Thursday, October 31, 2019

Crime Audio: "The Force" by Don Winslow

Crime Audio: The Force by Don Winslow, 2017, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

You've read it before: Noble cop goes crooked and tries to redeems himself. But, Winslow writes very well and spins a great tale.

Denny Malone is from a Irish cop family on Staten Island. His firefighter brother was killed on 9/11.  Since that death and some work related issues Denny had been devoted to work. He is separated from his Staten Island wife and rarely sees his two children who live with the wife. Denny now hates Long Island and spends all his time working in Manhattan and boinking his new live-in girlfriend. He is addicted to the excitement of Manhattan and busting crooks and being on a task force that admits 0.001% of NYPD cops. 

The task for is The Force or Da Force. They are known across the city and the island. That fame transcends daily life of cops and robbers. Da Force makes the papers and the TV news. Da Force gets into any restaurant and is comped free drinks. Da Force has juice and power.

Denny is a famous cop on a famous task force and Denny has been on the take for years. He works for and with organized crime, street gangs, carries bribes from defense attorneys to prosecutors, bribes to city politicians, and more. One night Denny gets grabbed by the Feds after a payoff the Feds start squeezing and squeezing. Denny is facing prison but refuses to talk about fellow cops.

Hell, Denny has worked with informants for 20 years, "I can turn this my way. Those stupid Feds don't know shit about real police work. I'll never turn snitch." Denny is wrong of course. Denny gets panic attacks. Denny says he will never snitch on fellow Officers but is slowly crunched by the feds and circumstance.

Throughout it all Winslow does not try and give a full bottom to top view of the various power structures in New York City. We get a sample of corruption's reach as Denny interacts with other corrupt - and rapist and murderous - Officers, on-the-take TV reverends, mobsters, so on, so forth. Denny knows who is on the take but the strict power hierarchy means he can only exert control on those below him. He cannot make demands or threats on those above, those people have too much power and can toss him to the wolves.

The whole corrupt set-up is depressing to read about. A crime victim is rolling the dice calling 911. If the perpetrator is connected the victim may be told to skip it or shut up. Or, if a fairly honest cop takes the case another cop may lose the evidence or pay off the prosecutor or judge. Sure things are periodically cleaned up but it all surges back. The structure is built to protect itself. The crooks at the top only let other crooks advance - you cannot promote a do-gooder who will investigate your rackets. Cops can either share the money or shut up. The PD is built on trust and loyalty and everyone learns that informing on another cop - even one who also works as a hired killer or gun runner - is forbidden and means ostracization from all your friends and most of your family.

Anyhoo. Denny is a very angry man. Angry about his dead firefighter brother. Angry at a drug kingpin who had an entire family murdered. Angry at people who do not realize the wave of violence he and other cops push back against. 

Denny is not a hero. He lies all the time. He murdered heroin dealers and kept 50kg of heroin to sell later. He accepts the gun running cop's plan to sell arms to fuel a upcoming gang war. Denny is 60% cop and 40% mobster. And the cops are mobsters, they are just a different type than the goombas.

The story moves on and Winslow arcs the tale to a conventional finish. Very entertaining. Winslow is always excellent at incorporating current events and issues into his fiction. 

Electronic: "Brainquake" by Samuel Fuller

Electronic: Brainquake by Samuel Fuller, 1993 (French) and 2014 (English), downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Charles Ardai has a intro or afterword about this novel and how it came to Hard Case Crime. Fuller wrote regularly during his lifetime and published this when living in France. Someone found the English original and Ardai published it.

The story of Samuel Fuller as an experienced Hollywood director leaving a poor job market in California and living in France is more interesting than the novel itself. The book keeps moving along and I mostly enjoyed it but the concept is a bit goofy and, in retrospect, the whole damn story went all over.

Set in the early '90s and starting out in NYC where Paul Page is a bagman for the mob and is a full-time cypher. That is how he is described, as a cypher. He has no facial expression and can barely speak. From that point there is plenty of exposition about how bagman must be inscrutable and faceless. They are not allowed any other jobs, no booze, no pills, no romantic relationships. The bagmen have a garage of vehicles and disguises and courier millions of dollars to a final destination.

Paul has mental and behavioral issues of some sort. Issues which are never adequately explained by Fuller and include his "brainquakes". The brainquakes are a kind of seizure that includes vivid visual hallucinations that Paul reacts against. These hallucinations are violent and Paul violently reacts to defend himself or imagined others. No doctors have found a cure or treatment for Paul and his condition will likely be fatal. Basically, Fuller's concept of a brainquake is a load of horseshit.

Anyhoo. The highly reclusive Paul has no friends or family and has speech difficulties as well. But, he still falls hard for a 20-year-old he calls Pretty Face (or something equally inane) he sees walking in Central Park. After a bit of stalking Paul is sitting on a park bench as Pretty Face is pushing her newborn's stroller and walking with a guy who suddenly drops dead of a gunshot. Fuller then proceeds to complicate everything. You see there was a gun and bomb hidden under the infant and set to go off when the boy pulled his favorite toy hanging from a mobile. The police show up, a crowd forms, Pretty Face is in a tizzy.

If the complication of a gun, bomb, elaborate mechanism to fire the gun, and a pressure plate to set off the bomb wasn't enough there is the secret boyfriend who wants Pretty Face for himself. He set-up the entire weird-ass murder scheme and figures to get some dough as well. Never mind the killer's brother getting involved.  And then Paul sending Pretty a daily dose of flowers and poems. And Paul's Boss of Bagmen and her deaf adult daughter with their own too-long back story. And that other bagmen getting robbed and killed. And the mob wants to find the mole working with the robbers. And the famous NYPD Detective investigating the baby carriage case. And so on. And so forth. And other muddied waters.

Then, after we get through all these NYC shenanigans - which should have just been the damn novel on it's own - Paul and Pretty Face and Pretty's infant fly to France and are pursued by a Mob hitman and Pretty's secret boyfriend. Along the way Paul has new brainquakes and fears that every next quake will kill him. Pretty is stringing Paul along while planning to kill him. Blah, blah, blah.

Everything sorta makes sense if you're like me and willing to suspend A LOT of disbelief. And, as I wrote above, the story does keep moving along. Too bad Fuller seems to have jammed two novels together with NYC Crime Story and Paris on the Lam with Femme Fatale dovetailed together.

Once in France I thought the story got more interesting. Try it if you like, but only if you have my same low standards.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Paperback Western: "Wrath of the Savage" by Charles G. West

Paperback Western: Wrath of the Savage by Charles G. West, 2014, 9780451468192.

A throwback Western where the Native Americans are mostly bad and the white people mostly good. I decided to read this as a novel that is firmly stuck in it's 1876 setting on the far Western frontier of Wyoming and Montana. There is a guerrilla war ranging and raging across thousands of square miles. Some tribes are actively fighting the US Army and others are just trying to get by. Same goes with the white people moving in. Having the Native Americans as savages is sensible for the main characters but not for us.

Second Lieutenant Bret Hollister is a recent West Point graduate who arrives at his newly assigned prairie Fort shortly after the Little Big Horn. Hollister helped clean up the bodies at the battlefield but his unit has been left at post while other units pursue the Lakotas and Cheyenne. Holister is a hard charger. He is assigned a short patrol to investigate the recent burning of several white homesteads. While on patrol he discovers that two women were kidnapped by the Native American who burned the farms. In the process of searching for the raiders his men are ambushed at night. The next morning Hollister and the recently hired civilian guide go after the women and the lone cavalry survivor is tasked with returning the cavalrymen's bodies and reporting back at the Fort.

Well, things don't go well. The surviving Trooper runs into a deserter and the two concoct a story about Hollister being a coward and running off. When Hollister and the guide end their search and return to the Fort Hollister is court martialed and kicked out of the Army. Bummer, Hollister. You've spent your life as an Army brat, four years at West Point, and are now set adrift. What will you do? "Well, might as well continue searching for the two women."

Things happen. Hollister teams up with the civilian guide again. They rescue one woman. Break away to recover. Go back for the second woman. Sneak away once more. Are pursued by a vengeful Native American. Have a couple more gunfights. Live happily ever after.

The troublesome parts of this novel are some of those standard Western motifs: Savages who raid, kidnap, rape and murder. Hell, the title is a bit of a tip off, isn't it? Kidnapping and rape of white people is well documented. But, having Native Americans as the default bad guys just doesn't sit well as people - meaning me - have come to understand a balance of what was happening on the frontiers.

Anyway. My decision to take this as the characters being a firm a part of their time got me through the novel. They battle both sides as the Army betrays Hollister and Hollister's main opponents are a couple vain and puffed-up Native Americans who their own tribes don't even want around.

Hollister and Co. don't hate the tribes. West doesn't have portray the tribes as bloodthirsty primitives. But, I felt some real discomfort reading this. Striking a balance between period and modern ain't easy. Heck, I had typed "Indian" throughout this text and changed it to Native American because I'm feeling Indian is either offensive or just kinda dick-ish to use. If I was paying attention I could use the character names or tribes but I don't remember those things.

Audio: "Ways to Hide in Winter" by Sarah St. Vincent

Audio: Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent, 2018, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Short: 25-year-old single woman living in rural Pennsylvania meets an undocumented alien and battles ennui, pill popping, and her self-image.

I am split on this novel. I enjoyed the book enough but not much happens. I don't even remember the ending all that well. Maybe if I looked up some book club discussion questions I'd be clued in to some important plot points or character development that I missed. Or not. Generally not my cup of tea. But, I kept involved in the story and wanted to know what was going to happen.

Kathleen was horribly injured in a car wreck that killed her husband about three years ago and is now hooked on pain pills. She works for low wages at a general store off the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. She lives with her ill grandmother, is distant from her hard drinking parents, her brother has been in the Army and communicates rarely. She has one friend from high school and college. That friend has a young son and a deployed soldier husband and lives with family. Basically, Kathleen is lonely, her ill grandmother requires care, ashamed of her lingering scars and dragging leg, and mentally adrift.

One day a strange guy shows up at the store asking about the hiker's hostel across the street.. Winter is coming and the hikers are gone but Kathleen opens the hostel for the man and gets him a room. The keeps sticking around town. He has no luggage, little cash, and a Russian-like accent. Kathleen gets to be friends with the guy.

Internal things happen. We spend all our time inside Kathleen's head and she slowly reveals the cause of her injuries and limp. Why she avoids her former in-laws. What her marriage was like. Why she is estranged from her parents. So on. So forth.

Along the way there is talk about the former World War Two era POW camp outside town. Local history of an Underground Railroad way station. A painted sign that marks the location of Depression era children who were left to die. Kathleen has her pill addiction and the meds give her a break from life. Wait a minute. I sense a theme of despair and abandonment. A feeling that is incorporated into most everything Kathleen does.

Anyhoo. Kathleen comes to some realizations. Kathleen discovers she has been conned. Kathleen goes through with her plan to escape her present and past by leaving town.


St. Vincent gives a slow reveal of the cause of Kathleen's injuries and her brutal and dead husband. You get to know Kathleen more and more as the story goes and the slow betrayal of her husband and his increasing violence has more impact.

Kathleen knows she is hiding out. But, after hooking up with the husband when she was just 15-or-so she had not had much opportunity in life. She went to college but was still tied back to the town where he continued to live and work as a mason. His behavior and mental state deteriorated and she ended up a captive in their house. Her attempts to escape included a trip to the family pastor who counseled her to accept her husband's frailties and work on the marriage. The pastor then called the husband who took her home and locked her in the garage for three days without food or water.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Parker: "Richard Stark's Parker: The Score" adapted by illustrated by Darwyn Cooke.

Parker: Richard Stark's Parker: The Score adapted by illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, 2012, 9781613772089.

The first of these Parker comic book novels came out several years ago and I bought a couple for work. I ran across this novel in the stacks and figure to take it home. So I did. I recall these adaptations getting a fair amount of press among crime fiction fans. Cooke did four adaptations and all are in the library catalog with Score, Hunter, Outfit and Slayground.

The Score has Parker working with an amateur. Again. Even though Parker constantly swears off working with amateurs Starke would present Parker with a meaty score. This score is the robbery of an entire small city in North Dakota. Copper Canyon sits in a box canyon with only one way in and out. The amateur planner has recruited the crooks and plans to take over the police department and phone company before robbing the mine company payroll, the jewelry stores, and banks.

Of course things go wrong.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. I suppose Stark's sparse writing better fits the shorter length of a comic book novel. Darwyn Cooke used only greys and yellows in his art and employed some neat angles and perspectives of the characters.

Bonus: Grofeld is in this one. Goofy-ass sociopathic Grofeld who imagines himself in a film productions as the robberies go on. He and his telephone company hostage have sex and get hot and heavy. Grofeld wants to take her with them after the robberies and this is one of many complications.

Attached images either posted upright or they did not. I am not going to screw around with editing the images to upload them again and Blogger doesn't seem to allow me to rotate the images. I suppose Cooke uses different color schemes for the other novels.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Sunny: "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" by [unknown]

Sunny: It's always sunny in Philadelphia: the 7 secrets of awakening the highly effective four-hour giant, today : Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Sweet Dee, and Frank wrote this book by [unknown], 2015, 9780062225115

Don't read this if you've not seen the television show because much the text is inside and recurring jokes from the television show. Those jokes will fall flat, make no sense, or be missed without seeing the program. Especially since much of the humor depends on the main characters being somewhat despicable.

Anyway, if you enjoy the show this is pretty fun. After so many seasons and episodes I easily imagined the show's characters reading the text.

Recurring themes include:
1. Bird Law.
2. Dee as a flapping bird.
3. Alcoholism.
4. Possible sex crimes.
5. Rat catching.

I could not find any real author names. There is not way to tell if the show's creators, producers, writing staff, or hired guns wrote this.

Gagnon: "Kidnap & Ransom" by Michelle Gagnon

Gagnon: Kidnap & Ransom by Michelle Gagnon, 2010, 9780778328261 (pbk).

Fourth novel in a series with FBI Special Agent Kelly Jones. I read Boneyard a few months ago and enjoyed it. Boneyard was number two in the series and volume three gave Jones a traumatic amputation (via hand grenade) of her leg just above the knee. Jones has been on leave - with a black mark because of shenanigans - from work and slowly rehabbing as she lives with her boyfriend in New York City.

Jones has been in a emotional pit for about eight months. She hates that she is not working, is physically incapable of meeting her two-legged performance, guilt for her survival in novel #3, ashamed of her leg, and wrapped up in a few pre-existing emotional and behavioral issues.

Meanwhile, her boyfriend Jake Riley has been a longish term fiancee and struggling to get along with a very unhappy Jones. Riley recently started up a kidnap negotiation and rescue company (Kidnap and Ransom, K&R). Jake's estranged older brother, Mark, just retired as a commando and took a job with a competing company. Mark then gets ambushed and kidnapped in Mexico City. Jake has to go to the rescue and Jones demands to go along. Tagging with them is Jake's combative business partner WhatsHerName.

Anyhoo. Mark was down in Mexico to rescue his company's founder, Cesar. That man, Cesar, is famed for his negotiating skills and success and was taken hostage by the Zetas. Jake and Jones and WhatsHerName get involved with that as well.

Things happen. People are violent and Jake and Jones are not happy about the free flowing violence and torture employed by K&R people in the field. WhatsHerName dislikes Jones. Jones is hyper conscious of her stump and her limitations while trying to prove otherwise. Mark and Jake have been estranged. Other K&R people do not trust them. Many Mexicans are treated horribly and murdered.

I enjoyed this a fair bit and the story kept me very engaged until the last 50 pages or so. For each sitting I kept reading this longer than most recent books. But, at about 3/4 of the way through Jones pursues a second plot line that by itself would have been compelling. That plot line pulls in a serial killer from a previous novel. Adding that guy in made the the story too long for me. Paperback page count was over 411, I have no idea of the word count.

1. All the kidnap stuff is driven by money and greed. How much of it is traceable to the criminals who started off feeding the United States's drug needs?
2. It's neat to read about the ransom and negotiation business. Outside of that Russell Crowe movie a few years ago I've not run across many fictional portrayals. Gagnon does not go into a bunch of details of the work. There is more chasing bad guys and fractured personal and romantic relationships.
2. Fucking library catalog does not deliver alternate results for the ampersand symbol when I search "kidnap and ransom" rather than "kidnap & ransom". Damn thing. I suppose that is a problem with the bib record but I would have thought the system software would automatically include a search for "and" when searching "&".

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Missed Another: "Spook's Tale" by Joseph Delaney

Missed Another: Spook's Tale: The Spook's tale and other horrors by Joseph Delaney, 2009 (for version I had), downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Damn. I was deleting old audiobooks from my phone and saw I did not write any notes on this. Three short stories featuring characters from The Spook series. Let me figure this out...

The online book description reminds me they are stories about:

  • Spook as an Apprentice
  • Alice when she helped Thomas Ward by infiltrating a witch village
  • Grimalkin when she started to be a witch assassin

That's about it. I do recall some of Alice's story because it filled in missing information from one of the novels when Thomas was able to sneak her out of the village.

EBook: "Locked Doors" by Blake Crouch

EBook: Locked Doors by Blake Crouch, 2010, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I read Crouch's Wayward Pines trilogy and enjoyed the stories. The TV series was also well done and neat-o. Those Pines books were published only a couple years after Locked Doors and Crouch's writing skills made impressive improvements.

Locked Doors was kinda "Meh" because the main character spent the first quarter of the novel thinking back on events from previous books to set-up the current story. After all those long character introductions and back stories were complete the novel started to move along.

But, while I'm complaining I might as well not hold back: 1) Crouch's writing was overly flowery at points. 2) Something else I forgot about, but I am sure it was important. - Oh yeah, at least one superfluous character. Coulda' either dropped that guy.

Anyhoo. Suspected serial killer Andrew Thomas is hiding out in the Canadian wilderness. The previous novel had his lookalike brother and his brother's pal raping and kidnapping and murdering and setting up Thomas for the fall. Thomas ended up killing those two but was unable to clear his name and hit the road. But, Thomas became mega famous because he was already a successful novelist and was then known as a vicious serial killer. He has to hide himself well to avoid arrest.

Things have been going ok for him for Thomas over the past two to three years. He wears a thick beard, avoids people, and lives outside a tiny, forest town where people are not nosey. Things go wrong when Thomas finds out his brother's Murder Pal survived and just killed off a few of Thomas's former neighbors and a former girlfriend.  "Oh, shit" thinks Thomas "I better go after Murder Pal. And I know where to find him!"

Things move along after Thomas heads to the Carolinas and a couple barrier islands, a young police detective gets involved, bad guys are super awful, so on, so forth.

The front end and back end of the novel even things out I suppose. I doubt I will try the subsequent novella. Since Wayward Pines was fun I will eventually get to reading Crouch's two most recent novels, Dark Matter and Recursion. I don't know what those stories are about. Look it up yourself.

1, I have trouble typing Crouch. I keep typing Corouch.
2. Damn. I have trouble typing toruble.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Restaurant Audio: "Bread and Butter" by Michelle Widgen

Restaurant Audio: Bread and Butter by Michelle Wildgen, 2014 (original print date), downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Wildgen came out to the library two or three years ago for an author visit. I ended up really enjoying the excerpt she read. And that is saying something because I not only don't give a rat's ass about cookbooks, cooking shows, and food novels but I look down on them. Why do I look down on them? Because I don't need a reason, Bub. And because I just don't. So there.

Anyhoo. Three brothers grow up about 45 minutes outside Philadelphia. The two older brothers, Leo and Britt, end up in the restaurant business and run a successful high-ish end restaurant in their home town. Harry is the youngest by about seven years. After a few peripatetic years as a student, beginning scholar, and cook in a remote restaurant he is back home and looking to start his own restaurant.

The story covers one year as Harry opens his restaurant, Leo and Britt fall in love, Harry gets manic and depressed, and Wildgen writes interesting details about restaurants and restaurant work. The characters were fine but they never did anything that much interested me. The restaurant details were enlightening. Of course that detail would mean nothing with crappy characters. The characters were not crappy, I just didn't much care what they were going through.

That's about all. This is literary fiction and sort of a domestic drama (I suppose). I certainly stayed engaged enough to finish, but the business side of the story was most interesting. Hiring people, sometimes frequent staff turnover, the planning needed for menus and decor and supplies, the skill needed to quickly prepare and cook meals, one reason booze is a great money maker is that it needs minimal prep work, the incredibly long hours worked by owners or managers.

1. A pal of Wildgen's (Susanna Daniel) came over to the library 1-2 years previous to Wildgen's visit and one person showed up to hear Daniel. One person! We invited Daniel for a Friday night reading and the weather that night sucked. The was a constant drizzling rain, it was dark, it was the opening of deer season, and there was a competing downtown event of wine and shopping and wine marketed at women.
2. Dang, I just checked the Wisconsin Digital Library and although there is a reading list of Wisconsin Born and Read for WI authors the list is lacking a bunch of fiction writers who live in WI. Wildgen, Daniels, that lady up North, the famous guy from Milwaukee, the thriller writer from Milwaukee, that lady on the Library Board over in Delavan. (Pewaukee? Muskego? One of those libraries.)
3. There is an ebook edition of Aztalan: mysteries of an ancient Indian town with a three week wait. Aztalan State Park is about two miles away and I've still not read this book since it came out in 2005.

More Sound Waves: "The Secret Place" by Tana French

More Sound Waves: The Secret Place by Tana French, 2014, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Another amazing piece of work by French and set in Dublin, IE. French is so great at developing each person's motivations and point of through and using their past experiences to further illustrate. She is equally strong when the characters are interacting and the police are cueing off nonverbal communication. The interrogation scenes in the book were excellent.

French's previous novels have had a thing for childhood trauma and group dynamics. The focus is always on a police investigator and the adult police officers dealing with crimes that foment memories their own childhood trauma.  Secret Place adds is set in a private girls school and bounces around POV from cops to teenage girls. It's kinda like French and Megan Abbott wrote a book together.

Anyhoo. Stephen Moran, who was a smaller part of the last French novel, Faithfull Place, is at his cop desk when Frank Mackey's teen daughter shows up unannounced and shows Moran a bulletin board posting that was hanging at her boarding school. A murdered boy from a neighboring school was found on the grounds of Holly Mackey's all-girl school about a year ago. That investigation dried up and Moran really wants to join the murder squad. Unfortunately for Moran the Murder Squad top kick hates Moran's guts.

"Welllll, if I walk across the hall and take this bulletin board posting that says 'I know who killed him' I can get a gold star and have an in with Murder." He does that and is reluctantly invited on a visit to the school with the lead investigator, Antoinette Conway. Conway does not want Moran along; bringing Moran to the school is a kind of thank you.

The investigation kicks off again with as Conway and Moran start questioning students and staff. There are plenty of POV changes and flashback to the few months right before the murder. We get:
- Teen angst
- Teen drama
- Teen romance
- Teen caddishness from the boys school
- Teen queen bee bullshit from a couple girl students
- Police department politics and backbiting
- Scheming by Moran to stay involved in the investigation
- Scheming by Frank Mackey who is being himself. I.E. Mackey is in the running for Asshole of the World.
- Lots of group dynamics
- Fleeting fantastical elements where the girls are telekinetic
- Class issues and accents
- Money and power and class that drives behavior and resentment

The mystery of who killed the boy never drove my interest until later in the book when French gets closer to the reveal and a confession. The stories are all about the characters and those people dealing with their stresses and desires. My attention did wander a bit in the middle of the book. I think this was because there was not as much dialogue. French's dialogue is so damn good I wanted it back.

1. Mackey is a great character and a real piece of work. He is a very successful police officer and ready to stab anyone in the back. Mackey is the prime example of the old old comparison that cops and crooks are psychologically very similar. He constantly gathers information and then threatens anyone with that information. He dispenses favors and then twists ears when calling in markers. He will twist the story to fit his purposes and since he is a very persuasive talker he can easily ruin a cop's career.
1. The present day investigation covers all of one day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Gischler, Again: "No Good Deed" by Victor Gischler

Gischler, Again: No Good Deed by Victor Gischler, 2018, 9781250106698.

I've read most Gischler novels and many of his comics. I don't associate his work with sex scenes. I think of humor, slacker and incompetent lead characters, human bad guys, and a few cars. I was reading through one of the sex scenes in this novel and realized he does have sex scenes in most of his novels. Huh.

I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the story. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed most everything and I don't really want to give a plot summary.

Anyhoo. This is a Good Guy Meets Mysterious Woman and Is Pursued by Bad Guys novel. Francis has a boring job and a lame girlfriend who just walked out on him. On his way to work Francis sees a suitcase atop a dumpster and the case is spilling out a lot of women's fancy underwear. Francis is intrigued, sees a business card in the case, and figures "Eh, may as well help" and drops the case off at the former girlfriend's former workplace, a diner, since it is on the way.

Once Francis gets to work he sends an email to the address on the business card and trouble begins. The bad guys were watching the email account and show up. Mysterious Woman also shows up. Fisticuffs ensue, gunfire ensues, chasing ensues, rescues ensue, so on, so forth.

Summary: It's a Gischler which means it is well worth your time and money. Just give it a try.

1. Gratuitous self-love reference to a Gischler authored fantasy novel.
2. Many shotgun killings.
3. SPOILER:      We all knew she had a child before the reveal, right?  SPOILER

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Wisconsin Guy: "How Not To Be Wrong" by Jordan Ellenberg

NonFic Audio: How Not to Be Wrong: the power of mathematical thinking by Jordan Ellenberg,

Math guy writes mathy stuff about math.

I started this on the drive back from KS in August. I finished up listening while I walked the dog and walked back and forth from work. There was a lot of neat stuff in here where Ellenberg applied mathematical thinking and rigor to math problems and non-math problems. I took a couple notes along the way. Let me check...

1. An everyman's guide to statistics and probability and how they work in everyday life and how a mathematician's thoughts about proofs can drive strong critical and deductive thinking skills in people.
2. The topic of waste and government waste. If you can save $1,000,000 why not save $100,000? Or $10,000? Because what is the cost of reaching that deduction? Several times Ellenberg addresses how things are measured or quantified. How do you quantify aggravation or happiness? Or quantify good will when working with a customer or citizen?
3. Ellenberg knows his stuff. That is not surprising considering his enthusiasm for his work and the fact he is a PhD teaching at a major university (UW-Madison). He brings up some historical info on mathematicians and famous problems that were neat to hear.
4. "The Cult of Genius".
4.A. Throughout the book Ellenberg writes about famous math problems, their solutions, and the geniuses who remain famous decades or centuries after death. Later in the book he emphasizes the many, many, many mathematicians who are doing work and collaborating every day and gives an example of a major breakthrough that was completed after years of work but many people publishing work that was then built upon and built upon.
4.B. When gravitational waves were discovered in 2016 my brother mentioned how our father's black hole project was part of the history. Thousands of people working over years to complete multiple projects that led to a discovery.
4.C. The Big Time Genius gets all the press and praise and math students may think, "Why bother? I'll never be brilliant like that." Ellenberg points out this dynamic in a single classroom. "That one girl in the front row gets everything right, I can never be that great." Ellenberg points out that people need to work at math. The bullshit about the natural math genius is really just bullshit. One or two come along every few decades but everyone else is working, working, working. Lightning bolts of inspiration come from work not Zeus's hand. Mathematicians have to keep thinking, keep trying, and keep learning.
4. D. My wife and I have spoken about this where are children - who do very well in math - are going to run into trouble eventually and they will need to learn to not let frustration drive them off course.
5. Math is constantly evolving. Math is always changing. Advancing. Pushing new frontiers.

1. Gratuitous Housemartins references which I greatly appreciated.

Amlingmeyers: "The Double-A Western Detective Agency"

Amlingmeyers: The Double-A Western Detective Agency by Steve Hockensmith, 2018, 9781790516162.

A glorious return of the Amlingmeyer brothers. My only problem with this novel: I love the narrations of all the previous novels and short stories. I did not realize how important the voice of William Dufris is to the audio versions.

Well, the absence of Dufris did not matter much because I really enjoy Hockensmith's stories. I just read slowly and imagined Dufris reading Big Red's narration.

A recap: Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer are brothers from Kansas. Old Red left home to cowpunch and when the rest of the family died in a flood his younger brother Big Red rode out West to join him. Old Red is a very taciturn fellow and illiterate. Big Red is big and tall and very loquacious. Big Red started reading aloud to Old Red at nights and Dr. John Watson's stories about his work with Sherlock Holmes were an immediate favorite to both. Ever since then Old Red has been a faithful acolyte-at-a-distance of Holmes and the Holmesian method.

After a few adventures and novels the brothers have teamed with Diana Crowe and her father, The Colonel, who used to work as railroad police. The brothers and Diana used to be at odds but are not colleagues and sorta friends. The new detective agency - seen in the title - is headquartered in Ogden. Unfortunately they don't have any paying clients. As the firm's chief investor the Colonel is therefore in charge, so he sends Old and Big and Diana off for a paying job to catch rustlers in Colorado (or some state)

Anyhoo. Hockensmith always pairs his plots and continuing characters with Western history. Same as James Benn (whose new book came out this past Tuesday) puts his main guy in the midst of World War Two mayhem. The Reds this time are walking into a town divided by racism and a range war. The town is literally divided down main street with Anglo on one side and Hispanic on the other. The Reds were hired by an Anglo rancher but before they can make contact they end up backing a local Hispanic store keeper against a gang of Anglo ruffians. Oops, those ruffians were co-workers-to-be.

Well, they can scratch that job but Old Red does not much care since he refuses to work for bullies.They end up meeting the town Marshall and then Hockensmith finagles the Reds to meet the local Hispanic Bigwig Rancher (HBR). When the Marshall is murdered on the HBR's land her son is accused of murder. The Reds sell their services and get to work.

Sticking some characters into a divided town and having them mostly try to play the middle is not a novel novel plot. I didn't care. Because it is a fun way to tell a story. HBR and family don't much like the Reds and the son accused of murder would just as shoot the Reds than let them prove his innocence.

Diana and Old Red continue to bicker and argue and Hockensmith leaves Big Red bullheaded over the romantic attraction between Old and Diana. Big Red still can't stop talking either. He gets on Old Red's nerves all the time and started getting on my nerves. There are fisticuffs. Dead bodies. Scoundrel bad guys. Frustrating characters (both Reds). And horses.

I've really enjoyed this series.

1. This is a print on demand paperback with a July, 2019 date printed in back.
2. I recall Hockensmith being dropped by his publisher. What a horrid decision that was. I quickly checked his website and did not see mention of that. This may be self-pubbed.

Bond: "Forever And A Day" by Anthony Horowitz

Bond: Forever And A Day by Anthony Horowitz, 2018, 9780062872807.

One of the novels I picked out for summer vacations. I have a few more left and should bring them back except no one else has placed a hold on them and they are not brand new.

This story is something of an origin story with Bond on his first assignment as a 00 agent. There were only three (four?) 00 agents and the most recent 007 has been murdered on assignment in the South of France. Bond has been an undercover and had a couple try out missions where he committed two assigned murders. Now he has been promoted to continue the investigation, find his predecessors killer, and avenge the agent's death.

What proceeds is different than the film versions. I suppose this is obvious but all the film stories with slam-band car chases, fistfights, and plots to destroy the world have not been in many Bond novels I have read. This story goes right back to some Fleming plots where Bond is not fighting SMERSH. Bond is investigating a heroin ring.

Rather than go undercover Bond flies to France under his own name - after all his immediate and deceased predecessor went undercover and was found out anyway. He starts following the few remaining clues and searching the dead man's apartment. While there he is ambused by a CIA guy, clocks the guy, then makes friends.

Bond gets help from CIA and meets up with the sexy Sixtine. A former British wartime spy with the British SOE, Sixtine holds a grudge against Limeys over wartime activities. But, Bond and her have drinks, make nice, have sex, and work together. Sixtine has been getting romantic with a multi-millionaire from the States. That multimillionaire's film production factory has been ordering chemicals from a company with links to the local French crime kingpin. Plus, the chemical company's dockside warehouses are a stone's throw from where the previous agent was found dead.

Anyhoo. Things move along and this was fun. The book is set in 1950 or '52-ish (I don't recall a specific year but this is not too long after WWII and the Korean War was ongoing). Horowitz gives us a period piece and adds in some cultural mores. There is some daily sexism.There is an allusion to the bad guy being homosexual and Bond being repulsed when Bond is tied up and the man strokes his face. I recall some xenophobia from M but maybe I imagined that - besides modern M is always a bit of a priggish asshole. No racism. No religious bigotry.

I recall some unpleasant reading from early Fleming novels when it came to racism and sexism. I read a Bulldog Drummond novel a few years ago that was set after WWI. Man, that was some something else.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Missed A Gischler: "A Painted Goddess" by Victor Gischler

Missed A Gischler:  Painted Goddess by Victor Gischler, 2016, 9781503954762.

I finished this a couple weeks ago. I need to take it back to the library.

Third in the fantasy series by Gischler.  A new novel set in the same 'universe' is coming out, Murder Blossom, which sounds a lot better than Turd Blossom. Although Turd Blossom is such a fitting name for Karl Rove, especially when thinking of the turd part.

The Kingdom of Helva (maps included in the novel) is about to be attacked by a massive fleet omade up of thousands of ships. The pals of the main character Rina are scouring the Kingdom and beyond for more magical tattoos that will increase Rina's power. Rina can then defend the Kingdom and be lovey-dovey with a stable boy. The story picks up from the last book and follows individuals through their travels and travails and truffles and tribbles and triumphs and trench training and treacherous traverses and trolling through the dictionary tp feed this "tr" alliteration.

Anyhoo. I recommend starting with the first novel. I had a big break between reading this and the previous novel and got a little lost. Keep in mind that Gischler has the golden touch and it shows in every novel he has published. You can read this and have a good time as long as you're not itching and bitching to learn about all the previous plots and action.

There are swords, magicians, bad guys, zombies, sexy-sexy, gods come to earth, stabbings, romantic jealousy, horse rides, boat rides, monsters, swimming, rescues. All the typical fantasy fun stuff but without any stupid dragons.

1. Your favorite dragon is lame.
2, I have Gischler's No Good Deed at home but just started a James Bond novel.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Re-Listen: "A Walk In The Woods" by Bill Bryson

Re-Listen: A Walk in the Woods: rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, 1998, some download my wife got.

I heard this again on the drive out to KS for summer vacation. This may be my third time to listen to it, actually.

Anyhoo, here is the skinny: Bryson is living in Vermont (New Hampshire?) and back behind his rear yard is the trail. He gets a yearning to make the hike. He cannot recruit anyone to go with him - he even tries all his old high school pals in Iowa. One IA guy calls him and comes along. Things happen and Bryson sticks in plenty of information about the history of: the Trail, National Park Service, urban sprawl, bear attacks, crime on the Trail, so on, so forth.

The book is 21 years old but not much has changed I suppose. Maybe some more sprawl. I am four years older than Bryson when he did this walk and really cannot see the big deal his wife seems to have made of it. Sure, the hike is a big undertaking requiring planning and decent gear but as long as you prep for the hike and do some multi-day prehikes to shake out your gear and get in shape is not the huge, dangerous adventure it sometimes comes out as.

Most trail trouble comes from Bryson's hiking companion, Katz. Bryson writes much of the story about Katz because he is quite the character. For instance: Katz shows up for the hike overweight, in poor fitness, and with way too much weight in gear. There are at least two instances where Bryson writes about Katz getting fed up with all the extra crap Katz brought and chucking half the stuff off a cliff.

----Which reminds me: in Yellowstone we only did a one night back country hike. They provide bear bag poles with a cross beam running between two trees. Our campsite's bear pole was next to some boulders. I walked behind the boulders to dig a hole and relieve myself and found a bunch of uneaten food scattered around. There was no evident bear claw marks or slobber so I figured someone didn't want to haul there full jar of peanut butter around. That is an asshole move because I ended up having to pack their garbage out for them.------

Katz comes off much worse in the film version. Being portrayed by a bloated, red-faced Nick Nolte is nothing to be happy about. I only just now discovered that Katz is a pseudonym for Matt Angerer who was still alive in 2015, but less one leg after a medical amputation. That sounds about right as Bryson wrote about Katz.

Faust: "The Killing Joke" by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips

Faust: The Killing Joke by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips, 2018, 9781785658105.

Faust and Phillips team up again for a novelization based on a Batman comic set in 1988. Plenty of characters and brief storylines and arcs. I read this book in bits and pieces because of vacation travel and therefore was unable to keep track of all the characters.

Pretty damn good though. This is the kind of novel that, to me, seems simple because I just cruise along through it. I don't realize how skillful the authors are in pacing and smooth writing until I actively think on it.

Written in 3rd person and, interestingly, their is not a lot of POV by Batman and none by the Joker. The Batman parts I recall were action and trying to get Joker to talk when Batman visits Joker in Arkham Asylum. There is isn't much internal monologue about what he does and why.

The other characters do get some of that 1st person development. Mainly Commissioner Gordon, Batgirl, and a couple other characters I don't recall.

Anyhoo. I enjoyed the book but must admit not much has stuck with me. Maybe that is a part of having read the book in bits and pieces. Maybe it is a part of the fact that I don't much give a damn about Batman. I read the book because Faust and Phillips wrote it.

Wait. I do recall something. This has some origin of Harley Quinn - a character I know next to nothing about except she always wears hot pants and pale makeup. I also learned Batgirl is Commissioner Gordon's daughter.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Ebook: "The Legend of Caleb York" by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Ebook: The Legend of Caleb York by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, 2015, Wisconsin Digital Library download.

Besides working on adapting a few Mike Hammer films Spillane also did some Hollywood scripting. He was pals with John Wayne and Wayne hired Spillane to develop/write a western for Wayne's production company. The project never got going and Wayne's company went out of business. So, Collins wrote a novelization.

This is a straightforward western with some Hollywood style schmaltz in it. Bad guy Sheriff Gauge is either buying or forcing out the local ranchers. Gauge is a long time crook and gunfighter who forced is way into the Sheriff job when the local Madam recruited the crook to the job. Gauge brought along his gang, made them Deputies, and uses those men to kill locals who get in the way. Gauge himself is a skilled and fast gunfighter. He and the Madam have a thing going and Gauge has made himself a silent partner in most local businesses.

This is not enough for Gauge though. A larger local ranch run by Cullen and his daughter Willa is a hold out. Gauge wants that ranch. Gauge wants that woman. Gauge is patient and plotting but he's also killing his way to success.

Old Man Cullen, blind, proud, and cantankerous, has enough of gauge's foul deeds after one of his ranch hands is shot down by the law for the crime of working for Cullen. Of course Gauge is Sheriff and can use any number of  spurious reasons to justify the killing. Besides, all the locals are too scared to confront or oppose Gauge and the state government says, "He's the Sheriff, what are talking about? Vote him out.".  After the ranch hand's funeral Cullen makes his to the telegraph office and sends a message to an old business partner that the partner should cable famed gunfighter Caleb York and offer $10,000 to get rid of Gauge by any means.

Well, Gauge finds out about the telegram and the ball starts rolling. There is shooting. There is sexy sexy sexing. There is brutal conniving. There is cold blooded killing. There is an oddly chaste romantic longing side-by-side of characters while they perform the sexy sexy sexing with other characters.

In short: a guy comes to town a day or so later and immediately beats up and subsequently shoots down two Deputies. Is he York? Could York get here that fast? If he isn't York then who the hell is he? Will Cullen's plan to drive Cullen under succeed?

Ranching Willa wants more say but she is a woman. The Madam wants more from Gauge than sex and business but Gauge is just using and abusing her. The Stranger keeps getting involved in local business but doesn't really want to.

A quick-ish read. The violence and sex match Spillane's style. Collins doesn't shy from that sex and violence and presents a western that is more '70s than '50s, and more Peckinpah than Ford. There are no cut aways as characters kiss and there is plenty of blood and cruel violence.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Audio True Crime: "Sex Slave Murders" by R. Barri Flowers

Audio True Crime: Sex Slave Murders: the true story of serial killers Charlene and Gerald Gallego by R. Barri Flowers, 2012 (for this audio version), downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

This book seems to have had several printings and editions. I will not try and track those editions and dates down but a few references in the text mention updates to the story. I categorize this as Supermarket True Crime. The paperback you find on a spinner,printed on acidic paper, and with a lurid cover and description.

Flowers loves to use the phrase "sex slave" over and over again when writing about the Gallegos's crimes. To me "sex slave" sounds like a sounds more "sex games" or "let's get kinky". As if Flowers is trying to titillate the reader before revealing sex life details. So, don't get to think the title is a nod and wink. This is about kidnapping, rape, and murder.

Gerald Gallego had a difficult upbringing with a father executed for murder and a mother with a revolving door of husbands and boyfriends and lots of booze. He was a charming womanizer, multiple married, violent and rapey ex-con when he met teenage Charlene.

Charlene was a single child of overindulgent parents who was charmed by Gerald. She took up with him and actively and passively participated when Gerald wanted to start kidnapping teen girls for rape.

Gerald was certainly abused physically, sexually, and emotionally. He himself abused a 6-year-old when he was 13. Flowers writes how Charlene had a sharp change in behavior as a teen that, to me, shouted "Sex Abuse!".

Anyhoo. Petite, blond, and pretty Charlene would chat up a couple girls and get them to the Gallegos's van. The girls would be tied up and driven to a remote location (the murders happened IN Ca, NV, and OR). Gallegos would rape the girls, shoot them, and bury them. Charlene would hang out at in the van.

The two of them were getting away with murder when they execute the risky abduction of a college couple outside a fraternity dance. The Gallegos forced the couple into the back of the victim's car when a friend of the couple approached, spoke to the couple, saw the Gallegos, and the Gallegos drove away. The now missing couple are searched for, the murdered bodies are found, and the cops track down Charlene and put things together.

Flowers does a good job telling the entire story. As mentioned above she is very fond of the phrase "sex slave" and repeatedly emphasizes how Gerald murdered a pregnant women. But, Flowers put in the work and fills in details on Gerald's childhood, the crimes, the investigation and the many arguments and maneuvering over which state would get primary jurisdiction for prosecution.

Flowers details the absolutely bizarre parts of the trial in Nevada where megalomaniac Gerald acts as his own attorney. He puts Charlene on the stand and tries to get her to take the blame for some crimes. Their interaction is a fucking bizarre back-and-forth conversation of people acting like 8th graders but discussing rape, murder, and the possibility of a state death sentence.

Giving a vicious control freak like Gerald a free voice in court was nuts. The court had to accede to the situation and Gerald must have been on an emotional moon rocket as he got to stand in court and try to push around witnesses and make demands.  Fucking vile person.

And Charlene mostly gets away with all this. She plays the "poor little me" victim and, like Karla Homolka a few years later in Canada, gets away with just a few years in prison. Gerald was a controlling thug and I understand that leaving that coercive control can be very difficult. But, Charlene actively participated in murder.

1. The female narrator's male voices were awful with this weird gruff voice that only had one emotion: anger.
2. I will associate this book with wearing a 35 lbs. pack and walking the dog at Korth Park in preparation for the Yellowstone high adventure trip.
3. Flowers talks about Charlene getting out of prison and appearing on the Sally Jessy Raphael show. I could not find a online video of the program.

Novella: "The Last Deep Breath" by Tom Piccirilli

Novella: The Last Deep Breath by Tom Piccirilli, 2011 (for ebook version), downloaded ebook from Wisconsin Digital Library.

More greatness from the late Piccirilli. Spare writing, sharp characters, and gaps to for the reader to figure out.

Remember back when Piccirilli announced he had brain cancer? He went through treatments and things were looking rough? Then he was admitted to a experimental treatment program and got better? And then the cancer came back? And then Piccirilli died? That was a kick in the guts. Piccirilli was a good dude and wrote some great stuff.

This is more of a novella and continues with some themes and features Piccirilli regularly wrote about: Lonely men, violent family members, muscle cars, lots of driving, protagonist stuck in a crook's life but kinda happy there.

Grey is a orphan, former foster kid, and Army Vet with a dishonorable discharge. He is on the hunt for a former foster sister who he and a foster brother went on the run with after the foster brother killed the rapist foster father. I typed foster five times. Six.

Grey and the sister and brother did not spend too much time together but Grey has a very strong attachment to them. He followed Foster Brother into the Army and Foster Brother has gotten Grey out of a couple binds. Grey has been living in NYC after getting kicked out of the Army and Foster Sister shows up at his apartment with a bad knife wound. Grey has not seen her in years but that does not matter. Grey calls a former Army Medic pal and gets Sister treated that evening.  When Grey awakens the next morning Sister is gone. The only information for Grey to work with is that Sister mentioned a guy's name and the Medic tells Grey that he recognizes Sister from porn.

Grey wants to find the injured sister. Grey gets on the phone with Foster Brother and the ever-capable Brother tells him, "Wait. I will be back in two months." But, Grey cannot wait. Grey has a brotherly love for Sister that barely hides his sexual love for sister. After some digging in NYC Grey decides to head to Los Angeles and track down Sister's porn past.

Things happen and Grey gets tangled up in his memories and desires. Grey slowly makes his way westward. He meets women. He beds women. Many of those women ask Grey to kill the woman's significant other. Grey wonders, "What kind of weird ass killer vibe do I put out?" In Reno, Grey meets a mostly washed up film actress and the movie loving Grey pairs up with her and heads to Hollywood.

Things happen and Grey uses a little too much force out west but finds out more about Sister and her drug use and her former boyfriend. He works as a manager of sorts for Actress and gets her on track for a decent film job. He's then heading out for the East coast on the track of Sister.

The novel is like a lot of Piccirilli stuff: protagonist with lousy family. A hard worker who feels less-than around violent, hyper-masculine relatives. Split between straight life and crook life. Lots of muscle cars. Lost love from teen years and still pining for the adult version of that teen girl.

Like most Piccirilli stories there resolution is not a feel good. Grey finds his MacGuffin (Foster Sister) but does not come to terms with his own problems.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Saw: "William Wegman: Being Human" by William A. Ewing

Saw: William Wegman: Being Human by William A. Ewing, 2017, 9781452164991.

Smaller photo book of Wegman dogs. A jokey introduction by Ewing that still covers some interesting topics. 1- How much of a collaborator is a dog? 2 - What artistic styles is Wegman mimicking or mocking? 3 - portraiture is an art and how do these photos compare with use of pight, perspective and props?

I just like pictures of dogs and there are some great ones. Those Weimaraners are well trained and relaxed.

There is a printed interview between Wegman and Ewing at the end.
There is a piece by Wegman about the dogs over the years.

Audio True Crime: "Handsome Johnny" by Lee Server

Audio True Crime: Handsome Johnny: the life and death of Johnny Roselli, gentleman gangster, Hollywood producer, CIA assassin by Lee Server, 2018, download from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Italian crook from Boston ends up under the Chicago mob and working in Los Angeles.

Roselli is born in Italy in 1905 and five years later his family travels to the U.S. in 1911 to join the father. Dad dies in 1918 and the family struggles along. Johnny has school trouble as an immigrant. Quits school and travels town to town with a pal. They work odd jobs and do some crimes. Roselli ends up in Chicago in the '20s and then Los Angeles. Along the way he changes his name and falsifies paperwork in his new name.

This is a neat story and Roselli was an active crook until the 1960s. His crooked and straight jobs touched a lot of famous names and events over five decades and he was around during the same corruption and mob troubles in LA that Hammett and Ellroy fictionalized. There is Al Capone, Frank Nitti, Jack Dragna, Bugsy Siegel, Howard Hughes, Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedy assassination, Los Vegas casino skimming, Frank Sinatra, and more.

Roselli was a charmer and when he grew older he stayed away from violence and therefore avoided some legal scrutiny. During Prohibition he ran booze. In Los Angeles he ran rackets and gambling operations. Gangsters were kinda hip so he schmoozed with the wealthy and famous. He then went a little straight and worked some film projects.

The book has plenty of stories but the most interesting parts to me were: The 1920s gambling boats off the CA shoreline. The 1950s gang battles with Dragna and Mickey Cohen and others. The CIA and Mob assassination plots on Castro.

The unions became a big moneymaker because anywhere there is a buck the mob will try to grab it.  Server clearly explains the history of how the Chicago mob became involved and took over a union by forcing their picked candidate into the presidency. The union's 1934 convention and election in Lousiville was attended by Lucky Luciano and Louis Buchalter (head of Murder Inc.) The convention hall was filled with gunman and everyone was told who to vote for.

That union then started to swallow other unions. Extortion income rolled in to the mob by threatening strikes. Raising member dues gave a bigger skim to the mob.  They "loaned" themselves money from the retirement fund and used union dues to start Las Vegas casinos.

The Cuba plots and Kennedy tie-ins are always interesting to me. The mob ran free in Cuba under Batista and were unhappy about losing all the casinos, bordellos, and drug trade when Castro took over. Server writes about plenty of the skeezy work the CIA and the mob undertook and how the mob tied into the 1960 US Presidential election through a Joe Kennedy connection. How Robert Kennedy had a hard on for prosecuting the mob and the mob figured to shut RFK down by teaming with Joe. How RFK, JFK, and Joe would be shtupping the same women. Everyone's fondness for mistresses and prostitutes.

There is plenty of history about Sinatra, Giancana, and Kennedy and their mistresses. James Ellroy's favorite PI Fred Otash shows up. (Otash secretly recorded a conversation between Rock Hudson and his wife where she accused him of picking up men on the street. Hudson emphatically denied this.)

Roselli was intricately involved with helping the CIA to organize Cuban exiles trying to overthrow Castro in Operation Mongoose and the ZR/RIFLE assassination program. He was helping plan or participate with covert missions into Cuba, midnight boat trips and speedboat insertions, and working with the CIA to hire assassins and plan plots.

The 1950s gang wars had Mickey Cohen surviving murder attempts. One of Cohen's methods of getting cash was to borrow money - or "borrow" money - and never pay it back. Cohen learned that as the right hand man of Bugsy Siegel.

Roselli did a couple prison terms and when released in the 1970s he lived with a sister in Florida before he was murdered, his legs chopped off, and his body parts stuffed into a metal drum and dumped in a bay.

1. Low-key mobsters last longer. Schmoozers make smarter deals than the strong arms and killers.
2. Actors versus film versions. Dramatizations often have older actors portraying mobsters who were in their twenties. Capone was born in 1899 and running the Chicago outfit in his twenties.
3. Capone's entire family were crooks. The library has a book by his great niece that mentions the bordellos the family ran in Northern Wisconsin.
4. A Fred Otash interview with Mike Wallace from 1957 regarding Hollywood gossip magazines.
5.  A Mickey Cohen interview was referenced at the above website in an introduction before another interview. I recall a Mickey Cohen biography detailing how Cohen spoke to Mike Wallace when Cohen was under investigation and prosecution. Cohen couldn't keep his mouth shut and insulted and defamed the cops who went after him. That interview does not seem to be in the online archive. And, interestingly, the keyword search does not come up for him in the transcript. I only found that when messing around and searching "Wisconsin".
6. Los Angeles Mayor Frank Shaw ran the City. The Grand Jury members were all appointed to block prosecutions. A local bible thumper and restaurateur campaigned against crime when getting on the Jury and seeing what happened. His house was bombed.
7. Server mentions the many Florida training camps for exile Cubans. Those camps were still running in teh 1980s and I suppose they are going now in one place or another.
8. All the Cuba talk reminded by of John Sayles's novel Los Gusanos from 1991. I've not watched any Sayles films in a long time.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

ILL From MI: "Allied Strafing in World War II" by William B. Colgan

ILL From MI: Allied Strafing in World War II: a cockpit view of air to ground battle by William B. Colgan, 2010, 9780786448876.

I used to keep a file of titles to request through interlibrary loan. I rarely request books that way because so much is already available and waiting through the library system, the digital library, used books, etc. I read about Allied Strafing several years ago in a catalog from McFarland and Company. Since my reading pile was smaller I figured to try this out and the copy came from Western Michigan University

I was hoping for all sorts of fancy gun camera footage. Colgan collected quite a bit of footage but I was naive to equate "never before published!" style descriptions with "clear and sharp images". An okay book with some awkwardly written passages and you'll need to have some interest in the topic.

Anyhoo. Colgan joined the Army Air Force (AAF) during World War II (maybe before, I don't recall) and flew in both the Mediterranean and European Theaters. He continued to fly until retirement in 1973-ish with a tour in Korea and a handful of combat flights in Vietnam. Colgan focuses the book on World War Two with some introductory information and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

There are a few points that Colgan nails away at:
1. He reminds us constantly that strafing is gunfighting. Air-to-air combat and Aces have gotten the press ever since the first fights in WW1. But, strafing is by far the more dangerous mission. Pilots were driectly fighting with people on the ground. Flying down low into a target requires flying in a straight line and everyone is shooting at you - both the target and enemy near and far. And pilots would have to get in close because their wing guns would be aimed from 750 to 900 feet out. German flak wagons built on tank chassis would have four guns pounding away at AAF planes.
2. The massive amounts of damage inflicted by fighter-bombers. Aces would get the press but strafers would destroy air forces. Colgan collected a lot of primary and secondary sources for the book and some of those were battle results. One report from April 1945 records a Fighter Group in Europe destroying 11 planes in aerial combat. Strafing attacks destroyed 146 planes.
3. The dangers of flying close to the ground. Planes move fast. The wing guns are all aimed to a single point that is slightly up and into the pilot's aim point. To be most effective and use their ammunition effectively the planes would get real close before pulling out. The ground killed many pilots and trees, building, and towers were a danger. In Italy the Germans and Italians would string cables across valleys to cut planes in half. Valleys were especially dangerous because the flak guns would be firing up at them from the valley floor and down at them from the slope. There might be little maneuver room limiting the planes's approaches and exits.

Fighter-Bomber pilots were not thousands of feet in the air. The saw the bodies and body parts. The .50 caliber machine guns were armed with armor piercing ammunition that tore through most targets and could stop tanks by firing through exhaust vents - pilots could be shockingly accurate - or shooting out the bogey wheels for the tank tracks.

Pilots destroyed so, so much. Locomotives were a prime target behind the lines and the trains could not move in daylight without the engines being destroyed and the train cars shot up. Trucks couldn't move. Troops in the open would be torn apart by the gun fire. One flight of planes destroyed a locomotive in the winter. Troops bailed out of the train cars but were stuck in deep snow along a narrow piece of ground. The planes such up everything and when the flight leader called of the attacks a pilot said, "Thank God."

I should point out that in 2010 when this was published Colgan would still get annoyed when a motion picture would show a strafing attack stitching a line of bullets across the ground. Real life pilots needed to aim burst of fire into a single point. Total firing time would max out at 10 seconds or so. Pilots would many times shoot for only .5 or 1 or 2 seconds at at time - depending on the target and whether the pilot could steer the guns onto a secondary target next to the first. Shooting the dirt was a waste of limited ammunition.

According to Colgan the pilots would be amazingly accurate. Germans and Italians would hide as much as they could under trees, next to buildings, in alleyways. Once a target was spotted the pilots would line up a run, fire directly into the target, and spare any rounds from hitting a home, school, etc. I kinda wonder about that. All the bullets may have hit the target but those armor piercing rounds could to right through and ricochet all over.

1. Dang. It looks like Colgan is still alive. He'd be 99. There is a website: with the same gun camera images as in the book.
2. Gun camera film was rarely saved. The film was used by the combat pilots for review. Colgan's webpage links to a compilation video: Remember that the tracer ammunition was only 1-in-5 or 1-in-10 of the bullets going out.
3. Video interview from 2009.

Friday, July 5, 2019

E-Book: "Deadly Beloved" by Max Allan Collins

E-Book: Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins, 2007, download from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I was in bed without my current book. I did not want to get up and hunt the book down so I pulled up this novel which I had checked out for my Scout camp-out a couple weeks ago.

I've read several comments by Collins about his Ms. Tree comic which he first published about 30 years ago. (Double checked: started publication in 1981. That makes it 38 years ago.) I never read the comic but I've read plenty of his novels. Since this is also a Hard Case Crime book how could I pass it up?

Ms. Tree is named Michael Tree. Her father was expecting a son and gave her a boy's name with a justification that "Hey, women have the name. Look at actress Michael Learned who played Olivia on The Waltons". When the novel begins Ms. Tree is speaking to her psychiatrist one year after Tree's husband (also named Michael Tree) was murdered on their wedding night. Ms. Tree killed her husband's killer and has been running their private investigation agency since.

Ms. Tree gets a call from a high priced defense attorney. Defense Attorney has a new case with a mentally unstable client who killed her husband and a prostitute. Defense Attorney believes the previously stable client was pushed into murdering her husband. He wants Tree to dig around and see what was going on.

After Ms. Tree takes the case she finds that the cops are surprisingly free with information and cutting red tape. Ms. Tree knows the Officer in charge of the investigation since she and her husband both quit the Chicago PD before starting their PI firm. The Officer says the murder has the hallmarks of a few other killings. Killings that are possibly the work of a rumored assassin who arranges killings that are written off for other reasons: crimes of passion, robberies, car wrecks. What's more is that the Officer thinks Ms. Tree's husband may have been a victim.

Ooooh. It's a double mystery! And another, third mystery of why a long-time colleague and co-partner in the firm quit the firm. And Ms. Tree's secret sexy-sexy relationship with another cop. And Ms. Tree getting in shoot-outs.

As usual Collins provides a nice story. I've not read any other work of his done with a female protagonist's POV. This also reads very much like a Mike Hammer novel and I recall Collins saying Tree was initially imagined as Mike's daughter - either literally or figuratively. The story plotting. The wise-ass PI with a violent streak. The reveal at the end. They all feel Hammerish and I enjoyed that.

Anyhoo. Shit. I just saw there is an afterword by Collins about Tree's creation. I'll read it later. A fun read and worth your time.

1.Ms. Tree as in Miz Tree as in Miz ter-ee as in Mystery as in How the fuck did I not notice that before?
2. The Hard Case Crime promos at back of the book mention Spillane's Dead Street. I thought I read that but apparently I heard the audio instead.
3. I think I am behind the Quarry novels. The Quarry novels are top notch.
EDIT: 7-6-19. A print copy of The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics (2008) just landed on my desk. There is a reprint of Ms Tree: maternity leave inside plus a couple Mickey Spillane authored comics. Every comic in the book is black and white. I wonder if they were that way originally or if reprinting in black and white was cheaper.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Heard: "The Real Lolita" by Sarah Weinman

Heard: The Real Lolita: the kidnapping of Sally Horner and the novel that scandalized the world by Sarah Weinman, 2018, audio from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Sarah "With an H" Weinman wrote a neat book but I admit to being a little bummed that there was not more about the girl and her family. Weinman seems to have done a lot of research and interviewed all the surviving friends and relatives of the girl who she could . But, Horner died in 1952 when she was 15 and her niece was only about 4 years old at the time. Weinman dug up court docs and some letters and journals that were related but all the people directly involved are dead, dead, dead.

Weinman addresses this issue of evidence and people because for her this absence made the story all the more compelling. Many of the people involved passed away with the past 10 years or so and therefore were juuussst out of reach. Horner's story was national news at the time and mostly forgotten. Many documents and papers of the time are still around but have to found in basements and attics and boxes.

This is not all true crime. Weinman is addressing the question of whether Nabokov was inspired by or used the story of Horner to write Lolita. This is not literary theory, instead she tells about Nabokov and Horner and a few other New Jersey crimes.

Anyhoo. Florence Sally Horner was 11 years old in 1948 when garbage human Frank La Salle kidnapped her in Camden, NJ and kept her for almost two years. La Salle was already a serial rapist and degenerate scumbag. He saw Horner trying to shoplift and convinced the girl that he was an FBI Agent and she had to do what he said or go to jail. He moved her around a bit in NY and then to Philadelphia, Dallas, and ending in San Jose.

Meanwhile, Nabokov was teaching at Cornell, being a bit grouchy, and taking long summer vacations in the car to hunt butterflies.  Nabokov worked on Lolita for about ten years and seems to have overcome a literary hump in the story at the same time Horner's rescue from shitbag La Salle hit the national news. But, Nabokov was no ordinary novelist. He was an ARTISTE! Vlad did not need any damn inspiration, he was the inspiration! How dare you suggest he took features of the real kidnapping and people and employed them in his art! Everything was fully formed inside his brilliant min and sprang forth onto the page through his hard work and native brilliance!

And that's why this is kinda-sorta a big deal. A big deal enough deal that this book has a lot of press when it came out last Autumn. Mr. Big Shot Literary Dude was a private guy and kept his work a but mysterious. So the idea that he used a true life incident is neat for Lolita fans. But, as Weinman clearly points out, Nabokov referred to Scumbag rapist La Salle within the text of Lolita. It's like listening to Trump, Nabokov admits to something in the damn book and then says he never heard of the guy.

I don't give a rat's ass about a literary mystery. I just enjoyed the story. And since Weinman did not have a whole lot of information about Horner and her family she gives some interesting crime details of New Jersey in the late '40s and early '50s. There are plenty of other rapes and murders. There is a young woman whose preacher father has her beaten to death for the insurance. A spree killer WWII veteran in Camden. And a few other events. The spree killer story was particularly interesting and Weinman tried to hunt down surviving witnesses but the killer outlived them all when he died in 2009.

Within all this is the social impact Lolita has had. The publishing travails of Nabokov. Multiple adaptations that mostly sucked. Vera Nabokov's work on behalf of her husband. So on. So forth.

A more interesting aspect of Lolita is current day awareness of rape and silence. Sarah Horner was a freaking kid. She was taken with her mother's consent (well, not exactly, but read the book for details), and raped for two years as the Piece of Human Filth La Salle posed as a caring father. 11-years-old and she still gets ostracized upon her return. For fuck's sake, the cops put her in custody at a youth facility because of bullshit reasons of being a witness.  And her mother says in an interview, "No matter what she has done I'm sure we can get past it."

Match that up with all the other women getting assaulted and murdered in New Jersey at that time. It all runs down to sex and power and control. LaSalle had a history of controlling and that kept up after his arrest. He filed appeals that were full of lies directly contradicted by his own court testimony. He sent flowers to the service for Horner after she died in a 1952 car wreck.

Weinmand quotes Vera Nabokov and others about how people miss the point that Lolita was being raped. Even using the name Lolita - a name derived by the rapist Humbert Humbert from the girls real name, Dolores.  The novel is told by the rapist and many adaptations and discussions if the characters are missing the fact that she was a freaking child. Instead they use Humbert's rationalizations and fantasies and portray the girl as a vixen or tease or sexually precocious.

Anyhoo times two. I enjoyed the story and Weinman makes a strong argument that Nabokov heard about Horner

1. Deserves to be Burned to Death LaSalle was one of those cagey liars. He lies whenever he feels the need - which reminds of another rapist, Trump - and his background was partially concealed. He did leave a surviving daughter though. Weinman spoke to her and the daughter had only really heard her father's bullshit stories and still believed him decades later.
2. Nabokov took a fantastic trip from Ithaca, NY west one summer. They drove south of great lakes, through IA and NE, arriving in Salt Lake City for a conference and workshops. They then dorve North to the Grand Tetons for butterfly hunting and east through MN into Northern Ontario. Sounds fantastic.
3. Horner was 15-years-old when she took a weekend away from home with a friend. She was killed in a car wreck when taking a drive with a 20-year-old dude. The car crash aftermath included multiple lawsuits and prosecutions.

4. Weinman references Memoirs of Hecate County when discussing the trouble with publishing Lolita. I never heard of it before.
5. Nabokov signed with a sketchy publisher to get his book out. The publisher gave him a shit deal and was late or never paid royalties. Due to the contract Nabokov also could have lost the copyright after five years. Since the book sold like hotcakes that would have been a disaster.

6. Nabokov wrote the initial screenplay and it tallied at 400 pages. Kubrick rewrote the thing with no credit and the Oscar nomination went to Nabokov.
7. Discussion on the further adaptations written by middle aged men. Focus on Lolita as envisioned by Humbert Humbert. That she was a sexy tease and not a child.
8. Weinman found only 1 interview with Nabokov copping to reading or hearing of middle age rapists.
9. The discussion of seeing Lolita as a sex object reminded me of Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire. That involves a high school girl carrying on with a married teacher and the awful effect it has on her life. Back when I was doing videos for work Maguire was kind enough to talk to me from Australia. Watch the video because hardly anyone else has.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Roger Smith: "The Truth Itself" by James Rayburn

Roger Smith: The Truth Itself by James Rayburn, 2018, 9781538507483.

The great crime writer Roger Smith writes a thriller as James Rayburn.

This has some of the standard political/spy thriller styles: short chapters, constantly shifting POV, slimy bad guys in D.C. who are seemingly immune from the hero's revenge, international travel, 'exotic' locations, commando style expertise, ruthless bad guys who will kill children if needed.

Kate Swift and her young daughter has been living in Northern Vermont for a couple years as Kate runs a gift store. One morning when Kate drops her daughter off at school she zeroes in a on a couple of suspicious teen boys. She sees what is happening and intervenes as the boys start shooting up the school. A couple adults are killed before Kate comes in time to save her daughter and other children. This will be big news so Kate collects her daughter, gets her go-bag, and drives to Montreal.

Kate has been living under an assumed identity since she was called a traitor by her former boss at the CIA, Lucien Benway. Benway set-up Kate after she revealed what awful things Benway was responsible for, including targeting Kate's husband for a drone attack. Kate's husband was a CIA asset but Benway had [reasons] that really just involved him being a trash human. People want Kate dead so Kate needs to start over. To start over she needs help.

Anyhoo. Since Kate needs to get a new identity she goes to Germany to find to a retired CIA pal/supervisor. Retired CIA pal gives her Harry Hooks's address in Thailand. Hook was renowned as a miracle worker when in the CIA but is now mostly a retired drunk. Kate and her daughter go to Thailand. Trouble follows as Hook reluctantly agrees to help and they make plans.

This is not as dark as some of Smith's crime work but there is some rough stuff in here. (I have still not finished one of his crime novels that begins with a man allowing a young child to drown so he can profit off the grieving family. That has been too much for me.) There is a good amount cruelty and sadness here: lonely Kate whose husband was murdered by the CIA, Lucien Benway's bizarre cruelty and control over his wife who suffered wartime rape in Bosnia, Benway's aide-de-camp who is willing to kill anyone - even children.

I enjoyed the book. It has the quick flowing and short chapters of a lot of thrillers. The good guys are mostly black and white with a few shades of grey along the way.


1. Smith has written before about interviewing and chatting with crooks in Cape Town. He's met people who have freely and casually murdered and whose time in prison included cannibalism done to gain status.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Audio A While Ago: "Greasy Grass" by Johnny D. Boggs

Audio A While Ago: Greasy Grass: a story of the Little Bighorn by Johnny D. Boggs, 2013 print publication and 2018 audio version, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Nuts. I forgot Boggs wrote this. I have really enjoyed all his work and this is no exception. A great retelling of the Battle of the Little Bighorn/Greasy Grass.

Boggs uses the voices of historical people to tell the story. Some of these stories are listed as letters, diaries, court documents, etc. Audiobooks never have endnotes or bibs so I do not know if Boggs used primary docs or took reliable information and put it into a character's voice. Boggs uses both Native warriors and Army soldiers and sprinkles in the voices of relatives and children and others.

The main part of the story concerns the entire event: movement and politics before the campaign by Custer, step-by-step account of maneuvering and battle by both Native and US Army units. Boggs also builds are interest by having characters talk about their background and what they think of other people involved.  Boggs also puts in the hatred and racism and classicism of the time. Natives as subhumans. Officers as a better class of people. Immigrants as drunks. Women get stuck with a dude whether through love or desperation.

A few things I recall and enjoyed the details of.

  1. Weapons. I've read about the theories on firepower of Native versus Army. How the tribes had repeating rifles and the Army single shot rifles. There is some neat talk about ballistics (I do not recall the details) and ammunition. The ammunition information is interesting because the Army was using copper cartridges. Unlike brass the copper cartridges would split from the pressure or not shrink back to size. This meant the cases were stuck in the chamber and required a cleaning rod or stick to clear the rifle.
  2. The topic of battle trauma. A few soldiers are suffering from the trauma of battle, either the Civil War or the Indian Wars. The Natives don't seem to do so as much. Both sides consider each other subhuman or otherwise as lesser beings. Dehumanizing the opponent to make killing easier is no new thing. But, if the culture and society and fighter are all firmly believing in both that and their cause does that lessen the after effects? Native Warriors are fighting for their land and their families - a possible massacre was literally over the horizon - and believed when they recited "It is a good day to die." Does that mean they had less PTSD? 
  3. The issue of Custer blundering about and splitting his forces. I doubt it would have mattered. The 7th Cavalry was fucked. There were 700 US Army soldiers versus 1,500 to 2,500 Natives. And Custer expected the tribes to haul ass rather than attack and fight. 
  4. Controversy of whether Captain Reno was drunk and cowardly and therefore made awful decisions. I don't know or care but Boggs has Reno's voice from a letter to a son where Reno repeatedly has to declare he was sober. 
  5. The surviving soldiers had to wait a couple days until rescue. Wounded men had to travel downriver for several days on a steamship to a hospital. 
  6. Nepotism happy Custer got a bunch of his family killed. 
  7. Custer also had an Native mistress for a time during a previous campaign. Not sure how much of a mistress she was seeing as how she was just likely hooked up with  him out of desperation. Better to mooch off a Army officer than starve to death.

1. We visited the battle field last August (2018) and it was freaking HOT. The existing battlefield is
pretty big and takes time to drive across. I don't see how Custer's split cavalry forces would have been able to travel over the 1-2 miles separation and reform and successfully fight. The battlefield includes a walking options and a audio narration through either cell phones or car radio - I don't recall which.
1.A. Original rifle pits are still there. I spent a decent amount of time on the battlefield walking with Boy #1 through the section of Reno Hill where the surviving unit stayed.
1.A. The official battlefield tour does not include a grouchy son and bored wife. You'll need to plan ahead and bring your own.
2. The story brings to mind the topic of Who Do We Remember and Why? I suppose Custer was a celebrity but there are plenty of famous people who fade away over time. Custer's wife lived until 1933 and defended Custer's legacy with three books and speaking engagements until her death. Sure, the rule of "The winners tell the tale" applies but the recent furor over Confederate statues and dedicated buildings means the losers do as well.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Finally Ended: "Deep Silence" by Jonathan Maberry

Finally Ended: Deep Silence by Jonathan Maberry, 2018, audio downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

This audiobook kinda dragged on.

I've gotten sick of Ray Porter's narration where he chews up and spits out everything in these books. He reads these stories as a performance and I really enjoyed previous entries. But, now Porter's purposeful hamminess and Maberry's schmaltz have been getting on my nerves.

This Joe Ledger series features Joe Ledge of the super secret Department of Military Sciences (DMS) has about 12 entries. Here is the scoop: Ledger and Friends fight powerful bad guys and high-tech threats and many, many people die and Ledger as Friends save the world from destruction.

The series is very comic book but with sharp edges. There are big shootouts. Car chases. High tech guns and gear. A little schmaltzy romance and pensive introspection by the heroes. Shadowy international organizations. Jet planes flying around the world. Big disasters. Alternate realities. Mind Control. Biological terrorism.

This time aroud Ledger and company are fighting against Russians who are intent on setting off God Machines - machines using technology from an alternate reality that cause massive earthquakes - and destroying the U.S. and much of Europe. The Russians will then take over. Part of the God Machine's unexplainable technology also sends off waves of power that drives humans homicidally and suicidally insane.

An attack on Washington D.C. lives the country in turmoil. The Trump-like President is more concerned about himself and since he already dislikes the DMS he works to stop them from getting an work done. Meanwhile, the President's chief advisor is a dirty rat and working with the terrorists. Ledger and Co. have to go around the President's foot dragging and track down the No Goodniks to stop them from killing more people.

We get more shooting, stabbing, punching, bleeding, exploding, dog biting, hidden caverns, shock silences, super computers, and false climaxes as the hits keep coming. Meh, it passes the time.

1. Some of the series regular characters barely appear in this novel. One character who is mostly absent, Rudy Sanchez, still says "Ay Dios Mio" every damn conversation.
2. The characters witty and stress relief chatter is getting on my nerves as well. Never mind all the super high technology gadgets that always work - but, I suppose this is science fiction.
3. Maberry rejects real life into parts of the novel and references Putin's screwing with our elections.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Another Tie-In: "Sins of the Father" by Christa Faust

Another Tie-In: Sins of the father: Fringe Series, Book 3 by Christa Faust, 2014, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

I needed books for a short backpacking trip with Scouts. Rather than hunt down a paperback at home I picked out four novels to load onto my phone. Since I already read Faust's previous two in this series I figured to finish this last entry.

There are three primary characters in the TV show Fringe. Walter Bishop, Peter Bishop, and Olivia Dunham and Faust wrote a novel for each character. All Faust's novels are prequels to the TV series which, I presume, allowed Faust more leeway in creating the stories. This novel follows Peter Bishop immediately before the TV series started.

Fringe's final fifth season ended six years ago in 2013 so I kinda doubt any non-TV-show-viewing-readers will pick up a copy of this. With that said you can read for the story anyway, previous knowledge of the Peter character is not needed. If you're a big Faust fan like me you may just read anything she does anyway. I've never watched Supernatural but I read her tie-in novel of that show.

Anyhoo. Peter needs a lot of money to pay loan sharking debts he owes to a Scotsman. Peter has been running from the debt for a while. He is in Malaysia (Thailand, maybe?) and running a con to steal cash from North Koreans and Chechen terrorists after arranging a fake sale of software between the two.  A shootout ensues and when Peter is escaping he picks up the wrong suitcase and gets zero dough.

Uh-oh. Not good for Peter. But, Peter discovers that the case he ended up with has a vial of serum that was stolen from a research lab in the U.S. The serum is valuable so he may as well try to sell the serum back to the lab.

Things happen as Peter takes a circuitous route back to the U.S. Peter charms men and women as the confidence man he is. Meets up with Good Looking Scientist. Gets into scary situations. Has some sex. Acts altruistically which is NOT his thing. So on. So forth.

It's a fun book. As usual Faust delivers the goods with what I think is some fine writing that transcends the "Let's type this up and cash the check" product some other tie-ins deliver.

1. I had a comment. I know I did. I've now forgotten it.
2. During the campout I used my rainfly-and-tarp method of camping. The tarp extended under the rain fly and caught water during the nighttime rain. My sleeping bag got wet at my feet but I was still fairly comfortable - except for the too-thin sleeping pad. Temperatures were not too low and tucked my feet up. I tried shifting around the tarp but did not want to go out from under the rain tarp to move things around. The rain tarp had sagged over night as well.
3. The rain was on the 2nd night. After the first night I was awake at 4:45AM from the birds who woke with the morning gloaming. With the 1AM night rain I kept waking up from the thin pad that had me turning over. In the morning I was fine and did not feel tired. When I got home I took a Father's Day nap and was out like a light for 2-3 hours.
4. I need to pony up for a better, thicker sleeping pad. I did just get a $37 bivy bag to try out. I can replace my big tarp with the bivy bag but may want a small groundsheet for underneath the pad and bivy. I still need a mosquito net of some sort. Besides, after adding up all that stuff I wonder if there will be a weight advantage over a lightweight solo tent.
EDIT: I just figured out I never read the Supernatural tie-in. We still have it at work, I'll give it a try.