Monday, June 25, 2012

WINTER'S BONE by Daniel Woodrell

Finished Su 6/25/12

This was the featured book for June 2012 in The Contemporary Book Club at Lincoln Library

What struck me the most about this novel is the vivid depiction of a violent patriarchal society that seems wholly alien to the 21st century. 'American Hillbilly Noir' at its finest, and the book is chock full of wonderful conversational flourishes and embellishments, yet the plot can be boiled down to just two words- "Where's Dad"?

A young girl tries to locate her missing father to make sure that he goes to court, or they could lose the family homestead to the bail-bondsman. Her father is a major player in a notorious family of 'meth cookers' who operate in the remote hinterlands of Missouri. And, Ree Dolly must question denizens of a demimode that seem to have been plucked straight out of the Dark Ages. 

The book is electric from start to finish, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

Ree Dolly- Main character; father- Jessup; Sonny and Harold- Her two younger brothers, Sonny is eighteen months older; Connie- Her mom who suffers from mental problems and stays sedated.
Uncle Teardrop- Jessup's brother, and he helps Ree, but very violent and addicted to meth.

Gail Lockrum- 'Sweet Pea', Ree's friend and she helps, lets her use her truck. Gail is married to Floyd. His family will receive the benefit of the sale of woodlands (Bromont Timber), if she loses everything if Jessup doesn't show.

Blonde Milton/Stump Milton- These two characters are related. Blonde lives across the way from Ree, and Stump is the patriarch of the clan, and very violent and dangerous.

She proves that Jessup did not avoid the trial, but was murdered. Stump Milton's women take her to a frozen pond where she chainsaws his hands to offer as proof of death. Officer Baskin delivers the good news, and Ree gets a bag of money that was unclaimed from the bailbondsman. 

"Wheels"- the last word of the novel. This is what she tells Harold and Sonny that they will do with the extra cash.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Finished Su 6/24/12

This is a kind of novel that might not appeal to all readers. Although entertaining, I felt it was more a series of very well written scenes that happened to be loosely connected. The novel is divided into three broad sections. The first we meet Daniel Quinn, one of the central characters, as a young child in 1936. In the next section the the action switches to Cuba, and we meet Ernest Hemingway and learn of Fidel Castro's relationship with his people and country. And, the third and longest section, returns to the streets of Albany, New York during the race riots which occurred after the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

The writing is like a 'free-style' Jazz improvisation, and characters deliver a blizzard of historical detail and rich insight, yet a strong story-line never really emerges to define the novel. Certain parts of the book are nearly spellbinding, but it's not the kind of novel that easily ties together. On the other hand, it's an audacious concept to make any kind of connection between Castro's Cuban revolution and the racial strife in Albany, New York during the summer of 1968.

Daniel Quinn- Newsman and George Quinn is his father who is beginning to show signs of senility.

Joe Cooney- A tourist to Cuba, and Hemingway punches him out, and later they fight an unusual duel. Two pistols at twenty paces. Hemingway refuses his weapon, so this prevents Cooney from shooting at an unarmed man.

Reneta- Beautiful Cuban woman who later marries Dan. He has had many relationships and marriages and was married to Max. Max becomes a drug runner late in the novel.

Tremont- Black alcoholic that goes with George and Vivian on their night of drinking during a riot.

Diego- One of the revolutionaries who runs guns with Reneta. She was in love with this man.

Vivian- Friend of George, and both of them are on the streets of Albany on the night of Robert Kennedy's assassination. They are out drinking and George is attacked. A Black man throws a bottle at him.

Cody Mason- Black piano player

Gloria- Dan and Renata's daughter.


Finished Sa 6/23/12

The adventures of Travis McGee are always a delightful treat, and John D. MacDonald is a master at creating and delivering a convoluted, yet compelling story-line with very believable, three dimensional characters. This novel was released in 1975, and is the sixteenth in the Travis McGee Series.

An old friend of Travis's turns up on his houseboat, The Busted Flush, late one night with a suitcase full of money. She won't tell him exactly how she acquired the cash, but, in the event of her death, she wants him to deliver it to her sister. In two weeks she's dead in a traffic accident, but too many questions remain unanswered, and Travis stays around to determine if it might have been murder. Soon Travis learns that his friend was involved in a drug trafficking operation, and her murder, and several others are linked to this drug network. Someone is trying to wipe out their involvement by murdering all the co-conspirators, but who is behind this deadly cover-up?

Every novel in the Travis McGee Series is well worth reading, and they are all examples of  the very best of Crime Fiction.

Carrie Mulligan- Friend of Travis. She gives him the suitcase full of loot. She resided in Bayside, Florida.

Cal and Cindy Birdsong- They own the motel/marina where Travis and Meyer dock The Busted Flush. Travis takes Cindy as a lover, and Cal is an alcoholic, and murdered by a thin wire inserted into his heart.

Harry Hascomb- Owner of Superior Building Supplies. The front for the smuggling operation, and Carrie, and Jack Omaha.

Jack Omaha- Part owner of Superior Building Supplies, and is killed by a falling bale of grass from a helicopter. This accident makes the murderous cover-ups necessary.

Fred Van Harn- Crooked lawyer and part of the dope ring. He kills several to cover up his involvement.

Susan Dobrovsky- Carrie's sister

Walter J. Demos- He is the manager of the apartment complex- 1500 Seaway Boulevard, and is a drug dealer to the renters. It's like a 'Swinging Singles' place. He's an older man, and not really evil, but just wants to be 'part of the scene'.

Harry Max Scorf- He is a policeman that is working the case. He is shot in the head by Harry Hascomb when confronted that they have his fingerprints on the bomb that killed Joanna Freeler. And, Hascomb also killed Carrie, and shoved her in front of a speeding vehicle to make it look like a hit and run.  Joanna lived in the complex and worked with Carrie.

Jason and Ollie- They help out at the Birdson's marina, and Jason killed Cal with the wire through the heart. He didn't like Cal's treatment of Cindy. Jason is murdered by lawyer Fred Van Harn and put in Van Harn's horse's grave. He also makes an attempt on Travis's life when Travis confronts him while he is burying the horse.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

UPGUNNED by David J. Schow

Finished Su 6/17/12

It's a duel of wills between a fashion photographer and a deadly assassin that's an electric ride from start to finish. And along the way, the reader is treated to a wealth of information about photography, weapons, film-making, and the 'shadow world' of hired killers.
Elite LA fashion photographer, Elias McCabe, is kidnapped by a hit-team and forced to photograph an influential SWAT team leader in compromising sexual situations. Yet when the man accidentally dies, they finish the lurid smear campaign using the man's corpse. At the end of the encounter,  McCabe escapes when Gun Guy, the hit-team leader, is partially blinded in a darkroom accident. What follows is a vicious game of  'cat and mouse' which kept me reading through the night. Wildly Entertaining!!

Elias McCabe- fashion photographer and artist

Clavius- McCabe's mentor and owner of the apartment where the opening scenes occur

Nasja Tarasova- East European model who has sex with McCabe, and this causes his lover, Char(Charlene Glades), to leave him. She
left on a recording device to catch McCabe, but it also inadvertently recorded the assassination team.

Gun Guy (Chambers)- One of the names used by the team leader. Also, Mister Kimber (Kimber is the name of the fancy weapon that Gun Guy uses, and McCabe steals)

Cognac, Bulldog, Blackhawk- Three members of Gun Guy's team. Cognac is a prostitute, and the other two are hired muscle.

Mal Boyd- (Male, Boy Child- he organized the hit)

Dominic Sharps- Head of the Los Angeles Police Department's Special Tactical Wing

Joey- Assistant to McCabe in his photographic studio. He is covered with comic book monster tattoos.

Mason Stone- He is the famous actor on the set of 'Vengeance Is'. Reminded me of Michael Douglas.

Tripp Bergin- Director of the film, and allows McCabe to come to NYC to be the set photographer on the film. This gives McCabe a destination to escape the assassination team.

Arly Zahorin- This guy is the video photographer on the movie set.

Cap Weatherwas- He is the world renown expert of guns and is the 'go to' guy on film sets. He teaches McCabe about how to use a weapon. His company is called, 'Fire When Ready'.

Julian Hightower- McCabe's alias when he heads east to work on the film.

The Salon- A super trendy nightclub in NYC which features a collection of freaks like an old time sideshow.

Roddy Caperton- Alias used by McCabe when he finally kills Mal Boyd who is ultimately responsible for everything.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

THE AFFAIR by Lee Child

Finished Mo 6/11/12................My post at Good Reads.............................Although this is the new Jack Reacher novel (2011), it is a flashback to an incident that happened to Reacher in March of 1997. A killer of beautiful women is operating near a secluded military base in rural Mississippi, and Reacher is called in to work as a liaison between police and the Pentagon. And, Jack's new girlfriend, Elizabeth Devereaux, heads the local county police force, and she might be concealing sinister motives. A real page-turner, although this is not excellent writing, you can't beat the melodrama and it's always compelling..........................This is a link to a very detailed explanation of the novel's plot...............

Monday, June 11, 2012

MARCH by Geraldine Brooks

Finished Su 6/10/12......................One of the finest historical novels about the Civil War that I have ever read. It's chock full of interesting details and interesting footnotes of the period. The novel is actually an extrapolation of LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott and posits about the role of the father. MHenry David Thoreau's family business as a pencil manufacturer, the racist members of the Union army who fought side by side with die-hard abolitionists

Based on the disappearance of Mr. March in LITTLE WOMEN. He's an army chaplain, and survivor of the battle of Ball's Bluff. He's writing to his wife, Marmee. He finds himself at an island home that is being used as a field hospital. Twenty years earlier he had visited this home as a peddler from Concord, MA. He had met a beautiful slave girl, Grace, and she is there at the hospital. As an eighteen year old, she gave him his first kiss, and years later she kind of convinces him that he has done the best that he can. He sets up a school for the poor black kids called Oak Landing. Rebels attack and he ends up in a Union hospital in Washington, DC. His wife travels to meet him. Grace is there with him when Marmee arrives, yet Grace convinces him that he is a father, first and foremost, and return to his wife and kids.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

EXIT MUSIC by Ian Rankin

Finished We 6/6/12.............. A Russian poet is murdered outside an Edinburgh parking garage. An older couple and a young woman discover the body. The couple is connected with a major Scottish bank, and the girl is involved in the drug trade. Rebus is on the case, but it is weeks before his retirement. Lots of 'red herrings', but it was a mugging-plain and simple. The wife of the man working the garage was soliciting men to make her husband jealous. She just happened to come on to the poet, the man lost his temper, and bashed in the Russian's skull

Subplots- A sound engineer is murdered, but this is to stop the release of a tape on which a suspect made a threat against the poet.
.........Gangster Cafferty's head is bashed in, and it's made to look like Rebus did it. It's the young cop who did it, and wants to ruin John's life because Todd Goodyear believes that Rebus destroyed his family when he locked up his grandfather many years ago. Another brilliant 'who dunnit', and a great way for John Rebus to end his career. Siobhan Clarke- John Rebus's partner, they are close
..........Todd Goodyear- cop who was brought up from street cop to detective by Clarke. His grandfather was put away by Rebus, and Goodyear attacks Cafferty, and tries to pin it on Rebus. Todd's brother, Sol, is a drug dealer. Morris Gerald Cafferty is a big mobster and friend and adversary of Rebus. Cafferty is trying to get a group of wealthy Russians to invest in the city. This is a big part of the novel in that a lot of doubt about who in this group might be responsible for the death of the poet
........... Charles Riordan- A sound engineer who had been making voice tapes of many of the suspects while recording at the poet's readings. One of the suspects mentioned that he wished the poet was dead, and this was recorded. One of the Scottish bank officials killed the engineer to try to get this tape.
.............Novel ends with Rebus trying to resuscitate Cafferty. This is right after Rebus's retirement party. Rebus is having trouble leaving his old life, and this old criminal adversary represents his ties to that life.

.....My post on Good Reads:

Another terrific 'Who Dunnit' in the John Rebus series by Ian Rankin. There are lots of 'red herrings', but it's a real page turner, and this is the last book in the collection, and I will really miss John Rebus, one of my favorite literary detectives. A Russian poet is murdered outside an Edinburgh parking garage, and this appears to be linked to a group of wealthy Russian industrialists who are trying to invest in the city. John Rebus's old criminal rival, Morris Cafferty, seems to be orchestrating this questionable development deal. Like all the books in The Rebus Series, you really feel like you have taken a visit to the historic and picturesque city of Edinburgh, Scotland. And, I love John Rebus's taste in classic Blues and Rock!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

YEAR OF WONDERS by Geraldine Brooks

Finished Fr 6/1/12.................. This is my post at Good Reads

A very interesting novel about how an English village dealt with the Plague of 1665. The story is narrated by Anna Frith, and she recounts many of the adversities, hardships, and crises of Faith that afflict the townsfolk during this year of Death. The novel could be viewed as a discourse on how intelligent, tenacious, and strong-willed women were able to shape and control events in a very ignorant and male- dominated society. Micheal Mompellion, the town rector, has the legitimate authority, yet he would be mostly ineffective without the support of his wife, Elinor, and the indispensable presence of Anna. Women are the clear heroes in this tale, yet my only problem would be the ending of the novel. The dramatic confrontation at Cucklett Delf, and Micheal's revelations about the true nature of his relationship with Elinor were melodramatic and riveting, but Anna's final treatment seemed a bit far fetched. This is the second Geraldine Brooks novel that I have read, and I will definitely try a third.

Based on the true story of the plague that struck Eyam, Derbyshire, England in 1666. Parish church of St. Lawrence.
.........The character of Michael Mompellion is based on the real rector of Eyam, William Mompesson. Although the real man had two daughters which he sent away before the plague reached the village. His wife was killed by the plague, and not by murder as in the novel. Another terrific historical novel by Geraldine Brooks. This one is based on the true story of the village of Eyam's battle with the plague of 1665. The novel shows how the town rector, Michael Mompellion (the real man's name was William Mompesson), was able to convince the village to isolate themselves to protect the disease from spreading. He was able to negotiate a deal with a local Earl to keep the town supplied during their tribulation.
.......... Anna Frith tale is told thru her. Sam was her husband who was killed in a mining accident. Tom and Jamie were her sons.
........... Michael Mompellion and wife, Elinor Mompellion had an aborted baby by Charles, and lives in shame. Not revealed until the end of the novel, but Michael refuses to have sex with her because of this shame.

'rector'- A cleric in charge of a parish in the Protestant Episcopal Church.

"Anteros"-Michael Mompellion's stallion.

The Bradfords(Colonel Henry Bradford)- a wealthy family who leave the village, and in the beginning of the novel Elizabeth Bradford returns and wants the rector to come with her to visit her mother. Michael refuses. The Bradfords leave town, and make no provisions for their servants.
George Vicar- tailor who sets up shop in the village, and it is his cloth which arrives from London and causes the contagion.
Mem Gowdie, and her daughter, Anys Gowdie. They are two women who study plants, and are the closest thing that the community has to real doctors. They are experts in child birth practices, and are thought to be witches.
................. 'Cucklett Delf'- Where Mompellion had the church services in an attempt to prevent the spread of the plague. The Delf is outdoors.
.................. Josiah (Joss) Bont- Anna's drunken father. He rips off the villagers by over-charging for burial services. Married to Aphra, and this is Anna's step-mother. She is crazy and kills Elinor at the Delf in the end of the novel. Aphra's youngest child, Faith, dies of the plague, and Aphra uses the body in a kind of Black Magic ritual, and shows up at the Sunday service with the dead child, and commits the murder. Aphra had been found guilty of dabbling in Black Magic (selling magic charms to villagers to keep the plague from their houses), and was thrown into a cess pool, and this probably drove her over the edge. Joss was also put in a stock for his gouging practices. His palms were knifed to a mine entrance, and he stayed there all night, and died. It was thought that a family member would free him, but everyone was occupied.
..........................In the end of the novel Anna and Michael have sex. He confesses that he had never slept with Elinor in the three years that they were married. Because of Elinors sex with Charles, and the loss of their child, Michael feels that she might be forgiven, but never receive atonement. So he denies sex between them, and thinks this will keep them from being separated for all eternity. Anna leaves him to help in the birth of Mrs. Bradford's child. This is an illegitimate birth, and the Brandford's want to let it die, or even kill her. Anna saves the baby and leaves the country and raises it. Michael gave her Anteros for her escape, and told her to get on an ore ship bound for Liverpool. Anna follows his directions up to a point, and changes destinations so that she can truly disappear. She goes to the Muslim city of Oran.Anna becomes one of the wife's of Ahmed Bey, a Muslim. He is a healer, and she learns from him, and becomes a midwife. The Muslim women did not feel comfortable around a man, even though he was attempting to help them medically. Her baby is named, "Aisha"- word for 'life' and also 'bread'. And she has another child in the harem called, "Elinor". This is Michael and Anna's child.