Thursday, June 22, 2017

Heard: "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

Heard: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, 2008. I did not get the ISBN.

Described as children's book but I think Gaiman's kid stories are always worth the time of adult readers.

Set somewhere in England in a seemingly modern time. An assassin is inside a home and has just used his knife to murder a married couple and their daughter. He is making his way to the toddler boy's room but finds the boy missing. The boy had awoken, climbed out of his crib, thumped his way down the stairs on his bottom, spied the open front door and took a walk.

Across the street from the charnel house is a nature preserve and abandoned graveyard. Baby Boy wanders over and slips through the iron fence. Killer - named Jack - follows the boy's scent into the graveyard where a man materializes and uses paranormal powers of persuasion to escort the man from the graveyard and to forget he senses the Baby Boy there at all.

A council of ghosts is convened. The graveyard is filled with ghosts from all ages but most of the ghosts still sleep away in their graves. When debating what to do with Baby Boy a ghost couple who died offers to adopt the Boy. A mysterious woman on a flying horse shows up and says, "Keep the damn kid."

Each successive chapter follows the boy, now named Nobody, as he grows up in the abandoned cemetery. We don't see much of Nobody's adoptive ghost parents. Nod, as he is known, also depends on a figure to be his guardian. That creature, Silas, is not a ghost but allowed to stay at the cemetery. We figure out Silas is a vampire and Silas is the one who goes out at night to get food for Bod.

Time moves on and Bod is required to stay in the graveyard because the killer, Jack, is still looking for Bod. Things happen. Bod make a human friend. Bod makes a ghost friend. Bod tries going to school. Bod enters an ancient crypt. Good stuff.

1. I looked at Gaiman's website about the pub year and he lists the usual "places to buy" and also "Library Search" which is pretty damn groovy.

Re-Heard: "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson

Re-Heard: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, 2003, CD version, I did not catch ISBN before return to library.

I first listened to this when going back and forth from work in Arizona. That was 13-14 years ago. My wife brought this home to listen to on our vacation drive to South Dakota. Everyone in the family enjoyed the book.

I don't have a whole lot to say about the book except that it is greatly entertaining and you learn a lot about the sciences. Because this is a science book. Sure, this is written by a layman for a lay audience but if you don't care about science topics just skip it.

In most ways a history of science and scientific advancement. The breaking of paradigms. Physical difficulty of scientific expeditions and endeavors. Social and professional exile after taking unpopular positions. The incredible genius - and I do mean genius - of some people.

How some things never change and money rules the roost. Lead was big business for paint and gasoline. The readily known and proven dangers were hidden or lied about for profit.

Human development is interesting. How we were not inevitable. People can argue fate and religion but there are plenty of places in history where a different turn would have developed different beings.

1. Bryson mentions Iowa and Iowans whenever possible.
2. Only one or two Wisconsin mentions.
3. Fascinating biographical tidbits of famous scientists like Isaac Newton - who was a nut.
4. Nothing else.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Done Listening: "Where it Hurst" by Reed Farrell Coleman

Done Listening: Where It Hurts by Reed Farrell Coleman, 2016, download.

Another Coleman adventure on Long Island. A few years ago Coleman wrote two books under the name Tony Spinosa, Hose Monkey and The Fourth Victim. I enjoyed those two ex-cops-working-crap-jobs-in-downtrodden-Long-Island novels.  This novel has a similar theme with retired patrol officer Gus Murphy living in a lousy airport hotel and driving the hotel shuttle van.

Murphy's personal life imploded two years previous when his 20-year-old son died of a heart defect during a playground basketball game. Murphy's marriage fell apart. His wife slept with Murphy's former partner. His daughter starting boozing it up. Murphy was full of anger and loss. Murphy dropped contact with all his remaining friends and colleagues.

Murphy has basically put himself into a living purgatory. One day a skell from Gus's police days shows up asking Murphy to help investigate the murder of the skell's son since the cops on the case have been doing squat. Murphy gets angry thinking The Skell is playing for sympathy since Murphy's dead son also died youg. Gus kicks the guy out of the hotel, has second thoughts, tracks The Skell down to apologize. Gus goes to the scrap yard Skell works and lives at and Gus is shot at. He then finds Skell's corpse.  Gus is now involved.

Plenty of things happen. Gus has a focus now. Gus starts talking with former cop colleagues and with the police chaplain who helped him two years ago. Gus still loves his ex-wife but that relationship is poisoned and done with.

Bad guys show up and we meet plenty of the working class and criminal class of Long Island. No East Egg and West Egg and parties on yachts. This is overcast Christmas season with lonely people at the hotel's disco night, parents with dead children, divorce, betrayal, murder, torture, guilt, etc.

Jeeze. That last paragraph makes the book sound like a major downer. It isn't. Gus's arc is upward in this story: he is finally starting to recover and deal with his grief and anger.

1. Long Island geography love.
2. Glock 26 love.
3. Beat-up car love.
4. Mysterious Russian-immigrant-with-history-of-violence love.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Finished: "Recipes for Love and Murder" by Sally Andrew

Finished: Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew, 2015, 9780062397669.

Crimespree Magazine wrote about Andrews's most recent novel and since that sounded interesting I reserved this one. I keep on eye out for South African books after enjoying novels by Deon Meyer and Roger Smith.

My cousin and brother visited Lake Mills over Memorial Day weekend. My cousin has worked in several states, traveled overseas for work, and even had a two year term in Australia. His oil company has locations spreading from Texas, north into Alberta, and to Alaska's North Slope.  Most recently my brother has vacationed in Switzerland, Italy, Iceland, and Svalbard Island way off the coast of Norway.

At one point the discussion turned to skiing. My brother did a high altitude ski trip in Switzlerland. My cousin goes on ski trips to Colorado. The one time I went downhill skiing was in Iowa. Yeah, Iowa for downhill skiing. The location was near Dubuque and used the hills by the Mississippi.  As we were talking I remembered that "Hell, I often never leave the city limits." When I do leave the city limits I oftentimes go no farther then a neighboring county. The last time I visited anywhere overseas was my college semester in Australia in 1992.

I mention this because I consider myself decently aware of other countries, cultures, and international news. I pay attention and read different news sources. I listen to overseas radio. I do this, I do that. Blah Blah Blah.

But, one thing I really rely on for learning about other people and places is novels. I cannot travel much so I rely on books. A good mystery novel can be as didactic as any nonfic tome from an academic publisher. Deon Meyer and Roger Smith are good examples of that and so is Andrew's novel set in the semi-desert Karoo region of Southwest South Africa. Andrew adds a lot of detail about the region. Some of those details are minor but others color and fill-in so much of life for a lot of people there. The different languages, Afrikaans families and loyalties, weather, cars, food, social manners, etc.


Tannie Maria (Tannie means Auntie and is an honorific for any woman older than the speaker) is a widowed women in her 40s who lives in a remote house and writes a food column for her regional newspaper. Maria stayed at home most of her life and only married because after her ill mother died she needed to go somewhere. That somewhere was a physically abusive husband. Now that the husband is dead she focuses on food. Maria's daily life revolves around food and her recipe column is popular. When the newspaper's owners demand more readership the local editor gives Maria an advice column to write.

Maria knows little about love and relationships but since she knows a lot about food she prescribes food for the lovelorn. One letter writer is a woman in a bad marriage. Maria gives advice. The woman is murdered. Maria and the other two women for the newspaper get involved in investigating.

Things happen. There is violence. Weird religious people. Mourners for the dead women. A silly shootout. Maria seeing most everything from a food focused point of view. Bad driving. Love affairs. Etc.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit. Which is good because this was 378 pages long. This is the first cozy mystery I have read. Recipes in the back.

1. My cousin's oil firm lost a lot of money last year because of economic issues. I was very impressed when he said that they kept on all the employees. Some of the staff spent some days standing around looking at each other but they had jobs. Plus, the people are there, trained, and ready to work when work picks up again - which it did.
2. EDIT: France. I was going through old emails and saw my brother was skiing in France for two weeks. I knew I forgot a country.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Heard: "Doc" by Mary Doria Russell

Heard: Doc by Mary Doria Russell, 2011, downloaded from

Russell is an author with some real talent. She has a strong perception of people's thoughts and experiences and writes about them very well. I presume she has a lot of brain power because some parts of the book really impressed me, and the writing sucked me in as she dug into the characters. She did an excellent job presenting the characters from the perspectives of others and then revealing the individual character's personal history and motivations that drove their actions. Russell character's are convincing and fully believable. But, I prefer more action.

Russell's forward - or was it the afterword - addresses the issues of accuracy in historical fiction and how sometimes fiction is more truthful and accurate. Russell was able to rely on several historical sources include a recent book written by a Holliday relative who had access to a number of family docs.

Short: John Henry "Doc" Holliday ends in Dodge City in 1878 to grab some of the cattle money flowing through town. He makes friends with a couple Earp brothers, fights with his girlfriend, and coughs up blood.

Long: Holliday loved his family in Georgia. He was very attached to his caring mother who died of tuberculosis and, after his grouchy father remarried, Holliday went to live with extended family. He later attended dental school in Philadelphia and opened a practice in Georgia under the eye of a dentist relative. Then Holliday himself caught TB, headed to Dallas, Texas for the dry-ish air, and joined a dental practice in Dallas.

Holliday's cousins used to play cards all the time as children and Holliday became a skilled dealer so he starts gambling in Dallas after the dental work does not pan out. Holliday's gambling gets him in trouble. Holliday hooks up with Big Nose Kate. Kate and Holliday drift a bit and end up in western Kansas for cattle trail money.

Things happen. We follow Wyatt Earp, Kate, Holliday, Morgan Earp and many other characters in Dodge as they live their lives in 1878. Dodge City is a small community that exists solely for the cattle yards and railroad. There are bars, restaurants, and hotels. No school because there are few kids. Most people are under thirty years of age and most women are prostitutes. The few families are mostly Germans farming outside of town.

The city is dangerous and when Wyatt comes back into town he is hired as undersheriff. Wyatt conks some people on the head. Doc starts up his dental practice and loves the work. Doc has an important skill and education that helps people. But, his disease and coughing make the work difficult, and then impossible. Never mind that dental work can be expensive for the customer.

More things happen and several characters leave Dodge for greener grass and cash.

1. Everyone is young. This is something that gets missed by movies and TV. Doc is 27-years-old in 1878. Wyatt is 30. Bat Masterson is 25-years-old. Ed Masterson was 26 when killed in Dodge.
2. I did not know Holliday practiced in Texas and Kansas.
3. Your better as surviving if you are white and protestant.
4. My only time in Dodge has been driving through. The first time was driving a Ryder truck. I had a full load of stuff as we were moving from Kansas to Arizona - not unlike the Earps I suppose. I was coming up to an intersection when the light turned yellow. I was afraid to brake too hard and end up halfway in the intersection and with the load shifting all over the truck.  A local officer pulled me over and gave me a warning. He did not 'buffalo' me with a pistol whip to the head. I told the guy I'd be more careful and, by God, I was more careful.
EDIT, May 26: Man oh man. I reread this post and it was full of typos and half-assed sentences. Heck, it probably still is full of typoss and half-assed sentences don't awful.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Maybe Re-Read: "Blood of Victory" by Alan Furst

Maybe Re-Read: The Blood of Victory by Alan Furst, 2002, 9780375505744.

I have been focused on reading some of the many books I own and never got around to cracking open. I'm no Bill Crider but I have a few boxes worth of fiction and nonfiction I've picked up at used book sales. I had not read a Furst novel in quite a while and grabbed this one that was discarded by Maricopa County Library System when we lived in Phoenix.

I might have read this before. I'm not sure. Since I have read or listened to several Furst novels I may be confusing his style and fondness for Eastern European spies and refugees.

IA Serebin is a poet and journalist whose wartime photo during the Russian Revolution made him slightly famous. Serebin's slight celebrity even garnered an invite to dinner with Stalin and the fish eye by a Army general. Serebin skipped out to Paris before any Stalin purges hit him and has been working with a org that assists and socializes Russian exiles.

Serebin is riding as a passenger on a Black Sea cargo ship bound for Turkey and starts shtupping a fellow passenger, the wife of a Count. The Count doesn't care. Serebin hits Constantinople, decides to call it Istanbul, and goes to visit his tubercular ex-girlfriend in the country house he bought her. They are old friends from their Odessa youth and her helped her get away from the commies.

While staying in Istanbul Serebin is helping out with the local Russian ex-pats. During an ex-pat party Serebin is called away and misses the bombing that kills most everyone else. He is later contacted by Count's Wife and is slowly and slyly recruited into a British spy operation.

Things happen.

This is before Operation Barbarossa and Russians are okay living in occupied Paris. Serebin works there a while and then heads into Hungary, Bulgarian, and Romania to try and rebuild an information network developed by an industrialist over the past couple decades. Serebin and Count's Wife get emotionally close. Serebin survives the Nazi takeover of Romania.

The meat of story comes as Serebin and Co. try to figure out how to stop or impede the flow of oil from Ploesti, Romania to Germany. The oil fields are heavily guarded and too massive an area for sabotage. Serebin and Co. focus on trying to somehow block the Danube.

Sneakiness and subterfuge ensue. Serebin wonders who people really are. Serebin wonders how he will survive. Serebin writes a little poetry. Furst supplies another happy-ish ending with Serebin and Count's Wife escaping to Turkey.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Heard: "Agent 6" by Tom Rob Smith

Heard: Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith, 2013, download.

Another Cold War tale with former KGB dude Leo Demidov. Third in the series and initially set in 1965 and nine years after the second novel. Promo "stuff and blurbs" calls this series a trilogy.

Leo's wife Raisa and two daughters are traveling to NYC as part of a choir. They will perform at the United Nations and D.C. Leo is staying in Moscow and working at the warehouse-factory-whatever.

Daughter #2 has been seduced by a undercover Russian spy and is tasked by the spy to encourage a Paul Robeson character-whos-name-I-forgot to appear at the NYC performance. Robeson has been isolated and marginalized by the FBI and can no longer sing professionally. When Robeson does show outside the event and gives a sidewalk speech he is shot dead.

In the aftermath of the shooting the murder weapon is slipped on Raisa, Raisa is arrested, and Raisa is shot dead when Robeson's wife shoots up the police station in a mournful rage. Raisa's violent death strikes Leo hard: his new life goal is to travel to NYC to investigate the murder, find the people responsible and vengefully deal justice.

But, Leo is an outcast of the KGB and cannot leave the USSR. A few years later he tries a winter crossing into Finland but is caught. Leo's Politburo patron spares his life but Leo is sent to Afghanistan.

Fast forward to 1980 and Leo has been in Afghanistan for seven years. If he leaves the country Leo's adult daughters and their families will be killed or sent to a gulag. Leo has been working as a advisor for years and, now that the Soviets finally invaded, has been teaching recruits for the Afghan spy service.

When his single female student is the only survivor of coordinated insurgent attacks on all the students the two of them end up on the run, bring along an orphan girl, and escape to Pakistan and strike a deal with the CIA. Leo and Co. end up in NYC. Leo continues the hunt.

Anyhoo. The book has three sections: NYC in '65, Afghanistan in 1980, and NYC in 1981.

1. Smith tells a good story and the Afghan stories are interesting in drawing parallels between 1980 Russians and 2003-present Americans.

2. Paul Robeson character is very interesting. A black guy fighting for equal rights joins the only people who give - or at least say they care - a shit about equal rights: the commies. Robeson makes huge bucks on his singing tours but the FBI's Cointelpro gradually shuts him down. They smear his name with accusation of sexual shenanigans and claim that Robeson hates the country. His career ends when any place that hosts a concert is hit with IRS investigations, health code violations, etc.

3. The Leo character led a very tough life starting with starvation as a child in 1930s Russia. He is taken by adoptive parents but then sent to war, recruited into the NKVD and KGB, exiled to Siberia, etc. After Raisa dies he has no happiness. His life was built upon her presence and he does not allow himself to recover.

Older: "The Mercy Seat" by Martyn Waites.

Older: The Mercy Seat by Martyn Waites, 2006, 9781933648002.

I'm two weeks behind in typing up my book notes. Maybe that is for the best. I will only remember the things that struck me while reading. Or not.

Short: Investigative journalist in self-imposed exile is asked to help his old newspaper with a story involving politics.

Longer: Joe Donovan's six-year-old (or so) son went missing and Joe abandoned his career, family, and some sanity during his constant and guilty search for the boy. He's been living a self-imposed and mostly incommunicado exile in a run down house in the North.

A 14-year-old rent boy in London steals an audio disc detailing a confession about murder and industrial espionage and some other stuff. The boy listens to the disc and realizes he can sell the information. He remembers Donovan's name and calls Donovan's old newspaper offering to sell the disc. Donovan is recruited back into the fold with assurances of both payment for the job and access to any resources assisting in the search for Donovan's son.

Things happen. Beware the spoilers. Donovan and the newspaper editor shag. The boy is being pursued by a murderous and 'roided up skinhead. Donovan is a self-hating boozer. The boy has never had a stable home and can only think of getting enough cash so he won't have to sleep in abandoned cars or sell sex to middle-aged men.

The bad guy is a cop from the North who is a weasel. He is violent. He uses and abuses women. He wants money and status. There is a missing scientist involved and his absence is a huge news story.

Blah, blah, blah. As usual everything boils down to the characters, how they are developed and how they interact. There are some holes in the plot: how would a mostly illiterate 14-year-old street kid remember or know anything about an investigative reporter who went off the grid 1-2 years ago? Donovan can be frustrating and there are a couple private investigators that don't seem to fit the story.

The teen boy is the best character. He's trying his best to be brave and tough but he is just an abused kid who has been surviving day to day. Teen Boy is used by everyone and when some decent people come along - Donovan and the paper's editor - he has not reason to trust or believe in them. He goes North and is lost and a little bewildered outside of his London neighborhood.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Finally Heard: "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn

Finally Heard: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 2012, download.

I read Flynn's first two books and enjoyed them. I especially liked the Kansas one, Dark Places, and emailed her saying as much. At that time she had not published Gone Girl and had the time to actually respond to fan mail.

I enjoyed this book too but do not quite understand the massive popularity and success it achieved. The book certainly hit the zeitgest though and left us with girl this and girl that. I mentioned to my wife I was finally listening to this and she said the hated the novel. She was specific in saying the actually hated the book because she did not find any of the characters likeable.

Crime novelists have discussed the topic of likeability plenty of times and how those unlikeable people can be one of the points of a story. Well, tell my wife that and she'll let you know her opinion. She also disliked Dark Places because Flynn wrote about Salina's suburbs. Salina has no suburbs. I was more willing to go along with Flynn's artistic license.

Anyhoo. Spoilers await.

Nick and Amy live in fictional North Carthage, MO along the Mississippi and not far from Hannibal. Nick is a native of Carthage and met New Yorker Amy when he was a journalist in NYC. They married and after they both lost their writing jobs they moved back to MO to assist with Nick's cancer stricken mother and Alzheimer's father.

One morning Amy disappears. The house has signs of a struggle. Nick calls the police. Amy is a Pretty Blond In Danger and hits the news. [I mentioned to my wife the other day that if anything happened to her at least she'd fall in that category and hit the news. She did not appreciate that observation.] Nick gets sympathy and help but falls under suspicion of the police.

The story is told through the journal entries of both characters. Bother characters are selfish. Both characters are lying. Halfway through Flynn has a big reveal that Amy's diary entries in the first half of the novel were all faked. Amy spent a year setting up Nick for a murder wrap. x

Amy's entries paint Nick as a woman hating jerk. A baby hating jerk. An abusive jerk. A jerky jerk. Nick, on the other side, admits to us he lied several times to the police. Nick has been stepping out on Amy with another woman for a year now. He has paid little attention to Amy - a nutbag sociopath. Amy tightly strings Nick up with clues and evidence and Nick is arrested. Amy returns home only when she runs out of money and the old friend she relied on turns out to be a good back-up plan. That back-up plan lets Amy set up the friend as a bad guy kidnapper to take the fall for a fake abduction.

Things happen and you wonder if Amy will get away with things or if Nick will be declared the innocent victim of a vindictive nut. The real fun is in Flynn using the characters to cover so many different topics of family, marriage, hate and revenge, sex roles, sociopathy, and sexism. Amy writes about things I never realized - even minor facts like how women despise the word "panties". Good, I don't like the word either.

I think the novel dragged things out for too long but Flynn wrote a good ending. She has murderous Amy pregnant and Nick forced to stay with her or Amy will abort the child.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Comic Novel: "The Fade Out: Act Three" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Comic Novel: The Fade Out: Act Three by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2016, 9781632156297.

Third and last compilation of the Hollywood murder mystery set in the 1950s.

Screenwriter Charlie and his secret writing partner Gil still want to know who killed starlet Valeria. Charlie was secretly shtupping Valeria and woke up in a bungalo to a hang over and a Valeria's dead body.

More things happen and you'll want to read the first two entries. You could still read this by itself I suppose. That is up to you.

Anyhoo. Gil has been trying to stir the pot with studio security and he and Charlie team up. They find photo evidence that the old studio boss was not only running a casting couch but also running a pedophile rape couch. Charlie has a couple women after him but is still a mess after his war experience. Gill is still a impulsive drunk. The security chief is a goon with a goon squad. The FBI is on a red hunt. The studio wants more money and everything that gets in the way - including dead bodies - gets swept under or out.

1. I like this artwork. I enjoy the art style and some of the panels have really neat perspectives.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Long: "Little Heaven" by Nick Cutter

Long: Little Heaven by Nick Cutter (Craig Davidson), 2017, 9781501104213.

Man, this was a long book for me. 486 pages. Set in 1965 and 1980. 1965 has a trio of hired killers in a loose alliance working various robbery and burglary jobs in the Southwest.

One-eyed Micah is a heartless hitman and Korean War vet. Minerva is an orphan and bounty hunter but gets nervous in gunfights. Ebenezer is English and also a Korean War vet.

1965: Micah is approached by the sister of a woman he used to run with. The sister, Ellen, offers to pay Micah to help Ellen find her young nephew and ex-brother-in-law who joined a remote religious camp in New Mexico. Micah is not a kind man but he likes Ellen and has nothing else going on. Minerva and Ebenezer tag along.

1980: Micah's young daughter is kidnapped by a tall, gangly monster. Micah knows who took the girl and that the reason for the abduction traces back to 1965. Micah finds Minerva and Ebenezer to help out.

Micah and Co. went to the forest camp in 1965 and discovered a Jim Jones style preacher who brought his church from San Francisco. The preacher, Flesher, is a rotten guy who only wants money and power. Micah and Co.'s travel to the camp includes surviving an attack by monsters in the woods. They arrive and are sheltered by the camp but are considered 'outsiders' and untrustworthy.

The camp is in an uproar after a young boy goes missing. A massive search does not find the boy and then the boy's parents also go missing while searching the forest. Flesher the Preacher refuses to go down the mountain to ask for police assistance.

Other things happen. It's basically a monster story with an evil entity at the core. We spend a lot of time with each member of Micah and Co.'s group and I enjoyed learning about those people.

Of the three Cutter penned horror novels I think I enjoyed The Troop the most. All three are decent books but this novel was too long for my taste.

DNF: "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea" by Yukio Mishima.

DNF: The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima, John Nathan translation, 1965, 1993, 9780679750154.

I first learned of Yukio Mishima back when I studied the annual Roger Ebert guides and read his reviews. I watched the film Ebert reviewed, Mishima, but I was probably about 16-17-years-old and not too interested in the flick.

I recently read a couple articles and on Mishima and his work. Mishima's story is fascinating: accomplished novelist and playwrite, actor, and all around super celebrity of 1960s Japan. He was also a nut and tried overthrow the Japanese government and committed ritual suicide after the spectacular failure.

Anyhoo, I figured I'd try out one of Mishima's books and this came recommended by the article. I never got into it because, mainly, I had a stack of other stuff to read. I also was not in the mood for a more reflective and philosophical book. I've had this way too long and will send it back to Mukwonago P.L.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Heard: "Silkworm" by Robert Galbraith

Heard: Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), 2014, download.

Another long one by Rowling. Second in the Cormoran Strike series. According to the internets this is being adapted by BBC television.

Short: a novel about the London publishing world.

Long: Cormoran Strike is sleep-deprived and angry at an entitled client when he decides to accept a missing person case. A wife asks him to find her missing author husband. Cormoran starts sleuthing among the man's agent, publisher, editor, not-so-secret girlfriend and others.

Missing Author had just written roman a clef featuring many people in publishing plus several of Missing Author's friends and former friends. [I'd like to point out that I remembered what a roman a clef is all on my own.] Cormoran finds Missing Author in a half-abandoned house dead and gutted like a turkey.  Things get interesting.

Rowling has us following Comoran and, to a lesser extent, his assistant Robin. Comoran is not a particularly complex person, but he does get grouchy. He was raised by an itinerant mother and has only once met his famous musician father. Half a leg was lost to an IED in Afghanistan and he abhors the attention that the injury sometimes brings him.

Cormoran's amputation is always there but Rowling does not delve deeper into how that effects Coromoran until later in the book.  We're left to infer Strike's issues. He hates missing the leg, getting sympathy or pity.  He also hates having to adjust his physical efforts when the stump is overworked and brings sharp pain.He often times refuses to even talk about the leg.

The mystery tale is okay. This is more of a procedural with several suspects and Cormoran announcing the killer in a final confrontation. Most of the time is spent interviewing the suspects, meeting some of Cormoran's long time friends and relatives, and finding out how Robin's relationship with her fiancee seems like co-dependent trouble. Never mind the lingering love/obsession between Strike and his former long term girlfriend.

1. I won't say the novel is great but Rowling is a heck of a story teller and kept me interested the whole way. The characters do not always ring true at times but I still enjoy the visit.
2. What's with introducing each chapter with quotes by another author? Who was the first novelist to do that? I used to think having quotes was neat. Now I think introducing quotes are lame-ass. That's right, I just wrote that J.K. Rowling is doing lame-ass things. So there.
3. I did ponder looking up some of the books she quoted. I won't.
4. The narration is uneven. I was annoyed by the little emotion in one scene of  dialogue but then thought he was better. I think the narrator does better with the male characters. There is a dinner scene in a men's club where a drunken editor answers his mobile. His wife is on the line and he yells, "I drink because I'm fucking married to you!" The narrator's reading of that part made me sit up straight and my eyes went wide same as if I had been there in person.
5. A lot of time spent wondering what and what real people Rowling may be complaining about. Other talk that I assume is part of Rowling's meteoric rise in publishing. Needing a thick skin for reviews. Nepotism in the industry - going as far to publish a spouse's novel even if the novel is crap. Drunken editors. Backstabbing authors.
6. How can a rise be meteoric when meteors fall to earth.

DNF: Doctor Who: The Macra Terror" by BBC Audiobooks

DNF: Doctor Who: the Macra Terror by BBC Audiobooks, Overdrive download.

The second Doctor and companions land the Tardis in an underground colony. The colony is run by some weird utopian/fascist ideal.

That is about all you'll learn until you quite listening due to the horrible audio quality.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Months to Finish: "Mr. Standfast" by John Buchan

Months to Finish: Mr Standfast by John Buchan, 1919, downloaded off Project Gutenberg.

I downloaded this onto my old, broken phone several months ago. I would read the book when I had to sit around or stand in line somewhere. Fortunately I was using Google Books and able to finish the book after buying the replacement mobile phone.

It's late 1917, and into 1918 I think, and Richard Hannay has worked his way up the ranks of the British Army and is now a General. Hannay is in England recovering from injuries when the spymaster from the previous two novels recruits Hannay for more work.

Hannay goes undercover as a anti-war protester up north. He's not too keen on the anti-war angle but takes the job on. His task is to help discover the men behind a spy ring operating out of Northern England and Scotland. He heads north under an assumed name, works with a couple men involved with British intelligence and meets stunning young woman, Mary. It turns out Mary is his contact. Hannay is hot for Mary.

Things happen with Hannay going north to Scotland trying to track the spies. He walks and boats around Scotland. He also gets pursued by the police - gee, what a surprise, Buchan rehashes the same damn chases as the past two books. Hannay finds out how messages are leaving Scotland for Germany. Hannay use The Pilgrim's Progress as a cypher for secret spy messages.

He meets up once again with the American, Blenkiron. He thinks fondly of his long time Boer friend, Peter, who was captured by the Germans when his Royal Flying Corps plane was shot down.  Hannay figures out who the bad guy is. The same guy from Book #1 who is a master of disguise and fools anyone. But, Hannay sees Bad Guy in a fevered panic when hidding in the London Underground during a bombing raid. Hannay says he can never be fooled by Bad Guy's disguises after seeing Bad Guy emotionally stripped down by terror.

Hannay finishes his job, returns to London, and then leaves for the Western Front. Hannay fights in France for several months as spy stuff and general dirty deeds go on without him. But, Hannay serendipitously runs across information and gives it to his handlers. Hannay is recruited again to join the spy fight.

More things happen. Hannay works with Belnkiron. Hannay and Mary make goo-goo eyes at one another. Hannay takes manly risks. Hanny is loyal to the England. Hannay is very English in general.

More things happen again and Hannay travels in France, Switzerland and Italy and then finally - FINALLY - the novel ends after a big multi-army battle in France.

This was an okay novel. My interest is in seeing things from someone in 1919. Hannay's views on politics, war, social behavior, etc. The book is really two novels in one. The first part is the Scotland escapade with sleuthing and escapes. The second half is more spy and war stuff in France and Switzerland.

1. More "No Girls Allowed Club" stuff. Hannay is in his forties and has spent little to no time with women. You wonder about the author and the audience. Was it manly to be with manly man? Or, was it kinda gay?  The entire series has felt like the nonstop adventures of a latent homosexual. Dick goes after manly pursuits and manly doings: mining engineer, big game hunter, explorer, spy, soldier. Kinda like he's avoiding women to hang out with dudes.
2. It reminds me of an SNL sketch with Michael Palin. I looked the episode up and it was from Season 4, episode 18. The sketch was "Miles Cowperthwaite, Part Two: I Am Nailed to the Hull," As I recall, Palin is a young, upper-class man captured by pirates. The pirates are manly pirates who are most concerned with manly doings. After capturing Cowperthwaites ship they only seem concerned with whether there are any equally manly men are on the captured ship.
3.  When Dick and Mary do come together it is instant love. They immediately want to spend their lives together and a marriage proposal is a formality. It's goofy. Buchan has no interest in creating a romance. After two novels with no women he must have needed one here.
4.  Dick has this unsettling paternal view of Mary. He describes her in child like terms and refers to her schoolboy mannerisms during dinner. Mary is a child and he will be her owner - er, I mean protective companion. There is no lust here.
5. Hannay maintains a chivalric view of soldiering.  You live through the Somme and don't want to shoot a German in the back?  Yeah. Right.
6. So very preachy at times. How Germans are not original thinkers. How being a 'businessman' does not automatically make you smart (I do agree with that). The purity of women. Left winger anti-war guys with plenty of speeches and no clue. Lots of period views on people and culture that make for interesting reading.
7. Pilgrim's Progress is discussed several times by the characters. I was thinking I should try reading Progress and decided absolutely no. The books sounds horribly boring and preachy. Which is a little ironic because I, too, can be horribly boring and preachy.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Quick: "The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know It All" by Richard Betts

Quick: The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know It All by Richard Betts, 2015, 9780544520608.

A big board book my wife bought me for Christmas. This is a basic "learn about whiskey" book but with neat illustrations and scratch and sniff panels.  The scratch and sniff panels are for the aroma of various ingredients and from the resulting product: corn and what or cinnamon and malts.

A fast read and fun to read and sniff through. Comes with neat fold up chart so you can follow your preferred ingredients and floral notes to find a whiskey. The chart is a whiskey wheel similar to  this at

The problem with reading this and other whiskey or beer books is that I read about great spirits and brews but those great spirits and brews come with great price tags.

Heard: "Wilde Lake" by Laura Lippman

Heard: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman, 2016, download.

Megan Abbott kept praising this on Twitter so I nabbed the digital audio. This is a novel with a murder mystery but not a murder mystery novel. The novel is set upon the faulty memories and misunderstood experiences of a 10-year-old who grows up to be a District Attorney in her home county.

Luisa "Lu" Brant is the newly elected District Attorney of a Maryland County just outside Baltimore. She lives with her retired father who was District Attorney for about 20 years (or so). Lu is widowed with twins in first grade. She tells the story as both a 10-year-old and present day adult.

Lu is 8 years younger than her brother, AJ. Her mother died only a couple weeks after Lu's birth and she grew up in a young, idealistic, rural suburb with AJ and their father. Lu greatly admired high school AJ and his group of high achieving friends. Lu's young age, innocence, and hero worship made for some incorrect assumptions about her brother and his friends.

Adult aged Lu gets a murder case of a woman killed in her home. The suspect happens to be an alum of the local high school. AJ claims to not know the man. Lu prosecutes the case. The murder and prosecution Lippman's path to talk about a lot of things: sexism, faulty memories, family secrets, pride, arrogance, excuses for poor behavior, how social mores and criminal laws change and evolve over the decades.

Lu is guilty of some poor decisions as a child and adult. So are her family members. The novel is Lu coming to grips with those things while trying to be a good mother, daughter, and servant of the law. Lu is firmly grounded in her present-day life but so much of the murder case makes her think about events of 30+ years ago. Lu reveals more and more secrets as the novel goes along. Those revelations are partly discoveries during the murder case. Other revelations are historical and hinted at by Lu during the story and gradually revealed to the reader.

1. I still have not read Abbott, Jr.'s latest novel from mid-2016. She is so good at laying on creepiness and dread that even thinking about the novels makes me uncomfortable.
2. You know. I guess I don't have too much to say about this novel. I thought I did. But, as you can see above, I am mostly blank at the moment.

Took A While: "Snitch Jacket" by Christopher Goffard

Took A While: Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard, 2007, 9781585679546.

I've been watching a lot of TV and movies on Netflix and Amazon. That means I've been slack on my reading. I placed a hold on this novel after reading a scathing review. I would link to the review in questions except I , of course, cannot find the damn review. The review was withering so I assume Kirkus published it.

Imagine my surprise five minutes ago when I discovered that Snitch Jacket was nominated for an Edgar in 2008. Oh, I suppose you don't have to imagine my surprise when I call tell you: I was mildly surprised. Only "mildly" because I think the book is pretty decent with a bit of a nitwit narrator and some humorous situations.


Benny Bunt is one step above being a alcoholic bum. Benny is a reformed tweaker and has been off meth for a few years. He washed dishes in a Mexican food restaurant, bicycles everywhere, has a shut-in and hypochondriac wife, and spends every night at a Skid Row bar, the Greasy Tuesday, in Costa Mesa, California. The Greasy Tuesay is populated with low level crooks and hard core drinkers.

After getting busted for selling marijuana Benny has been working as a small time confidential informant for the Costa Mesa cops. He idolizes the handsome cop who butters up Benny with compliments. Benny also has a perfect memory. Benny's perfect memory offered him an opportunity to get revenge on some crooked colleagues from his past and he always listens close to the local crime crowd so he can pass on tips to the cops.

One day Gus "Mad Dog" Miller comes in the Greasy Tuesday. Gus is preceded by his massive gut and trailed by his aged dog. Gus promptly declares himself the Vietnam battle buddy of the bar owner's dead father. Gus is a dramatic storyteller and quickly makes friends and admirers among the bar flies. Benny is smitten by Gus's tales of war heroism and U.S. crime.

Things happen. Benny helps Gus out when Gus goes on a big bender. Gus figures Benny is reliable and asks Benny to help with a murder for hire. Benny goes to the cops. Stupidity, incompetence, skullduggery, and petty revenge ensue.

1. Almost everything is told by Benny in a document written for his lawyer.
2. I liked Benny the character. I would avoid Benny the real person. Benny is aware most of his own failings and weaknesses. But, his desire for friendship and respect drive a naivete and a blind acceptance of other people's comments.
3. Benny's writing is florid and can be excessively descriptive. I presume Goffard has Benny trying to show off. Benny is a high school dropout and autodidact. He used to study reference books and encyclopedias.
4. A fair amount of humor. The drunken idiocy at the bar. Gus's insanely exaggerated claims of combat and crime. The cop who loves himself and is always blowing smoke to buck-up Benny and keep him informing.
5. The dust cover says Goffard woked the crime beat for a Florida paper before leaving to work for the Los Angeles Times. I wonder if he had visions of Michael Connelly's career path in his head.
6. Connelly or Connolly? I cannot keep them straight except one of them is Irish.
7. I just looked up Goffard's homepage. The cover of Snitch Jacket shown on his homepage is 10x better than the one in my hand. (I got this copy from Muskego PL.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Read: "The Body Lovers" by Mickey Spillane

Read: The Body Lovers by Mickey Spillane, 1966,

Last of the three Spillane paperbacks I picked up in Lindsborg, KS about 2.5 years ago. Also the weakest of the three novels I picked up in Lindsborg, KS.

We last went to Lindsborg over Thanksgiving since my mother-in-law has been under the weather. The trip was very nice but I did not find anything I really wanted to get at the public library's for sale shelf. I am pretty sure I grabbed a couple books that I later put back after reconsidering that I have a ton of stuff at home I have not yet read. I am not Bill Crider, after all.


Mike Hammer is off hammering around NYC at night and hears a screaming howl in an abandoned building. Hammer runs over to find a young boy crying next to a dead woman. The boy had wandered out of home to go play in the ruins and found the corpse. Hammer calls the cops. Hammer, as usual, gets involved in the mystery of the woman's murder.

The woman was clothed in a flimsy lingerie and Hammer discovers a connection to another dead woman clothed in similar clothes. Things happen with East Europeans, drug smuggling, high society, low society, models, models turned prostitutes, sadism, and police-constrained-by-know-nothing-do-goodnick-liberals.

The plot is kind of a mess. Spillane gives us some commie-style bad guys this time and spins in the usual sex, gorgeous women, and that weird Madonna-whore thing with his secretary, Velda. Pat Chambers appears and says the usual things like, "You can't do it Mike" or "Yeah, I know you too well, Mike." Political commentary on the United Nations is a bonus special. Mike shows his threatening grin. Mike talks about his hidden animal/killer side.

All of the above is standard Mike Hammer stuff - tough guy talk, Mike's many pals, Mike's drinking and love making. This novel had those things falling flat. Last week I read a review of Spillane's A Twisted Thing that panned the story. Well, I enjoyed Twisted. To each their own.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Heard: "Dr. Who and the Space Pirates"

Heard: Dr. Who and the Space Pirates. BBC Audiobooks production, downloaded from

This was fairly awful. The audio volumes were up and down and some dialogue was poorly recorded. The miner character must have had specific directions to "Be as annoying as possible. I want people to wish you dead by the end of the story."  The music would cut back and forth from bippy-boppy music for the comedic parts and a wailing Star Trek-style vocalization for the dramatic bits.

This aired in 1969 according to As the wikia says this is mainly a western set in space. The Doctor and his companions Jamie and Zoe land the Tardis on beacon in outer space. Several beacons in that part of deep space have been stolen by pirates who want the make-believe-bullshit-space-mineral-of-huge-value used on the beacon.

The Space Pirates are being pursued by the Space Corps (police). The Corps has a handful of cops guarding the station. The cops spot the Who-ians and give chase at the same time the Pirates are cutting the beacon apart to take the pieces to their headquarters.

Aw, hell, the plot doesn't matter. The Doctor and friends get in trouble. The bad guys are mostly boring. The miner character is highly annoying. The woman-character-in-league-with-Pirates is kinda clueless.

Skip the whole damn thing unless you are the hardest of the hard core Who fan.

Interrupted Listen: "Quarry's Choice" by Max Allan Collins

Interrupted Listen: Quarry's Choice by Max Allan Collins, 2015, download.

My damn phone broke halfway through this audiobook. Fortunately I keep the audio files on an SD card and I was able to get back to the book after I bought a replacement mobile phone.

A few months ago someone reviewed a different Quarry novel, I think the review was for The Wrong Quarry, and the reviewer griped about the characters, the plot, the setting, etc. My only thought when I read the review was, "What the fuck was wrong with you, dickhead?" When it comes to the Quarry novels I am a straight on Company Man. A Lifer. A True Believer.


This is 1972 and Quarry has been working as a hired killer for The Broker for a couple years now. He meets The Broker in the Quad Cities for dinner and afterwards Quarry is there to interrupt a drive by assassination attempt on The Broker. The Broker is all shook up and a week later Broker asks Quarry to hound dog the guy The Broker suspects of calling the hit.

Quarry takes the job and heads down to Biloxi, MS. Biloxi is a popular tourist spot and aims to set your tourist soul on fire with plenty of prostitutes, bars, and illegal casinos. Broker has teamed with Victim-To-Be's Partner for Quarry to take a job as Victim-To-Be's bodyguard. Quarry is comped a room and a young prostitute. He feels his temperature rising because she is there to love him both day and night.

The prostitute/stripper is only about 18-years-old but has doing the work for years. Quarry happily enjoys her services but starts to like her as a person. Quarry soon finds that Victim-to-Be is a murderous thug. Quarry finds out Victim-to-Be's Pal is a pimping dirtbag and murderer.

Quarry does a hit to prove his bona fides to Victim-to-Be but prostitute is a witness. Whoops. When Quarry turns Victim-to-Be into Victim at a local hotel he is recorded by Prostitute using the hotel's hidden-for-blackmail-cameras and she demands Quarry kill Victim's Partner in return for the tape.Quarry is caught in a trap; he can't walk out, he needs to recover that tape.

Did that sound confusing? It isn't.

Quarry is already sticking around town after the first kill rather than draw suspicion. Quarry gets his kicks with Prostitute and figures out how to get rid of Victim's Partner.

The whole story is an uplifting tale of Dixie Mafia goons, hired killers, forced prostitution, sudden murder, fatal drug overdoses, beatings, con games, extortion, bribery, corrupt police, and a rental Chevelle.

EDIT, 3-10-17: Collins is slated for Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee this year. This makes me happy since I can actually attend this year. The past 8 years I've been involved in the planning and running of the annual Cub Scout Pancake Breakfast that takes place on the same weekend.
Doubly cool is that Megan Abbott will also be there. So will Reed Farrell Coleman. But, Coleman is always there. Does he has a relative, his brother, living in Milwaukee?
EDIT, 3-13-17. I am always amused that Quarry lives outside Lake Geneva, WI.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Done: "The Morgue and Me" by John C. Ford

Done: The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford, 2009, 9780670010967.

I saw online by Ford on either a blog or the Facebooking Box. That was a reminder I had not yet read any of his novels. This book was on the shelf so I took it.

18-year-old Christopher lives on the West Coast of Michigan. Chris just graduated high school but his summer internship at the local University fell through after he was caught by the police sneaking into the under construction observatory.

Chris instead lands a part-time job at the county morgue that is housed in the local hospital. Chris is intent on being a spy when he grows up and thinks this will teach him... something. I didn't quite understand his teenager reasoning.

While at the morgue a body comes in and the local Sheriff and Medical Examiner are deep in conversation. Chris tries to sneak a look at the corpse but is sent off by the Sheriff. Chris later sneaks into the cooler room, uncovers the body, and discovers bullet holes in corpse's chest. Chris takes lots of photos. Chriss sees the newspaper article declaring the death a suicide. Chris also finds several thousand bucks in cash in the Medical Examiner's desk.

Things happen. Chris wants to find out what happened. Chris contacts the local news reporter who wrote the suicide story and shares information with Hot Young Reporter. Chris's best pal is a drinker and a bookie and dissuades Chris from investigating.

The rest of the story heads into local corruption and local real estate shenanigans. The family of Chris's friends gets involved. Chris deals with the girl who broke his heart a few months ago. Chris is tongue-tied around Hot Young Reporter. Chris acts like a teenager. He is impulsive, optimistic, idealistic, afraid, partially out from under his parents's wings.

This is an easy going story that would comfortably be shelved in a YA section since there is little to no sex and the violence does not get gory. I enjoyed the story.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Another Star Wars Audio: "Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt" by Chuck Wendig

Another Star Wars Audio: Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig, 2016, Overdrive download.

I think finished listening to this book a month or two ago. Now I do not recall too much of the story.

Han Solo has gone missing when trying to help Chewbacca on a mission to free Kashyyk. The group from the last novel is still working together as a trouble shooter team for the Republic. The Admiral from last novel is still super into the Empire and wondering who to trust among the backstabbers and ladder climbers in the Empire.

Things happen. We hang out with impulsive Han who can be a pain in the ass. Love affairs begin and end. Kashyyk is liberated from the Empire that used it as a prison planet. Some prisoners were brainwashed and are used as assassins.  Other things happen.

Things that seem obvious to point out but were important. Wendig writes about the culter of the two sides. How Imperial leaders are supposed to be imperturbable. They should not show shock or surprise.

Also how Han and Chewbacca are full partners. Han is the focus of the movies but Wendig says the two are equals and pals. Chewbacca takes the lead on Kashyyk and Han follows orders and helps where needed.

More soundalike voices for the characters:
1. Ren Hoek sounding guy.
2. Another character is a mix between James Mason and Vincent Price.

A Few Days Ago: "Plaster City" by Johnny Shaw

A Few Days Ago: Plaster City by Johnny Shaw, 2014, 9781477817582.

Short: Southern California farmer Jimmy Veeder helps out his friend Bobby when Bobby's teenage daughter goes missing from her home in Indio.

Long: Jimmy has been living and working at the family farm, caring for his half-brother as his own son, and cohabitating with a woman who's name I forgot. He'll go on occassional benders with his alcoholic and self destructive pal Bobby. After one weekend bender, Bobby gets a call that his teen daughter up in Indio is missing.

Bobby has two dauhters with two women and he is a lousy father. Bobby never actually knew about the Indio girl until she was close to her teens. Bobby has a poor relationship with the girl, Julie, and has only halfheartedly kept things going.

Jimmy and Bobby drive to Indio, meet with the mom, and start snooping. They question a ratty boyfriend. Beat up a couple young Hispanic bikers. Find out that Julie has been working as a bare knuckle brawler for internet videos. Then things get weird and dangerous.

Bobby has poor impulse control. Bobby has very poor impulse control. Bobby tends to shoot off his mouth and swing his fists without much thought. Jimmy is loyal to Bobby but this adventure is causing some strain. Jimmy needs to be at home with his 4-year-old and live-in girlfriend.

More things happen with recurring characters from book #1, Dove [something or other]. It's a decent read but Shaw's novel Big Maria was so dang good that this fails to meet that peak.

1. Southern California working stiffs and cheap beer.
2. Mexican crime lord who freely admits his cruelty and murderous ways.
3. Protagonists in over their (sometime empty) heads.
4. True life depictions of people. There are no happy endings and lovey-dovey reunions between Bobby and his runaway, no goodnick daughter.
5. Somewhat unrealistic depictions of teen girl runaways electing to stay for a while with Bobby's ex-drunk father.
6. Desert living! What a life! Abandoned cars! Cookie cutter suburbs! Irrigation dependent farming! Crooked Border Patrol!
7. Model rocketry love.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Heard: "The Blood of Gods" by Conn Iggulden

Heard: The Blood of Gods by Conn Iggulden, 2013, downloaded from Overdrive.

Last in The Emperor series. I am glad that this is the last book in the series because these do have exciting and interesting parts my overall response to this novel was "Meh, it was okay." Iggulden had some neat battle scenes in here and his afterword clearly explained the liberties he took with real history to adapt the story. He had to change a couple names to avoid confusion and moved around a few battles to fit the plot.

Caesar has been murdered and a relative in Greece is named in the will as his adopted son. That man, Octavian, is only about 20-years-old but takes the name August Caesar and inherits the MASSIVE wealth of Caesar. He sets out for revenge against the Roman Senators who betrayed and killed Caesar.

Octavian learns that the name Caesar has big influence. Just as important are the thousands of Romans who remained loyal to Caesar Number One thorugh Caesar's gold based patronage. Octavian and his two loyal pals gain command of some Legions, team up with Marc Anthony, take over government in Rome and head after Brutus in Greece.

There are battles. There are political schemes. There is Roman indifference and pride. There are horses. There are many, many dead soldiers. There is not as much of Brutus as previous novels.

1. Brutus got to be a bore in the previous novels. Brutus as a spectacularly skilled soldier and commander but was always second fiddle to Caesar. Brutus loved Caesar but Caesar loved Caesar more then Caesar loved Brutus. Brutus got fed up and, after a lot of whining, joined in the conspiracy to kill Caesar.
2. Rome was a fucking mess. Slavery. The politicians and the wealthy could wield absolute power. Women were property. Public safety was with your own blade or body guards.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Read: "Clear by Fire" by Joshua Hood

Read: Clear by Fire by Joshua Hood, 2015, 9781501105715.

I ran across a writer's blog where Hood was a guest and writing about guns and gin information within novels. I'm fairly certain I spotted a gun error in the article about avoiding gun errors. The irony was delicious. But - big but - I could easily be wrong. Anyhoo.  Hood's shoot-em-up novels sounded like they'd be worth a try. This came from Waukesha PL and I ordered the paperback version of this for my library.

Two main characters. Mason Kane is a former Super-Duper-Commando-Master-Operator-Tactically-Operating-in-Tactical-Operations-With-Fancy-Guns. Kane's unit was sneaking around Libya when Kane was betrayed by the unit and left behind to die. He has since made super good friends with a former head of the Libyan secret police. Kane has been bumming around North Africa avoiding assassination and plotting revenge on the U.S. Army goons who tried to kill him.

Renee Hart is the first woman in a Super-Duper-Commando-Action-Adventure-and-Excitement-and-Explosions unit. Hart is sent to California to work with local Dep. of Defense agents who are investigating whether a local scientist is manufacturing and selling nerve agents.

The two characters follow independent storylines. Mason is eager to get revenge on his old unit buddies plus the CIA people trying to kill him. Mason's unit was an assassination squad and working black ops. Renee is trying to track missing nerve agent and starts after Mason's old unit when that unit destroys a small CIA base in Afghanistan and uses the nerve agent to murder everyone in the local village.

Things happen. The two team up to stop the unit that is traveling through Afghanistan and killing any suspected AG bad guys. The unit is also planning to widen the war - they'd rather nuke the whole region and hope to get things really riled up.

Mason is not a good guy. He is an assassin and burns a man to death out of revenge. Renee is forced to do a number of unethical and immoral things to finish the job. The two make lovey-dovey eyes at each other but this is an action and regret novel. Hood gives us shoot outs and sorrow. Manly men bond under extreme circumstances while politicians and high ranking officers send them to certain death.

1. I enjoyed the book but sometimes it was confusing. The story kinda swerved around and did not always make sense.
2. Lots of neat little details about how army and spy guys do things. How they attack a building or prepare for a mission. How people on the run contact colleagues or avoid trouble. Where do you set an ambush? How you react to an ambush. Things I have no clue about. Except for driving a car. I know how to drive car.

Heard: "The Crossing" by Michael Connelly.

Heard: The Crossing by Michael Connelly, 2015, Overdrive download.

Narrated by Titus Welliver who plays Bosch on the TV show.

Bosch is retired after being forced into retirement. He's been mostly taking it easy over the past few months but his half-brother Mickey 'Lincoln Lawyer' Haller is suing the department on Bosch's behalf to try and get Bosch reinstated.

Haller continues to work other cases and has a high profile murder case he is defending. The case involves the rape and beating-to-death of a official of the City of Beverly Hills. Or, was it Hollywood? No mind. The case brought a lot of press and the woman was married to a County Deputy.

Haller is convinced of the Defendant's innocence - a rare thing - and asks Bosch to look at the file and talk to the Defendant. Bosch thinks, "Bullshit! He did it." But, Bosch is also aimless without murders to investigate. Bosch realizes that is Defendant is innocent than the real killer is going unpunished. Bosch is all about catching people. But, Bosch is also wary of crossing the line from police work to defense work. He does it anyway.

Things happen. Bosch asks questions. A couple jewelry store owners are murdered after some of those questions are asked. Bad guy vice cops are on that take. Prostitutes are being used in an extortion racket. Bosch starts to dig into a second murder, the murder of the prostitute who cemented Defendant's alibi. Bosch's daughter thinks he drinks too much and soon she goes to college in Orange County.

Meanwhile, you are re-watching Season Two of Bosch and getting the two story lines confused.

1. Connelly writes about how every murder investgatd by LAP is still recorded in bound ledgers. Bosch would read those books during downtime at work. Other characters remark how odd they think that is and how could Bosch remember the unexceptional things he has remembered from those ledgers. But, Connelly uses the murder of Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer from teh Our Gang comedies as his example. Who wouldn't remember reading about how Alfalfa was shot to death over a few hunting dogs? Hell, I remember that I never read a damn murder ledger.
2. Connelly loves having the police use security camera footage and analyze what they see.,
3. Connelly tells some really interesting stories. One thing about the way he shows Bosch work is that everyone Bosch does seems obvious to me. In reality I would be clueless and bumbling, but following Bosch around makes all the work seem intuitive. It's neat to see from inside the character's head.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Read Weeks Ago: "Revolver" by Duane Swierczynski

Read Weeks Ago: Revolver by Duane Swierczynski, 2016, 9780316403238.

I think this is the best of Swiierczzonshi's novels. And he has written a lot of nice novels.

Swirrichinksi writes a lot of crime and comics and fast paced thrillers. This one has mystery and murder but, I assume, will appeal to more mainstream adult fic readers. But, what do I know?

Set in three different timelines in Philadelphia:1965, 1995, and 2015. Swwirynsskkkiush rotates among the three timelines to tell the story. I assume this was not an easy book to put together by joining three different stories. Especially since the stories lines will dovetail together.

1965. Black and white cops team together in the middle of a summer of street protests and riots. The cops - well one of them - are trying to track down the person who tried to drop a couch off a roof onto the cops's heads. On the way they run into a drug trafficking conspiracy. The two Officers are later murdered in a small bar.

1995. The son of one dead 1965 officer hears the man suspected in the '65 murders is out of prison. He starts to shadow the suspect. He also starts investigating the rape and murder of a young woman whose body was left in the City's star neighborhood.

2015. The daughter of 1995 Cop flies back to Philadelphia from Houston for the anniversary and plaque dedication to, her grandfather cop's 1965 murder. She is close to being kicked out of her grad school crime science program and proposes a project to investigate the grandfather's murder with modern science.

Many things happen. We learn Philadelphia history and race relations. We learn about boozing, and sorrow, and dysfunctional families. We follow investigators from three eras. We learn about bad guys doing bad things. We learn about good guys who have drinking problems.

Comments and Spoilers:
1. Other things we learn. We learn that 2015 Daughter's secret son in Houston could have been cut from the story because it feels like filler.
2. We later read how reviewers say the novel is a treatise on race relations over the decades. We say, "OK, but it's really a family novel with shit going on. This is a Philly novel starring a Philly family."
3. We remind ourselves about It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and wonder how truthful that show is.
4. We think, "C'mon there is no way the city is that bad. But, maybe... I mean they do film in Los Angeles, maybe that is for more than reasons of economy and convenience."
5. We then think, "I keep reading this Schweinhuntinski guy's books. Maybe I should learn to spell his name. Nah, screw it."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Comic: "Criminal: Lawless" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Comic: Criminal: Lawless by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2015, 9781632152039.

Ok. I remember this series. I had to look it up but I read an entry in 2010. Crime stories that each involve The Undertow bar. This four episode story arc involves Army veteran Tracy Lawless. Lawless saw action in several places overseas and was locked up when he heard his younger brother died.

Lawless and his younger brother Rick were raised by a dirtbag father after their mother left. Tracy took off when he was only 14 and lived on his own until he ended up in court and joined the service to avoid conviction.

Tracy did not keep track of Rick while Tracy was gone but he now returns to town to avenge his death. He finds out Rick was a full time crook and his crew has continued on without him. He figures the crew are to blame. Since no one - well, almost no one - recalls who Tracy is after twenty years he fakes his identity and gets hired by Rick's old crew as a get away driver.

Things happen. Tracy keeps his eyes and ears open and asks probing questions. Tracy starts to lovey-dovey with the female crook who was seeing Rick before Rick was killed. Tracy remembers his past. Tracy gets violent. Tracy tries to avoid the gangster he stole from for seed money. Tracy gets it all figured out but ends up under the thumb of the gangster he was avoiding.

1. I read my notes from 2010 and that reminded me about how incredibly annoying the underlined words of dialogue are. The underlining seems random at times and really stuck in my craw. Let me read the damn dialogue without direction.

Comic: "The Fade Out: Act Two" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Comic: The Fade Out: Act Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2015, 9781632154477.

Part two gives us more about Charlie Parrish, his life, and his relationship with the dead actress. Charlie had a thing for Dead Actress. They got to be good friends and were secretly screwing. But, Charlie also knows that as a lowly screenwriter he'd get pushed to the side when Dead Actress's star started to rise.

Charlie helps Dead Actress deal with her scuzzy ex-husband. He helps her deal with the scuzzy studio boss. Charlie remembers seeing someone from his black-out when Dead Actress was murdered. Charlie starts asking around.

Meanwhile, Charlie's writing partner, Gil, is also mad about Dead Actress's murder and starts to run on angle on the studio boss by running a blackmail scheme to shake information loose. Trouble is brewing.

1. Seeing as how Dead Actress becomes integral to the story during several long flashbacks shouldn't I look up the character's name?
2. Yes.
3. But, I won't.
4. The artwork is still great.
5. I have volume three at home.

Comic: "The Fade Out: Act One" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Comic: The Fade Out: Act One by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2015, 9781632151711.

When I put these on hold I knew I would forget how I heard about them.

Compilation of four issues.

1948 Los Angeles and screenwriter Charlie Parish wakes up hungover in a bathtub. The bathtub is in a bungalow. The Bungalow is in Studio City. The bungalow belongs to the dead blonde actress in the other room.  Uh-oh. Charlie sees that the actress, the lead in the picture Charlie 'wrote', has been strangled. Charlie removes all evidence of his presence and slips away.

Charlie has had trouble since the war ended. He is unable to write and is teaming up with a pal whose been blackballed since the HUAC hearings. His pal, Gil, does all the story and dialogue and Charlie types it up.

Things happen. Charlie saw obvious signs of murder. But, the police rule actress's death a suicide by hanging. Charlie was at a show business party the night of the murder and tries to piece together his black-out drunk. Charlie doesn't want her murder written off. Charlie wants to know what happened.

Lots of characters based on real actors and studio execs. An Errol Flynn playboy. A Montgomery Clift. Dime a dozen blondes. Scuzzy studio execs working the casting couch. Studio security willing to beat and kill to keep scandal under wraps.

The artwork is excellent. This is some of the best work I've read in a while.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

First of the Year: "Willnot" by James Sallis

First of the Year: Willnot by James Sallis, 2016, 9781632864529.

Lamar Hill is a small town doctor/surgeon dealing with the daily health ills of his patients in Willnot. The novel begins with Lamar responding to a mass grave outside of town that holds several bodies. Former child patient and now Marine sniper Bobby appears and acts mysteriously. A FBI Agent and a reporter show up separately and ask the doctor about the former patient.

Bobby gets shot with a .22 and tells Lamar that, "an old friend was saying 'hi'." Bobby slips away from the hospital and travels in and out of town of Willnot and the surrounding woods without being spotted.

Lamar treats heart attacks and removes appendices. Lamar's teacher  husband Richard worries over one of his students with lots of intelligence and a tough home life. Plenty of things happen but the action barely involves Lamar. He is just living his life, working a lot, and only slightly wondering what is going on with Bobby and the FBI.

Lamar ponders on life and death. He reminisces on his famous scifi writer father who died several years ago. He hardly ever talks about his mother and sister and Richard calls him on it - I'm left wondering about that with only a couple clues to make me make wild guesses.

The plot is like taking a mystery or thriller novel and only focusing on the secondary characters like Lamar. Hell, the plot does not matter. Lamar is just a local dude dedicated to his work and possessing a strong moral and ethical center. This is what I'll call an experience novel: you follow the character around and learn about the guy, his life and the small city he lives in.

I suppose this could be a literary novel. There is a small bit of action towards the end. That's about it.

Comic Book Novel: "The Black Beetle in 'No Way Out'" Francesco Francavilla

Comic Book Novel: The Black Beetle in 'No Way Out"; a mystery tale, 2013, 9781616552022.

Compilation of retro style pulp comic featuring a costumed and gun toting vigilante hero. Two separate story lines here. The first one has The Black Beetle in 1939 intercepting a trio of nazi commandos trying to steal an ancient Egyptian relic from the Colt City museum.

The second story has Black Beetle looking to bust a meeting of Colt City mob leaders when the restaurant meeting place explodes. The Black Beetle later runs into a costumed bad guy, Labyrinto. Black Beetle investigates, gets in fist fights, gets in gun fights, escapes death by rat, drives a fast car, and ultimately perseveres. A possible love interest is implied at the end.

Nothing too original in the stories. This is a straightforward "good guy versus bad guys" stuff. I am a sucker for the late '30s setting. I enjoyed the artwork more than the story. I liked both the art style and the perspective.

There are several other Francavilla titles in the library catalog but this is the only Black Beetle one.

1. I will not capitalize nazi.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Heard: "Star Wars: aftermath" by Chuck Wendig

Heard: Star Wars: aftermath by Chuck Wendig, 2015, Overdrive download.

I bought Wendig's The Kick-Ass Writer for work and that thing has circ'ed 18 times. That is a lot of checkouts for a writer's guide.

This has a very enthusiastic narration by Marc Thompson. Thompson also has voiced some characters in a way that reminded me of other actors and characters. Including:

Eugen H. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants.
Patrick Warburton aka Puddy from Seinfeld.
Jimmy Stewart
Father Guido Sarducci. (Ha, just kidding.)

I've heard several Star Wars novels and I wonder if the Star Wars tie-in novel writing guidebook must require multiple planet settings and multiple character lines and points of view. Frequent POV changes must also be required. Same with flashbacks.

This story is set right after the second Death Star was blown up.

Norra is a rebel pilot who just fought in the battle against the second Death Star. She has returned to her home planet of Akiva to collect her son. She left her son in the care of her sister about 4 years ago and is both excited and apprehensive about seeing her 15-year-old.

Temmin is Norra's son. He left his aunt's care a while ago and runs his own shop on Akiva. He is a technical genius and very agnry with his mother. Temmin figures Norra abandoned him - which she mostly did - as she galavanted around with the rebellion. Temmin has no desire to follow Norra's plan to leave Akiva for another planet. He has a droid he named Bones, a former B1 battle droid, and turned into his Temmin's own bodyguard.

Sinjir is a former loyalty officer with the Empire. Sinjir was like a political commissar from the Red Army. He had to snoot out crooks, subversives, and general troublemakers. After the second Death Star exploded he abandoned the Empire and has been hiding out on small planets like Akiva.

Bounty hunter Jas Amari used to hunt down Rebellion/Alliance leaders for the bounty offered by the Empire. Now she does the opposite and while surveilling her target on Akiva recognizes several high-level Empire leaders meeting together. She hopes to catch several at once and score a big payday.

Admiral Rae Sloane is loyal to the Empire and meeting with the several high-level officers to plan for the future now that the Emperor and Darth Vader are dead. She is ambitious and ruthless.

Wedge Antilles was on a scouting mission at Akiva when his small ship was captured by Admiral Rae's cruiser. Wedge is held captive on the planet and undergoing interrogation.

Anyway. Things happen as Temmin and her son clash. Sinjir avoids capture by the Imperials. Jas teams up with Sinjir. Jas, Sinjir, Temmin and Norra team up together.

There are several "Interludes" - introduced as such - at several different points and on other planets. Naboo, Coruscant, Cloud City. With Han Solo, Chewbacca, Admiral Fish-Fishy Fish, others.