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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Comic: "Clown Fatale" by Victor Gischler

Comic: Clown Fatale by Victor Gischler, art by Murizio Rosenzweig, 2014, 9781616554347.

Collection of the four issues.

Full of violence, blood, boobs, and g-string butt cleavage. Four women clowns are working a small traveling circus.  The clowns are at the bottom of the circus pecking order and paid beans.  When leaving the big top they are put upon by some locals.  The girl clowns stomp the locals.  The fight is witnessed by a guy who figures the clowns are the killers he is there to hire.

The clowns are boozing and doping in their tent when the guy approaches the big boobed, scantily clad women and offers $50,000 for a murder.  Local guy says, first you have to prove your salt by killing a local dealer.  A couple gals are intrigued by the price. Protagonist Chloe says, no way.  One gal, says, Crap, this first guy is our dealer. We have to get more weed and ecstacy anyway so let's go see him.

Chloe goes into the dealer's place.  Dealer tries to rape Chloe. Crazy clown lady, Aya, stabs dealer to death.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  They visit Local Mobster and get a down payment.  Meanwhile the real killers are a knife throwing act of Russians who aim to kill the clowns for cutting in on the murder business  Cutting in.  Get it?  Get it?

More death.  More blood.  More boobs.  More butts.  Some twists.  Some turns. Two dead clowns and lots of dead bad guys and dirtbags.

Comments:
1. Gischler seems to really like beheadings.  This has three.  The Conan comic had several.  Heack, even that Strukul novel - with Introduction by Gischler - had a few.
2. There is no such thing as a sexy clown.  Rosenzweig draws the women with sexy outfits and minimal clown make-up.
3.  I liked the artwork quite a bit.  This was much more my style than other comics I have read. 
4. I have that new Taylor Swift song bouncing around in my head.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Comic: "Conan: the phantoms of the Black Coast" by Victor Gischler

Comic: Conan: the phantoms of the Black Coast by Victor Gischler, art by Attila Futaki, 2014, 9781616552442.

Comic book novel. Conan is king of a kingdom he invaded. After defeating an army that was besieging his kingdom a mage comes offering to work for Conan. The mage offers three female slaves as a harem.  One of the slaves closely resembles Conan's dead love, Belit, pirate queen of the Dark Coast. The Mage was able to see spirits and saw Belit.  She says Belit is wandering in space/time/ether/whatever but that the Mage knows how to free Belit so she can be at peace. The Mage offers to help Conan free his lovey-dovey.

Conan accepts the Mage's offer and will travel with her and a small retinue to the Dark Coast.  They hire a ship.  They have plenty of sword fights.  They encounter cannibals on an island. The Mage is plotting and not what she seems.  They arrive at the mouth of the Zarkheba River and head upstream.  They arrive at a temple that covers a cavern.  They kill more people.  Conan and his right-hand man go underground to find the blood of the world.  The Mage says the blood of thew world is needed for a ceremony to free Belit.

Turns out the Mage is a devil (or something) and wants the blood of the world for more power not to free Belit.  That's how these things work out, Conan cannot catch a break.  More fighting ensues.  Conan is victorious because he is Conan.

Comments:
1.  I read a Conan novel once when I was a middle school student.  I'm certain it was not a Howard novel.  That novel had sex.  All the Frazetta illustrations have nude or near nude. The Schwarzenegger flicks have skimpy outfits and nudes.  This does not play on the nudes and sex.  This is action and Conan wanting to help the only woman he loved.
2. Well, sure there are bikini clothes.
3. Six beheadings.
4. Conan is some dark stuff.  Lots of death.  Conan is described as having "gigantic mirth" but all he does is kill and conquer.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fast: "The Ballad of Mila" by Matteo Strukul

Fast: The Ballad of Mila by Matteo Strrukul, 2014, 9781909223738.  English edition translated by Marco Piva-Dittrich and Allan Guthrie.  Does Guthrie know Italian or did he work on stuff like colloquialisms?

Strukul wrote that he really likes fast, pulp-style stories and this one moves quick with a straightforward revenge story.  Set in Northern Italy.  Mila was raised by her policeman father until she was 14 (or so).  Mila and her father were in a restaurant when mobsters murdered her father, kidnapped Mila, and then gang raped Mila.  Mila was then raised by her grandparents.  Mila's grandfather trained her hard physically with martial arts and endurance training plus time at shooting ranges.

Chinese mobsters have started to move in and take over different parts of the illegal economy.  They are clashing with the Italian mob.  Mila inserts herself after an Italian guy hired by the Chinese murders a couple Italian mob accountants.  Mila kung-fus the killer.  Mila takes two million Euros in cash.  Mila is followed by a Chinese mobster overseeing the killings.  Mila kills two Chinese killers who come to kill her and she captures the third.

Mila uses the money and kidnapped Chinese mobster to force partnership with the local Italian mob.  The same mob that murdered her father and raped her.  Mila plans to kill the Italians and take the Chinese down on the way.  There is plenty o violence, plenty of scheming.  Not so many twists and turns - this is pretty straightforward and fast moving and things go quite well for Mila.  She is able to talk, punch, stab, or shoot her way out of problems.

Fun stuff.  At the end Mila applied to join a private society of bounty hunters and killers who fight organized crime in Europe and is off to join them for the sequel.

Comments:
1. Foreword by Victor Gischler.  I did read that.
2.  Long interview at the end with Strukul and some other guy about books and writing.  I read a few pages of that and bailed.  I did quickly skim the rest of the interview which says Strukul is doing a trilogy.  Actually, the trilogy is probably done since the original Italian of this novel published in 2011.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quick-ish: "Stopping for Strangers" by Daniel Griffin

Quick-ish: Stopping For Strangers by Daniel Griffin, 2011, 9781550653205.

Canadian Computer Guy writes short stories.  Canadian Computer Guy gets short stories published in compilation.  Canadian Computer Guy emails library customers saying, "I wrote a book.  Please take a look."  Wisconsin Library Director says, "Sure, Canadian Computer Guy is a decent dude."  Wisconsin Library Director takes two years and four months to get around to reading it.

Ten literary short stories.  142 pages.  I should read more literary short stories because I enjoyed these.  I also liked that book by Levine.  These stories focus on family relations.  Often between siblings (or maybe those stuck in my head longer).  The characters are usually skirting financial ruin. People who don't know what they want.  People who think of themselves but cannot see their selfishness.

I liked all of these.  Some produced some real unease and dread.  Griffin is covering topics and situations that struck a nerve with me.  The Leap and Florida are two sibling stories that stuck out.

The Leap is told after and before.  After has the sister narrating how she drives her wheelchair bound brother out to play pool every week.  Sister is trying to give Brother something to do to keep him off the sauce.  He is demanding and rude.  He tells the before where he and pal go to a winter party.  Brother is attracted to another man at the party but no one knows Brother is queer.  Brother has a girl hitting heavy on him but he has eyes for dude.  Brother is former gymnast and tries to show off on a slippery porch railing.  He falls and breaks his back.

Florida has a dickhead brother taking his sister's truck to a service station.  He goes inside, asks for cigarettes from the girl working there and says, "Take it off Sister's pay, gotta go, see ya' later" and skips out the door.  As Brother is pulling out he hits a kid's bike as the kid is going past.  Brother says, "What are doing?! Here, I'll give you a ride."  Brother chats with the kid and spins bullshit tale of living high in Florida and he is only in Ontario (maybe it was another Province) for his mother's funeral.

Comments:
1.  After reading stories by Griffin, Craig Davidson, and Joel Hynes I really don't want to visit Canada.
2.  Except Quebec.  I still want to go back to Montreal.
3. Sweet!  I just checked Craig Davidson's web page and he has a new novel out, Cataract City. I'm buying that sucker.
4.  I still have not watched that film version of Davidson's Rust and Bone.  I did buy a copy for the library.
5. I don't see anything new by Griffin.

Heard: Fighting the Flying Circus" by Eddie Rickebacker

Heard: Fighting the Flying Circus by Eddie Rickenbacker, 1919 (2012 audio), Overdrive.com download.

Written by Rickenbacker right after the war.  Rickenbacker was the leading US ace of WWI and a celebrity at home.  I'm not sure how old I was when I received a copy of [title I cannot recall]  I read through that quite a bit and still recall several of the stories.   I was looking for the title of the previous book and ran across this.  We used to have this game, I'm not sure I ever played that with my brother or not.  Well, I suppose if the game was printed in 1980 I must have been about 10 or so when we got it.  I imagine the book was about the same time.

My fondness of [title I cannot recall] encouraged me to try this one out.  It was interesting but ran on too long for me.  Rickenbacker seemed to cover just about every one of his air battles and near battles and the battles of other pilots in his unit.  The recording ran 10'36".  Here are some notes I too while listening.

1. Much of his unit's time seems like amateur hour. They were still enthralled with the enthusiastic start of the war.  Their time at the front lasted less than a year.2.  The pilots saw combat as full of honor and proper manners. Some kept with this throughout their fighting.  The stories of a pilot flying over an enemy's airfield and dropping, literally, the gauntlet.  Well, maybe not literally literally, after all, a glove would be a poor gauntlet.  But the pilots were aggressive and wanting to down the enemy
3.  Rickenbacker wrote how awful combat was and the constant stress. Death was faced from mechanical failure, weather, and getting lost.  That danger is true but at a couple points he was comparing trench warfare versus air combat. Rickenbacker was arguing that dry barracks at the airfield and YMCA entertainment did not make much of a difference in comparison to the infantry at the front lines. Baloney. At one point they go to the front lines to recover a downed German plane and witness artillery attacks and convoying through the mud.
4.  Machine guns would often jam. I wonder how they cleared the stoppages. At one point both of Rickenbacker's guns jammed and he had to clear them while letting the plane coast along. Another pilot was so frustrated at his jammed guns during an attack on a balloon that he threw the hammer-like device used to clear jams down at the balloon's ground crew.
5.  Observation balloons were widely used by both sides.  I was surprised about how difficult it could be to shoot down the balloons.  Morning attacks would leave dew on the balloon fabric and the incendiary rounds were going so fast anyway that they might not ignite the gas. Downing a balloon counts the same as a plane towards a pilot's victory totals.
6.  Americans flew leftover planes for the first few months. Tactics and skills were developed during the previous years but were not so complicated the American pilots did not quickly learn.
7.  Pilots would fly several times a day. Flights were limited to about two hours max because of fuel limits. Pilots would to turn off their engines for stealth and whenever landing.  Damaged planes escaping the enemy would try to glide back to their own lines or friendly airfields.
8.  No radios. Lead pilots would dip the plane's nose and wag the wings to instruct a flight.
9.  AA fire was called Archie and was mostly ineffective. Pilots would fly through and do acrobatics to mock the AA gunners.  The most effective use of AA was by the Germans who used aerial bursts as a way to communicate with their own pilots.  The artillery bursts would ordered and at certain altitudes to notify defending German aircraft of Allied aircraft in the area.
10.  There was a lot of feinting and ambushing. 
11.  The wing fabric on the Nieuport's flown by U.S. pilots were prone to tear when diving too fast.  A pilot would be the heat of attack and pursuit and lose the fabric on top of his wing.
12. A couple days ago I read a review of a recent Rickenbacker biography.  Enduring Courage.   Low and behold that sucker is on display in the World War One book display here at work.  I liked seeing the photos of the people and planes Rickenbacker wrote about.  One photo is of a Nieuport wing with missing fabric.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Heard: "When Did You See Her Last?" by Lemony Snicket

Heard: When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket, 2013, Overdrive download.

Second in the mystery series of 13-year-old Lemony assigned to an incompetent mentor and working in Stain'd-by-the-Sea.  Their last case was wrapped up and they are now hired to find a missing teen girl.  The girl is Miss Cleo Knight.  Everyone refers to her as Miss Knight.  The Knights own Ink Inc. The town is plastered with missing posters but Miss Knight's parents are pumped to the gills with laudanum thanks to their personal apothecary and oblivious to everything.

Apothecary?  Yes.  Snicket still loves using a wide vocabulary and enjoys having characters discuss the definition and usage of odd or archaic words.

Anyway.  Snicket sees the trouble: evil-acting apothecary, inconsistencies in theory that Miss Knight joined the circus, Miss Knight's abandoned automobile.  S. Theodora Markson, Snicket's mentor, continues to be an idiot and will take any excuse to close to a case, even if the explanation is bunkum.

Snicket digs around and we are reintroduced to a few of the town's residents.  The Librarian.  The hotel owner.  The plucky girl journalist.  The equally plucky boy taxi drivers. The bickering married couple who are the town's police force.  The cop couple's rotten kid.  The mysterious, alluring, and untrustworthy Ellington Feint.  Snicket discovers that evil mastermind Hangfire is behind things.  Snicket discovers other deceits.  Snicket rescues Miss Knight with the assistance of a few others.

Comments:
1. Snicket wants to be back in the City and working with his sister.  They have been secretly communicating with one another and she is working on something of importance to them both.
2.  Filled with literary references but Snicket never gives titles or author names.  Some of the books I can figure out, like Pippy Lockstocking, but others I have no clue.
3.  Non sequiters by the dozens.
4.  Discussion on sneaked versus snuck.
5.  One thing I'd not thought about with traditional hard boiled novels is that the hardcase PIs are very involved emotionally but do their best to hide it.  For me the smart comebacks and tough guy exterior stick out more than the regret and sorrow.  I see this more with Snicket's worry over his sister, his promises to Ellington Feint, disgust with the poor police work and incomptence by his mentor.
 6.  Third recent book that refers to laudanum.  Moonstone and Hop Alley were previous.
7. Hangfire.  I think of the Stones song and delayed ignition of ammunition.  I miss any puns or references inherent in most of the characters and place names because I get the audio version. I'm not sure what Snicket is going for with this name.  If anything.