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.