Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Pandemic Audio: "I'll be Gone in the Dark" by Michelle McNamara

Pandemic Audio: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.

McNamara really did put together a nice book. She died before completion and the two guys who completed the book did have a different style.

McNamara had nice telling details. She - or maybe the afterword - mentions how she never writes guts and gore, supermarket crime. McNamara does not dwell on crime scene and autopsy details. The horror of the serial rapist and murdered shows through loud and clear.

Impossible to listen to this without thinking about the guy they caught after publication. McNamara was correct in thinking commercial databases like 23 And Me would provide the needed leads. She had many online collaborators and true crime hobbyists who would dedicate themselves to searching but most everything was done with online searching and pontificating. They were not researching the multiple case files that covered several jurisdictions. They were not re-interviewing multiple victims and witnesses.

But, McNamara did get access to case files and interviewed people. She used all the information to great effect. 

Much later thoughts as I finally post this:
1. Unknown crook takes on mythical aspects. He can run like the wind, climb like a monkey, and surveils each night for hours on end. 
2. Rapist/Murderer was awful, awful, awful. So glad he was caught and brought to account.

Pandemic Audio: "What You Break" by Reed Farrel Coleman

Pandemic Audio: What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman, 2017, downloaded from Hoopla.

Second novel featuring retired patrolman Gus Murphy. Murphy is happy living working as a hotel van driver and hotel nightclub bouncer at a second rate hotel on Long Island. He gets a salary and a free room and, therefore, does not have to live in the house that is a reminder of his dead teen son.

Gus is asked via a pal of his to look into why a recent college graduate was murdered. Secondary subplot has Gus assisting his somewhat mysterious co-worker Slava. Immigrant Slava has unusual spy guy skills and some serious guilt. Gus helps Slava and has a dangerous Russian spy guy going after Gus to get to Slava.

Much later notes from late September: 

International intrigue in Long Island at a mid-range hotel by a mid-range airport. 
Gus is still not working through his grief for his deceased son but starts doing so now that he has a new girlfriend he has to send into protection as the bad guys threaten Gus and her. 

Pandemic Audio: "The Acolyte" by Nick Cutter.

Pandemic Audio: The Acolyte by Nick Cutter. 

I could never find a print copy of this and lucked out on seeing this in the Hoopla catalog. Cutter is Craig Davidson's horror novelist pen name. I've really enjoyed the horror books.

I started listening to Acolyte in the van with Boy #1.  Acolyte is set in a dystopian theocracy and the street mob murder of a Muslim man had me turning off the book. The theocracy is 'Christian" based and other religions are either outlawed or ostracized and segregated. The country seems to be split into cooperative City States with rural no man's land patrolled by bandits.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. Cutter puts together a great lead character and a fucked up society. No time to write much more.

Comments:
1. Love means a lot of nothing. No sex, because that is sin. But, the ultra rich have orgies.
2. No booze. But, there is a strong strong black market trade in communion wine and speed. 
3. Being gay means being dead.
4. Theocratic leaders are based off televangelists of mega churches.

Pandemic: "NADA" by Jean-Patrick Manchette

 Pandemic: NADA by Jean-Patrick Macnhette, 1972 (2019 this translation), 9781681373171.

Revolutionaries in early '70s Paris kidnap the U.S. Ambassador to France. Trouble ensues.

This was fun. A neat time capsule. 

  • Revolutionaries differing over politics while teamed together. 
  • Revolutionaries with waning dedication and idealists. 
  • Idealistic revolutionaries vs. realistic revolutionaries. Drunken louts who're there for no reason in particular.
  • Brutal police willing to torture for answers. 
  • Police willing to work nonstop to find kidnappers and murderers. 
  • High end bordellos.
  • Walther PP love.
  • Shoe-string operation with beat up cars and an old farm hideout.
  • Police willing to shoot up the whole damn farm and kill anyone inside. Fuck arresting, charging, and trying; just shoot them.


Pandemic Print: "Solo" by William Boyd

Pandemic Print: Solo by William Boyd, 2013, 9780062223128.

I've done more listening than reading over the past six months. I started this one and got right into it. The cover design is very well done.

Bond is getting close to fifty. It's 1968 (69?) and M has given Bond a rather vague assignment to West Africa where he is to use his cover as a journalist to enter a breakaway republic and 'influence' the commanding General into defeat. 

My history of Africa is like most Americans: piss poor. But, I did figure out Boyd is fictionalizing the Biafra conflict. I'd heard of Biafra but knew nothing of it. Biafra was a breakaway attempt by part of Nigeria to form Biafra in the massive river delta. The delta was also a newly discovered and massive oil field desired by Euro and US oil companies. There was fighting and mass starvation. 

Anyhoo. Bond heads South as a journalist for a French press agency since France was inclined to support Biafra. Before leaving Bond plays woo-woo with an actress in London. Bond has the sexy-sexy with his English contact in Nigeria-Stand-In-Country. Bond heads into Biafra-Stand-In-Country. Bond meets cruel bad guy mercenary. Bond finagles his way into the confidence of Cruel Mercenary and Biafra-Stand-In military dudes. Bond is found out, shot, and left for dead as Biafra-Stand-In collapses under final attack by Nigeria-Stand-In.

Bond is rescued by Brit military advisors (tank crew) with the Nigeria-Stand-In Army. Bond goes to recuperate in private clinic. Bond is out for revenge. Bond does the sexy-sexy with Actress. Bond heads to Washington DC under cover and without authority: his is solo. Bond has more sex-sexy. Bond buys an anachronistic OC spray. Bond has fights. Bond kills. Bond wins.

Comments:

1. This was fun. And I enjoyed reading about 50-year-old political shenangins and realpolitick rather than the current day bullshit.

2. Two stories: A. Africa and B. Revenge.

3. Lots of British car love for Jensen Interceptor and Interceptor 2 and FF variant. I just did a quick search and the Interceptors for sale by Hemmings really range in price. From $10,000 to $160,000. 

4. Mustang Mach 1 love. Hemmings has those ranging at $31,000 to $60,000. I used to see the Mach 1s kinda regularly in the '80s.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Pandemic Audio: "The Last Good Guy" by T. Jefferson Parker

 Pandemic Audio: the Last Good Guy by T. Jefferson Parker, 2019, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I really enjoyed the Charlie Hood series and after Parker ended that I took awhile to try another of his books. This showed up as I was canning through the catalog so I figured to try it out. Third in the Roland Ford series.

Ford is a PI in San Diego. His wife died when her private plane crashed into the Pacific. He quit the San Diego PD after a shooting involving his partner. He was in the Marines for several years and fought in the first Battle of Fallujah.

Ford is hired by a women to find a missing teen girl. The client is the girl's older sister and guardian. Client is a bit of a weirdo but really good looking. Client tells tale of highly successful TV preacher being after the girl. Ford looks into things, gets snot beaten out of him, so on, so forth.

Parker has a real skill at letting us know his characters and he always puts the San Diego (and the rest of Southern California) setting to good effect. 

Comments:

1. More muscle car love.

2. Recurring Parker themes of fighting realistic venality and corruption.

3. No magical realism of later Charlie Hood novels.

Pandemic Audio: "Leviathan Wakes" by James S.A. Corey

Pandemic Audio: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, 2011, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I started watching The Expanse TV series on Amazon earlier in the pandemic. I enjoy the show, it is very well done. So, why not try the book?

Result: the TV show is actually more in-depth for the characters and politics and details of life in space or low gravity. I'm guessing that later novels in the series cover the same time period but with different characters and that the TV show blended all those characters into one narrative. That's a guess though.

Anyhoo. Space has been colonized. Mars and Earth have been feuding for decades and narrowly averted a disastrous war about 10-20 years ago. Mars is not a military dictatorship but their society has been built upon a single goal of terra-forming Mars. Kinda like Israel with kibbutzes and the strong drive for self-defense.

Earth is overpopulated, has one government, and looks down on the martial Martians and the Belters.

"Belters" live in the low-gravity asteroid belt or on the moons of outer planets. Belters mine for the water and other resources needed to survive outside Earth. They looked down on by the Martians as well as Earthers.

Mix it all up and you've basically got colonists and imperialists fighting over resources, government  representation and limits of authority, and independence.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Pandemic DNF: "When Deadly Force is Involved" by Bruce M. Lawlor

 Pandemic DNF: When deadly force is involved: a look at the legal side of stand your ground, duty to retreat, and other questions of self-defense by Bruce M. Lawlor, 2017, 9781442275287.

I read a quarter of this and never got back to it. Interesting questions addressed and analyzed and legal decisions explained. 

Pandemic: "Last of the Gaderene" by Mark Gatiss

 Pandemic: Last of the Gaderene by Mark Gatiss, 2000 (2013 reprint), 9781939647528.

I was looking for any novels by Gatiss and this came up. This is a reprint after Doctor Who started new production.

What Doctor is this? Ok, the back of the book says Third Doctor. I enjoyed the story: Small village with abandoned airbase is taken over by aliens who want to open a passage to their dying planet to take over earth. Pretty standard stuff I suppose but I enjoy these characters.

Anyhoo. An old pal of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart lives in the village and gives a call asking for help when black uniformed troops employed by a brand new airline arrive in town and take over the base. The new company says they are there to start the airline but they act weird, weird, weird. There are some escapes, a deadly monster in the marsh, Jo works on her own for a while, a village festival.

Comments:

1. Gratuitous Spitfire airplane love.

2. A lot of villagers are killed.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Pandemic: "Smonk" by Tom Franklin

 Pandemic: Smonk by Tom Franklin, 2006, 9780060846817.

Interesting fact: I've read three Franklin novels. Huh.

A crime novel with some vampire kind of thing. I don't know, man, I read this back in April. Or May. Or March.

Smonk is a bad, bad man. Old, short, hunchbacked, syphilitic, tuberculosis, and all around revolting and murderous. It's 1920, or so, and Smonk has been living outside of a town where everyone hates him. He's headed to town to face trial for something-or-other at the saloon where circuit court has been arranged. But, Smonk, being a sneaky and cruel bastard has arranged a machine gun ambush with the gun set-up on a wagon outside the saloon.

Smonk walks away and most of the town is dead. Things move along as Smonk is pursued by the surviving town Deputy. A 14-yeard-old wandering prostitute crosses paths. A Philadelphia (Pittsburg?) fop leads paid group of cavalry who crusade for God. 

It's all kind weird. I liked the book but I think it went a bit long.

Comments:

1. Rifles.

2. Horses.

Pandemic: "The Fort" by Bernard Cornwell

 Pandemic: The Fort by Bernard Cornwell, 2010, 9780061969638.

A stand alone novel about a fairly minor battle in the Revolutionary War. On the coast of what will be Maine some Scottish infantry have moved onto a peninsula. The locals are mostly Loyalists. The Continental Army dispatches Colonial Army and Colonial Navy forces to take back the peninsula and the new fort under construction.

An interesting book but kinda slow. Cornwell cannot just add another battle for excitement so he's stuck - I assume - with a timeline that does not fit a dramatic pace.

Some neat details about the relationships among the Colonial armies and navies and Continental Army. How they did not get along. How they were organized. How training and leadership varied greatly. The different loyalties of locals and how loyalties change. The terror of battle and the difference between professionals and recently enlisted volunteers.

Not much else to say I think I read this in March.

Pandemic: "Rowdy in Paris" by Tim Sandlin

 Pandemic: Rowdy in Paris by Tim Sandline, 2008, 9781594489747.

A withdrawn book I finally go to. 

Rowdy is a professional bull rider at the bottom end of the circuit finally wins a tournament, earns some cash, and earns a buckle. A buckle. He's been rodeoing around The West for years and finally won something of substance (literal and figurative). Now he wants to give that buckle to his young son in WY who he barely knows. 

But, Rowdy's drunken celebration includes a night of threesome sex with two visitors from Paris. When he wakes up he finds his buckle missing. One of the Frenchies took the buckle and are on their way to the airport. Rowdy has no choice but to spend some of that bull championship prize money to follow the women to Paris and track them down at their university.


So, Rowdy heads out to Paris. Meets a cute French student. Meets a weird hippy with a prostitute wife. Meets revolutionaries who hate McDonald's.Spends lots of time figuring out what the hell is going on. Gets into plenty of fistfights. Plays bull in a China shop. Is mostly incapable of adjusting to another culture.

A decent book with a good amount of fun.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Pandemic Audio: "The British Are Coming" by Rick Atkinson

 Pandemic Audio: The British Are Coming: the War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777: the Revolution Trilogy, Book 1 by Rick Atkinson, 2019, Wisconsin Digital Library download.

Typed notes I put in my phone as I listened.

Ben Franklin lived in London 15 years before the War.

Relations to modern life. In many ways so much is always the same. Cost of war for the gov. Hurrying to purchase, store, and ship war supplies. Sourcing raw materials. A 6 week transport across ocean and many vessels lost or the stock animals dying en route.

British were rebuilding and equipping an army after a mostly peaceful period. Something important to remember when reading about how the Colonies took on the world's greatest empire.

Prime Minister North had less then 2 voters in his parliamentary district. He also bought votes for supporters with parties on election day

General Gage served 20 years in America. An American wife and owned lots of land in America, Canada, and West Indies.

1775 had English soldiers bored. Lots of cheap booze and desertions.

Refugees from Boston during siege of. Passes to exit city w no place to go. British would refuse exit to deter bombardment by Continentals. Business shuts down.

Bunker hill attack by British was a chance to gain high ground outside Boston for some relief. And then use the high ground to attack out from the Boston area. The Brit plan soon leaked out.

Bunker Hill at 110 feet overlooking land and water

War as a financial boon. Even payoff is for support, newspapers notably.
More money. Split from Britain seen as a cash opportunity in South for land expansion into Crown lands to the west. Tobacco and slaves brought wealth and big debt. A winning war would nix debt to English banks.
Lord Dunmore in the southern campaign interfered in slave owners hierarchy by getting blacks to join up. His actions threatened a society built on slavery and caused a shitfit. "Join the crown for freedom".

Small Pox. Typhus. Scurvy. Illness issues plagued both sides. Small Pox was a major threat and even though innoculations had been practiced for years they would be forbidden in the army. Soldiers would drag needles through open sores of sick men and then stab themselves. 

Salted food and resupply trouble to renew Boston.
Resupply from England to Boston was sketchy. Live animals died during voyages. Ships were lost to weather and pirates. Food would rot and spoil en route from heat and moisture.
Many ships beaten by the weather and ended up in Antigua

British abandoned Boston after surrounded. Not enough shops to carry every one and thing and abandoned much equip. Some British ships scuttled.
A 330 day siege. Loyalists shipped to Halifax.

After the English retreat Washington saw Boston defenses and knew any attack would have failed.

Ben Franklin visited the Canada campaign?! Dude was 70-years-old and traveled overland.
Continental Army in Canada was worn out. Ultimately retreated with a long trip down Lake Champlain into New York. A lot of time spent discussing the Canadian campaign and it's failures. 

Losses of thousands of Colonials from disease, wounds and misadventure before any large battle with English.

Colonial Generals averaged 2 years experience and English Generals had 30 years

Supply and manufacturing issues including gunpowder. Supplies started to build up in 1776 but Continental Army was very, very short on powder and could not have sustained any fighting. Colonies sent ships to Europe and many powder mills built in colonies.

Odd how political and civil repression of loyalists would be addressed by 1st and 2 and amendments and due process.

Loyalties to colonies of England were across all economic classes.

So much of SC campaign was driven by slavery. Property. Insurrection. Militia originally formed to stop slave rebellion.

Disastrous UK navy artillery attack on Charleston defenses. Dead and wounded (later dying or w amputations) and ships lost.

Side war in South Carolina against the Cherokee who lost another 5 million acres of land.

Southern campaign a failure. Local loyalists stopped being a factor. Ships sent south were not available for up North for breaking problems like the Delaware blockade. Colonial gunrunners sailed unimpeded.

Winter 1777 after Trenton. Re-enlistments rare. Money needed for paying soldiers

2nd battle of Trenton also a success. One I recall reading about. Brits were attacking w Russians. January. Attack failed. Colonial troops sneaked out all 6,000 soldiers under night. No talking allowed and the 150 wagons had wheels wrapped in cloth and rope for silence.
Brit troops exhausted from battle and marching through winter mud. Temps dropped 20 degrees and the mud froze. Frozen mud allowed easier passage for colonial wagons.

FYI: A gil is 4 ounces. 

Pandemic Audio: "Chat" by Archer Mayor

Pandemic: Chat by Archer Mayor, 2007 (2007-ish, I had a paperback).

Mayor kinda tries out a computer angle but not really. This is still a police procedural with crime scene evidence and lots of interviews. Mayor is good at writing police interviews with witnesses and suspects. All the strategy and thinking and experience that is used with people. Mayor's characters recognize their tactical screw-ups during interviews and change tack as needed.

Willie Kunkle as comic relief. Kunkle the long-term grouch who Gunther acknowledges is an asshole and unemployable anywhere else because of it. I wonder if more recent novels reflect societal changes and push for police reform. Kunkle goes beyond the legally allowed lying of police and beats a witness. Kunkle is worse than a flawed character with a heart of gold. 

Anyhoo. Two dead bodies show up in the winter. Middle aged guys with no ID. Police have no idea who they are or why they were in VT. Investigations follows with links to chat rooms and men looking for sex with teen girls.

Pre-Pandemic: "Battle for the Rhine" by Robin Neillands

Pre-Pandemic: Battle for the Rhine: the Battle of the Bugle, and the Ardennes Campaign, 1944 by Robin Neillands, 2005, Wisconsin Digital Library.

I never cleaned up my notes before the Pandemic. Here they are.
----------------------

Montgomery was a good general. Experienced. Well liked by troops. Skilled at planning. Knew importance of supply. Planned his operations in mind that he had a smaller force and had to probe for weaknesses and then collect his troops in number to attack.

Monty has  a bad rep in the US that exists to today. Narrator started about Monty and I thought "oh, that guy" because his reputation as pompous and ineffective has worked down to dilettantes like myself. Monty's reputation in US based off the memoirs of US Generals who did not like the guy.

Monty knew his shortcomings and could accept criticism.

Complex operations of 7 Allied Armies over 600 miles of front. Supplies only coming in from limited port facilities and rail lines destroyed pre-Overlord.

Market Garden a complex operation filled with minor and major trouble that flubbed things up. Many myths about the operation that author works to dispel. Airborne operation were meant to secure the roads and bridges through Holland so armor and infantry could drive on through. Narrow roads surrounded by marsh or flooded country and not enough roads. Thousands of vehicles were queued up on one road. So, when the dirty rotten stinking nazis set up a good defense on the road everything had to stop until the krauts were removed.

If a bridge was not taken the same delays would happen. Primarily in Nijmegen.

Nijmegen priority was 'immediately capture the bridges' in a thunderclap (predecessor of shock and awe?). US Airborne General Gavin instead focused on first capturing the high ground surrounded by thick woods. Gavin's record seems to be of a General tooting his own horn (author mentions how US Generals would often put down Brit efforts and accomplishments). Gavin cited evidence that 1,000 tanks were in the forest. I'm still a dilettante but think of hiding 1,00 tanks which have, what, 4-5 crew per tank? Then add in all the support trucks for fuel, food, ammunition, spare parts, and transport for all the repair guys and supporting infantry. How would you hide that many people in the woods? Besides, when the first groups of the 82nd got there they said the woods were too thick for tanks to operate in anyway.

Drop zones determined by the air force not the paratrooper or glider people. English 1st Airborne had to walk up to 8 miles to the Arnhem bridge.

About 39 planes taken from troop landings to land a headquarters outfit.

So much of war is dealing with allies. Monty was a great planner and soldier but most US people disliked him. The Americans wanted to run things and get credit. Soldiers and politicians were already angling for post-war life and advancement.

Much is made of Antwerp and what could have been a vital supply port. That the competing Generals each had competing plans. Those plans said that the best place to attack from just happened to be where their army was. Monty's plan of attack through the Northwest made plenty of sense. Monty still gets a bad rap from American Generals who use him as a scapegoat for their own foul-ups. But, hey, the winners write the history.

A description of the different top American generals goes into their strengths and weaknesses. Author praises Eisenhower as being the perfect man for the time and place. But, Eisenhower still had weaknesses: he would not issue clear and direct orders, he would not reign in Generals like Patton and Monty who'd forge ahead and ignore some orders.

Bulge: Omar to blame. But, US generals constantly aware of US press and the interests of Congress. Ardennes was a screw-up and they didn't want anyone looking too closely. Talk about the Bastogne bravery.

Monty again requested to be in charge of more troops after his help in getting rid of Germans. There was still not a coherent structure of command.

Huge losses in campaigns. Huertgen forest with 90% and more as replacements were pushed in and carried out

Patton good but not the god he said. Big successes post Normandy because everyone was chasing a fleeing enemy. Patton was chasing through unwanted or unneeded ground. To have him continue would be to go into Germany against heavy defenses.

Bulge as victory. At the best a draw. Especially if arguing krauts lost irreplaceable men and equipment.

Monty couldn't be blamed for the Bulge. It was all Omar Bradley's blame. Monty took the north flank and Patton the south.

Aka Monty got the shaft. Aka let's clear Monty. A lot of time spent clearing Monty's reputation.

Congress and Marshall pushing US presence. Afraid of fuckups being known. Blame the english and monty.

Huertgen meat grinder. Thick forests and everything marked by kraut artillery. Interlocking defenses.
Replacements come in, die or wounded, more replacements. The goal becomes the battle instead of tactics or strategy. This and the Bulge kill a lot of soldiers. 

EDIT: A lot of information about the campaign heading northwest to free Antwerp's port. Lots of heavy resistance and some amazing stories. Much the estuary and the islands are the same as '44 and you can check the battle locations out on Google satellite view..





Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Pandemic Audio: "Sunrise Highway" by Peter Blauner

Pandemic Audio: Sunrise Highway by Peter Blauner, 2018, downloaded off Hoopla.

Nice tie-in to the last couple of Reed Farrell Coleman novels and the true crime book about what appears to be a serial killer of prostitutes working on Long Island, Lost Girls by Robert Kolker.

I'm guessing that Blauner took the real life case(s) of missing and murdered women on Long Island and spun this story.  NYPD detective Lourdes Robles is assigned a case of a corpse in a river. The river is in her jurisdiction. The corpse is likely from Long Island. Robles detects and the Suffolk County PD does not cooperate. Robles is often told how Suffolk does things their way.

This is well done with a sharp look at racism and sexism. A self-aware but deluded serial killer. Local and regional corruption. A serial killer who spends his life looking for ways to manipulate and blackmail the people he needs. A serial killer who has been killing for 30 years.

Really nicely done. We know the killer fairly early and there is a struggle by Lourdes to continue the investigation into a politically connected and very savvy man. Plenty of food for thought about trust and loyalty. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Pandemic: "The Annex" by Russell James

Pandemic: The Annex by Russell James, 2002, 9780786239313.

James has not published many novels. I read Pick Any Title when it came out in 2002-ish and then forgot the damn title. The two common names of Russell and James had me confusing the order and when searching for his works I was replacing them with other names. His web presence is not easy to track down either. Anyhoo. I enjoy his dark work.

Joanna is 20-years-old and engaged to 42-year-old architect Milo in the early '80s (or about that, I cannot recall an exact year). Milo has a man Friday named Florian. Joanna is both appalled and attracted to the haughty Florian. Florian is young with a handsome body but his face is scarred on one side.

Joanna's ex-boyfriend shows up at her apartment and demands to be back in her life. He is persistent. He threatens her impeding marriage. Joanna is fearful that the boyfriend could sour her relationship with Milo. Joanna asks Florian to scare the ex off. Sooooo... we know this will end poorly.

Many things happen and I am amazed at how much of Joanna's life is spent navigating guys who want sex. Or guys who dismiss her as a skirt. Or guys who may just rape her. Florian, meanwhile, cares little for consequences and cannot be reasoned with. Milo is a decent guy but would Mr. Successful stand to handle her scandal?

Joanna grew up in housing estates and wants stability, money, a future. She can have all that with Milo and keeps maneuvering and lying to keep what she can.

Pandemic: "Saturday Night Ghost Club" by Craig Davidson

Pandemic: Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson, 2018, 9780143133933.

Guy named Jake thinks back to the summer he was 12-years-old and living on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. 

Jake is an only child, doesn't have many friends, hangs out with his weird uncle, and relies on his bicycle for freedom. Jake makes friends with a guy whose family moved to town from a Native Reservation. The other guy's sister is pretty, athletic, and brave. Jake goes a bit gooey for her.

Meanwhile,  Jake's uncle seems to be skirting reality. 12-year-old Jack cannot see this and as narrator he had me believing Uncle Calvin is just unique. Calvin ends up having the kids join him on a ghost hunt to different spots in town. Calvin and Co. meet up at night and Calvin narrates scary true stories about events at those different spots.

Anyway. I've really enjoyed Davidson's work over the years. A month or two ago I lucked out and ran across an audio version of the one horror novel is his I could not find. Davidson writes horror as Nick Cutter. I wrote Davidson as much and he wrote back saying "[Thanks, I appreciate the word.]"



Pandemic: "Rough Trade" by Todd Robinson

Pandemic: Rough Trade by Todd Robinson, 2016, 9781943818006.

Boo and Junior are still in their late 20s (or so) and working as bouncers at a lower rent Boston bar. They don't make much money. Their social and work lives are interjoined. One of the bar's waitresses asks them to scare off the former boyfriend of her roommate, Dana, because the ex keeps harassing Dana.

Boo and Junior fumble their way through a overly harsh warning that involves a kidnapping. Then the ex-boyfriend turns up dead and Boo and Junior are the main suspects. Standard crime novel shenanigans follow and Boo and Junior have to figure a way out of a murder charge and a couple subplots. Well, Boo figures a way out because Junior is a bit of an idiot. 

Plenty of wintertime cold, bad guys who beat the snot out of Boo, and Boo facing a reckoning on an anti-gay stance he never realized he had. An anti-gay stance that Junior vocally exceeds. Boo also has to fight his need to rescue women and reason against his knee jerk loyalty to the pals that helped one another survive their orphanage.

Robinson mixes all this stuff together and does so very well. But, I read this quite a bit ago and cannot recall all the details. There were some fist fights. Some scheming. Some pondering. Some amateur sleuthing. Plenty of Boo's past and present coming together as he works to learn and better himself. 

Boo's self realization is well done and gives the story oomph.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Pandemic: "Blood and Cinders" by DDC Morgan

Pandemic: Blood and Cinders by DDC Morgan, 2020, 9781912526680.

This was quite good. Recommended online by Anthony Neil Smith and the knock-out cover and title really sold me.

Post-war London in 1949 and former British Army Officer Reg Calloway is the security boss at a stadium. One of the massive draws at the stadium are the twice weekly motorcycle races. Speedwaycycle racing is a team sport with leather clad riders making 2-3 laps in groups of 4. The novel begins with the Bermondsey Bullets best rider of the season losing control, hitting a wall, and pronounced dead.

The team owner is a sexy, icy, close-to-middle-aged blond. She says there have been rumors that the rider was somehow sabotaged and killed on purpose. She asks Reg to ask around and investigate. Reg does.

Great stuff with lots of period detail. Reg is not the same after the war and most of his life is work. He had a very violent war and keeps his own residual rage and violence tamped down tight. Reg follows clues, asks questions, discovers secrets, follows dead ends. A well done mystery and ending chase.

Comments:
1. Vintage motorcycle love.
2. Vintage motorcycle love had an anachronism according to one production date posted online.
3. Webley love.
4. Gay dudes under threat of beatings, arrest, and prison.
5. Dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking, no-good nazis.

Pandemic: "Overkill" by vanda Symon

Pandemic: Overkill by Vanda Symon, 2007 in NZ an 2018 in US, 9781912374274.\

I've been keeping my eye out for more Symon books but not many are available in the US.

Small town cop Sam Shephard responds to call about a drowned mother in the local river. The woman was the wife of Shephard's former long-time boyfriend. The wife was a quick marriage rebound after Shepherd declined his marriage proposal and moved away.

Shepherd investigates and a rare murder brings in all the regional cops and supervisors. Small statured Shepherd loves police work and took the career against the strong resistance of her family. She deals with some sexism, a-holes, cracks about her size, etc. Shepherd then comes into investigation for the murder.

Things happen and I don't recall too much about them except that I enjoyed the story a fair amount. Nice setting of rural New Zealand and Shepherd is an interesting character.

Pandemic: "Slow Bear" by Anthony Neil Smith

Pandemic: Slow Bear by Anthony Neil Smith, 2020, 9781912526673.

Two things up front:

1. Smith's novels get better and better for each subsequent work.
2. I think Smith is grouchy.

My first point up above reads rough, but you likely get the point. The guy deserves a much wider readership and it is neat to see the French translations are getting an audience.

Anyhoo. Micah "Slow Bear" Cross is a minor character from the novel Worm. He was a cop on his tribe's North Dakota reservation and lost an arm and his job in a shooting. Now he does some one armed strong-arm work and half assed investigations. Slow Bear wants to drink at the local casino and hang out at his trailer he parked in the middle-of-nowhere-prairie.

But, Micah gets involved in some nasty Reservation politics and is forced to look into a rival of the current Chief. Micah is having none of it and as you start to figure the plot will involve Micah as an undercover PI Smith turns the tables. "Turns the tables" means Micah remains himself: he does  not fucking care and says what he is thinking.

Things keep happening and Micah is left to react to trouble. This is a piss poor plot precis but that's too damn bad; we are in a pandemic. I also gave up working pandemic into the rest of that alliteration.

Comments:
1. Post oil-boom North Dakota. How are things going there now? A few years ago public schools were bursting at the seams, housing could not keep pace, fast food shops did bonzo business.
2. Bad guys who just don't care. You are either a piece of meat or a walking ATM.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Hard Case: "A Bloody Business" by Dylan Struzan

Hard Case: A Bloody Business by Dylan Struzan, 2019, 9781785657702.

A new novel from Hard Case Crime.  A retelling of the spread of organized crime in the first half of the Century. A few months ago I read the introductions by Tommy Sobeck, Jr. and the Struzan and got hooked on the concept. Sobeck was pals with former mobster Jimmy Alo from 1970s until Alo's death in 2001. Alo was a friend and partner of Meyer Lansky and introduced Lansky to Sobeck. Sobeck became good pals with Alo and Sobeck even lived with Alo for 1.5 years while Alo's house was under construction.

Alo and Lansky came up together through the street gang years, Prohibition, and all the gambling, prostitution, hijacking, smuggling, extortion and other rackets that spread from New York City. The worked with or competed against mobsters and killers who are still famous today.  Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Dutch Schultz, Bugsy Siegel, Mad Dog Coll, Legs Diamond, and many others. After years of stories by Alo and Alo's mobster pals Alo allowed Sobeck to record their conversations for a book. Sobeck brought Struzan into the project in 1995 and she interviewed Alo until Alo's death 6 years later.

Anyhoo. The novel is pretty neat but a bit long. I say the novel is long but Sturzan likely had to cut out a ton of stories. I've read a decent amount about the gangster wave of the '20s and '30s and enjoyed Struzan's telling. I ended up seeing the mobsters much more as people rather than bad guys. They were certainly plenty of murderers but guys like Lansky and Alo were looking to make money. Violence hurt business.

I finished reading this back in January and don't recall many details or stories. I did learn how tightly connected so many mobsters were. Those relationships have been shown in TV and movies but I thought a lot of that was dramatic license. The friendships and business relationships stayed tight through a lot of activity and turmoil.

I do wish the story had gone further and covered Bugsy Siegel's murder. Oh well.

EDIT: I was often confused when reading this because there are so many recognizable names. A character would appear and I could not recall if the character was already introduced or if I recognized the guy from other books.
EDIT 2: Kinda neat when Valachi shows up and knowing what happens later on. I don't think the famous Coney Island Defenstration of Kid Twist is covered but I sure wanted it to be.

Dr Who: "Earthshock" by Ian Marter

Dr Who: Earthshock by Ian Marter, 1983, Wisconsin Digital Library.

Another audio, but a narrated novelization and not one of the shows with horrible, horrible audio quality and a voiceover. I was thinking this was an original novel but it might be a novelization of a Dr. Who story arc. Look it up yourself.

That's about all I have to say. I'm 7-10 books behind on note taking and writte-ups. I was looking up plot summaries online and am not certain if I am mixing two different audiobooks together.

I do recall this being decent but not great.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Pink Comic: "Bad Weekend" by Ed Brubaker

Pink Comic: Bad Weekend: a Criminal novella by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2019, 9781534314405.

A few weeks ago I drove my wife to work since she hates driving at night and driving in snow. I hung out for four hours and got some reading done. I don't think I fell asleep.  While I was there I checked out the shelves, grabbed this graphic novel, and read it while I sat around all night.

Hal Crane is a famous comic artist and jerk. Crane's professional life has been a series of blow-ups and bad behaviors. One of his former art assistants, Jacob, has been asked/hired to squire Crane around a comics convention in 1997 and Jacob narrates the tale.

Hal Crane is getting a lifetime achievement award at the convention. Crane smokes a lot, pulls a gun on a art dealer, propositions convention women he assumes are prostitutes, helps create fraudulent original artwork for sale, skips out on the panels he is paid to appear on, and otherwise acts poorly. For years Crane's artwork has been widely loved and people tolerate his behavior because of this. Plus, as one characters says, " That's how he kept getting all those inking gigs... getting his editors laid."

Crane spends a decent amount of time trying to find a piece of artwork he lost or sold or something (we don't find out until the final panels). We learn about Crane's professional and personal mistakes and guilt. How his mentor died in a car wreck as Crane rode along. Crane's long estranged adult daughter who wants nothing to do with Crane.

I enjoyed the artwork. Pink is the predominant color - I'm sure there is a reason for that but I don't know what that reason it.

Heard: "Dooku" by Cavan Scott

Heard: Dooku by Cavan Scott, 2019, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

If you don't dig Star Wars stuff just skip the whole damn novel. Otherwise here are my comments.
I figured to try out another Star Wars novel. I greatly enjoyed Kenobi by John Jackson Miller when I listened to that almost seven years ago. Unfortunately no other books have been as good.

This is done as a radio drama, not a narrated book. There are multiple actors, sound effects, music.

Dooku is about Count Dooku of course from his time as a Youngling up until he quits the Jedi and takes on a apprentice. The story is told by his assistant/apprentice Asajj Ventress and Dooku's written and "holo" journals that Asajj is reading. I know nothing about Asajj but she seems to be a regular character on one of the Star Wars cartoons.

Asajj has been told to find Dooku's missing sister. To accomplish the task she has to learn more about the sister and, therefore, Dooku himself. Since Dooku and Asajj are on the Dark Side Asajj is kinda sneaky and reads things she should not have access to.

Things move along as Dooku relays his life as a Youngling at the Jedi Temple. A visit to his homeworld that he left as an infant. Discovering his blood family. Becoming a padawan  So on. So forth.

The novel has the usual Star Wars elements of the Force and the Darkside. There is political intrigue within the Republic and on different planets. For me the main theme is family and the different ways family alliances are built and fractured. Jedi are taken in as infants and allowed no contact with relatives. As a teenager Dooku has a chance meeting with his sister, learns his family rules the planet, that his father hates him, and keeps a secret correspondence with his sister.

Essentially all the Younglings live in a trade school orphanage. They have no outside schooling or friends. As Padawans they will meet and make friends outside the Jedi Order but are still under the strict guidance of a Jedi. Once they do become a Padawan that Jedi is a surrogate parent during their teen and early adult years. All of the Jedi are alone with a lifetime of "sad devotion to that ancient religion".

I suppose Jedi build a family through their beliefs and morals. Within that group they build relationships as friends, comrades, and adherents. But, the infant Younglings start life as infants severed from any loving - or abusive - relatives. How do they children grow up? Who comforts them? Reads to them? Gets after them to brush their teeth and go to bed?

Plenty of families fracture on their own. Jedi relations do that as well when Jedi differ on what actions to take. Defend a planet or stay out of the mess? Act as diplomats or the Lone Ranger? Jedi are turned by the dark side of the Force but also fall victim to somewhat mundane problems of live: gambling debts, romantic attractions, secret side investigations.

Anyhoo. The book is worth your time if you enjoy Star Wars stuff. There is Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn content as well.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Another Strike: "Career of Evil" by Robert Galbraith

Another Strike: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), 2015, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Well, that could have been much shorter. But, when your name is J.K. Rowling I suppose not many editors are going to tell you to cut things down a bit. I don't know if the Cormoran Strike novels are getting longer and longer but it sure feels like it.

Recap: Rowling wrote a thriller under the name Robert Galbraith. The book had some sharp reviews and a minor print run. Then some attorney working for Rowling's attorneys spilled the beans. Rowling, as I recall, got super pissed off about the leak but it also made the book sell like gangbusters. This is the third book in the series.

Cormoran Strike and his sole employee Robin Ellacott have been doing OK since the big press exposure earned after the cases in the first two novels. Rowling still insists on adding a unexplored sexual and romantic angle between the lead characters. I continue to insist that this subplot is stupid because Strike probably smells of nicotine, sweat, and fast food grease.

I do appreciate that the lost-a-leg-in-an-Afghanistan-IED Strike is not the anguished PTSD veteran. Instead, he is a naturally grouchy SOB whose stump hurts from too much standing and walking. Meanwhile, Robin is an unsatisfied person whose personal issues are mainly due to the fella she has been dating for the past 10 years plus her rape from about 8 years ago.

Things start off with Robin arriving for work and signing for a package addressed for her. She gets inside the office and discovers the package is a severed woman's leg. An included note includes lyrics from a Blue Oyster Cult (BOC) tune. So begins a hunt for the bad guy and a many quotes of BOC lyrics.

Strike immediately thinks of 3-4 men who could have done the deed. One suspect is immediately excluded. Another suspect is Strike's former stepfather who was acquitted in the murder of Strike's mother. The last two men are pedophiles and wife beaters Strike dealt with as a military cop with the British Army.

Meanwhile, Robin doesn't much want to get married. Her husband wants her to quit her job, a job that Robin has never admitted to anyone is her dream job as an investigator. Strike and Robin have two paying clients that require long hours of surveillance. The bad guy is shadowing Robin with the intention to kill her as revenge against Strike. More people are attacked. Amputations become a key part of the mystery. So on. So forth.

Both Strike and Robin have flaws and those flaws cause conflict. Strike is a grouch and will not tell people what he is thinking or doing. Robin is resentful to her fiancee and her immediate family. Strike and Robin enjoy each other's company but are workmates, already have romantic relationships, and don't consciously admit any attraction to one another.

Rowling gives us some interesting enough leads, plot, and suspects. All this is swell but the book is too damn long.

Comments:
1. Rowling has written before against transsexual issues. Part of the plot involves people who have a fetish for amputation. The fetish is either a sexual attraction to amputees or people who want to have a limb amputated. Rowling uses much of the same disdainful language used against Trans people with these amputation characters. It's kinda weird and I don't agree with her position on Trans people.
2. The romance and sexual tension storyline is so damn annoying. Ugh. Strike just sounds. Smelling of cigarettes and his hairy body shedding like a dog.
3. Speaking of which: much dog love.
4. Robin's constant feeling of inadequacy.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Old Horror: "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley

Audio: Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, 2008 for the audiobook, downloaded off Wisconsin Digital Library.

An old novel with good legs. The language has not been dated although the language and dialogue are a bit stilted at time.

As I was listening along I got to thinking about how much the film versions created their own stories about Frankenstein and the monster. I also got to thinking about Dave Zelsterman's novel Monster which is told from the monster's point of view and argues that Frankenstein is a dirty liar and dirtbag.

Anyhoo. I think the story stands up and most everything in the story is new to me because they have not been covered in most of the film versions I have seen.

That's all. Give the novel a try if you've not done so. The plot drags a bit compared to modern novels but the story is still a decent time.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Dreary: "Knuckledragger" by Rusty Barnes

Dreary: Knuckledragger by Rusty Barnes, 2017, 9781946502070.

Sheesh, that was a bit dark.

Short version: Small time goon for a Boston crook falls into big trouble with his boss.

Long version: Jason "Candy" Stahl likes eating candy, lifting weights, and works as a collector and people pounder for his loanshark boss, Otis. Otis has a diversified portfolio of crime operations and Candy is on the lower half of the staff rankings. Candy is a big dude and was hired by Otis after Otis beat up a few guys as a bar bouncer.

Candy's sorta girlfriend is a curvy Puerto Rican (Dominican?), Rosario, who is more into Candy than Candy is into her.  One day Candy is hanging out at a public park used by the gang as a meeting place. Candy has made some big collections and is there to pass off money. While waiting he says hello to a comely woman and her young son, Candy then meets with the boss guy who introduces the woman as his wife, Nina.

Turns out Otis the Boss is a very jealous man. Turns out the Wife likes to cause trouble and sleep around. A day later while, Candy is on a short vacation funded by a cash gift form Otis, Otis and a couple goons show up in Candy's hotel room and beat Candy bloody. Otis thinks Candy was making eyes at Nina.

Wellll.... I'm thinking Candy needs to change jobs. Rosario is thinking Candy should change jobs. Candy is thinking he just wants to heal up and maybe get even. Then a couple goons from Boston start following and threatening Candy for Candy's work with Otis that involved pounding on another crook. Things are looking dicey. Candy and Rosario's trip to New Hampshire (Vermont?) is getting spoiled. Rosario is making girlfriends sounds.

Things happen. Things devolve. Candy and Co. go on the run. Murders happen. Fear is deep.

A decent novel. I enjoyed it. Violent and scary but with a happiness from Candy and Rosario's relationship. A relationship that grows against Candy's initial wishes.

A low-end-gangster-on-the-run-with-his-girl story. Candy is not a guy who plans ahead very well. He at least had some cash and guns secreted away and he is not stupid. Candy ends up in a crap situation with no way out.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Short French: "Frantic" by Nol Calef

Short French: Frantic by Noel Calef, 1956 for France and 2019 from Stark House, 9781944520663.

When this started I was expecting a murder thriller as the protagonist tries to clean up the mistakes he made in the murder. That main character - one of several - has murdered a loanshark in the office building both men use. Murderer is leaving the building for the weekend when he recalls he left evidence behind. He rushes back into the building and is taking the elevator up to a top floor when the building manager shuts down all the power in the building. Murderer is stuck there.

Meanwhile Murderer's wife is eagerly awaiting the cad. She's a nervous and troubled woman. She is expecting the philanderer home after a loving phone call with him where murderer was feeling lovey-dovey. Murderer was feeling intense relief by dodging his debt to the now dead loanshark and made promises to his wife. when Murderer does not appear the Wife goes looking for Murderer at his building. She sees his car parked on the street. While she checks inside a Teen Jackass steals the car. Wife comes out, sees the car gone, fears her husband split with his latest dolly.

Anyhoo things happen. The guessed at thriller of guy-stuck-in-elevator turns into something else. Wife runs to her ever attentive brother. Brother has a habit of fixing her problems. Brother's own wife is pissed at Wife for being such a over emotional and manipulative pain in the ass.

Meanwhile Teen Jackass takes his girlfriend for a drive in the stolen car and a weekend in the country. Teen Jackass is full of himself as a soon-to-famous film director, as a man of great intelligence and insight, as a fighter of all that is bourgouise. Girlfriend is pregnant and just wants a reliable guy - her bad luck is to be in love to a jackass.

More things happen, there is another murder, and we mostly leave Murderer in his elevator box. Mid '50s France isn't so bad. Society and economy are still being rebuilt after the war. Manners and morals are changing.

Calef explores different relationships among couples:
- the young lovers with Teen Jackass.
- the disintegrating marriage of Murderer and his unstable wife.
- the Brother's marriage and the tensions caused by his needy sister
 - an older couple who own a rural hotel where Jackass and his girlfriend stay. The older couple love each other and still have their differences
- a final couple where the husband is trying to care for a mentally ill wife.

Comments:
1. The weekend at that time is a lousy one-day weekend. "Weekend" just means a day off for Sunday after a 6 day work week.
2. I made notes about the How the Dead Live and that both world wars were still a part of daily life. Dead Live is set 30 years after this novel and the war is never much an issue in this story.

Belfast Noir: "Belfast Noir" edited by Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville

Belfast Noir: Belfast Noir by Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville, 2014, 9781617752919.

I went along with my wife to her job a week or two ago because a snow storm was predicted. I hung out for four hours and prowled the stacks a bit. I ran across this and took it home. I've enjoyed McKinty and Neville's novels so that was a big selling point on trying the collection.

Akashic has done so many of these damn books. I've been kinda hesitant to try one because I presume the authors have to have a relationship with the chosen city. For places like Los Angeles, New York, London, etc. that should not be a problem because those places bred or housed are a ton of authors over the years. With smaller cities I figure they gotta hunt for writers and stories. Expanding into the rest of Northern Ireland makes sense.

I did enjoy several of these stories but have to say a couple tales were duds. I'm glad not everything had to be an IRA or Provo story. I also don't have the book to hand so you're shit out of luck if you're expecting me to list favorites. But, I'll check the list of story titles and give it a shot - Hey, I found it on Google Books and it is letting me read through.

Lee Child: Child is one dark motherfucker.
Brian McGillory: an undertaker is forced to smuggle something across the Irish border. Interesting but not fantastic.
Lucy Caldwell: a story about the narrator as a teen girl besotted with a HS teacher. She acts horribly and manipulatively.

That is it. Fun reading - except for a couple duds - but no work that really impressed me enough to track down more of their work.