Thursday, November 29, 2018

Quit at 80%: "Double Cross" by Ben Mcintyre

Quit at 80%: Double Cross: the true story of the D-Day spies by Ben Mcintyre, 2012, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I quit this audio book at the 80% completion point because I could never get into it. I just now saw that McIntyre also wrote the Kim Philby book I listened to in 2015, A Spy Among Friends. I enjoyed that book and the Cambridge spies sections of this book were the most interesting.

This just dragged on. I was expecting interesting Spy Guy stuff about the Normandy invasion and tricking the dirty rotten stinking no-good filthy nazis. Instead, we get minutiae concerning the agents, double agents, and triple agents the English were running. Stories about their girlfriends, married girlfriends, gambling, drinking, debts, clothes, mustaches, teeth, and every other damn thing.

How can the danger and terror of living among the dirty, rotten, skinking, no-good, filthy nazis be tedious and boring to read about? You can argue most of wartime is boredom punctuated with terror but a book should be more interesting.

Anyhoo. McIntyre writes plenty of details about the spies. The strategies employed in using those spies was interesting. The beginning of the war had great espionage success by the Brits. People in occupied Europe were all too willing to spy on France and sent lot of information over. But, once the dirty rotten stinking no-good filthy nazis consolidated they rolled up many of the spies, turned the spies, or assumed the spies identities.

England cultivated more spies. Germany cultivated more spies. England caught most German spies, killed them, and pretended to be them. New German spies would travel to England and immediately surrender. England had plenty of dudes and dude-ettes who sent Germany true data. "chicken feed", to keep the dirty rotten stinking no-good filthy nazis thinking the spies were theirs.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. I'm getting bored even typing about it. Try the book if you are REALLY into WWII history.

1. I read Soldier of Orange back in 1995 or 1996. The author escaped Holland and worked in England with the British. He remained part of the Dutch military but the Dutch were forced to work in England under English control using English resources. The author and his Dutch colleagues had a large group of spies working in Holland and were constantly receiving coded radio reports on what the dirty rotten stinking no-good filthy nazis were up to.
1.A.. But, most of those reports were just filed away. The English either did not have time to read them, did not believe them, or did not have the people to take action on the information. Later on the dirty rotten stinking no-good filthy nazis broke into the spy cells and when Dutch spies trained in England parachuted into Holland the had Germans were waiting for them on the drop zone.
1.B. The author became very frustrated with the English. On one occasion he came took a small boat ashore to a city dock in Holland in search of a colleague he was to meet. He arrived during a foggy evening and kept his Dutch military uniform on. Wearing civilian attire meant being shot as a spy and he figured the poor visibility, the Dutch uniform's similar color schemes to German uniforms, and the absurdity of walking around on a quay  in occupied Holland would see him through.
1.C. On that brief night excursion he did walk by a few people. One of those pedestrians gave him a surprised or confounded look. A few months later the author was drinking in a English bar - as he often did - and met the same guy who recognized his uniform that evening. The guy told the author that he was very pessimistic about Holland's survival living under the thumb of the dirty rotten stinking no-good filthy nazis. Seeing the author walk around in uniform on Dutch soil gave a massive burst of hope and encouraged him to escape to England.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sound Waves: "Revival" by Stephen King

Sound Waves: Revival by Stephen King, 2014, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I finished this book a month or more ago and never got to completing my notes.

The first King book I have read or listened to in a long while. Nothing scary or spooky much happens until a third of the way into the novel. After that introductory scariness there was not much more until the finale. No chills and thrills for me but the story is entertaining and provides memorable characters. But, I could take or leave it. 

Short: Lifelong rhythm guitarist kicks drugs and fights evil.

Long: Jamie Morton grows up in small town Maine and as a seven-year-old (or so) becomes pals with the new minister in town. Charles Jacobs, his pretty wife, young son, and fancy car move into town and replace the church's aging fill-in. Jacobs and his wife are popular. The boys fall for Mrs. Jacobs and the girls for Minister Jacobs.

Mr. Jacobs has a fascination with electricity and building electrical devices is his favorite past time. When one of Jamie's brothers suffers an injury and loses his sense of hearing - or speaking, I don't recall, Jacobs hooks the kid up to his new device and the device cures him. Or, it seems that way. Jacobs thinks it Jamie's brother was psychosomatic anyway.

Not long after that "healing" Mrs. Jacobs and the Jacobs's son die in a car wreck. Minister Jacobs goes off the deep end and is fired after delivering a sermon that famously strays from orthodoxy. Jamie continues to grow up, fall in love with music, and start playing rhythm guitar in a high school band. Life goes on and Jamie moves from band to band. After a bad motorcycle accident Jamie gets hooked on pills and stays sober enough to join one touring band after another.

A few years later Jamie is stranded in Oklahoma and sees the image of Mr. Jacobs on an advertisement for a magic show at the state fair. He goes and visits Jacobs. Jacobs takes Jamie to a workshop. Jacobs zaps Jamie with a device and cures Jamie's drug cravings.

Things go on. And on. And on. And on. (This is a King novel after all.) Jamie runs into Jacobs on occasion and decides Jacobs is insane. Jacobs, in turn, is brilliant and driven and cares little for anyone he harms with his experiments.

King brings everything back around by united long separated characters and putting them back in Maine. The End.

1. King has a daughter who is either a minister, or married a minister, or both. I've not read many King novels but religion has been a part of several of the ones I have. I wonder if the family was religious when the children were growing up.
1.A. I don't actually wonder too much. Hell, I mostly don't give a rat's ass, I just thought about it.

Damn It: "Exit Music" by Ian Rankin

Damn It: Exit Music by Ian Rankin, 2006, Wisconsin Digital Library audio download.

I was out walking the dog on Sunday when I decided to finally bail on listening to Double Cross by Macintyre. I was forcing myself to finish the interminable details of scuzzy WWII spies and finished 80% of the book. I stopped to take of photo of the lake and since I had my phone I figured to to just start another book. This Rebus novel was first on the screen so I went with it.

The story was immediately familiar and the familiarity was not back due to Rankin's writing style or Rebus's grouchiness it was because I already heard this fucking book. Damn it. What's worse I never recorded any notes on the damn thing. Double worse is I cannot recall much about this book versus another recent Rebus novel.

A guy is found dead at the bottom of a stairway as winter is starting. He has been beaten to death. Rebus n is a week from retirement as he ans his partner roll to the scene. I think this has Rebus kinda-sorta working with a local gangster. Rebus hates the gangster. Rebus wants the gangster in jail. rebus is waiting for an opportunity to stick the man away for life. The crook, in turn, has no affection for Rebus. The crook feigns happiness and pleasure with Rebus but would prefer Rebus dead.

Rebus's relationship with the crook is questioned as suspicion falls upon Rebus that he may be trading favors with the crook or getting bribes.

OK. That is all I recall. Look it up yourself.

1. That other novel was Standing in Another Man's Grave with Rebus driving all around rural northeast Scotland trying to track a serial killer. I recall quite a bit about that plot.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Read: "The Zealot" by Simon Scarrow

Read: The Zealot by Simon Scarrow, 2014, 9781590207796.

I took forever and a damn day to finish this novel. I mostly enjoy Scarrow's adventure novels but kept falling asleep to this. Partially because I was not getting enough sleep and partially because I could not get into the story. Scarrow's series about two Roman Legionaries has plenty of adventure and history. I just did not care about Scarrow sending the two fellas to the Middle East.

Cato and Macro are set by the Emperor's (I don't know, Chief of Staff I suppose) on a secret mission to whatever they called Palestine back in 17 A.D. Chief of Staff suspects that the Roman Governor is looking to rebel. Part of that plan seems to be foment rebellion among the locals, then demand Roman troops, then turn those troops to the Governor's interests.

Cato and Macro head to a smaller fort and outpost to investigate what is happening with a local rebel. They get involved with local politics. Deal with corrupt Romans at the fort. Kill a bunch of rebels, invading Parthians, and local crooks. Meet Jesus's mother and son. Meet and fight alongside an older Simon the Zealot.

If I remembered more biblical history I probably would have gotten more out of this.

Heard: "Claire Dewitt and the Bohemian Highway" by Sara Gran

Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway by Sara Gran, 2013, Wisconsin Digital Library download.

This is one of the best books I have read or listened to in a while. Great stuff all the way around. Upon finishing the book I was very happy to learn the third DeWitt just came out. I even signed up for Gran's email list.

From the first sentence I remembered details from the existential detective plot from book #1. DeWitt as a loner P.I. and follower of the great French detective, Silette. Silette wrote and published a famous treatise on detection that is part hippie-dippy-new-age-mystical bullshit and part pragmatic truth.

This time around has DeWitt getting a phone call that a former boyfriend from years ago has been murdered. DeWitt's name was still associated with the dead Paul and a cop she knows calls her to help handle the grieving widow. DeWitt arrives on scene, helps smooth things along, and a couple weeks later is asked by Paul's sister to look into his death. The sister thinks Paul's Wife did the deed.

DeWitt follows the regular path of her life. She works cases no one else can resolve - after all, she may be the world's greatest detective but she also the detective of last resort.  She makes few lasting relationships. She does more and more drugs and she does more and more investigating into Paul's murder.

For DeWitt and other followers of Silette it is the mystery that is the goal. The client, the victim, and the payment are all secondary to the mystery. To be a great detective you should have no attachments - nothing to distract you or hinder your work. DeWitt's sex life is pickups at bars and parties. Her friends are more of the casual night out kind of music, drugs, and drinking buddies. Her recently hired assistant is there as her go-fer and assistant.

I think DeWitt is a very intriguing character and Gran does a hell of a job. The previous novel established DeWitt's continuing search for her missing teen pal from 20-25 years ago. Gran dives deeper into that story as we flash back and forth from her search for Paul's killer to Claire's time as a unsupervised teenager in scuzzy 1980s New York City. Claire and her two best friends at the time were followers of Silette and trying to establish themselves as teen detectives. They were the school-skipping drug-taking opposites of the Hardys, the Three Investigators, and Ms. Drew. Late nights at bars and clubs, Drunken parents, midnight subway rides.

DeWitt and her two friends take on a missing girl case - we are told by a present day character that every case is a missing girl case - of a party girl whose roommates cannot find her. The three girls pursue the case like terriers as they stand up to everyone and go any place. Hell you're getting two novels in one as DeWitt both reminisces and pursues Paul's case.

1. Remember that neat-o blog Gran and Megan Abbott used to run? The Abbot Gran Old Tyme Medicine Show.
2. Sara without an H.
3. I've no experience buying drugs but there seems to be a universal truth that customers are stuck listening to drug dealers ramble on and on and on. If a customer buys and runs they risk offending the drug dealer and losing their drug source.
4. Lots of drug use. DeWitt snorts cocaine. Steals pills from multiple bathroom cabinets. Drinks prodigiously.
5. DeWitt names all her cases, e.g. The Case of the Missing Horse, The Case of the Congestive Duck (I made those up.).. Same as Nancy Drew and the Hardys.
6. DeWitt is looking for some meaning. Part of that search is what would have happened with Paul if she had not wandered off from the relationship. If she were able to freely love someone.
EDIT: 11-29-2018. I just received Gran's irregular email newsletter. I sent a response email just because. The email bounced back as The address you sent your message to wasn't found at the destination domain. It might be misspelled or it might not exist. I do not know if that is intentional but it is so damn fitting for DeWitt's and Silette's philosophy. You'll only find the correct email if you are meant to find the correct email.