Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Waited On: "Canary" by Duane Swierczynski

Waited On: Canary by Duane Swierczynski, 2015, 9780316403207.

The reliable Siwzzleleel wrote this after reading about confidential informants who were pressured by the police into spying on crooks. This is not the breakneck pace of the Charlie Hardie novels.

Sarie Holland is in the honors program at a private college in Philadelphia. She is a year younger than most other freshmen and her mother died a year ago. She lives at home with her father and younger brother. Sarie has the hots for an older honors program student. That guy asks her to give him a lift into the city.

Sarie gives him a lift. Sarie drops him at drug house. They are driving off when she drops him to get cheese steaks. Sarie is going around the block when she is pulled over. A narcotics cop busts her and things stat going bad.

This is a good novel but I have a cracked finger and do not want to type any more.

Notes: Read in December, typed on 1-17-16, and back dated to '15.

Done: "Rangers at Dieppe" by Jim Defelice

Done: Rangers at Dieppe, The first combat action of U.S. Army Rangers in World War II by Jim Defelice, 2009, 9780425225691 (paper).

This showed up after our library system conversion. I must have placed a hold a while ago, suspended the hold, and the system conversion released the hold.

A book with a narrow topic. Plenty has been written about the disastrous Dieppe raid in 1942. The Canadians and British mounted a large raid on the coastal French town as a moral builder and dress rehearsal of sorts for future invasion of France. U.S. Rangers were still a new unit. Rangers were training under the guidance of British Commandos in Scotland and several were sent to join the invasion force for experience.

Records are scarce. The Rangers were spread out among several units and battle histories do not give the full story of who went where and when on the day of battle. DeFelice was able to speak with only a couple living Rangers as he worked on the book. DeFelice organizes the book around those Rangers who came ashore - several landing craft never made it to shore - and some of the upper level failures and actions that helped cause a disastrous raid.

I like how DeFelice points out the upper level errors. Rushed planning. Pushing military action for morale and propaganda. Dissent over poor planning was shut down or ignored. The mission was way too ambitious with a tight timeline that could not be met.

30 pages of sources and notes, I like that. A lot. A quicker read and an interesting story about a rarely told story.

Notes: I typed this up 1-17-16 but read it in December so I am back dating.

Complete: "Trench" by Stephen Bull

Complete: Trench: a history of trench warfare on the Western Front by Stephen Bull, 2010, 9781472801326.

This was quite good. Bull knows what he is talking about. Bull throws in his some pointed commentary at times but the book mainly a highly informational piece on how trench life and warfare changed during the war.

The battlefield and tactics were revised and changed over the four years of warfare. "Over the top" is one of the lasting images but, fortunately, those tactics did not last for the whole war. We miss the advances in artillery, tanks, mining, machine guns, gas, patrolling, the depth of built-up defenses with concrete bunkers, mortars, artillery attacks, machine gun attacks, etc. Wars are, after all, a time of quick technological research and achievement.

Troops did not spend a lot of time in the front line. Units were rotated in and out of the line. I think a week at time at the front was usual but rotations depended on the individual division and the army. I remember from several Western Front memoirs how the men would rotate to the rear and officers would take courses in artillery. machine guns, patrolling, etc.

The middle of the book had an handful of paragraphs that wonderfully explained how the war and tactics evolved over the four years. Damned if I can find that section. I looked and scanned but I found zilch.

Plenty of photographs and illustrations. An historian's look at events and people - he doesn't focus on heroic stories and apocryphal tales. Bull points out how the remaining trenches and storng points in France and Belgium differ from their active use. Erosion and settling have down their work and even rebuilt trench lines differ from 100 years ago.

Bulls' topical chapters are:  New Weapons and Tactics, Gas, Raiding and Sniping, Mining, Concrete, The Tank, Over the Top.

Comment: I finished this in 2015 so I am backdating this post. Written 1-17-2016.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Heard Another One: "Stories From the Secret War" by Terrence M. Burke

Heard Another One: Stories From the Secret War: CIA Special Ops in Laos by Terrence M. Burke, 2014, I am not sure if the copyright year is the book, the audio, or the digital audio.

Interesting stuff.

Burke got out of high school, joined the Marines, served several years in the Corps including a stint as Embassy security. Burke decided to try college out and while in school contacted CIA people he meet during his Embassy duty. Burke enrolled at a D.C. area college and got work ended up having a couple "smaller" jobs with the CIA as a tech and a security guard. He applied for clandestine services and paramilitary service. Away he went to training.

Burke did not go into a lot of training details but he spent almost two years learning everything. Spycraft, communications, infantry skills and tactics, communications, language training, etc. Training was mostly done by the CIA but he and some others also did Army courses including a escape and evade course in Central America.

Burke is posted to Laos. An international agreement barred military assistance to Laos. The Army left Laos the CIA moved in. Burke and Friends were tasked with countering the communist influence and helping the Laotian Army and local groups fight. Burke worked with Air America to transport material and people to remote camps. The CIA guys don't actively fight. They train guerrillas and sometimes perform improvised bombing runs on North Vietnamese convoys.

Burke spent two years in Laos working at several jobs from the large, main airfield to smaller camps. The Laotians had surplus equipment and weapons and were '03 Springfields, M1s and M1 carbines. He had training above basic first aid but in several cases ended up being the emergency medicine guy for the locals. One instance had a boy with a crushed arm - maybe it was a leg - and another had a man with a bad head injury.

Towards the end of his time in Laos Burke was based in a camp as an infantry instructor when the camp was attacked by the North Vietnamese. Burke always slept in his boots and clothes and woke in time to see the enemy coming. Good thing, because Burke was targeted by the NVA.  Two NVA soldiers burst in and started shooting. Burke was prone, shot back, and killed them.  Burke and Co. survived the fight and he ended up leaving Laos for the States.

Burke's afterword is also interesting. He gives a quick rundown of the rest of his career. He returned to Southeast Asia on another tour with the CIA and then worked his way up through the Agency. (Burke writes that one motivation to advance in rank was to have fewer and fewer bosses to report to and suffer under.) He retired from the CIA in the mid-'70s and joined the newly formed DEA and retired from that Agency after working his way up those ranks. After that he joined an international security and investigation company and them formed his own firm.

1. What do old activist hippies have to say after reading this? Burke's book is short. He doesn't cover politics or social issues. He believed in his work and trusted in his colleagues.
2. Interesting thing: His M1 actually broke during a gun fight. He writes that the follower popped up out of his gun during the fight I listed above. Lucky for him one of the Laotian troops took off running and Burke was able to grab that man's rifle and keep fighting.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Listened: "The Abominable Snowmen" by [multiple creators]

Listened: The Abominable Snowmen by [as listed on Overdrive] Patrick Troughton, Deborah Watling, Jack Watling, Frazer Hines. Television audio with some voice over narration.

Another audio package from the Doctor Who TV program. Original dialogue and sound effects are used with descriptive voice over, "The Doctor approaches the pyramids and inspects the objects. Victoria sneaks away." According to a fan web page these episodes aired in 1967.

The Tardis lands in the mountains of Tibet. The Doctor is happy and starts hunting through the Tardis for an object. The Doctor finds a big coat and a Tibetan holy bell. Meanwhile, two explorers are attacked by a Yeti and one man is killed.

The Doctor, Victoria and Jamie head into the wind and cold. The find the remains of the explorers's campsite and then find a Tibetan monastery. The surviving explorer accuses the Doctor and Co. of being responsible for the attack. Explorer also accuses the Doctor and Co. of being journalists there to scoop the Explorer's discovery of the Yeti.

Anyway. The Yeti have been attacking people. The warrior monks are led by a sneaky Abbot. A couple warriors are warrior-like and a couple others are more monk-ish and calm. Not Monk-ish and agitated. We find out the Yeti are robots that house control units in the shape of metal spheres. The Abbott is under the control of some mysterious entity.

Doctor Who fights for clear headed thinking, ration, and kindness. Jamie carries a sword around. Victoria screams in terror. People die. Some Yeti monsters walk around and I never get to critique the awful costumes because I am listening to an audio book.

1. Meh. Skip it unless you're a regular Who fan.
2. Throughout the story I kept thinking of The Kinks.

Heard: "X-Files: trust no one" edited by Jonathan Maberry

Heard: "X-Files: trust no one" edited by Jonathan Maberry, 2015, download. Multiple narrators.

Short story collection featuring Scully and Mulder with one story focusing on Skinner. I heard about the book because I (sort of) follow Jonathan Maberry online. Fun to listen to and a nice tie-in to the upcoming episodes.

All the stories list the time and date like each TV episode does.  Most stories were set during the first half of the television show's run. One earlystory has Mulder's wife. Mulder married a woman so she could earn status as a legal immigrant. I think another story was set post-2000 with Scully thinking about her partnership with Mulder as more than work.

All the shapeshifter stories you could ever want. I enjoyed those shapeshifter TV episodes as well, so I will not slight the authors for enjoying the same thing. A few appearances of The Smoking Man. Several stories where super secret men in hazmat suits swoop in, take over a crime scene, and concoct a cover story.

I don't recall all the authors. I do remember Max Allan Collins and W.D. Gagliani. Collins's story was a horror tale. Gagliani had werewolves, of course.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Done: "Worm" by Anthony Neil Smith

Done: Worm by Anthony Neil Smith, 2015, 978-1937495893 (paper).

Smith printed the ebook with Blasted Heath and the paper version is from Down and Out Books.

Short version:
Guy on the Gulf Coast has no job. Guy goes to North Dakota for oil field work. Guy transports meth for more money. Guy's family moves North to be with Guy. Bad things happen with some mystery thrown inside.

Finn - called Ferret by most people - had no job prospects back on the Gulf Coast. Finn quit work as a touring musician and is laid off from [somewhere]. Finn doesn't want a job with his controlling father-in-law and heads to North Dakota for work in the oil fields. He leaves behind is worrying wife and their four-year-old daughter.

Finn gets to the Bakken oil fields and hires on with an outfit managed by Pancrazio. Finn doesn't much like the work, the place, or the people. Handy is the only guy Finn tries to make friends with and Handy pushes Finn away. Finn wants a new start and his family reunited in ND. When Finn figures out Handy and Pancrazio are running meth Finn asks for extra "work" in exchange for some of that plentiful drug money.

Anyway. Many things happen with lonely men getting drunk and chasing the few women. Low level crooks get away with being stupid because there are too few cops. No one is really happy and bad dudes are scheming. Boom town life means everyone is a stranger and there is not enough housing, few restaurants, and driftless morons looking for work but stupid to learn the trade. Things go very bad for Finn. People are trying to live and get ahead but the weather, the work, the bosses, the loneliness, and the crooks grind people down.

Some other dude - this guy - already wrote some nice insights about the novel that I would have missed. How several characters "have two names, two lives and some even have another self they're hiding to their colleagues."I didn't actually read the rest of that review. There was something else about villains.

1. Smith mostly skips the sex scenes. Good idea because A. most scenes in novels are lame and B. All the character except Finn and his wife are looking for love and companionship and never really finding it. The sex is casual. The friendships that exist are - as pointed out by above reviewer - two faced. Even the two best pals from OK are running separate shenanigans.
2. Shenanigans.
3. Continuing Smith motifs: Northern prairie setting. Conflicts with in-laws. Small time crooks. Naive guys learning the hard way.
4. I liked The Hard Way. I saw that one in the theater.
5. Boom town living with high pay matched by higher prices and no place for the workers to spend the dough. Richard S. Wheeler's Sierra did a great job explaining how the boom town economies in California ran in 1850.
6. Spoiler. Smith kills off Finn's Wife Character. Wife Character was a nice woman and Smith gives enough time for us to start liking the lady when Wife Character disappears and is presumed dead.
7. I've got two more Smith books to read and then I will be caught up.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Heard: "Predator One" by Jonathan Maberry

Heard: Predator One by Jonathan Maberry, 2015, download. More narration by Ray Porter.

Another novel in the Joe Ledger series.

A recap: Joe Ledger works for the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) which is a secret federal agency tasked with all sorts of derring-do. Joe Ledger and the DMS are a mix of James Bond and Agents of S.H.I.EL.D. and a comic book heroes. High tech gizmos and science.  Globe-trotting bad guys. Big conspiracies to destroy the USA or the world. Fist fights. Gun Fights. Supernatural evil. Bad guys that survive disaster and live for revenge.

This novel has the last of The Seven Kings - super conspiracy Bad Guys from previous novels - fulfilling his long term plan to wreak vengeance on Ledger and make a mint manipulating the market. Bad Guys kidnapped Brilliant Scientist to torture him into writing software. Bad Guys have both developed and hacked into autonomous software designed for both military and civilian applications. Military drone aircraft, submarines, missile launch software, surface ships, tanks, etc. can be hacked into and remotely controlled. Civilian airliners, drones, and automobiles can be hacked into whenever and driven wherever.

Ledger and his fellow super commandos survive bloody attacks on civilian and military targets. The Bad Guys are super bad by attacking a baseball stadium with tens of drones on opening day. Bad Guys test their tech with murder. Good Guys are honest and outraged at the depravity of bad guys. Ledger wears his emotions on his sleeves. Pregnant woman in peril. Good Guy Dogs are vicious to Bad Guys. Ledger talks heroically and pep talks his team.

Maberry gives us over-the-top shootouts, chases, continental travel, Presidential drama, civilian massacres. There are mysterious and spooky Good Guys. There are mysterious and spooky Bad Guys. There are super high-tech SUVs for the Good Guys. There are super- motivated Bad Guys. Massive gunfights in hospitals. Good Guys are tragically killed. Bad Guys are slowing and vengefully killed.

1. Fun stuff with lots of emotion. Very hoo-rah but not political.
2. Maberry keeps things chugging right along with short chapters, flashbacks, and changing setting. He'll stack cliff hangers against each other and switch the story lines back and forth.
3. Porter chews the material up and spits it out. He puts a lot into the dialogue and the reading.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Heard: "Ghost Road Blues" by Jonathan Maberry

Heard: Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry, 2006, download.

Narrator was good except for the women's voices. Horror novel by Maberry with human and otherworldly scares.

30 years ago a serial killer worked his way through several young citizens of Pine Deep, PA. An itinerant farm hand caught and killed the real killer but, in turn, was blamed for the crimes and lynched. The killer was a man possessed by evil and the farm hand knew this. But, Farm Hand was lynched before he could return to Possessed Killer's grave and charm the ground to keep the evil buried.

The current day setting has the adult survivors of the killer still living in Pine Deep. So too live the men of the lynch mob. Turmoil begins when a super-scary thrill killer/thief from Philadelphia makes his escape through Pine Deep. The small-town cops of Pine Deep are poorly led and trained and have to help the Philly cops run a dragnet.

Meanwhile, the Possessed Killer and Farm Hand have rIson from the earth - at least their walking spirits have. Bad men are hearing evil voices in their head. Our Hero is called into action and has to save his girlfriend. A teen boy suffers under his stepfather - one of the Bad Men - and may be an unwitting key to more evil. The Mayor takes multiple depression and anxiety drugs and converses with his sister who was a victim 30 years ago.

1. Fun stuff with scary horror. I did not like the narrator's female voices.
2. Maberry can lay the schmaltz on thick. I'm currently listening to the latest Joe Ledger novel and he does the same in that series as well. I quit reading his YA zombie series because of the overwrought parts.
3. Overwrought seems like the wrong word but I'm not going to check a thesaurus.
4. Maberry is good at villain making. His heroes are humble. His victims are innocent.
5. First novel in the Pine Deep trilogy. I follow Maberry online and I figured to try this out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Finished: "British Paratrooper Versus Fallschirmjager" by David Grentree

Finished: British Paratrooper Versus Fallschirmjager: Mediterranean 1942-43 by David Greentree, 2013, 9781780969244.

One of military history paperbacks that Osprey Publishing must have hundreds of in print. Greentree uses other history and biography titles for a brief history of paratroops by the Germans and British and two larger fights between the two groups. I don't think Greentree uses any primary resources like maps, unit diaries and histories; none of those are listed in the bib anyway.

One fight, Green Hill, was in North Africa when British Paratroopers jumped behind lines with a mission to attack three separate airfields. The mission was way too ambitious and poorly planned for a lightly armed group marching on foot. The Brits had a running five day defensive battle across the desert mountains and had to leave behind wounded men.

The second fight was a Brit Paratroop attack against a bridge in Eastern Sicily. The Allies wanted to cut off the German retreat to mainland Italy using the Straits of Messina. Paratroopers dropped and attacked the 400 foot long Primosole Bridge south of Catania. The Limeys succeeded in taking the bridge and the hills south of the bridge but fought back and forth with the German paratroops sent in to counterattack.

Both fights are good examples of misusing the units. Paratroopers are meant to drop behind enemy lines, fight, and be relieved ASAP. Paratroopers cannot bring enough people or carry enough arms, ammunition, equipment, and vehicles to easily hold out past a couple days. The table of organization changed during the war with units adding heavy machine guns and using gliders to deliver small vehicles and cannon.

Since the paratroopers were often misused they often failed to fully complete a mission or ended up with high casualties. But, paratroops were recruited and trained as elite soldiers so they would be employed as shock troops to reinforce trouble areas as regular infantry.

1. These books are fun, quick reads. I have trouble keeping all the German names and military titles straight.
2. I read Currahee! by Donald Burgett when I was in middle school and, ever since, I've enjoyed reading paratrooper books.
3. I appreciate that Osprey Pub. always has maps, photos, and color illustrations in the books. Maps especially, I hate when someone writes a book and does not include even a simple hand drawn map.

Another Poetry: "My Favorite Tyrants" by Joanne Diaz

Another Poetry: My Favorite Tyrants by Joanne Diaz, 2014, 9780299297848.

I liked this collection better than the last collection by Lindsay. Groups of poems about political tyrants and grief with two poems featuring Larry David.  I presume most of these are biographical and not fiction.

Diaz writes a lot about the death of her dominant mother. There are many poems about Diaz and her father coping with the mom's death and absence. Diaz's mixed feelings because her mother was such a "Queen Bee" and a bit of a tyrant herself.

Diaz's writing is sharp tongued. Wait a minute. The writing is sharp tongued? That doesn't sound right but I won't go back and make more sense. There is a poem about Brian Williams's coverage of the Italian Winter Olympics that reeks with distaste. (Or disgust. Maybe it's sarcasm, you really cannot tell in print anyway.) There are a lot of poems with humor and black humor, like The Watch List.

1. The back cover says Diaz teaches at Illinois Wesleyan. I toured there when I was a sophomore, or so. I was told about early admissions and how some students graduate early from high school to enroll. "Cool," I thought. I remember starting to fill out a form once I got home, then I got bored and quit.
2. Ringo Starr told a story about wanting to emigrate to Texas. He dropped into the U.S. embassy or consulate and asked. He got started on the process but on his return visit to the embassy/consulate they gave him a stack of papers. Ringo said that giving a teenager a bunch of paperwork is an easy way to dissuade the kid from anything.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Done: "The Cartel" by Don Winslow

Done: The Cartel by Don Winslow, 2015, 9781101874998.

More death and destruction across Mexico as DEA Agent Art Keller is persuaded to join the hunt for Adan Barrera. Winslow mixes fiction and reality together the same way as he did with Power of the Dog. Barrera seems based on Joaquin "El Chapo' Guzman.

Art Keller is hiding out with monks as Adan Barrera sits in prison. Keller keeps bees as he hides out from Barrera's death bounty. Barrera has his own prison wing to himself, lives in luxury, and brings in any visitors he wants for parties. Keller ends up rejoining DEA when Barrera escapes prison.

Keller heads to Mexico City as an advisor. Corruption is rampant because of the tons -literally - of cash that the Mexican drug cartels have. Those who cannot be bought are killed. Anyway.  I don't have the energy or interest in recapping the whole novel.

Winslow does a great job of using his many characters to walk us through ten years of war in Mexico. The Presidential administration has taken sides. The local towns take sides - or are forced to take sides. The people in the middle get crushed. Like in any war the it is the civilians who always get in the neck.

Winslow tells us about the many cartels as the war escalates.Beheadings. Massacres. Kidnappings. Public display of corpses and body parts.  Dedsheet banners hanging from bridges and announcing intended victims. The Zetas - former Army special forces - are particularly inhuman and deserve death.

We meet people trying to stand up to the violence and lawlessness. Northern border towns are abandoned as cartels force out the police and city  government. Journalists try to write about the events and are murdered. Women step into City administrations and are raped and/or murdered. The only person to take on the job of a small town Police Chief is a 20-year-old woman with no experience. She is killed.

Things settle down a bit. Enough people are killed for a truce to take place.

Finished: "Bullet" by Mary Louise Kelly

Finished: Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly, 2015, 9781476769813.

A neat angle with the main character in her early thirties discovering she has a bullet in her neck. The novel was kind of "eh" though and had a weird detour at the end. Anyho.

 Professor WhatsHerFace works at Georgetown teaching French and French Lit. She is single, talks to her mother every day, has two older brothers, he lawyer father is retired. WhatsHerFace has had bad wrist pain for the last year. She goes to the doctor. Dreamy Doctor sends her for X-rays and MRI. MRI tech says, "How'd that bullet get in your neck?"

WhatsHerFace finds out she was adopted as a toddler. She has no memory of her family. Lack of memory is probably okay considering her parents her murdered in front of her. WhatsHerFace decides to track down more information. WhatsHerFace goes to Atlanta, ends up in the newspaper, talks to people who knew her parents. Talks to Police Detective who worked the murder case. WhatsHerFace and Dreamy Doctor rub together.

WhatsHerFace goes back to D.C. and seems to be followed. Someone breaks into her house. The theory is that the bullet will be evidence, WhatsHerFace may have a memory recall, the killer is after WhatsHerFace. Blah, blah, blah. More things happen. WhatsHerFace is married. WhatsHerFace figures out the killer was banging WhatsHerFace's mom. WhatsHerFace kills the killer. WhatsHerFace flees to Paris. Blah, blah, blah. WhatsHerFace lives happily ever after when she gets off the hook.

1. The novel wasn't bad, but it really wasn't for me. It just kinda went on for a while and I did not care enough about the characters and action to stay interested.
2. I mean, yeah, I finished the book.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Poetry: "Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower" by Sarah Lindsay

Poetry: Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower by Sarah Lindsay, 2013, 9781556594465.

I'm not sure why I ordered this for work but it must have won an award. The title is also neat. Don't let Lindsay's status as an Olie graduate dissuade you from reading.

Lots of poems drawing in aquatic life like squids and octopuses. Poems of deep sea life in pitch black water. Poems about Aunt Lydia and her observations. I liked these.

There are some real nice ones in here. Lindsay never goes too abstract, I understand what she is writing about. I may be drawing my own conclusions about her stories and intent but, hey, tough crap.

62 total poems and I won't try to flip back through and flip favorites. There are enough good ones that flipping through would be worth my time.

The title refers to a sea worm that eats bones.
But without her (and the him she keeps,
for his lifetime, in her body), every
seashore would be barricaded
by skeletons of whales

EDIT Nov 6, 2015: Since this made Forgotten Books I took some quick photos of some one page poems. I also did some Poet Poses. I cannot get the dang HTML layout to work like I want.

EYE IN THE SEAS - cannot get this to rotate


Pondering Poet

Thinking Poet

Drunken Poet

Heard: "Nothing to Lose" by Lee Child

Heard: Nothing to Lose by Lee Child, 2008, download.

Short version: Reacher rolls into town. Runs into trouble. Beats up local goons. Has sex with local female cop. Kills a few people. Proclaims his love for justice. Hits the bricks.

This is the usual formula from Lee and, like usual, it works. I do still think Reacher is basically an asshole. He is a highly intelligent man, a math savant, but he chooses to work through intimidation and violence. Sure, he'll always say he gives people a choice, but he will also goad opponents into action and them overract and severely pound on people. Sometimes he'll enjoy giving the beatings and sometimes he is emotionless. Lee always provides nasty villains to make you happy Reacher is a goon with a brain.

I'm not the only one who wonders about his position on a sociopath scale. Or, if he is unable read or understand the emotions of others. He certainly doesn't usually care about most people - even if he does put his neck out for near strangers. Kinda like a movie villain who really likes someone and ingratiates themselves into that person's life.  Anyway.

Reacher is walking west through the plains of Eastern Kansas and visits Hope, CO. A few miles down the road is Despair, CO. "Huh," thinks Reacher, "That's kinda neat, I should go through Despair."  Reacher gets to Despair, is refused service in the local cafe, and four toughs show up telling him to get out.  Reacher is arrested, taken to court, fined for vagrancy, and driven by local Police Officer to the City limits and dropped off.

Reacher is ticked off. Reacher goes back to Despair and causes trouble. Reacher meets Pretty Young Thing whose husband is missing in Despair. Reacher wants to help. More things happen.

Things: a Company Town under the thumb of the factory owner. Religious zealotry. Missing young men. Worried young women. Lady Cop in Despair has brain damaged Army husband. Reacher speechifies the importance of honor, duty and respect. Reach and Lady Cop have sex. Lady Cop joins Reacher in researching the factory owner. Lady Cop joins Reacher in stopping a dirty bomb.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Listened: "Don't Look Now" by Michelle Gagnon.

Listened: Don't Look Now by Michelle Gagnon, 2014, download.

Sequel to Don't Turn Around and second novel in Gagnon's Persefone trilogy.

Recap: A pharmaceutical company kidnaps street kids, infects them with a terminal wasting disease called pema, and experiments for a cure. The dead teenagers are disposed of and no one suspects a thing except for the novel's teens and a couple adults. Main characters Noa and Peter discover a  black site that warehouses kidnapped teens and medical labs. Even after a raid on the lab by the FBI everything is a secret; the FBI claim nothing happened. The fix is in.

Former street kid Noa is now on the run with fellow fugitive Zeke. They have created a strike team of other street kids rescued from the medical experiments and the group travel the West Coast raiding secret medical sites and hacking computers.  Noa is her group's leader but never feels like she knows what she is doing.

Peter is still in Boston and working as the main hacker to find the black sites housing the secret medical facilities. Peter is under surveillance by the bad guys but somewhat protected by his parents involvement in the conspiracy. Peter is worried about ex-girlfriend Amanda who might be getting sick.

Things happen.  Peter feels unimportant by sitting at a computer. He starts to follow the main bad guy from volume 1, Mason, and Peter bugs Mason's apartment and comptuter in hopes of getting more information and evidence.  Noa and Co. capture a bad guy and the guy is killed. Noa and Co. then go on a raid in Phoenix and rescue three kids. The raid turned violent with a warehouse fire, sary armed guards, and gunplay.

Amanda goes missing and Peter is set-up by Mason. One of the kids rescued by Noa is a plant for the bad guys and Noa's safe house is attacked. Characters die. Teen love drama is everywhere.

1. Gagnon's adult paperbacks circ' pretty well at my library.
2. Some of the teens are not believable. All the street kids can be rough and violent but they are still free of drugs and sex. These are street kids, they're orphans, foster kids, abused kids, kidnapped kids, raped kids, and cut-open-for-experiments kids. I'd not expect such a tight and focused group.
3. Oh, well, it's a novel. Roll with it.
4. The narrator pronounced Gagnon's name and I've forgotten how it's said.

Heard: 'The Sweet Forever" by George Pelecanos

Heard: The Sweet Forever by George Pelecanos, 2002, download. Very good narration by Cary Hite.

Pelecanos's novels are a tough read (listen) for me. He sticks me in the middle of people and culture I do not understand. He has people living in ways - cocaine partiers, racist street cops, ghetto crime  - that make no sense to me. Plus,the slang throws me off.  Pelecanos has good people living through rough times and bad people enjoying the rough times. Even the good guys can be sketchy and violence is often the only option left for them. 

I'm not sure if I read other books in this series. Sweet is a snapshot of cocaine and growing street crime in D.C. in 1986. Cocaine parties and good times precede the coming wave of crack cocaine. The story takes place in March during the NCAA tournament and everything is shadowed by the characters' constant praise and admiration for the soon-to-be-dead Len Bias. The book is full of pop culture music, basketball, and a city saddled with the graft and incompetence of cocaine loving Marion Barry.

Marcus Clay owns three record stores in the D.C. area. He just opened a new one in a rougher neighborhood. Clay's lifelong friend Dimitri Karras helps manage the stores and is burning his candle with booze on one end and cocaine on the other. They get mixed up with dirty cops, neighborhood cocaine dealers, a dumb gangster trying to be extra hard, boys without supervision playing gangster or hooky, an appliance repairman stealing drug money from a burning car, romantic trouble, and parenting difficulty.

Pelecanos gives you characters rich in personality; none of Pelecanos's people are cookie cutter or plot props. You get to know the people and understand why they do the things they do.  The drug money thief is a sad sack in love with a woman who wants money and it's status. He knows she cheats on him, and he doesn't care as long as she stays with him. With an extra few thousand from the burning care the man thinks he can keep her.

1. Narrator Hite really performs this novel. He's telling the story, not reading the story.
2. You do not remember Len Bias? Even I remember Bias. As a star for Maryland Bias was a huge name in college basketball. Bias celebrated his NBA draft pick with some cocaine and died from cocaine intoxication.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Got to: "Tom at the Farm" Michel Marc Bouchard

Got to: Tom at the Farm, Michel Marc Bouchard, translation by Linda Gaboriau, 2011 play, 2013 translation, 9780889227590.

I just mentioned to someone that I ordered this for the library thinking it was a novel. Nope, it's a play. I read the book anyway. Written in French by a Quebecois and had a film version released in 2013. I have not seen the film version. The film was panned by a couple things I read. Apparently the film director is a precocious dude and was too self-indulgent with the movie.

The play is arty. Tom will speak directly to other characters but is thinking out loud, "The lines that Tom addressees to himself or his deceased lover should not be played like the traditional direct asides to the audience. Tom should instead deliver these lines in ongoing interaction with the other characters." Maybe this plays better on stage because I had difficulty visualizing things. 

I was interested in the book because I thought it was a crime/horror story. Young man Tom visit's his dead boyfriend's farming family. The family did not know the dead son was gay and Tom was unknown. Tom stays a few days and things get dark and brutal. Things do get brutal but this is gay-bashing and hidden identities.

Tom is a handsome, stylish, office worker.  When Tom's nameless boyfriend dies in a traffic collision Tom visits the family farm in Northern Quebec for the funeral. Dead Boyfriend never spoke much about his family. Dead Boyfriend got out of No-Gays-Around-Here, Quebec as a young man. Part of Dead Boyfriend's departure was the brutal older brother, Francis.

Things happen.  Francis wants to keep his mother, Agatha, happy and that happiness involves keeping secrets secret. Francis knows Tom's true relationship with Dead Boyfriend but threatens Tom into pretending to be a pal.  Agatha is oblivious to the true nature of both sons. Francis seems to have repressed his own gayness with violence and booze. Tom stays at the farm, works the dairy cows, and is oddly taken in as a new son. Dead Boyfriend's fake girlfriend shows up after Francis (Tom?) asked her to drive up. Tom learns how Dead Boyfriend's first boyfriend was attacked and mutilated by Francis. Francis takes up with Dead girlfriend. Tom murders Francis in the corn field.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Heard: "Little Elvises" by Timothy Hallinen

Heard: Little Elvises by Timothy Hallinen, 2013, download. Narrated by Peter Berkrot.

Junior Bender, volume 2. Since Junior is a burglar and crime solver I keep thinking his name is Bernie. This makes perfect sense because Hallinen writes Lawrence Block Type novels that are Lawrence Block quality. By Lawrence Block Style I mean: humor, some grit, witty banter and love talk, oddball bad guys that are still scary, and good doses of realism sprinkled throughout.

This time Junior has been called in to the local cop shop under suspicion of burglary. A nasty burglary that involved a death. The Detective on the case gives Junior the option to skate on the frame-up if Junior will help the Detective's aging uncle, a retired record producer. What can Junior do? Of course, this doesn't stop him from negotiating payment and terms.

Aging Uncle is suspect in the death of a journalist. Aging Uncle has an alibi but is hiding the alibi. Aging Uncle made his fortune by selecting Elvis lookalikes from Philadelphia. Giving them suits and songs, then selling singles. Junior's computer savvy daughter even wrote a report on the topic.

Junior meets the journalist's widow and falls in lust. Junior has his crook friends help him out. Junior is tabbed by Scary Old Gangster to do some work. You don't say "No" to Scary Old Gangster. Junior pines for his wife. Junior misses his daughter. Junior enjoys his shiftless and dangerous life; he has fun as a crook. Anyhoo.

Things happen. We follow Junior around as he narrates his investigation, his concern for his teenage daughter, jealousy over Ex-Wife's new boyfriend, threats from a nutbag hitman, side plot on a missing woman, etc.

This is the kind of novel where I start reading (listening) and get sucked right into the story. Hallinen tells a great story with a vivid setting and characters. The characters act believably and the dialogue is very fun.

Done: "The Fever" by Megan Abbott

Done: The Fever by Megan Abbott, 2014, 9780316231053

The usual high quality work of Abbott, Jr. I was a year behind on reading this one.

Abbott moves even further away from straight crime and noir novels by focusing more on the psychological. Abbott uses teenage girls again, but this one spreads out compared to Dare Me. Abbott tells the tale by 1st personing three family members: Deenie is the teen protagonist. Eli her older teen brother. Tom her father and high school teacher. The crime at the center of the story is caused by a romantic jealousy driven frantic by teen drama and emotion. It's the crime's strange psychological byproduct that Abbott zeroes in on.

Deenie is a high school sophomore in Dryden. (New York state, maybe? Oh, it doesn't matter.) She is is part of a tight group of four girls and feels her best friend Gabby is slipping away from her. Gabbie is spending more time with Skye and Deenie has been hanging out with Lise. Things start out with teen worries and concerns. Worry over vaccination pain, love interests, reputation, status, family concerns, mysteries of why people behave badly.

Deenie is in class one morning when Lise has a "fit". A thrashing,shaking fit that throws her from her chair and onto the floor. He classmates are concerned enough to make sure they record everything on their cell phones. Deenie is freaked out and worried. Lise goes to the hospital, is released home, has another fit and whacks her head on a table, goes back in the hospital. Then another  girl has a fit. Then Gabbie has a fit. What is to blame? "I'll bet it's that vaccine. You're poisoning our children!!"

Meanwhile, Eli is a hockey playing fool. He spends as much time as possible on the ice and his good looks draw women like flies. Eli has been a slut the past year or two but is getting weary of the behavior. Tom is a careless father and a serial dater after his wife suddenly left after a surprise miscarriage that may have been part of her surprise affair with a married man.

Things start to happen as Abbott bounces us back forth among those three. Deenie is worried for her friends. Worried that she is to blame for the unknown disease. Worried that someone will find out about how she had sex for the first time.

Teen girls are acting weird and anxious. Teen girls are falling sick. Parents are getting paranoid and angry. Parents are blaming anyone they can. Public health starts asking questions. Police start asking questions and searching the school grounds.

Everything ties up nicely in the end with a reasonable and realistic solution, same as Dare Me. Deenie is too distracted by the mess around her to suspect what really happened/.

1. Abbott and Bill Crider are real good at setting things up so everything makes sense in the end.  
2. Abbott got interest in the breakout of "Teen Girl Sickness!" in Maine. Massachusetts? New Hampshire? One of those states anyway. Abbott writes us a close-in account but does not write from the perspective of someone who gets sick. Deenie's homelife is not perfect but she has the self-confidence and stability to not sicken herself from the commotion, worry and anxiety.
3. Yes, "personing" is a word. So is "screwyouitsmywordsothere".

Friday, October 2, 2015

Done: "Black Rock" by John McFetridge.

Done: Black Rock by John McFetridge, 2014, 9781550229752.

A little time capsule from 1970 Montreal. I took a while to warm up to this one and ended up liking it quite a bit.

Constable Eddie Dougherty is about 25-years-old and English in predominately French Quebec. Montreal is enduring a cascade of dynamite bombs set off by the FLQ and who-knows-who-else. The government says, "Foreign interests are to blame." The cops say, "Look in the backyard for the bombers." Constable Dougherty - Dog-Eh-Dee to the French speakers - spends many days chasing bomb calls, searching for bombs and guarding bombing scenes.

But, Dougherty also gets detailed to pick up a drunk Detective. The Detective is in an English bar in Eddie's old neighborhood, The Point. Detective Carpentier is surrounded by angry locals who want Carpentier to be out looking for a missing local girl rather than drinking in the bar. Eddie gets Carpentier out and learns several girls have gone missing and the cops are looking for a guy named Bill who may be killing the young women. Eddie was on the scene for one of those dead victims. Eddie also knows the missing Point girl.  Two days later her body is found.

Carpentier calls Eddie to help identify the corpse. Eddie recognizes a unique similarity between the two bodies and tells Carpentier. Eddie escorts Carpentier to notify the family. Most City of Montreal detectives are assigned to the anti-terror squad and the murder squad has no manpower. Eddie starts helping Carpentier. He puts in his spare time talking to locals and looking for a white Lincoln seen nearby. Eddie tries to get an informant by schmoozing with former Point neighbor and buying dope from him. Mid-20s Eddie does some drinking, meets some women, listens to older cops.

The case unfolds over several months as the bombings ratchet up in frequency and size. Eddie is only involved in the murder case because no one else is around to do the job. As Eddie works his job McFetridge gives a great picture of 1970 Montreal. The counter culture has turned revolutionary. Teenagers want to party. Young men have shaggy hair and desire revolution. Cops are not trusted. The government doesn't seem to care about the bombs until rich people are targeted. Political and economic trouble means union strikes and Parliamentary posturing. Quebecois want independence. Federals want to make Quebec happy.

Dougherty spends more time on the case and meets a grad student in anthropology who researches killers. Dougherty digs her and they spend time but nothing sticks. Dougherty is angry with the killer. He wants resolution and justice. They catch the guy but the victory is hollow and lacks the finale and decisive ending Doughtery wants for the case.

1. I like reading about Montreal. The city has a neat history and after my short trip there in 1999 I've always wanted to return. The English-French divide is in the novel with separated neighborhoods and language issues. Dougherty's mother is French and straddles both sides.
2. Several police departments across several suburbs on Montreal Island. This was before the police and city services were merged across the area.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Zip: "Hyenas" by Joe R. Lansdale

Zip: Hyenas by Joe R. Lansdale, 2011, 9781596063563.

A Hap and Leonard novella with a very short Hap short story in the back. The usual Hap and Leonard story, i.e. well worth your time.

Hap is called out to a bar fight where Leonard beat three guys up for calling him a fag and n*gger. Leonard's defense is that the other guys started the fight. Leonard cracks wise. A witness backs that story so Leonard is in the clear. The witness is one of the three beaten up dudes. Hap cracks wise. Witness wants to hire Leonard and Hap. Leonard and Hap crack wise.

Witness needs some rough guys to get his younger brother out of trouble. Witness was at the bar trying to hire the other two beat-ups. Leonard cracks wise.Witness's brother has been hanging out with tough customers that Witness suspects of being bank robbers. Hap cracks wise. He thinks the bank robbers are trying to get Younger Brother to be their new crook. Hap and Leonard crack wise.

Hap and Leonard believe Witness and look into things with Marvin's help. They find out the bank robbers probably killed their last driver. They find out the tough guys are bad dudes. Hap and Leonard visit the bad dudes and Hap clobbers the leader. Hap and Leonard take Younger Brother back to Hap's to give him a firm talking. Hap and Leonard crack wise.

Hap and Leonard talk but Witness and Brett are kidnapped and Hap and Leonard are told to butt out during the upcoming bank robbery or Witness and Brett are killed. Hap gets maudlin. Leonard gets pragmatic. Hap and Leonard do not take directions well. Hap kills a couple bank robbers. Leonard and Hap rescue Witness and Brett. Hap and Leonard crack wise.

Everyone lives happily ever after. Hap and Leonard crack wise.

Finished: "Slocum's Snake Oil" by Jake Logan

Finished: Slocum's Snake Oil by Jake Logan (who really knows?), 2010,

Used paperback I picked up somewhere.

Slocum is in Eastern North Dakota and hard up for cash. When a drunken local starts blathering about a big money shipment Slocum decides to rob the stage. The robbery was a set-up by the Federal Marshall and Slocum is pursued across the prairie. Slocum heads straight into a buffalo herd, starts a stampede, survives the running cows and emerges from the dust to find a medicine wagon. The medicine show peddler helps Slocum out and Slocum agrees to help the "Doctor" out for a few days.

Slocum and the Doctor land in a town stricken with typhus (it might not have been typhus, I don't have the book handy). Slocum meets a woman delivering her dying husband to the town doctor. Widow left her son at the farm. Slocum rescues the boy from marauding bandits taking advantage of the deadly typhus outbreak. Slocum and widow have sex. "Doctor" leaves town

Slocum finds out the peddler's elixer actually works. Wow! Slocum travels after "Doctor" to save Woman's son and the town. Slocum still pursued by Federal Marshall. Chases ensue. Gunfights ensue. Sex ensues. "Doctor" says, "Really? It worked?" "Doctor" and Slocum travel to find Indian Medicine Man who shared the elixir recipe. Mean Indians Ensue. Slocum hunts for ingredients. More sex. More violence. Slocum brews the elixir himself and saves the town.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Done: "Tequila Sunset" by Sam Hawken

Done: Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken, 2012, 9781846688546.

This started off too slow for me but I kept reading I ended up really enjoying the novel.

Flip Morales just did four years in a Texas prison and is back home in El Paso. Flip is an okay guy but took a rap for something he was only partially involved in (I cannot recall what). Part of prison survival required joining the Aztecas for protection. Part of joining required knifing another prisoner. Flip didn't kill the other man but from then on was regarded as a sold Azteca and under the wing of the gang's ultimate leader.

El Paso Police Detective Christina works a gang unit. El Paso is low crime and most cops seem focused on Honeland Security issues. Christina and her partner do not have many bad guys to chase but they do have a local Azteca gang leader, Jose, that they are after. 

Meanwhile, Mexican police officer Matias works in Ciudad Juarez. Ciudad Juarez would be a dreamworld for Alex and his Droogs. Matias doesn't work murders, Matias works mass murders. Matias works beheadings. Matias works torture cases with victims burned in bonfires. Matias's interrogations are preceded by his interviewees enduring beatings by Matias's colleagues. Matias is working a Los Aztecas cases related to the ongoing drug wars.

All three sides mix together as Flip is pulled into the gang by local leader Jose. Flip wants nothing to do with crime and decides to inform on the gang the same way he did when he was in prison.  Christina and Matias meet after Christina and her partner are joined with a Federal task force. The American task force is going to bust the Americans for exporting guns and importing drugs as the Mexican Police bust the Mexicans for exporting drugs and importing guns.

Many things happen. Matias is a dedicated and honest cop - he and his colleagues are not the badge carrying Mexican crooks of cinema with sweaty faces and mustached lips. Matias works long hours and he and his wife survive an assassination attempt.  Matias greatly misses his wife after she flees Ciudad Juarez to stay with her sister in Monterrey.

Flip meets a girl and falls in love. He wants to keep his new job at a food warehouse and stay out of trouble but Jose wants him to work. Jose is pressuring Flip's straight arrow boss, also the new boyfriend of Flip's mother, to allow drug carrying produce trucks to unload dope at the warehouse.

Christina gets home tired and worn out and relieves her son's sitter. Her autistic son, Freddie, is a worry. Freddie has trouble in school, requires a strict schedule, and when at home he just wants to play Minecraft all night. Christina is single and her life is either work or caring for Freddie. When Los Aztecas start targeting cops she gets anxious.

There is not a lot of street crime here. No inside look at gang life. No chases. Only a couple shoot-outs. No tough talk and posturing. People care for each other and work to get ahead. The gang pursues violence but members think of themselves as family. The gang hosts large barbecues and neighborhood parties.

Read: "Texas Vigilante" by Bill Crider

Read: Texas Vigilante by Bill Crider 1999, 9781941298268 (the 2014 Brash Books reprint).

Another better-than-most novel from Crider. I found a copy of the original publishing at Watertown PL. I took a picture of the cover but now cannot find the shot on my phone.

Ellie is running the ranch she inherited at the end of Outrage at Blanco. Outrage's story doesn't matter here, you learn about Ellie's background and the background of her ranch manager and his family. That the Manager's wife, Sue, turned her psychopath brother into the police. Well the psychopathic brother, Angel, just escaped prison and killed a few people in the process. Now, Angel and some fellow convicts are traveling to Blanco so Angel can pursue revenge on his family.

Ellie and Co. are warned of Angel's escape and prepare for him coming. Sue is scared. Angel shows and shoots his brother-in-law, batters his sister, and kidnaps his niece. Ellie and Sue take off after Angel to rescue the girl.

Everything happens pretty quick. There is only eight hours or so from kidnapping to climax but Crider gives us Angel, his creepy convict pal, Ellie, Sue, the girl, the cowardly Blanco Sheriff, and the Ranger coming after Angel.

 There are horse chases. Scary parts. Abandoned churches. Threats of violence and rape on a girl. Shoot-outs. Thunderstorms. Roaring rivers. Several surprises. Ellie wins out in the end.

1. Crider has humanity wins out. Violence is necessary because awful people have to be stopped. Ellie and the rest don't want this trouble and Ellie is one of the few people willing to go after the killers.
2.  Another one of those Crider books that flows right along. His books seems are deceptively simple because they flow so smooth.
3. Yes, I am a suck up.

Heard: "The Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Heard: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), 2013, Overdrive download.

Narrator is not the same as the Potter books but the protagonist, Strike, sounds like Hagrid.

Cormoran Strike is a financially struggling P.I. The novel opens with him splitting with his long-time girlfriend, battling debt, and living in his office. A new office temp, Robin, shows up and then a client shows up. The client is the brother of famed model Lula Landry. Lula committed suicide a few months ago but wants Cormoran to look into her death. Cormoran was friends with Mr. Landry's brother about 20 years ago when both boys were 10.

Cormoran refuses the job at first but the man's grief and sincerity make Cormoran accept the huge advance payment. Cormoran starts to dig. Robin, the new secretary, is thrilled to be working for a P.I. and wants to help.

Cormoran has to work to speak with the reclusive celebrity friends of Lula. Cormoran works his way through the rich and famous and their admirers and (a few) employees. Cormoran is bothered by his leg stump and prosthesis. Robin sleuths online sources. Cormoran interviews and interviews and watches and listens.

Rowling does not throw a bunch of suspects at us but I did get to wondering on motives for several people. Cormoran figures the killer out. The killer is a bit of a surprise and stretch, but the book makes sense. Everyone lives happily ever after, except for the dead people, their grieving relatives, and some characters who were just plain unhappy to begin with.

1. Can Rowling write a short book? This one went on a while and the ending went on even longer.
2. Rowling really focuses on body language and interviewing. She details peoples physical reactions and verbal evasions. Cormoran takes it all in.
3. This very much a police procedural with few police.
4. There are a lot of long interviews with plenty of dialogue. The narrator did well with all the characters.
5. The emphasis on interrogation makes sense because what physical evidence would a P.I. have access to? What lab work could a P.I. have done?
6. So many characters who smoke.
7. Mobile phone spying fears.
8. People reaching fame through weaselly behavior. Weasels weaseling without a wonderwall win.
9. Rowling is showing us modern fame and happiness. I thought her preaching fell flat.  The story is very fun and entertaining. I just did not learn anything insightfull about fame and celebrity. What I did wonder was how much of the stories told about celebrities are things Rowling had first hand experience with as either a victim or acquaintance.

Heard: "Mystery Writers of America Presents Ice Cold" edited by Jeffrey Deaver and Raymond Benson.

Heard: Mystery Writers of America Presents Ice Cold by Jeffrey Deaver and Rayond Benson, 2014, Overdrive download. Multiple narrators.

I've been to one Bouchercon - St. Louis - and met Benson during the Open-Bar-Debacle-of-2011. Before I went overboard on free Dewar's Mr. Benson was kind of enough to speak with me and endure my lack of conversational topics.

This was a pretty decent selection of stories but the narration was uneven. There were a lot of stories set in Berlin and some modern-day tales with Soviet moles trying to stay hidden after the fall of the wall.

I don't recall story titles and authors but the stories I recall most are of a young East Berlin man who accepts a bicycle as a gift. Big mistake. In resource poor East Germany the only bikes are spoken for by the Stasi and Stasi informers. He has to get rid of the bike somehow. He leaves the bike out to be stolen but no one will steal it.

Another has a newlywed housewife in Maryland living a boring life in a gossip rich neighborhood. Her and her husband get friendly with a newly moved in neighbor.  The husband dies and the wife disappears. The wife was a Soviet (German?) assassin who married the man for his secrets and poisoned him.

A guard on the Berlin Wall - before the full wall, when there were lower barbed wire sections - hears his former girlfriend had a child. This is a shock to him, she had fled to the West a few months ago. He impulsively jumps the fence, meets the woman, finds the pregnancy was a fake. Former girlfriend is a Party Believer and under the thumb of a svengali agent runner who concocted the pregnancy story to entice the Guard to defect and be a spy in the West.

That it is all. I remember no more.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Heard: "Big Fifty" by Johnny D. Boggs

Heard: Big Fifty by Johnny D. Boggs, 2003, downloaded the Blackstone audio version from Overdrive. Read by Lloyd James.

It is very unfortunate that Overdrive only has one Johnny D. Boggs audiobook available. I listened to another Boggs novel, West Texas Kill, when using a trial version from another vendor. Maybe it was OneClick Digital from Recorded Books.

Coady McIlrain lives outside Dodge City, KS in 1872. His family came from the South to farm and and have been working the land a couple years. Coady is 12-years-old, loves dime novel stories about Buffalo Bill, and dreams of being a buffalo hunter on the plains. Coady yearns for a Sharps rifle in .50 caliber and uses an old tobacco stick as a stand-in.

One afternoon Coady's father invites him along for a trip to Dodge. The run into an ambush by a raiding party of Comanche. Coady's father is arrowed and tells Coady to run. Coady runs, looks over his shoulder, sees his father being scalped. Coady runs back and whacks the attacking Comanche
in the face with the tobacco stick. Coady is captured. Coady is transported south to Texas. Coady is staying with Quanah Parker's group.

Coady is starved a little. Coady has made a lifelong enemy by whacking the Comanche and busting his nose. Coady is beaten by the old woman who enslaves him. Coady feels lovey-dovey to another captive, a girl his age named CannotRecall. CannotRecall helps Coady escape. COady loses his horse and continues across the Texas Staked Plains on foot.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Army sharpshooter and itinerant typesetter Dylan Griffith chanes on work as a buffalo hunter. Griffith heads south with his new partner and learns to say he is a buff' runner. HE shoots about 30 cows a day. The skinners will curse his name if he shoots more than they can process in a day. Coady hears a noise at night and pulls his Colt on a sneaky person. Coady has been rescued.

Dylan takes a liking to Coady. Most of the hunting group take a liking to Coady. Dylan misses his own dead son - you learn more back story later on - and rationalizes keeping Coady around a little longer rather than send him back to KS.

Dylan and Coady and the other runners and skinners travel the plains. They find sluaghtered buffalo and slaughtered buffalo runners. Coady spent a half-year with the Comanche and points out how the arrows and ambush tactics are not true Comanche style and method. Dylan and Coady head to Adobe Walls along with some other buffalo hunters, including Bat Masterson.

Dylan and Coady survive the gunfight and witness the famous mile long shot. Dylan learsn someone if looking for Coady. He wonders if it is a bounty hunter looking for the reward placed by Coady's mother. More excitement. More danger. The conflict keeps rolling along with a twist and turn.

1. Boggs enjoys history and he gives you plenty. Fun reading.
2. Well, fun listening anyway.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Brief: "File Under" by Lemony Snicket

Brief: File Under: 13 suspicious incidents by Lemony Snicket, 2014, 9780316284035

13 short stories about Snicket's time in Stain'd-by-the-Sea. Most stories have Snicket working completely alone and without his Chaperon, S. Theodora Markson. I cannot recall if Snicket capitalizes chaperon. Chaperon seems like a job title, so I do capitalize it. I was also adding an "e" on the end until I did a spell check.

Done Minute Mystery and Encyclopedia Brown style. Snicket narrates the story and you flip to the back pages to read the resolution. Some stories are written as real mysteries where you use the clues to deduce the crime. A couple are just kinda silly.

You read more about Snicket, his pals in town, his acquaintances in town, his stay-away-froms in town, and Ms. Markson. Snicket is often out at night. He mostly walks, he sometimes rides, he meets with clients who are fellow teenagers. Some cases are serious. Some cases are minor. Snicket solves them all.

1. I like the kids-on-their-own theme of the Snicket story. I've enjoyed those ever since watching the Our Gang comedies when I was a boy. Children are acting in adult roles but without the everyday chores of bills, laundry, groceries, and feeding the dog.
2. My dog has black hair. She will lay - lie? - upside down on our asphalt drive every day during the summer. If the dog has not been bathed recently your hand will come away black after petting her.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Heard: "Complex 90" by Mickey Spillane and Max Alan Collins

Heard: Complex 90 by Mickey Spillane and Max Alan Collins, 2013, download, narrated by Stacy Keach.

I was disappointed in this one. I thought Mike Hammer would be spending all his time in 1965 (or so, I don't recall if a year was listed or implied) Russia. Hammer in Russia? Spying on Ruskies? Solving murders of dissidents or politicians? Bedding Russian lady spies? Nope. It's Hammer visiting Russia as a Senator's bodyguard, getting arrested, violently escaping capture, and escaping to the West. Hammer takes about four months to sneak his way west but that story is not detailed. Oh, well.

Hammer is working security at a NY Senator's cocktail party. A guest shoots at the Senator but kills the P.I. who had asked for Hammer's help at the party. Hammer is then shot in the leg but returns fire and kills the gunman.  Hammer is patched up and asked to take the dead P.I.'s place as Seantor's escort to the Soviet Union. Hammer still has a relationship with a super-duper secret U.S. spy agency.

Hammer sleeps with their steel dentured lady guide. The lady guide removes her steel teeth before performing oral sex. Hammer is picked up the KGB and taken to an prison for interrogation. Hammer kills his way out. Upon arrival back in the States Hammer speaks with Federal suits. They say he may get sent back to Russia to stand trial for murder. "Nuts to you." says Hammer.

Things happen. Why was Hammer arrested? What's the connection between his Russian adventure and that cocktail party? Why are Russian agents after him in the U.S., do they want to kidnap him? Kill him? Or something else? Is there a connection between Velda's years on the run in Russia? Between Hammer's destruction of dual spy/assassin team years before.

As usual Hammer fights the powers that be, sleuths around, discusses his .45, flirts, sexes up the ladies, lovey-doveys Velda. With political shenanigans, dorky scientists, people telling Hammer he is a caveman, spies, Russian killers.

1. Hammer and Velda have that odd relationship. Velda waits on Hammer to decide to commit and Hammer has sex with any woman he likes. Hammer sometimes feels bad about this, but his lust and the women's bodies push the guilt aside.
2. More great narration by Keach.
3. I had more to say but forgot.

Bailed: "American Fantastic Tales" edited by Peter Straub

Bailed: American Fantastic Tales: terror and uncanny from Poe to the pulps edited by Peter Straub, 2009, 9781598530476.

Todd Mason recommended this and Volume Two a few Fridays ago. I quit on page 378 of 713. The first story is from 1805. My point in getting the book was to try out the older stories. The writing style would often clash with my preferences. I've supposed this is not just an issue of changing language but of reading style. 1805 surely had less reading option and variety. No need to rush through a novel with another pile waiting to be read. No TV and radio to compete with a novel; read at your leisure for as long as you want to burn the light.

I write that because some of the stories are thick.  Loooong sentences with lots of commas. Long-winded, too. Just say it, damn it. As I leaf through the book I see quite a few stories that were fun. The lame stories fill in between the fun stories and I lost steam.

1. There are a few authors in the last half of the book like Robert E. Howard and Robert Bloch that I am interested in but I've had this book too long.
2. My favorite was Lukundoo by Edward Lucas White. Explorers in Africa meet another Anglo in the jungle who is there to ask them for help. They travel to the other man's camp where his colleague has hidden himself in his cabin. The hidden man has been growing bumps, those bumps are tiny human heads. That was creepy and much like Stephen King's I Am The Doorway.
3. I bailed on the Henry James story. Bleah.
4. Ambrose Pierce's The Moonlit Road has two people and ghost telling their version of a killing and disappearance, Rashomon style.
5. I've never seen Rashomon.
6. I recall F. Marion Crawford's tale about a murder and ghost being good.
7. Frank Norris had a Grendel-like vampire in Iceland.
8. Gertrude Atherton has a man looking for his missing friend who was presumed drowned.
9. Madeline Yale Wynne's story was good. Two spinster sisters raise a girl. The girl tells her daughter of her favorite room in the house. The room is missing on the next visit - only a pantry is there. The sisters say the room never existed - the room reappears a few years later on another visit by the daughter of the now grown girl.
10. Ralph Adams Cram's narrator tells of a boyhood walk that detoured into The Dead Valley. Years later the man tries to find the haunted place.
11. Robert W. Chambers was interesting because it was set in the future year of 1920 in a fascist state with recently constructed suicide buildings. Chambers published the story in 1895 and could not foresee automobiles, machine guns, and WWI. His main character is insane and believes himself the inheritor the royal seat of King in Yellow.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A While Ago: "On Dangerous Ground" edited by Ed Gorman, et al

A While Ago: On Dangerous Ground: stories of Western noir edited by Ed Gorman, Dave Zelterserman, Martin H. Greenberg, 2011, 9781587671920.

We were all at the Fitchburg library a few weeks ago. I cannot recall why we all went. I was specifically looking for Westerns, which are interfiled with the rest of fiction. I did a quick catalog search and this came up.

A good book but I finished reading it a couple weeks ago and do not recall very much.  All the stories were good. They all stuck to the noir tradition of bad people doing bad things. Plenty of stories with O. Henry endings. Let's take a look...apologies if I recall these incorrectly.

Hockensmth's reminded me of another story. I cannot recall what. Two crooks get drunk and plan to murder a Pinkerton. Backstabbing ensues.
Crider's has a whorehouse piano player rescuing a daughter sold by her father in a card game. She did not want rescue.
Gorman's was set in the Barbary Coast with an Native American prostitute, her violent husband, and an admirer.
Zeltersman has a farm couple pulling a robbery, committing murder during the robbery, and fleeing to Abilene. Abilene, Kansas not Abilene, Texas. Not sure which city Hamilton sings about.
TL Wolf had a drifter chancing on a cowboy job and seeing his old love and fellow con(wo)man living with the ranch owner.
I liked Healy's story of a Cavalry Lt. trying to frame his black Trooper for murder. Courtroom scene and all.
Randisi had a gambler in NYC trying to figure out who had several men murdered and he is aided in his investigation by Bat Masterson.
That's  it, I'm done leafing through the book.

1. Is noir capitalized as a genre?
2. Zeltersman is difficult for me to spell.
3. What did O. Henry go to prison for? Embezzlement?
4. I just listened to Johnny D. Boggs's Big Fifty. Fifty has Bat Masterson as a secondary character with buffalo hunters on the TX plains. I did not know Masterson was at the Battle of Adobe Walls.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Heard: "A Spy Among Friends" by Ben Macintyre

Heard: A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the great betrayal by Ben Macintyre, 2014, download. Narrated by John Lee.

Macintyre's Foreword says he is not trying to repeat the Philby stories and analysis of previous books. Macintyre wanted to focus on the personalities and relationship between Philby and longtime friend and colleague Nicholas Elliott. (These are my notes as I listened to the book. I won't clean them up much.)

In case you forgot: Philby was one of the Cambridge Five, a Soviet spy ring that proved hugely successful from it's 1930s inception to the 1960s.  Philby and his Cambridge University classmates were recruited in the 1930s and they went on to join government and newspaper jobs. All of them were upper or middle class and presented themselves as loyal Englishmen.

The Cambridge Five were part of the English crust that thrived on exclusivity: public school, university, private clubs, family ties and spying. You did not apply to the spy service, you were recruited. You were recruited only after a family friend or relative gave you a recommendation. Background checks were minimal and could be resolved after a reference of, "I know his father." Being a Soviet mole is the elite of the elite - the only one - and that attracted Philby.

Philby and Elliott met during World War Two and were fast friends. They worked in the same cities and freely traded shop talk over many boozy evenings. They both advanced through the ranks of MI6 (British secret intelligence service that focuses outside Britain, akin to the CIA). Elliott was Philby's friend and defender. Elliott never knew that Philby's allegiance had always been to Philby's communist ideal.

Philby was charismatic. People wanted to be around him and be his friend. His presence would lift their feelings and made a party successful. Spy and political information flowed during late night booze ups and dinner parties. That inside information stayed inside the spy agencies - among the employees - but traveled from office to office, , bureau to bureau, person to person, agency to agency. News went from "Bob" to "Dave" to Philby to Russia.

All that free flowing shop talk is what made Philby such a successful spy. As a senior agent and social butterfly Philby was directly responsible for hundreds of deaths. During the late 40s and early 50s Albanian and Ukrainian infiltrations were completely given up: landing locations, gear, radio equipment and codes, agent names and hometowns. Many more people - relatives, friends, former neighbors of agents - were killed, tortured or imprisoned by governments.

During WWII a German defector gave over names of non-communist anti-German fighters. Philby shared those Eastern European names and locations with the Russians. As the Russians pushed through Poland and Germany they carried lists of names and murdered any possible future opponents.

Things were dicey for Philby in the early fifties when his pal and fellow spy Guy Burgess split England with a third spy, Donald Maclean. Some intelligence officers starting connecting the dots among all the failed operations that all had a connection to Philby. But, there was no proof and Elliott repeatedly went to the mat for Philby. Philby was forced to resign, had a few jobs, was denounced in Parliament, and ultimately hired back by MI6.

MacLean and Burgess skipped town after a Venona cable was decrypted. That Russian cable from 1944 said a British mole was living in NYC and had a pregnant wife - that was enough to identify MacLean. Burgess was used as intermediary to warn MacLean and smuggle him out of England. Burgess's name was already mud because of his alcoholic guzzling and bizarre and rude behavior. Both of them skipping out put suspicions everywhere, certainly on Philby.

Philby was forced to resign.  Tons of circumstantial evidence from multiple failed operations behind Iron Curtain. He struggled financially, the Reds got him some money at one point, and MI5 thought him guilty. MI6 was split with Elliott going to the mat for Philby again and again. Elliott was the one who gained public school admission for Philby's oldest son. Philby went to work for MI6 in Lebanon under cover as a reporter. He also went right back to work with the Russians.

Proof against Philby was finally strong enough. Shortly before this another spy was found out, convicted and sentenced to over forty years imprisonment. The sentence was shockingly long. Philby was under a big threat with no Old BOy network to save him. Elliott interrogated Philby over a couple days. Philby skipped out of Beirut and went to Moscow. He never regretted his actions.

1. The wartime stories reminded me of Soldier of Orange. Most of the agents sent from England into Holland were caught and killed. The Germans had an inside track on the infiltrations and tortured and killed the men. They used stolen radio codes to send false positives to England.Soldier author Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema knew something was wrong but British intelligence ignored the signs and kept sending people to their death. The same things happened in the Cold War.
2. Philby was pals with CIA agent MIles Copeland, Jr. Copeland's son Stewart was in The Police.
3. Oh, Yeah! That was one of the jokes in Anthony Neil Smith's The Drummer. Someone says Merle's band should do some covers, like some Police tunes. Merle responds with "What?! You try drumming that stuff. Too hard."
3. Philby worked with Graham Greene as well. Greene was a junior colleague to Philby and Elliott.
4. The Afterword by John Le Carre discuses Le Carre's brief stint in British Intelligence and his many conversations with the famed Elliott. Elliott's career was long and successful but Elliott's reputation was darkly stained by his defense or and decades long friendship with Philby.

Listened to: "The Thirty-Nine Steps" by John Buchan

Listened To: The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, 1915 (2011 listed for this audio), download. Frederick Davidson narrated.

There have been several reviews of this from the Forgotten Books crowd. I have vague memories of seeing the black and white Hitchcock version and had already wanted to read this one.I've been listening online to some of BBC Radio's World War One commemorations. Those programs have included both straightforward historical reports and panel discussions. There was a panel discussion about this novel, Buchan, and the book's popularity among soldiers and civilians. That the book's plot of German spies working to start a war was a way for people to try and understand or accept what the all-consuming battles in France and Belgium. I think this was the program I heard.

Richard Hannay is a native Scotsman living in London. Hannay served in the Boer War, worked as a mining engineer in Africa, and in his middle 30s has retired to London. Hannay is bored though. London does not hold much interest for him. He then meets his upstairs neighbor.

The neighbor comes to Hannay's apartment asking for help. Neighbor spins a tale of espionage and military plans for war. Of Jews conspiring to start war. Of Germans willing to wage war. Of Neighbor's information that could stop the plot and his need to hide from those enemy spies. Hannay, being a bored man-about-town says, "Sure, Old Chap. Wot wot."

Hannay wakes up the next morning and finds Neighbor dead in Hanny's spare room. The man was stabbed to death and the room searched. Hannay figures the bad guys left the dead man for Hannay to take the blame. Hannay ends up finding Neighbor's encrypted notebook and flees the apartment, just missing police capture. Hannay figures, "My my, what a close call, I do say. I'll head to the North, what? Back to Scotland."

Most of the rest of the novel is Hannay traveling incognito around Scotland and evading the German spies and police who are chasing him down. He tramps a bit, takes a train, lies about his identity, confers with a couple others, and decrypts the notebook. Hannay discovers more about the plot and Neighbor. Hannay meets up with a small town politician who will introduce Hannay to his uncle, a government Minister. Hannay is captured by Krauts and escapes using stored explosives to blow up half a farm house basement he has been imprisoned within.

Hannay meets the Minister, has the police case squared away, and starts working to identify the spies and stop them from taking British naval plans across the Channel.

1. I read about the anti-Semitism and was not surprised when Neighbor started spouting how "Jews are to blame". But, that was the only place in the book and the tale was more guff by Neighbor who, being a spy, was unwilling to tell the complete and true story to Hannay.
2. I did not know there are other Hannay books. I also did not know how many different film, stage, and radio versions were produced.
3. The chasing around Scotland reminded me of Kidnapped. Hannay spends a lot of time outdoors and on the road meeting different people.
4. The idea that mysterious and sinister people are pulling strings. Hannay is working against very powerful spies with plenty money. They have manpower, cars, and even planes to track Hannay.
5. The novel has no women. This was mentioned on the BBC show. Hitchcock had to invent a woman character for Hannay to interact with in the 1935 film.  There was discussion about Buchan and women and women characters but I cannot recall what was said.
6. A fun story. Fast moving and fine narration by Davidson.

Heard: "The Hanging Valley" by Peter Robinson

Heard: The Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson, 1989, download. James Langton narration.

 I'm working my way through the Inspector Banks series. This one could be subtitled Banks Goes Canada. This fourth one in the series takes a detour by almost completely skipping over Banks's family and home life and the possible romantic relationship with the psychologist.

A visiting hiker to the small village of Swainshead is walking a remote valley. This hanging valley - so called because the valley bottom lies above, and runs into, another valley - holds some unique flowers and a corpse. Banks and Superintendent Gristhorpe travel to the scene, figure it's foul play, and start trying to identify the body. Gristhorpe is interested because a four years ago he was unable to solve a murder in Swainshead. The murders are similar with both bodies found in the woods. A woman went missing at the same time as the first murder.

Banks starts the standard police procedural novel process: he starts asking questions and keeps asking questions. We meet Swainshead's two wealthy brothers, the abused wife of the innkeeper, bar patrons who last saw the dead man. The corpse had serial numbered dental work and Banks tracks the man's identity. The dead man was a Swainshead native who'd been living in Canada for eight years and was visiting.

Corpse told someone that in Canada he'd met the woman who went missing four years ago. Banks travels to Toronto looking for clues. Banks takes in a baseball game. Banks endures hot weather. Banks is traveling on the cheap. Banks drinks beer. Banks visit s expat bars trying to track the missing woman. Banks figures it all out. But, not before someone else is killed.

1. The abused wife is the most interesting character. Robinson really gets into her life, history and thoughts.  Robinson writes from several character's points-of-view and hers is a skewed way of thinking.  After being orphaned as a four-year-old and raised by a religious nut grandmother. She was taught that sex is awful and has learned that life is to be endured. But, her self respect is still strong enough that she sees an escape from her life. Her husband makes her do most the inn's work and smacks her around but her beauty attracts men. Her milquetoast, unassertive self cannot tell those men to stop. She endures two acquaintance rapes thinking that sex is the price a woman pays for dealing with men and getting along in life.
2. Developing characters are Robinson's strength. I was hunting for character names by reading some book reviews and I'm glad I'm not the only one to think that.
3. Bank's observations about Canada versus England and Yorkshire were interesting. The different attitudes to work, travel, drinking, law, etc.
4. Thinking about audiobooks often reminds me of where I was when listening. I most often listen to books when walking. I recall taking the dog on the Glacial Drumlin trail and listening to this.
5. Same narrator as previous books in the series and he speaks the Yorkshire dialogue with that weird, clipped cadence, especially with the letter T.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Quick: "There are Aliens Behind Uranus, Mr President" by Emerson LaSalle

Quick: There Are Aliens Behind Uranus, Mr. President by Emerson LaSalle, 2012, Kindle ebook.

Forgotten pulp writer LaSalle's lost space opera novel. LaSalle published a lot of trashy novels. This one was developed from a short story. The original short story serves as Chapter 1.

Major Rocky Hardman had served as President Harry Truman's personal Secret Service bodyguard. Truman was visiting Area 51 when a trio of aliens attacked the base. The aliens killed their way through base security and several levels down into the desert of the secret bases's bowels. Rocky and a handful of other guards stopped the last aliens. Now, Truman has been living at Area 51 to oversee preparation of a Space Navy to take on the aliens.

Truman rehires General MacArthur to run a space force to prepare for future alien invasion. Rocky, who lost an arm in the initial attack, is in charge of space infantry.  Things happen. The aliens are spotted behind Uranus. The rockets  are launched my exploding atom bombs beneath them. Russian spies are trying to stop the launches. Rocky survives space attacks and lands on a moon to meet alien women. Alien women want to help humans defeat alien men. Rocky and alien women practice interspecies sexual intercourse. More things happen. People die. Aliens die. Humans are victorious. Yeah!

1. Amazingly enough Mr. LaSalle's dog was still alive a couple years ago.
2. I have not yet read Stay and just saw that the damn thing is not yet cataloged. Yet, other libraries have it on hand. What the heck? I need to ask about that tomorrow.

Quick: "How to Tell If Your Cat is Plottinig to Kill You" by The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman)

Quick: How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman), 2012, 9781449410247.

Online comic strip published in print.  Cat cartoons. I often say how cats are evil so I brought this home for the children to learn from. I had to read it first to make check for inappropriate content and did give some warnings and explanations of some gags.

A small number of single panel comics.  Most comics are longer with many panels and long jokes.

Excessive Ear flicking
What appears to be going on: Kittens have twitchy ears.
What's really going on: Kittens are sending and receiving messages of doom across the globe. "Tomorrow at 0800 hours humanity will fall."

Took A While: "Sierra" by Richard S. Wheeler

Took A While: Sierra: a novel of the California Gold Rush by Richard S. Wheeler, 1996, 0312861850.

I commented online how I never got around to reading a Wheeler novel. Abbott, Sr. recommended this one. I'm glad she did because I was looking for a straight forward western with cowboys, six-guns, horses, rustlers, nasty cattle barons, etc. I would not have chosen this '49er novel on my own.  This is set before the usual western time period of '65-'10, or so. Wheeler sets this in 1847 to 1850 and tells the tale through two different love affairs.

In 1849 Ulysses McQueen leaves (abandons) his newlywed and pregnant wife in Eastern Iowa to trek across the West to gold rush California. Ulysses has a tough journey as he runs low on money, teams up with a friendly gambler, joins a mule train led by a sadistic jerk, and runs low on food and water as he approaches the Sierras. Once Ulysses arrives in the gold fields he does find plenty of gold but his profits are eaten up by extraordinarily high prices for food and equipment. Ulysses's wife Susannah suffers from loneliness. Ulysses's brothers have helped tend and harvest Ulysses' crops but when Susannah bucks the family patriarch she is cut loose and forced to travel the Panama route to find Ulysses in California.

Stephen Jarvis is mustered out of the U.S. Army in California in 1847. California is a new U.S. territory after the Mexican-American War. Jarvis does not want to return to New York and restart his old job as a cooper. He doesn't want to be a cooper in California either. Stephen wants to discover wild California and own his own huge tracts of land. Shortly after his last day as a soldier Stephen meets Rita, a wealthy rancher's daughter. It's love at first sight for both of them, never mind Rita's huge tracts of land. But, native Californios do not like Yankees and the cultural divide is wide. Stephen pledges to work hard, return in a year, and court Rita. Off he goes.

Things happen. Stephen is on the scene at Sutter's Mill when gold is discovered. Stephen starts a store to supply the miners with equipment and food and makes a lot of money. Rita loves Stephen but her family rejects him and marries her off to a native Californio. Rita still loves Stephen and freezes out her new husband. Stephen is devastated after Rita's marriage and throws himself into his work. New Husband asks church for annulment after being married to cold fish Rita.

Susannah's land journey across Panama hits her and her daughter with Yellow Fever and her daughter dies. Ulysses experiences change him from callow youth to experienced man but he cannot return to Iowa a failure. He doesn't write Susannah because of mail costs and guilt. Ulysses gambles away almost all his money in a last ditch chance to make a bundle. Ulysses ends up partnering with Stephen for Stephen to supply land for Ulysses to farm. Miners need food but almost all food is being imported from Oregon and Chile.

Except for the dead infant everything ends happily. Susannah reaches California and she and Ulysses forgive themselves and one another and start over as farmers. The church denies Rita her annulment so she rejects the church and goes to find Stephen. Stephen was leaving California for New York, instead the two of them take Stephen's fortune to start over in Chile. Or was it Argentina?

1. An excellent example of fiction that teaches as it entertains. Plenty of detail of the difficult overland trail through the prairies and mountains. Life as a miner. The economy in California. Mining methods and the importance of volume when processing gravel and dirt.
2. Prices were insane in California because most things had to be imported. Those imports traveled a long way. Gold claims were so numerous and productive that gold fever hit most men. Shop owners had to pay high wages to keep men on the job and away from the claims.
3. Most payment was done with gold dust. Smaller purchases were measured by the pinch.
4. I recently read There Are Aliens Behind Uranus, Mr. President. One of the space ships in that book was named after Winfield Scott. That name seemed familiar, so I looked it up. The name seemed familiar because I was thinking of Randolph Scott. Winfield Scott was a hero of the Mexican-American War who led an infantry campaign from the coast into Mexico City.
5. Winfield Scott is not mentioned in Sierra.
6. I got impatient to return to either storyline. Wheeler would take awhile to write about Stephen I'd be wanting to get back to Ulysses, and vice-versa.
7. The prairie travel reminded me of the Hugh Glass story told in Revenant.
8. No Ulysses jokes as he suffers during his journey.
9. It'd be neat to try and walk the same overland trail. The trip would be much easier nowadays as well.
EDIT 10: I just discovered this won the 1996 Spur Award. I am not surprised.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Finally Got To: "The Drummer" by Anthony Neil Smith

Finally Got To: The Drummer by Anthony Neil Smith, 2006, 9780976389521.

Smith was kind enough to send me two copies of The Drummer. One copy was for me and the second copy was intended for the library. The second book was chewed on by the USPS and I banked my own copy for later. I started read this during last week's vacation to New Orleans St. Louis and finished it during WEBELO camp outside Black Earth.

Lead character Merle has been hiding out in New Orleans. About 15 years ago Merle did a poor job of faking his death and split on his debts to the IRS and his successful hair metal band, Savage Night. He landed in New Orleans five years ago, changed his name to Merle, and really likes living there.

When the lead singer from Savage Night shows up Merle gets itchy and angry. That old singer, Todd, has been struggling professionally. Todd wants Merle to tell everyone Merle's not dead, deal with the IRS, and restart the band. A comeback album and tour would bring fame to Todd and money for everyone. Merle wants no part. Merle wants anonymity. Merle wants to beat the stuffing out of Todd.

Merle leads Todd down a dark alley and stops just short of choking Todd to death. Merle agrees to meet Todd the next morning. Todd does not show, Merle bribes his way into Todd's hotel room. Todd is flat on his back, barely breathing, surrounded by empty liquor bottles, and alongside a suicide note. Merle thinks to finish off dying Todd by suffocation, instead he pockets the suicide note that mentions Merle and takes his sweet time calling EMS before leaving. Todd dies.

Well, the box is opened and trouble is coming. He is suspected of murder and avoiding the police. No one can give definite evidence it was Merle at the hotel and Merle tries to keep that up. Merle spends the rest of the novel trying to contain his real identity and figure out who else is trying to out him.  

Merle loves his bible-thumper-no-sex girlfriend but has been lying to her for a year or so. Merle relies on his best pal. Merle deals with car thieves hoping to recover some docs out of Todd's stolen car. Merle gets mugged under odd circumstances. Merle has to fess up to Bible-Thumper-No-Sex Girlfriend. Merle has to fess up to Best Pal.  Someone is pulling strings to keep the suicide in the news and also listing Merle as alive and well, but who? Sounds like we need some flashbacks to Savage Night's sudden rise and implosion under massive fame, drugs, disastrous love triangles and tax cheating.

Can Merle find out and still stay in New Orleans? Of course not, this is a Smith novel.

1. Set in 2004 with jokes about "A hair metal band? Why couldn't you [Merle] have been in Oasis?"
2. There were a couple bits that were very funny and I cannot recall what they were.
3. Merle is like a lot of Smith's characters: poorly restrained sexual impulses, anger issues, big ego. Merle thinks everything should be about him. He's a lousy boyfriend and a weak friend. He's out for himself, knows it, and hates himself for it.
4. I brought two books to WEBELO camp. Camp was only three nights and I knew I would not have a lot of time to read. I finished Drummer at 10PM Saturday and went to sleep. On Sunday I pulled out A Twisted Thing by Mickey Spillane and realized I already read the damn thing.
5. EDIT: Yes, I enjoyed the novel. I forgot to write that. I'd give it a 4/5 of Amazon.
6. Actually, I really need to start give ratings and comments on Amazon.