Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last of the Year: "Ridgerunners" by Rusty Barnes

Last of the Year: Ridgerunners by Rusty Barnes, 2016, 9788293326861.

Short and sharp. A style of rural noir similar to Woodrell and Sallis. Hardscrabble life and crime lived in trailers, driven by pick-ups, and shopped at WalMart. I think Anthony Neil Smith recommended this one. I enjoyed the book.

Matt Rider is a part time game warden in Eastern Pennsylvania. He's out on a weekend job trying to catch a couple local no-goodniks from the Pittman family. The Pittman are a low end crime family of dealers and thieves and headed by eldest sibling Soldier. Rider finds two of them near an old house, walks over, gets shot at, runs, falls through a rotted wooden cover into a abandoned well.

Rider is stuck in several inches of water and too injured to climb out. While in the well Matt fires his pistol as a rescue warning and discovers a coffee can sealed in tape. Matt is in too much pain to mess with the can and passes out instead. Rider awakes as the EMTs and a local pal pull him out of the well. Then the trouble starts.

Rider does not consider himself a 'real cop' but he was shot in the line of duty and there is a manhunt across PA and NY states for Soldier and [Other Guy] Pittman. Matt is ticked off and wants to help search but the Pittman's are after him.  Someone cuts his dog's throat, slices his tires and fires shots. Matt's agoraphobic and depressed wife goes to stay with a friend. Matt's 19-year-old daughter left college and went to Florida with a new boyfriend. The new boyfriend is a Pittman.

More trouble happens as Rider and his brother gradually face off with the Pittman's over a slow burn of 75 pages of minor trouble. People are killed. Money is demanded. Barnes does not give flowery descriptions of sunsets or the grit of common country 'folk'.

1. This is the only Barnes book in the library system.
2. I finished this on Dec. 31st and will backdate this post - typed up on January 4 - so I can keep track of how many books I was able to finish last year.
3. Gun love.
4. Gratuitous dog love.
5. Oxycontin poppin' pain relief.
6. I forgot about this: Matt starts carrying a .17 caliber pocket pistol. What the hell is a .17? I very much doubt Barnes meant a .17HMR.
6.A. This is the second novel I recently read where someone has a .17. Is this a copy editing error? Is it a caliber I am completely clueless about?
6.B. The OAL of the HMR is 1.349 inches according to an online source and that's kinda a long for a pocket auto. SAAMI lists the 9mm as a max length of 1.169. The SAAMI max length for for .45ACP is 1.275.
7. I think the important question here is: why am I spending so much time thinking about this?
8. Answer: Because I am.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ebook version: "The Sweet Ride" by Richard S. Prather

Ebook version: The Sweet Ride by Richard S. Prather, 1972. I did not look up the electronic or various print ISBNs.

#38 of the Shell Scott mysteries. Shell gets a late night call from a Mayor in Northern California asking Shell to help investigate municipal corruption and local crime. Shell was recommended by aof past acquaintance.The Mayor has a hot lead on an informant to a murder committed by the Local Crime Lord and needs Shell's help.  Shell agrees to the job and flies out a few hours later.

Shell gets to the boom town of SomethingOrOther north of San Francisco and meets The Mayor. The Mayor seems a little odd and says the case is over. The Mayor says the informant is a drunk and the info bunkum. Shell says, "OK, I'll chat with the informant and head back to Los Angeles." Shell sees the informant but heads back to the The Mayor's house to chat. On the ride back from The Mayor's house Shell is run off the road by a semi.

Shell survives and is not pleased (that someone tried to kill him). He meets with local bigwigs allied with The Mayor. They have not seen The Mayor. More things happen:
Shell discovers he was hoodwinked.
Angst free Shell cracks wise.
Shell comically tries to find out why the last guy who investigated Local Crime Lord was killed.
Shell goes googly eyed for curvy women.
Shell has physical hijinks and violence.
Shell cheats death.
Shell lustily inspects a night club's nude waitresses.
Shell has the sexy sex sex with another curvy gal.

1. I read a Shell Scott description that the novels got progressively wackier as time went on. I've only read/listened to one other so I do not know how this compares.
2. I downloaded three or four Scott novels after Christa Faust mentioned online that the books were free on Amazon.
3. I enjoyed this book quite a bit.
4. I finished this in 2016 so I am backdating the post. I'm writing this January 3, 2017

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Short: "The Outlaw Album" by Daniel Woodrell

Short: The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell, 2011, 9780316057561.

Twelve more stories about the lives of poor people in the Ozarks. There are a couple super creepy ones in here. Uncle has the narrator's rapist uncle who preyed on the female boaters of a nearby river.

Woodrell writes about the same stuff as usual. The rural and wooded areas of southern Missouri with extensive and complicated family relationships. Grudges are remembered. People don't talk to the police.

The economy struggles. In some ways things are not dissimilar to the area's frontier founding. Farms and families can be isolated in the mountains and current day violence is not much different from the marauding murderers during the Civil War. There is a split between North and South, rich and poor, rural and city. Those splits are not amicable.

Photography Book: "Dickey Chapelle Under Fire"

Photography Book: Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: photographs by the first American female war correspondent killed in action by John Garofolo, 2015, 9780870207181

I don't recall how I first heard of Chapelle. Maybe she was written about in Dispatches by Michael Herr. Maybe I saw her in another Vietnam history. Maybe I read a mention as part of Wisconsin history. Anyway.

Chapelle grew up in the Milwaukee suburbs and was fascinated with airplanes. She earned a scholarship to MIT but spent so much time at the local air fields of the Coast Guard and Army that she flunked out. Chapelle went to Florida to live with an aunt and started working as a journalist. She was hired to write copy for an airliner based in NYC and met he future husband when taking a photography class.

During the war Chapelle gained journalist credentials and worked stateside and the Pacific. She lost her credentials after sneaking onto Okinawa and she and her husband traveled around the world on assignments. They did a lot of photography for humanitarian charities.

After her 1953 divorce Chapelle continued to work overseas and visited numerous war zones including the Hugarian uprising and Cuba. She went to Vietnam in 1961. One of her most important photos was won Photograph of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association. That photo "was the first published photography proving that US advisors were actively engaging in combat operations."

Chappelle also wrote an autobio about her career, 1962's What's a Woman Doing Here?, that did so-so Chappelle had to take a woman's lower pay for many assignments and she kept taking assignments to Vietnam - which makes it sound like she was killed by sexism.

I suppose you can have some traction in making a "death by sexism" argument since her career chances would have been limited. But, she was a combat photographer and died from a booby trap in 1965. The buried explosives injured several Marines and cut her carotid and she bled out in a field.

1. Dang. I just discovered that Michael Herr died this past June. I don't think I heard that.
2. This is a WI Historical Society Press item I bought for work.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Listen: "A German Requiem" by Philip Kerr

Listen: A German Requiem by Philip Kerr, 1991, download.

I was trying to listen to these novels in order but may have jumped ahead with this book. Set in 1948 Berlin and Bernie Gunther and his wife are struggling under the continuing Allied occupation and destroyed German economy. Bernie is doing private eye work and his wife works as a hostess at an American club. Things being as they are, Bernie's wife is also prostituting.

Bernie's wife (I forget the character name) brings home PX goods that soldiers give her and says they are gifts. Well, Bernie is an old copper and Bernie is suspicious. He follows his wife after her job and she takes a U.S. Army officer into a bombed building for fellatio. Bernie is saddened but says nothing.

At about the same time a Russian Colonel approaches Bernie about taking an investigation job in Vienna on behalf of one of Bernie's old German police comrades, Werner. Werner was always a dirtbag and never Bernie's friend. But, Werner claims innocence in the murder of a U.S. Army officer and Bernie knows Werner would not have done the crime. Bernie takes the job after considering the Russian's offer of big bucks, his professional interests as an investigator, and his wife's infidelity-for-hire.

Things happen and we learn about Bernie's time during the war. Before the war Bernie went back to work for Kripo (Kriminalpolizei) and when the war started he was nationalized into the SS. Once Bernie found out what the SS were doing in the East he demanded transfer. Rather than being sent to the Eastern Front Bernie worked out of a war crimes unit in Berlin. (The idea of a Nazi organized war crimes unit is always absurd.) Bernie was captured by the Russians at the war's conclusion and spent a couple years in a Russian camp. He finally escaped from Russia and returned to Berlin.

Bernie starts investigating in Vienna and gets nowhere fast. Werner won't say much. Bernie is braced by U.S. Army MPs. Bernie is braced by a U.S. Army Spy Guy. Bernie bangs a Choco-lady (A prostitute who works for food and favors more than money. A prostitute of circumstance rather than career.). Bernie spouts smart ass comments.

Former Nazis show up under assumed names. The Nazis faked their own deaths or forged their de-Nazification certificates. Bernie has to figure out a the relationships among prostitutes, black marketers, Nazis, Soviets, and everyone else just trying to get by.

Things twist and turn. Bernie is always suspicious and untrusting but still falls for a con job. Bernie lives happily ever after but not everyone else.

1. Kerr has nice little touches of detail during the story. Like when Bernie is concussed and held from behind by a big guy. Bernie's head screams in pain when the big guy "guffaws with laughter" at his boss's joke. Kerr goes from a wider narration to a a close personal view of things. I was wondering how the story would translate into a film version if the writing were closely followed. I imagine a lot of little close-ups of hands, shifting feet, and fleeting smiles or grimaces.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Done: "Jack Wakes Up" by Seth Harwood

Done: Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood, 2008, 9780307454355.

Jack Palms was in a big hit movie about four years ago. Then Jack went boozing, went on heroin, had a rotten marriage, and exiled himself to San Francisco. For the past two years Jack's only vice has been a daily cigarette and a regular exercise schedule. But, Jack's one-hit-wonder status doesn't bring him any cash. The bank is close to foreclosing on his house in Sausalito and Palms has no dough.

Palms wheeler dealer pal Ralph calls with an offer. Ralph is trying to negotiate a big drug buy for out-of-towners and offers a few grand to Palms if Palms can flash his movie star teeth and show the buyers a night on the town. So, Palms takes the offer.

Things happen. The out of towners are Czech and looking to buy cocaine, drink booze, and go to strip clubs. Palms goes to see Ralph the next day and Ralph is dead. Palms is upset. Palms tries to figure out who killed Ralph and also take over Ralph's drug trafficker consultant job.

Bad guys show up with guns. Bad guns show up with fists. Palms is out of his house for the first time in two years. Palms is playing the part of a tough guy and getting the same rush and enjoyment he used to get out of film acting. Palms loves his 1966 Ford Mustang GT fastback "K-code". Palms starts doing the sexy sexy sex with a lady bartender. Palms and the Czechs hit the town and look to deal. Palms and Co. get in gunfights and win the day.

Comments, Gripes and Spoilers:
1. This was an OK novel but I forced myself to finish. I realized halfway through my reading that I did not really care what happened to any characters. The most compelling part for me was that the sex lady bartender was playing with Ralph on behalf of Ralph's opponent. Ralph was really enjoying his time with Lady Bartender and thinking about her a lot. Then she pulls a gun on him and demands the cash payout he gets from the Czechs. Palms cannot quite believe she was faking everything in their brief affair and it takes him some time to understand he was tricked.
2. Something about ex-KGB and other ex-KGB getting all ex-KGB angry about ex-KGB. Meh. Not needed.
3. Ford Mustang love.
4. San Francisco street geography love.
5. Something else I forgot.
6. The library has 2013's Young Junius. I may try that one. One of the characters in here was named Junius so I assume there is a connection.
7. Jack Wakes Up circ'ed 9 times. Young Junius has been out 3.
8. There is a 2013 title I may try instead, In Broad Daylight. That one is at Watertown P.L.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Short-ish: "Monster" by Dave Zeltersman

Short-ish: Monster by Dave Zeltersman, 2012, 9781590208601.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. Told from the perspective of Frankenstein's monster who says Frankenstein (Franky) was a liar and a horrible, horrible person.

Friedrich Hoffman is a German apothecary and engaged to his employer's niece. Friedrich and Johanna are having a chaste engagement and deeply in love. Friedrich goes out for beer one night, passes out in an alley, and is woken by an angry mob. Friedrich is covered in blood and has Johanna's locket in his pocket. Friedrich's fiancee has been horribly murdered and Friedrich gets the blame and is tortured to death.

Friedrich wakes up with blurry vision and the voice of a man calling him "my pet". Friedrich is unable to move his body and slowly learns over months of recovery that his brain has been transferred into a monstrous, 8-foot-tall body. He is in a laboratory and Dr. Frankenstein comes in every night to inspect his surgical wounds, massage his body, and chant over him.

Friedrich's laboratory companion is a woman's head in a bowl. Her teeth have been removed and the head sits in a bowl of white liquid. Freidrich is strapped to a lab table that Franky periodically raises so that Friedrich's blood can flow. Friedrich's vision returns Miss-Head-in-a-Bowl starts mouthing words at him. Miss-Head-in-a-Bowl was murdered by Franky and is kept alive in the bowl. They become friends

Many things happen. Franky is in league with the Marquis de Sade. Friedrich is abandoned in the laboratory when Franky flees trouble. Friedrich wanders the German forests and has adventures. Friedrich finds Franky but is unable to kill Franky because of the spell Franky placed on Friedrich.

Most of the book is a narration by Friedrich with some dialogue among characters. Friedrich has to adjust to his new circumstances and worries over whether he has a soul. He also ponders whether his memories are his own; Franky invented a new body so maybe Friedrich's memories are also invented by Franky.

Friedrich was a decent dude as a person and is disgusted in acting out under Franky's spell. Frankenstein promises to take Johanna's brain and put it in a new body. Franky forces Friedrich to select one young woman from a group of captives as the new host body. Friedrich's own desire to have Johanna return helps him rationalize his decision to accept Frankenstein's offer.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Listened To: "The Tilted World" by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly

Listened To: The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, 2014, download.

I listened to Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter a while ago and thought it was good but not great. But, the book was better than I realized because I would think back to the characters and some of the scenes.

Tilted is set in 1927 right before and during the massive floods on the Mississippi in April. The book's preface gives a description of the floods and their aftermath. I readily admit to knowing little about the event and what a disaster it was.

Two revenue agents working under J. Edgar Hoover's authority are sent to MS to find missing revenue agents. Ted and Ham have known each other since service the the Great War. Hoover is using the natural disaster produced by months of rain to promote himself. Months of rain have already flooded the fields and farms and some locals are in desperate straits with no income. Hoover doesn't want bad news about missing federal police and puts the pressure on Ted and Ham.

Ted and Ham come across the aftermath of a deadly burglary. The robbers were killed and left an infant that Ted decides to watch over until he can find a caretaker. Well, Ted hears that a rural woman may take the orphaned boy in, so Ted goes to her house. Dixie answers the door and the two of them have a spark. Dixie takes the boy, Ted goes back to work.

Things happen. Ted and Ham meet a local bootlegger who is vain and charismatic. Bootlegger is married to Dixie. Bootlegger probably killed the missing men. Ted and Ham are undercover and pose as engineers there to inspect the river levee. The levee is 30 feet high and going higher with new sandbags. The river surge is coming and the levee may not be enough. Especially now that word is out about stolen dynamite that may be used by downstreamers to blow the levee.

More things happen. We learn about Ted's growing up an orphan. His time in the Army. His time with Ham. We learn about Dixie growing up in AR and being swept away by handsome Bootlegger. How Dixie and Bootlegger's son died a couple years ago and left Dixie in the doldrums of depression. Bootlegger is scheming asshole who uses his wife, pays off the cops, and wants to blow small town MS for New Orleans.

1. Sharpshooter love.
2. White whiskey love.
3. Lots of mud.
4. Lots of rain.
5. Lots of disaster after the levee breaks.

I Read A Book: "The Tattooed Duchess" by Victor Gischler

I Read A Book: The Tattooed Duchess, 2015, 9781503948228.

The second novel in Gischler's fantasy trilogy, A Fire Beneath the Skin. You need not read the first novel because Gischler fills things in as needed and starts a new story in this one.

The novel has the standard fantasy setting: horses and swords, castles and armies. Gischler's twist is that our main character, Rina, has magic tattoos that give her specific powers. She received those tattoos - a bull for strength, wings for speed, etc. - in the first book. The wizards in the novel also have powers but use spells. (Rina has an advantage in that her power is built in with the ink.) The priests in the novel don't have powers but do, on occasion, received guidance from one of the many gods.

Anyway. In the last book Rina drove an invading army of Perranese soldiers out of her Duchy after her family was killed and the duchy defeated. The Klaar duchy is a back water region without much money so Rina and Co. are mostly ignored by the ruling King. Rina is learning how to lead and administer her lands and government while also hunting down the Quisling betrayed her family to the Perranese.

Meanwhile, Rina is also making the hot sexy lovey dovey with the young stable master. Her rakish cousin is being forced to marry a now pregnant conquest. Rina's main man-at-arms is working with a new security force. The Quisling and some remaining Perranese keep sending assassins. The Perranese are planning a bigger invasion from their home islands. The King wants to forcefully marry his gay relative to Rina. The gods seem to be fighting one another. So on. So forth.

Gischler never writes crap. So you know this is a solid story. He doesn't lay it heavy with making up a complete new world with it's own wacky cultures and mores.

I was kind of annoyed that the second Perranese invasion never came off - I suppose that is in book three. Book three is around here somewhere... let me check.

Nope. It's checked out and due back on December 20.

Done: "One Endless Hour" by Dan J. Marlowe

Done: One Endless Hour by Dan J. Marlowe, 1969 and 2013. 9781933586441.

The second part of Stark House's two-fer republication. Chet (or whatever his name is) from The Name of the Game is Death is vegetating in a prison hospital. Chet was badly burned at the end of the last novel and has been faking a mental shut down. Chet barely speaks and sits quiet for most of the day. But, Chet is just scheming his diabolical brains out. He is avoiding the continuing investigation into his dirty deeds in Florida and plotting his escape. By buying off a gifted surgeon he has extensive plastic surgery to repair the facial scars from Name.

Chet told the surgeon where to find a cache of Chet's stolen loot and the surgeon takes a portion and gives some cash to Chet. Chet uses the dough to pay off a hospital warder and get Chet out of prison. Of course things to not go well and Chet ends up killing the warder and the warder's pal.

Chet hits the road. He left the hospital before his final round of surgial bandages were removed and now, with a new face, he cannot be identified. Unfortunately, that also means other crooks do not recognize him and he has no one to work with.

Chet needs money. He has one more cache of hidden cash but holds that back for a dire emergency.  Chet ends up buying a robbery plan from a broker in D.C. He joins up with two crooks that the broker refers to him. One crook is a full time pornographer and sex fiend who uses robbery money to fund his films. The other crook is a full-time gambler who needs to pad his gambling roll.

Chet and Co. end up doing a quit and dirty robbery in D.C. Partly because the other job is in Pittsburgh and needs time to study, partly because they need fast cash, and partly to prove themselves to each other.

More things happen. The Porno guy is a creep who travel everywhere with a small movie camera and films women walking around. During the first bank robbery in D.C. he forces several bank teller women to disrobe and bend over for his camera. The Pittsburgh robbery is a kidnapping robbery where both the bank's manager and assistant manager need to be abducted and used to open the bank vault.

There is more plotting. More killing. More sneakiness. More sexual hijinks from Porno Crook. More fascinating reader for you.

1. At one time Chet mentions about how the robbery will net less cash than just ten years ago. When the robbers take bank vault bags they get "paper" of checks. How difficult it must be in 2016 to find a cash heavy business to rob.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Something I Heard: "The Truth is Out There" edited by Jonathan Maberry

Something I heard: The Truth is Out There: the X-files, Volume Two edited by Jonathan Maberry, 2016, download.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. But, I cannot recall any stories in particular. Well worth your time if you are a fan of the television series.

Heard: "Kings of Clonmel" by John Flanagan

Heard: Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan, 2008, download.

Eight book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. For the uninformed, the series setting is comparable to Robin Hood but with a stable monarchy, distinct regional government districts, and nothing is English - there are pretend names for places.

Will is now a Ranger after a few years serving as an apprentice under Halt. Rangers are like a national police force and assigned to certain districts within the country. There is one Ranger per district and a handful of apprentices across the country.

Halt has been investigating a band of religious con men who come into a rural town and say only our 'good god' can save you from 'bad god'. Meanwhile, the con men's killers will go around slaughtering farmers in the name of 'bad god'. Con men say, "Hey, we need a golden altar to pray to 'good god'. Give us your gold to build the altar and we will defeat 'bad god'."

Halt finds out the con men have been coming over from Hibernia (Ireland) and Halt, Will and a knight named Horace travel to stop the problem at the source.  They travel to Hibernia and the Kingdom of Clonmel. Difficulties ensue. The con men murder whole families - children included - to sow fear among the people. We learn that Halt is the son of Clonmel's dead king and left Hibernia when Halt's nutty brother tried to kill Halt to gain the throne. Halt and Co. jhave to be circumspect - foreigners cannot waltz in and start ordering everyone around. The Main Con Man is very charismatic and has a silver tongue.

Deadly archery. Smart horses, Outdoor camping. Beheadings. Duels to the death. Treachery. Assassins. Fun, escapist lit aimed at young adults.

1. Lots of violence but chaste love.

Finished: "The Name of the Game is Death" by Dan J. Marlowe

Finished: The Name of the Game is Death by Dan J Marlowe, 1962 but a 2013 reprint from Stark House, 9781933586441.

This is one of Stark House's reprints with two novels together. I'm going to list the book by itself. The Marlowe biography in here is a neat read. This novel was Marlowe's big hit.

Career criminal Chet Arnold (he has many aliases but uses this one through the book) robs a Phoenix bank but gets shot. A couple people are killed in the robbery so Chet and his partner Bunny separate. Chet hangs around to recuperate - and kill the doctor who treats him - and Bunny goes to Florida with most of the cash. Bunny sends money to General Delivery and the money stops coming. Chet knows something is wrong and drives to Florida.

Chet stops off for fake ID in Alabama and gets to Hudson, FL and looks for Bunny. Bunny must be dead and Chet wants the money and some revenge.  Chet does itinerant work as a tree doctor and uses that as a cover. (Years ago he learned "no known means of support" worked against you in court.) He starts asking around town and searching the abandoned rural roads around Hudson. He takes in a stray dog. He sexes up the local bar owner. He makes pals with a young earl estate agent.

The novel is Chet's search for Bunny and the money. He meets people, he makes friends, he asks questions, he uses several flashbacks to fill us in on his life. Chet has always been a bit of a sociopath. As a boy he had a favorite kitten that a neighborhood boy's dog kills. Chet beats the other boy with every chance he gets.

No matter that Chet's sisters, his mother and his father tell him to let the dead cat go. Chet endures the beatings of his father, pleadings of his sister, and threats of the police. The situation does not resolve until the other boy's family leaves town. Later on as a 18-year-old Chet gets in an argument with a bully cop and ends up in jail and with a beating. Chet's response is to bide his time and catch all three of the offending Officers off-duty and pounds on them. Chet eaves town, ends up in Northern Ohio where the cops, again, prove lousy. Chet murders one of the Officers and decides on a life of crime. He rejects society and starts as an armed robber.

Anyway. Chet is a killer. He's Robert DeNiro's character in Heat. Chet doesn't care who you are, if you're in the way you're going down. At one point during Chet's getaway he is resolved to killing his real estate agent pal because the pal is out in front of a roadblock. Chet only turns away when Chet's dog appears next to the fella.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Zip: "Others of My Kind" by James Sallis

Zip: Others of My Kind by James Sallis, 2013, 9781620402092.

I was cleaning out older items from the New Book shelf and was reminded Sallis has a recent book there. This novel is Sallis length at 116 pages. Like other Sallis novels this has a lead character who is a loner. A person who prefers solitude and cannot also connect with others. (Well, that is the kind of Sallis characters I have run across before. I'm not saying I've read all his material.) I read this in KS during Thanksgiving vacation.

Jenny Rowan was eight when she was kidnapped, kept in a locked box under the kidnapper's bed for four years. (I think it was four years). The kidnapper started taking Jenny on outings and during a shopping mall trip she escaped. For 18 months Jenny lived in the mall. She became an urban legend as Mall Girl. Once she was finally nabbed by an authority she spent some time in state care until she petitioned for legal emancipation and started work as a waitress.

Anyhoo. Rowan is working as a video editor for a local TV station in D.C. when a Police Detective asks for her help in speaking to a young woman who was found under similar circumstances: kidnapped, held for a long time and sexually assaulted.

This isn't a crime novel. Rowan helps the other woman and even gives her a place to stay. The Vice President has her son kidnapped and Rowan writes a letter saying, Hey, I kinda know what you're going through, give me a call if you need to talk. Rowan date the Detective a couple times. Rowan is a video editing savant. Rowan never speaks of her past - the reader is one of the few people who know. Rowan severs all ties - except to fellow abductee - and moves to Florida.

I don't know if Sallis was working with a theme or goal in mind. I took a couple things away from the book, the first thing was Rowan's resilience. She almost completely forgot her life before her abduction. She lived under the abuse of her abductor for years. As a 12 year old she lived and survived on her for 18 months. After emancipation she worked as a waitress and then worked her way through her GED and college degree and then into a career.

Heck. Rowan's success and emotional stability are a bit too far fetched to believe in fiction. I suppose her narration might be glossing over a lot of her own trouble but the character always seemed honest to me. But, Rowan dates or mates with different men over time. She works a lot. She stays at home and reads. She throws out rare words like an auto-didacts I have known. She is incredibly empathetic.

That empathy is the second thing I remember from the novel. Whether as a waitress or her nurse work in the end of the novel Rowan's happiness and friendliness draw attention. Her kindness is turned into a vocational skill after she goes back to school to be a nurse.

1. Anyone heard Sallis's band perform? He has audio on his band website and they sound pretty good to me. No surprise that they perform a lot at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale.
2. Sallis looks a lot like the system admin guy for my library system.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Done: "Goshawk Squadron" by Derek Robinson

Done: Goshawk Squadron by Derek Robinson, 1971, 670-34672-1.

This novel was reviewed a few years ago on Forgotten Books. I posted a reply to the reviewer's post saying the book sounded pretty good. I then promptly forgot all about the novel. But, when I posted my response I signed up for updates and was notified when someone else posted a comment this October. I placed the book on order and got a copy from New Berlin.

Set in January, 1918 and the British Royal Flying Corps's Goshawk Squadron is flying SE5a biplanes. They are commanded by Stanley Woolley. Woolley is a 23-year-old Major and a major asshole. Woolley is an experienced combat pilot with a cynical eye on war and combat. He cares little to nothing for the pilots under his command. His job is to make sure the pilots learn flying skills and employ efficient tactics when battling thhe enemy.

For Woolley combat is ruthless murder. This attitude clashes with the freshly minted pilots (some with only 10 hours behind the stick) who - even into 1918 - expect a chivalrous and gallant warfare. Woolley tells them to get close and kill the pilot. Woolley tells them to have no mercy. Some of the pilots are aghast. Others quickly die in crashes or combat.

The casualty rate is high on both machines and pilots. Landings are frequently turned into crashes. Inexperienced pilots are caught by surprise and shot down. Engine trouble puts planes into the mud. The pilots grow to despise Woolley and desire his death. He puts them through a physically demanding training schedule and demeans them every day in front of the rest of the unit.

Things happen. The squadron changes airfields. The squadron is tasked with foolishly planned missions. The squadron gets roaring drunk and in trouble with French police. Woolley has a sort-of girlfriend. The comings and goings are thick with dark humor and the shenanigans or young men under high pressure.

1.A neat novel because it's a fun read and also gives an accurate - from what I've learned elsewhere - look at how the air war was fought and how the service operated. When reading a WWI pilot's memoir - maybe that was Rickenbacker's book - I learned how difficult it was to shoot down balloons. The tethered balloons were vital for observing enemy lines and calling artillery strikes. Therefore, the balloons were well protected by enemy fighters, and ground machine guns and ack-ack. Attacking pilots would have to run the gauntlet of exploding air shells to attack the surprisingly resilient balloons.
2. The observation balloons held a couple observers. When one pilot proudly returns to the airfield after downing a balloon Woolley asks him if the observers survived. 'Well, I saw two parachutes," says the pilot. Woolley responds with a burst of anger that the observers must be killed. The balloons can be replaced, the observers are skilled labor and will go right back up in a second balloon.

Quickish: "Severance Package: by Duane Swierczynski

Quickish: Severance Package by Duane Swierczysnki, 2008, 9780312343804.

A quicker novel to read. Another Swizzlestickerinski novel with frequent POV changes among the characters. Enjoyable, like usual.

Several employees of a financial services company in downtown Philadelphia are scheduled to work on Saturday morning. Their boss tells them they drink the poisoned Mimosas or they can shot to death. We meet each of the eight people and learn about them. Then we learn how each of them tries to escape, fight back or dies.

The emphasis is on the action but Switterouski gets us to like the characters and laugh at or with them. It's explosions with soul, man. Anyhoo.

There is lots of death, blood, worry, high tech surveillance, psycho love, paternal love, bored employees, and some explosions.

1. I wonder how many Philadelphia jokes are in here that I missed.
2. SPOILER: The reason for the death of all eight people is never made clear.
3. I finished this on vacation and went right to the next book. So, I don't have much to say about the story.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Old Paper: "The Friends of Eddie Coyle"

Old Paper: The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins, 1972, 0394473272.

An older copy (sixth printing) that came over from New Berlin public library. This copy looks to have an accession stamp date of 2003. I suppose someone donated this copy.

Charlie Stella wrote how this book was a revelation to him when he was younger. How the characters spoke like the people he knew. The last season - maybe the last episode - of Justified had some direct praise by the main character who said he kept rereading this novel. Well, I don't reread much of anything but did enjoy the book.

One thing I enjoyed about the novel is that these are working guy crooks. The don't make a lot of money. Paying bills and buying children's clothes are daily life, not night clubs and jet planes as they plan to rob a casino.  These crooks are burglars, hijackers, and smugglers. But, violent crime is constantly in the mix with gunrunners and bank robbers.

Eddie Coyle himself is looking at several years in prison up in New Hampshire (Vermont?) after being caught driving a truck full of stolen goods. Eddie starts feeding information to a Massachusetts cop hoping that the cop can sway the prosecutor in NH (VT?) that Coyle deserves a break. With several characters we follow a few days as Coyle struggles to find prime information and the chance occasions put a couple crooks onto Coyle's connection to the police.

It's a novel spent listening to conversations in cars and bars and offices. There is some action as bank managers are abducted and forced to open bank vaults. The final murder is matter of fact. Coyle is suspected of telling the police about a robbery that gets a crook killed. A mob boss really liked the dead guy and wants Coyle punished. As simple as that. Not too much different than Albert Anastasia having Arnold Schuster murdered.

Pretty Fast: "Stranglehold" by Ed Gorman

Pretty Fast: Stranglehold by Ed Gorman, 2010. 9780312532987.

One of Gorman's political novels featuring Dev Conrad, campaign consultant.

Dev gets a panic call from his staff in Illinois. They are running a re-election campaign for a Congresswoman who is keeps disappearing and ignoring their advice. They are also clashing with the money behind the campaign: the Congresswoman's dragon lady stepmother.

Dev. leaves Michigan and lands in Central Illinois. He starts working and keeping his client happy. Too bad that keeping Dragon Lady happy can conflict with running a winning campaign. While in town Dev runs into a competitor from another firm. That firm is run by an unscrupulous man and woman with background's in yellow journalism; the two are happy to sling mud and slurs on opposing candidates.

Dev finds out the Congresswoman's secret - a long lost son put up for adoption twenty years ago - and the slime slinging female mentioned above is murdered. Well, scandal strikes and Dev has to manage the secret son secret, deal with Dragon Lady, deal with all the relatives under Dragon lady's thumb, and try to keep Congresswoman from under suspicion of murder.

A fun story with good characters and brief looks into campaign management. Gorman doesn't lay on heavy details about campaign polling and press relations. He gives enough to teach the reader something and keep them interested.

I read another Dev Conrad book before, Sleeping Dogs, and enjoyed this one more.

Monday, November 21, 2016

DNF: "Choosing Sides: by Ruma Chopra

DNF: Choosing Sides: loyalists in Revolutionary America by Ruma Chopra, 2013, 9781442205710.

A very interesting book at how people chose sides during the Revolutionary War. For many people this was not an easy decision and others just went along to get along.

I only read until 19 and quit because I was going slow and have had this book way, way too long. An interesting thing I ran across is how one of Benjamin Franklin's sons remained loyal to the crown and settled in England.

I'll have to try this book again. Maybe has a copy, let me check... Nope. Damn it. I don't see an audio version anywhere.

1. This seemed like a book that would make BookTV. Well, no, it did not. But, Chopra's other book Unnatural Rebellion: Loyalists in New York City During the Revolution, did make BookTV:

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mostly While Painting: "Mickey Cohen" by Tere Tereba.

Mostly While Painting: Mickey Cohen: the life and times of L.A.'s notorious mobster by Tere Tereba, 2012, download.

I've spent a couple months - or more - working on painting my garage. My garage is an old two story carriage house which means there are layers of crusted paint that have to be removed. I have scraped, scoured, grinded and sanded for quite a while and only started painting over the weekend. My labor has been accompanied by several audiobooks and this is the latest.

This is a nice companion to Gangster Squad:Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles by Paul Lieberman which also came out in 2012. Tereba gives a rundown from Cohen's birth to death. There is not much to say during his time in the 1970s after Cohen learned to stay out of the limelight and no longer led the L.A. mob.

Cohen was pretty rotten from the start. He grew up in a big family with no father. He got kicked out of school, busted for several juvie crimes, and then ran a ring of newsies. He'd run several newspaper boy corners and beat up anyone who opposed him.

After growing up a bit Cohen started boxing and then traveling with boxing and mob circles in the 1930s. He worked in NYC, Cleveland (at the time a booming town with plenty of mobsters), and Chicago. Cohen quit boxing and started full time in crime. He worked as a pimp, loanshark, killer, all around tough guy, and most anything else that was needed.
Cohen's return to Los Angeles had him working under Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel for several years until Siege's murder. Cohen took over from Siegel and then took over the front pages. Cohen loved the publicity and never shied from it. He picked fights and went after anyone. The were at least 1o assassination attempts - including 30 sticks of dynamite under his house. That dynamite bomb was placed in the crawl space under Cohen's and directly beneath the concrete and steel safe Cohen had installed. The bomb's blast was directed outwards and saved the lives of Cohen and his wife.

Anyway. Cohen has been written about and used as a movie character plenty of times. There are tons of stories about his crimes, his obsessive compulsive behavior, his colleagues. What really sets Cohen apart from so many mobsters through the '30s to '60s is that he survived into old age. His two prison terms were for tax evasion and he beat back prosecutors and won trials for violent crime. 

Cohen seemed driven by several things. He grew up poor and physically fighting for any money and advancement. He could not read, write or even count until his thirties. Being 5'5" he probably had a Napoleonic complex going on was well. Cohen craved the limelight and often had B-starlet arm candy for the paparazzi. 

1. I remember from Gangster Squad how Mickey would get "loans" from people. EIther thorugh blackmail or strong arm he would receive thousands of dollars that he would never pay back.
2. Cohen was likely involved in Siegel's murder since he ended up being Siegel's successor.
3. Cohen portrayed his wife as a pure-as-driven-snow, moral person. He used her to try and show how he was actually a great guy and with a strong woman to guide him. He skipped over her several prostitution arrests and other crimes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Another Stacy Keach: "Kill Me Darling" by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Another Stacy Keach: Kill Me Darling by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, 2015, download.

One thing I really enjoyed about this is that Velda has disappeared. This means we don't have to put up with Hammer calling her "Kitten" all the time. Man, that gets annoying. The plot on this one was more straightforward than other Hammer novels. Hammer is not working a case - he is working to get Velda back. Velda is refusing to come back to NYC and Hammer has to figure out how to get her to return. That Velda is working undercover is no mystery - or spoiler - to the reader.

Anyway, Velda has disappeared. She up and left without telling Mike what, why or where. Mike ends up going on a four month -

I'm at the circ' desk killing a few minutes and typing this. I can see right to the entry vestibule where we have a public bulletin board. Prominent on the board is a sign saying that all posts must be approved. Sure enough, some young woman came into the vestibule, grabbed some thumbtacks and posted up some pages. She did not even try to stick her head around the door and ask. I'm going to take those postings and put them right in the circular file.

- booze bender. Well, Mike comes to long enough to hear about an old pal on the NYPD who was murdered on the street. He then gets pulled in by Pat Chambers who tells Mike that Mike has turned into a drunken bum and that Pat knows where Velda is living. Mike perks up. Mike gets in his car and spends a few days driving down to Miami as he fights his body's booze cravings.

Mike lands in Miami. Mike gets a motel room. Mike looks for Velda. Velda has been cozy with a local mobster who runs illegal casinos, prostitutes, night clubs, and is suspected in drug running from Cuba. Mike wants to tear off Gangster's head and take Velda back to New York.

More Hammer Style things happen. Fights. Killings. Insults. Sex. Sexual innuendo. Sidebar characters who are salt of the earth. Hammer justice versus legal justice. Hammer's hankering for Velda.

There is a really well done part where Hammer comes back to his remote motel and finds the motel owners murdered. Hammer figures out how to sneak into the motel room with the hidden killers, where he attacks and chases down the men. That was suspenseful.

Hammer has that weird Madonna-whore thing going on again. He does not want to sleep with Velda before they marry but has spent plenty of time sleeping around during his adult life.

1. I had several things I was thinking about the story as I listened to the novel. But, I never wrote those thoughts down and I finished this book a couple weeks ago and have forgotten.
2. Because I have forgotten those thoughts you are deprived of some deep and insightful commentary. Gnash your teeth.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Audio'ed: "Bad Moon Rising" by Ed Gorman

Audio'ed: Bad Moon Rising by Ed Gorman, 2011, from

Gorman passed away a couple weeks ago and that news pressed me to read or listen to another one of his novels. For some reason the writing and plot seem a lot like Max Allan Collin's work. Maybe I'm sticking the IA guys together. But, the way Gorman writes about love, sex, and relationships has a strong feel to Collins's work.

Ninth book in the Sam McCain series but the first one I have read. McCain is a small town lawyer in the Iowa town of Black River Falls. Black River Falls is fictional but near Cedar Rapids. Or was it Waterloo? There is a River Falls by Waterloo. Anyway, the town doesn't really matter except that McCain grew up there and knows a lot of people.  McCain also works for an investigator for the local judge and, therefore, has some legal authority.

McCain's law practice is not thriving but he does have clients and some of those clients live in a hippie commune outside of town. The Hippie Leader in Chief gives McCain a call for help. McCain drives out to see a murdered woman in the commune's barn. Uh-oh. McCain questions Hippie Leader, McCain determines someone to talk to, McCain gets wonked on the head and person of interest runs off.

Anyhoo. Like most of the novels I really enjoy the novel's plot is not always that important. The characters and how they act is important. What they think, how they interact, what they wish for or want to hide are important. Finding a killer or driving to the store for beer are just a way for us to meet these people.

McCain is a short guy who deeply misses his dead father, loves a woman who is reticent to marry, and gets a burr up his butt about the war in Vietnam and poor treatment of young people and "hippies".  McCain has a sharp tongue and is not unwilling to throw a punch.

The communes drop-outs are there for a variety of reasons and the murder victim and her family were splitting apart over a new stepmother and the dad's new swingin lifestyle.

The rabble rousing local Am radio preacher is scheming for more cash and blaming hippies and anti-war sentiment for the falling apart of America. (Some things never change.)

Monday, November 7, 2016

DNF: "Active Senior Living" by Jan Curran

DNF: Active Senior Living: a fictionalized memoir by Jan Curran, 2010, 9780557273812.

I bought this for the library after Lee Goldberg plugged. Curran was Goldberg's mother and worked for years as a journalist in the California desert. After an extended illness her children got her to stay in a senior living facility and she wrote this fictionalized memoir.

The book has some laugh out loud moments of the odd and oversexed behavior of residents. Curran writes about the odd pecking order and small town nosiness among the building's residents. I've had the book too long and some of the copy editing errors were getting on my nerves so I brought the book back.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Listened: "Dead Man's Song" by Jonathan Maberry

Listened: Dead Man's Song by Jonathan Maberry, 2007, download

How does Maberry keep publishing so many books each year when he seems to spend all day on Facebook?

Second novel of the Pine Deep trilogy and the story starts hours after the first novel ended. Malcolm Crowe and his girlfriend Val are beginning recuperation after the beatings and shootings sustained in fighting and killing the bad guy, Ruger.

Vic Wingate is plotting with the dead spirit of Ubel Griswold for something bad. Ruger has turned into a vampire - or maybe a vampire-werewolf, that is unclear - and has been taken in by Ubel.

Tow Truck Eddie continue to think the speaking spirit of Ubel is God telling him to kill teenager Mike. Mike turns out to be the son of a man whose body Ubel took over and used to rape Mike's mother.

Terry Wolfe is going insane. Terry is having conversations with his long dead sister, popping anti-depressants every hour, and sees a wolf when he looks in the mirror.

Anyhoo. Maberry has plenty of scares, bad guys, and some tough guy talk. He also has tough guys making fun of their own tough guy talk and being quite scared. It's a fun series and the narrator, Tom Weiner, performs the book.

1. Maberry will really lay on the schmaltz. Three times Val has a "single tear" leak or drop or squeeze out of her eye. I think all three fell on Crowe.
2. Same goes with the pregnancy announcement with everyone all whooping and the men genially insulting one another.
3. Same thing goes with the interminably long sex scene between Crowe and Val. Ugh.

Audio: "The Night Monster" by James Swain

Audio: The Night Monster by James Swain, 2009, download.

Jack Carpenter is a still a private investigator, still hurting for money, still a dickhead.

Carpenter's daughter plays basketball for Florida State. Her team has a creepy guy following them around. One of the team members is abducted and Jack is there to see it. Jack tries to stop the abduction but one of the mega-monstrous sized kidnappers tosses Jack aside and leaves.

Jack is out to rescue woman basketball player under the pay of her wealthy real estate mogul father. Jack recognizes the monster sized kidnapper who tossed Jack aside when Jack was in uniform patrol several years ago. Jack tries to work with his old police squad (note: not Police Squad) and with an FBI Agent whose daughter also went missing years ago.  Jack sees a pattern in several abductions and identifies two men as the crooks.

Things happen. Jack is a pushy asshole but Swain lets him get away with it by having Jack as the only one who can save the person in danger. Jack freelances with the local police department and quickly solves cases of missing children. Jack runs around on his own and breaks a few laws but with "Damn it! I must save that woman!!!!" attitude.

A good novel but absurd at times. Swain tells us a lot of about child predators and kidnappers and how they operate. The problem is that this is fiction; you want the details and story to be realistic, but the writer needs to add drama and the drama can founded on nonsense.

I enjoy the series. I get frustrated with Carpenter and his personality. That's neat because I am invested in the character and what he is doing. I really enjoy the Florida setting.

1. Mossberg shotgun nonsense.
2. More 1903 Colt love.
3. Law enforcement leaving a crime scene with five dead men to go do something else.
4. Shooting and killing without investigation.
5. Hey, it's Florida, that place is weird.
6. Buster the Wonder Dog
7. Beat up junker car love.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Done: "Containment" by Vanda Symon

Done: Containment by Vanda Symon, 2009, 9780143202295.

Not what I thought was coming. I thought the novel was dead people in a shipping container. No, just a dead guy in the ocean.

New Zealand Detective Constable Sam Shephard is a newly minted detective in Dunedin, NZ on the South Island. She's been in the job for a short time after uniform work. Her boss is a dick. Her older partner is beset with marriage worries. Her mother is disapproving about most everything.

Shephard is house sitting at the beach town of Aramoana. She goes out for a morning walk and finds a container ship washed ashore with loose containers on the sand. Townspeople have gone nuts and are scavengin - stealing - anything they can get. When trying to show her badge and stop the looting Shephard gets slugged unconscious.

Shephard gets a bad concussion, her boyfriend provides some comfort, and she gets antsy being at home. When Shephard does arrive back at work she gets an assignment to be the Dead Body Cop. Normally, this can be kinda cool, but this time her dickhead supervisor sends her out on the ocean to recover a floater.

Things happen. Shephard follows along in Symon's police procedural. It's more a slice of life with Shephard than something heavy on mystery, crime, or scares. Shephard is a working officer in a
realistic plot. Symon does not dwell on any cop lingo, crime scene details, or obscure histories of stolen objects. Shephard is there to work the case and catch the bad guy. And the bad guy is not some evil mastermind with a cruel streak either.

Shephard is in her late 20s with a best friend, a boyfriend who wants to get serious, a parent who is ill, and a desire to get ahead in her chosen career. There are some violent bits - and Symon has a scene I thought was kinda forced where Symon sets Shephard up against her boss during a shooting crisis - but mostly this is personal life and detective work.

I enjoyed the book but this is the only Symon book in the library system and she wrote three other Shephard novels.

1. Aramoana is freaking tiny.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Another Audio: "Battlefront: Twilight Company" by Alexander Freed

Another Audio: Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed, 2015, overdrive download.

I readily admit that I would not have read this if I knew it was a video game tie-in. I just discovered the tie-in status a couple minutes ago when checking full title and pub date. I enjoyed the book.

Namir is an infantry Sergeant with the Rebellion. It's 13 years after the Clone Wars a couple years after the Death Star's destruction. The Rebellion is being pushed back on multiple fronts and losing planets previously won over from the Empire.

Namir is part of Twilight Company. Twilight works as shock troops by hopping from solar system to solar system in efforts to stop Empire attacks and allow the Rebellion to retreat.  The Company is filled with humans and aliens and has a casualty rate of well over 100%. The Company holds open recruiting calls on most planets to get new soldiers.

Namir and Co. are on a planet where they capture the local Imperial Governor. The Governor is a haughty and rude woman but surrenders and promises to assist the Rebellion. It turns out the Governor, Chalis, was demoted from higher rank and sent to a backwater planet. Chalis hopes to get revenge on the Empire - and avoid the execution that would result from her losing a battle to the Rebellion - and start taking apart the Empire's logistical train.

Chalis wins over the Company's Captain and Namir travels along with them to Hoth for Chalis to meet the Rebellion's Generals and planning attacks.

Things happen. Namir is a former child soldier. Namir spent his formative years listening to the local warlords justify their violence and greed and he is thoroughly cynical. Namir does not believe in the Rebellion, he joined Twilight during an open recruitment and he stays in Twilight for the food and colleagues.

Chalis is Imperial: ruthless, murderous, selfish, scheming. She starts to slowly believe in the Rebellion and risks herself.

Other characters talk, fight, die, and do other things. Freed does not spend a lot of time on the bad guys but does a fair job of making them real. Darth Vader's brief presence is a reminder of what a powerful and dangerous villain he was. Vader is a pitiless child killer,

1. These Star Wars narrations are done as radio plays with plenty of sound effects and music. I enjoy that.
2. Silly stuff like how a small unit of 200 soldiers winning big battles or driving armies off planets.
3. Freed takes mentions how such a war would involve a massive scale of people, space ships, and supplies. Namir is off a backwater planet and doesn't always appreciate the scale of things.
4. Darth Vader.
5. I was helping stack firewood with the Boy Scout Troop on Sunday. After the loose piles of wood were stacked the loose bark, wood strips, and other refuse were getting bulldozed into a pile by a Bobcat. The Bobcat has big wheels, hydraulic powered arms, a caged driving compartment, and makes a machinery whine and groan. I mentioned to a couple other adults how those things remind me of Star Wars vehicles.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

DNF: "From German Cavalry Officer to Reconnaissance Pilot" edited by Paul L. Rempe

DNF: From German Cavalry Officer to Reconnaissance Pilot: the world war i history, memories, and photographs of Leonhard Rempe, 1914-1921 edited by Paul L. Rempe, 2016, 9781611213218.

Rempe enlisted, joined the cavalry on the Eastern Front, went to the Western Front and joined thee German air force, was mustered out and involved in post-war political turmoil, emigrated to Wisconsin.

This was interesting to me and i enjoyed it. But, even though the post-war story was very interesting I just never got back to the book and am returning it to the library.

The book has a lot of photographs and plenty of maps.

Short NonFic: British Infantryman versus Zulu Warrior" by Ian Knight

Short NonFic: British Infantryman: Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 versus Zulu Warrior by Ian Knight, 2013, 9781782003656.

Another nonfic military history paperback from Osprey Publishing. Theses books have brief background histories, battle tactics and strategy, neat illustrations and maps, and brief bio information on people involved.

The 1879 war is most well known for the Battle at Rourke's Drift portrayed in Zulu. But, that battle was fairly insignificant to the war as a whole. The victory was a moral boost for the British but involved barely any English troops and a much smaller Zulu force than the major battles.

Knight covers three big battles and the tactics and strategy used by both sides. The Zulu kingdom was independent minded but did was decided to not to start fighting unless the Brits entered Zulu land. The British advanced so the Zulu started fighting.

The Zulu employed different tactics than the African native armies the Brits fought in earlier wars. The Zulu attack was of a bull's head with two flanking attacks making the horns and the main force being the chest, the method could be very effective. But, the Zulu were nor armed with enough modern weapons. Their rifles were not uniform and were European hand-me-downs, like old Brown Bess muskets, imported by traders.

The Zulu were deadly in hand in to hand combat but had to sneak up and quickly charge to overcome the British firepower. When the British were able to place obstacles in front of the Zulu the Zulu were shot down too fast to get through.

The British would spread out their lines to give each rifleman more room and use the rifles to better effect. The Zulu bull's head tactic was difficult to coordinate on a large battle field. To be effective, the three attacking portions of the bull's head had to hit simultaneously. The had to overwhelm the British by sheer numbers. If rough ground or British fire slowed the Zulu then the attack would stall and fail.

The Battle of Isandlwana was a major defeat for the British. They were unable to stop the masses of Zulu. The Battle of Khambula was the opposite where the Zulu were stalled at different times and the British were able to move their cannons around and send out a British counterattack that stopped the Zulu from regrouping.

A While Ago: "Black Tide" by Peter Temple

A While Ago: Black Tide by Peter Temple, 2005, 9781596921306.

A read this a while ago and will be brief.

Short: Jack Irish helps an old man find his son and gets involved in international skullduggery, bribery, and murder.

Long: Jack Irish is still working with a horse racing guru and living off the bets. He still works building furniture with an elderly, expert cabinet maker. He still does some minor lawyering work.

Irish is visited by a man who knew Irish's deceased parents way back when. In fact, Des was there when Irish's parents first met. Des's is elderly and faces losing his house after his no-goodnick son conned him out of Des's house and borrowed a few thousand bucks. Now Des's son has gone missing and Des asks Irish to help.

Irish soon finds that Des's son was mixed up into something big. National politics and political fixers, uber rich people, international companies, mysterious deaths, etc.

I do not have much more to say about the plot except that this novel is better than most I have read lately. Temple plops you right into Melbourne. Rainy weather. Australian rules football. Class differences. Issues in national politics.

Irish is still lonely. Irish is still a bit grouchy. Irish still hangs out at the local bar with his father's elderly contemporaries. Irish still has minimal contact with his adult daughter.

Audio: "Gone Tomorrow" by Lee Child

Audio: Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child, 2009, download.

The usual Jack Reacher novel with:
- bad guys
- a woman in peril
- Reacher working with and against the police
- Reacher having sex with a lady cop
- Reacher is ruthless
- Reacher being questioned about his hobo lifestyle
- Military Police vs. Special Forces

Anyhoo. Reacher is on an early morning subway ride after visiting a jazz club. Reacher has still memorized the Israeli guidelines to spot terrorist suicide bombers. One of the women on his subway car is sending up red flags. Reacher approaches her, says he is a cop, expects to get blown up at any second, woman kills herself with a .357 round.

Reacher is questioned by police. Reacher is questioned by FBI. Reacher questioned by anonymous suits outside the police precinct. Reacher is curious. Reacher starts asking around.

Many things happen. It's all the usual Lee Child stuff where Child writes a damn good story and plots things out very well. Reacher makes educated guesses, makes a few mistakes, and the whole plot unravels.

1. Steyr GB? Again? Really, again? Info.
2. This book's bad guys includes bad women.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Heard: "Lights Out" by Ted Koppel

Heard Lights Out by Ted Koppel, 2015, download.

Ted starts thinking about what would happen during a long term electrical outage covering a wide area. Ted is concerned about computer hackers that could damage, what he says is, a fragile set of 4,000 interlocking utility companies across the U.S. Storm damage from a hurricane can be fixed fairly quickly because utility companies and linemen from around the country can drive over and make repairs. But, what if the major equipment is damaged? What if a substation whose equipment weighs 4,000 pounds and requires a two year manufacturing process is destroyed? Large areas would be without power for months at a time.

Ted's prime example is the stuxnet virus used to destroy 1,000 or so centrifuges in Iran. Ted theorizes about what software and mechanical equipment can be destroyed by a foreign power hacking into the electrical grid. Cyber-security standards are lax and the many, many private companies have different standards, budgets, and technical experience with regards to computer security.

What's more, there are more pressing issues facing the industry. A hack job into the system is a "This may happen" situation compared to the pressing needs of paying salaries, replacing current equipment, etc.

Since it seems so highly possible that a foreign power could cause a power system outage Koppel goes into Apocalyptic Terror! mode. Can the federal government handle this disaster? There will be needs for food, clean water, sanitation, heat, A/C, commerce, traffic control, law enforcement, medical care and supplies, etc. Well... not really. FEMA is limited and each state takes care of most disasters anyway.

Ted goes on to talk about the Red Cross. The Red Cross has a spotty record and their planning is dependent upon Red Cross workers at the State and local level. No one has massive stockpiles of fuel, food and water available for the public. The only exception is the Mormons who run their own countrywide network of warehouses, trucks, and church stores.

If there are no emergency plans in place for a multi-state problem how do you handle evacuation? Where will people go and who will manage their shelter and food? Heck if Ted can find out.

1. This is a brief book and Koppel talked to a lot people from a lot of places. He did a thorough job of research and pressed people for answers.
2. People drive the process. One county can have a great person in charge and a clear plan and chain of command. A neighboring county can have a part-time fireman and half a case of bottled water.
3. Koppel spends a lot of time on food supplies. He is going on the assumption that supplies cannot come in and that a lack of refrigeration will cause more trouble. Plans to stockpile dehydrated and canned goods is limited by the cost and shelf life of those items.
4. The refugee crisis is just as great a problem. Don't forget Danziger Bridge during Hurricane Katrina.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

At My Leisure: "Greenmantle" by John Buchan

At My Leisure: Greenmantle by John Buchan, 1916 (Project Gutenberg e-edition from 2008 and updated 2013), no ISBN.

I don't like carrying books around. A novel is one more thing to carry and I'll usually lose the bookmark.  But, I often find myself waiting around somewhere with nothing to do but bore myself on my computer-box-pocket-telephone. Monkeying on the internet with a 3.5" diagonal screen is a drag.  What's more, my data service can be real sketchy. "Hey," I thought to myself "why not load a book onto my phone? Maybe some poetry or short stories so I won't forget characters and plot because of infrequent reading."

So, since someone on Forgotten Books mentioned that you can download all the John Buchan novels I figured I would do so. Getting the files to work on my stupid, damnable, rotten, no-good handheld magic box device took a while.

Set mid-war in 1916 or so and Richard Hannay has been in the English countryside recuperating from war wounds after his service in France with the British infantry. Hannay gets a cable from Sir Henry Bullivant. Hannay worked with Bullivant in 39 Steps and Bullivant calls on Hannay to help with an undercover mission. The ever energetic upper-class Hannay takes the challenge to go to the Middle East and discover the secrets behind a German plot to expand and win the war there.

The German plan is still a secret with only a couple clues to Hannay to go on. Hannay is paired with an American, Blenkiron, and a British Army officer named Sandy who happens to be Hannay's pal.

All three men are to travel separately to Turkey and rendezvous in Istanbul (Constantinople?). Hannay decides to go to Portugal, pretend to be a Limey hating South African, then take another ship north to land in Germany and then travel south to Turkey. On board his ship to Portugal Hannay meets a good friend from South Africa and persuades the man to join him.

They get to Germany and declare to be of help to the Krauts. They are shuttled about until taken up by a German Officer who is suspicious of the two but brings them along to test their loyalty.

Anyhoo. Many things happen. This novel is much like The 39 Steps because it's mostly a long chase. Hannay pretends to be someone else, uses his wits to lie, flees on foot and car and boat, and talks his way through tight spots. Once Hannay gets to Turkey Buchan starts to tell more of the plot which concerns a secret Muslim prophet the Germans plan to use as a human guidon and lead the Muslim populations of the Middle East to run over the Russians and English.

Hannay meets up with his fellow spies. Hannay meets the German femme fatale in charge of the German operation. Hannay and Co. are found out, flee, and steal a map showing the German positions and battle plans against the Russkies. Hannay and Co. head East and South to escape Femme Fatale and hook up with the Russian Army.

Everything ends well. Accept for the bad guys.

1. As I mentioned above this book is all about The Chase. The plot about using the Muslim Avenger is interesting but kinda half-baked. Buchan just uses that as an excuse for the adventure.
2. Even though he regularly faces death Hannay still sometimes treats things like a boyhood lark.
3. This came out in 1916 and Hannay has high patriotism even after fighting in the slaughterhouse of the Western Front. He misses and mourns his dead colleagues in France but is determined to win out over the Huns.
4. I mentioned in my previous notes about 39 Steps how that novel was widely read in the trenches. It's plot gave a fictional explanation about how such a massive and destructive war could begin. I imagine Greenmantle gave similar succor in the midst of the war: Hannay as an dedicated infantry officer who takes on a highly risky mission on the chance on dealing a major blow to the Germans.
5. "Succor" is a weird word. If we had an O.E.D. here I would look it up.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Heard: "The Deep" by Nick Cutter

Heard: The Deep by Nick Cutter, 2014 (or 2015 I'm not going to hunt down the American release date), downloaded from

Nick Cutter is Craig Davidson. I like Davidson's Davidson novels and read his first Cutter horror novel, The Troop, a year or two ago. Davidson newest book (released this autumn or winter)  is a memoir of driving a school bus in 2008 when he really needed the dough.

Anyhoo. A mysterious disease is spreading around the world. The Getts, is similar to Alzheimer's in that people start forgetting things and eventually go comatose and die. Iowa City veterinarian Luke is brother to a famous scientist. That scientist is one of three scientists 8 miles down in the ocean exploring the possibility of a cure. The giant floating platform above the deep sea station gets a video message from Jake's Brother asking for Jake. What can Jake do but accept the government offer, fly to Guam, and head down?

Jake finds out one of the three submerged scientists has died. He came back to the service and is completely covered in long red scars from cuts.  Everyone says, "What the hell?" Jake and a Naval Officer, WhatsHerName, head down with WhatsHerName piloting the submersible. Jake and WhatsHerName's submersible connects to the massive underwater station that is analogous to a large spider or octopus with tubes connecting the different buildings.

Jake is getting a little claustrophobic. Jake still suffers nightmares as he wonders what or who took his missing son several years ago in Iowa. Jake finds that one of the remaining scientists is locked into his lab and will not talk to anyone. Jake's brother is still a bit of a sociopath and only concerned with his research. Jake's Brother doesn't care too much about the dead scientist and the loony scientist - less competition for scientific achievement anyway.

Jake starts hearing things. Jack starts seeing things. Jack starts sleep walking. WhatsHerName says, "Hey, it's OK. That is the standard looniness that sometimes affects submariners and we are even deeper." Well, no, things are not okay because this is a horror novel and soon the substance that the scientists are there to study shows signs of intelligence, and deviousness, and violence.

1. A good book but I think it went on a bit too long. I thought Cutter/Davidson was rehashing a few things along the way.
2. Only a few characters and the flashbacks scenes to Luke's insane mother were very creepy.
3. The dog character was a nice choice and Cutter used that and a couple other animal related scenes to creep me out.

Heard A Bit Ago: "The Gods of War" Conn Iggulden

Heard A Bit Ago: The Gods of War by Conn Iggulden, 2011, download.

I completed this a couple weeks ago. I think. I've not much to say about the book. The novel is entertaining but does not leave a lasting impact. Part of that is I do not know what is historically accurate and what is drama.

The basic story is correct: Caesar chased Pompey. Caesar defeated Pompey. Caesar went to Egypt. Caesar and Cleopatra had a child. Caesar went back to Rome and was stabbed to death. I just don't know what else was added on or what order was changed to fit the novel's plot. This is all fine with me - it's a novel not a history. It's just that I have to remember that a fair portion of the story is baloney compared to history.

Anyhoo. Caesar loves himself and thinks he always deserves more. He is always looking for new challenges and wars to fight. His men love him and follow along. Except for Brutus. Brutus is equally cruel and self loving and joins forces with Pompey when Brutus thinks Caesar does not adequately appreciate and compensate Brutus for his talents. After Pompey's defeat Caesar forgives Brutus and Brutus rejoins the Legion.

Caesar and Co. track Pompey to Egypt. Pompey is killed by the Egyptians. Caesar gets angry. Caesar shags Cleopatra and kills her brother King. Caesar goes back to Rome and becomes Emperor. Senators get fed up with Caesar and slice and dice Caesar.

1. For me the best part of the books in this series in comparing ancient political maneuverings and decisions to today's politics. Politicians and leaders have to appease fickle masses. Politicians and leaders also have to lie and deceive fickle masses and create crises to stay in charge.
2. Another part: xenophobia and colonialism. The Romans are assholes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Paperback: "Seduction of the Innocent" by Max Allan Collins

Paperback: Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins, 2013, 9780857687487.

Third in a series of comic book themed novels by Collins. I did not know the other two books - Strip for Murder and A Killing in Comics - existed. Maybe that's why the first publisher dropped the series after the first two novels.  Hard Case Crime came to the rescue and published this one.

Right in the middle of this novel the protagonist slugs it out with a drunken, brawling cartoonist. The fight scene was fantastic.  The confrontation and fisticuffs only last 2-3 pages and I feel like I should go back and analyze the whole thing and figure out why it was so good. I won't.

Anyhoo. Jack Starr is a troubleshooter for a company that handles nationwide syndication of newspaper comic strips. His job is to keep the artists and writers out of trouble and on deadline. His young stepmother is a former striptease artist and business savant who owns the company. The two get along but  they don't "get along".

Meanwhile, Dr. Werner Fredrick has just published his expose on the dangers of comic books and how they are inciting bad manners, long hair, foul language, chewing gum and all other forms of juvenile delinquency among American children.

Stepmom Starr tries to woo Fredrick by proposing that Fredrick write a syndicated advice column. Heck, Starr Syndicate will even find him a ghost writer for the weekly pieces. Things are looking positive indeed until Starr goes to Fredrick's hotel apartment and finds the good doctor dead.

Starr starts investigating. Along the way we encounter several fictionalized cartoonists, comic book titles, mobsters, personalities, and artists. I actually recognized some of them. Starr has some sex. Starr gets a beating. Starr cracks a little wise. Starr figures it out and Stepmother Starr and Starr reveal the bad guy.

1. What's it called when all the suspects are brought together by the investigator and the investigator reveals the killer?
2. Collins's new Quarry novel comes out in a few months.
3. I've not been able to watch the Quarry TV show. I'll have to wait for the DVD.
4. EDIT: 9-26-16. I fixed some writing errors up above. I also found out that the QUARRY episodes are viewable on YouTube. I've only had time to watch one full episode but the show has been pretty good so far.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Heard: "The Field of Swords" by Conn Iggulden

Heard: The Field of Swords by Conn Iggulden, 2004?, Overdrive download

Swords! Horses! Sex! Intrigue! Back stabbing! Violent Frenchies! Violent Germans! Violent British! Violent Romans! More sex! Politicians being weasels! Weasels becoming politicians! Rioting! Sex!

Third in Iggulden's Emperor series. Caesar has returned from his multi-year assignment as "governor" of Spain. Caesar returns to Rome and brings all his men, a lot of gold, and a yearning to fight someone else. Caesar forges an alliance with Senators Pompey and Crassius and heads to Gaul to kill and steal and loot.

Gaul is tough. There are many tribes to fight and many battles. The Roman Legions march around and kill people. Brutus is Caesar's right hand - and winner of a tournament to determine the best swordsman in the Roman Empire. Death is frequent and lives are cheap. You sign up for 25 years when you join a Legion but don't count on living that long.

Caesar is successful in Gaul but Rome is in turmoil. Two new Senators are grown-up street gang leaders and both of them guide their violent street gangs in efforts to increase the Senator's political power. The Senate grants Pompey dictatorial powers to battle the crime and many riots and fighting ensue. Pompey gets a swelled head and does not want War Hero Caesar returning to Rome and challenging Pompey.

Caesar invades Britain and has a rough time. He has to return to Gaul and put down a rebellion. Caesar then takes his Legions and heads south to Rome. More slavery, violence as politics, rich guys being dicks. A fun action story with plenty of political shenanigans.

1.a.  The novel's politics play nicely during an election year. Especially with Trump on the ballot. Especially with Clinton, for that matter. You can easily argue Trump - like some characters in the novel - has always been out for himself. Trump says whatever he wants in an effort to get elected.
1.b. Clinton, meanwhile, can be argued that she started out as a believer in her work and country but was corrupted by money and power.
1.c Caesar himself is a mix of both. Caesar believes in the power of Rome and it's importance to the world. Caesar also thinks mostly of himself and is blind to his selfishness and failure to thank and praise those who sacrifice so much for him.
1.d. The leaders make decisions to sway the voters and gain power. People are either helpers or speed bumps.
2. Caesar is hugely charismatic and a military genius. Caesar's men are loyal to Caesar more than they are loyal to Rome.
3. This is not real history. Iggulden takes real people and crafts his own story around them. The audiobook had an afterword about this but I have forgotten what he said.
4. I am currently listening to the fourth novel in the series. I have the fifth novel waiting in my phone,

Done: "The Storm Murders" by John Farrow

Done: The Storm Murders by John Farrow, 2015, 9781250057686.

I read Farrow's Ice City (1999) several years ago and thought it was great. This is the fourth book featuring Montreal police detective Emile Cinq-Mars. Farrow is a pen name for Trevor Ferguson. Ferguson is one of those "critical darlings" whose books never sold that well. He took a chance on genre by writing City of Ice and had some good sales.

I waited a long time - or so it seemed - for another book under the Farrow name. I waited even longer for the third book and am still waiting because the third novel, River City, never had a U.S. release. The Canadian edition must have had a small printing because Ferguson himself posted online that online prices for the hardcover were hovering around $3,000. Sure, the cost is in Loonies but the price is still absurd.

Anyhoo. Two Province of Quebec cops are called to a rural farmhouse during a snow storm. The married couple inside are dead and their left hand ring fingers cut off. The cops are talking and realize the killer must still be in the house because there are no snow tracks showing someone exiting the home.  Both cops are shot in the head.

A month of two later retired Montreal copper Emile is at his horse farm and gets a call from his former partner, Mathers. Mathers and an FBI agent, Dreher, come to visit and the FBI agent asks for Emile's help. Well, this is weird in several ways. 1. They are in Canada, why is the FBI here? 2. Mathers works on Montreal Island, not in the exurbs. 3. When does the FBI ask anyone for help? Especially a retired Canadian cop? 4. Why does the FBI give a crap about a killing in Quebec?

Those very questions are what intrigues Cinq-Mars. Besides, he has been getting bored during retirement. Working with horses is fine but Cinq-Mars misses the intellectual challenges of his old career.

Things happen. Emile and his wife are having marriage trouble. His wife, Sandra, demands to be a part of the investigation - she does not want to be shut out and since he is not a cop he is not required to keep secrets. Emile keeps pressing Dreher for Dreher details and explanations about who these people were. Dreher tells of related killings in the U.S. and, again, is tight-lipped about the victims and how they are connected. Emile is intrigued by the mystery and keeps chugging.

More things happen. A trip to NOLA. Sandra briefly kidnapped. A mysterious FBI agent in NOLA. Emile back in Quebec investigating the dead Quebec couple. I enjoyed the story.

1. As I think about the plot I recognize it is kinda messy in spots. The killer's motive and behavior are a little off. But, hey, it;'s a novel.
2. Farrow has real nice character touches that explain Emile and his attitudes and temperament. His big schnozz that was a calling card when he was a policeman. His impatience with most everyone. His hyper awareness of details.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Completed: "U.S. World War Two Amphibious Tactics" by Gordon L. Rottman

Completed: U.S. World War Two Amphibious Tactics: Mediterranean and European Theaters by Gordon L. Rottman, 2006, 9781841769547.

Another Osprey war history and only 64 pages. Kinda neat but to read through but even at 64 pages there were some boring parts where the author lists and discusses the table of organization for all the navy and army units.

This book focuses more on the different landing ships used during the war. The changing designs for size, position of controls or ramps or defensive guns. How the newer ships were designed to be stacked for overseas storage.  The differing boat needs between the Pacific and European campaigns.

There is small portion discussing how and what troops were sent ashore and when. Riflemen, machine guns, mortar men. Units had to be split up among several smaller landing craft and organized to fight on their own on the beach.

Also touches on the vital need of offloading supplies. Building floating piers. Transitioning vehicles from boat to land. Making vehicle paths across sand and headlands. Dealing with the tides.

I enjoyed the illustrations and photographs.

Heard a bit ago: "Paperboy" by Pete Dexter

Heard a bit ago: Paperboy by Pete Dexter, 1995, download.

Dang. I got all confused, I was thinking Pete Hamill wrote this novel. An odd thing to think since I as I listened to this novel I was recalling some of Dexter's Paris Trout.


Short: 20-year-old U of Florida dropout is driving a delivery truck for his small town newspaper owning father. Dropout's brother reports for the Miami Herald and comes to town to investigate the arrest, trial and conviction of a local no-goodnick convicted of murdering the local sheriff. Dropout is hired to help out and many things happen. This was a good book.

Long: It's the late 1960s and Jack James is driftless after getting kicked off the Gator swim team and expelled for emptying the team pool. Jack has been getting up at 4AM each morning to deliver the daily papers around Moat County, FL for his father, W.W., who owns the paper.  Jack has looked up to his older brother, Ward, who is now a star reporter in Miami. Ward lost his license in a DUI and he hires Jack to drive Ward and Ward's writing partner, Yardley, around Moat County.

Moat County county is rural with small cities and plenty of swamp. Rocking the boat by questioning the local police and court authorities is a risk but Ward does not care. Ward's only life is work. He is a research and interview fiend. Ward is naturally withdrawn and quiet but he does not back down; he'll stake out the Sheriff's office for a week until he gets an answer. Ward is a reporter.

Yardely is a entitled douchebag in love with himself and looking to climb the ladders at work and society. He considers himself writer. An auteur. A artist. He regularly cheats on his fiancee and starts drinking at 10AM. He's no reporter, he is a journalist.

Things happen as Ward and Yardley investigate the death row case of Hillary. Hillary's court case was a sham with poor legal representation, missing evidence, no attempt to contact witnesses or corroborate alibis. But, Charlotte is a 40-year-old mail clerk from New Orleans who regularly exchanged letters with several death row inmates. (Yeah, she's got a problem.) Charlotte is now in love with, and engaged to, Hillary and convinces Ward and Yardley to look into the case.

Hillary himself is a very scary dude. He is exudes menace and the reporters's prison visits are tense. Hillary does not care about an appeal. To him Ward and Yardley are effeminate, soft handed, paperboys. Hillary just wants to stare at Charlotte during their visits. Hillary wants Charlotte to wear dresses. To cross her legs, To lick her lips. During the first visit Hillary orgasms inside his pants in front of all four visitors.

More things happen with family dynamics of Jack, his father and Ward. Charlotte and Yardley carrying on. Longtime bachelor W.W. takes up with a younger employee. Jack does not know how to relate or talk to women and has frustrated sexual needs. The 1960s newspaper business and W.W.'s loss of ad revenue. Daily and weekly newspapers were everywhere. Papers looked for front page scoops and W.W.'s Moat County paper has financial trouble when advertisers withdraw their support after Hillary is released from prison.

The newspaper business is an integral part of the story. The importance of investigative journalism. The importance of personal integrity by the reporter. Publishers who adhere to the story no matter who is hurt - even Jack himself is embarassed when he has a short, nationwide byline after a jellyfish poisoning.

1. For years the publisher of my local paperwas good pals with a local manufacturer. The manufacturer seems to have quite a history as a polluter and lousy employer. I wonder what stories never made the paper because of that relationship.
2. Creepy swamp trash families and brutality.
3. This is the third novel I read where a character has eye damage or eye loss. City of Heretics has the protagonist slashed across the face and over the eye. 361 has the protagonist lose an eye. Paperboy has Ward lose in eye in a vicious beating.

Heard: "Girl Walks Into A Bar" by Rachel Dratsch

Heard: Girl Walks Into A Bar by Rachel Dratsch, 2012, donwload.

Standard celebrity autobio and very well narrated by Dratsch. I don't much care for biographies in general and care even less about celebrity books. (Excluding Norm MacDonald's forthcoming book and Jenna Jameson's book on her bizarrely fascinating as a porn actress.) But, I always thought Dratsch was funny and enjoyed her sketches on SNL.

Dratsch follows the standard story line of family life, pre-professional entertainment background, friends and funny stories, and entertainment career. The meat of the story is Dratch's unusual family situation. Over 40 Dratsch ends up "casually" dating a wine importer living in Northern California. Dratsch still lives in New York and they travel to meet one another. Dratsch has a surprise pregnancy. But, the two of them are not close enough to marry. CA Guy is a good dude though and moves to New York and gets his own apartment to be with his upcoming son. The book ends with the two on very good terms and seemingly still in a romantic relationship. Dratsch does not go into too much detail there.

Anyhoo. How does an actress spend seven years on Saturday Night Live and then mostly disappear from entertainment? She hits 40.  Dratsch wrote this shortly after her well publicized firing from 30 Rock and, at the time at least, the only acting roles she was offered were overweight-lesbian-secretary-best friends. I wonder if that is also what happened with Cheri Oteri. She, too, was a heck of a good comedic actress.

One of Dratsch's detriments is that she is not tall, blond, and thin. As Dratsch says, you would see her on the street and see a regular person. But, producers see Dratsch and mark her as a hag. It's very weird and Dratsch tells of her difficulty in not taking personal insult by Hollywood's Bizarro World.

This book had quite a few laugh out loud moments for me.

1. Lorne Michaels as the aloof guru. No one seems to actually know the guy. They just take orders and hope for the best.
2. I don't think I ever heard of Bizarro World until that Seinfeld episode.
3. I sent a Tweet to Dratsch telling her I enjoyed the book and she liked the Tweet. I feel an odd sense of approval when a author "likes" something or responds to my online comments. I do admit to being a bit of a suck-up though.
4. Except Neil Smith. Screw that guy.
5. Just kidding. I like Smith, he's a good dude.
6. Re: Lorne Michaels. I was just reading a Washington Post profile of Norm MacDonald. The writer includes several text messages he and Norm exchanged. There is this comment by Norm regarding Lorne Michaels.
As concerns Lorne, all the things said about him don't interest me and I think miss where the success of Lorne lies. He is one of the funniest people ever. And he has better taste in comedy than anyone. The latter is obvious. But the most interesting thing about Lorne Michaels to me is that when I am with him, I always find myself genuinely laughing. When people think of the funniest people to ever be at SNL, they overlook Lorne, whose right there fighting for top spot.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Completed: "Gestapo Mars" by Victor Gischler

Completed: Gestapo Mars by Victor Gischler, 2015, 9781783297351.

Space opera with nazis. I know this is an over the top version of a 1950s science fiction novel but I tend to take things too literally. I am very gullible. And I don't always recognize over the top situations in writing. So, I was left wondering, "What the hell? Why choose space nazis for the book?" Especially since there is nothing particularly nazi-like about the future space nazis. The only connections are the fascist salute, some spaceship names, and the swastika.

Anyhoo. Carter Sloan awakes from suspended sleep after 200+ years. Super-special-secret-deadly-agent Sloan is brought awake for a new mission but the facility he is in is attacked and Sloan himself is captured by rebels. Sloan bounces back and forth between a rebel group and the nazis who run most of the universe. He is alternately assigned to kill or capture a woman behind the rebellion.

Sloan is indoctrinated to obey orders and finish any assigned  mission. He cannot easily follow his own wishes or desires. Things happen with sex, violence, space ships, gelatinous aliens, destroyed planets, faster than light travel, super sexy women, etc.

I enjoyed the book.


  1. I suppose I do recognize the silliness of much of the book - Gischler excels at silly insertions (yeah, twist that however you like) - but I hate nazis.
  2. Of course I enjoy most everything Gischler writes. The man has abundant skill and talent. I even read those endless Tweets about how much he misses Disneyland. 
    • Or those endless Tweets about how much he wants wine in his mouth. 
    • Or those endless Tweets about grilling. 
    • Or cleaning the kitchen. 
    • Or waiting for producers and publishers to return calls about work.
  3. Gischler finished his fantasy trilogy if you're looking for some swords and sorcery stuff. I bought series for my library.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Heard: "361" by Donald E. Westlake

Heard: 361 by Donald E. Westlake, 2005 (Hard Case Crime edition), 978-0857683038.

Hard Case Crime reprint. Back in May I read Deadly Honeymoon by Lawrence Block. Block used a story idea by Westlake. This feels very similar. Two people with no criminal background are out for revenge.

Ray Kelly is back from three years in Germany with the Air Force. He is freshly mustered out and meeting his father in New York City before they head northwest their home in Binghampton. Ray's dad is reluctant to hit the town but they have a grand time. The next Ray's attorney father is driving home in the Chrysler when another car pulls alongside and the passenger starts shooting. Ray's father falls dead over into Ray's lap right before their car hits a roadside piling.

A month later Ray wakes up in the hospital less one eye and with a badly injured ankle. Ray's father is dead and Ray's older brother Red Head breaks the news that Red Head's wife is also dead - she was walking on the sidewalk when a car jumped the curb, ran her over, and the car kept going.  Ray knows something is up. Ray wants revenge: for his eye, for his dead father, for the sister-in-law he never met, for the half-orphaned niece he never met.

Ray and Red Head pull some money from the bank and head back to NYC. The start searching and hunting and discover their father was a mob lawyer in the '30s. He left NYC for Binghampton in 1940. 1940 was also the time Ray Cap was convicted of tax fraud and sent away. Well, Cap is due for release and Ray and Red figure Cap is behind things.

Anyhoo. Ray narrates the whole tale and it is a humdinger. Plenty of angst and anger and confusion. Ray wonders what he is doing, what he should be doing after his life was destroyed. Ray has more drive than his older brother Red Head and Ray takes the leadership role.

Everything lives happily ever after - excluding many several dead people, a con game, a mob war, an a alcoholic breakdown.