Thursday, September 29, 2011

Listened: "Vanilla Ride" by Joe R. Lansdale

Listened: Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale, 2009 (for hardcover), downloaded from Overdrive.

Great narration of another great Hap and Leonard novel. Everything Lansdale writes is quotable.

Hap and Leonard are asked by former cop Marvin to rescue his granddaughter from a her abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend. Wise cracks happen. Hap and Leonard drive over to a piss-pot East Texas town. Hap and Leonard beat up boyfriend and his pals. Wise cracks happen. Hap and Leonard bring Gadget (her nickname) home.

Hap and Leonard learn the boyfriend was a seller for some nasty Dixie Mafia types. Dixie Mafia angry over the beating and loss in income. Hap and Leonard learn Dixie Mafia will be gunning for them. Wise cracks happen. Big, exciting car chase and violent shoot-out occurs. Hap is guilty over his murderous rage during the shoot-out. Hap and Leonard are offered deal by cops to rescue a 19-year-old son of a Dixie Mafia kingpin so kingpin will provide evidence. Wise cracks happen.

Hap and Leonard recruit a friend and Marvin recruits Tonto. Tonto is a big, big dude who kills for a living and talks with a boy's voice. Tonto is scary in his casual killer way. Wise cracks ensue. Boy and girl rescued from some scary killers and one BIG dude. Boy and girl and Tonto are sneakily killed. Wise cracks are a bit sadder.

Hap and Leonard square things with cops. Hap and Leonard gun for the hired, sneaky, woman killer named Vanilla Ride who did in the boy, girl and Tonto. Wise cracks happen. Big shootout ensues. Wise cracks happen. Hap is maudlin again but his hot girlfriend cheers his penis up.

1. Gratuitous references to Kasey Lansdale singing career and Back of My Smile CD.
2. Gratuitous reference to Joe R. Lansdale's kung-fuey school.
3. Gratuitous reference to Robert E. Howard.
4. Gratuitous reference to Robert E. Howard's home and suicide. Wise cracks happen.
5. Hap is regretful of his life of action. He does not like to hurt people. He likes killing people even less. Except for when Hap does like killing people, and then he just feels guilty.
6. Leonard is more sad over his bad luck love life. Leonard gets something going and it falls apart. The last fall being his boyfriend trying to find Jesus and cure his gayness. Leonard deals with this in a typically Leonard way by shitting on their bed. Literally shitting on the bed.
7. Wise cracks happen.
8. Great series.
9. Gratuitous Dr. Pepper abuse.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Read: "Set the Night of Fire" by Libby Fischer Hellman

Read: Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann, 2010, 9780984067664.

I was in an elevator at Bouchercon tucking in my shirt. The car stops with my hands in my pants and Hellmann walks in. "You caught me tucking in my shirt, I figured I should look more presentable." Hellmann said I look fine. So, I checked out one of her books.

A 1960s flashback novel also set in present day Chicago. A convicted killer, Dar, is released in present day Illinois and contacts some old colleagues. The colleagues are old hippie friends circa '68 convention and other uproars.

A modern day 40-year-old's, Lila, father is one of those friends. Lila's father and twin brother die in a house fire after the convict pays a visit. Lila thinks the fire is suspicious but has no proof and she may be mistaken. But, someone tries to gun her down on the street. Dar is following her and fearful for her safety.

Dar and Lila eventually meet after an explosive, literally, attempt on Lila's life. Flashback incurs to Dar and friends in late sixties into 1970 Chicago with Dar and two pals bombing a department store and accidentally killing Dar's girlfriend and Lila's mother.

Last 1/5 of 1/6 of story kinda peters out for me as Lila, Dar and others figure out who is to blame.

1. I picked this off the new shelf - I ordered it late - and was immediately drawn in by the writing and story. Hellmann uses a lot of short sentences mixed in with a few long ones. I liked that pacing.
2. After all is revealed about Lila's parentage and such I thought the tracking of the killers was a little boring. The hired killer was not scary to me.
3. Hellmann's books circ well here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Listened: "Castle of Llyr" by Lloyd Alexander

Listened: Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander, look up the publication year yourself, downloaded from Overdrive.

The series continues with the same fantastic narrator. James Langton does such a great job. Langton has real good range for voices and his women characters are not whiny.

Taran and Gurgi are assigned by Dalben to escort Eilonwy to another kingdom for Eilonwy to learn how to be a princess and lady. Taran and co. catch a ship "commanded" by young Prince Rhun. Rhun is a young bumbler and klutz but brimming with good cheer and enthusiasm.

Taran is approached by a disguised Prince Gwydion who says Eilonwy is in danger and Taran needs to help protect her. Eilonwy is kidnapped anyway. Search group is organized and Taran finds the hosting king plans to wed Eilonwy to his son, Rhun. Taran saddened. Taran promises to watch over Rhun since Rhun is a clueless klutz.

Things happen. Adventure occurs. Danger arrives. Peril is perilous. Taran and co. eventually track down Eilonwy and find Gwydion. Eilonwy was captured by the evil sorceress Achren. Taran and co. infiltrate the dilapidated castle housing Achren. Taran and co. rescue Eilonwy. Achren defeated and powers are gone. Eilonwy communicates her feelings about Rhun, marriage, ladyhood, etc. to Taran. The end.

1. Yeah. That Eilonwy is an ideal chick for a young dude. She is both pretty and feminine but also adventurous.
2. The violence in this bloodless. Enemy are cut down but no bodies, hacked limbs, spraying blood, etc.
3. Perilous peril: gigantic mountain lion capturing Taran and co., giant stuck cave wants to kill one of them to make a potion to shrink himself, Achren puts Eilonwy under spell that makes her forget her past, near drownings.
4. Taran and co. are always referred to throughout the series as "companions" and "the companions".
5. Currently listening to Lansdale's Vanilla Ride.
6. My eight-year-old keeps climbing on my head, "I like to bug you."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Listened: "Chasing the Devil" by David Reichart

Listened: Chasing the Devil: my twenty year quest to capture the Green River Killer by David Reichart, 2004 (audio), downloaded from

Quite good. I was trying to find the pub date and saw this was a finalist for an Audie in 2005. I like that the narrator, Dennis Boutsikaris, was very straightforward in his reading. Boutsikaris did not employ much emotion; he just presented the story.

One thing that Reichart really focuses on is the officers' compassion. This was a twenty year hunt and the officers were always thinking of the victims. An important point to make is that Reichart never uses a word other than prostitute. He never says whore, hooker, or anything else. No pejoratives at all. He addresses victims' circumstances but always focuses on the fact they were victims. Murder victims. Whether they had drug problems, family problems, money problems, whatever and however they got in the life did not matter. They had families and dreams and expections.

Was the investigation botched? How else and what else could they have done? Reichart was a new detective when the first bodies were discovered in and alongside the Green River. He was the lead investigator for years and at the center of the multi-jurisdictional task force. They had 40,000 tip sheets and 17,000 suspects. They talked to everyone they could on the strip. The sheriff mentions how the people they talked to often did not want to talk since they were hooking or pimping and feared legal trouble from the police. Witnesses were the homeless and drug addicts who could not remember the previous day let alone what happened to a missing hooker 30 days ago. Heck the the victims were hookers. They dealt with lots of people. People who also feared the police and possible damage to their reputations and family life.

Many of the women worked under multiple names. Unknown multiple names caused confusion in the case. Police knew "Jane" was missing and "Sue" was missing but had no clues that this was one woman using two names. The work was transient and police had trouble identifying who was missing.

Reichart addresses how important their evidence collection was in the 1980s. They collected and saved everything at the crime scenes. The cotton chewed by Ridgway for a blood type test was kept and used for DNA testing. That intense evidence work ended up solving the cases twenty years later.

Reichart and the investigation got plenty of heat from the Seattle press and a few families. Reichart's take on this was that the papers were sometimes unfair and spinning for a better story. Some families would alternately praise and condemn the investigators.

Gary Ridgway himself was a sad sack. Mumbling, small statured with a stoop, and a total liar. Catching the killer should only be part of the story. The police and family of missing women wanted answers for what happened. Ridgway signed an agreement to avoid the death penalty by clearing multiple cases. But, getting the repulsive guy to tell the truth was not easy. Reichart is still convinced Ridgway hid totems of his victims.

Read: "The Detachment" by Barry Eisler

Read: The Detachment by Barry Eisler, 2011, ARC copy- to heck with the ISBN.

I received an ARC of this in my Bouchercon gift bag. I was happy to see the ARC, I also lucked into an Eisler ARC when attending Muskego 2-3 years ago. My excitement waned when I realized the regular book released at about the same time I got this.

Eisler brings together the main guys from his two series. John Rain and Dox. Ben Treven and Larison. I have decided they are all scumbag killers. Rain is a great anti-hero because I like the guy. But, he is a hired killer with no remorse. Okay, okay, he has some remorse for a lifetime of killing but he is still happy to take your money and kill your wife. Or competitor. Or politician. Or whoever it is. I think one way Rain remains likable is that Rain and his work are removed from daily life. Rain gets hired by governments or crime organizations, not by regular people.

Short version: Rain hired by Treven and Larison to kill people. Rain brings Dox in on the deal. Col. Horton is the purse manager and assigns the targets. The team of four strong personalities have to work together. Two people are murdered by the team and when they are looking at the third assignment in D.C. they are set-up to be killed by Horton. Team escapes. Team has to work to get free. Team has to stop terrorist attack in Lincoln, NE.

1. Eisler's Larison is a scary dude. Larison is a ruthless and happy killer. He enjoys his work and puts out a vibe of danger. Never mind that we already know he is a rapist from reading Lost Coast, he also is in favor of murdering Horton's innocent daughter.
2. Horton is also a scumbag. His plan to assist and then stop a coup includes allowing several domestic terrorist attacks.
3. The one thing I disliked about Detachment is that the plot interacts too much with reality. Eisler's previous books involved actual events like government sanctioned assassinations, renditions, oligarchy assholes. But, all those books involved smaller scale and secret events. This novel goes full-on, gonzo thriller with an alternate reality: Terrorist attacks in the U.S. Presidential speeches and appointments. Homeland security and domestic paranoia. Media nonsense and uproar.
4. Eisler loves name brands. One favorite is Wilson 1911s. Which, although somewhat rare compared to most guns, are easily obtainable by Dox at a local gunshow in Viriginia. For fucks sake. The Wilson website lists the Supergrade starting at $4,475.

Finished: "Sarah Court" by Craig Davidson

Finished: Sarah Court by Craig Davidson, 2010, 9781926851006.

I completely missed the release of this. I did not know about the book until this past June. I was wondering if Davidson was ever going to have a new book out and he already had. Davidson does good work. For a Canadian.

A novel composed of five short stories centered on the current and past residents of Sarah Court in a Southern Ontario town just north of Niagara Falls. The squirrel narrator of the prologue describes the town as a place, "Whose denizens have been collectively referred to by graceless out-of-towners as resembling 'your standard roller derby audience.'"

Davidson's currency is low-rent people interacting with a few people of wealth. None - or very few - of his characters are upstanding. Or standing. Or sober. There are a number of running themes in the book. To pick one topic I say: bad parenting and the recovering children. Two fathers on the Court are drunks and a foster mother is a bipolar nutjob.

The story of most interest to me followed former boxer Nick Saberhagen. Nick's father is an alcoholic surgeon - currently facing license revocation - and Nick is recently separated from his wife. Nick's son Dylan is a chubby middle schooler suffering bullying in school and online. Nick was pushed into boxing by his father and went pro when only sixteen-years-old. Nick is struggling to deal with his beautiful wife who left him, Nick's issues with his father, worry over his kid, a job requiring frequent and unannounced travel, so on, so forth.

Here is another interconnecting them: weirdness. A mysterious glass box with "something" alive inside. A drunken lout with a fighting pitbull. A Sarah Court gal pushed into power lifting by her father. An autistic hitman. Dylan who pretends to be a vampire. A daredevil who has fallen on hard times and wants to take Niagara Falls in a barrel. American Express Black Card holders with bizarre purchases.

1. Literary stories? Yes, but in a good way.
2. Is it right to make fun of Canadians? At times.
3. Doesn't Davidson have his own recurring motifs? Yes.
3.a. Boxing (poorly done by characters)
3.b. Dog fighting
3.c. Depressing Ontario mill-towns.
3.d. Alcohol, prescription and illegal drug abuse.
4. Didn't Davidson shoot himself full of steroids he ordered from overseas? Yes.
5. Didn't Davidson engage in a boxing much to promote his last book about a boxer? Yes.
6. Didn't Davidson lose the bout? I do not recall.
EDIT 7. Davidson's observations of character motivation are always perceptive. Especially when the characters are dealing with failure or disappointment.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Listened to: "The Black Cauldron" by Lloyd Alexander

Listened to: The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander, 1965, downloaded from OverDrive (2004 edition?).

More great narration by James Langton. I have not recorded a library book talk in a while and figured I could talk about this and The Book of Three. I checked out the books from work and brought them home. My wife asked if I brought them home for Boy #1. I said "No." She said, "I liked those when I read them." I did not tell her that girls are not supposed to read adventure stories featuring boys.

I cannot help but retain my views from 30+ years ago when I first read these kinds of adventure books. I don't want girls reading this stuff. This is guy stuff; stay away. I enjoy the stories and adventures of Taran, Assistant Pig Master but I cannot help but over analyze the novels. I also cannot help but analyze the books as both my current adult status and as my memories of being a kid.

Plot: Assistant Pig Master Taran is home at the farm when warriors start to arrive for a meeting. Troops are gathering to go into evil Arawn's territory and steal the Black Cauldron that is used to make his zombie-like Cauldron Born soldiers. Taran gets to go along. Taran, Fflewddur the bard, and Doli the dwarf are separated from the other troops. They meet up with Princess Eilonwy and Gurgi. They find out where the Cauldron is. They get the Cauldron. Good-guy-who-turns-bad-guy steals Cauldron away. Another good-guy-into-bad-guy gets Cauldron and wants to make his own invincible army. Second good-guy-into-bad-guy is defeated. Everyone lives happily ever after. Except for the dead soldiers. They're dead.

1. Young self: Wow! Swords, horses, adventure! That Eilonwy girl sounds really pretty but what a bother girls are! Camping out, woods, rivers, witches! Out on your own and leading others through danger!
2. Older self: (pompous voice) There are many interesting aspects to this story that appeal to young readers. A young lad in charge of adults. The importance of friendship. Lessons in honor and honesty. Young lad learning that hard work and a positive attitude matched with perseverance will win out. To not always judge others and to look beyond surface qualities. There are some bad people in life.
3. Yeah, I used a semicolon up above. No, I do not know if I used it correctly. I'm clueless about commas, too.

Read: "Cold Dish" by Craig Johnson

Read: Cold Dish by Craig Johnson, 2005, 9780670033690.

I reserved this after reading several recommendations regarding a later novel in the series off the Forgotten Books postings. This was okay. I was not sure what to expect. The main character, Walt, is self deprecating and humorous at times. Not too angsty, but enough.

Walt is a widower with a grown daughter living in Philadelphia. Walt is the Sheriff in his rural Wyoming County with only two full-time Deputies, one of whom he hates. Walt's best pal is a Cheyenne guy he grew up with, Henry Standing Bear.

Walt has been drinking too much the past four years since his wife's cancer death. His daughter - who never speaks or appears in the story - and others have been discussing about getting him to move on and date some women. Walt gets hooked up with local rich gal. There seem to be a fair amount of rich people who come to enjoy the mountains.

Walt has also been maudlin the past two years over the gang-rape of a fetal alcohol syndrome Cheyenne girl who is also Henry's niece. The rapists got off easy; two years in a juvenile facility. Walt gets a call about a body out in a field. Sheriff's Department investigate and find the deceased is one of the rapists. Walt and smarter deputy investigate. Walt gets hot for local rich gal. Walt drinks too much. Things happen. A second rapist also shot with a .45-70. More things happen. Walt and Henry caught in blizzard with Henry shot. Walt figures out the shooter. Walt shoots shooter from about 700 yards out with his own .45-70. Walt watches shooter, his new gal-pal-to-be blow her brains out. Hint: she was the killer. Walt inherits dead gal's dog. Walt and dog live happily ever after.

1. Johnson does not clearly identify which character is speaking. I often had to go back a line or two to figure it out.
2. Johnson also does not use the narration fill in all sorts of gaps about cop language/lingo, forensic talk, local lingo and geographic knowledge and tidbits. I was fine with that.
3. .45-70 love.
4. Colt 1911 love.
5. Pick-up truck love.
6. Mystic Indian ghost love. A small part of the novel involves the Cheyenne Death Rifle (or something like that). The rifle is an old Sharp's left over from the Indian Wars. The rifle is followed by Indian ghosts and Walt feels there presence. Then he sees and hears their presence when he has to carry Henry out of the mountains.
7. 700 yards, off-hand, with a big, heavy .45-70? Yeah, right.