Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Done: "Bad Debts" by Peter Temple

Done: Bad Debts by Peter Temple, 1996 (originally) but 2005 for this copy, 1596921293.

Pretty damn good.  I tracked this down after a FFB entry for another Temple novel, White Dog, got me remembering Temple.  I commented as much and was recommended Bad Debts as the first in this series featuring lawyer Jack Irish.

Irish is a small time lawyer, debt collector, and gambler in Melbourne, Australia.  Irish abandoned his successful criminal defense practice for booze when a former client murdered Irish's wife.  Irish has mostly dried out and is now in his forties, a Vietnam vet, has one daughter living north in Cairns, a sister in the wealthy suburbs, and a dead father who was a beloved Aussie Rules footballer for Fitzroy.

Irish gets a call from a past client asking for help.  Irish was a blackout drunk when he defended the guy on a drunk driving manslaughter charge.  Irish feels guilty for not giving the guy a proper defense.  The guy ends up dead, shot by police in a parking lot outside a bar.  Irish starts digging.

Turns out the open and shut case against the guy may have been a frame-up.  The dead pedestrian was an activist looking to block an expensive development.  Irish starts asking questions.  Irish is followed by policeman-like dudes and warned away.  Policeman-like dudes are asking around to the same people as Irish.

Irish also helps out a big-time horse expert and gambler to place multiple bets on races.  They bets are not cheats.  Not really.  The gambler just knows horses and jockeys and has a group of people to place the bets, they are not throwing races.

More things happen.  Threats.  A quick trip to Perth.  Beer.  Wine.  Furniture making.  Sex with a lady journalist.  More sex.  More beer.  Dead people. Mysterious happenings.  Big time corruption.  Big time money.  Irish escapes death and makes a ton of dough on a horse race.

1.  The plot does not make perfect sense.  The hit-and-run murder set-up seems a bit of a stretch.  The reason for the murder was a real estate deal worth a few million bucks.  Sure, that's enough for prominent people to have someone killed.  I suppose.  So, why add in the underaged sex ring angle at the very end?
2.  Local Melbourne love with restaurants, streets, local history, and sports rivalry.
3.  I spent a relatively short time in Perth and loved it.  Irish flies out to try and track down a witness and does not much like it there.  The West Coast Eagles won the Aussie Rules championship when I was there in 1992 and even took in a game.  Irish is disdainful of the club.
4.  I cannot easily explain why I liked the novel so much.  But, I did.
5.  Holden cars.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Listened: "When You Are Engulfedin Flames" by David Sedaris

Listened: When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, 2008, Overdrive download.

2008?  I thought this was much newer.

Many of the pieces made me laugh out loud.  Others didn't.  Some pieces were recorded in front of an audience but most were studio readings by Sedaris.

I could list my favorite tales but I did not recall them all.

1.  Several stories were reminders of Amy Sedaris's genius.
2.  I read some of these before.
3.  Sedaris's boyfriend Hugh seems to be a completely decent and pleasant guy. Sedaris had written before about his own drug use and drinking.  For many years Sedaris's was a drug wolf.  For 20 years Sedaris was a functioning drunk.  Sedaris would start boozing at home every evening and not stop until 2 AM or so when he hit the hay.  I wonder how Hugh dealt with this.
4.  Sedaris is concerned with manners.  He is a reserved and shy guy and, judging from his stories, considers manners quite important.  He details his own failings and poor behavior.  His reluctance to appear rude or insult people.
5.  Does Sedaris try to write funny?  Is he telling a straight story but his writing method, speaking cadence and voice, and particular point of view make it funny?
6.  Not recommended for use while weightlifting.  Frequent laughter will interrupt you.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Done: "Gun Guys" by Dan Baum

Done: Gun Guys: a road trip by Dan Baum, 2013, 9780307595416.

I don't have much to comment on here.  Baum and I are in agreement on most everything.   It's lonely being a non-Republican gun owner.  Gun owners will often times eat their own rather than discuss alternate views or tactics.  Condescending attitudes neither convert nor convince.

Baum did a fine amount of work researching stats and reports and goes over these in his notes section.

1.  One hypocrisy that Baum points out is that many gun owners extoll individual responsibility and staying out of other people's lives.  Those same people will then oppose gay marriage and demand prayer in school.
2.  I have not read the full notes section (and won't bother to finish, either) but he writes this truth, "Anybody interested in wasting many hours could visit imfdb.com - the International Movie Firearms Database - which attempts to list every firearm used in every movie...Imfbd.com is one of those realms of arcana that the internet was practically invented to foster."
3. Baum does err in the above entry.  The website is the Internet Movie Firearms Database.  I've read many times before about authors who get mail pointing out their gun errors.  I suppose Baum has received plenty of that.
4. I could write much more but I am tired.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Read: "Icebreaker" by John Gardner

Read: Icebreaker by John Gardner, 1983, (ISBN is not to hand).

A new organization called the National Socialist Action Army (NSAA) has been sending out assassination squads around Europe, and even into a secretive Libyan facility, to assassinate communists and communists "supporters".  The hitmen all commit suicide before capture.  The NSAA is secretive and scary.

James Bond is in Helsinki after a two week winter operations training course with some SAS and SBS guys in Northern Finland. Bond calls up a sometimes bed partner for some sex.  Bond arrives to her apartment and is attacked to by two guys speaking lousy Russian.  Bond escapes.  Bond boinks babe even though he is injured.  Bond returns to London.

M briefs Bond that he is to return to Finland and join a joint Russian, America, Israeli operation to locate and destroy the NSAA headquarters in Northern Finland.  NSAA is run by a former Finnish Nazi.  The Russians called for the help and everything is suspicious, including the other agents working with Bond.

Bond is hot for the Israeli woman Agent.  Bond discovers Israeli Agent is daughter of NSAA's head Nazi.  Israeli Agent convinces him of her loyalty and her sexiness.  Everyone heads North.

Things happen.  The hotel rooms of each spy are bugged.  People are trying to murder Bond.  Israeli girl is blown up and then kidnapped by fake paramedics and police.  Bond, Russian and American travel into Russia to observe illegal purchase of Russian arms by NSAA.  Bond is captured and taken to Secret Underground Lair.  Bond meets Finnish Nazi.  Bond is tortured.  Identities and loyalties are revealed.  Israeli Agent is secret Nazi and shot in face. Bond is rescued.  Secret Underground Lair is bombed by Russkie jets.  Bond escapes Russkie Agent.  Bond returns to Helsinki.  Bond kills Russkie Agent.  Bond finds out Finnish Nazi escaped.  Bond finds Finnish Nazi at Helsinki airport and kills him. Bond learns of the secrets and double crosses that explain the plot.

1. A fun novel and I may have read this 30 years ago.  The torture scene is very familiar but may just resemble a torture scene from another Gardner book.
2.  When I first tried reading a Gardner books in middle school I did not like it.  I was used to the movie versions with more action and half-nude women.  I did feel very adult when reading the novel.
3.  The incessant naming of brands.  Reading the high end brand names - even 30 years removed - is often an odd pleasure.  As if I am now in the know.
3.a. In this case many of those brand names may no longer exist.  Or they are 30 years obsolete.  High tech gadgets of the time that may have seemed the future - the heads-up display installed in Bond's Saab using technology from a Saab fighter, or the H&K P7 (which is still pricey as a used gun) - but never took off and were surpassed by something better and less expensive.
4.  Bond's reputation as a chauvinist is addressed and dismissed during one conversation with Israeli Agent.  Israeli Agent accuses the Russian and American of not taking her seriously and ogling.  Bond says he never has trouble working with women.
5. Other "old" stuff: I got to wondering about his car - a Saab Turbo 900 - and looked it up.  I'll be damned.  Or Crombie British Warm overcoat.  Finnair's flight 831 still travels mornings from Helsinki to London.
6. I was in Finland for about five weeks in 1989.  I have nothing to tie my experiences into the novels setting.  I vaguely remember a fellow exchange student on my return flight complaining about going to the far north where there was nothing to do.
7. Saab love.
8.  H & K love.
9. Ruger Redhawk .44 magnum love.
10. This reminds me that Max Allan Collins is a nut for James Bond movies.  But, I cannot recall if Collins recently wrote anything about what he thinks of the novels.  I enjoy his commentary.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Eeked it out: "This Bright River" by Patrick Somerville

Eeked it out: This Bright River by Patrick Somerville, 2012, 9780316129312.

449 pages?  Really?  You couldn't cut that down just a little bit?

Lots of rambling talk by drunk characters, drugged characters, insane characters, and undergrads.

Ben is back in small town St. Helens (just NW of Milwaukee).  Ben was in prison for several months for arson.  Ben was a drunk and heroin user who set a house on fire.  Ben's ex-girlfriend and ex-best friend are now together and made a computer game using Ben's puzzles.  Ben's ultra-rich parents have asked him to sell his recently deceased uncle's home in St. Helen's and he can get a percentage.  Much of this only trickles out during Ben's long, long, long narration.

Lauren knew Ben in high school. Lauren was a loner.  Lauren went to college.  Lauren went to med school.  Lauren went to aid work in Africa.  Lauren fell for other doctor.  Lauren married other doctor.  Lauren realized other doctor was a nut and also fed her some roofies and anally raped her.  Lauren left doctor in their Swiss home four years ago and has been a coffee girl and veterinary assistant.

Ben is troubled by his own mistakes and history and has always been shiftless and unmotivated.  Ben still misses his older cousin who died in the UP during severe cold weather one winter when cousin was inexplicably away from UW-Madison.

Ben narrates along for many pages.  Lauren narrates for some pages.  Ben narates some more.  Ben tells meandering tales.  Ben recalls meandering tales.  Ben meanders through life.  The story meanders through my life and takes too much damn time.  Ex-husband finally shows up and goes insane and gets shot.  Ben figures out why his cousin was in the UP.

The sex parts were okay.

1.  Cut out 100-200 pages and I'd like it a lot better.
2.  Gratuitous Wisconsin geography and lingo.
3.  Except for cheese curds.  No cheese curds.
4. I think Somerville does some good writing.  He knows what he is doing and has skill.  But, this book does not work for me.