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?