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.