Thursday, March 31, 2016

Read: "Fate of the Union" by Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens

Read: Fate of the Union by Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens

Second book in the series with retired Secret Service Agent Joe Reeder. Joe Reeder is a well know hero after once saving the President and then stopping a murder plot against the Supreme Court in Supreme Justice.

Reeder gets a voice mail from a former colleague and the colleague ends up a suicide in a DC area motel. Reeder gets suspicious, his pal was not suicidal. At the same time Reeder is called in by a friend to consult with the FBI on a possible serial killer. The two cases converge and politics are involved along with super wealth, assassins, conspiracies, and more.

Reeder is wooed by a possible Presidential contender. Contender is a Warren Buffet style guy: folksy, self-deprecating, modest house, modest life. Reeder admires Contender is invited to a rally Contender is hosting. Reeder and FBI Friend are seated on stage behind Contender and Reeder acts fast to stop a shooter from killing Contender.

Well, what a coincidence. Mr. Saves-Everyone-Reeder happened to be on hand when Contender is being shot at. Contender gets mucho publicity and more popularity. Reeder and FBI Friend keep investigating the serial killings and find links to Contender.

Spoiler Alert:                        

Contender is a bad guy and was having witnesses to Contender's bad-guy-stuff killed. I cannot recall why exactly, I read the book a month ago and am only now getting back to typing this up. Something to do with money? Contender being two faced? I'm not sure.

1. I think I could tell where Clemens wrote some parts and Collins the others.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tried Out: "The Honored Society" by Petra Reski

Tried Out:The Honored Society: a portrait of Italy's most powerful Mafia by Petra Reski, 2013 (English translation, printed 2008 in German), 9781568589732.

I am inclined to read about Italian crime after reading Roberto Saviano's book Gomorrah.

Reski gives a rundown of how the Italian mafias exert so much power in Southern Italy and national politics. The book is mostly Reski's reminiscing of the many mafiosi, victims, prosecutors, locals, and others she has interviewed and reported on over the years. Reski first visited Sicily after watching The Godfather and has lived there since 1989.

Reski has reported on the mafia for decades. Arrests, kidnappings, and murders are old hat in Southern Italy. The rest of Europe thinks the mafia are an Italian problem, But, when six Italian mafiosi were murdered in a Duisberg, Germany restaurant in 2007 the Germans went, "What the hell?!" and Reski was in demand and put out a book.

Reskie tells some of her favorite tales and how the mafia is ingrained in Italian society. 25 years ago there was a anti-mafia resurgence in Sicily. Public prosecutors Falcone and Borsellino were facing down death threats and locking up mafiosi after long, mass trials. Falcone and Borsellino could only face down so many threats. Falcone certainly couldn't stand up to the 1,000 pounds of explosives placed under a public highway in Sicily that killed Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards. Borsellino was killed two months later in another bombing.

The mob pays off some people, scares others away, and kills the rest. The fate of a hit man is to fear his best friends because those friends are the ones tasked to kill him. There are clear links and evidence linking prominent Italian politicians - including the freaking Prime Minister Berlusconi - to the mafia. One of the dominant political parties, Forza Italia, teamed with the mafias to reach power. Once Forza was in charge they started dismantling many of the most effective laws used to investigate and prosecute the mob.

Anyway. There are plenty of stories and Reski uses her good friends, the prominent photographers Letizzia and Sobha, to illustrate life in Sicily. How turncoats are despised by their own families. Public construction contracts are a mafia cash cow. European Union money flowing to Italy is siphoned by the mob. Massive amounts of mob dough buy legitimate businesses. So on, So forth.

1. A particular despicable tale is how the 12-year-old son of an informant is kidnapped. The boy is held for two years and repeatedly tortured. He is strangled to death and his body dissolved in acid.
2. Re: Politicians changing the rules to favor themselves. Don't think it doesn't happen here. Take a look at the recent legislation in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Heard: "Edge of Dark Water: by Joe R. Lansdale

Heard: Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale, 2012, download 9781611131635.

Ever since I accepted my parent's old treadmill I've cut down on outdoor exercise. Because of this I have been listening to fewer audiobooks. When walking or running on the treadmill I can watch TV and movies on my Kindle tablet and rarely listen to audiobooks.

A stand alone novel by Lansdale. Three teenagers in 1930s East Texas decide to take the ashes of their pretty - and obviously dead - friend to Hollywood. Just like you knew Hap and Leonard were never going to finish that Mexican cruise in Captains Outrageous.  Edge is a road movie set on the Sabine River. I suppose Edge is also a combined riff on the Odyssey and Huck Finn but I've not read the Odyssey since college so I could be wrong on that.

Anyhoo. Sue Ellen is on the riverside with her friend Terry as Sue Ellen's drunken, violent father and her uncle are fishing with poison. They toss bags of nuts into the river, the nuts leach out into the water and stun the fish, the stunned fish are scooped up by Lout and Uncle Lout. The fishing net sticks on something and pulls up a sewing machine wired onto May Lynn's leg. Well, that explains why Sue Ellen and Terry have not seen May Lynn in a while.

Lout and Uncle Lout want to throw May Lynn's rotting corpse back in the water. Sue Ellen objects and the local law show up. Local Law doesn't want to do a damn thing either. May Lynn's drunken father is out-and-about and May Lynn goes into a Potter's Field. May Ellen, Terry, and their friend Jinx get to talking. They find May Lynn's diary and learn May Lynn's also-dead bank-robbing brother buried some money. May Ellen suffers under a drugged up mother and about-to-get-rapey father and has nothing to stay for. Terry is both smart and gay and therefore does not fit in. Jinx is black - unless she follows her father North she's got no reason to stay. They join forces to cremate May Lynn and use the cash to travel West.

Things happen. May Ellen's mother leaves with them. They are pursued by Uncle Lout and Local Law. Real life boogy-man Skunk is hired to find them. Skunk doesn't bring people back, he brings their hands back. Various adventures take place with danger and close-calls. Except for the dead people everyone seems to be doing okay at the end.

This works as both  YA novel as well as adult fiction.

1. Similes come as fast and quick as a [simile].
2. Recurring Lansdale theme of how being a woman or black person in the 1930s meant your life was extra tough. It also meant violent death was a constant possibility.
3. Lansdale continues his dialogue expertise.
4. Lansdale continue to cover social issues without preaching or pontificating. His characters are real people.

Electronic: "He Died With His Eyes Open" by Derek Raymond.

Electronic: He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond, 1984 original pub date, 
9781612190136 for 2011 reprint by Melville House.

In 2011 I bought a copy of this novel for work. That library copy has circ'ed twice. I tried reading the book a couple years ago and got nowhere. After reading the free ebook copy of Buck Fever I decided to try out an Overdrive ebook.

Raymond's novels are famous among crime fiction fans and the 2011 reprints by Melville House generated some attention online. I really like the covers.

 Detective Sergeant No Name (DSNM) works in the Department of Unexplained Deaths in London. DSNM is a hardboiled "I'm doing it for justice!" cop. His Department is a dead-end location for his career. The murder cases DSNM handles receive no publicity, and solving a case earns no praise from his superiors. DSNM takes cases to give the nameless - and dead - a voice. That is the case with Charles Staniland who is found beaten to death in West London. Staniland was poor, a drunk, with few family to speak for him. DSNM goes on the prowl.

Staniland was a failed writer and current souse who kept several written and audio journals. Staniland left behind several cassette tapes worth of talk; he spoke about his lost family, his time in France, his current strumpet girlfriend, drinking, and suicide. Hearing Staniland's voice and life history makes DSNM feel close to the man. DSNM uses the information on those cassettes to track people down.

DSNM covers the low-rent half of London. Taxi drivers who barely cover their car rental fee. Gangster owned pubs and clubs. Housing estates and condemned squats. DSNM does not have to think hard about murder suspects and he narrows things down pretty quick. DSNM goes undercover to find and meet with Staniland's Strumpet girlfriend. DSNM really digs super-sexy-Strumpet and starts a relationship with her this is both personal and professional.

Things happen. The police department's investigators are not stupid but prefer the speed and simplicity of torture and beatings. We learn of Staniland's failed dreams, love for his daughter, his milksop behavior with Strumpet. We learn that DSNM is lonely, even if DSNM does not realize it. We learn that ThatcherLand was a tough place to live.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Listened to: "Perfidia" by James Ellroy

Listened to Perfidia by James Ellroy, 2014, audio download from Craig Wasson narrator.

I did not realize this novel is a prequel of sorts to Ellroy's L.A. Quartet series.

This is Dudley Smith's book. I read the Quartet novels several years ago and Dudley was usually the evil mastermind pulling strings.  In those books Dudley was usually in the background making some dough, enforcing morality, and keeping the non-white people under control. This is the first novel to include a first person telling by the Dudster - correct me if I am wrong.

Set in December, 1941. A quadruple murder of a Japanese family on December 6 draws in fictional and historical characters. Dudley Smith, Two Gun Jack (former LA Chief of Police), Bill Parker (future Chief of Police), Hideo Ashida (civilian chemist for LAPD), Bette Davis (the actress), and all the other goons and goblins and goobers populating Ellroy's LA.

The quadruple murder investigation is detoured by the next day's Pearl Harbor attack. After Pearl Harbor everyone is in a fervor or a tizzy. Japanese victims are not a priority. Fifth column worries abound. Politics and finance are entangled. Politics and propaganda shake hands and trade winks.

Dudley follows his own strange sense of justice and morality. Dudley is a great bad guy because he isn't a bad guy. Dudley is a crusader. Dudley is sharp as a whip and he's the man you want on your side when you've been robbed or your wife is assaulted. Dudley will seek justice, and if the courts do not provide relief then Dudley will deliver it himself.

Sure, Dudley never visits his wife and daughters because he is always working, smoking opium, or shtupping Bette Davis. Sure, Dudley kills as easily as coughing. Sure, Dudley commits several murders and traffics heroin. But, Dudley always thinks he is in the right. He is doing the right thing. If Dudley Liam Smith makes a buck along the way then, so what?

Ellroy also gives us narration by Hideo Ashida, Kay Lake, and Bill Parker. Hideo is one of those genius level cop employees Ellroy usually gives us. He's an early graduate and PhD. He's also Japanese and closeted gay and his career and livelihood are under major threat.

Kay Lake is a South Dakota runaway who worked for a time as a prostitute. Lake lives with a LAPD Officer who is unable to have sex. Lake sleeps with many other men and is recruited by Bill Parker as a spy to go after some Reds.

Bill Parker has rank (Lieutenant? Captain?) and a drinking problem. Parker and Smith are at odds. Parker is infatuated with Lake and a redhead he once saw when attending the traffic school in Northwestern.

Mix in fifth columnist commies, Japanese, and German Bund members. Racists and rapists. Lots of booze. Lots of paranoia. Then listen to 28 hours of serpentine story with thick plotting.

1. Ellroy is lousy at dialogue. Everyone sounds the same and it's like the characters are reading from a thesaurus.

1. Black Dahlia connections? Of course there are. Heck Elizabeth Short turns out to be Dudley's illegitimate daughter. I don't recall if that came up in the L.A. Quartet.
2. Dudley Smith is pals with Joe Kennedy. Smith's father and brother were murdered by Black and Tans in Ireland when Dudley was 14. Dudley killed a Black and Tan shortly afterwards.
3. Joe Kennedy's support for Ireland has him meeting Smith in Ireland and sending The Dudster  to Boston. Kennedy is Smith's patron and in the novel Dudley entertains JFK in LA and gets JFK laid.
4. Smith is a benezedrine pill popper.
5. The redhead Bill Parker dreams about is none other than a stand-in for James Ellroy's mother, Geneva Hilliker Ellroy. The redhead has the same hair, profession, and home town.
6. Smith and another cop traveled to NYC to murder of Kid Twist under the behest of Bugsy Siegel.
7. Joe Kennedy has an illegitimate daughter in LA. The mother is Marion Davies. Davies is also shtupped by the Kennedy sons.