Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Paperback: "Seduction of the Innocent" by Max Allan Collins

Paperback: Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins, 2013, 9780857687487.

Third in a comic book themed novels. I did not know the other two books existed. Maybe that's why the first publisher dropped the series after the first two novels.  Hard Case Crime came to rescue and published this one.

Right in the middle of this novel the protagonist slugs it out with a drunken, brawling cartoonist. The fight scene was fantastic.  The confrontation and fisticuffs only last 2-3 pages and I feel like I should go back and analyze the whole thing and figure out why it was so good. I won't.

Anyhoo. Jack Starr is a troubleshooter for a company that syndicates comic strips in the newspapers nationwide. His job is to keep the artists and writers out of trouble and on deadline. His young stepmother is a former striptease artist and business savant who owns the company. The get along but  they don't "get along".

Meanwhile, Dr. Werner Fredrick has just published his expose on the dangers of comic books and how they are inciting bad manners, long hair, foul language, chewing gum and all other forms of juvenile deliquency among American children.

Stepmom Starr tries to woo Fredrick by proposing that Fredrick write a syndicated advice column. Heck, Starr Syndicate will even find him a ghost writer for the weekly pieces. Things are looking positive indeed when Starr goes to Fredrick's hotel apartment and finds the good doctor dead.

Starr starts investigating. Along the way we encounter several fictionalized cartoonists, comic book titles, mobsters, personalities, and artists. I actually recognized some of them. Starr has some sex. Starr gets a beating. Starr cracks a little wise. Starr figures it out and Stepmother Starr and Starr reveal the bad guy.

Comments:
1. What's it called when all the suspects are brought together by the investigator and investigator reveals the killer?
2. Collins's new Quarry novel comes out in a few months.
3. I've not been able to watch the Quarry TV show. I'll have to wait for the DVD.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Heard: "The Field of Swords" by Conn Iggulden

Heard: The Field of Swords by Conn Iggulden, 2004?, Overdrive download

Swords! Horses! Sex! Intrigue! Back stabbing! Violent Frenchies! Violent Germans! Violent British! Violent Romans! More sex! Politicians being weasels! Weasels becoming politicians! Rioting! Sex!

Third in Iggulden's Emperor series. Caesar has returned from his multi-year assignment as "governor" of Spain. Caesar returns to Rome and brings all his men, a lot of gold, and a yearning to fight someone else. Caesar forges an alliance with Senators Pompey and Crassius and heads to Gaul to kill and steal and loot.

Gaul is tough. There are many tribes to fight and many battles. The Roman Legions march around and kill people. Brutus is Caesar's right hand - and winner of a tournament to determine the best swordsman in the Roman Empire. Death is frequent and lives are cheap. You sign up for 25 years when you join a Legion but don't count on living that long.

Caesar is successful in Gaul but Rome is in turmoil. Two new Senators are grown-up street gang leaders and both of them guide their violent street gangs in efforts to increase the Senator's political power. The Senate grants Pompey dictatorial powers to battle the crime and many riots and fighting ensue. Pompey gets a swelled head and does not want War Hero Caesar returning to Rome and challenging Pompey.

Caesar invades Britain and has a rough time. He has to return to Gaul and put down a rebellion. Caesar then takes his Legions and heads south to Rome. More slavery, violence as politics, rich guys being dicks. A fun action story with plenty of political shenanigans.

Comments:
1.a.  The novel's politics play nicely during an election year. Especially with Trump on the ballot. Especially with Clinton, for that matter. You can easily argue Trump - like some characters in the novel - has always been out for himself. Trump says whatever he wants in an effort to get elected.
1.b. Clinton, meanwhile, can be argued that she started out as a believer in her work and country but was corrupted by money and power.
1.c Caesar himself is a mix of both. Caesar believes in the power of Rome and it's importance to the world. Caesar also thinks mostly of himself and is blind to his selfishness and failure to thank and praise those who sacrifice so much for him.
1.d. The leaders make decisions to sway the voters and gain power. People are either helpers or speed bumps.
2. Caesar is hugely charismatic and a military genius. Caesar's men are loyal to Caesar more than they are loyal to Rome.
3. This is not real history. Iggulden takes real people and crafts his own story around them. The audiobook had an afterword about this but I have forgotten what he said.
4. I am currently listening to the fourth novel in the series. I have the fifth novel waiting in my phone,

Done: "The Storm Murders" by John Farrow

Done: The Storm Murders by John Farrow, 2015, 9781250057686.

I read Farrow's Ice City (1999) several years ago and thought it was great. This is the fourth book featuring Montreal police detective Emile Cinq-Mars. Farrow is a pen name for Trevor Ferguson. Ferguson is one of those "critical darlings" whose books never sold that well. He took a chance on genre by writing City of Ice and had some good sales.

I waited a long time - or so it seemed - for another book under the Farrow name. I waited even longer for the third book and am still waiting because the third novel, River City, never had a U.S. release. The Canadian edition must have had a small printing because Ferguson himself posted online that online prices for the hardcover were hovering around $3,000. Sure, the cost is in Loonies but the price is still absurd.

Anyhoo. Two Province of Quebec cops are called to a rural farmhouse during a snow storm. The married couple inside are dead and their left hand ring fingers cut off. The cops are talking and realize the killer must still be in the house because there are no snow tracks showing someone exiting the home.  Both cops are shot in the head.

A month of two later retired Montreal copper Emile is at his horse farm and gets a call from his former partner, Mathers. Mathers and an FBI agent, Dreher, come to visit and the FBI agent asks for Emile's help. Well, this is weird in several ways. 1. They are in Canada, why is the FBI here? 2. Mathers works on Montreal Island, not in the exurbs. 3. When does the FBI ask anyone for help? Especially a retired Canadian cop? 4. Why does the FBI give a crap about a killing in Quebec?

Those very questions are what intrigues Cinq-Mars. Besides, he has been getting bored during retirement. Working with horses is fine but Cinq-Mars misses the intellectual challenges of his old career.

Things happen. Emile and his wife are having marriage trouble. His wife, Sandra, demands to be a part of the investigation - she does not want to be shut out and since he is not a cop he is not required to keep secrets. Emile keeps pressing Dreher for Dreher details and explanations about who these people were. Dreher tells of related killings in the U.S. and, again, is tight-lipped about the victims and how they are connected. Emile is intrigued by the mystery and keeps chugging.

More things happen. A trip to NOLA. Sandra briefly kidnapped. A mysterious FBI agent in NOLA. Emile back in Quebec investigating the dead Quebec couple. I enjoyed the story.

Comments:
1. As I think about the plot I recognize it is kinda messy in spots. The killer's motive and behavior are a little off. But, hey, it;'s a novel.
2. Farrow has real nice character touches that explain Emile and his attitudes and temperament. His big schnozz that was a calling card when he was a policeman. His impatience with most everyone. His hyper awareness of details.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Completed: "U.S. World War Two Amphibious Tactics" by Gordon L. Rottman

Completed: U.S. World War Two Amphibious Tactics: Mediterranean and European Theaters by Gordon L. Rottman, 2006, 9781841769547.

Another Osprey war history and only 64 pages. Kinda neat but to read through but even at 64 pages there were some boring parts where the author lists and discusses the table of organization for all the navy and army units.

This book focuses more on the different landing ships used during the war. The changing designs for size, position of controls or ramps or defensive guns. How the newer ships were designed to be stacked for overseas storage.  The differing boat needs between the Pacific and European campaigns.

There is small portion discussing how and what troops were sent ashore and when. Riflemen, machine guns, mortar men. Units had to be split up among several smaller landing craft and organized to fight on their own on the beach.

Also touches on the vital need of offloading supplies. Building floating piers. Transitioning vehicles from boat to land. Making vehicle paths across sand and headlands. Dealing with the tides.

I enjoyed the illustrations and photographs.

Heard a bit ago: "Paperboy" by Pete Dexter

Heard a bit ago: Paperboy by Pete Dexter, 1995, Overdrive.com download.

Dang. I got all confused, I was thinking Pete Hamill wrote this novel. An odd thing to think since I as I listened to this novel I was recalling some of Dexter's Paris Trout.

Anyhoo.

Short: 20-year-old U of Florida dropout is driving a delivery truck for his small town newspaper owning father. Dropout's brother reports for the Miami Herald and comes to town to investigate the arrest, trial and conviction of a local no-goodnick convicted of murdering the local sheriff. Dropout is hired to help out and many things happen. This was a good book.

Long: It's the late 1960s and Jack James is driftless after getting kicked off the Gator swim team and expelled for emptying the team pool. Jack has been getting up at 4AM each morning to deliver the daily papers around Moat County, FL for his father, W.W., who owns the paper.  Jack has looked up to his older brother, Ward, who is now a star reporter in Miami. Ward lost his license in a DUI and he hires Jack to drive Ward and Ward's writing partner, Yardley, around Moat County.

Moat County county is rural with small cities and plenty of swamp. Rocking the boat by questioning the local police and court authorities is a risk but Ward does not care. Ward's only life is work. He is a research and interview fiend. Ward is naturally withdrawn and quiet but he does not back down; he'll stake out the Sheriff's office for a week until he gets an answer. Ward is a reporter.

Yardely is a entitled douchebag in love with himself and looking to climb the ladders at work and society. He considers himself writer. An auteur. A artist. He regularly cheats on his fiancee and starts drinking at 10AM. He's no reporter, he is a journalist.

Things happen as Ward and Yardley investigate the death row case of Hillary. Hillary's court case was a sham with poor legal representation, missing evidence, no attempt to contact witnesses or corroborate alibis. But, Charlotte is a 40-year-old mail clerk from New Orleans who regularly exchanged letters with several death row inmates. (Yeah, she's got a problem.) Charlotte is now in love with, and engaged to, Hillary and convinces Ward and Yardley to look into the case.

Hillary himself is a very scary dude. He is exudes menace and the reporters's prison visits are tense. Hillary does not care about an appeal. To him Ward and Yardley are effeminate, soft handed, paperboys. Hillary just wants to stare at Charlotte during their visits. Hillary wants Charlotte to wear dresses. To cross her legs, To lick her lips. During the first visit Hillary orgasms inside his pants in front of all four visitors.

More things happen with family dynamics of Jack, his father and Ward. Charlotte and Yardley carrying on. Longtime bachelor W.W. takes up with a younger employee. Jack does not know how to relate or talk to women and has frustrated sexual needs. The 1960s newspaper business and W.W.'s loss of ad revenue. Daily and weekly newspapers were everywhere. Papers looked for front page scoops and W.W.'s Moat County paper has financial trouble when advertisers withdraw their support after Hillary is released from prison.

The newspaper business is an integral part of the story. The importance of investigative journalism. The importance of personal integrity by the reporter. Publishers who adhere to the story no matter who is hurt - even Jack himself is embarassed when he has a short, nationwide byline after a jellyfish poisoning.

Comments:
1. For years the publisher of my local paperwas good pals with a local manufacturer. The manufacturer seems to have quite a history as a polluter and lousy employer. I wonder what stories never made the paper because of that relationship.
2. Creepy swamp trash families and brutality.
3. This is the third novel I read where a character has eye damage or eye loss. City of Heretics has the protagonist slashed across the face and over the eye. 361 has the protagonist lose an eye. Paperboy has Ward lose in eye in a vicious beating.

Heard: "Girl Walks Into A Bar" by Rachel Dratsch

Heard: Girl Walks Into A Bar by Rachel Dratsch, 2012, Overdrive.com donwload.

Standard celebrity autobio and very well narrated by Dratsch. I don't much care for biographies in general and care even less about celebrity books. (Excluding Norm MacDonald's forthcoming book and Jenna Jameson's book on her bizarrely fascinating as a porn actress.) But, I always thought Dratsch was funny and enjoyed her sketches on SNL.

Dratsch follows the standard story line of family life, pre-professional entertainment background, friends and funny stories, and entertainment career. The meat of the story is Dratch's unusual family situation. Over 40 Dratsch ends up "casually" dating a wine importer living in Northern California. Dratsch still lives in New York and they travel to meet one another. Dratsch has a surprise pregnancy. But, the two of them are not close enough to marry. CA Guy is a good dude though and moves to New York and gets his own apartment to be with his upcoming son. The book ends with the two on very good terms and seemingly still in a romantic relationship. Dratsch does not go into too much detail there.

Anyhoo. How does an actress spend seven years on Saturday Night Live and then mostly disappear from entertainment? She hits 40.  Dratsch wrote this shortly after her well publicized firing from 30 Rock and, at the time at least, the only acting roles she was offered were overweight-lesbian-secretary-best friends. I wonder if that is also what happened with Cheri Oteri. She, too, was a heck of a good comedic actress.

One of Dratsch's detriments is that she is not tall, blond, and thin. As Dratsch says, you would see her on the street and see a regular person. But, producers see Dratsch and mark her as a hag. It's very weird and Dratsch tells of her difficulty in not taking personal insult by Hollywood's Bizarro World.

This book had quite a few laugh out loud moments for me.

Comments:
1. Lorne Michaels as the aloof guru. No one seems to actually know the guy. They just take orders and hope for the best.
2. I don't think I ever heard of Bizarro World until that Seinfeld episode.
3. I sent a Tweet to Dratsch telling her I enjoyed the book and she liked the Tweet. I feel an odd sense of approval when a author "likes" something or responds to my online comments. I do admit to being a bit of a suck-up though.
4. Except Neil Smith. Screw that guy.
5. Just kidding. I like Smith, he's a good dude.
EDIT:
6. Re: Lorne Michaels. I was just reading a Washington Post profile of Norm MacDonald. The writer includes several text messages he and Norm exchanged. There is this comment by Norm regarding Lorne Michaels.
As concerns Lorne, all the things said about him don't interest me and I think miss where the success of Lorne lies. He is one of the funniest people ever. And he has better taste in comedy than anyone. The latter is obvious. But the most interesting thing about Lorne Michaels to me is that when I am with him, I always find myself genuinely laughing. When people think of the funniest people to ever be at SNL, they overlook Lorne, whose right there fighting for top spot.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Completed: "Gestapo Mars" by Victor Gischler

Completed: Gestapo Mars by Victor Gischler, 2015, 9781783297351.

Space opera with nazis. I know this is an over the top version of a 1950s science fiction novel but I tend to take things too literally. I am very gullible. And I don't always recognize over the top situations in writing. So, I was left wondering, "What the hell? Why choose space nazis for the book?" Especially since there is nothing particularly nazi-like about the future space nazis. The only connections are the fascist salute, some spaceship names, and the swastika.

Anyhoo. Carter Sloan awakes from suspended sleep after 200+ years. Super-special-secret-deadly-agent Sloan is brought awake for a new mission but the facility he is in is attacked and Sloan himself is captured by rebels. Sloan bounces back and forth between a rebel group and the nazis who run most of the universe. He is alternately assigned to kill or capture a woman behind the rebellion.

Sloan is indoctrinated to obey orders and finish any assigned  mission. He cannot easily follow his own wishes or desires. Things happen with sex, violence, space ships, gelatinous aliens, destroyed planets, faster than light travel, super sexy women, etc.

I enjoyed the book.

Comments: 

  1. I suppose I do recognize the silliness of much of the book - Gischler excels at silly insertions (yeah, twist that however you like) - but I hate nazis.
  2. Of course I enjoy most everything Gischler writes. The man has abundant skill and talent. I even read those endless Tweets about how much he misses Disneyland. 
    • Or those endless Tweets about how much he wants wine in his mouth. 
    • Or those endless Tweets about grilling. 
    • Or cleaning the kitchen. 
    • Or waiting for producers and publishers to return calls about work.
  3. Gischler finished his fantasy trilogy if you're looking for some swords and sorcery stuff. I bought series for my library.