Sunday, November 29, 2015

JAMBEAUX by Laurence Gonzales

Finished Sa 11/28/15

This is one of my novels and I finished it the first time in 1996. I don't know when I bought it, but there is a review from the Chicago Tribune, Su 1/20/80 taped to the inside flyleaf.

Unfortunately the book is very dated and clearly does not in any way reflect what the music industry of today, however, it was still a fantastic read.

It's kind of an amalgamation of The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and possibly "Traffic"( the Butch character on reeds made me think of the more jazzy sound of Traffic).

Page- writer guitarist; the novel is told from his point of view.

Link- bassist and served in Vietnam with Page

(The Vietnam experience is presented as a kind of metaphor for the band's assault on 'The Music Industry')

Butch- keyboards and sax

Scoop- lead guitar and friends with an albino guitarist, Sonny (obviously modeled after The Winter Bros)

Blye- the English drummer. Possibly the wildest man in the group.

Perry- The engineer and manager of the group; Bill Graham/George Marin/Steve Albini

Jill- Perry's contact with the band. She is Page's lover, but, in the end, can't commit to him. She is too attached to her career.

Steve- Page's brother. The novel begins with Page, alone on his ranch in Michigan. He's visited by Steve who wants him to reform the band. It's not revealed until the end, but Link has died from an overdose, and this is probably the biggest reason that Page has withdrawn. And, the novel ends with the possibility that Jambeaux might reform with Steve playing bass with the original lineup.

I was looking for a more modern presentation of the music industry and saw a novel called 'Powder' on the English Amazon. It was only a penny, but almost twelve bucks in shipping.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Finished Mo 11/23/15

This is one of my books that I bought at the library book sale on Sa 6/15/96. It is three novellas by O'Hara called, SERMONS AND SODA-WATER.

Jim Malloy is a newspaperman and 'media flack' who wrote obituaries. The novel demonstrates how little these pieces actually tell about the person.

He's looking back at the interaction he had many years ago with an actress, Charlotte Sears.

She's a very smart and knowledgeable actress who is involved with a corrupt financier, Thomas Rodney Hunterden.

Malloy is her driver and handles publicity. She 'fills him in' on what is really going on in the industry.

The end of the novel concerns a party in which Malloy tells Hunterden what he thinks of him and Charlotte leaves with Hunterden. Although Malloy has been drinking, Hunterden and Sears drive back to NYC and Hunterden is killed and Sears is disfigured.

The book is a good description of The Rich in the 1930's and a cold and unflinching look at what the entertainment industry was like.

I'll probably read the other two selections in the trilogy. Each novel is only one hundred pages or less.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Finished Su 11/22/15

The novel is just under one hundred pages, but it was a fascinating read.

This is the kind of book that would work great for a book club.

Set in 1957 written in 1959.

Title refers to the 1957 Columbus, Ohio commencement exercises at Ohio State. Ron, Brenda's brother graduated from that university. He's a jock and gets married near the end of the novel. He wanted to be a gym teacher but gives up his dreams to work for his father's plumbing company.

Brenda Patimkin and Neil Klugman have an affair. Neil lives with his Aunt Gladys and Uncle Otto in Newark. The Patinkin's live in the suburbs. They have fled the inner city and are much wealthier than Neil's family. His parents live in Arizona for their health. He has been in the service, finished college (Rutgers in Newark), and he works in the public library. He's scared that he'll be stuck there forever. His dreary future is closing in on him.

Over a few summertime weeks, Neil and Brenda have an affair at her parent's house before she returns to college in Boston. Her father is very supportive of Brenda and her mother is vindictive.

Slightly before the pill and before the sexual revolution of the 60's.

Neil tries to get Brenda to buy an IUD at the Margaret Sanger Institute in NYC. She does, but this marks the end of the affair.

The book ends with the question, 'Brenda, can you admit to your parents that we are sexually active'?  And, the answer is....NO.

I really wonder how today's college aged people would view the attitudes of the novel.
Although it's about sexual attitudes, it really is about recognizing and understanding what is a true relationship.

Friday, November 20, 2015

THE FAR CRY by Fredric Brown

Finished Fr 11/20/15

One of my books that I'd read before (Sa 12/7/03); reissued on True Crime/ Black Lizard Press

George Weaver- Lives in Kansas City. Mentally unstable. Recovering from a breakdown. He and his wife, Vi, are heavy drinkers. They have two daughters, seven and five; the girls are at summer camp.

George is in New Mexico recovering. He's looking for a house so that Vi and he can spent the summer. Locates a cabin near Taos that he can make some repairs and live the summer for free.

Luke Ashley is a writer and friend of George's. He tells him of a 'lonely hearts' murder that happened at the house eight years before. A man by the name of Nelson enticed a young woman, Jenny Ames to come to Taos and marry him. He kills the woman the day that she arrived.

George is obsessed with the killing. Realizes that the girl's suitcases were never found. He locates them buried on the property. Later finds a letter from Nelson that Jenny had saved in some blank pages. George finds that Jenny was from Barton, Ca. and he begins an odyssey to find out what happens. Finds that Jenny's last name was not Ames, but Ailes.

Goes to Barton and gets drunk. Tells Jenny's mother that she is dead. We don't know at the time, but the woman believes that George is the killer and notifies the authorities. Her daughter is not the body found on the Taos property because her daughter had a mole on her thigh and was two inches taller.

He finds that Nelson went to Tucson from treatment of his tuberculosis. Paintings at the facility prove that he was there and he died of the disease several years ago.

The final scene of the novel the local sheriff in Taos visits George and tells him that he has been under observation on his trek for the killer. He would have been jailed a number of times for his drinking but the cops knew he was writing up the incident for a magazine article.

Then, George realizes that Jenny escaped from Nelson on the night of the killing. Vi has the same mole, and he met up with her near the time of the killing eight years ago. For some reason he decides that Vi must die, so he is going to stab her at the close of the book.


Why wouldn't Vi have reacted to the cabin? She doesn't seem ill at ease at any time and wouldn't she have some kind of a reaction if this was the place that she was almost stabbed to death?

A slim novel and can be read in a couple of sittings. A nice slice of Noir and a pretty good example of 50's mystery writing. (1951)

Link to author's page at wikipedia-

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The JOHNSTOWN FLOOD by David McCullough

Finished Tu 11/17/15

The November selection for the Contemporary Book Club. Last year I suggested that we read one non-fiction and the group agreed.

This is McCullough's first novel from 1968 and he was born in Pittsburg and very familiar with this tragic incident in American history.

I enjoyed the book and I think that most of the members liked it.

Link to the YouTube video that is an expanded version of the film that you would see if you visited The Johnstown Flood Museum. David McCullough is the host of the show.

Link to Johnstown Flood Museum-

Friday, November 13, 2015


Finished Fr 11/13/15
I had read this novel many years ago, and the reason I'm rereading it is that THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH is the January, 2016 selection for The Classic Book Club. I've got HERZOG and a couple of others to read before the meeting.

Set in NYC during the late 1960's

Elegantly dressed black man is a pickpocket on bus and notices that Mr. Sammler has observed him. He exposes himself to Sammler in the lobby of his apartment building. Near the end of the novel, he is attacked by Mr. Sammler's son in law.

Elya Gruner is a rich doctor who supports Sammler and his daughter. Sammler is a Polish jew and has lost his wife in the holocaust. Sammler was underneath a pile of bodies and assumed that he was also shot. Lost an eye- knocked out by Nazi.

Sammler covered the Six Day War in 1967 for a small magazine

He lives with Margotte; distant relative. She's talkative.

Wallace and Angela are Dr. Gruner's two adult children. Wallace is a genius, but never completes anything. Has a scheme to fly above rich houses and take pictures of their plants and flowers so that the owners' know what they have. (I could use this service on Westview).

Angela is blowsy and sexy. Part of the Andy Warhol crowd.

Shula is Sammler's daughter and she steals a copy of a manuscript written by a professor that is studying HG Wells's writings about Life On The Moon.  Sammler knew Wells when he lived in London. Shula spent part of WWII in a Catholic convent. Sammler spent part of the war hiding in a cemetery.

Link to author on wikipedia-

Link to novel at wikipedia-

Monday, November 9, 2015

THE ALTERNATION by Kingsley Amis

Finished Mo 11/9/15

The author is the father of Martin Amis, TIME'S ARROW.

An interesting novel, but I don't think that the concept of 'alternate history' worked very well. The premise is that the 1976 (the year that the novel was released) that the book is set is a time in which The Protestant Reformation never happened and the Catholic Church has suppressed science and has become the most powerful force in the world. New England is basically the USA and exhibits slightly more freedom than the Catholic Empire. The novel has a medieval feel and almost no part of the 1970's can be detected. Cars and trains are similar to the real thing (the descriptions are not the best, but it is addressed), but flight and electricity are thought to be evil.

TIME ROMANCE- (TM) SciFi type of literature that is frowned upon.
COUNTERFEIT WORLD- (CW) Alternative history fiction (Harry Turtledove; the novel refrences PKDick's THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.

Novel on wikipedia- (This article has more detail- makes more sense- than the novel; an example of an idea that is much more successful than the execution)

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Finished Sa 11/7/15

I first read and finished this novel on We 11/22/10. I loved it then, and loved it more this time through.

Charles Lindbergh is working with the Nazis because his son was kidnapped and held by the Nazis. However, he does agree with some of the National Socialist policy, but is not a hardliner about the Final Solution.

In this novel, after Walter Winchell is killed Lindbergh flies to Louisville, gives a speech, and returns to Washington, but his plane is lost and he's never seen again. Wheeler, the Vice President, takes control and spins a tale about a Jewish conspiracy, and he arrests all of the remaining Jewish leaders in the US. Philip's aunt hides in his house.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Charles's wife, finally rests control of the government and the US goes to war with Germany. Philip's father and Sandy travel to Kentucky to get Sheldon. His mother was killed by marauding mobs and Sheldon is left alone. Philip's father is still suffering from his brutal fight with Alvin, Philip's cousin.

The epilogue tells the true story of the historical people in the novel.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

THE BLIND ASSASSIN by Margaret Atwood

Finished Th 11/5/15

Strange presentation, but 100%  effective.This is now one of my favorite novels and it sat on my bookshelf unread for god knows how many years. I hope that there are hundreds more just like it, gathering dust and waiting to be discovered.

Iris Chase Griffen is telling the story of her life. She's in her 80's, and grew up, with her sister, Ruth, in Port Ticonderoga, Canada. Her grandfather Benjamin, started a button company that was the town's major employer. Her father, Norval, took it over after the first world war, and the company floundered due to labor problems and a lackluster economy.

In an attempt to salvage the company in the early thirties, he makes a deal with an amoral, yet successful businessman, Richard Griffen. Norval essentially allows Richard to marry his daughter, Iris, if Richard will save his business and keep his employees on the job. Richard does neither, and it is revealed in the end of the book, that he was sexually abusing Ruth throughout the marriage to Iris. He got 'both daughters for the price of one'.

Alex Thomas is a labor agitator who is falsely accused of burning down the button factory and murdering the night watchman. He flees and is helped by Iris and Ruth. They hide him in the attic of the ancestral home, Avilion. Both Iris and Ruth have affairs with Alex. Alex is a science fiction author and 'The Blind Assassin' is one of his tales. Ruth is impregnated by Alex and Richard has her imprisoned in a mental hospital where the child is aborted. Later Ruth commits suicide when she learns that Alex died in the Spanish Civil War.

"What does god wear?"

"What age are you in heaven?"

Benjamin- grandfather
Norval- father

Richard Griffen- wealthy amoral businessman

Winifred (Fred)- Richard's conniving sister

Absolutely beautiful descriptions, and Attwood's insights are astounding.

on wikipedia-