Saturday, March 28, 2009

Finished: "The Coldest Mile" by Tom Piccirilli

Finished: The Coldest Mile by Tom Piccirilli, 2009, 9780553590852.

Fucking brilliant.

At the end of The Cold Spot Chase was busted and broken after a violent showdown against his wife's killers. His grandfather, Jonah, had killed his own girlfriend after she shot the sociopathic Jonah in an attempt to escape him. During Cold Spot Chase had learned Jonah and the young girlfriend had a two year old daughter living with the girlfriend's sister in Florida. Chase is intent on rescuing the girl - literally - from the crime life Jonah had raised Chase in. Chase also wants answers on whether Jonah murdered Chase's pregnant mother when Chase was only eight years old (or about eight, I'm not sure on that).

A handful of weeks after the Cold Spot showdown Chase has gotten a job as a driver with a low-rent crime family in NJ whose patriarch is dying of cancer. Chase needs the cash from a score to finance a trip to Florida. Turns out the crime family wants a chauffeur, not a driver. Chase takes the job anyway and finds that the family is falling apart without the dying dad's leadership. Chase figures the sister is only biding time until killing her brother to take control and when Chase rejects her sexual advances he knows she will never forget it. She doesn't. Chase bides his time as chauffeur until he gets the chance at about $50k and heads south.

Chase is deeply distracted. His dead wife is always on his mind along with his dead parents and Jonas' connection with them. Chase's unfading desire for the child he and his wife were unable to conceive helps drive the rescue of his two-year-old aunt. His suicidal impulses have made him impulsive and sloppy.

Chase hears Jonah has fled to Florida ahead of him. Unable to contact him through the usual means Chase tries breaking into the local crime ring to find the one guy, Dex, who he knows is working with Jonah. Things happen: people are beaten, aunt is kidnapped and her caretakers and some children are murdered, Chase shows his ingenuity and toughness, Chase maybe makes a friend, Chase loves more cars, Chase finds Jonah, Chase makes mistakes, Chase is re-injured, crime family shows up, a sequel is set-up with Chase and Jonah out to get girl back.

The plotting and action are all good. Jonah is a different, more detailed, version of Parker. Seeing Jonah through Chase's eyes is great reading; you get what a soulless and conscienceless guy he is.

The real meat and pleasure of the novel is your introduction into the crime world of Chase and Jonah. Chase's intuitive and practiced skill at reading people and situations are great. Chase grew up from age ten until 18 as a full-time crook with Jonah. Chase learned from the best professional thieves, con men, and killers around. Chase thinks and acts like a crook and Piccirilli gives a first person view of it all. You meet the ruthless pros, the wannabes, the hopped up drug dealers, the skanky whores and their would-be tough guy pimps. Piccirilli is brilliant in bringing that underworld setting to vivid and dangerous life.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Notes Taken While Listening To: Roma by Steven Saylor

Notes Taken While Listening To: Roma by Steven Saylor, downloaded from via

Comments: another great job by Saylor (no relation). He follows the founding of Rome. Presents possible beginnings of myths, legends and rituals. Highlights famous Romans and events. Gives great insight into the politics of Rome, political backstabbing and ambitions, family relationships, etc. Neat way of folding the etymology of words and phrases into the story. Shows how, when it comes to politics and war, nothing is new.

Saylor has such a wide history to choose from, it would be interesting to hear how he chose what he did. Someone more motivated would look for interviews or articles. Not me.


Casual cruelty, spite, class warfare, etc. remains over hundreds of years.
For example: Sending a nephew into slavery to spite a sister and her proposed husband because the proposed husband is a patrician.

The relationship between slave and owner is so wrong. The way owners supercede the child's parents and how the slave's loyalty must be to the owner before loyalty to the parents. The owner's power of life and death is the same as the paterfamilias power over his whole family.

Gerrymandering and screwing with the Citizen rolls (voter rolls) - directly messing with elections. Pandering to the masses vs. "Patrician values" of the wealthy leaders.

One event: The mass poisoning by women against men. One lady did much testing and experimentation. Another used a particularly effective poison by waiting until her husband was screwing her, dipped her finger into the poison and then fingered his ass - an action he demanded. The wife greatly disliked doing the fingering and mentioned in her confession that it caused the guy to have a violent orgasm.

Sulla was awful. As dictator he found a legal way to kill all his enemies and perceived enemies. Names were posted in the forum and each person's head was up for bounty for anyone who could nab him dead or alive. Living people could be tortured. A bounty hunter could break into a house and kill the person in front of his family. The man's wealth was taken by the state and the family left destitute.

Sulla would force couples to divorce and then remarry to others. His cronies would get the women they wanted through Sulla's power. Even couples married for love, for years, and with children would be broken apart and the woman forcibly remarried.

Political shenanigans always going on. Heroes stay popular but , after time, their political enemies come after them and are able to cut them bit by bit.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Finished: "Suicide Squeeze" by Victor Gischler

Finished: Suicide Squeeze by Victor Gischler, 2006 (paper), 9780440241706 (paper).

What is it with his novels? I come away feeling sticky and gritty with a need to shower and brush my teeth. A feeling of low grade nausea grips me through most readings. I am uncertain what causes the feeling. Is it the poor, amateurish writing? The unbelievable and poorly designed plots? Or the knowledge that Gishler is unable to physically satisfy a woman?

Don't worry Gischler. No one ever reads this blog except self-googling authors, people searching for either Ditch Medicine or In Deadly Combat, and Patti Abbot googling her daughter.

This was more polished than Gischler's first three novels. Or was it the first two? Is this the third? No matter. There was a greater continuity and several call-backs throughout the novel that helped tie things together. I thought the craftsmanship was better all the way around. I did not like the nymphomaniac angle, that was a stretch and unneeded.

Conner Samson is a bum living in Sarasota. Conner has been in a rut ever since losing a baseball scholarship ten years ago. He's loping through life doing repossession work, lives in a crap apartment, bounces checks at the local tavern, and has a long-lasting hard-on for a former college classmate who married a rich art professor. Desperate for work, Conner gets a job to repossess a sailboat. The current owner is a local comic-book store owner, Teddy, who torched his business building, hid his remaining assets, dumped his wife, and stopped paying on his boat in anticipation of fleeing to the Caribbean.

Turns out Teddy pulled some insurance fraud on a DiMaggio baseball card signed by DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe, and Billy WhatshisName.YouKnow?TheDirector? Wilder Thatsit.Wilder. The card is deeply desired by a billionaire Japanese businessman who collects Americana. Japanese Yakuza thugs come to get card for billionaire, blood is spilt, competing interests compete, Conner hunts for baseball card, finds out card's worth, more blood spilt, two sex scenes, one masturbation scene, much alcohol consumed, unrequited love, revenge, etc.

Conner's love interest storyline is okay but Gischler sticks in this nymphomaniac sex addict angle that is just worthless. Conner's would-be-gal is in love with an idolized version of Conner andis unable to screw him or love him. Baloney. The story would have been better with a usual loveless-marriage-to-older-guy-and-not-wanting-to-leave-for-younger-guy subplot. Can't blame Gischler for trying something new though.

Comic book author Gischler alternately lampoons the nerds attending a comics and SciFi convention and praises their self-assurance in knowing who they are, what they like, and not afraid to show and embrace it.

There was a Maltese Falcon reference made by the fat Japanese bad guy. There are some parallels to Maltese: fat bad guy looking for a lost treasure, good guy robbing the bad guy's pad, slutty vixen, dangerous henchmen, maybe more. I suppose someone could do a paper comparing the two novels or The Continuing Influence of the Maltese Falcon on Modern Noir Literature type thing. It won't be me though.

Recurrences: Macanudo cigars, Rockford Files reference.

Read: "Naughts and Crosses" by Malorie Blackman

Read: Naughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, 2001, 1416900160.

I read this for the Lake Mills High School Cafe Library book club and then missed the meeting anyway. The book was okay. Nothing new and nothing too compelling to read; but, I did finish it.

Callum and Sephy are, respectively, Naughts and Crosses. Meaning Callum is white and Sephy is black. Their society is very strictly divided with the Naughts suffering under a very strict legal and social code of racial segregation. The separation is like an amalgamation of Jim Crow and apartheid. Callum and Sephy had grown up as children when Callum's mother worked for Sephy's family. Callum's and Sephy's mothers were close friends as well until Callum's mother was suddenly fired.

Callum and Spehy continue as friends and regularly meet in private at the seaside by Stephy's home. Callum, under a new government policy, is accepted into Sephy's high school along with 4 or5 other Naughts. Trouble ensues on the first day - think of the U of MS riot, Little Rock, Boston busing - and the pressure gets worse as time goes on. Callum and Stephy start romantic relationship. No way in hell the relationship can continue under the circumstances.

Callum's father and brother are linked to a terrorist-rebel group of Naughts. Callum's father is tried and convicted for a shopping mall bombing and dies in escape attempt. Callum is kicked out of school. Sephy goes to boarding school. Callum joins the rebel group. Three years later Callum is instructed by the rebels to kidnap Sephy for ransom from her wealthy father who is a hard-core Cross in a prominent government office. Callum and Sephy screw while she is captive. Callum is caught by cops. Callum is tried. Callum is killed. Sephy gives birth to their child.

The story was not all that thrilling. It was told in the first person by Stephy and Callum and the frequent changes in perspective were well done and made for a neat way to tell the story. The HS Librarian's complaint was that Callum seemed exactly like a girl character. I was not too found of the guy and her comment made me recognize why. Callum just never rang that true.

I like that Callum died in the end. That kept with Blackman's facts of the society and it's legal apparatus. The story has several mentions about the country getting pressure from other countries to improve it's treatment of the Naughts. Blackman could have taken the happy ending route with Callum and Stephy two fleeing overseas.

Teenagers making out = creeping me out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Read: "Pistol Poets" by Victor Gischler

Read: Pistol Poets by Victor Gischler,

Good, a quick and fun read. Lots of violent death with normal people mixing with unrepentant scumbags; always a good combination. More comedy than violence. I'll check out another one by him today.

Itinerant writing professor and poet Jay Morgan takes a one year contract at Eastern Oklahoma University. Morgan teaches a grad student poetry workshop that includes a redneck, a pretentious twit, and a thug from East St. Louis who is assuming the identity of a dead scholarship student. Trouble ensues when Morgan's most recent student sex partner overdoses while asleep in Morgan's bed. A mysterious and wealthy old guy with a backlog of poetry assists in disposing of the body. Poetry workshop students team together to sell East St. Louis cocaine and get in shootouts. Plenty of shooting, sex, bad poetry, drunkenness, fistfights, academic sloth, academic stupidity, lying, deception, Jerzy Kosinski references.

Gischler uses a lot of characters but each one is well done. He succinctly fleshes them out through the novel. Some comic novels tend to pack in plenty of kooky and weird characters for laughs - reference most any novel set in Miami. Maybe these guys are weird and kooky too, but after growing up in a university town these people seem normal to me.

Plenty of brief discussion about poetry and the terror, torture and pain of bad poetry. There is a poem or two done by the mysterious old guy that were really neat.

I've read three Gischler and I'm noticing some Gischler staples: Lots of booze, coffee, new sexual relationships (older guy and younger girl in 2 out of 3), no technical gun-nerd, car-nerd, or other-nerd stuff with overdone details and descriptions of hardware, everyman protagonists (2 of 3), race and culture differences straight forwardly dealt with - race not an issue except when a character mistakenly thinks it is (I'm not sure on that description. I'd have to ponder it.)

I hear that Victor Gischler smells like scotch and mothballs.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Finished: "Trading in Danger" by Elizabeth Moon

Finished: Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon, 2003, 9780345447609.

Blah. Not much action. I read the third book in this series and decided to try this out.

Ky Vatta is expelled from her planet's military academy. Ky had helped another student get in touch with a non-military priest and when the student accused the academy of unfairly treating his religion the priest went to the press. Ky had been one of the the academy's top two students but was kicked out anyway.

Ky heads back home. Ky's extended family are all involved in the family business, Vatta Transport. Vatta owns and operates transport spaceships around the galaxy. Ky's father appoints her captain of a ship intended for scrap. Ky ends up taking an additional contract during that voyage, runs low on money, needs major repairs to her ship, gets caught in a local war, is hired by mercenary contractor to transport civilians, overcomes a mutiny, clears out her accounts.

But, not much happens. There is just a succession of problems for Ky to deal with. She deals with being a young and inexperienced captain, running low on cash, having to fulfill contracts (a very big deal to her family), dealing with the passengers' mutiny.

This can compare to a couple of the Hervey novels by Allan Mallinson. There is a lot of detail and talk of everyday activities and problems of command. At least in Mallinson's novels Hervey did not just spend his time planning out cavalry movements and horse care; there were battles and fights to keep things interesting.

I like the idea of a well thought out setting - the planets and systems in Moon's books are well done - but if nothing happens why should I read the damn book?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Listened to: "Too Fat to Fish" by Artie Lange

Listened to: Too Fat to Fish by Artie Lange, 2008, downloaded from

A good listen. Fat, drunken, idiotic fucker writes book and then gets hooked back on heroin and is unable to finish narrating the audio version. Plenty of funny parts and lots of drug taking that induced head scratching over why Artie is still alive.

After Artie's dad fell off a roof and was paraplegic Artie started to use drugs and guzzle booze to deal with it. He lucked into a longshoreman job in Newark and kept drinking with all the money he made there. He saves enough dough to quit working as a longshoreman and make a try at show business. Auditions and stand-up in Manhattan and New Jersey lead to getting an agent and making it onto the first season of Mad TV out of 8,000 or so applicants to the job. Artie continues boozing, gets further hooked on cocaine, goes to rehab, relapses back on booze and cocaine, later gets hooked on pills, takes heroin on the advice of a drug dealer who says Artie is popping too many pills, cleans up with Subutex, relapses again. Still not dead.

Artie really likes blow-jobs from whores.

Not much else to say. Plenty of good stories that would have been much better if read by Artie and not read by Bob Levy and Baba-freaking-Booey. Gary did a competent job - for a baboon who is an amateur narrator.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Read: "Gun Monkeys" by Victor Gischler

Read: Gun Monkeys by Victor Gischler, 2001, 9780966347364 (our paperback).

Good. This was one of Gischler's first books and even though it is good it is not at the level of Go-Go Girls. High body count with comic book and Hong Kong cinema styled violence.

Charlie Swift has worked for elderly Orlando, FL crime boss Stan since Charlie left the army 11 years ago. Charlie is in charge of the Monkey Room. The Monkey Room is a back room in a local strip club where Stan's hired muscle hangout during work hours when they are not out collecting money and beating or killing people.

Stan is starting to get pushed out of Orlando by a Miami crime boss who sees an opportunity to squeeze even more money out of Orlando than Stan is getting. Competitor promises to take it easy on Stan if Stan has a guy killed for Competitor since said guy is hiding out in Orlando. Charlie goes into the place where the mark is hiding and kills about 7-9 guys and comes out with some ledger books (this was set in 2001). Before Charlie can turn the books over Competitor starts moving in and killing off Stan's men.

Competitor wants the ledger books back. The FBI wants the ledger books. Crooked FBI agents want the ledger books. Competitor's banker wants the ledger books. Stan wants the ledger books. Charlie wants to stay loyal to Stan and get some revenge.

There are lots of shoot-outs and showdowns and a meandering trail for Charlie to follow while trying to figure out what is going on. Charlie is a hired goon and now needs to use his brain more than usual to figure things out. In the end Charlie kills everyone and does it without the help of a cell phone (even in 2001). He also comes to love a couple .410 revolvers he got off some dead dudes.

Nice mix of action and plotting by Gischler. Gischler also likes to google himself, so go suck eggs Gischler.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Read: "Leather Maiden" by Joe R. Lansdale

Read: Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale, 2008, 9780375414527.

Quite good. Good enough I put off reading it since I wanted the story to last.

Cason Statler is a journalist suffering from PTSD after Army tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Cason signed up after 9/11 and felt like he got baited and switched in going to Iraq. He drinks too much and has been hanging out in Oklahoma with a sociopath he became pals with in Iraq.

Cason goes on a bender the night before a job interview at his hometown paper. Cason gets hired anyway - the editor is hiring based on product not appearance - and starts his job as a weekly columnist. Searching through his predecessor's notes he reads a story about an incredibly pretty college student who has gone missing. Cason is intrigued, he researches, he writes, he gets a DVD delivered to him showing his college professor brother pouring the pork to the missing girl.

Cason investigates further and finds out about a sexual blackmail plot, a group of "urban explorers" who sneak into local buildings, more missing girls, sociopathic carnies, his co-worker's vagina, and skinned bodies.

A good thriller with great touches of Lansdale's crude humor. I think Lansdale does dialogue real well.

Items of note: 1) I've only read 3-4 Lansdale books but I think Lansdale likes to use carnies for weird characters and use racists as bad guys. 2) There are several sociopaths in the book and Cason's Army buddy is one of them. Army Buddy is clearly unhinged in several ways and Lansdale is succinct when showing how dangerous and unpredictable the guy can be. 3) A character comparing Missing College Girl Sociopath to the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers was kind of funny.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Briefly Tried Out: "Down and Out on Murder Mile" by Tony O'Neill

Briefly Tried Out: Down and Out on Murder Mile by Tony O'Neill, 2008, 9780061582868.

Gave this a try for a few pages and then gave up. Checked it out after an online recommendation. Novel about a junkie and his wife living in a crappy part of London.