Saturday, December 27, 2014


Finished Fr 12/26/14

'Kummersdorf' is German for 'sorrowful' (sorrowful town)

Eric Ramsey is a pseudonym for David Hagberg-
wikipedia entry-

Kozhevnikov is a Soviet operative who uncovers a link between a Nazi death camp and a possible camp in Siberia. He thinks that 100,000 Jewish women are being held and will be eliminated. He tries to defect. The western operatives think that he might be part of a plot to sell a fabricated story that will prove to be bogus and embarrass the west.

The Nazis were doing genetic experiments and the Russians stole the info and then spent thirty years building on the knowledge and were now building an army of clones.

Much better than an 'airport read', but along those lines.

Gustav Predel is a doctor working in Wisconsin on genetics. This man is actually an escaped Nazi who ran the camp in East Germany during WWII. The Nazis burned the camp and all the research animals and Jewish convicts, but he escaped. He uses the name Dr. Meitner in the US.

Predel has recently been awarded a Pulitzer prize for his work, and this leads a New Orleans reporter, Laurie Andrews, to find out about is background. She travels to his home and Germany to check up on him. In the end, Russian spies capture her and bring her to the new facility in Siberia. The town is called Markovo.

Fedor Udalov- This is the name of one of the Russian clones. They are all identical and Nordic types with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Rafn is the name of a western operative who is operating out of Norway for hire. He is an old hand in the espionage business and his connection to Kozhevnikov is that during WWII he saved the man's life. So now, Kozhevnikov's life is 'in his hands'. Rafn is disillusioned and the Kummersdorf Operation rekindles his belief in mankind, or he realizes that he has been living a flawed emotional life.

Kozhevnikov's wife has numerous affairs and she is convinced that he should stay in the service of the Soviets, but only for monetary reasons. She is having an affair with Kozhevnikov's supervisor. Kozhevnikov kills Nadya in a fight in their apartment. She was going to turn him in and she fell and hit her head. The Soviet authorities call the murder a suicide to keep Kozhevnikov under their control. They send him to the camp in Siberia. He hopes to gain information about what they're doing, and escape to the west, and the authorities hope to keep him under control in Siberia.

In the last scene Kozhevnikov dies just as Rafn is about to tell him that the Israelis have destroyed Kummersdorf East. West was how the original Nazi camp was referred to in the novel.

The spy action in the novel was very good, but the clone angle was kind of weak and wasn't adequately developed. Seemed tacked on and really wasn't believable. However, I felt the need to read the book in its entirety.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

BACK TO BLOOD by Tom Wolfe

Finished Su 12/21/14

Similar to BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, but not nearly as complex or developed, but nonetheless, an entertaining read.

The title refers to an age (contemporary society) in which the ties of government, religion, and culture have fragmented and broken, and people have reverted to tribal, racial, or 'blood' connections.

Main character is Officer Nestor Camacho; rookie cop who rescues a Cuban immigrant. The man is on top of a ship's mast, and Nestor grabs him with his legs in a scissor hold and goes hand to hand down a line. The Cuban's hate him for turning him over  to the cops, but Nestor is just a good cop.

Interesting fact- Any Cuban who reaches American soil is given landed immigrant status. 'dry foot' yes; 'wet foot' no.

Magdalena- his girlfriend, but she drops him for Dr. Lewis Norman. He is a psychiatrist who treats porn addicts, and he's pretty close himself.

A Haitian college professor who's upwardly mobile, but poor. His daughter Ghislaine who does charity work. And his son who is a gangster wanna be.

Subplot- Russian billionaire donates 70 million dollars worth of paintings to a Miami museum, and these are all fakes. A drunken Russian forger is responsible, and Officer Nestor and a reporter, John Smith, uncovers the deception.

This would (will?) probably make an interesting movie. And, I was reading it during Obama's relaxation of relations with Cuba that happened in December of this year.

Worth a look, but not nearly as good as BONFIRE, but better than ELECTRIC KOOL AID

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE BRIDE WORE BLACK by Cornell Woolrich

I read this book in March of 2005, but reread it and finished in Mo 12/15/14

A series of murders by a beautiful woman is a mystery to the police.
She is killing a group of five men who killed her husband on their wedding day.
Nick was killed, and Julie Killeen seeks her revenge

Bliss- pushed off the top of a building

Mitchell- poisoned with cyanide

Moran- smothered in a closet

Ferguson- shot through the heart with an arrow

Nick was shot on his wedding day  by what was believed to be a shot from a carload of drunks out 'wilding'.
Actually Nick was trying to end a criminal partnership with Corey. Corey felt that he knew too much about the enterprise, so he found where Nick and Julie were to be married and timed his shot to make it looked like the joyriders were responsible.

The last killing was Holmes who was a cop pretending to be a writer

The book was written in 1940 and French New Wave director, Francois Truffaut's first film in 1968

The author died from alcoholism and a leg amputation that was due to an untreated laceration from a too tight-fitting left shoe. WOW!!!!!

Cornell Woolrich at wikipedia-

Saturday, December 13, 2014

BRUTAL MUSIC by James Lindsay

Finished Sa 12/13/14 (My book and this seems to be the first and only novel by this author)

This novel isn't so much about the deleterious effects of Heavy Metal music, but how an attempted suicide colored by this music impacted a dysfunctional family.

Tom and Ellen Newsome and their high school senior son, Chris.

Opening Scene- Chris and his friend Jim Firestone are listening to the music of a death metal band, SHALLOW GRAVE (Album Title- 'Hope Against Hope').  Jim is poor and from a single family home. His mother is dead from cancer and his father is a shiftless alcoholic. Both boys  seem to agree that death would be preferable to life, and Jim produces his father's pistol and they both shoot themselves in the head. Jim dies and Chris's shot goes through his cheek.

The novel backtracks and fills in the reasons for this act. The story is told in alternating chapters where the point of view is presented from Tommy and Chris's perspective.

Ellen wants to blame the band and convinces Tommy to engage a lawyer, Donald Correa. This man tells them that they would have no case. First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech.

Chris's girlfriend is Meg and she is a local girl without aspirations, and her relationship with Chris is shaky. Clearly a significant reason for Chris's depression, and it's revealed that they have recently engaged in sex.
Neither one of them seems to view the relationship in the same way.

One night Tommy travels to a local tavern that features Heavy Metal music. He meets the lead singer of a band and befriends the young man, Sean-Patrick. This is where the discussion of Heavy Metal enters the novel, and Tommy eventually invites Sean-Patrick to his home for dinner. Ellen immediately blames Sean-Patrick for the death of Jim and the crippling injury to Chris. Sean-Patrick flees the house after being nearly assaulted by Ellen.

Chris is very smart and had just been accepted to Cornell, but he isn't sure that this is the right move. College is much more a dream of Tommy's. Another possible motivation for the suicide pact.

The novel ends a month after the accident/suicide. Chris is at home and not very communicative. He has found an old battery operated toy of three monkeys, ('see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil'), and he is cleaning them. One of the arms is broken and he is determined to repair the toy. Probably a clumsy metaphor for working on the repair of family's relationships.

I'd only rate the novel a 'C', but it can be read easily in one or two settings. Could have been much better if the Art vs. Freedom of Expression was more deeply developed. However, this suicide incident could have occurred regardless of Chris's musical choices, and maybe this was the author's real point.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

THE CHILL by Ross McDonald

Finished Th 12/11/14

Read in a couple of days- A Lew Archer novel from my collection, and John D. McDonald offers up the same type of thing, but so much, much better.

Three Murders over 20 years-

Daughter witnesses the murder of her mother when she was ten. Claims her father did it and he served ten years, and his reappearance is in the opening act and starts the action going.

Ten years prior to this, a rich man accidentally shots himself cleaning his handgun, or it's a suicide, or it's a murder.

A college counselor is killed and it might be the daughter or her father or somebody else.

To say that this is a wildly contrived plot is putting it mildly.

A college dean is living with his mother who is not his mother, but his wife whom he married when he was a student a college. They are living as mother and son because of the age difference and to conceal the fact that she is a murderess.

She killed they girl's mother because this woman was having an affair with her husband the dean.
She also killed the man who was cleaning his gun.
And she killed the college counselor because this woman was blackmailing her son the dean because she knew what was going on.

The book was not so much a mystery, but a mental exercise in keeping all of the characters straight and following the thread of the plot.

In the end the son/husband is killed in a car accident, and his wife/mother is driving the car that kills him. Lew Archer is their to pick up the pieces and deliver the old lady over to face justice.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

FATHERLAND by Robert Harris

Finished Tu 12/9/14

I found this on the shelf, and on the flyleaf it said that I finished this one on Th 9/18/97 "after 2 hrs. and 30 mins. of overtime; 18 poles and picked up 5 scrap reels with Ed". God, I don't miss that 'other life'.

The big 'reveal' is that the SS Inspector Xavier March comes across proof that Hitler and his henchmen orchestrated the murder of 8 million Jews. The novel is set in a world in which National Socialism triumphs, and this knowledge had been successfully repressed.

The last part of the novel includes a fairly accurate portrait of what went on at the meeting at Wannsee in January of 1942.

Robert Harris is an authority on the life of Adolf Hitler and this was his first novel. Well worth the time I spent on it, and I'm surprised that I really didn't remember much of the storyline.

Author's wikipedia page-

FATHERLAND at wikipedia-

Wannsee Conference at wikipedia-

Saturday, December 6, 2014

THE HUSBAND'S SECRET by Liane Moriarty

Finished Sa 12/6/14

The December selection for the Contemporary Book Club

I loved the novel, and plan to read more by this author.  This might be my favorite selection that we have ever read, and I can't wait to discuss this one!

The author's page on wikipedia-


Thursday, December 4, 2014


Finished Th 12/4/14

Although it weighs in at 698 pages, I read every word. I found this novel (Wolfe's first) on the shelf downstairs, and I'm surprised that there is no date on the flyleaf when I last read it. I know I must have read it, or maybe I just saw the movie. But, I find it very hard to imagine Tom Hanks playing Sherman McCoy.

Sherman McCoy (Master of The Universe/ bond trader) is taking his mistress, Maria Ruskin, home from the airport and they get off the expressway, and find themselves lost in the Bronx. He's driving and they notice debris on the street, and think that they are being set up for a robbery. He gets out to move the stuff so that they can proceed, and two black teens ask if they need help. Sherman and Maria think they're about to be robbed, and Maria takes the wheel and Sherman jumps into the passenger seat. She clips one of the kids backing out, and puts him in a coma.   This ends 'the good life' for Sherman.

Dozens of well-developed characters, and really examines the truly American issues of Race, Class, Prejudice, and our corrupt legal system.

It was ironic that during the week that I was reading the novel, the craziness in Ferguson, Mo was in the headlines, and the day before I finished the book,  a NYC grand jury failed to indict a cop for killing a young black kid for murder after putting him in a deadly choke hold.

Tom Wolfe has a new novel set in the milieu of Miami and I'll probably start this one when I'm done with this month's selection for The Contemporary Book Club (THE HUSBAND'S SECRET)

Wikipedia entry for 'Bonfire of the Vanities'-