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."


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, 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 So small things are a bit out of date.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.

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.

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.

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.

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, 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.

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.

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, 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, 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.

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.