Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last of the Year: "Ridgerunners" by Rusty Barnes

Last of the Year: Ridgerunners by Rusty Barnes, 2016, 9788293326861.

Short and sharp. A style of rural noir similar to Woodrell and Sallis. Hardscrabble life and crime lived in trailers, driven by pick-ups, and shopped at WalMart. I think Anthony Neil Smith recommended this one. I enjoyed the book.

Matt Rider is a part time game warden in Eastern Pennsylvania. He's out on a weekend job trying to catch a couple local no-goodniks from the Pittman family. The Pittman are a low end crime family of dealers and thieves and headed by eldest sibling Soldier. Rider finds two of them near an old house, walks over, gets shot at, runs, falls through a rotted wooden cover into a abandoned well.

Rider is stuck in several inches of water and too injured to climb out. While in the well Matt fires his pistol as a rescue warning and discovers a coffee can sealed in tape. Matt is in too much pain to mess with the can and passes out instead. Rider awakes as the EMTs and a local pal pull him out of the well. Then the trouble starts.

Rider does not consider himself a 'real cop' but he was shot in the line of duty and there is a manhunt across PA and NY states for Soldier and [Other Guy] Pittman. Matt is ticked off and wants to help search but the Pittman's are after him.  Someone cuts his dog's throat, slices his tires and fires shots. Matt's agoraphobic and depressed wife goes to stay with a friend. Matt's 19-year-old daughter left college and went to Florida with a new boyfriend. The new boyfriend is a Pittman.

More trouble happens as Rider and his brother gradually face off with the Pittman's over a slow burn of 75 pages of minor trouble. People are killed. Money is demanded. Barnes does not give flowery descriptions of sunsets or the grit of common country 'folk'.

1. This is the only Barnes book in the library system.
2. I finished this on Dec. 31st and will backdate this post - typed up on January 4 - so I can keep track of how many books I was able to finish last year.
3. Gun love.
4. Gratuitous dog love.
5. Oxycontin poppin' pain relief.
6. I forgot about this: Matt starts carrying a .17 caliber pocket pistol. What the hell is a .17? I very much doubt Barnes meant a .17HMR.
6.A. This is the second novel I recently read where someone has a .17. Is this a copy editing error? Is it a caliber I am completely clueless about?
6.B. The OAL of the HMR is 1.349 inches according to an online source and that's kinda a long for a pocket auto. SAAMI lists the 9mm as a max length of 1.169. The SAAMI max length for for .45ACP is 1.275.
7. I think the important question here is: why am I spending so much time thinking about this?
8. Answer: Because I am.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ebook version: "The Sweet Ride" by Richard S. Prather

Ebook version: The Sweet Ride by Richard S. Prather, 1972. I did not look up the electronic or various print ISBNs.

#38 of the Shell Scott mysteries. Shell gets a late night call from a Mayor in Northern California asking Shell to help investigate municipal corruption and local crime. Shell was recommended by aof past acquaintance.The Mayor has a hot lead on an informant to a murder committed by the Local Crime Lord and needs Shell's help.  Shell agrees to the job and flies out a few hours later.

Shell gets to the boom town of SomethingOrOther north of San Francisco and meets The Mayor. The Mayor seems a little odd and says the case is over. The Mayor says the informant is a drunk and the info bunkum. Shell says, "OK, I'll chat with the informant and head back to Los Angeles." Shell sees the informant but heads back to the The Mayor's house to chat. On the ride back from The Mayor's house Shell is run off the road by a semi.

Shell survives and is not pleased (that someone tried to kill him). He meets with local bigwigs allied with The Mayor. They have not seen The Mayor. More things happen:
Shell discovers he was hoodwinked.
Angst free Shell cracks wise.
Shell comically tries to find out why the last guy who investigated Local Crime Lord was killed.
Shell goes googly eyed for curvy women.
Shell has physical hijinks and violence.
Shell cheats death.
Shell lustily inspects a night club's nude waitresses.
Shell has the sexy sex sex with another curvy gal.

1. I read a Shell Scott description that the novels got progressively wackier as time went on. I've only read/listened to one other so I do not know how this compares.
2. I downloaded three or four Scott novels after Christa Faust mentioned online that the books were free on Amazon.
3. I enjoyed this book quite a bit.
4. I finished this in 2016 so I am backdating the post. I'm writing this January 3, 2017

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Short: "The Outlaw Album" by Daniel Woodrell

Short: The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell, 2011, 9780316057561.

Twelve more stories about the lives of poor people in the Ozarks. There are a couple super creepy ones in here. Uncle has the narrator's rapist uncle who preyed on the female boaters of a nearby river.

Woodrell writes about the same stuff as usual. The rural and wooded areas of southern Missouri with extensive and complicated family relationships. Grudges are remembered. People don't talk to the police.

The economy struggles. In some ways things are not dissimilar to the area's frontier founding. Farms and families can be isolated in the mountains and current day violence is not much different from the marauding murderers during the Civil War. There is a split between North and South, rich and poor, rural and city. Those splits are not amicable.

Photography Book: "Dickey Chapelle Under Fire"

Photography Book: Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: photographs by the first American female war correspondent killed in action by John Garofolo, 2015, 9780870207181

I don't recall how I first heard of Chapelle. Maybe she was written about in Dispatches by Michael Herr. Maybe I saw her in another Vietnam history. Maybe I read a mention as part of Wisconsin history. Anyway.

Chapelle grew up in the Milwaukee suburbs and was fascinated with airplanes. She earned a scholarship to MIT but spent so much time at the local air fields of the Coast Guard and Army that she flunked out. Chapelle went to Florida to live with an aunt and started working as a journalist. She was hired to write copy for an airliner based in NYC and met he future husband when taking a photography class.

During the war Chapelle gained journalist credentials and worked stateside and the Pacific. She lost her credentials after sneaking onto Okinawa and she and her husband traveled around the world on assignments. They did a lot of photography for humanitarian charities.

After her 1953 divorce Chapelle continued to work overseas and visited numerous war zones including the Hugarian uprising and Cuba. She went to Vietnam in 1961. One of her most important photos was won Photograph of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association. That photo "was the first published photography proving that US advisors were actively engaging in combat operations."

Chappelle also wrote an autobio about her career, 1962's What's a Woman Doing Here?, that did so-so Chappelle had to take a woman's lower pay for many assignments and she kept taking assignments to Vietnam - which makes it sound like she was killed by sexism.

I suppose you can have some traction in making a "death by sexism" argument since her career chances would have been limited. But, she was a combat photographer and died from a booby trap in 1965. The buried explosives injured several Marines and cut her carotid and she bled out in a field.

1. Dang. I just discovered that Michael Herr died this past June. I don't think I heard that.
2. This is a WI Historical Society Press item I bought for work.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Listen: "A German Requiem" by Philip Kerr

Listen: A German Requiem by Philip Kerr, 1991, download.

I was trying to listen to these novels in order but may have jumped ahead with this book. Set in 1948 Berlin and Bernie Gunther and his wife are struggling under the continuing Allied occupation and destroyed German economy. Bernie is doing private eye work and his wife works as a hostess at an American club. Things being as they are, Bernie's wife is also prostituting.

Bernie's wife (I forget the character name) brings home PX goods that soldiers give her and says they are gifts. Well, Bernie is an old copper and Bernie is suspicious. He follows his wife after her job and she takes a U.S. Army officer into a bombed building for fellatio. Bernie is saddened but says nothing.

At about the same time a Russian Colonel approaches Bernie about taking an investigation job in Vienna on behalf of one of Bernie's old German police comrades, Werner. Werner was always a dirtbag and never Bernie's friend. But, Werner claims innocence in the murder of a U.S. Army officer and Bernie knows Werner would not have done the crime. Bernie takes the job after considering the Russian's offer of big bucks, his professional interests as an investigator, and his wife's infidelity-for-hire.

Things happen and we learn about Bernie's time during the war. Before the war Bernie went back to work for Kripo (Kriminalpolizei) and when the war started he was nationalized into the SS. Once Bernie found out what the SS were doing in the East he demanded transfer. Rather than being sent to the Eastern Front Bernie worked out of a war crimes unit in Berlin. (The idea of a Nazi organized war crimes unit is always absurd.) Bernie was captured by the Russians at the war's conclusion and spent a couple years in a Russian camp. He finally escaped from Russia and returned to Berlin.

Bernie starts investigating in Vienna and gets nowhere fast. Werner won't say much. Bernie is braced by U.S. Army MPs. Bernie is braced by a U.S. Army Spy Guy. Bernie bangs a Choco-lady (A prostitute who works for food and favors more than money. A prostitute of circumstance rather than career.). Bernie spouts smart ass comments.

Former Nazis show up under assumed names. The Nazis faked their own deaths or forged their de-Nazification certificates. Bernie has to figure out a the relationships among prostitutes, black marketers, Nazis, Soviets, and everyone else just trying to get by.

Things twist and turn. Bernie is always suspicious and untrusting but still falls for a con job. Bernie lives happily ever after but not everyone else.

1. Kerr has nice little touches of detail during the story. Like when Bernie is concussed and held from behind by a big guy. Bernie's head screams in pain when the big guy "guffaws with laughter" at his boss's joke. Kerr goes from a wider narration to a a close personal view of things. I was wondering how the story would translate into a film version if the writing were closely followed. I imagine a lot of little close-ups of hands, shifting feet, and fleeting smiles or grimaces.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Done: "Jack Wakes Up" by Seth Harwood

Done: Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood, 2008, 9780307454355.

Jack Palms was in a big hit movie about four years ago. Then Jack went boozing, went on heroin, had a rotten marriage, and exiled himself to San Francisco. For the past two years Jack's only vice has been a daily cigarette and a regular exercise schedule. But, Jack's one-hit-wonder status doesn't bring him any cash. The bank is close to foreclosing on his house in Sausalito and Palms has no dough.

Palms wheeler dealer pal Ralph calls with an offer. Ralph is trying to negotiate a big drug buy for out-of-towners and offers a few grand to Palms if Palms can flash his movie star teeth and show the buyers a night on the town. So, Palms takes the offer.

Things happen. The out of towners are Czech and looking to buy cocaine, drink booze, and go to strip clubs. Palms goes to see Ralph the next day and Ralph is dead. Palms is upset. Palms tries to figure out who killed Ralph and also take over Ralph's drug trafficker consultant job.

Bad guys show up with guns. Bad guns show up with fists. Palms is out of his house for the first time in two years. Palms is playing the part of a tough guy and getting the same rush and enjoyment he used to get out of film acting. Palms loves his 1966 Ford Mustang GT fastback "K-code". Palms starts doing the sexy sexy sex with a lady bartender. Palms and the Czechs hit the town and look to deal. Palms and Co. get in gunfights and win the day.

Comments, Gripes and Spoilers:
1. This was an OK novel but I forced myself to finish. I realized halfway through my reading that I did not really care what happened to any characters. The most compelling part for me was that the sex lady bartender was playing with Ralph on behalf of Ralph's opponent. Ralph was really enjoying his time with Lady Bartender and thinking about her a lot. Then she pulls a gun on him and demands the cash payout he gets from the Czechs. Palms cannot quite believe she was faking everything in their brief affair and it takes him some time to understand he was tricked.
2. Something about ex-KGB and other ex-KGB getting all ex-KGB angry about ex-KGB. Meh. Not needed.
3. Ford Mustang love.
4. San Francisco street geography love.
5. Something else I forgot.
6. The library has 2013's Young Junius. I may try that one. One of the characters in here was named Junius so I assume there is a connection.
7. Jack Wakes Up circ'ed 9 times. Young Junius has been out 3.
8. There is a 2013 title I may try instead, In Broad Daylight. That one is at Watertown P.L.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Short-ish: "Monster" by Dave Zeltersman

Short-ish: Monster by Dave Zeltersman, 2012, 9781590208601.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. Told from the perspective of Frankenstein's monster who says Frankenstein (Franky) was a liar and a horrible, horrible person.

Friedrich Hoffman is a German apothecary and engaged to his employer's niece. Friedrich and Johanna are having a chaste engagement and deeply in love. Friedrich goes out for beer one night, passes out in an alley, and is woken by an angry mob. Friedrich is covered in blood and has Johanna's locket in his pocket. Friedrich's fiancee has been horribly murdered and Friedrich gets the blame and is tortured to death.

Friedrich wakes up with blurry vision and the voice of a man calling him "my pet". Friedrich is unable to move his body and slowly learns over months of recovery that his brain has been transferred into a monstrous, 8-foot-tall body. He is in a laboratory and Dr. Frankenstein comes in every night to inspect his surgical wounds, massage his body, and chant over him.

Friedrich's laboratory companion is a woman's head in a bowl. Her teeth have been removed and the head sits in a bowl of white liquid. Freidrich is strapped to a lab table that Franky periodically raises so that Friedrich's blood can flow. Friedrich's vision returns Miss-Head-in-a-Bowl starts mouthing words at him. Miss-Head-in-a-Bowl was murdered by Franky and is kept alive in the bowl. They become friends

Many things happen. Franky is in league with the Marquis de Sade. Friedrich is abandoned in the laboratory when Franky flees trouble. Friedrich wanders the German forests and has adventures. Friedrich finds Franky but is unable to kill Franky because of the spell Franky placed on Friedrich.

Most of the book is a narration by Friedrich with some dialogue among characters. Friedrich has to adjust to his new circumstances and worries over whether he has a soul. He also ponders whether his memories are his own; Franky invented a new body so maybe Friedrich's memories are also invented by Franky.

Friedrich was a decent dude as a person and is disgusted in acting out under Franky's spell. Frankenstein promises to take Johanna's brain and put it in a new body. Franky forces Friedrich to select one young woman from a group of captives as the new host body. Friedrich's own desire to have Johanna return helps him rationalize his decision to accept Frankenstein's offer.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Listened To: "The Tilted World" by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

Listened To: The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, 2014, download.

I listened to Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter a while ago and thought it was good but not great. But, the book was better than I realized because I would think back to the characters and some of the scenes.

Tilted is set in 1927 right before and during the massive floods on the Mississippi in April. The book's preface gives a description of the floods and their aftermath. I readily admit to knowing little about the event and what a disaster it was.

Two revenue agents working under J. Edgar Hoover's authority are sent to MS to find missing revenue agents. Ted and Ham have known each other since service the the Great War. Hoover is using the natural disaster produced by months of rain to promote himself. Months of rain have already flooded the fields and farms and some locals are in desperate straits with no income. Hoover doesn't want bad news about missing federal police and puts the pressure on Ted and Ham.

Ted and Ham come across the aftermath of a deadly burglary. The robbers were killed and left an infant that Ted decides to watch over until he can find a caretaker. Well, Ted hears that a rural woman may take the orphaned boy in, so Ted goes to her house. Dixie answers the door and the two of them have a spark. Dixie takes the boy, Ted goes back to work.

Things happen. Ted and Ham meet a local bootlegger who is vain and charismatic. Bootlegger is married to Dixie. Bootlegger probably killed the missing men. Ted and Ham are undercover and pose as engineers there to inspect the river levee. The levee is 30 feet high and going higher with new sandbags. The river surge is coming and the levee may not be enough. Especially now that word is out about stolen dynamite that may be used by downstreamers to blow the levee.

More things happen. We learn about Ted's growing up an orphan. His time in the Army. His time with Ham. We learn about Dixie growing up in AR and being swept away by handsome Bootlegger. How Dixie and Bootlegger's son died a couple years ago and left Dixie in the doldrums of depression. Bootlegger is scheming asshole who uses his wife, pays off the cops, and wants to blow small town MS for New Orleans.

1. Sharpshooter love.
2. White whiskey love.
3. Lots of mud.
4. Lots of rain.
5. Lots of disaster after the levee breaks.

I Read A Book: "The Tattooed Duchess" by Victor Gischler

I Read A Book: The Tattooed Duchess, 2015, 9781503948228.

The second novel in Gischler's fantasy trilogy, A Fire Beneath the Skin. You need not read the first novel because Gischler fills things in as needed and starts a new story in this one.

The novel has the standard fantasy setting: horses and swords, castles and armies. Gischler's twist is that our main character, Rina, has magic tattoos that give her specific powers. She received those tattoos - a bull for strength, wings for speed, etc. - in the first book. The wizards in the novel also have powers but use spells. (Rina has an advantage in that her power is built in with the ink.) The priests in the novel don't have powers but do, on occasion, received guidance from one of the many gods.

Anyway. In the last book Rina drove an invading army of Perranese soldiers out of her Duchy after her family was killed and the duchy defeated. The Klaar duchy is a back water region without much money so Rina and Co. are mostly ignored by the ruling King. Rina is learning how to lead and administer her lands and government while also hunting down the Quisling betrayed her family to the Perranese.

Meanwhile, Rina is also making the hot sexy lovey dovey with the young stable master. Her rakish cousin is being forced to marry a now pregnant conquest. Rina's main man-at-arms is working with a new security force. The Quisling and some remaining Perranese keep sending assassins. The Perranese are planning a bigger invasion from their home islands. The King wants to forcefully marry his gay relative to Rina. The gods seem to be fighting one another. So on. So forth.

Gischler never writes crap. So you know this is a solid story. He doesn't lay it heavy with making up a complete new world with it's own wacky cultures and mores.

I was kind of annoyed that the second Perranese invasion never came off - I suppose that is in book three. Book three is around here somewhere... let me check.

Nope. It's checked out and due back on December 20.

Done: "One Endless Hour" by Dan J. Marlowe

Done: One Endless Hour by Dan J. Marlowe, 1969 and 2013. 9781933586441.

The second part of Stark House's two-fer republication. Chet (or whatever his name is) from The Name of the Game is Death is vegetating in a prison hospital. Chet was badly burned at the end of the last novel and has been faking a mental shut down. Chet barely speaks and sits quiet for most of the day. But, Chet is just scheming his diabolical brains out. He is avoiding the continuing investigation into his dirty deeds in Florida and plotting his escape. By buying off a gifted surgeon he has extensive plastic surgery to repair the facial scars from Name.

Chet told the surgeon where to find a cache of Chet's stolen loot and the surgeon takes a portion and gives some cash to Chet. Chet uses the dough to pay off a hospital warder and get Chet out of prison. Of course things to not go well and Chet ends up killing the warder and the warder's pal.

Chet hits the road. He left the hospital before his final round of surgial bandages were removed and now, with a new face, he cannot be identified. Unfortunately, that also means other crooks do not recognize him and he has no one to work with.

Chet needs money. He has one more cache of hidden cash but holds that back for a dire emergency.  Chet ends up buying a robbery plan from a broker in D.C. He joins up with two crooks that the broker refers to him. One crook is a full time pornographer and sex fiend who uses robbery money to fund his films. The other crook is a full-time gambler who needs to pad his gambling roll.

Chet and Co. end up doing a quit and dirty robbery in D.C. Partly because the other job is in Pittsburgh and needs time to study, partly because they need fast cash, and partly to prove themselves to each other.

More things happen. The Porno guy is a creep who travel everywhere with a small movie camera and films women walking around. During the first bank robbery in D.C. he forces several bank teller women to disrobe and bend over for his camera. The Pittsburgh robbery is a kidnapping robbery where both the bank's manager and assistant manager need to be abducted and used to open the bank vault.

There is more plotting. More killing. More sneakiness. More sexual hijinks from Porno Crook. More fascinating reader for you.

1. At one time Chet mentions about how the robbery will net less cash than just ten years ago. When the robbers take bank vault bags they get "paper" of checks. How difficult it must be in 2016 to find a cash heavy business to rob.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Something I Heard: "The Truth is Out There" edited by Jonathan Maberry

Something I heard: The Truth is Out There: the X-files, Volume Two edited by Jonathan Maberry, 2016, download.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. But, I cannot recall any stories in particular. Well worth your time if you are a fan of the television series.

Heard: "Kings of Clonmel" by John Flanagan

Heard: Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan, 2008, download.

Eight book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. For the uninformed, the series setting is comparable to Robin Hood but with a stable monarchy, distinct regional government districts, and nothing is English - there are pretend names for places.

Will is now a Ranger after a few years serving as an apprentice under Halt. Rangers are like a national police force and assigned to certain districts within the country. There is one Ranger per district and a handful of apprentices across the country.

Halt has been investigating a band of religious con men who come into a rural town and say only our 'good god' can save you from 'bad god'. Meanwhile, the con men's killers will go around slaughtering farmers in the name of 'bad god'. Con men say, "Hey, we need a golden altar to pray to 'good god'. Give us your gold to build the altar and we will defeat 'bad god'."

Halt finds out the con men have been coming over from Hibernia (Ireland) and Halt, Will and a knight named Horace travel to stop the problem at the source.  They travel to Hibernia and the Kingdom of Clonmel. Difficulties ensue. The con men murder whole families - children included - to sow fear among the people. We learn that Halt is the son of Clonmel's dead king and left Hibernia when Halt's nutty brother tried to kill Halt to gain the throne. Halt and Co. jhave to be circumspect - foreigners cannot waltz in and start ordering everyone around. The Main Con Man is very charismatic and has a silver tongue.

Deadly archery. Smart horses, Outdoor camping. Beheadings. Duels to the death. Treachery. Assassins. Fun, escapist lit aimed at young adults.

1. Lots of violence but chaste love.

Finished: "The Name of the Game is Death" by Dan J. Marlowe

Finished: The Name of the Game is Death by Dan J Marlowe, 1962 but a 2013 reprint from Stark House, 9781933586441.

This is one of Stark House's reprints with two novels together. I'm going to list the book by itself. The Marlowe biography in here is a neat read. This novel was Marlowe's big hit.

Career criminal Chet Arnold (he has many aliases but uses this one through the book) robs a Phoenix bank but gets shot. A couple people are killed in the robbery so Chet and his partner Bunny separate. Chet hangs around to recuperate - and kill the doctor who treats him - and Bunny goes to Florida with most of the cash. Bunny sends money to General Delivery and the money stops coming. Chet knows something is wrong and drives to Florida.

Chet stops off for fake ID in Alabama and gets to Hudson, FL and looks for Bunny. Bunny must be dead and Chet wants the money and some revenge.  Chet does itinerant work as a tree doctor and uses that as a cover. (Years ago he learned "no known means of support" worked against you in court.) He starts asking around town and searching the abandoned rural roads around Hudson. He takes in a stray dog. He sexes up the local bar owner. He makes pals with a young earl estate agent.

The novel is Chet's search for Bunny and the money. He meets people, he makes friends, he asks questions, he uses several flashbacks to fill us in on his life. Chet has always been a bit of a sociopath. As a boy he had a favorite kitten that a neighborhood boy's dog kills. Chet beats the other boy with every chance he gets.

No matter that Chet's sisters, his mother and his father tell him to let the dead cat go. Chet endures the beatings of his father, pleadings of his sister, and threats of the police. The situation does not resolve until the other boy's family leaves town. Later on as a 18-year-old Chet gets in an argument with a bully cop and ends up in jail and with a beating. Chet's response is to bide his time and catch all three of the offending Officers off-duty and pounds on them. Chet eaves town, ends up in Northern Ohio where the cops, again, prove lousy. Chet murders one of the Officers and decides on a life of crime. He rejects society and starts as an armed robber.

Anyway. Chet is a killer. He's Robert DeNiro's character in Heat. Chet doesn't care who you are, if you're in the way you're going down. At one point during Chet's getaway he is resolved to killing his real estate agent pal because the pal is out in front of a roadblock. Chet only turns away when Chet's dog appears next to the fella.