Saturday, May 28, 2011

Listened to: "Beat" by Stephen Jay Schwartz

Listened to: Beat by Stephen Jay Schwartz, 2010, 9781441768698.

Started out great and ended with a lame climax. Climax is maybe a poor choice or words considering the main character, Hayden Glass, is a sex addict. I should go back and change that to "finale". I won't.

Glass is a detective with LAPD Robbery/Homicide and is on extended leave after going nutso on a killer and tearing him apart with his bare hands. Glass is a sex addict, divorced, in disgrace at work (although officially on approved leave), and in recovery. He falls out of recovery while cruising porn sites and doing live sex chats. Glass quickly makes a favorite of one girl, Cora. Glass spends many online hours with Cora when she says she is in San Francisco. Glass heads north to bone the whore.

Time skips ahead with Glass in a seedy hotel room with Cora when Russian thugs break in, beat-up Glass, rape the girl, and shoot Glass in chest. Glass stumbles around until he gets hit by a cable car and is taken to the hospital. The cops interview him and Glass gets all cop-talk and convinces them about Cora raped and kidnapped.

Things progress: feuding Russian gangsters, women forced into prostitution, Glass pining for Cora, Glass finding out gal pal from previous novel is in SF, Glass makes friends, Glass makes enemies, Cora declared dead, Cora seen alive, rescue operation undertaken.

1. Glass finds out that Cora thinks he is a pathetic fool. He blames the girl. "She's a whore...he was a walking wallet" Blaming her for his delusions. Blame the hooker when he openly goes into the deal: this is a cash transaction, she pretends to like you - even love you - for payment.
2. How was this guy ever successful enough to make it into Robbery Homicide? He is freaking mess. Impulsive. Obsessive.
3. Glass likes to see chicks fist themselves.
4. Glass has booze problems as well.
5. Schwartz's description and writing about Glass's problems was very interesting. The frank discussions probably turn many readers away in the first few pages. A scene with a gal who helps women out of the life was neat.
6. Underage girl forced to work a whorehouse by the Russians. Russians make such good villains.
7. The climax fell apart because it just sops and starts. Glass goes to rescue the girl and Schwartz gets off track with crap about poor Det. Glass and his many "issues". He should have kept the action moving along faster.
8. Glass also adds a lame-assed confrontation with an SFPD detective during the damn climax.
9. SPOILER: Turns out that the Russians have a lot of underaged girls - including Cora. Glass was banging a 15-year-old.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Finished: "The Silent Men" by Richard H. Dickinson

Finished: The Silent Men by Richard H. Dickinson, 2002, 9781590710043.

I found this when looking for a Vietnamese author that I read several years ago. I ran across this in NoveList and placed a reserve. I rarely describe a novel as "gripping" but this one was.

Monroe and Patterson are a sniper team in the Mekong Delta in 1968. Patterson is not smart and knows it. Monroe is distant to everyone and distrusts everyone, white or black. They are teamed together because both are black and the white snipers did not want to work with Monroe. Monroe and Patterson shoot a single, woman soldier on a path and recover the 7.62mm ammo she is carrying. The ammo is judged to be headed to a local Vietnamese sniper who has been killing Americans in the area using a Remington recovered from a dead U.S. sniper.

Divisional intelligence determines where the woman was headed and figure out a general may be there. Monroe and Patterson's next mission is to go over the border into Cambodia and assassinate the general. They do. They also shoot a ARVN general who landed his personal Huey to meet with the NVA. A resulting gunfight finds Patterson rescued and Monroe dropped from a rescue chopper into a canal.

The story splits among several characters. Patterson back at base. Monroe on a slooow escape path. The Division's General Vandermeer and his staff. American reporter Brady. The Vietnamese sniper. Others.

Realpolitik rules the day at Division and MACV, and the political and career maneuverings of the brass control much of the action. The scandal of a ARVN general secretly meeting with the NVA (scheming with the NVA to kill the President of South Vietnam) and then killed by the U.S. in Cambodia would not be good. So when the reporter, Brady, hears about the ARVN general several of the U.S. officers scheme to shut him out or kill him off rather than let the let the story out.

1. Great detail on the patrol tactics and actions of snipers. The slooow movement, absolute silence and covering of their trails. The long hours without sleep while settled it one position.
2. Stephen Hunter has gained fame as a "sniper writer" but he focuses more on the hardware, ballistics and hero building of Swagger. Dickinson focuses more on fieldcraft.
3. Dickinson has a brief bib. in the back for the sources that helped him to build a realistic setting. Racial clashes between black and white soldiers. The cultural disconnect between Viet. and American regarding truthfulness and subterfuge. REMF versus combat troops. Journalistic work that is so cued into reality but occasionally clueless to honor and integrity.
4. Regarding Brady, the reporter. He is a smart reporter but fooled several times. His actions towards the end of the novel are not good.
5. The Vietnamese sniper was a nice touch. A political diehard but a skilled soldier. A look into the other side's life and the schism between the rag tag VC and the professional NVA.
6. I looked up more about Dickinson. He has another novel featuring Monroe in modern day Afghanistan. I am surprised he is not a better known author.
7. Officers out to improve their careers over principle. General Vandermeer comes to some harsh realizations about politics. You can bet the same actions are taken in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully not so blatantly and awfully as in fiction.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Finished: "Uncage Me" edited by Jen Jordan

Finished: Uncage Me edited by Jen Jordan, 2009, 9781606480168.

I ordered two copies by mistake for the library. I bought this second copy and only now got to reading it. 24 stories by as many authors. There is a forward by John Connolly. Did I read the forward? Of course not.

Short story collection by the usual mid-list people I follow or run across online. The stories usually have a theme or aspect of sex or sexuality. Maybe if I read the foreword I would find out the factors for selection. Will I now read the forward? Of course not.

1. My favorites: Scott Phillips, Victor Gischler, Patrick Shawn Bagley, Nick Stone, Talia Berliner.
2. Berliner's story was absolutely repulsive. A story about a murderer with a fetish for taxidermying his victims or their select body parts. Murder is bad enough but the killer deserved to be drowned in manure; which, interestingly, appears in a different author's tale.
3. I stopped reading Stephen Blackmoore's blog when I scaled back. His story was decent. Young idiots in a rock band.
4. Scott Phillips and Victor Gischler always continue to produce high quality stuff.
5. I've discovered that I tend to quickly burn out on short stories. I prefer to have a longer story to follow when reading a whole book.
6. I t read J.D. Rhoades newspaper columns much more than his fiction. (Many commenters on his columns classify that as fiction, too.) His story about a gambling addict was good. Addict stories interest me. I'm not sure why. I've written before that all I know about AA I learned from Matt Scudder. I learned to appreciate the taste of Tullamore Dew through a friend of Matt Scudder.
7. Blake Crouch's tale of white yuppie's suspecting a relative of murder was well done. In real life I could most easily relate to that kind of character but still prefer the down and out types in fiction.
8. Christa Faust has a story about models who do foot fetish work.
9. Nick Stone's story about a shlubby PI being conned for an unknown reason really deserves a novel length version.
10. JA Konrath crammed as many jokes as he could into his story. I was annoyed. I assume the main character appears as a secondary characters in his Daniels series.
11. Maxim Jakubowski was good. An older man and his young lover in Spain. I read a Jakubowski novel, It's You That I Want to Kiss, when it came out in '99. I don't remember anything about it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Read: "Night Over the Solomons" by Louis L'Amour

Read: Night Over the Solomons by Louis L'Amour, 1986, 0553063073.

I was weeding the large print collection a month or so ago and withdrew our copy of this. I looked through the copy and decided to try out the regular print version. This edition is part of the faux-leather covered L'ouis L'Amour Collection advertised on television in the '80s.

L'Amour was of the Unemployable Author Generation. Those guys who plugged the numerous and brief jobs worked during a traveling youth. I don't see that as much in author bios: Bob has been a truck driver, miner, bartender, smuggler, encyclopedia salesman, longshoreman, and manwhore. Bob lives on a ranch in Montana and has sex with many beautiful women. This is his first novel. As if the author writes from adventurous personal experiences and isn't sitting in a dank room, typing on a third-hand typewriter with a sticky "e". How many of those guys were a gussied up Harvey Pekar?

L'Amour did travel about in his youth or, as he writes, his "knockabout days". L'Amour's forward talks about how the stories evolved from some of those travels and the tales of acquaintances.

Hell, why beat around the bush? I've always thought of L'Amour as a hack. A bestselling hack but still a hack. That opinion is not backed up by much research and I know it is unfair. So it's best you read that caution because I think the stories in here are mostly crap. Entertaining in a old-time, pulpy way but still crap.

Most stories involve pilot-for-hire Turk Madden. Madden flies into adventures on his Grumman Goose amphibian plane in South America, South Pacific, and Siberia. He's a tall, broad shouldered and "rugged" man. All L'Amour's heroes are "rugged" and tough and broad shouldered. With dense, coiled muscles. Those muscles must be pheromone production factories because hot babes appear out of nowhere and fall for the manly man.

1. Many exclamation points!
2. Characters say "brother" a lot and lay down tough guy lingo.
3. A focus on aviation. This is paralleled in Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps. Heroes in airplanes rather than horses and police cars.
4. Madden flies around in a specially modified Grumman Goose carrying several machine guns. Madden takes on fighter planes in several stories. Bullshit. Look at some pictures of the Goose.
5. There is a reason these magazines and books were called pulp. There were gems in there and then there was this.
6. Where do these beautiful women come from? If they are Asian or Latin American they are taken away to a better life with white men.
7. I do love the sense of adventure and exploration of unknown wilderness. Indiana Jones has had a hell of an impact on me and this touches that nerve.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Finished: "Power of the Dog" by Don Winslow

Finished: Power of the Dog by Don Winslow, 2005, 0375405380.

Very good. Fictionalization of the Mexican drug war and US intervention in Central and South America from the mid-1970s to 2000. Winslow fictionalizes Enrique Camarena, the Arrellano brothers, murdered Catholic Cardinal Posadas and many other real characters interwoven.

Four main characters with many secondary characters. Art is a DEA agent, Nora is a high end whore, Callan is a NYC Irish gangster and then CIA hitman, Adan Parada is a Mexican kingpin (Arellano Felix, I think).

Art's friend (fictionalized Camarena) is murdered and Art spends twenty years getting revenge against the Parada family. Callan imports coke and dope from Mexico and is drafted into the CIA by a mafiosa that works for both. Nora ends up the full-time mistress of Parada. Art convinces and threatens Nora into informing on Parada. All characters join in the end with death and destruction.

1. How much is based on reality and how much is made-up? I assume Winslow would not have to make much of this up. There are plenty of real atrocities and murders he could pick and choose from and use in the plot.
2. I regularly see the news reports of murder and massacre in Mexico. Winslow highlights the gruesome and horrid things that the narcos do to the public. Murdering children and torture before murder.
3. Parada and his brother are complete murderous scum. But, Winslow's real villains are the CIA and right-wing hacks behind the scenes. CIA agent Hobbs and mafia hitman Sal are both veterans of Project Phoenix in Vietnam. After that loss they continue the same tactics in Central and South America with operation Red Mist that focuses on "communists" and other non-establishment people. The CIA equally makes deals with death squads, drug dealers, and arms traders. They constantly get away with murder and even Art has to cut a deal with them to continue his fight against the Paradas.
4. The amount of money going back to the Paradas is $8 million a week. They can buy most anyone off and just kill the rest.
5. No characters finishes the novel innocent. All the good guys are killed.

Mostly Read: "The Fire Diaries" by Matt Schumacher

Mostly Read: The Fire Diaries by Matt Schumacher, 2010, 9781877655678.

Poems on theme of fire. I liked the ones that were based on real events. I felt more insight and relevance with those poems.

I just cannot get into most poetry. Mark Kraushaar goes on about how there is great poetry out there but I say it's best as a spoken art.

DNF: "Spur and the Sash" by Robert Grede

DNF: Spur and the Sash: Middle Tennessee, 1865 by Robert Grede, 2010, 9781595980922.

Not great, not bad. Have to turn it back in. I'm going to order it for me, maybe I can get back to it. Stopped on page 112.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Short Stories: "Paris is a Bitch" and "Lost Coast" by Barry Eisler

Short Stories: Paris is a Bitch and Lost Coast by Barry Eisler, digital on the Nook, 2011.

Lost Coast.
A story featuring Larison, the bad guy from Inside Out. Larison is driving North through California and stops in a remote coastal town. Larison gets cheap room, eats dinner, goes for walk. Larison goes into bar, scopes out young dude, gets a hard-on. Larison chats to guy, he and guy leave. Larison and guy get ambushed in back alley. Larison does his usual angry and vicious attack on the ambushers. Ambushers and guy from bar were gay bashing. Larison kidnaps bar guy, takes him into woods and rapes him.

1. Larison needs to be in jail or a mental health facility. He's a danger to everyone.
2. I could swear I read something about a hot sex scene in this story. What freaking scene are those people talking about? ITS A RAPE! An abduction followed by a sexual assault at knife point is not a sex scene. Larison justifies his crime saying the victim is gay or probably gay.
3. Larison despises the gay-bashers in their attempts to terrorize victims but Larison does the exact same thing when he gets turned on by the fear of his victim.

Paris is a Bitch.
Rain and Delilah are having dinner in Paris. Rain is still adjusting to "civilian" life after his long career as a hired killer. He has cut down on his fanatic preparation and security concerns. Delilah ad he have an argument in the restaurant about her still working as a spy and him not. Rain spots guys casing the restaurant and assesses they are bad guy. They figure the guys are there to snatch Delilah her was banging a Saudi in her last job that wants her dead. Rain and Delilah take out the dudes. Rain calls an end to the relationship and plans to never see Paris again.

1. Rain is one fucked up dude. He's lived a vicious and dangerous life and has significant trouble adjusting to anything resembling normality. Delilah's continued work in a similar career makes rain's adjustment tougher.

Read: "King of Plagues" by Jonathan Maberry

Read: King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry, 2011, 9780312382506.

Third in the Joe Ledger series. Pretty decent. Certainly decent enough that I keep reading the series - which certainly says something.

This follows a few months after the last book when Ledger's co-worker and girlyfriend bought the farm. Ledger took a break away from the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) for a mental break and to catch the guy who killed the dead girlfriend.

Ledger is in London with his trained attack/bomb dog and gets a call from Mr. Church, the DMS boss. The Royal London Hospital has been blown up and is burning down and killing about 4,000 people. Ledger rejoins the job and is on the hunt for those responsible. Shooting happens. Tough guy things are said. Stuff blows up. People are murdered. Conspirators conspire. Backs are stabbed.

1. Recurring themes: dark conspiracies by the rich and powerful, droll tough-guy humor in times of crisis, highly trained super commandos, mysterious and powerful leader of DMS, DMS has unlimited resources.
2. Fun escapist fiction. Long at 435 pages.