Thursday, July 7, 2022

Paperback: "Sangre Road" by David Tromblay

 Paperback: Sangre Road by David Tromblay, 2021, 9781643961910.

Not a mystery. Not a thriller. And no revenge or comeuppance swinging back the protagonist's way. This does fit into the wise-cracking PI subgenre though.

It's the mid-'90s and Moses "Moe" Kincaid has driven his beater from Kansas City, KS to central Oklahoma in search of a bail jumper. Moe slid into skip-tracing work after leaving the Army and his last post as a guard at Leavenworth.

Things happen. Moe is still a bit of a novice. Moe makes wise cracks. He frequently has to explain his Ho-Chunk native citizenship to the local OK people. Has to explain to white readers - most of us, I presume - about some Native cultural differences. He runs into the wrong people. He runs into the right people. Tragedy ensues.

As much a slice-of-life or romance as a crime novel. I suppose this also fits into the rural noir subgenre. 

One thing I like about this is that there was no fictional baloney of elaborate gunfights, car chases, or derring-do. No best-friend cop to provide information. No mysterious and deadly friend to show up and save the day. No wealthy and powerful politician/businessman/CIA/pastor/etc doing evil against the little guy. Everything is low lever and local.  

  • This goes pretty quick at 154 pages. I enjoyed it a fair amount. 
  • I bought Tromblay's memoir for the library and that book sounds like it could be a tough read. It has circ'ed 6 times. That is a decent amount for an autobio in our library since it went on the shelf in October.
  •  Another novel of Tromblay's has a blurb by Willy Vlautin. If you are thinking, "How does he have a blurb from a dead guitarist?" That's because you are thinking of Willy Deville. 
  • I confuse Leavenworth, KS with Atchison, KS.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Paper: "Look For Her" by Emily Winslow

 Paper: Look For Her by Emily Winslow, 2018, 9780062572585.

Modern day mystery with long unsolved murder. I think I read a blurb online. I enjoyed the novel.

Set in England. A far north exurb of London. In the mid-'70s a teen girl went missing. Teen Girl was the press's missing-girl-of-the-moment. Her first name, Annalise, was the only word needed to refer to the entire case. 30 years later her name is still all that is needed in the village of Lilling. Her body was found after 20 years, but not her killer.

Things happen. Multiple narrators. A university psychologist/counselor sees a patient who thinks she is Annalise's long hidden illegitimate child. Another patient, much younger, claims to be from Lilling and named after Annalise. The older woman is found dead.

The younger woman seems to be ingratiating herself into the psychologist's personal life. Two cops from previous novels in the series are coming back to work after parental leave and a bad hand injury. They are further investigating the cold case of Annalise after DNA on the body's clothing is discovered and identified.

Things happen. Twists turn. Narrattion moves back and forth. Winslow provides excellent little insights - short paragraphs, even a short sentence - that explain and describe the characters' thoughts and motivations.

All ends well after some murders, survivor trauma, guilt of action and inaction, a grieving parent.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Paperback: "Dead Harvest" by Chris F. Holm

 Paperback: Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm, 2012, 9780857662187.

Fantastic cover art. ran across Holm online and tried this one out. First of a paranormal character solving crime.

Sam Thornton committed murder in 1944 and was taken by a Collector. Sam is now a collector and collects souls of people who are to be killed for their acts of general badness and murder and then sent to hell. (Yeah. It does make you wonder why Dick Cheney, Kissinger, Putin, Kim Jong-Un and several thousand other people would still be alive.)

Sam is sent to collect a teenager who murdered who family. Sam reaches into her chest, grabs her soul, and knows she did not kill anyone. Sam is determined to stop her from collection. Things happen. Sam inhabits living or dead people. Holm builds his own world with rules on collection, demons, angels, etc. 

  • Enjoyable and too long. 
  • The dialog was weak in spots. There was not a lot of differentiation among the characters. 
  • Similar vibe to Charlie Huston's HENRY "HANK" THOMPSON series.
  • Two more in series and they are available from the library. I may give the second one a try but this did not click too well with me. His more recent thrillers sound more interesting to me.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Paperback: "Double Dealer" by Max Allan Collins

 Paperback: CSI: Crime Scene Investigations: Double Dealer: A Novel by Max Allan Collins, 2001, 0743444043.

I saw this in a used store and figured to try it out since Collins wrote it. Skip it unless you are a fan of the show. I felt like Collins did not have enough leeway to develop the characters for anyone who is not a fan of the television program - like me. 

Collins wrote ten CSI tie-ins - 10! - and I'm going to skip the rest. He also wrote four comics, four video games and five puzzles. He must have been a CSI guru from 2000-2006. I'd give the comics a try if I run across one. 

Some most excellent Collins news is that he continues to write Quarry novels and also is working on developing the remaining notes, and scripts, and ideas Mickey Spillane left behind. I've gotten off track on both Quarry and Spillane novels and need to get to it.

Anywho. Here is the plot for Double Dealer: long-dead body is found. New people are dead. Gil Grissom and company strain my sense of disbelief and investigate the murders. A long time and mysterious killer-for-hire is discovered. All ends well with lots of overtime, exhaustion, quips, etc. No tight shirts though, that is only for television. A FBI guy who is a real a-hole.

I took this along as I chaperoned a five-day-trip with the high school band/orchestra/choir trip to Memphis and Nashville. There were two coach buses but only one day for performance. That performance was outside the welcome center at Graceland. I did not know Graceland was such a large complex. The only complaint about the trip is that we did not have enough time at each museum or tour. When you try to fit in as many places as reasonably possible you gotta deal with time restrictions.

Overall a great trip. I had plenty of energy during the trip and enough pep to walk the hotel treadmills for most evenings. Once I got home I crashed HARD. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Comic Memoir: "Gender Queer: a memoir" by Maia Kobabe

 Comic Memoir: GENDER QUEER: A MEMOIR by Maia Kobabe, 2019, 9781549304002.

This memoir is the latest bugaboo by the fundamentalist far-right types. So I read it.

I thought the first half was boring and Kobabe's story telling was subpar. I took a break from the book. When I returned to read the second half I enjoyed it quite a bit more. I'm not sure why this was; it's possible I could understand more of Kobabe as she started writing about adolescence and adulthood. Maybe I was just in a better mood. 

Anywho. Kobabe grows up in a hippy family - yeah, that's right, I called'em hippies - of four. She attends a Waldorf School (I had to look that up) and never quite fits into either gender. As a kid Kobabe wonders what it would be like to have a penis. Kobabe doesn't know about the girl stuff of her classmates like: conversation topics, shaving legs, make-up, so on, so forth. Kobabe feels out of place. Kobabe is attracted to androgyny but is mostly asexual. Kobabe's first menstrual cycle is a horror to her. Kobabe has gender dysmorphia and some things are just plain tough.

Things move on and Kobabe has a supportive family. She goes to college. She goes to grad school. Life moves on and she keeps working at figuring herself out. She understands this growth means no more use of pronouns like "she". But, Kobabe is not happy with other pronouns. Kobabe discovers Spivak pronouns of 'e, 'em, 'eir and is over-freaking-joyed to find something that fits. 'E starts using new pronouns and gets some pushback from family. Things work out with family. Kobabe is reluctant to correct people to call 'e 'e. Kobabe wants the new pronouns exclusively but her 'e's temperament and personality is not one that will constantly correct and educate people. I get that. I also get confused about the possessives. I also get confused about using the apostrophe. 

'E draws and writes an entire book about her 'e's experiences so I presume 'e feels a lot more comfortable with 'em-self.


1. I stand by my earlier comment that the first half of the story was not as sharp. Kobabe's art and text are well paired. Kobabe doesn't skip over 'e's squeamish experiences about 'e's body and experiences. A very accessible look at transgender experience for people clueless about what others cope with.

2. Unless you're an asshole and trying to ban the book from schools and libraries. 

3. Kobabe recommends TOUCHING A NERVE: THE SELF AS BRAIN by Patricia S. Churchland, 2013. The book brings great relief to 'e with 'e's thought bubbles, " So Lady Gaga was right - I was born this way. What a RELIEF."

4. I'm inclined to say "'E seems like a good kid." But, Kobabe is over thirty now. No longer a kid. 

5. 'E seems like a good cartoonist.

6. I expect a push on Kobabe for a follow-up due to recent outrage and book success. From what Kobabe says, this was not an easy book for 'e to write. If there is a follow-up I presume it will take a while just because 'e likely needs to mentally process everything. Plus, the fact that writing a book takes time, time, time and 'e has a day job.

EDIT, June 23, 2022:

7. I got to thinking again about Spivak pronouns and how I like them better. Not my decision though.

EDIT: July 25, 2022.

Still having a heck of a time with the "they" pronoun. Especially when speaking of a group of people and then transitioning to speaking about a single member of the group using "they".

Also, I end up getting fairly ticked off when people - generally right-wing a-holes - make fun of pronoun preferences. If you're someone who use "they" you must get extra, super-special pissed off at times. 

DNF: "The Swimmer: Poems" by John Koethe

 DNF: THE SWIMMER: POEMS by John Koethe, 2016, 9780374272326.

Koethe was listed as an interview for an online author visit. I read one or two of his poetry books and requested this one. 

I never had any traction and quickly quit.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Photography: "Tiny: Streetwise Revisited" by Mary Ellen Mark

 Photography: Tiny: Streetwise Revisited by Mary Ellen Mark, 2015, 9781597112628.

Mark is the photographer who took photos of street kids in Seattle and published them in LIFE in 1983. Tiny (Erin) was a focal point of the article, and then a center of the film made by Mark's husband, Martin Bell. Mark kept in touch with Tiny and other street kids over the years. She returned to Seattle for at least funeral and photographed Tiny's first of ten labor and deliveries.

Mark met Tiny when she was a 13-year-old street kid with an alcoholic mother. Tiny left school and worked as a street prostitute (It is inaccurate to you call a 13-year-old a prostitute. I cannot think of another way to phrase it.). Amazingly, Tiny - now Erin - was still alive in 2014 when this was published. A follow-up film, Tiny, came out in 2016. 

Her survival is amazing because she was a freaking street kid. Count up all the dangers of living as a homeless and parentless child on the street. Then add in the fact that Erin was a sex worker and also working when the Green River Killer was killing prostitutes year-round.

The book is a collection of photos from 1983 to 2014. Erin and her growing family are the focus. At one point Erin is married. Her oldest son becomes a father. Erin cries and smokes cigarettes. Erin hugs her children and teeny-tiny dogs. Quotes throughout from the children and Erin.

This is a very, very brief look into a woman's life. Only a few shots covering 20 years. A damn impressive woman to raise 10 children after being a teen parent, never finished school, no parental example to follow, survived a crack and heroin addiction, and has likely never left poverty. 


1. I read the book by the lead Detective in the Green River Killer case. He went on to become Sheriff and then elected to other political offices. He also wrote very respectfully of the murder victims. He never called them hookers, he also addressed them by the work as prostitutes. A single word change made a great difference in how I thought about them and their work.

2. Looked it up. Chasing the Green River Killer by Dave Reichert. He was in Congress.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Crime: "Pills and Soap" by DDC Morgan

 Crime: Pills and Soap by DDC Morgan, 2021, 9781914475139.

I started reading some books by Fahrenheit Press after Anthony Neil Smith published with the house and promoted fellow authors. Morgan's first novel with Reg Calloway was Blood and Cinders and set at a post-war London racetrack. 

Calloway quit that racetrack job at the end of the Blood and is now security head at a movie studio. A car is blown up during a big party for film financiers and society people at one of the studio buildings. Calloway is called out of bed to the scene. Calloway - trained as a military cop and intelligence officer - takes a look at everything. Calloway gets talked to by the cops and the government intelligence service. Calloway gets talked to by London-based IRA members. Calloway gets talked to by the studio owner. Calloway gets talked to by a anti-nazi group wanting him to join. Calloway has pressure from all angles by all people. 


1. Fun stuff. I still really like this post-war setting. 

2. Calloway is a standard crime guy: A loner. Traumatic past. Unable to emotionally connect with people who are not fellow combat veterans. Moving from job to job. Following his own moral code.

Comic Book Novel: "Check Please, Book 2: Sticks and Scones" by Ngozi Ukazu

Comic Book Novel: Check Please, Book 2: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu, 2020, 9781250179500.

Web comic in a second bound volume. The artwork changed a bit at about the 3/4 mark. I won't go back to make comparisons but the style was different. Ukazu is listed as sole author so, I don't know, maybe she started using a different digital artwork software.


Volume One had figure (dance?) skater Eric Biddle leave GA and join a college hockey team in the NorthEast. I don't know if the college is modeled after any place in particular but Samwell College plays Ivy League schools. That book went through two years of college.

Volume Two has Biddle as a Junior and a Senior and dating a recent graduate who plays in the NHL. This is a humorous comic with some drama and tension thrown in about keeping gayness a secret, revealing being gay, athletic pressures, academic pressures, playoff pressure. 

1. Biddle is a neat character. (Having a dance skater with minimal hockey experience get recruited to join a Division I hockey team seems pretty bogus though.) He's earnest, considerate, smart and a generally good dude to be around. 
2. There is some college humor about boozing it up, early adult angst, etc. that I don't give a damn about any more.
3. There is a large section of "Extra Comics" that include lame pranks by team members and a bunch of Tweets. Tweets? By imaginary people? Another thing I don't care about.
4. Looks like Ukazu wrapped up the series. Biddle graduates, gets engaged to Hockey Wiz, starts a cooking vlog as a job
5. There have been recent challenges across the country against books discussing race, homosexuality, and trans issues. I wonder what complaints there would be about this novel. The gay characters are happy? Images of dudes locking lips? Beer blow-outs?

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Comic Book Novel: "Bad Mother" by Christa Faust

Comic Book Novel: Bad Mother by Christa Faust, 2021, 9781953165022.

Faust keeps putting out the crime comics. There is a new coming this year as well. 

Suburban mom April's husband is out-of-pocket on vacation. Her son is at camp for a week. Her teen daughter, Taylor, is misbehaving. And April just survived a takeover, grocery-store robbery that ended with a dead robber and April covered in his blood splatter. 

With husband and son gone Taylor comes home an emotional wreck. April figures the dirtbag boyfriend - dating a 16-year-old - is to blame and hustles over to the boyfriend's place. April finds the boyfriend and another guy shot dead. April goes to the cops. The cops go to the murder house. The murder house is clean and empty of corpses.

Things happen. Brutality is frequent. Taylor is kidnapped and April needs to get her back. April acts on her own after seeing the cops are crooked. April gets violent.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Comic: "Triggerman" by Walter Hill

 Comic: Triggerman by Walter HIll, 2017, 97817858673.

Just finished this and there is an brief interview with Hill at the end. Judging by his perfunctory answers Hill did not want to say a damn thing. Also, I had to look up the word perfunctory. I was drawing a complete blank.

1929 and a convict is released from prison by the Chicago outfit and sent out to catch the three guys who partnered with and then killed Capone's nephew. Of course the story starts with a mysterious entry in a barren, Arizona, desert town.

  • There is the Triggerman, Roy. 
  • Tommy guns.
  • Nudity.
  • Lots of shooting and blood.
  •  Roy hunting for the woman he loves.

Anyhoo. Roy is after the three crooks and allowed to keep the $500k they took in the earlier robbery.  Along the way he discovers the girlfriend he lost by getting a life sentence. He ends up in Los Angeles and the girlfriend is the current gal of the local mob boss. The is killing. There is talking. There are cops. There are all sorts of crime story stuff.

The brief Q&A with Hill is mostly worthless but he does say how the entire focus is on Roy. He does not care about setting and "atmospherics". I enjoyed the artwork quite a bit. Artist is listed as Jeff.