Thursday, January 14, 2010

Read: "Winter's Bone" by Daniel Woodrell

Read: Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell, 2006, 9780316057554.

Good stuff. I liked that other one of his better. Same setting in the rural Ozarks. Similar characters with a centering on the Dolly clan. The Dolly's are a wide ranging, white trash, criminal family with shootings, beatings, prison terms, and all else for resumes.

Ree Dolly is sixteen with two brothers under the age of ten. Her mother is mentally ill and severely withdrawn and unable to do much of anything. Ree's father is a former jailbird and full-time crook; he is a Dolly after all.

Ree's father has been gone for a while. Nothing too much to worry about, that's what he and other Dolly men do at times. A Deputy shows at Ree's door and tells her that her father missed a court date and put the house up as bond. She'll lose the house to the bondsman in a week if he does not show. Ree has plans to escape the craphole area she lives in. She is not longer in school but hopes to join the Army and travel far away. For now though she is the only one taking care of her brothers and mother. The huge extended Dolly family of cousins and more cousins might help but no offers have been forthcoming lately.

Ree starts looking for her father and no one, including all those cousins, wants to answer her questions. They tell her to stop asking or regret her actions. Now, Ree knows her dad is dead. But, she has to prove that to keep the house.

Ree walks all over the winter Ozarks since she has no car. Has a secret lesbian thing for her best friend. Is threatened by her scary relatives. Worries about feeding her brothers. Makes plans to move the family into a nearby cave for when they lose the house. Gets viciously beaten by some Dolly women. Proves she "has sand" with her persistence. Ree's scary uncle saves her. Finds her father turned snitch for fear of a ten year stretch in prison and staying away from his family. The father's informing - even though it was against people outside the area - gets him killed. Ree is taken to her father - frozen in a pond - and cuts both hands off to prove his death.

1. Stay away from Woodrell's Ozarks.
2. Don't drive through Woodrell's Ozarks.
3. Pack heat when within 50 miles of Woodrell's Ozarks.
4. Ree is an impressive gal fighting for her family. Her hard-ass relatives ostracize her and the others even though they are innocent kids.
5. Lots of drugs: weed, speed, booze. Everyone does weed including the kindergarten teacher Ree visits for information. Dollys make their living brewing speed and running dope.
6. Woodrell makes immediately clear that a Dolly is never to associate with the law. Ree's brothers get a ride home from the bus stop by the Deputy and Ree flips out yelling, "They didn't do nothing." once the squad pulls up. She is then pissed to find they accepted the ride.
7. How does government operate in Woodrell's Ozarks? I cannot imagine these people people paying property taxes.
8. Ree is determined to keep her brothers from the Doyle career path. Keep them our of crime and out of prison. Prison is just another career step for a Dolly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Finished: "Blood Safari" by Deon Meyer

Finished: Blood Safari by Deon Meyer, 2007, 9780802119032, translated by K.L. Seegers.

Excellent. Damn good. This had a starred review and was one a two or three recent crime books based in South Africa. This was written in Afrikaans. I wonder if there is a big market for that language. SA is a big country but how many people get books in that language? I wonder that because Meyer makes it clear about the wide variety of languages that are spoken there.

Lemmer is a body guard for a private security company. He lives in a rural area of SA and travels to assignments. His newest client, Emma, thinks she is being targeted. Lemmer travels with Emma to the Kruger National Park area where she thinks a recent murder suspect is her long lost brother who disappeared in Kruger 20 years ago. Her brother had been a soldier assigned to stop poachers and went missing after a gun fight.

Lemmer is suspicious of Emma because she is rich and petite. Lemmer's Rule of Small Women is that they have learned to manipulate people because of their size. He starts falling for her anyway. Emma and Lemmer get flack from the local black cop investigating the murder case. They get stonewalled by conservationists and game parks people. They get ambushed and Emma has brain trauma during their escape and she lands in a coma.

Lemmer has been a bodyguard since he was 18 and joined the national police. He never had a client face a serious threat and attack before, and he is angry that the attempt almost succeeded. Lemmer's employer supports his goal to find those responsible and bankrolls his work.

A great novel with fantastic setting. The multiple cultures of SA are well explained and used in the plot. Multiple black tribes that compete against one another and the whites. White tribes of Afrikaans, English, Italian, etc. that also compete against each other and the blacks. The changing politics and economy of SA as blacks gain influence and power. Conservation versus development. The political and military policies of the past boomeranging back to effect the present. Whites with experience and skill who assume blacks are incompetent (and sometimes are).

Lemmer is a great character. He is still filled with rage from his shithole upbringing by a drunken father who beat him, and a slut mother who did nothing to protect him and disappeared when he was 13. Ten years working for the government until he was cashiered when more black bodyguards were needed. Two years as a karate instructor until his rage boiled over when he was pushed too far by four idiots and Lemmer went to prison on manslaughter for two years. He's an outsider who lives alone in a rural area and mostly works by himself.

Well done action scenes and good suspense. A neat intro to SA's geography and terrain.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Read: "Vampire a Go-Go" by Victor Gischler

Read: Vampire a Go-Go by Victor Gischler, 2009, 9781416552277.

More excellent writing by Gischler. The dude is on a roll. When Gischler was talking about Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse he mentioned how he slides some serious thoughts in with the fun stuff. He did that here but I cannot recall what it was.

Allen is a grad student at a low-rent university on the West Coast. Allen is a researching wiz and gets told he will be accompanying a professor over to Prague in the summer as the prof's research assistant. His gal-pal Chick #1 will be there for a poetry workshop. Chick #1 has a wet spot for Allen but Allen is clueless.

A weird killing happens at craphole-U and other characters are introduced including the ghost narrator. Allen gets to Prague, gets under the spell of a vampire, is kidnapped by well meaning witches (including hot chicks), pursued by machine gun shooting Jesuits, a Jewish spell caster and his golem, a werewolf who prefers to be called a Lupin or something.

Allen drinks beer with a Jesuit, goes on the run with Witch #1, teams up with Chick #1, fucks the vampire, gets captured by the Jewish mystic, evades and defeats the supremo bad-guy. Everyone is either looking to get or protect the Philosophers Stone. Narrated by a ghost who tells the story of the Philosphers Stone which the ghost was involved in back in 1599.

With beer, shooting, sex, hot chicks, radiation poisoning, magic, steam-punkish science, tours of Prague. Talk of hookers, slutty tourists, and cheap beer from a fictional guide book read by Allen.

Mostly Read: "Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps" edited by Otto Penzler

Mostly Read: The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps edited by Otto Penzler, 2007, 9780307280480.

There was some neat period stuff in here. Some stories were so-so but the editor did a full survey of different writers and story styles.

The big problem with this is that it is too thick and the paperback binding makes it too difficult to hold onto and read. I ended up getting burned out before I finished it. I've had it too long and need to check it back in.