Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Heard: "The Death of Kings" by Conn Iggulden

Heard: The Death of Kings by Conn Iggulden, 2004, download.

I finished this a while ago and am catching up on my book notes. An important note: this is not meant as fictionalized nonfic. Iggulden's author notes - maybe they were online - detail the differences between Iggulden's characters versus the real Romans he based the characters on. Anyway.

Julius Caesar has been sailing around the Med on a Roman ship after fleeing Sulla's bloody wrath. Caesar is an infantryman and an attack by his ship on the pirates gets Caesar, and other ransom-worthy Romans, captured. Caesar's family raises the ransom money but Caesar refuses to return to Rome. Caesar and Co. are left on the shore of North Africa and Caesar recruits the rest of the stranded crew to help him recruit North African Romans so they can all attack the pirates and recover the ransoms.

Caesar grows as a leader. Caesar makes a couple enemies. Caesar finds the pirate, recovers the gold, lands in Greece, puts down a Greek rebellion, rescues a Roman governor, receives an honour wreath and returns to Rome.

Meanwhile, Marcus Brutus has finished his tour with a Legion in Greece. He returns to Rome, lives on Caesar's estate, meets his high-price prostitute mother, has Marius's Legion reformed, and starts getting political.

Caesar returns and teams with Brutus. There is some friction but the two join together and their new Legion marches against Spartacus. Along the way Cato plots against Caesar and several Senators. Cato pays for assassins. Cato is slimey. Roman revenge is bloody and ruthless and just as slimey. Caesar and Brutus survive the slave rebellion but Caesar's family is murdered.

1. A good part of the book is a clear argument against the brutality of slavery. You'll grit your teeth thinking of the nitwits who say slavery wasn't so bad.
2. A reminder that Romans were assholes compared to today. Steven Saylor's (no relation) novels highlight the same inequalities as shown here. The rich make the rules.

Done Last Night: "The Age of Selfishness" by Darryl Cunningham

Done Last Night: The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, morality, and the financial crisis by Darryl Cunningham, 2015, 9781419715983.

Comic book nonfic about Ayn Rand, Rand's love for self-love, and the author's thesis that Rand's philosophy of self-love love excused greed and led to the economic collapse of 2008.

I don't quite agree with everything in here. Greed is nothing new. Justifying greed is nothing new. Ayn Rand has certainly had a big influence though with the current Leader of the House Paul Ryan and former Fed Meister Alan Greenspan one of her acolytes in the '60s and '70s.

I've not read Rand's novels. I doubt I will read Rand's novels. Rand sounds like a selfish asshole. Heck, Rand was a selfish asshole and looked to justify her behavior.

Cunningham only spends the first third of the book on Rand and her personal and professional life. The rest is spent on the reasons for the financial breakdown, the aftermath and Cunningham's arguments about why it happened. I think the slick tricks of the credit swaps, derivatives, and fraudulent lending are always worth another brief.

Cunningham has as good sized section on the many differences between liberal and conservative mindsets. That section was interesting. Cunningham writes that recent research says those political/social beliefs are nature, not nurture. The many differences between the two groups: Reactions to danger. Inquisitiveness. Black and white versus shades of grey. Resistance or embrace of change.

Cunningham discusses the pros and cons of both sides and tries to lay the blame of the '70s crime wave on the liberalism of the '60s. (Okay, you can go with that but I'm not sure how you'll prove it.) He puts corporate greed and the screwing of the middle and working class on the Reagan conservative era starting in 1980. (Well, as a mostly-lefty I admit I am inclined to agree there.)

A big part of the book is the Golden Rule. Should we treat others with kindness or is that a wasted weakness? Rand would let them starve. Should those with all the gold make the rules? Rand seemed to want things that way.

We have a recent Rand bio here at work: Goddess of the Market, 2009. Goddess is listed in Cunningham's bib and has circ'ed 13 times. A DVD title, Ayn Rand in her Own Words has been out 11 times since April, 2011.

Finished: "Signature Kill" by David Levien

Finished: Signature Kill by David Levien, 2015, 9780385532556.

I was quite happy when I heard this new Frank Behr series novel was being published. This is a serial killer story which, to me, is not a good fit for a PI novel. The previous three Behr book were man alone stories. Behr is insular with few friends no work mates and revenge stories like Where the Dead Lay make more sense. Of course, this is a novel. You know... fiction.

Behr is living by himself because he is a jackass. His longtime girlfriend lives in her home with her and Behr's toddler son. Behr is still wrapped up in guilt from the death of his first son several years ago. He is unable to commit to Girlfriend because of this.

Behr works as a solo PI in Indianapolis and is without clients. Behr reads a billboard listing a reward for a missing woman. "Hell, why not? I need the dough." Behr calls number and visits The Mom. Missing Woman was a prostitute. Behr sleuths and discovers possible pattern of other missing women and prostitutes.

Meanwhile, we 1st person pal around with Bad Guy Serial Killer. Bad Guy Serial Killer likes blonds. Bad Guy Serial Killer enjoys artistic display so body parts. Bad Guy Serial Killer dumps his bodies around Indy. Bad Guy Serial Killer's dong digs dead dames. Things happen and Behr runs the case.

Behr is a large and powerful man and doesn't mind a few fisticuffs. Behr used to work for the Indy P.D. and the keep-the-public-from-panic topic of serial killers gets Behr hush-hush access to PD files. Behr has a suspect. Behr has dead ends. Behr shakes the tree and Bad Guy Serial Killer shows.

Big climax with violence. Behr wins out.

1. This entry did not have as much about Behr's fights, about Behr's exercise routine, about Behr's jiu-jitsu. All of these novels procedural mysteries with some bad guy 1st person.
2. I still have not seen any of Levien's movies. I did start watching The Girlfriend Experience but was sidetracked and never got back to it. He is also doing The Billions on TV which looks like a good show.
3. Not as much gratuitous gun love as before.

Done: "Buck Fever" by Ben Rehder

Done: Buck Fever by Ben Rehder, 2002, 1466414545. I think the ISBN is the hardcover or paperback. This is a Kindle title owned and published by Rehder.

Plugged by Crider as a deal of the day. I remember when this book came out but I never got around to the book.

Game Warden John Marley's best pal since boyhood is Phil Colby. A few years ago Colby had to sell his family ranch to wealthy lobbyist Roy Swank. Swank moved out from Austin to start a Big Time Game Ranch. Swank imported some Mexican deer fenced off much of his property.

John gets called out to the Swank place after a couple spotlight poachers ended up shooting a wildlife biologist by mistake. One of the deer is acting crazy and skittish - jumping and bucking - and Marley tranquilizes the deer. Well, Tranq Deer is Phil's former pet from when Phil owned the property.

Phil is happy for the chance to get his deer back. Warden John is happy to help give the deer back. Something sketchy is happening with Swank's deer. The Sheriff is a prick. The poachers are idiots. Swank is an arrogant SOB.

Things happen. Phil is injured and hospitalized. Warden John makes goo-goo eyes with Phil's nurse. Nurse makes goo-goo eyes at Warden John. Bad guys arrive to recover the drugs that were sewn inside the live Mexican deer. So on. So forth. Warden John and Nurse do the sexy sexy sex while captive to Bad Guys.

1. A fun novel. I couldn't help but compare setting and characters to Sheriff Dan Rhodes.
2. Some satisfying silliness.
3. Worth your time.
4. There is a shoot out.
5. There are a couple murders.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Zip: "Hellbound" by Victor Gischler, et al

Zip: Hellbound by Victor Gischler and a bunch of artists, 2015, 9781616558154.

Typical Gischler work: very good and very entertaining. This is the bound hardcover of a short comics series. I have Gischler's Stay checked out and will start that after I finish by current read.

Short version: X-Files + werewolves + vampires + alien beings = Hellbound.

Longer(ish) version: Two FBI Agents are sent to a strange crime scene in rural Vermont. The crime scene is heads and corpses. The Agents chase a lead, get into a shoot-out, are attacked by a thing. One Agent is bitten but they are rescued by a dude in metal suit who dispatches the thing. The thing turns human.

Anyway. A fun story. Flashbacks scenes use a different artist and I appreciated that artwork more. Lots of scary monsters. Blood. Fights. SKRITSSHH. VVRRROOOOM.  BLAMM.  GRRARR. SHRRRIIIP.

Cheap Find: "The Confession" by Domenic Stansberry

Cheap Find: The Confession by Domenic Stansberry, 2004, 9780843953541.

This past December the boys and I were walking through St Vincent DePaul after dropping off donations. Paperbacks were half off. I selected two Hard Case Crime novels and paid a total of $0.60.

This is an original novel, not a plucked-from-obscurity reprint.

Narrated by a forensic psychologist accused of murder. Jake Danser admits that things don't look good. Jake gives chronological rundown on his actions how there is no way he is serial killer. Danser is certainly no psychopath, even though Stansberry has other characters place all the evidence in front of us.

Danser enjoys his Marin County home, his wealthy second wife, his numerous opportunities to have secret girlfriends, fancy clothes, and head turning looks. He has charm and grace. He strange urges. The fact that dead bodies follow his path is pure coincidence. That Danser's wife leaves him right before the murder really burns him up. He must have her back.

Anyway. I really liked the writing in this novel. The story really flows along and Danser is an engaging narrator.

Musical Interlude Bonus!

I was listening to BBC 6 Music a couple weeks ago and heard this song for the first time. I'd heard of Teenage Fanclub before but never heard their tunes. 6 Music played a similar version to this, sung by the writer, Norman Blake.

1. Stansberry won an Edgar for this novel.
2. Stansberry has a handful of other novels to his name and I'll have to try and hunt some down.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Yellowing: "The rainy City" by Earl W. Emerson

Yellowing: The Rainy City by Earl W. Emerson, 1985, 038089517X.

I do not know where this paperback came from or how long it has been in the house. I'm guessing I bought it at some sale. Or, I may have brought it from my parent's house in Champaign. The paper is yellowing and the cover art is very '80s style. The cover reminds me of some Dashiell Hammett reprints I bought back then.

This hooked me at the start. I do not know why. Thomas Black is a former Officer with the Seattle Police Department. While Black was working as a police he shot and killed a man. Flashbacks of the shooting rendered him unable to fully do his job and Black was granted a retirement for a bad knee. For the last several years Black has been a PI.

Black drives home one rainy night after telling a client that the client's girlfriend was stepping out. Black pulls into his driveway, sees his dog on the pavement, and a man running away in the dog. Black now owns a dead dog. Emerson just lost a bunch of readers. Black ponders who is mad enough at him to bash his dog's skull.

Black lives in a house with a basement apartment. He's been renting that apartment to the same young woman for several years. The woman, Kathy, has become a good friend. Kathy and Black are close and Black is kinda interested but age and circumstance preclude sex and romance. Kathy tells Black: I had and premonition. Melissa, my old pal is in deep trouble. And look! There is an advert offering a reward to find her! Help Obi-Won Black, you're my only hope!

Black begins butting in. Kathy and Black drive to see the missing. Kathy is a sexy law student and a flake. As the reach the house Black and Kathy see Melissa's parents rushing away with Melissa's daughter. They enter the house and the husband is being pounded on by a local bad guy PI, Julius. Julius leaves and we start to learn more about the husband, Melissa and the pile of shit Black has stepped into.

Melissa's father is a physically imposing and financially powerful bully. Melissa's mother is subservient. Black talks to Melissa's aunt an hour to the north. Black finds out Melissa is in prostituting in Portland. Black's home is burgled and Kathy tied up and prepped for torture when Black comes home and scares the guy off.

More things happen and nasty stuff goes on. Black tries to figure out a murder. Black decides who to believe.

Emerson did a fine job with this. The setting is well done but Emerson gave Black a very strong voice as 1st person narrator.