Friday, April 27, 2012

Read: "Beast Within" by James Daniels

Read: The Beast Within: Dead Man #7, James Daniels, 2011, (find ISBN on your own).

Matt Cahill is now in Michigan and back in wooded country.  Cahill leaves a grocery store and rescues some hot Russian chick from three violent skinheads.  Cahill and Russian flee on Cahill's motorcycle.  Cahill is in town to speak to an author who wrote about the Dark and seeing rotting people.

Hot Russian Chick is married to the author who is a white supremacist.  Supremacist's compound is old ski lodge surrounded by double electric fence.  Hot Russian Chick is mail order bride.  Hot Russian Chick brought her two brothers with her.  White Supremacist is nutbag.  Nutbag had an "Army" of armed nitwits who largely rejected his leadership when he brought back the darker skinned Russkie. 

Army Rejects are preparing to attack the compound.  Cahill discovers monster sized brother of Hot Russian Chick is actually a bear in human form that she married back in Kamchatka.  During attack Cahill does shooting and axing.  Cahill survives.  Cahill escapes aftermath.  Hot Russian Chick is nude on bear's back.  Cahill says good luck to another survivor on his way back to town. Cahill spreads literacy via Mack Bolan.

Comments:
1.  Gratuitous Mack Bolan.
2.  No Hot Russian Chick sex but Cahill lusts for her.
3.  To me this felt very 1980s with armed separatists, guns, adventure, Bolanisticness.
4.  One of my favorites in the series.

Read: "Kill The All" by Harry Shannon

Read: Kill Them All: Dead Man #6 Harry Shannon, 2011, (ISBN is in the book but not the Amazon website).

Matt Cahill is on the side of the road, again, in the Nevada desert when he hears a call for help.  A couple kids were exploring an abandoned mine and one is stuck.  Cahill grabs a rope from a nearby meth dealer and rescues the kid.  A cop car pulls up.  Local sheriff is the dad.  Dad takes kids and Cahill back to their small town.  Word spreads of the rescue and everyone in town, about 50 of them, are very grateful.

Cahill just wants to skip town, as usual, and continue his hunt for Mr. Dark, as usual.  Cahill protects a bar waitress from some slugs.  Waitress gives Cahill a ride back out to the desert because Cahill wants to inspect the mine as part of his search for Dark.

Cahill kidnapped.  Cahill's abductors are the guys from two books back, mercenaries hired by the wealthy benefactors of the hospital that was prodding and poking Cahill to figure out why he was still alive.  Head mercenary tells Cahill that the the benefactors are paying the mercenaries to draw Cahill's blood, all of Cahill's blood, for research.  Cahill's body will then be cremated.

Cahill rescued by waitress and a couple others including sheriff.  Sheriff and company get Cahill back to town.  There was an explanation for why the mercenaries were not captured but I forgot what.  Now the vicious, highly trained killers are coming to town for Cahill.  Cahill and company prep the town and have a final shootout.  Cahill leaves town on a horse.

Comments:
1. No sex for Cahill.
2.  Plenty of death.
3.  Ax action, as usual.
4.  Desert heat.
5.  Isolated town without help.  Cahill expected to lead everyone.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Listened: "The Devil All the Time" by Donald Ray Pollock

Listened: The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock, 2011, overdrive.com download.

Damn good.  Damn dirty.  Deceptively dense.

I read Knockemstiff a while ago.  Since I was never getting around to reading this I snagged the audio when I saw it.  Pollock has not suffered a sophomore slump.  This is billed as a novel, and is, but is more a collection of themed stories with interlocking characters.  Since I listened to this I cannot easily recall character names.  Bear with me.

There are three foci.  Arvin, born in Knockemstiff and orphaned as a 12-year-old.  The corrupt Bad Guy Sheriff.  Sheriff's Slutty Sister and Fat Husband who are serial killers during the summer.

Arvin is orphaned when his mother dies of cancer and father commits suicide.  Arvin moves to West Virginia with his paternal grandmother.  Slutty Sister takes up with Fat Husband because he is nice to her.  They kill a hitchhiker for his cash and then take it on as a hobby.  Fat Husband offers Slutty Sister to the hitchers while Fat Husband takes photos.  After Slutty Sister and the hitcher have sex the Fat Husband photographs the subsequent torture and murder of the hitchers.

There are many other characters throughout: The horse faced, orphan, foster sister of Arvin.  Arvin's father Willard. The preacher who screws teenage parishioners.

Reviewers for this kind of novel often write about "impact" and "characterization" and "voice".  What reviewers should point out is that Devil All the Time is unlike a lot of other novels because it is actually interesting.  So many of the characters are vile.  They are all flawed.  They are all struggling with something and most are losing the fight.

Comments:

1. I think the narrator, Mark Bramhall, did quite well.  A couple weeks ago Anthony Neil Smith hosted a post by Laura Benedict.  Benedict wrote she was mortified by the thick southern accent put on by the narrator for one of her novels.  Bramhall does that here.  But, this is set in the '50s and '60s before, as Benedict wrote, "omnipresent television has...smoothed out southern accents."
2.  German Luger love.
3.  Beat-up, rustbucket car love.
4.  Rural Southern Ohio love.
5.  Rough and violent sexual practices.
6.  Amoral and immoral behavior by many.  Love is a rare commodity or one that drives aberrant behavior.
7.  Knockemstiff did not make it into Google street view.  I expect Knockem looks like every other small town.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finished: "Blood Mesa: Dead Man #5" by James Reasoner

Finished: Blood Mesa: Dead Man #5 by James Reasoner, 2011, 9781612187648.

What's that? Your producing a series of novellas with different writers for each entry? Well, you may as well hire James Reasoner, he writes well in any genre.

Cahill is on the side of a rural highway after hitching a ride in New Mexico. The heat is beating down and he is intrigued by a nearby mesa. He starts walking. He finds a broken down truck. The gal and guy on the truck are archaeologists doing a dig on the same mesa. Gal scientist is hot. Dude scientist has rotting face of evil. Cahill fixes the truck and is hired to take place of driver/mechanic who just quit.

They arrive at dig. Cahill gets heebee-jeebees at one of the three dig sites. Cahill knows something is wrong. Cahill knows trouble is coming. Human bones with human tooth and gnaw marks are found. Cahill is even more uneasy and queasy. Cahill witnesses drama between jilted guy, ex-girlfriend and new boyfriend.

Cahill at the heebee-jeebee site when an altar is unearthed. Altar drives diggers deep down to dramatic derangement and destruction. Mad diggers start killing and eating others. Cahill teams up with non-crazies. Cahill and wounded non-crazy destroy the altar with dynamite. Cahill hits the road.

Comments:
1. Reasoner zips right through the story on this one. He keeps the action going quick.
2. No sex.
3. Ax violence love.
4. Loneliness of Cahill love.
5. Mr. Dark's invisible and ancient presence love.

Done: "The Dead Woman: Dead Man #4" by David McAfee

Done: The Dead Woman: Dead Man #4 by David McAfee, 2011, 9781612187631.

Spoilers lie ahead.

Matt Cahill gets off a bus in another small town, Crawford, TN, population 5400. Cahill learns a seral killer has been active for several years. Cahill is low on cash, checks the local paper, sees an ad for a local antique shop. Cahill walks in, meets Abbey the hot chick owner and is hired. Cahill also meets the angry and estranged husband of the owner whose name is Dale. Dale is a local cop and tells Abbey a pal of hers is the latest victim.

Cahill and Abbey hit if off. Abbey is a sexual dynamo. Dale is angry. Cahill sees a guy touched by evil. Cahill follows guy and stops a murder. Abbey admits to Dale that she too can see the evil on people. More things happen. Dale is still hot for Abbey and jealous of Cahill.

Dale announces in a crowded restaurant that Cahill killed (events form first book). Cahill's name is now mud. Mud decides to leave town. Mud goes to Abbey's shop needing to have her give back his duffel and Ax. Mud discovers Abbey is the serial killer. Mud calls Dale for help. Dale and Mud get to Abbey's remote cabin. Dale is shot. Cops show up. Abbey murders a couple of them. Mud hits the bricks.

Comments:
1. Defensive ax use.
2. Sex with hot chick.
3. Hot chick also came back from death. Hot chick can see evil in people. Hot chick is evil and pals with Mr. Dark, Mud's nemesis.
4. Hot chick has photos of herself dating back 100 years. Hot chick seems to be immortal. Mud wonders and worries that her life may be his fate.
5. Mysterious bad guys show up at end of book looking for Mud.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quick Read: "Death in Heaven: Dead Man #3 by William Rabkin and Lee Goldberg

Quick Read: Death in Heaven: Dead Man #3 by William Rabkin and Lee Goldberg, 2011, does this have an ISBN?

Looks like Goldberg and Rabkin wrote this one themselves. The Amazon notes count this as an 87 pager. Goldberg once requested I warn of spoilers. SPOILERS! Watch Out!

Matt Cahill is tooling through the Oregon (or Washington) forest on a Buell Blast and takes the exit for Heaven. Heaven is set far, far back off the interstate. When Matt gets there he is shocked to see a Welcome Home Matt banner across the downtown. The town and residents seem stuck in time with no cars, wood stoves, and everyone dressed in simple work shirts or gingham dresses.

Cahill meets local gal. Local gal is kinda hot. Local gal explains the banner. Local gal offers him a room to stay. Local gal puts moves on Matt. Local gal smells of death. Local gal turns putrid and chases Matt. Matt cuts her in half with his ax.

The woman Matt killed was a demon who ruled the town. Matt is now considered the lawgiver and expected to keep the the town's two warring clans in check. Matt is asked to decide on issues like chicken theft and pig killing. Matt does not want the job. Matt's bike get wrecked when he flees. Matt is stuck miles away from interstate. Matt refuses to act as judge in rape accusation.

Matt's refusal to pass judgment leads to all battle between the two clans. More things happen. Matt convinces local girl to try and settle feud. More violence. Matt shambles his way out of town.

Comments:
1. I finished reading this last night when I was tired and do not remember everything that happened in the end. Maybe all the town residents kill one another.
2. No sex. Matt starts the moves on devil-woman and the smell of death makes him gag.
3. Buell Blast abuse.

Read: "Picket Line" by Breena Wiederhoeft

Read: Picket Line by Breena Wiederhoeft, 2011, 9780983661214.

Comic book novel by former Wisconsinite. Pretty decent.

Beatrice (Bea) graduates college and leaves WI for Northern CA. She has no destination or job. At a gas station she helps a guy, Rex, with really short arms reach a package. He starts talking to her and gives her a business card. Later, when looking for work, Bea calls him up and gets a job.

Bea thinks of Rex as Tyronnosaurus Rex because of his little arms. But, Rex is the epitome of kindness. Rex hires Bea into his lawn care business and treats his employees very well. Bea becomes part of that work family and becomes friends with Rex's daughter, Liz.

Things happen. Liz and her husband Derek are divorcing. Rex's wife is off in Hollywood. A local rich guy inherits land with massive, old growth Redwoods. Rex and company are hired to care for the estate's grounds. Protesters, paid $9 an hour, are blocking the gates to the estate. Local Rich Guy plans to cut down the trees and plant condos instead.

Conflict with protestors. Conflict with Rex who says he's talking to Local Rich Guy to try and save the land. Conflict between Derek and Liz. Conflict with Bea who quits her job and joins protesters. Nearby volcanic mountain turns active. Rex arrested for setting explosion he did not do.

Nearby volcanic mountain erupts. Town evacuates. Rex shows evidence of Local Rich Guy's bribe of judge. Liz and Derek reconcile. Bea decides to stay in town. Everyone lives happily ever after. Except for the people dead from the volcano.

Comments:
1. More happens in the plot with love interests and such.
2. I liked the illustrations but they were simple. By simple I mean Wiederhoeft does not do lots of detail for faces or cars or whatnot. Because of this the panels did not have the variety I prefer. Not as many of the different, neat-o perspectives that comics can provide.
3. I'll have to pay attention to her work because I think it will improve.

Done: "Winning Can Be Murder" by Bill Crider

Done: Winning Can Be Murder by Bill Crider, 1996 (2000 paperback), 0373263546.

What the hell? I thought this was #2. It's #8 according to the bib on Crider's regular website. Damn it. This used to be a pristine paperback, too. I bought this at Bouchercon last year. The book was in a mylar bag and wrinkle free with no discoloration. Then I ruined it by asking Crider to sign it. Oh well.

Sheriff Dan Rhodes has more to deal with. This time a high school football coach is murdered after the team's nighttime playoff game. The winning team has the whole community excited and buoyant. This is the first big winning seasons in years. After the coach is found dead in his car of a gunshot wound most everyone's first concern is how the killing will effect the team's performance in the next game.

Rhodes has plenty of suspects and theories to go through. Including other coaches, players, Rapper, a local bookie, a slutty wife. Rhodes drives around a lot. Rhodes gets bested by Rapper. Rhodes eats crackers in his courthouse office. Ruth helps out. Lawton and Hack argue. Rhodes figures everything out and catches the killer.

Comments:
1. Dr. Pepper love.
2. Bologna love.
3. Speedo the Dog's real name is Mr. Earl. No word on whether he never wastes time.
4. "I don't know, but I'm going to find out."
5. Rhodes sticks to his job yet again. Rhodes's dedication often leads to solving a crime that citizens would just as soon forget or ignore. Rhodes always faces resistance in investigations and oftentimes it comes from people in positions of authority or power.
6. Rhodes is the kind of policeman you want all real-life copes to be: he is honest, dedicated, and works for the victims. Rhodes gets angry. He gets confused. He makes mistakes. He keeps thinking it through.
7. Rhodes does not wear a cowboy hat like other sheriffs. This clashes with at least one novel's cover illustration.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Done: "Driven" by James Sallis

Done: Driven by James Sallis, 2012, 9781464200113.

Quick read. I checked this out today.

I suppose everyone sees books differently. To many people I suppose this is a skeletonized noir. There are only 147 pages. To me this a love/hate letter to Phoenix and the Valley. I spent five years there and Sallis boils everything down. Dirt. Beige and brown. Endless apartment complexes. Strip malls. Buildings with a different restaurant every year. Roadside garbage and sound walls on the freeway. Like Iraq, but with nicer weather and more Republicans and illegal Mexicans.

Driver left the first novel on the run. He stayed on the run until settling into a Mesa apartment and meeting a girl at the mall. Driver takes on a new identity but with no work history falls back into cars and builds a business hot-rodding and restoring cars. About nine years later he and the girlfriend are jumped one day. Driver acts quickly and violently, as he is wont to do, but his girlfriend is murdered.

Driver goes running. Driver ponders life and the universe. Driver's pal in LA pontificates on life and the universe. Driver kills the men sent after him. Driver catches one guy alive and starts tracing his way back to the source. Driver gets help from an old friend and a new friend. Driver finds the source. Driver's new friend ponders life and the universe. Driver does not find an end to his problems.

Violence is common. Violence is sudden. Driver has no qualms. Driver acts suddenly and decisively. Driver uses his hands and a hammer, not a gun or knife.

Comments:
1. Driver walks a fair amount. Walking? In Phoenix? I guess there is some there but depends on where you live.
2. Impossible for me not to compare this versus the Drive movie. To see the actors in this novel.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quit Listening: "The Rare Coin Score" by Richard Stark

Quit Listening: The Rare Coin Score by Richard Stark, Overdrive download, 2008 copyright for Introduction.

Why would a Parker fan like myself quit listening? Because Parker is given a voice. I cannot describe how I would expect Parker's voice to sound but the narrator did not get it right. I'll have to pick up one of the University of Chicago reprints.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Listened: "AC/DC: the savage tale of the first standards war" by Tom McNichol

Listened: AC/DC: the savage tale of the first standards war by Tom McNichol, 2006, Overdrive audio download.

No, not really. Not so savage at all. Edison had a booster for his DC system who called names, produced fake stats, and sent out press releases but "savage" does not fit. As a book about competing standards this is kinda boring. As a quick book about early the early electrical industry and it's pioneers this is pretty neat.

McNichol covers some electrical history with various pioneers in experimentation. He then does a brief(ish) biography of Edison. Throws in some bio bits on Tesla. Stirs in some George Westinghouse info. Then scours the library for information on the electrical business, news reports, and industry papers regarding the fight to get either alternating or direct current adopted.

Comments:
1. AC won and I still don't know jack crap about electricity, and I am still scared of it.
2. Edison was born to gas lamps and when he died the whole damn country was electrified (mostly). There was a proposal to turn off all lights for a couple of minutes in memoriam to Edison but electricity was so vital the idea was quickly nixed.
3. Tesla died owing money and turning insane.
4. Westinghouse sounded like a good dude.
5. A lot of time is spent on DC Booster's (forgot his name) pseudo-scientific experiments testing the deadliness of AC power by electrocuting stray dogs.

DNF: "Metamorphosis of a Criminal" by Ed Edwards

DNF: Metamorphosis of a Criminal by Ed Edwards, 1972, LC 72-78412 (no ISBN).

Fucking scumbag. Edwards is most recently known as being a small time serial killer. He was finally caught in 2009 by Jefferson County detectives who were following leads from the 1980 murders Edwards was eventually convicted of. (Edwards had a fondness for murdering young male-female couples.) Edwards subsequently confessed to three other killings, including the murder of his own foster son.

This 1972 biography got some press after Edwards's arrest. I wonder how the press heard of the book. Did the cops tell them? Did Edwards tell them? Did they dig it up on their own? Edwards's name is so common.

Anyway. I gave up after a few pages. I was reading his self-serving load of bullshit and could no longer take it. Edwards claimed a string of crimes across the country while he was a fugitive and on the FBI's most wanted list. He probably raped or killed some more people too. He was suspected of a 1960 double murder in Portland. Fucking dirtbag. After parole he became a motivational speaker and did this book. Then he killed a young couple in Ohio in 1977.

Edwards was convicted of the 1980 double murders in Wisconsin in 2010. In March, 2011 he was convicted of double murder in Ohio plus the murder of his foster son. He died of natural causes in April, 2011.

Addendum, January 22, 2016.
This post is getting a lot of traffic. I presume that is because a guy has been in the new trying to link Edwards to the Avery case recently publicized in Making a Murderer. Keep in mind that Edwards was quite old and in ill health when he was arrested for the murders in Jefferson County.

Edwards was 76-years-old during 2010's pre-trial phase. Edwards was on oxygen, in a wheelchair, and had video arraignments because he was jailed in a prison hospital in Waupun (an hour North). According to Wikipedia Avery is at one of the prisons in Waupun. I don't know about Edwards in 2005 but doubt he was in shape to kidnap and murder a woman and then plant blood and bodily remains on someone's property.

One of the Waupun prisons is across the street from the public library. One of the prison's officers was a history buff (Civil War, I think) and the Library Director used to be able to walk across the street, yell up to the guard tower, and ask the officer for help on reference questions.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Done: "I, the Jury" by Mickey Spillane

Done: I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane, 1947, 0451203526 (2011 compilation).

Mike Hammer could be a real asshole. Quick to slug someone and quick to take insult.

My knowledge of the Hammer books and Spillane is very scant. I do know I, the Jury was a sensation when it came out. Max Allan Collins has an essay in the beginning of this compilation but I don't know if I will get toit. I used to watch the Keach tv show. I really liked the Armand Assante movie because it was filled with nudity and gunplay.

What's more, should I read the recent Spillane/Collins collaboration that Spillane intended as the second Hammer novel? Or, should I just read the other two novels in this compilation? Ahh, who cares. I'll read them in whatever order I feel like.

Hammer gets a call that his long-time friend and war buddy, Jack Williams, was murdered. Hammer swears revenge. Hammer goes hunting with plan to catch killer before Pat Chambers the cop does. Hammer starts shaking down the people who were at a party Jack hosted the night of his death.

Hammer threatens. Hammer punches. Hammer drinks. Hammer lusts. Hammer hints at his tough guy history. More people die as the killer ties up loose ends. Hammer has hots for gal psychiatrist. Hammer dislikes poofs. Hammer drives a heap. Hammer finds links to dope and prostitution. Hammer bangs a nympho. Hammer drinks more. Hammer figures it all out. Hammer kills the killer.

Comments:
1. A fun read. One that makes me think if differences between today and 65 years ago. Not just about cars, and phones and mores but also about an idealized hero of the time.
2. This copy only went ~150 pages.
3. Several things in the book stretched my disbelief. Like the guy wooing co-eds and then pimping them out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quit: "Pound For Pound" by F.X. O'Toole

Quit: Pound For Pound F.X. O'Toole, some year, some ISBN.

I loved O'Toole's short story collection from several years ago. I recall nabbing a withdrawn copy from work because, apparently, no one else liked the book.

This had an intro by James Ellroy who mentions how O'Toole's manuscript was hundreds of pages long when he died. O'Toole's son and an editor went through and cleaned it up. That was a real turn-off. O'Toole's short stories were short. He worked on them and turned out some really neat stuff. When this did not grab me after 15 pages or so I never got back to it and returned it to the library.

I may try it again sometime.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Done: "Kurt Busiek's Astro City: Family Album" by Kurt Busiek

Done: Kurt Busiek's Astro City: Family Album by Kurt Busiek, 1998, 1563895528.

I found this in the Fitchburg library. More personal drama among the superheroes of Astro City. I read that Busiek will be at Murder and Mayhem in Muskego this fall. Maybe I'll try to go for the evening event. By the time the pancake breakfast is over I'm not sure it is worth the drive over there. Although Gischler and Abbott, Jr. are also scheduled to attend.

Five characters in this compilation.
1- First story has a newly divorced dad moving to Astro City. Their first night there is a massive battle with all the heroes against a Zeus-like weather guy.
2- Astra is a 10 year old kid of superheroes with powers of her own. She fights evil with her family but has no friends, is home-schooled by a computer, and has a lonely life. She decides to have an adventure of her own and learn to play hopscotch. She leaves home without telling her family and enrolls in school. Her family interrogates the universe's bad guys thinking she was kidnapped.
3. Junkman is a technological bad guy whose recent bank robbery left no clues. He is proud of his accomplishment. So proud he cannot stand no one knowing what he did and how. He heads back to Astro City to get caught and get credit.
4. Jack-in-the-Box has to come to grips with his impending fatherhood. Jack-in-the-Box is attacked alternate-future versions of his son. Two if the versions are super evil. Jack-in-the-Box worries more about the future.
5. Leo is a cartoon figure who was brought to life in '47. He has a highs and lows and tells his story to an adman.

Comments:
1. I like the artwork. Crappy artwork kills any story, no matter how good the writing.
2. The Leo and Astra stories were the best. Busiek took the space to tell their stories in depth. Astra is a lonely kid wanting to be a normal kid. Leo was brought to life by chance and left to navigate a new, real-life world.

Read: "Raylan" by Elmore Leonard

Read: Raylan by Elmore Leonard, 2012, 9780062119469.

It had been a long time since I read a Leonard novel. This was okay but so much of what was in the novel has already been done in Justified. The novel's and show's storylines are not identical but close enough to spoil any suspense of surprise.

To me this was more an opportunity to compare the two formats. Abbott Jr. wrote upa brief interview with Leonard for LA Times Magazine and Leonard said Boyd Crowder is not very smart but thinks he is. The television Crowder is smart. TV Crowder is a schemer and planner and figures people out.

I was watching the most recent Justified episode earlier today and got to thinking that maybe Raylan is not just stubborn and falsely obtuse. Maybe he is a bit thick.

Anyway. Plot: Raylan gets involved in kidney thievery and kills the gal mastermind. Raylan gets involved protecting a mouthpiece for the mining company. Mouthpiece later killed by widow of mminer mouthpiece shot. Raylan is assigned to look for a gal who skipped bail in Indianapolis and is suspected of bank robbery. Raylan bangs the gal instead.

Comments:
1. I had difficulty following the dialogue. I cannot recall if this happened to me when reading past Leonard books.
2. Gratuitous reference to Valdez is Coming.