Saturday, May 28, 2016

BLACK AND WHITE by Dan Mahoney

Refinished Fr 5/27/16

This is one of my paperbacks and according to the flyleaf, I read it on the weekend of Sa-Sun 12/8-9/ 2001.

The author's younger brother is the rock star Eddie Money- TWO TICKETS TO PARADISE. The author is also head of Holmes Detective Bureau. This kind of an agency (computer savvy and able to do things that the police can't because of existing laws) is mentioned in the book and run by a character named Hurley. Maybe based on the author.

A terrific good read and an excellent example of the finest police procedurals. Although it was 432 pages, it never ever lagged.

A well connected couple is murdered in the Cloisters in NYC. The guy's father is a prominent Virginia politician and the woman is the daughter of a NYC city councilman.

Brutally torchered and subjects of maybe the most valuable Snuff Film ever made.

The only beef I had is why did he have two of the lead characters share the same last name. Tommy and Brian McKenna. No reason, and introduced unnecessary confusion.

 Police realize it's two killers when the notice how far the bodies were thrown.

All killings take place in beautiful, scenic and isolated spots. Could be 'cased' from above, and police conclude that they could be involved in the airlines.

Black is a professional airline pilot and White is a steward.

Prominent family of the victims in NYC arrange it so that the two killers are charged in Taiwan. Trial to hanging is just a week.

The library has a few of these, and it is on my Wish List.

Amazon link-

Author's website-

Monday, May 23, 2016

THE CRIMINAL by Jim Thompson

Finished Mo 5/23/16 In one day; recovering from Hernia Surgery the previous Thursday.

This one of my oversized paperbacks, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, that I had apparently not read before.

Not my favorite Jim Thompson, but definitely worth the effort.

Author's page wikipedia-

From Amazon-
"Everyone in Kenton Hills knows that short-tempered, tongue-tied Bob Talbert wasn't the one responsible for the brutal crime that ended Josie Eddleman's life. Nevermind that he was the last one to see her alive.

But in a town filled with the likes of an amoral tabloid reporter known only as The Captain, a district attorney who'll do anything for a confession, and Bob's parents, who care as little for Bob as they do for each other, guilt and innocence are little more than a matter of perspective.

In a masterfully woven tapestry of multiple points of view, THE CRIMINAL explores the nature of guilt and responsibility in a psychological thriller of an entire town under the spell of an act of brutal violence. Jim Thompson unlike you're ever read him before."


IN THE CUT by Susanna Moore

Refinished  Su 5/22/16 Three days after the hernia repair surgery and Morrissey's birthday.

This is one of my paperbacks and I first finished it on Sa 1/20/01. According to my note on the flyleaf, this day was George W. Bush's inaugural.

Darkly erotic and very well written.

The female protagonist is a college English teacher, Frannie Thorstin, and student on the nature of language. There are several Slang Lists that I've bookmarked in the front of the book.

I got taken and fell for the misdirection. The killer is not Malloy, the detective on the case, but his partner, Rodriguez.

In the end of the book the female professor dies, but I'm pretty sure that in the movie version, she is saved. Maybe I'll rewatch on Netflix.

On amazon-

Sunday, May 22, 2016

CHARMING BILLY by Alice McDermott

Finished Sa 5/21/16 The third day after the hernia repair surgery.

One of the better novels that I've ever read. Really a cut above!

Author's page at Wikipedia-


Billy and Dennis meet two Irish girls, Mary and Eva at the end of WWII. Billy falls for Eva and although she is returning to Ireland, he offers to pay to bring her back. Dennis has a brief sexual relationship with Mary, but, in the end, he's uninterested.

Eva takes Billy's money and marries another guy from Ireland. Mary tells this to Dennis, but he decides that it would be more emotionally humane to tell Billy that she died of tuberculosis. Decades later the full story is revealed.

The narrator is Dennis's adult daughter. I don't think she is identified by name. This offers a strange perspective.

The novel is chock full of colorful characters.

The longest scene is the beginning of the novel- Billy's funeral. He was so poisoned by alcohol that when Dennis identifies the body, at first he thinks that it is a black man.

CHARMING BILLY won the National Book Award for fiction as well as the American Book Award, and was shortlisted for the International Dublin IMPAC Literary Award. The novel was published by FSG in 1997.

NICKEL AND DIMED- On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Finished Fr 4/20/16, the day after hernia surgery. This was one of the 'free books' that I picked up on the run the day before the procedure.

I had read this several years ago, but it was probably a library copy. I loved the book and I'm glad to own it.

It seems that most of the customer reviewers missed what she was trying to do. She isn't trying to provide a blueprint of what it is like to be poor in America, as much as she is demonstrating how class infects almost all areas of American life. I think that the negative reception is that most people are still under the false assumption that, "In America, if you truly work hard, you will succeed". And, I think this hasn't been true for several decades- if it ever was.

If Walmart is the biggest employer in the country, and their employees don't even receive a living wage, how in the hell can anyone boast about this 'free market' system?

There is no such thing as 'unskilled labor'. That's just a myth and an excuse for employers to offer the cheapest wages. Sometimes this is beautifully demonstrated on the TV show UNDERCOVER BOSS. The 'high paid suits' can't even begin to do the job of their entry level employees.

The book at amazon-

Friday, May 20, 2016

WHILE I WAS GONE by Sue Miller

Finished Th 5/19/16

Read over half of the novel in a six hour marathon from 6pm to midnight after the hernia surgery

"While I Was Gone" was an Oprah's Book Club pick in 2000. I think that all of Oprah's picks are worth a look.

Miller has taught creative writing classes at Smith College, Amherst, Tufts, MIT, and Boston University.

Grabbed from amazon books- Publishers Weekly-

"The shadowy and inexorable nemesis of past secrets to a reclaimed life, and the inability even of those who are intimates to really know one another, are poignant themes in Miller's resonant fifth novel. Narrator Jo Becker, now a veterinarian married to a minister in a small Massachusetts town, was once a runaway bride who assumed a false name and lived with other disaffected '60s bohemians in a group house in Cambridge. Her special friend in the house was sweet-spirited and generous Dana Jablonski, whose shocking?and unsolved?murder broke up the group and left Jo with unresolved questions about her own identity. She manages to ignore the memories of that time until, almost three decades later, one of the former housemates, Eli Mayhew, moves to her town. Eli, now a distinguished research scientist, provides a revelation that acts as the catalyst provoking Jo to face her guilt about her past behavior?and to act impulsively once again. Her moral conundrum occasions a heartrending change in her heretofore strong marriage and undermines her relationship with her three grown daughters. As usual, Miller (The Good Mother; Family Pictures) renders the details of quotidian domesticity with bedrock veracity and a sensitivity to minute calibrations of family dynamics, especially the nuances of sibling rivalry. But while the pacing, tone and measured exposition are handled with masterly skill, the way in which Jo's decision to make amends for her past rebounds on her present life seems staged and convoluted, since her husband and children seem to think that retribution for a murder should take second place to their own emotional needs. That cavil aside, Miller's narrative is a beautifully textured picture of the psychological tug of war between finding integrity as an individual and satisfying the demands of spouse, children and community."

Jo has two twins that are radically different. Nora is a suburban mother and Cass plays in a punk rock band. They love each other like sisters and hate each other like enemies.

Daniel, Jo's second husband, delivers a remarkable sermon about grief and loss. A young child who loses their parent might be in a better position, psychologically than a sibling who is too young to understand. At least the older one has the memories.  Memory is a major theme in the book.

Interesting Mouth-to- Mouth resuscitation;  Tries to administer 'the breath of life' but cheek is deeply cut and punctured. Dana's murder is based on a real incident.

I'm not sure a person can redeem themselves from murder. Eli feels that the good that he has accomplished erases his grisly deed.

I'd like to read more by Sue Miller, and

Monday, May 16, 2016

THE TODD GLASS SITUATION by Todd Glass with Jonathan Grotenstein

'A Bunch of LIES About My Personal Life And a Bunch of TRUE STORIES About My 30-Year Career in STAND-UP COMEDY'

Finished Sa 5/14/16 (The day I activated my first smartphone, GALAXY PRIME CORE (Tracfone))

I first heard of this comic on the GETTING DOUG WITH HIGH video podcast. When he gets stoned, he 'gets a bit chatty', but always hilarious. In reading about his life I found that he came out on Marc Maron's, WTF. He was 47 years old. I listened to the entire podcast on Youtube and knew I had to read his book. After finishing the book, I glad that I read it.

He's very insightful about everything in his life and his overall outlook is very level headed.

Suffers from OCD, ADD, and dyslexia. He was not able to finish high school, but started in the comedy business at sixteen (Philadelphia).

He opened from many music performers early in his career, and never acted as if this was a bad gig. Patti LaBelle gave him one of his first big breaks. I thought that most comics HATE opening for bands because the audience it there to hear the music, not to listen to comedy.

GENTKILL by Paul Lindsay

Finished We 5/11/16

One of my oversized paperback books that I finished the first time on Sa 1/3/98. According to the note, I saw ARMISTAD that day.

The novel was written by a man who spent twenty years in the FBI, and it sure feels realistic, although I doubt if such an irreverent character would be allowed in the agency. I would definitely read another novel starring the character, Mike Devlin.

Grabbed from Amazon books-

Former FBI agent Lindsay (Witness to the Truth) has a vision of his protagonists?in this case the agents of the Detroit office?that makes them a blend of hard-bitten professionals and fraternity cutups. It may be authentic, but it gives his thriller an odd tone, as if neither the thrills nor the bitter, prankish humor are to be taken quite seriously. Agent Mike Devlin, his hero, is always balking at unfair authority. Here, he's out to do two things: first, collar two criminals?a serial killer who specializes in knocking off agents and an extortionist who is planting bombs at a medical center; second, nail his pompous, sleazy boss. The plotting, though swift, is a little too elaborate, with the two story lines never quite meshing as the author seems to intend. But there are plenty of thrills along the way, and a dizzy ransom denouement that is certainly a first in fiction. The book is basically the fictional equivalent of a tough Bruce Willis movie, with the pleasures and limitations of such an approach.

Another 'beach read';  fast-paced police procedural.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

CHOICE OF EVIL by Andrew Vachss

Finished Fr 5/6/16 After Dr. Ellison's referral  for the second hernia operation
One of my trade paperback books

The author's last name rhymes with 'tax' or 'ax'.

He has written many books on the rights of children and also had a career in law enforcement.

Author's page in wikipedia-

Blurb from Amazon about the book-

When his girlfriend, Crystal Beth, is gunned down at a gay rights rally in Central Park, Burke, the underground man-for-hire and expert hunter of predators, vows vengeance.  But someone beats him to the task: a shadowy killer who calls himself Homo Erectus and who seems determined to wipe gay bashers from the face of the earth.  As the killer's body count rises, most citizens are horrified, but a few see him as a hero, and they hire Burke to track him down...and help him escape.

In Choice of Evil, Burke is forced to confront his most harrowing mystery: the mind of an obsessive serial killer.  And soon the emotionally void method behind the killer's madness becomes terrifyingly familiar, reminding Burke of his childhood partner, Wesley, the ice-man assassin who never missed, even when the target was himself.  Has Wesley come back from the dead?  The whisper-stream says so.  And the truth may just challenge Burke's very sense of reality.  Expertly plotted, addictive, enthralling, Choice of Evil is Andrew Vachss' most haunting tale to date.  This novel is from 1999 and part of a series of the character, Burke.

THE BURKE SERIES by Andrew Vachss

Flood (1985)
Strega (1987)
Blue Belle (1988)
Hard Candy (1989)
Blossom (1990)
Sacrifice (1991)
Down in the Zero (1994)
Footsteps of the Hawk (1995)
False Allegations (1996)
Safe House (1998)
Choice of Evil (1999)
Dead and Gone (2000)
Pain Management (2001)
Only Child (2002)
Down Here (2004)
Mask Market (2006)
Terminal (2007)
Another Life (2008)

An easy and compelling read. I have read many of his novels and they are all worth a look.

THE KLANSMAN by William Bradford Huie

Finished Mo 5/2/16
One of my hardback books that I got many years ago at the library book sale

Terrific expose of the Race Issue-  written in 1967.

I was struck by the 'sexual frenzy' of  the State's Rights position. Black men sleeping with White Women seemed to be the underlying fear of those in power.

Atoka County, Alabama. The area had been used for cotton growing, but for the last couple of generations it was a tree farming area (pine).  The man that owns the largest tree farming operation is the 'power behind the throne'.

Sheriff Bascomb- Highly decorated war hero. Trying to do his job, but quite clearly run by the local power structure. His son Allen is not warped by the extreme prejudice of the area.

Breck Stancill- Also a highly decorated war hero (lost a leg in the war). A rich white progressive who takes issue with the racist philosophy. His family plantation stood for a kind of racial equality for generations.

Black Agitators are believed to be descending from the North and stirring up trouble. "Our blacks are happy and content".

Loretta Sykes is a black woman who was tutored by Breck Stancill. She was able to migrate to Chicago and has gotten a job at Montgomery Wards. She's on track for a middle class life and she has returned to Alabama to tend to her dying mother.

The Town Fathers, with the help of Sheriff Bascomb's police department kidnap Loretta and rape her in the local jail. They have a local black mentally challenged man to preform the rape, and then they blame this crime on Negro organizers.

Bascomb's son  and Breck Stancill are killed in the final showdown.

I loved the book

Author's page at wikipedia-

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

RUN RIGHT NOW- What A Half-Century On The Run Has Taught by Joe Henderson

This was the 'bathroom book' for early Spring 2016 and finished Su 5/1/16

Chock full of the usual tips and hints, but for this guy, a seven minute mile is SLOW.
Enough said.....

Joe Henderson's page at wikipedia-

Monday, May 2, 2016

CANDYLAND by Evan Hunter and Ed McBain

Finished Tu 4/26/16

This was one of my books that has sat on the shelves for many years, and never read. I bought it at the library book sale on Sa 6/10/06.

This is one of the best books that I've read in a very long time. I really loved it! However, I really didn't understand that 'trick' until I consulted Wikipedia. I knew that Evan Hunter was a penname, but I didn't know who he was. I was mildly shocked when I 're-learned' that Evan Hunter was the less successful name for Salvatore Albert Lombino. He was more widely known as Ed McBain, author of the wildly popular 87th Precinct novels.

Evan writes the first half of the book, and Ed, the second.

The first half is the psychological study of a man who frequents prostitutes. Ben Thorpe is the architect from the west coast who is on business  in NYC, and looking for action.  

The second half of the book is a police procedural about the murder of a prostitute.

The second part begins with the murder of a prostitute who worked at the house that Ben visited, but although he had sex with this woman, he didn't kill her.

The killer is actually one of the vice detectives assigned to the case, James (Jimmy) Morgan. Emma Boyles the Special Victims detective who solves the case and the story is mostly told through her point of view.

Better than any Evan Hunter or any Ed McBain!!!

Link to amazon books-


Finished Su 4/24/16
This was the March 2016 selection for the Contemporary Book Club

I thought that this was a rather weak effort, and the members seemed to agree. I felt that the story of 'the wayward girls' of the 50's and 60's would have made for a much more engaging tale.

Basically, it's the story of a 'family deception' that occurs in a bed and breakfast in Iowa that used to be a home for pregnant young women.

Jill runs the place with her mother, Ruby, and her daughter, Fee (Felicity).
Jocelyn is Jill's older sister who has been working in LA as a stylist. She has returned to the home for the funeral of Hester. This woman was the town matriarch and an enemy of the McClouds.

Hester was dating Daniel who was the owner/operator of McCloud's during the sixties. Jill was working at McCloud's (she was at the facility, and her child died at birth), and dating William, Hester's brother, but fell for Daniel, and Daniel went with Ruby.

The family 'Big Bad Secret' is that Fee is actually the child of William. Ruby's  husband was dying of prostate cancer and took comfort from William. Also, Hester was a closeted lesbian and secretly involved with the town librarian, Cordelia (Delia).

Most of us in the group said that it reminded us of the novel that we read by the local writer. None of us enjoyed that book because it was far to corny(and not that well written).

link to amazon books-