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.