Monday, April 30, 2007

Read: "L.A. Rex" by Will Beall

Read: L.A. Rex by Will Beall, 2006, 1594489262.

Great novel. One of the better books I have read in a while. Really good writing by Beall; he does a great job with his characters and, especially, his setting. Beall works as an officer for the LAPD in South Central Los Angeles. L.A. Rex is set in South Central and Beall's familiarity with the area really shows in his vivid descriptions of the neighborhoods and the people who live there.

The mentality of a gangbanger is difficult for me to grasp but Beall does a good job of showing how they act amongst and against each other and other gangs. The horrid and violent things that go on in the ratty L.A. neighborhoods are shocking. The kid who pays his crackhead prostitute mother for sex because she is so out of it and because he accepts it as the only attention he gets from her really freaked me out. The inexplicable - to me - and casual violence against each other weirded me out too. I just cannot wrap my head around why anyone would not care about going to prison or would want to kill a cop.

Set in about 1998, Beall's storyline follows Ben Halloran (formerly Kahn), the son of a big-time LA attorney who is famous for defending druglords and regularly sueing the city for brutality. Ben's story of growing up with an asshole father, and moving in criminal circles as a result, is mostly told through flashbacks. After Ben is set-up and kicked out by his father one of those criminals tells Ben to join the LAPD to be one of his inside men. Partnered with an older training officer called Marquez, Ben starts to like police work and his loyalty shifts to his fellow officers.

Listened to: "Freakonomics" by Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Listened to: Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything by Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, audio edition downloaded off

Very interesting. Wunderkind economist Levitt analyzes different topics by using statistical methods employed by economists. Did Roe v. Wade have the greatest effect on lowering crime than anything else in the 1990s? The corporate structure of the Vice Lords [I think it was the Vice Lords] in Chicago as related to the drug trade. Does a "black" name adversely affect a kid future when compared to a "white" name? Is gun control effective; what is more dangerous to children, a gun or a swimming pool? How are cheating teachers and Sumo wrestlers alike?

Well written and well narrated by the second co-author. Levitt lays out very convincing arguments. It would be interesting to hear any refutations of his arguments' A question I had: his argument that abortion had a huge effect on the crime-rate is partly based on comparison to the results of Romania's overnight banning of abortion and a resultant rise in crime. My first thought is, "How accurate are the Romanians' crime numbers?"

But, I'm way too lazy to look into argument's against Levitt's results. Besides, the topics he covers are controversial and encourage lying by opponents.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Listened to: "The Two Minute Rule" by Robert Crais

Listened to: The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais, 2006, downloaded from

Pretty decent novel; however, the narrator was not very good.

Richard Hollman is recently paroled from Federal prison after serving time for bank robbery. On the last day of Hollman's time at the halfway house he is notified that his long estranged police officer son, Richie, was murdered the night before. Hollman had been waiting until his final release to try and contact Richie.

For years Hollman was a car thieve and drug addict whose contact with his son was sporadic - at best - and spent no time with Richie as his parent. One time Richard took Richie on an outing to the Santa Monica pier and left the eight-year old boy with his friend's girlfriend so Hollman and his pal could go steal a Corvette they spotted in the parking lot.

Hollman is well drawn out by Crais and he has quite a temper. Hollman is constantly struggling to keep himself together over the death of his kid and his guilt at being such a piece of crap father and that maybe Richie turned out bad like Hollman. He starts asking questions about what happened the night Richie and three other officers were all murdered in the LA River channel. Hollman's questions get him in trouble with a Police Lieutenant in charge of the case.

The story is mostly believable and has a nice tie-in to a fictional version of the armed robbers from the 1997 North Hollywood bank shoot-out. Hollman, with the help of a former FBI agent who was bored and frustrated at home until Hollman sent a letter asking for help, figures out that the cops Richie was involved with were searching for the missing $16 million bucks from the robbers multiple bank robberies.

A good novel with a no-so-good narrator. The narrator's voices were annoying and almost all the time he had Hollman on edge and loud mouthed; that was grating to me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Forced to finish: "Sullivan’s Law" by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

Forced to finish: Sullivan's Law by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, 2004, 0758206186

This was a festering pile of shit. How does this lady get people to buy her books? Why do people continue to read her books? How can they finish any of her books?

This is the only Rosenberg "novel" I have read and I will likely NEVER read another. I only finished Sullivan's Law because it is for a book discussion. In fact, I took notes of all the things that angered or annoyed me when reading this collection of poorly written paragraphs populated with wooden characters so I can gripe in detail.

Fucking piece of shit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Read: "Magic City" by James W. Hall

Read: Magic City by James W. Hall, 2007, 9780312271794.

Very good. A mystery novel set in Miami with a connection to the 1964 Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston fight and a mass murder the night of the fight. You can tell by the writing that Thorn must be a continuing character. Hall's vague references to Thorn's past come off as mysterious and intriguing, not like the seemingly inside jokes of some series.

Main character Thorn lives in Key Largo but his girlfriend Alexandra lives in Miami. Thorn is going to spend a week watching after Alexandra's father, Lawton. Lawton's senility has been slowly progressing and he is getting more and more difficult for Thorn to deal with. Thorn is a laid-back beach bum and considering moving to Miami to be with Alexandra. Thorn's week long stay in Miami watching Lawton is a trial run to see if Thorn can take moving to the city.

Things go bad when a couple Miami goons try to steal an old photo of the Liston-Clay fight from Lawton's home. The photo shows proof a relationship among group of people in the fight audience. Proof of a relationship related to a mass murder against a Cuban family and their anti-Castro militia pals.

Hall does a great job in drawing out his characters and their actions. The two surviving boys of the massacre, the G. Gordon Liddy style goon, Thorn and his relationships with Alexandra and Lawton. Even briefly appearing minor characters get a revealing light shown upon them.

Hall also conveys the feelings and emotions of 1964 really well. The excitement of the upcoming fight and the social and political changes caused by the influx of immigrant Cubans are very well, and succinctly, done.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Finished: "Rumpole and the Reign of Terror" by John Mortimer

Finished: Rumpole and the Reign of Terror by John Mortimer, 2006, 0670038040.

Pretty good. A very quick read. I never read any of the Rumpole books or watched the television series. I picked this one out based on a review in Library Journal and a plot that involves British anti-terror laws.

Rumpole is a barrister who takes cases out of the Old Bailey court in London. Rumpole's main income comes from the Timson family whose wide ranging criminal progeny are in need of constant legal care. A disowned Timson approaches Rumpole to assist her Pakistani born doctor husband who has been arrested for something terrorist related. But, the government won't say what the doctor is charged with, what evidence there is, or who his accuser is.

Pretty much everyone turns against Rumpole on the assumption the doctor is guilty. Without Rumpole to advocate for him the doctor would have been totally screwed. How do you get a decent lawyer when everyone thinks you are a terrorist? Never mind that you're out of work and about to lose your freaking house - a key point in the doctor's innocence.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Read through: "Gun Digest 2007", 2006, 9780896893160

Read through: Gun Digest 2007, 2006, 9780896893160.

Eh. I get these annuals and sometimes the articles are interesting to me and sometimes not. The color photos of custom guns are always neat-o but never show enough detail.

I did the usual "Which one?" game. Each catalog page shows several photos of the items on that page. Which one would you take if you could choose one for free? Variations are: Pick one from each page to build a collection. Whatever gun chosen includes 10,000 rounds of ammunition. Gun chosen comes with no ammunition. Pick one only from each category of rifle, shotgun and handgun. So on and so forth.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Listened to: "The Slippery Slope" by Lemony Snicket

Listened to: The Slippery Slope: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10 by Lemony Snicket, audio version donwloaded off

Good, but the last two in the series were better. This one has three new characters and more information to unravel the mystery of V.F.D.

The idea of the squared off Mortmain Mountains was too fanciful. The newly introduced villains were intriguing if they scare Count Olaf they must be really bad. The third Quagmire triplet showing up was nice, too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Finished: "Secret Diary of Laura Palmer" by Jennifer Lynch

Finished: Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch, 1990, found no ISBN.

I'm 17 years out of date on this one. I'm surprised the book was still available anywhere and not withdrawn. I never was interested in this when it came out because it seemed like such a cash in on Twin Peaks mania. Especially since the author is David Lynch's daughter.

I enjoyed this though. Laura Palmer was one mixed-up teenager. When Twin Peaks was on television I was the same age as the main characters and the chicks were very hot, including Laura Palmer. But now, the story of Laura as a sexually abused, cocaine addicted, amoral, manipulative, promiscuous and protstituting sixteen year old is really, really, really, really, creepy and disturbing.

I need to reserve the DVDs of the first and second seasons of Twin Peaks and watch them. When the show first premiered I read the promos about it and got real excited about seeing it. Since I didn't have a TV I was in the dorm's TV lounge where some other people were watching something else. I was hugely disappointed, but then two girls came in and asked if anyone minded if they changed the TV to the premier. Yeah!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Listened to: "The Hard Way" by Lee Child

Listened to: The Hard Way by Lee Child, downloaded from

Pretty good. Child writes about the main character, Jack Reacher, as living a really violent life. But, Reacher is not a particularly scary dude. Reacher is always the good guy; he can be ruthless and his size and personality are intimidating but he's not a scary character to the reader.

This took a while for me to to finish between walking to and from work and exercising. There were several parts about the plot that did not compute. Reacher gets hired by a mercenary, Lane, in New York to help find the mercenary's kidnapped wife. But, Lane is hiring Reacher right off the street. I suppose desperation and stupidity play into Lane's decision but I thought that was far fetched.

There were several points iin the first half of the novel where I was mightily impressed with Child's plotting. He kept things moving and kept me guessing. I thought I knew exactly what was going on but Child switched things around convincingly. Toward the end I could figure out a major plot point but Child had set-up the surprise very well. I was not surprised simply because I figured Child would logically explain it using clues provided earlier. He did.

I wonder if Child has a grudge or dislike for special operations/special forces soldiers. I've read two of his books, this one and The Enemy, and both feature SF guys as bad guys and not the super-soldiers they are usually portrayed as in both fiction and non-fiction.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Just Finished: "The Wheel Man" by Duane Swierczynski

Just Finished: The Wheel Man by Duane Swierczynski, 2005, 0312343787.

Quite good. A pulp caper novel set in Philadelphia. A good amount of twists and turns leaving you guessing who knows what and who else is to blame.

Lennon is a professional get away driver who teams up with a couple guys robbing a bank in downtown Philadelphia. After the crew get away and stash the cash their Subaru is rammed by a van and Lennon is knocked unconscious. Lennon comes to as a couple guys are about to drop his naked body down a pipe at a construction site.

Lennon escapes and has to figure out who ratted him out, avoid the cops, avoid the Russian mafia, rescue his now missing co-conspirator sister, and find the now missing $650,000. Swieiriiczzzyynkkkkis keeps things moving quickly and both plotting and pacing are very good. Characters are done well, too; kind of Richard Stark-ish.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Read: "Booked to Die" by John Dunning

Read: Booked to Die by John Dunning, 1992, 0380718839 (pbk)

Eh. Good plotting and the information on the antiquarian and used book market is interesting but I disliked the main character.

Cliff Janeway is a Detective for the Denver Police Department and a major book nerd. Cliff has been a book collector for several years when he beats the crap out of a suspect and resigns from his job before he is fired to open his own book shop. Janeway's constant wisecracking got on my nerves. Dunning was trying just too hard for the wise-acre, hardboiled type.

Some of the characters, like red herring Jackie Winston and his beat-up girlfriend, were plot devices and poorly drawn. Hell, the damn book was 374 pages and by cutting out those two characters Dunning could have streamlined things and improved the story.

I read a different Dunning book several yearts ago, Bookman's Wake. That novel also featured Janeway and I remember liking it. The mystery plotting was good and the information on the rare book trade was really well done. Wake suffered from a lame romance storyline like Booked to Die has. Dunning's relationship writing about Janeway and would be girlfriend's was odd. I cannot explain it further than that without re-reading and analyzing my thoughts on the book - that effort will not happen.