Sunday, March 31, 2013


Finished Su 3/31/13 Easter Sunday
My post on Good Reads-

Anything by Don DeLillo is worth a look, and COSMOPOLIS is certainly no exception. The story is a kind of detached observation of 'a day in the life' of  Eric Packer, a billionaire hedge-fund manager. He is in his stretch limousine, and he and his security staff are attempting to get across Manhattan to get Eric a haircut. Various employees, friends, and even his wife, visit him in the confines of his imperial office suite on wheels as he and his team battle traffic snarls, numerous riots, and odd political/cultural disturbances to make it to his favorite barber. I guess the main theme of the novel is that Parker has been betting against the rise of a particular currency, and, in the process, has lost all of his fortune which leads to his personal downfall.

It's a fairly interesting read, and the novel is relatively short, but David Cronenberg's film is much better because the action of the story works much better 'seen' rather than merely 'described'.

Friday, March 29, 2013

INNOCENT MONSTER by Reed Farrel Coleman

Finished Th 3/28/13

My post on Good Reads-

Another solid detective thriller in the Moe Prager series. Moe gets a chance to mend fences with his estranged daughter, Sarah, if he investigates the disappearance of Sachi Bluntstone, an eleven year old artist 'savant'. This is a very dark mystery, and nearly everyone in the tale seems to have some serious negative attributes, and if the girl is found dead, it exponentially adds value to her paintings. Moe gets a break from his dull job as partner in his brother's wine business, and he just might regain the affections of his daughter, but because of the horrific nature of the case, it might not be worth it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Finished Su 3/24/13

My post at Good Reads-

The book reads like a thriller, and doesn't get bogged down in the minutia of high finance. It's kind of like FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS goes to Wall Street.

Sam Israel was a prominent Wall Street investor, and the founder of the Bayou Hedge Fund. He was a greedy, larger-than-life character, and OCTOPUS is the fascinating story of his downfall. Although he deftly conned his investors for more and more cash to keep the fund afloat, he falls prey to one of the wildest cons of all. Robert Booth Nichols, a shadowy figure with questionable links to numerous espionage outfits and international investment firms talks Israel into believing in a fantastic and secret, global investment market which is available only to the powerful people who control all the money on the planet. At face value, you would think that a serious trader such as Sam Israel would instantly smell a rat. But, I guess this is what the book is about. If you are a schemer, you are more than likely to fall prey to another schemer.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Finished Th 3/21/13

A well plotted and intriguing mystery story about a young man who is guilt ridden by a dark incident that occurred in his childhood. Tony lived down the street from an old recluse who was shunned by the neighborhood. However, Tony got to know the man, and used to play with his large and intricate train-set that was installed in the old man's basement. When a boy who went with Tony to play with the trains turns up murdered, the neighbors are convinced that Mr. McGuffin was responsible. He wasn't, and the novel is an odd and mysterious story of Tony's mental breakdown, or did Tony's father and uncle have a hand in the mystery. And it's quite possible that the ghost of Mr. McGuffin makes a beyond the grave attempt to seek karmic justice.

I thought about this clever story long after I finished the book.


Finished Th 3/21/13

My post on Good Reads-

Although WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS was published in 1980, this novel's dominant themes of incarceration without due process and the efficacy of torture provide insight into our current international 'War On Terror'. The novel is set in a frontier town ruled by 'The Empire', and the story is the first person account of the local magistrate's growing unwillingness to support the imperialistic approach to a dubious or doubtful threat to the state by an ethnic group known as, 'The Barbarians'. The novel documents his relationship with a Barbarian servant girl, and his imprisonment and torture by Colonel Joll who represents the power of the state. The writing style of the novel is bit dated, but effectively manages to cover similar subjects and themes found in such classic dystopian novels as,  BRAVE NEW WORLD and 1984.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway

Selected for Classic Book Club, March 2013

Finished Mo 3/18/13

This is a colorful novel, and the descriptions of 'The Running of The Bulls' at Pamplona is vivid and well written. But, I found the conversations and dialog hopelessly banal, until I realized that Hemingway is writing the story of a bunch of drunks. This is an insightful profile of an alcoholic. The alcoholic talks nonsense, is self-centered and vain, and believes himself to be the very center of the universe. And, this is exactly how the characters in the novel behave.

This is not so much about 'The Lost Generation', but a few of the drunks that were part of it.

ME AND THE DEVIL by Nick Tosches

Finished Sa 3/16/13

My post on Good Reads-

This is a deliciously dark(very dark!)faux-autobiography of a NYC writer in his sixties (Nick Tosches) who finds that sex with young women can become a supernaturally salubrious experience if he can sip on their blood. The sex is consensual, and the book is not an attempt to present a new slant on vampirism, yet it is more accurately a vivid and intriguing portrait of a man facing his mortality while simultaneously experiencing inexplicable youthful or godlike powers. 

The book is set in the hippest areas of Manhattan, and offers a wide range of colorful characters, yet the reader never knows exactly what is real and what is not, and the tone of the book presents an intricate dance between sobriety and intoxication, or insanity and inspiration. What happens in the novel is clearly secondary to the pensive nature of the exploration.  MUST READ.


Finished Fr 3/15/13

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Finished Th 3/7/13

Link from Wikipedia-

Telegraph Avenue, adapted from an idea for a TV series pilot that Chabon was asked to write in 1999, is a social novel set on the borders between Oakland and Berkeley the summer of 2004 that sees a "large cast of characters grapple with infidelity, fatherhood, crooked politicians, racism, nostalgia and buried secrets".[41] Chabon said upon publication in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that the novel concerns "[...]the possibility and impossibility of creating shared community spaces that attempt to transcend the limits imposed on us by our backgrounds, heritage and history.".[41] Five years in gestation, Telegraph Avenue had a difficult birth, Chabon telling the Guardian newspaper: "I got two years into the novel and got completely stymied and felt like it was an utter flop [...] I had to start all over again, keeping the characters but reinventing the story completely and leaving behind almost every element".[42] After starting out with literary realism with his first two novels and moving into genre-fiction experiments from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay onward, Chabon feels that Telegraph Avenue is a significant "unification" of his earlier and later styles, declaring in an interview ""I could do whatever I wanted to do in this book and it would be OK even if it verged on crime fiction, even if it verged on magic realism, even if it verged on martial arts fiction [...] I was open to all of that and yet I didn't have to repudiate or steer away from the naturalistic story about two families living their everyday lives and coping with pregnancy and birth and adultery and business failure and all the issues that might go into making a novel written in the genre of mainstream quote-unquote realistic fiction, that that was another genre for me now and I felt free to mix them all in a sense.""[4] The novel has been optioned by film producer Scott Rudin (who previously optioned and produced Chabon's Wonder Boys), and Cameron Crowe is adapting the novel into a screeplay, according to Chabon.[41]
Despite his success, Chabon continues to perceive himself as a "failure", noting that "anyone who has ever received a bad review knows how it outlasts, by decades, the memory of a favorable word."[43]

Set on the Berkley Oakland border of California in 2004 the novel offers up a kaleidoscopic cast of characters that   must face a myriad of problems. Probably the over-riding theme is the loss of Brokeland Records, a famous Berkley record store, that is soon to be shutdown due to the encroachment of Dogpile Records, a large Black owned chain. However, 
My post on Good Reads-
A kaleidoscopic look at contemporary Berkeley, California with a myriad of plots and counter-plots that's a joy to read. The center of the novel concerns Brokeland Records which is a local used record store that must soon close it's doors due to the arrival of Dogpile Records, a large record store chain.The long and hypnotic descriptive passages are classic, and I found myself reading some of them out loud. The novel dips into such diverse topics as racism, corrupt local politics, marriage and fatherhood, the mania of trivia obsessed record collectors, and the nostalgia for 'Sweet Soul Music' of the 1970's. 'Sprawling' doesn't even come close to describing this wonderful 'rush' of a novel!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

SHIBUMI by Trevanian

Finished Tu 3/6/13

The novel is the story of a world renown assassin by the name of Nicholai Alexandrovich Hel. He was born in Pre-WWII China to an aristocratic Russian mother, and never really had any contact with his Prussian father. The mother and son moved to Japan and are taken in by General Kishikawa, a high ranking Japanese military figure who becomes a foster father to Nicholai. Essentially, Nicholai Hel is half Russian, half Prussian, brought up Japanese, and exhibits cultural traits of each ethnic group.  When the general leaves to fight for the Japanese (and lose to the allies), he is sent to a teacher of the highly complex Japanese board game called 'Go', and this game becomes the centerpiece of his education. This game is a mix of philosophy and military tactics that is makes chess look like checkers.
    The novel is a kind of biography of Hel and recounts his life-

After Hiroshima he becomes a translator for the Americans. He is fluent in several languages

American intelligence captures Hel and imprisons him for failing to testify against General Kishikawa.

Hel spends many years in solitary confinement and he becomes mentally and physically adept. After a few years he is able to convince the authorities to give him books and writing materials. One of the books is a Basque dictionary, and he becomes proficient in this ancient, forgotten language.


My post on Good Reads-

The novel is a stylistic relic of the 1970's from the author of THE EIGER SANCTION that recounts the life of world-class assassin, Nicholai Alexandrovich Hel.  He is half Russian and half Prussian who was brought up in China and Japan, and exhibits cultural traits of each ethnic group. The highly complex Japanese board-game called 'Go' becomes the centerpiece of his education and seemed to determine his philosophical outlook on life. This game is a major theme of the novel, and cave exploration also is another major influence on Hel's character. Hel also has a longstanding hatred of the United States because of the nuclear bombing of Japan at the end of WWII, and he was also imprisoned by the victors for several years in solitary confinement for refusing to testify against his step-father, Japanese General Kishikawa. Also, while imprisoned he receives a Basque dictionary, and Hel becomes enchanted with this ancient and forgotten culture, and he lives in this area of France and Spain. The action of the novel is driven by a request from a young girl who belongs to a terrorist group, and her violent mission was compromised, and she is able to persuade Hel to help her. He was friends with the leader of this group, yet I have no idea what they were fighting for, or even who they were fighting against. The most interesting aspect of the novel, which is not developed nearly enough, is a highly secret organization called 'Mother Company'. This is an espionage network headed by Saudi Oil interests that have compromised all national governments on the planet. This outfit is the 'power behind the throne', and I felt was the most interesting idea in the novel.

Stylistically the book is really dated, yet it is an odd portrait of a very unique hit-man, but it could have been much, much better.

Friday, March 1, 2013

HURT MACHINE by Reed Farrel Coleman

Finished Th 2/28/13

Another superb Moe Prager Mystery that grabs hold on page one, and never lets up until the final page. Moe is asked by an ex-wife to find out who stabbed and killed her sister. It's a labyrinth of a plot that is chock full of red herrings and blind alleys, but leads to a stunning (an logical) conclusion.

Reed Farrel Coleman's writing style is poignant and colorful, yet he is able to set-up and propel a fast paced and compelling plot. Not only is the story about a horrific crime which leads to an even more horrendous series of cover-ups, but Moe Prager is suffering from stomach cancer, and Coleman is able to masterfully convey the dark emotions of both the story and the plight of his lead character.

I would highly recommend any and all of the books in this admirable mystery series.  

My notes-

   Carmella asks Moe to find out how and why her sister, Alta was killed. She was stabbed in an alley. This woman was infamous as the NYC EMT would refused to treat a man who was dying. This made various police and fire agencies prime suspects in her murder. One Puerto Rican ex-fireman actually put out a hit on the woman, but his hit-man wouldn't do the job. This older man is later killed saving a child from being run down in the street. This man is revealed to be in love with a beautiful and popular transvestite, although he is violently anti-gay. He's a New York hero, with a Big Secret.
   The reason the woman and her partner did not treat the man is that he was part of a blackmail operation that was drugging young women, and then forcing them to engage in sex orgies on film. These videos would be released on the Internet if the women wouldn't pay up.
   The man who died was a sexual criminal who was jailed for sexually assaulting and underage woman. This woman, Eserald Marie Sutanto, was in love with the man, and visited him while he was in prison. Moe interviews this girl in connection to his murder investigation, but doesn't realize how tied into the action she really is until almost the end of the novel. In fact, he thinks she is the real murderer, and sets her up for the charge. This girl commits suicide.
    The actual reason for the stabbing is that Alta accidentally witnessed a heroin delivery at the loading dock of a restaurant of one of Moe's friends. This guy had been giving information and helping Moe. The guy used to be a cop with Moe in Coney Island. He is Greek and his family ran a series of restaurants in the New York area, and this man's brother got into drugs and gamboling and owned lots of money to Eastern European crime lords. They got control of the restaurants, and used them to distribute heroin from Afghanistan.
   Moe is assisted by a Peurto Rican cop, Detective Fuqua, who is very determined to get ahead in the police force at any price, and this reminds Moe of his dead partner.
   All throughout the novel Moe is fighting gastric cancer, and wants to put off chemo therapy until his daughter Sarah's wedding which is supposed to happen in a couple of weeks.  Pam is his wife and she is suspicious of the whole case since it involves Carmella, one of Moe's ex-wives.

Moral Of The Story (paraphrased the last line of the book)
"humans inflict pain on one another as easily as we breath, and people can change, but they cannot change their essential natures. We were hurt machines and whether we evolved into them of God made us that way seems beside the point".