Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Finished: "Shotgun Rule" by Charlie Huston

Finished: Shotgun Rule by Charlie Huston, 2007, 9780345481351.

A different tale by Huston. An average read.  No massive amounts of violence and the bad guys are bad but not overtly so. At least not in comparison to other Huston books.

Four teen boys hang-out in a small town northern California the summer before senior year in 1984 (or so). Concerned with scoring beer and dope they spend time getting in fights and bitching about normal teen problems. The four of them are also small time thieves and after one of their bicycles is stolen by the local bad boys, the Arroyo brothers, the enter the Arroyos house and end up taking cash, jewelry, and meth.

The story doesn't pick up until about 1/4 or even 1/2 of the way through. The meat of the story ends up being the father of two of the kids, Bob Whelen, but he doesn't play much of a part until late in the story. Bob used to a be terror in town beginning in high school. His dope and pill business in the 1960s and early 1970s kept the cops paid off and kept Bob flush with cash. After his second boy was born prematurely he quit the business and now works construction jobs. His kids are completely ignorant of Bob's incredibly violent past and it is only when I read more about Bob and his background that I started to really like the book.

The constant teenage insults among the guys got boring after a bit. The point where the guys were trying to list the gayest bands ever was funny. Geezer, the obese crook and lead bad guy, was always struggling for the appropriate word and asking for help. The character was okay but the vocabulary searches were not all that funny or threatening in a "Crazy guy going on tangents" way.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Stopped Listening to: "The March" by E.L. Doctorow

Stopped Listening to: The March by E.L. Doctorow, downloaded from Overdrive.

A pretty good book but the audio files were somehow corrupted and I cannot get them to work. I will either download them again (unlikely) or just read the book (more likely). Sherman marches across Georgia into the Carolinas through the eyes of Sherman and both Southern and Union soldiers and civilians.

Above average narration by The Brother From Another Planet. The Brother brought out a lot of humor I bet I would have missed by reading the book. There are several characters though and I have difficulty learning who is who during an audio book. Their names do not stick in my head like they do when I read them.

A couple neat things. Doctorow let me realize, for the first real time, how frightening and dangerous it is to be a war refugee. No income, no home, and no food without the welfare of relatives, friends and strangers. The government is in turmoil or dissolved and you risk death by either uniformed side. I forgot the other thing.

Sherman's total war really was nasty. One of his generals, do not recall the name, really was a scumbag.

Read: "The Whale Road" by Robert Low

Read: The Whale Road by Robert Low, 2007, 9780312361945.

Vikings! Pretty good, too.

Orm was 5 when left with his uncle as his father sailed off with the Oathsworn on the Elk. After ten years it looks like Orm's uncle will have him killed, Gunnar - who's been hanging out there ever since Orm was dropped off - sends word to the Oathsworn. They return and Orm joins up. Orm takes the Oath under Odin and off they go on a paid job to raid a religious community.

After the raid the Oathsworn's leader Einar figures out what the monk who arranged the raid is after. A couple hundred years ago Attila the Hun was paid off by the Finns with a hoard of cursed silver and a new wife. The wife killed Attila and she and the silver were buried with Attila. Finding out that Attila's grave and the silver may be real the Oathsworn follow a trail into Russia to get the silver.

Good story with a lot of travel across the Baltic Sea and battling several different groups. There is a second title forthcoming and a third in the works.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Read: "Night Ferry" by Michael Robotham.

Read: Night Ferry by Michael Robotham, 2007, 9780385517904.

Solid but not spectacular. Robotham wrote of Lost which I also read and according to my notes enjoyed more than this. This was a good book. There were several exciting sections that kept me reading.

Ali Barba is on medical leave from the Metropolitan Police after a massive back injury sustained on duty. I cannot recall if she was in the last novel but her former supervisor Ruiz was the main character in Lost. This novel also touches on kidnapping but focuses more on a nasty ring of illegal and forced surrogate births.

Ali's pregnant, former best friend,Cate, contacts her asking for help saying someone is trying to steal her unborn kid. Cate is run over and killed - not by accident - before she can tell Ali any more and Ali finds out that Cate was faking her pregnancy. Ali wants to know why and, after some investigating time in the novel, finds out Cate was paying for a surrogate from Holland to carry two of her embryos.

Paid surrogacy is illegal in both England and Holland. What's worse, the surrogates involved in the crime ring are illegal aliens forced to either carry the children or work as whores in Amsterdam and elsewhere. Cate faked her pregnancy with plans to also trick people about giving birth. But, the crooks she is involved with wanted to keep one of the infants and sell the child to someone else.

There were some really well done red herrings and I think Robotham plotted things out very well with a few surprises and turns along the way. Ali's character was really well done.

Mostly Read: "The Gun Digest Boof of the AR-15. Volume 2" by Patrick Sweeney

Mostly Read: The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15. Volume 2 by Patrick Sweeney, 2007, 9780896894747.

Not as good as Volume One. In Volume One Sweeney wrote that Volume Two would be more about building an AR. Not the case. Sweeney continues writing more about accessories and manufacturers but does give some interesting info I had not seen elsewhere. As pointed out by a commenter on Amazon there are a lot of typos and errors throughout the book and it looks as though this was rushed to press.

I was hoping for more detailed information and illustrations on building and maintenance. I suppose I could order an Army field manual.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Listened to: "Double Indemnity" by James M. Cain

Listened to: Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, downloaded from Overdrive.

Good story. I have never seen the movie but will reserve it. The movie is more famous anyway. Here is a part of a comment about the movie from Variety in 2007, "Chandler despised Wilder (and Cain as well), and the collaboration was fraught with hostility and constant negotiations, with stipulations on paper that Wilder could not wave his cane at Chandler or wear his hat inside because it gave Chandler the unsettling feeling that Wilder was about to leave at any moment."

Narrated by insurance agent Walter Neff. Walter teams up with sleazy but sexy Phyllis to kill Phyllis' husband for his life insurance. Walter breaks the husband's neck, poses as the husband on a train, jumps off the train and then place the body on the tracks. After all, a train-related death pays double. After the murder Walter realizes Phyllis is trouble and is disgusted by her. "I loved her like a rabbit loves a rattlesnake."

Walter joins Phyllis in the deed because he is hot for her - although there is never any direct mention of them having sex - and wants to get one over on the insurance company. Walter plans out each detail of the murder, factors in the need for audacity and gives both he and Phyllis strong alibis.

Things start to fall apart right away when insurance company claims adjuster and investigator Keyes knows something is wrong. At one point Keyes starts picking up actuarial tables and plopping them on a desk pointing out all the ways a death off a moving train at 15 mph has never and will never happen.