Friday, July 24, 2009

Read: "Splitscreen" by Brent Hartinger

Read: Splitscreen: attack of the soul-sucking brain zombies/bride of the soul-sucking brain zombies by Brent Hartinger, 2007, 97800060824082.

Third in Hartinger's series about H.S. kid Russel and his pals. Russel, Min, and Gunnar sign up to be move extras on the set of Brain Zombies which is filming at a local high school undergoing renovations. One half of the book is told from Russel's point of view and the other half- told as a separate half and covering the same time period - is told by Min.

This starts out as a great concept: zombies and hot lesbo action - I ignore the gay dude action parts which, I admit, make me cringe. A good job by Hartinger. I think Hartinger really likes foreshadowing.

Russel is "dating" Otto from summer camp. I write "dating" because Otto lives 800 miles away. Russel and pals run into Russel's former closeted boyfriend Kevin on the movie set. Kevin is still hot for Russel and Russel gets confused over whether he should dump Otto for Kevin. Min meets a hot blond chick, Leah, at the movie set and starts to "date" her. I write "date" because Leah is not "out" to her friends at her HS and the very outspoken and politcally correct Min is not sure what to think or do about this. Things happen, advice is given, angst is applied, decisions are made, a heart is broken.

Things to comment on:
1- I wonder how close Hartinger wanted to follow the perceptions of the two main characters? He could have stuck in a couple events that would have been recalled completely differently by each character. He did that a little by giving Min some inside info on a few things but he did not pull the whole he-said she-said experiences, or the differing eyewitness experiences.

2- Russel's lovey-dovey, super emotional personality got on my nerves again. So did Min's uncompromising stance on things. Min at least learns from her mistakes and experiences.

3a- The whole "love" angle anoyed me. I read this from an adult perspective, which is dismissive of the love affairs of teens. Yeah, that's not fair. But, so what? But, I call bullshit about the "Russel and Otto are perfect for each other" stuff. They live 800 miles apart! They see each other once, maybe twice, a year! Min and Leah start telling each other they love one another and do some lip locking (hot lesbo action!) after a few days of knowing one another.

3b) Still, I felt awful for that Kevin guy when he sacrificed his own feelings for Russel to cut Russel loose. That was a harsh scene, I felt for the dude and he was a fairly minor character. We learn about this from Min's story but her version does not dovetail into Russel's; this did not seem like a perspective issue like I mentioned above.

4) Not enough hot lesbo action although there is reference to a red thong.

5) I don't know if Hartinger intended one story to read before the other. I read Attack before Bride and am glad I read in that order.

6) Min's story did not become very interesting to me until about page 100 when Leah's friends really piss Min off with comments about shipping "all the to New what they did to all the criminals in that movie Escape from New York." That really sets Min off about hat she should do and she ends up realizing the sacrifices Leah would have to make by coming out of the closet.

7) Escape from New York is such a damn good movie.

8) I forgot until just flipping through the book: Russel comes out to his parents and lands in a shit storm. He doesn't get kicked out of the house but his parents are shocked and mortified and reject him. His mom is more concerned with her and the family's repuation than her kid. The kid has it tough.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Read the Last Gischler Available: "Shotgun Opera" by Victor Gischler

Read the Last Gischler Available: Shotgun Opera by Victor Gischler, 2006, 9780440241713 (paper).

This was the last Gischler available. I was spacing out his work until the time his newer stuff is coming out. Turns out there are a couple short story collections in the catalog that include Gischler's work. This was typically good work by the Great and Mighty Gischler.

Mike Foley and his older brother Dan were paid killers in NYC during the '60s. Mike favored a tommy gun and during one hit ends up firing some bursts through some apartment windows. He goes inside and sees a child's leg sticking out from underneath a dead woman. Mike loses his nerve and skips town. Foley lands in Oklahoma on a rural patch of land and after a few years he ends up being a vintner and starting his own winery.

Andrew Foley is Mike's nephew. Andrew is a college student in NYC and takes a job with his mobbed-up childhood friends. They all see something they shouldn't have and Andrew's two friends are murdered. Andrew has never met Mike but his dad, Dan, is dead and Andrew has nowhere else to turn. Andrew heads to rural OK.

The killer, Nikki, needs to follow Andrew out to OK but is injured so she cajoles her sister into helping out. Through the novel we learn about Nikki's bizarre and fascinating family of professional, government affiliated killers.

Killers are sent to OK. The elderly Mike kills them. Mike tries to track down the source of Andrew's threat. Nikki faces assassins from her "agent" who is angry she did not complete the job. Big showdown among Nikki, Mike, and a married hit team in Nikki's New Orleans mansion.

Recurrences: 1- Gischler likes to use plenty of characters and has no problem with killing them off. 2- Gischler's seems fond of using settings he is familiar with. I don't know the guy but do know he lived in both Florida and Oklahoma and has set at least two books each in those states. 3- Deadly people facing even deadlier people. Example: In Pistol Poets the the drug guys from D.C. go up against the even deadlier thugs from New Orleans.


When the phone rang, Anthony Minelli was banging this Long Island chick up the ass, so he was way too busy to answer. He let the machine get it.

Anthony gritted his teeth, thrusting hard back and forth, his balls swinging with the same rhythm as her floppy tits. She grunted with each thrust, high-pitched, her eyes crunched shut. Anthony felt his climax build and he banged harder, groaned hoarse and loud when he emptied himself into her.

He sat up, pulled out, and slapped her ass. "Nice stuff, Melinda."

"Melissa." She pulled the sheet over herself, closed her eyes, and sank into the pillow. "For Christ's sake, I told you ten times already."

EDIT: The final showdown in New Orleans was well done. It must not have been easy to organize that part of the story while involving the viewpoints of four different characters. That and keeping the suspense alive.

Finished: "Patient Zero" by Jonathan Maberry

Finished: Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry, 2009, 9780312382858.

I ordered this for the Library after a plug by J.D. Rhoades. Rhoades even has a blurb in the front of the book saying, "This book KICKS ASS!" Rhoades is correct. This was thick with action.

Baltimore cop Joe Ledger is working on a regional task force that raids a MD warehouse used by a terrorist cell. The raid turns into a gunfight and Joe ends up killing two or three bad guys. A couple days later Joe gets picked up by some mysterious FBI agents, is taken to meet a mysterious government guy (Mr. Church), and finds out one of the guys he shot is still alive. Turns out the guy is a zombie - but they call them "walkers". The walkers are infected by a super-advanced prion disease that a secret government agency is investigating and fighting. Mr. Church tries to recruit Ledger to join up.

At the same time pharmaceutical billionaire Sebastian Gault is plotting with the terrorists to do a wide release of the disease in Western hemisphere. Gault's deep pockets and multiple business interests have bankrolled and organized a super high-tech program to develop the disease and spread it.

Ledger fights the zombies on the East Coast and Gault works with the terrorists. Maberry does a great job moving the story back and forth among the main terrorist Mujahid, Mujahid's wife Amira (who is fucking Gault), Gault and his assistant, and Joe Ledger and his new team. I rarely read any international thrillers with spies and super agent dudes. This was real good. Lots of action scenes. A likeable hero. No political preaching. A mole inside Ledger's team causing havoc.

The ending is tied up nicely but with room for a sequel.

EDIT: The walkers are the slow shuffling type of zombie. But the evil scientist has been steadily evolving and mutating the disease to where the zombies are the lickety-split kind.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Found by Accident: "Crossing the Line" by Alvin Kernan

Found by Accident: Crossing the Line: a Bluejacket's World War II odyssey by Alvin Kernan, 1994, 1557504555.

I was searching for a different book or author and ran across this one. I decided to give it a whirl.

Kernan grew up on a ranch in the Wyoming mountains. The nearest town numbered only 800 and their home was snowed in for five months a year. There was no opportunity in the area and Kernan decided to get out after he graduated high school. He joined the Navy in early 1941, trained in CA, and was shipped off to Pearl Harbor.

Kernan was an ordnance guy (bombs, machine guns, torpedoes) for airplanes and assigned to the carrier Enterprise. His ship transferred several Marine planes over to Midway in late November of 1941. Enterprise hit a storm on the way back to Pearl and got back late, on December 8th.

Kernan fought on several ships and ended up being a gunner on a torpedo plane. He was on the Enterprise and alongside the Hornet when Hornet launched Doolittle's planes. Kernan was serving on the Hornet itself when the Hornet was sunk in the Solomons. The Hornet had another ship come alongside to evacuate crew and strung a net across the gap for the transfer. The seas were causing the ships to separate and collide and several crew were killed when crushed between the hulls until the crewmen were able to better time the intervals and escape.

Death was a constant danger. Japanese attacks were the obvious threat but Kernan worked on the flight deck and there was in constant danger from propellers, landing aircraft, live bombs, and the danger of moving around 1000 bombs that could come loose and crush people. Fatigue of four hours on and fours hours off for days amplified the danger. Kernan and his fellow sailors would booze it up and go whoring when ashore and I give Kernan great credit in not glossing over those things. Kernan had a tale of a rest area stuck in a sandy swamp area on one of the miniscule Pac. islands; he had to work as an MP for the craphole drinking spot.

Kernan flew on the first night fight of the war. Kernan's torpedo plane had a radar system and teamed with a couple fighter planes in an attempt to intercept and attack Japanese fighters going after the fleet. The U.S. planes were separated in the dark and unable to meet up - even with radio assistance from the shipboard radar. Kernan's pilot - flying a slow and lightly armed torpedo plane - used the radar signal to maneuver behind and shoot down two Jap bombers with the two .50s in the wings. The U.S. fighters were able to meet up with the torpedo plane and got into formation behind it. At about the same time a Japanese bomber came in behind them - apparently mistaking the Navy planes for fellow Japanese planes. The Jap pilot realized his error and opened up. Kernan - in the rear gunner position - opened up with his single .50 gun. One of the U.S. fighter pilots behind Kernan was MOH awardee Butch O'Hare. O'Hare became quite famous for previous action where he shot down several Jap bombers. O'Hare was directly in front of the Japanese bomber and turned off to pursue it. O'Hare disappeared - was never found - and Kernan feared that he may have been the one responsible for downing O'Hare.

Kernan has a photo of him and the torpedo plane crew a day or two before that night flight - same photo as on the book's cover. Kernan's caption says, "The sharpened features, particularly the noses, of everyone in the picture are characteristic of people in a state of controlled fear." I'd noticed that feature before in wartime photos and wondered on it.

EDIT: Kernan comments on the shit-quality of torpedoes used by the Navy through a good part of the war. Most of the torpedoes would never explode while the Japanese torpedoes worked and worked well.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Read A Few Days Ago: "Gun Work" by David Schow

Read a Few Days Ago: Gun Work by David Schow, 2008, 9780843959673.

Pretty decent. A good pulp style paperback. If Schow isn't a gun nerd he does a good job of faking it.

Former soldier Barney gets a panicky call from Iraq pal Carl. Carl is in Mexico City and asking for Barney's help in rescuing Carl's kidnapped wife. Barney travels down to help and take over from the incompetent Carl. Barney is a gunman and there are hints to past gunwork.

A gunman is all Barney is. He works and sometimes sleeps at a Los Angeles gun shop and range, hangs out with gun guys, leases a mostly empty apartment, and drops his girlfriends once they start getting too close. (I suppose Carl has a bit of a PTSD issue.) People think of Barney as the guy to call if they need extra-legal help. Barney is not a spy or hired shooter but he doesn't dissuade people from the idea.

Barney is very competent though. His service training, combat experience, and continued training and practice make him a good guy to call. Barney takes pride in this and it ends up being his initial donwfall. After a botched pay-off for Carl's wife Carl and Barney are captured at their hotel. Barney is held prisoner, figures out that Carl conned him the whole time, is viciously and repeatedly beaten and tortured, has his index fingers cut off, and is ultimately thrown in a polluted river and shot in the back several times. Barney floats downstream, is rescued by a Mexican jeweler, recuperates a little, survives an assassination attempt, then makes his way back to the U.S. with the help of some Mexican wrestlers.

Barney gets his gunner friends to team up for revenge against Carl and the kidnapping gang that tortured Barney. Shoot-outs ensue in Mexico City. Barney and pals are hunted in L.A. by the kidnapper ring. Barney finds the honcho and Carl's evil ex-wife. Barney moves to Mexico to live with his only friend, the Mexican jeweler.

Lots of gun action, despicable bad guy action, femme fatale action, noble Mexican action, noir loner action, SIG love action, .357 SIG action, all my friends are dead action, hot-but-evil-redhead action.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quick Read: "Resolution" by Robert B. Parker

Quick Read: Resolution by Robert B. Parker, 2008, 9780399155048.

I read this in about a day. That is unusual for me. I saw the movie version of Appaloosa and started to wonder about the characters from that. I found this one, the next in the series, on the shelf so I grabbed it. Actor Ed Harris does not fit the scant physical description of Virgil Cole but he did such a good job in the flick I don't see that it matters.

Everett Hitch takes a job as a saloon bouncer in the new rough-and-ready town of Resolution visited by miners, lumberjacks, and ranchers. Hitch and his 8 gauge soon make the saloon the safest place in town and Hitch starts to become the de facto cop in the area after defending the local whores. Hitch's boss has plans to take the town over, including his main rival's mine.

Cole shows up in Resolution unsure what to do with himself. He just murdered a guy who ran off with Cole's slut of a wife. Cole, at the core, has always been a gunman. But, Cole has always done that work as a lawman. After that murder he figures he cannot be a lawman anymore so he just hangs out with Hitch while pondering it.

Hitch's boss hires more bad guys, the rival hires more bad guys, Hitch's Boss's bad guys raid and kill the rival and his guys, two leftover professional gunman - Cato and Rose - hired by rival are assisted by Hitch and Cole when Hitch's Boss' other gunman try to kill Cato and Rose. Things happen. Alliances change. People die.

Virgil Cole always seems to move slowly. He walks without sound, sees everything around him, sizes up everyone as a potential adversary, and always seems to draw faster and shoot straighter than his competition. The current incarnation of Cole and Hitch's style is encapsulated by the saying "Fast is smooth, and smooth is fast." Cole never seems hurried.

I'll take a leap and compare Parker to Cole. This book was a quick read and smoothly done. The speed with which I read this novel is, I'm sure, deceptive to the care and skill that Parker put in to it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Read: Requiem Edited by Horst Faast and Tim Page

Read: Requiem: by the photographers who died in Vietnam and Indochina edited by Horst Faast and Tim Page, 1997, 0679456570.

I cam across this when I ran across either a reference to Sean Flynn or Yankee Papa 13 and Larry Burrows. I did a search on the catalog and found this book. It's a coffee table sized tribute to all the photojournalists who were killed during the Vietnam War from 1954 to 1975.

I really neat book with lots of photos by the deceased and brief stories and biographies of some of the photographers. I was most impressed by the photos of Henri Huet whose black and white shots were really good. Burrows' work is famous whether you've heard of his name or not; but, after having seen Burrows' photos so much the new-to-me shots by Huet were pretty neat.

Sean Flynn still gets attention 37 years after his disappearance in Cambodia. Being the son of Errol Flynn gets most of the attention. Flynn was an adventurer as much as photographer but, as the book says, his photography was all that mattered, and his photography mattered. I first heard of the guy when catching part of movie on tv, Frankie's House, which is a biopic about editor Tim Page.

One photographer, Jean Peraud, disappeared while trying to escape from the Viet Minh after the surrender of Dien Bien Phu. Peraud and another guy jumped from a truck transferring the POWs. Peraud was a spy for the French Resistance during WW Two and was caught and sent to a concentration camp. Peraud told his colleague before the tried to escape that he was sure he could not survive another captivity.

Great stories and impressive bravery by the men and women listed. I knew Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge was brutal but the time before was pretty damn bad, too. "The greatest mistake ever made about Cambodians was to believe that they were gentle. Behind the famous Khmer smile of the tourist brochures was a savagery and cruelty that were breathtaking." Pages 288-289 have a photo of three Khmer captives with the Cambodian Army. The captives are bloody and stoic looking. But, as the photo caption says, the captives are likely terrified into subservience and stillness. The caption also says the two women and a man were subsequently "stripped, violated, and murdered."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Read Through: "The Art of Modern Custom Knifemaking" by David Daron

Read Through: Art of Modern Custom Knifemaking: 100 custom knife related projects in the making by David Daron, 2006, 9780785823599.

A really neat book about custom knife design and production. Great color photos of the step by step process made by each knifemaker until the final product. Makers from around the world are included. A great look at the planning and skill in putting the pieces together.

I did not read each artist profile but looked through all the photos and read the photo captions. The most interesting part for me was the coverage of the makers of damascus steel and the methods and steps they use.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Read: "Hard Rain Falling" by Don Carpenter

Read: Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter, 1964, (pre-ISBN).

Not sure what to think about this one. I was expecting a crime novel and the was frustrated during the first quarter of the novel when nothing much happened. This is more of a journey of Jack Levitt from 17 years-old until he is 26 years-old and his changing life philosophy and outlook on society and life. It was mostly depressing with Levitt struggling through life. I reserved this after a glowing comment from Piccirilli.

Novel of Jack Levitt, an unloved orphan growing up in Portland, OR in the 1950s and 1960s. Levitt runs away from the orphanage when he is about 15 and lives on the streets and flophouses of Portland. Levitt is a mean looking kid with a big head and burly build. His main concern is having money to survive. He gets busted by cops, goes to jail until he hits 18 and then travels the Western US doing different jobs and making a living as a boxer.

After a few years Levitt lands in San Francisco and runs into an old pal from Portland. The pal is a crook and the two pal around with a couple women. Levitt and pal have a vicious fight after pal attacks Levitt. Levitt wins but a short time later is busted for kidnapping and rape. It turns out the two gals were only 15 years-old and blame it all on Levitt to get out of trouble. Levitt spends time in a County jail and then is sent to San Quentin.

In San Quentin Levitt meets up and cells with another old pal, Billy, from Portland. The two guys get closer and end up having a homosexual relationship. Levitt has never experienced love and is afraid of the emotion and admitting it to a dude - especially since Levitt isn't gay. Billy ends up dying on the yard in defense of Levitt.

Levitt gets out, gets a bakery job and meets a wealthy club hopper, Sally. Sally and Levitt get married and have a stormy marriage. Sally is not happy as a housewife but has no job skills. She ends up alternately hitting the town every night for a while and then staying at home with their son, Billy. Levitt finally kicks her out when she leaves Billy by himself so she can go drinking.

Levitt gives up Billy when faced with the fact that no court will give custody to a ex-con when his ex-wife is going to be married to a rich dude. Rich Dude, Sally, and Billy move to France.

There is a hopeful note in the end where Sally has taken up with her first husband, a famous actor, and Rich Dude wants to have Billy grow up in the U.S. and know his real father.

EDIT: Piccirilli's comment brings to mind that yeah, the narration is pretty meaty. You get to know a great deal about both Levitt and Billy. Both of them were essentially unwanted as kids. Billy was a runaway and by time he makes his way back to Seattle he finds his whole family gone with no trace to follow. That the two dudes are able to team up in prison and then begin a loving relationship is a major step forward in Levitt's life. It's also a big step in Billy's maturation, even though he was already married, has children, and had business success.

I ended feeling a good deal of compassion for Levitt in the end. He goes from a teen with an urge to fight, steal, and kill into a self-educated and more composed guy.

Finished a Couple Weeks Ago: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky

Finished a Couple Weeks Ago: The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, 1999, 0671027344.

Very entertaining and well written. A first person novel written as a series of letters by Charlie to an unknown person. Charlie remains mostly anonymous to the reader.

Charlie is a weird cat. At first I'm not sure what the deal is with the guy. Is he mentally retarded? Mentally ill? Autistic? He has trouble fitting in as a high school freshman and, as the novel's plugs say, Charlie "is standing on the fringes of life." Charlie is a seen as that "weird kid". Charlie pushes himself to participate more in school activities by attending dances and football games and at one game meets seniors Patrick and Sam. They think Charlie is funny and they become friends.

Charlie really takes to his new friends and opens up a lot throughout the rest of the school year. But, he is kinda clueless on how to act in social situations and through various references you find out he has had some depression problems and was hospitalized as a child. At one point Charlie is even hospitalized again for a month or so after suffering a breakdown.

Anyway, things happen: Charlie does recreational drugs and drinking, Patrick has problems with closeted gay boyfriend, Charlie pines for Sam (Samantha), Charlie dates other gal and really screws it up and fears he has lost his pals forever, Sam's boyfriend is a bed-hopping sleaze, Charlie's sister has an abusive boyfriend, Charlie's sister gets pregnant, Charlie shrink keeps trying to get Charlie to recall the sexual abuse he suffered from a favorite aunt, Charlie feels better and stops writing the letters and novel ends.

A lot happens here and the focus is on two main things. 1) Charlie growing and learning. Though Charlie may be socially clueless he is also, apparently, brilliant. Charlie does not recognize this in himself but other people, like his English teacher, do and address it to him. The sexual abuse Charlie endured came from a favorite aunt who lived with his family and sent an already fragile personality into some major trouble. Hints point to the aunt being sexually abused as well. (Not to mention Charlies mother who was physically abused.) You can see how the family trauma has really followed down through the mom and aunt to effect Charlie and his sister.

2) The importance of friends and friendship. Once Charlie makes friends he starts to realize how great life can feel and how much fun he can have. After humiliating his new girlfriend (also a friend of Patrick and Sam) Charlie is told to make himself scarce for a while. Charlie goes into a funk before things turn around again and later on even allows himself to be taken advantage of by a depressed Patrick.

A lot happens through the year and I'm not going to cover it all. Chbosky must have worked though a list of hot button topics: teen sex, teen drinking, teen drug use (marijuana and hallucinogens), teen homos, teen depression, teen suicide, physical abuse, teen pregnany and abortion, mental illness, and family discord.