Saturday, December 28, 2013

ALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank

Finished Th 12/26/13

Published 1959
Randy Bragg learns from his brother, Mark, that a nuclear attack is in the offing. Mark arranges for his wife, Helen, and two children, Ben Franklin and Peyton to fly from Omaha (they are stationed at SAC base, Offutt Field) to Fort Repose, Florida where Randy lives.
Central Florida- In the Timucuan area of north east central Florida. Ft. Repose is a fictional city, probably near Inverness, Hernando, or Wildwood.
Florence Wechek-runs the Western Union office and becomes the town's news source
Alice- She lives with Florence at Florence's house which is across the street from The Braggs. Alice was the librarian and becomes the entertainment source for the community.
Elizabeth McGovern, father Bill, mother Lavinia- Liz is Randy's girlfriend. Her father is a retired executive who lost his purpose. Lavinia dies from lack of insulin. This family would have floundered had Randy not intervened.
Rita-ex-girlfriend of Randy. Lives in Pistolville which is 'the wrong side of the tracks'. Her brother ran the grocery store. They get rich (and infected with radioactivity) by trading in stolen or found jewelry.
The Henrys-A black family that lives near the Braggs. Two-Tone, alcoholic, Malachi-capable mechanic who dies fighting highway robbers at the bridge. Had a Model-A which became the familys' transportation
Dan Gunn-the local doctor and friend of Randy's. I hijacked and beaten by robbers. Malachi is killed in the encounter, and all of the robbers are killed except for one who is hung in the town square.
Sam Hazzard-Retired military man who lives near the Braggs. Had Ham radio and was the source of news until they ran out of batteries.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

BEL CANTO Ann Patchett

Finished Mo 12/23/13
Birthday party for a rich Japanese industrialist ends in a hostage situation that lasts almost six months. The lives of all involved change for the better. Well written and a wonderful read.

Mr. Katsumi Hosokawa-opera lover and industrialist. NANSEI is the name of the corporation. He is there because his favorite opera soprano singer, Roxane Coss.
Gen Watanabe-is Mr. Hosokawa's assistant and interpreter. Speaks numerous languages and is invaluable during the hostage situation.
The party is held at the house of the vice president, Ruben Iglesias. The president (Matsuda) skipped the party to watch his favorite soap opera. Ruben becomes the chief valet and servant to everyone at the house. And, he loves it.
Carmen is one of the terrorists. She is actually a beautiful young woman, but in the beginning people think that she's a boy. She and Gen fall in love. Mr. Hosokawa and Roxane fall in love.
Caesar- young terrorist who is found to have a supreme natural talent as an opera singer. He copies Roxane and soon she is tutoring him and he soon develops his own distinctive style.
Ishmael- very young terrorists who helps Ruben and is friends with everyone. He fantasizes about being the son of the vice president.
General Benjamin, Alfredo, and Hernandez lead the terrorists. Benjamin is suffering from a bad case of shingles and one side of his face his filled with sores and dark redness. Alfredo is missing a couple of fingers on one hand.
Simon Thibault-A diplomat and spends his captivity wishing he was back with his wife.
Kato-One of the Japanese businessmen who is with Hosokawa's group. He plays piano and becomes Roxane's accompanist. Her original accompanist, Christopher, died because he was diabetic, and didn't get an insulin shot.
Father Arguedas-low level Catholic priest. He opts to stay when he could have left. The Monsignor made a fool of himself when he left with the women.
Messner-A Swiss executive who works for the International Red Cross. He is the go-between with the hostages and the Generals. They submit demands but the government is adamant and don't give up anything. Beatriz- she is the other female terrorist and has a very long braid and spends most of her time watching the TV. She also likes the soap that is the favorite of the president.
Victor Fyodorov-One of the three Russian executives who were in the country for possible investment in Nansei. However they really had no intention of backing the Japanese company. He declares his love for Roxane.

In the end of the novel the government invades the house and all the terrorists are killed. Carmen in shot in the arms of Mr. Hosokawa and they both are killed instantly.
Gen marries Roxane and the book ends after their wedding in Lucca, probably Tuscany, Europe. Simon and Edith Thibault are the wedding party.
The heart of the book and the reason for the rather odd ending. Nobody would have guessed that Gen and Mr. Hosokawa would have gotten together, but it did kind of make sense.

"Gen and Roxane had married for love, the love of each other and all of the people that they rememberd"s



December selection for the Contemporary Book Club, Wednesday, 12/18/13

Christopher Boone is autistic or suffers from Asperger's, but it is never specifically stated.
He discovers the neighbor's dog, Wellington, stabbed with a garden fork. Mrs. Shears lives in the house and her husband left with Chris's mother. This isn't revealed until later.
Christopher decides to write a mystery novel to tell what happened to the dog. In the process of his investigation, he finds letters that his father has failed to show him.
Against his father's wishes, he secretly leaves Swindon and takes the train to London to find his mother.
A really interesting look inside the perception of someone who sees the world from a radically different perspective.

The discussion of the book lasted until almost 715pm. One of the women has a grandson who has mild autism and she said that the descriptions in the novel were very realistic.

Mark Haddon is a children's book author, a vegetarian, and a die-hard atheist.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

THE VIG by John T. Lescroart

Finished Mo 12/16/13
Dismas Hardy-Ex-cop, lawyer who now works as a bartender in a friend's bar. He saved this man in Vietnam. Divorced but trying to get back with his wife, Jane. Their marriage collapsed after their son fell out of his crib and died.  Jane is in Hong Kong for business during the whole novel, and she has found a new guy, but Dismas has decided to marry Frannie. She is the brother of his friend and pregnant by her dead husband, Eddie.

Rusty Ingraham is a seedy lawyer and acquaintance of Dismas who warns him that Louis Baker is about to be released. He's a black career criminal who threatened Dismas and Rusty. Rusty sets up a phony crime scene in which his girlfriend, Maxine has been shot, Rusty is nowhere to be found (assumed shot), and it looks like Louis Baker did it. Rusty was trying to fake his death to get out from under a huge debt to the mob including thousands in 'vig' money. Hence the novel's title. Maxine had just gotten almost a hundred thousand in an insurance settlement and Rusty took that money as well, but he was really just trying to get the mob off his back.
Dismas tracks him to Mexico and captures him with the help of Abe Glitsky. Abe is a black cop with a distinctive scar on his face and lip and also the protagonist is several novels by Lescroart.

Many red herrings are introduced as to who actually killed Maxine and whether or not Rusty was dead or alive. Baker's gang pals at the housing project. Maxine's husband (they're separated). He might have been trying to bet the insurance settlement. Johnny Laguardia is the collection agent for the mob boss, Mr. Tortoni.

Not a bad novel, but pretty average. Beach or Airplane Read

ALEX by Pierre Lemaitre

Finished Mon 12/16/13
Alex Prevost
Novel opens as Alex is being stalked. She is captured, taken by van to an abandoned warehouse where she is suspended in a cage. She can't stretch out, rats are placed nearby, and her captor only comes once a day. Police trace the man, he's the father of her latest victim, and he jumps off an expressway as police close in.

Alex has murdered six men and a woman. She had been 'pimped' by her brother and her genitals had been disfigured by acid. That's why she knocks out her victims and then pours sulfuric acid down their throats. Uses numerous false names that are based on characters from classic novels that she's read. In the end, she commits suicide but sets the scene in such a way as to frame her brother for her murder. Drinks whiskey and takes pills. Her brother's fingerprint is on the pill bottle and she puts one of his hairs at the scene.
Thomas Vasseur- her brother. He is her step-brother and is seven years older. Has been raping her and pimping her since she was eleven.

Commandant Camille Verhoeven- five foot lead detective. His wife had been kidnapped and murdered. She was also pregnant. This is his first case since this incident. Maud is his mother who was a famous painter. She is dead and he has inherited her paintings and an old home.

Divisionnaire Le Guen-300 pound, dapper 'ladies man'. Camille's boss. He is soft-spoken and the antithesis of Camille's vitriolic temperament.
Louis- Very rich detective and an impeccable dresser. Buffer between Camille and Le Guen. Extremely intelligent.
Armand-Detective who works with Camille and Louis. Very determined, but incredibly cheap. Never pays for a meal, or anything else, if he can help it.
Vidard-Powerful political figure who is higher on the chain of command than Camille and he dislikes Camille. He is extremely vain and stupid.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Finished Sa 12/7/13

Vasily Sheklov is dropped by submarine behind US lines and picked up by Turpin. Black 'reb' (current slang for hippie, beatnik, slacker) Danty witnesses the drop-off. He has psychic powers and 'born at the wrong end of time' which is a reference to Merlin in THE SWORD IN THE STONE. Turpin is a Russian sleeper agent and has been secretly in place for 25 years and enjoys a high position at Energetics.
'Johnny Reb and Jenny Reb'-slang for young slackers

Lakonia-beautiful lakeside city   Cowville-the surrounding slum

Energetics General-the huge private corporation run and funded by Department of Defense

Russia sends Sheklov because they have received six pictures from an alien civilization that send them from a location near Pluto. They interpret it as a message that humans will be destroyed, but actually they are looking at them in the wrong order. It shows early man, the discovery of fire, and then humans traveling to other galaxies.

Sheklov's alias is Don Holtzer, a Canadian executive in the lumber industry. Danty makes him recite eastern philosophy while under some kind of hypnosis. Sheklov can't control his outburst.

Magda-lives with Danty and she's a kind of unlicensed therapist

Lora is Turpin's daughter and she is a sexually free spirit, and has sex with nearly everyone. Has an affair with Danty. She is raped by three blacks and she set it up for personal kicks.

Novel ends when security agents raid Danty and Magda's apartment while Danty, Magda, Sheklov and Lora are driving. They take off to cross into Canada using Danty's special powers to find the best crossing. Danty dies in an explosion on a train that he set so that they could make it across. Sheklov goes back to Russia to explain the alien photos to his superiors and the rest relocate to Canada. The book ends on an 'up note' when Sheklov leaves to explain his findings to First Secretary of Russia and the Chinese Ambassador that the world will not end and Humans will eventually visit the stars.

Brunner is quite critical of America. P. 149- The US, like the Romans, get too big and greedy. Then they trade freedom for security, and in this case, the true visionaries become 'rebs', and society stagnates.