Thursday, July 24, 2014

Done: "The Third Bullet" by Stephen Hunter

Done: The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter, 2013, 9781451640205.

Fun stuff.  I picked up this up at work, started reading, and decided to take it home even though I already have a book stack I am working through.  Hunter makes such effortless novels. Takes a nice stroll through the history of the JFK assassination and Oswald.

Short version: Bob Lee Swagger uncovers the true conspiracy of JFK's murder.

Long version: Hunter kills off a fictional version of himself as a gun writer who found previously unknown evidence of conspiracy to kill JFK.  Fictional Hunter is murdered and wife stakes out Bob Lee Swagger to ask for his technical advice.  Swagger is immediately intrigued when the hears a connection between the JFK killing and a bob guy in the first Swagger novel, Point of Impact.

Swagger travels on his own dime to Dallas.  Works with FBI pal. Travels to Moscow.  Gets in trouble with the Russian mob and bribes way into KGB archives.  Moscow is a dead end.  Swagger turns attention back to U.S. and a supposedly dead CIA agent.  More action.  More intrigue.  More Oswald.  More history.  Bad guy's tale told from bad guy's memoir writing.  More shooting.  More gun love.  Swagger pulls the threads together and revenges Officer Tippit's murder.

Gun love.  Let me count the ways:
1. .38 Super
2. 1911
3. Gsh-18
4. .38 Special Smith and Wesson Military and Police models.
5. Harsh criticism of poorly mounted scopes on poorly made scope mounts for a scope with poor quality glass.
6.  Bullet design.
7. Ballistics design.
8. Winchester Model 70.
9. HK48 machine guns
10. Wilson 1911s.
11. Mauser C96 "Red Nine".  Never heard of that before.  A 9MM Mauser marked with a red numeral nine on the stock to show caliber.

1. I need to read Max Allan Collin's take on the assassination conspiracy theory he did with his Nate Heller character.
2. One character had a neat Terminator theory of the assassination.  Kennedy survives the attempt, because hard-core pacifist (there's a oxymoron) and destroys the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  The Soviets, or a rogue Soviet general, launch nuclear attacks that devastates the planet.  A killer is sent back in time to make sure Kennedy dies.  When Kennedy dies the shooter and all evidence of his work - Zap! - disappears.
3. Hunter uses Swagger to go over a lot of the conspiracy talk and theories.  It's an entertaining look at things through Swagger's technical and tactical eyes.

Read: "XXX Shamus" by Red Hammond

Read: XXX Shamus by Red Hammond (Anthony Neil Smith), 2013, 9781940885049.

Here is the rundown: lots of graphically described sex, brutal violence, a messed up protagonist dealing with messed up antagonists. A good book.

My analysis:  The book blurbs and comments have talked up the sex with descriptions like "this is a smash mouth wow zinger that will kick you in the pants. OMG my head will now explode! Aaahh!"  No, not exactly. Yes, I certainly agree that the book is a wild ride with sex and violence.  But, I think that misses the point that this is a novel with a unique look at a screwed up guy. 

Hopper Garland suffered, and still suffers, under extreme psychological and sexual abuse by his older sister who became his legal guardian after their parents died. Hopper is an adult now but still has an incestuous relationship with his deeply manipulative sister.  Sex has been forced on him since he was a boy and now that he is an adult cannot turn away the women who come on to him.  He has sexual dysfunctions related to power and casual sex and is unable to engage in a loving relationship.  Hopper knows he has has troubles, he recognizes the manipulation by his sister and his own problem in committing to a woman. 

Even though Hopper knows these things his brain and body have been taught to enjoy them.  He knows how wrong the incest is but his brain has been taught to enjoy it and Hopper gets an erection from his sister's actions, or from the horndog attitude of bar girl pick-ups.  Certain things simultaneously turn him on and disgust him. He craves sex with his sister - as well as any available gal.  Smith is giving us a guy who knows right and wrong but cannot stop himself.  He still enjoys and craves the wrong; like having sex with the underaged missing girl he was hired to find.

Which brings us to the plot.  Hopper is about 29-years-old or so and an a PI in New Orleans.  Hopper apprenticed under a couple long-time PIs, has his own business, and has specialized in finding runaway teen girls.  Hopper also has a hang dog look and super strong pheromones that attract women like crazy.

Hopper's latest client wants him to find her missing, pregnant teen sister.  Hopper starts asking boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. Hopper discovers the pregnant girl was doing preggo porn.  Hopper meets porn producers.  Hopper finds out the missing girl's high school guidance counselor was procuring porn talent from the troubled kids at school.

Hopper gets in fights.  Hopper gets beaten and gives beatings.  Hopper is screwing his college student secretary and loves her.  Secretary and Hopper go to Vegas to find missing girl.  Hopper and secretary are kidnapped and raped by bad guys.  Traumatized Secretary leaves New Orleans.  Hopper has big plans to track her down and woo her.  Hopper offers up his sister to evil "colleague" in return for info on missing Secretary.  Hopper unable to go through with having his sister murdered.  Hopper decides to find Secretary himself.

1. Quick read at 224 pages.
2. If I remember correctly Smith wrote that he finished this novel and it sat in a drawer until Broken River published it.
3.  A lot of disgusting behavior by the characters.  Not a novel for the faint hearted.
4. What is it people on Amazon do?  Complain about the cursing when reading a novel filled with violence?  Well, there is cursing in this one but that is the least of it.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Finished: "Compound Murder" by Bill Cider

Finished: Compound Murder by Bill Crider, 2013, 9780312641658.

Typically good.  It's odd though.  How are these so consistently good?  How does a simple car chase, done so many times in so many places, stay so compelling?  Sure, authors like Crider and Block and Gischler regularly do this but I still wonder how.

Anyway.  Sheriff Dan Rhodes is outside in the early AM watching his dogs play when he gets a call to go to the community college campus.  A dead man is by the dumpsters. (Dumpster death detection dealt by Dan.) The dead man is a disliked English professor.  Rhodes investigates and finds some people-of-interest and also handles the daily rinky-dinktasks his job requires. Rhodes asks many questions and cogitates.  Rhodes has a shootout, but this is a Sheriff Dan Rhodes novel and no one is killed ore seriously injured by gunfire.

As usual the characters are more interesting than the crime.  Which is saying something because Crider's culprits are never easily identified until he lets me know. Rhodes suffers the obnoxious behavior of Lawton and Hack (mostly Hack), citizens who always demand but rarely thank or appreciate, and blathering local politicians. Rhodes deals with an understaffed workplace and a job that rarely gives him a day off.  Rhodes suffers the indignities of meat-free meatloaf.

Maybe is was me but this felt like more a crime novel than others in the series.  Not as much thought by Rhodes into the declining economies of small towns and the terrible criminal behavior that some people get up to.  Rhodes is still dedicated to his job and the victim and finding the murderer(s).

1. Community college and wise cracks at the expense of English instructors.
2. Dr. Pepper love.
3. Dr. Pepper woe as Dan Rhodes grieves the end of bottling at the Dublin, TX Dr. Pepper plant and cannot bring himself to try Mr. Pibb.  At least he still has Dairy Queen Blizzards.
4.  Dairy Queen Blizzard love.
5. Blacklin County geography.  Sure would be neat if someone created a Blacklin County wiki and map.
6.  Aggies but no Aggie jokes.  I was disappointed.
7. Gratuitous Seepy Benton.
8. Mentioned: wild hogs and bigfoot.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Read: "Dead Man: Volume 6" by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin

Read: Dead Man, Volume 6: [colder than Hell by Anthony Neil Smith, evil to burn by Lisa Klink, streets of blood by Barry Napier by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin]by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin, 2013, 9781477848067.

Paperback edition of titles initially published electronically.

I enjoy this series and reading all the different authors.  There are some drawbacks to this though.  One thing that comes to mind is how interesting characters come and go and never return. For example, Smith starts Colder than Hell with a neatly drawn seven pages on a rural, poor, young woman driving to Fargo for a job interview, getting stuck on the interstate in a blizzard, and getting sucked into evil. We never see her again.  This happens in a lot of these novellas and although we get a whisper of a previous story's characters we never seem'em again.  Oh Well.

Colder Than Hell.  Matt is catching a ride to Fargo to see a 100-year-old whose interview was in a newspaper.  The 100-year-old seemed to refer to Mr. Dark.  Matt and his new trucker buddy are caught in a massive blizzard and people start acting weird.  There seems to be an infection spreading person to person that starts hysterical giggling and people saying "I need you" as if they are drugged.  Matt is immune to the disease, maybe because of a cold.  He tramps around in the snow trying to help, axing a few people, battling with Mr. Dark.  Mr. Dark is upset because the disease makes people immune to Dark's evil touch.  Matt finds the source of the disease came from a lab in the Twin Cities.  Mr. Dark or someone else works to clear up the disease aftermath by torching the hospital everyone ends up in.  More people die.

Evil to Burn.  I still like the idea of writing "Klink goes clunk!" but this is at least the second Dead Man story by Klink and she does some good work.  Matt is on a bus in Nevada heading to the grand opening of a resort.  A news article photo showed an ouboros symbol in the hotel lobby.  Matt saw the same in Blood Mesa by James Reasoner.  Matt suspects the same dark power that drove people murderously insane in Blood Mesa will happen in the new resort.  Matt's bus crashes, Matt is stuck with others, people die, Matt walks to resort, Matt gets to resort and bad guy turns into fire demon and sets resort on fire and chases Matt around.

Streets of Blood.  Matt ends up in small town after reading about the town's sudden spike in violent crime.  Matt goes to super fancy assisted living facility and gets job as custodian.  Matt has dreams of young teen girls outside haunted house.  Matt senses the evil in town.  Mat finds out the teen girls sacrificed a friend and gained mucho dark magic and power.  Those teen girls are now elderly and losing their power.  They are moving back into assisted living in hope proximity will renew or preserve their power. No dice.  That black magic is leeching out and into everyone in town and causing murder and mayhem.  Matt axes a few people,  saves the day, and most of the town is dead. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Finally Finished: "Useful Enemies"by Richard Rashke

Finally Finished: Useful Enemies: John Demanjanjuk and America's open-door policy for nazi war criminals by Richard Rashke, 2013, 9781883285517.

Committee book.  Long but well done and very well researched.  A dual tale of Denjanjuk's many legal trials compared against the U.S. government's open arms welcome for other former nazis and active collaborators.  A long and involved tale with:
1. foreign and U.S. documents
2. multiple lawyers, hearings, trials, transcripts
3. conflicting evidence from expert witnesses and lost-and-found documents
4. legal proceedings in the U.S., Israel, and Germany and questionable information from the USSR and Ukraine
5. unreliable memory - or is it reliable? We don't know for sure, do we?

Short story is this: After WWII the U.S. scooped up all sorts of nazis.  Many were nabbed for their scientific skill even if they were actively involved in managing projects that used slave labor.  Other nazis were hired as anti-communist spies and paramilitaries for Easter European operations. There was not always an active recruitment of nazis, more of a "no one said we couldn't" philosophy.  Sure, these were the same people who murdered a few million Jews, gypsies, POWs, Russians, Poles, and others but hey, they don't like the reds.

Some of those nazis were brought immediately to the U.S. and others came later.  All were protected by different government agencies. Once the government did start prosecuting nazis for immigration violations in the '70s they were stonewalled and ignored by other government agencies.

Demjanjuk was not recruited by the CIA.  Demjanjuk fought in the Soviet Army, was captured, and hired by the krauts as a camp guard.  Demjanjuk ended up in a refugee camp, applied to emigrate, and came over.  He was first suspected and tried as Ivan the Terrible - since disproved - but did work at other camps.  Demjanjuk's citizneship was revoked since his application never mentioned working for the krauts.

Demjanjuk's case lasted 34 years. The book lasted 544 pages.

1. Rashke was on BookTV a couple months ago - that itself was  replay from 2013 - and spoke a little about this topic.  His talk was at the Archives - or similar - and he'd focused his talk to topics that related to the Archives. 
2. Impressive research by Rashke.  He put all that research and the conflicting arguments together into a readable and interesting book.
3. One issue with a book like this is the anger and aggravation you have when reading how some scumbag motherfuckers got away with everything and lived the good life in the U.S.
4. I refuse to capitalize nazi.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

In My Ears: "The Thin Man" by Dashiell Hammett

In My Ears: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, 1934, download was 2005 copyright.

I have not been walking much lately.  I've been biking to work more often and swimming for exercise so this took a while to finish.  William Dufris narrated this one.  Defris also narrates Steve Hockensmith's series with the Amlingmeyers.  So, sometimes I'd be picturing Big Red in 1934 New York and married to Nora.

The novel's story is well known.  In brief, former private detective Nick Charles and his younger wife Nora are visiting New York from their home in San Francisco.  Nick and Nora just want to drink booze (and they do, lots of it) but Nick gets dragged into a murder case by the family of an old client.  Nora loves hearing PI and crime world stories but Nick would just as soon leave it.  Then the film version comes out and makes lots of money.  50 years later the film starts showing on cable (and Urbana's PBS station, WILL, Saturday night movie show) and imagines William Powell as Nick Charles.  (Never mind Asta.)

A humorous novel.  Nothing much hardboiled or noir about this. Charles is kind of a hardboiled alumni.  Charles is quite cynical but has left crime scene behind and would rather spend time with his wife and his liquor.  He focuses on the stock market and business interests.  Former client Wynant is a very reclusive and weird scientist.  Wynant's mistress/assistant has been murdered and Wynant is first person-of-interest.  Since Charles worked for Wynant several years ago Wynant's family asks him to take the case.  Wynant's attorney asks Charles to take the case.  The investigating NYPD Detective wants Charles to take the case and feed the cops informaiton. 

Charles refuses the detective work but keeps being drawn in by the Wynant's scheming ex-wife, Mimi, Wynant's loopy daughter Elizabeth(?), and Wynant's weird son Don'tRecall.  In the meatime Charles and Nora hangout and entertain visitors in their hotel suite and go to dinner parties.  They drink a lot.

Charles asks questions.  Charles is questioned.  Charles tags along with the cops a couple times.  Charles has a hunch that the cops play out.  The murderer is found.  Nora wants things wrapped up a little better.

Worth your time because it is a good book.  Worth your time since it is a milestone in crime fiction.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Done: "Fifty-to-One" by Charles Ardai

Done: Fifty-to-One by Charles Ardai, 2008, 9780843959680.

Took a while to get to this one.  Boy #1 was working the Scout dunk tank in Commons Park and I was superfluous.  There was already a Scout Leader on duty so I walked over to find something to read for a while.  There were still some unread Hard Case Crime novels on the paperback spinners so I checked this one out.

This is a good novel but it raises a few questions.  #1 is Why does Ardai not write more books?  I know he must spend a lot of time reading and editing but the guy does some real fine stuff. I see only three novels by him in Worldcat. 

Ardai wanted to do something special  since Fifty-to-One is the fiftieth novel published by Hard Case Crime.  So he wrote a story where Hard Case was around 50 years ago and then incorporates all the lines titles as chapter headings.

Small town South Dakota girl Tricia Heverstadt follows her older sister Coral out to New York City in 1958.  Tricia's bus drops her at Union Station and she catches a cab to her sister's boarding house.  Coral tells her to leave NYC, go back to SD, and Tricia cannot stay.  Tricia sits down and cries.  A swell walks by saying, Hey, I know a hotel you can stay at.  The Swell takes her  money and gives her a business card with address.  Tricia goes to the address and sees she has been swindled, the address is an office building.

Tricia starts to break down but straightens up, goes upstairs and figures to knock doors.  A modeling agency on the 3rd floor hires her, under her promptly decided on pseudonym of Trixie, as a dancer for a nightclub singer.  The agency runs a dorm-of-sorts in the building.  Tricia/Trixie meets The Swell.  The Swell is Charley who owns Hard Case crime.  Trixie belts Charley.  Charley says he'll pay back.  Trixie also takes on the task to write a crime novel for $500.

Eight weeks go by and Trixie dances at nights in the mobster owned nightclub and types during the day.  Trixie makes up the whole novel but after publishing the amazing coincidence is that the club's safe is robbed of three million dollars in the same fashion as the novel.  Uh-oh

Trouble ensues.  Mobsters beating and threatening.  Revelations about Coral.  Bad guys introduced.  A couple people murdered.  Scumbag behavior.
Trixie in peril.  Trixie in grave peril.  Trixie in graver peril.  Trixie's sister and new friends in graver peril. 
Women boxers.  Loose women.  Ruthless men.  Ruthless women.  Race horses. 
Characters knocked unconscious.  Mobsters who scheme against each other.  Blackmail.
1950s New York geography.  Gratuitous Don Westlake.  Gratuitous Laurence Block. 
Ardai has Trixie running around New York avoiding the cops and the mob and trying to find out who stole the money. A fun book.

1.  Anacronism: Cops carrying radios?  Did cops carry hand units in 1958?  I have no idea but figure they would have used car radios or telephones.
2.  One of those books that takes sweat and toil and is eaten up in just a few hours.