Saturday, August 31, 2013

THE KING by Morton Cooper

Finished Fr 8/30/13

My post at Good Reads-

This is a best seller from 1967 that recounts the life of a character who shares similar characteristics to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Tony Bennett. Harry Orlando is a wildly popular American singer/songwriter who is at the top of the national entertainment game, and wishes to trade it all for a career in government service. He was a friend to President Joseph Haywood, but when the president is killed in a plane crash, this seems the end of his hopes to become a respected cultural proponent of the Arts. The novel documents the many loves of Harry, and probably the most important plot-line is his growing relationship with Grant Campbell who is an ex-Hollywood actor turned Republican congressman who has some nefarious billionaire backers.

Morton Cooper's writing style is a bit dated, yet he delivers a compelling story about the nexus of Hollywood, Las Vegas, and National Politics. Harry Orlando is an entertainer who has all the money, sex and popular recognition that any man could want, yet the novel examines his urge to make one big compromise with a questionable politician that could gain him the respect of The Cultured Class, but, in the process, he might lose his soul. It might come across as too melodramatic for some readers, but I found the book to be an enjoyable read.

This is one of my books, and I picked it up because I was tired of reading contemporary novels that skip back and forth in time for no real reason. This novel was written in 1967, and although it's over 400 pages, it goes pretty much for 'A' to 'Z', and employs only 'Flashback's to establish characters or situations from the past. It was a most refreshing change from what I have been reading!

Harry Orlando- Successful singer modeled after Sinatra who has reached the top of the entertainment heap and wishes to go into government service. He had been friends with President of the United States, Joe Haywood but the president was killed in a plane crash before Harry could be nominated to a cultural post.

Bill Temple is a friend of Orlando's and has become an influential Washington Insider and political newspaper columnist. They have a falling out because Harry takes up with a sleazy right-wing politician (modeled after Ronald Reagan). Grant Campbell was a Hollywood actor who played 'Boy Scout' type roles and believes in vacuous slogans that promote The Love of Jesus and The American Constitution. But, he is dangerous because he accepts support from hard-core billionaires who are really racist and jingoistic.

A sub-plot is that when he got out of college, Bill Temple and a friend went to Paris and wrote a kind of satire of pornogragphy under the pen name of C.S. Poole. The book was mysteriously rewritten as hard-core porn, and the state of Alabama has Temple under indictment. He has commitment issues with his wife Mary, and near the end of the novel, he commits suicide by cutting his wrists. At that time, he had sworn that he would do everything possible to stop Orlando from hooking up with Campbell. Campbell's people release the news of Temple's pornography charges. Actually, Patsy, Harry's useless brother who is like a servant to Orlando, gives them the info thinking that he is doing Harry a favor.

Miriam is Harry's first wife. He loved her, but he couldn't stop his wild lifestyle. She knew it, and was never really connected to him. She wanted a stable steady husband, and Harry is anything but that. Even though they have been divorced for decades, he still wants her back, but she has the guts to say 'no'. They have an adult son, Jimmy, who is college educated and wants to be a writer. Harry has a professional writer friend rewrite a few of Jimmy's stories and have them published. Jimmy hates this because he wants to be his own man.

Noreen is the Love of Harry's life, but she is an alcoholic and has serious nymphomaniac tendencies. She was a nobody from Louisiana, and he made her into a somewhat respected actress, but she blew it all, and becomes a restaurant greeter in a sleazy San Francisco dive. She cuts out the hard liquor (although she drinks a river of beer) and only takes one lover at a time. In the end, Harry and her are together.

Monday, August 26, 2013

REALLY THE BLUES by Mezz Mezzro and Bernard Wolfe

Read/skimmed during the 'Hernia Repair, August 2013'; the first two weeks August

An entertaining and informative read that comes across like one, long spoken 'rave-up'  jazz riff.

The book is an autobiography first released in 1946 about a white kid from the north-side of Chicago who not only loved jazz and blues, but felt strongly attracted to the entire Black race. It looked like he might spend his entire life behind bars for pointless and absurd crimes, yet his love of music and the people that made it seemed to offer him hope. At that time in American history, his viewpoints were unthinkable, and Mezz's take on race and music are probably thirty years ahead of their time.  The book is chock full of colloquial expressions and 'jive talk' that really makes you feel like you are part of the groundbreaking era of the birth of the modern jazz age.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

LOVEDEATH by Dan Simmons

Finished Fr 8/24/13

5 Novellas (I didn't read all of them) This shows that Simmons can write in any genre that he chooses.

1) ENTROPHY'S BED AT MIDNIGHT   An insurance adjuster contemplates the odds that he can do all that is necessary to protect his daughter.  One of his cases: A guy is working on a dangerously slanted roof, and ties a line around his waist, tosses the rope over, and has his son tie the line to 'something solid'. He ties it to the rear bumper of their trunk, and later his wife drives away pulling the man to his death. The adjuster puts these in a binder called The Orange File. The story ends at an amusement park where he is in a car on a ride with his daughter, and wonders if this incident might end up in his Orange File.

2)DYING IN BANGKOK  This was my favorite. Two friends on  R & R  during Vietnam war visit a brothel and witness a sex show involving a vampire. One of the friends becomes infected, and years later the other comes back to infect the still living vampire with AIDS. Very creepy horror story with an undercurrent of homosexual desire.

3)SLEEPING WITH TEETH WOMAN  Didn't read it. Seemed similar, at least in setting, to BLACK HILLS.

4) FLASHBACK  A future dystopic society in which people take a drug that allows them to focus on memory. A character who was on the detail to guard JFK when he was assassinated uses the drug to 'go back and change history'. However, this man was not there, and seems to be remembering someone else's life. Another character is in a gang and they are trying to gun somebody down, witness it, and then use it to 'flash' on.

5)THE GREAT LOVER I didn't read this one, and I probably should have. I got the feeling that Simmons felt that this one was the best of the bunch. Set in the trenches of WWI.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Finished Tu 8/20/13 August 2013 selection for The Contemporary Book Club, Springfield IL

My post on Good Reads-

THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN is a compelling story with the flavor and style popular women's novels of one hundred years ago.
The book presents a compelling mystery that spans almost one hundred years. In 1913 four year old Nell is found on a wharf in Brisbane, Australia and it takes until 2005 to determine her true identity, and how and why she got there. The novel jumps back and forth in time and develops dozens of interesting characters that painstakingly shed light on this central mystery, but the novel's primary strength is that it manages to flawlessly capture the flair of a Victorian melodrama at its finest. The book could almost be viewed as an homage to the early 20th century novelist, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and she is even a minor character in THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN.

Three Basic Time Periods-
1) London 1913
2) Brisbane, Australia 2005
3) 1975 Covers Nell's trip from Australia to Blackhurst Estate (Tregenna) The estate is in Cornwall, England

(The Authoress) Eliza Makepeace

Ivory Walker (Nell)
Ivory is actually Eliza's daughter, but most of the novel it's assumed to be Mary (the maid's) child

Cassandra- Child of Nell's daughter,  Lesley. Nell had bought the cottage, and was preparing to relocate when Lesley shows up with Cassandra and she never is able to move to England.

Lil and Hugh- This is the couple that becomes Nell's adoptive parents when Hugh finds the four year old Nell on the wharf after the voyage from England.

Ben-the old man and friend of Nell's. He is a favorite customer at her shop, and his daughter, Ruby, helps Cassandra when she gets to England.

'White Suitcase'-This is the case with the storybook illustrated by Nathaniel Walker that Nell (Ivory) takes to Australia. There was money and ID but it is stolen by a mother of a big family. This woman kind of watched over the child, but she was crooked.

Henry Mansell-Detective hired by Adeline Mountrachet to locate the lost child. In the end Eliza dies from a fall out of his coach when he is bringing her back. She had already placed Ivory on the boat and dies before telling anyone. Adeline is married to photographer Linus. He has a club foot and was hated by his family. They made him feel worthless. He was in love with his sister, Georgiana.

Georgiana got pregnant by a sailor and left Blackhurst and had Eliza. After Sammy is killed and Mansell finds them. Eliza is brought back and Adeline attempts to 'break' her.

Will is the little boy who kind of befriends Ivory on the voyage. His mother takes her money

facts on the Mountrachets p. 160-165

Mrs. Swindell this is where Eliza and her twin brother Sammy live in London (1913). The old woman is greedy and mean to the children. This is where Eliza hides the broach, and this is what allows Mansell to capture her when she leaves with her daughter. She comes back for the broach after placing the child on the boat, and he chloroforms her. Mrs. Swindell threatens them that the 'do gooders' will take them away and put them in an orphanage.

While playing 'Ripper' with Sammy, Eliza runs ahead and in the fog, Sammy is killed when a horse walks on his chest. She was going to use the broach to pay for a funeral, but decided that Mrs. Swindell would only steal the money.

Clara- this is the daughter of Mary, the maid. Cassandra is in England and has met Ruby and Ruby tells her of meeting Clara and this woman had sketches of Nathaniel Walker

37 Battersea Church Road- this is where Mrs. Swindell lived and Nell goes back to this address when she visits as an adult and meets Mrs. Swindell's daughter who lives at the same house. Her name is Harriet Swindell.

William Martin- Old man who loved Eliza and saw her having sex with Nathaniel. "It's not what it seems". Cassandra meets him through his granddaughter.

Christian- he is boyfriend of Cassandra and helps her get the cottage livable, and also helps with the garden. He is an ex-cancer doctor. He met Nell one time when he was eleven years old when he was in the garden, and she kind of gave him her blessing to watch over the place.

Rose and Nathaniel are killed in a train accident in 1913. This allows Eliza to take Ivory because she doesn't want her child to grow up at Blackhurst with Adeline and Linus

When Eliza is taken back to Blackhurst she is wearing Sammy's clothes and had cut off her red hair.

Rose swallows a thimble as a child and is x-rayed for an hour causing her to become sterile. Christian tells Cassandra and then they realize that  Rose could not be Ivory's natural mother. But they still think the it's Mary's child.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Finished Tu 8/20/13

I read this book during the recovery period after my hernia procedure of August, 2013. The surgery took place on Friday, August 2nd, and I read through a pain-killer haze over the next few days. I read several other books during this roughly three week period, but finally finished the book early on the morning of 8/20.

Link to Wikipedia-

Monday, August 19, 2013

HARDCASE (A Joe Kurtz thriller) by Dan Simmons

Finished Su 8/18/13

Set in Buffalo, NY
Kurtz does eleven years in Attica for the brutal killing of a man who raped and murdered his lover. (beats, tortures-hand in garbage disposal, throws him out a sixth floor window onto the roof of a cop car. They watched as the scene unfolds)
He had befriended a mafia Don's son, Little Skag, and this gives him an in with the mob when he is freed, and he agrees to try to find their missing accountant. Richardson is a man who knew too much about the family business.  Don Farino is the elderly leader of the Farino Crime Family and is in a wheelchair because he was ambushed and shot in the spine. His power is dwindling, and he knows it.
Attorney Leonard Miles did it under the orders of the Don's daughter, Sophia Farino. They had an 'off the table' deal to trade guns for dope across the Canadian border.
Arlene-Kurtz's secretary and hacker. She's the heart of his office which is above an X-rated video store in a bad area.
Malcolm Kibunte- Black gang-leader and owns Seneca Social Club. Kurtz burns it down and tangles Malcolm over the falls. He cuts the rope thinking he can out swim the falls and drowns.
Malcolm's partner is an albino killer who is proficient with a knife. He is gunned down by Arlene when he tries to break into the office.
Detective Hathaway-crooked Buffalo PD detective who tries to set up Kurtz, put him back in prison where there is a $10,000 price on his head by the black gangs.

Monday, August 12, 2013

HARD AS NAILS A Joe Kurtz novel by Dan Simmons

Finished Su 8/11/13

My post on Good Reads-

If you are a fan of Lee Child's, Jack Reacher series, run (don't walk) to the nearest bookstore of library and grab a copy of HARD AS NAILS by Dan Simmons. This superb crime thriller is set in the down-and-dirty city of Buffalo, New York, and features a barely legal PI by the name of Joe Kurtz. One important segment of the compelling and complicated story-line involves the murders of dozens of heroin dealers and suppliers in the Buffalo area, and the local crime families have no idea who is behind the killings, and hire Kurtz to find out who is responsible. The fast-paced action and pulse-pounding excitement ends in a murderous assault at an abandoned amusement park in upstate New York that is nothing short of unforgettable. 

Dan Simmons is an excellent writer, and he can write in numerous genres, but his Joe Kurtz series is as good or better than any of the more well known serial detective novels. I loved Simmons novel, BLACK HILLS, which(more or less)dealt with the history of the American plains, but I never thought he could write such dynamite 'hard boiled' detective fiction. And, it's impossible for me to overstate my recommendation!!

My notes:
Set in Buffalo, NY   Chipewa St. This is the hip street in the falling down city. Decatur in upstate NY.

ex-PI Joe Kurts
Shot with his female parole officer, Peg O'Toole. She took a bullet in the head and he took a ricochet.

Father , Big John O'Toole gunned down in drug deal. He was a police officer his whole career.
His brother, Major Francis O'Toole, wounded in Vietnam. Running a heroin smuggling operation with Colonel Vin Trinh.  SEATCO  (south east asia trading company)

Heroin dealers and suppliers are being killed in Buffalo, NY. 22 or more, and the syndicates are willing to combine efforts to deal with it together. Toma Gonzaga (gay don) and Angelina Farino Ferrara (female don)

Local detective, Rigby King, grew up with Kurtz and is an ex-teenage lover.  She is on the case.

Artful Dodger (Sean O'Toole- son of Francis, the guy in the wheelchair) He's the wicked guy who is killing all of the junkies and connections. And, sets up a hellish Halloween party every year using the corpses of his victims. This is the setting for the dramatic last scene of the novel

Baby Doc Skrzypczyk-local arms dealer

Cloud Nine Amusement Park

Arlene, Kurtz's secretary, expert hacker

Kennedy fiance of Peg. He's the Bad Guy. Running a high priced security operation and his father had ties to CIA. Younger brother of the Artful Dodger. He got burned up in a fire in his mental asylum.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BLACK HILLS by Dan Simmons

Finished Tu 8/6/13

My post at Good Reads-

BLACK HILLS provides a startlingly original chronicle of the American West that offers a very unique presentation of its impact on US history. The novel is loosely structured as a biography of Paha Sapa (his name means 'Black Hills' in the language of the Sioux) who we meet as a ten year old Lakota Indian who 'counts coup' with General Armstrong Custer as he lay dying on the battlefield of Little Big Horn. When the boy touches the general, his soul or personality lives within the Indian, and this supernatural element allows the author to blend their stories for over the next sixty years. This 'spiritual twining' gives the author an opportunity to not only explore the history of the American Plains Indians, but also to examine George Custer's military contribution to America's historical record. And, keeping true to the story's primary setting, The Black Hills of western South Dakota, Dan Simmons comes up with an entirely new and captivating story-line as Paha Sapa becomes an expert dynamite worker at The Mount Rushmore National Memorial project during the 1930's.  How this important US public works initiative came to fruition, and Paha Sapa's hidden agenda concerning the sculpture becomes a major focal point of the novel. The novel also contains a fascinating section about the World's Fair: Colombian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 where Paha Sapa meets his future wife, Rain. The book's epilogue adds much additional information about future relatives of the novel's characters that allow the story to continue into the modern era.

So many different complimentary story-lines really communicate a wide-ranging and multifaceted pastiche of American history, and Dan Simmons has really treated the reader a large cast of interesting characters in persuasive situations, and all of it is based on the real history of America!

Dan Simmons's entry at Wikipedia shows that this author writes (and excels) in numerous literary genres, and I can't wait to start another book by this extremely original writer.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Finished Su 8/4/13

Post on Good Reads-
The book delivers everything you could possibly want to know about one of the most important musical figures in contemporary music, but the overall impression of the man is that he is a most unpleasant and possibly mentally unbalanced individual. Sometimes 'heroes' are not the kind of people that you would want to befriend, and this seems absolutely true with Lou Reed.

Regardless of his disturbing personality one cannot deny the tremendous influence of  his band, The Velvet Underground, and Lou Reed's other solo projects, and if you are a fan of the music (I am), you can't help but to have a certain degree of curiosity about the man who was responsible for all the wondrous music. The author of the book, Victor Bockris shares a background with Reed as both men had ties to Andy Warhol's Factory, and they both are livelong denizens of NYC.  If an author and his subject have nothing in common, it might be easier to dismiss such unduly harsh observations, but since Bockris and Reed did share part of the same 'scene', I am inclined to agree with this writer's perspective on his subject. But never forget that the 'real' Lou Reed can always be found in his music, and his out-of-control life is only secondary to his monumental impact on nearly every aspect of contemporary music.

This book provides just about everything one could possibly want to know about one of the most important voices in music. However, it's unfortunate that the most important fact the one learns is the Lou Reed is not a very nice person. But I would be willing to go along with Victor Bockris's assessment since both men had close ties to Andy Warhol. Lou Reed got his first shot at fame and fortune as kind of the 'house band' for Andy Warhol's Factory during his tenure with THE EXPLODING PLASTIC INEVITABLE, and Victor Bockris was a writer for Warhol's magazine, INTERVIEW during the 1970's.