Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quit Listening: "Deserters" by Charles Glass

Quit Listening: Deserters: a hidden history of World War II by Charles Glass, 2013, download.

I was expecting something different.  I thought this would be more like What Soldiers Do with an academic and historical look at desertion and deserters.  Statistics on AWOL and desertion.  Statistics on conviction rates, standard sentences, pardons and releases.  Follow-ups with convicted soldiers and fellow unit members.

Nope.  This does covers some general information on the problem of desertion and the reasons for it.  Most of the focus is on three soldiers, two from the USA and one from the UK.  The three are fairly different guys and all deserted at one point or another. 

The problem I had with Glass is that he focuses so tightly on those three combat soldiers.  The book is more battle history than the title implies.  He follows there childhood, enlistment, training and fighting.  Glass works from documents and interviews.  One soldier's memoirs seem, well they seem to be liberally peppered with bullshit.

American soldier Weiss fights through Italy and France and only considers taking off late in the war.  Everyone else he knew is dead or wounded.  Weiss suffered under the replacement system with new guys shipped in piecemeal.  Officers and noncoms were sometimes lousy.  Replacements are under trained and inexperienced cannon fodder.  When I quit listening Weiss had finally had enough and took off after yet another artillery barrage.

One Brit first serves in Rommel's first North African campaign.  He writes that at the end of a hilltop battle he is appalled at the thievery of his fellow soldiers.  He is shocked by the battle as well, or course, and just wanders off.  He is caught and tried and sent to a North African prison with a three year sentence.  The camp is in the desert and no different than the camp in The Hill (I saw the movie, did not read the book).  Horrible conditions with sadistic guards and long days of work whose only purpose is punishment.  He is released when the British Army asks for volunteers to refill the ranks for the French invasions.

Glass explores the theme of stress and PTSD throughout the book.  He liberally quotes from a combat guide about stress and fear and fighting.  

There are as many reasons for desertion as deserters.  Many just can't take anymore combat stress. Some complain of the dehumanizing ways of the military.  Some are crooks working in the incredibly lucrative black market.  Some just get drunk and decide to stay on leave for a few months with their new English or Italian or French girlfriend.

1.  One reason for my dissatisfaction is the recent Greatest Generation mystique.  I have no arguement with that appreciation for sacrifice and hard work.  What annoys me is when the bullshit, corruption and stupidity are glossed over.  Desertion is a hidden history - like What Soldiers Do - that covers a distasteful topic.  I wish Glass took a different tack.
2.  Military justice.  I remember being surprised when I first learned during a college lecture that military justice is for discipline.  Justice is for the Army, not the soldier.  Many soldiers could not accept that.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Finished: "The Dead Women of Juarez" by Sam Hawken

Finished: The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken, 2011, 9781846687747.

I cannot recall why I reserved this.  I think I had this sitting on an old order list for work.  I've kept a lot of titles on the order list. I won't buy the books but will keep them there because I might read them.

This novel touches on the many femicides in Juarez, Mexico.  There is not an attempt to cover the whole story.  Hawken focuses in on a single murder and a bad guy conspiracy.  Spoilers to follow.

American Kelly Courter boxes at smokers in Juarez and helps his best pal, Esteban, deal marijuana to tourists.  Kelly escaped something in the States (you find out later it was a drunk driving death and heroin addiction) and lost his boxing license in the States.  Kelly is dating Esteban's sister, Paloma, and living in a decent apartment for Juarez.  Paloma loves Kelly but does not want to commit.  She spends her time working for Mujeres Sin Voices that tries to find justice for the many, many missing and murdered women of Juarez.  Paloma supports the mothers and wives looking for answers.

Kelly is occasionally visited by state policeman Sevilla.  Or was he a City cop?  I don't recall.  Sevilla has spent a couple years trying to work Kelly has an informant.  Sevilla wants Kelly to tell him the name of Esteban's heroin connection.  Kelly does not know anyway. Kelly likes to smoke dope, drink beer, and sell weed in the tourist bars.

Kelly and Paloma have it out one day about love. Kelly starts to train more seriously for boxing.  He wants to get into real matches and not the unsanctioned smokers run by Ortiz, a local knock around goon.  Kelly tries to get Ortiz to bank him for a real boxing run.  Kelly is still young enough (30 years-old) and fit enough and can fight under an assumed name.  Ortiz gives an insulting "no".  Kelly falls of the heroin wagon and starts living inside a needle.

Kelly awakes in his now filthy apartment to Sevilla at his door.  A bunch of riot-geared cops burst in after Sevilla.  Paloma has been found raped and murdered.  Kelly is blamed.  Sevilla is there to try and moderate things.  Kelly denies all.  Brutal cop tortures Kelly.  Brutal cop pounds Kelly into coma.

Sevilla takes over the novel.  Sevilla believes Kelly did not kill Paloma.  Sevilla starts working with protege of brutal cop.  They find out more.  The reader finds out more.

Lots of Juarez scenery and economics as people work long hours at the maquiladora factories.  The outside suburbs are shacks without sewage.  The super rich live far outside of town in a gated community with armed guards.  The cartels take the bulk of the cops' time but do not have an effect on the everyday life of the novel's characters.  The mass murders take on a personal note.  The murder of Paloma and Seville's missing daughter and infant granddaughter. The vicious and corrupt police attempts to actually solve one of those killings.

1.  Juarez should be spelled Juarex because Juarex is easier for me to type.
2.  Not a great novel but an interesting look at Mexico.  The flick Way of the Gun has a scene where Mexican cops show up.  The cops are real cops, they are turned out in clean and pressed uniforms with a maintained squad car and serious, professional behavior.  The director's DVD commentary focused on this - that these are not guys looking for a handout.  The director skipped the cliche,  In most drama you get a slovenly, fat, bad guy cop in Mexico.  Dead Women's Sevilla is a dedicated policeman looking to arrest the bad guys.
3.  Not that the cop's dedication is any reason not to have a climactic shoot-out and deaths.  This is a novel after all.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Read: "The Way of the Dog" by Sam Savage

Read: The Way of the Dog by Sam Savage, 2013, 9781566893121.

Committee book.  Either Booklist of Library Journal listed this novel in their best of 2013 issue.  Ok.  I'm pretty sure I read, or tried to read, Savage's Glass from 2011.  But, I do not have any typed notes.

This is 153 pages and drew me in.  The internal monologue of an elderly, mostly bedridden, depressed, faithless, lonely, and purposefully withdrawn man.  Harold Nivenson lives in a house that is falling apart.  He was once a wealthy art collector who was primary benefactor of the famous and dead painter Peter Meinenger.  The home's walls are covered in framed art pieces.  Harold sleeps on a bed in his living room and urinates and defecates in a bucket.  The house is filled with junk, crap, and ephemera.

Harold looks out the window at his passing neighbors.  Harold mourns his dead dog with whom he used to take frequent walks.  Harold has a pistol under his bed and contemplates suicide.  Harold thinks dog behavior is the way to go (I admit forgetting what the deal was with that).

Harold's son starts coming over and getting the home in order.  An overweight housekeeper named Moll moves in and starts to clean things up and get Harold to eat properly and bath.  Harold continues to tell us about his past and his hatred of Meinenger.  Harold has many regrets of his stupidity and obsequious following of Meinenger.

As the story goes on you realize Harold's health is getting better.  He starts to go outside.  He starts to converse with his son and Moll.  He develops a love for Moll.  I could tell if he had a romantic love for Moll.

1.  I did get drawn in.  I credit Savage's skill for that because not much happens.  Harold's only activity is carping and reminiscing.  Harold's history has the only action.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Done: "Slocum and the Trail to Yellowstone" by Jake Logan

Done: Slocum and the Trail to Yellowstone by Jake Logan, 2012, 9780515150292.

Does anyplace online list the real author names for this series?

Here is the plot:  Shooting, sex, sex, sex, horses, sex, sex, sex, shooting, sex, sex, sex, scenery, sex, sex, sex, horse riding, sex, sex, sex, hunting bad guys, sex, sex, sex, San Antonio, sex, sex, sex, Mexico, sex, sex, sex, bounty hunting, sex, sex, sex, Oklahoma, sex, sex, sex, Nebraska, sex, sex, sex,Wyoming, sex, sex, sex.

Slocum leaves Wyoming after shooting a card cheat.  He needs to skip out because the dead man's wealthy father will get Slocum hung.  Slocum stays with a widow.  Slocum is shot and widow raped and murdered by mountain men.  Slocum stays with a mountain woman.  Slocum and mountain woman try to find Mountain Men.

Mountain Men are craft and dangerous and escape.  Slocum gave it a try and heads to San Antonio for the winter. Slocum meets Mexican woman.  Slocum goes to Mexico and buys cattle.  Slocum and a pal capture two killers in Mexico and take them North.Slocum goes to Oklahoma.  Slocum goes to Nebraska.  Slocum goes to Wyoming.

Here are some excerpts in case you think I was exaggerating:
1. [He] drove to the deepest part of her to signal his impending cannon fire.
2.  He began to pour his meat into her.  She scrambled over on her belly, and her gave her lots of pounding.  When he came this time, he used the fluids to lubricate her ass.
3.  There was a lot of woman underneath him, and he wasn't missing any of her as her muscles inside began to contract around his thick tool.
4.  She reached between them to catch his prod, then eased the head of his dick inside her wet gates.
5. His rock hardness made his entire dick feel ready to blow up, the powerful muscles inside of her crushing his efforts to plunge in her any more than halfway.  Not to be denied, the muscles in his butt began to win the depth battle.  She strained hard, but his power took over and he was slamming his dick against the bottom of her vagina.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Listened: "The Thicket" by Joe R. Lansdale

Listened: The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale, 2013, downloaded from Overdrive.  Narrated by Will Collyer.

Typical Lansdale with a very well told tale.  As I was listening to this I realized that Lansdale's main recurring theme is cruelty.

16-year-old Jack and his 14-year-old sister Lula have been orphaned in slightly-post-1900 East Texas.  Their grandfather is taking them to the railroad for the three to make their way to Kansas to live with Grandad's last living child.

The family has to cross a swollen river and shares the ferry with a particularly unpleasant acting trio.  The starch talking Grandad gets in a verbal altercation that turns to fisticuffs.  The older man bests the younger, scarred man who draws a gun.  A mini-shoot-out occurs and Grandad is shot dead.  A sudden tornado flips the ferry.  Jack washes up on one side of the river.  Lula washes up on the other side of the river in custody of the unpleasant trio.  "Uh-oh," thinks Jack.  "I gotta rescue Lula from those murderous thugs."

Jack goes to nearest town to find the Sheriff but finds the bank robbed, the Sheriff murdered, and the Deputy cleaning out his desk before the lynch mob shows up.  Jack ends up knocked unconscious during the a lynching scuffle and wakes to Eustace, the grave digger.  Eustace sometimes does bounty work.  Jack offers his and his dead grandfather's farms as payment for Eustace to rescue Lula.  Eustace will take the job if his partner, Shorty will sign on.

Shorty is a dwarf.  Shorty is an autodidact.  Shorty had a tough life.  Much is made of Shorty's ornery midget-ness and gun skills.  Eustace is a big and tall.  Eustace's Indian relatives taught him (some) tracking skills.  When Eustace drinks he becomes violent.  Eustace is black.  Much is made of Eustace's blackness.  Jack is religious and believes in true love, right and wrong, and justice.  Much is made of Jack's naivety.  Eustace's pal is a 600 pound boar named Pig.  Pig stinks.  Pig is his own pig.  Much is made of Pig's pigness.

The quartet track one of the killers. Jack visits a prostitute, Jimmie Sue, who cajoles Jack into helping her leave her bordello without trouble from the pimp.  Much is made of Jimmie Sue's initially unwelcome presence. 

Things happen.  Similes occur. Metaphors are drops of rain in a thunderstorm.  Shooting.  Sex.  Horses.  Texas. Really, really bad dudes.  These bad dudes are Lansdale style Bad Dudes.  You don't cross the street to avoid a Lansdale Bad Dude, you leave town to avoid a Lansdale Bad Dude.  Lansdale Bad Dudes are awful people for who crucifixation is not a fitting punishment because they can only be nailed up one time.

Everything ends happily ever after except for child murder, multiple rapes, multiple murders, torture, animal abuse, cruel racism, cruel dwarf abuse, cruel ginger abuse, drownings, and bad food.

1.  Of course it is East Texas.  Where else would a Lansdale novel be?  Besides Tarzan in Africa, of course.
2.  Conversations between Shorty and jack remind me of Sea Wolf.  Shorty hates people after all Shorty has endured and witnessed during life.  Jack is still positive.  Jack sees the bright side.  While others question on whether Jack will really want his sister back he is unwavering.
3.  The whole "damaged goods" view of women.  Will the women be raped?  Of course, they will.  Lansdale does not shy from reality.  But, as I read I wondered if he might follow the trite plot point of the kidnapped woman being rescued before she is "spoiled".
4.  4 gauge shotgun love.  4 gauge?  That's dang near a punt gun. Video link oneVideo link two.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Read: "The Hard Bounce" by Todd Robinson

Read: The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson, 2013, 9781440558924.

I reserved this after reading a direct comparison to Lansdale's Hap and Leonard series.  That is not a fair comparison because Lansdale is Lansdale and no one else is Lansdale.

Short version: two bouncers are hired to find a missing teenager.
Longer version: two bouncers with anger issues are hired to find a missing teenager and discover a rape porn operation specializing in underaged girls.

Boo Malone and Junior grew up together in a state-sponsored orphanage.  They have a small security business hiring out to different Boston bars.  They are not P.I.'s but are hired by the campaign employees of a the D.A. to find the D.A.'s missing daughter, Cassandra (Cass).  Boo and Junior are known for keeping things quiet and the D.A. is running for mayor and cannot let out that his daughter ran away and is on the streets doing drugs. 

Boo insults people.  Boo threatens violence.  Boo does violence as he and Junior gradually work their way to Cass and find a snuff film of her being raped and murdered.  Boo and Junior's childhood's were not good.  They had plenty of abuse in the orphanage and are now out for blood.  They follow clues in the snuff film DVD to the snake tattooed rapist.  Well, it turns out the video was a fake - but they beat up Snake anyway, "rescue" the girl, and get paid $25,000.

But, wait!  The book is only halfway finished, what will happen next?  Well, Boo will get shot in the leg and his new girly-friend is threatened.  Boo and Junior will call up their orphanage pal who is insane.  They find out Snake is the nephew of Boston's most powerful mobster and Boo was being punished.  Cassandra will end up dead in a squat after running away again.  Boo disbelieves Cass died in an accident.  Boo has a big time hero complex for saving women.

Boo and Junior figure things out.  Boo and Junior create laughter.  Boo and Junior drink.  Boo and Junior argue.  Everything ends happily ever after with a bunch of dead people.

1.  I was reading this and thinking, "That's derivative" and "I've read that before".  But all fiction is derivative of something else.  Crazy Orphanage Graduate is like Mosley's Mouse.  Wise cracking duo is like Hap and Leonard.  Blah, blah, blah.  This was a fun story.  The only part I did not like is that I think Robinson kinda crammed the mobsters and DA storylines together at the end.
2.  Boston street geography love.
3.  Nice commentary on people slumming and looking down on others as lowlifes when those "lowlifes" just have less money and dress rattier.

DNF: "Counterinsurgency" by David J. Kilcullen

DNF: Counterinsurgency by David J. Kilcullen, 2010, 9780199737482.

Interesting book but an impulse checkout when I already have a pile of stuff to read.  I read the first section.

DNF: "Good-Bye To All That" by Robert Graves

DNF: Good-Bye To All That by Robert Graves, 1929, 1985 (paperback from Doubleday), 0385093306.

I got started on this and was waylaid by other books.  Then I lost this one.  I think it was found stuck behind my bed.