Friday, December 31, 2010

Read: "Law of the Jungle" by John Otis

Read: Law of the Jungle: the hunt for Colombian guerrillas, American hostages, and buried treasure by John Otis, 2010, 9780061671807.

Amazing story.

American contractors in Colombia flying drug interdiction job are shot down and captured by the FARC. Americans are captive for almost 5 and a half years. The FARC are vicious, lying, scheming, murderous, scumbag fuckwads. I knew this already but this reinforced the truth.

An interesting story on several levels and Otis has a lot to cover.
- The experience and trauma of the prisoners.
- The agony of the family in the U.S.
- The negotiations and work by the Colombian government and the political football of the insurgency and the prisoners.
- The effect of the FARC's kidnapping civilians.
- FARC extortion of civilians.
- FARC's 'taxes' on people in their areas of control.
- FARC's taxes of drug dealers and active participation in the drug trade.
- FARC's vicious treatment of their own troops.
- Paramilitary murder squads.
- Families anxiety and frustration with government plans of alternately negotiation with FARC and playing a hardline.

1. Otis is a journalist and you tell from the book. He screams through the story and packs in a lot of people and events. Judging from his endnotes he did a lot of work and interviewing for this.
2. The helicopter rescue of the Americans and several others was absolutely amazing.
3. I read John Keegan's book about intelligence in wartime. His conclusion was that intelligence helps but does not win wars. He is correct, of course, the infantry and others have to do that actual work. But the intelligence work done by the Colombians prior to the rescue was essential and very, very impressive.
4. I did not know Colombia is so dang big with such varied geography.
5. Hugo Chavez is a real tool but he did get several people freed and brought attention to the captives.
6. The side story of Vulture and Destroyer companies is fascinating. The whole story of these struggling, half-starved, under-supported commandos stumbling upon several million dollars buried in the middle of the jungle is bizarre. The aftermath is not too surprising but still unfair.
7. Ingrid Betancourt came off as a snotty slut but it's not real fair for me to say that considering the praise some captives gave her.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Read: "Rut" by Scott Phillips

Read: Rut by Scott Phillips, 2010, 9780981782447.

I read this before I read Wall of America. The dystopian views of both Disch and Phillips fit well together.

2048 rural Colorado and a girl biologist is doing field research. The environment has suffered over the past 50 years and Girl Biologist's discovery of frogs and then mega large frogs is a big discovery. Girl Biologist is in a small town off the Big Grid. Small town used to be popular ski and celebrity destination until weather went haywire. Small town mayor is corrupt. Local school teacher's husband disappeared and she now shags her ex-husband, the mayor. The state and fed governments are a safety threat to their own citizens. Things happen - but not too many things, this is a Phillips novel after all.

Girl Biologist studies and gets involved with locals. Reader learns of societal, economic, and environmental troubles of the time. Local kid lusts for Girl Biologist. People live much longer. Old slut getting senile. Local drug dealers also fight against cruel government. Gays sent to camps. Various food stuffs and products no longer around or prohibitively expensive. Endless wars overseas bring back legless and armless veterans. Mom of teen guy dies from pharmaceutical reaction to a guy's penile medicine.

1. I liked it.
2. This is like Cottonwood and that you follow the characters around rather than the action. Literary not thriller.

Finished: "Wall of America" by Thomas M. Disch

Finished: Wall of America by Thomas M. Disch, 2008, 9781892391827.

When Disch died in 2008 Crider posted the news online. I was surprised and disappointed to hear Disch had died. I previously read two or three of Disch's horror novels and enjoyed them. After reading this short story collection my disappointment with Disch's death is even greater. Disch did good work and I wish I could have yelled at him, "Don't do that!"

A bib of his books is in the front of this and lists his first novel as 1965. I'm not sure when I read Priest (1994) and M.D. (1992). There is a break in his output of novels from '99 to 2008 which is the time I started to follow his work. After reading the novels I sought his work but, unfortunately, his stuff was not always available through the libraries I was at. That and Disch focused on poetry on one point. I don't dig poetry.

Wall has 19 stories with many having a dystopian bent. Original publishing dates range from 1981 to 2008. I like many and some I did care about although I did not dislike them.

Owl and the Pussycat. Story told from the perspective of two stuffed animals. I figured the story was fantasy until, about halfway through, it is revealed that although the narrator speaks through the two animals they are both the voice of an autistic - and murderous - child.

In Praise of Older Women was a modern, black-humor take on the Oedipus story.

Torah! Torah! Torah!: Three bible tales for the third millennium had Disch's retelling on three bible stories including Moses, Adam's naming of animals, and Sarah saying Abraham is nuts when the police investigate his almost killing of their eldest kid.

The Man who read a book reminds me of Lee Goldberg. Written in 1994 and set in 2010 an ex-con is scammed into being a professional reader and enters a bizarre world of publishing of the kind Goldberg eviscerates in his blog.

1. Minneapolis/St. Paul
2. Art
3. Opera
4. Disease
5. Future disaster and the collapse or near collapse of civilization.
6. I just read an obituary that mentions Disch's use of satire. Yeah.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Just Finished: "Slaygroud" by Richard Stark

Just Finished: Slayground by Richard Stark, 1969, 9780226770925 (2010 reprint)

I was thinking about Westlake already when I saw this on the new shelf. All praise to Univ of Chicago Press for reprinting the Stark books. I skipped the foreword by Charles Ardai. I know I read the first few pages of this before. Another Stark novel must have had a preview at the end.

Parker, Grofield, and third guy rob an armored car in a part of a city deserted during the winter. Third Guy wrecks the getaway car and goes on foot, with the cash, into a shuttered amusement park. Parker scales the entry gate and sees a couple cops and a couple guys in overcoats across the street exchanging an envelope. Parker finds no other exits. Parker analyzes and figures cops are on the take and will come for the armored car money. Parker plans and sets-up various ambushes. Parker perseveres.

1. What else is there to write? This is a Parker novel so you know it will be excellent. Parker is always smarter and tougher. Westlake introduces other characters and kills one off early in a surprise move.

Finally Finished Listening to: "The Information Officer" by Mark Mills

Finally Finished Listening to: The Information Officer by Mark Mills, 2010, on a Playaway a Blackstone rep gave to me.

Crider linked to a best of 2010 list and I was surprised to see this listed. The novel was good - the historical setting in 1942 Malta is very well used - but I'm not sure it is a best-of. Maybe I would think differently if I had not had to listen to it on that stupid piece of crap Playaway that kept quitting on me and was difficult to run.

Anyway. Main Guy is the information officer (propaganda officer) for the Brit Army on Malta. Malta is under daily bombing by the Luftwaffe without the air power or AAA to fight back. Main Guy finds out about a recent murder that is linked to the Brit navy's submarine force which has a base on the island. The investigation is shelved because of the tenuous relations between Limeys and Maltese.

Main Guy looks into murder(s) anyway. Main Guy boinking married gal. Main Guy getting clues from American Army officer on the island. Main Guy sorta hot for Maltese Jewish girl with mom married to fascist Italian. Things happen. Dust covers everything. Supplies are low. Main Guy gets help in investigation. Mystery solved.

Read: "Man with the Iron-On Badge" by Lee Goldberg

Read: Man with the Iron-On Badge by Lee Goldberg, 2005, 1594143722.

Goldberg has written online about plugging away on his e-book sales. Man is one of those books. I finally got around to checking the library catalog and reserving a copy. This is the fifth Goldberg book I have read so I expected it to be pretty good and it was better than that. In deference to a previous comment by Goldberg there will be spoilers ahead.

Harvey Mapes - a perfect name - is the overnight gate guard for a wealthy LA area community. The job requires no thought or action. Every day after work Harvey goes to Denny's, goes home, watches television and sleeps. Harvey is a dedicated fan of mystery and P.I. novels and television shows. When one of the community's wealthy clients asks Harvey to play P.I. and follow his wife Harvey knows the idea is foolish but is happy to take the money and the activity.

Harvey follows wife. Harvey finds things out. Harvey sees wife passing money off to Skeezy Guy who Harvey follows and is then beaten-up by. Wife kills herself. Grieving husband tells Harv to buzz off. Harvey cannot let it go. Harvey travels to Washington state to research dead wife and Skeezy Guy. Harvey plays detective and even claims John D. McDonald as an alias. Harv digs. Harv finds unknown links between dead wife and husband. Harvey finds out a shockingly creepy detail. Skeezy Guy dies. Harvey is left unsatisfied with the messy ending and its unintended consequences.

1. Goldberg takes a normal guy wanting excitement and gives it to him. Nothing new about that plot but Goldberg does a great job with it.
2. Harvey knows he is going nowhere in life but is stuck in the rut. I like that Goldberg does not try to introduce Harvey with too much detail and history. Goldberg fills in that information without overloading the reader.
3. Goldberg's writing in this one is comparable to what I was thinking and reading about Westlake in that last book. Like Westlake, everything is straight forward and realistic. An exception is how Goldberg directly addresses this by pointing out the absurdity of PI cliches and how Harvey is unable to rely on the best friend cop, the kooky but genius computer nerd, old girlfriend working for the DMV, etc.
4. The blooming love affair between Harvey and his sex-buddy neighbor read true as I was reading it. Afterward, when I was thinking about the relationship, it feels a little silly. But, I still like it anyway.
5. This could be considered a throw-away book. An entertaining novel to enjoy and then forget. I disagree with that because I find Harvey an interesting and very engaging character. Harvey gives the reader things to think about as a person and also as he stumbles through the same problems that anyone taking on the kind of task Harvey has. I was thinking this is begging for a sequel or series but the character and stories would end up changing quite a bit if Harvey were to gain investigative experience and even more confidence.
6. One great aspect of Man is Harvey's love of P.I. fiction and television. He runs his "investigation" on what Rockford and or Elvis Cole would do.
7. The cover image is awful. The Kindle version is better.
EDIT #2, 8 Feb 2011
8. After further reflection I am realizing I was reading this as more comedy that hard boiled. But, the incestuous relationship at the core of the mystery is pure hard-boiled. That kind of topic keeps this at a dark, L.A. noir level but I was digging the humor too much to notice the darkness.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Just Read: "Hunt Among the Killers of Men" by Gabriel Hunt (David J. Schow)

Just Read: Hunt Among the Killers of Men by Gabriel Hunt (David J. Schow), 2010, 9780843962567.

This Hunt novel diverges from the usual Hunt formula. There is no supernatural element, no secret and ancient societies or religions, no love interests for Gabriel, no glove trotting to several exotic settings, the villain's evil right hand man is not evil, the world is not saved in the end, and the hunt for artifacts takes a far backseat to the action.

Lucifer "Lucy" Hunt is introduced. Lucy is the hunt sister who ran away from home when she was 17. She is now 26 and skips out on her European house arrest to come to NYC and ask Gabriel for help. Her friend (girlfriend apparently) is suspected of murdering her own sister.

Gabriel helps bail the friend and finds the dead girl worked for a Chinese crime lord who had her murdered. The Friend skips off to China and Gabriel follows to try and convince her to stay out of trouble. Gabriel gets in trouble. Gabriel teams with Chinese girl assassin. Schow uses many obscure words. Schow informs on Chinese culture and crime. Gabriel is caught. Gabriel is rescued. Things happen. Helicopters crash. Guns are shot. People are drugged. Bad guy dies a painful death alone.

1. I read Schow's other Hard Case novel and Schow has put plenty of gun stuff in both. Right Hand Man uses an OTs-33. I looked the pistol up and it is a full auto firing 9mm MAK.
2. I read that Schow does screenplays and other movie work. I wonder if he visited Shanghai for work because at one point he writes about a massive Chinese movie set.

Finished: "The Cutie" by Donald E. Westlake

Finished: The Cutie by Donald E. Westlake, 2009, 9780843961140. Reprint of The Mercenaries from 1960.

I was looking up information on Westlake, independent of this book, and the bibliography on his still living website listed this as Westlake's first published novel. Cutie is an enjoyable read but nothing fantastic unlike all the Parker novels. I'm always surprised at how damn good those Stark penned novels are.

Clay is a the right hand man for NYC crime lord Ed Genolese. Clay is in bed with his girlfriend in the middle of the night when a knock on his door comes from a junkie and small-time drug dealer from Genolese's organization. The junkie is wanted for murder of a rich guy's girlfriend. Clay would usually arrange an "accident" for the junkie to solve the problem but the junkie has friends in high crime places. The junkie ups and leaves and Clay is assigned to find him.

Clay plays investigator while fending off the cops, dealing with his girlfriend who now knows the full extent of Clay's work, negotiating with the dead girl's sugar daddy, and fighting fatigue from his lack of sleep.

While I was looking up Westlake I ran across an online memorial commentary by some dude. Online Dude wrote that one of his favorite things about Westlake was his straightforward dealing with characters and story and the lack of sentimentality in his writing. You can see that here in what is (according to that online bib.) his first novel. Clay is a crook and hired killer. Clay's job is to keep the whores, pimps, drug dealers, extortionists, and crooked union bosses all smoothly working and bringing in money. Clay does not deny this to himself and the novel's moral quandary comes when his girlfriend is deciding whether to stay with him or not. Clay likes his job and the status and power it provides. Clay sees a future with his gal but he does not want to be a two faced guy with a house and the suburbs and a job in the gutter.

Anyway. Clay investigates. Clay hunts for junkie. Clay finds possible suspects for the real murderer. Clay goes to jail. Clay bones his girlfriend. Clay drives his Mercedes around. Clay solves the case. Clay executes the real killer. Novel ends with Clay wondering if his time is up with Genolese.

Further comments:
1. Westlake sure did love .32 caliber revolvers. Both Clay and Parker carry them.

Gave Up On: "Rot and Ruin" by Jonathan Maberry

Gave up on: Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, 2010, 9781442402324.

I reserved this YA title after reading a couple of other Maberry novels. This novel is about 500 pages long and I finally gave up at page 108.

Here is the plot: Oh, those poor, lost zombie souls.
- "Waaa! I miss my zombie relative. Please, mister, take this money and put that poor zombie down."
- "Sure, lady, I'll be considerate."
- "But, what about those guys who are so mean to the zombies?! It's awful!"
- "We are not like them, we're good and kind zombie killers."
- Blah, blah, blah.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Read: "Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965" by Joe Kubert

Read: Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965 by Joe Kubert, 2010, 9781401221423.

Comic book story. This was returned by a guy at the library and I checked it out for myself. I generally don't like Kubert's illustrations. They always seem like unfinished sketches. They worked okay here though.

Story of an A-team in Vietnam. The are briefly posted at one camp and then assigned to Dong Xoai. Members are there as advisors and have trouble getting the regular and irregular Vietnamese units to train up to an effective force. Units and camp are under supported and under equipped. VC units attack in big numbers with mortars, recoilless rifles, even flamethrowers. Many Vietnamese flew the battle out of self-preservation or to evacuate their camp follower families.

A-team guys, and Seabees sent to construct defenses, fight back and hold together until evacuation. You know the battle was real, real, real, bad because two guys are awarded the Medal of Honor.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Read: "Criminal" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Read: Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2009, 9780785142294 (deluxe edition).

Anthony Neil Smith recommended Scalped. When I was looking that up on the Amazon there was a reference to this title. I read both but so far I like the story Criminal series better. I like the artwork better in Criminal, too. I don't know where the heck I set down Scalped after I finished it.

Comic book short stories with interconnected characters set in what looks like a fictional San Francisco. Overall common thread of the Undertow bar, a criminal hangout.

First tale has Lou. Lou is a lifelong crook and very good at his job. Lou has never been busted by the cops and is completely under their radar. Lou never gets caught because when trouble starts during a job he walks. Others consider him a coward but Lou just has brains and reason, two things that are very lacking among his peers. "Prison is full of macho shitheads who valued their own lives only slightly more than anyone else's No one ever thinks there's consequences to their actions, but there are..." Lou also walks from violence, "I'm not ending up on death row because some asshole listened to too much hip hop growing up."

This has extra artwork and sketches in the back last most of these compendiums. Also included is a comic short story with a newspaper editor getting threatened to not print a story. The thug putting pressure tells tales of journalists around the world who have been murdered for their work. After those stories the thug and journo have this exchange,
Thug: "You what I'm hoping the difference is between you and all those men and women?"
Journo: "What? What?"
Thug: "They all had integrity."

1. Brubaker likes bolding different words of dialogue.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Read: "In Search of Mercy" by Michael Ayoob

Read: In Search of Mercy by Michael Ayoob, 2010, 9780312644925.

I just realized this is a brand new book. Well, a month and 18 days old. I reserved this after an email from Mystery One plugged it.

Set in 2000 (or so). Dexter is a outstanding HS hockey goalie in Pittsburgh. He bombs at the state championship game and sneaks out rather than risk the violent crowd. On his way home Dexter is kidnapped by fans of the opposing team and brutalized. Eight years later he has a lousy warehouse job, a cot in his pal's basement and has not spoken to his father in about six years.

Dexter works in a produce warehouse up the street from his father's store. One night he meets Lou, the co-owner of another produce warehouse who looks and smells like a bum. Lou pays Dexter $100 to take Lou back to Lou's packrat and dust encrusted home and bury Lou's dead, frozen cat. Later on Lou asks Dexter to find Lou's former fiancee, Agnes Zagbroski. Agnes is better known as Mercy Carnahan a famous film actress who disappeared and has been unfound for 50 years. Lou is soon to die of cancer and Dexter, compelled by Lou's dresser drawer full of hoarded cash decides to start looking.

Dexter is also motivated by a desire to mentally improve. He dropped out of college after two years and has been working a dead end job since. His weekends are mostly spent doped up so he can sleep straight through. He is very tightly wound in an attempt to keep back the panic attacks and dizzy spells that occur whenever he thinks of his abduction. Dexter will occasionally see masked faces in a crowd or hallucinate them attacking him.

Dexter hooks up with his new hot chick warehouse manager and heads to New York to investigate. Dexter looks. Dexter finds. Dexter vividly dreams of the femme fatale film version of Mercy. Dexter keeps looking and finding. Dexter fights his terrors. Hot Chick fails at her fears. Dexter faces fears. Dexter finds Agnes. Ending is mysterious - to me anyway.

1. This feels like first novel do-too-much-at-once-itis. Maybe I am being unfair but there is a lot of extra stuff in here. The Hot Chick Manager. Crazy guy and family in New Jersey. Dexter's loser pal. Sure, everything ties in and I like the book but I can complain all I want.
2. Ayoob makes much use of the Pittsburgh setting with geography, different neighborhoods, sporting culture, anti-fag/pussy/girlie attitudes in sports. I did not drive around the city much - that I recall - but getting around on those twisting two-laners that pass as highways there had me constantly confused about where I was.
3. Good job by Ayoob putting together the mental mix-up that is Dexter.
4. Ambiguity of ending SPOILER ALERT was odd to me. Dexter returns to Lou's house after Lou's death to collect the drawer full of cash promised to him by Lou. He finds the drawer empty and note signed by Mercy. Was the cash taken by Agnes? Dexter in a mental fog? The spirit of Mercy? I presume it was the spirit of Mercy who, after all, spoke to Agnes and Dexter both. But, I'm not sure about the whole ending because there was nothing supernatural style earlier.
5. How many people ask Ayoob if he is related to the gun writer?
6. A poster on Bill Crider's blog had a comment about a novel with an ambiguous ending and settled on the: "if he'd 'a wanted ya to know he'd 'a told ya" rule."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Listened to: "Mucho Mojo" by Joe R. Lansdale

Listened to: Mucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale, 1994, 9781423383901.

This preceded the last Lansdale Hap and Leonard book I listened to. Leonard's estranged uncle dies and wills Leonard $100k and his house. Leonard and Hap move into the house with plans to fix it and sell it. Leonard has mixed feelings on this since his loving uncle disowned Leonard when Leonard announced he is gay.

Hap and Leonard discovered old corpse of child buried under house. H&L call cops. Uncle big suspect in the murder but uncle had told police he knew there was a serial killer and wanted the copes to work with him to solve the crime. Uncle was also turning senile and not quite believed.

H&L meet Florida, uncle's lawyer. Hap starts boning Florida. H&L meet local cops including That Lt. Fella. Florida leaves Hap for That Lt. Fella. H&L investigate. H&L beat up local crack house residents. H&L shenanigans. H&L deal with low cash flow. H&L share much platonic man love. H&L solve the case with the cops. H&L catch the surprise bad guy.

1. I figure the uncle was gay himself. Unmarried uncle with a tight relationship with another guy. I presume the uncle figured he was responsible for somehow turning Leonard gay and cut contact out of guilt and the hope Leonard would go straight.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Finished: "Psychosomatic" by Anthony Neil Smith

Finished: Psychosomatic by Anthony Neil Smith, 2005, 0809550903.

I bought this - full price - at Murder and Mayhem. This book would have been much more enjoyable if I were able to read it without being constantly interrupted. Instead I spent time telling my children to leave me alone so I could finish the dang book.

A very good novel (when not constantly interrupted). Multiple characters: Alan, Lydia, Terry, Lancaster, Megan, Norm in small time crime in Southern Mississippi. Murder gets involved and the dimwits all mix together and make things even worse.

Alan is a fat bastard on the underworld's fringes. Lydia is a manipulative quadruple amputee and would-be crime lord. Terry and Lancaster steal stalled cars on the side of the interstate. Terry is more of a con man and Lancaster is a tightly wound nutjob. Megan is a druggie who falls for Lancaster. Norm is a redneck idiot who is bound to lose by the end.

Mix, add many obstacles, most people get killed off.

1. Smart enough to get into trouble but too stupid to get out.
2. Reminders of Elmore Leonard with Southern dipshits and a minor Michigan connection.
3. The action keeps rolling along and is surprising.
4. Back cover blurb by the great Charlie Stella.
5. I'll eventually read Smith's next novel, The Drummer. If I get my copy.
6. Only about 180 pages but Smith packed a lot of goodness, crime, and dysfunctionality into this.
EDIT 2 (29Nov10):
7. Good first lines get a lot of attention. The opening paragraph in this is great.
8. Am I the only one who sees two faces in the cover illustation?
9. Audi love.
10. Amputee love.
11. Slovenly fat guy love.
12. Recurring Smith motif of goth/alternative-thin-chicks-with-wacky-hair love.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Read: "Tomato Red" by Daniel Woodrell

Read: Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell, 1998, 9781935415060 (2010 reprint).

Standard Woodrell goodness with Ozarks white trash poorly muddling through life. I had some interesting things to write about this novel but I forgot them. Maybe I'll recall along the way.

Sammy lands in West Table, MO. Sammy burgles a house and meets a couple other, teenaged, burglars, Jamalee and Jason, who would like him to be the violent muscle they think they need. Sammy figures, "Hell no" but loses his job, is evicted and tracks them down.

You see, Sammy needs friends. He is a messed up dude with a past he won't discuss and a pathological need to have food nearby when he sleeps. Sammy falls in with Jam's plan to escape nowhere Missouri by capitalizing on 17-year-old Jason's amazing male beauty. Jam's plan is to head to Palm Beach and pimp Jason off as a rich woman's boy toy. They want Sammy along as muscle for blackmail. Jason has a little trouble carrying through with this because as a gay kid he has no clue of how to go about such activity.

Sammy lives with Jam and Jason. Sammy bones their mom, who lives next door and works as a whore. Jam's plans are not turning out. Jam does not like her mother. Sammy drinks lots of beer. Jam applies for a job at a golf course. Jam is escorted out after blowing her (dyed red) top. Golf club parking lot fight starts and Sammy gets involved. Humiliation all around. Sammy, et al tear up the golf course during a thunderstorm. Jason is missing. Jason is dead in a pond. Family and Sammy do not believe it is accidental. Sammy, et al are powerless to convince the authorities otherwise. Things end badly for Sammy.

1. Megan Abbott wrote the foreword to this reprint. I like Abbott but I skipped the foreword.
2. You know things will end badly because Sammy, the narrator, says so. Reading about them stumbling around in clueless attempts to investigate Jason's death is a little painful because you know they will get nowhere.
3. I forget what else.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Read: "Quarry in the Middle" by Max Allan Collins

Read: Quarry in the Middle by Max Allan Collins, 2009, 9780843961249.

Quarry has been making a living by following paid killers, warning their marks and trying to get hired by the marks to kill the would-be assassin and then go after the person who paid the assassin.

It's the mid-'80s Quarry ends up in an Illinois river town on the Mississippi run by a couple opposing crime lords who run gambling houses and girls. The two sides don't especially like one another but they do get along. Both are under the control of the outfits in Chicago.

Quarry follows killer and follows killer's advance man. Quarry kills advance man and uses body to help convince would be victim, one of the bosses. Quarry kills killer. Quarry bangs older gal who is ex-wife of new employer, the crime boss. Quarry and new employer figure other crime boss as the culprit. Quarry gets caught by other boss and is viciously beaten, rescued by local stripper, screws local stripper. Quarry is captured again and escapes by killing captors. Quarry kills other crime boss. Quarry makes off with a load of cash and gives it to the stripper. Twist at end is not much of a twist.

Good book. I took this home after reading the first page or so.

Read Several Days Ago: "The Third Coast" by Ted McClelland

Read Several Days Ago: The Third Coast: sailors, strippers, fisherman, folksingers, long-haired Ojibway painters, and God-save-the-Queen monarchists by Ted McClelland, 2008, 9781556527210.

Boil it down: travel columns and feature columns based on the Great Lakes and stuck in a book.

McClelland grew up in Michigan and works in Chicago and has a fascination with the Great Lakes (GL). McClelland provides some numbers to show how important the GL are to commerce and history and huge population along the shoreline. McClelland takes summer off from work and drives the circumference of the lakes. Some people he meets by plan and others by chance.

1. An interesting book and McClelland's stories and writing made me want to visit several of the places he went to.
2. McClelland's real fascination and unfulfilled focus is shipping. He starts the book with a story about a ship in Chicago and hangs out with sailors from Poland and other countries. He catches a ride on a boat that services GL shipping. He takes a fishing trip on Superior. But, McClelland never catches a ride on a tanker of cargo ship. I don't know why, or at least I don't remember him saying why.
3. This guy might be good to invite up to speak at the library. Depending on cost.
4. The subtitle is misleading. There is very little stripper action. McClelland acts like I would at a trip club: Hands to self! Avoid the GERMS! Avoid all conversation! Do not look anyone in the eye!
5. Interesting comments on the differences and similarities between Canadians and Northern US versus Northern US versus Southern US. McClelland sees more similarities between people of Ontario and Wisconsin than he does Wisconsin and Alabama. Reference to Confederates in the Attic which I have still not read.
6. The trip was made in 2006. Lots of political commentary and discussion with Canadians over issues like the clusterfuck in Iraq and George Bush.
7. Was it McClelland who made a comment about the oversized patriotism of an American in another country? Or did I recently read that elsewhere?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quickly Read: "Texas Wind" by James Reasoner

Quickly Read: Texas Wind by James Reasoner, 2004, 9781930997516.

Originally published in 1980 by Manor Books which went out of business upon publication. I'd heard that Texas Wind had a "cult status" but I reckon that is due to the few copies in existence. This is a reprint by Point Blank Press. Point Blank also printed Reasoner's Dust Devils.

Since this is a Reasoner book I knew it would be good. Texas fits well alongside Dust Devils with it's crime tale and short length. Not that I can tell how many pages there are in Texas because Point Blank was too fucking dense to print page numbers.

Cody is a private dick in Fort Worth. He gets asked to investigate the disappearance of a college girl by the girl's wealthy stepmother. Cody tells the mom to call the cops. Cody investigates. Cody talks to girl's best pal and a couple others and finds another guy is missing and figures the two ran away together.

Cody tells mom girl ran off or eloped. Mom says someone called claiming to have kidnapped missing girl and dropped off a freshly amputated finger as proof. Cody gets abducted and his paid and then beaten to stay out. Cody keeps looking. Cody figures out who nabbed him. Cody observes ransom payoff. Payoff goes bad. Cody finds bad guys dead in their house. Cody keeps looking. Cody figures it all out. Cody gets shot but lives.

1. Lots of pay phone usage and Cody has an answering service.
2. Cody is no genius, he is an average guy doing his job. Cody investigates by talking and questioning. No inside cop knowledge and street informants to pave the way for him and ease the writer's job.
3. Disco dislike.
4. Western art love at Amon Carter Museum.
5. Cody gets severely beaten by goons. Very little gun play until the end.

Did Not Finish: "Chronicles: Volume One" by Bob Dylan

Did Not Finish: Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan, 2004, 9780743228152.

I just could not get into this. It was a constant stream of thought stuck on paper. I presume Dylan spoke into a recorder and the result was transcribed. No co-author is listed.

This was picked for the Men's Book Club. I was enthusiastic at reading the book but nothing much happened in the first section but for Dylan wandering around New York, listing books he read, and so forth.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Quickly read: "Tower" by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman

Quickly Read: Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman, 2009, 9781935415077.

I just read that Tower won an award at Bouchercon for Best Mystery. Tower is not a mystery it's a crime novel. A good book though.

Told in three sections by main characters Nick and Todd and secondary character Leeza. Nick and Todd work for minor crime boss Boyle and Boyle's psychopathic right-hand man, and former Provisional IRA soldier, Griffin. Set in Brooklyn in (about) 2000.

Nick is an angry young dude who enjoys violence as a release from stress or (perceived) humiliation. But, Nick is not up for the savagery of torturing a doorman with Griffin and Boyle. Nick is working his way up in Boyle's crew and starts dating a gal he really digs. Nick is then told to kill Todd because Todd is a cop. Nick gets shot by his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend and is then set-up for that guy's murder to induce him to kill Todd. Todd gets Nick into witness protection.

Todd's narrating turn. Todd gets pressured into joining the police or have the cops say he is an informant. Todd tells criminals he is leaving to be with a broad. Todd goes to Philadelphia and gets crash course police academy. Todd falls for US Marshal chick, Leeza, who is part of his cover. Todd goes back to NYC. Todd gets sent by Doyle - with advance knowledge from Todd's cop handlers - to Boston to assist Boston crime lord. Todd bangs local chick. Todd is found out as cop and local chick is tortured. Todd ends up killing three local hoods when looking for broad. Todd returns to NYC. Todd does cop stuff and helps Nick out.

Leeza section. Leeza hooks up with Todd when Todd flees NYC and lands in Milwaukee. Leeza gets pregnant. Criminal case against Boyle proceeds. Nick and Todd back in NYC. Nick and Todd have lunch at World Trade Center on Sep. 11 but Leeza's water breaks and she does not go.

1. I liked the Nick part better. Did Bruen and Coleman each write a section or did they collaborate through and co-write everything?
2. IRA connections. Not as many of those guys running around now I imagine.
3. Gratuitous use of Richard Katz in Milwaukee. I'll blame Coleman for that one.
4. Comments by Leeza about what a beautiful blue day September 11th was. Dang straight. I was in Arizona but the weather in NYC was beautiful with clear blue skies.
5. Gratuitous use of fake Irishness. Boyle speaks with a fake Irish accent and talks about "back home". Boyle is from Hoboken and has never been to Ireland. What a turd. A violent and deadly turd.
6. I just checked the circ stats and this novel has only checked out 3 times since it went on the shelf in April.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Listened to: "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 2" by Arthur Conan Doyle

Listened to: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 2 by Arthur Conan Doyle, 9781934997345, 2000 (CSA Telltapes).

I have never read all the Holmes stories, at least I don't remember doing so. There is a double volume at of the stories at home but I have not cracked it. I had only read or seen dramas of two of these tales.

1. Doyle's stories stand up dang well after 120+ years. I occasionally read older novels and short stories of the same vintage and the writing and language have not aged well. Doyle's work is easy to follow and enjoy. I could look up all sorts of historical information on how Doyle's work was reviewed and appreciated on a literary level in ~1900 but I will not bother.
2. Narrated by Edward Harwicke who play Watson in the Jeremy Brett program. Brett sure was fantastic as Holmes. Absolutely fantastic. While listening to this I was picturing and hearing Brett as Holmes. I did not know Harwicke did the narration until just now when I read the CD case.
3. Sherlock's brother Mycroft appears in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter. I thought Mycroft was only mentioned in the Doyle stories and was a mostly unknown character. I know there are post-Doyle novels featuring Mycroft as the lead.
4. The stories were all originally serialized or printed in magazines. Right? So, presumably, any publisher could bound them up in whatever order they desired. Has the copyright to the tales lapsed? Again, I won't bother to look it up.
5. The stories were: Sussex Vampire, Creeping Man, Speckled Band, Crooked Man, Greek Interpreter, Naval Treaty.
6. Views on class. The stories all feature Holmes's clientele upper class or professional clientele. I suppose rich people doing bad things is always popular. But, the lower classes never come off that well. Workmen and servants are a bit dull and slow witted.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Read: "The Deputy" by Victor Gischler

Read: The Deputy by Victor Gischler, 2010, 9781935562009.

Took forever for me to finally read this. The library copy has been an "issue". I got a free, free, free copy from Tyrus Books when the guy was running one of his "free books" opportunities on the twitter.

The novel also suffered from anticipation syndrome. The more I wait to read a book the more I build it up in my head and the more I expect from it. (I'm now afraid to read Ellroy's most recent novel.) Fortunately, this is a Gischler book so I need not have worried.

Toby is a fucking loser. I real fucking loser. Other people, or maybe the publishing blurb, refer to Toby as a "slacker". No. Toby is a fucking loser. He is a clueless layabout more concerned with scoring smokes and fucking his underage girlfriend than anything else.

One hot August night one of the Jordan brothers (local bad guys) is shot nine times in downtown Coyote Crossing, OK. Coyote Crossing is butt-fucking-Egypt and Toby is a part-time cop. Toby gets called out of bed at midnight and is told to guard Jordan's body. Instead, dumbass Toby gets bored and walks over to Molly's (his underage, high school girlfriend) and bones her. Toby gets back and Jordan's body is gone. Things get worse.

Toby battles fatigue. Toby's wife leaves him. Toby finds out trusted people are not to be trusted. Toby gets in gun fights. Toby drinks energy drinks that taste like battery acid. Mexicans smuggling illegals are dangerous. Toby is a clueless dumbfuck. Toby gets through six hours of death and destruction to the year later epilogue.

1. Several typos - correctly spelled words in incorrect usage - annoyed me.
2. Toby is a likable fella. But, he is a nitwit. I enjoyed the idea of looking at things through the eyes of a fuck-up who knows he is a fuck-up and does not much care. Even if he does want to get on full time and make more money. Toby just wants to join a band again.
3. .38 wheelgun love.
4. 12-gauge shotgun love.
5. Muscle car love.
6. Rural Okie love (sex and geography).
7. Rural Okie hate ( "I cannot wait to leave this podunk town!" type hate.)
8. Surprise twists and turns love.
9. I am fairly certain there was not one mention of Star Wars.
10. Small town cops who are not incompetent dumbshits - aside from Toby.
11. Great and Mighty Gischler, was the epilogue your idea or requested/suggested by advance readers and editor?

Finished: "The Dragon Factory" by Jonathan Maberyy

Finished: The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry, 2010, 9780312382490 (paper).

James Bond versus Dr. Moreau.

Second Maberry novel I have read and also the second novel in Maberry's Joe Ledger series. I read the first, Patient Zero, after a plug by JD Rhoades. There are already three in the series.

Joe Ledger still works for the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) run by Mr. Church. The DMS and it's boss are very shadowy but have enormous pull within the Fed government. Ledger is a former Baltimore police detective, martial arts expert, and former Army commando. The rest of DMS's staff are all experts within their fields and super-commandos recruited from SEALs, Special Forces, and elsewhere.

This is set only a couple months or so after the first book. DMS is under assault by the NSA under orders of the Vice President who is in charge while the President is under surgery and in recovery. VP and a weaselly Senator want to shut down DMS. blah blah blah. Everything ties into Cyrus Jakoby's plan to use orally taken gene therapy that will take recessive genes common in certain human races and bring out those diseases. For example: Sickle cell for black people, Tay Sachs for Jewish people.

Ledger investigates. Ledger gets in many gunfights. Ledger punches and kicks. Ledger uses his knife. Ledger bangs Major WhatsHerFace. Bad guys have Nazi ties and are very wealthy and mysterious. Bad guys are genetically engineering animals and people. Bad guys are evil. Ledger and company attack the bad guys. Mysterious hitman appears. Mysterious background and powers of Mr. Church slightly revealed. Ledger and company attack more bad guys. Bad guys have massive underground complexes staffed with scientists and private army. Main bad guy is actually Josef Mengele. Many people die. Bizarre animals - mastiffs with scorpion tales - are defeated. Major WhatsHerFace is killed. Recurring characters in Ledger's DMS unit return, fight the bad guys, are wounded, survive. Open ended ending.

1. A fun read but a couple gun errors annoyed me.
2. This is part sci-fi and therefore suffers from sci-fi bloat at close to 500 pages long.
3. This is not a book you take too seriously and apply logic to. The hero is incredibly capable and durable. The DMS has unlimited capabilities for science, travel, and other resources. Things always go right with technology.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Listened to: "Safer" by Sean Doolittle

Listened to: Safer by Sean Doolittle, 2009, 9781423377443.

Good book.

Academic Paul Callaway follows academic wife from Boston to Clark Falls, IA in summer move. Paul is arrested for kid porn and kid rape during his and wife's December holiday party. Told in flashbacks and current time by Paul.

Paul and wife's home is burgled and invaded the night they move in. Paul joins local citizens' neighborhood patrol. Paul clashes with retired cop, Roger, from across the street whose son was abducted and killed 10 years ago. Roger is in charge of local neighborhood watch. Paul clashes with Roger. Clash goes on and Paul discovers massive surveillance equipment and files in Roger's house. Paul and Roger clash again and Roger tells him to move by Dec. 16.

Paul gets good lawyer and ignores most of that lawyers good advice. Paul discovers links among Roger's dead son, past resident of Paul's house, Roger's cop friends. Paul digs deeper and investigates. Paul works with local tv reporter eager for a scoop and a move to the Big City. Paul avoids death. Paul avoids death again. Happy-ish ending.

1. I was enjoying this until the characters started playing golf. Then they stopped playing golf and I enjoyed the story again.
2. Cops make great bad guys. Officers are trusted and relied on for honesty and duty - having an evil one is scary.
3. Thing that would make this book better: CDs did that do not hang up and skip on the very last 2-3 tracks. Three or four discs had damage on the reflective labels.
4. Paul is the dip-shit kind of hero who you yell at for being such a dip-shit. His dip-shitted-ness does get some answers. Paul's digging and questioning solves things and moves the story along.
5. Other adjectives I used to describe Paul: Dense. Myopic. Hot headed. Idiot. Big Mouth. Clueless. Heedless. Dumbass. Dope. Egotistical. Dip-shit. Naive. Asshole.
6. Doolittle puts the plot and story together really well. This is not the first time I have written that about a book.
7. I wish some of the bad guys had more interaction with Paul earlier in the story. You meet the guys earlier on but I did not feel as much impact when they show their true colors and interests.
8. I think Doolittle lives in Council Bluffs, IA. Clark Falls seems to be the fictional stand-in. I presume Doolittle caught some ribbing on that one.
9. No ribbing could be as bad as having to live in Iowa. Not just Iowa but Western Iowa. He's almost in Nebraska.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finished: "Billy Boyle" by James R. Benn

Finished: Billy Boyle by James R. Benn, 2006, 9781569474334.

The first Boyle novel. Boyle is flown over to England to join Ike's staff. Getting flown over requires AAA travel priority - that is a big deal. Boyle meets his boss, Major Harding, and is introduced to Brit soldier Daphne and Kaz, a Polack assigned to headquarters as an interpreter. Boyle learns he is to help find a German spy in the free Norwegian forces. Boyle gets boner for Daphne who is dating Kaz. Boyle and the rest travel North. Boyle meets Norwegians. Boyle's boner deflates. One of King Haakon's counselors is murdered and Boyle assigned the investigation.

Boyle is not an experienced investigator and feels like a fraud. Much is made of Boyle's Boston Police advancement due to nepotism and graft rather than skills and competence. Boyle meets Daphne' sister, Diana. Boyle's boner returns. Boyle keeps investigating and asking questions that anger higher ranking officers. Boyle's willingness to ask rude questions, cop experience, and lessons from his cop father carry him through after all.

Boyle figures things out but Daphne is killed and Kaz injured in a sabotage bombing by the killer. Boyle fudges his orders and travels to Scotland, and then Norway, to follow the Norwegian killer on a mission into Norway. Boyle also discovers the spy. Everything turns out okay in the end - except for all the dead people.

1. I liked it but the trip to Norway felt a little forced. I thought things would get wrapped up in England.
2. Benn does a good job in this series in highlighting little known stories about the war. I read and heard about Norway during the war when I took a class with Thorstensson. Reading about it again was interesting. I never did get around to watching The Last Lieutenant.
3. Anachronism. A character mentions a relative in Dachau. Dachau was opened in '33 but would Boyle - or most anyone - recognize what it meant? Does it matter? Am I nitpicking?
4. Much more information about Boyle's family in this one. Benn lets that stuff drop to the side in later novels. More detail on his detective father and his father's corruption.
5. Several mentions were made of Boyle's younger brother. I assume Benn will have him appear in a later novel. Actually, I assume Benn will have him appear and then have him killed off.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Read: "Too Late to Die" by Bill Crider

Read: Too Late to Died by Bill Crider, 1986, 0802765506.

I lucked into this book when I was looking around Sheboygan PL and scanned their used books area. The first entry in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series.

Rhodes is running for re-election against a strong competitor. While investigating a business burglary Rhodes is called to a murder scene. During the ensuing investigation Rhodes meets a single lady, gets knocked out, witnesses another murder, witnesses graveside fisticuffs and turmoil, discovers another murder victim, gets beat up, is attacked by wild pigs and sees a suspect mauled by said pigs, gets attacked again, catches a murderer, gets sprayed by a skunk.


This was a good book. I've read several novels in this series and the story was not of much interest. The interesting bit is that this is the initial introduction of a character I have followed for over ten years. Seeing how Crider's characters and setting started and where they have gone since is really interesting to me. While reading I paid much more attention to Rhodes's character than before: His self-doubts over work and personal relationships. His own acknowledgment of his investigative strengths. His dedication to duty and the public leading him to help an old lady remove a skunk and Rhodes getting sprayed. Rhodes's acknowledgment after the skunk spraying that "somebody has to do it". Rhodes is a talker and interviewer; he gets in fights and investigates crime scenes but those are not his strengths. In later novels you learn of Rhodes anger at crimes like murder but not here.

An easy comparison for this is Rhodes versus Andy Taylor. As a half-hour comedy show Mayberry focused on jokes with character an integral part. Only after viewing several episodes do you recognize what a strong personality Andy was. Balancing his son, work, friends, and romance in a small town where, as Sheriff, everyone feels it's fair to observe and judge him. Andy was always fair even though frequently exasperated and annoyed.

Other Comments:
1. Rhodes is always self-doubting his work and mistakes. He criticizes his work. Did he ask the wrong questions to the wrong people? Should he have recognized something earlier? He's a worrier at times.
2. Hack and Lawton drag conversations out with Rhodes but do not bicker like in later novels.
3. No crime scene dog adoptions yet.
4. Boars, of course, and reason to fear them.
5. Rhodes starts this at about 45 years of age. I do not recall if age is addressed in the more recent books.
6. How many concussions has Rhodes had over the years? How many beatings?
7. Worries over getting or losing votes. Realizing that (misinformed) votes have to take a back seat to doing the right thing.
8. Blacklin County is a small county with a high body count.
9. Dr. Pepper and bologna sandwiches.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Read: "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins

Read: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, 2010, 9780439023511.

I finished this a week or two ago. Good book and much better than the second in the series.

Katniss is recovering in Distrcit 13 after her rescue at the end of book two, Catching Fire. Katniss is a mental mess from her experiences. She is having lots of rebellious troubles adapting to the regimented culture of D13. Katniss ends up agreeing to be "The Mockingjay" to support the ongoing war against the Capitol by being a face of the rebellion. Katniss is torn between Peeta and ThatOtherDude. Katniss trains with the army and goes to battle in the Capitol. Lots of fighting in Capitol. Katniss's younger sister killed in front of Katniss by Capitol hovercraft.

Katniss was promised chance to kill Capitol's President Snow. Katniss kills president of D13 instead after she is convinced that the woman had Katniss's sister and other medics murdered to convince Capitol to capitulate and drive on D13 army.

Katniss goes back to hospital. Blah Blah Blah.

1. Lots of teenaged girly shit.
2. The politics among D13 and the Capitol were well done. Lots of confusion and ambiguity over what motives people really have.
3. War scenes were well done with important characters getting killed.
4. Ruthless actions by Capitol to try and stop rebellion. War as sanctified murder by both sides.
5. Happy ending.
6. Contemporary politics obviously used as starting points and plot. But, I sure don't recall what they were.

Finally Finished: "Character Studies" by Mark Singer

Finally Finished: Character Studies: encounters with the curiously obsessed by Mark Singer, 2005, 0618197257.

I read part of this a few years ago and never finished all the essays. I read Head Games by Craig McDonald and he reference this book in an afterword. Or foreword. Or author's note. Or something. So, I checked it out again.

I read them. One essay is about highly driven NYC suburban moms. What a couple of fucking nutcases. I reread the Ricky Jay essay. After first reading that essay I hunted down Ricky Jay books and other materials.

Essays date from about 1990 onwards.

Read: "First Wave" by James R. Benn

Read: First Wave by James R. Benn, 2007, 9781569474716.

Quite good. I read this thinking it was the first in the series. It is not. Benn does good work.

Billy Boyle is riding one of the leading landing craft of the invasion of North Africa. Boyle and Major Harding are trying to broker a deal with the French Army to stand down against the invasion force. Boyle and Harding are riding with a Fenchie officer when they are captured local fascist cops. Boyle sees girly-friend secret agent Diana also captured. Boyle and Harding freed but Diana whisked away. Shortly afterwards a hospital supply is murdered in what looks like a theft of morphine and the ultra-secret, ultra-new, first time deployed penicillin.

Boyle investigates the supply clerk murder and the drug ring that points to spies. Boyle ties in the drug ring to Diana's capture. Boyle invades Bone on a Brit Navy patrol boat and rescues Diana with help of Brit Commandos. Diana mentally messed up from rape, drugging, and kidnap. Boyle solves murder case and catches thief. Bad guy Vichy who kidnapped Diana is killed. I think. I read this a while ago.

1. The culprit on the US Army side of the hospital murder and theft was easy to spot. Benn made it clear early in the story.
2. Army Nurses were treated like crap. They received half pay per official policy and even though they were officers no men were required to salute them.
3. The Allies cut deals cut with the ant-semite Vichy collaborators. Fucking scumbags. Eisenhower had to get them on board so his rear areas would be secured and allow the U.S. and English Armies to charge eat to fight the krauts. That DeGaulle was seen as traitorous, by some, to leave the country and fight on is surprising.
4. Good villains in the Vichy frogs and their black arm-banded civilian thugs.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Listened to: Two Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale

Listened to: Two Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale, 2009 audio of 1995 novel, 9781423384328.

Third Hap and Leonard novel. I bought this from Landmark Audio a while ago and listened to it when driving to Ashland, WI and back.

On Christmas Eve Leonard burns down his neighbors house for the third time while thoroughly thumping some of the tenants. Leonard does not like crack houses. Hap shows up and is arrested with Leonard. Their cop friend says he will get the charges to disappear if they go to Grovetown and look for the cop's missing girlfriend, Florida. Hap used to date Florida and still carries a torch for her. Hap and Leonard head to the racist cesspool of Grovetown. Hap and Leonard make enemies. Hap and Leonard make "friends". Lansdale writes many dick jokes and makes dick and testicle references. Leonard pines for his boyfriend. Hap and Leonard bond some more. Hap and Leonard are beat senseless. Hap and Leonard are ambushed. Hap avoids killing people, Leonard does not. Hap and Leonard go home to recover physically and emotionally. Hap and Leonard return to Grovetown. Hap and Leonard find out what happened to Florida.

1. Leonard is a difficult person to get along with.
2. Lansdale compares fictional Grovetown to the real-life klan stronghold of Vidor, TX. I once stopped for gas in Vidor. I never would have spent money there but my tank was empty and I did not want to walk.
3. Lansdale loves dick jokes.
4. This was a good book. I liked it. The narrator did a very good job.
5. Did I mention the dick jokes?
6. I forgot what else.

Just Finished: "Delta Blues" edited by Carolyn Haines

Just Finished: Delta Blues edited by Carolyn Haines, 2010, 9781935562061.

I got this for free from Tyrus Books when responding to a "contest" on the twitter.

Short stories with a focus on characters in Mississippi who either play the blues or are fans. The crossroads myth is a common theme among the writers. Four writers have prison tales. Repetition of the crossroads myth got tedious. Either the writers referenced Robert Johnson or created a character who made a deal with the devil.

Daniel Martine's crossroads story was the best because his devil is a not-too-bright con man. I liked that the devil's power was more myth and fear than power. That the devil's mark questioned whether the devil fulfilled his end of the contract or if the mark did it all himself.

Mary Suarns had a nice cop story with a Chicago cop moving back south and becoming a Sheriff.

John Grisham had a good story about a couple ex-con brothers and their mom going to the third brother's execution in the gas chamber. I have only read one Grisham novel, The Pelican Brief, and it sucked. Maybe I'll try another novel of his.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Read: "The Walk" by Lee Goldberg

Read: The Walk by Lee Goldberg, 2004, 159414110x.

Goldberg has mentioned this novel numerous times online since he started selling a Kindle edition. So, I reserved a copy that came from Juneau PL. A good book. A fairly quick read as well.

SPOILERS LISTED AHEAD. I recommend you stop reading this and buy and read the book instead. It's good

TV executive Marty is in downtown Los Angeles visiting a filming location when a massive earthquake hits and destroys most of the city. Marty changes into gym shoes from his wrecked car, grabs some supplies and starts walking to get home to his wife in Calabasas. Marty is a selfish prick and failed writer who ended up in an executive position. Marty judges everything against a perspective of tv shows and tv reality.

Marty stops to help lady crushed in car who has 5-year-old daughter in the Valley. Car blows up and Marty whacks his head. Marty starts walking again and stops at - low and behold - an open restaurant. Marty meets Buck, psychopath bounty hunter. Buck starts walking with Marty. Marty hates Buck. Buck forces Marty to help boy trapped in car about to fall off crumbled overpass. Marty and Buck part. Hollywood damn breaks and floods the ruins. People drown. Marty escapes. Buck reappears. Marty gives blood and nurse says he should get head wound from car explosion looked at. SPOILER AHEAD Marty takes off. People are burned in gas explosion. Marty gets to Valley and is impaled on rebar in a fall. Marty rescues self. SPOILING Marty gets exploding car woman's daughter. Marty gets back to wife. SPOILER Marty finds out Buck was hallucination.

Thoughts, comments
1. Many flashbacks to tell the story about Marty's wife, their struggling marriage, Marty's infertility.
2. MORE SPOILING Marty conquers many obstacles on the way home and becomes a new man. WATCH OUT FOR SPOILING But, without the "twist" of Buck what other ending could there be except some lame "Marty looked over the wasteland and the orange, setting sun" bullshit?
3. Confusion between character and creator. Goldberg has done plenty of television work. A reader who knows that, like me, might consider Marty partially autobiographical. I didn't. Okay, I did. But not too much.
4. Marty's walk describes a lot of L.A. geography but I have no freaking clue which street is which or where he is walking.
5. Goldberg worked on Seaquest. A character in the novel comments on the failure of underwater TV shows. "Though the last successful underwater show was thirty years ago"
6. Gratuitous Diagnosis Murder and Murder, She Wrote references.
7. "Stunt twat"

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Finished: "It Was the War of the Trenches" by Jacques Tardi

Finished: It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi, 2010, 9781606993538.

Comic book short stories by Frenchman. Tardi's grandfather would tell stories of the war. Tardi tells everything from the Frog point of view. Republished form the French. Tardi's foreword is from 1994.

Tardi illustrates how everything would turn into mud. A few million tons of high explosives shells will pulverize, damn near atomize, anything. Lots of Lebels.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Read Two Weeks Ago: "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn

Read Two Weeks Ago: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, 2006, 9780307341549.

I grabbed this one, her first novel, after reading her second. I liked the second better but this is still above average.

Camille Preaker is a crime reporter for a third rate newspaper in Chicago. After two murders of young girls in rural MO Camille is sent there to, hopefully, get a scoop. She is sent because she grew up there.

Camille is quite alienated from her mother. Camille's younger sister died when Camille was 14 (Camille is now about 28 yrs old). Camille had not seen her mom since the mother came to visit when Camille was hospitalized for cutting. Camille's cutting has been going on since she was 16 or so and she carves words onto her body. She feels the words flame up at different times under different circumstances, shame, hate, potatoes, etc.

Camille stays with her wealthy mom, distant step-dad, and starts to learn about her half-sister - who she does not remotely recognize when first meeting on the street. Half-sister is a manipulative 14 year old. Half-sister ruthlessly runs her little clique and even controls the school. Half-sister is sexually active and likes drugs and booze.

Camille investigates. Camille's mother is Munchhausen by proxy and - obviously to the reader but reluctantly by Camille - poisoned her dead daughter and occasionally poisons Half-Sister. Things happen. Camille suspects, fears, and loves mom. Camille wants mom to love her but knows she does not. Camille and 14 year old Half-Sister do Ecstasy and Vicodin. Camille screws detective cop on the case. Camille keeps her clothes on during sex because the scars cover her from ankle to wrist to collarbone. Camille later screws 18 year old murder suspect but does take her clothes off. Camille breaks the case by searching and finding evidence of the two dead girls in Camille's mom's bedroom.

Camille takes Half-Sister back to Chicago. Half-Sister's new friend is murdered. Half-Sister is real killer. Camille still all messed up and relying on her father-figure editor.

Recurring Themes
1. Girl all alone.
2. Girl abusing self. In this one with cutting, in last one with booze and isolation.
3. Dead family member(s).
4. Murdered children.
5. Old crime being solved.
6. High school relationships revisited and those relationships helping to define people as adults.

1. Flynn does some good writing. I liked the second one better but Flynn has her crap together. She puts together some really well done characters and gives them things to worry about.
2. Flynn does a good job hooking you with Camille's personal mysteries of cutting, dead sister, abusive mother, etc.
3. Great look at the local women who still live their relationships like they did in high school. Camille comes back to town and resists falling into the same actions and behaviors. She succeeds with those former classmates but not with her mother.

Read A While Ago: "Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop" by Lee Goldberg

Read A While Ago: Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop by Lee Goldberg, 2009, 9780451228611 (paper).

Monk is still a nut job. Natalie still puts up with him.

Stottlemeyer cans Monk's contract when the city hits a budget crunch. At the same time Stottlemeyer is humiliated by a former SF cop at a convention when the cop points out, on stage, how Monk is the one solving all of the homicide departments cases.

When Monk gets canned Natalie's fears of "Who am I? What am I?" pop up. Nat talks to Stottlemeyer over coffee. Monk and Natalie travel with Stottlemeyer to visit a senile friend of his. While there Monk discovers the wonders of the Diaper Genie.

Monk gets hired by big-time, super-successful, super-expensive private firm. Monk promptly solves a load of their dead cases.

Senile guy, who used to be an informant, is murdered. Only Monk sees the clues of course. Cop who humiliated Stottlemeyer is murdered. Stottlemeyer framed for crime, Lt. Delusional arrests Stottlemeyer.

Monk works to solve the crime. Nat is worried that the new boss is working Monk too hard and suspicious of him. Things happen. Natalie has suspicions she cannot figure out. Monk investigates. Monk is crazy. Nat's teenage daughter is teenagey. Stottlemeyer is mustached. Lt. Delusional wants everyone to call him "Bullitt". Monk spreads his love of Diaper Genies. Crime is solved with guns, abandoned warehouse, karate fighting, bluffing, cell phones.

1. Either Goldberg never used Diaper Genies with his kids or he never had the problem I did with the Genie getting moldy gunk on the inside. Monk would not have this problem since he would likely clean the interior every time he emptied it.
2. Natalie pondering her life again? Does the woman ever not worry about her career all the time?
3. Natalie and celibacy. There is a comment that Nat's daughter knows she is not celibate. Too bad this is not the kind of book that goes into more detail on that issue.
4. One of Monk's favorite foods is Wheat Thins because they are perfectly square.
5. Monk washes his doorknobs in the dishwasher. Or, am I remembering that from the last Monk novel?
6. Travel commentary by Nat on Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, and the history of some hotel the name of which I will not bother to look up again. Boy #1 was just reading a Boxcar kids mystery set in SF where they visit Fisherman's Wharf. That place was neat to visit the first time I was there. The second time was not so interesting. The third time was a waste of time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Read A While Ago: "Dexter by Design" by Jeff Lindsay

Read A While Ago: Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay, 2009, no ISBN handy.

I've been watching the tv show over the past couple weeks. I never watched it before. It's good. In fact I am still watching season one this moment. I've always really enjoyed the novels and enjoyed this one. Since I read the novel a couple weeks ago I am getting the tv version confused with the novels.

I read somewhere that Lindsay recognized the audience's dislike of the third novel and the change to the Dark Passenger theory. The Dark Passenger is back to normal and the last novel seems to have been skipped over. Anyway.

Dexter is on a honeymoon to Paris with Rita. Amidst the closely followed schedule of museums and other tourist sites they catch an avant garde art show. The art show involves video of a woman amputating her own leg.

Dexter gets back to Miami and works another murder scene. Murder ties into local tourist bureau. Dexter and sister go to interview former employee. Sister is stabbed - or was the shot, I don't recall - and Dexter ends up killing the guy he thinks is responsible for serial killings and stabbing sister. Dexter got the wrong guy, sort of. There were two guys doing the killings - which were actually corpses that got cut up but never mind that part.

Dexter investigates. Dexter's inhumanity and confusion over human actions are humorous. Dexter works with his sister's carved up boyfriend to track killer to Havana. Dexter and boyfriend miss opportunity in Havana to catch the guy. I don't remember if Dexter gets the guy or not.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Finished: "Shadow Season" by Tom Piccirillli

Finished: Shadow Season by Tom Piccirilli, 2009, 9780553592474.

Eh. I think Piccirilli recently got an award for this one but it just wasn't for me. It was okay but not to my taste. But, like usual, Piccirilli does a neat job. The fact that I kept reading is likely a testament to his skill. He did especially well writing from the point of view of the recently blinded main character and his new perceptions of the world.

Finn was a cop in NYC with a wife he loved and a partner he loved but was unsure about. Finn gets blinded, his wife is killed, his partner is jailed, and Finn is now teaching English at a small girl's boarding school in Connecticut (or was is Mass. or somewhere else?).

Finn has had trouble at the school after a hot student came on to him and he almost banged her. Finn has a relationship with the school nurse, Roz, and the school's principal, WhatsHerFace, is a repressed drunk who is watching Finn closely.

Christmas break and a handful of students remain. A blizzard is coming. Finn takes a walk and finds a badly injured girl. Takes girl back to his cottage. She gives cryptic warnings of coming danger. I kept wondering if it was supposed to be a hallucination. Finn bangs Roz. Finn looks for disappeared girl.

Other characters introduced. Finn's history introduced. Storm hits. Rough characters appear demanding money and raping and killing. Finn fights back. Finn kills one. Finn gets lost in snow. Finn rescued and gathers others.

Finn finds out Roz and the school's cook were buying meth from the locals and selling through Finn's jailed cop partner. Locals are owed $9,000 and angry. Finn chokes out last of two killers. Injured girl holds knife to Finn's neck. Finn promises the money. Finn pays up a couple days later. Finn goes to meet old partner at Sing-Sing as partner is released. Finn plans to kill partner.

1. Common Piccirilli themes: east coast, dead wife, feelings of failure by lead character, lead character duped by others.
2. Missing themes: no muscle cars, orphans, or scumbag parents.
3. I need to see when the next Cold book with Chase and Jonah comes out. Eh, why bother. I'll just get overly anxious and upset if it does not release for several months. Piccirilli will post the release info on facebook anyway.
4. Meth is a popular drug in both real life and recent crime fiction.
5. I think I bought another Piccirilli for the library that I have not gotten to yet.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Read: "Houston Homicide" by Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson

Read: Houston Homicide by Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson, 2007, 9781594146039.

Good. The neat thing about this is that it is not a Sheriff Rhodes novel. Crider has plenty of novels but this is the first non-Rhodes book I have gotten too. Salina PL has several other Crider novels, including several westerns, but I don't think I'll get to them this trip.

Police procedural with Ted "Steve" Stephens set in 1969 Houston. Steve is a homicide dick who gets assigned to a triple murder. Steve's wife has recently left him after bizarrely thinking Steve was having an affair. Steve gets assistance in the murder case from well known and well publicized local private eye Clive Watson.

Steve investigates. Steve identifies suspects. Steve clashes with Other Detective working the case. Other Detective is a mostly incompetent jerk. Steve has support of boss. Steve worries over wife. Clive misses dead wife. Steve keeps investigating. Wife gets mental health help. Steve realizes he is a nut for work and devotes himself more to wife. Steve finds killer and through help of Clive gets confession and finds murder weapon.

1. I went to the shelf to get the second collaboration by Crider and Wilson, Mississippi Vivian, but the dang book was checked out already.
2. This could easily sell as a modern inspirational novel where faith takes a back seat to story but is integral to the characters. Waatson is a fairly devout guy and there are some discussions of religion and faith. Especially at the end when a witness who is becoming a nun has a rapid recovery from cancer.
3. Rhodes not Rhoades.
4. Anachronisms? Yellow crime scene tape and (something else I do not recall). When did that type of tape start getting used? What was used before? When did police realize the importance of protecting crime scenes.
5. Why don't cop shows ever have perimeter cops recording who goes in and out of crime scenes?
6. Screw-up between revolver and semi-auto really annoyed me in the first few pages.
7. Everyone but Steve smokes cigarettes.
EDIT 8. Something I forgot to mention is the gay characters. One is the murderer and the other is a undercover investigator for Watson. The gay-ness is not an issue with either Steve or Wilson. I remember sometime in the early nineties or so when a gay guy was murdered in Tyler. The case made the national news not because the victim was killed for being queer but that the Tyler police were very aggressive in investigating and catching the killer(s). My father mentioned he was surprised that the cops were so reactive.

Finished: "Stalin's Ghost" by Martin Cruz Smith

Finished: Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith, 2007, 9780743276726.

Arkady Renko novel. This novel felt sloppy. Messy. I almost quit reading after about 40 pages or so but I like the Renko character and finished the book.

Renko gets assigned to investigate sightings of Stalin's ghost in the subway. Stalin is still politically important. A resurgence of uber-patriotism has brought Stalin back as a symbol of Russian strength and success.

Renko investigates. Renko runs across murder case investigated by two New Detectives who are Chechen War heroes. Renko thinks they screwed up the innvestigation. Renko starts looking into the New Detectives. One of them is a political candidate.

Renko finds that other members of the New Detectives small unit are getting killed off. Renko gets threatened by his boss, the prosecutor. Renko doctor girlfriend runs off with one of the New Detectives who she knew in Chechnya before meeting Renko in Chernobyl.

Renko worries for street kid he has been looking after. Things happen. Bodies from WWII are dug up. Renko goes to Tver, Russia. Renko doesn't carry a gun. Everyone wants to kill Renko. Things work out in the end.

1. Messy, things were not fitting together very well. I thought the description and flow could have been cleaned up quite a bit.
2. I think Brent Ghelfi's novels discuss modern Russia better than Smith's.
3. More info on Arkady's father, The General, and the suicide of Arkady's mother.
4. The General comes off better in this novel than the others. There are three instances when The General's teaching come in handy: mine clearing, "hit first", pistol reassembly.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Finished: "Johnny Porno" by Charlie Stella

Finished: Johnny Porno by Charlie Stella, 2010, 9781933586298.

Another good job by Stella. Multiple characters and storylines all joining together at the end. Stella is good at pacing the story among the different characters and increasing that for the climax at the end.

1973, New York. John Albano lost his union carpenter job and is struggling to make his rent, pay his child support, and put gas in his car. John takes job with the mob to drop off film reels of Deep Throat on Fridays and pick them up receipts on Sundays. Albano's selfish ex-wife, Nancy, is cheating on her third husband with he first husband, Louis. Louis is a gambling addict who owes money to all sorts of bad people. Louis plans to rob the receipts off Albano with Nancy's help. Other characters include a couple cops, a dirty cop, a couple mob guys, Louis college aged girlfriend, a fat loan shark, an FBI agent, an FBI informant, and others. Pay attention when reading to get the full effect.

1. Dialogue written as spoken. That took a few pages for me to adjust to.
2. Intricate plot with multiple interconnections between the storylines.
3. Humor found in the interactions of the characters. Some scenes could be played as slapstick.
4. Main character like many of Stella's other characters as, "Stubborn to the point of suicidal."
5. Common Stella themes: low level mob guys chafing at the bullshit of people above them, mob bosses who only care for the cash but pretend otherwise, low level mob guys struggling with cash and family issues, an incredibly selfish female character I - as the reader - am disgusted by, cops following clues in effort to catch-up.
6. Period car love.
7. All-in-all another good book by Stella. Hopefully this one will get the attention it deserves.
8. Now I feel like I'm sucking up to Stella because I know he'll read this. I'm not. It's a real good book.

Read: "The First Rule" by Robert Crais

Read: The First Rule by Robert Crais, 2010, 9780399156137.

Good. Better than the first solo Pike book.

Pike hears a retired mercenary colleague and his family are murdered in home invasion. Pike is very loyal to his men. Pike seeks revenge. Pike investigates lone survivor of the attack, the family's nanny. Pike gets suspicions. Pike finds connection between nanny and Serbian mob. Things happen. Pike gets help from Elvis Cole and former mercenary Jon Stone. Pike has father issues. We learn more of Pike's mercenary past. Pike finds that the nanny was caring for a Serb kingpins grandson and child was kidnapped to threaten kingpin. Kingpin follows the first rule of Russian mobs - the only family is the mob - and plans to kill the boy to show his scumbagness. Pike not happy. Pike shoots many people. Pike gets boy adopted.

1. East European whores.
2. Lots of driving.
3. More Colt Python love.
4. More 40 lbs in backpack while jogging.
5. People are not who they seem.
6. Jon Stone seems to enjoy hurting and killing.
7. M4 carbine love.
8. Jeep love.
9. Multiple L.A. locations love.
10. Orphan infant love.
11. Sunglasses love.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Finished: "Hunt Beyond the Frozen Fire" by Gabriel Hunt (Christa Faust)

Finished: Hunt Beyond the Frozen Fire by Gabriel Hunt (Christa Faust), 2010, 9780843962475.

I've been waiting to read this ever since I saw a publishing announcement 9-10 months ago.

Hunt is in Eastern Europe trying to recover a dagger his archaeological partner ran off with. Hunt gets dagger after big chase and fight. Hunt returns to NYC Hunt Foundation. Hot chick wants Hunt to go to Antarctica to find her missing father. Father has disappeared and been missing a week. Hot Daughter gets Hunt to go along with it.

Hunt calls up a few people to help and meet him in Christchurch. Hunt bones Hot Daughter on the flight there. Hunt and group - including chick he boned before - fly to McMurdo. Hunt and company travel to remote research location the father had been at. Hunt and group go looking for dad. Hunt and company fall into crevasse. Crevasse passage leads to a warm cavern filled with red light, trees, Tasmanian Devils, vicious 9 foot tall birds, and vicious, hot, blond chicks. Hunt and company captured.

Hunt and other male told they have to breed with hot blond chicks in village since all men in village die early. Hunt must bone hot blond chick queen or others in group will die. Turns out village was founded by Nazis who brought a doomsday machine along.

Hunt tied up and boner-ed up. Hot queen rides the baloney pony. Hunt escapes. Queen is killed by Hot Daughter. Hot Daughter made queen. Hot Daughter goes crazy for revenge against Nazis and sets machine to target Berlin. Hunt is captured. Hunt escapes. New queen is killed. Everyone escapes in 60 year old plane. Plane crash lands. Every now stuck there for six months. Hunt is promised much sex by surviving female member of his team.

1. Faust's twitter, facebook, and blog writing says Faust digs "thick" girls with big, round butts. Coincidentally, many women are muscular with thick butts.
2. Faust's twitter, facebook, and blog writing says Faust digs bondage. Coincidentally Faust adds two bondage styled scenes in the book.
3. Gun whine: Colt Single Action revolvers don't have a swing out cylinder.
4. I liked the sex parts.
5. Faust's sequel to Money Shot comes out in a few months.
6. I'd like to read what Ardai's requirements are for the novel's in this series. How much of their own style does each writer get to add in?

Read: "The Watchman" by Robert Crais

Read: The Watchman by Robert Crais, 2007, 9781416514978 (paper).

I read or listened to 2-3 of Crais Elvis Cole books before starting to enjoy them. I've never much liked Elvis Cole and his wisecracks but Crais writes good stories.

One novel I read by chance. Another I picked up after reading a direct comparison between Stark's Parker and Crais's Joe Pike. That comparison was total bullshit and I really disliked the Pike character as result. I was expecting something from Pike and Crais that wasn't there. Anyway. I wanted to try out this book which was Crais's first to focus on Pike. I liked it.

L.A. Party Girl (Paris Hilton, etc.) gets in early morning car wreck and attempt is made on her life when she is listed as a witness. FBI says they are investigating money launderers and that the car Party Girl ran into had a mobster and money laundering suspects together.

Attempt made on girl's life. Girl goes under protection of the Marshals. Another attempt made. Marshal is killed. Party Girl's father pulls her out to go under private protection. Pike is called by investigator to fulfill a debt. Pike bodyguards Party Girl through two more attempts. Pike decides to go after guy trying to kill girl. Things happen. Elvis Cole helps out. Kimber .45 love. Colt Python love. Sunglasses love. Taciturnity. Parsimony. Corvette Stingray love. Gratuitous use of Jon Jordan and Richard Katz. Everything turns out okay and Pike is unable to accept Party Girl's loving overtures even though he has fallen for her.