Monday, December 31, 2012

Read: "Chicago Lightning" By Max Allan Collins

Read: Chicago Lightning:the collected Nathan Heller short stories by Max Allan Collins, 2011, 9781439275870.

I never read a Heller novel.  Collins has written online about the novels and the topic I best recall has to do with sexuality.  Heller is a skirt chaser and the novels do not avoid sex scenes. Collins has discussed his own reactions and opinions about readers' and reviewers't adverse reactions to the sex scenes.  Because of that I was expecting sex sex sex sex sex.

Well, Heller is a skirt chaser and ends up dating or sleeping with several gals but there was nothing I consider graphic.  I was disappointed.  Good thing the stories are so well done.  Pub dates range from 1984 to 2008.  Setting range from early 1930s to mid 1950s.  I skimmed Collins's intro.

Heller can be a bit of a dickhead at times and is always interested in making a buck.  He won't cheap a client  but will charge a wealthy guy extra.  The realistic settings mixed with true crime are interesting.  Plenty of Chicago mobsters, L.A. mobsters, Cleveland crooks, and Eliot Ness.

Comments:
1. The intro by Collins mentions Heller's post-war changes.  He becomes more Mike Hammer-ish and ready with violence.  I should read some of those post-war PTSD stories in comparison to the Quarry books.
2.  This is an ARC I picked up somewhere.  Should I complain about errors in an advanced readers copy? No. But, I will.
Story titles not on each story page.
No table of contents.
Author notes out of order.
Typos.
There, I feel better.
3.  Heller likes rum.
4.  Heller carries a 9mm Browning.  Is this supposed to be a Hi-Power? EDIT 1-2-12: I picked up my Hi-Power clone today and put about 70 rounds through it.  The pistol shot pretty well but the trigger is a little rough and my thumbs forward grip pushed up on the slide lock.  I put tape on the web of my hand to dull the hammer bite.
5.  Heller likes all sorts of gals.  But, since this is a novel, they are all pretty, sexy, and willing to boink.
6.  P.I. novel staple of a PI with police connections and ability to get information from the police or tag along with them.
7.  Plenty of historical research.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Done: "Persuader" by Lee Child

Done: Persuader by Lee Child, 2003, 0385336667.

The usual.  Reacher is walking along and something happens.  Federal cops want Reacher's help.  Reacher uses his Army experience.  Reacher insults bad guys.  Reacher has sex with hot federal cop.  Reacher kills without remorse.  Reacher solves a mystery and hits the bricks.

Reacher is walking in Boston when he sees a guy he was sure is dead.  Reacher calls an MP to run a license plate and DEA comes to Reacher's hotel to speak with him.  Dead Guy is a bad guy Reacher went after when Reacher was an MP.  Dead Guy has connection to possible drug trafficker in Maine.  Reacher agrees to help DEA by going undercover and look for missing DEA agent.  Reacher saves Maine Guy's son from fake kidnapping to get Maine Guy's confidence.

Reacher thinks.  Reacher ponders.  Reacher insults.  Reacher kills.  Reacher ends up commanding and controlling.  Reacher has deadline to get job done before he is found out. Reacher kills some more guys.  Reacher discovers high-end gun running.  Child parses out the story of Reacher's involvement in Army's investigation of Dead Guy.

Everything ends happily with Dead Guy dead for good, a woman tortured and killed, a bad guy eviscerated, Reacher almost drowned, lots of cold wind and rain, missing DEA agent almost sold into sexual slavery, and two more DEA agents murdered.

Comments:
1. Gratuitous insults of Makarov handgun design.  Phooey.
2. Jack Mr.-know-it-all Reacher.
3.  Isolated house on the coast.  Reacher always ends up in isolated houses.  The West Texas novel, the novel where he goes to England, the novel where he goes to Montana, the Florida novel in mob owned town.
4.  Colt Anaconda love.
5. A very good thriller.  The usual.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Listened: "Savage Season" by Joe R. Lansdale

Listened: Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale, 1990 (book) and 2009 (audio), Overdrive download.

First Hap and Leonard novel and answers some questions I had about their pasts.  Quite good, as usual.  Much humor, as usual.

Hap and Leonard are shooting skeet when Hap's ex-wife, Trduy, shows up.  Leonard promptly leaves.  Leonard hates Trudy.  Trudy and Hap met in the '60s and got married.  Both of them were gung-ho activists and Hap decided his act of revolution would be to get drafted, refuse induction, and heroically go to jail.  Trudy was right along with him on the plan. Until Trudy changed her mind while Hap was in Leavenworth and she divorced him.

Trudy is a sexy beast and in the intervening years has boomeranged back to Hap, wrapped him around her finger, and her around his dick, and then dumped him cold.  The last time that happened Hap went on a major booze bender until Leonard pulled him out of it.  Hap has sworn her off but falls right into bed with her.

Trudy has a proposal.  Another of her ex-husbands, Howard, was also in prison for Fighting the Man and had a con pal who told him about lost bank robbery money.  Trudy and Howard want to recover the cash.  The cash is in the Sabine river near the town Hap grew up in.  They want Hap to help for a cut of the take.

Hap asks Leonard to help out.  Howard and Co. are leftover '60s do-gooders.  Howard and Co. plan Revolution!

Things happen.  Leonard is rude and insulting.  Hap pines for Trudy although he knows she is a tramp and is now with Howard.  Humorous situations.  Leonard and Hap love each other.  Leonard and Hap insult each other.  Leonard and Hap are doublecrossed by do-gooders.  Do-gooders are double crossed by a gun runner.  Gun Runner is very unpleasant.  Gigante's narration is a very good performance.

Hap and Leonard go to hospital.  Everyone else dies.

Comments:
1. Has anyone ever done a simile count for H&L books?  There are a ton.
2. Gratuitous vanilla cookies.
3.  Lousy, cold weather.
4.  Nothing about Leonard's uncle, just his parents.
5.  Hap is not as angry and violent here as in later novels.  Lansdale does not explore Hap's dichotomy: his dislike of violence that still falls to his temper.  Peace-and-love Hap's dislike of violence even though he is very good at it.  Hap wanting a peaceful life but always taking on potentially violent work.
6.  That's right.  Dichotomy.  I also know what bifurcated means.
7.  I just read a Lee Child novel where Reacher says he does not fight for the underdog, Reacher says, "I hate big smug people who think they can get away with things."  Hap and Leonard fit in there.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Quit: "The Green Shore" by Natalie Bakopoulos

Quit: The Green Shore by Natalie Bakopoulos, 2012, 9781451633924.

Committee novel.  Military coup in 1967 Greece brings worry to an Athenian family.  Widowed Doctor Mom, Mom's three kids, and Mom's younger brother, a well known leftist poet.

I read to page 94 and nothing happened.  A taxi driver neighbor was arrested and tortured.  The Mom's older daughter is protesting "The Colonels" behind the coup.  The poet is trying to decide if he should reconcile with his estranged wife.  The Mom's son heads to the U.S. for grad school.  Blah blah blah.

"But, were you inclined to dislike this novel because the author teaches at University of Michigan?"

"Of course, Muck Fichigan after all.  But, I gave it a fair shake, 94 pages is enough.  Besides I read Megan Abbott books and according to her bio she attended school there."

"Really?  Were you not also biased against the author because you cannot spell her name?"

"Yeah, kinda, but in my defense she is really good looking and that outweighs names I am unable to pronounce or spell."

"How about the book cover?"

"I liked the colors."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Read: "Boxing Is..." by Thomas Hauser

Read: Boxing Is...: reflections on teh sweet science by Thomas Hauser, 2010, 9781557289421.

Compilation of 2009 articles by the boxing writer.  I was in the Fitchburg PL with the boys on a Saturday of Sunday and saw this when looking for gun books in the sports section.  There were a couple of these yearly compilations by Hauser.

I have not watched much boxing over the past 7 years or so.  I used to watch Friday Night Fights on ESPN when in Phoenix.  I started to pay a good amount of attention to the sport but got off track after moving.

Some of the pieces in here were quite interesting.  Other pieces I did not care about and read through as quickly as possible.

Comments:
1.  Several articles by Hauser on how HBO has been screwing up their boxing programming.  They were doing exclusive deals with just a couple promoters giving them a limited number of boxers to schedule.  They were schedule uncompetitive bouts.  The guy running HBO boxing sounds like a dick.  HBO is the real influence in television boxing.  They have the money to make things happen but do a lousy job.
2.  Piece on Sugar Ray Robinson's career and life was quite interesting.  So many out-of-the-ring stories are compelling.
3.  Hauser collected notes about Joe Frazier made by another journalist after that journalist's death.  Muhammed Ali could be a real dickhead.  Ali deserve much credit for standing up to racial bullshit but he was also a jerk.  Frazier used to like the Ali and admired him, but Ali would name call and pick on Frazier to build himself up.  As Ali's boxing opponent Frazier was framed as his political opponent too.  Not true.
4.  Interesting piece on unproved corruption in Texas boxing.  A big fight in Houston was horribly scored in favor of the hometown fighter.
5.  Stories and briefs on current greats.  Pacquiao receives great praise for his abilities and superhero status in the Philippines.

Listened: "The Mark Inside" by Amy Reading

Listened: The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con by Amy Reading, 2012 (audio), Overdrive download.

Texas rancher J. Frank Norfleet was conned out of several thousand dollars in 1919 while in Dallas.  Norfleet is ticked off, Norfleet goes after the five man crew that took him.  His chase covers several years, thousands of miles, and most of the country.  Norfleet learns all about con games and con men and runs his own cons numerous times by acting as a ripe sucker for con men.

An interesting book but mainly a recap and analysis of Norwood's own stories.  Norwood became famous in the '20s with numerous news articles, an autobiography, and lecture tours.  Reading accuses Norwood himself of being a bit of a con man because of exaggerations and unsubstantiated claims.

Reading's recap is well written and bulwarked by the author trying to verify Norwood's claims.  Reading is rightly critical and skeptical of Norfleet and points out the exaggerations and apocryphal elaborations.  Reading seems to have done some good research in newspaper libraries and compared different versions of events from multiple print sources and multiple witnesses.  Reading had access to letters from Norfleet and other people  Norfleet lived to over 100 years old and continued to communicate with cops and attorneys he befriended during his hunt.

Norfleet spent a lot of time in Florida, Texas, California, and Colorado in his hunt for the crooks.  Along the way he ran into plenty of crooked cops and politicians.  Norfleet is deputized in Texas at one point and uses that badge to arrest crooks and return them to TX.  He busted other con men he came across.  His life was under threat in several instances and he would pack 2-3 handguns at a time.

Reading interlacing a short history of infamous con men and cons from pre-Revolutionary era to modern day.  The importance of cons and gambling in keeping money moving in early economies.  The con's similarities with gambling, legal speculation on land and commerce, and stock markets. The fact that the con, ,"confidence", is something that crosses legal and illegal endeavors.  "Con" and confidence is faith in an individual's trustworthiness and abilities.  Not faith in company reports, mining tallies, corporate incomes, etc.

A con man's mark builds trust in his mark.  The coining of the phrase con man comes from an early 1800s con man who would pretend to be a stranger's pal in NYC and ask, "Do you have confidence in me to hold your [expensive] watch for a day?" and then never reappear.

Comments:
1.  The crooks would spend the money as fast as they made it.  When captured they would be indignant.  Sociopaths who believe they did nothing wrong.
2.  The best cons leave the victim never knowing he was conned.  The victim is taking an offer to good too be true but also a little illicit.  The best long con sends the victim home thinking he got off light.  That the victim escaped danger or police.
3.  Norfleet was driven to catch the guys.  He was a physically sturdy and small statured guy that spent years on the range building his purse and slowly acquiring land.  He 54-years-old when taken and often asked why he went after them.  Reading emphasizes one of his last answers to that question, "I had to do it, man."
4.  Great history of turn of the century corruption in Denver.  The city was a hub of con men and crooks whose leader ran the city.  A WWI veteran was barely elected as District Attorney by getting enough suburban votes to beat the city's stuffed ballot boxes.  The new DA played it dumb and slwly built a slam dunk case against the grifters.  Norfleet arrived in town right before the arrests and became involved in the case.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Comic: "Star Wars: Knight Errant: Volume Two: Deluge" by John Jackson Miller

Comic: Star Wars: Knight Errant: Volume Two: Deluge by John Jackson Miller, 2012, 9781595826381.

Kerra Holt, 18-year-old Jedi, is still behind enemy lines during the Sith War in the era of the Old Republic.  Yeah, I'm confused about the timetable too.

Anyway.  Sith are fighting each other and the Republic.  Holt is trying to free her home planet.  A Hutt leads an attack on a Sith planet to take over and make money. Holt teams up with an independent space fleet to defeat the Hutt and free the planet.

Blah, blah, blah.  Holt overcomes.

Done: "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank" by Nathan Englander

Done: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander, 2012, 9780307958709.

Committee book.  I tried listening to Ministry of Special Cases four years ago, got bored, then quit.  This was five or six short stories.  I forget how many stories and already sent the book back to Waterloo.  At least I think I sent the book back to Waterloo.  I hope it's not still sitting at home.

Literary fiction.  Pretty decent.  Not great, not moving, tedious at time.  All Jewish tales.  I mean "Jewish tales" because religion or culture all play an important role in each story.  Here is a recap of the stories I recall right now.

"Beat Up Kids" story.  Jewish kids in 1980s Long Island have an anti-Semite bully picking on them.  The guys try to fight back and are unsuccessful for a variety of reasons.  The immigrant janitor at the local shul is recruited by the kids to teach them self-defense.  The kids only end up winning against the goon when recruiting an older neighborhood teen to slug the bully.

"Lawyer in peep show" story.  Fantasy story of a lawyer who has left the religion and mainstreamed his name.  Lawyer goes into one of the last Times Square peep shows on a whim.  Lawyer pops a boner at the show and orgasms in his pants.  When the sliding panel hiding the strippers goes back up he sees his previous rabbis there.  He sees his mother.  Lawyer takes place of stripper.

"Anne Frank" title story.  Guy and wife welcome her old high school pal to their Florida home.  Gal Pal and husband are Ultra Orthodox who moved to Israel years ago.  Florida Husband not found of Orthodox people.  FLordia Husband not sure about how to act.  Humor made of these misperceptions.  Humor crack about sex through a sheet.  Orthodox couple are stoners.  All four smoke marijuana and play Holocaust obsessive Florida Wife's game of Trusty Goyem: who would protect or hide me if Jews were being hunted down again?

"Buy my daughter" story.  Woman in remote settlement in 68 or 73 war.  Her neighbor comes over with deathly ill infant.  Neighbor asks to sell the sick child.  Neighbor is at wit's end and wants to follow old superstition that selling the girl will trick death.  Woman 'buys' girl.  25 years later a city has been built up and Woman's husband and sons have all been killed in wars or car wrecks.  Woman demands Neighbor's daughter as her own.  Trial with rabbis confirms that she owns the girl.  My thought? What the fuck?  Tell the crazy old bat to pound sand.  Why does the young lady (the daughter) stay with Woman from that time on?  Leave town.  Get a job elsewhere.

I don't recall the other stories and won't look them up online.  You can do that yourself.

Also, I'm not going to provide literary analysis, so read the damn stories and do your damn homework yourself instead of Google trolling.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Listened: "Holmes on the range" by Steve Hockensmith

Listened: Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith, 2006 (audio), Overdrive download.

I signed up for Goodreads.com a while ago for some reason I don't recall.  I log in sometimes to rate the books I've read.  The Goodreads rating system is five stars with a brief description for each star.  1 star = "didn't like it" and 5 stars = "it was amazing".  I would rate this at 5 stars except I very much doubt I will call any book "amazing".

First book in the series and the second I have listened to.  Narrator William Dufris narrated both this and Black Dove and does a very good job with accents, and twang, and performing the work.  The only drawback, the same problem I encountered in Black, was that some characters sound like the Mr. Garrison character from South Park.

Old Red and Big Red are in Miles City, MT for the winter and have no work.  They are in a saloon when a mean ranch foreman and his equally mean brother come in looking to hire hands.  Old Red and Big Red are hired for the Bar-VR.  The Bar-VR is rundown, secretive, owned by English investors and run by an Englishman manager.

Old Red has recently learned of Sherlock Holmes and started to emulate his methods. Both Big and Old are cowpunchers but Old Red is aspiring to be like his hero, Holmes.  Old wants to work for the unsavory ranch partly because he wants to find out what all the bad reputation is about.

Old and Big and all the other new hands are forbidden firearms, bunked only with the other new guys, and forbidden to travel to certain parts of the ranch territory.  The are given the scut work of cleaning up and painting the main ranch house, de-worming cattle, fixing broken windmills, and other lousy jobs.

Things happen.  Foremen are jerks and mysterious.  Ranch manager killed during storm and mushed into the ground by the cattle.  Old starts to ask questions.  Big makes wisecracks and never stops talking.  English owners show up at the ranch.  Old and Red converse a bit with the maid of the part-owner who is an English Duke.  Big is hot for Duke's daughter.  Crony of Foremen is murdered.  Old says he can solve the case before the Marshall arrives.  Owners are keen on this since something secretive is going on.

Investigatin' ensues.  Old is taciturn.  Big is loquacious.  Big cracks jokes.  Old suffers Big's behavior.  Big shoots one bad guy in head.  Old brings everyone together into the same room for the reveal.  [What is that method called?  I know there is a name for it.]  Shootout ensues.  Bad guys are shot dead.  Old is shot and wounded.  Big is distraught.  Old lives to give Hockensmith sequels.

Comments:
1.  One thing that I don't recall being made clear in Black Dove is that Sherlock Holmes is real.  I thought this was played sorta straight with Big and Old not understanding that the stories are fiction.  Not so. Old and Big inhabit the same fictional universe as Holmes.
2.  Plenty of wisecracks.  Plenty of jokes.  Several cowboy fart jokes.
3.  Not a cozy with the fart jokes, outhouse smell, and grotesque dead bodies.  But, the attitude feels the same to me.  Things are more relaxed and fun than tense.  There is tension to be sure but I enjoyed the play between Old and Red more than I worried for the dangerous situations.
4.  I thought Hockensmith did regular western novels but his blog's bib. does not list any.
5.  Old and Big's family were on the Cottonwood River in East Kansas until the rest of the family died from smallpox and flooding.
6.  A Duke's daughter and cowboys?  Sounds like a romance.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Quick: "Star Wars: Knight Errant: volume 1 Aflame" by John Jackson Miller

Quick: Star Wars: Knight Errant: volume 1 aflame by John Jackson Miller, 2011, 9781599619866.

On committee list.  Brief comic book novel.  Volume 1 of 5.

The Sith Lords are fighting the republic 1000 years before Skywalker and also fighting Sith versus Sith.  Jedi Master Vannar Treese has landed on Chelloa to stop a Baradium mining operation run by a Sith.  Volunteering for the mission is new Jedi Kerra Holt.

The group lands and kills a bunch of bad guys.  Kerra meets a local leader.  A different Sith Lord attacks the mining operation while the Jedi are gathering the captive miners.  Big fight.  Kerra attacks the attacking Sith Lord because he killed her family.  Vannar sends her back.  Vanner killed by Sith Lord.  Sith Lord set off machine that ruins the planet surface by burning the Baradium.  Kerra found by local guy.  Looks like the Jedi ship crashed and Kerra is the only Jedi left on the planet.

Comments:
1.  Very brief.  Looks to be aimed at 5th grade or so.
2.  The action of the illustrations did not follow the text and story as closely as I prefer.
3. "Sith" is flagged by the spell check but "Jedi" is not.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Three of Four: "Plays of the 60s: volume 3" edited by Katherine Brisbane

Three of Four: Plays of the 60s: volume 3 edited by Katherine Brisbane, 1998, o868195626.

I was weeding my library's nonfiction and pulled a book about Australia.  The title was something like Modern Australia but was published in 1980.  I tossed that sucker but looked through it first.  Opening a book in the stacks is an often dangerous business, I cease being a weeder and turn into a reader.

After a semester of college in Perth, Western Australia I have a lingering interest in what happens in Australia.  Even the thirty year old stuff in there was worth a look, especially since there were lots of photos.  One photo showed a stage scene from a production of the play Burke's Company. "Huh," I thought to myself. "What is that about?" So I searched World Cat, found this collection at UW-Madison, put in a request, and a couple days later all three freaking volumes showed up.

Four Australian written and produced plays that had an impact.  A Refined Look at Existence by Rodney Milgate, Chicago, Chicago by John Romeril, Burke's Company by Bill Reed, and The Front Room Boys by Alex Buzo. Their impact was not just that they were good but that the domestic theater industry in Australia was minor.

A Refined Look.  Bleah.  Pretentious with the characters directly addressing the audience, talking about themselves in third person and speaking dialogue in unison.  I quit after a few pages.

Chicago, Chicago.  Not too bad.  "Man" is in Chicago during the '68 convention.  Man boomerangs around from being a political worker, to an alcoholic in rehab, to dream sequence.  Two theater goers - 1960 suburban bourgeoisie stand-ins - give periodic critics of the play and its meanings.  The critiques were helpful to me.  I wonder if the writer was ragging on that type of person.

Burke's Company.  Fairly decent but difficult for me to imagine on the stage.  I figure good acting would bring out the drama much more.  Bill Bryson wrote about Burke and other overland explorers in In A Sunburned Country.  Burke and company died of malnutrition walking from South coast to North coast and back again.  Burke established a supply camp in central Australia as he headed North.  The man in charge of the camp, Brahe, stayed way past Burke's expected return and left with a mortally sick teammate only hours - hours - before Burke and two others returned.  Brahe returned later with a rescue party and missed Burke and company yet again.  Burke and the rest die.

Small cast and spare stage with Brahe incredibly guilty and Burke dreaming of glory and refusing the aid of the aborigines.  Another character is remorseless about not coming forward with more supplies.

The Front Room Boys.  Best play and the one most easily translatable to modern times.  The others are very much period pieces with social concerns of Vietnam, social unrest, social change, political change, etc.  Front Room is also concerned with those things but is an office comedy.  The "front room boys" - and two women - are office clerks doing busy work reports for the "back room boys".  The front room boys vary in age from 20 to 60.  Some are okay, one is kinda dumb, one is ambitious, one is a backstabber dickhead, so on, so forth.  Told over a calendar year with a scene for each month (although 3-4 scenes are very brief).

Failed love affairs.  Having to put up with boring but steady work.  Whether to risk rocking the boat to get better pay and opportunity.  Whether the job is worth the daily humiliation.

Comments:
1.  I only expected one book.  I am not sure if I will get to the other two.
2.  I have to start reading literary committee novels.  The good thing about the literary committee is that I end up reading books I would never have tried out on my own.  The bad thing about the literary committee is that I end up reading books I would never have tried out on my own.
3. I seem to be the first person to ever check these books out.  I should try calling the UW library and asking.  I know someone who works there, maybe I can email her and ask if she could check the circ stats.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Listened: "Silver" by Andrew Motion

Listened: Silver: return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion, 2012, Overdrive download.

Quite decent.  Above average.  A fella could get some grief taking on a sequel to an old novel like Treasure Island.  Should the author do a repeat?  A modern setting?  Jim Hawkins returning?  Motion did well.  Here there be Spoilers.

Jim Hawkins returned from Treasure Island a wealthy boy.  When he reached maturity he drank and screwed his way through London.  Upon meeting his future wife he toned down his lifestyle and they bought a rural, riverside inn following the trade of both their families.  Hawkins's wife died in childbirth.

But, Jim Hawkins, Sr. barely appears in here and for most of that time he is drunkenly asleep.  We learn that biographical bit from his son, Jim.  Jim is about 18 and done with boarding school.  Jim is ripe for adventure.  Older Jim has never been much of a father. Jim has heard his father's often told tales of Treasure Island and Long John Silver.  Jim is approached by a pretty girl named Natty.  Natty is the daughter of Long John Silver. 

Natty rows Jim upriver to London to meet a decrepit and blind Long John Silver who proposes Jim find his father's original map to Treasure Island and recover the silver that was left there 40 years previously.  Jim decides to join them; Jim wants the adventure and is instantly smitten with Natty.

Adventure ensues.  Long John had already had a ship and crew outfitted for the voyage.  Slightly figured Natty dresses as "Nat" and fakes being a boy.  The captain and crew are a good bunch and in high spirits (aside from a nasty event during the voyage).  Upon their late night arrival to the island the crew are excited.  Then the crew see the bonfires and degradation upon the shore.  The ship is anchored in the island's and the crew investigate.

Much happens.  The three maroons left at the end of Treasure Island are still alive and rule over the crew and slaves of a wrecked slave ship.  A runaway slave is found.  Plans are made.  Island geography.  Natty is captured.  The crew set out to rescue her.  Shooting.  Fighting. More fighting.  Snakes.  Silver is found.  Ship sails off.  Ship is hurricaned.  Jim and Natty are washed onto the beach of Spanish America.

Comments:
1. I read/listened to Treasure Island in 2007 for the first time and liked it quite a bit.  I should read it to my children.
2.  Silver is similar in several ways. The island action takes place over a couple days.  Capture of a main character.  Traveling the island and descriptions of it.  Nasty and murderous bad guys.  Sense of adventure in Jim. Talking bird.  Seafaring.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Read: "Faces of the Gone" by Brad Parks

Read: Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks, 2009, 9780312672805.

Decent.  Newspaper reporter investigates quadruple homicide in Newark and stirs up trouble.

Carter Ross is an investigative reporter for the big daily paper in Newark (and New Jersey).  When four drug dealers are murdered in a vacant lot in Newark Ross writes a story.  Ross works to discover the connection among the four dead dealers.  Ross gets hot for his editor who is angling to get pregnant and not too concerned about who the father may be.

Ross works with a intern (stereotypical gay guy for comedic relief).  Ross deals with his grouchy editor.  Ross works some contacts.  Ross speaks to friends of the dead.  Ross speaks to relatives of the dead.  Ross speaks to gang member pals of the dead.

The mystery aspects were not that interesting.  Parks has short sections following a drug king pin's thoughts but the reader just follows Ross around.  His thoughts on modern journalism and newspapers.  His demanding schedule.  His lonely home life.  The desolate sections of Newark.  The nice parts of Newark.  Newark's bad reputation and how it is sometimes incorrect.  The culture of inner-city Newark: a good kid gets "C" grades and is not arrested too often, a firebombed strip club is a a community and cultural focal point.

The strength of the book is Ross doing his work and Parks writing about the people living in Newark.  Not gritty and dark like Richard Price, lots of jokes, humor, and ball busting newsroom characters.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Done: "The Gentlemen's Hour" by Don Winslow

Done: The Gentlemen's Hour by Don Winislow, 2009, 9781439183397.

2009? Really?  That long ago?

Another novel featuring Sand Diego surfing legend Boone Daniels.  Daniels is a former policeman turned P.I. who makes no money.  Daniels is more concerned with surfing anyway.

Daniels is hired by a defense attorney who is defending a kid who killed a different surfing legend Kelly "K2" Kuhio.  K2 was loved by everybody and loved for many, many good reasons.  Those many, many good reasons means many, many people are shocked, disappointed, and angry with Daniels for taking the case.

Daniels investigates that and takes a marriage case to investigate possible infidelity. Both cases end up dovetailing.  The guy who killed K2 is a nothing turd and would be white supremacist.  Daniels loses friends for his defense work.  Daniels and super hot Brit chick attorney have trouble connecting.

More surf lingo, aka surfbonics.  More surf information.  More surf knowledge.  More surf philosophy.  More surf brotherhood.  More surf fitness.

People are killed.  Daniels is beaten up a bit.  Daniels beats other guy up a bit. Things happen. So on. So forth.  This is not plot and action so much and interesting people.

Comments:
1.  San Diego corruption like an H. Jefferson Parker novel I read a bit ago.
2.  "Localism" in the surf community where non-locals are firmly told to leave and then beaten if they do not.
3.  A fun novel.
4.  Winslow writes so well I think, "Whats the big deal with these other writers complaining about their progress?"

Read: "The Cut" by George Pelecanos

Read: The Cut by George Pelecanos, 2011, 9780316078436 (paper).

Pelecanos was at Murder and Mayhem this year.  I only attended on Friday evening and he was not there anyway.  The guys from Mystery One Bookstore are always there.  I always buy something from them since they give a lot of support to the event and host so many of the authors.  I was looking through the offerings but there were no Victor Gischler comics.  Since I read a good review of this novel I bought it.

Short version: Another Pelecanos tale about Greeks in D.C. involved in crime.
Long version: Greek guy in D.C. is back from Iraq and working as an investigator for a local attorney.  Spero Lucas is not too sure what he wants for his future.  Heck, Spero Lucas does not worry about his future at all.  He is not interested in college or getting into a trade.  Spero fell into "recovery" work when a gal complained that a boyfriend stole thousands of bucks worth of jewelry.  Spero offered to get the stuff back and just said 40% when asked a fee.  Since then he has gotten job offers and began working for a defense attorney.

Spero helps a kid get off on a stolen car charge and his marjuana wholesaler father asks Spero to recover a package of dope.  The Wholesaler's underlings have dope FedExed to houses that are empty during the day.  The Underlings pick the package off the porch right after the FedEx guy drives off.  One package went missing and Spero is asked to find it.

Spero does not think long before taking the work.  Spero dopes up himself and Wholesaler says how nonviolent and mellow he is.  Spero works with Underlings to track.  Spero questions neighbors.  Spero finds things out.  Spero casually dates and bones Lawyer's intern.

Spero misses his dad father.  Spero visits his mother and brother.  Underlings are murdered.  Spero visits with fellow War on Terror infantry vets.  Spero is not mentally or emotionally or physically disabled by the war.  He is not edgy and short tempered.  He is not a fictional stereotype.

Pelecanos tells tale from Bad Guys's point of view.  Spero is found out by bad guys.  Someone tries to kill Spero and he kills him, "Lucas felt nothing...Lucas entered his apartment, took a shower, got into bed, and fell to sleep.  He had no dreams."

More things happen.  Bad Guys are bad. Innocents are threatened.  Spero steal back some of the cash from the lost marijuana.  Spero recues a high school kid.  Spero figures everything out.

Comments:
1.  Plenty of characters with character.  Not kooky and quirky characters.  Real people with real thoughts and concerns.  Many of those concerns are the sociopath's "Me, me, me."
2.  Odd details are repeated.  Like the flickering fluorescent in the Bad Guy's garage bay.  Spero's Jeep Wagoneer.  Hatred between a father and his abandoned son.  Must be a Pelecanos' thing.
3.  D.C. geography love.
4.  Menu and meal details love.
5.  Brotherly love.
6.  Spero feels he is still finding his way.  He joined the Marines when he was young, fought in Iraq, and is only now sowing his oats and figuring what he wants from life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Found: "Escape Clause" by James O. Born

Found: Escape Clause by James O. Born, 2006, 9780399153341.

I weeded this a few days ago. I started reading the first page and brought it home. Fun.  I liked this better than Red Means Run.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Bill Tasker is at a bank with one of his daughters.  Tasker sees a couple suspicious guys.  Tasker is suspicious. Tasker ends up shooting one of the guys during the resultant bank robber.

Tasker sent to Gladesville, FL to investigate a murder at the local prison.  Tasker sent there to avoid civilian review board's BS challenge of the bank shooting.  Governor's office will clear the BS challenge if Tasker does the favor of reviewing the murder.

Tasker stays in state-owned apartment building for government workers.  Tasker meets hot investigator for prison.  Born introduces bad guy characters of prison guards and a convict.  Guards want Tasker to quickly do his review of the evidence and leave.

Tasker's archeology professor neighbor at state apartment building is murdered.  Tasker looks into that murder, too.  Convict schemes and kills and plans an escape. Tasker hits it off with Hot Investigator.  Things happen.  Tasker's daughters visit.  Tasker's ex-wife has sex.  Tasker investigates (the crimes, not his ex-wife's sex life).  Tasker suspicious of Hot Investigator.  Tasker captured by Corrupt Guards.  One Guard shot by Hot Investigator.  Tasker rescued. Tasker caught again.  Tasker escapes.  Tasker rescues Hot Investigator.  Brief twist at the end of the story.

Comments:
1. A fun book.  Even with several murders, lots of low and high level corruption, forced sex, etc.
2. Racial diversity of rural Florida and mostly absent of racists. Not the stereotype of the South.  The lead Bad Guy Guard married to a black lady and is hot for Hot Investigator who is also black.
3.  Rural Florida does not have a diverse beer selection.
3.  SIG love.
4.  CZ love.
5.  Hi-Power love.
6.  Remington 870 love.
7.  Gun nerd complaining love: Beretta 92fs referred to as a .40.
8. Gratuitous Stephen Hunter reference.
9.  Gratuitous copy editing errors with weird commas and wrong words.  If I notice the errors you know the errors were obvious.
10.  Born was in Muskego a year or two ago.  Born said how colleagues will approach him while Born is working at a crime scene and Born can tell when they are angling to make it into one of his novels.

Done: "Red Means Run" by Brad Smith

Done: Red Means Run by Brad Smith, 2012, 9781451645514.

I read a review for the second book in this series and requested this one.  The review was referring to rural crime novels. I dig rural crime novels.  Usually.  This was fairly decent and a smooth read.

Criminal defense attorney Mickey Dupree is known for winning murder cases in Northern New York.  Now he is dead, murdered on a golf course, and Virgil Cain is the main suspect.  Cain was married to a would-be music star who was murdered by a producer.  The Producer was acquitted and Virgil (vaguely) threatened  the lawyer in a bar.

Cain is arrested on no evidence by Dumb Cop.  Cain meets a hot lady detective.  Cain knows he is screwed and needs to find out real killer.  Cain escapes from a small town jail. Meanwhile, the Producer (modeled after Phil Spector) is drinking and and going gun crazy.  His wife is tolerating him, training for a marathon, and considering a run for Congress.

Hot Lady Detective is dealing with old case of animal cruelty to race horses by Super Rich Dude.  Producer and Super Rich Dude are also murdered.  Dumb Cop starts talking in cliches, "[Virgil Cain] is a mad dog and I'm gonna put him down" [not a real quote].  Hot Lady Detective finds Cain but lets him go.  She is hot for him, figures him innocent, and figures he may find things out.

Cain finds things out. Hot Lady Detective finds things out.  Cain and Hot Lady Detective have intimate relations.  Very intimate.  Hot Lady Detective gets shot at by real killer.  Cain stops real killer.

Comments:
1.  Not much to say.  A smooth read with few dull parts for me.
2. Smith spreads out the life story of Cain along the novel.
3.  Hot Lady Detective was a little unbelievable having been recently divorced from a dimwit husband.  Hot Lady Detective's personality seemed stronger than putting up with a dimwit for 15 years.  But, that happens in real life all the time.
4.  Wives putting up with husbands is repeated throughout the novel.  Producer's wife is married without caring for the guy.  She does her running, enjoys her dogs, and meets with soon-to-retire Congresswoman regarding a campaign.  Best pal of Producer's Wife also a rich wife.  She is married to Super Rich Dude and only cares about drinking all day and staying in New York on her big estate.
5. I think the forthcoming sequel is worth reading.  I'd like to see how Smith keeps Cain going in a mystery series.  Maybe drag him into a case with Hot Lady Detective.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Listened: "Gamorrah" by Roberto Saviano

Listened: Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System by Roberto Saviano, 2008 (English audio), Overdrive download.

Hear is the short version: Saviano grows up in Southern Italy. Southern Italy controlled by crime rings.  Saviano grows up to be reporter.  Saviano writes book about the crime rings and names names.  Saviano lives in hiding under 24 hour police protection.

A expose and history of the crime rings, the camorah, that control Naples and the rest of Southern Italy. A very personal expose because Saviano grew up and witnessed many the wars and crimes he writes about.  He went undercover as a worker in various mob-controlled industries.  He visited dozens of murder sites - often scootering his Vespa to the bleeding bodies before the police or ambulances arrived.

Original publication date of 2006 and a bestseller in Italy and other European countries.  Translated into 30 languages.   Recently won the Swede's Olof Palme Prize in January, 2012 and the 2011 PEN/Pinter Prize for free speech. The awards were for exposing the clans.  He exposed very little.  As he writes in the book very little he tells is secret.  Most things are public knowledge, in Naples, and available from court documents.  His "crime" is in wide publication, heck in publishing.  Reporters are not authorized by the clans to tell the truth about the clans.

From the 4 April 2009 edition of The Australian: "Saviano's life, all the same, has been effectively shut down. He is isolated and constantly moved in bulletproof cars, never able to return home, or have a girlfriend, or meet friends for a coffee in the open; he'll never, ever be free again. Even arranging interviews is a long, drawn-out process; only after five months of negotiations do I finally speak to him by phone."

I will not try to write a review or summary.  The tales of crime and clan control could go on for hundreds of pages.  Here are the notes I took as I listened:

Notes:
Gamorrah is the public name. Kind of like "Mafia". Crooks call themselves differently.  They  are the epitome of law-free entrepreneurial spirit. Everything is for sale. Cut prices to the bone - workers are plentiful and paid cheaply. The bosses get the money. Power is everything.

There is a MASSIVE market in fake designer goods.  The operation runs from Italian sweatshop through Europe, North America, South America, and Australia. 300 million euros a year of goods made in Italian sweatshops at the same quality as the real stuff.  The Italian shops bid for work from real the designer houses.  Designers contract with shops and overflow of goods not purchased by the design houses get a fake label and go as the real thing.  The fakes are as good as real but get a huge discount and are sold through mob owned retail shops.

The ultimate criminal goal is power. Command. Domination. Complete economic control is the focus.

The gang war (ending in 2005) was all encompassing. Anyone could be a target. Relatives. Neighbors. Friends. Former lovers. Classmates. Coworkers. Lookalikes. Someone with a frown. The war brought lots of international reporting. The new reporting was poorly done with cub reporters chasing drama and video of guns and handcuffs.  Reporters were often duped by neighborhood teens eager to be on television.  The war's final truce was negotiated by a third clan and the agreement published in a local newspaper.  Publicly published.

The all encompassing crime reminds me of current Mexico.  The police and politicians are suspect and often work for the clans.

Mob killers have a fondness for hand grenades.

The top mob bosses go so deep into hiding they have not seen their families for years. One boss was caught and his neighbors rioted. They did not riot to protest the arrest of their mob neighbor because he was a local hero or benefactor. They rioted to show "Hey! We did not turn you in. Don't kill us."

Corruption so endemic that whole municipalities have been dissolved by the national government. All public contracts go to the clans at big prices.

Odd detour by Saviano into his father. Divorced when Saviano was a kid. Lousy dad always showing disappointmen with Saviano's actions. Dad taught him to shoot and lectured that a gun was needed to be strong.

Beretta 92FS owned by father.  An older, scratched up 92FS and the 92FS referred to by Italians as an M9, "I am going to M9 you between the eyes."  Author does not know how the M9 designation came about (U.S. Army designation).  That seems surprising but the author is not into guns and bombs.

Weird detour into Mikhail Kalashnikov and AK47 history.  Kalashnikov equated to camorah in that Kalishnikov created what he waned and everything that happens after is not his fault or concern

Arms trade. Wherever there is money the camorah are there. Deals with ETA in Spain where ETA smuggled in cocaine from South American revolutionaries to pay for the guns. he camorah clans dealt with South American drug runners and across Africa. Deals with Poland, Romania, the scumbag Arkan in Serbia. Deals with Albanians to keep them out of Serbian deals.  Dealt with Argentina during Falklands War when the Argentine military needed cash and shipped their arms to Italy.

Camorah undercut prices in legitimate business through hiring illegal aliens, graft and kickbacks, ignoring safety rules and laws to speed production schedules.

Even the milk market is infiltrated. Camorah clan created a monopoly through buying dairy companies and using violence against competitors and retail shops not buying camorah product.

Religion and Father Peppino Diana  Father Diana was one of the very very few to speak out against the camorah.  He was murdered in his own church right before saying Mass.  Religion itself is incorporated into the clan. Camoristas think of the good of the group as Christian chairty.  Murder is okay when done for the higher cause of clan's business.

Read Half: "Paul Cain: the complete Slayers" by Paul Clain

Read Half: Paul Cain: the complete Slayers by Paul Cain, 2011, 9781933618999.

Fifteen short stories and the novel Fast One.  Cain is a well known pulpist.  He did not publish many pieces but still has a following.  Enough of a following that Max Allan Collins and Lynn F. Meyers wrote a 25 page biography for this volume.

Cain is remembered for his spare style.  I know because each piece has its own introduction saying as much.     I have a paperback of Cain's Fast One at home.  I suppose I could reread that - I remember liking it.

This was 618 pages from Introduction through Afterword.  I burned out half way through.

I'm not certain how many copies of this book were printed.  This is a hardcover and the tip-in page signed by Collins and Meyer says "limited to 500 copies for sale."   Cheapest copy on Amazon.com is listed at $134 so I hope no one steals this library copy.

Comments:
1. I have the impression that Max Collins is such a devotee and historian of pulp magazines and paperbacks that he could have written much of the bio off the top of his head and only referred to reference materials to verify dates and spellings.
2.  I skipped reading the biography, too.
3.  Includes small color reproductions of each Black Mask cover in which the Cain stories appeared.
4. John Lutz did one of the introductions.  Each time I see Lutz's nameI think of the Lutz character on 30 Rock.
5.  Should Introduction and Afterword be italicized?
6.  Do I care enough to look it up?
7.  No.

DNF: "My Brother's Keeper" by Keith Gilman

DNF: My Brother's Keeper by Keith Gilman, 2011, 9780727881021.

Second book featuring ex-cop Philadelphia policeman Lou Klein.  I just couldn't get into the story.

Klein, now a private dick, gets a case from his neighbor, and former police colleague, to help out the neighbor's sister.  Klein used to be hot for the sister and she since married a mob linked guy.  Klein started looking and I quit.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Brief: "Lemony Snicket: the unauthorized biography" by Lemony Snicket

Brief: Lemony Snicket: the unauthorized biography by Lemony Snicket, 2002, 006083143x.

A mix of letters, diary entries, training manual entries, memos, news articles related to Snicket and VFD. Not much explained about Sniket or VFD or the Baudelaires.

What did I expect?  Well, a straightforward book in the vein of the Unfortunate Events novels.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Found: "Multiple Man" by Ben Bova

Found: Multiple Man by Ben Bova, 1976, 0672520729.

I was weeding in adult fiction and this title was on the list.  Not cataloged as scifi.  I opened to the first page to read a bit - a risky and ill-advised action when trying to get work done - and decided to read the whole thing.  

A decent story of cloning, politics and murder.  In the future Presidential Press Secretary Meric Albano  discovers there is a dead man who is a dead ringer for the President.  Meric presses to be involved. Meric worries of assassination threat.  Meric learns of another dead clone.  Secret Service Agent secretly sleuthing slayings is slain after visiting President's father.  Meric sees conspiracy.  Meric finds out President was cloned as a child. All seven clones and real President were raised to be President by Committee with each guy having a policy focus and trading turns in public with speeches, wheeling, dealing, and fucking Laura, the wife.

Meric convinces President and President's father one of the clones is murdering off his brothers to be the only President.  Meric threatens press conference to draw out the killer.  Plan works.  Laura the wife in on the murder plan.  Meric convinces President - naturally born one - to spill beans to public.

Comments:
1.  The story was decent, not great but I liked it and the story moved along smoothly without dead spots.
2.  I most enjoyed reading Bova's vision of the not-to-distant future that seems to be set about around 2010.  His vision of the future was still captive to 1976.  Bova refers to Vietnam and inflation.  Nixon fallout with worries on fraud and cheating.  Women still work office jobs and talk about chauvinism.  Waterbeds.  Pollution fretting (I guess the Clean Water Act did pretty damn good, huh?). Almost all cars are electric.  Lots of helicopters.  Lots of solar energy.
3.  Meric orders up a hooker at his St. Louis hotel.
4.  Lots of scotch.
5.  Technology guesses by Bova include computers all over but with green screens.  Typewriters still used.  No mobile phones but video phones are standard.
6.  The clone brothers were all unworried about the murders.  Very odd.  They seemed to think that murder was an internal family affair.  Not only were the men raised to be super smart, politically astute, and incredibly stupid about the law and truth.
7.  I do not much care for political novels but in many ways a read can pick Meric and assign him to their party of choice.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Listened: "The Jaguar" by T. Jefferson Parker

Listened: The Jaguar by T. Jeffferson Parker, 2012, Overdrive download.

A book so good I was sad when it ended.  At first I did not like the narration by David Colacci but his narration of bad guy Mike is quite good.  Colacci's interpretation of Mike as a wheedling but never sniveling guy was true.  Spoilers await.

I put off reading this book because I thought the focus was more on the charismatic and two-faced Bradley. Nope, the real focus was on his kidnapped wife, Erin.

Bradley and Erin are at home late at night when he happens to look at one of his security camera monitors and sees a van driving along his property.  Bradley sends Erin into a secret safe room and grabs a couple auto-pistols.  Body armoed bad guys bust upstairs into his gunfire.  Bradley is swarmed and knocked out.  Bradley wakes up to Mexican narcos telling him he needs to pay one million bucks cash and betray his own narco allegiance of Erin will be skinned alive.  These are narcos.  All threats are truth.

Bradley has been hustling and transporting cash into Mexico for a couple years and has the cash on hand in a secret, underground room.  Bradley drives to see Charlie Hood to ask for help.  Hood will transport the cash into Mexico and Bradley will work with his fellow (corrupt) Deputies and his narco pals to try and free Erin.

Hood is true.  Hood is honest.  Hood is helpful.  Hood is honorable to a fault.  Hood is still hunting Mike Finnegan.  Hood transports the cash and ends up partnering with a rare honest MX cop.  Hood packs a Springfield 1911 packed in a diplomatic pouch courtesy ATF pal.  Hood survives a shoot-out.  Hood survives a hurricane.  Hood never loses the cash.

Erin is transported to the Yucatan.  Narco Boss is not that complex a character.  He will do as he says - skin her alive- because that is his word and the way of nature.  Of his nature and the nature of the drug business.  But, Narco Boss loves music.  Narco boss has built high end music studio in his massive castle of a house.  Narco Boss bootlegs music CDs by the thousands.  Narco Boss is wanted worldwide by good and bad but still travels the world incognito to different music venues.  Narco Boss has famous acts play at his compound with an audience of all the reporters, cops, and politicians he owns.

Erin is under massive stress.  Erin is pregnant and worried for both her and her son's life.  Erin has now learned that her Bradley is a liar.  A cheat.  A selfish sack of shit.  (okay, that's me on the last two comments.)  Narco Boss gets her to play with an well known band at one of his house concerts.  Narco Boss promises to extend her deadly deadline by two days if she will write a narcocorrido about him.

Bradley travels to Yucatan after Mike Finnegan tells him where Erin is held.  Where did you learn this Mike? Oh, I have many sources of information Bradley.  Bradley travels with south with sinister sicarios.  Gun fight ensues.  Arrest by MX Army ensues.  Bradley released, Hood finds him, Erin rescued, castle burned.

Erin rescued by Bradley and Hood after all three suffer setbacks and sadness.  Hood finds Finnegan.  Finnegan spills some confusing beans.  Finnegan escapes.  Erin leaves Bradley.

Comments:
1.  I wondered if Parker would address the Fast and Furious scandal.  He does, but only briefly with reference to a senior ATF Agent bitching about the fiasco to Hood.
2.  Gratuitous Flaco Jimenez.
3.  Gratuitous Ry Cooder.
4.  Gratuitous jaguars with both a band and a real one.  Real one used by Narco Boss to eat his captured enemies.
5.  Gratuitous massive drug war corruption.
6.  Accordion love.
7.  Much musician love.
8.  Bradley is a bald-faced liar.  His greed and selfishness run deep.
9. I am familiar with the narco wars. After reading Parker's and Don Winslow's books I have paid attention to news article and searched out information.  Sicarios scare me.  While listening to this I started to think I should carry at least two guns at all time.

Quick: "Secret of the Stone Frog" by David Nytra.

Quick: Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra, 2012, 9781935179184.

A kids comic book novel from the TOON BOOKs people who publish kid comic book novels.

A brother and sister fall asleep and wake up in a forest.  Boy and Girl (I'm guessing 5 and 8 years old respectively) have adventures.  Find large mason frog that tells them "the path [home] is right behind me!".

Boy and Girl meet bee keeper whose bees eat their words from the comic's speech bubbles. Boy and Girl escape mean lady and her attack bees.Boy and Girl meet anthropomorphic lions dressed in frippery with walking sticks.  Fripperists give them huge bunnies to ride to another stone frog.

Second stone frog directs them into a cavern.  Cavern is massive subway lobby.  Subway fills with anthropomorphic, walking, non-talking suited fish.  Boy and Girl board train but flee when evil Bee Lady comes aboard.

Boy and Girl go above ground into strange city.  Are almost run over by horse carriage.  Listen to quack selling health elixer.  Witness a pickpocket.  Pickpocket walks with them and threatens them.  Boy shoves pickpocket who falls over in from of police precinct house.  House comes to life yelling at them.

Boy and Girl flee.  Horse carriage almost runs them over again.  Horse turns into dinosaur.  Dinosaur chases them, buildings come to quivering and waving life, paving stones of street turn into crocodiles (or are they alligators?), Boy and Girl find last frog and see their bedroom shutters.  Boy and Girl jump into bedroom and close shutters.  Boy and Girl go back to sleep.

Comments:
1.  Very fantastical.  Dependent on images and imagination to enjoy it.
2.  I have little imagination for this type of tale and rate this an "eh" on a scale of "crap" to "author is a genius".
3.  I liked the artwork.  All black and white.  Boy and Girl are simply drawn with a lot of white space.  Their surroundings are quite detailed.  Once Boy and Girl return to their room their clothes are shaded.
4.  Author lives in 100 Mile House, British Columbia.  100 Mile House looks to be in the middle of a very pretty nowhere.
5.  I can hear the local Ne'er Do Well out at the front desk.  What a jackape.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Read: "Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead" by Sara Gran

Read: Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran, 2011, 9780547428499.

I got sucked into reading this and that other Gran book by reading Gran's and Abbott, Jr.'s blog.  I write sucked not suckered because this book is well, well above average.  Not only that, Gran writes on some topics - mystical type stuff - that usually causes me to never touch a book let alone read it.  As always, spoilers await.

DeWitt is the world's greatest detective (she says).  About 40 years old, working out of San Francisco, and former protege of the famed New Orleans detective Constance Darling.  DeWitt is back in New Orleans taking the case of a man still missing after Katrina.

DeWitt is a follower of the famous French detective Jacques Silette whose famed and frustrating book on detection, Detection, had been memorized by DeWitt.  DeWitt is not conventional personally or conventionally.  She spent time in what she says was not a mental hospital.  She has been in shootings (a mysterious aside).  She drinks and takes drugs.  She follows omens.  She follows Silette's theory of detection that is philosophical, not practical.

DeWitt is a bit of a mess.  You learn she had crap parents who barely raised her in Brooklyn.  She and her two best pals used to booze-and-dope-it around New York.  One of her two best friends disappeared and was never found; DeWitt is haunted by that.  DeWitt is trying to find a missing uncle, a District Attorney in New Orleans.

DeWitt sleuths.  DeWitt questions the nephew.  DeWitt searches the man's apartment.  DeWitt meets local 18-year-old thugs.  DeWitt suspects a thug, Andray.  DeWitt does drugs.  DeWitt remembers Constance and her murder in New Orleans.  DewWitt works with another past protege of Constance.

DeWitt is threatened.  DeWitt finds Missing DA was a serial pedophile.  DeWitt buys a .38.  DeWitt is clonked on the head. DeWitt figures out the killer.  Killer is best pal of Andray.  Andray set up clues and traps to muddy killer's identity  DeWitt arranges for murderer to get federal custody and super-lawyer from New York.

Comments:
1.  As usual with a great mystery novel the mystery is not that important to me.  The characters and how they live, think, and act are the most important.
2.  Is Gran the one who does those Funny of Die clips that Abbott. Hr. links to?  I cannot recall and will not bother to look.  If so, Gran also writes for Southland on television  I missed almost all of Season Four and put the DVD on hold at work. UPDATE: Thanks to Abbot, Sr. for commenting below that Alison Quinn is the video maker and TV writer.
3. Claire cared for goats while at the mental retreat.  Same as Ellroy's Dwight Holly in Blood's A Rover.
4. Unconventional with all the mysticism but still a mystery.  Still a search for a solution.
5.  A tenet of Silette and DeWitt is that clients do not want the truth.  Sometimes clients cannot accept the solution.
6.  There were some good lines in here.  Read it yourself to find them because I did not keep track.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quit: "The Big Con" by David W. Maurer

Quit: The Big Con by David W. Mauer, 1940 (original), 1999 (reprint), 0385495382.

History of cons and con men from about 1900 onward.  The writing is dated.  The author names famous con men as if I should know them.  Maybe people at the time did.  Descriptions of the cons were a little confusing - I suppose that is fitting.

I tried to keep going but lost interest.

Meh: "Batman: the return of Bruce Wayne" by Grant Morrison

Meh: Batman: the return of Bruce Wayne by Grant Morrison (and many artists), 2001 (compilation comic), 9781401233822.

Kurt Busiek and Victor Gischler are the only reliable comic book novel guys for me.  This has Batman sent back in time worth memory loss.  He bips and bops along the timeline landing in the Gotham region from caveman era, to 1600s witch hunts, to 1800s gunslingers, to 1950s gangsters.  He always survives and prevails.

Meanwhile, other superheroes are trying to find Batman.  Or stop him.  Or something.  Apparently some evil dude sent Batman back in time and Batman is collecting some negative end-the-world radiation, or some bullshit I did not give a flying fuck about.

Finally Got To: "Blood's A Rover" by James Ellroy

Finally Got To: Blood's A Rover by James Ellroy, 2009, 9780679403937.

Took me three years to finally get to this.  Ellroy's novels are usually so dense and byzantine I put this off.  When I did get to reading this I took a while to finish because I like to have time to read more than a couple pages. I want to concentrate on what I am taking in.

This was not as good as previous novels.  I cannot explain why.  Maybe the characters were not as interesting to me.  Maybe I waited too long and my expectations were too high.  Even so, this was pretty good.

Post JFK, RFK, and MLK murders and Dwight Holly and Wayne Tedrow are still in play and still doing evil shit.  Holly is tasked by the hateful and vile J. Edgar to undermine the black militant movement. Holly needs to find a couple people to go undercover with the local Los Angeles militant groups.  Tedrow has killed his evil father in Las Vegas and started working for the Howard 'Dracula' Hughes.  Wayne and Holly start working together again.

Don Crutchfield is 23-years-old (or so) and a window peeper.  Crutch works for PIs in Los Angeles as an on-call driver for divorce cases.  Crutch helps a wealthy dentist and known right-winger in finding a gal who ripped him off for several thousand.  Crutch digs older women. Crutch's mother ran off when Crutch was a kid.  Crutch's dad is a drunken, live-on-the-street bum.  Crutch tries to follow the gal, Celia, and slides into Wayne's orbit.

Crutch starts working with Wayne and the evil Frog who was the triggerman on the JFK hit.  Frog is a Fidel hating nut.  The mob want more southern casinos and focus on the Dominican Republic (DR).  Holly's female spy is a Red.  Her name is Joan.  Joan and Celia are tied into the DR and Haiti and Red Revolution.

Holly's black guy spy is a LA cop, Marsh.  Marsh and LA Detective and Happy-Shooter-of-Robbers Scotty both have a yearning to solve a famous armored car robbery that left several people dead.  Both guys want the stolen cash and emeralds.

All these things run together as the characters move across Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  They are all chasing each other and do not always know it.  The reader often sees the missing links but Ellroy slowly parses out the details.  His characters always change, sometimes making a 180 degreee turn - they do so here with Wayne and Holly.

Comments:
1. Ellroy writes short sentences.  I love Ellroy's writing.  I love Ellroy's pacing.  I love Ellroy's slang. I love Ellroy's humor.
2.  The late sixties and early seventies setting did not draw me in like the JFK era novels, or Ellroy's 1950s novels.  He peppers his story with the usual fact and fiction.  Real characters like Sonny Liston, Hoover, Sam Giancana, Hughes.
3.  Ellroy is always worth a read.
4. Character Pete Bondurat - the gigantic French Canadian goon has retired. and barely appears.
5.  Most everyone dies in the end.  Most everyone deserves it for one reason or another.

Heard: "Easy Money" by Jens Lapidus

Heard: Easy Money by Jens Lapidus, 2011 (audio at least) 2006 for Swede version, Overdrive download.

No good guys.  Plenty of bad guys.  I just read in the catalog record that Lapidus is an attorney.

Swedish crime novel with three main characters: JW, Jorge, and Mrado.

JW is a working class kid from Northern Sweden.  He's in university in Stockholm and pretending to be a rich kid, hanging out with the super wealthy and driving a gypsy cab for spending cash.  JW is wrapped up in image and the image of success and wealth: clothes, cars, cash, haircuts, slang, an aloof attitude.  The rich Swedes are very shallow.  JW drives a cab for an Arab (forgot his name) who also runs cocaine.  JW's pals are users and JW is offered a job to sell.  JW has an in with the wealthy kid market.  JW takes the job, starts making lots of cash, and moves up in the organization with marketing, business, and banking knowledge learned at school.  JW intermittently searches for his older sister that went missing in Stockholm three years previously.

Mrado is a Serb who grew up in the poor parts of Stockholm.  The Serbs always stick together.  Mrado went to Serbia and served with Arkan (bloodthirsty, murderous, raping piece of human garbage) in the war.  Mrado came back and worked up in the Serb crime underworld.  Mrado takes steroids.  Mrado Mrado pumps iron.  Mrado trains in MMA.  Mrado is a hitman, strongman, and midlevel boss in the Serb crime ring.  Mrado is demoted within the gang and plans revenge with another demoted guy.

Jorge's family is Chilean.  Jorge is in jail for cocaine.  The Serbs screwed employee Jorge during his trial.  Jorge escapes from a high security prison.  Jorge plans revenge on the Serbs and tries to extort money.  Mrado finds Jorge and beats him near death.  JW was looking for cocaine wizard Jorge, finds him at same time as Mrado, recovers the beaten Jorge.  Jorge joins JW and Arab in selling dope.

In the end no gets what they should have coming.

Comments:
1.  No good guys here.  All the bad guys have varying levels of bad-ness.  Mrado is the worst.  He is a killer and strongman who cares little for breaking bones or murder.  Are there any good-guy Serbs in literature?  After the war I doubt it.
2.  A look at immigrant Sweden.  Chileans. Serbs.  Syrians.  Turks.  They are all working to move up to more money and better neighborhoods.  They are all facing a glass ceiling.  The wealthy blond Swedes do not fully welcome the newcomers.
3. Inside look at small time and big time money laundering.  Mrado starts up video stores to launder illegal earnings.  JW uses his school know-how to start bank accounts on the Isle of Man that has very strict banking privacy laws.  JW has accounts in England and moves the money around from Sweden, to England to the Isle.
4.  Lawyer Lapidus loves alliteration.  How much trouble was that for the translator?
5.  With the swell of Swedes over the past decade I've become cynical that the recent ones will be blah.  That publishers are finding some Thorstenssonss and Holmsengardnersons and IngridFridas to put on the cover.
6.  All the bad guys have good sides.  JW really digs his girlfriend and misses his sister.  Jorge is loyal to friends, loves his older sister.  Mrado deeply loves his daughter and considers himself a caring and thoughtful father, he is loyal to other Serbs.
7.  The justice system has trouble convicting people.  Witnesses are threatened, people lie, prisons sentences seem incredibly brief compared to here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Finished: "Creepers" by Joanne Dahme

Finished: Creepers by Joanne Dahme, 2008,9780762433131.

I cannot find the damn book. Where did I put that thing?  Maybe it's with the rest of the overdue books I need to scare up.

Courtney and her mother and father move into an old house in Murmur, MA.  The house is covered in ivy and right next to an old cemetery.  The house used to be the caretaker's house.

Courtney meets Margaret Geyer and her father Christian in the cemetery.  The girls are the same age, thirteen-years-old.  C and M hit it off.  Mr. Geyer is embarrassing to an early teen girl with his weird clothes and earnest manner.  The Geyers have been researching the cemetery for quite a while.

C finds a connection between the ivy and the death of a girl.  The Geyers have been researching the dead girl.  The Geyers are related to the dead girl.  C resolves to help find the girl's missing body.  Blah blah blah.  Story of dead girl and her father and witch from 400 years ago. Ivy growing on house is bewitched.  Carved ivy in basement starts to spread.  Girl's grave found and Geyers disappear.  Geyers may have been ghosts or spirits.

Comments:
1.  Not scary.  The witch part was nice but not creepy.  She was a good witch anyway.
2.  C's parents had a prominent role but I did not care much about them.
3.  I checked this out because I liked the cover, the green colored pages, the illustrated photos, the newspaper article excerpts in front of the chapters.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Forced Finish: "In Transit" by Mavis Gallant

Forced Finish: In Transit by Mavis Gallant, 1988, 039457575x.

I think I requested this after reading a review of Gallant's work online.  Maybe by that Montreal guy who posts on Friday's forgotten books.  I read the first story and disliked it.  I liked the second story and decided to keep with it.  Nothing very good followed that second story.  I forced myself to finish rather than quit.

Gallant's brief bio on the flyleaf says she left Canada in1950 and moved around Europe before settling in France.  The stories are set around Europe with some French ones.  Many tales with characters from different nationalities interacting.  Different cultural views and behaviors cause conflict or misunderstanding.

Several family stories with unhappy people.  People with little optimism or faith in others. Disaffection.  Stuck in relationships. Unable to follow relationships.

Comments:
1.  What the fuck?  How did he catch that fumble in stride and make a first down? (Watching WI vs. NE).
2.  Magill's Survey of World Literature: revised edition, 2009 has a piece about Gallant.  She went to 17 different schools as a kid.  Her father died when she was a kid, her mother left her with foster parents, she was taken in as a teen to a psychiatrist couple.  All these things are reflected in the stories.  Especially one piece where a woman remembers back to childhood summer at a cabin where her mother dramatically announced her leaving to be with the boyfriend who had been staying with them earlier.
3. I do not have the interest in reading the full Magill's piece but Gallant became a big deal in the '80s.  At least in Canada.  She also, and I did notice this, set her stories from post-WWII to the '70s.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Read: "Evil for Evil" by James R. Benn

Read: Evil for Evil by James R. Benn, 2009, 9781569475935.

The best thing about Benn's series is that he incorporates obscure events in the European and African campaigns.  Benn uses the real life IRA burglary of of U.S. Army depot in Northern Ireland to create the theft of 50 BARs and thousands of rounds of ammo.  Billy Boyle is sent from Jerusalem to help the Limeys.

Billy is a loyal Boston Irishman whose family supports the IRA.  He now has to work on behalf of the British authorities he has been raised to fear and hate.  Boyle is surprised to learn of the murderous behavior of the IRA.  Boyle investigates.

Several Irish and American characters. A couple Americans are murdered.  Black marketeering and bribes confuse things. Boyle learns about Unionist behavior and organizations.  Boyle learns about IRA history and operations.  Boyle learns about German operations with the IRA and German infiltration of Ireland.  Boyle needs a shower. Boyle learns of the split loyalties of many Northern Irish.

Comments:
1.  I think the interior monologue of Billy get boring.  He frets over Diana.  He frets over his role in Ireland.  Blah blah blah.
2.  Fun and informative stuff.  Benn does good work.

Listened: "Columbine" by David Cullen

Listened: Columbine by David Cullen, 2009, Overdrive.com download.

How to distill the book into a sentence?  No one knew what the hell was going on.  Before the murders.  During the murders.  After the murders. Then, as one person told a killer's parent,  Dylan isn't here anymore to hate, people are going to hate you ."  That blame extended far and wide, whether it was valid or not.

Cullen's work on this is stupendous.  The book is detailed and shows his involvement from the first 911 call to the last lawsuit.  I did not want to stop listening to the book.  When I did stop I did not want to restart because the story is so distressing to hear.

Cullen tells the tale in pieces.  The time in the school from first shot to police finding the bodies was about four hours.  Cullen alternates the story of those four hours with the long aftermath.  And it's the aftermath of an event like this that takes a toll.  Family and friends are left behind with varying levels of PTSD, survivor guilt, rage, and despair.  

Cullen strikingly dispels the one major myth that lasted in my mind:  Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were not bullied outsiders.  Heck, when looking from the outside at Eric and Dylan's school records and social behavior they were both great kids.  Both were very smart with good grades.  They held jobs outside of school.  They had a wide group of friends and Eric was a ladies man.  Their families were stable.  They happily participated in school activities like stage plays and they really enjoyed bowling and watching baseball.

The truth of the shooters is that Eric was a psychopath and Dylan was a depressive.  Both were bullies to their fellow students.  Both went on late night "raids" to vandalize the homes of other students who they disliked or considered weak.  Both had legal trouble including a felony vehicle burglary.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department comes in for A LOT of criticism for their reaction during the attack and parts of the ensuing investigation.  But, the detectives who ran the investigation were right on the freaking mark.  They had search warrants for the Klebold and Harris homes before the SWAT teams entered the school. The investigation of a mass murder is equally massive.

I won't try to summarize the book.  Here are some (reorganized) notes I made while listening.

The shooting:
Anarchy and panic during the shooting, how do the Police fight it and organize?  Standard police policy at the time was containment.  The shooters did not need containing, they were there to kill. Cops on the scene were incredibly frustrated because they were not allowed to assault the school.  SWAT teams were not allowed in.  Denver PD and other larger agencies were chomping at the bit and complaining about the po-dunk command decisions by Jeff County Sheriff Dep.

Part of the panic is rumor. What to believe? How to act with so much conflicting information? The shooting lasted for four hours with rumors passing along the airwaves with cell phone calls everywhere and on live TV. Cops pleading to tv stations to not release student locations on air for fear of shooters using the information.

Hostage takers versus thrill killers.  Hostage takers are safer to deal with.  They have a goal and will keep the hostages safe to reach the goal. Non-hostage takers are shooters, they want victims. They want control. Non-hostage takers are more emotional and irrational.

[My thought: Lucky that Eric and Dylan did not have rifles.  I think the short barreled shotguns and pistol caliber weapons meant some people lived.]  Students also fortunate that the many bombs Eric and Dylan brought in failed to ignite.  Dylan himself did not shoot much, he was there to die.  Eric shot a fair amount but, seemingly, got bored as psychopaths tend to do.

One buddy of Eric and Dylan went to the police command post in worry and was cuffed. Other friends knew it was a bad time to be their pals. Many students saw Eric and Dylan and identified them. Reporters keyed on "trench coat mafia" and students said all sorts of nonsense about goth and gay and everything. Even now those rumors stick with me.

The survivors:
Cullen gives a full primer in the physical and emotional reactions of victims.  Many were unable to cry, were emotionally shut down. Afterwards tears and sobs would erupt from nowhere for days.

National media microscope. Principal Frank getting conflicting advice on his own public behavior and how to help the kids.

Fundamentalist Christianity was a big deal in Jefferson County.  Spontaneous student prayer groups would form.  The whole story of Cassie Bernall's story was pushed and promoted by several pastors and the press took a hold of the tale.  The story of Cassie "saying 'yes'"was all a mistake anyway, told by a survivor who was confused and terrified during the attack.  One pastor spoke about how he "smelled Satan" there in Jeff County (Huh?) and then ranted on about trench coats and goth makeup.

The weirdness of PTSD. Some students were deeply effected but out of building at the time. Others saw the shootings but recovered quickly.

Reporters deserve credit for disbelievig the gay rumors that were spreading all over. They did fall for the goth and Marilyn Manson baloney.

Sheriff Dep Criticism:
Blatant lies by the Jeff County sheriff's office. Brooks Brown's was bullied and threatened by Eric and his family complained about Eric Harris to the Sheriffs office for over a year. They called 15 times. Brown family had printed out pages from Eric's website detailing his threats to Brooks and bragging about vandalism "missions".  JeffCo outright lied about the contact and the Sheriff linked Brooks to the killer's and said he was an accomplice. Sheriff investigators had drafted a complete and convincing affidavit for a search warrant for Eric to find bomb and bomb materials but never got the warrant. Eric had been experimenting with devices and timers.  JeffCo lied about it all.  Sheriff himself started rumors and falsely confirmed others when talking to the press.

The cover-up about investigating Harris was much, much worse than the error. They held a secret meeting to discuss ass-covering and hiding information. They lied about the previous affidavit and all investigations into Eric.

Eric and Dylan:
Eric wanted to terrorize outside the event - terrorize the nation or world. Columbine was meant as a public performance. He aimed at a high profile target and one that was his oppressor. The failed bombs had meant his intentions were completely missed. He came off as an angry loner.

 Eric was a charming and skilled psychopath.  Psychopaths enjoy lying. Tricking people is enjoyable, authorities are to be manipulated. Dylan did not try like Eric did. He was intending suicide anyway. He was shining Eric on about their murder plans.

Eric tricked his court appointed counselor in the post-felony diversion program. His personal interaction and written work was aimed for his audience. He would give so much - he was guilty, he feels awful - he masked his emotions and pretended. He had few emotions anyway.  Interesting comment that psychopaths who get treatment become worse; psychology counseling is a training ground to improve lying and deception.

The body count would have been higher but this was a fun event for them - not a body count. They got bored and wandered around.  They tried to set-off the dud bombs and gave up.

Both sets of parents looked out for their kids.  They protected their kids.  Wayne Harris did not believe any of his kids misbehavior as that bad. Wayne kept strict discipline in house and thought Eric was improving and changing his behavior.

Dylan was very depressed and suicidal. Boozing as self treatment. A rare suicide who takes it out on others. Eric used him as a tool.  Eric just wanted to kill and planned and prepared for over a year.

Both kids were good liars. No. Eric was an excellent liar. Judge bought it all, especially with supportive families there and both kids dressed properly and contrite, respectful.

Eric was a true psychopath. He killed to demonstrate his superiority and to enjoy it. People meant nothing to him.

FBI was lucky to have the skilled and experience psychologist with them. The final report was damn lucky to have him living there and responding to the emergency.

Very nice primer on psychopaths and history of the science of it's study. Emotions peak very low. Dogs have more empathy than psychopaths. Psychopaths get bored, even with murder. (That could explains BTKs long hibernation.)

Miscellaneous:
Survivor guilt and PTSD. Staff and principal too. Many teachers reevaluated lives and started new careers. Principal knew he was struggling but still alienated family and divorced.

Plenty of lawsuits going around.  Many combined in the federal court.

Post columbine reactions. Zero tolerance everywhere. Guides to identify possible attackers focus on outsiders NOT being a treat. There is no profile   Shooters came from. All backgrounds. They are not loners and 98% planned it out  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Read: "Miss Don't Touch Me" by Hubert & Kerascoet

Read: Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert and Kerscoet, 2007 (France), 2008 (English translation), 9781561635443.

Plugged a couple times by the Unshelved guys.  Both writer (Hubert) and artist (Kerscoet) use one name only.  I liked the artwork quite a bit; K. uses plenty of color and mixes in plainer, simpler panels with detailed street scenes and extravagantly decorated rooms.

Sisters Blanche and Agatha are housekeepers in 1930s Paris. Agatha is a party girl who regularly attends popular dances in the parks and woods of Paris.  A serial killer "Butcher of the Dances" has been killing women.  Blanche worries for Agatha.

In their shared attic bedroom Blanche hears a noise from the abandoned home adjoining their building.  Blanche peeks through a small hole in the wall and sees a dead woman and two men.  she runs to find Agatha.  Agatha disbelieves Blanche, peeks through the whole in the wall and is shot.  Blanche runs for the police.  Police arrive and find Agatha dead  with a pistol in her hand.    Blanche is kicked out of the employer's home for the scandal.

Blanche reads that the Butcher of the dance's most recent murdered victim was a hooker.  Blanche discovers the hooker worked a high end whore house.  Blanche determined to find out who killed the latest Butcher victim and sneaks in.  Blanche offered a dominatrix type job.  Blanche takes job as way to investigate.

Things happen.  Blanche clashes with several of the hookers.  Blache makes friends with one hooker.  Blanche suspects the whorehouse owner and his pal, Red.  Blanche gets Red thrown out.  Red is a vile woman-beater, rapist, and sadist.  Blanche chased by Red on the streets and ambushes him, killing him.  Blanche makes friends with tranvestite hooker.  Blanche kidnapped.  Tranvestite finds out what happens and rescues Blanche.  One hooker and a couple guys were kidnapping women from dances (and the occassional hooker) and offering them to sadistic clients who would beat them to death.  Blanche shoots the killer hooker.

Comments:
1.  Interesting story and setting.  High end whorehouse with big name politicians, celebrities and industrialists as clients.  Yet, the women are forced to live in an attic dormitory and share beds.  The women have limited privileges and get to leave the building on with permission.
2.  Blanche is not that rounded as a character.  She is hell-bent on revenge and does not want anyone to touching her.  That's about it.
3.  Pimps are human garbage.
4.  Hookers is much easier to type than prostitute.
5.  There is a sequel.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Done: "Fun & Games" by Duane Swierczynski

Done: Fun and Games by Duane Swierczynski, 2011, 9780316133289.

Stupid fucking ampersand.  A very fun and fast moving book.  The kind of book that pluggers call "thrill ride" or "rollercoaster" or "adrenaline packed".  But, I won't.

Lane Whatsherface is a famous actress on a recent downward slide of booze, drugs, and bad behavior.  She's being chased along a twisty and dangerous canyon road.  Lane escapes her chaser and is rear-ended on the freeway.  Lane is being chased by killers.  The Accident People (later revealed).  At the rear-ending one Accident Person tries to inject Lane with a speedball.  Lane's death would be blamed on an overdose.  Lane grinds broken windshield glass into her attacker, escapes her wreck, jumps the highway barrier, and heads back into the Hills.

Charlie Hardie is a full-time housesitter who travels around the country to watch expensive homes owned by expensive people.  His current month-long job is in the Hollywood Hills. Charlie shows up and finds a scraped up, bloody, and high Lane hiding in a bathroom.  Lane stabs Charlie with a microphone stand.

Lane tries to convince Charlie people are after her.  Charlie is eventually convinced and Lane finally spills beans that her super important and famous actor ex-boyfriend ran over a child three years ago while Lane was car's passenger.  Lane's breakdown was a result of guilt.  Lane close to spilling beans publicly.  Accident People are called in to protect the financial investments that are dependent on Ex-Boyfriend's film successes.

Accident People who are after Lane are outside the Hills house trying to plot next moves for her suicide or accidental death.  Accident People are all former movie industry people hired to set and create alternate reality.  They speak in movie jargon and talk about "directing a production". They are vile.

Things happen.  Fist fights. Exotic poisons.  Fancy technology.  Connections to political and legal power.  House explosions.  Charlie repeatedly beaten, injected, poisoned, and still going.  Charlie and Lane escape the house. and Lane found.  Lane murdered.  Charlie escapes police custody.  Charlie goes to rescue victims of a subplot.  Everything ends unhappily with two more sequels to follow.

Comments:
1. A good deal of fun with lots of detail on the Hollywood Hills setting.  Swizzlestikerinski writes in afterword that he got setting idea after visiting David J. Schow's house.  I did not really like Schow's Gabriel Hunt book.
2.  Sweerzinski writes very Victor Gischler-like.  Plenty of humor and action and interesting characters.
3.  A just checked in two Swyycczczinsski novels this morning.
4.  I had something else to add but cannot recall what it was. Oh, yeah.  One of the Accident People's regular actor murders is to dope up booze up the victim.  Not only do they end up murdering someone they ruin that person's reputation and name for history.  To me that is especially horrid.
5. Semi-gratuitous Alan Guthrie novel reference.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Done: "Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death" by Charlie Huston

Done: Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston, 2009, 9780345501110.

Very, very good.  Another Huston novel, another fuck-up as protagonist.  Huston almost always has really fun stuff.  I'm in the middle of a Duane Switzkerlyminskydee novel and the and the similar setting and humor keep mixing the two in my mind.  Spoilers to follow.

Web is a pain-in-the-ass-guy in his late 20s living in Los Angeles.  His roommate and best pal Chev owns a tattoo shop.  Web has no job but plenty of allusions are made to a traumatic past.  Po Sin picks up the tattoo shop's medical waste - bloody clothes, used tattoo needles - and knows Web.  Po Sin offers Web a day job.  Web just broke Chev's phone and also owes him rent money so he takes the $10 an hour gig.

Po Sin's main business service is cleaning biohazard.  Crime scenes, suicides, and decompsoing bodies are Po Sin's beat.  Insults and emotional distance are Web's beat.  Web meets grieving daughter at suicide clean-up.  Web and grieving daughter hit it off in a weird, post traumatic way.  The girl, Soledad, calls late at night to ask Web to clean blood from a motel room.  Motel room houses her dirtbag half brother and blood spray.

Web gets pulled into crime story involving Dirtbag Half Brother and Soledad.  Web bangs Soledad.  Web's boss's van is stolen.  Web is pulled into Po Sin's cleaning business rivalry subplot.  Web assaulted by other dirtbags.  Soledad kidnapped.  Web has to deliver Other Dirtbag's property to rescue Soledad.

Anyway.  Characters have lots of character.  Web deals with his estranged father.  Violence ensues.  Romance ensues.  Tales of PTSD ensue.  Web was a teacher on a school  field trip when his school bus drives through a gang gunfight.  Wisecracks are abundant.  Web wonders if Soledad killed her dad.  Everything ends happily ever after except for the dead people.

Comments:
1.  Huston's standard dialogue with stops, starts, pauses, and half-finished sentences.
2.  Web comments on the surrealness of the situations he gets in.  Web's father was a famous screenwriter and movie plots versus reality are commented on.  Suspension of disbelief challenged by being discussed.
3.  Plenty of humor.
4.  The clean-up business seems to have brought this novel a fair amount of attention.  That is a fairly small part of the story.  I presume Huston heard about the business and thought it would be neat to write about.  The focus is on the characters not crime scene detail.
5.  I'm thinking this was nominated or won an Edgar or something.  I will not bother checking on this. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fast Comic: "Baltimore: the plague ships" by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

Fast Comic: Baltimore: the plague ships by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, 2011, 9781595820.

Art by Ben Stenbeck who, I presume, also does the Hellboy series because the artwork is the same.  My summary is in chronological order, comic novel was not.

August, 1916 and World War I is over after a plague of vampires.  Lord Baltimore was a British infantry Captain.  Baltimore awoke in no man's land after a failed attack to see giant bats eating his dead men.  One bat goes after Baltimore but Baltimore slices the bat's face with a bayonet.

Baltimore awakes in field hospital minus one leg and with a recently-one-eyed (big red slice on face) stranger standing at his bedside.  Stranger saying he will get revenge on Baltimore.  That the bats were content to eat the dead but Baltimore has started a new war.  Baltimore heads home to find his family murdered.  His wife comes back to life as vampire and Baltimore must kill her and burn the whole family.  Baltimore kits up and goes vampire hunting.

Baltimore is in a coastal French town recently under siege by vampires.  Baltimore kills many vampires.  Baltimore jailed by cops.  Baltimore freed by local gal who wants Baltimore to take her out of town as he chases main vampire down the coast.

Baltimore and Gal catch a ship.  Ship sinks in storm.  Baltimore and Gal land on shipwreck island, island also home to an abandoned and sunken u-boat fleet.  Sunken ships contain many vampires and vampire zombies. Baltimore and Gal fight vampires. Baltimore and Gal return to coastal town.  Gal bids adieu. Baltimore continues his hunt.

Comments:
1.  I liked the artwork.
2. Fast paced with nice flashbacks to fill in Baltimore's story.
3. I enjoy WWI settings. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Finished: "Murder in the Air" by Bill Crider

Finished: Murder in the Air by Bill Crider, 2010, 9780312386955.


Typical Sheriff Rhodes novel.  Lots of fun that ends too soon.  I do not know if Ivy Rhodes would argue.

Spoilers to follow.  Lester Hamilton owns a major chicken farming operation in Blacklin County.  Everyone living and working nearby hates Lester because the chicken manure stinks everything up.  (I know the feeling.)  Sheriff Dan Rhodes has plenty of suspects when Lester turns up drowned.

Rhodes has angry neighbors and inheritors to interview and investigate.  Deputy Ruth Grady makes several appearances.  Deputy Buddy gets in a snit.  Rhodes does not get beat up but does shoot on two separate occassions.

Aw, screw the plot summary.  The series is always worth reading and traveling Blacklin County through the eyes of the equally pragmatic and philosophical Rhodes is always a pleasure.

Comments:
1.  Extremely gratuitous use Coyote Connection.  Including author, plot description and pub date.
2. New squad cars.
3.  Rhodes has a new gun.  Every other cop in the country gets something bigger.  Rhodes downgrades to a .32.  A County Commissioner trying to talk Rhodes into getting an M16.  A futile effort.
4. Gratuitously eccentric Seepy Benton.
5. Snotty community college English professor.
6.  Recurring theme of small town nostalgia by Rhodes and others.  The town is still there but so much has changed.
7.  Recurring theme: Rhodes and Ivy sex.
8.  Gratuitous Kingston Trio
9.  Memorized poetry.
10.  Bad puns.