Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finished: "The Collaborator" by Gerald Seymour

Finished: The Collaborator by Gerald Seymour, 2009, 9781590204467.

Last finished book of the year unless I hide in some room during the upcoming New Years party and finish an audiobook. I thought this came out in 2011 or 2010. Another solid book by Seymour and long at 474 pages. Seymour needed all those pages to cover the many characters.

Eddie is a twenty-something underachiever and all-around average guy in London. While buzzed after lunch time beer and summer heat he meets and speaks to an Italian girl on a park bench. The girl asks him to clarify an English word's meaning. Eddie happens to be a a language teacher. They hit it off.

The girl is Immacollota and she is quite secretive. They spend lots of time together with plenty of sex. But, only at his place and Imm never tells him her phone or home. Immocolatta was born into a crime family in Naples. An unloving and ruthless crime family. All of Naples seems to be unloving and ruthless. The whole damn town is run by different crime families of massive wealth. None of the families much care for money - they can never freely go in public to spend it - they care for power and fear.

Imm learns her best and only friend has died. She secretly flies to Italy for funeral. The family assaults and spits on her. The daughter died of poisoning from the illegal toxic dumping her family made a fortune off of. Imm is shamed. Imm decides to turn sides and testify. The decision is not hard. There is no love in her family. That is born out after her family are arrested and dream of slitting her throat with a dull blade.

Imm skips out of London to turn evidence. Imm is a snot whose every wish has been accepted by a fearful public. She does not adjust well to protective custody. Eddie decides to quit his job and search for the suddenly missing Imm. Eddie flies to Naples. Innocent Eddie does not know Imm is a collaborator. Eddie is kidnapped to exert leverage on Imm.

Many more things happen. The Italian investigator and prosecutor have to learn if Imm will stick with it. They have to worry about the torture and death threats on Eddie. Imm's minders have to deal with her lousy behavior. An expert hostage negotiator has to work with the Italians. The grandparents who started the criminal family have to take over again when kids and grand-kids go in jail. Vicious criminals. Heartless criminals. A hitman who only feels emotion at the instant of a victim's death.

1. Recurring theme: SWAT guys who like to read about fancy new equipment.
2.This false issue of respect. The confusion [in my mind] of the Italians, and people in the U.S., that they are not given proper respect. They don't want respect, they want fear. They want groveling and begging. They want the power of life and death. Fear is not respect.
3. Never go to Naples.
4. The seeming futility of investigating and prosecuting a family when the many competing families just swoop in and take the territory.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Read: "Road to Perdition" by Max Allan Collins

Read: Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins, 1998, 9780671009212.

I was reading the Collins blog and was reminded about the recent publication of the third entry in this series. I watched the flick a few years ago but figured to read the novel. Not necessary since the flick closely followed the novel.

Story recap: Michael Sullivan is muscle for a Tri-Cities (Quad Cities in present day) mobster family, the Looneys, in 1930. Sullivan has two kids and a wife. Sullivan seems like a good dad and husband but his ruthless efficiency (not quite fanatical devotion to the Pope and church) gave him the nickname "Angel" for Angel of Death. Oldest son Mike, Jr. hides in dad's car before dad leaves at night and witnesses a machine gun multiple murder. Looney Junior murders Sullivan's wife and younger son. Looney, Jr. wants to get rid of witness and mistakes younger kid for older kid. At the same time, Looney, Sr. sends Sullivan to a meeting that is a set-up for murder. Sullivan escapes, comes home, and finds Mike, Jr. Sullivan is out for revenge.

Revenge involves trying to convince Capone's outfit in Chicago to quit their partnership with the Looney family. Sullivan kills many people and visits small town banks to steal Capone money that is being laundered. Sullivan cuts deal with Ness to give evidence on Looney. Ness busts Looney Sr. Sullivan gets Looney, Jr. Things end badly for everyone.

1. I did not like the artwork; not my style. A notable point is that there is no detailed portrait of the dad's face until page 121. Every other page has his face obscured, "out-of-focus", or done with simple lines. The narrator, Mike, Jr., writes about how those several weeks on the run are more vivid than the time before. Sullivan's detailed portrait happens during their first trip to Chicago when he meets with Frank Nitti.
2. The dad's face is Montgomery Clift.
3. I skipped past Collins's intro but will likely read it because I always learn something when reading his commentaries.
4. I just read that Daniel Craig played the younger looney. I never noticed that.
5. An improvement over the novel was giving Jude Law's character a more prominent position and showing Sullivan afraid of him. Sullivan-in-the-novel is an unemotional killing machine. I remember the film took on Sullivan's combat veteran, PTSD problems that Collins explores with Quarry.
6. Sullivan is a creepy guy. You can argue that Sullivan's actions are keeping his son alive. But, at the same time, he is exposing his son to extreme danger and making him his driver and back-up gunman. I don't think the comic book novel format allowed Collins enough space to expand on the weird relationship between Sullivan and his son.
7. It's an incredibly sad story. Massive graft and corruption. Murder of a child and mother. Mike, Jr. goes through a lot of trauma and violence. Mike, Jr. forced to kill two people. Sullivan a messed up dude. Sullivan's Kansas relatives murdered. Sullivan murdered. Mike, Jr. ends up in an orphanage.
8. Collins did the comic book novel, was the movie's source, and wrote the tie-in.

Listened Into the Night: "Indigo Slam" by Robert Crais

Listened Into the Night: Indigo Slam by Robert Crais, 1997, downloaded off OverDrive.

Very good. Another Crais title where I stayed up late to listen. I usually only listen to audiobooks while walking for exercise or work, or when driving to a meeting. For this one I had a drink and sat to listen once the kids were in bed and unable to jump on my head.

Elvis Cole is in his office when three kids walk in. The oldest is a 15-year-old girl, a 12-year-old boy, and a 9 year-old-girl. I am guessing on the last two kids ages. They want to hire Cole to find their missing father. The dad left 11 days ago. The dad often leaves and the kids are left to fend for themselves. The kids leave upset. Cole decides to follow. Cole does not call any social services because the kids and house are clean and orderly and the kids go to school. Cole takes the case for two hundred bucks.

Cole looks. Cole tracks. Missing Dad is a heroin user. Cole goes to Seattle. Pike wears his sunglasses at night. Cole walks into trouble with Russian gangsters in Seattle. Missing Dad is a printer. Missing Dad is a forger. Missing Dad is wanted dead by Mean Russians. Missing Dad shows back up. Cole's girly-friend wants to move to L.A. Girly-Friend ex-husband is a dickhead with power. Ex-Husband causes trouble.

Missing Dad reappears. Reappearing dad is doped up. Cole warns of Mean Russians. Reappering dad disappears again. Cole tracks Missing Dad to Vietnamese guys looking to forge Vietnamese cash to damage Viet economy. Missing Dad has terminal cancer and is self-medicating with dope. Mean Russians appear in L.A. Mean Russians are nasty and violent. Blah blah blah. Pike carries his Colt Python. Shootout at a warehouse. Shootout at DisneyLand. Shootout in a condo. Everyone but the Russians live happily ever after.

1. Lovey-dovey action with Girly-Friend.
2. Pike's mouth twitches.
3. 12-year-old boy is bratty.
4. Local geography.
5. Cooking.
6. Angry cat.
7. Edit: Colt ended Python production in 1999. Prepare for sticker shock before looking at online prices.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Finished: "13 Million Dollar Pop" by David Levien

Finished: 13 Million Dollar Pop by David Levien, 2011, 9780385532532.

When I attended the Random House party at Bouchercon this past Autumn and sampled from the wonderful, wonderful open bar I spoke to David Levien and his pal, Some Tall Guy. Both Levien and Some Tall Guy were nice fellas and neither one told me to go suck eggs.

My conversation with Levien - also a screenwriter and movie maker - went something like this.
Levien: Ocean's Thirteen?
Me: Nope, never saw that one.
Levien: Rounders?
Me: Nope, never saw that one either.
Levien: Runaway Jury?
Me: Nope.
Levien: Walking Tall?
Me: Uh-uh.
Levien: Girlfriend Experience?
Me: No. [But I am fond of nudity in film.]
Levien: Knockaround Guys?
Me: I wanted to but didn't get to it. Is that the one in North Dakota?
Levien: Montana.
[I then went crazy on the free Dewar's.]

Anyway. This was a pretty decent novel. The third in Levien's Frank Behr series. Behr is a forty-something private eye in Indianapolis. Behr just took a job with a national PI firm called the Caro Group. Behr took the job for the steady paycheck since his younger girlfriend is pregnant. For years Behr worked for himself and he is chafing under the restrictions and instructions of the firm.

Behr fills in on a bodyguard job - really more of an Assistant With Gun job - for a local business guy. Murder attempt on business guy has Behr Glocking their way out of it. Behr is now loved at the firm but shut out of news about the murder attempt investigation. Behr does not like his job. Behr is bored. Behr is ornery. Behr starts digging into the attempt.

Business Guy is tabbed to fill in resigned Senator's slot the day after the attempt. Business Guy has a ties to a failed racino (horse racing and casino together) south of town. Levien simultaneously follows a Welshman who arranged the murder and the former business partner of Business Guy who is did the hitman hiring.

Behr digs. Behr gets too wrapped up in his work and does not communicate with girlfriend. Behr works out every morning. Behr tries to help cop and former Marine with War on Terror PTSD. Behr ignores his real job. Behr gets fired. Behr gets in fights during investigation. Behr keeps digging and talks to whores, does much surveillance from his car, talks to PTSD Cop.

Everything ends mostly happy after a nice gun fight and fist fight and some brutal murders by Welshman.

1. Welsh bad guy is thoroughly bad and villainous but he did not really grab me as a character.
2. CZ love. The 97 not the 75. Which, I just looked up, would probably run me about $650 OTD. I'm not really thinking about the RAMI anymore. The RAMI is not much smaller than my PCR.
3. Levien has plenty of MMA style fisticuffs.
4. Much local flavor.
5. Great line about whores in the morning but I don't have the book handy.
6. Written in many short chapters. Patterson length chapters.
7. Much mention of professional levels of skill and expertise in tradecraft. Levien did his research on all that stuff and it shows.
8. I would read Some Tall Guy's book but I cannot recall his dang name.
9. EDIT: Decker listens to a lot of metal music including Charred Walls of the Damned. No mention of nutsack lover Richard Christie.

Read: "All the Young Warriors" by Anthony Neil Smith

Read: All the Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith, 9781908688002 (kindle version), 2011.

What the fuck? How did a major publisher not buy this and give it a big media push? Smith said several publishers were interested but passed. Smith was going to try the small press route and went with e-publishing instead.

A snowstorm traffic stop in New Pheasant Run, MN leads to the murder of two police officers. One of those was the pregnant girlfriend of police detective Ray Bleeker. This makes Ray sad and angry. The investigation immediately leads to Adem, a Somali kid and local college student from the Cities. Adem's dad Mustafa shows up, worried about his missing son. Mustafa used to run a violent Somali gang in the Cities until he dropped out of gang life and got a job at Target.

Ray does not trust Mustafa and wants revenge on Adem and Adem's pal, Jibriil. Ray follows Mustafa. Ray rescues Mustafa from a beat-down. Mustafa is convinced to his bones that Adem was not the shooter or an active participant in the cop murders. Ray is on forced vacation - due to his girlfriend's murder - and very reluctantly teams with Mustafa to find out if Adem and his pal Jibriil really left town to fight in Somalia.

Adem did go to Somalia. He wanted to find his roots, follow Islam, and rescue Somalia from warfare. Jibriil wants to kill people, blow shit up, and boss people around. Adem does not fit in. Jibriil fits in and gets promoted.

Ray and Mustafa hits Mustafa's old gang haunts. Mustafa is a walking bulls eye after walking away from gang life. Ray's impatience and arrogance causes friction with Mustafa and trouble with Somali gang dudes. Shootout ensues in Eden Prairie and Ray slightly wounded.

Adem is hot for a local Somali girl. Adem misunderstands Somali Girl and wants to rescue her; you can see the trouble coming. Adem tries to desert. Jibriil saves him from execution and gets him a job as a negotiator between Somali pirates and ship owners.

Ray and Mustafa partner to go to Africa and rescue Adem. Ray just wants to kill Jibriil. Ray cashes in his savings and travels with Mustafa to Somalia. Trouble ensues. More trouble ensues. Bad guy contractors cause trouble. Adem is rescued. Adem demands to return to Mogadishu to rescue Somali Girl. Ray wants to go to Mogadishu to kill Jibriil. Adem is a 19-year-old nitwit. Ray is lost without his girl and job. More trouble ensues. More people die. Ending is slightly happy.

1. On the cover: "Smith writes with force and clarity." What the hell does that mean?
2. Smith really nailed the two setting in MN and Somalia. Adem felt left out as the black immigrant kid in Minneapolis but is completely out of place in bloodthirsty and merciless Mogadishu.
3. The would-be love affair between Adem and Somali Girl is a complete screw up by Adem. He is clueless to the culture clash. Somali Girl used to live in London and Adem cannot understand her adherence to the locals' bat-shit crazy strain of Islam.
4. The mismatch pairing of Mustafa and Ray works very well.
5. There is much more I could write but I won't. This was a very good novel.
6. I liked the Hi-Point insult.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Read: "Ring of Knives" by James Daniels

Read: Dead Man: Ring of Knives by James Daniels, 2011, 9781612187617.

Pretty good and pretty short. I suppose all of these will be short. I never heard of Daniels before.

Matt is driving to a mental hospital to visit a patient, JW. He found the guy's initials and case history in a library reference book. The pages of the book are in his hand, "and each had a ragged edge where he'd ripped it out of a book after being reminded by a snotty librarian that reference materials couldn't be checked out." That what photocopiers are for ASSHOLE!

The patient's actions after being stuck underground for days are remarkably similar to Matt's. Matt wants to find out if Mr. Dark haunts JW too.

Matt gets dropped off at the driveway and meets an angry woman with a taser. Matt walks to the state run hospital which is very run down and has incompetents for staff. Staff tell him his appointment does not exist and take a hike. Taser Lady works there, Matt covers for her latenes, Taser Lady sneaks him into the facility as a cleaner.

Matt finds evil doings. Matt fights evil doings. Matt learns more about Mr. Dark from JW's treating doctor who researched the issue. Matt kills bad guys. During painful electroshock Matt has vivid flashback to life with his dead wife.

Matt rescues a teen girl from evil dudes and sees Mr. Dark in the end. Matt hits the bricks.

1. I wonder what the required specs are for the writers. I also wonder how pay is structured. If life were fair a fellow like Reasoner would be selling as many books as Danielle Steel.
2. You know what a great line for these novels would be? "Then I will have to destroy you with the Frisbee of Doom!" They can have that one for free, courtesy of my five-year-old.
3. A medical reference book would list a patient's real initials? Bullshit.
4. One sex scene per book must be standard. I wonder what Faust will do with hers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Quit Listening: "The Dark and Hollow Places" by Carrie Ryan

Quit Listening: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan, 2011, downloaded from OverDrive.

I did not like the narration. The previous two novels were sometimes difficult for me to finish because of the whiny, emotional teen girl leads. The narration amplified that.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quickly Read: "Dead Man #1: Face of Evil" by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin

Quickly Read: Dead Man #1: face of evil by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin, 2011, eBook.

Typical Goldberg book. Fun and entertaining reading. I never read a Rabkin book before. Maybe this is typical for him, too. This was a quick read and I was wondering how many pages it runs. According to Amazon the paperback option is only 104 pages. I was thinking highly of my reading speed until I saw that.

Matt is a widower in Oregon who mostly stays at home or works at the local sawmill. His best pal is ne'er-do-well Andy. Matt is chastely dating Rachel because he is still stuck on his dead wife. Rachel is stuck on Matt. Well, she wants to be stuck by Matt. Matt and Rachel go on a skiing weekend where Rachel plans to jump Matt's bones. Instead, an avalanche buries Matt.

Matt is dug out three months later, sent to the morgue, and found to be alive when the autopsy starts. Matt then hooks up with Rachel. Andy inherited Matt's house. Matt is hallucinating - well, not really. Matt sees Andy as having rotting skin. Rachel tells Matt to stop trying to save Andy. Andy slaughters his co-workers at Happy Burger. Matt rescues lumber mill manager from Andy. Devil who has been appearing to Matt makes manager kill a cop. Matt hits the bricks to keep trouble from Rachel and try to stop the devil who calls himself Mr. Dark.

1. Nothing to read too deeply into here. Just enjoy the story.
2. Sex scenes.
3. Character who enjoys farting in the tub. While she masturbates. While her boyfriend watches and masturbates.

Read: "The End of Everything" by Megan Abbott

Read: The End of Everything by Megan Abbott, 2011, 9780316097796.

That was unsettling. And tense.

Neighbors Lizzie and Evie are 13-years-old circa 1989. They have been best pals since they were four. Very best and inseparable pals with shared clothes, sleepovers, secrets, and other young girl obsessiveness. Evie goes missing and Lizzie is the one to clue the cops on who kidnapped her. Lizzie is narrator and struggling through the stress of Evie's abduction in a way unique to adolescent girls.

Lizzie's tip on a car she saw leads to Mr. Shaw from up the block. Shaw is missing and becomes the main suspect. Lizzie finds more evidence pointing to Shaw, moves the evidence, and pretends to find the evidence. Later, she speaks to Shaw's high school son. The son has his own reasons for talking to Lizzie but Lizzie takes his information and pretends a phone call from Evie to relay her location to the cops.

Evie is released and secrets are slowly revealed. People have changed. Things have changed. Secrets will still be kept. A lot goes on in the novel and I won't bother trying to list it all.

1. I've seen various descriptions about End. A mystery. Secrets of the "golden family" from next door. Phooey. This is a bildungsroman with creepy sexual overtones versus teenage romanticism.
2. Lizzie has a deep crush on Evie's dad that she does not fully understand. Her bodily and emotional reactions are new and confusing. The confusion mixes with the sexuality of her mother and her "secret" boyfriend, the commanding presence of Evie's older sister Dusty, fellow schoolmates gossiping about sex, and Lizzie's misunderstanding of Shaw as a man deep in love with Evie.
3. Lizzie's crush was creepy. The crush was not sweet or innocent or any other Hallmark bullshit. Evie's dad was creepy, too. I was expecting him to be sexually abusing Dusty who he is very close to before Evie disappears.
4. The flyleaf places this in the mid-'80s but the dialogue about LPs and CDs makes me think 1989.
5. Frustration while reading. The tension and mystery quickly build after Evie disappears. I wanted to skip ahead and find out what happens. But doing so would miss too much of the story. At the end of the novel I did scan ahead for a reveal and made myself back up to not miss anything.
6. I put this book off several times because I wanted to sit and read uninterrupted. Uninterrupted reading is very difficult when Boys #1 and #2 are awake and jumping on my head.
7. One of the many YA-style topics Abbott touches on is when the kid realizes an adult is cracking. When a powerful authority figure starts to fall apart.
8. Teen boys angry at moms. The obverse of the dads and daughters theme of the novel.
9. Obverse is a big word for such a small, snarky man, Gerard.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Finally Read: "Wolf: the lives of Jack London" by James L. Haley

Finally Read: Wolf: the lives of Jack London by James L. Haley, 2010, 9780465004782.

Finally finished. An okay book but not the revelation some reviewers seemed to think. London had a rough life for sure and his success was through hard work. You could draw parallels between London's experience and self-motivation with Bill Mauldin's rough childhood and moving around.

London's mother was pregnant by one man, gave birth, and married a Civil War veteran. London loved his step-dad but his mom was a harpy who spent money and gambled on business ventures. His mother had him working at an early age; a time that London referred to himself as the Work Beast.

London bummed around - literally. He caught trains and stayed in hobo camps. He traveled with a tramp army demanding jobs. At fifteen he bought a sailing ship for lucrative work stealing clams from the mud in San Francisco Bay. He did time for "vagrancy" in Buffalo.

London returned to the Eastern Bay and Oakland to finish high school. Gained admission to Berkeley after very, very, intensive study. Left Berkeley for want of money. Went to Alaska and Canada to prospect. Came back, started writing in earnest.

Basically, London did a lot. After his fame hit he did a nationwide speaking tour. Traveled on a war reporting job to Japan and Korea. Took the month long traveling vacations that seemed common 100 years ago. Banged a few chicks. Drank a lot. Etc. Interesting but nothing that really thrilled me.

London did produce a lot. He was dedicated to writing every morning and would put out 1000 words a day - even when voyaging to the South Seas and getting various tropical diseases. His death due to an overdose of morphine does sound accidental. He was in a lot of pain from bad diet, liver disease, rheumatism and other various issues. The guy burned out fast.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Listened: "Death of a Dude" by Rex Stout

Listened: Death of a Dude by Rex Stout, 1969, from

Archie is on summer vacation in Montana at a dude ranch owned by a friend from Manhattan, Lily Rowan. Lily's ranch manager is arrested for the murder of a visiting dude from St. Louis. The same dude who knocked up the manager's teenage daughter last year. Archie is sure the manager is innocent and decides to stay and investigate the case. He mails a letter Wolfe saying he will be indefinitely delayed in returning to Manhattan. Wolfe cannot cope without Archie. Wolfe actually packs up and flies to Montana.

Wolfe shows up and Archie immediately starts needling him. About his weight, having to shake hands, wearing a vest, etc. Wolfe's discomfort away from home is clear, and even worse, women are there. I'm sure academic papers have been written and deep fan discussions occurred on whether Wolfe is gay. I don't think so. I think he is just a curmudgeon.

Locals are not helpful to a "dude" and Archie has gotten nowhere in his investigation.. Archie gives Wolfe the verbatim replay of every interview Archie has had. Wolfe cogitates and grunts and inspects the larder. Wolfe works hard at being mannerly. The local Sheriff is incompetent. His Deputy is even dumber. Another man is killed and Archie is jailed. Everything turns out fine in the end. Wolfe gets to reveal all by announcing the killer and what happened to the Sheriff, Deputy and a cop from St. Louis.

1. The manager's daughter seduced and impregnated by the slick talking stranger. The poor innocent girl, cruelly taken advantage of. Oh. Really? How dated is that kind of thinking? Another topic for argument.
2. Archie's sex life is alluded to in the novels but never made clear. He could be a playboy or he could be a social butterfly.
3. Montana sounds nice in the summer. There was a job opening at Montana State University Northern in 2004 when I was job hunting. I never applied because it was too remote for traveling to visit family.