Sunday, December 31, 2017

Comic Novel: "Britten and Brulightly" by Hannah Berry

Comic Novel: Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry, 2009, 9780805089271.

Mystery set in - I think - London in the 1930s. I really enjoyed the artwork. Main character Britten is a private detective who only takes on murder cases. He has worn out on following married people to catch them cheating.

Berry's draws Britten with a white face and dark brown shadows around this eyes. As if he is a mutilated war veteran wearing a porcelain face mask. Britten's partner, Brulightly, does not get much ink at all. That is because Brulightly is a tea bag. Brulightly only talks to Britten, of course, and Brulightly as on the racy side.

Anyhoo. A young lady comes into Britten's office saying her fiancee would never have committed suicide. "He was happy, We were engaged!" Britten warns her that the outcome may not please her and takes on the case.  Young Lady thinks Fiancee may have been helping her wealthy Publisher Father with a blackmail problem. Britten starts digging.

As in any comic book novel the images are as important as the description and dialogue. As mentioned above I really enjoyed the artwork.

I've not much else to say except that in the pursuit of the case Britten recognizes a name from a case he had a couple decades ago.  He digs around and discovers what happened.

1. I finished this in 2017 so I am backdating the post.

Novella I Heard: "Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon" by Delilah Dawson

Novella I Heard: Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon by Delilah Dawson,

I think this was called a short story. I say, "Bullshit, this is a novella and I am marking it down as a separate audiobook."

Bazine Netal is a hired gun and very minor character from The Force Awakens. She'll do most any mercenary, assassination or bounty hunter work and she is very skilled. Netal was taken in as an orphan by a mercenary who ran his own training school. Fighting, killing and sneaking is all Netal has ever done.  She is a master of disguise, always on the alert, always on the move, never trusting anyone.  She gets a mysterious job offer to go and look for former Stormtrooper TK-1472 and recover some files TK-1472 owned.

Netal takes on the job. Meets up with her old trainer. Kills some things. The old trainer asks her to take along a protege of his named, Orrie. Netal has been warned their is a competing mercenary after the files. Netal worries is Orrie is the competitor. Netal travels through space. Netal uses disguises. Netal sneaks around. Netal ends up going to an abandoned military retirement home that is covered in huge killer bees.

1. I enjoyed the story. Netal is the of the "loveable rogue" variety of Star Wars characters. Which, of course, overlooks that she is a hired killer without conscience.
2. This also has all the sound effects and music of the Star Wars audio productions. I really like the music and sound effects. Bzz. Whish. Click whir.  Hmmmmmm.
3. Backdating this entry since I finished the audio in 2017.

Heard: "Standing in Another Man's Grave" by Ian Rankin

Heard: Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin, 2012, download.

Rebus is retired from police work but has no life. What's a retired copper to do besides drink too much and wait for a heart attack? Well, for Rebus it means going to work as a civilian with the cold case squad. Rebus gets a call from a insistent woman who says her missing daughter's case follows the same general facts as several other woman who went missing in Northern Scotland. All the young women went missing along a remote stretch of the A9 highway which runs across northern Scotland to Inverness and up to the North Sea.

Rebus may be a civilian but he is the same old person as usual. He ends up helping with the latest missing person's case and finding commonalities among the missing women. At one point he and his former partner, Siobhan, interview several member of a road construction crew. Rebus recognizes one of the men as someone Rebus sent up once before. Rebus puts the screws to him and the guy says, "You were a bastard back then, too. Just not so fat and old."

That is Rebus all right, a real bastard. At least he is a equal opportunity bastard: crooks, politicians, business people, mobsters, co-workers, shop keepers, partners, commanding officers. I seem to recall he is almost always pleasant to barkeeps. At least until he gets served. Heck, Rebus is barely in touch with his grown daughter. She lives in the north and he drops by her house when he is in the area for work. He doesn't call ahead to make sure his daughter will be there though - something that is pointed out by himself and Siobhan.

Anyhoo. The police procedural parts are fun like usual. Rebus talks to possible witnesses. Rebus talks to friends and family of the missing women. Rebus has reapplied to join the police force and the Complaints are digging into his background and his regular coffee meetings with a mob boss. Rebus antagonizes the smaller time crime boss who is connected to the latest disappearance. Rebus drinks too much. Way too much. Rebus loves his old Saab. Rebus breaks plenty of rules and acts like a cop, even though he is not a cop.

Rebus is the hero of course. Even though he is an A-grade jerk he also figures out their is a serial killer and forces the police to follow the case and he presses to find the killer and get a confession.

1. Yes. You will try to follow along on a map as Rankin drives around Northern Scotland.
2. The Scottish narration had me thinking, and almost, speaking with a bad Scottish accent.

Backdating this post since I finished the book in 2017.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Listened: "The Philadelphia Quarry" by Howard Owen.

Listened: The Philadelphia Quarry by Howard Owen, 2013, Overdrive download.

Second in the Willie Black series . Willie is still a newspaper reporter in Richmond, VA. Philadeplphia starts a year after the last novel and the newspaper is still in financial trouble. Richard Slade has been freed from prison after 28 years. DNA evidence cleared Slade's rape conviction and Black is there at the courtroom with everyone else.

Black knows the showboating defense attorney and wrangles a ride in the attorney's car along with Slade and Slade's mother. Well, the interview with Slade starts going OK - Slade is more interested in looking out the open car window than talking - until Black has to admit the paper he works for.  The problem with that is that Black's newspaper not only beat the drum against Slade 28 years ago, but it's editorial vitriol was damn near lynch-worthy.  Black gets kicked out of the car.

Missing among all the furor over Slade's release is the presence of the rape victim whose eyewitness testimony sent Slade to prison. That same woman is shot dead a week later during her 7AM drive home from her gym. Uh-oh. Sure enough the police look real hard at Slade. That hard look leads to an arrest. 

Black starts looking at this new case but gets big pushback from the newspaper owners who, it just so happens, are buddy-buddy with the dead woman's influential, old-money family. Things happen. Black looks into things. Black gets suspended from his job. Black has to defend his story from the newsroom vulture who swoops in to get a shared byline. Black has trouble getting people to talk. Black drinks way too much. Black gets busted for a DUI. Black thinks, "I'm not an alkie. I can stop drinking whenever I want. I just don't want to stop." Black thinks with his dick.

I've been enjoying this series and the narration is quite good. Owen does not build a complex plot of whodunit. You can figure out the bad guys without too much trouble. Heck, the last novel had Black chasing the same guy all the way through the story and Willie just had to collect enough evidence. The strength of the novels have lain in Richmond's history of old money, mixed feelings about race, and Black's own personal issues and history.

This novel has Black more directly addressing his own heritage. Black's father was black but died before Willie was born. His white mother is a long-time pothead and very flighty. She never spoke much about his father or his father's family and Willie never tried digging much deeper. Willie is taken aback when his mother offhandedly mentions that Willie is related to Slade. Later on Willie is having lunch with his college age daughter and she mentions taking a African American history class and Black realizes his daughter does not know her own grandfather was black.

Willie does not tell his daughter anything about his family. It's kinda weird. Willie passes for white - as his newfound cousin points out - and he has never denied his blackness. In fact Willie's kinda counted on his blackness keeping him employed since the newspaper can tally him in their staff diversity profile. 

To me this is an interesting aspect about Willie. Owen has kinda danced around it over the past two novels and it will be interesting in how he addresses the topic. Does Willie think he is "post-racial"? Hell no, he's witnessed the disparity between black and white every damn day. 

Anyhoo. I liked the novel. Straightforward and fun reading.
Backdating the post since I read it in 2017. 

Quickish:"Kill My Mother" by Jules Pfeiffer

Quickish: Kill My Mother by Jules Pfeiffer, 2014, 9780871403148.

Meh. I have never enjoyed Pfeiffer's art style. This is plugged as a noir tale and I brought it home from Fitchburg Public Library when I checked the shelves during their holiday party. The story was alright but not very believable. Spoilers ahead.

1933 and teenager Annie Hannigan lives with her widowed mother, Elsie, in the Bay Area. Annie's best friend is a apartment building neighbor, Artie. Elsie's cop husband was murdered a couple years ago and she took an assistant job with the husband's former partner is now a PI. The PI is a drunk and has done little to nothing to solve the husband's death. Annie hates her mother and wants Elsie dead.

PI takes on a rich client looking to find a woman. PI ends up taking the job, things happen, the client wants PI to murder the missing woman. Things happen and we advance to 1943. Annie has created a massive radio hit called Shut up, Artie. Elsie works for a movie studio to quash bad press. Artie is a Marine in the Pacific.

More happens with jealous actors, radio show sponsor trouble for Annie, blah blah blah. If this were a shorter book I would have probably bailed.  I didn't much care about the characters and I consider the artwork to be sloppy. Yeah, I wrote sloppy. I don't care how many awards Pfeifer has, I think the artwork is sloppy. Sloppy. Sloppy. Sloppy.

The story has a noir feel but did keep me interested. There is a second volume, Cousin Joseph, that is a prequel. I might try that one out. I'm not sure.

Finished: "A Blind Goddess" by James R. Benn

Finished: A Blind Goddess by James R. Benn, 2013, 9781616951924.

Benn takes a turn aware from some of the more obscure battles and episodes of WWII. Instead he takes us to rural England, gives us some murders, a child killer, German spies, racial turmoil in the U.S. Army, and the surprising British welcome for black U.S. troopers.

I write 'surprising' because I've read plenty about racism in England from the 1950s to today. Maybe that racism came with post-war immigration from the Caribbean and Africa. I'm not sure, I do recall learning there was an influx of POC immigrants in the 1960s. Anyhoo.

Billy Boyle is on leave with his hoity-toity girlfriend is on leave and she still recovering from her torture by the dirty, rotten, stinking, no-good filthy nazis. Boyle and his two co-workers Kaz and WhatsHisName are sent off by Colonel WhatsHisFace in military intelligence to investigate a murder in a a small canal town. The murdered man was a English civilian and Boyle questions the Colonel, "What the hell am I going there for? I'm in the U.S. Army."

The Colonel says, "The boarding home of the victim is regularly visited by a U.S. soldier dating the owner's daughter."
Boyle replies, "So what?"
Colonel tells Boyle, "Shut your fucking mouth. Do what you are told. Do not involve the German immigrants who own the place. If you fuck up I'll send you to prison for violating the secrets act."
Boyle says, "*gulp*"

Boyle arrives at the bucolic town and starts asking some questions. Quite a few things are going on. The dead man was murdered outside his canal side boarding house and dumped down the outside stairs to the cellar. A teen girl from a nearby home for refugees has gone missing. Boyle's high school pal shows up and tells Boyle that H.S. Pal and other black troops are treated like dirt and one of them is on the hook for the murder of a local constable. The German couple running the rooming house are supposed to be ardent anti-nazis who fled Germany. Military Intelligence is keeping a close eye on Boyle's investigation. A dead teen girl is found in the canal during a search for the first missing girl. So on. So forth.

Benn writes a good mystery plot and police investigation but that stuff just lays the groundwork for the topics Benn enjoys exploring about WWII. Benn focuses a lot on the treatment of black soldiers and their contrasting experiences between service in the U.S. and England. How troops based in the U.S. South could be quickly lynched by civilians and the lynchers get away with it because the Army wants to keep the peace. How some white U.S. troops bring that prejudice along to England and break all the glassware in a English pub rather than use the glasses used by black men.

Benn also touches a bit on German spies in England. How the krauts had both short and long term spies. Many of those spies were turned by Brit Intelligence and England would dictate the spies messages to Berlin. If just one of the spies got through an accurate message that could have derailed the whole invasion of France.

I greatly enjoy these novels. I'd been trying to red them in order and that delayed my getting back to the series. Reading is order is not necessary.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Completely Forgot: "Farewell My Lovely" by Raymond Chandler

Completely Forgot: Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, 1940 first print, 2007 for title.

How the hell did I forget to write this one down? I was just downloading another audio book and the software package still had this one listed. I listened to this on my broken phone. I thought I had noted what I finished listening to on that phone.

Phillip Marlowe is in downtown Los Angeles trying to track down a deadbeat. He sees a huge man in a garish suit go into a neighboring business. Pretty soon everyone inside that business is running out the door. Marlowe is intrigued. Marlowe goes inside to take a look. The business is a dance club. You pay a fee and dance with the ladies on staff. Big Galoot In An Ugly Suit is demanding to know where his former girlfriend Velma is.

Big Galoot In An Ugly Suit just got out of the slammer and after years of pining for Velma and the fjords he decides to find his lost love. Big Galoot In An Ugly Suit is violent. Big Galoot In An Ugly Suit kills the black man who runs the club. Big Galoot In An Ugly Suit hightails it out of there, but not before scaring the bejeezus out of Marlowe.

Later on Marlowe gets a call asking for his PI skills to handle a ransom trade for stolen jewels. At this point you may as well look at the Wikipedia entry because that is what I started doing. Hell, I finished this several months ago. I don't remember the whole plot.

Chandler is Chandler. He doesn't make much money. He doesn't have close friends. He keeps his ideas to himself. He doesn't trust people easily. He gets involved in murder cases.

I presume Chandler is still remembered by people as a groundbreaking novelist. I'm 46 and certainly grew up learning that Chandler was a BIG DEAL. I wonder if the home video and cable TV explosions of the 1980s are part of that. From the 1950s to the 1970s was Chandler's literary reputation skipped over?

Except for the weekend late night show on the local PBS station not many stations within broadcast range of Champaign, IL showed old movies. Once TBS and WGN were available I regularly saw old Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan, and Godzilla flicks. Once VHS tapes hit the streets all those old flicks came out again.

I cannot recall how I first heard of Chandler and Hammett. There is a good chance it came from watching or reading about The Maltese Falcon. The film stayed famous but I never heard about the novel.

Heard: "Oregon Hill" by Howard Owen

Heard: Oregon Hill by Howard Owen, 2012 (print), download.

Newspaper guy writes novel about a newspaper guy in the newspaper business doing newspaper reporting. I listen to the book and enjoy it quite a bit.

After hearing Whoreson I looked to see what else Kevin Kenerly narrated and chose this. First novel in a series featuring Virginia newspaper reporter Willie Black. Black is a hard drinking, slutty, unreliable guy in his 50s. He has three ex-wives, a distant relationship with his college daughter, works in a dying industry, and his "Screw you, asshole" attitude often leaves him in trouble at work. That work trouble has him off the cushy job of capitol political reporter and working the third shift crime beat as a Night Cops Reporter.

Black grew up in the titular area of Richmond, VA called Oregon Hill. During Black's childhood the area was working poor white people. Black's flighty mother moved her and Willie around from boyfriend to boyfriend. Half-black and half-white Willie is light skinned and avoided a good amount of racial conflict that way. Black still has friends on Oregon Hill and his mother now lives there with he current, and long-lasting, boyfriend.

When a co-ed turns up murdered and decapitated Willie catches the story. Willie then also catches interviews with both the arrested suspect and the the suspect's mother. Willie sees some inconsistencies and chases the story. Since this is a mystery novel those consistencies lead Willie to the real killer and all the danger and trouble that entails.

Things happen. Willies Boyfriend-in-law has dementia and Peggy his mother - Willie only calls her by her first name - calls Willie to talk the ex-roofer/ex-baseball player off the roof or from the ballpark. Willie talks to his daughter. Willie talks to his ex-wives. Willie drinks a lot. A LOT. Willie unravels the truth about the connections between a decades old murder, the new murder, rich people, local history, one of his neighbors, the burglaries within his own apartment building.

This is not a cozy. This is not quite a procedural. Willie is a neat character. Willie's professional life has years of success that don't matter a damn bit in a struggling economy and with a financially strapped local newspaper cutting staff to cut costs. Willie is a successful reporter but his higher salary makes him expendable. Willie has passed as an "exotically colored" white guy since he was a boy. He seems to have not had to deal much with race issues and I don't think he is comfortable with who he is. That's an angle Owen explores more in the second novel.

Ebook Read: "Death on the Island" by Bill Crider

E-Book Read: Death on the Island by Bill Crider, 1991 (print), download.

Crider wrote this so you know it's good. I checked this out through the digital library to take part in the online Crider tribute a couple weeks ago. Well, I changed my mind on how to participate on that day and instead took more time with this novel.

Truman Smith was a private eye in Dallas specializing in missing persons. When his sister went missing he headed back to Galveston Island to look for her. After devoting a year to the search Smith came up empty and flat broke. He's living in the upstairs apartment of a vacant business building in Galveston. Up the stairs climbs a pal from high school asking him to come visit another high school pal, Dino, about a job.

Dino wants Truman's help in finding a missing student. Dino won't give up much information though, he only says the woman is the daughter of a former prostitute and friend of Dino. Dino met her years ago when Dino's uncles ran Galveston's flourishing prostiution, gambling, and booze houses.

Truman doesn't have much to go on but he needs the dough. He speaks to the woman's mother. He speaks to the woman's best pal. He speaks to the boyfriend. Truman starts digging deep enough that he gets jumped by three goons and pounded.

More things happen and we have an honest to goodness, straight-forward PI novel. Truman is a loner with an empty apartment, few friends, and no family. His days are spent reading Faulkner novels, going jogging, and thinking of his sister. He gets in Dutch with the cops after finding a murder victim. He gets violent and doesn't tell the cops. He drives around Galveston and rescues the woman in distress.

Good stuff. The plot is not as solid as the Sheriff Rhodes novels. Truman is a good character for a well worn genre. Crider cranked up the setting and really gives us a great sense of Galveston as a tourist place starting to look run down. As a former high end resort town that has lost it's gleam.

The novel has a good dose of Crider Nostalgia. Truman doesn't exactly wish for the old days to return but the changes around him do sadden him. That nostalgia is often of specific buildings and places. Truman remembers tooling around town with high school pals but I think he - and some other Crider characters - put that focus on buildings.

Heard: "Drifter" by Nick Petrie

Heard: The Drifter by Nick Petrie.

This has been compared to the Jack Reacher novels because the main character is a rootless veteran, capable of violence, and helping out a woman in need. Well, okay, if you overlook that Jack Reacher is a inherent asshole and borderline sociopath.

Set in (about) 2010 and Lieutenant Peter Ash got out of the Marine Corps 18 months ago. Ash has some bad mental health issues after several overseas combat trips as a Force Recon commando. His PTSD manifests in what he calls his "white noise".  Whenever Peter goes indoors it starts a panic attack with a buzzing inside his head and tensioned muscles. Being near a window can help ease Peter's tension but the aftermath of Iraq's urban combat has him spending all his time outdoors.

After demobilization (is that what it is called any more?) Peter got rid of his belongings and took to the forests of the Sierras. With enough cash saved up Peter would make supply runs into local towns. After a year in the mountains Peter learns his former Platoon Sergeant has committed suicide and left behind a widow and two orphans. Peter feels he failed his dead Sergeant so he reclaims his old pickup and drives out to Milwaukee. 

Ah, Milwaukee. The land of beer, duckpin bowling, cheese, polka, and bomb plots. Peter visits the man's widow - which, somehow, he never met after serving several years with the Sergeant - and, to save her pride, says the USMC is paying Peter to fix up her run-down house. While fixing the rotted front porch Peter finds a huge, scary dog and a suitcase filled with $400,000 cash. Well, that's odd.

Peter starts trying to figure out what the deal with the cash is and is confronted by a scarred, mean guy with a .32. Peter then confronts an old crook friend of Sergeant because Peter suspects a link to the money. Peter takes in the Big Scary Dog. Someone tries to murder Peter. So on. So forth.

Things happen and Petrie writes us a novel with plenty of action and plenty of meat. The meat is veterans's mental health issues and the economic collapse induced by banking malfeasance. Peter is disabled by his panic attacks but refuses mental health treatment and chooses to drift. Other veteran characters have similar issues and recognize Peter's sweating, tension, and distraction whenever he goes indoors.

The bad guys - spoilers ahead - are motivated by greed and anger. Some of the guys are angry over the Haves getting away with everything and fucking over the Have Nots. (We'll avoid my opinions on elections and the similarity among voters for both Obama and Trump demanding change and improvement.) Ash sets this in the middle of the recession when homes and jobs are being lost. Vets come back without work, unable to easily integrate back to civilian life, and their extended families are struggling to get by. The bad guy vets feel they are owed for their military service.

The bad guys want to set off a truck bomb two times the size of Timothy McVeigh's bomb. They expect the bomb to cause a financial panic and the bad guys will short the market and make a mint. Peter ends up in the middle of this because he figures out Sergeant was murdered and that Sergeant's wife and sons are in mortal danger over that $400k.

It's a fun story but a couple characters are pretty thin. Mention is also made of Peter growing up in Northern Wisconsin and his parents still living there. But, Peter has zero contact with his parents, which is weird. Maybe that is another symptom of his mental health issues - I'm not sure.

1. I do NOT know Milwaukee geography. I know how to get to the airport and the place where the mystery bookstore used to be. I did not try to follow along on a map as Peter and Company drove around the city.
2. Big Scary Dog is a borderline Wonderdog.
3. Gratuitous old pickup truck love.
4. Gratuitous absence of beer talk. 
No Lakeside
No Potosi
No Stillmank
No One Barrel
No Tyranena
No New Glarus
No Karben4
No Ale Asylum
No 3 Sheeps
No Wisconsin Brewing
No Central Waters
No Capital
No Milwaukee Brewing
No Door County
No Lake Louie
No MobCraft
No O'so
5. Okay, okay. One Barrel and Karben4 may not have been around in 2010.
6. I think there was mention of Goose Island but they are out of Chicago.
7. I bought a copy of this novel when Petrie spoke at my library system's Trustee Dinner a month or two ago. Petrie gave a nice talk and is a good dude. Since the audio version was available I decided to grab it and shrink my TBR pile.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Comic Style Story: "Alan's War" by Emmanuel Guibert

Comic Style Story: Alan's War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope by Emmanuel Guibert, 2006 (France),

Guibert was 30 when he met the 69-year-old Cope. Cope was, apparently, a master storyteller and Guibert and Cope became friends. Guibert decided to draw and write Cope's life story to just after WWII.

Cope was a California native. He joined the Army and attended several training schools for tanks and radio operations until he landed in Northern France in 1945. His unit bummed around for a bit until their equipment reached them. Then they had a long, difficult drive East that just kept running and running. His platoon of armored cars only fired their guns at the enemy just once. They fired the armored car's machine gun and the gun's bolt broke quite soon. (Be aware that a firearm's bolt is an integral part of the gun and the broken bolt made the whole thing a 50+ pound hunk of worthless steel.)

The members of his armored car are being run ragged because Patton was pushing his Army as far East as possible to occupy the land before the Soviets move in. Alan gets shot at a couple times but has little contact with Germans. Cope tells a story of when his convoy and a German convoy passed one another on a road. The German convoy was made of tanks and each tank had a man on foot in front of the tank to guide the tank driver because of the driver's limited view. The German tank guide looked in shock at the American convoy and stopped walking. The German tank driver never saw the stopped man and slowly rolled over and killed the screaming, thrashing man. The tank's engine and mechanical noise meant the driver never heard the guy.

The story is interesting for a reminder of all that went on in such a massive undertaking of people and supplies. Of all the food, gasoline, and ammunition that had to keep up with the advancing Army. How information does not filter down; you follow orders even if they make no sense to you. You see the aftermath of the moving front lines where walking civilians crowd the roads and are displaced from their homes to billet soldiers.

Even though Cope is never in combat the work is still very dangerous. Especially because there are a bunch of 20-year-olds driving heavy vehicles at night with little to no sleep. Cope mentions how the retreating Germans would destroy bridges. The Americans are driving with blackout lights that are not visible from more than a few feet away and how jeep, tank, and truck crews would drown after driving drive into rivers. That danger same with the narrow mountain roads of Afghanistan and the deep canals of Iraq.

A fair amount of talk about homosexuality. A couple young guys on a troop train. A drunk man who ass grabs Cope when sharing a bed. A couple other instances. Gay history is certainly more talked about now then when I started reading WWII history 30 or so years ago. Some stories with heterosexual activity. Cope was an inexperienced young man and trading letters with a woman back in California. A good pal of Cope's tells Cope about being one of the first troops into liberated Paris and how the guy "fucked all the time!"

Anyhoo. I did not think the book was all that great. Cope must have been a great storyteller because what he talks about his mostly mundane. There is little excitement to the stories. I do like the illustrations.

1.Guibert's introduction addresses inaccuracies. He says Cope had a fantastic memory but I wonder about that. I've read enough about comparing oral history to original sources and how the oral histories lose accuracy. If Cope was a great talker those details may just be "details". Or the stories are mixing one event with another.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

In Review: Bill Crider's Novels

In Review: Bill Crider's Novels.

I started reading Crider novels when I lived in AZ.  I took a Sheriff Dan Rhodes book home, read it, and starting talking to my wife about the joys of bologna sandwiches and Dr. Pepper. Dr. Pepper with real cane sugar, too. (The TX based Dr. Pepper bottling plant using cane sugar was shut down by Dr. Pepper a few years ago but, I believe, they still bottle a similar recipe made with cane sugar. Look it up yourself if you want more information. You can order online but shipping costs are high.)

The Rhodes novels feature great characters settings. Crider's mysteries were always well thought out. I'm not a reader who tries to figure out the killer before the author reveals the person - but Crider always set things up to make the killer a bit of a surprise. He would always have the killer well hidden.

Rhodes himself is a great character. He is so entirely human and living in his hometown that continues to change around him.  A few years ago I wrote this in some book notes: An easy comparison for this is Rhodes versus Andy Taylor. As a half-hour comedy show Mayberry focused on jokes with character an integral part. Only after viewing several episodes do you recognize what a strong personality Andy was. Balancing his son, work, friends, and romance in a small town where, as Sheriff, everyone feels it's fair to observe and judge him. Andy was always fair even though frequently exasperated and annoyed.

Rhodes gets angry over murder. He is always self-doubting his work and mistakes. He criticizes his work. Did he ask the wrong questions to the wrong people? Should he have recognized something earlier? Could he have done something to stop the 2nd and 3rd murders in the story? He's a worrier at times.

After greatly enjoying that first novel I started reading more Crider novels and looked the author up online. Sure enough I discovered Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine. My first thought was, "Well, I guess you could call that a magazine if you want. But really..." That initial smirk never mattered because I ended up being one of the blog readers who checked the website several times a day for both the posts and the comments.

Heck, I remember the first time I decided to join the blog's online conversation. There was a post about Sam Cooke. I recalled writing that Cooke "could sing the phone book and make it sound good." Well, my memory was a little faulty, but accurate in theme.

As I read more of the blog my reading list started to expand. I also started to buy those novels for the libraries I worked at.Who are some of those writers I learned of through my start with Crider's blog?
Anthony Neil Smith
Victor Gischler
James Reasoner
Vicki Hendricks
Patti Abbott
Megan Abbott
Joe R Lansdale (read before and encouraged to return)
Duane Swierczynski
Brent Ghelfi
Dan Simmons
Jon Clinch's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn prequel
Richard S. Prather
Christa Faust
Charlie Stella
Ed Gorman
Charles Portis
Stephen Gallagher
Ted Wood
Max Allan Collins
The Slocum westerns
Sara Gran
Lee Goldberg
Stuart Neville
Charlie Huston
Peter Rabe
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Johnny Shaw.

Anyhoo. Crider is a good dude.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Done: "A Hard and Heavy Thing" by Matthew W. Hefti

Done: A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew W. Hefti, 2016, 9781440591884.

Hefti won an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association for this one. A couple people from the Literary Awards committee did a webinar a month or so ago and I reserved the novel after listening to them speak about the book. The book was ok.

Basically written as a kind of love letter by one guy to his best friend. Levi and Nick live in La Crosse, WI, play in a punk band, drink too much, smoke dope, live like slobs, and half-heartedly attend UW-LaCrosse. During one drunken night after 9/11 they impulsively decide to join the Army and actually carry through with that decision the next day.

The book was a bit confusing to read at first with a constantly changing point of view and narrative asides in [brackets]. On page 60 Hefti actually addresses the issue when [in brackets] he writes about a Professor character, "He also would have hated the shifting points of view, these constant regressions into the colloquial first-person ... did I really need to intrude into the story using brackets like hugs? And did I need a hug because I lacked confidence? To which I reply: If I sound unsure of myself, it's because I am." Levi is the narrator but he tells the story from a shifting 1st person perspective and a 3rd person view.

The story focuses on the relationship between best pals Nick and Levi, their time together in Iraq, a difficult return to Wisconsin and a slow, or failed, recovery by both of them into civilian life. Reading about Levi's self-destructive behavior was difficult. Levi was a non-com and blames himself for Nick's burn injuries in Iraq and deaths of some other soldiers. Nick's vehicle was hit by an IED and the explosion killed three soldiers and wounded two. Levi thinks those tragedies happened after a prank by Levi that started a series of events that snowballed into the ambush. Levi had put a small stone under Nick's body armor where Nick could not get the rock out. After hours of patrolling and distraction from the pebble Levi thinks Nick's distraction caused him to miss identifying the IED.

Nick, in turn, is doing fairly well recovering from severe burns on his face and body. He woke up in a blasted vehicle with his vehicle commander's arm laying across his chest. Nick does okay with the aftermath of combat but his new marriage is not going well. Nick and his wife are now in a constant state of tension. His wife had her drinking problem under control but Nick still frets over it.  Since Levi has returned to LaCrosse and lives in their basement, drinking like a fish, Nick and his wife are dealing with PTSD addled Levi's general pain-in-the-assery.

The book is not really my bag. I almost bailed on it but finished. A neat thing is that the section set in Iraq has Hefti portraying himself as a character. Hefti served as a EOD guy for several years and spent four tours - I think it was four - across Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hefti's acknowledgments thank Tyrus Books. Tyrus was shut down this year by the house that bought them out.

Heard: "The Castle of Kings" by Oliver Potzsch

Heard: The Castle of Kings by Oliver Potzsch, 2016 for this English audio, not sure of the original German date. Downloaded from Overdrive.

Two years of the German peasant war of 1524 and 1525. A love story with young adults Matthias and Agnes. A mystery with a ring, a document, a secret society, and a mysterious assassin. Also a pursuit story with Matthias trying to rescue the abducted Agnes before she is sold by slavers or murdered.

The story is well told but Looooooong. This is a 27 part audiobook with a 25h 18m run time, so be aware of what you are getting into.  Don't get me wrong I enjoyed the story but was surprised by the length. Potzsch does drag things out with a couple cliffhangers on revealing a family secret - that did annoy me.

The history is interesting and well used by Potzsch. Germany is run by the church and the aristocracy. Knights and Dukes and Counts have the power. Agnes's father is a knight and Castellane of Trifels Castle. The castle has fallen on hard times - it takes a lot of money to maintain a castle - and the Castellan is being squeezed by his Duke for more and more tax revenue.

The peasants are getting angrier and angrier about things as the Castellan, and others, squeeze blood from stones when dealing with the peasants. Meanwhile the church's priests and monks are living high on the hog as they sell indulgences and live in luxury. Luther's recent religious revolution has the peasants thinking they don't have to suffer the bullshit they put up with.

Matthias is a blacksmith and rebellious. He likes to hang out with the peasants talking revolution. He gets in trouble. He works to forge a cannon so Castellan can attack a neighboring robber-knight. Things happen and revolution boils up.

The peasant revolution is violent and brutal as they slaughter priest and monks and attack the rich. The aristocratic reaction is equally violent and brutal because the peasants are "defying the natural order." Beheadings. Hangings, Quarterings. Torture. Heads on pikes. Bodies hung from trees. Rape. Looting. So on. So forth.

I enjoyed reading about the way of life and how government and social organizations worked. It's also a reminder on what happens in war without restraint. About how quickly civilization can - or will - devolve as things get worse and worse and food, shelter, and safety are at risk. I should read more historical novels.

There are other storylines: Emperor Barbarossa's ring and heritage. A forced marriage for Agnes. Blah. Blah. Blah. Read a review if you want more of the plot details.

I've not heard the full afterword by Poltzsch writes that he is a nut for castles and drags his family to all the ones he visits.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Almost Forgotten: "Heavenly Table" by Donald Ray Pollock

Almost Forgotten: The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock, 2016, 9780385541299.

I either totally forgot or missed seeing a pub notice for this novel. I have really enjoyed Pollock's previous work and Devil All The Time was quite good. This too is an interesting novel and for all the murder, violence, drinking, raping, stabbing, kicking, stomping, abduction, torture, robberies, con jobs, lack of love, physical abuse, racism, and sexism the book was not a downer for me. I'm not sure why. Maybe because the characters are always moving forward and themselves are somewhat optimistic.

This certainly fits into the Rural Violence genre of books I've been reading over the past few years. I suppose that is not a well recognized category of literature but if people can call some novels Rural Noir I can say Rural Violence.  After reading my first Daniel Woodrell novel I promised myself to avoid the Southern Missouri Ozarks at all costs. I would only travel there with at least three guns and one of those had to be a long gun.  Danger and menace seem to be all around when I read Woodrell's fiction.

Reading Pollock's Knockemstiff and Devil All The Time had about the same effect. But, for whatever reason they come off as optimistic. Every character in Pollock's novel is some sort of fink. Sure, the murderers are much worse than the adulterers but only a couple characters never take advantage of other people. In Woodrell's stories prison and violence are an inevitability. Someone is going to be under threat for any and all reasonable or bullshit reasons. Most of them will backstab you given the chance.

There about 10 characters you could call lead characters in Heavenly. Even the minor characters come with a backstory and full descriptions. That full backstory never bothered me. Pollock may have had a character appearance last no more than a couple pages but I just plain enjoyed the side stories.


Here is the short version: It is 1917 and three brothers in Kentucky start robbing banks and making their escape to Canada. In Southern Ohio a poor farmer tries to keep his farm afloat while fancy pants Army officer trains new troops, hides his homosexuality, and dreams of glorious death. All of them meet up after plenty of other characters get mixed in.

I really did like this. But, the plot is not as important as the people and the way Pollock tells the stories. For my own records here are some comments to spark some memories of the novel when I reread this in a few years.

- The three brothers are 17, 20 and 23 and poorer than dirt poor. After their father dies they go to burgle the rich farmer who has been underpaying them for field work. They end up killing the man, robbing banks, collecting guns and practicing their gun skills. They kill anyone who gets close enough in hopes of earning the big reward money for them.
- The farmer was taken for all his family's life savings, $1,000, by a con man who sold the farmer cattle owned by someone else who was out of town for an extended time. The farmer was deeply shamed and embarrassed and his 15-year-old son has left home to become a raging alcoholic. At first he thinks the son has joined the US Army at the new WWI base near their farm. He has a lot of trouble admitting to his wife when he learns the boy is now a booze hound.
- The Army Lieutenant is a college graduate and one of the few experts in the card games of ancient Rome. His fiancee left him and he planned a glorious suicide until he ended up joining the Army. He now plans a glorious suicide in France's No Man's Land while huddled with the handsome Private in his training platoon. The, he hooks up with a local gay guy and starts shtupping all the time.
- Orphan guy with enormous schlong is deeply ashamed of his penis. His hyper religious mother used to manipulate an shame him all the time. He is about 20-years-old and only had one other friend before. His current job is to check the levels of all the city's outhouses. A recent flood overflowed many of the outhouses and caused several cholera deaths. Orphan walks the city wearing high rubber boots and carrying with a long pole covered in feces to gauge latrine depths. Orphan smells like his outhouse pole.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Listened: "The Boys of '67" by Andrew Wiest

Listened: The Boys of '67: Charlie Company's war in Vietnam by Andrew Wiest, 2012, Overdrive download.

Wiest works as a history professor and teaches classes on the Vietnam War. Maybe that is why this book works great as an introductory story of the war. The book encompasses most of the story of Vietnam with the men in this story all part of the 9th Division which was specially formed to go to Vietnam.

The 9th Division was built up specifically to serve in Vietnam and arrived 1967. Training was conducted at Ft. Riley in Kansas and the men traveled by troop ship to Vietnam. The Division served in the Mekong Delta as part of the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF) where they alternately stayed on land and a troop ship and took smaller ships along the rivers to where they would work.

Wiest covers the stories of a lot of the men in the unit. He had access to a to of primary sources: platoon, company, and divisional reports. Letters, diaries, and reel-to-reel recordings. Interviews and news articles. Citations and awards.Wiest uses that info to good effect by telling the soldiers's stories  from their childhoods to draft notices, training, military service and their return to the U.S.

Fighting in the jungles of the South in 1967 and 1968 means the men were doing all the Vietnam stuff I've read about over the years:

  • Drafted versus volunteering. 
  • Arrival as a know-nothing trooper who needs to quickly adapt and learn to survive.
  • Operations in thick, clinging mud as they avoid biting red ants, develop a love/hate for the locals, drink beer, visit prostitutes, and visit orphanages on downtime.
  • Endless and dangerous patrols with multiple booby traps, landmines, and infrequent but vicious firefights.
  • Anger and impotency when friends and unit members lose a foot against a mine and the remaining soldiers have no enemy in sight.
  • Commanders fucking up and foolishly walking men into minefields or ambushes.
  • Quick and efficient discharges from the service with the soldiers immediately losing the close relationships with other soldiers and unable to reintegrate into civilian life.
  • New civilians now unable to sleep, jumping at noises, scared in crowds, and drinking aware their nightmares and paranoia.
  • Some marriages falling apart. Families of the dead trying to move on and the dead soldiers' children wishing they knew their fathers.
  • PTSD issues. PTSD will will always be around for many of the men and will be for all future soldiers. The trauma effects everyone in the family and many people cannot, or refuse, to acknowledge or deal with the trauma.
There are also the standard battle stories of death, elation, terror and burning rage. One of the best stories is one that I wish Wiest had more information on. Throughout their time in Vietnam there was an Lieutenant who was hard-charging but incompetent.

Early in their time in the Delta the Lieutenant led his platoon into an ambush that killed and wounded several men. After that disaster the Lieutenant was assigned different staff jobs in the read. But, once casualties mounted the Lieutenant was put back in the field. After having been on base for so long Lieutenant was raring to find the enemy and attack.

The now experienced soldiers in the platoon dreaded going out with Lieutenant and actually tried to have Lieutenant relieved of the command. Their worries bore out when the Lieutenant;s inexperience and foolhardiness got several men injured and killed.

After a couple decades of loneliness by some of the former soldiers several of the men starting finding one another and arranging reunions. They did not invite everyone though. They did not invite Lieutenant. The first big reunion was in Las Vegas. The unit had one ballroom and another hotel ballroom was hosting a wedding. That wedding was for the Lieutenant's daughter.

Sure enough, all the soldiers are in the ballroom drinking beer and reminiscing when all talking ceases and heads turn to the entryway where Lieutenant is now standing in a tuxedo. He had seen the sign pointing to the "Company C Reunion" and walked over. Lieutenant kinda looked around and one of soldiers walked straight over, leaned over, and told uninvited Lieutenant to "Get the fuck out." Lieutenant gave an exaggerated look around, said, "there's no one I want here I want to see anyway" and left.

That's a story I wanted to know more about. What are Lieutenant's memories of Vietnam? He must suffer the same trauma and bad memories of all those other men. But, his actions of 30 years ago leave him completely alone from the unit. The other guys can share and express sorrow but Lieutenant is left playing it tough and pretending to not care.

I suppose Lieutenant refused to talk to Wiest. I don't know.

Heard A While Ago: "Legend" by Eric Behm

Heard a While Ago: Legend: A Harrowing Story from the Vietnam War of One Green Beret's Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines by Eric Blehm, 2015 (Overdrive and print versions), Overdrive download. 

The Studies and Observation Group (SOG) was a super-duper secret commando unit during Vietnam that worked in western Vietnam and across the borders into Cambodia and Laos. The group members signed agreements to keep everything secret for 30 years. John Plaster wrote a history of the unit that came out in 1997. I bought the Plaster book for my library in '97 and ended up reading the book. The story of SOG was pretty fascinating and the work was especially dangerous because the soldiers could not rely on infantry and artillery for help. No US or ARVN infantry could rush to the rescue. SOG relied on their own stealth and rescue helicopters.

Roy Benavidez joined the SOG group as a Green Beret in 1967 or so. Benavidez had been in the Army or Texas National Guard since he was 18. Benavidez was a hard core, hard charging lifer who grew up working as a migrant worker with his family. When a 12 man SOG patrol was surrounded by the NVA in Cambodia Benavidez was at his base, heard about the trouble, and hopped on a helicopter to help. When Benavidez'z helicopter was hovering near the patrol Benavidez impulsively jumped to the ground and ran to join the patrol.

Benavidez was shot twice during the 70 yard run to one of the two sections of the separated patrol. During the rest of the battle he was wounded a few more times by shrapnel, another bullet, and a stabbed with a bayonet. He treated the other soldiers and himself, organized their defenses, used emergency radios to call for air strikes, and eventually carried a couple men to the rescue helicopters. Upon arrival at a U.S. base Benavidez was presumed dead. His blood loss and exhaustion left him aware of his surroundings but unable to move or speak. When Benavidez was being zipped into a body bag he was only able to announce his living presence by blowing and spitting blood out of his mouth and into the face of the man closing the bag.

Benavidez was incredibly driven and brave. Listening to the book made me think as much about the war's politics as on the ground fighting. The story of the rescue of the SOG team is plenty interesting but not enough to fill out  an entire book. Blehm focuses on Benavidez's military service but also gives us a general biography of Benavidez with plenty of background on the war itself. 

1. The library hosted a program in 2010 of Vietnam veterans. The program was in conjunction with a Wisconsin PBS program on Wisconsin Vietnam War vets. Tensions were still running high for some people at the event.
2. The bravery of both sides still gets lost. When do you ever want to mention the bravery or sacrifice of the other side when they are killing your friends, relatives, neighbors, etc.? But, the Vietnamese casualty rate was how much higher than the U.S.? 300%? Maybe more? Whether they cause was good and just is up to whoever decides but they certainly were brave attacking into such powerful enemies.
3. Then again, don't forget or excuse the atrocities of the VC and NVA. Benavidez's first tour in Vietnam was as a advisor. While there he witnessed the aftermath of the crucifixion of two children by the Viet Cong and saw the children's relatives weeping in front of the bodies. 
4. Then again, don't forget the atrocities of the U.S. Better to remember how such horrible situations can make for horrible actions by everyone.
5. Response of the anti-war crowd to returning soldiers. I've never read or heard of anyone admitting to yelling at returning service members or spitting at them. I've read more about that being a myth. But, there are plenty of stories that soldiers were ordered to wear civilian clothes when they returned to the U.S. Others had to deal with plenty of abusive jerks, spitting, and provoked fist fights.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Third Rabe: "It's My Funeral" by Peter Rabe

Third Rabe: It's My Funeral by Peter Rabe, 1957, 2014 and 9781933586656 for Stark House omnibus.

Daniel Port is hanging out in Los Angeles. Port has no particular reason to be there but just got into town, bought an MG and is heading to the beach. Being new to town he wonders why a Cadillac seems to be following him. After a swim in the ocean Port is getting some sun when up walks his old "pal" Mnuchkin. Okay, that's not actually his name but I think 'Mnuchkin' is close and they're both sleazy.

Mnuchkin is a crook who worked for Port's boss from the first book. Mnuchkin is persistent - he'll ignore any slight or insult and keep pressing on to get POrt to lend him a hand. Port does not want to get involved with anything Mnuchkin is up to even though Mnuchkin says he is now on the up and up and working as a legitimate talent agent.

But, the help Mnuchkin is asking for is help with a blackmail case. A famous starlet - a Marilyn Monroe or similar stand-in who is now named MarMon - is getting blackmailed over a sex film. Port decides to help out (for some reason I don't recall) and starts getting involved with Mnuchkin, MarMon, and a studio boss's self-important son. Never mind Port's wooing of a local singer and clashing with a Nevada crook also interested in The Singer.

Many things happen. Port drives his tiny MG among all the Cadillacs of Hollywood. Port heads to Nevada to visit The Singer and stumbles upon a blackmail operation that goes after the female celebrities who stay in a casino's performers' suite.

There are some fist fights. A couple car crashes. A few concussions. Backstabbings. Disrupted lovemaking. Weasels. So on. So forth.

Of the three Rabe novels I've read I think this is the best.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Done: "The Out is Death" by Peter Rabe

Done: The Out is Death by Peter Rabe, 1957 (original), 2014 and 97819 33586656 for Stark House omnibus.

Second novel in the Daniel Port series. Port has left behind the people and city of the first novel and is in California (Washington? Oregon?) to help out an old pal. The old pal is literally that, an old crook. Port knows Old Crook from a few years before and is fond of the man. Old Crook is just out of prison, in poor health, and asking Port for assistance.

Turns out Old Crook just finished a ten year prison term and has a chronic illness. Old Crook worked as a skilled burglar and jugger for several years. Now he is in poor health and just wants to go East and live with his family. But, after getting out of prison Young Crook shows up. Young Crook and Old Crook worked before the prison term and Young Crook is now blackmailing Old Crook. "Help me plan this factory burglary or I tell the cops you boosted that bank a few years ago - and I have your old planning notes to prove it!" Except, for the all the jobs Old Crook did he did not even do that one.

Anyhoo. Port shows up and tries to talk some reason into Young Crook. No dice. Young Crook is a vain, prideful jackass. When Port pushes Young Crook, Young Crook pushes back and uses his hoodlum friends. This end up at a draw. Old Crook cannot go back to prison because he'll die there. Either Port gets Old Crook out from under Young or Old Crook has to do the job.

Port's in a bind. He's made promises to Old Crook. Old is a tight lipped guy about his past. He is stubborn as well. Port convinces Old Crook to at least tell Port where Old Crook really was when the bank job went down several years ago.  Port heads to small town Minnesota to find the woman Old Crook was with at the time.

The novel takes a weird detour with Port heading out to try and convince the woman to help out Old Crook. C'mon, Mrs. Smith, do him a solid. But, Mrs. Smith is no longer the teenager her alcoholic father pimped out to gangsters on the lam. She wants nothing to do with Port or Old Crook or any old memories.

More things happen. Port returns to the West and he and Young Crook clash. Port cajoles Young Crook's abused girlfriend to betray the guy. Port's set-up to stop Young Crook goes wrong and Old Crook is in peril. IN PERIL!

A fairly simple novel. No madcap adventures. Few characters. No convoluted plots. A quick read and mostly enjoyable.

1. I am close to finishing the third novel in this omnibus and I'm only so-so on these Rabe novels. I liked the first one and it's small city hoods and politicos. That one reminded me of Hammett's Glass Key and Red Harvest.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ebook: "Castle Danger: Dead End Follies" by Anthony Neil Smith

Ebook: Castle Danger: Dead End Follies, by Anthony Neil Smith, 2017, B074H12327 (that stupid fake ISBN Amazon uses and calls a ASIN).

Second in Smith's Castle Danger series. Another very nice cover design.

I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. Smith linked to a review by Benoit Leviereirierieri. I'm going to go read that review and steal his ideas. Wait here...

Meh. I don't quite agree with everything he has to say so I'll make this up on my own. But, this time I'll do it with Numbers!

1. Manny Jahnke returns for the second go round in the series. Forewarning: you're better off reading the first book because just tears along rather than fill in a lot of the story from before. I'm not sure when the third novel will release. These are currently e-book only. I asked Smith online if paper versions were planned and he wrote, "No."
2. Manny is a cop no more and impatiently starting his transition to womanhood. The first novel's resolution of all the murders, sex shenanigans, and political greasiness involved Manny striking a deal with the U.S. Senator for Manny and her ex-police partner Hothead (cannot recall the character's name) to work for the Senator's campaign for Minnesota Governor. Manny is a kind of trans-person liaison Hothead is a security guy.
3. One of the Senator's campaign workers is absent. Manny goes to check on the guy and finds the workaholic gone from his apartment and leaving his phone behind. Uh-oh. Political worries! 
4. I read this a couple weeks ago and have forgotten all the details but Manny and Co. receive notice that Workaholic is captive. Manny and Co. also receive a link to a secret website where a live webcam is showing Workaholic's sexual torture. The Senator and the Senator's new Campaign Boss wonder if Workaholic is scamming them. Is Workaholic faking this for the oppisition? Hey, let's get Manny to find out!
5. Meanwhile, back in Manny Land there is turmoil and tension because Manny is still living half a life as a man and the other half as a woman. Manny wants to do the full transition. FUck talking to psychiatrists. Fuck getting permission for hormone treatment. Fuck waiting for a public debutante announcement for GOP Senator to woo the liberal vote.
6. Manny is hot and bothered by super sexy powerful Campaign manager. Hothead is still dating his manipulative girlfriend and acting like a hothead. 
7. More things happen and Manny and Hothead are in peril and have to rely on one another. Too bad they have never much liked one another. There are: shootouts, car chases, abductions, sexual torture resulting in murder, sex crime involvement by MN bigwigs, more torture, Manny and Hothead on the run, so on, so forth.
8. I enjoyed the book. Things twist and turn a lot. Smith got away from the first novel's focus on Manny and her changes.

1. The series so far is built on several themes. A. Sexual transition is difficult for the person and their families. Manny took years to understand and accept who she is. Doing so meant a complete change in career, friends, residence, etc. B. The rich and powerful get what they want and will step on you to keep things that way. C. The rich and powerful are also inherently perverted and pursue violent, illegal, or immoral activities that are antithetical to their public personaes.
2. Oh, hey. That Benoit fella lives in Montreal. I sure did enjoy my trip there in 1999. 
3. Smith made a serious mistake of not bringing back the best character from the first novel. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Read: "Dig My Grave Deep" by Peter Rabe

Read: Dig My Grave Deep by Peter Rabe, 1956 (Stark House omnibus from 2014), 9781596545434 (omnibus edition).

Someone wrote this is a "hard-hitting story of political corruption". Hard hitting? Well, I suppose. There is some violence. Some very matter-of-fact and natural sex. Hard hitting does not feel right.

Daniel Port is a WWII vet who ended up working for a political boss in some unnamed city. Port was in NYC after the war when he met Political Boss and was hired on. Port has been in the city for a handful of years as a political fixer and strategist. Port gets out the vote, pays off the local politicians, rigs the city contracts, and other underhanded shenanigans that keep Ward Nine under the control of Political Boss.

But, Port has had enough and wants to leave town. Port had looked after his brother for several years. That brother is barely discussed in the book but we learn he was killed as part of Political Boss's operation. That death and Port's dissatisfaction leads Port to the local United Airlines office where he boss a ticket out of the city.

Political Boss hears that Port is leaving - mainly because Port keeps saying he is leaving. But, Boss leans on Port's sympathies and loyalties to Boss and Port agrees to stay on long enough to assure that Ward Nine will stay save of a redevelopment deal that would move voters away.

Things happen. Port recruits a spy against Political Boss's adversary. Port meets a waitress who is the new spy's sister and Port digs her. Port clashes with Political Boss's protege. Port silently whistles when he is nervous or excited and only drinks cold coffee. Port sleeps with a local prostitute who gives Port a lead.

Everything is written with spare language. There is little description of people or place. I only thought of the city as a generic city in 1956. There are streets, brick buildings, people walking around - daily life of families, sports, apple trees, or whatever are never discussed. The city could have been Cleveland, Buffalo, Newark, anywhere. The only things that mattered were Port and the relationships that he used to get his and Political Boss's way.

This is a crime novel but the violence is more of a tool; violence is another way to persuade or convince. I suppose coerce is more like it.

Anyhoo, I tried this one out because I've read plenty of references to Rabe novels but never tried one. Stark House has reprinted 21 (unless I miscounted) of his novels. This was part of a three novel omnibus featuring Daniel Port and I am currently in the middle of the second novel.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

One more Audio: "Whoreson" by Donald Goines

Listened To: Whoreson by Donald Goines, 1972, Overdrive download.

I was scanning available titles on Overdrive and figured to try out a Goines novel. Whoreson could also be known as My life as a serial abuser and rapist. The narration was really well done.

Whoreson Jones is born to a young prostitute in a local Madam's apartment. Jessie Jones goes into labor as she is street walking during the Detroit winter of 1940. She is rushed upstairs to the Madam's apartment and in a fit of anger, despair, or whatever she names her son Whoreson immediately after his birth.

Whoreson is pronounced as one word with emphasis on the first syllable HOR-sun. Jessie dotes on the boy and buys him whatever he wants. Whoreson loves his slum neighborhood and as a child does not recognize the crime and poverty he lives in. His mother starts calling him her 'little pimp' when he is a boy and teaching him in street skills. She has a local gambler teach Whoreson and Whoreson's friend how to cheat at cards and dice, simple short cons like cheating store cashiers, and shoplifting skills.

As he grows older Whoreson and his friends start to use other girls as sex objects. Grabbing them, bossing them, commenting on their value, etc. When Jessie dies of TB Whoreson starts working as a pimp when he is only 15 years old.

The story runs over the next ten years of Whoreson's adventures: aspiring to pimp hard, beating prostitutes with his fists and wire coat hangers, drinking/smoking/snorting/pill-popping, fleeing the police, cutting the face of a woman in a bar fight, serving prison time where he preyed on and raped other convicts, going out for revenge against the friends and prostitutes he saw as screwing him over.

This could be a real tough book to listen to. Whoreson starts his criminal career hi earnest when he should have been in high school. He thinks of himself as being a strong pimp who others will not cross and whose women will fall in line when told. But, Whoreson the narrator is truthful. He tells us of his crimes and the learning curve of dealing with street people, other pimps, crooks, and prostitutes. The mistakes he makes along the way along with the work he is proud of.

I was disgusted by Whoreson's actions but the story was compelling and interesting. The relationships are mostly about power and control. The women are verbally and physically abused but attach themselves to the pimps like the battered women they are. To leave the pimp is to risk death or disfiguration and to leave their only home, their friends, and all their belongings behind.

Pimps strive to control everything about the women who work under them. Where they live. When and where they work. When and what they eat. All the money they earn, Their behavior at any place and time. Subservience is required but each woman is given lead to act out and up. The pimp wants the women to feel fear as well as love.

Love and loneliness play a strong part of what goes on. Whoreson is alone in the world after his mother and surrogate grandmother die. He never had a father and has no siblings or extended family. Whoreson works to have no feelings for the women. He teaches himself that he must work them and use them. He is sexually and emotionally attracted to them but cannot let that effect business.

Anyway. There is a sort of upbeat ending. Whoresone cons an older married woman into a fake marriage to get her $20,000 and flees to New York. While there he tries going straight, hooks up with a neighborhood friend who is a rising singer, gets busted by the Feds, thinks positively about starting a family once he is out of prison.

1. According to the Wikipedia entry Goines was an Iceberg Slim fan. I still, still, have not read any Iceberg Slim novels.
2. Not that I have much faith in Wikipedia but the article says Goines lived in Junction City for a while. I suppose that would be a great spot for prostitution because of Fort Riley being next door. My times in Junction City were almost entirely limited to using the exit and on ramps from US77 to I-70.  The one or two times I did go through JUnction City I was surprised by all the pawn shops and cruddy apartment buildings.
3. Goines writing career is pretty damn impressive. He was murdered at 36-years-old but put out several very popular novels. Kinda like Robert E. Howard (although I keep thinking E. Howard Hunt.)
4. I looked E. Howard Hunt up and that draws me into all the fascinating JFK conspiracies and reminds me of James Ellroy's 1960s novels.
5. Excellent narration by Kevin Kenerly. Kenerly puts a lot of character into Whoreson. He draws out the dialogue in a street slang style that sounds genuine to me. But, it's not like I would know, I live in rural(ish) Wisconsin. I'm so white I'm pearlescent.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Read: "Catch and Release" by Lawrence Block

Read: Catch and Release by Lawrence Block, 2013, 9781596065710.

One afternoon Lawrence Block was sitting at home and ruminating. "Hmm, I've got a bunch of short stories that I already published in magazines and collections. Now those stories are just sitting around in landfills, libraries, and Bill Crider's storage lockers. Oh! Wait! I can publish them again for everyone who did not read them the first time."

"I'll put in some notes about each story and maybe Hard Case can put out a hardcover. Then, people can comment on the internetbox about whether they liked them or not. Of course, I've been publishing for over 50 years so I don't much give a rat's ass what some random dude has to say."


If you are not a fan of Block's work then you are a weirdo. The guy cannot seem to do wrong. This collection has 17 stories and two of them feature Matt Scudder and Mick Ballou. Scudder is very close to Ballou and I consider Ballou to be a murderous, criminal dirtbag.

Some of these are very short. VERY short. The first story is two pages of Bernie Rhodenbarr. I used to listed to Rhodenbarr novels quite a bit. I recall listening to Rhodenbarr and Nero Wolfe stories in the car with my wife when we lived in Arizona.

I've not much else to say. This is a fairly quick read.

Tried Again: "Sleepless" by Charlie Huston

Heard: Sleepless by Charlie Huston, 2010, download.

I quit listening to this a few years ago and decided to try again. I recall quitting on this book and Crazy Rich Asians when I was cycling somewhat regularly on the Glacial-Drumlin trail south of town. I couldn't get into either story at the time. I also had trouble hearing the narration when wind whistled across the earbuds I was using. 

I really enjoyed two of Huston's series with That One Guy and That Other Guy Who Is A Vampire. I obviously - Oh wait! The vampire character was named Joe Pitt. I think. I don't recall the other fella's name, and I do not want to look it up. This book was pretty decent. But it was published in 2010 and set in an alternate present. So small things are a bit out of date.

Parker Hass is working undercover as a drug dealer for the Los Angeles Police Department. The city, and much of the world, have been falling apart ever since a epidemic called Sleepless has spread. Sleepless is a fatal prion disease that damages the mind and makes it impossible for people to sleep. The sleeplessness doesn't bring on hallucinations and violent outburts, instead Sleepless has more of an Alzheimer's/dementia effect. People forget where they are, what they are doing, and confuse themselves in thinking they are living 10 years ago. The disease is fatal after about a year from first symptoms.

Parkers wife is Sleepless and he worries his infant daughter is as well. His mission is to find whoever is illegally trading in DR3EAM3R which is the only drug proven to help cope with the Sleepless disease. DR3AM3R actually lets the sick people sleep and gives a relief that is otherwise impossible to receive. DR3AM3R is closely monitored and distributed and Parker's superiors is convinced the drug's rarity means it must have a big money black market trade.

Things happen. One of Parker's clients and his business partners is found shot to death at there place of business. Parker recovers a travel drive hoping to find evidence or investigative leads. A hired killer is sent to recover the same drive by his employer and uses security camera footage to identify Parker.

Parker keeps digging. Parker is driving himself and not sleeping. Parker and his wife rely on a nanny to help watch their daughter because the Wife will space out and forget she even has a infant daughter. The killer kills people and tracks down Parker. Parker finds someone with a supply of DR3AM3R.

Parker is not coping well. He has no family left. He was an outsider at the police department and has no colleagues to lean on. His wife has no family or friends to assist her and Parker. Parker's inability to deal means he cannot even say his child's name. He refers to his daughter as "the baby", we don't learn the name until late in the book.

More things happen and Huston, as usual, writes a fun story with plenty of emotion. I like his characters. I think he writes his characters as real people and I want the heroes to do well and the bad guys to be punished.

1.  I think the novel has an Iraq and Afghanistan War influenced pessimism. Written at a time when lots of Americans were in both countries. Parts of Huston's Los Angeles have the same desperate feel as a country at war. There is a strong black market for goods, government services are stretched thin, violence has become a regular part of life for many people, travel outside your own neighborhood is risky.
2. Huston thought out the Sleepless disease, it's spread and effected victims and family members. He has everyone dealing with the trauma on one level or another. People in the early stages of the disease know they are doomed but many - like a reserve Police Officer - keep on working. Family members cope with taking care of people.
3. Huston's dialogue does not have the stops and starts like previous novels.
4. Lovelorn, outsider men are a frequent theme. I suppose that is not unusual but I'm at a loss to explain why his seem so similar.
5. Huston's heroes are generally everyday dudes put into bad situations. Decent men with a love life in peril from outside forces. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Heard: "Warlord of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Heard: Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1919, Overdrive download.

The whole time I was reading this I kept thinking Robert E. Howard wrote the John Carter of Mars series along with Conan. Nope. Howard created Conan and Burroughs created Tarzan. Well, I suppose Carter and Tarzan are similar enough - neither one seems to own a shirt.

I believe this is the third John Carter novel and came out in 1919. I don't know if it was first serialized - look it up yourself. The novel holds up pretty well after 100 years of change in literature. Okay, most people might not classify this as literature but we don't care about them, do we?

If you are like me and never read a John Carter novel you won't be surprised.  The novel is a straitforward adventure story. Carter is chasing after the bad guys who have kidnapped his wife. There are plenty of sword fights, dangerous Mars animals, dangerous Mars natives, pledges of loyalty and love and revenge, all narrated by an indefatigable hero. I'm sure a pop historian could connect the dots from these stories to knock-off copies, to serialized adventure films, to westerns to blah to blah to blah.

---------------Emergency musical interlude----------------
I've been playing the Len Price 3's new album over and over. This is from an older album.

---------------Emergency musical interlude----------------

This is a fin book. Plenty of adventure and wild coincidences. Burroughs lays on heavy foreshadowing. Bourroughs's pistol on the wall isn't just used it's used to bludgeon everyone in the house. Carter just happens to eavesdrop on several conversations that tell him, and us, exactly what the bad guys are planning, completely rehash the conversation that Carter missed, and how Carter can follow them and defeat them.

I suppose the plot does not matter too much but here it is: John Carter's wife and another woman have been sprung from a prison by the bad guys. The bad guys want revenge on Carter. Carter chases them across Mars to rescue his wife. Along the way he defeats other bad guys, makes friends and allies, reminisces on his wife and his many battles.

1. The dialogue incluldes muchejaculating and intercoursing.
2. Silly SciFi names. Barsoom. Dejah Thoris. Tars Tarkis. Thuvia of Ptarth.
3. Here is a one hour 43 minute album release performance. Audio is not very good but my current favorite starts at 2:34 in.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Quick: "The Highway Kind" edited by Patrick Milliken

Quick: The Highway Kind: tales of fast cars, desperate drivers, and dark roads edited by Patrick Millikin, 2016, 9780316394864.

Stories by (in order) Ben H. Winters, C.J. Box, Michael Connelly, Kelly Braffet, Wallace Stroby, James Sallis, George Pelecanos, Diana Gabaldon, Patterson Hood, Joe R. Lansdale, Sara Gran, Ace Atkins, Gary Phillips, Willy Vlautin, Luis Alberto Urrea.

This was a very good collection. I really enjoyed it. Milliken works at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale. I lived in the Valley for five years and visited there just once. Driving from Peoria on the west side to the East Valley was a freaking chore. Especially on a weekend. The 101 freeway was in place by the time we moved there and getting into Scottsdale itself was not too difficult but it still knocked out several hours in a day.

We did go to Scottsdale often enough, every other month or so, I would guess. I always wanted to visit the gun stores. Bear Arms was always a neat one to visit. There was another store, since out of business, that I never went back to again. I was there one day wandering around, looking in the glass display cases as the owner was chatting with another customer. The guy spoke loudly and his conversation could be heard throughout the store. I heard him insult or degrade gay people, black people, Jewish people, and a few other groups. What a dirtbag. I never went back to the store and warned others away from the place. I just learned that the owner retired in 2005 and closed the store. I assume he is still the same miserable SOB he was then. Vile jerk.

Traveling from Peoria to to a southeast valley city like Gilbert or Mesa felt like I was driving to Denver. I'd be in the car for what felt like forever crossing along the freeways and arterial roads until I reached the gun or book store I wanted to visit.

Speaking of Phoenix and driving, James Sallis's Driven captures what I feel is great view of Phoenix. Sallis's story in this collection is not set in Phoenix.

This book has a really nice mix of author styles and stories. There hard core crook stories and regular people stories. I've not much else to say about this but have a couple comments.

1. I've not yet read any novels by Gary Phillips's. That's how I ended up reading this book, I searched the library catalog for Phillips and this popped up.
2. I associate Diana Gabaldon with romances. I don't read romances and so have never read any of her novels. Her story is set in 1937 Germany and feature Dr. Porsche investigating the crash of one of his race cars. I'd heard before about the speed attempts set on the German Autobahn in 1937 and the fatal crash as one car was pushed by the wind, spun, and flew into a bridge abutment or embankment. The story was very well done.
3. That's it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Told To Me: "Rusty Puppy" by Joe R Lansdale

Told To Me: Rusty Puppy by Joe R. Lansdale, 2016, download.

This is another Hap and Leonard novel by Lansdale. That is really all you need to know. That means the novel is well worth your time and that all the usual stuff happens: Hap and Leonard act like borderline idiots, Leonard gets angry and has a lousy love life, Hap gets a little maudlin at times and is lovey-dovey, most everyone insults the heroic duo, bad guys are both bad and despicable, really stupid people populate the landscape. Hap and Leonard insult most everyone including one another.

This go around has a neighbor across the street from the duo's detecting business storefront asking for help. She says her teenage son was murdered in a neighboring town and that the cops are to blame. Hap starts asking around the neighboring housing project to talk to a witness and Leonard sorta rescues Hap. They keep asking questions and start getting push back from the local cops. One of those cops is a guy who beat Leonard in a kick boxing match and Leonard is still peeved that the guy won on points.

More things happen with all the Lansdale goodness you could want. Bad cops staging bare knuckle fights and dog fights. Town Fathers and Mothers are in on things. Bad cops murdering people. Bad cops harassing women. Characters with lots of character including a foul-mouthed 10-year-old Leonard proclaims as a 400 Year Old Vampire.

1. The plot starting point of the teen boy's death .
2. Teen boy's sister not that great a character, she seemed like more of a throwaway.
3. No big shootouts like in some Hap and Leonard books.
4. Leonard is an asshole and a half. He is always looking for a fight and always willing to insult someone. He's very judgmental as well and will rag on anyone. His volubility and criticizing the black kids in the housing project makes you wonder what we'd think of the guy if he were white.
5. For that matter what criticism has Lansdale run across? Do people read his black characters as a white guy's projections? I don't know Lansdale but have read enough of his work and commentary, and read enough about him, to know he is not a racist a-hole. He seems to not abide jerks though.
6. Good stuff. If you've not read any Hap and Leonard novels I do suggest reading them in order if only because

Finished: "Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat" by Andrez Bergen

Finished: Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat by Andrez Bergen, 2011,9780984559701.

Let me immediately come to the most important point if you decide to read this novel: There Is No Anthropomorphic Goat. The absence of such a goat - as promised to me by the cover illustration - was very disappointing. I still enjoyed the novel though.

Brief: a mix between Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Long: Floyd Maquina lives in Melbourne and works for the government as a Seeker. Seeker are sent to find fugitive Deviants, capture them - or kill them if needed, and get them sent away. At a population of 20 million people Melbourne is the biggest city in the world. Melbourne is also the only city in the world after an unexplained mini-apacolypse. There is a constant acid rain, a domed section of the city for The Rich, collapsing insfrastructure, and other dystopian stuff.

Floyd is in a bad way. His wife was struck sick by a plague and he joined the Seekers to cover his wife's Hospitalization costs. Yes, the novel capitalizes all those words. Maquina drinks A LOT, smokes too much, hates his mother, gets along with his sister, and has blacked out the memory of when he killed a Deviant.

Floyd associates most everything with old movies. He is particularly found of actor George Saunders, The Third Man, and other films running from about 1930 to 1960. Floyd ends up in trouble with his employers over his drinking but gain a sudden celebrity status when a news reporter and cameraman join him on a stake-out and the resulting half hour show is a hit. Floyd also starts getting into more trouble and has to figure out what is happening

I liked the book. It's a neat SciFi unlike the space epics and military shoot-outs I've usually read. More Philip K. Dick than David Drake. The novel is more about the character of Floyd. Missing his wife and boozing it up. Shutting himself off from the world. Mostly hating his job of taking "Devaints" and sending them to a short life in prison. Fearing his employers will mark him a Deviant. Slowly tracking down Deviants in the run-down areas of Melbourne.

1. Purchased for the library in 2012 after a Bill Crider recommendation.
2. Similarities with the setting of Sleepless got me confused. Both plots involve a civililation slowly falling apart with infrastructure and government services failing or non- existant.
3. Bergen's narrator name checks multiple actors, books, writers and films throughout the book. Bergen provides a glossary, bibliography and filmography at the end.
4. According to my magic internet box Bergen has three other novels. Tobacco was his first novel and his second One Hundred Years of Vicissitude is available from the library's digital collection.

Quit Listening: "In the Woods" by Tana French

Quit Listening: "In the Woods" by Tana French, 2007, download.

My phone's Micro SD card stopped working which means I do not have access to the damn novel. I was at least half way through and very much enjoying the story. Either I'll get the damn Micro SD card working or I'll have to buy another Micro SD card and wait in line to check out In the Woods  again.

On Saturday I went by Walgreens to just buy another Micro SD before I drove the five hours north to Hayward, WI for a mountain bike race. I found the memory card display and - Hey! That Micro SD is on sale for $17! So I grabbed the card, got in line, and picked a couple packs of gum from the impulse buyer's rack.

As the cashier rang up the sale both the gum and memory card came up at a higher price. "You'll need to enter your 'advantage' number for the sale price."

I key in my phone number and the gum price is now cheaper, but the Micro SD is still $30. Turns out the shelf labeling was poorly arranged and the $17.99 sale price is for a different brand of memory card. So, I accept that new item, pay for my stuff, and go home.

I get home, evict Boy #2 from the computer, and sit down to open the package and get the SD card working for an audiobook download. Nope. The sale item was for an SD card, not a Micro SD. I ended up buying a damn SD by mistake. An SD card, of course, is 4-5 times too large to fit. Damn it.

I did end up clearing off some of the phone's internal memory and downloaded Edgar Burrows's  John Carter of Mars and Sleepless by Charlie Huston.  I quite listening to Sleepless a year or two ago (Correction: three years ago) but am enjoying it now.

Still reading? Have you seen the news about those new corduroy pillows? They've been making headlines.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Heard: "Shoedog" by George Pelecanos.

Heard: Shoedog by George Pelecanos, 1994, download and I do not recall the audio pub year.

A good book. Plenty of Pelecanos style with nihilists, family men, drifters, journeymen crooks, and guys who dig clothes, women, cars and music.

It's 1994 and Constantine is back in D.C. Constantine bolted town once he was old enough to join the Marines. His alcoholic mother was long dead and his father didn't much give a flying fuck about Constantine. After three years in the Corps Constantine hit the road. Working bar and restaurant jobs Constantine stayed in South Carolina long enough to earn  B.A. After that he traveled the United States, Pacific countries, South America (or maybe not) and into Europe. It's about 15 years later and Constantine has drifted into the D.C. area. When his car breaks down Constantine hitches a ride with a guy pushing 60 and they make friends.

Constantine and the guy, Old Guy, head out to a big house in the country where Old Guy rings a bell at the entry gate, demands his $20,000 and gets the shove off - literally - by a couple goons who tell him to come back tomorrow.  Old Guy is a long time heister and robber. He tells Constantine that the money is as good as in hand. When Constantine and Old Guy return the next day they got a job offer from Crime Boss to do a simultaneous pair of liquor store robberies. They accept the offer.

Meanwhile, Raymond is at work slinging shoes at a popular D.C. shoe store. Raymond is a slick salesman with regular customers. He scopes out the buyers, steals customers off other salesman, and jealously guards with regulars. Raymond is "asked" to be a wheelman by Crime Boss.

The rest of the characters are introduced: lifetime losers, guys in debt to the crime boss, lifelong crooks, Crime Boss's kept wife, so on, so forth. The focus starts with Constantine and then shifts among Raymond and a few other characters about 1/5 of the way in.

Pelecanos always seems to lay heavy on music, fashion, and pop culture of the time. Both for this novel which was contemporary and the other historical settings he uses. Men are always chasing women and usually taking them for gratned. Close friends talk about everything. Muscle, power, and prestige are very important.

1. While searching the Google box to recall character names I saw that a movie version is listed in IMDB as pre-production with a recent update in May. But, I also read a announcement from 2011 about a production to star "P Diddy" and actors from The Wire. Who knows what is going on.
2. I do not keep track of regular characters from Pelecanos novels. I do not know where this novel fits in.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Finish: "Gun Church" by Reed Farrel Coleman

Finish: Gun Church by Reed Farrel Coleman, 2012, 9781440551703.

I really enjoyed the first part of the story but the ending was far fetched. Even more far fetched than The Complaints which I just wrote my notes about.

Former 1980s wunderkind author Kip Weiler barely survived his years long binges on cocaine, women and booze. His literary career started huger and petered out as he self destructed over several years. Kip's novels got worse, he stopped writing and he was fired from several university teaching jobs until he landed in a Nowheresville community college.

Kip has cleaned up though. The depressed mining town he lives in does not have the drugs and women and nightlife that set him off before. He has spent seven years teaching writing classes and his fame only goes as far as the bookstore remainder bin.

Kip's been killing time in Brixton County Community College. He holds no long term relationships or friendships beyond cheating wives, short term adjunct professors, and the occasional co-ed. He's been pining for the wife who left his drunken, coked up, philandering self ten years ago.

That all changes when a student pulls a handgun out at the end of Kip's class and holds everyone hostage. Kip is not gun guy but recognizes the gun from when he had to pick a gun for a character to write about. Kip engages the student in conversation, grabs the revolver, urges everyone to flee the classroom, and watches as a police sniper shoots the gun wielding student.

After those heroics Kip spends a couple weeks back in the national limelight. He goes on TV, articles are written, and Kip has reason to write again. Even more: Kip's agent calls for the first time in years. Even, even more: the super hot co-ed in Kip's class comes on to him, gives him a blowjob and takes him to Gun Church.

Hidden within a hangar on the local abandoned military base is a concrete block structure where Gun Church takes place inside a room padded against sound. On Kip's first night at Church he witnesses two men wearing Kevlar vests duel with handguns. Gun Church is like Fight Club - but with guns. Kip is an addict the rush of firearms and dueling juices him up.

Kip is also juiced up by the Hot Co-ed, who he calls St. Pauli Girl. Kip makes best friends with a 20-year-old student named Jim who runs the Church, teaches Kip to shoot, and gets Kip to start jogging every day. Kip keeps writing. Kip plays house with St. Pauli Girl. Kip's career has a chance at resurgence as his new fame makes his backlist republished.

Then things go weird. Kip moves back to New York. Kip reconects with ex-wife. Kip thinks he hears Jim's distinctly sounding F150. The book turns into an evil mastermind novel with Jim as an obsessed fan. Jim pulling the strings. Jim killing off people. Jim setting up Kip for murder. Jim thinking Kip should be the 80s gonzo that Jim sees him as.

The entire conspiracy plot was silly. I did not care too much though. I rolled my eyes at the 20-year-old Jim having a years long plan to set-up Kip. That Jim forced St. Pauli Girl to bang Kip. That Jim did all sorts of underhanded scheming. That St. Pauli Girl really did love the much older Kip and Jim forced her to do what she did.  I ignored that and rolled along with the story.

1. I just saw that this was published by Tyrus Books. Are they still around? Let me check... nope. I recalled that they were bought a while ago. Simon and Schuster was the final owner and closed them down in April of this year.
2. Ben Leroy started Tyrus and before that he began Bleak House. Both publishers put out a lot of books I enjoyed. Leroy was, maybe still is, based in Madison and Bleak House sent us something once, maybe something simple like bookmarks.
3. A few days ago someone checked out one of Coleman's books that he wrote under the Tony Spinosa name. The two Spinosa books were good fun, I liked those.

In My Ears: "The Complaints" by Ian Rankin

In My Ears: The Complaints by Ian Rankin, 2009, download.

I am not sure how many Rankin novels I have read or heard. I did watch a couple of the Rebus movies/episodes with John WhatsHisNameFromScotlandWhoWasInTheMummyandAgentsofSHIELD. According to Rankin's web page he has published 38 novels. That is a lot of books. If he cannot find a foot ladder he could stack all those books up and reach a high shelf.

This is the first novel in the Malcom Fox series. I don't think I've met anyone named Malcolm. I heard this novel a while ago and I enjoyed the book. I also do not recall too much about the plot so I won't give a long summary like I usually do. After all, these notes are for me more than anyone else who might read it. That sure doesn't stop me from checking the statistics on the blog.

Malcolm is a single cop in Scotland working for internal affairs - The Complaints - and he is asked to help the secretive sex crimes unit from across the hall. Sex Crimes has word that a Scottish cop named Breck is involved in a online pedophile ring. Malcolm already investigated a different cop from Breck's  division and Sex Crimes figures Malcolm can use that as excuse to feel out Breck without Breck getting suspicious and destroying evidence.

Breck also gets romantically interested in the Sex Crimes detective, WhatsHerFace. WhatsHerFace gives Breck plenty of information to convince Malcolm that Breck may be guilty. Malcolm also has to deal with the violent death of his sister's physically abusive partner. The abusive partner was found beaten to death at a construction site and now Malcolm, protective brother, is being investigated.

Spoiler Ahead.
Pretty soon things start to go bad for Malcolm and Breck. They are both suspended from work and it looks like they are being set-up by a higher up. The whole set-up plot is a bit far fetched. The idea being that a friend of the guy investigated by Malcolm is trying to help the guy out by fucking with Malcolm. Or something. I cannot recall exactly.

The story of Malcolm and Breck working together to unravel the conspiracy is interesting but the concept of the set-up is baloney. The conspiracy plot relies on several assumptions about Malcolm and Breck and how they'll get along, and how they'll react under certain circumstances, and how everyone else will do everything else, how how how.

1.Still an enjoyable novel - just gloss over the nonsense bits - but after having thought about it I do feel let down by the ending.
2. Rankin gives you his usual interesting characters.
3. Narrator did pretty well except, if I recall correctly, one or two women characters were not well acted.