Thursday, November 30, 2017

Listened: "The Boys of '67" by Andrew Wiest

Listened: The Boys of '67: Charlie Company's war in Vietnam by Andrew Wiest, 2012, Overdrive download.

Wiest works as a history professor and teaches classes on the Vietnam War. Maybe that is why this book works great as an introductory story of the war. The book encompasses most of the story of Vietnam with the men in this story all part of the 9th Division which was specially formed to go to Vietnam.

The 9th Division was built up specifically to serve in Vietnam and arrived 1967. Training was conducted at Ft. Riley in Kansas and the men traveled by troop ship to Vietnam. The Division served in the Mekong Delta as part of the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF) where they alternately stayed on land and a troop ship and took smaller ships along the rivers to where they would work.

Wiest covers the stories of a lot of the men in the unit. He had access to a to of primary sources: platoon, company, and divisional reports. Letters, diaries, and reel-to-reel recordings. Interviews and news articles. Citations and awards.Wiest uses that info to good effect by telling the soldiers's stories  from their childhoods to draft notices, training, military service and their return to the U.S.

Fighting in the jungles of the South in 1967 and 1968 means the men were doing all the Vietnam stuff I've read about over the years:


  • Drafted versus volunteering. 
  • Arrival as a know-nothing trooper who needs to quickly adapt and learn to survive.
  • Operations in thick, clinging mud as they avoid biting red ants, develop a love/hate for the locals, drink beer, visit prostitutes, and visit orphanages on downtime.
  • Endless and dangerous patrols with multiple booby traps, landmines, and infrequent but vicious firefights.
  • Anger and impotency when friends and unit members lose a foot against a mine and the remaining soldiers have no enemy in sight.
  • Commanders fucking up and foolishly walking men into minefields or ambushes.
  • Quick and efficient discharges from the service with the soldiers immediately losing the close relationships with other soldiers and unable to reintegrate into civilian life.
  • New civilians now unable to sleep, jumping at noises, scared in crowds, and drinking aware their nightmares and paranoia.
  • Some marriages falling apart. Families of the dead trying to move on and the dead soldiers' children wishing they knew their fathers.
  • PTSD issues. PTSD will will always be around for many of the men and will be for all future soldiers. The trauma effects everyone in the family and many people cannot, or refuse, to acknowledge or deal with the trauma.
There are also the standard battle stories of death, elation, terror and burning rage. One of the best stories is one that I wish Wiest had more information on. Throughout their time in Vietnam there was an Lieutenant who was hard-charging but incompetent.

Early in their time in the Delta the Lieutenant led his platoon into an ambush that killed and wounded several men. After that disaster the Lieutenant was assigned different staff jobs in the read. But, once casualties mounted the Lieutenant was put back in the field. After having been on base for so long Lieutenant was raring to find the enemy and attack.

The now experienced soldiers in the platoon dreaded going out with Lieutenant and actually tried to have Lieutenant relieved of the command. Their worries bore out when the Lieutenant;s inexperience and foolhardiness got several men injured and killed.

After a couple decades of loneliness by some of the former soldiers several of the men starting finding one another and arranging reunions. They did not invite everyone though. They did not invite Lieutenant. The first big reunion was in Las Vegas. The unit had one ballroom and another hotel ballroom was hosting a wedding. That wedding was for the Lieutenant's daughter.

Sure enough, all the soldiers are in the ballroom drinking beer and reminiscing when all talking ceases and heads turn to the entryway where Lieutenant is now standing in a tuxedo. He had seen the sign pointing to the "Company C Reunion" and walked over. Lieutenant kinda looked around and one of soldiers walked straight over, leaned over, and told uninvited Lieutenant to "Get the fuck out." Lieutenant gave an exaggerated look around, said, "there's no one I want here I want to see anyway" and left.


That's a story I wanted to know more about. What are Lieutenant's memories of Vietnam? He must suffer the same trauma and bad memories of all those other men. But, his actions of 30 years ago leave him completely alone from the unit. The other guys can share and express sorrow but Lieutenant is left playing it tough and pretending to not care.

I suppose Lieutenant refused to talk to Wiest. I don't know.

Heard A While Ago: "Legend" by Eric Behm

Heard a While Ago: Legend: A Harrowing Story from the Vietnam War of One Green Beret's Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines by Eric Blehm, 2015 (Overdrive and print versions), Overdrive download. 

The Studies and Observation Group (SOG) was a super-duper secret commando unit during Vietnam that worked in western Vietnam and across the borders into Cambodia and Laos. The group members signed agreements to keep everything secret for 30 years. John Plaster wrote a history of the unit that came out in 1997. I bought the Plaster book for my library in '97 and ended up reading the book. The story of SOG was pretty fascinating and the work was especially dangerous because the soldiers could not rely on infantry and artillery for help. No US or ARVN infantry could rush to the rescue. SOG relied on their own stealth and rescue helicopters.

Roy Benavidez joined the SOG group as a Green Beret in 1967 or so. Benavidez had been in the Army or Texas National Guard since he was 18. Benavidez was a hard core, hard charging lifer who grew up working as a migrant worker with his family. When a 12 man SOG patrol was surrounded by the NVA in Cambodia Benavidez was at his base, heard about the trouble, and hopped on a helicopter to help. When Benavidez'z helicopter was hovering near the patrol Benavidez impulsively jumped to the ground and ran to join the patrol.

Benavidez was shot twice during the 70 yard run to one of the two sections of the separated patrol. During the rest of the battle he was wounded a few more times by shrapnel, another bullet, and a stabbed with a bayonet. He treated the other soldiers and himself, organized their defenses, used emergency radios to call for air strikes, and eventually carried a couple men to the rescue helicopters. Upon arrival at a U.S. base Benavidez was presumed dead. His blood loss and exhaustion left him aware of his surroundings but unable to move or speak. When Benavidez was being zipped into a body bag he was only able to announce his living presence by blowing and spitting blood out of his mouth and into the face of the man closing the bag.

Benavidez was incredibly driven and brave. Listening to the book made me think as much about the war's politics as on the ground fighting. The story of the rescue of the SOG team is plenty interesting but not enough to fill out  an entire book. Blehm focuses on Benavidez's military service but also gives us a general biography of Benavidez with plenty of background on the war itself. 

Comments:
1. The library hosted a program in 2010 of Vietnam veterans. The program was in conjunction with a Wisconsin PBS program on Wisconsin Vietnam War vets. Tensions were still running high for some people at the event.
2. The bravery of both sides still gets lost. When do you ever want to mention the bravery or sacrifice of the other side when they are killing your friends, relatives, neighbors, etc.? But, the Vietnamese casualty rate was how much higher than the U.S.? 300%? Maybe more? Whether they cause was good and just is up to whoever decides but they certainly were brave attacking into such powerful enemies.
3. Then again, don't forget or excuse the atrocities of the VC and NVA. Benavidez's first tour in Vietnam was as a advisor. While there he witnessed the aftermath of the crucifixion of two children by the Viet Cong and saw the children's relatives weeping in front of the bodies. 
4. Then again, don't forget the atrocities of the U.S. Better to remember how such horrible situations can make for horrible actions by everyone.
5. Response of the anti-war crowd to returning soldiers. I've never read or heard of anyone admitting to yelling at returning service members or spitting at them. I've read more about that being a myth. But, there are plenty of stories that soldiers were ordered to wear civilian clothes when they returned to the U.S. Others had to deal with plenty of abusive jerks, spitting, and provoked fist fights.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Third Rabe: "It's My Funeral" by Peter Rabe

Third Rabe: It's My Funeral by Peter Rabe, 1957, 2014 and 9781933586656 for Stark House omnibus.

Daniel Port is hanging out in Los Angeles. Port has no particular reason to be there but just got into town, bought an MG and is heading to the beach. Being new to town he wonders why a Cadillac seems to be following him. After a swim in the ocean Port is getting some sun when up walks his old "pal" Mnuchkin. Okay, that's not actually his name but I think 'Mnuchkin' is close and they're both sleazy.

Mnuchkin is a crook who worked for Port's boss from the first book. Mnuchkin is persistent - he'll ignore any slight or insult and keep pressing on to get POrt to lend him a hand. Port does not want to get involved with anything Mnuchkin is up to even though Mnuchkin says he is now on the up and up and working as a legitimate talent agent.

But, the help Mnuchkin is asking for is help with a blackmail case. A famous starlet - a Marilyn Monroe or similar stand-in who is now named MarMon - is getting blackmailed over a sex film. Port decides to help out (for some reason I don't recall) and starts getting involved with Mnuchkin, MarMon, and a studio boss's self-important son. Never mind Port's wooing of a local singer and clashing with a Nevada crook also interested in The Singer.

Many things happen. Port drives his tiny MG among all the Cadillacs of Hollywood. Port heads to Nevada to visit The Singer and stumbles upon a blackmail operation that goes after the female celebrities who stay in a casino's performers' suite.

There are some fist fights. A couple car crashes. A few concussions. Backstabbings. Disrupted lovemaking. Weasels. So on. So forth.

Of the three Rabe novels I've read I think this is the best.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Done: "The Out is Death" by Peter Rabe

Done: The Out is Death by Peter Rabe, 1957 (original), 2014 and 97819 33586656 for Stark House omnibus.

Second novel in the Daniel Port series. Port has left behind the people and city of the first novel and is in California (Washington? Oregon?) to help out an old pal. The old pal is literally that, an old crook. Port knows Old Crook from a few years before and is fond of the man. Old Crook is just out of prison, in poor health, and asking Port for assistance.

Turns out Old Crook just finished a ten year prison term and has a chronic illness. Old Crook worked as a skilled burglar and jugger for several years. Now he is in poor health and just wants to go East and live with his family. But, after getting out of prison Young Crook shows up. Young Crook and Old Crook worked before the prison term and Young Crook is now blackmailing Old Crook. "Help me plan this factory burglary or I tell the cops you boosted that bank a few years ago - and I have your old planning notes to prove it!" Except, for the all the jobs Old Crook did he did not even do that one.

Anyhoo. Port shows up and tries to talk some reason into Young Crook. No dice. Young Crook is a vain, prideful jackass. When Port pushes Young Crook, Young Crook pushes back and uses his hoodlum friends. This end up at a draw. Old Crook cannot go back to prison because he'll die there. Either Port gets Old Crook out from under Young or Old Crook has to do the job.

Port's in a bind. He's made promises to Old Crook. Old is a tight lipped guy about his past. He is stubborn as well. Port convinces Old Crook to at least tell Port where Old Crook really was when the bank job went down several years ago.  Port heads to small town Minnesota to find the woman Old Crook was with at the time.

The novel takes a weird detour with Port heading out to try and convince the woman to help out Old Crook. C'mon, Mrs. Smith, do him a solid. But, Mrs. Smith is no longer the teenager her alcoholic father pimped out to gangsters on the lam. She wants nothing to do with Port or Old Crook or any old memories.

More things happen. Port returns to the West and he and Young Crook clash. Port cajoles Young Crook's abused girlfriend to betray the guy. Port's set-up to stop Young Crook goes wrong and Old Crook is in peril. IN PERIL!

A fairly simple novel. No madcap adventures. Few characters. No convoluted plots. A quick read and mostly enjoyable.

Comments:
1. I am close to finishing the third novel in this omnibus and I'm only so-so on these Rabe novels. I liked the first one and it's small city hoods and politicos. That one reminded me of Hammett's Glass Key and Red Harvest.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ebook: "Castle Danger: Dead End Follies" by Anthony Neil Smith

Ebook: Castle Danger: Dead End Follies, by Anthony Neil Smith, 2017, B074H12327 (that stupid fake ISBN Amazon uses and calls a ASIN).

Second in Smith's Castle Danger series. Another very nice cover design.

I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. Smith linked to a review by Benoit Leviereirierieri. I'm going to go read that review and steal his ideas. Wait here...

Meh. I don't quite agree with everything he has to say so I'll make this up on my own. But, this time I'll do it with Numbers!

1. Manny Jahnke returns for the second go round in the series. Forewarning: you're better off reading the first book because just tears along rather than fill in a lot of the story from before. I'm not sure when the third novel will release. These are currently e-book only. I asked Smith online if paper versions were planned and he wrote, "No."
2. Manny is a cop no more and impatiently starting his transition to womanhood. The first novel's resolution of all the murders, sex shenanigans, and political greasiness involved Manny striking a deal with the U.S. Senator for Manny and her ex-police partner Hothead (cannot recall the character's name) to work for the Senator's campaign for Minnesota Governor. Manny is a kind of trans-person liaison Hothead is a security guy.
3. One of the Senator's campaign workers is absent. Manny goes to check on the guy and finds the workaholic gone from his apartment and leaving his phone behind. Uh-oh. Political worries! 
4. I read this a couple weeks ago and have forgotten all the details but Manny and Co. receive notice that Workaholic is captive. Manny and Co. also receive a link to a secret website where a live webcam is showing Workaholic's sexual torture. The Senator and the Senator's new Campaign Boss wonder if Workaholic is scamming them. Is Workaholic faking this for the oppisition? Hey, let's get Manny to find out!
5. Meanwhile, back in Manny Land there is turmoil and tension because Manny is still living half a life as a man and the other half as a woman. Manny wants to do the full transition. FUck talking to psychiatrists. Fuck getting permission for hormone treatment. Fuck waiting for a public debutante announcement for GOP Senator to woo the liberal vote.
6. Manny is hot and bothered by super sexy powerful Campaign manager. Hothead is still dating his manipulative girlfriend and acting like a hothead. 
7. More things happen and Manny and Hothead are in peril and have to rely on one another. Too bad they have never much liked one another. There are: shootouts, car chases, abductions, sexual torture resulting in murder, sex crime involvement by MN bigwigs, more torture, Manny and Hothead on the run, so on, so forth.
8. I enjoyed the book. Things twist and turn a lot. Smith got away from the first novel's focus on Manny and her changes.

Comments:
1. The series so far is built on several themes. A. Sexual transition is difficult for the person and their families. Manny took years to understand and accept who she is. Doing so meant a complete change in career, friends, residence, etc. B. The rich and powerful get what they want and will step on you to keep things that way. C. The rich and powerful are also inherently perverted and pursue violent, illegal, or immoral activities that are antithetical to their public personaes.
2. Oh, hey. That Benoit fella lives in Montreal. I sure did enjoy my trip there in 1999. 
3. Smith made a serious mistake of not bringing back the best character from the first novel. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Read: "Dig My Grave Deep" by Peter Rabe

Read: Dig My Grave Deep by Peter Rabe, 1956 (Stark House omnibus from 2014), 9781596545434 (omnibus edition).

Someone wrote this is a "hard-hitting story of political corruption". Hard hitting? Well, I suppose. There is some violence. Some very matter-of-fact and natural sex. Hard hitting does not feel right.

Daniel Port is a WWII vet who ended up working for a political boss in some unnamed city. Port was in NYC after the war when he met Political Boss and was hired on. Port has been in the city for a handful of years as a political fixer and strategist. Port gets out the vote, pays off the local politicians, rigs the city contracts, and other underhanded shenanigans that keep Ward Nine under the control of Political Boss.

But, Port has had enough and wants to leave town. Port had looked after his brother for several years. That brother is barely discussed in the book but we learn he was killed as part of Political Boss's operation. That death and Port's dissatisfaction leads Port to the local United Airlines office where he boss a ticket out of the city.

Political Boss hears that Port is leaving - mainly because Port keeps saying he is leaving. But, Boss leans on Port's sympathies and loyalties to Boss and Port agrees to stay on long enough to assure that Ward Nine will stay save of a redevelopment deal that would move voters away.

Things happen. Port recruits a spy against Political Boss's adversary. Port meets a waitress who is the new spy's sister and Port digs her. Port clashes with Political Boss's protege. Port silently whistles when he is nervous or excited and only drinks cold coffee. Port sleeps with a local prostitute who gives Port a lead.

Everything is written with spare language. There is little description of people or place. I only thought of the city as a generic city in 1956. There are streets, brick buildings, people walking around - daily life of families, sports, apple trees, or whatever are never discussed. The city could have been Cleveland, Buffalo, Newark, anywhere. The only things that mattered were Port and the relationships that he used to get his and Political Boss's way.

This is a crime novel but the violence is more of a tool; violence is another way to persuade or convince. I suppose coerce is more like it.

Anyhoo, I tried this one out because I've read plenty of references to Rabe novels but never tried one. Stark House has reprinted 21 (unless I miscounted) of his novels. This was part of a three novel omnibus featuring Daniel Port and I am currently in the middle of the second novel.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

One more Audio: "Whoreson" by Donald Goines

Listened To: Whoreson by Donald Goines, 1972, Overdrive download.

I was scanning available titles on Overdrive and figured to try out a Goines novel. Whoreson could also be known as My life as a serial abuser and rapist. The narration was really well done.

Whoreson Jones is born to a young prostitute in a local Madam's apartment. Jessie Jones goes into labor as she is street walking during the Detroit winter of 1940. She is rushed upstairs to the Madam's apartment and in a fit of anger, despair, or whatever she names her son Whoreson immediately after his birth.

Whoreson is pronounced as one word with emphasis on the first syllable HOR-sun. Jessie dotes on the boy and buys him whatever he wants. Whoreson loves his slum neighborhood and as a child does not recognize the crime and poverty he lives in. His mother starts calling him her 'little pimp' when he is a boy and teaching him in street skills. She has a local gambler teach Whoreson and Whoreson's friend how to cheat at cards and dice, simple short cons like cheating store cashiers, and shoplifting skills.

As he grows older Whoreson and his friends start to use other girls as sex objects. Grabbing them, bossing them, commenting on their value, etc. When Jessie dies of TB Whoreson starts working as a pimp when he is only 15 years old.

The story runs over the next ten years of Whoreson's adventures: aspiring to pimp hard, beating prostitutes with his fists and wire coat hangers, drinking/smoking/snorting/pill-popping, fleeing the police, cutting the face of a woman in a bar fight, serving prison time where he preyed on and raped other convicts, going out for revenge against the friends and prostitutes he saw as screwing him over.

This could be a real tough book to listen to. Whoreson starts his criminal career hi earnest when he should have been in high school. He thinks of himself as being a strong pimp who others will not cross and whose women will fall in line when told. But, Whoreson the narrator is truthful. He tells us of his crimes and the learning curve of dealing with street people, other pimps, crooks, and prostitutes. The mistakes he makes along the way along with the work he is proud of.

I was disgusted by Whoreson's actions but the story was compelling and interesting. The relationships are mostly about power and control. The women are verbally and physically abused but attach themselves to the pimps like the battered women they are. To leave the pimp is to risk death or disfiguration and to leave their only home, their friends, and all their belongings behind.

Pimps strive to control everything about the women who work under them. Where they live. When and where they work. When and what they eat. All the money they earn, Their behavior at any place and time. Subservience is required but each woman is given lead to act out and up. The pimp wants the women to feel fear as well as love.

Love and loneliness play a strong part of what goes on. Whoreson is alone in the world after his mother and surrogate grandmother die. He never had a father and has no siblings or extended family. Whoreson works to have no feelings for the women. He teaches himself that he must work them and use them. He is sexually and emotionally attracted to them but cannot let that effect business.

Anyway. There is a sort of upbeat ending. Whoresone cons an older married woman into a fake marriage to get her $20,000 and flees to New York. While there he tries going straight, hooks up with a neighborhood friend who is a rising singer, gets busted by the Feds, thinks positively about starting a family once he is out of prison.

Comments:
1. According to the Wikipedia entry Goines was an Iceberg Slim fan. I still, still, have not read any Iceberg Slim novels.
2. Not that I have much faith in Wikipedia but the article says Goines lived in Junction City for a while. I suppose that would be a great spot for prostitution because of Fort Riley being next door. My times in Junction City were almost entirely limited to using the exit and on ramps from US77 to I-70.  The one or two times I did go through JUnction City I was surprised by all the pawn shops and cruddy apartment buildings.
3. Goines writing career is pretty damn impressive. He was murdered at 36-years-old but put out several very popular novels. Kinda like Robert E. Howard (although I keep thinking E. Howard Hunt.)
4. I looked E. Howard Hunt up and that draws me into all the fascinating JFK conspiracies and reminds me of James Ellroy's 1960s novels.
5. Excellent narration by Kevin Kenerly. Kenerly puts a lot of character into Whoreson. He draws out the dialogue in a street slang style that sounds genuine to me. But, it's not like I would know, I live in rural(ish) Wisconsin. I'm so white I'm pearlescent.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Read: "Catch and Release" by Lawrence Block

Read: Catch and Release by Lawrence Block, 2013, 9781596065710.

One afternoon Lawrence Block was sitting at home and ruminating. "Hmm, I've got a bunch of short stories that I already published in magazines and collections. Now those stories are just sitting around in landfills, libraries, and Bill Crider's storage lockers. Oh! Wait! I can publish them again for everyone who did not read them the first time."

"I'll put in some notes about each story and maybe Hard Case can put out a hardcover. Then, people can comment on the internetbox about whether they liked them or not. Of course, I've been publishing for over 50 years so I don't much give a rat's ass what some random dude has to say."

Anyhoo.

If you are not a fan of Block's work then you are a weirdo. The guy cannot seem to do wrong. This collection has 17 stories and two of them feature Matt Scudder and Mick Ballou. Scudder is very close to Ballou and I consider Ballou to be a murderous, criminal dirtbag.

Some of these are very short. VERY short. The first story is two pages of Bernie Rhodenbarr. I used to listed to Rhodenbarr novels quite a bit. I recall listening to Rhodenbarr and Nero Wolfe stories in the car with my wife when we lived in Arizona.

I've not much else to say. This is a fairly quick read.

Tried Again: "Sleepless" by Charlie Huston

Heard: Sleepless by Charlie Huston, 2010, Overdrive.com download.

I quit listening to this a few years ago and decided to try again. I recall quitting on this book and Crazy Rich Asians when I was cycling somewhat regularly on the Glacial-Drumlin trail south of town. I couldn't get into either story at the time. I also had trouble hearing the narration when wind whistled across the earbuds I was using. 

I really enjoyed two of Huston's series with That One Guy and That Other Guy Who Is A Vampire. I obviously - Oh wait! The vampire character was named Joe Pitt. I think. I don't recall the other fella's name, and I do not want to look it up. This book was pretty decent. But it was published in 2010 and set in an alternate present. So small things are a bit out of date.

Parker Hass is working undercover as a drug dealer for the Los Angeles Police Department. The city, and much of the world, have been falling apart ever since a epidemic called Sleepless has spread. Sleepless is a fatal prion disease that damages the mind and makes it impossible for people to sleep. The sleeplessness doesn't bring on hallucinations and violent outburts, instead Sleepless has more of an Alzheimer's/dementia effect. People forget where they are, what they are doing, and confuse themselves in thinking they are living 10 years ago. The disease is fatal after about a year from first symptoms.

Parkers wife is Sleepless and he worries his infant daughter is as well. His mission is to find whoever is illegally trading in DR3EAM3R which is the only drug proven to help cope with the Sleepless disease. DR3AM3R actually lets the sick people sleep and gives a relief that is otherwise impossible to receive. DR3AM3R is closely monitored and distributed and Parker's superiors is convinced the drug's rarity means it must have a big money black market trade.

Things happen. One of Parker's clients and his business partners is found shot to death at there place of business. Parker recovers a travel drive hoping to find evidence or investigative leads. A hired killer is sent to recover the same drive by his employer and uses security camera footage to identify Parker.

Parker keeps digging. Parker is driving himself and not sleeping. Parker and his wife rely on a nanny to help watch their daughter because the Wife will space out and forget she even has a infant daughter. The killer kills people and tracks down Parker. Parker finds someone with a supply of DR3AM3R.

Parker is not coping well. He has no family left. He was an outsider at the police department and has no colleagues to lean on. His wife has no family or friends to assist her and Parker. Parker's inability to deal means he cannot even say his child's name. He refers to his daughter as "the baby", we don't learn the name until late in the book.

More things happen and Huston, as usual, writes a fun story with plenty of emotion. I like his characters. I think he writes his characters as real people and I want the heroes to do well and the bad guys to be punished.

Comments:
1.  I think the novel has an Iraq and Afghanistan War influenced pessimism. Written at a time when lots of Americans were in both countries. Parts of Huston's Los Angeles have the same desperate feel as a country at war. There is a strong black market for goods, government services are stretched thin, violence has become a regular part of life for many people, travel outside your own neighborhood is risky.
2. Huston thought out the Sleepless disease, it's spread and effected victims and family members. He has everyone dealing with the trauma on one level or another. People in the early stages of the disease know they are doomed but many - like a reserve Police Officer - keep on working. Family members cope with taking care of people.
3. Huston's dialogue does not have the stops and starts like previous novels.
4. Lovelorn, outsider men are a frequent theme. I suppose that is not unusual but I'm at a loss to explain why his seem so similar.
5. Huston's heroes are generally everyday dudes put into bad situations. Decent men with a love life in peril from outside forces. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Heard: "Warlord of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Heard: Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1919, Overdrive download.

The whole time I was reading this I kept thinking Robert E. Howard wrote the John Carter of Mars series along with Conan. Nope. Howard created Conan and Burroughs created Tarzan. Well, I suppose Carter and Tarzan are similar enough - neither one seems to own a shirt.

I believe this is the third John Carter novel and came out in 1919. I don't know if it was first serialized - look it up yourself. The novel holds up pretty well after 100 years of change in literature. Okay, most people might not classify this as literature but we don't care about them, do we?

If you are like me and never read a John Carter novel you won't be surprised.  The novel is a straitforward adventure story. Carter is chasing after the bad guys who have kidnapped his wife. There are plenty of sword fights, dangerous Mars animals, dangerous Mars natives, pledges of loyalty and love and revenge, all narrated by an indefatigable hero. I'm sure a pop historian could connect the dots from these stories to knock-off copies, to serialized adventure films, to westerns to blah to blah to blah.

---------------Emergency musical interlude----------------
I've been playing the Len Price 3's new album over and over. This is from an older album.




---------------Emergency musical interlude----------------

This is a fin book. Plenty of adventure and wild coincidences. Burroughs lays on heavy foreshadowing. Bourroughs's pistol on the wall isn't just used it's used to bludgeon everyone in the house. Carter just happens to eavesdrop on several conversations that tell him, and us, exactly what the bad guys are planning, completely rehash the conversation that Carter missed, and how Carter can follow them and defeat them.

I suppose the plot does not matter too much but here it is: John Carter's wife and another woman have been sprung from a prison by the bad guys. The bad guys want revenge on Carter. Carter chases them across Mars to rescue his wife. Along the way he defeats other bad guys, makes friends and allies, reminisces on his wife and his many battles.

Comments:
1. The dialogue incluldes muchejaculating and intercoursing.
2. Silly SciFi names. Barsoom. Dejah Thoris. Tars Tarkis. Thuvia of Ptarth.
3. Here is a one hour 43 minute album release performance. Audio is not very good but my current favorite starts at 2:34 in. https://youtu.be/ggqMZo7a95c

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Quick: "The Highway Kind" edited by Patrick Milliken

Quick: The Highway Kind: tales of fast cars, desperate drivers, and dark roads edited by Patrick Millikin, 2016, 9780316394864.

Stories by (in order) Ben H. Winters, C.J. Box, Michael Connelly, Kelly Braffet, Wallace Stroby, James Sallis, George Pelecanos, Diana Gabaldon, Patterson Hood, Joe R. Lansdale, Sara Gran, Ace Atkins, Gary Phillips, Willy Vlautin, Luis Alberto Urrea.

This was a very good collection. I really enjoyed it. Milliken works at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale. I lived in the Valley for five years and visited there just once. Driving from Peoria on the west side to the East Valley was a freaking chore. Especially on a weekend. The 101 freeway was in place by the time we moved there and getting into Scottsdale itself was not too difficult but it still knocked out several hours in a day.

We did go to Scottsdale often enough, every other month or so, I would guess. I always wanted to visit the gun stores. Bear Arms was always a neat one to visit. There was another store, since out of business, that I never went back to again. I was there one day wandering around, looking in the glass display cases as the owner was chatting with another customer. The guy spoke loudly and his conversation could be heard throughout the store. I heard him insult or degrade gay people, black people, Jewish people, and a few other groups. What a dirtbag. I never went back to the store and warned others away from the place. I just learned that the owner retired in 2005 and closed the store. I assume he is still the same miserable SOB he was then. Vile jerk.

Traveling from Peoria to to a southeast valley city like Gilbert or Mesa felt like I was driving to Denver. I'd be in the car for what felt like forever crossing along the freeways and arterial roads until I reached the gun or book store I wanted to visit.

Speaking of Phoenix and driving, James Sallis's Driven captures what I feel is great view of Phoenix. Sallis's story in this collection is not set in Phoenix.

This book has a really nice mix of author styles and stories. There hard core crook stories and regular people stories. I've not much else to say about this but have a couple comments.

Comments:
1. I've not yet read any novels by Gary Phillips's. That's how I ended up reading this book, I searched the library catalog for Phillips and this popped up.
2. I associate Diana Gabaldon with romances. I don't read romances and so have never read any of her novels. Her story is set in 1937 Germany and feature Dr. Porsche investigating the crash of one of his race cars. I'd heard before about the speed attempts set on the German Autobahn in 1937 and the fatal crash as one car was pushed by the wind, spun, and flew into a bridge abutment or embankment. The story was very well done.
3. That's it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Told To Me: "Rusty Puppy" by Joe R Lansdale

Told To Me: Rusty Puppy by Joe R. Lansdale, 2016, Overdrive.com download.

This is another Hap and Leonard novel by Lansdale. That is really all you need to know. That means the novel is well worth your time and that all the usual stuff happens: Hap and Leonard act like borderline idiots, Leonard gets angry and has a lousy love life, Hap gets a little maudlin at times and is lovey-dovey, most everyone insults the heroic duo, bad guys are both bad and despicable, really stupid people populate the landscape. Hap and Leonard insult most everyone including one another.

This go around has a neighbor across the street from the duo's detecting business storefront asking for help. She says her teenage son was murdered in a neighboring town and that the cops are to blame. Hap starts asking around the neighboring housing project to talk to a witness and Leonard sorta rescues Hap. They keep asking questions and start getting push back from the local cops. One of those cops is a guy who beat Leonard in a kick boxing match and Leonard is still peeved that the guy won on points.

More things happen with all the Lansdale goodness you could want. Bad cops staging bare knuckle fights and dog fights. Town Fathers and Mothers are in on things. Bad cops murdering people. Bad cops harassing women. Characters with lots of character including a foul-mouthed 10-year-old Leonard proclaims as a 400 Year Old Vampire.

Comments:
1. The plot starting point of the teen boy's death .
2. Teen boy's sister not that great a character, she seemed like more of a throwaway.
3. No big shootouts like in some Hap and Leonard books.
4. Leonard is an asshole and a half. He is always looking for a fight and always willing to insult someone. He's very judgmental as well and will rag on anyone. His volubility and criticizing the black kids in the housing project makes you wonder what we'd think of the guy if he were white.
5. For that matter what criticism has Lansdale run across? Do people read his black characters as a white guy's projections? I don't know Lansdale but have read enough of his work and commentary, and read enough about him, to know he is not a racist a-hole. He seems to not abide jerks though.
6. Good stuff. If you've not read any Hap and Leonard novels I do suggest reading them in order if only because

Finished: "Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat" by Andrez Bergen

Finished: Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat by Andrez Bergen, 2011,9780984559701.

Let me immediately come to the most important point if you decide to read this novel: There Is No Anthropomorphic Goat. The absence of such a goat - as promised to me by the cover illustration - was very disappointing. I still enjoyed the novel though.

Brief: a mix between Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Long: Floyd Maquina lives in Melbourne and works for the government as a Seeker. Seeker are sent to find fugitive Deviants, capture them - or kill them if needed, and get them sent away. At a population of 20 million people Melbourne is the biggest city in the world. Melbourne is also the only city in the world after an unexplained mini-apacolypse. There is a constant acid rain, a domed section of the city for The Rich, collapsing insfrastructure, and other dystopian stuff.

Floyd is in a bad way. His wife was struck sick by a plague and he joined the Seekers to cover his wife's Hospitalization costs. Yes, the novel capitalizes all those words. Maquina drinks A LOT, smokes too much, hates his mother, gets along with his sister, and has blacked out the memory of when he killed a Deviant.

Floyd associates most everything with old movies. He is particularly found of actor George Saunders, The Third Man, and other films running from about 1930 to 1960. Floyd ends up in trouble with his employers over his drinking but gain a sudden celebrity status when a news reporter and cameraman join him on a stake-out and the resulting half hour show is a hit. Floyd also starts getting into more trouble and has to figure out what is happening

I liked the book. It's a neat SciFi unlike the space epics and military shoot-outs I've usually read. More Philip K. Dick than David Drake. The novel is more about the character of Floyd. Missing his wife and boozing it up. Shutting himself off from the world. Mostly hating his job of taking "Devaints" and sending them to a short life in prison. Fearing his employers will mark him a Deviant. Slowly tracking down Deviants in the run-down areas of Melbourne.

Comments:
1. Purchased for the library in 2012 after a Bill Crider recommendation.
2. Similarities with the setting of Sleepless got me confused. Both plots involve a civililation slowly falling apart with infrastructure and government services failing or non- existant.
3. Bergen's narrator name checks multiple actors, books, writers and films throughout the book. Bergen provides a glossary, bibliography and filmography at the end.
4. According to my magic internet box Bergen has three other novels. Tobacco was his first novel and his second One Hundred Years of Vicissitude is available from the library's digital collection.

Quit Listening: "In the Woods" by Tana French

Quit Listening: "In the Woods" by Tana French, 2007, Overdrive.com download.

My phone's Micro SD card stopped working which means I do not have access to the damn novel. I was at least half way through and very much enjoying the story. Either I'll get the damn Micro SD card working or I'll have to buy another Micro SD card and wait in line to check out In the Woods  again.

On Saturday I went by Walgreens to just buy another Micro SD before I drove the five hours north to Hayward, WI for a mountain bike race. I found the memory card display and - Hey! That Micro SD is on sale for $17! So I grabbed the card, got in line, and picked a couple packs of gum from the impulse buyer's rack.

As the cashier rang up the sale both the gum and memory card came up at a higher price. "You'll need to enter your 'advantage' number for the sale price."

I key in my phone number and the gum price is now cheaper, but the Micro SD is still $30. Turns out the shelf labeling was poorly arranged and the $17.99 sale price is for a different brand of memory card. So, I accept that new item, pay for my stuff, and go home.

I get home, evict Boy #2 from the computer, and sit down to open the package and get the SD card working for an audiobook download. Nope. The sale item was for an SD card, not a Micro SD. I ended up buying a damn SD by mistake. An SD card, of course, is 4-5 times too large to fit. Damn it.

I did end up clearing off some of the phone's internal memory and downloaded Edgar Burrows's  John Carter of Mars and Sleepless by Charlie Huston.  I quite listening to Sleepless a year or two ago (Correction: three years ago) but am enjoying it now.

Still reading? Have you seen the news about those new corduroy pillows? They've been making headlines.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Heard: "Shoedog" by George Pelecanos.

Heard: Shoedog by George Pelecanos, 1994, Overdrive.com download and I do not recall the audio pub year.

A good book. Plenty of Pelecanos style with nihilists, family men, drifters, journeymen crooks, and guys who dig clothes, women, cars and music.

It's 1994 and Constantine is back in D.C. Constantine bolted town once he was old enough to join the Marines. His alcoholic mother was long dead and his father didn't much give a flying fuck about Constantine. After three years in the Corps Constantine hit the road. Working bar and restaurant jobs Constantine stayed in South Carolina long enough to earn  B.A. After that he traveled the United States, Pacific countries, South America (or maybe not) and into Europe. It's about 15 years later and Constantine has drifted into the D.C. area. When his car breaks down Constantine hitches a ride with a guy pushing 60 and they make friends.

Constantine and the guy, Old Guy, head out to a big house in the country where Old Guy rings a bell at the entry gate, demands his $20,000 and gets the shove off - literally - by a couple goons who tell him to come back tomorrow.  Old Guy is a long time heister and robber. He tells Constantine that the money is as good as in hand. When Constantine and Old Guy return the next day they got a job offer from Crime Boss to do a simultaneous pair of liquor store robberies. They accept the offer.

Meanwhile, Raymond is at work slinging shoes at a popular D.C. shoe store. Raymond is a slick salesman with regular customers. He scopes out the buyers, steals customers off other salesman, and jealously guards with regulars. Raymond is "asked" to be a wheelman by Crime Boss.

The rest of the characters are introduced: lifetime losers, guys in debt to the crime boss, lifelong crooks, Crime Boss's kept wife, so on, so forth. The focus starts with Constantine and then shifts among Raymond and a few other characters about 1/5 of the way in.

Pelecanos always seems to lay heavy on music, fashion, and pop culture of the time. Both for this novel which was contemporary and the other historical settings he uses. Men are always chasing women and usually taking them for gratned. Close friends talk about everything. Muscle, power, and prestige are very important.

Comments:
1. While searching the Google box to recall character names I saw that a movie version is listed in IMDB as pre-production with a recent update in May. But, I also read a announcement from 2011 about a production to star "P Diddy" and actors from The Wire. Who knows what is going on.
2. I do not keep track of regular characters from Pelecanos novels. I do not know where this novel fits in.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Finish: "Gun Church" by Reed Farrel Coleman

Finish: Gun Church by Reed Farrel Coleman, 2012, 9781440551703.

I really enjoyed the first part of the story but the ending was far fetched. Even more far fetched than The Complaints which I just wrote my notes about.

Former 1980s wunderkind author Kip Weiler barely survived his years long binges on cocaine, women and booze. His literary career started huger and petered out as he self destructed over several years. Kip's novels got worse, he stopped writing and he was fired from several university teaching jobs until he landed in a Nowheresville community college.

Kip has cleaned up though. The depressed mining town he lives in does not have the drugs and women and nightlife that set him off before. He has spent seven years teaching writing classes and his fame only goes as far as the bookstore remainder bin.

Kip's been killing time in Brixton County Community College. He holds no long term relationships or friendships beyond cheating wives, short term adjunct professors, and the occasional co-ed. He's been pining for the wife who left his drunken, coked up, philandering self ten years ago.

That all changes when a student pulls a handgun out at the end of Kip's class and holds everyone hostage. Kip is not gun guy but recognizes the gun from when he had to pick a gun for a character to write about. Kip engages the student in conversation, grabs the revolver, urges everyone to flee the classroom, and watches as a police sniper shoots the gun wielding student.

After those heroics Kip spends a couple weeks back in the national limelight. He goes on TV, articles are written, and Kip has reason to write again. Even more: Kip's agent calls for the first time in years. Even, even more: the super hot co-ed in Kip's class comes on to him, gives him a blowjob and takes him to Gun Church.

Hidden within a hangar on the local abandoned military base is a concrete block structure where Gun Church takes place inside a room padded against sound. On Kip's first night at Church he witnesses two men wearing Kevlar vests duel with handguns. Gun Church is like Fight Club - but with guns. Kip is an addict the rush of firearms and dueling juices him up.

Kip is also juiced up by the Hot Co-ed, who he calls St. Pauli Girl. Kip makes best friends with a 20-year-old student named Jim who runs the Church, teaches Kip to shoot, and gets Kip to start jogging every day. Kip keeps writing. Kip plays house with St. Pauli Girl. Kip's career has a chance at resurgence as his new fame makes his backlist republished.

Then things go weird. Kip moves back to New York. Kip reconects with ex-wife. Kip thinks he hears Jim's distinctly sounding F150. The book turns into an evil mastermind novel with Jim as an obsessed fan. Jim pulling the strings. Jim killing off people. Jim setting up Kip for murder. Jim thinking Kip should be the 80s gonzo that Jim sees him as.

The entire conspiracy plot was silly. I did not care too much though. I rolled my eyes at the 20-year-old Jim having a years long plan to set-up Kip. That Jim forced St. Pauli Girl to bang Kip. That Jim did all sorts of underhanded scheming. That St. Pauli Girl really did love the much older Kip and Jim forced her to do what she did.  I ignored that and rolled along with the story.

Comments:
1. I just saw that this was published by Tyrus Books. Are they still around? Let me check... nope. I recalled that they were bought a while ago. Simon and Schuster was the final owner and closed them down in April of this year.
2. Ben Leroy started Tyrus and before that he began Bleak House. Both publishers put out a lot of books I enjoyed. Leroy was, maybe still is, based in Madison and Bleak House sent us something once, maybe something simple like bookmarks.
3. A few days ago someone checked out one of Coleman's books that he wrote under the Tony Spinosa name. The two Spinosa books were good fun, I liked those.

In My Ears: "The Complaints" by Ian Rankin

In My Ears: The Complaints by Ian Rankin, 2009, Overdrive.com download.

I am not sure how many Rankin novels I have read or heard. I did watch a couple of the Rebus movies/episodes with John WhatsHisNameFromScotlandWhoWasInTheMummyandAgentsofSHIELD. According to Rankin's web page he has published 38 novels. That is a lot of books. If he cannot find a foot ladder he could stack all those books up and reach a high shelf.

This is the first novel in the Malcom Fox series. I don't think I've met anyone named Malcolm. I heard this novel a while ago and I enjoyed the book. I also do not recall too much about the plot so I won't give a long summary like I usually do. After all, these notes are for me more than anyone else who might read it. That sure doesn't stop me from checking the statistics on the blog.

Malcolm is a single cop in Scotland working for internal affairs - The Complaints - and he is asked to help the secretive sex crimes unit from across the hall. Sex Crimes has word that a Scottish cop named Breck is involved in a online pedophile ring. Malcolm already investigated a different cop from Breck's  division and Sex Crimes figures Malcolm can use that as excuse to feel out Breck without Breck getting suspicious and destroying evidence.

Breck also gets romantically interested in the Sex Crimes detective, WhatsHerFace. WhatsHerFace gives Breck plenty of information to convince Malcolm that Breck may be guilty. Malcolm also has to deal with the violent death of his sister's physically abusive partner. The abusive partner was found beaten to death at a construction site and now Malcolm, protective brother, is being investigated.

Spoiler Ahead.
Pretty soon things start to go bad for Malcolm and Breck. They are both suspended from work and it looks like they are being set-up by a higher up. The whole set-up plot is a bit far fetched. The idea being that a friend of the guy investigated by Malcolm is trying to help the guy out by fucking with Malcolm. Or something. I cannot recall exactly.

The story of Malcolm and Breck working together to unravel the conspiracy is interesting but the concept of the set-up is baloney. The conspiracy plot relies on several assumptions about Malcolm and Breck and how they'll get along, and how they'll react under certain circumstances, and how everyone else will do everything else, how how how.

Comments:
1.Still an enjoyable novel - just gloss over the nonsense bits - but after having thought about it I do feel let down by the ending.
2. Rankin gives you his usual interesting characters.
3. Narrator did pretty well except, if I recall correctly, one or two women characters were not well acted.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lansdale: "Fender Lizards" Joe R Lansdale

Lansdale: Fender Lizards, 2015, 9781596067172.

This is really a Young Adult novel. But, it is a Lansdale novel so that doesn't matter because the book is very good no matter the intended audience.

17-year-old Dot is a roller skating waitress at the Dairy Bob drive-in restaurant in a small East Texas town. Bob, owner of Dairy Bob's, calls the skating waitresses Fender Lizards. Or, maybe that was Dot and her co-workers - the name doesn't really matter.

Dot has left high school and lives in a trailer with her mother and grandmother. Dot works the max 6 hours a day the law allows a minor to work and then she works a few more hours under the table. Dot's sister, Raylynn, has two children, one ex-boyfriend who ran off, and a current boyfriend who is a lay-around lout. Dot still wonders what happened to her father who went out for a pack a cigarettes and never returned. Dot is still quite angry with her missing father who went for cigarettes and has been missing for 10 years.

One day a guy named Elbert shows up and declares himself the father's brother. No one knows who the fuck Uncle Elbert is, even though he claims he is the missing father's brother. He convinces Mom and Grandmom but Dot doesn't much like Elbert. Elbert ends up parking his van there and staying. Elbert wants to help out the family now that he is out of prison for bank robbery. Dot is not impressed with a failed bank robber.

Things drag on for Dot. She bashes her sister's boyfriend with a piece of lumber after the borfriend bashed Raylynn with his fist. This ends Dot up in court with a week's worth of labor at the local animal shelter (which she enjoys). Dot then reads a carnival poster announcing a cash prize for any roller derby team to play and win against the carnival's roller derby team. Well, now Dot has a goal. She talks about the idea to co-workers and they are interested. She tells Uncle Elbert who reveals his past job experience as a skating clown and roller derby fan.

Meanwhile, Dot keeps wondering about her father. She partly wants to beat him to a pulp. She partly wants to hug him as hard as she can. When she tries a simple web search she discovers he lives less than an hour away. Dot and Elbert go to visit her dad. Things happen and I won't give them away.

Another fine story by Lansdale. He always handles difficult family situations and love affairs with a rough grace. His heroes and heroins know when they've done wrong and try to do better, even though they'd rather hit someone with a piece of lumber. His characters recognize their foibles.

Foibles.

Also Heard: Ritual by Mo Hayder

Also Heard: Ritual by Mo Hayder, 2008, audio download from Overdrive.

I listened to this a while ago so forgive a brief synopsis and comments.

Hayder's police officer Jack Caffery has left London and headed west to Bristol. He sold his family home, broke up with his London girlfriend and has been living a solitary life except for visits to local prostitutes.

Caffery is called to a local riverside (either the Severn or the Avon, I do not recall) where a hand is found in the water. The police dive team that recovered the hand is led by a young sergeant. The Sergeant is pixie sized, full of energy, and emotionally rocky after the accidental scuba dive drowning of her parents a year or two ago.

Caffery starts working the case as Diver starts to nose around herself. There is a connection between the hand, drug addicts, and African magic that uses animal and body parts. Another victim is found and Diver and Caffery end up teaming up and finding a link among drug dealers, African witchcraft, and deadly religious fraud and extortion.

Caffery and Diver are attracted to each but do not try to romantically engage. Hayder is very good about writing about spoiled relationships and missed relationships. People regularly miss the cues of other people. Hayder sets things up very well so that the reader knows the desires of the characters and roots for the characters to resolve their problems, but Hayder then dashes your hopes as characters misinterpret, lie, get false information, or just miss opportunities. Missed opportunities are another thing Hayder seems to enjoy giving us. This is the third Caffery novel and a previous one had a horrific tale of child sexual abuse and slavery where Caffery's long lost brother is revealed to be alive with Caffery just missing finding the now grown brother.

Hayder's books read like horror as much as crime or mystery. There are some supernatural elements to each book and she can really crank up the dread and scares.

Comments:
  • I was reminded of several songs or bands when listening to this.
    • Hayder references the city of Portishead. Although I don't think I ever heard any music by Portishead.
    • A character is near Salsbury Hill at one point. 
    • There was a third connection by I connect recall it now. Probably a place name that shows as a song title or lyric.
  • I kept spelling Caffery as Cafferty. Cafferty is flagged as a misspelling but Caffery is not.
  • Bristol is across Bristol Bay from Cardiff. I just read or heard a Cardiff book. Or movie. I cannot recall what.

Short Stories: "Public Library" by Ali Smith

Short Stories: Public Library: and other short stories by Ali Smith, 2015, 9781101973042.

I read this a week or two ago and cannot say anything too specific about the stories. Smith wrote this when the UK was in the midst of big budget cuts and local councils were closing and selling off local libraries. She relays stories from friends and fellow writers about their experiences with libraries and how important libraries are to learning, literacy, and personal growth.

The stories themselves are all first person - as I recall - and many seemed autobiographical. i do not know if these were intended as nonfic essays or not. Smith's stories deal with emotions. There are is no action or violence. The narration reminisces about family and friends. Talks about regrets. Compares a happy past to a dreary present.

I enjoyed the book more than average. I was surprised by my enjoyment because I checked the book out thinking, "What the hell, I should read this. After a library pays my living." I'm not one of those library people who visit libraries when on vacation. Or reads about library history.

Quit Listening: "Congo Dawn" by Jeanette Windle

Quit Listening: Congo Dawn by Jeanette Windle, 2013 (Overdrive copy).

I selected this novel because I liked the title and cover image. The narration was awful with terrible accents and poor acting. I did not realize this is an inspirational thriller when I checked it out. That's fine I suppose, and I did stick with the story until about half way through the novel.  One character's Bible lesson to the main character had me throw in the towel.

I could have glossed over the Bible lesson - not my bag, man, it absolutely bore me - and the main character's religious crisis if the narration were not so bad. The story was interesting: Former Marine officer takes on military contracting jobs as a translator. She speaks French and Swahili and takes a contract that sends her to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A mining corporation is trying to keep open a molybdenum mine against the attacks of a local guy whose family were killed when the mining corp. arrived. While in Africa the Translator meets the Navy Corpsman she both loves and blames for her Marine brother's death in Afghanistan.

Windle writes well and does a very good job of mixing together: international politics, local thugs, Congo strongmen, faithful missionaries, compassionate doctors, a main character conflicted about her employer and her love for the Corpsman, mining execs who want more money, and mercenaries who are there for the mission and have seen enough death and misery that they do not get involved with local troubles.

Amid all that story Windle lays the schmaltz on thick. Real thick. Vegemite thick. Translator's family troubles with dead parents, a dead brother, a divorced sister, a dangerously ill niece, and holding lots of anger.

Comments:
1. I'm sure someone somewhere liked the narration. I did not like the voices, the accents, the emphasis, most everything. BOOKLIST gave this a starred review.
2. Terrible narration.
3. Rotten narration.
4. According to the online author photo Windle has curly hair. According to my mirror I have thick hair that needs a brush.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Done: "Amsterdam" by Ian McEwan.

Done: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan, 1998, 9780385494236.

This won 1998 Man Booker Prize? What the hell? The "leading literary award in the English speaking world" went to this novel? I'm definitely missing something.

I had not read any McEwan books since I was in grad school and saw a derogatory reference about McEwan in the Times Literary Supplement. I figured, "Heck, I'm checking that guy out!" I then read two of his books and enjoyed them. This is 193 pages of "Let's work the thesaurus and write as thick as possible." There is some black humor here - I think - about two longtime friends in their late 40s who having a falling out and arrange for each other to be killed by some sketchy euthanasia specialists in Amsterdam.

Well, OK. The story could be kinda interesting when discussing UK politics and the press but I still had to force myself to finish what felt like an exercise in navel gazing. Naval gazing I am okay with, that could be interesting. But, endless fixation on your own nonsense is nonsense.

Maybe the whole thing went over my head. Maybe McEwan wrote a parody. I readily admit to taking some things too literally. It's not like sarcasm and caricature are always easy for me to suss out. I'm not going to bother reading any reviews or the Man Booker write-up to see what people say.

Comments:
1. One good thing about the novel is it reminds me of a Len Price 3 song.



2. It also reminds me of a song by Beautiful South.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

E-Book: "Castle Danger: woman on ice" by Anthony Neil Smith

E-Book: Castle Danger: woman on ice by Anthony Neil Smith, 2017, B06XHNPGKL (stupid ASIN number by Amazon rather than a goddamn ISBN let the rest of the fucking world.)

It's neat how Smith's novel are consistently better and better. The stories stay interesting and the pace keeps moving you right along. Smith's characters are insightful and interesting and their thought processes and decisions always make sense even though those decisions may be the actions of an idiot or a desperate panicked nut.

Duluth Police Officer Manny does not get along with his partner (see my views on this at #1, below). Manny also is recovering from severe burns to his groin and abdomen with a accidental fire a few months ago. One day on patrol Manny is tuning out his partner and thinking about his genital trouble when they get a call for a body fished out of frozen Lake Superior. 

On arrival they discover the dead person is a thin women dressed in tight, skimpy clothes and wearing a snowmobile helmet. As Manny's partner starts poking around and searching the corpse Manny and Partner see that the corpse is a man dressed as a woman. The partner and the corpse then fall through the ice into the lake and the corpse is lost.

Things happen. Manny is intrigued and starts to poke into the case. The detectives on the case tell Manny to take a hike but Manny is personally and sexually fascinated by the transsexual lifestyle of the dead person. Manny has unresolved issues and slowly lets on how he dressed in women's clothes as a teen and spends hours each evening masturbating to online transsexual porn. Manny gets a new partner, WhatsHisName.  WhatsHisName and Manny do not get along.

Manny visits some gay bars and asks questions. Manny ends up visiting a secret club for trans people and their lovers and is warned off from asking more questions. The warning comes with a beating. Manny has bumbled his way into a murder conspiracy and sexual secrets. Manny thinks he knows who the now missing victim was. Manny wants to solve the case. Manny wants to transition to woman but is scared. Manny is full of feelings. [I first typed 'fool' instead of 'full'. Manny is also a fool.]

Trouble ensues. Along the way Manny decides, "Damn it. I've had enough. I'm going to transition to the woman I am." Manny gets grief from both the straight and queer sides as he starts his process. The cops call Manny a fag and the queers think he is faking it and an untrustworthy bastard. Manny has to figure out how to wear stockings and skirts. But, Manny also starts feeling like herself. Manny has only her partner, WhatsHisName, to turn to as more hijinks ensue. 

More things happen but I won't turn the plot into a grocery list.  Like other Smith novels this is a neat one. Smith does tend to go over the top in comparison to other writers but it always fits his style and plots. I'm not always pleased with the third or fourth sections of his novels. I don't know why. I'm thinking the pace and fury wear me out.


Comments:
1. Keep in mind that Smith kills off what is obviously the best character in the first chapter of the book when Manny's partner drowns in Lake Superior. Hopefully Smith will find a way to bring that character back. He was the absolute best. The best! 
2. Geographical love. 
3. Cold weather love.
4. Rarely realistic look at what happens when you don't use a holster for your pistol.
5. Book #2 is listed on Amazon with a October 10, 2017 pub date.
6. Smith has covered the topic of sexual identity and preference before. It's a subject he is very good at writing about. It's also a topic that I don't often read about in the other fiction I read.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Done: "Sway" by Zachary Lazar

Done: Sway by Zachary Lazar, 2007, 9780316113090.

I was looking something up about the Manson Family. One of the women, maybe. As I was reading I came across an article about Bobby Beausoleil. Beausoleil participated in the July, 1969 murder of Gary Hinman who was a friend of the group. I saw a reference to this novel about how Beausoleil was connected to the Rolling Stones. I figured, "Okay, maybe the Stones were pals with Dennis Wilson and somehow the Stones hung out with Beausoleil." Nope. The connection is more tenuous.

Anyhoo. Here is the plot. Told from the POV of Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Beausoleil, Kenneth Anger, Anita Pallenberg, and maybe a couple others.

Beausoleil is drifting up and down the coast with his teenage girlfriend when they meet up with the Manson group. Before that Beausoleil was the kept teen lover of filmmaker Kenneth Anger at Anger's San Francisco apartment. Anger filmed Beausoleil with the intention of having Beausoleil as the lead in Anger's next short film.

Meanwhile, Brian Jones is leading the Stones. Jones was a bit of a jerk. Many people already know Jones could be difficult. But, the girlfriends he used to punch-up would certainly accuse me of being way too nice. (They are correct.) Jones's drug problems and personality issues drive Mick and Keith start writing songs and leading the band.

Kenneth Anger grows up in the Los Angeles area, loves Hollywood gossip, and hits the art world fame circuit as a 20-year-old with the short, heavily homorerotic film Fireworks.

Comment --- If you decide to read the novel you may be like me and want to leave the book to research the many people, places, events, and things involved. I tried watching some of Anger's flicks and my damn internet connection is all screwed up and the film keeps pausing. That really ticked me off ---- Comment

Anger doesn't make much money at film but moves alternately lives in NY, LA and SF. He falls hard into infatuation with Beausoleil and struggles to complete his film. Anger has a fascination with bikers, sailors, motorcycles and cars, and Satanism. Anger's friendship with a London art dealer introduces him to the Stones and he makes friends with Mick and the rest and tries selling Mick on helping with his latest work.

Anita Pallenberg is dating Brian Jones. Anita seems like a fairly nice lady with a not-so nice guy and a fondness for party drugs. Anita ends up leaving Brain and moving in with Keith Richards. Anita also makes friends with Anger.

More things happen and their is this 1960s mix of drugs, casual sex, making friends, black magic, and a fascination with Satanism and violence. That distant and theoretical fascination with violence comes to head with reality after Altamont and the Tate-LaBianca killings.

Comments:
1. I thought the novel bogged down in spots with literary bother. Characters dreaming about the universe and love and whatnot. Bleah.
2. Except for Brian Jones all the characters were all still alive at time of print. Only Anita Pallenberg has since died, that this past June. Kenneth Anger is now 90 and still giving interviews. Anita and Keith had three children. I did not know one child died of SIDS as a 10 month old.
3. No mention of Hollywood Babylon.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Totally Forgot: "City of Thieves" by David Benioff

Totally Forgot: City of Thieves by David Benioff, 2008, Overdrive download.

Audiobook I completely forgot to put down notes for. I listened to this in June or July. A good book. Spoilers await.


Lev is a teenager in wartime Leningrad. During the winter he and his friends see a German pilot parachute down. They check out the body and Russian Army troops show up. The kids scram because people are regularly shot for any kind of looting or pilfering. Lev is caught.

Lev ends up being told by a Russian Colonel of Intelligence that Lev can save his life if Lev can find a dozen eggs for the upcoming wedding of the Colonel's daughter. Lev is paired up with the slightly older Kolya. Kolya considers himself a man of the world. Kolya claims he is: a great poet and writer, a lady killer, and knowledgeable about most everything in the world.

Lev and Kolya head out into Leningrad with a few hundred Rubles and hoping to score eggs on the black market. Armed with a military pass signed by the widely feared Intelligence Colonel they avoid some trouble but strike out on getting eggs.

Lev and Kolya stay with Kolya's friends. Kolya has loud sex. Lev feels nervous about his virginity. Lev and Kolya decide to use the pass to leave Leningrad and travel into the German occupied areas where a nearby town is supposed to have an egg farm.

Things happen. Lev and Kolya end up in a cabin where the young women are housed as sex slaves for the dirty, rotting, stinking, no good, filthy nazis. Lev and Kolya ended up with a partisan unit. Lev goes lovey-dovey for a young woman in the partisans. There is violence. There is cold weather. There is capture by and escape from the dirty, rotting, stinking, no good, filthy nazis.

Lev and Kolya get some eggs and head back to Leningrad. Kolya is shot and bleeds to death. Lev drops off the eggs to discover the Colonel already has already collected several dozen. Lev meets back up with partisan girl and lives happily ever after.

Comments:
1. The novel was pretty good and I enjoyed the narration. I presume there will be nothing new from Benioff for a while because he works for Game of Thrones.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

YA Story: "City of Angels" by Kristi Belcamino

YA Story: City of Angels by Kristi Belcamino, 2017, 9781943818433.

Belcamino sometimes ends up in my Facebook feed. Belcamino lives in MN and writes mysteries so I figured to give a novel a try. Well, I was expecting an modern day adult crime novel set in Minnesota. Nope. It's a YA novel set in 1992 Los Angeles. Well, those false expectations were my own faulty and the novel was a pretty decent YA novel. I was hoping for more adult than young. So it goes.

17-year-old Nikki Black left Chicago for Los Angeles by tagging along with her brand new boyfriend. Boyfriend is in his twenties and works in the film industry. He brings Nikki to Famous Director's house in Malibu. Nikki finds out Famous Director has some violent kinks and that Boyfriend is there to help Famous Director film Nikki for a private feature. A very private feature. A tie-down-Nikki-and-film-her-rape feature. That's not good.

Nikki bolts and as she escapes their evil clutches she finds 12-year-old Rain. Pink haired Rain was a captive in Famous Director's Malibu beach house and they both escape into the night and end up in downtown Los Angeles. They find a room in a cheap residential hotel and Nikki constantly thinks Boyfriend and Famous Director are out to catch her.

Nikki makes friends in the hotel with a mix of artists and musicians and finds waitress work at a neighboring restaurant. There is the usual YA grab bag of 'exotic' characters - meaning musicians, poets, a former model, street people, a drunken cop, celebrities - and Nikki having to face life as a lonely adult. Rain runs away after a fight with Nikki and Nikki spends the rest of the novel trying to find Rain - who Nikki is sure was kidnapped.

Things happen with sputtering and stalling love affairs. Danger. Scary adults preying on children and teens. Nikki stuck blaming herself for family deaths when she lived in Chicago. Nikki going it alone. Nikki accepting help from her new friends. A Scientology-like church that Nikki is convinced is involved with Rain's disappearance. Mystery murders. So on. So forth.

Don't get me wrong. I liked the book as a YA novel. But, I kept reading the story as an adult novel - which it isn't. Belcamino wrote this for teens. The characters are struggling with young person problems and look at things through a young person's eyes. I just wasn't too keen on that as I read.

Comments:
1. Belcamino wrote some neat observations on people and character motivations. But, I forgot what they were.
2. As I type the air blowing in from outside smells kinda like cooked turkey.
3. This is the only Belcamino print copy available in the library catalog. There are two ebooks from her adult series. I just searched Baker and Taylor for some other print books and it says City of Angels is out of stock. B&T are sold out with 42 copies on order.  I presume that means the book is selling well, good for Belcamino.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Done: "The Card Catalog" by The Library of Congress

Done: The Card Catalog by The Library of Congress, 2017, 9781452145402.

I do not see many corporate author headings. I'm surprised no main editor is listed. I put this on reserve for some reason I cannot recall. Maybe I felt I should read for library reasons.

Kind of a mini-coffee table book. I would type down the book's dimensions but, curiously enough, the LOC cataloging-in-publication data does not list dimensions. In a book about cataloging no less.

Anyhoo. The book has plenty of nice photos of old books, old cat cards, and other ephemeria. The text is a brief history on libraries and how library records were organized. From listing of title and author to the first methods of categorizing by subject.

Keep in mind that most libraries were stand alone institutions with their own record schemes. There was sharing of information among some institutions but finding information could be difficult. The printing press meant some standardization started by listing title, author, publisher, place of pub., and subject matter were easy to find in the front pages.

Records went from bound books listing collections to initial attempts of using playing cards as cat. cards.  All the way to the ultimately unwieldy size of card catalog collections that necessitated digitization.

The book was interesting enough to me, I don't know if you will care.  The text itself is a pretty fast read as long as no one is interrupting you and you don't mind holding a book with odd dimensions as you lay in bed.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Listened To: "8th Circle" by Sarah Cain

Listened To: The 8th Circle by Sarah Cain, 2016. Overdrive download.

I was thinking this was kinda so-so as a novel. But, I just read this last line in the Kirkus review: This dark debut isn’t for everyone, but it’s great for what it is: tight, well-crafted, and nasty. It nails the noir. Well, they liked the novel more than I did.

The book wasn't bad but the story did not offer anything new - investigative reporter discovers sex crime conspiracy among the wealthy and powerful - and I never felt like I had to know what would happen next. I thought the book was decent but average.

Anyway. Danny Ryan has been in mourning and seclusion for the past 18 months after his wife and young son died in a car wreck. Ryan won a Pulitzer a few years ago for his reporting in Philadelphia and became a famous columnist in the city. Still under 40 years old Danny has been shut up in his big house and doesn't have to work after his wife's millions went to him. One night a car crash in a neighboring duck pond. The driver is Danny's pal and also the son of the newspaper editor. The driver has also been shot, says "Inferno" to Danny, and dies. Well. Dang. That's odd.

Police ask questions. The buddy is buried. An intimidating caller tells Danny that the caller wants a "package" the dead guy gave Danny. Danny got no package. Things happen. Danny discovers Inferno ties into a serial killer case that his abusive, alcoholic, and now dead father investigated with Philadelphia PD. Local cop investigating Dead Buddy's death is a former FBI guy who also investigated Inferno. Inferno leads to expensive sex clubs that also - apparently - deal with child rape and murder. Inferno has ties to people Danny knows, including his former father-in-law who is a U.S. Senator.

Basically, Cain gave us the full list: investigative reporter, sex crimes, murder, violent family past, dead son, dead wife, mysterious and beautiful woman, sex clubs, sociopath serial killer who was in a mental hospital, rich and powerful politicians, rich and powerful man protecting his killer son, plaster faced political wives, so on, so forth.

Like I said, the book isn't bad but it's about average. Cain has skill because I did keep rolling along with the story but I wasn't compelled to listen.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Finally Got To: "Once A Warrior" by Anthony Neil Smith

Finally Got To: Once A Warrior by Anthony Neil Smith, 2014, 9781499714012


I'm sitting at a table in the elementary school gym during picture day for the local school district. We are signing up people for new cards, replacement cards and 'Read Away Your Fines' cards. There have been no takers and I have no other work I can complete using my laptop. So, here you go.

This is the second novel featuring Mustafa and his son Adem. Mustafa immigrated from Somalia as a boy and his son Adem was born in MN. The first novel had college kid Adem embracing Islam and traveling with his best friend back to Somalia to join an Islamic movement. Before leaving the U.S. Adem and that friend murdered a small town Police Officer. Adem's father and the murdered woman's boyfriend traveled to Africa to find Adem and his pal.

-- Interrupted to sign people up for library cards. Good. --

Adem did not thrive with the Islamist nuts in Somalia and ended up taking on the pseudonym of Mr. Mohammed and became a lead ransom negotiator for Somali pirates.  Adem fell in love with a local woman before his own rescue. The woman's face was later burned with acid, she was left in Africa,  and Adem now pines for her. You don't need all this info to read the second novel but there you go anyway.

The second novel starts four years after Mustafa and Adem's return from Africa.  Adem has just graduated college and wants to take a religious pilgrimage to the East. Mustafa is not happy with that. Mustafa's wife, WhatsHerName, is not happy with that. The government will likely not be happy with that. But off Adem goes because he wants to rescue his acid burned would-be girlie friend.

Meanwhile, Mustafa takes a call from the African cousin who helped Mustafa rescue Adem four years ago. The cousin requests Mustafa find the cousin's daughter who has disappeared from Kenya and is now in the Twin Cities as a sex slave. Mustafa quits his job at Target and goes back to the violent street gang he founded, and then left, years ago. Now Mustafa is overthrowing the current gang leader to use the gang as a tool in his search to find Missing Girl.

Many things happen. Mustafa overthrows the young man currently in charge of the South Side Killaz and Mustafa pretends he is the heartless crook he used to be. Adem is played like a fiddle and repeatedly hoodwinked by African pirates, the CIA, and other nefarious types. Mustafa's secret plan to use the gang to find Missing Girl puts him back into violent street work he no longer wants. By finding Missing Girl Mustafa will also be ruining one the gang's main incomes - a sex slavery ring. Adem continues to believe his bullshit fantasy of rescuing Burned Girl, bringing her to the U.S., and showing her how awesome he is.

Both characters are tossed on the seas and spend time reacting when their plans are ruined.

Smith's characters are usually unsettled and shifty. They may have steady jobs and loving families but they are always a hair away from fucking things up or just bailing on life. They are generally untrustworthy and out for themselves. Mustafa is a bit of a change from that because he is driven by family loyalty and love rather than narcissistic issues.

Comments:
1.  The ending leaves Adem's future up in the air.  I don't know if Smith is going to do a third novel or not. He gets rightfully bummed after spends months of work on a novel to get tepid sales.
2. Some things are a stretch: The niece ending up in Twin Cities where Mustafa lives. The CIA with it's all seeing agents everywhere. The FBI and CIA so forgiving of Adem's previous work as pirate negotiator. Adem not being recognized as the famous and infamous Mr. Muhammed.
3. Smith's most recent novel Castle Danger: woman on ice came out two days ago. Take a look, I have the book on my Kindle but am working on a back log of other books.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Heard: "Deadman's Road" by Joe R. Lansdale

Heard: Deadman's Road by Joe R. Lansdale, 2010, the Overdrive.com edition says it was available in 2014. I'm not sure if the 2014 date is a pub date for the audio or the date available through purchase with Overdrive.

Several novellas of Reverend Jedidiah Mercer who travels wild west Texas fighting demons and other evil creatures. Not much to say. There are episodes of Jedidiah fighting evil around the state with vampires, cave trolls, and other deadly beings from hell.

Mercer has been cursed by God to travel the west wreaking Old Testament style justice. Mercer is not happy with God for forcing the job upon him. But, since Mercer was once caught having sex with Mercer's own sister he kinda understands the punishment.

Lots of filthy people. Six gun blasting. Dead horses. Wanton women. An angry Jedidiah Mercer who quickly kills when suspecting danger. Booze. Dust. Danger. So on. So forth.

The real interest in these stories is that Lansdale writes them. If you like Lansdale we'll like this. I liked this.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Withdrawn Novel: "Kiwi Wars" Garry Kilworth

Withdrawn Novel: Kiwi Wars Garry Kilworth,

No one checked this novel out so I had to weed it. I've 2-3 others in the series so I bought this used copy. Comparable to the Sharpe series by Cornwell where Kilworth has Fancy Jack Crossman going from the Crimean War to India to New Zealand.


The books go fairly fast and a lot of what does on in the stories is us reading about soldiering at the time. Kilworth does not go into elaborate plots or mysteries. We get a good dose of historical doings and the author does not focus on personal drama.

Fancy Jack Crossman, British Army mapmaker and spy, is sent to New Zealand in 1862 to help fight an insurrection by the native Maori. Crossman is great as a spy and scout and the three soldiers who report to him don't get along all that well but are successful at their work. The unit reports to a Colonel (hell, maybe it was a Major, I don't recall) and mapmaking is mostly a cover story to hide their real job of gathering intelligence on the enemy.

Crossman and Co. land on the North Island of New Zealand as the English settlers and native Maori are warring over land. The English started coming over several years ago and Maori did not mind. But, now that the English are buying or taking land the Maori are getting pissed off. The Treaty of Waitangi was supposed to settle land disputes and sovereignty but did not quite work out. Since there is not much in the way of inteliigence gathering in this slowly simmering battle Crossman and Co are sent out to make maps.

Things happen. Crossman pines for his wife but gets a Maori girlfriend. Both Crossman and one of his soldiers are lost in the bush. His no-goodnik Private discovers that his no-goodnik brother is now a wealthy no-goodnik in New Zealand. Crossman and a Maori scout go on a 2-week trek through the bush.

Fun stuff.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Paperback Reprint: "The Man on the Balcony" by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Paperback Reprint: "The Man on the Balcony" by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, 1968 from a 1993 reprint with 9780679745969. Translated by Alan Blair.

I am at Boy Scout camp all week. I will not try typing into my magic telephone box. I also cannot find an embed code using the youtube app.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Heard: "The Glass Key" by Dashiell Hammett

Heard: The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett, 1931, audio version is listed as 2011 in Overdrive. That date might be electronic version and not production date.

I cannot recall if I read this before or not. I've always enjoyed Hammett's books but did most of that reading in middle or high school. My interest was always the Continental Op so I think I might have skipped this novel.

As I was listening to the first part of the book I thought, "Hey, this is the plot of Miller's Crossing." Well, yeah. Sort of. The first part of the film is much like the first part of the novel and then the stories diverge. I'm not bothering to research and see if the Coen's credited Hammett.

Ned Beaumont works for Paul Madvig. Madvig is a political fixer in a medium sized town not far from New York. Madvig has most politicians under his thumb and an upcoming election has him working to get his senator reelected. Madvig makes money of the government contract scams and the usual illegal enterprises. Ned Beaumont came to town about 18 months ago, started working for Paul and the two of them became tight.

Ned has been the strategic might behind Madvig's dealings. Ned has the brains and the foresight. But, when the senator's son is beaten to death on the street things start to happen. Ned is the first to find the body and walks up the block to Paul's night club. The first concern is for how this will hurt the election. Paul is concerned how the death will effect his pining and mooning love for the Senator's young daughter. Paul is about 20 years the woman's senior but madly in love with her.

Things happen in a Hammett fashion. People lie. Hoodlums enjoy hurting people. Drinking and smoking are vital to daily life. Hats are worn. So on. So forth. Ned splits from Madvig but still helps him out.

I was struck how Hammett would let us know what characters were thinking. His common tactic was to describe their faces - a droop to a lip, eyes looking elsewhere - but I have not firm examples to type in. Hammett also used the word "mien" several times. That's a word that is fallen out of fashion.

I really enjoyed this novel but do wonder if the author's name was part of that. Are my memories of the first readings of his work stronger than the work? If this were printed under another name would I like it as much? If pigs had wings would they fly? If you give a mouse a cookie will he ask for a glass of milk?

EDIT: OK. Fine. I looked. The Coen's did mix The Glass Key and Red Harvest. That's what I was guessing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Crap, I Forgot One: "The Unburied Dead" by Douglas Lindsay

Crap, I Forgot One: The Unburied Dead by Douglas Lindsay

An Ebook that I'm pretty sure I got for free from the publisher, Blasted Heath. Blasted was an ebook only publisher in Scotland that shut down a few months ago. That's too bad. Anthony Neil Smith spoke highly of the company. I finished this in June. I think.

Detective Sergeant Thomas Hutton is 44 years old, drinks too much, screws around with most any women, has three ex-wives, and lingering trouble with PTSD and guilt from his time as a British Army peacekeeper in the Balkans. So, now you know we're all set up for some standard British gritty noirish noiring in Noir Town.  (But, tell me, what is noir?)

Hutton mostly chose police work while reading newspaper articles about the the daring do of Inspector Bloonsbury, Manly Cop Hero. Several years later Hutton is a detective himself and he knows that Bloonsbury has turned into a bloated, drunken mess.  Bloonsbury did have a brief career resurgence about five years ago after solving a big case but he has now gone back to rock bottom.

Anyhoo.

A killer is on the loose in small(ish) town Scotland. He is slashing women who look like his ex-girlfriend. Well, he slashed one so far. Meanwhile, Hutton is at the police department Christmas bash trying to bed the young lady constables. He fails in his sexual efforts but joins the investigation and also learns of some nefarious goings on from a few years ago. Turns out that Bloonsbury's cop victory five years ago was due to he and his equally despicable co-worker setting up a crime, accidentally killing a victim, and then framing an innocent man to go to prison.

More things happen. Hutton starts juggling women as he shags his superior officer and tries to get on better terms with his second ex-wife. When a couple coppers are killed Hutton wonders if Bloonsbury is killing off his co-conspirators. Or, is the serial killer to blame? Was one cop really killed in a legitimate hit-and-run?

A fun book. I enjoyed the visit with Scottish culture and language. Hutton is well drawn. He's your standard Detective With Issues Who Makes Bad Decisions and I enjoyed it. A couple killings in the novel were a surprise because Lindsay spent enough time with the characters that I felt an impact from their deaths.

There are a couple other books in this series and I should try them out. That or Lindsay's Barney Thomson series.