Thursday, July 28, 2016

Quickish: "Rough Riders" by Charlie Stella

Quickish: Rough Riders, 2012, 9781933586397.

Standard Stella fare where you're left wondering why this was not on a bestseller list.

Stella set this novel in his college state of North Dakota and peoples the story with amoral and guiltless crooks and killers. The Feds are career driven and the local cops and low-level crooks are usually the only ones who give a damn about justice.

Washington Stewart is in Witness Protection in Minot. Washington was a bad guy in 2001's Eddie's World and survived that novel's finale face shooting. Washington is now one-eyed, sunken cheeked from missing skull bone, and running drugs. Washington is supposed to be under he thumb of FBI Agent in Charge Morris but Washington has not respect for Willis and often resists the impulse to shoot Morris. Washington has been running drugs on the side as he works with Morris on a bigger drug sting.

Morris has teamed up with an Air Force Reserve Colonel who stumbled on a heroin stash at the AFB. Morris has arranged to kill the Colonel's wife and the two of them will sell the rest of the heroin and leave the country. Morris is smart but incautious. He has dopes working for him and having a FBI overseer has given him some immunity. Besides, if a couple people OD on heroin and he has to murder a couple staff that's OK because he is leaving town soon anyway.

But, Morris is angry over losing his eye and he wears a partial mask to cover the resulting scars on his face. He sends one of his local goons Long Island to kill the man who scarred him. That murder for hire is botched and the PI hired to look for Washington happens to be the same guy who busted him a decade ago. That PI follows some clues to ND.

Local Police Detective Dale is a combat veteran, in a new-ish marriage, and works long hours. The recent spree of unusual violent crimes have him and a Police Sergeant shaking the trees to find out what is going on. He slowly tracks onto to Washington.

Other characters come in and Stella has a shifting POV. Stella really speeds things up in the last quarter of the book and frequently shift that POV building to the climax.  Great stuff.

A Couple Weeks Ago: "Anything Goes" by Richard S. Wheeler

A Couple Weeks Ago: Anything Goes by Richard S. Wheeler, 2015, 9780765375810.

Something reminded me of Wheeler - probably a comment on Abbott's blog - and I saw this in the library catalog. Another western-not-a-Western novel by Wheeler. The guy writes some nice books and this has all kinds of interesting detail about 1890 life, frontier towns, and life in a traveling stage troupe.  I finished this just before going to Boy Scout Camp.

The Beausoleil Brothers Follies is running a tour around the Rockies. The book opens with them railroading among Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming before they head to WA and then south into California. Tour and stage manager August Beausoleil has been in show business ever since he was on his own as a 9-year-old. August manages the performers during the tour and wears a tuxedo as master of ceremonies. August is older and prone to depression. Life in a traveling troupe is a succession of managed crises and skirted disasters.

Charles Pomerantz is the advance man. He arranges the many railroad trips and transfers, the hotel accommodations, theater bookings, and advertising for every town. The troupe needs to sell every seat to ensure financial success and Charles is responsible for much of that. He's in his thirties, works all the time, and is quick with women.

The rest of the troupe is a collection of experienced performers and new acts. Singers, dancers, a juggler, monologist. and an animal act. Beausoleil has a good group of performers but then the headliner dies. Then one of the monkeys of the two monkeys dies. A few nights with mostly empty seats really hits the management hard in the pocketbook. But, August knows the business and knows how to act on the fly. He creates fill-in acts and recruits others.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old "Ginger" has escaped her caged bird life as the daughter of a wealthy railroad family. She has chosen a new one name moniker and hopes to join the Follies. Raised as a concert pianist, and then as an opera singer, she has a beautiful voice but not stage skills. She and Charles have an immediate liking and a quickie marriage. Ginger is put on stage but has toruble connecting with the audience. Ginger is used to formal recitals where she has has to hit technical marks and not audience heart strings.

Things happen. The troupe's West Coast tour is in danger as a new vaudeville company is buying up all the theaters and cancelling contracts. Inexperienced Ginger advances as a performer but the new tour schedule now goes through her home town in Idaho and she fears confronting her controlling mother and father.

1. I was flipping through the book looking for a character name and only just now realized how well Wheeler writes about the stage performances. Each act is different with sad, silly, exciting, or just dazzling performances. Wheeler does an exceptional job conveying all the feelings of the artists and the audience. How moods and feelings are changed and altered throughout the night.
2. Wheeler also does a great job showing the differences among the mining towns. Some are remote and threadbare and others are more built up. All of them have theaters hosting touring acts and those acts have to promote the Follies and sell tickets. No press is bad press.
3. Re: Boy Scout Camp. My younger son is in Cub Scouts and I help out as a Pack leader. My older son is in Boy Scouts and I usually stand around and watch. Last week I attended the week long summer camp with my older son. The Scout Troop was set to depart on Sunday morning for the 4.5 hour drive north.
Well, the Friday night before was a Cub Scout Leader meeting. One member offered to have the meeting on his pontoon boat as we boated around Rock Lake. We had the meeting on the boat, kept talking, ended up docking and going to a bar, and then heading home I made some real bad decisions that night. About 9 bad decisions, in fact. That means about 5 beers, two Brandy Old Fashioneds, and two Dewar's. I was sick for the next 1.5 days and missed Sunday's early AM departure. I was okay by about 6PM to pack the van and go north on my own.
I felt like a real heel. I was in bed all day Saturday and missed hanging out with my family and visiting sister-in-law. I was also supposed to be driving up several Scouts on Sunday's caravan and instead had to call the organizer Saturday night to arrange a last minute driver to take my place.  Drinking that much was incredibly boneheaded.

Heard: "Don't Let Go" by Michelle Gagnon

Heard: Don't Let Go by Michelle Gagnon, 2014, Overdrive download.

Third and last book of the series. The kissy-smoochy "he tasted like cinnamon" nonsense of the female teen narrator almost made me quit early. The lovey-dovey stuff is not my bag.

Recap: The deadly pima virus strikes teenagers and there is no cure. A pharmaceutical company run by Pike has been kidnapping and experimenting on street kids in secret labs. When a kid dies they job'em up and toss'em in the ocean. Hackers Peter and Noa have been exposing nogoddnicks for a while and uncover the experiments, Project Persephone. They too end up in trouble and on the run from Pike's mercenaries.

Book three: Peter and Noa are on the run with 40-some hard drives that they stole at the end of book two. They travel from state to state in stolen cars with friends Teo and Daisy. The four teens sleep in abandoned buildings and try to sneak into computer labs to crack into the protected drives. But, almost every night the black booted thugs of Pike find them and all four teens have to run.

Anyway. Things happen. The four of them stay on the run until contacting a reclusive fellow hacker. Reclusive Hacker lives in an old missile silo complex in CO and has plenty of computing power. The teens figure out how they have been tracked. Teo and Daisy take the tracking device and try to lead Pike's men away from CO. The silo complex is destroyed in a violent Pike attack, Reclusive Hacker dies, and Peter and Noa are announced as terror suspects.

Meanwhile, Teo and Daisy are captured and taken to Pike's mansion in ME. We learn more about Pike and what he has done to try and find a cure for Pima. His reasoning for hundreds of kidnappings and murders? He wants to cure his wonderful, lovely daughter. Yadda yadda.  Things work out in the end with a nice comeuppance for Pike and a every-lives-happily-ever-after ending for the teens.

Except for all the lovey-dovey crap. That was gross.

Done: "Shadow War" by Sean McFate

Done: Shadow War by Sean McFate, 2016, 9780062403704.

Crimespree magazine posted an interview with McFate and the book sounded interesting so I placed a library hold. The novel is well done and I enjoyed it. What leaves you thinking - well, it left me thinking - is the modern use of contractors and mercenaries. How private soldiers and shooters are used by governments and industry. The work those people are assigned and how the jobs are completed.

Plot: Tom Locke is an African specialist for a international security firm and he is asked by a company executive to run an operation in the Ukraine. Locke is tasked with bringing out a Ukrainian oligarch who is now in disfavor. Locke must then recapture a natural gas transfer station within the Eastern Ukraine war zone. The gas plant has been taken by Russian Soldiers and the oligarch needs to show himself freeing the plant from invading Russians.

Locke is given a handful of men and lots of money to run the operation. There are no written records, no electronic records, no phone records. Locke is verbally given the assignment and told to complete the job however needed. Bribery, beatings, kidnappings, bombings, killings are all acceptable methods as long as the company and the oligarch client are not connected to the action.

Meanwhile, Company Executive is using this operation to run his own investment schemes with the oligarch, international super bankers, and American investors to get control of the Ukrainian reserves and pipelines. Then Locke's former girlfriend and current journalist shows up in ukraine, recognizes Locke, and starts looking for a story.

Things happen with casual killing, helicopters, subterfuge, gunfights, "Tier 1 Operators", global scheming, local scheming, interpersonal scheming, oligarching, pragmatism, etc.

Each character has their own views about mercenary work and whether private contracting is good or not. Company Executive prides himself on entering the rarefied rooms of the super-duper-extra-powerful-crush-your-life-with-a-nod people. His bespoke suits are only from the "correct" tailors. He drinks the rarest scotch. His cigars are ritualistically prepared. Basically, he is a rich douchebag. Company Executive runs his own private army and his standing contracts with the Pentagon - all contracts are oversight free - are just a part of what his people do.

Locke portrays himself as a good guy. He says he joined up because he now avoids government red tape. U.S. Army red tape in Bosnia prevented Locke from stopping a massacre and he now thrives on the freedom to operate however he needs. He runs guns into Africa. He trains rebels and government soldiers. He plans attacks. He kills people who won't sell to oil companies. He's a bit delusional on his importance to humanity. Especially when he kills those in the way of his "mission". Because, let's face it, his mission is to enrich the rich. He's not fighting for democracy and human rights.

Reporter Girlfriend is angry with Locke after Locke disappeared 10 years ago. She dislikes mercenary work. Her past goals of reporting on, and stopping, human trafficking and forced sex labor stopped getting published. In fact, she's now known as the Washed Up Crusading Sex Reporter and people privately ridicule her past efforts.  Reporter Girlfriend's current work leaves her hustling for freelance work and online news sites.

Anyhoo. This is an action thriller with some meat behind it. Plenty of uber rich running the world. Plenty of death and violence in lawless societies where might makes right. Anarchy and genocide are always waiting for the boil.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Read: "Fringe: the burning man" by Christa Faust

Read: Fringe: the burning man by Christa Faust, 2013, 9781781163115.

One of three tie-ins Faust did for the TV show Fringe. I'd never seen the show until after I read this novel the first Faust, Zodiac Paradox.

This follows one of the show's main characters, Olivia Dunham, from childhood into teen years. As a kid Olivia and her younger sister lost their father in 1982. He mother remarried a drunken, violent jerk and Olivia shot the man in the leg (inexperienced aim kept him alive) when Olivia was 7 or 9 years old.  Their mother died shortly after and both girls received a surprise scholarship to Deerfield Academy.

All that time Olivia has been causing strange electrical burts. For a time she visited with a psychologist who was secretly studying these phenomena. The night she shot her stepfather she caused a massive electrical blast that also caught a dirty cop who was at her home to deal with the stepdad. The resulting blast burned off the cop's right hand.

One Hand Cop also developed a psychic connection with Olivia, blamed her for all that happened, and was sent to a loony bin. Meanwhile Olivia and her younger sister have been boarding at Deerfield with a rather mysterious house mother looking after them.

Anyhoo. Olivia is driven to succeed and join the FBI. Olivia has trouble with relationships and is hotsy-totsy for a classmate. One Hand Cop is released from loony bin in Florida and heads north for revenge. Young sister kidnapped by One Hand Cop and Olivia helps rescue sister. Olivia is injured and transferred to a secret medical facility, held captive for medical experiments, and teen guy rescues her.

1. A couple years ago Faust wrote how the tie-in novels have to be of interest to her as well. For her tie-in with Supernatural she put in the kind of woman Faust finds attractive. This novel hits some themes important to Faust: female sexuality and freedom for teen sexuality and the importance of both and not oppressing them.
2. So many opportunities for F alliteration and so little time.

DNF: "Lucille and the XXX Road" by Jim Oliver

DNF: Lucille and the XXX Road: around the world man and motorcycle by Jim Oliver, 2007, 9780595417247.

Sometimes our Lindsborg, Kansas vacations coincide with a local motorcycle rally. The last rally I went to included a talk by Oliver on his ride across Russia. Oliver had an interesting talk and plenty of photos. I enjoyed the talk and bought his self-pubbed book for the library in 2009. I finally got around to reading the book at Boy Scout camp last week.

I did not enjoy the book and quit after 20 pages or so. This is a self-pubbed book and Oliver needed but editing and guidance on his writing. I also think he should have stuck to the trip itself. Instead he gave us a multi-page autobio for about 15 pages until he got even close to writing about trip planning.

I was hoping for a travel book with more detail and stories similar to what his talk included. I was not willing to keep reading on or skipping ahead.

1. It looks like "Thor's Roar Motorcycle Rally" is no longer held. The last date is from 2011.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Took a Listen: "Past Reason Hated" by Peter Robinson

Took a Listen: Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson, 1991, download.

Same narrator as before and I enjoy his work. More of Susan Gay after her promotion to Detective Constable. Gay gets a late night call on December 22 about a murder. It's her first night as a Detective and she immediately notifies Chief Inspector Alan Banks before she even visits the scene to verify there was a murder, or any crime, at all.

Well, there was a murder. Banks is pulled from the wedding reception of Sergeant WhatHisFace and visits a house with a beautiful nude woman covered in stab wounds and drying blood. A kitchen knife was used for the murder and the record player set on automated repeat. Banks begins interviews.

That is what Banks does, after all. He interviews. He talks. He ponders. Banks does not work an action filled job there in rural Yorkshire. Banks likes that. At one point as Banks investigates the victim's past he travels to London and falls into the old speech patterns and violent thoughts he used to use and carry when he worked in London. In Banks's earlier career he would be rewarded for beating a confession or information out of someone. He recognizes how easy it is to slip into that past personality and he does not like it.

Anyhoo. This is 1991 and lesbians like the murder victim and her live-in partner are an oddity. Was their relationship violent? Victim used to date men and worked as a dancer and prostitute, did her past violently return? What of the ex-husband of Victim's partner, how angry is he about losing his wife to a woman?

Banks is intrigued by the choice of music left playing at the crime scene. Music aficianado Banks recognizes the piece and learns it is also a liturgical piece for burying a child. When he learns Victim gave birth years ago he chases a connection.

Other things happen and we meet the Victim's messed up family and several members of a amateur stage production Victim was working with.

1. Social commentary about family, crime, police work, and life as a woman in England. All hidden within a murder mystery.
2. I hate the English term "partner". I read partner and I think business partner, or tennis partner, or bowling partner. The English should be required to add the word romantic to the beginning o that. Why not? They seem to have already been legislating most every other part of life.
3. More music love by Banks. He takes his cassette Walkman most everywhere and drives his own car because, unlike the police cars, his vehicle has a stereo.
4. There is a quite a lot going on in this book but I did not get too lost among all the characters.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

One I Own: "Beneath The Bleeding" by Val McDermid

One I Own: Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid, 2009, paperback not on hand for ISBN.

Another Tony Hill novel. I'm pretty sure I first read McDermid when I was on a reconsideration of materials committee at Maricopa County Library District. Let me check and see if I kept that paperwork... Yes, I do have the final letter that went out. I'll paste that below whether you care or not.

Anyhoo. McDermid knows what she is doing. She has such nice descriptions of people and how they act.  Don't ask me for more explanation, that's all I got right now.

This is one of the later novels featuring Psychologist Tony Hill and Inspector Carol Jordan. Hill and Jordan share a romantic attraction but neither one is sure of the other's interests. McDermid strings us and them along on a what'll-happen-with-them track.

The novel begins with Hill at work in a local security hospital for the insane. One patient breaks loose from his room, attacks staff and steals keys, then escapes his secure area. Patient grabs a fire ax, takes some swings, and chopa into Dr. Hill's knee. Hill awakes in a hospital bed (not in a secure facility).

Jordan is now living in the basement apartment at Hill's house. Jordan is in charge of an investigation team and they draw the case of Big Time Soccer Star Robbie who has been poisoned. Poisoned? Who poisons anyone now a days? The ex-girlfriend? An angry fan? A stalker? The cops start looking.

Meanwhile, a local sorta-Muslim guy is building a bomb. I say sorta-Muslim because he is East Asian but the only mosque going member of the family is his father who hangs out at the mosque with pals and drinks tea. What's Sorta's deal? Well, you keep reading the novel and find out.

Things happen as Hill hates being bedridden and tries to assist Jordan with the poisoning case. Another two poison victims are discovered. Sorta is successful with his bomb and the regional anti-terror goons take over part of the local police station and start bossing around Jordan and the other cops.

Jordan drinks a lot to cope with stress - even drinking at work. A younger detective is ruthlessly ambitious. The IT female cop acts like a robot and masturbates efficiently. The two lesbian cops don't have much in common but people assume they must be good pals. Hill's mother is a sociopath and fakes her emotions.

A fine novel.

1. I own this paperback. I'm not sure where I got it from.
2. McDermid's webpage has an annoying feature on the page with the bib. list. Each title slowly pops up and if you are trying to go back and forth from title to title this feature is a hassle.
3. I've heard McDermid on BBC 6 Music a couple times. I don't often catch Radcliffe and Maconie's show but enjoy the author guests.
4. I worked a few reconsideration committees at MCLD and kept the paperwork. For two of those I have copies of the complaint and write-ups by committee members. All I have for Mermaids Singing is the letter to the patron.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Heard: "Double Back" by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Heard: Double Back by Libby Fischer Hellmann, 2012 off the date. I do not know if that is the original pub date.

I really, really disliked the narration for this novel. The narrator did not do a good job.

Chicago based investigator Georgia Davis is pals with independent film producer Ellie Foreman. A friend of Foreman ask's Foreman's help with the friend's neighbor. The neighbor, Chris Messenger, has had her only daughter, 8-year-old Molly, kidnapped. Ellie knows there is nothing she can do to help and urges Messenger to call the police. Messenger absolutely refuses to contact the police and Foreman calls Davis to help out.

Davis and Foreman do team together to help out and Davis does call the police. Well, once the cops are involved then Davis and Foreman are out. A few days later the news reports that Molly has been freed. A few days after that the news reports that Messenger herself has died in a car wreck. Foreman reads the article and realizes this is a big deal because Messenger's boss died in a similar accident shortly before the kidnapping.

Things happen. Davis is hired by Messenger's ex-husband who is worried for Molly's safety. Davis digs and discovers another colleague of Messenger has gone missing. Davis tracks Missing IT Woman to a remote Wisconsin cabin. Davis and M.I.W. escape a killer at the cabin and flee to Lake Geneva where Foreman's boyfriend lives. M.I.W. shares information that the bank M.I.W. and Messenger worked for has a real important client and a couple other weird things have happened.

Davis and Foreman investigate more. Davis is injured and then travels to Arizona. More excitement in AZ. Everything is solved in the end.

Not a lot of interaction between Davis and Foreman. They meet a few times but mostly work alone. Both are interesting characters and quite different people. Foreman is divorced with a 17-year-old daughter, a rich boyfriend, and a video production job. Davis is single with no family, sleeps in a spartan apartment, and used to be a police officer. They get along okay though and Davis never expected to be friends with Foreman.

Davis's trip to a border town in AZ was the best part about the novel. Davis tracks the killings to a security contractor that works internationally and in the US. She gets involved with right-wing border watchers, illegal immigrants who are preyed on by the crooks in the US and MX, and drug smuggling in tunnels.

1. A nice enough novel to make me tolerate the awful narration.
2. The second Hellmann novel I have read.
3. Hellmann was nice to me on the two occasions I spoke to her.
4. Dang, that ALA convention was seven years ago.