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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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!

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.

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.