Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Done: "Sea Creatures" by Susanna Daniel

Done: Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel, 2013,

Committee novel.

Short version: Woman and family move to Miami.  Woman decides to divorce.  Hurricane Andrew arrives.

Long version (with spoilers): Georgia, her husband Graham, and their three-year-old Frankie leave north Chicago for Miami.  They are leaving under a cloud.  There was some sort of scandal.  Graham has found a job at a local oceanic research body and Georgia is happy to be back in her hometown.

They buy a houseboat, dock the boat in the canal behind her father's house, and start to adjust.  Graham has a severe sleeping disorder.  He refuses to sleep because when he does he sleep walks.  His sleep walks have caused significant trouble in the past.  When his body finally runs down after days of wakefulness he takes strong sleeping meds and straps his wrist down to keep him from wandering.

Meanwhile, Frankie does not speak.  Frankie has no physical issues, he hears fine and is able to speak, but he refuses to.  Georgia is worried but hopeful about Frankie. Graham gets upset and frustrated with Frankie.  Graham has trouble sitting still and spending time with Frankie.  The marriage is not solid.

Georgia gets a job as part-time assistant to an artist, Charlie, who never lives his ocean house in Stiltsville.  Georgia and Frankie enjoy going to Charlie's.  They become pals.  Frankie relaxes there and starts to say a word now and then.

More things happen.  Georgia - who tells the tale - worries about Frankie.  Georgia starts getting hot for the much older Charlie.  Georgia tells how she how to talked reluctant Graham into having a child.  Georgia tells tale of Graham's sleep walking that has caused minor scandal and lost him tenure back in Chicago.  How is Graham's sleep walking related to Frankie's selective mutism?  Graham takes a job on a research vessel anchored in the Atlantic.  Graham's absence and Charlie's attention get Frankie talking.  Frankie wonks his head in a fall.  Frankie goes to hospital.  Hurricane Andrew arrives.  Hurricane Andrew causes commotion.  Graham dies in storm.  Charlie leaves town.  Charlie gives Georgia the big house and plot he refuses to live on.

1.  I never finished Stiltsville.  That novel did not have enough action for me.  This does have more going on but is still "domestic fiction".  It's a story about marriage, and family, and being a parent (mom), and grief over a dead parent, and dealing with stress.  Not my cup of tea.
2.  Whenever the next big hurricane hits just wait a couple days for news photographers to find a fat guy holding a shotgun and posing behind a plain plywood sign spray-painted with "Looters Will be Shot".
3.  The parts about sleep disorders and mutism were interesting.

Quit Listening: "Doubleback" by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Quit Listening: Doubleback by Libby Fischer Hellmann, 2011, download.

I did not like the reader.  The online bib. record does not list the reader's name.  I wonder if Hellmann did the job.

Let me check... ... ...

Nope.  The reader Katherine Joan Taylor.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Listen: "Live and Let Die" by Ian Fleming

Listen: Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming, 1954 for novel, 2006 for audio release.

I decided to try out a Fleming Bond novel when seeing them online.  I'm not sure if this is the first Fleming novel I have read.  I kinda recall reading Dr. No.

Boy, the racism sure shines through in this novel.  Sometimes it is a paternalistic racism praising musical skill and modern dance crazes that started in Harlem.  Sometimes the racism is a comment like "[black people] get excited and act crazy"  and "you could almost hear the jungle drums."  Felix Leiter and Bond are in a Harlem bar and Leiter refers to the couple in the neighboring booth as "straight from Nigger Heaven".  Harlem has "high yeller" prostitutes and a character is described "[he] had a bit of white in him."  Mr. Big's goons are apes.

Anyway.  Bond is freshly recuperated after a tough mission and assigned a case that sends him to New York City, Florida and the Bahamas.  There have been gold coins from buccaneer days trading in the States.  The coins likely originated from English territory in the Bahamas.  Mr. Big is the man suspected for the illicit coin trade and is also suspected of being a Soviet spy.  Not just a spy but a member of SMERSH.  Bond's recent recuperation was post-SMERSH related.  Bond catches a plane to New York to liaison with the CIA and

Bond lands in NYC and teams up with Felix Leiter.  Bond has read the MI6 dossier on Mr. Big and the history of voodoo.  Big grew up on Haiti and came to the states.  He worked for Legs Diamond (it was neat to hear that reference!) then struck out on his own.  Big started building an empire until he was drafted.  Big's French fluency found him with the OSS and working the docks in Marseilles as a spy.  Big disappeared after he was demobbed and the West figures he took training in Russia.  Big returns to New York and exerts his brains and voodoo knowledge to build a criminal empire making him the most powerful black crook in the U.S.

Bond and Leiter hit the town in Harlem hoping to gain some info.  Bond and Leiter are known by the many spies and informants who work for Big.  The threat of angering Mr. Big makes a lot of people do what he says.  Bond and Leiter are captured.  Bond and Leiter questioned by Mr. Big.  Mr. Big does not kill them because that would cause more trouble.  Bond meets Solitaire, Mr. Big's captive and would-be wife.  Bond escapes and kills three crooks in the process.

Bond has to leave town after the deaths in Harlem.  Bond gets call at his hotel from Solitaire.  Solitaire is escaping Mr. Big.  Bond meets her to take a train to Florida.  Bond and Solitaire are tailed.  Bond and Solitaire flee the train and miss a murder attempt on their train compartment.

Bond and Leiter investigate Big's seaside warehouse.  Leiter goes missing.  Leiter found but half eaten.  Bond goes to warehouse. Bond has gunfight and fistfight and kills warehouse manager.  Bond finds where Leiter was dropped in shark cage under warehouse. Solitaire is kidnapped while Bond is gone.

Bond goes to Bahamas.  Bond surveills Big's small island where gold coins are suspected of being found.  Bond hears that previous commando attempts to infiltrate island brought death to both British divers. Bond trains for a week in the ocean.  Bond reads about sea creatures.  Bond scubas to island and puts limpet mine on Big's ship.  Bond is caught.  Bond imprisoned overnight with Solitaire.  Bond and Solitaire dragged behind ship with idea of dragging them across coral reef so the sharks and barracuda cultivated by Big will eat them.  Limpet mine explodes ship before Bond and Solitaire hit the reef.

1. Plenty of clothes detail.  Cars detail. Other name dropping.
2. Bond is British through and through.  Not quite a xenophobe but very particular about things like cooked eggs and coffee.
3. Difficult to not take some of this as kitsch.  The culture may be outdated but the writing is not.  Fleming writes clearly.
4.  Interesting to read events that were then used in more than one Bond film.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Heard: "Cocktail Waitress" by James M. Caine

Heard: Cocktail Waitress by James M. Caine, 2012,

A work of love by Charles Ardai.  Ardai has a nice afterword about how he first picked up a Cain novel when he was a 18-year-old college freshman.  He read that book and every other Cain book he could find.  As an adult Ardai heard about an unpublished novel and kept asking people.  Max Allan Collins told him about the unpublished Cocktail Waitress and Ardai found the novel in Cain's papers at the LOC.

I got way too carried away with plot rundown.  Skip the rest if you like.

Joan Medford is narrating her story into a tape recorder.  She was only 21 [or about that age] when her abusive drunk of a husband is killed driving drunk.  Joan's husband was unable to hold a job and left her and her toddler son with a mortgage, unpaid and turned off utilities, and no money in the bank.  Joan is forced to let her rotten sister-in-law care for her son.  Joan left home when she was a teen and has no job skills.

Joan is under suspicion by a cop who investigated her husband's car wreck.  That cop's partner gives Joan a line on a cocktail waitress job. Cop introduces Joan to restaurant owner and Joan's memory and her big breasts land her the job.  Joan and co-worker Liz wear skimpy outfits and no bras.  Liz does some part-time prostitution and cocktail waitresses of the time (set in the 1960s) are considered by many people to be prostitutes anyway.

Joan meets a rich guy who tips BIG.  Joan meets a handsome young guy with no dough.  Joan needs to support her son.  The rich guy's daily tips get the house's water, electric and phone turned back on.  Rich guy says, "Come to my house.  I have a beneficial task for you."  Joan is picked up by Rich Guy's chaffeur, driven to Rich Guy house, given a check for $50,000, and driven off.  That's weird.  But, Joan takes the money and buys off her home and buys the house across the street as a rental.

Rich Guy is super hot for Joan and goo-goo eyes for her.  Rich Guy is old and repulsive to Joan but she plays him along.  Rich Guy has angina and his doctor says, "No sex or you'll die."  Joan figures, "That could work" and they are pre-engaged.

Joan also chats with Handsome Young Guy.  Handsome Young Guy takes Joan to the Wigwam Club Restaurant with it's chaise lounge booths hidden by curtains and served by prostitute "waitresses".  Joan is hot and very bothered by Handsome Rich Guy but runs out in her shirt, raincoat and bare skin when she thinks of the money she would throw away by not staying with Rich Guy.

Anyway.  Joan and Rich Guy marry.  Rich Guy's heart won't stop him from pawing on Joan.  Joan thinks, "Eww, yuck!" but says, "Darling, your heart!  I don't want a dead husband!".  Rich Guy is frustrated.  Rich Guy sees new doctor who prescribes treatment that would allow sex.  Joan says, "Your new doctor is a quack!"  Rich Guy screws a "masseuse" and says, "Ha! Told you!"  Joan says, "It's  not the same.  You love me so much your emotions will drive your heart to seize!  Screw hookers and you'll live.  I can face this if you can, dear."

Rich Guy dies anyway.  Suspicious cop thinks Joan did it.  Suspicious cop finds evidence of poisoning.  Handsome Young Guy and Joan shag.  Handsome Young Guy kills himself after Joan skips out in the morning.  Handsome Young Guy had poison at his pad and takes the (dead)fall for Rich Guy's death. Joan inherits the house and a ton of money.

1.  Joan tells the story.  I trusted her at first.  Then the coincidences pile on.  There is a better chance she is a total liar and killed all three men. Men trusted her, including the cop, but all those men were struck by her beauty and sex appeal.  According to Joan all sorts of men were hitting on her.  Her attorney.  Her dead husband's doctor.  The police. The cocktail bar customers. 
2.  Is Joan telling us, "I'm so lovely.  Men want me.  Women hate me.  But, I'm just an innocent girl struggling to feed and care for her son.  Cry for me."
3. Cain wrote this in 1975 shortly before he died.  Cain kept fiddling and changing things around.  Cain did not mark which draft was the latest and greatest and Ardai did his best to put together the final product as he thought Cain would.

4. Gratuitous Thalidomide.
5.  Ardai's afterword has a nice talk about Cain's lasting impact even though he was considered a literary loser at the time.  A junk writer who sold sex and violence.
6.  I've emailed Ardai a couple times to say thanks for Hard Case Crime.

Picked: "Burnt Offering" by Richard and Frances Lockridge

Picked: Burnt Offering by Richard and Francis Lockridge, 1955, LOC Cat no.55-6310.

I read the upcoming FFB theme of books written in the 1950s.  At first I used the fancy way of looking for a book and ran a library report on publication dates for fiction items.  That didn't work very well.  There was a Nevil Shute book I had not yet read but I did not want to read that one. So, I wondered the Mystery section looking for old stuff.

I'm surprised I did not weed this one.  Past circ' stats are iffy for individual items.  Reports cannot easily be run and keeping track of each item would balloon the database.  From what I can see this last went out in 2009. I don't know anything about the Lockridge's and don't feel like looking them up.  They did write a lot of books and the main character in Burnt Offering seems to be a series character.

Captain M.L. Heimrich of the New York State Police is visiting his niece and her husband in the Town of Van Brunt, NY along the Hudson River.  Heimrich attends a town council meeting with his niece and her husband because the Lockridge's want to set things up by showing the conflict between Phipps, the town supervisor, and Town residents regarding several issues including zoning, name changes, and other issues.  The narration says Hiemrich is tagging along as his family is there to hear about the proposed zoning changes.

Anyway.  A fire alarm cancels the meeting and everyone drives down to the firehouse because the firehouse is on fire.  The next morning Phipps is found burned up in the remains of the fire.  How did he get there?  Was it an accident?  No, this is a murder mystery and Phipps was shot.

Heimrich is already in town and is assigned the investigation.  His main partner, Sergeant Forniss, comes to town and they start investigating. The novel is sort-of a cozy police procedural.  Heimrich starts trying to figure out where Phipps went after the fire to figure who killed Phipps and dumped him in the smoldering remains and covered him with gasoline in a try to hide the killing.

Heimrich interviews the already introduced suspects.  A lawyer, the town librarian, the rich matron van Brunt and her son, people angry over real estate and class issues.  Van Brunt is split among old money, newer money with multi-acre lots, and the poor people in shacks on The Flats.

Heimrich finds the killer after a couple false leads, a burglary, a second shooting, a threatened child, a kidnapping, an arson, and a fire rescue.  A nice mix of action and cerebral work.

1.  Heimrich often closes his eyes during interviews and just listens.
2.  Heimrich has a tactic of turnign away questions by saying, "Now, Mr. [name}..."
3. Some of the pacing was nice with a mix of short sentences mixed with longer description.
4. Map of town included.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Done: "Kwik Krimes" edited by Otto Penzler

Done: Kwik Krimes by Otto Penzler, 2013, 9781612183008.

Flash fiction collection.  Some stories are better than others.  Some stories are so-so  Some authors need more practice in writing short form because the stories feel like they are longer forms that were cut down to size.  I prefer the ones that feel like a complete story in themselves.  I may want to know more about the characters or aftermath but I enjoy the stories as they stand by themselves.  Like a good anecdote told by a friend or relative - there's no need to flesh it out.

About half the authors were working for an O. Henry twist.  81 stories.  Some authors are online flash fiction people.  Some authors are short story people.  Some authors are novelists. With 81 stories I cannot easily skim back through and pick favorites.  But, I'll try.

1.  Charles Ardai has two stories with one under his Aleas alias. 
2.  Patricia Abbott's.
3.  Wigwam Club!  Hah!  I've been listening to James M. Cain's Cocktail Waitress and the main character goes to the Wigwam Club.  I knew I'd read that before.  The setting is in Ardai's story.
4.  Raymond Benson had a good one with modern turn on Hansel and Gretel, Baba Yaga, and Red Riding Hood.
5. Joe Clifford's dumb-ass, junkie mob son killing a guy trying to help him.
6.  Crider's.
7.  Sean Doolittle's tale about former grifters going back to theivery after dropping their daughter off at her first year of college.
8.  Brendan DuBois's pro thief in a small town casing an armored car robbery.
9.  Warren C. Easley with young girl figuring out her mother's boyfriend killed the girl's grandfather.
10.  Christa Faust's with a woman who has men pay to beat her up. 
11.  Matthew C. Funk's about a 12-year-old killer gangbanger.
12.  Chris Grandebstein's cop drama where the characters are dogs in a park.
13.  John Kenyon's story told in reverse time about an arsonist who falls fall a burn victim he responsible for.
14.  Chaarles McLeod's with a man telling a story where thugs forced him to pistol whip his father.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Listened: "Evil in All its Disguises" by Hilary Davidson

Listened: Evil in All It's Disguises by Hilary Davidson, 2013, Overdrive download.

I did not really enjoy this novel.  I did not like the main character.  I did not like the narration.  The narrator is skilled but that skill brought out characterization's that made me dislike the characters even more.  The narrator's voices and accents were over the top for me.  Nothing wrong with dislikable characters but they did not have anything else to interest me.  I did finish the novel. Anyhoo.

Travel writer Lily goes on travel junket to Acapulco, Mexico.  Lily gets trapped in hotel owned by ex-fiance, Martin,and run by ex-fiance's former right-hand man, Gavin.  Gavin is using Lily to get revenge on Martin.

Lily's pal Skye goes missing.  Lily is worried for Skye.  Lily is angry that Skye dated Martin after Lily's broken engagement.  The hotel is suspicious and has no other guests but travel writers.  Skye was doing an investigative report on the hotel's company.  Davidson does not give us a body until half-way through the book but introduces plenty of suspects and business intrigue. 

Lily asks questions.  Lily gets stonewalled.  Lily calls Martin.  Lily held captive.  Martin arrives and kills Gavin.  Gavin said he never killed Skye.  Lily returns to NYC and discovers that fellow travel writer (well, marketing lady) did the murder.

1.  Lily is a bitch.  What business is it of her's whether the ex-boyfriend - that she loathes - is dating her work friend?  "None" is the answer.  She steals her Skye's passport and rifles through Skye's bag.  It's hard to justify taking someone's property - as important as a passport when overseas - as getting even.  That made me dislike Lily even more.
2.  Narrator was getting on my nerves until I realized it was the character.  Narrator just gave her more personality.
3.  Another comment on enjoyable characters (search previous posts if you like).  I need something to keep me going.  I need something to keep me involved.  A nasty, vile character can keep me interested.  Lily just annoyed me. 
4.  I did like Gavin the sociopath.  Mainly because Davidson brought out how he is weird, how his behavior seems to be a copy, a simulation, of appropriate social behavior.  Gavin lacks in sincerity and his actions are inappropriate to the occasion.
5.  The thing is, I think Davidson does good writing.  I think her pacing and plotting were good.  But, this was not for me.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quit: "Queen of the Air" by Dean Jensen

Quit: Queen of the Air: a true love of story and tragedy at the circus by Dean Jensen, 2013, 9780307986566.

History and biography of famed circus trapeze artist, Lillian Leitzel.  I stopped reading because the author was recreating conversations and thoughts of long dead people.  Those recreations in chapter one really annoyed me.

Jensen had many, many interviews and conversations with people and relatives.  The recreations in Chapter One are from conversations remembered between Lillian's brother and mother, Alfred and Nellie.  Jensen is clear in his notes that Alfred and "was not a direct witness to the events described, but learned of them through Nellie."  Yeah, maybe Alfred heard everything from his mom but his memory is still third hand.  That makes the book fourth hand.  I think Jensen should have skipped the recreations and gone with straight history.

Maybe I am being too picky. But, I'm done.