Thursday, December 29, 2016

BEST BOY by Eli Gottlieb

Finished Mo 12/26/16

This novel was the December selection for the Contemporary Book Club

When I finished the book I didn't like it as much as after attending the meeting, Wednesday 12/28. I skimmed through the book Wednesday and realized that it was really the story told by an unreliable narrator, and these are the kind of books that I like the best.

Todd Aaron is 55 years old and has been in some kind of institutional care for over forty years. He suffers from autism and high anxiety. He is 'best boy' because he prides himself in following all the rules. 'Mr. B' is his encyclopedia which he reads daily and, 'Mr. C' is a PC which he also uses.

'New Idea'- he decides to walk almost 750 miles back to his childhood home in Grable, NY.

Tommy Doon- his roommate that he doesn't like. This man thinks that Todd is lazy and tries to get out of work. Actually, Doon is the lazy one.

Mike The Apron- Vet of Iraq war who works as an orderly. Possibly a sexual predator and takes advantage of Greta Deane. This 28 year old, high functioning patient commits suicide after a sexual encounter with Mike.

Raykene- Todd's favorite staff person. She treats him with respect.

Martine- female patient that befriends Todd. Her mother and father are rich alcoholics. She has punched her eye out with a rock and has stopped her meds. She gets Todd to stop his Risperdal as well.

Nate- Todd's brother, Beth- his wife, Steve and Cam- their two sons. Nate loves his brother but probably stole money from the sale of their mother and father's condominium. Nate is an 'environmentalist accountant'.

One of the best scenes in the book is when Todd meets his brother's family. Beth leaves Todd with the two boys to make a phone call. The boys run into the street and one of them is hit by a car. Todd continues to eat his french fries with ketchup and is oblivious to the mayhem. He is an unreliable narrator.

In the end of the book, Nate invites Todd to live with his family, but it doesn't work. The marriage disintegrates (you don't get the details because it's all through the eyes of Todd).

When he goes back for the last time, Nate takes them to their old home. Ron Salamon and his wife live there now. Todd goes down into the crawl space and finds a box with photos of him and his mother and a letter in which she tells him how much that she loves him.

Masturbation is encouraged by Todd's mother. She uses the euphemism, 'work'

Todd makes a spear. A stick with a nail at the end. He models it after the tool used in trash pickup, but he uses it to get rid of his aggression. It's kind of a red herring because I really thought that something bad would happen. He'd use it as a weapon. Mike breaks it.

When Todd is on the road he has a visitation from a bird. Very strange. The bird tells him, 'home is in your head'.
He goes back to the home because that's his real home.

Developmental/ BI (Brain Injured)
"Give me volts"

"Autism is now sometimes said to be the largest childhood epidemic in history".

page at amazon-

author's page at wikipedia-

First time through, I only felt it was worth a look, but now I really like it and I will recommend it for Janny to read.

Friday, December 23, 2016

BEAUTIFUL SHADOW- A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson

Finished Th 12/22/16

I got this book on the internet on Mo 6/19/06 and I'm sure that I looked through it, but this is the first time that I completed it.

This is a wonderful biography and I definitely want to check out some of the library's selections by Highsmith.

1921-1995 Born in Ft. Worth, Texas
Lived NYC/Mexico/London/Paris/Switzerland

Google Map link to NYC apartment-,+New+York,+NY+10022/@40.7578042,-73.9659743,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c258e6bacf8781:0xe48fc52b2dac41fe!8m2!3d40.7578002!4d-73.9637856!6m1!1e1?hl=en

Her parents divorced ten days before she was born and she didn't meet her real father, Jay Bernard Plagman (Jay B.) until many years later.

Mary Highsmith tried to abort her by drinking turpentine. "Funny how you've always loved the smell of turpentine".

Stanley and Mary were graphic illustrators and left Pat in Ft. Worth with her maternal grandmother, Willie Mae.

After graduating Barnard, Pat worked as a writer of comic books while writing STRANGERS ON THE TRAIN and THE PRICE OF SALT.

Lived for a few months at the Yaddo Colony. She left most of her estate (3 million) to this organization. In the late 19th century a family lived on this estate. They made their money selling shoes to the Northern Army during the Civil War. The woman contracted diphtheria. Her doctor said that she was going to die, but not contagious. He allowed her to see the two children. They contracted the disease and the mother recovered. Wow!

Link to Yaddo-

PRICE OF SALT is based on an incident from her life. She did work in a toy store and did fall madly in love with a woman that came into the store to buy a toy for her child. CAROL is the film made from this novel. I will see this again.

'Preferred the company of animals to that of people and once said, "My imagination functions much better when I don't have to speak to people. Her chronic alcoholism intensified as she grew older.'

Highsmith's link to wikipedia-

Truly a bizarre character; racist and antisemite; primarily lesbian and never really was able to establish a life-long bond with anyone. However, she did have longtime friends, including Saul Bellow and Arthur Koestler (both Jewish).

Monday, December 19, 2016


Finished Su 12/18/16

By The Peoples Bicentennial Commission    

"Tom Paine's Common Sense sparked the American Revolution 200 years ago. This Book sounds the alarm against today's tyrants- The Giant Corporations"

This is one of my paperbacks. The flyleaf doesn't mention when I last read it, but I was shocked to find that my father had written a rather lame summation at the end of the book. Needless to say, he thought that the 'men in the gray suits' were doing a fine job steering our obviously unfair economy. I must have gotten him to take a look at this fine book, and he missed the point entirely.

"Five years after its founding, the People's Bicentennial Commission is using an economic analysis to unify and reform American workers. The Commission was founded in 1970 by Jeremy Rifkin to provide "revolutionary alternatives for the Bicentennial years."Apr 28, 1975".

Jeremy Rifkin's page at wikipedia-

The premise of the book is that there is no earthly reason why corporate charters could be changed so that Fairness and The Common Good could replace Profits as their primary motivation. I think that the authors make the case that most people in colonial times believed that the aristocracy was ordained by god. Today, most people feel that the structure of the contemporary corporation is god given. Both positions are complete fallacy.

And, clearly the treatise makes the case that the American worker is not being properly compensated for the labor provided. The book also shows that if the common worker was given more responsibility and 'free reign' in the work place he'd be even more productive. Thus, most of the corporate hierarchy is completely unnecessary.

This is a very short book and I read it during the 'Amazing Ice Storm of December, 2016', and I think that it should be required reading for high school students. Certainly it provides a strong antidote to the Free Market nonsense that is currently in vogue.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Removed Su 12/18/16

This was 'bathroom reading' from early Fall through mid December 2016

This was one of my paperbacks that I have had since 1993. According to the flyleaf I completed the book Su 3/14/93.

The edition of the book is so old that it contains 'a complete update for the 80's'.

The book documents the blending of psychology and advertising which began in the mid 1950's. After over fifty years of manipulation, no wonder Trump is the president elect.

the author's page at wikipedia-

WASTED YEARS by John Harvey

A Charlie Resnick Mystery

Finished Sa 12/17/16
This was the day of the worst ice storm to hit Springfield in decades. A quarter inch of ice coated Westview and it was nearly impassable. And, late Saturday night a snowstorm dusted the whole mess with a half inch of powdery snow and the temperatures never rose above single digits all day on Sunday.

This was one of my paperbacks that I bought at the main branch in May of 1995, but never read.

The novel is a police procedural set in Nottingham, England and reminded me a lot of the work of Ian Rankin.

Charlie Resnick is a depressed, functioning alcoholic deputy inspector. He regrets his divorce to Elaine. She cheated on him with a realtor. However, he really stopped communicating with her, and he basically forced her out of the relationship.

The novel concerns two criminal activities. The first is about a pair of inept robbers, Keith and Darren. Darran is the leader and most likely psychotic. Keith is just a weak follower and they met in a youth prison and Darren prevented Keith from hanging himself.

They rob a small branch bank and Darren nearly kills an old man with a hammer who steps up to stop the robbery. One of the tellers, Lorna Solomon, is frustrated with her job, and she is a sub-plot in the book. Darren follows her and she goes to the police about his voyeurism and meets a young detective, Kevin Naylor, and they have a brief sexual encounter. But, Kevin goes back to his wife, Debbie, at the end of the novel.

The other criminal enterprise concerns a group of very experienced and well organized robbers. This gang successfully steals from armored cars and large banking concerns. They wear Disney masks. Prior, Churchill, and Rains are the ringleaders.

Prior has just gotten out of prison after a ten year sentence. His wife Ruth, was an established R&B singer. Resnick is a music lover and saw her perform back in the day. He thinks that Prior blames Ruth for his incarceration, and Charlie tries to prevent Prior from getting back at her.

WASTED YEARS is a song that Ruth sings with her combo.

I thought Charlie and Ruth might get together, but it looks like Resnick will try to hookup with Prior's probation officer, Pam Van Allen.

I loved the book and I'll check the library to see if I can read more of this series.

Author's page at wikipedia-

Charlie's page at wikipedia-

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson

Finished We 12/14/16, the day before my colonoscopy at the Springfield Clinic. It probably only took me three sessions to finish the novel and it was my second book from my over-sized paperback, "THE PARANOID FIFTIES- Three Classic Science Fiction Novels by John Wyndham, Richard Matheson and Philip K. Dick".

This is probably the strangest novel about vampires that I've read. The protagonist, Robert Neville, is in the midst of a world-wide vampire epidemic, and although he is not infected, he searches for a cure for the condition. Part of his motivation might be to bring his wife back since she was infected and is not quite dead and buried.

Neville also employs and examines various legends, myths, and superstitions about vampires- such as garlic, mirrors, transmutation, and stakes through the heart. He learns, but does not understand why, some of these phenomena work and some do not.

It doesn't make clear in the novel, but Robert Neville might have had some background in medical science since he doesn't seem out of his element perusing medical texts and trying his hand at advanced microscopes.

The novel is set in Los Angeles, CA

Robert Neville's wife is Virginia and they had a young daughter, Kathy, who was probably between five and eight years old. Kathy succumbs to the disease of vampirism.

Robert guesses that the reason he has not been infected is that when he was stationed in Panama during the war, he was bitten by a vampire  bat and this inoculated him to the condition.

Although he lives in a fortified compound, and is relatively safe from the vampires, he is intensely lonely. One of his friends, Ben Cortman, is a portly vampire and cries out for Robert to 'come out' every night. Cortman reminds Robert of Oliver Hardy.

Near the end of the novel, Robert notices a dog that has not been infected. Apparently, all living creatures have been effected by the virus (or bacteria). He spends several days feeding and trying to approach the dog, and when he finally makes friends, the dog dies.

Then, he meets Ruth. This woman is also very apprehensive of befriending Robert. Soon, it is revealed that she is working for a new race of infected humans that must kill all existing humans.

I wasn't exactly clear to me as to why the humans and the 'proto-humans' could not peaceably co-exist.

But, at Robert's execution he realizes that he, and the humans that he represents, will become a myth or legend to the new race of human beings. That is what he means when he proclaims, "I am legend".

From the Editorial Reviews-

"One of the most influential vampire novels of the 20th century, I Am Legend regularly appears on the "10 Best" lists of numerous critical studies of the horror genre. As Richard Matheson's third novel, it was first marketed as science fiction (for although written in 1954, the story takes place in a future 1976). A terrible plague has decimated the world, and those who were unfortunate enough to survive have been transformed into blood-thirsty creatures of the night. Except, that is, for Robert Neville. He alone appears to be immune to this disease, but the grim irony is that now he is the outsider. He is the legendary monster who must be destroyed because he is different from everyone else. Employing a stark, almost documentary style, Richard Matheson was one of the first writers to convince us that the undead can lurk in a local supermarket freezer as well as a remote Gothic castle. His influence on a generation of bestselling authors--including Stephen King and Dean Koontz--who first read him in their youth is, well, legendary. --Stanley Wiater"

Amazon reviews-

The author's page at wikipedia-

The novel's page at wikipedia-

Monday, December 12, 2016

GEORGE WASHINGTON'S SECRET SIX- The Spy Ring that Saved The American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

Finished Su 12/11/16

This is a library book that was recommended to me by the guy that works out at FitClub West and is retired from the Presidential Library downtown.

I was surprised that I didn't have to wait on the book because one of the co-authors, Brian Kilmeade, is an anchor at Fox News.

The premise is that the rebels did not win the revolutions so much on the battlefield but that George Washington 'out spied' the British. The spy ring was based out of Long Island and kept a close watch on the British occupation on New York. Manhattan was the second most populated American city, Philadelphia was the first.

The Secret Six were-

Robert Townsend- This man went undetected until 1929. Papers were found that identified his handwriting to manuscripts written by the network.

Abraham Woodhull

Benjamin Tallmadge

Caleb Brewster

Austin Roe

James Rivington- This man was a printer and coffee house owner and his 'cover' was that he was a forceful critic of the revolt.

[Agent 355- This was a woman, probably American 'high society'. Her identity remains unknown.]

Nathan Hale was probably the most famous spy of the revolution, but he was caught and executed. He was only 21 years old and was not part of the Secret Six.

His page at wikipedia-

I really enjoyed the account of John Andre and Benedict Arnold. Andre was the British military leader and spy that 'handled' Arnold's double dealing. Arnold was in charge of West Point and he wanted to deliver this fort to the British (for a cash payment). The deal was stopped, but Arnold escaped to Europe. I want to read more of the lives of both of these fascinating characters.

John Andre's page at wikipedia-

Arnold's page at wikipedia-

I was almost shocked to learn of the British counterfeiting operation. They had the plates and the paper and could have defeated the Americans without having to fire a shot. Simply destroy the monetary system of the colonies. This plot was stopped by the spy ring.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

TIME OUT OF JOINT by Philip K. Dick

Finished Fr 12/9/16
This was part of a trilogy called THE PARANOID FIFTIES which included 3 classic science fiction novels by John Wyndham, Richard Matheson and Philip K. Dick.

I've had this book for many many years and I got it when I belonged to the Quality Paperback Book Club.

From Amazon books page-

""Marvelous, terrifying fun, especially if you’ve ever suspected that the world is an unreal construct built solely to keep you from knowing who you really are. Which it is, of course."—Rolling Stone

Ragle Gumm has a unique job: every day he wins a newspaper contest. And when he isn’t consulting his charts and tables, he enjoys his life in a small town in 1959. At least, that’s what he thinks. But then strange things start happening. He finds a phone book where all the numbers have been disconnected, and a magazine article about a famous starlet he’s never heard of named Marilyn Monroe. Plus, everyday objects are beginning to disappear and are replaced by strips of paper with words written on them like "bowl of flowers" and "soft drink stand." When Ragle skips town to try to find the cause of these bizarre occurrences, his discovery could make him question everything he has ever known.

I read this in three evenings. I loved it.
Rather than Sci Fi, it could almost be seen as an explanation of a paranoid schizophrenic personality.

2 Political Groups-
Lunatics- Believe that Man should explore the galaxies.
One Happy Earth- Man has no business leaving Earth

Amazon Books page-

Friday, December 9, 2016

HOOLIGANS by William Diehl

Finished Sa 12/3/16

I finished this book almost a week ago and it was a slightly better than average organized crime thriller.

From wikipedia entry on William Diehl-

"At 50, Diehl was a successful photographer and journalist, when he began his writing career. His first novel, Sharky's Machine and the 1981 film of the same name is directed and starred Burt Reynolds. Diehl saw it shot on location in and around his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Its cast included Vittorio Gassman, Brian Keith, Charles Durning, Earl Holliman, Rachel Ward, Bernie Casey, Henry Silva and Richard Libertini. It has been the most successful box-office release of a film directed by Reynolds. Diehl relocated to St. Simons Island, Georgia in the early 1980s where he lived for the next 15 years before returning to Atlanta. While living on St. Simons, he completed eight more novels, such as Primal Fear, with the 1996 film adaptation.
He died of an aortic aneurism at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on November 24, 2006, while working on his tenth novel. He was survived by five children from his first marriage (Cathy, Bill, Stan, Melissa, and Temple) from whom he was estranged.
Sharky's Machine (1978)
Chameleon (1981)

Hooligans (1984)

Thai Horse (1987)
The Hunt (1990)
Primal Fear (1993)†
Show of Evil (1995)†
Reign in Hell (1997)†
Eureka (2002)
Seven Ways to Die (2012) with Kenneth John Atchity[1]
†Primal Fear, Show of Evil and Reign in Hell are all part of the Martin Vail series featuring the character Aaron Stampler."

Reviews at Amazon-