Sunday, December 30, 2012

DEATH IN THE 12TH HOUSE (Where Neptune Rules) by Mitchell Scott Lewis

Finished Su 12/30/12

A Starlight Detective Agency Mystery

My post on Good Reads-

David Lowell is a rich New York City detective who is also an expert on Astrology and uses this ancient 'scientific art?' to help solve crimes. Three aging rock superstars have recently been murdered, and there seems to be a connection. A daughter of one of the dead musicians seeks Lowell's help.

This is the kind of mystery where many of the characters are set up to appear that they might be the killer, and it's up to the reader to figure out who actually 'dunnit'. It's a little to 'Agatha Christie' for me, but what sets this novel apart is that the author is also a 'real' professional astrologer with more than twenty years experience, and uses his ability within the financial and medical communities.

You can read the entire novel in a couple of hours, and there is quite a lot of information about Astrology and the business of Rock 'n' Roll.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Finished Sa 12/29/12

My post on Good Reads-

This is the third novel about the complex character, Albert Schmidt. I wish that I had read them all in order, but I look forward to reading the second installment, SCHMIDT DELIVERED. The title character is an elegant and knowledgeable man who is plagued by family problems, but he has more money and material possessions that he could ever hope to use. Many might think that he would have no reason to despair, yet Louis Begley deftly makes you part of Schmidt's fractured world, and you really learn to appreciate the oddly colorful and vexing collection of friends and family that make up his life.

I really loved it!

From Publishers Weekly

As the title indicates, the dire situation that Begley's protagonist, elderly, retired Wall Street lawyer Albert Schmidt, found himself in on the final page of About Schmidt resolved itself more happily than readers would have predicted. Now, a few months later, Schmidt is living in Bridgehampton, Long Island, with his beloved Carrie, a bodacious, promiscuous 24-year-old Puerto Rican ex-waitress. Surprisingly, she has refused Schmidt's proposal of marriage, and he is concerned about what the future will bring. So, apparently, are the only two friends he has maintained in the reclusive life he and Carrie maintain. His former Harvard roommate, filmmaker Gil Blackman, and his new, intrusive friend, billionaire Michael Mansour, an Egyptian-Jew, both give him advice on how to hold on to Carrie. (The monstrously egotistical Mansour, meanwhile, offers Carrie a million dollars to sleep with him.) Schmidt's life has other complications. His self-absorbed, truculent daughter, Charlotte, is in trouble and needs money. Charlotte's Jewish husband, Jon Riker, for whom Schmidt had finagled a partnership in his old white-shoe law firm, has been discovered passing secret documents to his lover, and has been fired. Then Carrie, as Schmidt feared, humiliates him with a new liaison. Worse trials are to come, with blows to Schmidt's emotions, pocketbook and self-esteem, and yet he achieves a bittersweet breakthrough of understanding and acceptance. Begley describes the ultra-rich, ultra-sybaritic Hamptons scene with dry relish. He proves adept at depicting sexual activities in Schmidt's bed, and he has a great ear for father-daughter bickering. Schmidt's unconscious anti-Semitism is even more ironic in this chapter of his life, and Begley plays that irony to the hilt. If he also loads the deck, making Mansour too smarmy, Charlotte too stubborn and obtuse, and Carrie unconvincingly angelic yet sluttish, his textured portrait of bewildered Schmidt is a triumph of empathy and compassion.

Monday, December 24, 2012

TRUE BELIEVERS by Kurt Andersen

Finished Mo 12/24/12

Link to Amazon-

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

THE LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel

Finished Tu 12/18/12


Monday, December 17, 2012


Finished Mo 12/17/12

 In the early 1900s, numerous Japanese mail order brides came to America seeking better lives. Otsuka's (When the Emperor was Divine) latest novel paints a delicate, heartbreaking portrait of these women. Using a collective first-person narrator ("On the boat we were mostly virgins."), Otsuka looks at the experiences of these "picture brides," organizing their stories into themes which include: their arrival in America; their first nights with their husbands; their interactions with white people; their children; and finally, the experience of World War II. Each section is beautifully rendered, a delicate amalgam of contrasting and complementary experiences. Readers will instantly empathize with these unnamed women as they adjust to American culture, a remarkable achievement considering Otsuka's use of the collective voice. Otsuka's prose is precise and rich with imagery. Readers will be inspired to draw their own parallels between the experiences of these women and the modern experience of immigration. By the time readers realize that the story is headed toward the internment of the Japanese, they are hopelessly engaged and will finish this exceptional book profoundly moved. 
Publishers Weekly

In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces their extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.
In language that has the force and the fury of poetry, Julie Otsuka has written a singularly spellbinding novel about the American dream.

The following is a link where Otsuka talks about writing the novel;

 “There were no picture brides in my family, but it’s a very common first generation story. It’s how thousands of Japanese women came to this country before Asians were excluded altogether in 1924.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

HAVANA REQUIEM by Paul Goldstein

Finished Th 12/13/12
Cuba/Artist Rights/Buena Vista Social Club/US State Department
Hector Reynoso
Mike Seeley

Link to Amazon

Monday, December 10, 2012

THE NIGHTMARE by Lars Kepler

Finished Mo 12/10/12

Pseudonym for the literary couple from Sweden who wrote THE HYPNOTIST. That book was a selection for the Contemporary Book Club earlier in the year.

Link to Amazon-

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Finished We 12/4/12

Sunday, December 2, 2012

TRIGGER POINT by Mathew Glass

Finished Su 12/2/12

Top Notch Geo-Political Thriller. Short selling of a bank with a majority holding by the Chinese threatens to repeat the market's nosedive of 2008, and  President Tom Knowles also is involved in a hostage situation in Uganda by a terrorist group called The Lord's Resistance Army who have murdered thirty-two American aid workers.  A US military removal team has some members killed, and others trapped behind enemy lines. Chinese involvement is suspected, and did the Chinese use illegal influence in the stock market to control mid-term elections?

The moral of the tale seems to be that in today's reality, The US and China's actions are inextricably linked, and nothing negative can be done to one without a negative impact on the other.

A thought provoking, and fast-paced read.

My post on Good Reads-

A top-notch geo-political thriller that's thought provoking and hard to put down.

The moral of the tale seems to be that in today's global economic and political reality, The US and China's actions are inextricably linked, and nothing negative can be done to one without a negative impact on the other. The fact that so much of the American stock market is now owned by foreign nations was quite an eye opener! Now, I will always be wondering if volatility in the markets is 'real', the result of American's 'short-selling', or hostile countries trying to influence US policy. 

I can't remember when I have learned so much about the global situation, and been so entertained.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Finished We 11/28/12

TINKERS by Paul Harding

Selection for Contemporary Book Club We 11/28/12

My post at Good Reads-

The novel is one long flashback at the deathbed of an old man as he remembers his life as a child in a dysfunctional family where his father was an itinerant peddler. 

The book is strikingly presented and is a real 'celebration of style'. The author conveys a strange sense of ecstasy or transcendence, and it's really a fine novel. This is not something that I would ordinarily read, but I'm really glad that I gave it a shot! 

Selection for The Contemporary Book Club, Springfield, Illinois-November 2012

Author was the drummer for COLD WATER FLAT, a 90's Grunge Band out of Boston. His brother was in BUFFALO TOM.

The novel begins on the deathbed of George Washington Crosby eight days before his death. The house is imploding (in his mind), and the book is a record of his flashback.

His father was a tinker and traveled by mule and buggy in Maine at the turn of the century. He was married to Kathleen, and a large family. He had epilepsy, and had a very dramatic seizure on Xmas day about 1915 where he bit George very badly. Kathleen took him to the doctor the next day, and they find that the doctor's house is in the process of being moved. Very startling scene!

George runs away by stealing the mule and wagon, and hides in his friend's shed under a door. This door was part of a house in which a man and his family were found burned alive. However, it was the man, but never was determined who this family was. His family were out of town visiting relatives. Strange!

Howard learns that his wife his considering committing him to a mental institution, so he flees, and begins a new family. He is happier.

The final scene in the book recounts Howard's attempt to reconnect with his first family. His new wife must travel to Philadelphia to visit her sick mother. Howard borrows a friends car, and drives to his old family on Christmas Day. He comes in, while the car is still running, greets his relatives, and leaves in about twenty minutes. Wow!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Finished Th 11/22/12 Thanksgiving Day

My post on Good Reads-

This is actually a followup to Andersen's 1993 biography of Mick Jagger called, JAGGER UNAUTHORIZED. After reading Keith Richard's delightful autobiography, LIFE, this new book about 'the other Glimmer Twin' is a real letdown. It is as if he cobbled together a bunch of tabloid articles about Mick Jagger, stitched them together, and failed to add any insight whatsoever. And, most of the 'facts' aren't really corroborated, so they are merely opinions of what other people (and many with numerous axes to grind) believe to be true.

However, because Mick's life is so interesting, regardless of the truth or untruth of the writing, it makes for a compelling read. But, it's high time that Sir Michael Philip Jagger finds the time to set the record straight in his own words. If anything is true of Jagger's business acumen, he is probably waiting until 'the price is right'. Although, he would probably agree that he doesn't need the money, but money is an effective way of calibrating 'value', and he would only engage in this activity if he would receive maximum 'value' for his efforts. 

I would recommend that you wait until Jagger writes his autobiography (we all know that he will!), and meanwhile, you can keep up with his activities on Wikipedia or at his website. At least you won't be out any cash, and you won't get any less of an understanding of the man than you do in Andersen's new book.


Finished We 11/21/12

New York Times Book Review-

My post on Good Reads-

The book is wry and very perverse, and I don't think that it can appeal to everyone.  It's the kind of novel that either you 'love it' or 'hate it'.
Lionel Asbo is a career criminal who works on ' the hairiest end of debt collection' (in between lengthy stays in prison) , but he doesn't really have a conscience, but more of an extreme sense of 'the way things should be'. The book is a madcap chronicle of his escapades, and his relationship with his young orphaned nephew, Desmond Pepperdine. The plot thickens when Lionel wins the lottery, and all of his problems should end, yet he becomes a tabloid superstar, and the massive inflow of cash only escalates his anti-social behavior. Yet, old ways die hard, and he still yearns for the solidity of prison where 'at least you know where you are'.

The novel is a wild and crazy satire where life is not very long, and extremely brutal. It's not exactly a 'post moral world', since the characters haven't evolved to that point, and frolic in a kind of  a cracked and modern 'Dickensian Universe'. But, I guess that Desmond begins to see a glimmer of hope, and this is what makes the novel work. The reader watches as Desmond reacts to Lionel's sinister shenanigans and finds a new life with his wife, Dawn, and daughter, Cilla.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Finished Sa 11/17/12

My post on Good Reads-

Probably most people who pick this up will be expecting 'Jarhead Revisited', and this is not the case. The book is a chronicle of the author's experiences 'after' he attained literary fame and fortune. However, many unresolved issues prevented him from enjoying his new life, and first and foremost was the fractured relationship with his father. This book is Anthony's attempt to rectify the situation, but it almost becomes a chronicle of the conflict between two extremely opinionated individuals who disagree on whether young Tony's face was placed 'near' the pile of dog poop, or 'in' the pile of dog poop. And, also there is a major difference of opinion over the terms of a borrowed automobile. Also, and maybe due to his family issues, Swofford seems to be drowning in a tidal wave of women with the accompanying incidents with alcohol and drugs. 

I thought that as a memoir, it was a bit over-the-top, but it certainly made for an exciting read. Conflict between fathers and adult sons is never easy, and this book certainly highlights this fact. At the end, I felt like shouting 'Hey, give it a rest', but I also realized that it's impossible for him to let it go. And, I guess that is the point.

Amazon link-

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

THE LAST MINUTE by Jeff Abbott

Finished Tu 11/13/12

Post on Good Reads-

The novel features a fast-paced plot, yet not much character development or attention to setting and location. It reminded me of something that the author James Patterson might punch out with the help of his 'writing team'. Another book to file under 'Lite Summer Reading' or 'Airport Novel'.

Link to Amazon-

Sam Capra- Ex-CIA; His boy has been kidnapped. His son, Daniel, is only a few months old, and he has never seen the kid. Capra's wife is a traitor who also worked at the CIA.

The plot is that Sam Capra teams up with another woman who has had her baby kidnapped, and they must collaborate to murder a man.

NINE SUNS (NOVEM SOLES)- This is a group created by the CIA composed of powerful criminals who would do things that were not sanctioned by any government agency. Murder, Mayhem, etc. 

Jack Ming is a Hong Kong hacker who has a notebook (red binder) which contains incriminating evidence about the CIA's involvement with the '9 Suns' criminal enterprise.  
Jack Ming is the man that Sam and Leonie are assigned to kill.

Leonie is a specialist in creating false identities, and her real name is Lindsay. 
Sam would be the 'hit man', and she would be able to locate Ming using her talents at being able to 'hide' people. 

Mila- She is Sam's boss and is an ex-school teacher from Moldova. Her sister was  tricked into becoming a sex slave, and Mila attacked the group, and although her sister was killed in the cross-fire, she realized that she was a 'natural born killer'.

THE LAST MINUTE is a bar that is run by Sam Capra, but it is really just a string of bars that he manages for 'the outfit' all over the world. These places are staffed and run as 'safe houses' for agents in need. 

The twist at the end of the novel is that there is really only one kidnapped child. Leonie's girl had died, and she was 'given' Sam's child by the cartel. 
But, he realizes what a wonderful person that she is (he slept with her). and he allows Leonie to act as the kid's mom as he manages the string of international bars.  Or, so it seems.     

Thursday, November 8, 2012

3 A.M. by Steven John

Finished We 11/7/12

My post on Good Read-

This is a compelling mystery novel that incorporates intriguing elements of Crime Noir and Dystopian Fiction. 

The tale begins in a city shrouded in fog, and the sun hasn't been seen in over fifteen years. Ennui and depression seems to prevent any inquiry into the quandary. Thomas Vale, a jaded and boozy detective, is trying to find out who has been stealing from an entrepreneur who compiles artifacts to remind people of that long ago time when the sun used to shine. 

Soon, the plot makes a complete "180", and you find that things are not at all what they seem to be.

Steven John's writing is strictly utilitarian, but the story is very inventive and the action is fast-paced and clicks right along. You won't be blown away by the character development or narrative structure, yet the dread and foreboding of being stuck in a life of unending fog is chillingly presented. 

The quintessential 'beach' or 'airport' read!

Tommy Vale- Main character, alcoholic, drifting through life, and has a background in the army. His job was to shoot people infected with 'plague'.
Fog emitted 257am daily from 'stacks'. This always woke Vale, and the meaning of the novel's title.
Rebecca Ayers-Approaches Vale to investigate the murder of a man. She tells him that 'her boyfriend' was falsely accused, but really it was her father was murdered, and her brother was set up.
       Samuel Ayers- He was murdered because he was going to go public about the government cover-up.
       Fallon Ayers- Samuel's son and brother of Rebecca.
Eddie Vessel- Vale hired by him to look for someone who is stealing from him. Vessel 'collects' items for people which remind them of the sun and outdoors.
Joe Watley is the thief, but also a key figure in the government's cover-up.

Thomas Heller- This young man is probably Vale's only friend. Vale gave him a deposit for an apartment, and Heller kept the money. Vale intimidates Heller, demands the money back, and occasionally loans him more money. Heller has a taped collection of classical music that Vale begins to enjoy. He can only take it in small dosages because it depresses him so much.
Dr. Salk- A pharmacist who gives Vale the downers that are necessary for him in order to sleep. The drugstore is also a place to buy alcohol and food, and it seems to be government subsidized.

ALBERGUE- The bar that Vale drinks and drowns his sorrow.
Lucid Jones- A blind black man working for the government who tails Vail.

Anthony Kirk- Designed the dam that did not get used. The cold fusion nuclear plant was set in place in stead. This blew up and caused the radiation leaks, and the reason the city was guaranteed. Fog was found to be a way of containing the radiation from spreading. 'Stacks' created in the town, now used to keep the people ignorant of their real situation.

          20,000 in the city as a kind of prison. 10 million died as a result of the nuclear accident. 15 mile wide
           band of open area around the city. Easily patrolled so that the government can see people escaping
           city. When Vale was in the army he was told that the people that he shot were infected with plague.
           However, they were radiation victims.
Anthony Kirk murdered Samuel Ayeres because Ayers was going to go public with the cover-up.
Heller commits suicide. He had been beaten by government agents because they thought that Vale had told him about the cover-up. He leaps off the balcony of his apartment while Vale was with him.

At the end of the novel, Vale blows up the dam with a natural gas tank from Ayers house. He escapes the explosion, and drives back to the city where he lies in the street as the fog dissipates. People are too scared to come out, and it is unclear whether or not he dies.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

BAD TRAFFIC by Simon Lewis

Finished Su 11/4/12

Inspector Jian is a tough, possibly corrupt Chinese detective,  and he receives an emergency call from his daughter who is a student in Leeds, England, that she is in trouble. Wei Wei is her name. She's dropped out of college, and working as a waitress. Hangs around with a hoodlum and his gang named Black Fort. This guy is smuggling people into the country. Ding Ming and his wife are one of these people. Ding Ming speaks Mandarin, the language of mainland China. Cantonese is spoken by most Asians in England, and they are from Hong Kong.

Inspector Jian kidnaps Ding Ming to use him as a translator to try to find his daughter.
Wei Wei has made a snuff film with Black Fort, and Jian sees it, and believes his daughter is dead.
Keith is one of the smugglers who works with Black Fort. Ding Ming believes that Keith is his friend and will give him a job so that he can pay back the 'snakeheads'. The people that brought him from China. He paid $20,000 for the privilege.

My post at Good Reads-

Inspector Jian is a corrupt, yet big-hearted Chinese detective who gets an abrupt emergency call from his daughter who hysterically demands that she needs him NOW! He drops everything, and heads to Leeds, England with limited resources, almost nothing to go on, and absolutely no knowledge of the English language.

That's the way this fast-paced adventure thriller begins, and it never lets up for a second. It's a great tale from start to finish, and I could barely put it down. The novel is a fast-paced topical heroic story, and provides some interesting insights about what an Asian foreigner's perceptions might be in a Northern England metropolitan city. 

This demands to be made into a film!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

TRADING REALITY by Michael Ridpath

Finished Tu 10/30/12

My post on Good Reads-

I picked up this novel to be entertained, and to learn a bit about Virtual Reality or gain some new insights into the European Bond Market, but learned nothing new about either subject, and found the story to be only a bland and lackluster murder mystery.

Since the book was released in 1998, the global investment markets and the entire digital world has changed so dramatically that almost nothing factual from that era is relevant today. And, a 'whodunit' set in either of these worlds must consist of a top-notch plot-line, and it certainly didn't occur in TRADING REALITY.

Mark Fairfax is asked to head FairSystems Virtual Reality company after the murder of his brother, Richard.

Mark is bond trader for Harrison Brothers in London.

Karen is his girlfriend who killed Richard. Karen was Walter Sorenson's lover for many years, and killed Richard because he was going to reveal that Sorenson was trading stocks illegally.

Richard lives in small Scottish village of Kirkhaven. The company is located in Glenrothes,  Scotland

BOWL   Brave Old World League   Anti-Virtual Reality outfit headed by Doogie. He worked for Richard, but now is a kind of 'guerrilla' against VR.

Rachel works as a scientist for Richard and becomes Mark's lover.

Jenson Computers is an outfit that is trying to take over FairSystems in a hostile takeover.

Project Platform- the next and improved system that will make VR run quicker and better. This will save FairSystems

THE WANT-AD KILLER by Andy Stack (Ann Rule)

Finished  Th 10/25/12

A very early book by Ann Rule when she was still using the 'Andy Stack' nom de plume. A straightforward examination of a rapist and serial killer, yet delineates the emotional carnage inflicted on the families of the girls that he destroyed. 

All of Ann Rule's books are excellent topics for film adaptations, and this one would have made a dynamite movie.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Finished Mo 10/22/12

Because this is Heinlein's last book, it is worth a look, however, the writing doesn't hold together, and it seemed more of an opportunity for him to present his quasi-Libertarian ramblings within the format of a novel.
This is the final 'Lazarus Long' book, and Heinlein further elaborates his thoughts and feelings on time travel, parallel dimensions, free love, incest, and a grab-bag of other culturally or politically discouraged subjects. He refers to his doctrine as, 'World as Myth', but I didn't think that the plot-line supported his intellectual flights of fancy, and the weak story-line sank his oddball conjectures.
I have always felt that Libertarians are Republicans who wish that they could change the drug laws so that they could smoke pot, and Heinlein's Libertarianism seems to advocate an easing of sexual prohibitions to enable an acceptance of a kind of 'polymorphous perversity'.
Sections of the novel were interesting due to his unusual viewpoints, but the story was needlessly too hard to follow, not concise or focused, and comprised of too many characters.
Obviously, telling the tale did not seem to be his foremost concern.

Link to Amazon-


Finished Su 10/21/12

My review at Good Reads and Amazon-

HARBOR OF ILL WILL is a fine novel that blends elements of classic Gothic fiction with contemporary horror, and I found it to be a delight from start to finish.

A mystical globe that grants any wish to its owner, but exacts a dreadful toll is central to this tale, and wouldn't be out of place in a novel by Edgar Allen Poe or Nathaniel Hawthorn. But, this novel is set, for the most part, in the suburbs of contemporary Chicago.

The story-line is carefully plotted, spans several decades, and introduces a collection of picaresque rogues and righteous individuals who are all influenced by this magical sphere. The novel is meticulously well-written, yet fast paced, and I could hardly put it down.

Phil Locascio is not a well know author, but I will definitely take the trouble to seek out more of his work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

LONG DRIVE HOME by Will Allison

Finished Mo 10/16/12   October selection for Contemporary Book Club

1. Stops short for a traffic light and is almost rear ended by a cop. He runs the light, and Glen gives him the finger.
2. Derek, driving a black Suburban witnesses the 'finger', and thinks it is for him. He stops Glen, 'Apologive, Bitch'. Has gun in his waistband.
3. Witnesses a Jaguar convertible swerve to miss a roadside stop, and heads into Glen's subdivision driving erratically.
4. Glen sees the Jaguar coming down his street and Glen turns into the Jaguar's lane, forcing the driver off the road, and hits a large tree head-on. Dead on the scene. Clarice owns the tree.

Glen Bauer- Married to Liz, and their daughter is Sara
Chairman Meow- The family cat who goes to live with Glen at his 'separation apartment'
They have lived in South Orange, New Jersey for three years. Derek lives, and Sara's school is in Montclair.
Ten miles from Newark,NJ

Juwan- Driver of the Jaguar convertible
Tawana- Juwan's mother
Raymond Burris- Tawana's brother and her lawyer in a possible civil suit
Linda Schwartz- Glen's lawyer; a co-worker of Liz

Derek Dye- Black driver of SUV who witnessed Glen give the finger to the cop. Derek thought that the insult was directed to him, and he demands an apology and flashes a gun in his waistband. Owner of Derek's Custom Auto Body. Breaks Glen's jaw when Glen stalks him.

Risso- Detective on the accident
Warren- Crossing guard at Sara's school. Glen volunteers as a guard and saves a boy

Sunday, October 14, 2012

THE WHITE PLAGUE by Frank Herbert

My Book Finished Sa 10/13/12

My post on Good Reads-

THE WHITE PLAGUE is a novel of meticulously calculated revenge. While in Ireland with his family, a man loses his wife and two children to a terrorist's bomb. He is a molecular biologist, and in his grief and ensuing madness, develops and unleashes a deadly pandemic which only targets women.

This is a very long novel, but the best section features John O'Neil, the biologist, and the terrorist who planted the bomb, playing an endless game of psychological 'cat and mouse' while on a trek across Ireland. This is a semi-successful attempt to offer more than the normal 'Scifi/End Of The World' scenario, and examines a fundamental aspect of terrorism. Although enemies, both men share a perceptional weakness in that they only reason in terms of 'black and white', and discern no subtleties whatsoever. 'Either you see it my way, or you will be killed'. And, when this theme is developed within the framework of a  global pandemic, it makes clear that modern global conflicts allow for absolutely no neutral positions. 

THE WHITE PLAGUE is primarily concerned with the two masterminds of the pandemic- the man who unleashes the plague, and the man who planted the bomb that began the deadly chain of events. I would have liked to learn more of how the 'regular people' dealt with the pandemic, but, of course, this would have changed the thrust of Herbert's novel, but might have made the novel a bit more enjoyable.

Monday, October 8, 2012


My Book- Finished Mo 10/8/12 Columbus Day.    The first in the series of Mathew Scudder (1976)  Read in two days.

My post at Good Reads-

This is the first novel in the Mathew Scudder series, and introduces the moody, depressed, and conflicted former NYC detective by means of a compelling murder mystery. Scudder's back-story is revealed in that he quit the police department because he accidentally shot a young girl, Estrillita Rivera, while in a gunfight during a robbery. Although, he was absolved of any wrong doing, he blamed himself, and this becomes the driving force of his character. He becomes an alcoholic, but generally follows cups of coffee with his shots of bourbon, and scrupulously tithes ten percent of his earnings to various churches. And, like John D. MacDonald's fictional sleuth, Travis McGee, Scudder is not fully licensed and only does 'favors' for his clients for which he is receives a fee.

This is a great read, and very much a character driven novel within the framework of a fascinating murder mystery. Also, all of the Mathew Scudder novels present a nostalgic look at the New York of the late 1970's.

Link to Wikipedia

Amazon Link

Richard Vanderpoel murders Wendy Hanniford, and then commits suicide in The Tombs. They were roommates; he was gay and she was a prostitute. Richard's father is a minister, and slashed Wendy to death. She was subconsciously searching for a 'missing' father. He was killed in Korea, and older men appealed to her. Richard was raised in a loveless home, and his mother committed suicide when he was a small child.
Scudder is approached by Wendy's father to find out why the murder occured, and what was his daughter really like. Matt cracks the case, and forces the minister to take his life (Richard's Seconal).

Scudder's relationship with clients. He is not licensed, and only does 'favors'.
Alcoholic, but controls the drinking by using coffee and bourbon.
Scudder explains the shouting that causes his alcoholism. Estrillita Rivera

Friday, October 5, 2012


Finished Th 10/4/12

The novel is set in a not too distant future, and Nicholas Greville is a United Nations Narcotics agent who is trying to track down the source of new drug called 'happy dreams'. There are worldwide shortages of all commodities  and the only surplus is the exploding population. The citizens hate the UN because they mistakenly believe that the agents are the cause of the shortages, but they are only rationing remaining resources  and staving off riots and calamity. No one can determine the source this new drug which has left large sections of the population apathetic and listless, yet the drug is marketed and distributed in a very strange manner. The first dose is always five dollars, and those thereafter are only two dollars, and UN agents have never been able to locate how it is made or the distribution network. The drug is usually injected on the thighs, and it takes about one hundred 'hits', and then the user leaves his old life. Later, it is uncovered that the drug changes brain chemistry, and allows the user to 'vanish', and  enter a new reality.  The last chapter of the novel reveals that the UN Pure Research department is actually behind the drug and the international distribution network. They are well aware that the  drug allows humans to enter a new dimension, and this drug will provide a portal for mankind to conquer new worlds with new and unlimited resources. At the end of the book, Nick Greville enters the new world.

My Post on Good Reads-

This is an interesting and thought provoking Science Fiction novel, yet not fully realized. The story-line is set in a not too distant future, and the central character is a United Nations agent working in the narcotics division. There is a new drug sweeping the planet called, 'happy dreams', and his agency cannot find the source or the distribution network for the operation. All natural resources on Earth are scarce, and the only surplus seems to be the exploding population rate, and this new drug is rendering a significant portion of the population listless and apathetic. The ending offers a startling explanation, and this would have been a terrific premise, but the novel isn't long enough, and the style is too lackluster. 

The mode and format of THE DREAMING EARTH is rather unimaginative and straightforward, and probably would have worked better if Brunner had chosen a more provocative presentation. The writing style of his wonderful novel, STAND ON ZANZIBAR is innovative, and matches that novel's challenging and stimulating themes.

However, since the book is just over one hundred and fifty pages, you haven't invested too much of your time to enjoy the rather incredible solution to a world's rapidly diminishing natural resources.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Finished Tu 10/1/12  My Book

The book is a long essay contrasting and analyzing a day relaxing in the wilds of the Virginia Adirondacks with the experience of absorbing one single day of 100 channels broadcasting on the local TV network. McKibben invited over one hundred of his friends and family to tape all of the programming on May 3, 1990, and he took a few weeks to watch it all, and he contrasts this experience with one day that he spent in the 'Great Outdoors'. 

It's clever and insightful, and I thought it most interesting how the two experiences treat 'Time'. Obviously, television is lightening fast and does an excellent job describing reality about what is happening in the present moment. 'Chaos' and 'Disaster' are the bread and butter of the television experience, while the worst disasters, such as global warming, the consequences of poverty, or the degradation of the environment, move slowly, and the TV cameras don't see them. So the dedicated TV viewer is oblivious to these grave and catastrophic issues.

The book is filled with facts and observations on our Consumer Society, and McKibben makes the case that television has become the most important element in World Culture. The book is well-written, it won't require a lot of your time, but it will make you think.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

FADE by Robert Cormier

Finished Sa 9/29/12

My Post at Good Reads-

This is an engrossing, yet disturbing read. The novel turns on a character who has the ability to become invisible, "The Fade", but it is not at all a book about someone with fantasy 'super powers'. 

FADE is very much an example of Transgressive Fiction in that it deals extensively with taboo subject matters such as, sex, violence, incest, pedophilia, and crime.

The novel is divided into a few sections that occur at different times, and feature different narrators.

It is very unusual that the gift of invisibility would be presented as a liability or a curse, and I think that this fact alone is enough to read the novel. I really liked the book, but it's grim and bleak, and the novel ends on a note of almost melodramatic desperation.

My notes:

This is the first in an attempt to read books from my collection rather than checking out books from the library.

The novel is divided into several sections, but it is about a gifted writer who tells of his ability to disappear, or  'Fade'.
PAUL is the first section-
Relates the story of a photograph where his uncle disappears. Tells of his experiences with 'the fade'. At first, he is not aware that he is invisible. At a Klan rally a drunken klansman is right in front of him, fails to see him, but Paul assumes that the man was just drunk. And, one time a bully chases him, and he unconsciously made himself invisible to escape. Paul blames Toubert for the labor riot where his father was stabbed, and this is one of the reasons that he stabs him. The section ends with the murder, and one line about the death of Bernard.
Paul Roget (He uses the name Paul Moreaux in his fictional stories). Novelist and short story writer. BRUISES IN PARADISE. Died in 1967 at the age of 42.
Uncle Adelard- Paul's uncle who also had the ability to fade. The power is passed from Uncle to Nephew, and they are not sure where it began or where. The novel is set in Frenchtown in Monument, MA. The characters are French Canadian.
Armand- Paul's older brother, and he becomes active in the labor union at the comb factory where his father is a union official. His uncle is also involved in the union.
Bernard- The youngest brother of Paul who dies of a congenital heart ailment. Paul blames himself when he stabs local gangster, Rudolphe Toubert, to death. This man ran the town's paper-routes and was a lover of his aunt, Rosanna. This woman was the love of Paul's life.

SUSAN is the next section-
Susan Roget is a cousin of Paul Roget, and she is working in the publishing field and is given the manuscript that we have just read. She wonders (with her boss, Meredith Martin) whether this is a fictional work, or is the Fade something real.

PAUL is another short section in which Paul continues his story, and tells of how his sister, Rose, gave up a child for adoption. He has felt that there is another Fader out there, and this would be his nephew, so he realizes that he must locate this child of Rose's. She tells him that it was a Catholic institution in Ramsey, Maine. He wants to help this child deal with the power like his uncle Adelard was not able to do for him.

OZZIE (Oscar Slater) is the penultimate section, and this is the child of Rose who has the power, but doesn't understand anything. He was given up for adoption, and ended up in an abusive family. His mother was an Irish alcoholic, and his stepfather (who gave him the name 'Slater') beat him regularly, and destroyed his nose. Now he always sniffles, and the nose does not look natural. He now lives with the nuns, and he is close to the nun that helped his real mother when she gave him up. Her name is Sister Anunciata.

He is friends with the village drunkard, Old Man Pindar. He later kills this man, or 'the voice' inside has him kill Pindar. Paul locates Ozzie, meets with him, and finally must stab him to death. Paul had made a promise that he would not use the power after killing Toubert. Ozzie makes him demonstrate The Fade, but Ozzie's voices have gotten the upper hand, and Paul kills him in self defense. Ozzie was attempting to strangle him.

SUSAN is the final chapter, and she finds that no such orphanage exists in Maine, but she does find an incident in which students and teachers were burned to death at a school dance, and there was an unexplained explosion at a chemical plant in Sherwood, NY. She doesn't know what to do about these incidents, and the novel ends.

"And I don't know what to do about it
God, I don't know wht to do"

Robert Cormier was a journalist and known for controversial books for young adults. Wrote I AM THE CHEESE. Also, made into a movie. Born in Leominster, MA, and still resides there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Finished Mo 9/25/12
Link to Wikipedia

My post on Good Reads-

One of the best written biographies of Addiction. I think that what sets this one apart is that Jerry Stahl was an unlikely candidate for habitual dependency. He was a Pushcart award winner, and a talented man who seemed destined for success and wrote for several very successful television shows. Yet his book eloquently uncovers his dark and twisted motivations, and the reader is treated to a front row seat to his utterly wretched downfall. Jerry Stahl seemed to have had it all, yet Jerry Stahl turns into his own worst enemy.

The prose is incisive and penetrating, and also reveals his rather sordid and seedy view of the life of a professional writer. Sometimes Staal's insights are darkly hysterical, and bitterly sarcastic.

Friday, September 21, 2012

SHOW ME THE MAGIC by Paul Mazursky

Finished Th 9/20/12

Link to Wikipedia

My post at Good Reads-

An enjoyable biography about one of the most popular directors in Hollywood. The title of the book goes on to list around fifty celebrities that he knew and worked with, so, without a doubt, the man is 'connected'. The book is chock full of personal anecdotes, and the sections in the book where he describes his experiences with Peter Sellers and Shelley Winters are priceless.

The book gives you a real peek at what it was like to work in America's entertainment industry from the 1950's to the 90's. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1930 Mazursky's first acting gig just happened to be Stanley Kubrick's first film, FEAR AND DESIRE, and he continued to act in film and television for over four decades. He also wrote for TV, especially The Danny Kaye Show, and many other series, and also he enjoyed a fairly successful career as a stand-up comedian.

The first film that he wrote was, I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS, and in 1969 he directed the classic, BOB & TED & CAROL & ALICE. I think that all of his films are worth a look, and my two 'MUST SEE' films are, AN UNMARRIED WOMAN and HARRY AND TONTO.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett

Finished Tu 9/18/12

Contemporary Book Club pick for September 2012

Marina Sing- Doctor at Vogel Company, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Father was Indian. Has a complex about him leaving her-he did. In an affair with Jim Fox, head of Vogel.

Anders Eckman- Missing in Amazon and was sent to find out the status of the work on a drug to keep women fertile for life. He is married to Karen, and has three young boys. Worked in the same lab with Marina for seven years, and probably makes a bit more in salary than she does.

Dr. Swenson- Head of the study in the Amazon and professor at Johns Hopkins. Marina was an advanced student of hers, and left the program when she preformed a Cesarean, and blinded the child.  Dr. Swenson was in love with Dr. Rapp, the original head of the expedition.

Chapter 9, p. 253 The discussion of how the tree and the mushrooms work.

Jackie and Barbara Bovender- Live in Manaus and are supposed to keep out inquisitive people into the expedition.

Manaus- nearest town to the Lakashi.

The Saturns- Dr. Alan and Dr. Nancy. Nancy is sometimes referred to as 'Saturn Two'. Two doctors on the expedition.

Easter- twelve year old boy who is deaf and probably from the headhunter tribe who live near the Lakashi tribe.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Finished Th 9/13/12

My post at Good Reads-

A fairly interesting Murder Mystery with a female protagonist, but this has been done many times before by many different authors. It's pretty familiar territory all the way from the Nancy Drew series, through V.I. Warshawski and Sue Grafton. If you are a fan of these type of novels, GETTING LUCKY is right up your alley.
The novel is set in a fictional suburb of Chicago,  Fowler, Illinois. However, there really is a Fowler, but it is in downstate Illinois just west of Beardstown and almost to Quincy, IL.

Set in Fowler, IL-  A fictional Chicago suburb. Fowler is actually west of Beardstown near Quincy.

My notes:

Robyn Guthrie- Stringer for "Fowler News and Record", Bix- her dog; mother, Lizze, with beginning dementia, and lives in Dryden Manor (semi-nursing home). Nita- editor at The Record.

Mick- Ex-jockey and boyfriend of Robyn. They are on the outs about whether or not to have a baby.

Clair Powell- Hit and Run victim while walking her dog, Scoop. It was really a murder, she knew information about toxic land deal.

Kurt Vrana- Kind of a 'Green Peace' undercover agent. Friend of Clair, and helps solve the case.

Gretchen- Mick's secretary and trying to end her career as an escort. Her sister works as a nurse on the night shift. She takes Scoop, Clair's dog, and has a client (Joe Kendrick) die on her (heart attack). Mick, Kat, and Robyn take the body and park the car, and make it look like he died while trying to reach a hospital.

Glenn Patchen- He is the architect on the Green Project, "Cedar Ridge". Alcoholic and he hit Clair while drunk and left the scene.

Joseph Kendrick- He is one of the investors of the Cedar Ridge project.
Working with Ed (Lucky) Leoni who is an obnoxious mob figure who first purchased the land that was poisoned with dioxins. Mercedes is his obnoxious daughter, and Tabitha is his very nice wife. She is the daughter of a prominent  mob figure, Christopher Grecco. He's friends with Mick, and Mick and Robyn go to his house at the end of the novel. Lucky enters witness protection, and his daughter and granddaughter are free of Lucky.
Katherine (Kat) Kendricks- Married to Joseph and she went to high school with Robyn. She snubbed Robyn and was in the popular group at the school.

Mary Alice Tucker- She and her two sons bought a townhouse at Cedar Ridge. Robyn concocts a scheme so that she doesn't lose her money.
-----They use Vrana to propose that the original investors buy back the property so that they can then invest in a large casino operation. The casino deal doesn't go to them, but they have repaid Cedar Development.

Monday, September 10, 2012

BORDER RUN by Simon Lewis

Finished Su 9/9/12

My entry at Good Reads-

This is a rather slim novel that I read in one afternoon, and is a fast-paced Action piece without a lot of character development or background. The plot is simple. Two young men are on vacation near the Chinese/Myanmar border, and meet a local drifter who suggests that they come with him to a scenic area that is known only to the locals. Events rapidly spin out of control. First, there is trouble with local border authorities, and a policeman is accidentally (?) killed. Now, the three men must make an immediate plan of action, and the novel demonstrates how ethics get discarded after the first felony, and cover-ups only quicken the downward ethical spiral.

BORDER RUN is a pleasant diversion, and offers some insight into how 'normal' men change in ways that they would never imagine as they deal with situations that are far beyond their experience. This novel would make an excellent film.

My notes:
Jake- Suggests the trip and kills the cop with the cross-bow. He seems the most 'ethically challenged' of the two friends.
Will- Seems to be on the trip to try and patch things up with his girlfriend, Jessica. He reluctantly agrees to the side-trip, yet not aware of any potential criminality, but doesn't seek anything beyond the ordinary 'tourist' attractions. He has a camera and seems to take on the role of a voyeur, and prefers this barrier to the action.
Howard- He is the local who suggests the trip to Jake, and, at first, it appears that he might be a very evil character, however, he is probably only a local White Guy (claims Canadian citizenship, but that could have been a lie), who is trying to get along any way that he can. He is a smuggler, and when it is first presented you imagine him dealing in pounds of heroin, but actually he is a petty operator and taking live animals across the border. He's quite a bit older than Will and Jake, and this might be why he seems 'badder'. However, a lot of his advice just seems more realistic, and he has been living with the locals for some time.
'Pangolins' are like armadillos and the scales are used in medicine, and Howard sells them to restaurants and people claim that the pangolins add a 'wild flavor'.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Finished Su 9/9/12

Delia Grinstead is more or less 'happily married', but subconsciously she is aware that her family is taking her for granted, and something's got to change. She isn't aware that things are quite that bad, until one day while on family vacation to the seashore, she just walks away, and starts a new life. What's great about the novel is that because Delia isn't really cognizant of the true significance of her motivations or actions, you really feel as if you are sharing in Delia's adventure as it happens to her.

And, as in all of Anne Tyler's novels, it's packed with an abundance of well-written and off-beat characters. I loved this book, and I never knew what was going to happen next, and neither did Delia. I think you could call this book a 'Coming of Age Tale For Middle Agers'.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

FREE TO TRADE by Michael Ridpath

Finished Tu 9/4/12

A very tepid murder mystery which is set in the high-pressure world of the London Bond Market. I expected to get some kind of insight into the workings of global financial markets, but came away with little new information, and the nefarious incidents in the novel were cluttered with very predictable 'red herrings' and fairly obvious villains.

Paul Murray is an ex-Olympic runner and works for London investment traders, De Jong & Co. He uncovers a very byzantine, complicated, and possibly illegal bond deal shortly after one of his co-workers, Debbie Chater, dies in an accident/murder/or suicide. He travels to New York and Phoenix to conferences, and tries to uncover information about the millions lost on this bond trade, and to try to determine what happened to Debbie.

Although the Bond Market setting for this novel is a fresh idea, the construction, writing, and story-line has been done before with more pleasing results. Now, Michael Ridpath sets his novels in Scandinavia, and has completely departed from the financial world, and I read his novel, WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE, and I really enjoyed it. Maybe he's found his niche.

My notes:

Hamilton, Murray's boss at De Jong arranged the deal, killed Chater. He's ruthless and cares only about 'deals'. Murray is able to recover the money that the firm would have lost through a series of transactions that were almost too complicated to follow.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Finished Su 9/2/12

My post on Good Reads:

A very enjoyable story about a man who loses his family, and finds himself.

Smithson Ides's father and mother are killed in a car accident, and within hours of the funeral he learns that his missing schizophrenic sister has been located, and her remains are in a funeral home in Venice, California. Then, in spite of his addiction to alcohol and his morbidly obese physical condition, Smithson finds himself on his Raleigh bicycle heading West to California to 'save' his sister one final time.

I just loved this novel, and McLarty's characters are very finely presented, and they are one-of-a-kind personalities that don't seem like any other fictional creations. I read his novel, THE DROPPER, and it just didn't seem to work for me. But, THE MEMORY OF RUNNING might be my 'new' favorite Road Novel of all time!
My notes-

Smithson Ides- Named for Robert Smithson, shortstop for Cincinnati Redlegs who in 1884 made the first double play in baseball.
Bethany- His sister who suffers from schizophrenia.
Norna Mulvey- Next door neighbor that always loved Smithy. Bea is Norma's mother
Raleigh/Moto- Two brands of Smithy's bikes

Smithy loses his father and mother in a traffic accident while they are returning from a vacation cabin.
Wa Ryan's souped-up Volkswagen Beetle hit Norma, and she's paralyzed from waist down and in
Orlando Cepeda- Puerto Rican soldier that was killed when Smithy took a piss while on patrol in Vietnam. They were standing together by a river, and the Viet Cong homed in on the noise of the piss hitting leaves.

Norma talks with Smithy at the funeral home and mentions all the letters that she sent him when he was in the hospital for his 21 bullet wounds, but he doesn't seem to remember (or, maybe he never got them).

Count and Paula- Smithy's aunt and uncle. Count is nearly 300 pounds, has severe heart problems, and loves telling off color jokes. They had a beagle (Wiggy), and Bethany killed it and put it in their freezer the night before her wedding.

Just when Smithy comes back to his parents house after the funeral there is a letter from Los Angeles saying that Bethany, 51 had died of exposure and she was at the morgue in Venice. She had been gone for years.

Smithy rides his childhood Raleigh and ends up in the river. Saved by Father Benny Gallo. He's a priest that made some sexual remarks to a woman over the phone, and now is only an assistant priest. The gay priests were promoted. His bike is tuned and repairs, and the priest even gives him clothes. This is where Smithy decides to take the bike trip to California to get Bethany's remains.

Bethany dates a thug and goes to the prom with this guy and a friend and his date. Bethany puts him in the trunk and drives away. Bobby Meyers, her date, is brought up on rape/assault charges.

Smithy calls Norma to tell his job he won't be in. He works in a factory that makes action figures. It is a dull and pointless career.

On his cross country trip Smithy reads novels about the Old West. 'Iggy' a black cowboy, and 'Ringo' one armed one legged cowboy.'Suzanne of the Aspens'-Pioneer woman loses husband and son, but manages during the winter and befriends the Indians and never gives up.

Dr. Glenn Golden- One of Bethany's shrinks and this guy does as little as possible. Likes golf....a lot.

Bill Butler- Black soldier that saved Smithy after he was shot. Later in the novel Smithy bikes to East St. Louis to visit him, but he is gone and a wino and speaks with Bill's wife and son. Smithy almost gets shot by the son who hates his father for being a drunk and abandoning the family.

Carl Greenleaf- Hits Smithy with his pick up and is dying of AIDS. Although very hurt, Smithy drives the truck to the hospital, and they recognize Carl and think that Smithy is delivering him for treatment. He goes back to Carl's house and is very well treated by Carl. The nurse/doctor (Dr. Donna Trivitch) who admitted Carl (but not Smithy) thinks that Smithy is a bum, and brings a cop to throw him out the next morning. The cop beats Smithy, but then the nurse apologizes. Carl dies the next day, and Smithy must make all the calls to alert friends and family. His friend the nurse/doctor can't do it. but gets a brand new outfit, Moto touring bike, and cash.

Dr. Georgina Glass- Another shrink for Bethany. Smithy has a crush on this doctor, and later in the novel Bethany tells her that Smithy had been sexually abusing her for years, and Glass almost has Smithy arrested. Glass means well, but really has no idea about what she is doing. She doesn't appreciate how far gone Bethany really is.

Jeff Greene- Manages Benny's Home and Auto Store. He marries Bethany, but she disappears on their honeymoon. He really loved Bethany, but didn't know what he was dealing with. Thought she had recovered, but Bethany never will. Smithy and his father go to try and find Bethany and she might have stolen their car. Maybe this is how she ends up on the west coast.

Fort Garland-Smithy stops and takes the tour. This is where Kit Carson was a commander. Tour guide has no idea where Carson died.

"My name is Kenny"....Freak snow storm in Colorado, and Smithy saves this kid who had skipped school to go fishing. Parents (Roger and Kate- they live in an old silver mine; Kate makes rugs) are indebted to Smithy, but initially the police think that Smithy abducted the kid. And, he gets shot.

At Ash Fork, Smithy identically joins a bike club that is riding through the desert to Kingman, AZ.
Meets Chris who is with two of her friends and business partners in a day care center. She sleeps with Smithy but he rejects her because he realizes that he is going to be true to Norma.

Almost to California () Smithy stops at a 24 Hour Restaurant that won't open for an hour, and meets a black truck driver. Philip Wolsey. He tells Smithy about his college educated and brilliant brother, Walter, who became a writer on a Chicago paper, and then became a junkie. He killed there pastor father trying to steal silver, and then killed himself with a shot gun to the head. The truck driver takes Smithy and his bike to California because Smithy is sick with a very bad cold.

Chen Ho Funeral Home in Venice, CA where Bethany's remains are kept. Norma finds the address and sets up the meeting when Smithy arrives.

Running out of money he has two flats in California. Trades some of his stuff for the repair. 'Luis's Bike Shop' The shop owner and tells him the story of how his son fell off a truck, hit his head, and was killed. His name was Luis. He fixes the bike like brand new.

Stops to cleanup in a beach bathroom and his bike is stolen. Girl trims his beard and puts beads in his hair for free.

Bethany is waiting for him at the funeral home in Venice.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Finished Th 8/30/12

My post on Good Reads-

Specialist Billy Flynn faces nearly the same conundrum as Captain John Yossarian did in Joseph Heller's classic novel, CATCH 22. Both characters are trapped in a 'double bind' or paradox. Yossarian can't get out of the Air Force due to insanity because War demands a certain degree of insanity, and Specialist Flynn can't reconcile what he did and saw in Iraq with the lavishly inappropriate reception that he and his squad receive when they return to the States. Ben Fountain's excellent novel presents Billy and the other members of Bravo Squad as they are idolized and adored at a home game of the Dallas Cowboys during the Thanksgiving Classic. Nearly the entire novel takes place at this football game, and 'The Heroes'  indulge in some pretty immature, yet understandable behavior, but what I found to be especially revealing is how 'the average' Americans related to these young men. They seem deliriously happy and grateful that the US had finally violently reacted to the tragic events of 9/11 even though Saddam Hussein or the country of Iraq had nothing to do with the attack. These Americans didn't care and didn't want to know, and although it's never stated, it seems that, 'Kill Em All, And Let God Sort It Out', was our wildly popular foreign policy. Also, the novel profiles some of the Texan 'Monied Elite' who supported Bush and his administration's agenda, and these characters seem especially chilling and almost demonic.

This is a thought provoking and entertaining novel about Americans and their questionable political and social culture. If you lean politically to the far Right, you probably would find this novel a waste of your time, but it's your profound loss.

The eight survivors of Bravo Squad are caught in a gun battle at Al-Ansakar Cana in Iraq, and are treated to be guests or 'America's Team', The Dallas Cowboys at the Super Bowl with Destiny's Child.

'Victory Tour' media stunt by the Bush administration to reinvigorate public support for the war.

Specialist William Lynn from Stovall Texas
Sargent Shroom who died in his arms
Excellent profiles of the big monied supporters of The War and Republican Party.

Whoever said that this novel is,"the CATCH 22 of the Iraq War", really hit the nail on the head.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker

Finished Tu 8/28/12

My Post on Good Reads:

THE AGE OF MIRACLES is the first person, personal story of Julia, a middle school student who lives in a contemporary California coastal town with her mother and father. Early one Fall, the days inexplicably become longer. At the beginning, it's only minutes per day, but within months, daylight and nighttime might last for the old equivalent of several weeks. This is not a SciFi Thriller, and the 'temporal dysfunction' is only a literary device to demonstrate how people cope and deal with cataclysmic change. 

I guess the whole novel could be taken as a metaphor that life is only temporary, and, as people, our only legacy is that, "We Were Here", and learn to accept and celebrate this unalterable fact. 

Walker's writing style is lyrical, and deeply moving. This is a beautiful novel that's compelling, as well as thought provoking. This is a terrific debut novel, and I look forward to more books by Karen Thompson Walker. 

My notes;

"We Were Here" (What Julia and Seth wrote on the wet cement sidewalk at the end of the novel)

Joel, Helen, Julia (She is eleven and twelve through most of the novel; 5th 6th grader)
Hanna- Julia's friend
Sylvia- Neighbor and piano teacher. Possible lover of Joel
Michaela- Julia's friend who was old beyond her years. Her mother is much younger than the other mothers.
Far into 'the event' she and her mother's new man move to a very expensive gated community.
Chole and Tony- Julia's cats
Tom and Carlotta- Older couple that live on Julia's stream. Arrested for growing marijuana.
Seth Moreno- Boyfriend of Julia's. His father is a scientist who is working on plants that can grow without life. Hopes to splice genes with undersea plants.
Gabby- Goth friend of Julia's. Shaves her head and wears black nail polish. She flees to desert community of "Circadia". (definition of 'circadian'-Relating to or exhibiting approximately 24-hour periodicity)
Joel's father, Julia's grandfather- Lives in a sprawling old house in the center of a new housing development. He is a 'hoarder' and dies in an accidental fall while stocking his secret bomb shelter that had been there since the early sixties. This happened on Julia's birthday, and the family was to meet him to take him to the birthday dinner. He died with a birthday card and a twenty dollar bill in his pocket for Julia.

Mr. Jensen- Hippie science teacher. He leaves early in the novel; probably headed to a desert community. These people live by the earth and sun's rhythms, called "Real Timers". The government has mandated that people should live by a 24 hour clock. By the end of the novel, days and nights have stretched to days long. At one point, this southern California area got five inches of snow. Night lasts so long, the temperatures drop, and then, it snows. Plants are dying off. 

Eucalyptus trees were introduced to California in 1850's from Australia. They were pretty much useless, but they took to the growing season of California. The tree in Sylvia's front yard falls on her house, and destroys her piano.
Whales dying/deterioration of the magnetic fields/birds are dying and falling out of the skies.

Helen, Julia's mother, is sick through most of the novel. She is affected by the lengthening of the days, and sometimes she is completely debilitated.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Finished Su 8/26/12

My post on Good Reads-

This is a superior book of the 'true crime' genre, and closer to the approach of Truman Capote or James Ellroy rather than Ann Rule. Rule's books recount an enthralling murder case, and basically it's, 'just the facts', and the other two authors try to capture a bit more of the 'emotional fall-out'of the atrocity. And, this is what Deanne Stillman has beautifully accomplished. 

Much has been made about how the author presents the Mojave desert as a major ingredient in this bloody and senseless double murder. But, I think what really sets this novel apart is how she showcases the 'less than sterling' characters of the victims and their families. Mandi Scott and Rosalie Ortega were promiscuous drug takers who hung around with the 'wrong crowd', yet Stillman really evokes empathy for them. They really come across as loving and caring individuals wise beyond their years, and this makes the tragedy even more devestating.

This is a great read, and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves 'true crime' books that aspire for just a bit more. 

6422 Palo Verde Street Apt 7- murder scene. August 2/3, 1991. This apartment was a 'party pad' for local gang-bangers and Marines stationed at the nearby base.

Amanda (Mandi) Scott- Just days prior to her sixteenth birthday; mother came to the apartment just after the murder, and did not enter. She was finding out about the birthday party which would have occurred the next day. She was driving a green Camaro which she would have given to Mandi.

Rosalie Ortega (Fishhead) From Philippines and the nickname comes from her love of cooking fish. Had a young daughter, Shantelle who was with her grandparents when she was murdered. They were long distance truckers, and her grandmother went by the CB handle, 'Asian Doll'. She was 21 at the time of her death, and had a job at the local Texaco mini-mart.

Debie McMasters- Mandi's mother; Came from two generations of women who were physically abused by spouses. Originally from Northern California (near Sonora, CA). She had a history with The Hells Angels and other biker gangs, and dealt in drugs with them.

Valentine Underwood- Veteran of The Gulf War. Killer of the two girls, and had several rape/assault charges before he entered the Marines. Just weeks before the murder he raped a girl by the name of Tammy. Her father was the highest ranking NCO on the base, and he promised her not to press charges, and he would take care of Underwood. He apparently did nothing. Valentine had a college degree, and was in college on a basketball scholarship.
     He wore the number "33" (Patrick Ewing and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lou Alcindor), and he stabbed each girl 33 times. Amanda was first, and Rosalie was in the shower. He stabbed himself in the hand, and was almost too injured to play a game between the Marines and the Air Force right after the murders. He started, but was taken out, and claimed that he had injured himself cleaning a trash can with a disposable razor.
      His blood was found at the murder site, and he raped both victims, but he claimed that he only found the bodies after having consensual sex.
      Received a life sentence in 1997. Years later he was brought up on charges of rape in Massachusetts due to a DNA match.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Finished Th 8/23/12

Post on Good Reads-

This is the first in Val McDermid's series featuring criminal profiler, Tony Hill, and Bradfield police detective, Carol Jordon. The novel is set in the early 1990's in a fictional northern England city, and it occurs just when the concept of criminal profiling had gained popularity in the United States. Tony Hill is trying to set up a national criminal profile database in England as a serial killer begins targeting young men in the gay subculture in the city of Bradfield, England. And, this is not 'gay bashing' since the victims seem to have been subjected to very gruesome and elaborate forms of medieval torture.

What makes the novel interesting is that the lead character, Tony Hill, is a celebrated criminal psychologist, yet he suffers from fairly serious psycho-sexual problems. A minor flaw in the novel might be that Carol Jordan's problems in dealing with an endemic sexist hierarchy has been explored in nearly every detective novel with a female lead. But, this is the first in a series, and I would not let this prevent me from reading another.

The killer's journal documenting his torture devices was very interesting, and his emotional state during the murders was very compelling. The ending of the book revealed an unexpected killer, and managed to blend Hill's sexual problems with the solution to the case, and also leaves the door open for a growing relationship between the two main characters. I would definitely check out another of the Hill/Jordan series by McDermid.

My notes-

The killer is Christopher Thorpe, but he is a transsexual and now using the name Angelica. This is the woman who Tony Hill has been using as a 'phone sex' partner. He was researching the Phone Sex Sub-Culture, but this woman seemed to be making his problem of impotence a thing of the past, and right before he was kidnapped, he was entertaining thoughts of actually meeting Angelica.

Carol Jordan lives with her brother Michael who is a computer expert, and she has a cat named Nelson.

The title to the novel is from the poem by T.S. Elliot, LOVE SONG OF J. ALFRED PRUFROCK
"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each, I do not think that they will sing to me".

Each chapter begins with a few lines from "On Murder considered as one of the fine arts" by Thomas De Quincey (1827).

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Finished Su 8/19/12

"When you believe in what you do, what you can do you won't believe"

"By Any Means Necessary"    Malcolm X  (Jean Paul Satre)

Cedric Snowden
Robert M. Finley
Horus Manley
Congressman Cyrus Marks
Lester Baines
Horizon Realty

My post at Good Reads:

HUNTING IN HARLEM is a well-written novel that attempts to reconcile an important dilemma. How can a destitute urban area be saved from the downward vortex of poverty and crime, yet still allow members of the community the freedom to live their lives as they see fit. Horizon Realty operates in the Mount Morris section of Harlem, and takes a bold approach. Their goal is to resuscitate the local economy at any cost, and if you are judged, 'not part of the solution, you are you are part of the problem'. Three surprisingly motivated and intelligent ex-cons are hired by Horizon, and slowly begin to realize the company's draconian policy. However, the book is not a thriller, and although Horizon's criminal behavior is not exactly defended, it is certainly not condemned. While reading the book I always found myself wondering  (and, I am sure that this was Mat Johnson's intent)  if the managers at Horizon didn't have a point. Since a tiny fraction of people in a ghetto obviously lead bad lives, can't these 'bad' lives be sacrificed for the greater good?  Of course, it's also true that those who are certain of what is right for the majority are usually the most dangerous (and, also a subliminal message by the author).

The characters and plot are entertaining and engaging, but secondary to this conundrum. I thought that the last line in the novel was especially telling and ironic-"When you believe in what you do, what you can do you won't believe".