Monday, October 16, 2017

BOTTOM LINER BLUES by K. C. Constantine

Finished early Mo 10/16/17

This is an old paperback that I had never read. I almost threw it away, but glad that I didn't.

From the journal entry of Mo 10/16/17


"Read 330am- 430am BOTTOM LINER BLUES, K. C. Constantine and finished the book.  A very strange police novel, and I don't think I've read anything quite like it.  Although Mario Balzic, police chief of Rocksburg, Pennsylvania, is the protagonist of the novel, the book is far from a police procedural. It's really about the drastic change in economy of the area and how this grim and uncertain future affects the people who live there." 

Mario is obsessed with his experience at Iwo Jima in WWII. He can't remember any of the guys that he fought with- especially the men who died on that beach. 

His wife, Ruth, feels that their marriage has hit a dead end. She wants things to be different, but she can't get Mario to understand. 

Much of the novel takes place at Dom Muscotti's saloon. Unemployed and broke Russian writer, Nicholas Myushkin argues with bartender, Vinnie Valcanas, about the state of the world and other pseudo-philosophical subjects. Mario vacillates between 'voice of reason' and 'befuddled bystander'.  

Crime at the center of the tale-

Crazy lady with child firebombs a tractor trailer at a truck stop. She gets blown out of the rig while trying to keep her toddler from getting too close to the explosion. The woman is blasted out of the cab, lands on the young girl, and crashes her head into a lug nut on the wheel. The child dies. When the driver comes out of the truck stop, he has a heart attack.

The driver is probably the father of the child and the woman might be an ex-wife.

I'm going to skim through the book a second time, and then write some more. This book is not quite like anything in this particular genre. I'll consider buying some more by Constantine. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

TAXI DRIVER by Richard Elman; screenplay written by Paul Schrader

Refinished Th 10/5/17. This is one of my ancient paperbacks and recently was a 'bathroom read' for several weeks. According to the flyleaf I first completed the book in two afternoons- We 4/22/98. And, there's a note that I had to spend $40 to pay Alpha Electric 'to flip the breaker that shorted out from the battery charger'. I have no recollection of this incident, but it might have been a battery charger for my motorcycle? I checked, and Alpha is still around and it's a business out of Riverton. Why would I get an outfit out of town? Who knows....

This is a slim novel, yet remarkably well written. The dialog really crackles and the characters just jump off the page. I wonder how much of this is Schrader and how much is Elman.

I noticed the Richard Elman wrote a kind of memoir about a 1972 Rolling Stones tour that he took in 1972. It's still available at Amazon, but a bit too expensive.

Travis Bickle is a film icon, thanks to Robert De Niro, but this book provides a different dimension to the character.

The author's page at wikipedia-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Elman

Characters-

Travis Bickle- Nightshift taxi driver, Vietnam vet, ISOLATION.

Iris- Young prostitude that Travis feels drawn to- almost like a sister. He wants her 'out of the life', yet she can't imagine that she has a choice.

Sport- Iris's pimp

Betsy- Travis's idolized love interest. She's almost an ethereal character (metaphor for 'feminine beauty'). Betsy works for the politian, Senator Charles Palantine.

Senator Charles Palantine- The rich successful white dude- the polar opposite of Travis and people like him.

The best way to approach this book would be to read it straight through in a couple of sittings- just let the dour, violent, and gloomy atmosphere sweep you away.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

IN THE ELECTRIC MIST WITH CONFEDERATE DEAD by James Lee Burke

Refinished Mo 10/2/17  I originally read this in two days and finished on Xmas Eve, We 12/24/03. The note on the flyleaf says that I had a bad chest cold.

QUIRKY CAST OF CHARACTERS-

Batiste- Dave's helper/partner at the fishing shop

Alafair-  Dave and Bootsie's adopted daughter, Tripod is her pet.

Elrod T. Sykes- Drunken actor that's starring in the Civil War picture that's being shot in New Iberia.

Rosa (Rosie) Gomez- FBI (Fart- Barf- and Itch) agent and Dave's partner in the investigation.

Julie 'Baby Feet' Balboni- This man grew up in New Iberia and played baseball with Dave in high school. He's a prominent mob figure in New Orleans. A huge man, shaped like a tapered banana- small head and tiny feet.

Kelly Drummond- Actress/girlfriend of Sykes. This woman is shot and killed. The killer thought she was Dave- she was wearing one of his t shirts.

Dewitt Prejean- Old black  Zydeco guitarist. He fills in the details of the murder of a black man, Hogman Pucet, that Dave witnessed in 1957. This man was having an affair with a white man- Twinky Herbert Lemoyne.

'The Ghost of' John Bell Hood- A Confederate general who appears (with his soldiers) to Dave throughout the book. He offers offbeat and eery advice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bell_Hood

Cherry Le Blanc- A prostitute who is murdered and mutilated by Murphy Ducet.

Mike Goldman- The loud and obnoxious director of the movie. He knows that he's tied to the mob, but he thinks he can keep things under control- he can't.

SUB-PLOT;

Murphy Doucet and Twinky Herbert Lemoyne killed Hogman Pucet for having an affair with Mrs. Lemoyne. Doucet was a state cop and arrested Hogman, then brought him out to the swamp and shot him dead- no belt and no shoe laces. Dave was a sophomore in college and working for an oil company on summer break. He was across the bayou and witnessed the killing- the two killers couldn't care less. I guess they thought it was only a black man and no one would give a damn.

In the end of the book, Doucet kidnaps Alafair and takes her to a deserted fishing cabin. Dave and Rosie track them down and Rosie empties her 357 into him. But, Julie Balboni ends up in prison. He runs the show on the inside and has many male lovers. One of these men throws gasoline on him while Baby Feet is asleep. Covered in flames, he jumps to his death on the jail room floor. 

James Lee Burke is a brilliant writer and I'd read anything by him, although my favorites are the Dave Robicheaux series.

QUOTES-

"What we do not do is let the other side make us be like them"

"Maybe we have so much collective guilt as a society that we fear to punish our individual members"

Saturday, September 30, 2017

PHANTOM LADY by Cornell Woolrich

Finished Fr 9/29/17

I read almost the entire last third of the book in one 2 1/2 hour sitting on the couch- just had to know what happened!

One of my ancient paperbacks and I first completed it on Su 5/22/94 and in pencil, scrawled across the flyleaf is, 'Absolutely Wonderful!'

The author is a the epitome of Noir and there is an excellent introduction to the book written by Francis M. Nevins Jr. He explains the genre and tells about the author's rather tortured life. Woolrich (he released this novel in 1942 under the pen name, William Irish) was a closeted homosexual and lived with his mother for a large portion of his life. He died in 1968 after he lost a leg due to complications of gangrene. 

NOTES:

Scott Henderson- the protaganist

Marcella Henderson- Scott's murdered wife; strangled with his tie

Carol Richards- Scott's girlfriend and the loyal, love of his life. She is instrumental in freeing him from jail.

Burgess- the cop that believes that Scott didn't do it.

John Lombard- Scott's 'true friend'. Scott calls him in South America and he returns to help Scott catch the killer, but he is the real murderer.

The Phantom Lady- her name is never revealed and she was beginning to lose her mind on the evening that Scott and her shared a meal and a night at the theater. She is committed to a mental asylum.

2 Additional Murders-

The woman who created the copy of the orange hat

The blind beggar that was burned accidentally by the Phantom Lady. She puts her cigarette into his begging cup and burned the man. This guy, however, could actually see and his act was a scam. Lombard trips him and then breaks his neck in the beggar's rooming house.

SUICIDE- Cliff, the jazz drummer at the theater. He was enthralled with the Phantom Lady on the evening of the show, and he takes Carol Richards to a marijuana party when she's trying to find out if he can identify the Phantom Lady. He slashes his wrist after a night of excess on the deadly hemp plant.

ACCIDENTAL CAR ACCIDENT-
Carol tails the doorman who witnessed Scott and the Phantom Lady on the night of their encounter. Carol so unnerves the man that he runs into the street and is run over by a speeding.

Chapter 23 is the final chapter in the book- 'One Day After The Execution'. Burgess goes back and details exactly what happened and how it was done. I found this to be a little on the Agatha Christie side, but, in this case, it worked.

I'd read anything by Woolrich or his various pen names. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

PERPETUAL WAR FOR PERPETUAL PEACE by Gore Vidal

"How We Got To Be So Hated"

Finished Fr 9/29/17

Although I had read through this a few weeks ago, I kept coming back to it.

The book is a collection of seven longish magazine articles and an introduction written and published by Vidal .

I thought the most interesting section was his writings and observations about Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh contacted Gore Vidal when he was in jail and said that he thought the author's take on Terrorism was accurate- "You've hit the nail on the head".

Gore (and many others) feel that McVeigh was not a singular 'bad apple' or 'lone assassin', but had contacts with several home-grown American militias, and might even have been involved with middle-eastern terrorists. And, Vidal clearly makes the case that the government did not do a transparent and meticulous investigation, and the government's examination seems tainted and might even be some kind of coverup.

McVeigh's doctor maintained that Timothy was not deranged or unhinged, but "serious". McVeigh's sessions with this doctor were allowed to go public, and I'd really like to read them. And, I'd like to read more unbiased information about Timothy McVeigh. He was obviously something more than a random 'evil doer'.

In one of the articles- THE NEW THEOCRATS- Vidal makes an excellent case for ending the tax abatement for religious organizations. It's a glaring fact that religious institutions now play a dominant role in America's political structure and they should no longer be allowed to shrink their tax obligation. And, most importantly, there is absolutely NOTHING in the First Amendment that says anything about letting religious institutions out of their financial duty to the government.

The only thing that I regretted about the book is that it's over twenty years old. In the era of Trumpism, all of the data in this books seems almost 'small potatoes'.

I want to read more by Vidal.

Monday, September 25, 2017

WILD THING by Ian Copeland

"On the Road, In the Studio, Off the Charts Memoirs of... '

Finished Mo 9/25/17 in one early morning push- 315am-4am.

This is one of my hardbacks that I've owned for years, yet never had read. Ian was an agent for all of the 80's New Wave acts that I loved (still do!) in the 80's, and the section dealing with his time in the service was some of the best that I've read on the subject of Vietnam.

NOTES-

He was born in April, 1949 near the city of Damascus in Syria.

His father, Miles Copeland, Jr., was an early 'senior' member of the CIA, and his mother, Lorraine, an archeologist.

In the early sixties he owned several motorcycles and was part of a criminal gang. Had he not left the country to go back to his family in England, he would have ended up in a middle-eastern prison for car theft. Biking around the middle east with his buddies on the eve of of The Six Day War in 1967 was a most interesting part of the book.

In the states after boot camp he was allowed to pick a nickname. He chose 'LeRoi'- 'The King' in French, but no one at Ft. Dix, New Jersey spoke French, so they called him 'Leroy (Coolbreeze)'.  

2 brothers and a sister- Miles III (IRS), Stewart (drummer for The Police, composer), Lorraine- Lennie, writer/producer

He was one of the first to realize that Punk would be a major factor in the record industry. After London, he took a job with an adjunct of Capricorn Records in Macon, Georgia.

Married a woman from Macon, GA and had two daughters

Wishbone Ash and The Average White Band were among his first picks

 A partial list of his very impressive roster-

Members of R.E.M were all personal friends; Drummer Bill Berry was his chauffeur in his Capricorn days.
Charlie Daniels Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band,
the B-52's, The Cure, The Police, Simple Minds, The English Beat, and The Go-Go's,the Buzzcocks, Nine Inch Nails, Concrete Blonde, Iggy Pop, General Public, Charlie Peacock, Let's Active, R.E.M., Sting, Morrissey,Adam Ant, the Bangles, the Smiths, the Thompson Twins, the Fixx, UB40, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Oingo Boingo, the Dead Kennedys, and the Cure.

FBI- Frontier Booking International

In the late 1990's he ran Backstage Cafe bar and restaurant in Beverly Hills. This was not in the book, but I found out via Facebook.

He died of Melanoma in 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2017

IN THE COUNTRY OF THE BLIND by Edward Hoagland

Finished Su 9/24/17

The Contemporary Book Club Selection- August, 2017

NOTES-

Set in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Montreal, CA is not too far Northwest of the area

Melba- Press's maid, 'charwoman', "pig ate her baby, and what's worse, they had to eat the pig", Bronco Guys- Vegas and Reno.

Carol- Artist/Activist. Dorothy Day's Workers Party CATHOLIC WORKER MOVEMENT, lower east side. 2 kids- Christie and Tim. Stained Glass.

Dorothy Day wikipedia-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Day



Jeremy and Molly- Press's 2 middle school aged children. Claire is his wife.

Prescott worked for Merrill Lynch before his blindness.

Clarks and Swinnertons are Press's neighbors.

Karl Swinnerton- Volunteer Fire Chief, WWII vet, emphysema, scanner. Pays $5.00 to eat lunch with the Swinnertons.  Dorothy is Karl Swinnerton's wife. She's a columnist for the local paper.

Darryl and Avis Clark. They are evangelicals- 'Solid Rock Gospel'. Don't believe in evolution.

Odd Scene- Melba takes guys wallet as he suicides at Point Reyes, Ca. Her 22 yr. old son froze to death trying to locate his father/ mountain man. Pig ate her baby- they ate the pig.

Reupert is an auctioneer and cattle dealer. Rupert and Melba are/were lovers and partners. She helps buy his livestock/horses and he lets her live on his property in a trailer.

Al and Rog are Rupert's adult sons. Rog is also an auctioneer, and has a better delivery than Rupert. Al is 'The Hippie Horseman'- takes them on trips in his truck; also Press.
Rupert and the two brothers might have done a bank robbery 20 yrs. ago. Melba says they might have put the money on a train to get it across to Canada, but failed to locate the train car.

Benny Messer runs the local junkyard. Also a car mechanic. Watches the hippies with a telescope. Thinks that the women bare their breasts when picking vegetables

Chuck- The dealer? Mystery figure who takes Press on fish runs to Maine. Might be from Arkansas or San Diego. Chuck probably not his real name. He takes Press on a road trip south, wrecks the car, and leaves Press to be reunited with Melba.