Friday, August 23, 2013

Heard: "The Defence of Duffer's Drift (and The Battle of Booby's Bluffs by Major Single List)" by Ernest Dunlop Swinton

Heard: The Defence of Duffer's Drift by Ernest Dunlop Swinton and The Battle of Booby's Bluffs by Major Single List, downloaded from Overdrive, Tantor Audio production.

I was going through Overdrive and looking at books narrated by John Lee.  Most of those books did not look interesting and Defence was one of them.  I decided to try it out.  I've read plenty of military history but those books do not teach tactics and strategy.  They explain the strategy and tactics of specific events and battles.  This was written in 1907 as a training guide and based off events in the Boer War.

A new Lieutenant is left on the veldt with 50 men and told to guard a river crossing.  The concept is that after each failed attempt the Lieutenant awakens in the night from a bad dream (that failed defense) and gets to try again using the lessons he learned from his previous failures.

I did not know that Battle of Booby's Bluffs was included in this, the catalog record on Overdrive did not mention it at all.  I do not recall if a publication date was given during the narration and I have not looked it up.  This story is post-WWI with machine guns, mortars, tanks, and artillery.  Plenty of emphasis on machine gun nests.  The commanding officer is a Major and leading an attacking battalion.

These texts, at least Defence, are still used when teaching infantry tactics.  Heck, all sorts of battles are studied when teaching infantry tactics.  But, I wonder how helpful some of this stuff is to modern warfare.  I suppose using different battles from different eras is great way to teach universal lessons about tactics.

Anyway.  This was short at 4'18".  One thing that stands out compared to modern fighting is long-range rifle fire used during the Boer War.  There have been arguments over the last decade about rifle caliber and Afghanistan but most modern engagements seem to be pretty close.  Duffer's also encourages imprisoning the local population to prevent them from giving information to the enemy.

Read: "Dear Mr. Holmes: seven Holmes on the Range mysteries" by Steve Hockensmith

Read: Dear Mr. Holmes: seven Holmes on the Range mysteries by Steve Hockensmith, 2011, 9781461077145.

Where the hell is this book?  I cannot find it at home.  I cannot find it at work.  Maybe I left it in the damn van.

Seven stories through seven letters by Big Red to publishers, Dr. Watson, and the English aristocrat in the first novel.  Some were better than others but I cannot say which ones I enjoyed the most because I cannot find the damn book.

Found it, it was in the kitchen under some other stuff.

1.  Now that I have leafed through I'm thinking all the stories were pretty fun.  I cannot pick one in particular.
2.  No real tie-ins to the novels except when a story immediately follows a novel.  There is one story with Big Red and Old Red traveling the train to TX in-between Black Dove and Crack in the Lens that mentions some of On the Wrong Track.
3.  Hockensmith lives in Alameda which somehow reminds me of this:

4.  I looked at Hockensmith's webpage and he says he has an entry in Kwik Krimes anthology.  That title blows.  Why not just add in Ye Olde or Emporium?  I'm ordering the book for work anyway.
5.  The stories date from 2003 to 2010 and appeared in Ellery Queen and one anthology. 
6.  Hockensmith claims copyright to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Listened: "Screwed" by Eoin Colfer

Listened: Screwed by Eion Colfer, 2013, Overdrive download.

Fun stuff.  Sequel to Plugged.  I read that Colfer will be the guest of honor at Bouchercon '14 or '15, whichever one is in Long Beach.  Colfer was at Boucheron in St. Louis.  He did a reading at that bar that hosted a Random House party and then a reading.  The Random House part had free booze.  I slurped down a lot of Dewar's that evening.  After Colfer read aloud I went over and asked him how to pronounce his first name.

Dan McEvoy now owns the small casino in New Jersey.  He is sort-of dating his former upstairs neighbor.  He is still paying protection money to a NJ mobster with a fake Irish accent.  Dan is told by NJ Mobster to deliver money to Manhattan.

Dan takes the money and figures out he has been set-up by Mobster to either get killed by the Manhattan guys or "go tactical" and kill the Manhattan guys.  Either way the NJ Mobster comes out ahead.  Dan escapes.  Dan is captured by two NJ cops.  Dan awakes tied to a chair and wearing a thong.  The two cops are dressed up in SM gear and watching a laptop.  The cops are selling Dan for a live, online snuff show.  Dan escapes.  Dan beats the cops unconscious with a dildo.  Why oh why was Dan captured by those guys?

Dan is hungry.  Dan goes to a restaurant.  In walks a lady claiming to be his step-grandmother.  Dan's Irish grandfather was a wealthy Manhattan businessman (and crook, I think) who was an A-1 Asshole.  Dan is asked by Step-Granny to find his alcoholic aunt.  Step-Granny is so sweet and sincere.  Dan says, "I'll ask around."

Things go on.  Dan has lots of trouble.  His would be girlfriend is mentally ill and dislikes her medication.  His best friend Zeb is a drunken doctor.  Dan has to fight the Manhattan mobsters.  Dan has to escape the policemen who saw the live feed of Dan dildo beating the NJ Cops.  Dan fears murder by NJ Mobster.  Dan's would-be girlfriend still calls him Carmine (the name of her husband who disappeared 20 years ago).  Dan's drunken aunt shows up and the step-grandmother wants to kill her for her trust fund.  Laughter ensues. Dan is sometimes an emotional mess but he knows it. 

Dan struggles through with a couple concussions.  People die but PTSD stricken Dan (Irish Army tours in Lebanon) doesn't have to do any of that.

1.  Dan still has auditory hallucinations.  In this book his guns are talking to him and encouraging him to kill NJ Mobster.
2.  Learn more about Dan's background: hear some Lebanon stories, hear some family stories of booze, hear some family stories of abuse, hear some family stories of booze abuse.

Gave Up: "A Deniable Death" by Gerald Seymour

Gave Up: A Deniable Death by Gerarld Seymour, 2011, 9781250018809.

This felt disjointed.  The writing seemed patched together and had no flow.  As if Seymour did not finish his drafting.  I gave up on page 95.

Two Limey policeman specializing in covert surveillance are brought in by British Intelligence to go to Iraq, sneak into Iran, and lay up to watch a bomb maker's rural home near the Iran-Iraq border.  The bomb maker's work goes into Iraq and other countries.  He's been identified and the U.S. and English want to kill him.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Done: "Ratlines" by Stuart Neville

Done: Ratlines by Stuart Neville, 2013, 9781616952044.

Dang, this had all sorts of praise but I didn't enjoy all that much.  I think Neville's first two books are better.  I'm not sure if Neville's third book, Stolen Souls, is available in the U.S.  I sure zipped through Neville's first two.

Neville takes a couple historical facts, German Colonel Otto Skorzeny lived in Ireland after WWII and President Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963, and runs with them.  The book is good but I expected fireworks.  I have to stop paying attention to blurbs.

Anyway.  Irish Intelligence Servide dude Albert Ryan is asked to look into some murders.  This is not kind of work he does but Ireland has some recently murdered former nazis peppering the countryside.  The English hating Irish sentiments of WWII carried into a "the nazis were our English killing friends" post-war attitude.  With President Kennedy due to visit in a couple months the Irish government wants to no embarrassments or, even worse, a cancellation of Kennedy's visit.

Ryan is an anomaly though.  He headed north during the war and joined the Limey Army.  He served through WWII in Italy and North Africa and then fought in Korea.  He is brought to meet the nomitive head of the Irish nazis, Col. Otto Skorzeny.  If you've never heard of Skorzeny that's just fine because Neville explains the former German commandos wartime exploits and reputation.  Skorzeny is a dickhead (hey, he was a nazi) and Ryan does not like him.  The Irish Minister of Justice likes Skorzeny though and especially likes to lick Skorzeny's boots.

Ryan investigates and discovers a plot to extort money from Skorzeny.  Skorzeny has a line of lots of dough stored by the nazis in Switzerland.  The extortionists want the dough.  Ryan keeps on track.  Ryan meets Jewish Mossad guy.  Mossad guy threatens Ryan.  Skorzeny threatens Ryan.  Ryan and the girl sent to spy on him make lovey-dovey eyes on one another.  Skorzeny threatens Ryan's Spy Girl.  Ryan is tortured.  People are killed.  Ryan ends up on top and all the bad guys but Skorzeny are dead.

1.  The grammar and spelling correcter wants capitalize nazi.  Fuck that.
2.  I finished this several days ago and had more thoughts but have now forgotten them.
3.  I do recall an anachronism with someone holding a Glock pistol.
4.  I keep thinking Neville Shute, not Stuart Neville.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Quick: "Dead Aim" by Joe R. Lansdale

Quick: Dead Aim by Joe r. Lansdale, 2013, 9781596065253.

Fancy-schmancy limited edition novella by Subterranean Press with a fancy-schmancy painting on the front by Glenn Orbik (whoever that is).  The book looks great and is full of Leonard and Hap greatness.

I thought this was set back in time when Leonard and Hap were much younger.  Not so, Hap is living with Brett, this is post-introduction of Vanilla Ride, Marvin is running his PI office.

Hap and Leonard are hired by Marvin to help a gal in a difficult divorce.  She says her ex-to-be is violent and threatening.  She says she needs help.  Hap and Leonard give some foreshadowing by first judging her veracity.  Hap and Leonard take the job.  Hap watches Ex-To-Be in advance of Hap and Leonard going to talk to Ex-To-Be.  Hap and Leonard have an axe handle.  Just in case.  Leonard makes gay jokes.

Hap is down the street from Ex-To-Be and hears a gun shot and sees a muzzle flash.  Hap investigates.  Hap finds Ex-To-Be is Ex-Alive.  Hap is there when the cops show. Hap and Leonard think they have been set-up by The Wife.  Leonard eats vanilla cookies.

Hap and Leonard say, "We should let this alone."  Hap and Leonard say, "We won't, that's not what we do."  Hap and Leonard continue a bumbling investigation but their sneaky brains start to figure out a sneaky plot.  Leonard makes jokes about Hap.

Hap and Leonard find out a scam different than first thought.  They then find out the scam is even different than second thought.  Everything ends happily and Hap and Leonard don't even kill anyone.  Hap eats more cookies.

1.  This could be longer.  Then there would be even more to love.
2.  Hap and Bret love.
3.  Driving around.
4.  East Texas love.
5.  Hey, did you see that Lansdale excerpt I read?
6.  No, didn't see it?  Oh, well.  No one else has either.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Heard: "Odd and the Frost Giants" by Neil Gaiman

Heard: Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, 2009, 9780061808319 (CD).

Picked out by my wife for the drive to KS.  We all listened.  Only 1.5 hours long.

Odd lives in a Viking town.  Odd does not say much and wears an enigmatic smile for all occasions.  Odd's father died on a raid when he tried to rescue one of the ship's pack animals from the sea.  Odd's foot was crushed when he tried chopping down a tree.  Odd's mother remarries to a man whose existing family treat Odd like dirt.  They mock his behavior and bad limp.  Odd skips town for his father's old cabin in the woods.

Odd is stared at by a fox.  Odd follows the fox to a stuck bear.  The bear is caught between a big tree ,holding a bee hive, and the smaller tree that was pushed aside to access the honey.  Odd frees the bear.  Odd returns to the cabin and the fox, bear, and an eagle join him.  Odd goes to sleep.  Odd awakes to voices.  The animals are talking.

Turns out the animals are goods who were defeated by an ice giant who took over Asgard.  Odd helps them out.  Odd prevails.

Read by Gaiman.  The usual fun story with unexpected events and characters. Gaiman does not always follow the usual happy ending path.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Done: "Rake" by Scott Phillips

Done: Rake by Scott Phillips, 2013, 9781619021518.

More brilliance by Phillips with another self absorbed, sex obsessed, asshole-without-a-conscience as protagonist.  Phillips excels at these self-absorbed and conscience-less guys.  Dudes who live for sex and booze and their own well-being.  They do feel some guilt and realize he should not have

Wait a minute.  Does the protagonist, an actor, ever give his name?  I don't think he does.  This is all first person and he only identifies himself with the name of his most famous character in France, Dr. Crandall Taylor.  Taylor was a lead in a minor U.S. soap opera that runs in prime time syndication in France.  The show is a huge hit and Taylor loooooves the attention.  He loves that people recognize him on the street and talk to him in shops.  He looooves that people ask for his autograph or medical advice.  He reaaaaallllly loves how he gets laid all the time with all sorts of gorgeous women.  He loves that normally restrained women go ga-ga for a celebrity actor.

Crandall is in Paris for no particular reason but looking to make a movie.  What kind of movie?  Well, he hasn't gotten that far but his name is so big and high profile he can surely find a backer. He meets with an executive from the French TV network running the soap and is hoping to get them to back a feature film.

Crandall also engages in fisticuffs.  You learn that he had a bad upbringing and a violent life.  Once he started acting he channeled that anger into his perfromances but he'll still break another persons bones now and then.  Crandall recalls bragging at his anger management group therapy how he hadn't been arrested or assault and battery for 15 years.

Anyway.  Crandall ends up screwing three different French women and one American porn star.  All the women know about each other.  Two are married, one is a student, and the porn star used to work on the soap opera. One married woman's husband may finance the picture.  Crandall starts winging it with getting a story for the film  He goes into a bookstore figuring to find a novel and option it.  Instead he meets a store clerk who just wrote a novel.  Crandall talks him into writing a script.  Without pay.

More things happen.  The husband tries to kill Crandall.  Crandall subdues him and kidnaps him.  A couple of the women and the screenwriter help keep the husband captive and then help kill him.  Everything ends happily.  Except for two dead guys and the several people Crandall beats down.

1.  Major lack of Wichita lore.  Okay, I understand that in this one.
2.  Gratuitous reference to film version of The Ice Harvest.
3.  Crandall is a masters degree graduate of Anthony Neil Smith's current employer.
4.  Great stuff and a fun novel with plenty of black humor.

Read: "Summer of the Star" by Johnny D. Boggs

Read: Summer of the Star by Johnny D. Boggs, 2013, 9781432826307.

I cannot recall why I got this book.  I've read or listened to 2-3 Boggs books.  This is set in Ellsworth, KS.  Maybe I grabbed this to read while vacationing only a few miles away from the novel's setting.

Sixteen-year-old Texan Madison Carter MacCrae is on his third (or maybe his fourth) cattle drive from South Texas to Kansas.  His father died of fever during the Civil War and his family needs the money he earns.  Madison - Mad for short - is eager to act like, and be considered, a man.  On the way to KS they are talked into going to Ellsworth by another Texan.  Abilene has mostly been shut down to the cattle trade, and rowdy TX cowboys.  Ellsworth has big stockyards and cattle buyers and is closer than Great Bend.

The cowboys arrive to Ellsworth and range the cows outside of town to fatten up.  Mad likes some fellow crew members and dislikes others.  The Texas cowboys are not always welcome to towns and the Ellsworth police force is more concerned with force than police.  Ellsworth cops are eager to beat or kill cowboys.  Mad stays working the herd as the owner awaits a better price.  More and more herds arrive with more and more cowboys.

Mad goes on a bender and meets a local shop keeper's daughter after waking up in his vomit.  Mad is bonkers fro the girl, Estrella (Star).  Things happen.  The County Sheriff is a good guy and makes friends with Mad.  Mad backs him up during a showdown and alienates crew members and other Texans. Mad is lovey-dovey for Star but falling short.  Mad is fired from his crew when he goes on a second bender against orders.  A nearby farmer is overwhelmed by his daughter's rape and murder and hunting the killer he suspects is a drover. 

Mad is deputized.  The Sheriff is shot.  Star starts dating another guy from Mad's old crew.  Another crew member tries to rape Star.  star takes his gun and shoots him.  The guy dating he says he shot the guy and is lynched.  Mad goes to arrest the lynchers and kills one.  Mad flees and is accused of murder by the corrupt local cop.  Mad tells the story forty years later in this book

1.  Horse love.
2.  Obscure handgun manufacturer love.
3.  Good book and good story. 
4.  Nice look at trail life and cowtowns.
5.  I told my wife we should go to Ellsworth tomorrow.  She wants to go to Wichita.  I say that Boggs writes, "I must also thank Paden's Place Restaurant in Ellsworth for that filling chicken-fried steak dinner."

Listened: "Drood" by Dan Simmons

Listened: Drood by Dan Simmons, 2009, OverDrive donwload.

I listened to Simmons's The Terror a few years ago and loved it.  John Lee narrated The Terror too
The best of historical fiction with another great performance by John Lee.  Another nonfiction shielded in fiction.  A long book whose plot covers several years.  A mixed, fictional biography of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.  The novel is narrated by Wilkie who says the piece was meant to available after 100 years.

Charles Dickens survives a rail wreck in England afte returning from a trip to France with his secret mistress.  Dickens's rail coach is still on the tracks and he descends an embankment to try and assist in the rescue.  Dickens tells his good pal Wilkie Collins that Dickens met a strange man at the wreck.  A tall, extremely pal man in a black coat and stovepipe hat.  The man called himself Drood and had no eyelids and no nose.  He mentioned he was traveling to the slums of London.

Dickens and Collins travel to the slums to look for Drood. Drood is a mysterious character with all sorts of legends about him.  A retired police detective has been hunting Drood for years and claims Drood is responsible for over 300 murders.  Drood is supposedly almost 100 years old, born in Egypt, murdered in London and brought back to life.  Drood lives in the underworld of London below the slums and even the sewers.

Wilkie and Dickens dance around their trip to find Drood and their various written and spoken performances.

Things happen with lots of atmosphere and history.  The awful sewers of London.  Wilkie's writing career and absurd family life.  Dickens's writing career and absurd family life.  Drood's looming presence.  Blackmail by retired detective after Drood. Collins is captured by Drood and put under his control.

That's enough plot recap because there is a lot of plot and story in a 30 hour narration.

Collins is an asshole.  An asshole and a half.  He is conceited, classist, jealous, paranoid, selfish, rude, misogynistic, and several other unsavory adjectives.  He refuses to marry a long term live-in mistress and pretends she is a servant in his home.  He has a second mistress hidden from the first in an apartment paid for by Collins.  Collins has weird love-hate relationship with Dickens driven by professional jealousy.  He alternately praises Dickens skills while comparing Collins book sales and publisher advance payments versus Dickens.  He seems to despise Dickens's behavior of kicking his wife out of their home and carrying on with a much-younger and secret mistress.  But, Collins acts no better - and likely worse.

Collins is in his early forties but rheumatic, gout ridden, overweight and dependent on heavy does of laudanum. He eats way too much.  He sluts around in Paris during a business trip.He drinks too much.  He is self-absorbed and narcissistic.

Many hints of things to come during the novel.  Of what seems to be Collins's subconscious bleeding through.  Some of what Collins sees appears drug induced hallucinations and black-outs - green skinned woman on his stairs, an alternate Collins who takes his written work and revises it.  How much of Wilkie's experiences are drug induced hallucinations.

1.  Reminder: make sure the digital audio player is not set to 'shuffle' when listening to an audio.  You'll skip forward 22 chapters and wonder if the narrative jumped forward in time or, maybe, you were not listening closely as you jogged on the track at Lakeside.
2.  There is a tie-in between this and The Terror.  Collins and Dickens wrote and performed a play based off the voyage.  I wonder if Simmons discovered this while research The Terror and became interested in Dickens.
3.  Money issues at the time.  Collins often wrote his novels with stage productions in mind.  Dickens made a crapload of money on his speaking tours - I remember that piece of history.

Done: "Groucho Marx, Master Detective" by Ron Goulart

Done: Groucho Marx, Master Detective by Ron Goulart, 1998, 031218106X.

I ran across a reference to this on a forgotten books comment.  Cannot recall what other book was being discussed.  I figured to try this out.  This was well done but Groucho is a main character and I kept wondering if Goulart was writing new jokes or using old ones that Groucho used.

Scriptwriter Frank Denby used to be a police reporter for a few Los Angeles newspapers. Come 1937 he is a writer for Groucho's soon-to-premier radio show.  On his way to a meeting with network executives Denby's car is run into by a woman on a bicycle when he stops for traffic.  Denby is smitten with Jane, drives her and her wrecked bicycle home, and heads to his meeting.  Groucho is introduced.  Groucho cracks jokes.

 Turns out the traffic jam that resulted in Denby meeting Jane was rubbernecking at a crime scene.  An actress committed suicide.  Groucho used to bang the actress.  Groucho was still fond of her and does not believe the suicide report.  Groucho asks Denby to help investigate.  Denby uses his old police and newspaper contacts.  Groucho acts silly.

Dead Girl looks to have been beaten to death.  Her place was ransacked.  She bragged about signing a multi-year studio contract.  Groucho is upset.  Groucho still cracks jokes.  Croucho and Denby sleuth.  Denby and Jane do the dirty deed.  Groucho and Denby find suspects.  Someone is trying to kill Groucho.

More things happen.  Hollywood happenings with big-name stars of the time.  Fans love to meet Groucho.  Groucho cannot resist telling jokes and pulling their legs (not literally, he's not Harpo).  Another murder attempt on Groucho.  More sex with Denby and Jane.  More suspects and sleuthing.  Groucho and Denby solve the crime and Denby and Jane escape a nasty murder attempt.  The bad guys get a public comeuppance via very public handgun action.  Groucho cracks jokes.

1. Old cars.
2.  Many Marx monkeyshines.
3.  Several people speak to Groucho throughout the novel expressing how sorry they are his and the Marx Brothers movie careers are washed up.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Done: "Beethoven Conspiracy" by Thomas Hauser

Done: Beethoven Conspiracy by Thomas Hauser, 1984, 0025490001.

Hauser has had an interesting career.  He currently writes on online boxing column and I discovered him by picking up one of his yearly column compilations at the library.  Hauser started out lawyering and in 1978 published the nonfic The Execution of Charles Horman on which the film Missing was based. Hauser has written 41 books - according to the bio on the boxing website - and most of those are about boxing.

This mystery is kinda short at 205 pages and Hauser does not spend much time on description and setting.  I'd compare the novel to an 87th Precinct novel.  Hauser has us following the investigator, Richard Marritt, through the investigation with some coverage on his home life.  You learn some about Marritt's political and personal views and meet his partner.  We also follow the main witness, Judith Carr, through her job and personal feelings.  The more I think about it the more this seems like a 87th homage.

Judith Carr is in her late twenties and a professional viola player.  Carr is freelance ad plays in some smaller quartets and fills in at New York symphonies.  Carr is contacted by a German-sounding guy, meets him for dinner and is asked to accept $10,000 in return for learning a piece of music, keeping open dates in November, and maintaining absolute secrecy.  This is weird, but $10,000 is a lot of cash for Carr.

Marritt enters the picture when three extremely talented young symphonic musicians are murdered outside Lincoln Center.  The victims' apartments were tossed and the only valuable item missing is a Stradivarius. Marritt cannot find a motive for the three murders.  Marritt and his partner start questioning friends, neighbors, musicians, etc.  Marritt finds some clues and a note in one victim's diary about Beethoven.  Marritt is questioning Carr and asks about dates.  Carr talks and Marritt starts to piece things together.

Marritt  finds that two murder victims deposited $10k in their accounts and the third bought a $10k bow.  Carr is the only person Marritt has found who spoke to the German  Carr talks to sketch artist and the police identify the German.  German once worked with a reclusive rich music lover.  Marritt is still at a loss and continues researching Beethoven.  Each musician must have been given their own part of a symphony and the German, who once led a Beethoven research library, must have an unknown 10th symphony.

Time passes. Married Marritt starts to dig single gal Carr.  Carr gets mail saying, "Go to Vienna".  Carr and Marritt go to Vienna.  Carr is whisked away to Salzburg.  Marritt is able to figure out where she went.  Carr arrives a remote and rural Salzburg mansion where she and 99 other young, talented musicians have gathered.  Rich Music Lover owns the mansion.  They are to practice and play the symphony under conduction of Rich Music Lover.  They are to be murdered en masse after the performance.  Marritt arrives and saves the day.

1.  Kinda fun but not a great book.
2.  No cell phones and internet to solve problems.
3.  Beaucoup Beethoven biography love.