Monday, October 29, 2012

Listened: "The Jaguar" by T. Jefferson Parker

Listened: The Jaguar by T. Jeffferson Parker, 2012, Overdrive download.

A book so good I was sad when it ended.  At first I did not like the narration by David Colacci but his narration of bad guy Mike is quite good.  Colacci's interpretation of Mike as a wheedling but never sniveling guy was true.  Spoilers await.

I put off reading this book because I thought the focus was more on the charismatic and two-faced Bradley. Nope, the real focus was on his kidnapped wife, Erin.

Bradley and Erin are at home late at night when he happens to look at one of his security camera monitors and sees a van driving along his property.  Bradley sends Erin into a secret safe room and grabs a couple auto-pistols.  Body armoed bad guys bust upstairs into his gunfire.  Bradley is swarmed and knocked out.  Bradley wakes up to Mexican narcos telling him he needs to pay one million bucks cash and betray his own narco allegiance of Erin will be skinned alive.  These are narcos.  All threats are truth.

Bradley has been hustling and transporting cash into Mexico for a couple years and has the cash on hand in a secret, underground room.  Bradley drives to see Charlie Hood to ask for help.  Hood will transport the cash into Mexico and Bradley will work with his fellow (corrupt) Deputies and his narco pals to try and free Erin.

Hood is true.  Hood is honest.  Hood is helpful.  Hood is honorable to a fault.  Hood is still hunting Mike Finnegan.  Hood transports the cash and ends up partnering with a rare honest MX cop.  Hood packs a Springfield 1911 packed in a diplomatic pouch courtesy ATF pal.  Hood survives a shoot-out.  Hood survives a hurricane.  Hood never loses the cash.

Erin is transported to the Yucatan.  Narco Boss is not that complex a character.  He will do as he says - skin her alive- because that is his word and the way of nature.  Of his nature and the nature of the drug business.  But, Narco Boss loves music.  Narco boss has built high end music studio in his massive castle of a house.  Narco Boss bootlegs music CDs by the thousands.  Narco Boss is wanted worldwide by good and bad but still travels the world incognito to different music venues.  Narco Boss has famous acts play at his compound with an audience of all the reporters, cops, and politicians he owns.

Erin is under massive stress.  Erin is pregnant and worried for both her and her son's life.  Erin has now learned that her Bradley is a liar.  A cheat.  A selfish sack of shit.  (okay, that's me on the last two comments.)  Narco Boss gets her to play with an well known band at one of his house concerts.  Narco Boss promises to extend her deadly deadline by two days if she will write a narcocorrido about him.

Bradley travels to Yucatan after Mike Finnegan tells him where Erin is held.  Where did you learn this Mike? Oh, I have many sources of information Bradley.  Bradley travels with south with sinister sicarios.  Gun fight ensues.  Arrest by MX Army ensues.  Bradley released, Hood finds him, Erin rescued, castle burned.

Erin rescued by Bradley and Hood after all three suffer setbacks and sadness.  Hood finds Finnegan.  Finnegan spills some confusing beans.  Finnegan escapes.  Erin leaves Bradley.

1.  I wondered if Parker would address the Fast and Furious scandal.  He does, but only briefly with reference to a senior ATF Agent bitching about the fiasco to Hood.
2.  Gratuitous Flaco Jimenez.
3.  Gratuitous Ry Cooder.
4.  Gratuitous jaguars with both a band and a real one.  Real one used by Narco Boss to eat his captured enemies.
5.  Gratuitous massive drug war corruption.
6.  Accordion love.
7.  Much musician love.
8.  Bradley is a bald-faced liar.  His greed and selfishness run deep.
9. I am familiar with the narco wars. After reading Parker's and Don Winslow's books I have paid attention to news article and searched out information.  Sicarios scare me.  While listening to this I started to think I should carry at least two guns at all time.

Quick: "Secret of the Stone Frog" by David Nytra.

Quick: Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra, 2012, 9781935179184.

A kids comic book novel from the TOON BOOKs people who publish kid comic book novels.

A brother and sister fall asleep and wake up in a forest.  Boy and Girl (I'm guessing 5 and 8 years old respectively) have adventures.  Find large mason frog that tells them "the path [home] is right behind me!".

Boy and Girl meet bee keeper whose bees eat their words from the comic's speech bubbles. Boy and Girl escape mean lady and her attack bees.Boy and Girl meet anthropomorphic lions dressed in frippery with walking sticks.  Fripperists give them huge bunnies to ride to another stone frog.

Second stone frog directs them into a cavern.  Cavern is massive subway lobby.  Subway fills with anthropomorphic, walking, non-talking suited fish.  Boy and Girl board train but flee when evil Bee Lady comes aboard.

Boy and Girl go above ground into strange city.  Are almost run over by horse carriage.  Listen to quack selling health elixer.  Witness a pickpocket.  Pickpocket walks with them and threatens them.  Boy shoves pickpocket who falls over in from of police precinct house.  House comes to life yelling at them.

Boy and Girl flee.  Horse carriage almost runs them over again.  Horse turns into dinosaur.  Dinosaur chases them, buildings come to quivering and waving life, paving stones of street turn into crocodiles (or are they alligators?), Boy and Girl find last frog and see their bedroom shutters.  Boy and Girl jump into bedroom and close shutters.  Boy and Girl go back to sleep.

1.  Very fantastical.  Dependent on images and imagination to enjoy it.
2.  I have little imagination for this type of tale and rate this an "eh" on a scale of "crap" to "author is a genius".
3.  I liked the artwork.  All black and white.  Boy and Girl are simply drawn with a lot of white space.  Their surroundings are quite detailed.  Once Boy and Girl return to their room their clothes are shaded.
4.  Author lives in 100 Mile House, British Columbia.  100 Mile House looks to be in the middle of a very pretty nowhere.
5.  I can hear the local Ne'er Do Well out at the front desk.  What a jackape.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Read: "Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead" by Sara Gran

Read: Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran, 2011, 9780547428499.

I got sucked into reading this and that other Gran book by reading Gran's and Abbott, Jr.'s blog.  I write sucked not suckered because this book is well, well above average.  Not only that, Gran writes on some topics - mystical type stuff - that usually causes me to never touch a book let alone read it.  As always, spoilers await.

DeWitt is the world's greatest detective (she says).  About 40 years old, working out of San Francisco, and former protege of the famed New Orleans detective Constance Darling.  DeWitt is back in New Orleans taking the case of a man still missing after Katrina.

DeWitt is a follower of the famous French detective Jacques Silette whose famed and frustrating book on detection, Detection, had been memorized by DeWitt.  DeWitt is not conventional personally or conventionally.  She spent time in what she says was not a mental hospital.  She has been in shootings (a mysterious aside).  She drinks and takes drugs.  She follows omens.  She follows Silette's theory of detection that is philosophical, not practical.

DeWitt is a bit of a mess.  You learn she had crap parents who barely raised her in Brooklyn.  She and her two best pals used to booze-and-dope-it around New York.  One of her two best friends disappeared and was never found; DeWitt is haunted by that.  DeWitt is trying to find a missing uncle, a District Attorney in New Orleans.

DeWitt sleuths.  DeWitt questions the nephew.  DeWitt searches the man's apartment.  DeWitt meets local 18-year-old thugs.  DeWitt suspects a thug, Andray.  DeWitt does drugs.  DeWitt remembers Constance and her murder in New Orleans.  DewWitt works with another past protege of Constance.

DeWitt is threatened.  DeWitt finds Missing DA was a serial pedophile.  DeWitt buys a .38.  DeWitt is clonked on the head. DeWitt figures out the killer.  Killer is best pal of Andray.  Andray set up clues and traps to muddy killer's identity  DeWitt arranges for murderer to get federal custody and super-lawyer from New York.

1.  As usual with a great mystery novel the mystery is not that important to me.  The characters and how they live, think, and act are the most important.
2.  Is Gran the one who does those Funny of Die clips that Abbott. Hr. links to?  I cannot recall and will not bother to look.  If so, Gran also writes for Southland on television  I missed almost all of Season Four and put the DVD on hold at work. UPDATE: Thanks to Abbot, Sr. for commenting below that Alison Quinn is the video maker and TV writer.
3. Claire cared for goats while at the mental retreat.  Same as Ellroy's Dwight Holly in Blood's A Rover.
4. Unconventional with all the mysticism but still a mystery.  Still a search for a solution.
5.  A tenet of Silette and DeWitt is that clients do not want the truth.  Sometimes clients cannot accept the solution.
6.  There were some good lines in here.  Read it yourself to find them because I did not keep track.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quit: "The Big Con" by David W. Maurer

Quit: The Big Con by David W. Mauer, 1940 (original), 1999 (reprint), 0385495382.

History of cons and con men from about 1900 onward.  The writing is dated.  The author names famous con men as if I should know them.  Maybe people at the time did.  Descriptions of the cons were a little confusing - I suppose that is fitting.

I tried to keep going but lost interest.

Meh: "Batman: the return of Bruce Wayne" by Grant Morrison

Meh: Batman: the return of Bruce Wayne by Grant Morrison (and many artists), 2001 (compilation comic), 9781401233822.

Kurt Busiek and Victor Gischler are the only reliable comic book novel guys for me.  This has Batman sent back in time worth memory loss.  He bips and bops along the timeline landing in the Gotham region from caveman era, to 1600s witch hunts, to 1800s gunslingers, to 1950s gangsters.  He always survives and prevails.

Meanwhile, other superheroes are trying to find Batman.  Or stop him.  Or something.  Apparently some evil dude sent Batman back in time and Batman is collecting some negative end-the-world radiation, or some bullshit I did not give a flying fuck about.

Finally Got To: "Blood's A Rover" by James Ellroy

Finally Got To: Blood's A Rover by James Ellroy, 2009, 9780679403937.

Took me three years to finally get to this.  Ellroy's novels are usually so dense and byzantine I put this off.  When I did get to reading this I took a while to finish because I like to have time to read more than a couple pages. I want to concentrate on what I am taking in.

This was not as good as previous novels.  I cannot explain why.  Maybe the characters were not as interesting to me.  Maybe I waited too long and my expectations were too high.  Even so, this was pretty good.

Post JFK, RFK, and MLK murders and Dwight Holly and Wayne Tedrow are still in play and still doing evil shit.  Holly is tasked by the hateful and vile J. Edgar to undermine the black militant movement. Holly needs to find a couple people to go undercover with the local Los Angeles militant groups.  Tedrow has killed his evil father in Las Vegas and started working for the Howard 'Dracula' Hughes.  Wayne and Holly start working together again.

Don Crutchfield is 23-years-old (or so) and a window peeper.  Crutch works for PIs in Los Angeles as an on-call driver for divorce cases.  Crutch helps a wealthy dentist and known right-winger in finding a gal who ripped him off for several thousand.  Crutch digs older women. Crutch's mother ran off when Crutch was a kid.  Crutch's dad is a drunken, live-on-the-street bum.  Crutch tries to follow the gal, Celia, and slides into Wayne's orbit.

Crutch starts working with Wayne and the evil Frog who was the triggerman on the JFK hit.  Frog is a Fidel hating nut.  The mob want more southern casinos and focus on the Dominican Republic (DR).  Holly's female spy is a Red.  Her name is Joan.  Joan and Celia are tied into the DR and Haiti and Red Revolution.

Holly's black guy spy is a LA cop, Marsh.  Marsh and LA Detective and Happy-Shooter-of-Robbers Scotty both have a yearning to solve a famous armored car robbery that left several people dead.  Both guys want the stolen cash and emeralds.

All these things run together as the characters move across Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  They are all chasing each other and do not always know it.  The reader often sees the missing links but Ellroy slowly parses out the details.  His characters always change, sometimes making a 180 degreee turn - they do so here with Wayne and Holly.

1. Ellroy writes short sentences.  I love Ellroy's writing.  I love Ellroy's pacing.  I love Ellroy's slang. I love Ellroy's humor.
2.  The late sixties and early seventies setting did not draw me in like the JFK era novels, or Ellroy's 1950s novels.  He peppers his story with the usual fact and fiction.  Real characters like Sonny Liston, Hoover, Sam Giancana, Hughes.
3.  Ellroy is always worth a read.
4. Character Pete Bondurat - the gigantic French Canadian goon has retired. and barely appears.
5.  Most everyone dies in the end.  Most everyone deserves it for one reason or another.

Heard: "Easy Money" by Jens Lapidus

Heard: Easy Money by Jens Lapidus, 2011 (audio at least) 2006 for Swede version, Overdrive download.

No good guys.  Plenty of bad guys.  I just read in the catalog record that Lapidus is an attorney.

Swedish crime novel with three main characters: JW, Jorge, and Mrado.

JW is a working class kid from Northern Sweden.  He's in university in Stockholm and pretending to be a rich kid, hanging out with the super wealthy and driving a gypsy cab for spending cash.  JW is wrapped up in image and the image of success and wealth: clothes, cars, cash, haircuts, slang, an aloof attitude.  The rich Swedes are very shallow.  JW drives a cab for an Arab (forgot his name) who also runs cocaine.  JW's pals are users and JW is offered a job to sell.  JW has an in with the wealthy kid market.  JW takes the job, starts making lots of cash, and moves up in the organization with marketing, business, and banking knowledge learned at school.  JW intermittently searches for his older sister that went missing in Stockholm three years previously.

Mrado is a Serb who grew up in the poor parts of Stockholm.  The Serbs always stick together.  Mrado went to Serbia and served with Arkan (bloodthirsty, murderous, raping piece of human garbage) in the war.  Mrado came back and worked up in the Serb crime underworld.  Mrado takes steroids.  Mrado Mrado pumps iron.  Mrado trains in MMA.  Mrado is a hitman, strongman, and midlevel boss in the Serb crime ring.  Mrado is demoted within the gang and plans revenge with another demoted guy.

Jorge's family is Chilean.  Jorge is in jail for cocaine.  The Serbs screwed employee Jorge during his trial.  Jorge escapes from a high security prison.  Jorge plans revenge on the Serbs and tries to extort money.  Mrado finds Jorge and beats him near death.  JW was looking for cocaine wizard Jorge, finds him at same time as Mrado, recovers the beaten Jorge.  Jorge joins JW and Arab in selling dope.

In the end no gets what they should have coming.

1.  No good guys here.  All the bad guys have varying levels of bad-ness.  Mrado is the worst.  He is a killer and strongman who cares little for breaking bones or murder.  Are there any good-guy Serbs in literature?  After the war I doubt it.
2.  A look at immigrant Sweden.  Chileans. Serbs.  Syrians.  Turks.  They are all working to move up to more money and better neighborhoods.  They are all facing a glass ceiling.  The wealthy blond Swedes do not fully welcome the newcomers.
3. Inside look at small time and big time money laundering.  Mrado starts up video stores to launder illegal earnings.  JW uses his school know-how to start bank accounts on the Isle of Man that has very strict banking privacy laws.  JW has accounts in England and moves the money around from Sweden, to England to the Isle.
4.  Lawyer Lapidus loves alliteration.  How much trouble was that for the translator?
5.  With the swell of Swedes over the past decade I've become cynical that the recent ones will be blah.  That publishers are finding some Thorstenssonss and Holmsengardnersons and IngridFridas to put on the cover.
6.  All the bad guys have good sides.  JW really digs his girlfriend and misses his sister.  Jorge is loyal to friends, loves his older sister.  Mrado deeply loves his daughter and considers himself a caring and thoughtful father, he is loyal to other Serbs.
7.  The justice system has trouble convicting people.  Witnesses are threatened, people lie, prisons sentences seem incredibly brief compared to here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Finished: "Creepers" by Joanne Dahme

Finished: Creepers by Joanne Dahme, 2008,9780762433131.

I cannot find the damn book. Where did I put that thing?  Maybe it's with the rest of the overdue books I need to scare up.

Courtney and her mother and father move into an old house in Murmur, MA.  The house is covered in ivy and right next to an old cemetery.  The house used to be the caretaker's house.

Courtney meets Margaret Geyer and her father Christian in the cemetery.  The girls are the same age, thirteen-years-old.  C and M hit it off.  Mr. Geyer is embarrassing to an early teen girl with his weird clothes and earnest manner.  The Geyers have been researching the cemetery for quite a while.

C finds a connection between the ivy and the death of a girl.  The Geyers have been researching the dead girl.  The Geyers are related to the dead girl.  C resolves to help find the girl's missing body.  Blah blah blah.  Story of dead girl and her father and witch from 400 years ago. Ivy growing on house is bewitched.  Carved ivy in basement starts to spread.  Girl's grave found and Geyers disappear.  Geyers may have been ghosts or spirits.

1.  Not scary.  The witch part was nice but not creepy.  She was a good witch anyway.
2.  C's parents had a prominent role but I did not care much about them.
3.  I checked this out because I liked the cover, the green colored pages, the illustrated photos, the newspaper article excerpts in front of the chapters.