Monday, April 25, 2011

Finished: "Black Dahlia Avenger" by Steve Hodel

Finished: Black Dahlia Avenger by Steve Hodel, 2003, 9781559706643.

There are many things I thought about while reading this. I think everything boils down to: wishful thinking bullshit.

Hodel's father was a babe hound who chased and controlled women and then dumped the women and their children and moved on. The guy was a louse and a jerk, but since he was a charming physician he kept on doing so successfully. Hodel Author had a distant relationship with his emotionally and physically distant (lived in the Philippines) father. In later years Dr. Hodel had moved to San Francisco and the author and dad had started to regularly communicate and socialize until the father's death in 1999.

While visiting his father's widow (fourth wife?) Hodel came across a small photobook that included an old photo of Hodel Author's first wife - a marriage that ended badly. The photo pre-dated author's marriage and the wife and dad met only once after the marriage Another two photos also seem quite familiar and he recognizes the girl as Elizabeth Short - the Black Dahlia of 1947. Hodel starts to dig. Hodel thinks dad killed Short. Hodel digs more and presents his "evidence" in the book. That is correct, I put quotes around evidence.

Hodel believes Hodel Senior murdered Short and several other women. Hodel Author believes Hodel Senior was protected by the police due to Hodel Seniors participation in a local abortion ring. Hodel Senior was a friend of Man Ray and Hodel Author thinks Hodel Senior used bodies as homage to Ray's work.

1. I do not know Hodel Author but I think hatred for his craphead father who abandoned author and family when author was only 5-years-old (or so). Hodel's mom was an alcoholic who moved the family from apartment to apartment. Hodel and siblings were taken in by social services several times.
2. The only compelling evidence is hand writing analysis of dad's writing versus notes penned by the killer. I don't have much faith in that evidence. Everything else is conjecture: proximity of body dump and Hodel's office and home, possible connections between Man Ray's photos and the display of Short, descriptions of suspects as tall, dark-haired and handsome, etc.
3. Hodel Author had a Los Angeles District Attorney, Stephen R. Kay, look at his case presentation to determine if Hodel's work would merit charging Hodel Senior if he were alive. Kay writes, "Yes, there is enough". I say, "Bullshit!" If I were on the jury my eyes would be stuck from rolling my eyes so much.
4. Hodel Author does have a follow-up book and continues to dig and find more connections. But, all the connections are tenuous. Yes, he seems to place Hodel Senior near and around Short. Yes, he seems to place Hodel Senior into a police protected abortion ring. But, so what? It's all conjecture and guesswork and wishful thinking with no (or minor) paperwork or witnesses to back it up
5. Hodel Author was a policeman and detective with the LAPD for 24 years. He was a homicide detective for a massive chunk of those years. I really think if he were to look at this objectively he would see the many holes in his case.
EDIT 6: One thing I do like about the book is Hodel Author's extensive research on LAPD and LA crime history. I have already received a book he mentions in the text. There are others by police and reporters that I would like to read.
EDIT 7: I don't believe those are Short's photos in Hodel Seniors photobook. I wonder if the recent work by Hodel Author involved trying to match those photos versus known photos.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Read: "Dark Matter" by Peter Straub

Read: Dark Matter by Peter Straub, 2010, 9780385516389.

I read this for the committee. In a previous meeting another committee member judged it good but not great. I think it was better than that.

High school kids in 1967 Madison are a tight knit group. All but one of them are agog over a handsome guru who comes to town. They join guru in a nighttime ceremony in a field that leaves one college student torn to pieces and another student disappeared. The event effects them all in different ways. One girl goes blind, another girl becomes convinced in her self-interest (the proper word escapes me), another goes to a mental asylum, so on, so forth.

The one high school kid who does not fall under the guru marries the blind-to-be girl and becomes a famous novelist. One day in a coffee shop he sees a crazy guy who brings to mind is friend in the loony bin. Novelist starts wondering more about what happened during the night time ceremony. Novelist starts researching by reading and also reconnecting with the old friends.

Weird things happen. Ceremony is told from perspective of all the living participants except the guru. Straub shows the '60s characters versus the present day characters. Much mystery and unexplained magic. A neat book.

1. I could reference Rashomon when describing the plot but only because I read that on the flyleaf. I never saw the movie.
2. I could go into more detail on the plot and characters but the story moves along several paths and I don't want to rehash everything.
3. I'd classify this as literary horror. But not much horror.
4. I like the Madison and Milwaukee settings.
5. Novelist is famous for a big hit from 1980 (or so) not unlike Straub's Ghost Story. Straub also spent time in England like Novelist and wife.
6. I thought about looking up the Madison locations Straub references but did not.
7. A neat juxtaposition between the scary event in the field and the everyday life and normality of present day. That one time of collapsing and intersecting worlds with demons and anthropomorphic dogs versus aging guys drinking too much. Each character has a later instance in the '70s or '80s where the dogs return but otherwise the time came and went without return. 8. Everyone is in agreement that whatever happened did happen, there was not a mass hypnosis or hallucination.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Read: "The Hunter" by Richard Stark Adapted by Darwyn Cooke

Read: The Hunter by Richard Stark, adapted by Darwyn Cooke, 2009, 9781600104930.

I watched the director (Brian Helgeland) cut version of Payback a month or two ago. I liked that version of Payback and, until reading this, did not know how closely it followed the novel. Heck, I read the novel several years ago and remember little of it. (I know the Lee Marvin version of this is considered great but that Alcatraz crap in the end was stupid.) I enjoyed comparing Helgeland and Cooke's visual recreations and how much they matched. Helgeland did his first so I wonder how much Cooke was knowingly or unknowingly influenced by Helgeland and John Boorman's Point Blank.

Anyway. This was well done. Cooke adds in some narration to fill in the story about Parker, his wife, and Mal's weasel-ness. It's interesting to read this adaption and compare it to the flick. They both have limited space and Cooke adheres to the novel more than the film. Parker is a amoral fucker. Cooke keeps the limited humanity that Westlake gave Parker in the early novels.

I still think Parker loses more emotion and humanity in later novels. In this first novel Parker is acting off emotion and anger as much as anything. Cooke includes that discussion from the novel, "He wasn't sure himself anymore how much was a tough front to impress the organization and how much was himself. He knew he was hard, he knew he worried less about emotion than other people, but he'd never enjoyed the idea of killing." Parker never seems to enjoy much of anything except work and that is performed with a cold, analytical action.

The artwork is all two color and set in 1950s or 1960s New York: I suppose a cars or clothes nut would make a guess on the year and I don't recall the novel's initial pub date.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Barely Finished: "Picture This" by Lynda Barry

Barely Finished: Picture This by Lynda Barry, 2010, 9781897299647.

Not my kind of comic book. Barry's thoughts and drawings about drawing and art peppered with family memories. At least I think those were family memories; she might have been using characters.

In summary, Barry writes and draws about: What is art? Why do people stop drawing after childhood? How does mood and feeling influence an artist's work as the work is being done? Is my (Barry's) art any good and how is it judged to be good or not? As a child she was ridiculed for drawing as a child.

1. I didn't care.

Finished: "The Reversal" by Michael Connelly

Finished: The reversal by Michael Connelly, 2010, 9780316069489.

Defense attorney Mickey Haller is asked by the LA County District Attorney himself to be a special prosecutor. A convicted child murderer has been granted a new trial and blame placed on the DA from 30 years ago. The current DA wants to distance himself from the case and the huge publicity the case is getting.

Haller takes the case so he can show his daughter he doesn't work for scumbags only. Haller gets the DA to assign Haller's ex wife and Harry Bosch to the case. Haller legalizes. Bosch re-investigates the case and tracks witnesses. Things happen.

Murderer is let out on bail and constantly followed by LAPD's SIS. Murderer's actions draw suspicions he may have killed others. Much gamesmanship and conniving by Haller and the defense attorney.

1. This is a straightforward legal and procedural novel. I expected a big twist at the end - and Connelly hung out the possibility - and there was none. There was a small twist though.
2. Do SIS really carry those Kimbers that Kimber was crowing about a few years ago? Does Kimber make that model anymore? Nope, I just checked and the model was discontinued. SIS gets a lot of suspicion as a kill squad and naming the gun, and the SIS shaped slide serrations, was not positive press.
3. The story is split between Mickey and Harry in the second person. Maybe the ex-wife was in there but I do not recall.
4. Long nights and hours for Detective Bosch. Bosch is a character I have not followed.
5. A well told tale and Connelly's insight and exposure of day-to-day legal practices always draws me back to the series.

DNF: "A Short History of Wisconsin" by Erika Janik

DNF: A Short History of Wisconsin by Erika Janik, 2010, 9780870204401.

I read 44 pages and lost interest. I may have kept with the book but have other things waiting.

I liked hearing about the early years with the mixture of Indian, French, English and others. Early WI and IL history and the extent of French influence interests me. As a Boy Scout I visited the rebuilt Fort De Chartres and liked the place. It feels odd to me seeing non-British, foreign influence predating the U.S..

1. Maybe I should have read further into Prohibition. WI is such a beer state and populated with so many Germans and I wonder how well things went.
2. Culture clash of immigrants. Foreign languages, newspapers in foreign languages, bias against certain countries and not others. Fast forward to 2010 and it's the same thing. That issue always reminds of this cartoon.
3. I pulled a hangnail and bled on my keyboard.