Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Listened: "Midnight Rambler" by James Swain

Listened: Midnight Rambler by James Swain, 2007, Overdrive download.

I read a review when this come out and wanted to read the book I never got around to it. There are a lot of books like that.

Jack Carpenter is an asshole and disgraced police detective in south Florida.  He lost his job after a vicious beating on a suspected serial killer. His anger and crap attitude drove his wife away and he has few friends left in the police department.

The crook Carpenter clobbered killed a corps of cuties.  Carpenter specialized in missing persons cases and knew each of the Skells victims through work. Simon Skell was only convicted of one killing and the victim never found.  Six months after Skel's imprisonment that victim shows up buried in her sister's back yard. Buried with the woman is possible evidence the sister's pimp boyfriend killed her.  Skell is angling to be set free from prison.

Carpenter currently works as a private investigator and still helps police departments with missing persons cases.  Carpenter has been dragged over the coals by the media as a vicious, evil copper for beating Skell. Photographic evidence of Skell's injuries was splayed across the papers and TV and many people recognize him. A local radio host regularly features Carpenter as his kicking boy.

Carpenter gets involved in trying to find out who buried the victim. Carpenter drives around with his dog in Carpenter's car. (I wrote "Carpenter's car" just in case you thought the dog had a car.) An FBI agent comes and talks with Carpenter, they join forces. Carpenter is against a deadline of Skell being released. Carpenter uncovers a ring of pedophile and sex crime killers.  When one of Skell's surviving victims, who testified against Skell, is captured.Carpenter is under pressure to rescue her.

The pressure is on as Carpenter helps find a kidnapped child in Disney World, races from bad guy to bad guy trying to find the missing woman.

1. Gratuitous Colt 1908 love.
2. Gratuitously bad handgun shooting by Carpenter. The FBI Agent is disgusted with Carpenter's marksmanship.
3. I liked the book. Good thing it's a series.
4. Carpenter is driven to stop Skel and has let go of his manners, good taste, and consideration for others.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Quick: "The Rocketeer Deluxe: the complete adventures" by Dave Stevens

Quick: The Rocketeer Deluxe: the complete adventures by Dave Stevens, 2010, 97816001055371.

I found this one at Fitchburg PL in the YA Adult section along with that Sherlock Holmes vampire story. I greatly enjoyed the Rocketeer film version when it came out. I am surprised that flick was not more popular. I did not know the story started as a comic. What's more, the story started out as an illustration.

Stevens was asked if he could fill six pages in the back of another comic. He did up a full page illustration, sent the page in, the publisher said, "Great!" and Stevens had to create a story around the illustration.  The original comic seems to have certainly gained a lot of fans. Heck, there was enough demand to create this compilation and fill it with Stevens's original drawings so you can see the progression from rough sketches to final product.

Main character Cliff Secord is 28-years-old and working as a stunt pilot for an air show. A cops-and-robbers chase travels onto the airfield where Secord works. The crooks, thinking they've gotten away, escape to a hangar and stash a bundle in Secord's Bee Gee plan right before the cops nab the crooks. Secord recovers the bundle, unwraps it, and discovers a rocket pack and some paperwork. He calls his pal/mentor Peevy and asks Peevy to build him a helmet.

The rocket pack paperwork reveals the capabilities of the pack and show it is classified material.  But, Cliff sees the rocket pack as a chance to make a bunch of dough and he is not giving it back to the government. He wants to earn some money because he fears his girlfriend, Betty, will dump him for the Hollywood types she consorts with. Before he can test the rocket pack Cliff makes an emergency flight so he can save another pilot in peril.

Anyway. I could list the whole damn story or just say that Cliff gets in trouble with both Nazis and the Feds.  His Bettie Page styled girlfriend is kidnapped - even tied up like Page - and Cliff has to rescue her.

The film version did not stray too far from that story. But, this includes a follow-up story with Cliff following Betty to New York to stop her from traveling to Europe. Cliff gets involved with a Shadow-styled character and we learn more about Cliff's itinerant coming of age and life in the circus. Cliff fights gangsters, fights a goon, and meets up with a Mandrake the Magician type pal.

All great stuff with wonderful illustrations. Neat outfits, shapely women in tight outfits, action, clothes, rockets, guns, Nazis, weird planes.

1. I didn't know actor Thomas Jane is also a comic book writer. His foreword tells how he was such a huge fan of the Rocketeer as a teen that he bought jodhpurs, riding boots, and hunted down a brown leather jacket, but with "not as many buttons" as Cliff's. Jane "wore that damn outfit all the time."
2. Jane ended up being pals with Stevens. Stevens seems to have had a lot of artist admirers.
3. Bettie Page had retired in 1957 and says this comic's appearance in 1982 was what led to her reemergence. Stevens must have been a good dude because, unlike other people, he compensated her when using her image.
4. A bad guy is styled after Rondo Hatton - take a look, you'll recognize him.
5. I had a coffee table about airplane airplane history when I was a child and that book discussed the Bee Gee racing plane. I remember reading how it was very tough to fly and led to a few deaths. There is a Rocketeer fan page with a link to a YouTube video of the crash. That YouTubr video quality sucks and has an equally awful music track, these guys have the same thing.

Done: "Hard Bite: by Anonymous-9

Done: Hard Bite by Anonymous-9 (Elaine Ash), 2013, e-version sent by Blasted Heath when I signed up for their newsletter.

Dean Drayhart was left partially paralyzed and his daughter killed when they were struck by a hit-and-run driver outside Knott's Berry Farm.  Dean's wife left him when Dean became obsessed with trying to find the driver.  Dean now lives with his service monkey, Sid, and tracks down hit-and-run drivers in Los Angeles.  He has income from his excellent insurance policy, an annoying nurse who visits, and a hooker girlfriend (Dean's dick does dong).

Dean has full use of one arm and his other arm has a prosthetic. Wait, was one arm fully functional? Or did the unparalyzed arm have the prosthetic? No matter, Dean has to use a wheelchair and purchased Sid to help out. His old van is adapted to drive from his wheelchair - although he has no license - but requires Sid to do some of the shifting.

Dean scours the web for hit-and-run news and tries to track down drivers so he can kill them. He's trained Sid to climb people and chomp on their necks with his sharp death-monkey teeth. Dean also has Girlfriend helping him out.  Dean and Sid track down a driver who killed a father of four. Sid chomps the guy's neck. Dean goes to a car wash in a dangerous neighborhood so he can clean up Sid and Sid runs off. Dean wheels after Sid and finds a guy hanging a fighting dog to death. Sid attacks and the guy falls. The dogs attack the guy and chomp chomp chomp.

A LASD Detective gets both murder cases. The two cases make people think both deaths are due to dangerous dogs.  One of the dead men was living under an alias. The dead guy was the favored son of a drug dealing queen. Mom does not believe her son was killed by a dog attack. Things start to happen and Dean is in desperate drama.

Dean is tracked down by the bad guys. Dean escapes attempted murder because the Queen's surviving sons are incompetent. Dean, Sid, and Girlfriend take off. Dean cannot resist meeting a guy off Craigslist (Dean was pretending to be a writer talking to hit-and-run people).  Dean runs the guy off the road. Before guy dies he said he was faking it with Dean to get the honorarium Dean offered.  Dean feels guilty.  Dean has to go home. Dean confronted by Queen. Sid attacks Queen. Dean ends up confessing to the cops when they stumble upon each other. More violence. Sid and Girlfriend drive off into the night.

1. Was this a short novel of did I just read the e-version quickly?
2. A fun read and fast moving. Nice pacing with some sex included.

Read: "Easy Death" by Daniel Boyd

Read: Easy Death by Daniel Boyd, 2014, 9781857682579.

Another Hard Case Crime novel and better than the last couple Hard Case Crime entries I read.

December, 1951 armored car robbery in rural Ohio. Told from several points of view with some back on forth in the timeline. A fine, fine read.

Narration includes a one of the robbers, the organizer (a horrible man), a drunken helper, a down-on-his-luck helper, and a guy trying to track the crooks.

-Let the spoiling begin-

The robbery goes well with the armored car guards drawn out by a fake car crash. The crooks are dressed as cops and make their getaway as a heavy snowstorm starts flowing in. The crooks are on their way to cut through a state park when one crook is dropped off to steal a farm truck. The crooks figure the truck can make better progress through the deepening snow if they have to abandon the car. As the back-and-forth-in-time-tale is told we hear mostly hear from one crook, Eddie, and the cop, ForgotHisName. We later learn that the cop and crook are the same guy.

Eddie has trouble after trouble piled in front of him.   Eddie picked up the farm truck and is trying to catch up to the other crook, Walter.  Eddie stays in his cop uniform and ends up parked at the state park, and continuing his cop charade to get the local woman Park Ranger to use her Jeep.

Eddie and the Ranger get to a lookout tower where the gone insane Head Ranger starts shooting at them. Eddie sees Walter crashed at the bottom of a hill and has to figure a way to stop the shooter and recover the money and Walter.  He succeeds but Woman Ranger is shot and when Eddie gets to the hospital the cops spy the stolen cash which Eddie had to pile in the back of the truck.

The cops at the hospital grab the cash and the local hospital administrator raises a stink because Walter is black and the hospital does not treat "their kind".  When robbing the armored car Eddie threatened the armored car guards with retribution. At the hospital he has to do the same with another Doctor and also bluff his way as an FBI agent.

Meanwhile, minor men characters meander meaningfully and threaten to thwart the thieving.

1. I could go back and over alliterate the rest of this. But, I think I've done enough already.
2. Crider wrote that he knows Boyd - a pen name - and Boyd will sometimes comment on Crider's blog.
3. Great use of the snow and storm.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Quick: "Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London" by Sylvain Cordurie and Lacoi

Quick: Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London by Sylvain Cordurie and Lacoi, 2014, 9781616552664.

My wife's library had a Christmas party. The boys wanted to look at books so we went early and I looked at the YA section's comic book novel collection. I grabbed this one, another comic book novel, and picked up a Hard Case Crime book from the new section.

This was fun but really suffers from it's small size. I really liked the illustrations but the dang images were too small, they deserve a bigger format.

Holmes has survived his fight with Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls and a month later is living under an assumed name in Paris.  Holmes is meeting Mycroft for dinner and they head back to Holmes's rented rooms. They find Holmes's landlady dead and Sherlock and Mycroft are attacked by vampires. Before the attack one of the vampirea announces their master wants Sherlock. Mycroft returns to London and Sherlock starts researching vampire history

Holmes figures the vampires will try again. They do. A vampire who looks exactly like the dead Irene Adler walks by and Holmes follows. Holmes follows her to a mansion, gets in some brief vampiric fisticuffs, a vampire burns after biting the holy-water-drinking-Holmes, Pseudo-Adler calls the other vampires off and says they will meet the Master vampire.

Holmes and Adler travel to London and meet the cruel Master. There is a rogue vampire out for revenge on the Master. Rogue's revenge involves the gratuitous public murder of wealthy Englishmen tied to the Queen. Rogue Vampire intends to disrupt the negotiated balance between Master Vampire and Queen Victoria. Master Vampires compels Holmes to search for the Rogue by threatening Watson and Watson's wife.

Holmes starts looking but plans his own counterattack upon the Master.  Holmes stalls a bit. Holmes studies the blood left behind by Rogue vampire. Holmes finds Rogue and they team up to destroy the Master.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gave Up: "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" by Marisha Pessl.

Gave Up: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, 2006, audio download.

The blurb on Overdrive says, "Pessl's dazzling debut sparked raves from critics and heralded the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction." Well, sure, if you like books that go on forever and nothing much happens. (Another reminder of the Del Amitri tune.)

College student, Blue, gets call from high school classmate that sparks Blue to write about her senior year in high school. Blue styles the work much like an essay by including notes on sources and referenced photos.  Blue was seven-years-old when she and her Professor father started an itinerant lifestyle and would move every semester as Professor Dad took a new visiting job at another mid- to lower-tier university. They spent ten years traveling across the country with didactic dad delivering lectures.

Blue would rarely fit in at each new school and her big brains and intelligence were often taken advantage of by fellow students. Professor Dad would have new girlfriends every 4-8 weeks. On the approach of Blue's senior year Professor Dad announces he has taken a year-long job in North Carolina and that Blue can spend a full school year in one location in preparation for her expected admission to Harvard.

Through the benevolence of  a secretive film studies teacher Blue makes friends with the in-crowd. Secretive Film Studies Teacher hosts those students each Sunday at dinnertime. Blue hangs out with a couple other girls. Goes with girls to a bar that serves to underage people. Those girls pick up random dudes for sex in the women's restroom. Bizarre behavior. Blue then goes with other two girls to stake-out Secretive Film Studies Teacher who picks up old men at a remote Perkins/Big Boy/Shoney's/Whatever takes them back to a No Tell Motel, kicks the guy out after sex, and spends the night alone.

Nothing much happens. I quit about halfway through.  Lots of teenage worries: studies, fitting in at school, unrequited lust, discomfort, why do adults act that way?, so on, so forth. The only thing that happens was about halfway through when a drunk falls into a pool and drowns.

EDIT: I gotta say this was disappointing because Pessl's Night Film was so damn good. I'll try her new stuff out because of Night Film.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Stopped: "The Fever" by Megan Abbott

Stopped: The Fever by Megan Abbott, 2014, download.

I did not like the narrator. I stopped listening after two minutes.

I prefer to read Abbott's work anyway. I'll get to the print version later on, I have a stack of things at home.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Heard: "Devil May Care" by Sebastian Faulks

Heard: Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks, 2008, Overdrive download.

Narrated by the sublime John Lee. Set in 1967. Bond has finished convalescing after injury in a previous novel. Bond spent time playing tennis and traveling but is now ready to return to duty.  M sends Bond to investigate a drug company founder, Dr. Julius Gorner.  Gorner is suspected of smuggling heroin.

Bond goes to Paris where he and Gorner play tennis at and place high bets on their match Gorner cheats during the match, of course. Bond wins the match anyway, of course.  Bond also meets a seductive woman, of course. 

Gorner is both a former German and Russian soldier who switched sides during the war. Gorner's humiliating experience as a post-war student at Oxford leaves him hating the English so much that he is planning England's downfall. 

Gorner also has a bizarre deformity. The deformity is a hairy left hand described by M as main de singe, monkey's paw. Gorner's murderous sidekick is Chagrin, a Vietnamese man who fought against the French with the Viet Min and had a penchant for killing nuns.
Things happen. The seductive woman asks for Bond's help to rescue her sister who is under Gorner's employ and slave to Gorner after he hooked her on heroin.  Bond follows Gorner to Iran and discovers a huge float plane intended to skim the water and avoid radar. Bond is caught by Gorner and taken to Gorner's desert drug plant. Bond is sent into the desert in a try to kill him. Bond escapes death but taken back to Gorner's lair and told of Gorner's plan to attack Russia with a nuclear bomb and blame the English.

Bond wins out, of course.

1.  A fun listen. Nothing spectacular. I think I have read only one Fleming novel so I'm not sure how many of the standard character traits and plot points are from the books or the movies.  Car chases, beautiful women, torture, etc.
2. One character is a gay CIA agent blackmailed into working for Gorner. Or, was it the KGB? I don't recall. I thought that was a nice 1960s touch.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Final: "Stolen Souls" by Stuart Neville

Final: Stolen Souls by Stuart Neville, 2011, 9781569479834.

This showed up on my desk. I don't recall reserving it but there it was just the same. Third novel with Northern Ireland Detective Inspector Jack Lennon.

Recap: In the previous novels we learned that Lennon is a real shit. He got his Catholic girlfriend pregnant and dumped her. She lost her family by dating a government cop, fled to England and returned with a six-year-old daughter. Lennon did not much care. He ran up debt, drove an Audi and had free sex with prostitutes. When the former girldfriend died Lennon took his daughter in.

Current: Lennon works long hours and has been working to develop a relationship with his daughter while keeping the girl's crooked and IRA member family at arm's length. Lennon's daughter spends a lot of time with Lennon's neighbor and her daughter. Lennon and neighbor have a stop-and-start relationship that has not really started. Nascent is a good word for it.

Galya is a Ukrainian 18-year-old smuggled into Ireland on a Latvian EU passport and sent to work at a mushroom farm. Pretty young Galya is purchased from the people smuggling crooks by prostitution crooks. Galya kept in a locked room and stabs to death the crook who comes to rape her. Two other crooks wrap up the dead man and take the body and Galya to throw in the river.

More things happen with Galya escaping at the docks and Lennon called to the crime scene on Christmas Eve. The novel skips along with murder, torture, kidnapping, threatening, lots of cocaine, car crashes, child abuse, and generally weaselly behavior.

Heard, Listened, Read: "The Outpost" by Jake Tapper

Heard, Listened, Read:The Outpost: an untold story of American valor by Jake Tapper, 2012, 9780316185394.

I was listening to this on my Overdrive app and the damn title expired. I put it on hold, waited a while, and got the title back. Then the damn thing expired again. I reserved the book and read the last 80 pages or so.

Over 600 pages long. Tapper covers the foolhardy establishment of Camp Kamdesh in 2006 to it's renaming as Combat Outpost Keating, and the massive Taliban attack on Keating in October, 2009.

Tapper's Epilogue includes this sentence, "I did not write this book to convey lessons to be learned, I wrote it so that you as a reader (and I as a reporter) might better understand what it is that our troops go through, why they go through it, and their experience has been like in Afghanistan." Service members will have their own views on Tapper's success but I think he did a very good job.

By necessity Tapper has to cover larger issues because those topics effected the units that served at Keating. The lack of manpower and helicopters in Afghanistan. Poor planning and unrealistic expectations from the White House and Pentagon. But, Tapper focuses on the men who lived and fought at Keating and the surrounding bases and he interviewed over 200 servicemen and family members.

Here is the short form: The Army wanted to expand operations with a base in Nuristan Province. The spot they found was at the base of three mountains and bordered by two rivers and a dirt road. For three years the Army tried to form relationships with the small villages in the area. They tried to build a road to Keating but were constantly ambushed. The road effort was stopped and they had to rely on (too few) helicopters to move people and supplies to the base. Pretty soon the helicopter pilots refused to fly to Keating during the day because they had to pass below insurgents on the mountains and were sitting ducks on the landing zone. Heck, the landing zone was already a dangerous area to land in because of obstacles.  One soldier described Keating as being at the base of Dixie cup with enemy all around the rim.  The Army decided to abandon the base in 2009 and the Taliban organized an attack using several hundred fighters against 40 or so soldiers at Keating.The enemy attacked before the base was abandoned and eight soldiers were killed with 27 wounded.

So many parallels to Vietnam and other guerrilla wars.  Army units stuck in isolated bases trying to make friends with the locals. The enemy are already the friends, neighbors, and relatives of the locals.  The enemy are willing to murder locals who assist the US units.  Soldiers and Marines who spend 6-15 months there and then go home. The new Soldiers and Marines have to learn everything over again. The locals take advantage of the changes in command by saying "we were promised a bridge...a school...a well...a road" and asking for cash payoffs to ensure local security. Local troops with little motivation to fight and resistance to training. Enemy that slip back and forth over a national border with refuge in the neighboring territory.

The location was always awful and everyone knew it. The location was supposed to be temporary.
Soldiers could not go anywhere without getting shot at. The roads were crap and vehicles larger than Humvees would not physically fit and heavier vehicles would collapse the road's edges and slide downhill.  Helicopter resupply was tough because there were not enough helicopters and the insurgents would shoot at them.

Different Army units had different philosophies on how to fight the war. Some would be super aggressive and search the towns for enemy. Others would work to establish a local council of elders to start relationships through personal interaction and money.  Construction projects were a source of cash in a dirt poor area and the Army officers would withhold payment if the enemy attacked - they expected the locals to help keep the bad guys away.

"War on the cheap." Everything went to Iraq. I agree with one soldier's comments that you could argue about the legitimacy of invading Iraq but that Afghanistan was a valid war meant to go after Al Queda and Bin Laden. But, all the men and helicopters went to Iraq. One guy took over an outpost with less men then the unit before and his unit was still listed as "overstrength". When asking the administration to increase the number of troops - they needed 30,000 more - the response was to ask NATO allies to send more people. The allies were much more pragmatic and recognized that the current situation was fucked up.

Who was right, who was wrong? Who planned well, who fucked up? Tapper seems to do well showing different views of what happened for the time the Outpost was there. The tactics of local commanders to sway the local Afghans, ideas on how to fight and where to fight. How Army units differed in temperament and philosophy. Each new unit wanted to do things their way. Each new unit was dedicated to the work but, heck, they were there for a such a relatively short time, however much they accomplished could be abandoned by the next unit that wanted to do things a different way.

Heck, I'm sitting at home, staring at a screen, petting the dog and my children are safe in their bedrooms. I wasn't there. I can pontificate about plenty of things but I'll stop here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Heard: "Little Green" by Walter Mosly

Heard: Little Green, by Walter Mosly, 2013, Overdrive download.

Narrated by Michael Boatman. Boatman did very well as narrator. He's no John Lee, of course. But, John Lee is a narration God. Lee is to narration as Bill Crider is to blogs. I would be listening along to this novel and recall Boatman's work on Spin City and think of his vain, fastidious character, Carter Heywood. Heywood and Easy Rawlins are very different.

It's 1967 and Easy Rawlins wakes from a series of bad dreams. He's bedridden after a horrendous car wreck on the Pacific Coast Highway. Easy was thrown from his car which then rolled downhill into the ocean. Cops at the scene figured Rawlins was washed out with the tide. But, Easy's homicidal pal Mouse speaks to a witchy-woman who says Easy is alive. Mouse went to the scene, found Easy concealed by thick bushes, and brought him home to recuperate.

Easy feels like a dead man brought back to life and that thought is constantly in his mind throughout the novel. After a month or so of almost-coma his body is creaky and he has little energy. He drinks some mysterious made "Tiger Blood" concoction by Witchy-Woman that gives him bursts of energy before he crashes deep.

Easy says over and over in his narration, and aloud to other characters, that he is like a shark and needs to keep moving forward or he will die. Mouse recognizes this. Mouse asks Easy to help find a missing young man, Evander (Little Green), whose mother is very worried about Evander.  There is a weird unknown relationship between Mouse and the boy's mother (Mouse murdered the man's pimp father and the mom holds a grudge).  Easy takes the job. Easy starts to look for bookish, mama's boy Little who was last heard of when saying he was going to a club with a hippie chick.

Easy starts walking the streets and everything seems changed. Hippies, open drug use, and easy sex  surprise him. He was asleep in the staid '60s and awoke to the counter culture '60s. Easy discovers Evander is linked to a lot of cash and a lot of blood. Evander took acid and awoke with a half million bucks in cash. Easy starts to pull the strings apart to get to the center.

1. Recurring theme: Black man's anger at being treated like crap. Easy sometimes puts up with it, Easy sometimes doesn't put up with it. Easy is almost always on guard.
2. Violence is expected in Easy's life. He runs in rough circles both professionally and socially.
3. Mouse is Easy's best friend but Mouse will still kill Easy if he needs to. Mouse murdered his own father and his honorary father. Mouse has killed so many people he could not name them all. Evander learns Mouse killed Evander's father and Evander figures, "Well, I have to take revenge and kill Mouse."  Mouse is fine with this, to him that's the way to world works and if Mouse has to shoot down an 18-year-old then so be it.  At one point Easy mentions to Evander's mother how he knows she did not witness Big Green's murder because Mouse would have murdered all witnesses.
4. It's been awhile since I read a Easy Rawlins novel and I recall how Easy was always a little uneasy when around Mouse. Easy can be a hardass and won't back down to most people but he knows to be careful around a sociopath. This novel has Easy with a more relaxed behavior with Mouse. He knows to be careful - he won't mention huge sums of money with Mouse - but Mouse is not the dark shadow of death I recall from before.
5. Ever read that short story by Mosly, Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large: Walking the Line? That was outstanding.

Picked: "Killer Kane" by Andrew R. Finlayson

Picked: Killer Kane: a Marine long-range recon team leader in Vietnam, 1967-1968 by Andrew R. Finlayson, 2013, 9780786477012.

What?! McFarland published a military nonfic book? Unthinkable!

I'm still trying to read through the piles of unread material I own but grabbed a few library books before our circ system was down for a few days. I recently bought a couple Vietnam memoirs and this is one, I'm not sure what the other one was.

Finlayyson graduated from t3h Naval Academy in '66 or '67, took a commission with the Marine Corps, went to Vietnam in '67and was a gung-ho commie killer. Finlayson's dedication to attacking the enemy scared his men and worried his superiors. But, his men had faith in Finlayson because he was a thorough officer who prepared his men, cared for his men, and properly planned his missions.

Finlayson is --- on his dedication to fighting communism. He was - and seemingly still is - a true believer. The kind of lifer mocked in other military memoirs. But, the guy did the work. He  took combat assignments for his full tour, not the six month ticket punch done by many officers looking to get a combat mark on their resume, and voluntarily returned early to Vietnam for his second tour.

Finlayson excelled in his training courses after graduation and on arrival in Vietnam was assigned to a reconnaissance company. The recon companies were elite units and assigning a fresh Lieutenant life FInlayson was a surprise. Finlayson was sent to the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company because they needed a guy with parachute qualifications.  Finlayson went on three "snap in" patrols as an observer and made sure to learn all he could from his fellow officers and the senior non-commissioned officers (SNCOs).

Most patrols would last from 3-5 days as the Marines explored enemy territory. Their tactics were the same as the previous Vietnam recon book I read, Death in the A Shau Valley. Patrols would insert via helicopter and sloooooowly move along. Some days they would travel only 300 yards through the thick jungle.  They were so outnumbered they had to be absolutely quiet. Patrols were supposed to observe and record enemy movements and radio in artillery and air strikes.  But, Finlayson's aggressive desire to kill the enemy had him setting small arms ambushes on small groups - usually three or less - of enemy soldiers.

These gunfights were a problem because the Marines were too few in number to be heavily armed. Each man would bring 300-400 rounds per rifle but could quickly shoot a lot of that off. If they got in a gunfight they would bang away as much as possible to beat back the enemy and their ammo could be quickly used up.  Sometimes they only brought rifles, no machine gun.  They needed to shoot, shoot, shoot and run to a helicopter landing zone for pick-up. Enemy troops would have to cautiously pursue because the patrols would call in airstrikes and artillery attacks and the jungle was so thick that rushing forward would put the enemy right into the Marines' muzzles.

Finlayson's time in Vietnam did not bring in much outside news. They had little access to U.S. papers and magazines and Finlayson was surprised that Americans objected to the war. The actions angered him at times , especially once he returned to the States. His assignment to the Marine Corps Barracks in D.C. - a very prestigious posting - had him dealing with politicians and bureaucrats on both sides of the issue. He experience the D.C. riots after MLK's murder. He worked close to the Johnson administration as an aide to the White House's events coordinator. He got into a slight argument with his sister's anti-war high school teacher when presenting to her history class. He was upset he did not get the homecoming greeting he saw World War and Korean veterans receive when he was child.

Finlayson's view of the war was all from the military side - his unit and others were attacking and killing the enemy. He saw the Tet Offensive as a massive failure by the NVA and VC. [I'll agree with shooting side of that opinion. The North's idea that the South's civilians would rise up was a failure. The North targeted plenty of civilians for murder. The NVA did not hold onto any land or landmarks.]

Finlayson remained a hard core Marine and when receiving a letter than some men from his former unit were injured in combat he felt great guilt and requested an early return to Vietnam. This led to a break-up with his girlfriend and major tension and worry for his parents.

1. Finlayson's academic pursuit of war, tactics and history makes me want to give comparison's to the current war Afghanistan and the Iraq War. I'll skip that except to say what other people have said, "The same mistakes over and over."
 2. Hearing the details of the patrols was interesting. I'd have no clue how to successfully join a patrol like that. It seems easy on the surface with a basic rule of "make no noise and move slowly" but I know there are hundreds of little details I do not know about.
3. Finlayson knew and spoke with plenty of people who supported the war. He argued that the press did not give an accurate representation of what happened there, that the press was looking for color, scoops, and always had an angle. That the press stayed in the cities and sent Taiwanese camera out to collect footage. That the press hung out at bars and spoke to desk bound staff officers.  I've read mostly good things about John Paul Vann but Vann was a malcontent who, like others, "harbored a grudge against the South Vietnamese or the U.S. government."
4. Finlayson refers several times to his second tour - with an infantry company, I think - and how that experience really changed his thinking on how to run the war. But, as he wrote, that's for another book.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Short: "Fatale" by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Short: Fatale by Jean-Patrick manchette, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith, 1977 French, 2011 translation for 9781590173817.

A week ago at WLA someone asked if I was still doing video book talks and posting them online. I've slacked off for several reasons but I will occasionally read something and think how it would be a great piece to read aloud. Fatale is only 91 pages long and the first chapter, at two pages, would be ideal to read aloud for a video.

I ordered this for work after a blurb by Unshelved. Aimee is a French woman, in her thirties, thin and fit, who travels the country finding work as a killer. She'll move to a town, insinuate herself into the lives of the local upper class and pay attention. After a time she'll have identified the schisms, the jealousies, the money troubles, the infidelities and make an offer to make a killing.

Aimee hates "the real assholes" in life and seems to enjoy killing them. She killed her abusive husband and got away with claiming he stabbed himself by accident. Now she travels to Bleville on the West coast and meets the local bigwigs. She plays bridge. She goes to parties. She watches the married couples. She sees who fights. Who plays politics. She identifies a man who others would pay to kill. Many people take up her offer, not knowing the others are paying her for the same thing.

The killing does not go well. Aimee loses her interest but succeeds as the victim bleeds out. She tries to turn herself in and make sure the moneyed people get busted. But, the cop is a stooge for the rich and Aimee is taken to a remote meeting. Bad idea because Aimee makes things very bloody.

Quick and dark. Manchette translated American crime novels and those included work by Westlake. This has stark Stark feel with Aimee a matter-of-fact killer.

Finished: "Supreme Justice" by Max Allan Collins

Finished: Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins, 2014, 9781612185309.

This is not Nate Heller solving the JFK murder. I kept thinking thatwais the book I took home. Nope. Not this one. The covers are not similar so I'm not sure how I got them screwed up.

I did tear through this book though. I was at work and would plan for getting home so I could grab the book and read.

Former Secret Service Agent Joseph Reeder became famous by jumping in front of an assassin's gunfire to save a President. Reeder's injury led him to a desk job and then a disability retirement. While retiring the left-wing Reeder mentioned how he hated the right-wing President he saved. Reeder became a pariah among his former colleagues and other federal law enforcement types.

Set in about 2025 (You can figure it out from Reeder's age and reference to his birth date but I do not recall the exact year) and the country has taken a hard, legal turn to the right. The 4th Adendment has been gutted and abortion is outlawed. There is a strong conservative block on the Supreme Court and those Justices want to change laws.

Reeder starts a successful security business after his retirement. A Supreme Court Justice is murdered in a D.C. restaurant where Reeder's company installed and services security cameras. A FBI pal of Reeder's asks him to look at the security tape of the killing because Reeder is also an "kinesics" expert; he is a body language and facial expressions expert and can see things other people miss.  Reeder sees that what appeared as a robbery was an assassination of the Justice

Reeder is asked to join the new task force to find the Justice's killers. Reeder joins. Then a second Justice is murdered. Both Justices are on the far right wing of the Court. Uh-oh.  Trouble is brewing. Reeder is partnered with an FBI Agent and they look for the street level crooks who seem responsible for the first murder.

Things happen. Reeder's daughter is dating a doofus.  Reeder and FBI pal have long history and FBI pal lost his daughter to a botched, illegal abortion. Reeder may be overreacting after years away from field work and is antsy-pantsy from being shot. There seems to be way too much knowledge by the killers about police investigations. The killings are way too complex and well planned to be one person. There is a conspiracy in place to change the make-up of the Court.

1. A fast moving and quick read
2. I thought Collins co-write this with his frequent Iowa collaborator, Matthew Clemens. Guess not. Collins's acknowledgments thank Clemens for all research.3. Politics. Collins mentioned on his blog how Amazon reviewers would take a political side and crap on the novel. Lefties would complain that is is a Righty novel. Righties would complain the opposite. Well, Reeder is a leftie but the novel sits in the middle. Either side may align with the view they want. Or, they can complain.
4. My complaint is that the climax was a little of a let down. I enjoy conspiracy novels but have come to expect shadowy people in high places who then - usually - get their come-uppance. The conspiracy here is personal. There is not big money push or political maneuvering by government weasels like in other conspiracy novels.
5. No matter, the book is well worth your time.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Done: "Black Hills" by Dan Simmons

Done: Black Hills by Dan Simmons, 2010, 9780316006989.

Not sure where this came from but according to the front cover it cost $1.00. A fairly decent book but not as great as Drood and The Terror, Darwin's Blade kinda sucked. But, for Drood and Terror I listened to the John Lee narrated versions.  John Lee is a narration god.

Simmons uses plenty of Lakota/Sioux words. I won't try to find the correct words or spelling in my comments.

Paha Sapa is ten years old at the Battle of Little Big Horn/Battle of the Greasy Grass.  Paha Sapa is not warrior in training. His Lakota grandfather, Limps-a-lot, is a "medicine man". But that is a weak description for someone who carries tribal history and myth, knows sacred ceremonies, provides counsel, occasionally has visions, etc. Paha Sapa himself has already had visions. He knows to be careful about touching people because their memories and futures can jump into Paha Sapa with skin-to-skin contact.

 Paha Sapa goes to the battlefield because he does not want to be left behind by the other boys. Galloping into the action he decides to count coup by touching an enemy. Paha Sapa touches Custer. Custer's spirit inhabits Paha Sapas head. Custer won't shut up but Paha Sapa doesn't speak English anyway.

We follow Paha through his life. The destruction of his lodge of families. Capture by the 7th Cavalry. Life on his own. Taken in by a tent housed Catholic School. Work as a cowboy - he's not good at it. Work as Indian with Buffalo Bill Cody's traveling show. Meeting his half-Lakota wife. Caring for his son after wife's death in childbirth.

The meat of the story is what will Paha Sapa do to protect the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota? He has been working for sculptor Gutzon Borglum's Mt. Rushmore project for several years as a demolition man, cutting into the granite of a sacred mountain to build Mt. Rushmore. Paha Sapa has always been a thinker. He's a brave man but not a warrior. His vision during his isolated manhood ceremony as a ten-year-old showed the white people's destruction of the Black Hills. He wonders how he can stop an unstoppable force.

Lots of things happen. Simmons gives a tour of 1880s Indian life and the wars across Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and the rest. A visit to the Chicago Exposition of 1893. Mining and blasting the granite cliffs of Rushmore. Paha's sadness at his failures in life.  Paha's sadness at his wife's death. Paha's sadness at his beloved son's death. Paha spending a good portion of life alone.

1. Simmons gives both sides of the Indian Wars by using Custer's monologues inside Paha's head and Custer and Paha's discussion over time (after Paha learns English). Custer can see through Paha's eyes but will spend years in silence after arguments with Paha.
2. Competing tribes competing by killing each other.
3. I had to look up the song Garry Owen after a few references. You'll recognize the tune if not the name.

Heard: "Watchman" by Ian Rankin

Heard: Watchman by Ian Rankin, 1988 (2007 audio). Overdrive download.

Narrated by the great John Lee. I've not read or heard many Rankin novels. I likely chose this one after searching for Lee narrations.

Miles Flint is a low level spy for Britain's domestic spy agency, MI5. Miles is a "watchman", a surveillance specialist. He enjoys his job and considers himself an expert. He has no interest in moving to another department or taking promotion.

Miles is married with a college student son.  His job requires secrecy and his specialty prizes invisibility. He's taken those behaviors into his personal life and his quiet behavior has been driving his wife away. Miles has started to avoid going home at night. "I have paperwork to do. I should assist this surveillance team. I need to spend time on this report." Miles loves beetles. Miles wonders what kind of beetle each colleagues and friend would be.

One night Miles helps out a team tracking a suspected Arab assassin. Miles takes the point and follows the Arab into a hotel bar. Miles sits near the Arab as the Arab and another man discuss business issues. Miles is very relaxed, the neighboring conversation sounds innocent, this operation is a bust. A prostitute then sits at Miles's table and chats him up.  Miles banters with her. The Arab goes to the toilet. A second man leaves the toilet wearing the Arab's clothes. Shit.  A couple hours later an Israeli arms dealer is murdered.

Shit hits the fan for Miles and MI5. The men in the surveillance unit are under scrutiny and staked out in the sun by their commander. But, Miles recalls the Arab looking back at Miles as the Arab left for the toilet. Miles recalls a sly smile as the prostitute spoke to Miles. Someone tipped off the assassin.

Meanwhile, Miles wife has been having a (so far) chaste affair with Miles's long-term colleague, I-Forget-His-Name.  Miles finds out. Miles moves out. Miles is not an investigator. Miles starts wondering if a mole in MI5 tipped the Arab. Why were some people on his team kept and others canned? What's going on? Miles thinks of beetles. Miles approaches the home of a suspected Provisional IRA unit and is caught as a suspected prowler.

Miles is sent to Northern Ireland with a "Take this job or you're cashiered after your two fuck-ups." Miles joins some secret Army or RUC killers. Miles and killers raid a Provisional-owned business. Killers are there to kill Irish. Killers are also there to kill Miles. Miles escapes with a IRA man. Miles and IRA Man make fragile truce. IRA Man connected to the English mess. Miles starts putting things together with the help of IRA Man and interrogation of I-Forget-His-Name.

1. Spy novel. I liked it. Hard to not like anything narrated by John Lee.
2. Brief introduction by Rankin on this reprint. This was his second novel and he thought he really jumped around and went back and forth with different scenes.
3. Boredom of surveillance. Miles makes a drastic change from passive watcher to active vengeance.
4. Miles finds out he is not as good a surveillance man as he thought.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Done: "Eight Black Horses" by Ed McBain

Done: Eight Black Horses by Ed McBain, 1985, 0877956812.

An 87th Precinct novel. This one has the Deaf Man.  Another copy from the stuff I own.

Just today I checked out a copy of this book to a lady who asks me for recommendations for her husband.  Her husband reads A LOT but I have never met the guy.  She comes in and gets all the books and I've recommended several authors.

What a great first chapter.  Carella and Brown are in a Isola CIty park where a naked dead woman was left. They are waiting for the medical examiner as the homicide dolts - er, Homicide Detectives - make wise cracks about the corpse's ass. McBain has the sparse sentences on the men and uprigth observations about the weather and sky.

Anyway. The city park across the street from the 87th Precinct. The Deaf Man starts sending Carella letters with photocopied images on white paper. The letters start in October and you soon figure out that each letter - police uniform hats, black horses, handcuffs, etc. - are intended as a 12 Days of Christmas.  The Deaf Man has something big planned and once again he is taunting the Detectives with vague clues. This time the Deaf Man is after money and revenge. Money from a cash robbery at a major department store and revenge against the detectives who have foiled and shot him in previous novels.

Carella is the primary Detective and he and the others are left scratching their heads. DO they try and play along with the Deaf Man's game of vague clues? Is doing so worth the effort and time? Carella catches a break when the Deaf Man impersonates Carella, beds a bar hopper, and leaves the woman.  The woman tracks down the real Carella demanding more sex and abuse. (The Deaf Man is very controlling.)  Bar Hopper is the only one who has seen the Deaf Man enough to describe him and help the 87th to find him. But, she is also enamored with the Deaf Man, lets him inside her apartment, says she already spoke to the real Carella, and is killed for her foolishness.

The Deaf Man is incredibly ruthless and kills without regrets.  Don't read the book if you are a horse lover. The Deaf Man's cash robbery goes awry and one of the dopey Detectives discovers the Deaf Man's time bomb set within the precinct house. Deaf Man walks away and the Detectives breathe sigh of relief.

1. No Fat Ollie Weeks. What is Weeks's first 87th appearance? I suppose I could look that up.
2. Are they any 87th Precinct novels longer than 250 pages? McBain is so concise he only needs about 200 pages anyway.
3. Fat Ollie Weeks's "novel" only ran about 30 pages or so, didn't it?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Found: "Rogue Officer" by Garry Douglas Kilworth

Found: Rogue Officer by Garry Douglas Kilworth, 2007, 9780727865359.

I've cut back on borrowing from the library so I can read through some of the books I own. Most of my owned items are either fairly old - from college days - or withdrawn books bought from library sales. Rogue Officer is a withdrawn book. I'm not sure when I weeded this from the library's collection but must have done so within the past three years or so.

Kilworth's Fancy Jack Crossman series is one of those English series that enjoy intermittent U.S. publication.  Kilworth has done eight novels in the series but only three or four seem to have U.S. publication.  These are Richard Sharpe type novels, military adventures following a commando-type character through different battles and wars.  Most Sharpe novels focused on the Napoleonic wars, Crossman focuses on Crimea and India.

Rogue Officer picks up about halfway through the Sepoy Mutiny (or Indian Rebellion depending on your historical viewpoint) of 1857. An explanation in case you've forgotten the story: the British East India Company ruled India and ran their own army. The Company did not treat the Indians well and never saw the signs of brewing rebellion. One point of contention was that the Company wanted the Indian soldiers to serve overseas. The rumor that new rifle cartridges were coated in either pig or cow fat (Muslim and Hindu worries) was the last straw. (The cartridges were wrapped paper with powder and ball inside, the ends had to be bitten off to pour the contents down the muzzle. Both Hindus and Muslims were revolted at the need to put the fat in their mouths.) The rebels were vicious and murdered their British officers, wives, and children. The British counter-attack was equally vicious with military aged men shot down and some rebels tied to cannon muzzles and shot away.

Crossman serves in the British Army, the Irish Connaught Rangers, but has been detached to a military intelligence officer since the Crimean War.  Crossman has been challenged to a duel by a particularly nasty and fearless cavalry officer, Deighnton. Crossman's pistol shot misses and the Deighnton's pistol misfires so the duel is declared over. Deighnton is not pleased. Crossman does not understand the man's animosity but cannot turn down a duel, even though most everyone realizes how stupid duels are, or he will be an outcast.

The novel goes from there with Crossman and his three man unit traveling rural India as spies.  Joining different marches to track down rebel armies.  Crossman getting captured by runaway rebels.  Deighnton plotting against Crossman by accusing Crossman of desertion during Crossman's captivity.  Crossman's sometimes peculiar men. The culture clash between Indian and British, British class clashes, shifting Indian loyalties, horse lovers versus "it's just thing to ride".

1. I read Winter Soldiers back in 2007. The novels are done as linked stories. Kind of like a personal campaign history with a overarching plot thread from beginning to end. This one has Crossman taking various assignments with Deighnton and Deighnton's influence coming and going to influence the story.
2. A good book. At times Crossman thinks back to previous events that, I presume, were in other novels. But, you don't need to know those other things to enjoy the story.
3. The latest Crossman novel is Kiwi Wars with a 2008 pub date in the States.  The library bought it in 2009 and it has only circ'ed three times and the last checkout was January, 2010. I should probably weed it, shelving space is tight in Fiction.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Done: "Big Black Maria" by Johnny Shaw

Done: Big Black Maria by Johnny Shaw, 2012, 9781612184395.

Possible taglines:
The Three Stooges Go Mining.
Three idiots, two burros, and one really angry woman.
Desert living: a guide to failure.
1,000 Ways to Screw Up in the West.
Three Important Reasons to Stay in School
"Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, Son."

This is quite good. Good enough to suffer under my subconscious desire for the book to continue, which means I would not read the book. Why read the novel when it'll end?

Ricky lives in the desert of Southern California and drives elderly men and women to Mexico to fill drug prescriptions. Ricky's 1977 school is bus is almost dead Ricky is just getting by.  Ricky's trailer park neighbor is Harry "Shitburger" Schmittberger. Harry is a drunk on medical leave from his corrections officer job at the nearby state prison. Harry is short, fat, and ugly. Harry also has body order, pukes on himself and has bad manners. Frank is an elderly Indian who travels on Ricky's bus, has two perpetually stoned, marijuana growing grandsons and a daughter with a bizarrely vicious temper.

One night Harry hears a drunken rant about gold in the Chocolate Mountains.  Harry pays Ricky $20 to use Ricky's computer and do some research. Ricky is headed South avoids a road obstacle and crashes his bus. The crash kills a few passengers and leaves muscular Ricky with a withered left arms.  Cancer stricken Frank is banged up in the wreck and visits Ricky in the hospital, they get friendly. Frank talks about his grandfather who worked a gold mine in the Chocolate Mountains. The mine manager went loopy and killed all his employees but the grandfather. The grandfather killed the mine manager and buried him in the manager's home. Harry hears and gets gold fever.

Things happen. The three men click and become fast friends.  Ricky is guilt stricken and boozing. Frank is having cancer treatment. Harry has Frank break Harry's leg so Harry can stay out of work.  Harry talks the other two into hunting for gold. The mine manager's town is now on the lake bed of a reservoir. The trio get a boat and Ricky dives down. The recovered maps and notes show where the lost mine is. The lost mine is in a military gunnery range. Meanwhile, Frank's perpetually angry daughter goes looking for Frank and brings her stoner sons along.

More things happen. People die suddenly. The reader has many laughs.  The characters can be maudlin and depressed at times. Twists are twisty. Turns are sharp. You'll enjoy the book.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Heard: "Way of a Wanton" by Richard S. Prather

Heard: Way of a Wanton by Richard S. Prather, 1952, download production by Books In Motion in 2012.

I read a Hard Case Crime reprint of Prather's The Peddler. I was reluctant to try a Scott novel because I already knew there are a ton of them and I hate to jump into the middle of the series. The cover artwork stinks, too.

Fifth novel in the series. Hollywood, CA based P.I. Scott is invited one evening to a small party by Scott's movie industry pal. The small party is for the cast and crew of a low budget jungle flick.  There are big busted babes, a producer or two, a muscled-up lead actor, and Shell.  This is supposed to be a pool party so one busty and fun-filled gal strips her top off and jumps into the pool. Busty-babe bursts the bawdy boozed up bash by bemoaning the body on the pool's bottom.

Shell dives in to investigate, he is an investigator after all.  Shell finds a strangled woman weighed down in the water.  Shell wants to call the cops. The rest if the party goers say no way. Shell even slugs the muscle-up actor who tries to stop Shell.  The cops arrive. Shell takes an actress back to his place. Shell gets the actress on his bed when the phone rings. The guy on the line is the film's main backer and offers Shell big bucks to come talk about the murder and take on the case. Shell takes the man's offer, accepts payment as a percentage of the film's earnings, and starts snooping.

The murdered woman worked for the film studio. The main backer wants to make sure he does not lose his money. The producer cannot go over budget or he loses money to the main backer.  Right off the bat someone follows Shell, shoots at him, and then tries to kill him by dropping a spot light on Shell at the movie studio.

Shell talks to a roommate of the dead woman. The woman is mugged in her home and Shell is shot at when he goes to rescue her.  Shell has sex with the roommate. Shell goes to a location shoot. Shell has sex with another actress by a nearby lake. Shell is shot at as he swims in the nude. Shell escapes and streaks onto the set while escaping.

Shell figures things out and rescues an actress.

1. Not hard-boiled. Not angsty.  Shell loves to look at the ladies and drink plenty of booze. There is some slapstick action along with the sex and violence.
2. I wonder what the history is of these kinds of man novels. I think Max Allan Collins wrote a book on the topic, or maybe that was pulp magazines.  I presume the modern, post-war version started with Mike Hammer and then took a spy-guy turn with James Bond.
3. Thrilling Detective has a brief write-up on the Shell Scott series. I'll read it later.
4.  I suppose this style of novel hit a peak with Coyote Connection (1981). Everything before and after that masterpiece must be a complete let-down.
5. One of things I enjoyed is the characters describing and denigrating Hollywood and the Hollywood script mill.  Writers are a cheap commodity and everyone takes a shot at the screenplay until it's a pile of mush.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Listened: "Gallows View" by Peter Robinson

Listened: Gallows View by Peter Robinson, 1987, download.

The selection of audiobook titles has shrunk now that I am using my computer-box-telephone to listen to audiobooks. I was hoping to download some Dr. Who selections but those do not come in the required MP3 format. Damn.  Since the previous Inspector Banks novel was okay I tried this one, the first in the series.

Banks has recently moved to Yorkshire. He had some big cases working in London and encountered quite a few violent people.  He is trying to stop smoking and is learning about his new peers, including one who applied for Banks's current position.

A window peeper is prowling past nightfall to peek on panty wearing people.  A couple teenaged boys are burgling the homes of elderly woman.  Detective Inspector Banks is involved in both these fairly tame cases when a WW1 vintage woman is found dead in her cottage. The woman seems to have whacked her head on a counter corner. The cottage was tossed as if a burglar searched the home.  Banks thinks she was killed. An accident from a slight push? Intentional murder? Banks needs to found out.

Banks's superior calls psychologist Jenny Fuller to help the peeper investigation. Fuller will hear the evidence and give deduce the perpetrator's personality and future behavior.  Banks is attracted to Fuller. Fuller is attracted to Banks. Banks is married with two kids. Fuller is single.

We follow the characters - good guys and bad guys -as the scheme, rationalize, and plan ahead. There is a rape scene from the rapists POV that was unpleasant to hear. A teen high on speed invades a home and takes a hostage.  A single dad is shtuping the married neighbor. The man's teen son is a burglar. Banks's wife joins a photography club and the club members are under suspicion as possible peepers.

1. Plenty of internal thoughts by different characters. You get to know several of them very well. Banks, somehow, seems more of a mystery to me. I'm not sure why but the crooks personalities seem clearer and their actions more understandable.  Probably just me.
2. Firmly set in the 1980s. 
2.a. Characters do not like Margaret Thatcher and comment on unemployment and Thatcher's false compassion. 
2.b. Computers are a bit mysterious and require extra training to operate. They are seen as the future but are mostly unknown.
3. Different narrator than the second book in the series. This narrator is rougher and made Banks gruffer and tougher.  Scuffer.  Muffer.  Fluffer.  Buffer.  Duffer. Alliteration gone wild.
4. One of the newly promoted Inspectors takes pride in being able to wear plainclothes.  He also takes pride in a newly mustache.
5.  That weird English use the word "partner" to describe a romantic relationship. When I hear "partner" I think "business partner" or "cop partner".
6. Descriptive sex.
7.  Comment on British dental care. One character compares them to American teeth.
8. Tourists getting mugged.
9. Dated views on feminism. Dated views by feminist characters.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Finally Done: "Dead Letters" by Tom Piccirilli

Finally Done: Dead Letters by Tom Piccirilli, 2006, 9780553384079.

I write "finally done" because I bought this book several months ago.  The mystery bookstore in Madison was bought and moved location across the street from Trader Joe's. While my wife was in the Trader Joe's I walked two bored children over to check the bookstore out. Since I work in a freaking library I do not like to buy books. But, the store was brand new and I wanted to support it. Luckily, I found something worth buying.

Piccirilli has the market cornered on Really Angry Men Riven With Guilt.  Correction: Really Angry Men Riven With Guilt and Living on Long Island.  Piccirilli also creates really despicable villains.

Five years ago Whitt's 5-year-old daughter was the first victim of a serial killer nicknamed Killjoy. Whitt's wife went insane with grief and Whitt quit his advertising job to focus on physical training and hunting for Killjoy.  Whitt has had an unhappy but workable relationship with the local police detective assigned the case. Things get worse for Whitt when Killjoy stops killing children and starts kidnapping. Killjoy takes the children from abusive homes and "gifts" them to the still grieving parents of Killjoy's murder victims.

Whitt was the first parent to receive a child from Killjoy. Whitt immediately called the police and is not sure if he should have kept the girl instead. Some parents of Killjoy's murder victims have disappeared, presumably fleeing with kidnapped children left by Killjoy.

Whitt's guilt and anger have left him pretty screwed up. Whitt's wife lives in a mental hospital, his father-in-law financially supports Whitt's hunt, Whitt has maintained only one pre-Killjoy relationship. Whitt's rage manifests in extreme teeth grinding. He pops fillings loose. He chomps on his steering wheel and cracks more teeth. He lays on the lawn while spying on a family and gnashes grass and dirt.

Part of Whitt's rage is that for years Killjoy has been sending bizarre and insanely rambling letters to Whitt. Taken by themselves the letters are a silly read of made up philosophers and writers acting bizarrely. But, those bizarre letters are a taunt to Whitt from a man - a woman? - who fancies that he and Whitt are much alike and friends.

Anyway. Whitt goes to a house run by a cult.  The cult is responsible for several murders and Killjoy puts Whitt on their scent. Killjoy's knowledge about the cult shows he surveilled them for a long time and Whitt hopes that by investigating them he will find Killjoy.

Things happen. Whitt grinds teeth. Whitt hallucinates conversations with a mini-Whitt living in his daughter's doll house. Whitt dreams of killing Killjoy. Whitt trains with his .32 pistol.  Whitt interviews cult members. Whitt is suspected by the police of being Killjoy and now has a new Federal agent on his back. There is a showdown and Killjoy escapes. Whitt finally figures things out.

1. Piccirilli also has the market cornered on Author Diagnosed With Brain Cancer Given 2% Chance of Survival and Recovers Anyway.
2. Seriously. The man was diagnosed with brain cancer and given a 2% chance of survival. Piccirilli has been cancer free for two years and still undergoes monthly chemotherapy treatment but the man is working and doing well.
3. No muscle cars in this one. Whitt would derive no joy from a car anyway. Whitt's only joy is from revenge fantasies.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quit: "Cornbread Mafia" by james Higdon, III

Quit: Cornbread Mafia: a homegrown syndicate's code of silence and the biggest marijuana bust in American history by James Higdon, III, 2012, audio download from

I rarely listen or read true crime. I was trying to find audio titles playable on my phone, got sick of looking on my slow phone, and checked this one out.

From the late 1960s until the late 1980s Kentucky became a center for marijuana cultivation and wholesaling.  Higdon relates how a massive multi-state bust in the late '80s netted about 40 (or so) growers and dealers that all originated from the same Kentucky county.

Higdon starts off relating how the lawless attitude to drugs originated from Catholic settlers circa 1800 who ran distilleries. The moonshine business continued through until Prohibition then had a huge hike in employment when prices were high and the Depression put families out of work.  Industrial hemp was grown during WWI and WWII and when soldiers returned from Vietnam smoking marijuana the local farmers used their agriculture skills to grow the dope.  Growing marijuana was a misdemeanor until the early '80s and growers who were caught would post bail in cash and drive off in their new Corvettes.

I quit listening because Higdon seemed to be relating every little story he ever heard. I don't much care about all the roughnecks and crooks in the area who died before the marijuana farming hit big.  Higdorn spoke to a lot of the people involved - crooks and police - and went through court and legal records.  That is great and all but I was overloaded.  This audio clocks at 14'9" and that is too much for me.

1.  The most interesting sections of the book were hearing how the business was run. Getting seeds from around the world. Finding out what varieties would grow in Kentucky. Developing hybrids and cross-breeding. Processing the buds after harvest and shipping them out.  Marketing Kentucky grown products when consumers would turn up their noses at 'hillbilly weed".  Starting farming operations in Belize and smuggling the harvest into the U.S. All those normal business endeavors that are difficult enough in a legitimate business must have been even harder when hidden from the law.  I suppose they did not have to worry so much about bookkeeping when not paying taxes.
2. I should read Gang Leader For A Day by Venkatesh. He hung out with a Chicago street gang for his sociology research and covered the business side of things.
3. In Kansas you can be busted twice over for growing and selling marijuana. If you do not have a tax stamp the state will prosecute for tax fraud. I remember how Gary Howland said people would show up in Topeka and buy tax stamps for that reason. Weird stuff.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Done: "Never Fuck Up" by Jens Lapidus

Done: Never Fuck Up by Jens Lapidus, 2013 (US edition), 9780307377494.

What a bad idea for a title. I imagine the author sitting talking with his agent, "I refuse to alter my title. I don't care that people will not buy or stock a title with an expletive." Too bad because this book is as good as the first in the trilogy, Easy Money. Written with short, choppy writing with Swedish slang and lingo. A good twist on the setting, Lapidus's characters even refer to some other Swedish crime fiction as unrealistic and rosy.

Three main characters and they are all fucked up. Mahmud just did a six month stretch for drug dealing. Niklas has returned after years of warring in Iraq and Afghanistan as a contractor. Thomas is a street cop with a violent streak and corrupt tendencies (just a little here and there, he says). They all mix together in a criminal underworld run by Yugoslavs and a cop world run by internal politics and the reactions to bad press.  The three unknowingly circle around one another in a Stockholm that is not and clean and neat as the Swedes and the rest of the world believe.

Lapidus's Stockholm is segregated. The Svens are the everyday, traditional Swedes, the squares. The blattes are the dark skinned immigrants living in the projects, selling the drugs, and hitting a Swedish glass ceiling in the civilian world. The uber-wealthy pull the strings, fuck the prostitutes, snort the drugs, and move the money around. The Yugos run the underworld and don't give a damn about you; you either earn the Yugos money and do as you're told or you will pay in blood.

Mahmud was in prison for dealing steroids.  He's an oversized gym rat who pops pills and slurps protein shakes.  He owes a few thousand Kronor to another gang for the steroids he was busted with. His humiliation and mental torture - threatened with death while a pistol is put in his mouth - left him very shaken. He takes a job offer from the Yugos to find a fellow blatte who took money from the Yugos.

Niklas was already screwed up after growing up as his mother was frequently beaten by her boyfriend.  Niklas would be sent to a dank apartment building basement when the alcoholic boyfriend wanted sex. After a few years of contractor combat he is double-up on PTSD. He fancies himself as an avenger for women, a military commando for good. He does knife katas for hours, goes on runs and exercises, and starts stalking abusive husbands.

Thomas is a very cynical street cop. He despises desk cops and the street filth he works with. He does some small corruption that is never identified but gives him the cash to work on restoring his 1950s Cadillac.  He's withdrawn from his wife and unable to have sex. He can masturbate to online porn but cannot relate to his wife. Thomas and his partner take a call on a dead body and find a murdered man with no teeth, fingerprint skin cut off, and a beaten until unrecognizable. Thomas notices intravenous injection marks. The autopsy does not list those marks. Thomas wonders, "What the hell?"

Things happen. Mahmud works his way into the Yugo organization but is a nobody to them. Mahmud has big pride and chaffs. Thomas wants to know what happened with the autopsy and when a senior cop appears and blocks his questioning he keeps looking. Niklas visits a domestic violence shelter and steals a list of women's names. He sets up cameras to watch the houses and plot to kill the men. Niklas meets Mahmud after beating up the abusive boyfriend of Mahmud's sister. They are all in the same building on New Year's when Niklas and Mahmud are raiding a Yugo sponsored prostitute party for the uber-rich and Thomas is sneaking in to search the rich home owner's financial binders.

1. All three guys suffer under some sort of PTSD or trauma. 
2. All three guys think they are something other than what they are. They see themselves as good guys even though their actions show the opposite. They see themselves as victims of others rather than victims of their own bad decisions.
3.  Only one or two bad guys get their comeuppance. The ones at the top always get away. Lapidus is a criminal attorney in Stockholm and I presume he has learned how all the front companies, and cut-outs keep the owners and managers out of the clink.
4. A couple recurring characters from the first novel. The Yugo head, Radovan, meets with Thomas and appears at a party Mahmud attends. The Argentinian from Easy Money is still out for revenge on the Yugos and pays Mahmud to raid the New Year's prostitute party.
5. I bought the film adaptation of Easy Money, Easy Money: life deluxe, for work but have not watched it.
EDIT: 6. How could I forget the right-wing police conspiracy to murder Prime Minister Olof Palme? Thomas's derailed investigation into the man's death is linked to Palme's murder. The dead man was a primary witness who connected the suspected shooter to a possible murder weapon (that weapon was still missing). Thomas finds a connection between a right-wing group of police officers who were virulently anti-communist.  Thomas is threatened, and beaten, to warn him off his private investigation. Thomas is kinda like James Ellroys's Bud White, Thomas is better at thumping than thinking.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Heard: "A Dedicated Man" by Peter Robinson

Heard: A Dedicated Man by Peter Robinson, 1988, download.

When I got sick of screwing with my half-working iPod I downloaded the Overdrive application to my phone.  The application works fine but the titles transferred to the iPods iTunes never expire.  The titles on the phone app do expire. Oh, well.

I selected this title for a few reasons. 1) I've heard of the series but never read one. 2) Not all the audiobook titles on Overdrive are compatible with the app.  What the hell? This one is is compatible and I got sick of looking and was tired of screwing around getting the app to work.

DCI Alan Banks has moved from London to Yorkshire.  This is the second novel in the Banks series and Banks is still adjusting to life in Yorkshire, but he likes it there. Banks is called away from a weekend morning at home to a murder scene in a field.  A dead man with a bashed in head was partially concealed under a stone wall. Banks finds out the man is a former academic, Steadman. Steadman was murdered elsewhere, dumped in the field, and his car left nearby.

Steadman had inherited a lot of money and retired to do his own historical research. Steadman's wife has an alibi and plenty of tears. Steadman's friends say he was a great guy. Steadman's former colleagues said no one hated him. Banks can find no witnesses to the body drop.  This is no traveling serial killer event. Steadman does the only thing he can do, he asks lots of questions.

Banks can find nothing in the present that points to a motive or suspect so Banks focuses on the past. The Steadman's used to vacation in the town several years ago before retiring there.  Steadman made pals with a couple teens back then and they still live in town.  Banks looks for infidelity. Banks looks for jealousy. Banks gets stonewalled. 

Robinson gives us the dialogue to many interrogations and interviews. There is a lot of back-and-forth between Banks and his interview subjects. Even Steadman's pals will hide things from Banks. Banks gets frustrated, "This is a murder investigation. He was your friend!"

Meanwhile, precocious teen girl Sally thinks she may know something. Sally is sixteen years old and makes out with her boyfriend. Sally argues with her parents. Sally has aspirations of acting and the Big City. Sally wants to solve the case.

Things happen. Slowly.  Banks has to pester, push and prod. Banks has to sift through small town rumors and prejudice. Banks is still an outsider and sticks out like a sore thumb.  A sore thumb covered in neon orange paint. And a flashing light. With a dragon attached. The dragon is playing a tuba. A dragon sized tuba. (Okay, I exaggerated a lot.  A whole lot. I got carried away. Like in a river. A big flowing river. After thunderstorms. The thunderstorms of a 200-year-flood. A flood crossing the plains with a 10 foot depth and no hills to shelter on. Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.)

1. Sally is murdered.  She was a well drawn character.  Sally was looking to leave the small town and be a star. She was pretty and had talent. Sally had a brief crush on Banks until she found out he left London and then she looked down on him.  She thought he left a place of excitement for village life and turned down heroism opportunities.
2. Lots of beer.
3. 1988 with no cell phones or forensics focus.

DNF: "Darth Plagueis" by James Luceno

DNF: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno, 2012, download.

The damn audio jack on my iPod is all screwed up.  I can only get audio form one side of the headphones. I should look it a solution but have not done so.  I don't want to take the thing apart.

Darth Plagueis kills his master and heads back to his homeworld where he is a banker.  Darth Plagueis is starting plans to mine a element that blocks the Force. Or something. I do not recall, I quite listening a week of two ago.  Plagueis has also spent years researching mitochlorians.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Heard: "World's Greatest Sleuth!" by Steve Hockensmith.

Heard: World's Greatest Sleuth! by Steve Hockensmith, 2011, download.

Another excellent audio title with a great story by Hockensmith and narration by William Dufris.

Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer are working a sheep ranch in 1893 when they get a letter from Big Red's publisher telling them to come to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The letter includes a travel voucher and off they go.

The Exposition is hosting a World's Greatest Sleuth competition made up of famous detectives of the dime novels and magazines. (In these Holmes on the Range novels most of the famed detectives, like Sherlock Holmes, are real people.) Other detectives include a handsome NYC dude, a Hercule Poirot type, and a Sherlock look-a-like. Most important to the fluttering hearts and flustered tongues of the Amlingmeyer brothers is Diana Crowe (not Corvus).  Turns out Diana is the god-daughter of Colonel Crowe who still dislikes Big and Old after they helped wreck a train in On the Wrong Track.

The Amlingmeyers are slowly moving up in the world.  Big Red has been published and now, with the contest, Old Red has a chance at publicity that will get him a professional "detectin'" job.  Things happen.  Old Red is taciturn. Big Red is talkative.  Stuck up sticky beaks are starch shirted stooges. Diana is lovely.  Murder is deadly. The White City is a sight to behold.  Big Red and Old Red get in a hole (figuratively) and have to climb their way out. Old Red's skills are doubted, criticized, and put to the test.  Bad guys are caught.

1. One of my favorite series. I checked Hockensmith's web page to see if any more books were planned. Hockensmith's comment from July, 2014 says, The boys will definitely be back one day! And "one day" is finally starting to look like it's coming closer. If all goes according to plan, I might have something to announce by the end of the year....
2.  When I worked at the U of I Main Stacks I ran across a set of folios on the White City that was full of sketches and designs.  I would see many, many neat items working there.
3. Yes, the main stacks did have a "vault". It was a caged off area in the stacks for items that were prone to theft.  Sex books like topics on auto-fellatio (marked missing) and sex manuals were there.  Other items like illustrated histories of military uniforms were also shelved there.
4. The main stacks were expanded after I graduated with an off-site storage location. I don't know if the items stored in The Vault of Sex and Theft were moved.

Finished: "The Revenant" by Michael Punke

Finished: The Revenant by Michael Punke, 2002, 9780786710270.

A local guy said this was the best book he ever read. He described the plot as "bear attack" but that is misleading.  I thought it would be a "man against wilderness" story.  Well, it is a man against the wilderness but that is misleading as well. More of a man against bear, against, wilderness, against Indians, after revenge. A good but not great story but still an interesting tale.

Set in the U.S. frontier of 1823 in present day MO, NE, CO, OK, TX, WY.  Period detail and a look at the interaction among the different traders and Indian tribes of the areas.  How commerce expanded and grew west.

Hugh Glass is an adventurer.  He's joined an expedition by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company to head west from St. Louis and trap beaver in the Rockies. His expedition of about 30 men runs into trouble right away with several Indian battles. The group fairs poorly in those battles and works their way up the Missouri River on foot, evading Indians, and hunting their food. Glass is attacked and mauled by a grizzly while scouting ahead. The deep claw cuts and a bite leave Glass near death.  A couple expedition members are left to care for Glass until he dies. But, Glass won't die, he keeps hanging on.  The rest of the expedition has left and is traveling at a rate of 30 miles a day through extremely hostile territory.  The men tasked to stay with Glass are antsy pantsy and one the two is a murderous sociopath.  When a mounted group of Indian warriors comes near the camp the two men take Glass's rifle, knife and scant gear and leave him for dead.  Glass is angry.  Glass crawls away from the campsite.

Glass crawls his way along the river drinking the water and eating plants and trapping small animals.  Glass slowly recovers and reaches a Frenchman's trading post.  Glass continues on after the two men who left him for dead.

More things happen and Punke fills in Glass's fascinating history and travels. Ship captain in the Atlantic, captured and pressed ganged by pirates, surviving an attack on the pirate's Galveston Bay island, walking across TX, captured by Indians and almost killed but adopted into the tribe, meeting white men traders and going to St. Louis.

Meanwhile, the expedition travels down the Missouri and finds few beavers to trap.  No beavers means no money.  Their horses are stolen by the Indians.  Their leader suffers depression and bad fortune. Men desert the expedition. 

Glass survives a few fights, more injuries and bad weather.

1. A good story.  I had not read anything like this in quite a while. The last frontier book I recall reading was some Louis L'Amour novel almost 20 years ago.
2. The section about Glass capture by pirates was interesting. He was caught by Lafitte and almost all the passengers murdered except those, like Glass, who could show they had sailing skills.
3. I checked to see if Punke has any more novels. Nope.  He has a couple NF titles.  He's a trade rep. at the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland so maybe his spare time is scant.
4. Punke has a bib. in the back on the resources he used.  He based the novel off real people and events.
5. When I lived in Marysville, KS I was fascinated when I found out how widely the Indian Wars ranged around the immediate area.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Listened: "Crashed" by Timothy Hallinan

Listened: Crashed by Timothy Hallinan, 2012, download.

Short: Career burglar extorted to help out porn production.

Long: Gentleman criminal Junior Bender is hired to burgle a big, fancy house and take a big, expensive painting.  He nabs the painting, barely escapes the vicious guard dogs, and is nabbed by a cop.  Cop takes him to Local Crook.  Crook says, "We got you on video stealing from Deadly Crime Lord's house. We'll get him the video if you don't do something for us." Junior says, "I like living.  Okay."

Junior helped out a couple crook friends in his past and earned a reputation as a problem solver.  Not a knee breaker problem solver, a let-me-think-about-this problem solver.  Woman Crime Lord Trey wants someone to keep her porn production on track.  Trey has hired a Massively Famous Child Actress who has become a Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend to perform in a trilogy of porn films.  Trey has spent a lot of money on sets, scripts, costumes, and crew. Recent sabotage has tried to wreck the production.  Junior is hired to shepherd Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend and keep things running.

Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend is a mix of Lindsey Lohan the Olsen Twins and Every Other Failed Teeny Bopper Actress on Dope.  Junior never watches TV and has no idea who the Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend is but her innate kindness and beauty get him on her side.

Other things happen.  Someone tries to get Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend to overdose.  Junior asks a pal to watch Massively Famous Former Child Actress Turned Drug Fiend's place at night and the pal is murdered. Junior is being followed. Junior's ex-wife is threatening to try and severe Junior's custody  with their daughter. So on. So forth.

A fun story and fairly light read (listen).  Junior is a kind guy - although a dirty thief - working hard to do the right thing while his life gets legitimate death threats.  I'll check out the other books in the series.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Done: "The Martian" by Andy Weir

Done: The Martian by Andy Weir, 2014,will find ISBN later.

Very good.  Astronaut is stranded on Mars.

The third Mars mission gets to the planet, lands and the astronauts start their studies and experiments.  After only 10 days (or so) NASA sees a massive dust storm with high winds coming across Mars.  Mars dust storms are hundreds of kilometers wide. The canvas roofed living and working shelter - the HUB - is rated for high winds but the spaceship - the one-use ascender that delivers astronauts up to the orbiting spaceship that returns the astronauts to Earth - is fragile and cannot handle the winds.  NASA says, "Head to orbit!"  Astronauts say, "Dang, we took months to get here and now we have to leave. Okay, those are the breaks, lets get on our spacesuits and walk over to the spaceship."

On the walk over the high winds are throwing dust, pebbles and - uh-oh - pieces of antennae.  One of those pieces pierces Astronaut Mark Watney's suit and sends him tumbling along.  The impact damages his suit and his monitors checking heartbeat, blood pressure, air supply go dead.  Astronaut Watney is hidden by the swirling dust clouds.  Other astronauts cannot find him.  The ascender's spacesuit monitoring equipment says Astronaut Watney is dead.  The ascender is about to be blown over by the dust winds and would then be destroyed stranding everyone.  Remaining Astronauts take off (literally and figuratively).

Astronaut Watney comes to with his faceplate in the sand.  The antennae pierced his suit and stabbed him, but the material was twisted and his coagulated blood sealed the leak.  Astronaut yanks out the antennae from his suit, patches the hole with emergency sealant, walks back to the HUB. "Nuts," says Astronaut Watney "I missed the trip back.  I'm fucked. The crew is gone, the ship is gone, and the radios are broken."
The next 300 pages are fast and compelling.  Astronaut Watney is stuck on Mars but still alive and knows a fourth Mars mission is due to arrive in a couple years. How can I survive? Do I have enough food? Can I grow food?  Astronaut Watney solves all the problems Weir throws at him: no growing soil, no fertilizer, not enough water, breaking parts, finding communication, making and remaking and remaking plans.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, NASA sees Astronaut Watney is still alive and also starts making and remaking and remaking plans to rescue him.

The great strength of the novel is that Weir takes a neat idea and explains the scientific and Mars conditions so well. How the spacecraft work, how the life support works, how to make Martian soil arable.  He gives Astronaut Watney a sense of humor and irrepressible spirit. 

1. I recommended the novel to my 11.5 year old who likes science topics but he went "humph" or "erm" or whatever that sound is that he makes when he does not want to answer.  I bet if I start reading it aloud he'll take it.  I can try reading it aloud to the 8.5 year old but will have to substitute the curse words and not let him read it himself so I can explain some of the adult concepts.

Heard: "I,Sniper" by Stephen Hunter

Heard: I, Sniper by Stephen Hunter, 2009, download.

The story goes something like this:

"Sniper, you're one tough sniping sniper, made of steel and sinew, a real Warrior Sniper. Gosh darn you're a tough, fast-twitch muscle, hand eye coordinating, stubborn snipery Marine sniper, Sniper"
"Shucks, I'm just a one, dumb Marine, Sniper. You and all the others got all the brains."
"Well, Sniper, you sure are tough and full of  .308 168 grain Black Hills sniping hardness, ready to go until dead, full of integrity unlike all these anti-sniper left-wing weenies and D.C. Dickweeds who wouldn't know a rifle from a stick, you're Greatest Sniper Who Ever Lived And Ever Will Live Until the End of Time and Through The Age of Ray Guns."
"Aw schucks, Sniper. I just want to Sniper On with some .308 n168 grain Black Hills Sniping with my trusty sniper rifle I use for Sniping. Gillie suit."

Throw in some Hunter-style big government and big business conspiracies and some right-wing and anti-press rants for the characters.  Make it super cheesy and add plenty saccharine. Hunter sure did lay it on heavy in this one.  Slathered it on like a kid icing a cupcake. I don't recall him throwing if out so heavy in previous novels.  Maybe something happened in 2008 or 2009 to set him off. The Third Bullet (2013) was much more mystery and thrills.

To be fair it is the characters yammering about hypocritical lefties and the awfulness of the New York Times.  And some characters are lefties whining about guns, and rednecks and killers.  But, it's pretty damn clear whose side Hunter is on.  Heck, that's fine.  Hunter has always made that clear and I've continued to enjoy the books.  But, I, Sniper really veered off in political and cultural noise.

1. How many times was the word "sniper" used? Was Hunter paid by the word like a pulp writer? Except he was paid by the word "sniper"?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Comic Book Novel: "Kiss Me, Satan" by Victor Gischler and art by Abel Ferrerya

Comic Book Novel: Kiss Me, Satan!: New Orleans is a werewolf town by Victor Gischler and art by Juan Ferrerya, 2014, 9781616554361. Compilation of individual issues.

A few days ago Gischler was using Twitter to promote his latest comic book.  While doing so he praised the talent and skill of the comic's artist.  I responded back saying the artist for Clown Fatale was very good.  Gischler responded in turn and wrote "so was the colorist."  Colorist?  What the hell is a colorist?

Werewolves run a crime family in New Orleans. Some werewolf children are not werewolves.  Those kids are dog-free and all human.  A local witch divines the local werewolf crime lord's child's future and sees the boy will not be a werewolf.  With a non-lupine child Crime Lord knows he will lose his position without a kid to take over the empire. So, werewolf lord wants to kill his son.

But, the witch saw the future and crime lord has to kill her as well.  Whoops, witch has three apprentices so he better kill them as well.  Witch and apprentices go on the run.  Werewolf calls out the dogs (Get it? The werewolf calls out the dogs? Must I explain all my jokes?) and puts a bounty on their heads.

Meanwhile, demon from hell is living on land.  Demon is in human form.  Demon is hoping for forgiveness and return to Heaven.  Demon is tasked by an angel to protect the witches.  Violence happens.  Lots of violence happens.  Lots of bloody violence with mangled bodies and blood and gore.  Sex happens, too.  With big boobs and muscles. Don't forget the amateur surgery to remove and then implant a magical mechanic eye (designed to look kinda Cthulhu-y and Geiger-y.)

Demon rescues the witches from various bad dudes but witches are gradually killed off.  One magician is very powerful and a big threat.  We learn more about Demon.  Meanwhile, back at werewolf mansion, Crime Lord's wife wants to escape with her son and Crime Lord is sweating his perilous position.

A fun story and the artwork had some really neat touches with smaller drawings inset within the larger panels and some nice perspectives.  Gischler and Ferrerya do well in collaboration by drawing and explaining the characters with the dialogue and artwork.

1. I just found out the catalog record is screwed up.  The subtitle is listed as main title.  Dang it.
2. Something I was writing up above reminded me of Green Bay from when I was taking a long walk and listening to Pessl's Night Film. I'm not sure what it was.
3. The comic suffers like other Gischler comics because Gischler always tells a very good story but the comic format has such limited space.  I reckon the author could do even more with additional  space and time.  Oh, well, so it goes, just read the next one.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Read: "Drama City" by George Pelecanos

Read: Drama City by George Pelecanos, 2005, 9780316608213.

Another withdrawn novel as I'm working through the stack of things I own.  I started this novel and then figured, Hey, I may as well try out The Wire on TV.  Since we bought a Roku unit in preparation for dumping cable TV I've been watching The Wire through Amazon Prime.  I would often get characters confused between the two stories.

Lorenzo Brown was in prison for eight years. He's out and hooked up a job as a dog catcher with the Humane Society (HS).  "Dog Police" in neighborhood parlance.  Lorenzo us much more than dog catcher though, he investigates cruelty complaints, wears a uniform and badge, and has authority to capture animals.  He and cohorts have plenty of dogs to look after in D.C. with the usual animal abuse plus drug dealer status animals like Pits and Rotties.  (Pelecanos obviously does not keep track of Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine because there is not one drug dealer owned alligator in the novel.)

Rachel Lopez is Lorenzo's probation officer.  Lorenzo is one of the few parolees Rachel has hope for because Lorenzo has a good job, shows up to work, attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and stays away from any gangster friends that are still alive and working the street.  Rachel also drinks to excess and dresses up for one-night stand hook-ups in a few of D.C.'s boutique hotels.

Things happen.  Lorenzo and his HS partner investigate a dogfight and Lorenzo is confronted by a couple dealers.  The two dealers have been getting into it with Lorenzo's past gang leader/ drug employer.  Rachel is supervising one of those dealers.

Things escalate and Pelecanos explores some of his favorite themes:

1. Life in the slums can be bad but people are still people.  They love, they fall out of love, they go to work (legal and illegal), and sometimes they just cope.
2. The importance of family.  Family keeps people together for good and bad.  Those without blood relatives make their own family and those with no family spiral into oblivion.
3. '70s and '80s R&B.
4. Detailed D.C. geography as characters drive around and Pelecanos describes neighborhoods.
5. Culture clash of white and black, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, violent neighborhoods versus safe neighborhoods.
6. Learned behavior - using violence - and how to break away from it.
Fear of the ghetto: How dangerous is a neighborhood?  How safe is it?
7. Metaphors.  Man, The Wire has a ton of those things.
8. Social rules of behavior and status.

1. Gun errors.