-up by a higher up. The whole set-up plot is a bit far fetched. The idea being that a friend of the guy investigated by Malcolm is trying to help the guy out by fucking with Malcolm. Or something. I cannot recall exactly.

The story of Malcolm and Breck working together to unravel the conspiracy is interesting but the concept of the set-up is baloney. The conspiracy plot relies on several assumptions about Malcolm and Breck and how they'll get along, and how they'll react under certain circumstances, and how everyone else will do everything else, how how how.

Comments:
1.Still an enjoyable novel - just gloss over the nonsense bits - but after having thought about it I do feel let down by the ending.
2. Rankin gives you his usual interesting characters.
3. Narrator did pretty well except, if I recall correctly, one or two women characters were not well acted.