Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Finished: "Eyes of the innocent" by Brad Parks

Finished: Eyes of the Innocent by brad parks, 2011, 9780312874789.

I was wandering around in the stacks at Fitchburg PL waiting for everyone one to finish the heck up in the kids section.  I saw this one and since I already read or listened to the 1st and 3rd entries in the Carter Ross series I brought this home.

Carter is still an investigative reporter for the Newark Eagle-Examiner.  He is assigned to work with a hot intern nicknamed Sweet Thang to do a story about a house fire that killed two kids.  Carter cracks jokes.  Carter hides from his editor.

Intern and Carter discover the dead boys' mom in the remains of the house.  They interview mom.  Mom tells stories about a weird mortgage deal with a steep rate.  Mom turns out to be a liar and steals jewelry from Intern's apartment.  Carter cracks jokes.

A Newark City Councilman is missing.  Blood stains at his home suggest violence.  Carter helps with the story.  Carter finds link between the now missing Mom and missing Councilman.  Carter cracks jokes and hides from his editors.

Intern is hot for Carter.  Carter is hot but restraining for Intern.  Carter still has weird thing going on with hot City Desk Editor lady.  City Desk jealous of Intern.  Carter travels Newark.  Carter informs reader on Newark politics and corruption.  Current state of journalism and the pressure of competition, deadlines and internet publishing.

Things happen.  Almost sex.  Threatened violence.  Real violence.  Interspersed thoughts of the bad guy responsible for corruption and murdered Councilman - a method used by Parks in the other novels.  Carter saves the day with a little help from his friends.

Comments:
1.  Parks keeps the story going with wise-assed Carter driving things along.
2.  The investigation has dead-ends and surprise turns.
3.  Newark love.
4.  Newark street-name love.
5.  Newark versus suburbs love.
6.  Fashion advice.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Read: "Legs" by William Kennedy

Read: Legs by William Kennedy, 1975, 0140064842 (1983 paperback).

Kennedy wrote a series of Albany, NY based novels including this and Ironweed.  I suppose the series is still well known to some.  I heard of this novel in a roundabout way.  Jack "Legs" Diamond was incredibly famous as a NY gangster from the late twenties until his murder in 1931.  Several gangster movies have included Diamond as a character - with one or two featuring Diamond in the lead - but I was clueless about the guy.

I heard about Diamond through the Armed Robbery blog.  The blog owner ran a post on the anniversary of Diamond's murder including a photo of the building in Albany where he died.  The post mentioned the building is owned by Kennedy.  I wondered about that comment.  The reference seemed superfluous, so I looked Kennedy up.  I found out Kennedy wrote a novel about Legs.  I checked the catalog, Racine PL owns this copy, the book came over, I read it.  I mostly liked it.

Told from the perspective of Diamond's Albany-based attorney, Marcus Gormen.  Marcus meets Legs in 1925 when Legs is in town after a liquor run from Canada.  Legs sends Marcus a gift of scotch and asks for help with a CCW license.  Marcus is doing well as a lawyer and, amused by Legs, arranges the license.

A year of so later Diamond is expanding his operation up from New York City into the Catskills.  He recruits Marcus to be on retainer.  Diamond is a killer and a crook but Marcus is not much better.  Several times through the novel Diamond says Marcus is a better crook than Diamond himself.  Marcus takes on the work and on occasion is more accomplice than counsel.

Diamond's story is told through a few flashbacks, stories related from Diamond's cronies through Marcus, and Marcus's own observations.  Diamond is a charmer.  Has been a crook since he was a kid in Philadelphia.  He feuded with Dutch Schultz and other gangsters.  He was in the newspaper almost every day.  He was attacked and shot up about three times.  He was laid low by a prosecution for kidnapping that froze his finances and interfered with his work.  He shot to death in the early morning of Dec 18, 1931 in a rooming house in Albany.

Comments:
1.  I liked the story but started to burn out in the half-way point.  Kennedy makes a nice tale but things just seemed to be going nowhere.  You hear about Legs's men extorting and threatening bar owners to take Legs's beer and booze.  How Legs has people killed.  How people disappear.  So on. So forth. My interest was petering out.  Especially since all the grit and crime was mostly told second hand or relayed as something that maybe happened.
2.  All the details of Diamond were well known at the time because of press coverage - except for journalistic embellishment or lies.  Legs was still spoken in Albany about 44 years later.  Kennedy focuses as much on Diamond's love triangle of his wife and showgirl mistress.  Kiki the mistress is described by Marcus as oozing with sex.  Kiki often talks about Legs and his sexual prowess.  That his prowess loyally attaches women to him.  Neither Diamond's wife or Kiki want to leave him; they overlook or ignore his ruthless and violent actions.
3.  I have a recent biography, Legs Diamond: Gangster by Patrick Downey, on hold.  I was tempted to look up events and locations from Kennedy's book but did not want to bother if the bio ever comes in for me.  (Racine PL is sometimes real slow to pull holds.)
4.  Kiki's sexuality does not come through in a film clip Downey embedded. http://youtu.be/8tKEJ-B_Yb4

And Done: "B.P.R.D. : 1946" by Mike Mignola nd Joshua Dysart

And Done: B.P.R.D.: 1946 by Mike Mignola nd Joshua Dysart, 2008, 9781595821911.

I enjoyed this best of the three BPRD novels I picked up. 

1946 and a scientist in the employ of the BPRD (maybe it was the precursor) is working to collect information about the nazi's work to gather occult material and artifacts.  The Russians have been working hard to gather up everything and their Berlin territory holds most of the archives and warehouses that hold those items. 

He does not have much to do because not much information is available.  They hang out in the archives and talk to their Russian counterpart - who appears to be a 6-year-old girl.

Scientist and others go to a mental asylum and discover weird stuff.  Vampires were captured by nazis with Hitler's plans to unle3ash vampire hordes across the world if the Germans may lose the war.  Lots of shooting.  Vampires.  Apes that are altered into androids.   A neat story and I liked this a lot.

Afterword by Dysart quotes Mignola saying "I just liked to draw nazis and monsters."

A short story from Comic Book Day follows.  I liked that story, too.

Done: "B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground" by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi

Done: B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, 2008, 9781593079567.

I have the TV on and am watching Dinocroc vs. Supergator.  It is so incredibly awful.

I liked this one a lot.  BPRD agents in Colorado have to deal with an escaped monster that was being kept prisoner at their facility.  Meanwhile, one of the agents seems to be possessed by some sort of demon.

The BPRD tries to catch the monster running amok in their massive facility.  Shooting, dark places, etc.  Mysterious guy who entered the facility.  Flashback to South America with possessed character.

Supergator just came on. Some couple is making out by a waterfall and are about to be eaten.

More shooting. More talk of monsters, the occult, and magical goings-on.  One agent is a medium whose body was destroyed when he was out of it.  He is now in a brand new body - factory made apparently, it was discussed in another story - and going crazy eating and having sex after his ectoplasmic self had been in a rubber suit for years.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Done: "B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine" by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi

Done: B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, 2007, 978159077105.

The YA section in Ficthburg PL's YA room had three of these B.P.R.D. books.  So I took them home.  The problem with these is that each bound copy is usually wither part of a series or continues to follow, and depend on, previous storylines.  I hate being in the dark when reading a book but I lucked out on these.  The two stories that were kinda connected - a character has a major change - I was able to understand because I read one before the other.

Hell Boy does not appear in this except for a brief cameo.  The BPRD (I'll dispense with the punctuation) have sent a couple agents to rural France to buy a rare book of magic.  They hope to buy the book and use the information to re-assemble a Golem-like colleague who was split apart in a previous story.  One of the agents is captured and taken into an alternate reality/time.  The bookseller is asking for one of her colleagues in exchange for the book.

Meanwhile, four other agents are living and working at the BPRD's headquarters in Colorado.  Various conversations and such tell you some of their backstories and how they ended up with BPRD.  Meanwhile, a prisoner transfer from Quebec delivers a the monster to Colorado.  A monster that took overtakes over souls and leaves the person stuck and unable to escape without killing someone else. 

Things happen.  Art happens.  People die.  Mysterious things occur.  Ancient and not-so-ancient magic occurs.  Supernatural goings on.  I like the artwork in this series.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Quick: "Pocket-47" by Jude Hardin

Quick: Pocket-47 by Jude Hardin, 2011, 9781608090112.

I saw this in the Fitchburg PL and recognized the name.  I checked my notes and, sure enough, Hardin did a Dead Man entry.  I brought the book home.

Nicholas Colt is a North Florida P.I. Colt is broke and living in a broken down Airstream trailer.  Colt mostly dropped out of life since his private plane crashed with is rock band and young family aboard.  Colt was the only survivor.  Colt has a girlfriend he is sorta committed to but is still stuck on dead wife and baby daughter.

Colt is asked by a nurse to find her missing sister. Colt finds sister who is living with a pimp.  Colt gets her and she refuses to go home, says she will be murdered.  Colt takes her to stay at his girlfriend's house for the night.  Colt then takes her to his trailer to try and get her to spill on the threat.  Colt's trailer is shot at.  Colt gives chase and returns to find the sister is gone.

Colt is driven by curiousity.  Colt also wants to help the sister.  Colt keeps searching.  Colt is caught by car thieves and almost murdered.  Colt discovers conspiracy and has to unravel it.  One conspiracy member mentions "Pocket 47".  Pocket 47 is slang for something going wrong, gremlins in the system.  There is mention of the plane wreck.  Colt is intrigued.

More things happen.  A foster family was threatening sister.  Foster family was selling Soc Sec numbers and IDs.  Foster family was being blackmailed.  Colt's cop pal is a bad guy, has an eye shot out and jumps off a bridge.  Sister is missing and presumed dead.  More secrets.  More intrigue. 

White supremacists.  Dead Cop is actually alive.  Colt joins the remote supremacist camp as guitarist.  Colt is looking for evidence.  Colt finds sister is alive.  Colt kills.  Colt rescues.  Colt and sister live happily ever after as adoptive family.  The plot is a mess.

Comments:
1.  The rock band's name was Colt .45.  Kinda like .38 Special and the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash.
2.  The plot really is a mess.  I was questioning things as I went along and the point-to-point connections crazily crossed.  But, I did read along, suspended that disbelief and figured I'd be rewarded with revenge and shoot-outs.  I was.
3.  Popcorn novel.  Entertainment with some thought behind it to give the characters meaning.

Done: "The Wrong Quarry" by Max Allan Collins

Done: The Wrong Quarry by Max Allan Collins, 2014, 9781781162668.


Good news:  I scored a ARC from Collins off his blog.  Bad news: I finished the book and have to wait a few years for the next Quarry.  A significant problem with Quarry novels (and books from Crider, Gischler, Stella and a couple others) is that I want to save them for later.  I keep them in reserve knowing that I'll have something of high quality waiting. 

I rank the Quarry novels with Westlake's Parker novels.  The two series and characters share a few similarities of a lone criminal.  The most important difference between Parker and Quarry is that Parker is not human.  

I really enjoyed this novel.  Collins always moves things along and gives a lot of insight into Quarry: Horndog Professional Killer.  And Quarry is professional.  He takes pride in his efficiency, skill, and planning.  He believes in honesty to his client, even in a "profession" as honor-less as murder.

Spoilers await so go no further. 

It's 1983 (or so) and Quarry is still making a living by following hit men, discovering the killer's target, and telling the target Quarry can solve the problem, for a fee.  This time Quarry follows an antique shop owner, who moonlights in murder, to east central Missouri.  Quarry tails the antique dealer/killer and figures the guy is casing a local dance instructor.  Quarry meets a woman in a bar, Quarry gets a blowjob by the same woman next to the garbage cans behind the bar.  Quarry spies the second killer's arrival.  Quarry informs the mark and makes monetary mediation.  Things happen.

The dance instructor is suspected of murdering a missing high school girl who was the instructor's star pupil and Miss Teen Missouri contestant.  Quarry figures the girl's family as the money minding the murder. Quarry pretends to be a journalist to start digging for info and identify who hired the killers.  Quarry offs the two contract killers.  Quarry's dick diving dumpster dame is the missing girl's aunt.  Quarry wonders if the aunt is setting Quarry up.  Quarry starts to get feelings for Aunt.  Quarry definitely has boner feelings for the dance instructor's latest Teen Protege.

Quarry has lots of sex.  Quarry does not like the mess of killing with knives.  Quarry drives a Pinto.  Quarry drinks more Coke.  Quarry sizes up all women by their sexual seductiveness and spot on the  seducibility scale. Quarry gets things figured.  Quarry finds out the dance instructor not only killed the missing girl but is a serial killer.  Quarry acts.  Quarry has been played by the Teen Protege.  Quarry wins out and drives off saying, "Fucking amateurs."

Comments:1. Gratuitous Reed Farrell.  Missing the Coleman.
2.  Browning love.
3.  Midwest setting love.
4.  Coke and Diet Coke love.
5.  While reading I wondered if Aunt involved in the missing girl's death.  Maybe she was jealous of her father's affection for the granddaughter over the daughter.
6.  Solid story all around with a very satisfying ending.
7.  I was a little surprised that Quarry did not kill the Grandfather of missing girl.  He had made a contract agreement with Dance Instructor.  I expected him to honor the agreement and then kill Instructor.  Well, Quarry is not that professional I suppose.  He's not as extreme on his agreements like Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.
8.  Quarry is always a bit of a mystery.  How can he do the work he does?  Ever since he was recruited to be a killer he has always thought his victims are already dead.  Whether Quarry or someone else does the killing the person will die.  So, why shouldn't Quarry get paid to do what the government trained him to do?
9.  Quarry is clearly queered from combat.  His values are all screwed up.
10.  Collins does very good work in sharpening his characters within a scant 215 pages.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Re-Read: "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" books designed by James Campus

Re-Read: Monty Python's The Meaning of Life designed by James Campus, 1983, 0413533808.

When I was in Boy Scouts my Troop had an annual Michigan Trip during spring break.  We'd pack into the Troop Leader's big passenger van and drive from Champaign, IL to various locales in Michigan.  I made the trip two years in a row.

The trip was mostly tours of factories and foundries.  No outdoor stuff. No hiking.  No camping.  No knots.  We visited the Pontiac facility that built Fieros.  An engine foundry.  A steel plant.  Some year-round Christmas store that was very boring.  Every year also included a visit to a Chuck E Cheese that had plenty of video games.

The trips also included a drive over the border into Windsor, Ontario.  We'd visit a large mall there.  On my second trip I visited a book store and found this.  I've never seen another one.  Heck, I got to figuring this might be rare until I saw one posted on Amazon.com for $0.65.  Maybe I should only look at the price on ABE Books, that one is $1.08.  Anyway, enough Crider-like reminiscing.  Besides the Canadian price is still on the cover, $1.99.

This was a neat book for me because when else was I going to see the wonderful Pythons?  I was too young to go out to a video store and I don't think the VHS explosion had hit yet.  This is filled with still photos and the shooting script.  I loved it.  I'd seen the flick and remembered it well and could remember the actor's voices as I read through.

The book also had nudity!  Just like the film!  And, just as important, there is a deleted scene.  Deleted scenes are all over DVD re-issues but I'd never seen or heard of the Martin Luther section.  A scene of particular surprise for a Lutheran kid.  Especially since Luther is portrayed as a filthy, sex-crazed monk out to lay Mrs. Mayer or her two daughters.

I'm posting in some cell phone photos.  Included inside the black cover is a correspondence between John Cleese - Wow, that guy writes well, he's not so silly after all! - and The Sun newspaper where Cleese was disputing a story that was printed during filming in Scotland.  The Sun claimed that Cleese was upset when raining delayed filming and stomped around calling the extras bastards.  Letters were exchanged and all were photographed and stuck in the back.


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Comments:
1.  A brife story about Chuck E. Cheese.  The place was packed with kids and teenagers.  Someone was playing a game in one of the machines with a large cabinet you would sit inside of.  The player had quite a crowd surrounding him as he played.  He was zapping aliens and running up the score when I noticed a toggle switch on the back of the machine near the floor.  The game cabinet was in the center of the game area and the back of the machine was uncovered. 

Another Scout and I nonchalantly leaned backwards against the cabinet. I crossed my arms and propped out a bent knee.  The heel of that propped foot starting searching for the toggle switch.  I found it, and switched it.  Noises of "Huh?" and "What?"  and "Hey!" erupted behind me.  I switched the toggle back and wandered off.  We thought it was hilarious but made sure to hide.  Especially after we did it a second time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Read: "Extinction Machine" by Jonathan Maberry

Read: Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry, 2013,9780312552213.

Another entertaining shoot-em-up with Captain Joe Ledger fighting evil conspiracies.  I was wondering how to describe this series to someone.  Maybe a mix of the TV show Agents of Shield and James Bond.  Ledger works for the DMS, a very secretive government organization that fights all kinds of threats against the U.S.: terrorists injecting a zombie virus, plans to spread genetic mutations, Al Queda aligned plots to destroy the West.  The plots involve the rich and powerful plotting and planning pernicious peril. 

Joe Ledger is a super-dude with commando training and martial arts expertise.  All the agents working under Ledger are point-of-the-spear guys with experience and killer attitude.  The action is sometimes comic book-ish with big battles and international flair.  Ledger's boss, Mr. Church, is mysterious and seems to know everyone in industry and government.  All the plots have a heavy emphasis on science as a weapon.  Computers and gadgets are depended on.

This has Joe Ledge called in from a hangover after lethal cyber-attacks against U.S. defense contractors cause big trouble.  Ledger and a couple guys visit one contractor, fight it out with a couple mysterious guys with strange weapons and fancy body armor.  Mysterious guys escape and Ledger and Co. find about 45 of the contractor's staff dead - not just dead, but blown apart and dripping from the walls.

More things happen.  This novel's conspiracy dates back to 1947 and Roswell.  An organization was founded to exploit the remains of the destroyed space craft.  The organization collected pieces of crashed ships from around the world and different governments hunt the black market for bits and pieces of spaceship.

The DMS is under attack by the acting President who does not like them.  The conspiracy is targeting Ledger with murder, when that fails they set him up to look like a spy.  The conspiracy has a computer system that rivals the DMS's all powerful Mindreader system.

Lots of shooting.  Lots of explosions.  Lots of fisticuffs.  Plenty of dry tough guy humor.  Flying saucers are actually flying triangles.  Aliens may be back.  They may be the ones who kidnapped the President.  Ghost the wonder dog chomps with his titanium teeth.  Ledger has sex.  The DMS is on the run but not giving up.  Helicopters.  High tech spying.  Can the world be saved?! Lots of dead people at the end.  Ledger has a new girlfriend.

Comments.
1.  Sig Sauer love.
2.  Ju jitsu/karate/judo/boxing/MMA love.
3.  Warehouses.
4.  Huge, secret facilities that Blofeld would love.
5.  Ledger loves to delve deep into his feelings.
6.  433 pages long.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Read: "The Double" by George Pelecanos

Read: The Double by George Pelecanos, 2013, 9780316078399.

Pretty good.  Straightforward storytelling.  Second novel with Spero Lucas.  Lucas is a combat veteran of Fallujah and his post-marine adjustment is mixed.  He is living the dream life of a deployed Marine:  lots of women, a job where he sets his own hours, drinking and smoking dope, lots of exercise on his bicycle and kayak.  Lucas is still looking for meaning and excitement. 

Lucas still does hourly investigative work for a local defense attorney.  He makes even more by taking off-the-books private jobs for people.  Lucas collects 40% of the item's value.  The last novel, The Cut, had Lucas hunting down missing drug money.  This story has him recovering a valuable painting worth $200,000.

Lucas has to track down a con man who stole the painting.  The con man is a sociopath and works various scams and robberies with two other guys.  Lucas also visits with his brother and mother, starts an affair with a married woman, visits with fellow combat veterans.

Lucas makes some violent  decisions and rationalizes them.  He needs the excitement and danger.  People recognize he is not doing so well.  Lucas disagrees, he's fine.  His brother talks to him.  His attorney friend talks to him.  His married liaison talks to him.  His mother talks to him.  A VA psychiatrist tries to get him to come in for an appointment.  Lucas says, "I'm fine."

Lucas ends up killing two guys to recover the painting.  Lucas plans to kill a man who murdered one of his brother's high school students.  Lucas saps the guy in an alley and sticks a handgun in the guy's mouth.  Lucas stops himself.  Lucas wonders if he is like the sociopath he killed to recover the painting.  Lucas goes home.  Lucas considers kissing the pistol muzzle.

Comments:
1. Discussions between Spero and his combat pals.  Men from his unit have taken different paths.  Some are living healthy and succesfully.  Others are struggling.  One guy just wants a freaking job.  Another illegally deals guns.  Lucas pursues women.
2.  Glock with a safety.  Argh.
3.  Car love.
4.  D.C. love.  Restaurants, neighborhoods, streets, intersections, local history, local personalities.
5.  The missing painting is entitled The Double.  Two men side by side are the same man.  The painting owner mentions this to Spero, she sees the same in him.  He is split.
EDIT 6.  Something I remembered.  Importance of muscle.  A young guy-military focus on muscle.  Pump up your guns.  Don't forget your leg workout, build some power below the waist. Spero notices these things on others.

Listened: "Brotherhood of Warriors" by Aaron Cohen

Listened: Brotherhood of Warriors: Behind Enemy Lines with a Commando in One of the World's Most Elite Counterterrorism Units by Aaron Cohen,2008 (AudioFile production), Overdrive download.

I was going through the digital library looking for audiobooks and decided to take a try on this.

Cohen is listed as a "Beverly Hills native" and this gets plugged as a fish out of water tale.  Not exactly true.  Cohen's parents divorced when he was young and he was bounced around from Montreal to Miami and elsewhere to live with his father, mother, and aunt.  Cohen was not doing well.  By time he landed in Beverly Hills he was a young teenager, acting out, and getting in plenty of trouble.  He was living with his mom and step-dad and both were too engrossed with their work to spend time with Cohen.  Cohen was more of a boarder in his house; he would sometimes not speak to his step-dad for days.

After getting in enough trouble Cohen was sent to a military boarding school in Ontario.  Cohen thrived.  He needed the structure and stability and he found a guy, the school's commander, to look up to.  The commander was a former Canadian Army officer.  The Commander said the Israeli Army had the best soldiers he ever met.  Cohen started reading up on the Israeli Army.  Cohen had a goal.

Cohen returned to Beverly Hills, graduated high school, flew to Israel to stay at a kibbutz before joining the Army.  Cohen exercised hard with his goal of making a special forces unit.  He worked alongside former commandos and tried to impress them.  He got advice from different people.

Cohen goes to basic and has to stubbornly demand to join the special forces path.  The Army wants to stick all the Americans together in a special unit.  Training is very difficult and some restrictions on training are lifted in their track.  Instructors can be cruel and abusive.  The physical and mental demands are tough.  Cohen continually struggles with his Hebrew. 

Cohen will be assigned to an undercover unit that works in the Palestinian territories.  Cohen shoots thousands of rounds in training.  Cohen does krav maga training where trainees have to beat and pound on each other and their bruises never have time to heal.  Cohen learns how to apply make-up and disguises.  Cohen learns the lingo and dialects of different territories.  Cohen gets through the 14 months of training and starts work.

What kind of work does Cohen do? Snatch jobs mainly.  The teams plan things out closely and often have to change plans on the fly.  The unit is well trained and quick to shoot back but they are more of a police unit than Army.  They are not out to kill, they are there to arrest.  They observe, observe, observe and then grab dudes.  The arrests can be violent - the units has to grab a guy and skedaddle before other Palestinians can react.

Cohen skips over most of his 1.5 years in the unit because of secrecy concerns.  Cohen burns out and does not re-enlist after his three years are up.  Cohen is shiftless.  Cohen has no civilian job skills.  Cohen hangs out in California.  Cohen starts getting in trouble.  Cohen gets hired by an Israeli for a security job in Los Angeles.  Things go well and Cohen starts his own firm and hires former Israeli commandos.

Comments:
1.  Final chapter is on modern security in the U.S. compared to Israeli.  Israeli's are more observant and aware of terrorism.  Terrorism is a constant danger.  Cohen's advice to prevent terrorism in the U.S. is to be more Israeli-like.  I disagree for various reasons bu the main reason is:  the threat is not the same and people here will not act that way.
2. Cohen could be arrogant.  But, he was 18-years-old.  He was also smart enough to take the advice of others.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quick: "The Baddest Ass" by Anthony Neil Smith

Quick: The Baddest Ass by Anthony Neil Smith, 2013, 978-1490523156 (paperback, not e-edition).

Pretty damn good.  Surprisingly good.  Not surprising because I doubt Smith, but because I've been reading some decent stuff lately and this was even better.  Not a novel for readers that avoid profanity and violence.  The story keeps trucking along and moving quick.

Third novel featuring Billy Lafitte.  Lafitte is still a scumbag and after somehow surviving the finale of the last book he is prison, where he belongs.  The North Dakota prison is a private facility that was rushed into occupancy even though it is still understaffed and under construction.

West is a recently convicted Detroit kid.  He lands in the ND prison and joins the Aryan gang for protection.  The Aryan leader sells West out for not putting out.  West forced by the black prison gang to agree to killing Lafitte.  Everyone wants Lafitte dead.  Lafitte doesn't seem all that opposed to the idea himself.  West is raped and sent into protective custody where Lafitte resides.  West did the crime but he cannot do this kind of time.  West is slowly recovering from the rape's physical wounds and constantly pressured by fellow inmates and prison guards (called cops by characters) to murder Lafitte.  Things do not end well for West.

No one is happy that West's attempt failed.  Colleen (in the last book) was helping bankroll Lafitte's murder.   She goes to the prison to discuss the issue with the leader of the black gang, Ri'Chess.  At the same time Lafitte's former mother-in-law flies up from Louisiana (Or was she in Alabama?  Doesn't matter.) with Lafitte's 10-year-old son in a "scare him straight" attempt with the boy. 

The guards and inmates are still conspiring to kill Lafitte.  Things go very, very wrong for everyone.  The grand murder plan - referred to by Colleen as "stupid, stupid, stupid" goes wrong.  Power is cut. The inmates take over the prison and murders, rapes, beatings, stabbings, shootings, arson occur.  A blizzard has severely delayed rescue.  The prison is freezing with the power out.  Things end badly.

Comments:
1.  The novel is ambitiously set within only two hours of chronological time.
2.  Told through four characters: West, Colleen, Mother-in-Law, and Ri'Chess.
3.  Lafitte is only observed and described and you read his dialogue.  A big change from the previous two novels and a neat way to tell the tale. 
4.  AR-15 love.
5.  AR-15 hate.
6.  Hardcore religion.
7.  Hardcore brutality.
8.  Well, I thought the compressed time was ambitious.  I don't care if you disagree.
9.  Not without humor.
10.  .380 love/hate.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finished: "Dead Man: Volume 5" by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin

Finished: Dead Man: Volume 5: The Death Match: The Black Death: The Killing Floor by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin, 2013 (paperback compilation of e-books), 9781477807422.

Three Matthew Cahill novellas by Christa Faust, Aric Davis and David Tully. All are fun reading.

Death Match.  Faust has Cahill following a news story about a dead man who in Long Beach who had tattoos he'd seen in other adventures against Mr. Dark.  Cahill's goes to the port, gets inside to witness a no holds, no rules, no referees MMA fight with women fighters.  Matt teams up with a lady whose girlfriend went missing with the fight group. Trouble, fighting, ax swinging, sex, zombies, underground lairs, and suicidal sacrifice ensue.

Black Death.  Cahill is tooling along on his CB550 when it breaks down in small town Southern Indiana.  The town and county are in a drug slump.  The newest trouble is black meth that makes some people insane: their eyes turn black and they behavior turns murderously animalistic.  Cahill sees the evil - as usual - and offers to help the sheriff.  Cahill goes 'undercover' with a couple meth guys he just met in the local bar.  They hit a couple meth spot and the ax swinging begins.  Chop, chop.  Shotgun shooting.  Blam, blam.  A house explodes.  Kaboom, pow.  Most of the town is destroyed.  Cahill rides off on his repaired CB550 with the now dead Sheriff's secretary.  No sex.

Killing Floor.  Cahill is tricked by Mr. Dark into heading into the Adirondacks.  The town is infected with evil when Cahill gets there.  Matt figures he may have to kill the whole town.  A local fracking site is causing controversy and he meets a hot hippie chick.  He heads to fracking site and finds out a monster was awakened.  Tie-in to the Roanoke Colony and Virginia Dare.  Mr. Dark wanted to use the awakened monster to spread black across the world.  Matt starts swinging his ax. Matt stops them.  Matt takes a walk.  No sex.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Read: "Best American Noir of the Century" edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler.

Read: Best American Noir of the Century edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler, 2010, 9780547330778.

This is thick at 731 pages.  Each story has a short bio of the author and his writing career.I read 2-3 of these stories before.  I enjoyed the later stories more than the first ones.

Favorites?  Hard to say because I don't want to go back through and skim all 39 tales.  They are all good, they're in a "best of" after all. From a quick skim:

1. 1938. Steve Fisher's You'll Always Remember Me narrated by a teen sociopath in military school who is letting his girlfriend's brother sit on death row for a crime the narrator committed.
2. 1953. Mickey Spillane's The Lady Says Die about a guy who gets revenge against a "friend" who stole away his faince by leading him to suicide.
3.  1953. David Goodis's Professional Man.  A hit man is told by his boss to quit a girl so the boss could pursue her.  She refuses the boss and he orders the hit man to kill her.
4.  1956. Evan Hunter and Last Spin.  Two gang members play Russian Roulette.  They were chosen by the gang to play until one is dead as a way to solve a feud.  The guys have a lot in common, the stress makes them quick friends.  Reminds me of a recent Key and Peele skit with a Crip and Blood becoming friends through life but always pointing guns at each other.
5.  1972. David Morrell's The Dripping was especially creepy witha man's mother murderinghis wife and daughter.
6. 1984. Stephen Greenleaf's Iris with a traveling PI having a baby abandoned with him. He follows the loopy-crazy woman and uncovers a baby smuggling ring which ends badly.
7.  1993. Harlan Ellison's mind-reader and a killer who can do the same, Mefisto in Onyx

8.  1997. Joyce Carol Oates's family murder mystery, Faithless
9.  2003. All Through the House by Christopher Coake about a family murder suicide and the killer's best friend who was banging his wife.  Told backward in time.

Heard: "Goliath Bone" by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Heard: Goliath Bone by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, 2008, Overdrive download.

Read by Stacey Keach.  Keach does quite well as narrator.  Keach's voice sounds great and he has the skill to use that voice.

Mike Hammer referring to cell phones? To GPS?  To the AARP?  Yes.  He often refers to his and Velda's advanced age as well.  But, if this were totally realistic (in a Hammer novel?) Hammer would be what, 90-something?  I think he worked as a cop before he went into the service in WWII so he would have been at least 25 or so in 1945.  Maybe older because I'm thinking he was closer to 30 in I, the Jury which came out in 1947.

Anyway.  Mike is out late during a winter night when he senses trouble coming.  He sees a couple college kids leaving a restaurant and followed by a suspicious dude.  Hammer follows all three of them down into the subway.  The two kids come running back up the stairs followed by the dude carrying a pistol with a suppressor.  Mike shoots the gun out of the bad dude's hand and the bad guy falls down the stairs and busts his head open.  You know he busts his head open because this is a Hammer novel and you hear about the blood and brains spilling out.

The kids are carrying a heavy package.  Mike calls Captain Pat and then takes the kids back to Velda's apartment. The kids are reluctant to talk but tell their story.  They are the step-siblings of two famous scientists from NYU.  They were visiting their researching parents in Israel and took a trip into the Israeli desert.  When digging a firepit they uncovered a massive leg bone.  A human leg bone.  The leg bone of a 10' tall man.  The leg bone of a 10' tall man buried in the dirt of the Valley of Elah where David killed Goliath.  Oh, that could be neat.

Turns out everyone wants the bone.  Radical Jews to show a great victory.  Radical Muslims to recover a great hero.  Everyone else for fame and fortune and various politics.  Mike offers his bodyguard services.  The kids wealthy parents agree.  Mike takes over the case and faces off against Al Queda and radical Israelis.

Things happen.  Mike is a smart-ass.  Mike shoots more people (including spilling brains out).  Mike runs his contacts inside and outside of the police department.  Mike schemes and makes plans and tells no one.  Mike comes out ahead.  Mike and Velda finally marry. Mike and Velda honeymoon in Florida.  Mike and Velda survive another attack.  Mike and Velda return to NYC.  More action, more showdowns.  Mike retires from work with Pat taking over the PI business.  Mike lives happily ever after with Velda.

 Comments:
1.  Gee, Mike.  Do you carry a .45?  You tell us about it all the damn time.
2.  Spillane meant this as the chronologically last Hammer novel. Collins finished one partially set in the USSR, I want to read that one.
3. Many mentions of Velda's beauty even though she is much older now.
4.  Hammer handles heavy handed justice.
5.  Squib round leading to fisticuffs, a reach for Velda's .38, and more brain matter.
6.  Overcharge round exploding Mike's old .45.
7.  Mike is still famous in NYC after years of press coverage.
8.  Fun stuff.
9. EDIT:  I found a quote I wrote down, "Grabbing my jacket like I was at the wrong end of a dwarf tossing contest."  I laughed at that one.

Done: "The Famous and the Dead" by T. Jefferson Parker

Done: The Famous and the Dead by T. Jefferson Parker, 2013, 9780525953173.

I've greatly enjoyed this series and enjoyed this novel as well.  I like how the series has really evolved from a crime drama with romance into a winding story with supernatural elements.  With Hood and Bradley and Mike the Devil squaring off directly and indirectly through the stories.

I read somewhere that Famous would be the final entry in the series.  But Parker's ending leaves things open for another novel.  I was very satisfied, and impressed, with Parker's ending.

Charlie Hood is still working for the ATF among the desert towns near El Centro in Southern California.  The ATF is still fighting gunrunning over the border into Mexico and facing heat from the recent debacle of the Fast and Furious scandal.  Erin is living with Hood and Hood's girlfriend Beth.  Bradley is facing heat from the Sheriff's Department who are on to his illegal activities.

Hood is still hunting Mike Finnegan.. Hood sends out email blasts to anyone he ever met - many of whom have demanded he take them off the email list - with photos of Finnegan and Hood's contact information.  Hood's newly built "wine cellar" is awaiting Mike.  Mike starts recruiting Bradley in earnest. Bradley accepts.

Schizophrenic goes schizo.  Hood feels the heat from the press, Congress, and supervisors worried about (or looking for) another ATF scandal.  Hood works a gunrunning case that leaves an agent dead.  Mike uses Bradley to put pressure on Hood.  Erin is reluctant to rejoin Bradley.  Bradley finally realizes what a selfish and violent a-hole he is.

Bradley works with Hood to capture Mike.  They catch Mike taking a cold water swim, taser him a few times, shoot him up with 3-4 times the usual human amount of tranquilizers and stick him in Hood's "wine cellar" that was designed and built as a cell for Mike.  Hood quits his ATF job.  And his LASD job.

Bradley still under investigation and about to be arrested.  Bradley dies.  No wait1  Bradley lives!  He faked his death, had plastic surgery, and vocal cord surgery.  Hood stays in the desert with imprisoned Mike.  Hood offered local police chief job.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Listened: "The Painted Bird" by Jerzy Kosinski

Listened: The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, 1965 (original pub date), downloaded from Overdrive.com. 


I saw this on Overdrive as I was scrolling through currently available titles.  I knew a little about the book because Victor Gischler referenced it in a couple novels and I had looked up the bare basics.  The author's 1976 Afterword fills in the novel's publishing history and the novel's public, critical, and political reaction are as interesting as the novel itself.  This book feels like torture porn.  Kosinski argues against this - more on that later - but that's what it felt like as I endured along. 

In 1939 Boy, about six-years-old and nameless, is sent by his family from a city in a "Eastern European country" to the countryside to save him from the war.  The countryside is not much different than 100 years ago.  People live in huts, rely on draft animals, and are ruled by superstition.  Each town is it's own entity.  The only outside forces are the partisans who battle each other and the Germans.  Competing partisan groups kill each other and force villagers - Boy always calls them peasants - to support them or be beaten or killed.

The novel is told episodically as Boy stays with different peasants in different towns.  Boy suffers and suffers and suffers again.  His dark hair and eyes clash with the blond and blue of the peasants and is called a gypsy or Jew.  He is beaten, starved, tortured and threatened with death.  Boy fears and avoids all other boys who beat Boy. He is always in fear of being sent to the Germans as an escaped gypsy or Jew.  (He is sent to a German post at one point and an army officer details a soldier to take Boy and shoot him.  The German soldier lets him go instead.)

Only rarely is Boy treated well.  Even the first woman to care for him - who dies and leaves him alone - was not that kind.  Within the villages beatings and murders are usually viewed passively or as entertainment.  Rarely do other villagers intervene when seeing mistreatment.  Abusing Boy is cause for laughter.  Boy fears and avoids all other boys.  They will find and beat him for being a gypsy or Jew.

Murder is common.  Physical abuse a practiced form of familial punishment.  Rape a constant fear.  Social behavior is ruled by superstition.  Children are often commodities.  Child rape.  Child murder.  Incest.  Bestiality.  Potions and salves made from ground up human and animal bones and urine, fecal matter, entrails, goat bile, spit.  Cover your mouth when you smile, someone will count your teeth and for each tooth counted a year of your life is stolen.  Never look a Gypsy in the eyes.   

How long will the boy suffer?  How long can the reader suffer?  Boy is struck hysterically mute.  Boy discovers revenge.

The boy tries to make sense of his situation and develops a few theories during the novel.  First he decides that prayer will save him from a vicious man he is staying with.  Boy prays for indulgences, figuring the more he prays the more indulgences he will receive from God.  He tries to figure out the magic formula to avoid beatings.  "Don't go through the gate.  Say nothing after it rains."

He later decides devils are in the world and control people.  Those people create pain and trouble and infect others with the devil's trouble. He himself is at risk of infection. 

A pro-Nazi partisan group comes upon Boy's village and starts a day long orgy of rape and murder.  Mass rape of women and children.  Torture and murder of women and men.  Gang rapes and partisans trying to one-up each another with imaginative brutality.  When Russian tanks and infantry arrive at the end of the day you want the partisans to suffer and hurt much more than their victims.  The Soviets hang the men by the ankles from trees along a river.

After the Russian Army saves boy Soviet Communism sounds great.  People are cared for and he figures that communism as spoken by the peasants - bringing everyone together - would bring Boy new brothers and sisters and men who would treat Boy with kindness and comfort and defend him.  Boy stays with a military unit and comes to realize the differences between theory and reality.  How the Party members are more important.  How men are to be judged by their own skills and values but that the Party decides what values are most important.




After the war ends the military sends Boy to an orphanage in his home city.  The orphanage is filled with kids acting out what they have lived through.  Beatings, rape, and murder.  Kids gang up on the "gypsy".  His parents arrive. You expect a tearful reunion and happy life.  Nope.  He does not adjust.  He cannot adjust.  Boy has learned that life is lived alone and at night he leaves the family apartment to prowl with the black marketeers, pimps, whores, and thieves.  He is sent to a mountain village, and after getting stuck in a blizzard he awakens in a hospital, answers a ringing phone and starts speaking again.

Kosinski's excellent Afterword gives a summary of the political turmoil the novel caused and the trouble it caused for him personally.  The government in Poland accused him of slurring the country, that Kosinski was a paid agent of the West.  A work of total fiction had people claiming to be the basis for characters or to live in a town the novel is set within. 

Accusation in Europe and the U.S. are that he exaggerates what happened during the war.  Kosinski points out ample evidence of the murder and abuse that critics ignored.  My comment on torture porn echo Kosinski's contemporary critics.  Kosinski argues that the novel is based on real events.   The book is not a sadistic exercise but a way to live through the experience by following the character.  Others who lived through the war accused Kosinski of watering down the story, that he played things nicer than they were to appeal to a U.S. audience.
 

Comments:
1.  A reminder how civilization can disastrously fall apart.  When that happens some people stay civilized and some revert. The difficulty of maintain law and order.  Who would want the arrest and trial of the kind of people who gleefully rape and murder?  Clinging to superstition and rumor because the world has fallen apart, attacking anyone or thing that you think puts you at risk.  Don't think that things will be different in the future. 
2.  How many orphans did the Soviet Army come across as that fought back West through German trampled territory?
3.  I watched Come and See a few days ago.  A few days of a Russian boy's life under German occupation and the dramatic re-enactment of Germans murdering a whole village.  Kosinski mentions in his Afterward how concentration camp Germans were ordered to kill children first since they could not work. There is a horrid point in Come and See where a boy - three years old - is thrown through the window back into a burning house. That movie and this novel fit together.
4.  Shades of Europa, Europa with a young boy bouncing around from place to place and surviving.
5.  Kosinski writes how fiction allows the reader into the story more vividly and believably than nonfiction.  Your imagination takes over and you endure with the characters rather than question or ponder a NF story.
6. I was going to read a brief bio of Kosinski but skipped it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quick: "City of the Lost" by Stephen Blackmoore

Quick: City of the Dead by Stephen Blackmoore, 2012, 9780756407025.

I used to read Blackmoore's LA crime blog.  I quit reading his LA crime blog when I did a massive cut-back on online reading because I was taking up way too much time and distracting myself from work.  Since then Blackmoore has himself given up on the blog and moved on.

This is a quick read and akin to the work of Charlie Huston and Duane Swierczynski.  Low-level crooks and goons without a lot of brains who fight and kill their way out of trouble.  A fast moving story.

Joe Sunday has been the hired goon of an L.A. crime boss for about 20 years.  Joe meets-up with his leg breaking partner at a bar.  His partner was supposed to recover a valuable stone from a guy.  His partner is freaked out.  His partner ends up slicing his own throat.

Joe is a bit unnerved.  Joe meets up with the guy - the Bad Guy - who his partner met.  Joe is captured.  Joe is killed.  Wait, Joe is not killed.  Joe recovers.  Joe has been cast by some weird black magic and is living dead.  More things happen.  Joe's boss is killed early on.  The valuable stone is magical and needed to make the living dead curse lasting and side-effect-free.  A current side effect for Living Dead Joe is a insatiable vampire style cannibalism.  Joe eats a prostitute.  Or was it a junky?  Both?

More things happen.  Joe recovers the stone and it is stolen again.  A local cop gets involved.  A mysterious hot chick gets involved.  Bad Guy is really 700 years old.  Bad Guy never dies, sometimes he just takes longer to recover.  Joe meets up with hot Latina chick who is a powerful witch.  Joe meets a djinn.  Joe travels low-rent Los Angeles getting into and out of trouble.

Comments:
1. No Browning Hi-Powers.
2.  Tough guy chatter.
3.  A quick and entertaining read.  The story keeps moving along.
4. This copy has coffee stains all over it.  The stains are not from me and I need to withdraw the book from the library.
5.  Blackmoore's 2013 novel, Dead Things, is owned by Beaver Dam and Waterford.  Does not seem to be a sequel.

Listened: "Night Film" by Marisha Pessl

Listened: Night Film by Marisha Pessl, 2013, Overdrive donwload.

Pretty damn excellent.  The reader's work is award worthy.

Several years ago investigate journalist Scott McGrath was writing a story on the ultra-secretive film director Stanislas Cordova.  McGrath received an anonymous phone call from a man saying he used to be Cordova's chaffeur and that Cordova was up to something with children.  McGrath reported this, on national television no less, and was disgraced when Cordova's lawyers ripped apart the anonymous caller angle and accused McGrath of fabricating the call.

Fast forward five years and McGrath is divorced and living off his life savings from magazine articles and book sales.  Cordova's daughter, 25-year-old Ashley, commits suicide by jumping from a building.  McGrath is still angered over the debacle from before.  McGrath is convinced Cordova has been up to no good and abusing children while squirreled away on his remote, 400 acre estate in Northern New York.  McGrath starts looking into Ashley's death.

McGrath starts tracking Ashley's last movements around New York City before her suicide.  McGrath teams up with a 19-year-old coat check girl - one of the last people to see Ashley alive- and a 25-year-old drug dealer who knew Ashley when they were teenagers.  Cordova's secrecy and rumors of his activities keep coming.  Talk of black magic.  Talk of child abuse.  Talk of Cordova's cruelty, manipulation, artitistic temperament.  Talk of Ashley's brilliance, her magnetic personality, her fear and anger for her family.

Black magic.  High end prostitution.  Cordova's rabid and equally secretive fan base.  Cordova's incredibly effective horror films - are they real?  Did Cordova kill one of his wives?  Did Cordova force his son to continue filming while his hand bled after his fingers were accidentally severed? Who is following McGrath, is Cordova out to get him?  Did Cordova join a local satanist group in Northern New York and make a deal with the devil?


Comments:
1.  Neat mix of fiction and true stories.  Pessl makes up stories of Cordova and Hollywood that sound real and are reminiscent of Hollywood tales I have heard.  Shades of Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, and others.
2.  Secrecy and rumors combine and widely split.  Rumors grow on their own as bits and drabs of information are released or discovered.  The rumors split far away from the truth and are fed by subjective interpretation or "facts".  The only people to talk to McGrath have their own issues and troubles.  What they see is only a part of the whole.  The story of three blind men and an elephant applies.
3.  My summary does not do the novel justice.  Pessl injects a lot of secrecy and dread into the tale.  There seem to be hidden forces at work but McGrath is a practical man and resists such nonsense.
4.  SPOILER Cordova is a mysterious figure who only appears at the very end, and in silhouette.
5.  Pessl could have really written herself into trouble here.  She creates Cordova as a brilliant artist.  An Oscar winner whose films are terrifying and constantly dissected and analyzed.  Pessl had to create a story, plot, and other characters who could live up to Cordova and she did so.
6.  A blurb favorably compares Pessl to Gillian Flynn.  I agree.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Heard: "The Enemy of the World" by Patrick Troughto, et al.

Heard: The Enemy of the World by PatriTroughton, et al.  From the 1967 TV broadcast,  2002 (by BBC Audiobooks).

Another multi arc episode from Dr. Who with narration to describe action.  Troughton played Dr. Who and I'm not going to look up the script writers.  The internet said the shows aired in 1968.

The Dr., Jaime and Victoria land the Tardis on a beach.  The Dr. is excited to play in the surf and sand.  The are spotted by some men in a hovercraft.  The hovercraft men see the Dr., call a woman named Astrid and claim "He's here!"  The men and Astrid argue and the men set out to kill the Dr.  The Dr. and companions head for the sand dunes and are rescued by a helicopter flying Astrid.

Astrid explains that the Dr. is a dead-ringer for Salamander.  Salamander is a ruthless and rising star in the world government.  Salamander seems able to predict natural disasters and prevent destruction.  salamander's agricultural work is feeding millions.  People love Salamander.  Salamander is politcally strong.  Astrid is working with Giles Kent to reveal Salamander's evil doings.  They try to convince the Dr. to impersonate Salamander to get evidence.

Things happen.  The Dr. impersonates Salamander.  Many close calls with the cops after the Dr. and Astrid's group.  Salamander engineers a sneaky coup against the government leaders in central Europe.  Salamander sneaks underground where a group of scientists have squirreled away after Salamander told the a nuclear war has left the surface with deadly radiation.  Salamander has the scientists create volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, etc. to stop the war mad survivors on the surface.

More things happen.  There are show downs.  Salamander finds his way into the Tardis but is flung outside when the Tardis takes off and the door is open.

Comments:
1.  Kind of a sudden ending.  The Tardis lands, the Dr. says "watch for [something]" and lots of shooting noises erupt.
EDIT, 13 November 2013:
1. I was looking again to see if there is any online video.  This story arc was incomplete for years until film of a missing episode was found in Nigeria, the story compiled and released for sale online.
2.  The Onion has a write-up on the story.  The writer is obviously a big-time Who fan.  
3.  The story itself is a reflection of the mid-'60s love for spy stories.

Listened: "The Lock Artist" by Steve Hamilton

Listened: The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton, 2010, OverDrive.com download.

Pretty good.  This won an Edgar so I guess other people liked the story even more than I.  The narration was excellent.

Michael is an orphan living with his uncle in small town Michigan.  Michael has not spoken in since he was nine years old and suffered trauma.  (He takes awhile to tell us the tale.)   He has visited a dozen or more psychiatrists, speech therapists, psychologists, neurologists and whatsists over the years but will not speak, or even grunt.  He tries at times, but still relives the terror every day. 

When his uncle's liquor store is robber Michael's uncle has the locks changed.  Michael is fsacinated by the locks and learns how their work.  He teaches himself how to open them and makes his own lock pick tools.  He learns how simple combination locks work.

For a time Michael went to a school for the deaf.  He joins the local high school and makes a single friend.  Michael has artistic talent and he and a pal team up in at class. They attend a graduation party and a couple boneheaded football players get Michael to come along with them to unlock their way into the home of a rival team's player.  The cops arrive but only Michael is caught.

Michael's probation is service hours for the victim, which is the father of the player.  The dad is a slicked-up-glad-hander weasel.  Weasel's teen daughter is a looker and Michael is looking.  Teen Daughter and Michael start relationship.  Weasels owes money to Detroit bad dudes.  Weasel learns of Michael's lock skills.  Weasel sells Michael's services to Detroit Dudes.  The adventures begin.

Michael has to leave home to work safe cracking.  Lock picking.  Shootings.  Combination lock opening.  safe cracking.  NYC travels.  Detroit Dudes owning Michael.  Michael pining for Weasel's daughter.  Murder.  Really bad Detroit Dude.  Michael foes to Los Angeles.  Michael makes friends with crew of crooks in Cali.  More violence.

The story flashes back over a one year gap in time.  Michael tells the tale from prison.

Comments:
1.  Putting off the tale of terrible terror trauma.  The author better have something good to tell if he's building up an expectation of terror.
2.  Believable.  I did not have to suspend too much disbelief.
3. Suzuki GS850 love.
4.  Comic book panel love.
5.  I was going to look at a print edition to see if there are graphics of locks and lock cross-sections in there.  Or samples of the comic book panel style artwork used for communication by Michael and Teen Daughter.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Heard: "Jitterbug" by Loren D. Estleman

Heard: Jitterbug by Loren D. Estleman, 1998(print), nnknown year for this AudioGo production, Overdrive download.

I still think of Estleman as a western writer.  Not that I read any of his westerns yet.  This is Detroit in the summer of 1943.  Lots of history and character with a nutbag killer on the loose.

Two main story lines following the cops and a young black man working in one of the new war plants.  secondary storyline follows the nutbag killer; an Army reject for being insane he kills ration stamp hoarders in a misguided attempt at fighting the war.

The Four Horseman are the racket squad cops for Detroit PD.  They part of a undermanned wartime department and lead by Lietenant Zagreb.  The four of them await military service by choice or design.  "Desing" meaning if they piss off their PD superiors they'll be sweating in the Marianas come Christmas.

Dwight is a 19-year-old with a party-hearty older brother.  The brothers moved north from Alabama (Mississippi? Georgia?) for work after their mother died.  Dwight is much more mature than the older spendthrift Earl and pines for Earl's 15-year-old newlywed wife.

Nutbag Killer acquires an Army uniform and impersonates a soldier. Nutbag Killer has many issues, I won't get into them, and uses a bayonet to eviscerate his victims.  Zagreb and Co. are called in when the ration stamp theft angle is figured out.  The racket squad is in charge finding black marketeers dealing in stamps.

Zagreb and Dwight meet when Earl is arrested at a night club for carrying a metal club.  Dwight stands up for Earl.  Earl's place is tossed and stamps are found.  Dwight is pressured by cops to find Earl's marketeer partner or Earl will get a federal beef.  Dwight and the cop meet in the middle of the novel and never speak again.

Things happen.  Violence.  Wartime industry.  Wartime abuses: the rich get super rich, meat is scarce, bars are busy, work hours are long, racial strife aplenty.  Killer is found and killed.

Comments:
1.  A reminder of Devil's Rag Doll by Bartoy that incorporated the same Belle Isle race riot from June, '43.
 2.  Very entertaining novel by Estleman and a swell job by the narrator, Loren D. Estleman.  I wonder if the  narrator is related to the author.  They have the same last name.
3.  But, wait!  The AudioGo website lists Estleman as narrator.  The Overdrive sites lists Garrick Hagon as narrator! 
4. Which is right? 
5. Which is wrong?! 
6. Will I open up the audio file and re-listen to the introduction to find out?!
7.  No.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Read: "Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa" by Michael L. Burgoyne and Albert J. Marckwardt

Read: The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa by Michael L. Burgoyne and Albert J. Marckwardt, 2008, 9780226080932.

Cannot recall how I ran across this but I must have been looking for more history on Defence of Duffer's Drift.  Both books cover fighting a guerrilla war and insurgency.  Jisr teaches the lessons of 2006's Counterinsurgency Manual as applied to a platoon commander (a platoon commander with a full complement of men and equipment).

Formatted the same way with five successive dreams and the dreaming narrator applying the lessons learned from each dream until he achieves success.  The modern tactics and rules of Jisr are an interesting juxtaposition to the Boer War lessons of Duffer'sDuffer's has English troops arresting and imprisoning any Dutch living near the novel's defensive position.  Duffer's is not trying to assist or improve the lives of local people - they are there to kill the guerillas.  Jisr's is about killing insurgents but, more importantly, preparing and planning for life after the war.  Jisr wants a working government, local security and police, doctors and health facilities, a working electric grid.

I think the surge in Iraq and the change in counterinsurgency tactics worked.  At least the surge worked well enough for the U.S. to get the hell out.  Jisr points out the cultural disconnect between Iraqis and Americans.  The differences could be so extreme as to provoke disgust by both sides.  What a clusterfuck. (Not that I was there.)

This ILL'ed from Mankato State. Not that they call is Mankato State anymore.

There is a website.  Www.defenseofJAD.com.  The website has maps, graphics, and video content.  I should take a look.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Done: "LIfe and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" by Bill Bryson

Done: Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, 2006, 9780767919364.

For the Men's Book Club which had attendance of one plus me.

Different from the other Bryson books I have read.  A series of reminisces about growing up in Des Moines spiced with Bryson's usual historical research and massive exaggeration for comedic effect.

An aside:  I am listening to BBC 6 Music. Every evening at 10 PM (central time) they play documentaries.  Currently playing is a show about music producer George Martin.  I heard this one a few years ago and it is excellent.  Catch it online, if you like.

Bryson tells tales from childhood through adolescence.  Crazy neighbor kids.  His father's sports writing.  His father's habit of never wearing anything below the waist when sleeping.  Anarchy at kid matinees.  Favorite restaurants and downtown haunts.  Neighbor kid's explosive (literally) misadventures.  An unsatisfied adolescent sex life.

A fun read but not much to discuss in a book club.  The only things to go over would be the usual gripes and observations about the differences between then and now.  i'd like to point out that things are not always better and I get ticked off when people say so.  Here are my comments on that issue:

1.  Kids misbehaved back then.  Read Bryson's section about the anarchy during movie matinees.  His pal who stole train cars full of beer.  Making explosives for pranks.  Shoplifting.
2.  How education was stronger.  Hey, maybe it was, but Bryson had lazy teachers who wanted to show movies rather than teach.  Heck, the lousy kids would drop out or be expelled.  Education now works harder to reach those kids.
3.  Broken families and crap parenting have always existed and always will.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Read: "Dead Man, Volume 4: Freaks Must Die: Slaves to Evil: Midnight Special" by Lee Goldberg, et al

Read: Dead Man, Volume 4: Freaks Must Die by Joel Goldman, Slaves to Evil by Lisa Klink, Midnight Special by Phoef Sutton, 2012, 9781611098822.  Edited by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin.

Paperback compendium of the e-book series.  I started out reading the e-book versions but I really prefer print.  I've been buying this 3-in-1 paperbacks for the library.  Many spoilers await.  Remember, these are my notes to recall plot and story.  This is not a review.

I was hoping that Lisa Klink's story would stink so I could type"Klink Goes Klunk".  Unfortunately, Klink's story was well done.  Which is no surprise, Goldberg and Rabkin work to maintain quality.  (At least from what Anthony Neil Smith wrote about his experience in writing an entry.)

Freaks Must Die.  Matt Cahill and his axe are in Eastern Pennsylvania and Cahill just bummed some coffee off a remote interstate hotel.  Cahill takes a walk to kill time while waiting for a truck to hitchhike from.  Cahill sees a mugging-to-be and axe-ily intervenes.  The mark, a jewel merchant, dies of a heart attack.  Before he kills over the merchant expresses that his son is kidnapped and now will die. 

Cahill heads into NYC to save the boy.  Cahill meets a gal working at the jewelry store with freaky translucent skin.  Bad guys follow Cahill.  Cahill uses his axe.  Cahill finds out that "freaks" are kidnapped by medical researchers who hire bounty hunters for the snatches.  These are the same researchers who wanted to slice and dice Cahill after his resurrection from a three month (was it that long) burial under snow.  Cahill uses his axe more, screws Translucent Girl, rescues missing boy, kills a researcher, hits the bricks.

Slaves to Evil.  Cahill sticks to small town America again.  He's headed North to job opportunities in Duluth when he spies a rotting cop in a suburb.  Cahill has to fight the evil and stays to do so.  Cahill finds out way to meet a local cop and also the Police Chief's wife.  Cahill fights more evil.  Cahill uses his axe.

Midnight Special.  A horror movie revival is sparking bizarre murder suicides after midnight showings.  Cahill investigates.  Hollywood wunderkind-turned-40 is showing the flick.  Wunderkind also sees evil.  Wunderkind has plan to trap Mr. Dark.  Cahill joins in.  Wunderkind is major asshole.  Cahill uses his axe.  Cahill has lots more sex.

Comments:
1.  The fun series chugs right along without any bumps in the road.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Heard: "Black Orchid" by Michael Cochrane

Heard: Black Orchid by Terence Dudley, 1987? (print), 2008 by AudioGO (or BC).

Novelization of a multi episode arc featuring one of the Doctor Whos.  I don't give a rat's ass which actor it was.  Read by Michael Cochrane who looks to have also starred in those episodes.

The Doctor and his three companions land in 1925 rural England.  Mistaken as a last minute fil-in for a local cricket game, the Doctor enthusiastically joins the game at a local estate.  The Doctor does all sorts of cricketry and sets a record and impresses everyone.  The Australian companion, Tegan, is thrilled with the game and has to explain the confusing rules to the other two companions.

Meanwhile, and slightly beforehand, a mysterious creature/person in the manor house has killed his male nurse and threateningly hovered over Ann, the Lady Cranleigh's soon-to-be daughter-in-law.  Ann had been engaged to a different son who disappeared when exploring the Orinoco River in South America. Ann is now engaged to other second Cranleigh.

The Doctor leads his cricket side to victory and is invited to stay at the manor and join fancy dress arty.  Apparently, fancy dress means costume party.  Companion Nyssa is found to be identical to Ann and everyone stairs at Nyssa in surprise.

The mysterious creature/person slinks along hidden passages and priest holes in the manor house.  While the Doctor explores the hidden passages the mysterious creature dons the Doctor's costume, joins the party and takes Ann away.  The creature murders a servant when whisking the woman away.

The Doctor is suspected of the servant's murder.  Lady Cranleigh and a mysterious South American Indian, who was helping care for the creature/person recover Ann.  The Doctor is taken into custody.  The Doctor introduces a couple cops to the Tardis.  The Doctor and co. take a Tardis trip back to the manor and rescue Nyssa from the creature/person.  The creature/person takes a diver off the manor roof.

Comments:
1.  Fun to listen to but nothing spectacular.
2.  The novel is much more fleshed out than the TV version.  I can tell without having seen the show.  Information on commentary on the importance of manners to the Doctor, his pride, his curiosity.  Fealty by servants to gentry that still existed in 1925.  The novelty of mixed cocktail drinks in 1925.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Quit Listening: "Chasing Darkness" by Robert Crais

Quit Listening: Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais, 2008, Overdrive download.

I'll just read the book instead. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Listened: "Death's Door" by James R. Benn

Listened: Death's Door by James R. Benn, 2012 (I think), downloaded form Overdrive.

The problem with writing historical novels, especially something from World War two which still has tons of amateur historians in tune with the events, is that so much of write you write can be total bullshit.  Eisenhower sending an agent into the Vatican during the Nazi occupation of Rome during the battle of Anzio just to investigate the murder of of Catholic Bishop who was a classmate of the OSS's "Wild Bill" Donavan?  Bullshit to the fifth.

I liked it anyway and enjoyed the whole damn book.  Even Billy Boyle's whiny introspective parts.

Anyway.  Billy Boyle is in Allied occupied Italy mourning the absence, and likely death, of Diana who was in Rome, undercover as a nun, and captured by the Krauts. Boyle has been AWOL and sad-eyed when he and his Polish Army pal Kaz are picked up by MPs and delivered to a Limey installation.  Boyle has been tasked with going to the Vatican and investigating a Bishop's death.  The Vatican is under a lot of pressure from all sides and their treaty with Italy, and therefore the Germans, is constantly under threat.  There is a good chance the Germans will kidnap the Pope and move him North into "protective custody".

Boyle is flown a little north himself and put onto a boat on the East coast of Italy.  The boat captain is Sterling Hayden.  Hayden delivers Boyle and Kaz to the shore.  Boyle and Kaz are disguised as priests, make their way to a trainyard, kill a Kraut, are secreted into a train car, smuggled into the Vatican.

Boyle starts asking questions.  A fugitive Jew was arrested for the Bishop's murder.  Many Vatican authorities are pro-fascist.  The Vatican is filled with refugees, escaped POWs, and Jews.  Boyle wants to try and rescue Diana from a Nazi prison.

Things happen. Vatican scenery.  Vatican reality in WWII.  Dirty, rotten, stinking, filthy Nazis. Doyle tries to rescue Diana and is extorted by German intelligence officer from previous books.  German wants to kill Hitler and needs peace agreement with the western Allies.

Everyone lives happily ever after except for some dead priests. 

Comments:
1.  This could read as an apologist reaction to criticisms of the Pope and Vatican during WWII.  I still read occasional articles about how the church did not do enough during the war.  But, the Vatican did quite a bit.  What's more, the Vatican is pretty dang tiny and without much pull with the dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking Nazis. 
2.  To betray their neutrality was their destruction - and then they could do nothing.  The Pope and Vatican was between a rock and a hard place. To do Christian work the priests would find the cracks in the cracks in the hard place and slip around the rock.
3.  That was a poor analogy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Finished: "Bad Guys" by Eugene Izzi

Finished: Bad Guys by Eugene Izzi, 1988, 0312017332.

A couple weeks ago my library received a documentary about Jeffrey Dahmer.  That got me to thinking about a guy in Champaign, named Hart Fisher, who, in 1992, released a comic book about Dahmer.  The comic was gory - I never read it - and made a big splash in the press.  A big cause of that wave was from the relatives of Dahmer's victims driving down from Milwaukee and protesting at Hart's house.

Hart relished in the press attention (his reaction seems to have been a mix of disbelief, indignation, and youth) and hosted a backyard cookout as a counter-protest.  I looked the Hart up and saw an online commentary by him in 2008 where he mentions Eugene Izzi and Izzi's suicide.  Or murder.  I think the cause of Izzi's death is still under debate.

I read an Izzi novel when I was in high school.  The TakeThe Take must have been one of the first adult novels I read, along with Joseph Wambaugh's work, that had a lot of grit with plenty of sex and violence.  I recall sitting with a teammate before football practice and loudly trying to detail the plot in a misguided teen attempt to impress the redheaded, lady athletic trainer standing 15 feet away from us.  My teammate didn't give a damn about the story either.

Anyway.  Chicago policeman Jimbo Marino has been undercover for three months trying to bust a mob outfit.  Jimbo has gathered a lot of information about his mob patron, Barboza, but GiGi Parnell (a guy who Jimbo put away several years ago) is coming out of prison.  GiGi Parnell has business with Barboza  so Jimbo is pulled off the undercover assignment before he is recognized.  Jimbo is upset.  Jimbo wanted to stay undercover, gather more information, and work his way up the outfit ladder to bust Barboza's bosses.

All sorts of things happen.  Jimbo is as much crook as cop now.  GiGi used to write death letters to Jimbo from prison and Jimbo does not like admitting his fear of GiGi.  GiGi is a violent nut on the loose.  Jimbo's investigation is used for a press conference by a federal prosecutor looking to make political moves. Barboza is under a death sentence for letting a cop into the mob.  GiGi wants to kill Barboza because Barboza owes him $20,000.  Jimbo has to send his awful ex-wife away for safety. GiGi hooks up with a kinda ditzy gold digger.

Mix things together for a good read.

Comments:
1.   Jimbo has a Beretta.  This was right after the Army's adoption and when all the police departments were moving over from wheelguns.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Heard: "The Million Dollar Wound" by Max Allan Collins

Heard: The Million Dollar Wound by Max Allan Collins, 1986 (book), 2005 (Blackstone Audio production), from OverDrive.com

Well done.  Plenty of drama, mystery, adventure, sex, etc.

 Not as expected. A prime example of a narrator's interpretation greatly differing from mine. Unlike some other instances - like Parker novels - I liked this interpretation.

I had always thought of Heller as a hardboiled seen-it-all, and know-it-all. Someone who is not easily fooled. In short, I thought of Heller as Mike Hammer.  Not quite.  Heller is a big-time skirt chaser like Hammer (Stacey Keach's TV version anyway) but he is different. The narrator Yuri SomethingOrOther really brought a different version of Heller than my preconceived notions.  Notions that lasted through a Heller short story collection.

Heller is a fairly jovial guy with a happy wit.  He hangs out with and goes drinking with friends.  He enjoys the nightlife and looks out for himself and his interests.  Heller is not a crook but his ethics turn off when self-preservation is involved.  Especially if that self-preservation may go up against the Chicago outfit and Frank Nitti.

Heller awakes in a hospital in 1942 and does not know where he is or who he is.  The nurses and doctors tell him his name but he does not believe them.  A psychiatrist uses hypnotic therapy to release Heller's memories.

Heller starts out with joining the Marines shortly after Pearl Harbor.  Heller is on a bender with his best pal, former boxer Barney.  Barney received a waiver on his age but Heller just lies to the recruiter and they are off to San Diego.

Heller and Barney stay together through training and join the Marines on Guadalcanal.  Heller and Barney get stuck in a shell hole, separated from their unit, and have to survive through the day and night with little ammo against attacking Japanese.  The experience is horrible with many wounded serviceman, including Heller, and the shell shock sends Heller to the hospital.  

Back in '42 Heller is released from the psychiatric facility earlier than usual because of government pressure for Heller to appear at a Chicago grand jury regarding mob involvement in stage unions and Hollywood.  Flashback to 1938 with Heller hired by a anti-Semite newspaper columnist to investigate a mobster living in Hollywood who Heller arrested several years ago for procuring.  The columnist hates unions and sees mob involvement as a way to ruin some unions.  Heller decks the anti-Semite.

Mob shenanigans ensue.  Mob murders men.  Heller heps to hotties.

Flash forward back to 1942 and Heller is back in Chicago.  No way will Heller testify.  Testifying about the mob is a death ticket.  Heller is left wondering about a murder in the 1938 flashback.  The murder of an avaricious ex-girlfriend of Heller in '42 gets Heller angry and sad.  Heller is still suffering war flashbacks and guilt.  Heller is wondering who shot a fellow serviceman in that Guadal foxhole to keep him from screaming and letting the Japanese know their position.

Everything ends happily ever after except for a torture-murder, an orphaned kid, a couple dead servicemen, a couple widows, a couple dead killers, a couple broken windows, post-war guilt and drug addiction, and a dead Frank Nitti.  Well, I suppose a dead Nitti was a good Nitti

Well, maybe it's because I know I'm reading a mystery but I sure thought Heller was getting kind of dense at points

Comments:
1. Frank Nitti used to seem more accountant than mobster to me.  Nope, he's a mobster and in charge of murder.  Nitti tried to keep out of the papers and avoided using bombs and machine guns for conflict resolution.  But he was just as ruthless as Capone.
2.  Nitti's death in the Road to Perdition/Purgatory/Paradise family does not overlap with Million Dollar Wound. Million has Nitti killed by his fellow mobsters - according to Heller's theory anyway.
3.  My parents used to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune - mainly for me - and there was a big article about Nitti's death on the 40th anniversary.
4.  Not much mystery here.  More historical crime than mystery novel.  Collins has written many times that he won't introduce the murder until midpoint of a novel.  The point being that the death of a character has to mean something.  The reader needs to know the character and experience, or realize, the anguish of the death.  The central murder is Heller's former girlfriend.  I did not much like her and she lived and worked with mobsters for years and should have know better.
5.  The real kick in the guts was when Heller arrives at his office in '42 to find his secretary clutching the telegram announcing her husband's death on Guadalcanal.  Reminded me of Siegfried Sassoon's Memoirs of an Infantry Officer when he hears that his aunt's groomsmen was killed.  I'd gotten to really like the groomsman all the way from Sassoon's Fox-Hunting Man and hearing of his death - in an offhanded, out of the blue announcement - was another kick in the guts.
 6.  What's with the Browning 9mm?  He must be thinking of a 9MM Short, a .380 because FN did not have the Hi-Power out until '35 and I think Heller referenced an earlier year.
7.  Yes.  That is gun nerd squabbling.
8.  EDIT: the foxhole incident is like the real life told told in With the Old Breed.  I did not read that book but read, and enjoyed, Burgin's book Islands of the Damned.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Quick: "Refresh Refresh" by Danica Novgorodoff, Benjamin Percy, James Ponsoldt.

Quick: Refresh Refresh by Danica Novgorodof (graphic novel), James Ponsoldt (screenplay), Benjamin Percy (original short story), 2009, 9781596435223.

Comic book novel.

Three teenagers in Oregon have fathers deployed to Iraq with the Marine Reserves.  The three are struggling through the stress of worry for their dads.  Two boys are poorly supervised and one boy has man-of-the-house duties on his head.

The three kids regularly beat each other up as a way to toughen up.  To be worthy of their own father's bravery and combat time.  One of those weird teen ideas that develop from misunderstandings of war and manhood when they are left without guidance and pull ideas from TV, movies, and a teen's view of the world.

The three all await word from Iraq.  One kid constantly hits refresh on his web browser hoping for an email from his father.  A local Marine recruiter chats people up, notifies families of dead Marines, and dates the wives and daughters of deployed Marines and soldiers.  The three get even with a school bully.  The three drink at a bar and one guy spends the night with a divorced gal after lying about his age.

All three wonder what they will do after high school graduation.  One has been accepted to University of Oregon.  The other two are looking at enlisting.  One late night, after drinking, they return home and the recruiter is there to announce one of their dads has died.  Angered, the three beat the Marine up, tie him up and kidnap him to a remote crater.  They tie the Marine into a sled and shove him down into the snowy crater.

They know they are screwed for what they just did.  The only way out is enlistment. So they do.

Comments:
1.  I presume enlistment  gets them off the hook because then the Marine would get credit on the enlistment and write the whole thing off.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Done: "Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen" by Bill Crider

Done: Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen by Bill Crider, 2012, 9780312640170.
 
Sheriff Dan Rhodes has two more murders to solve.

As I was reading this I got to thinking that Rhodes seemed more of a hard-ass than in previous novels.  That he was more to the point.  That he was not as outwardly, and inwardly, sympathetic to witnesses and victims, "Rhodes didn't have any comforting words for her.  He didn't think there were any."  Rhodes feels emotionally harder in this one, even when dealing with old high school classmates as suspects. 

Rhodes tougher personality is commented on by a couple characters so maybe I didn't realize all that by myself.  On the last page Rhodes asks his wife Ivy, "He told me I'd gotten tough."  Ivy laughs and Rhodes asks, "You don't think I'm tough?"  Ivy responds, "You are when you have to be, and you had to be this time."

Maybe part of this feeling is the lack of a more humorous subplot.  Previous novels have a bit more laughter and shenanigans along with the murder investigation.  After all, Rhodes has always had to deal with the sorts of daily hullabaloos that don't go away.  People focus on their own problems and demand Rhodes act no matter who may have been murdered.  Rhodes still hates murder.  Murder still angers him and the discovery makes his "stomach feel suddenly hollowed out."


Anyway.  A local hairdresser is murdered in her shop.  There are plenty of suspects because the hairdresser liked married men.  Since the hairdresser was young, pretty and fun those married men liked her back.  When Rhodes finds out she was blackmailing some of those men the questions multiply.

Shortly after the first murder the owner of an antiques store is shot dead.  How are the cases related?  What about the Hispanic guys who were squatting at an abandoned hotel across the street from the hairdressers?  What about the "reclamation center" that seems to be dealing in stolen metals?

Rhodes figures it all out but has to endure Seepy Benton's personality and singing to do so.  Hack and Lawton jaw back and forth but Rhodes keeps his calm.

Comments:
1.  Recurring theme of constant change and how the town of Clearview is changing and falling apart.  Literally falling apart, with abandoned buildings and unpaved roads slowly turning into gravel. 
2.  "Benton was explaining his new exercise program.  Rhodes didn't think Hack was interested, but Benton taught college students.  Lack of interest was no deterrent."
3.  Paperback aficionado and mortician Ballinger buys an e-reader.  "Eb McBain," Ballinger said. "Nothing on here by him yet.  He's dead, you know.  No more books about Carella and hawes and Meyer Meyer.   It's a shame."
4. Gratuitous Joe Lansdale and Chen Shuan reference.
5. Gratuitous wild hogs.
6.  Here is Rhodes detecting philosophy in a nutshell.  Rhodes didn't know, but he was going to find out.
7.  "Werewolf perfect" hair and "With Lonnie, boots were still in style for manly footwear."
8. Gratuitous poetry memorization.
9.  These novels have always covered changes.  Clearview downtown falling apart.  Business going to Wal Mart.  Rhodes getting older.  Society seeming to fall apart and people getting separated and alienated from one another.
10.  But, things stay the same.  Rhodes enjoys barbecue and loves his wife.  People socilaize out at the bars.  Life keeps going on.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gave A Go: "Doctor Who: The Moonbase" by Kit Pedler

Gave A Go: Doctor Who: the Moonbase written by Kit Pedler, 1967 (TV broadcast), from Overdrive.com.

WPLC bought several electronic audiobook titles of Doctor Who.  These are not novelizations, they seem to be the audio of the TV show plus descriptive narration.  Pedler is the original writer of the TV script but I'm not sure if he should be the main author.  Maybe BBC Audiobooks should be listed.

The Doctor and three companions take a Tardis ride but land in the wrong place and time.  The Tardis lands on the moon.  They don space suits and go for a walk.  One of the companions gets bonked on the head. During the walk they find a moonbase and enter.  They find out the year is 2070 and that the moonbase is the Earth's weather control station.  Bonked Head goes to sick bay.

Earth weather and all the storms on Earth are controlled by a gravity machine on the moon.  But,  several crew members have caught sick and are unconscious with black lines on their skin.  The Doctor says "I am a doctor" and offers his assistance in the determining the cause of the disease.  The moonbase itself is very sterile and no bacteria or viruses should be infecting everyone.

Meanwhile, some things are mysteriously happening and the audience sees Cyber Men on the loose.  The Cyber Men have infiltrated the Moonbase with the intention of overtaking the base and using the weather station to start massive storms that will kill everyone on earth.

The Doctor and the companions team with the moonbases's suspicious commander to defend the base and defeat the Cyber Men.  Hurrah!

Comments:
1.  I've never cared too much about Doctor Who.  I only became interested when an older Boy Scout I admired spoke about the program.  My fond memories are more wrapped up in late night television on a small black and white TV set with iffy reception. 
2.  I used to really enjoy the local PBS station's late movie.  The host of that show was at a wedding I attended in 1995 or 1996.  I wanted to go say hello and that I greatly enjoyed his introductions of the older flicks but was too shy to say anything.
3. The Cyber Men say, "Resistance is useless."  I assume the Borg from Star Trek's, and their slogan "Resistance is futile", is a take off of the Cyber Men who capture and enslave moonbase workers.
4.   I do like that them music.  That tune is as evocative as the Imperial March and the James Bond theme.
5.  Screwy science.
6.  A weather station on the moon that, when it is shut down, causes all weather to go crazy and drown most everyone?  Okay, great idea.
7.  There are still shots online from the TV show.  When listening to this I was wondering what the famously cheesy special effects and sets were like.  Did they go to that empty, black rock quarry or coal pit to film?
8.  There is a guide to this TV story arc but I did not read it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Listened: "Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma" by Trenton Lee Stewart

Listened: Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart, 2010, Overdrive download.

I listened to the first two, well maybe I read the second, I do not recall.  This is sequel and I'm not sure how much a new reader would get out of it.  Stewart does go back over previous happenings.

Reynie, Sticky, Constance and Kate are still living in Benedict's large, guarded home in Stonetown and call themselves the Mysterious Benedict Society.  Their parents are living with them as well and all of them are under the protection of Milligan, other guards, and the government.  Ledroptha Curtain is still on the loose and wants to recover The Whisperer.  The children are forbidden to leave the house because Curtain would try to kidnap them to force Mr. Benedict to return The Whisperer.  Mr. Benedict knows Curtain has spies in the government his Curtain's Ten Men are still skulking.

A government functionary is demanding Benedict either use the whisperer in interrogations or turn it over.  One of Curtain's spies brings forged papers saying he is Constance's father. Constance has discovered he can sometimes read minds and use telepathy.  Constance demands the Whisperer be used to recover her memory.  Constance gets upset about something and runs away.

Shotly after Constance runs away a mysterious, citywide, nighttime blackout leaves all power and communications down.  The amphibious Salamander vehicle from Book Two drives through the back wall of Benedict's urban compound.  The Salamander's sound dampening technology alerts no one but the four kids see it out the window and flee.  Things happen. 

One of Benedict's guards is a plant.  The Society follows some clues left by Ten Men and walk into a trap set by Curtain.  Curtain laid the clues and they followed them into a kidnapping.  The Society is locked into an abandoned prison with Ten Men and Curtain.  Benedict and others come to the rescue.  Lots of tension, fighting, and Milligan bravery.  Lots of Reynie thinking hard.  Lots of Sticky remembering things.  Lots of Constance being an ornery and grouchy 4-year-old.

Comments:
1.  A fun view of a big, pretend city.
2.  No guns.  Just Milligan and his tranquilizer gun and boomerang.  The Ten Men with shock watches and throwing super sharp pencils.
3.  Obviously set-up as a third and final book with Curtain being captured and imprisoned.  The four kids end up living together, with their families.  Either they live inside separate apartments in Benedict's house or across the street.