Monday, May 21, 2012

Finished: "Straight Razor Days" by Joel Hynes

FInished: Straight Razor Days by Joel Hynes, 2011, 9781897141427.

I read Hynes's Down to the Dirt a few years ago.  I was not hugely impressed at the time but I still recall several parts from the novel.  So, I decided to find more by the guy.  Nothing else is in the library system and this came from UW-Madison.

I got the book and - wouldn't you fucking know it - it's poetry.  I was going to bail on this right away but I figured if I ILL'd the damn thing I should give it a good effort.  Wouldn't you know, I started to like the pieces in here.

How many of these are autobiographical?  I presume that most are.  Pieces about alcohol abuse, fatherhood of a young boy but separated from the mom, writing failure.  I presume these poems are set in Newfoundland (except for a couple writing tour pieces).  They do match the rough and poor life portrayed in Down to the Dirt.  Here is a rundown:
1.  Drunks
2. Rotten tattoos.
3. Too poor for a reliable vehicle and often too drunk to drive anyway.
4. Boring AA meetings.
5. Love for a young son and wishing to do better while fearing failure and future estrangement.
6. Absentee father.
7. Struggling to write while sitting with a pot of tea and sharpened pencils.
8. Rundown rural homes.  Abandoned rural homes that draw bad memories and/or are albatrosses.
9.  Motorcycle love.
10.  Pontificating bar drunks.
11.  A hard case but beloved grandfather.

1.  Hynes does not look healthy in his author photo.
2.  Author bio lists a second novel but that may not have had a U.S. publisher.  I suppose I can re-check.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Should Have Quit: "Dracula the Undead" by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt

Should Have Quit: Dracua the Undead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt, 2009, audio downloaded from oneclickdigital.

I read some list of great horror novels and this was listed.  The book mostly sucked but I finished it.  The ending is packed with cliche and sap.

25 years after the death of Dracula.  Jonathan Harker is still married to Mina.  Quincy, their son, is supposed to be studying law at the Sorbonne but only wants to act.  Van Helsing is in the Netherlands.  Seward is a junkie.  Seward goes to southern France and finds a female vampire and her succubi murdering a female frog.  Seward follows her to Paris.  Vampire is after a famous actor.  Quincy sucks up to the famous actor.

Mina and Jonathan have been at odds ever since their marriage.  Mina was loved up by Dracula and Jonathan was angered about this.  Jonathan now a drunk.  Mina has vampire blood and never aged.  Bad Vampire is trying to kill survivors of Dracula.

Quincy goes back to London to act at Bram Stoker's theater.  Quincy says he can get Famous Actor to take the lead role.  Famous Actor comes to London. Bad Vampire comes to London.  People are killed.  Local cop ties cast from Dracula to Jack The Ripper.  London geography ensues. People die.  Mina and Quincy are estranged.  Fires.  Blood.  Racing horses.  Sword play.  Fangs.  Physically powerful vampires.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Dracula is actually the good guy.  Quincy lives happily ever after and everyone else is dead except for sequel possibilities.

1.  The London details were nice.
2.  How many times was the phrase "band of heroes" repeated when referencing the characters from Dracula?
3.  Cliched BS of sword fights.  Jack the Ripper mysteries.  Titanic references.  Famous Actor actually Dracula and the father of Quincy.  Sword fights with surprise skewerings.  Every action scene seemed to be written as description of an action movie.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Read this book: "Other People We Married" by Emma Straub

Read this book: Other People We Married by Emma Straub, 2011. 9781594486067.

Main theme: short stories, mismatched romantic partners struggle along.
Secondary theme: constantly judging the author based on her father's writing.
Ending theme: until realizing after a couple stories that I know jack-all about her dad's work and I just read the damn stories.

1.  I liked these.  Several of the stories made me uncomfortable because the awkwardness of the relationships. In real life I would turn away from the trouble and let the people deal with it themselves.  I would be embarrassed at witnessing or hearing what happens.
2.  New York City centric with white people doing New Yorker things.  Or, at least, things that I presume New York people do.
3.  Straub's husband's name is Fusco.  This reminds me of the Fusco Brothers cartoon, which reminds me of the cartoonist, and that reminds me of that collection of rejected New Yorker cartoons.  I need to bring that book home and read the whole thing.
4.  Mismatched people by looks and social status.  Men and women characters who know they are less attractive than their partners.
5.  Characters who are unsure.
6.  Favorite story?  I don't know.Fly-Over State I guess, since Straub set it in Madison and I liked the narrator.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Read: "Carte Blache" by Jeffrey Deaver

Read: Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver, 2011, 9781451620696.

Deaver is a good dude. I spoke very, very briefly with him when he was at Muskego.  Later in the week I sent him an email thanking him for coming to the event and responded back.  At Bouchercon I spoke to Raymond Benson who said he still gets a lot of fan mail regarding the Bond novels he wrote.

I've at least one Fleming novels, Dr. No, and a 2-3 Gardner ones.

The novel opens in Serbia with a 35-years-old Bond surveilling a roadside restaurant.  Bond's assignment happens after a signals intercept warned of thousands of deaths that would threaten British interests.  Bond chases the bad guy.  Bad guy gets away.  Bond goes back to London.  Bond finds connection to UK after bad guy's getaway helicopter tracked there.  Bond finds link to massive company specializing in refuse.  Deaver simultaneously follows Bad Guy and Refuse Owner. 

Bond has to liaise with domestic Brit intelligence.  Bond chafes under different rules.  Bond is sneaky.  Government and bureaucratic rivalries cause Bond grief.  Bond escapes near death.  Bond is hot for co-worker.

Bond follows Bad Guy and Refuse to Middle East (UAE? I do not recall).  Bond escapes near death.  Felix Leiter escapes near death.  Leiter's employee escapes near escape. Bond finds more clues to the attack's goal and method.

Bond follows Bad Guy and Refuse to South Africa.  Bond liases with SA cop lady.  Cop Lady dislikes Bond.  Bond pretends to be Afrikaaner mercenary and proposes body disposal with Refuse.  Refuse gets sexually excited over death and waste. Bond makes out with Brit Gal who runs a food aid operation in Africa.  Bond has to figure out what the attack will be.  The clock is ticking to the Friday countdown.  Disaster averted!  Refuse killed.  Oh, wait!  That disaster was a ruse.  Real disaster coming.  Disaster averted.  Bad Guy killed.  Brit Gal was in league with bad guy and Brit rendition team scoops her up.  Bond goes home thinking he is unable to find a gal to fit his work.

1.  Book Bond versus film Bond.  The latest movie Bonds have been toned down.  This Bond is contemporary.  He was in the Naval Reserve, fought in Afghanistan, got a job in intelligence, was recruited into the O Division.  I don't know enough of the Bond history to say how
2.  Bond's smart phone is very smart.  The phone has all sorts of encryptions and fancy doo-dads that allow super sneaky surveillance. 
3.  Walther PPS in .40 love.
4.  Car love with a Bentley Continental GT, Mini, E-Type and Subaru. Promo photos had Deaver posing with a Bentley.
5.  Cape Town geography love.  I wonder what Roger Smith thought of this novel's setting.
6.  Bond drinks a lot of Crown Royal.  Bond drinks so much Crown Royal you wonder if the publisher was taking advertising dollars.
7.  I liked the book.
8.  Subplot involving Bond's parents who died when he was 11.

Finished: "My American Unhappiness" by Dean Bakopoulos

Finished: My American Unhappiness by dean Bakopoulos, 2011, 9780151013449.

Is this a literary novel?  It must be because not much happens.  Bakowoasidfan writes well; the first 20 pages had me interested and then my interest tailed off.

Zeke Pappas (I'll call him Zeppo because that is easier to type) is 34-years-old and heads up the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative that funds projects around the midwest.  Zeppo lives with his mother and the two orphaned nieces of his brother.

It is Spring 2008 and Zeppo's GMHI is having money trouble.  Zeppo has no girlfriend, loves his nieces, and works too much on his American Unhappiness project.  The Unhappiness project is Zeppo's work interviewing people across the U.S. and usually starts with the question Why are you unhappy?  Of course it is Zeppo that is unhappy.  Zeppo is more unhappy when his mother's says her cancer diagnoses leaves her with six months to live.  Zeppo is even more unhappy when he finds out his mother requires he be married to get custody of the nieces when she dies.  Unless Zeppo gets married or is engaged the nieces go to his sister-in-law's sister (who comes to town to help with the kids after the diagnoses)

Zeppo is an unreliable narrator.  He is a liar.  He is a drunk.  He is desperate.  He is irresponsible about work.  He purposefully ignores crises and trouble.  He is delusional.  He is lonely. 

Zeppo makes a list of prospects for marriage.  Zeppo screws it up with each one.  But, Zeppo does end up having sex with one prospect.  Completely creeps out his next-door-neighbor prospect.  Almost has the cops called on him by a former employee.  Sleeps with his former sister-in-law.  Twice.

Mom dies.  Kids go to Michigan with their aunt.  GMHI is shut down by government.  Book ends with Zeppo driving to Michigan to visit.

1.  You could argue Zeppo is desperate to keep his nieces.  Yeah, I suppose.  But his drinking and air-headed attitude only led (lead?) to his mother's decision.  Loneliness is smacking Zeppo in the face with his mother dying and nieces going away.  Zeppo ends up trying to buy a wife by offering a job at GMHI that the GMHI could never, ever afford.
2.  Various other things happen.  Government auditors.  Pals of Zeppo.  Zeppo's narration yammering on and on and on and on. Zeppo's dead wife from his college years is not really dead and contacts him via Facebook for a divorce.
3.  This book was not for me.  Bakopopodopo should write some nice genre stuff; a novel where something happens.
4.  Gratuitous reference to book titles.
5.  Gratuitous Starbucks.
6.  Gratuitous Madison geography.
7.  Gratuitous Madison 78-square-miles-surrounded-by-reality.
8.  Bakopoopopollsoisps worked for the Humanities Council for several years.  They assisted with a few of our events.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Done: "Glock" by Paul M. Barrett

Done: Glock: the rise of America's gun by Paul M. Barrett, 2012, 9780307719935.

I finished this a while ago but did not feel compelled to record my notes.  A history of Glock the person, Glock the company, weapons development, and the gun market.

Glock's story and the rise of the 9mm is well known among gun nerds.  In short, Glock was a small manufacturer in Austria who did a radical design and became rich and famous.  Part of Glock's business was cutlery manufacturing that included a contract with the Austrian Army. Glock heard of their search for a new service pistol, designed a gun, and won the contract.

Glock must be quite the designer and engineer but an important note is that he was not working alone and in secret.  Glock first spoke to military men, firearms experts, and firearms designers to find out what was wanted and needed.  He researched the market and current handgun designs and then moved forward.

Parallel to Glock's contract win in 1982 was the rise of the 9MM in the '80s.   Barrett places much emphasis on the the FBI Miami shootout as the impetus of change to different firearms and ammo.  The idea that the revolver carrying FBI agents were outgunned led the change to semi-autos.  I think Barrett places too much emphasis on the Miami aftermath.  I bet the U.S. Army's adoption of the Beretta probably played more importance than the FBI switch.  Since Glocks are so popular with police departments I think Barrett looked too narrowly at the FBI's conversion.  Both Beretta and Glock rode the 9mm wave and plenty of police departments went with Beretta.

I found Barrett's tale of Glock's sales tactics more interesting.  The U.S. division of Glock hired some great sales people, recruited well known trainers and gun experts, sold pistols super cheap to police departments, the wined and dined police armorers at Atlanta strip clubs, they brought beautiful women to trade events, they bought back old guns from police departments, snuck in the .40S&W before S&W, so on, so forth.

Gaston Glock is not the focus of the book.  Barrett did not speak to Glock but interviewed a lot of people including gun industry people and former Glock executives employees.  Glock does not come off well.  He started out as a reserved and unsophisticated engineer and ends up being a dickhead.  He is not that good a business person and tends to be autocratic and micromanaging.  Glock was scornful of American employees even though it is the U.S. market that was bringing him millions and millions of dollars.  He was sleazy dude answering his door in his underwear and hitting on female employees.

Too bad that Barrett could not get more access to company information.  Much of what Barrett gets is only from interviews and court filings.  The legal issues and financial chicanery were surprisingly interesting to me.

1. Regarding the FBI shootout:  How the tactics and equipment chosen by the agents was at fault, not the weaponry.  The FBI placed blame on the tools not the users.  Some agents armed with .357s for crying out loud.  Not to mention that two agents had 9mm pistols.  Although the points to be made about capacity and ease of reloading are pretty dang important.
2.  I did not know Taurus and SW had been closely aligned and step-companies.
3.  Interesting run-down on how competitors were always trying to catch up.  How Smith and Wesson was losing so much market share by sticking with revolvers and had quality control issues.
4.  Barrett's story about NRA versus gun manufacturers.  Many manufacturers were upset with the NRA's tactics.  I am in agreement that the NRA seems more concerned with fundraising.  They try to churn up turmoil with the membership and then ask for more money.
5.  The fanaticism of some Glock owners.  Often referred to as drinking the "Kool Aid".  I suppose Kool Aid references are used elsewhere throughout society I see it in online gun groups more than anywhere else.
6.  Kabooms are discussed and how Glock would often settle out of court.  Those preliminary filings and lawsuits were mined by Barrett for info.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Read: "Carnival of Death: Dead Man #9" by Bill Crider

Read: Carnival of Death: Dead Man #9 by Bill Crider, 2012, [find the ISBN on your own].

Cahill has joined Cap'n Bob's Stardust Carnival.  The carnival is a great fit for Cahill since the job travels all over and no one asks questions.

Cahill prevents a teenage girl's rape.  Cahill's presence has given "second sight" to the carnival's fortune teller.  Mr. Dark starts touching people and causing even more trouble.  Angry guy returns with a rifle to get revenge on a carnie game.  Local thug kills his pals.  Assault victim kills her best friend.  Snake charmer's snakes try to kill her.  Snake charmer tries to kill others.  Others kill killers.  Killers kill killers.  Killing of killers results in more kills.  And more blood. And more ax swinging.  And more Cahill ruing his fate.  And dictionary checking for spelling of 'ruing'.

1.  Gratuitious grammar correction.
2.  Gratuitous Cap'n Bob reference.
3.  Gratuitous snake quotes.
4.  Gratuitious teenager-thinking-30-year-old-is-really-old.
5. "Bill is credited by Dead Man creators Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin as a major influence on their series."  I didn't recall any crocodiles or alligators in previous entries.
6.  "Wow, Gerard.  First  a Goldberg, then a Reasoner, then a Crider.  Soon there'll be a Faust and a Smith.  How can you control yourself?  Are you quivering?"
7.  "Shut up.  Leave me alone."

Done: "Fire and Ice: Dead Man #8" by Jude Hardin

Done: Fire and Ice: Dead Man #8 by Jude Hardin, 2012, [no ISBN handy].

One of my favorites.  Cahill has landed in a Florida factory town and is living, for a time, with a local gal.  Local gal got him a job at local chemical factory that produces solvents called Fire and Ice.

Bad Guy is fired and decides to do some workplace violence revenge.  The factory has only a couple entry points.  Bad guy locks those off, disables back-ups, cuts off the electricity, and uses a lock-down feature intended to contain chemical spills.  Lock down feature also contains all the employees.  Bad Guy strolls along with a couple suppressed pistols and night vision goggles.  Cahill and others wonder what is going on.

People die.  Cahill blames himself.  Mr. Dark infects Girlfriend of the Moment.  Girlfriend of the Moment slugs Cahill and takes off.  Bad Guy leaves factory and the bomb he planted to do some drinking and await his soon-to-be celebrity. Cahill drowns the bomb in Fire and Ice.  Cahill escapes factory.  Cahill and Bad Guy and Girlfriend of the moment have showdown.

1.  Hardin puts everything on a timeline from about 6 AM to 4 PM and switches back and forth among Cahill, Bad Guy, and Girlfriend of the Moment.
2.  Beretta love.
3.  Ripping on low paying and dangerous factory work.