Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Never Got Into: "Spinners" by Anthony McCarten

Never Got Into: Spinners by Anthony McCarten, 1999, 0688163033.

I ran across this somewhere. Not sure where though. Maybe the book was referenced, maybe I stumbled across it in the catalog. I just didn't get into it and it ended up at the bottom of a pile and it's now time to clear house on a bunch of overdue stuff.

Girl working at processing plant in rural New Zealand claims she was gangbanged by aliens from a flying saucer. Meanwhile the ex-con nephew of the town mayor (is 'mayor' the title ? I don't recall) has come to restart the library. That's where I quit.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Looked Through: "Secrets of BuIlding an Alcohol Producing Still" by Vincent R. Gingery

Looked through: Secrets of Building and Alcohol Producing Still by Vincent R. Gingery, 1994, 1878087169.

I wanted to learn about the distilling process so I ordered a couple books from other libraries. Gingery self-published this as a guide for people looking to produce alternative fuel. He himself had trouble finding directions in building and operating a still to produce alcohol based auto fuel and decided to write a guide.

I looked through this book a bit and the building process was a little interesting to read about. But, as Gingery himself notes, the manufacturing process he details would likely not be safe to produce booze for consumption. For that matter, Gingery's directions never address alcohol for consumption. Not that it matters to me. Even if I were inclined to distill my own booze I would never bother because of the multiple legal issues.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Just Finished: "Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year" by Amy Belasen and Jacob Osborn

Just Finished: Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year by Amy Belasen and Jacob Osborn, 2008, 9781416967927.

I ran across this when looking for fiction set in Montreal. I wish that John Farrow (pen name) would write another police novel. There is not a lot of logic and realism in the novel but I ended up liking it quite a bit.

Jenny Green has a craptastic sophomore year in HS back in Long Island. She convinces her parents to let her enroll at Molson Academy in Montreal. Molson is a private boarding school where her former junior high crush Joshua attends.

Molson student housing is college style with a housemom or dad in charge of each house or dorm. Jenny ends up in a house full of pot-smoking hippies and weirdos. Jenny is a stereotypical Jewish American Princess and is even more stuck-up and snotty than the average HS girl.

Jenny ends up meeting Josh and dating. Jenny loses her virginity to Josh. Jenny realizes Josh is an ass and dumps him. Josh wants her back. Josh shows up and tries to rape her. Jenny kills Josh by smashing her roommate's bong over his head and stabbing him to death with the broken glass shaft. Jenny dispoes of body and sets up convincing enough suicide scene.

This murder scene takes a while to get to but the book improves measurably after that. Jenny dates a guy calling himself Dizzy-D. Dizzy is a smooth guy but a drug dealer who takes her as a challenge to bang. She gives him a blowjob and sticks her thumb in his ass. Jenny finds ourt Dizzy filmed it all and shares it with friends. Jenny kills Dizzy by tasering him and jamming an apple down his throat.

Jenny kills guy at party who sticks a pill in her friend's drink. Jenny kills fellow student who was planning a school shooting. Jenny kills her favorite teacher when guy tries to screw her. Jenny goes on the run and is about to return to the U.S.

1. This is exactly the kind of novel that you would expect to get challenged with teen sex - Jenny is 16, drug use, various sexual realtionships among students, vicious violence, a creepy professor, lesbians, etc.
2. Lots of cracks by Jenny and others at the expense of Jews.
3. The psychological/behavioral accuracy of Jenny must be suspect but I don't freaking care.
4. Co-author Osborn went to UW-Madison.
5. The five killings and the time leading to them were the best parts.

Read a Couple Weeks Ago: "Die A Little" by Megan Abbott

Read A Couple Weeks Ago: Die A Little by Megan Abbott,2005, 9780743261708.

I was incredibly impressed with this book. I have not read all of Abbott's books but I liked this one head and shoulders above them all. Abbott mentioned what a big fan of Ellroy she is. Die fits right into Ellroy's '50s novels of L.A. Booze, squares mixing with rough types, secret prostitution ring, wealthy and famous johns, secrecy and conspiracy, double dealing and distrust.

Lora King and her brother Bill are in their twenties and very close. They grew up orphaned and reaised by their grandparents in L.A. They share a house in Pasadena while Bill works as a investigator for the D.A. and Lora teaches high school. Bill meets and falls hard for the Alice. Alice is beautiful and lively. Alice's personality makes her the center of all attention. Alice and Bill marry. Lora is a bit jealous of losing her brother, she does move out after all, But, Alice's manic behaviour and intense efforts to be the perfect suburban wife are odd. Alice's past is very secretive. Alice, too, is an orphan and talks little of her life before working as a seamstress for a movie studio.

Lora meets Alice's messed up friend Lois and cracks start to show. Lois gets in trouble with men and to the reader is obviously doped up. Lois realtionship with Alice seems deeper than friends. By chance Lora also meets a sharkskinned suit operator friend of Alice's and starts to learn more and more about Alice.

Well, it turns out Alice is not that bad. But, Alice is an ex-hooker and a fairly ruthless pimp. Lois is murdered and Lora starts digging and brings in the police. Things happen. Lois has guilt. Lois worries for her brother. Lois uncovers it all and solves the problem without the professional or personal downfall of her beloved brother.

1. Die is told by Lora and therefore we see her mistakes, misassumptions, and the lies about herself. For example, Lora has a relationship with a guy. Late in the novel the guy mentions how Lora was in his bed within three hours of meeting him and likes to get turned over and banged hard with her face in a pillow. That was a surprise to read. Lora does not portray herself as a wilting flower but she skips over a few details.
2. This is not a mystery. This is Lora's story of herself and her family. She had accepted Alice as a sister but when it seemed Alice may be playing with Bill or maybe ruining him she cuts Alice off.
3. Great setting by Abbott. Setting is definitely one of her great strengths just as in Queenpin and The-Arizona-one-I-cannot-remember-the-title-to. Alice's cooking fanaticism, mixed drinks, cocktail parties, cultural mores of the time. I did spot an anachronism but do not recall what it was.
4. How long until Abbott's mother googles her way over here? Again?
5. Strength of setting is not to say her plot and characters are weak.
6. I really have to get those Muskego interviews transferred off that damned, digital tape and onto my hard drive.
7. The whole femme-fatal- from-the-inside-out was a great idea for Abbott to pursue.
8. I did not get too into the dichotomy/duality of Lora/Lois and Lora/Alice but did cathc on to it. Am I less dense than I used to be, or did Abbott make it clear?
9. If I had typed in these notes directly after reading this I would have gushed. I'm glad I took a while before getting to it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fast Graphic Novel Read: "100 Bullets: first shot, last call" by Brian Azzarello

Fast graphic novel read: 100 Bullets: first shot, last call by Brain Azzarello, 2000, 9781563896453.

Compilation of five stories listed as 100 Bullets 1-5 and Vertigo: Winter's Edge 3.

I just don't get worked up about comic book novels like some people do. I like Sacco's work quite a bit, and the Astro City series had some great stories, but mostly I am left unfulfilled. Azzarello has received heaps of praise for 100 Bullets. 100 was really just a brief collection of short stories and the stories are only loosely held together by a single character, Agent Graves. The stories were good but there was nothing spectacular. I am also fairly picky about artwork, if I don't like the artist's style I won't like the book.

Agent Graves suddenly appears in the lives of different victims and offers them vengeance. The protagonist will be untouchable by any law enforcement agency and all investigations cease once the fired rounds are recovered. Person ponders, person decides, things happen.

Listened to: "Holidays on Ice" by David Sedaris

Listened to: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris, 1997, downloaded from

This is not the newer version with added stories. This ran at just 3 hours, 10 minutes with narration by Sedaris, his sister Amy, and some other broad.

Plenty of laughter from me while listening. Sedaris mixes his own life stories with fictional pieces. All the stories have sad bits. Sedaris has that great balance of humor and sadness when discussing anything. His wit can be cruel and mean but Sedaris always seems like a decent guy in the end. It would be neat to listen to Sedaris and his siblings get together and talk as family.

The fictional piece of a television producer trying to get a woman to sign a movie contract seems to be staying with me more than the other tales.

Quick Read: "Tim Page's Nam" by Tim Page

Quick Read: Tim Page's Nam by Tim Page, 1983, 039450055.

I looked for more information on Page after listening to Dispatches. This is a very brief book made of photos and some brief reminiscing essays by Page.

Page was not that prominent in Dispatches but the stories of his multiple combat injuries are memorable. This book did not have a whole lot more information beyond some more details about his injuries from a friendly fire incident at sea. I had seen many of the photos before but all were interesting to see or study.

Nothing memorable for me in the text.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finished Yesterday: "The Venona Cable" by Bent Ghelfi

Finished Yesterday: The Venona Cable by Brent Ghelfi, 2009, 9780805088946.

Man do I like this guy's Volk books. Intricate plotting with violent action. Good characters and neat introduction to a different view of world events, politics, and realpolitick from the Russian side.

Volk tracks down the bad guy from Volk's Shadow in Macao and ventilates his head. Volk returns and is arrested over a murdered American found in Volk's unused porn production warehouse. Volk is told to investigate by his boss, the General, and others. Volk finds a connection between his missing father, the dead American, and a 60 year old espionage cable sent from Washington to the Kremlin. Volk was orphaned when his mother died in childbirth and his Air Force father disappeared. Was his father a defector to the U.S., and therefore a traitor, or was he a double-agent?

Political maneuvering among Russian government bigwigs. Volk heads to the U.S. and is shadowed by a counter intelligence agent. Double agents in the U.S. have their strings pulled by Russian handlers. Main double-agent is really on the U.S.'s side. Volk finds out more about his father who was murdered a few years before. Volk gets in fights. Volk is sneaky. Volk is repeatedly stymied. Volk thinks far ahead. Volk perseveres.

Thought and comments:
1. Once again Ghelfi pulls an Ellroy and puts together a really well plotted out novel with red herrings and deceptions for Volk to work through.
2. Characters present several competing views of history.
Right wing side: A CIA agent's defense of the Hollywood Blacklist against commies and support of McCarthy. American Commie Party really was an organ of Comintern (and whatever succeeded it). Hollywood complicit with the gulags who killed their Russian peers in the arts.
Left wing: Abuses by the U.S. government conveniently overlooked. Volk's defense of Cuba for it's high education levels and successful health care. Volk's and others commentary of recent shredding of the Constitution.
3. Scheming and deception by the Russians as a way of life that transferred to all levels of espionage operations against everyone involved.
4. Right winger accusing adversary of "moral equivalency".
5. As an author, what accusations does Ghelfi receive on "which side are you on anyway?' People can read Venona either way. Some thrillers are jingoistic and clearly "America, Fuck Yeah!" but this has a Russian hero.
6. Russian hero of the novel is working against the U.S. How cheer for the guy to uncover a spy working for the U.S? In the end I think Ghelfi makes a compromise with Volk destroying spy information that could hurt the Russians but Volk does so for personal reasons.
7. Change in title from previous two novels.
8. Constant paranoia by Volk. Constant attempts to control facial expressions and body language to not give anything away and to mislead adversaries.
9. Nice compliment to the espionage novels of Furst and the political plotlines of Eisler.
10. An attempted assassination outside Los Alamos reminded me of an attempted assassination in Restless.
11. I remember very, very little about the couple of days we spent in Los Alamos in '84.

Read a Few Days Ago: "Trigger City" by Sean Chercover

Read a Few Days Ago: Trigger City by Sean Chercover, 2008, 9780061128691.

This was well written and an improvement over Big City, Bad Blood. Nice descriptions of different, little things that brought out more of the characters and setting.

Ray Dudgeon is still a private investigator in Chicago. Dudgeon's shoulder is in constant pain from a violent episode in the last book and he has a part-time employee shadowing Dudgeon's old girlfriend's new boyfriend. Dudgeon gets hired by a grieving father whose 44-year-old daughter was murdered by a former co-worker. The father never knew the daughter very well and says he wants Dudgeon to find out more about her personal life and personality. Kind of like having Dudgeon perform a biographical/background check.

Dudgeon starts to investigate and finds a previous connection between the daughter and her killer. That connection leads to the Hawk River security firm where both used to work. Hawk River is a thinly veiled Blackwater with contracts in Iraq and elsewhere around the world. [I wonder if Blackwater - although they have changed their name - would know anything about this novel if Chercover wanted to sign up for a firearms class at their Northern Illinois facility.] The daughter's killer was fired by Hawk River and Dudgeon thinks the killer may have found some incriminating evidence of Hawk River doing something bad. He did.

Dudgeon continues to investigate. Dudgeon pines for his former girlfriend. Dudgeon receives veiled threats followed by direct threats. Dudgeon's reporter pal, Terry, helps him out. Dudgeon dramatically defends himself in public and kills an attacker. Dudgeon protects the widow of the guy who killed the daughter. The grieving father is more than he appears. Dudgeon and former girlfriend have sex. (With more graphic description than most mystery thrillers I have read. Not that there is anything wrong with that.) Dudgeon continues to pack heat (a ParaOrdnance model of some sort). Dudgeon drinks a lot. Dudgeon pops Percocet pain pills. Dudgeon gives tours of downtown Chicago and a few bars. Dudgeon works his Chicago police and FBI contacts. Alls well that ends well.

Thoughts and comments:
1. Traditional P.I. action: Packing heat and a few beatings. A single guy with his own agency and money trouble. Drinking too much. Cop and newspaper contacts providing information. Working by his own code to help the grieving widow of the killing co-worker.
2. I went to ALA Annual in Chicago in 1995 and went to some bar near the river. It was some joint popular with twenty-somethings that specialized in different frozen drinks from maragarita machines. The place was packed with customers four people deep at the bar and just two bartenders working in slow motion. A third worker was moping back and forth from the bar area to a back room and ignoring the customers. What a fucking joke that place was. They could have been making barrels of cash that night but I and several others left without paying a cent because we never got service.
3. Dudgeon stays at the dead woman's apartment and sleeps in her bed. How weird is that? Not as weird as when he takes his old girlfriend there and porks her in the same bed.
4. Chercover starts the story out pretty tight with Dudgeon pining for his gal and taking on a new case. Then things start to spread out: overcharging by Hawk River, espionage with China by Hawk River, contractors hired for "black ops" by the DOD and other acronyms, Tienanman Square and its fallout, conspiracy by nebulous government agencies who pressure the CPD, FBI, and local paper. Things got too stretched out for me.
5. Chercover is schedule to be at Muskego this Saturday. I don't really have anything to say to him if I run into him. I suppose I could say, "Good morning."
6. I would like to see more of Dudgeon's part-time worker and friend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finished: "A Fatal Waltz" by Tasha Alexander

Finished: A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander, 2008, 9780061174223.

Chick book. Not really my style. I bought Fatal for the Library after hearing Alexander speak last year. She had some neat things to say about her stories and main character. I ordered her fourth book, Tears of Pearl, after this one checked out well. I read this because 1- I figured I should try out a different type of book. 2 - Alexander is speaking in Muskego this year too so I figured I'd ask her to talk on camera.

1891, England. Emily is engaged to Colin. Colin is a spy/intelligence officer for the British. While they are at a weekend party in the country their host, Lord Fortescue, is murdered. Emily's friend Robert is arrested as the suspect. Fortescue and Robert were both in government and Emily finds out possible a connection between the murder and Austrian intrigue.

Emily travels to Austria to try and clear Robert. Colin turns up there. Emily is nervous and worried about Robert's (EDIT: dang it, Colin's) former lover Kristiana von Lange. Kristiana is a spy for the Austrian crown. Emily verbally spars with Kristiana. Emily worries about Colin. Emily meets the Empress. Emily meets local artists. Emily is threatened by British spy. Emily meets anarchists. "Anarchists do not frolic." Latin and Greek. Emily and Colin lip wrestle. Infidelity among the rich. Matchmaking. Emily discovers the true murderer.

I had trouble keeping the characters straight but that is not uncommon. The romance angles were not for me.

I have not heard back from Alexander so I assume she is uninterested in an interview. But, I was thinking about interview questions while reading and I wrote down some observations. Here they are:

1 - You learn right off the bat - first two pages - that Emily is very disliked by several of her society peers and the some of the aristocracy in Limey Land.
2 - The importance of money, estates and image among the upper class.
3 - One character seems to be whoring his wife to a powerful politician so he can increase his own career.
4 - Starts out with a popular setting in romances - the weekend party at a manor house but then moves to Vienna.
5 - No pre-marital sex between Emily and Colin. Why? Infidelity, whore houses, mistresses and other things are all around. Emily and Colin are both older and experienced - why not have them hook-up? Not doing so as a way to keep the romance aspects going?
6 - The devastating effects of scandal on the upper class. Especially sexual misadventure.
7 - Use of historical figures as characters. Alexander uses the Empress of Austria and Gustav Klimt. Are these people of personal interest that you wanted to write about or did they fit into the time and place with Emily? Any worries over historical accuracy?
8 - I don't recall any physical description of Emily.
9 - Clothes descriptions and fabric details.
10 - Bad Guy Harrison's threats felt hollow. Why would he not just shoot her or strangle her in an alley? Why would Colin not just kill him off or undermine him in some way (turn him in to the Austrians for something)?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Read: "Afraid" by Jack Kilborn

Read: Afraid by Jack Kilborn (Joe Konrath), 2009, 9780446535939.

This took a while to get interested in this but the story picked up steam about 1/4 of the way through.

Helicopter crashes in the Wisconsin forest outside the remote and isolated town of Safe Haven. Bad dudes in black uniforms and fancy body armor start to terrorize the populace looking for a guy named Warren. The Sheriff, a firefighter, a waitress, and the waitress's son become the focus of the story.

Nobody in town knows who Warren is because everyone calls him Wiley and he has been a recluse for thirty years. The bad guys are part of a "Red Ops" unit of surgically enhanced government assassins and terrorists that are supposed to be used behind enemy lines. Bad guys cut, burn, chew, pinch, and torture their way through the populace to find Warren. People die, dogs are threatened, young children are threatened, bodies are stacked, guns are fired, selfish women are murdered, houses burn, people are skinned alive, close calls occur, boats run out of gasoline. No sex.

Once Konrath gave more info on the bad guys I liked the book better because he gave me a reason to believe in the story.
2. I'm still listening to Dispatches by Herr and some references to Vietnam in Afraid got me comparing the fictional story in Afraid to the real stories by Herr.
3. Konrath has a fair amount of gun stuff in here. References to different makes and models, shooting styles, low light shooting methods, calibers, etc. All of that was accurately done until Konrath referenced the Glock 17 as a .45. Yes, this a gun nerd gripe. No, I am not going to send him a nit-picky email about it. Yes, I would like to send a nit-picky email about it.
4. Let's not get into the reasoning why the rich, recluse Warren would even own a Hi-Point.
5. I just remembered there may have been a continuity error with one of the characters. Maybe I could send two nit-picky emails.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just Finished: "Bury Me Deep" Megan Abbott

Juat Finished: Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott, 2009, 9781416599098.

Good book. I have not yet read the afterword about Winnie Ruth Judd. Knowing that the novel took the Judd story as a starting point was what delayed my starting this book. Too much bad taste in my mouth from Phoenix and the fact that the gal who wrote the book on Judd, Bommersbach, got on my nerves.

Told from the perspective of Marion Seeley. Seeley is young - about 25 or 23 - and married to an older doctor, Everett, who is in his thirties. Marion has been married to Dr. Seeley, as she calls him, for several years. But, Everett is a heroin addict and they have spent the marriage bouncing around the country as Everett has gone state-to-state chasing a valid medical license and landing in rehab.

The Seeleys land in Phoenix with Everett depositing Marion in a boarding house while he heads to a job with a mining company in Mexico. Marion makes friends with a nurse at the TB clinic she works at. The new pal, Louise, and Louise's roommate/pal, Ginny, make fast friends with Marion. Louise and Ginny invite Marion to all their wild parties, give "good girl" Marion her first drink, and introduce her to Joe. Joe introduces Marion to lust and sexual ecstasy.

Marion can't get enough of Joe. Marion worries over her sin and betrayal to Everett - even though Everett is a junkie bum - but cannot tear herself away from Joe and is happy in her sin. Joe is a married philanderer though and soon starts to cast Marion aside. One night Marion and Louise and Ginny start to fight. Ginny is killed. Louise is killed. Joe has Marion take the bodies to L.A. to hide.

Anyway. I missed a few pertinent details but you get the point. Marion is backstabbed by Joe. Marion has massive guilt. Marion still wants her legs wrapped around Joe. Everett shows back up. Things happen. Hearts are torn. Blah, blah, blah.

I liked this more than Queenpin. The writing style felt different. I'm not sure why, both are told first person. (Was that first person? I get confused.) Maybe I'll have an opportunity to ask Abbott about it at Muskego.

1- Lots of neat period touches by Abbott. Soaking hair in castor oil, meals, TB patients and symptoms, geography of Phoenix and L.A.
2- Abbott likes commas.
3- I don't like to having to keep checking the book cover to spell Abbott's name correctly.
4- Abbott did not spring many surprises for me until the end. It took me a while to catch the lesbian angle though. Several things said by Louise are remembered later and revealed to mean something different (kind of like James Ellroy does).

EDIT: 5 - Both Queenpin and Bury feature a female protagonist enthralled with a rough and cruel dude.

Listened To: "Dispatches" by Michael Herr

Listened to: Dispatches by Michael Herr, 1977 (listened to 2009 audio version off Overdrive).

Since audiobooks take so long to complete I take notes while listening. Here they are with a little clean-up after I finished listening:

Which came first? The attitude or the book? Is Herr's writing reflective of what went on or has everyone copied his tone?

Stories have been taken by and used by others:
"How can you shoot women and children?" responded with, "Just lead them a little less." and "You should do a story about me, I have 150 confirmed kills [plus oxen]" in Full Metal Jacket. Spooky M-79 shooter on the line in Khe Sanh redone in Apocalypse Now.

[Later comment: I found out after listening to the book that Herr helped write the script for Jacket.]

Khe Sanh's disastrous venture. Improperly digging in with the aid station next to the always shelled runway. Just sitting and waiting for an attack - to be fair an attack was expected by all. I once read a Marine's comments that they were always patrolling outside the perimeter but that ended after a while.

The Marines were just waiting it in Khe Sanh out until the weather cleared and the Air Force went to work. The Marines' stumblefuck in the mud was pointed out in a press conference by a former Marine captain working as a journalist. The former Marine pointed out how they had not dug in. The bunkers were crap. When the Army sent in the Cavalry to take over after the NVA left the Cav skipped the crappy original location and started building bases on the hills and bringing in all sorts of stuff. Khe San's original base was abandoned.

Comments about the Marines' reputation outweighing reality. Marines would go in with fewer people and weapons - seemingly based on reputation and pride. Whether or not they could get away with it or not was irrelevant. I'm assuming some of that was just because the Marines always seem to be the under equipped step child.

The unreality of first combat. The foolishness of expectations by Herr. Everyone seems to have some aspect of posing - Marines, Army, Journalists all amongst one another and with other groups. Exception being Sean Flynn and Dana Stone.

Photos carried by Marines and soldiers. The same photos were encountered everywhere - dead Viet., smiling soldiers holding up decapitated heads, a head propped on the body's chest, heads in a row with cigarettes in their mouths, dead VC female with the automatic phrase "no more boom-boom for that mama-san", cut-off ears, ears strung onto a necklace. "Snapshots were the least of what they took after a fight. At least pictures didn't rot." The same as now but soldiers have digital cameras and flash drives. Did the same things happen in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is the leadership and professional of young soldiers different than the '60s?

Everyone was raised on war movies. First times in combat seem like a movie with you waiting for everything to reset itself. Soldiers and Marines raised on war movies who do stupid things in combat just because a camera is there. The unreality of it is the same as now except their are also references to video games. The said comparisons to movies were made by soldiers in the Black Hawk Down fight in Somalia.

Herr's comment and criticism of the press corps: hundreds of credentials handed out during the war by MACV. Herr figures only about 50 of the people were any damn good. The rest were from a wide cariety of small and big papers, magazines, college reporters on vacation, magazine reporters, 2nd tier literary types 'who wrote how they hated the war more than you', people who accepted everything they were spoon fed by the military press assistance people and high ranking officers, press people who never went into the field, etc.

The main reason I listened to this is from reading about Sean Flynn in Requiem and remembering Kevin Dillon playing him in Frankie's House. (I never saw Frankies House all the way through, I only caught a few bits on television.) Even before Flynn disappeared he had a bigger than life reputation as Movie Star's Son. He was a good looking dude with his own acting experience. Flynn rejected that past and got by on his own ability. Requiem mentioned how Flynn would go out with LRRPs for weeks at a time and Herr mentions how Flynn would come back with only a two rolls of film.

Neat stories about Tim Page's history of injuries and his long recovery from the last injury.

Sign at Special Forces camp: Mercenaries kill for money. Sadists kill for fun. Green Berets do it for both.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Read Several Days Ago: "The Book of Murder" by Guillermo Martinez

Read Several Days Ago: The Book of Murder by Guillermo Martinez, 2008, Translation by Sonia Soto, 9780670019946.

Novelist in Argentina is contacted by a woman, Luciana, who worked for him as a transcriptionist 10 years ago. Transcriptionist asks Novelist for his assistance because she believes another novelist, Kloster, has been murdering her family members for the past decade. Novelist narrates tale of month long business relationship with Luciana and his own deep admiration for the brilliant Kloster. Novelist meets Luciana and Luciana tells tale of working for Kloster and her suing him for sexual harassment. Luciana tells tales of tragic deaths of her boyfriend, her parents, and her brother. Luciana fears she or her younger sister are next. Luciana comes to Novelist in a panic when she learns her sister will be interviewing Kloster.

Novelist contrives method to meet with the now famous Kloster. Kloster tells his side of the tale. Kloster's work with Luciana, making a failed pass at her, Kloster's insane wife, his resulting divorce due to the lawsuit, his wife's murder of their daughter. Kloster's writing of a revenge themed novel that he felt was partly written by a mysterious force or being that entered his mind. His idea that the being has been killing Luciana's family.

Luciana ends up killing herself to save her sister. Sister and Kloster start doing the deed. Novelist is left to wonder on the idea of chance versus paranoid obsession.

This was good. There were a few other, smaller characters but Martinez told the story through the three main characters and he did a damn good job. Not to mention that the translator, Soto, must also be quite good. Not a mystery or a thriller either. Noir-ish though with a single guy, the mysterious, and possibly powerful, Kloster, the paranoid Luciana, the young and beautiful sister in sexually charged danger from Kloster.

Not as much math discussion in this like in The Oxford Murders. Novelist and Kloster have a discussion on chance and probability. Is Luciana a nutbag? Indications point to "Yes, she sure is." But, her parents are killed by a poisonous mushroom and her brother is murdered by someone who writes to a convict to let the convict know the brother was shagging the convict's wife. What is the probability that Luciana's relatives and boyfriend would all die in rare ways? What or who should Novelist believe?

This brought on thoughts about Argentina and the Dirty War. The War was never referred to by Martinez but I pondered it anyway.

Other: Over the weekend I watched Illuminados por el fuego [Blessed by fire] which was about Argentine veterans of the Falklands. After such a disastrous and completely fucked up campaign by the Argentines I was surprised of the continued fervor and belief by Argentines that the Malvinas belong to them. I'm guessing that part of that is both national pride and true belief the islands are really theirs, and the other part is sorrow over the deaths of so many young guys was for naught.

The battle scenes in Illuminados were well done. They focused only on the two soldiers in question and showed things from their perspective: no sweeping aerial views or coverage of other battles on the islands, showed the confusion of the night battles, CGI added tracers and sound effects were effectively used.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Finished: "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins

Finished: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, 2009, 9780439023498.

Good story, but I liked the first book better.

Katniss and Peeta are back in District 12 and living in the Victors' Village. Katniss is pining for Gale but her false romance with Peeta during the Hunger Games has driven a wedge between them. Gale is also forced to work at least six days a week in the mines and Katniss does not have much opportunity to see him. Katniss wants to flee the District and take to the woods with Gale and her family.

Katniss and Peeta are due to take a victory tour to all the other Distrcits. Katniss receives a visit from the super-evil President Snow who says her defiance during the Games has sparked discontent and uprisings in the other districts. Snow threatens her to get in line or he will kill all her family, Peeta's family, and Gale's family.

Katniss and Peeta do the tour of other Districts and play all lovey-dovey for the crowds and camera but Katniss and Peeta just barely witness a brutal and murderous crushing of a public dissent. Katniss also realizes she will have to carry on the fraud with Peeta into marriage and children. Discussion ensues on whether District 13 was really leveled 50 years ago. A new police commander in District 12 starts violently cracking down on the populace.

Since the different Districts have been rebelling - Kat gets word of this from several sources - President Snow reads off new rules for that year's 75th anniversary of the Games. Suspicion is that Snow has changed the rules to both distract the Districts and enforce a penalty for their actions. For this Game all previous years winners are selected to compete again. Katniss and Peeta go back in the area and Katniss plans to have Peeta survive this time. Things happen, people die in the arena, rotten people are introduced, duplicity is pondered, etc.

My problems with the novel:
1- The story does not stand on its own. I know this is part of a planned series but Collins references too many instances and people in the first book without explanation. That always annoys me. Yeah, the author's goal or advice may be to have the reader start at #1 but I still think there should be more background info given.
2 - The Hunger Games was the focal point of the first book. Kat's and Peeta's preparation and competition in the Games take up most of the story. This book has Katniss trying to adjust after her win and wondering how to either run away or fight the Capital. The first half of the story lead me to think Kat would be actively involved with a rebellion. But then, Collins sticks her and Peeta back in the stupid Games.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Listened to: "The Mysterious Benedict Society" by Trenton Lee Stewart

Listened to: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, 2007, downloaded from

Boy #1 took swimming lessons this past summer. I would usually try and bring something to read. but most often ended up dozing away in the too hot building. One day I grabbed the wrong book and ended up with the print version of this novel. I got hooked within the first few pages and checked out the audio version when I saw it on Overdrive. The first few pages were still interesting but the story did not live up to that initial promise. The ending gave quite a few surprises though.

Reynard is an orphan, about 11 years old, and extremely intelligent. His life in the orphanage is dismal except for his female tutor. One day he answers a newspaper ad, "Are you a gifted child looking for Special Opportunities?". Rennie passes a series of strange and bewildering exams and is selected along with three other kids: Sticky, Kate, and Constance. All four kids are orphans, smart, and talented. They are selected by Mr. Benedict, a narcoleptic scholar and former orphan himself. Benedict tells them of a secret plot that has been sending cryptic brainwashing messages over the television airwaves. Those airwaves are behind the Emergency that has been going on for years. Benedict has recruited the four kids to be secret agents and pose as students in a private school where the messages are emanating from.

The kids get brief training from Benedict and his staff and get to know one another. The kids are almost captured by "recruiters" from the private school.

All four enlist in the academy run by Mr. Curtain - who turns out the be Mr. Benedict's twin. Curtain dislikes children and the bizarre and contradictory lessons the kids are learning make no sense. The kids investigate quietly. The kids fight evil "executives" who run the school and act as teachers. The kids communicate with Mr. Curtain's group via Morse Code. We learn about the kids. The kids have conflict within their group. The kids discover Curtain's sinister plan to take over the government. The kids defeat Curtain. Curtain escapes. The kids rejoin Benedict. Reynard is adopted by his tutor. Sticky is reunited with his parents. Kate finds her lost father. Constance is adopted by Benedict.

My problems: 1- This book seemed watered down compared to the darkness and true danger in the Lemony Snicket novels. I didn't feel the threat to the kids in Mysterious like I did in the Unfortunate Events novels.
2 - The clean and happy ending was nice and not unexpected but, again in comparison to Unfortunate, was overdone for more.

My Likes: 1- I did not expect the reunion between Kate and her father. Kate's father had disappeared years before and lost his memory. He had already appeared, unrecognized, as a helper of Mr. Benedict.Sticky's reunion with his parents was also unexpected but a nice touch.
3- The mysterious technology angle.
4- The amazing memory of Sticky and the brain power of Reynard. The ingenuity of Kate.
5- The revelation of Constance's age.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Finished a Couple Days Ago: "The IPCRESS FIle" by Len Deighton

Finished a Couple Days Ago: The IPCRESS File by Len Deighton, 1963 (U.S. version), LC number 63-15370 (no ISBN).

I really liked this one. I am sure I have read other Deighton books before but cannot recall what without searching a bib list of his work. Furst's espionage novels have always drawn me in so maybe I should look for more in the genre.

I am a big fan of the movies done on the Harry Palmer character with Michael Caine as Palmer. (Never mind that the novels never gave the narrator a real name.) I saw those flicks back when AMC used to show classics and before they had to start running commercials.

There is no surprise that the novel and movie differ quite a bit in plot. The bare basics remain: Narrator is a spy for the British government in 1962 (or so). Unknown is a bit of a smart-ass but good at his job. He is investigating a kidnap ring in the U.K.

Until the start of the novel Unknown had been in military intelligence until starting a civilian job with a civilian intelligence operation headed by Dalby. Dalby is a rising star and his unit's work has made Dalby a very powerful man in England's government.

Unknown is tasked with finding a kidnapped scientist. He and other unit members are able to do so but do not catch the ringleader of the kidnappers who have been nabbing scientists and selling them to the Soviet Bloc. Dalby disappears on assignment and Unknown takes over the unit. Investigation into the kidnappings continues with the help of a statistical analyst. Weird things happen. Unknown gets suspicions of his old boss - they never got along - being either a crook or turncoat.

Dalby reappears and Unknown and other unit members are detailed to a South Pacific island to observe a U.S. nuke bomb test. Unknown finds that he is suspected as a double-agent but finds evidence Dalby is the double-agent. Unknown is arrested for murder and espionage by the U.S. Army. Unknown is sent for repatriation to the UK but traded-in-turn to Hungary. Unknown is held in solitary and tortured. Unknown escapes his prison to find he is really in the UK and was in custody of the kidnapping ring and undergoing a long term brainwashing. Unknown stays underground. Unknown's friend is murdered. Unknown is wanted for the friend's murder. Unknown cracks the case against Dalby and the kidnappers. Unknown presses an Army General to find out the high government official who was in on the kidnappers with kidnapping ringleader. Ringleader ends up working for government intelligence.


1 - IPCRESS has great plotting that my short summary completely misses.
2 - There some nice twists, turns, and suspicions that make for a good espionage tale.
3 - At times Unknown's humility and self-deprecation make him seem a bumbler or novice but he isn't.
4 - There are several dated political and entertainment references and slang words.
5 - Why the hell wouldn't the kidnapping ringleader be forced to turn over the name of the government dude who was in on the plot?
6 - Sexual situations are alluded to but not described.
7 - I thought of offering this for inclusion to the Friday's Forgotten Books project but these notes are written for myself, not an audience. My punctuation and grammar would require too much self-scrutiny anyway.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Finally Finished: Medal of Honor text by Peter Collier.

Finally Finished: Medal of Honor: portraits of valor beyond the call of duty text by Peter Collier, photographs by Nick Del Calzo, 2006, 9781579653149 (2nd edition).

This is a big format book (10" x 11") and not easy to hold and read the way I usually do so it took a while for me to finish it. The book's focus is on living honorees with a large black and white portrait, a smaller black and white portrait of the man at about the time of the action, a precis of the citation, extra biographical information, and maybe an extra anecdote or two.

After reading all these stories I wonder "How are they still alive?"

So many continue on as career Army and Marine members. One guy was awarded for action in Vietnam and continued serving with a tour in Iraq in 2005. Many others are discharged and get notice a year or so later that the award will be presented.

Some amazing stories like Rubin who was in a Concentration camp as a kid, then emigrated to the States, joined the Army, went to Korea, was captured and spent two years in a North Korean prison camp. I wonder if North Korea seemed like summer camp after WWII; especially since Rubin's knowledge from WWII enabled him to keep a few dozen other prisoners alive. I looked Rubin up online and found a newspaper article from a couple years ago. Rubin did not get the award until 55 years later because he was Jewish. Rubin said his Sergeant was an anti-Semite and would always 'volunteer' Rubin for tough jobs. Rubin told an audience at the VA in Prescott, AZ that he was put up for multiple times for the MOH, DSC, and other awards because of this.

Several stories are familiar to me. The mustached Scotsman in Korea who led a bayonet attack against a hilltop position. Senators Kerry and Inouye. The defense of Guadalcanal's Henderson Field by a machine gunner. The Navy guy who was a SEAL, lost an eye, and then joined the FBI.

Inouye's was one of many awards that were given after formal re-evaluation by Defense for people who may have gotten shafted for being Asian, black, Jewish, etc.

The stories got depressing after a while. Each individual story can be inspiring, but the guys who are honored are usually the first to point out all the dead comrades that preceded the action. All the stories are so similar too. Honorees with multiple wounds during action, attacking multiple enemy bunkers, falling on a grenade and surviving, multiple trips into enemy fire to rescue or treat wounded comrades.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Got Around To: "The Fighter" by Craig Davidson

Got Around To: The Fighter by Craig Davidson, 2007, 9781569474655.

I read Davidson's brutal little collection of short stories in Rust and Bone. We received Fighter in Jan of '08 and Jacob the Page read it and said it was good but brutal. I saw it on the shelf a couple weeks ago and took it home. It was good: above average but not fantastic. I liked the two sex scenes.

Paul Harris is a rich, snotty 26 year old Canadian. He has lived a life of privilege under his winery owning parents and can be a real snot. When barhopping with a girl he doesn't even like much he insults a boots-wearing working stiff who was hitting on her. The stiff ends up beating a couple teeth and most of Harris' dignity and self-worth out of him. Harris' intense fear during the beating changes him.

Paul was never happy with his do-nothing job at the winery and was just going through the motions in life: finish high school, go to college, work at the winery, keep the same upper-class pals, eventually marry and take over the business. Instead, Paul leaves his office and starts picking grapes, driving his car aimlessly each night, starts lifting weights and taking steroids. He impulsively stops at a boxing club, joins up, and starts training seven hours a day.

Meanwhile, across the border in Niagara, sixteen year old Rob Tully is a naturally gifted and hard training amateur boxer. His father sees boxing as a Rob's chance to escape a dead-end town. Rob's skills are well known but he only trains for family's sake (his father and uncle are both in the fight game).

Anyway... There are parallels of young guys bucking their planned paths. Meanings of manhood and fear. Family obligation and personal choice. Rob's uncle brain dead from an underground boxing competition at the hands of Paul. Paul and Rob fighting at that same underground club.

That description can sound like a nice, clean YA novel with hugs and kisses in the end. Not so. Paul Harris is self-destructiveness and takes massive beatings hoping to transcend both pain and fear. He goes into a steroid rage almost killing a guy during a paintball game. He steal from his parents, shoots up steroids, gets his nostril capillaries cauterized to prevent easy bleeding, and more. Paul never looks for the guy who beat the crap out of him before. The guy at hand is never an issue - it is Paul's transformation during and afterwards that matters.

Rob is a pretty good kid. He does him homework and trains hard. But, even he comes to a breaking point and mutilates his hands to end his career.

Davidson themes I remember from before: Competing definitions of manliness with fisticuffs versus hard work and supporting your family. The fragility of hand bones and their importance to boxers. Poor people getting by and boxing as a family trade or hobby.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Comic Book: "Gotham Central" by Ed Brubaker, et al

Comic Book: Gotham Central: Book One: In the Line of Duty by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark (art), 2008, 9781401219239.

Hey, I just noticed there is an intro by Lawrence Block. Maybe I should read that.

Gotham city cop stories about the Major Crimes Unit (MCU). MCU officers have a dislike of Batman. They want to solve crimes on their own and not ask for the Bat's help. Mr. Freeze kills one cop and the cop's partner wants to get Freeze and begs his superior not to turn on the Bat signal. Mr. Freeze ends up getting caught with help of Batman anyway.

Story two has lesbian cop getting publicly outed. Some fellow cops are assholes about it
and her family are staunch, immigrant Catholics. Cop supposedly outed by a con who is suing her. Con is murdered. Cop is set-up for the murder and arrested. Cop is violently sprung from jail bus and taken to Two-Face's hideout. Psychotic and schizophrenic Two-Face loves cop. Two-Face thinks they are meant for each other after cop visited him in Arkham and spoke kindly to him. Batman rescues cop from Two-Face after sneakily getting info from cop's partner. Cop rejected by Catholic family and consoled by her girlfriend.

Read: "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" by Carrie Ryan

Read: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, 2009, 9780385736817.

This was plugged in a Sunday issue of Unshelved. Most of the plugs in those Sunday strips are YA or SciFi and I could not give a rat's ass about them. Forest is both YA and SciFi. But, it has ZOMBIES!

Mary's village may be the sole human refuge against a world filled with the undead. The village has survived for several generations due to an equally old fence that surrounds and protects it from the zombies. Seen from the highest point in town the forest is endless; and the forest is filled with human eating zombies. There are two fence enclosed paths leading away from the village but both are abandoned and forbidden to villagers. Mary dreams of a life beyond the forest and is driven by her mother's stories of the ocean and cities full of skyscrapers.

Mary lost her father to the zombies a few years before and then her mother is bitten by zombies and turns. Mary's older brother blames Mary for their mother's choice to go into the forest as a zombie rather than be killed. Mary's brother kicks her out of the house and she has to join the Sisters since no one offers to marry her. The Sisters are the town's nuns and also their political and religious leaders and medical authorities. Mary chafes under their control and one day discovers that a girl, Gabrielle, has entered the village through one of the abandoned paths. The Sisters have hidden Gabrielle into their cloister. Meanwhile Mary has fallen in love with her best friend's betrothed, Travis.

Travis' brother Harry offers to marry Mary. Mary is creeped out, upset, and wishing escape. Gabrielle disappears. Gabrielle reappears as a super-fast zombie. Mary wants Travis but is stuck with Harry. A fence breach lets the zombies in. Mary, her brother, a boy, Travis, Harry and a couple others escape to the fenced path. They follow the path for days until arriving at an unknown village. Village is well stocked and barricaded but still zombified. Mary and others stay until fire burns village up. Travis dies. Mary and others escape to another fenced path. End of path is gate into forest. Mary goes into forest. Mary's brother follows along but disappears after falling into a torrential river. Mary goes in river and wakes up on an ocean beach.

1-Teen angst with zombies. Mary is looking for escape and freedom from her village. She has no idea what lies beyond the forest - the forest may be unending and filled with the undead - but she believes her mom's stories and wants to find out for herself. After generations alone in the village their are no books or photos to corroborate her mom's stories and and everyone feels that the stories are just that, stories.

2-Mary is in love with Travis but her village's customs require marriage and children through a formal courtship and marriage. Love does not enter the equation, the purpose of marriage is survival of the village.

3-Mary and the others are all about 16 or 18 or so. They are dealing with an immediate and violent adjustment from teen life to adult decisions over life and death.

4- Good book but Mary got on my nerves a bit. She is a head in the clouds kind of gal. Her desire for escape and growth is admirable but she does not clue in to reality very well.

5- Not nearly enough zombie killing. This is about the humans and not about zombies or zombie battles.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Read: "Pity Him Afterwards" by Donald E. Westlake

Read: Pity Him Afterwards by Donald E. Westlake, 1964, no ISBN - just an LC catalog number.

I read about this in a reference book on mystery and detective fiction. The article referred to this as Westlake's last "hard-boiled idiom" novel in his own name. He then started writing hard-boiled books as Stark and Tucker Coe. Stark? Did you say Stark?

Crazy guy escapes insane asylum. Hitches a ride and kills the driver, escapes cops and kills elderly couple. Assumes first dead guy's identity and heads a few hundred miles away to a summer stock theater where the dead guy had an acting gig.

A young actor, Mel, shows up at summer stock hung-over and a day late. He mets everyone. Crazy guy is ingocnito with reader not knowing which actor's name he has assumed. Crazy guy kills and rapes a young lady in the house all actors are living in. Mel finds dead girl.

Police captain shows up. Captain is a summer worker like most people in the resort town. He is determined to solve the case without the help of the State Police. Investigation begins. Crazy guy is ecstatic at fooling everyone. Then kills a night watchman. Crazy guy gets worried. Captain gets worried. Mel gets worried but has boner for a stagehand chick.

Mel and chick get permission to go on lake and head to an island. Crazy guy kills another actor in the house with the idea of taking that guy's identity instead. Captain and crazy guy talk. Crazy guy gives self away. Crazy guy runs. Crazy guy jumps in lake. Crazy guy swims. Crazy guy gets on sailboat and kills naked lovers onboard. Crazy guy lands on island where Mel and girl are. Captain arrives in nick-of-time to kill Crazy Guy before Crazy Guy kills Mel.

Mainly told from the perspective of the three guys listed before. CG is a paranoid and convinces himself of his righteousness, or forgets his deeds, as psychic protection; at least according to his psychiatrist. Captain is actually a college prof. and his amateur skills are stretched. Captain blames those amateurish skills on the death of guy actor in house. Mel is mainly worried about having a job that summer to earn his Equity card and in scoring some action.

A psychological look at the killer. Not a procedural. "Pity him afterwards" refers to the pity people have for a man so mentally ill but who know be must captured or killed to stop him.

Pity was okay, nothing here that really grabbed my fancy. My expectations were too high but I am glad I read it. Westlake's description of towns and little insights into somewhat minor characters is evident in this earlier novel. I like that about his books. He doesn't have any wasted words and seemingly unimportant fluff keeps me interested.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Finished: "The First Quarry" by Max Allan Collins

Finished: The First Quarry by Max Allan Collins, 2008, 9780843959659.

This may be the first Collins novel I have read. It is quite good. According to the bib. on Collins website he started the Quarry series in 1976. Collins did only a few Quarry novels before a long hiatus.

Quarry is a Vietnam Veteran and former sniper recruited by The Broker in 1970 to be a hired killer. Quarry's first assignment is to murder a college professor in Iowa City that same December. (Unfortunately I am unable to come up with any good wisecracks against the Hawkeyes.)

Quarry starts a surveillance on the prof and waits for a time to kill him and destroy a manuscript. The prof is busy either banging or advising co-eds and grad students and Quarry has trouble finding a good time to do the job. Quarry has to worry about a co-ed's ex-boyfriend reappearing. Quarry gets shaken down by a PI who is shadowing the prof for the prof's wife who is preparing a divorce case. Quarry kills the PI. Quarry stands in for the PI and fucks the prof's wife. Quarry follows a female grad student to insure she will not come back when prof is getting offed. Grad student is mobster's daughter. Grad student gets kidnapped. Quarry rescues her by murdering both kidnappers. Quarry fucks grad student. Quarry figures out the student's mob father is the client. Quarry gets into prof's house and destroys document. Prof's wife shows up right after prof does and murder-suicide ensues. Mobster comes to town to check on daughter. Quarry kills the mobster to avoid future trouble with mobster.


1- There were several anachronisms in the story. I could be easily wrong of course, since I was not born until 1971, but comments about plastic signs saying "wet floor" and wheelchair ramps outside a store were jarring.
2- Lee Goldberg had that comment about tie-ins and the quality authors who pen them. This is not a tie-in but Collins just did a tie-in novel for the G.I. Joe movie. A part of my instant dislike of tie-ins is that an author must have the plot and characters dictated to him, right? When you're given a piece of crap film and have to novelize it you're already pushed into a corner. I'd like to read one of those books to find out how Collins - or others - handle the situation. Original novels with tie-in characters must give a lot more room for creativity; like taking Monk to Germany and Paris.
2b- What kind of restrictions and rules does a tie-in author have to follow? I checked-in several Hannah Montana books yesterday and got to wondering what publishers require; for those YA and J novels there must be a bullet list like for romance novels.
3- Are there some hidden writer jokes in here about the Writer's Workshop?
4- Quarry is a great character. I'm glad Collins has two other recent Quarry novels plus the movie.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not too Impressed: "Alan's War" by Emmanuel Guibert

Not too Impressed: Alan's War: the memories of G.I. Alan Cope by Emmanuel Guibert, 2008 (English translation), 9781596430969.

I've run across several comments about how great this book is. It was okay but I do not understand the massive praise. As a war memoir it is interesting but not better than the many memoirs I have read. Maybe the people praising this as a war memoir are all graphic novel nerds who have never read any of the thousands of WWII memoirs out there.

If there is anything to praise it is Guibert's selection and organization of Cope's stories. Guibert became a good pal of Cope and recorded down a lot of Cope's stories. Guibert did do a good job of putting together the narrative text. I could take or leave the artwork itself, but I did like when Guibert would draw just the characters and take out all backgrounds; that was a neat but simple technique to isolate the characters.

Alan joins the Army about midway through the war. He is in training for over a year and serves in different locations and in different jobs. By time he gets to Europe the U.S. Army is in Germany and Cope's unit is on a race to Eastern Europe. Pattons is sending them East fast to try because he wants the U.S. to claim the land. Cope sees very slight action.

The war is a really small part of the story. The meat of the tale is Alan's realtionship's. He becomes a great pal with a fellow trainee. During the occupation he makes friends with Germans: a famous pianist/composer and his wife, a brother-sister accordionist duo and their family, a Nazi's daughter, some Bavarian guys he hikes with.

Cope gets discharged and takes a civilian job with the U.S. Army in Germany. He goes home to California to attend seminary and see his fiance-by-mail. Cope tells several tells of seminary friends, his family, a car crash, travel around CA. Cope decides to go back to France. Cope gets married to French gal. Cope gets different jobs until hired as translator by U.S. Army. Cope grows older. Cope gets divorced. Cope gets older. Cope remarries. Cope approaches retirement starts to think about his life. Cope reconnects with war and post-war friends.

This is just a biography with part of it set during the war. A strong argument for using War in the title is how Cope's service changed his life's direction. Cope's life does take some major turns. His time int eh service assisting an Army minister encourages him to seminary. His time and friendships in France and Germany get him to go return.

Finished: "Conan: the Frost-Giant's daughter and other stories" by Kurt Busiek

Finished: Conan: the Frost-Giant's daughter and other stories by Kurt Busiek, art by Cary Nord, 2005, 1593073011.

I was looking for more of Busiek's Astro City novels. I did not find any Astro stories but this was in the catalog. It's okay, just okay. The story was interesting enough to keep me involved but I did not like the artwork.

A story of a young Conan (about 18 or so I suppose) who runs across some reavers attacking a village. Conan is asked to join the village's warriors in following and attacking the reavers. Conan wants to visit a land way north, Hyperborea, that is supposed to be a land of milk and honey. Conan decides to join the villagers for a while. The villagers split at one point and Conan is the only survivor. Conan is awakened by a naked nymph. Conan follows her and is attacked by her goliath sized brothers. He kills them and chases the girl. She escape's when the Frost Giant god does a big zap of lightning.

Conan rejoins the other villagers. The villagers are betrayed by someone jealous of Conan. They are betrayed to some other monster sized people who take them as slaves to Hyperborea. Conan and the others are drugged and used as gladiators. Hot slave chick gives counteracting drug to Conan to awaken him from his drugged, zombie state. Conan plans uprising. Uprising fails but Conan escapes. Conan kills the two guys who betrayed everyone.

Read: "City of the Dead" by Brian Keene

Read: City of the Dead by Brian Keene, 2005, 0843954159.

After reading The Rising I looked into getting another Keene book. I reserved one and, lo and behold, find out that this is a sequel. Keene's Acknowledgements mentions fans who were upset with The Rising's ending and wrote this.

City takes off from where Rising ended: Jim, Martin, and Frankie are in New Jersey to rescue Jim's son from the zombie hoards. The zombies are still dead bodies inhabited by demons from "The Void". Jim gets to his ex-wife's house and goes in for his kid, Danny. Jim finds Danny still alive but zombies burst out from surrounding homes in an ambush. Martin and Frankie enter the house. Shoot-out ensues. (I love how the zombies keep the memories of the bodies they inhabit and shot back, drive cars, etc.) Zombies set the house on fire. Jim and company are able to escape to a neighboring house where Don lives. They all escape that house in Don's SUV.

The SUV crashes and Martin dies in the crash (a shame since Martin was a good character). The rest are about to be eaten by the zombies when a helicopter rescues them. The helicopter is from a NYC skyscraper that holds a group of human survivors led by a fictionalized and insane Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the zombies are organizing for an assault on the skyscraper. We learn more about the zombies and how once they kill all the humans their evil brethren will come and take over and kill all the plants, then the Earth will be burned and the demons will travel to other worlds and do the same.

The zombies assault. A human doctor is banging a tied-up zombie. DonaldTrumpMillionaire masturbates at a skyscraper window. Jim enjoys survival with his son. Survivors try to remain upbeat. Zombies get in the building and start killing everyone. Jim and others escape to the sewers. Danny and Frankie are the only survivors to make it to an underground bomb shelter. Danny and Frankie die in their sleep when demon rats chew their way in. The world dies.

Keene's zombies are fantastic, he makes them very funny and deadpan. The zombies will inhabit another dead body if the one the use is destroyed. Jim's and company's escape from the burning house is accompanied by the zombies singing The house, the house, the house is on fire. We don't need no water let the fucking humans burn, burn fucking humans burn. At one point Keene pokes fun at Tom Piccirilli's name.

Why do horror and apocalyptic novels and films always have a selfish or self-destructive bad guy that ruins things for everyone?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Finished: "Running Blind" by Lee Child

Finished: Running Blind by Lee Child, 2000, 0399146237.

I'm still working my way through the Reacher series. It's funny how a lot of books can be easily identified as pre-9/11 or post-9/11.

Reacher is eating at his favorite Manhattan restaurant when a couple thugs come in to extort the owner. Reacher intervenes and sends both to the hospital. Reacher gets back to his house north of NYC and is instantly surrounded by lots of FBI and cops. Reacher gets taken back to Manhattan, stuck in a holding cell, interrogated under suspicion of being a serial murder of former Army women whose sexual harassment cases he investigated. Reacher is threatened over the restaurant thugs incident. Reacher is called a murder suspect. Reacher gets sprung.

The life of Reacher's girlfriend is threatened by the FB-fucking-I. Bad idea. Reacher agrees to be a consultant and liaison with Army for the feebs. Reacher expresses contempt for FBI theories and "profiling". Reacher uses Army contacts. Reach hates some of the agents. Reacher investigates. Reacher cracks the case. Reacher breaks neck of the FBI agent who was real killer. Reacher threatened with murder charges by humiliated FBI. Reacher and FBI reach a truce.

Another solid job by Child. The man does great work. Reacher is still big, still vicious, still brilliant, and still scoring with the ladies. Child's red herring was lousy. I was able to figure out the culprit somewhat early because the suspect pool was limited.

Like I needed other reasons (fictional or not) to mistrust the government and the FBI.

Quickly Went Through: "The Arrival" by Shaun Tan

Quickly Went Through: The Arrival by Shaun Tan, 2006, 9780439895293.

A quick read. This was recommended by someone on the Blue Mountains Library blog. I don't read their blog regularly but sometimes they mention a title that really grabs me. There are a couple others they have mentioned that I still need to get a hold of. She - the gal who did the Tan review - gives a better description than I. But, here is mine anyway.

A story told in pictures about a man who leave his wife and young daughter behind to travel to another country. He brings only a suitcase and at the end of an overseas voyage arrives in a strange and bewildering place. The local alphabet is indecipherable. The maps are bizarre. Even the clocks work with different symbology. Travel is by automatically navigated balloon taxi and the public transit seem to be a floating steamboats.

The man meets several other immigrants who assist him in adjusting to the new place. They each tell their own story of terror and danger in their homelands. In the end the man's wife and child join him. Happy ending with the daughter helping a new immigrant find her way.

A neat look at what immigrants face in a different culture.

LAST NOTE: Tan grew up north of Perth and graduated U. of West Aus. in '95. Hell I may have run into the guy somewhere.

Read: "Give Us A Kiss" by Daniel Woodrell

Read: Give Us A Kiss: a country noir by Daniel Woodrell, 1996, 0805022988.

Damn good. Excellent writing. The third real good novel in row. This was recommended by Anthony Neil Smith much like Cottonwood was. Smith was listing "rural noir" books and Give was here on the shelf. Smith continues to be slightly good for something.

Doyle Redmond is Ozark born and mostly bred. He spent some time growing up in Kansas City and ended up getting college money by pulling an armed robbery with his older brother, Smoke. Redmond is now in his mid-thirties and a mostly unsuccessful novelist who doubles up as a college instructor. Doyle gets fed up with his wife when she starts fucking a visiting poet to advance her career. Doyle steals his wife's Volvo and heads home to K.C. While in K.C. his parents get Doyle to head to Southern Missouri to convince Smoke to turn himself in on some Kansas warrants since the cops are giving their parents grief.

Doyle heads down to West Table, MO. Sees his grandfather, Panda. Expresses the importance of family in the Ozarks. Relates the ongoing and occasionally violent feud with the Dolly family. Tells tale of Panda murdering a local Dolly and losing the family land to pay the law bill and bribes. Doyle meets up with Smoke. Doyle falls for the hot 19-year-old daughter of Smoke's girlfriend. Doyle joins Smoke in growing, harvesting, and selling a marijuana crop. Doyle kills one of the Dolly's intent on stealing said crop. Doyle and the rest get ambushed by Dollys when trying to sell the crop. Doyle goes and kills a super mean Dolly he thinks killed Smoke in ambush. Smoke turns up alive. Doyle's looking at big book sales for due to"crime writer commits crime" publicity.

I felt no connection to the name Doyle. Which seems odd since the name is fairly rare and I have two relatives with the name. Doyle follows the main details of Woodrell's own life: Ozarks native, joined Marines in his teens, late college grad, college instructor, crime novelist with poor sales. I'll bet he got a lot of stupid questions relating the novel's plot and characters to his bio.

I don't have much else to say. Woodrell uses the the hilly and wooded setting to his advantage. Doyle is one of those noir characters that it takes a while to understand and learn about. I was frustrated at times because Woodrell took his time in filling in intentional gaps about Doyle.

Woodrell's Redmonds are a crime family. They are mostly legal now but have a violent history that pulls Doyle in. That family history really influences Doyle who wants to live up to that history and gain approval from relatives living and dead. Doyle is not reluctant though, he accepts and consciously chooses his path. At the end Doyle gets a postcard from an imprisoned relative saying Doyle will be welcome if he doesn't beat his murder rap.

We have another Woodrell book, 2006's Winter's Bone, which I ordered; I sure don't remember doing so. It too is set in the Ozarks and is short at 193 pages.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Finished: "Mr Monk Goes to Germany" by Lee Goldberg

Finished: Mr Monk Goes to Germany by Lee Goldberg, 2008, 9780451220998.

The second darn good novel in a row for me.

I have always had a negative opinion of novels that are tie-ins to movies or television. I've always figured they were commissioned hack jobs aimed at reluctant readers and imbeciles. But, after Bill Crider recommended several Monk novels I decided to give one a try. Crider does not appear to be an imbecile and the book sure was good.

Monk is going through his usual, daily difficulties. Monk loses a sock and is convinced his new neighbor stole it. The new neighbor has only one leg and Monk is greatly upset about the lack of symmetry. When Monk hears that the neighbor had his leg caught in a hiking trip and had to cut the leg off, and then eat it, Monk goes more bonkers than usual; he is convinced the neighbor is a cannibal. But, Monk's psychiatrist is at a conference in Germany and unable to see Monk for his twice weekly appointments. Monk does the only logical Monk thing and flies to Germany.

Natalie accompanies Monk, of course. Natalie is, in fact, the first person narrator throughout the story and she is a very good character. I got a lot of Natalie's of personality and more background on Monk and herself that really filled out the story. There is no need to be acquainted with the tv series itself (something Crider mentioned before).

Natalie and Monk fly to Germany and drive to Lohr. Monk is upset about the uneven houses and cobblestones. Natalie tries to enjoy the trip. Monk sees a six-fingered man like the one who was supposed to have killed Monk's wife. Natalie and Monk hassle the shrink. Monk hassles the cop about six-fingered man. Monk is asked by local cops for assistance in suicide investigation. Monk sees a murder scene. No one but Natalie believes Monk that a murder occurred. Monk proves six-fingered man is the killer in local murder case.

A fun novel with a lot of laughs. I saw Monk and Natalie differently than on the tv show. Goldberg has the space to show what Monk and Natalie's relationship is like and how difficult Monk can be. Heck, Goldberg shows how crazy Monk is. During the 44 minutes of each tv episode you laugh at the kooky Monk but do not get the everyday, all day insanity of the man.

EDIT: Boy, that reads like a rough insult of Crider. Not intended.
ANOTHER EDIT: I've found any recommendation by Crider to be worth a try.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Read: "Cottonwood" by Scott Phillips

Read: Cottonwood by Scott Phillips, 2004, 9780345461002.

I previously read Phillip's Ice Harvest and Walkaway. Both those books were well above average and the Wichita settings were fun for me. Both were period pieces and the sex angle ofWalkaway and Wichita history were quite neat. I had no idea Phillips had a third book out until I saw a reference to Phillips in a picture caption on Anthony Neil Smith's blog. Just goes to show that Smith is good for something after all. That and he did a piece on rural noir not too long ago that plugged my current read, Give Us A Kiss, which I am enjoying.

This one was damn good. One of the best books I have read in a while. And I have been sceraming through books this year. Set in 1873 and 1890 in the fictional Kansas town of Cottonwood.

Plot: Bill Ogden came out to Cottonwood with his wife a few years before 1973 to farm. Bill hated farming and started a saloon while a hired man helped work the farm. Bill still works the farm in the mornings but has mostly abandoned his wife and young son and lives in the city to work the saloon and sometimes do photographic portraits.

A rich guy from Chicago, Marc Leval, starts building a mansion in town with the hope that a new rail line coming through town will make Cottonwood a cattle train destination and make Leval even richer. Bill partners with Leval for a bigger saloon in anticipation of the coming boom. Meanwhile Bill gets the hots for Marc's wife, Maggie. Bill starts plugging Maggie. Bill avoids a local slut. Local slut's family, the Benders, turn out to be mass murderers who kill and steal from travelers. Family flees after being found out.

Bill joins the Bender posse and is partnered with Leval. Leval tries to shoot Bill in the back and misses. Bill shoots Leval in chest and leaves him for dead. Bill skulks out of town with Maggie. Bill and Maggie flee to CO and have an acrimonious split after a couple years. Bill ends up in San Francisco in 1890 after a 13 year break in the narrative. Bill sees newspaper article that the Bender women may have been caught. Bill decides to head back to Cottonwood for the trial. Bill finds that Marc Leval is still alive. Bill finds that Maggie had a son by Bill. Bill is convinced the two women are not the Benders. Bender women convicted anyway. Bill finds out that Leval and a couple others killed the Bender family, connived with the Bender's fence, and took all the loot. Bill kills the unrepentant scumbag who was in cahoots with the Benders. Bill and Maggie get back together in the end.

Bill is a self absorbed prick. Maybe it is due to a rough upbringing and Army service in the Civil War. He's more concerned with getting laid and making money than caring about others. He's mostly abandoned his wife in Cottonwood and barely interacts with his son. He runs off with another man's wife and then abandons the woman in CO when he moves to another town. When in San Francisco he lowers his rent by fucking his landlady. When he gets returns to Cottonwood he screws that landlady as well.

But, Bill does have a strong side towards justice. He tries to intervene in a town lynching in 1873. He owns a building in San Francisco that he won in a poker game and tries to help out the tenant running the rotgut saloon in it. Bill joins the posse to get the Bloody Benders. Bill ultimately kills the last remaining member of the Bender clan in 1890 and tries to force intervention on behalf of the suspected Bender women. He ultimately "redeems" himself in the end by reconnecting with his children and taking care of his family.

All in all a great book with a great lead character. Great period touch for SE KS. Good characters in the local bigwigs of Cottonwood from their starts in 1873 to their wealthy status in 1890.

EDIT: Forgot to mention that Phillips took a true story, the Benders, and incorporated the tale into the novel. He mentions al source in the author's note that would be worthwhile checking out, The Benders of Kansas.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Listened to: "The Good Guy" by Dean Koontz

Listened to: The Good Guy by Dean Koontz, downloaded from

Koontz is a good writer but I don't like his characters very much. They always engage in snappy patter and witty comebacks. I read that 2-3 book series with the guy who has a light sensitivity disorder (Fear Nothing, etc.) and I had the same dislike for those characters. The Fear books read like extended episodes of Friends with violence and mystery included.

Koontz's characters also seem to have all sorts secret skills and backgrounds. For instance, the main character in Good is Tim. Tim is presented as a regular dude who works as a mason during the day and hangs out in his friend's bar in the evening. But, Tim has all sorts of skills and bravery a normal guy doesn't.

One evening Tim strikes up a conversation with a fellow bar goer and gets handed an envelope with $10k and a woman's photo. The other guy wants Linda, the woman in the photo, dead and has mistook Tim for a hired killer. The first guy leaves and a second guy comes in the bar and talks to Tim. The second guy is the real hired killer and assumes Tim is the buyer. Tim tells the killer to forget the job and then Tim goes to tell Linda she is in danger.

Linda and Tim flee the seemingly psychic killer who finds them most anywhere. Of course, the reader knows the killer - a man with multiple aliases - is using some high tech methods and the assistance of a support team to guide him along. Tim and Linda have close calls. Masonry love ensues. Tim calls on a cop friend for help. Killer is part of a dark conspiracy. Tim uses mysterious yet amazing skills and methods to avoid the killer. Kahr love ensues. Linda gets hot for Tim, Tim gets hot for Linda. Tim kills killer and conspiracy people warn him off. Tim tells the President about the conspiracy and the conspiracy is taken down while Tim and Linda enjoy their life together.

A big annoyance is how Tim turns out to be a super-duper war hero. Not just any war hero though, he is a Medal of Honor winner who saved his fellow Marines and a few hundred civilians who were about to be slaughtered. Yeah, right. Of course, he uses the connection of having met the President's mom to parlay a private meeting with the President to present some evidence on the evil conspiracy. Yeah, sure.

My not liking the two main characters is usually a real deal breaker for me. But, Koontz created a real nasty villain and knows how to drive the plot and story along.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Quit Reading: "Ambush" by Paul Carson

Quit Reading: Ambush by Paul Carson, 2004, 9780312367114

I was reading this during vacation. I gave up about a 1/4 of the way through because it was just not all that exciting. I did not like the writing all that much and the main characters are annoying.

Scott Nolan is a doctor in Dublin. Nolan followed his Irish wife there but he does not like the urban crime he has found. Nolan has become nationally famous after being picked to assist the government's anti-drug campaign by appearing on television to show the effects of drugs on society.

That anti-drug campaign has been wreaking havoc on Irish dealers and some weaselly guys see an opportunity to step in and take over the drug trade. Since many dealers are going out of business or going to jail the Weasels plan assassination of both the Minister for Justice and Scott. Both assassination attempts fail but kill a couple cops and Scott's wife.

Scott goes into grief with round-the-clock police protection. His cop brother-in-law blames him. Scott is asked to pretty much quit his job because people are afraid of a second attack on Scott happening at work. Scott plans to dump his protection and make himself a target in an attempt to catch the killers.

A neat idea and a neat setting. But, I did not like the execution.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Listened to: "The Prosecution of George Bush for Murder" by Vincent Bugliosi

Listened to: The Prosecution of George Bush for Murder by Vincent Bugliosi, 2009, downloaded from

Boy oh boy. Bugliosi really hates Bush and Cheney and the all the rest. Bugliosi cuts no corners on this one. I did not agree with everything he said but he gives some very strong arguments.

Incompetence before 9/11. Failure in Afghanistan to catch or kill bin Laden. Bailing from Afghanistan to go to Iraq. Falsifying evidence about Sadam. Lying the country into Iraq and then fucking up the war anyway. Refusing to even get the needed equipment in place. What a fucking disaster.

I won't recap the book and add comments since I finished listening to it about a month ago. Bugliosi contends that Bush could be tried in any local jurisdiction from which a local soldier could have been killed due to Bush's falsifications.

Read: "Trial by Fire" by James Reasoner

Read: Trial by Fire by James Reasoner, 2002, 0312873468.

The second book in Reasoner's Last Good War series. If the third book is like this one I know why a fourth book was never requested by the publisher. This one just kind of dragged along and runs 445 pages. I have the third one at home and may as well try it. If it drags too much I'll bail on it since I assume there will not be much of a resolution in the end.

Dale and Joe are training British tankers in England for the U.S. Army and then sent to Egypt. Adam is a Marine on Wake Island. Adam's wife Catherine is a Navy nurse in Pearl Harbor and then on a hospital ship. Adam gets sent to San Diego and becomes an officer. Secondary characters live and die while fighting at Wake, Coral Sea, and Midway. Dale sneaks out on a mission to the Egyptian desert. Joe meets a Brit intelligence officer. Both are obviously intended to join up with the LRDG or SAS.

The first in the series was a neat look at pre-war life in Chicago and the political and military build up to war. This had a lot of slow parts and lacked the insight of that first book. The storyline about Wake Island was neat. Reasoner keeps Adam on Wake all through the defensive preparations by the Army and the first attacks by the Japs. Dale and Joe barely seem to make it into the story.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Finally Found the Dang Book: "Eddie's World" by Charlie Stella

Finally Found the Dang Book: Eddie's World by Charlie Stella, 2001, 078670893X

I grabbed this to take on vacation after Crider did a plug on a different Stella book. I finished this book a couple weeks ago but could not find the damn thing. It showed up when my wife was cleaning. This is Stella's first novel and is pretty good.

Eddie is a former full-time crook who still has one foot in the crime world as a loanshark. The rest of his work is temping as a word processor for different places in Manhattan. Eddie is connected to a mob boss but Eddie was never a "made" guy or even a whatevertheycallguyswhoworkitfulltimeforthemob. Eddie got into the word processing career as a way out of crime. But, Eddie likes certain aspects of that life: he has friends in the there, there is money there, he has always done it, there is some excitement, etc.

Eddie's marriage to a flaky gal is in trouble and he is planning a burglary with his pal Tommy. Eddie doesn't need the money but 15k is 15k and the burglary is a favor to a friend, Sarah. Eddie met Sarah while on a temp job and she offered the burglary as a way to get even with her boss. Eddie and Tommy hope to score about 15,000 bucks out of the boss's desk before he uses the cash for an illicit diamond deal.

Meanwhile, Sarah is boinking a recently released con who is on an FBI tether. The Con is working for the FBI to set-up other crooks (a minor drug dealer for instance) for the FBI and figures to make a buck by stealing Eddie's score by grabbing the cash and the diamonds.

Eddie doesn't get the cash because the Boss, the diamond salesmen, and Sarah meet for the sale and are all murdered by the Con who takes the diamonds as well. The triple murder happens in an upscale area and the heat is on to catch the killer. Eddie and Tommy steal some computers in the burglary and the cops connect the murder to the burglary to the computers to Tommy.

Eddie already knew of the Con's existence and goes looking for him. The cops go looking for Eddie. Tommy panics. Eddie's wife sleeps with her boss. Con tries to set-up Eddie to get killed by some Russians looking to buy the diamonds. Eddie's wife and his teenage son are in danger. Scummy FBI guys look the other way when Con does bad. Tommy is killed. Eddie comes to the rescue of wife when Con shows up. Eddie gets away with a minor charge and six months county time.

The books is much better than my woeful description; there is more to the story and the characters and plot are all interesting. No dull moments.

A good bit of humor between Eddie and Tommy, Eddie and his nutso wife.

Finished a Few Minutes Ago: "Renegades" by T. Jefferson Parker

Finished a Few Minutes Ago: Renegades by T. Jefferson Parker, 2009, 9780525950950.

Another fine bit of work by Parker. This is the second Charlie Hood novel and Hood is just as interesting in this one as in L.A. Outlaws.

Hood still works for the LASD after the Allison Murietta case in L.A. Outlaws where Hood was alternately chasing and courting Allison. Hood requested a transfer to the high desert of Antelope Valley. Hood loves to drive and the wide-open spaces soothe him and remind him of Bakersfield where grew up.

Hood is partnered one night with Terry Laws. Hood and Laws go to assist a housing authority inspection at a local home. After getting back in their car a gunman - armed with a 249 SAW for fucksakes - rips off a hundred or so rounds into Laws while Hood dives out the door. Before Hood can get a shot off the gunman has split. Hood gets a temporary transfer to IAD and is assigned to the murder case.

Hood looks into Laws background to find a suspect. He sees that Hood had a lot of expensive property and digs deeper to see Laws was depositing about $7k in cash every weekend. He sees that Laws and a Reserve Deputy, Draper, are both looking crooked.

Things happen: Hood digs a DA. Hood goes driving his old IROC, Hood tries to sway Allison's son to the light side, Red Herring goes on the lam, Hood goes driving, Draper fills in background in tale to Allison's son, Hood watches DA go drag racing in the Top Fuel class, Draper does dirty deeds with drug smugglers, Hood goes driving, Hood gets shot in Mexico and escapes by pure luck, Hood goes for a drive with DA.

Things that were BS: The final shootout between Hood and Draper. The interview with Allison's son and several Deputies. The Red Herring set-up with the 249 hidden in Red Herring's box spring.

A real good story by Parker: Neat looks into the different towns and cultures of L.A. county. The cost of a high end oil change (85 freaking dollars). Three neatly told gunfights. Dog love. Sociopathic thinking.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Read: "Camp Ford" by Johnny D. Boggs

Read: Camp Ford by Johnny D. Boggs, 2007, 9780843958386. Paper version.

Not quite a western. A real good story.

Win McNaughton was 11 years old in 1858 when he was introduced to baseball. His pharmacist father grabbed him from downtown and took him to watch a game in their Rhode Island town. Win loves the game and plays whenever possible. When his abolitionist father moves the family to West Texas to praise abolitionism Win brings the game with him and gets other kids to play.

The family moves back to Rhode Island after the war starts and Win's dad enlists in the artillery. His father is killed at Gettysburg. Win enlists to revenge his father and to escape the accountant's life his mother has planned for him. Win and his best pal are captured in the failed Red River campaign and end up in a TX prison camp called Camp Ford.

Win's unit is trying to tunnel their way out but are caught after an informant tells the rebels. Win and other federals have begun playing baseball in the camp and the rebel guards have started to play baseball among themselves. Win's commander comes up with a plot to challenge the rebs to a ball game outside the camp at the rebel's field. The federals will have 18 players armed with bats and the plan is to bash some guards, grab their weapons, and escape.

The informant is found out, they find the new escape plan is known, but challenge the rebs to a real game. The climactic game ends with Win running for home plate with the vicious reb playing catcher getting distracted by a horseman tearing across the field announcing Lee's surrender.

A really good story. I'm not a fan of either baseball or Civil War history but really enjoyed the story. Neat period details about baseball rules, Joslyn carbine, cavalry, baseball equipment, prison camp life, varying relationships between federal prisoners and reb guards, period slang, etc. The secondary story line between Win and his former best pal he enlisted with was a nice touch.

EDIT: Boggs, or someone else from NM, bopped over here. I looked at Boggs' website and just found out that Camp Ford won the Spur Award in 2006. No great surprise, it's a good book. I also noticed that Boggs will attend the Jesse James days in Northfield in Sep, '09. I looked at that website and saw that there will be a "vintage" baseball game. Boggs will be in heaven.