Monday, February 27, 2006

Read: "Wigfield: the can-do town that just may not" by Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert.

"Wigfield: the can-do town that just may not" by Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, and Stephen Colbert

Wigfield: the can-do town that just may not by Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert.

I was looking to see if anything by Amy Sedaris was in the catalog and this turned up. There are a lot of funny moments in Wigfield but the book is not great. A lot of the content would have worked better in a visual medium - maybe that's why they have photos of the book's skanky and scary characters.

Russell Hokes weasels a publisher into giving him an advance to write a book about vanishing small town America. Hokes quickly blows most of his advance and decides on Wigfield as a subject when his car breaks down on the Interstate next to town. Wigfield was built next to Bulkwaller Dam. Named after Senator, and concrete company owner, Alfonse Bulkwaller the damn was built in the '30s. Quote, "In the interest of safety, Bulkwaller insisted on using three times more concrete than engineers thought was called for."

The small town of Wigfield is a collection of used tire stores, used auto parts stores, morgues, and strip clubs (variously referred to as gentlemans' clubs and titty bars). The Dam is scheduled to be destroyed and flood unincorporated Wigfield that is populated by squatters, strippers, whores, murderers, knife fighters, thieves and lesbian witches. Mr. Hokes (idiot) advocates for the town's survival and angers the townspeople who were hoping for some eminent domain payoff cash from the state.

David Sedaris has written about he and Amy's interests in topics like taxidermy, birth defects, rare diseases, cadavers, surgical accidents and such. I think I saw Amy's influence in several portions of the book.

Maybe I'll buy the Strangers with Candy DVD for the library. It should circ' well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Read: "In the Company of Liars" by David Ellis

In the Company of Liars by David Ellis

I got this one after LJ listed on the best of 2005 list for fiction.

Good book, but not spectacular. I suppose the rating it received could be relative to the competition. Told in reverse chronological order it starts out slow, gets exciting in the middle, then kind of peters out. Main character Allison Pagone commits suicide while on trial for murdering her ex-boyfriend. She commits suicide in the beginning of the book, shortly before (or after) the capture of a terrorist leader in Northeast Africa. The story tells how the two events are related.

I don't read many thrillers but this was good. The author keeps revealing little pieces along the way. The reader's perception of each character changes over time; are they good, bad, lying, confused? Well, they're all lying, some for good reasons and some for bad. Hence, the title.

EDIT: After having thought about this one it's not so great. There is nothing to it that really stuck with me. It's more like an average episone of Law and Order SVU, entertaining with an edgey edge of edginess (meaning that people die).

Monday, February 13, 2006

Did not read: "Six Bits a Day" by Elmer Kelton

Did not read: Six Bits a Day by Elmer Kelton

Western set in 1889 West Texas. Don't have time to read the novel and don't want to hog it at home. I'll try it later.

Read: "Fax from Sarajevo: a story of survival" by Joe Kubert

Fax from Sarajevo: a story of survival by Joe Kubert

Fax from Sarajevo: a story of survival by Joe Kubert

Comic book novel. Joe Kubert is a friend of Ervin Rustemagic, a comic book artist and business dude who lives in Sarajevo. The story is about Ervin and his trails to evacuate himself and his family from the city.

Ervin and family had fled Sarajevo for Holland when the Balkan wars first started. The returned to Sarajevo, their home and place of business, right before the Serbs started attacking the city. Ervin and family flee his suburban home after Serbs attack his residential street with tanks. After a year of lobbying by his overseas friends and colleagues Ervin is able to get to Croatia and from there work for his family's escape.

I did not like the artwork of this novel. I am much more impressed with Joe Sacco's work about the Bosnian War. Sacco's artwork is more accurate and emotional.

The storyline itself is as sad and maddening as the war. All through the story, as the Chetniks snipe and shell children and ambulances, I think about the Serbian apologists who overlook the atrocities their comrades/friends committed. How can the Serbs justify, or live with, paying a bounty on dead children?

The U.N. wasn't good for much of anything except witnessing the everyday cruelty. I suppose their presence there stopped a full out assault on Sarajevo by the Serbs. When the time came to save people the U.N. troops were about as effective as a toothless Chihuahua behind a fence.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Read A While Ago: "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat

For when I forget the author and title again. Convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic during World War Two. Real good story. Read it a couple years ago.

Read after the Nevil Shute book set during the war in the Channel.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Read: "Killing Rain" by Barry Eisler

Killing Rain by Barry Eisler

Good book.

A thriller set in Manila, Hong Kong and Bangkok. This is part of the Rain series with continuing characters and storylines. I didn't give a rip about the parts where past storylines were touched on but those parts did provide nice background about the characters. Main character John Rain is an international murderer for hire.

Rain works for various governments and takes an assignment from Israel to kill a bombmaker in Manila who sells his expertise to terrorist organizations. When Rain is about to kill the mark (standing right behind the guy and about to break his beck) Rain thinks about the victim's son and freezes up. After the resulting shootout with the bombmaker's bodyguards Rain and his partner flee to Thailand and eventually track and kill the bombmaker in Hong Kong.

Rain has been doing this work for about 30 years and his ingrained paranoia has kept him alive that long. The novel focuses a lot on that paranoia and the mental and psychological tactics that Rain and the other characters use. The characters are always analyzing each other and planning ahead. Their body language, choice of words, vocal inflection, personal appearance are all purposeful. This is not much of a shoot-em-up or international thriller. Even though the contract killings and characters' actions have an international impact Killing focuses on a handful of individuals with the international results of their actions lending importance to the plotline.

Rain is a very human and very ruthless character. Rain's interaction with his "sorta" girlfriend and new partner cause internal conflict because of his intense paranoia and distrust of anyone. Rain has to adjust to having feelings and affection for his new friends after his years of self isolation; not unsimilar to Dexter in the novel llisted below.

Three annoyances: ONE - the assumption that all necessary knowledge can be gained through a Google search. Baloney. TWO - "Inside Contacts" will share all the information they have and that information will always be accurate. THREE - they have the dough, duplicate passports, and empty airline seats to fly across the Pacific at will and stay at all the high end hotels.

I will likely try another title in the series.

Friday, February 3, 2006

Read: "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" by Jeffry Lindsay

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeffry Lindsay

Very good book. I would say excellent except for the goofy plot twist toward the end. The plot twist is foreshadowed a bit but is still too convenient. A lot of dark humour and real good insight into a stable but sociopathic dude.

Dexter is the main character and narrator. Dexter is a blood spatter expert for the Miami-Dade police department. Orphaned at age three, Dexter was taken in by Harry, a Miami detective. Dexter dresses well, is always pleasant and friendly, and a complete sociopath. Dexter's interests are stalking, capturing and killing other serial killers. His job as a crime scene analyst lets him easily identify and "play" with other killers in Miami.

This was a real interesting character. I read reviews for this book when it came out in 2004 but never got around to reading it until now. Dexter is a real pleasant fella, not the standard thriller novel bad guy. Dexter is well settled in his job, has a sister (Harry's daughter) who cares about him, has an attractive girlfriend, and is always quick with his wit and charm. But, as Dexter says throughout the book, he has no human emotions or feelings. He cares for no one and this causes him worry when he starts to feel what might be emotions.

The author's descriptions of life in Miami are humorous. Judging from all the Miami authors who write about the town I have to say that Miami must be a crazy place.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Read: "Allied Infantry Weapons of World War Two" by Terry Gander

Allied Infantry Weapons of World War Two by Terry Gander

Another real neat book. The Allied version the Gander book listed below. This also came from Waupun PL.

Gander, like in the German book, covers production and development problems and the politics and technological issues involved. The M1 Garand is now seen as the greatest rifle during the war but during the designing, testing, and production there was a lot of resistance to it's adoption. Competing designs, competing calibers, and NRA love of the '03 Springfield were several obstacles.

Also, Stalin was such a murderous thug his presence prevented adoption of new and better weapons. Subordinates were afraid to make any changes, or additions, to infantry and small-arms arsenals since Stalin took such a big interest in those subjects. Everyone knew not to cross Stalin.

The production of weapons evolved to simplify them as much as possible. Traditional gunsmithing techniques were too time consuming and expensive during the war when volume production was needed. The section on submachine guns talks about how designs were updated over and over to meet production and cost demands.