Sunday, November 19, 2017

DOG EAT DOG by Edward Bunker

DOG EAT DOG   by Edward Bunker

From the library on Hoopla, and finished Su 11/19/17

A couple of weeks ago I heard an interview on Marc Maron's WTF with Willem Dafoe and they were talking about the film where Dafoe played Mad Dog McCain and Nicholas Cage played Troy Cameron. Dafoe mentioned that it was taken from a great novel by Edward Bunker. First, I checked Netflix and learned that the movie was available for streaming, and I watched it that morning. And then I checked the library and saw that the book was on Hoopla.

1) Troy Cameron- Born into wealth and privilege in Beverly Hills. Father was an abusive urologist and abused Troy's mother. Father attacked mother and Troy shot him three times in the back. Father lived, but Troy began his career in the juvenile court system.

2) Charles 'Diesel' Carson- While in the system gained 80 lbs of muscle and got the nickname 'Diesel' for his strength, although it might have been 'for playing football without a helmet'.

3) Gerald 'Mad Dog' McCain- Just a couple of days before Troy's release he was goaded into a fight by a black thug, and Mad Dog cut the guy with a shiv, nearly killing him.  Mad Dog knew that if Troy retaliated, he would lose any chance of freedom. Troy never forgets this, although McCain is completely unhinged and addicted to whatever he can lay his hands on. However, near the end of the novel, Troy and Diesel agree that McCain's gotta go.


The book is essentially about three friends who met and grew up in California's child criminal courts system. When they are released as adults and subject to the recent, 'three strikes and you're out' mandate, they decided that they will commit crimes against criminals because these individuals can't call in the police. They rip off a drug dealer and successfully take a large score, but they are involved with a kidnapping that goes awry. They accidentally kill the man who is supposed to pay the ransom when he is unexpectedly present on the evening of the crime. Troy and Diesel murder Mad Dog because he is far too unstable and they get taken down when they are targeted by store security in a harmless visit to a local grocery store. Diesel's handgun is accidentally displayed in the store, and Diesel is killed in a gun fight in the parking lot, and Troy is captured. While in the prison hospital Troy is given a handgun and a pipe wrench by a prisoner who is a friend and Troy manages to escape. He hijacks a car with an elderly black couple, the Reverend Charles and Charlene Wilson, and manages to travel down the California coast where the car is stopped by police. In the ensuing gun fight, Charles and Charlene are killed and Troy is wounded and captured. All is lost and Troy is back in the system, and this time- on death row.

Much of the novel is different from the film and I'm curious as to why they just didn't 'do the book' because it's so much better. In any event, I loved the book, and I'd wholeheartedly recommend both the novel and the film to anyone interested in hardboiled criminal fiction.

the author's page at wikipedia-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bunker

Thursday, November 16, 2017

THE POET by Michael Connelly

This is an old paperback that I first completed on Mo 2/24/03 over a long three day weekend. This time through, I finished it Tu 11/14/17. When I finished ROGUE LAWYER I was searching through the stacks for a copy of THE LINCOLN LAWYER. I thought that it was written by Grisham and surprised to learn that it was a Connelly novel. I couldn't find it, or any of the Mickey Haller series, but this one was worth a second look.

Reporter, John McEvoy is a twin and his brother is a police detective. The detective is murdered and the scene was arranged to appear like a suicide. John joins the investigation and determines that there is a serial killer of police detectives on the loose.  Cops commit suicide and there is a connection to children in their past. McEvoy uses the internet and finds the connection between these half dozen murders disguised as suicide and realizes that it's the work of a serial killer. They called the killer in this investigation, The Poet, because this murderer leaves sections of poetry by Edgar Allen Poe at the scene.

The FBI's Behavioral Science Unit (Rachel's outfit) determines that the killer seems to be motivated by a molestation that happened when he was a child. The Poet is aided by an online organization of paedophiles.

Many years ago a Florida detective was sexually abusing children. He discarded William Gladden because he got too old. Gladden went on a life-long killing spree against detectives because of this this man.  Gladden takes pictures of young children and sells them on the internet. This is the man that is thought to be The Poet for most of the novel.

Rachel Walling's father was also a detective and he was abusing her, and when John learned of this he was convinced that she was the killer.

THE TWIST-

John falls in love with the FBI investigator Rachel Walling. Near the end of the book John feels that she might be The Poet. However, it's not her, but another FBI agent, Backus. 

A fantastic book and I'd read anything and everything by Michael Connelly. And, he's a cut above John Grisham, but Grisham's work is still important part of the genre of legal thrillers.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF LOVE by Elizabeth J. Church

November selection for the Contemporary Book Club, 2017. Finished Fr 11/10/17; a hardback edition that I got on Amazon- We 8/30/17

Meridian's family might be related to Scottish Super-Hero, William Wallace. Mel Gibson's character in BRAVEHEART.


An interesting and captivating love story that spans the fifties to the seventies from the point of view of an educated woman trapped in a very limited marriage; somewhat a blueprint to the rise of feminism.

Meridian Wallace
Alden Whetstone
Clay- Vietnam vet, geologist

From Amazon-

"In her sweeping debut novel, Elizabeth J. Church takes us from the World War II years in Chicago to the vast sun-parched canyons of New Mexico in the 1970s as we follow the journey of a driven, spirited young woman, Meridian Wallace, whose scientific ambitions are subverted by the expectations of her era.

In 1941, at seventeen years old, Meridian begins her ornithology studies at the University of Chicago. She is soon drawn to Alden Whetstone, a brilliant, complicated physics professor who opens her eyes to the fundamentals and poetry of his field, the beauty of motion, space and time, the delicate balance of force and energy that allows a bird to fly.

Entranced and in love, Meridian defers her own career path and follows Alden west to Los Alamos, where he is engaged in a secret government project (later known to be the atomic bomb). In married life, though, she feels lost and left behind. She channels her academic ambitions into studying a particular family of crows, whose free life and companionship are the very things that seem beyond her reach. There in her canyons, years later at the dawn of the 1970s, with counterculture youth filling the streets and protests against the war rupturing college campuses across the country, Meridian meets Clay, a young geologist and veteran of the Vietnam War, and together they seek ways to mend what the world has broken.

Exquisitely capturing the claustrophobic eras of 1940s and 1950s America, The Atomic Weight of Love also examines the changing roles of women during the decades that followed. And in Meridian Wallace we find an unforgettable heroine whose metamorphosis shows how the women’s movement opened up the world for a whole generation."

From Amazon-

"An Amazon Best Book of May 2016: The Atomic Weight of Love sounded like a quiet book to me, but the process of transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is a quiet thing, too, and that’s what this story reminds me of. It’s a fascinating account of Meridian Wallace, a science-minded woman who falls in love with a brilliant man working on big things—in this case, the atomic bomb. She puts her dreams on hold in service to his, sure that it’s only temporary and in these years meets other women who have done the same. Suddenly, it seems as if she has just faded into the background of her own life. Then the catalyst--a young man, both hippie and Vietnam veteran, who introduces her to many things, freedoms born of the era, and there is indecision. Ultimately Meridian reclaims herself, takes her identities over all those years and patches them together into a new and meaningful life. Woven throughout are interesting facts about human-like bird behavior and historical anecdotes, so while Meridian’s story--a reflection of the changing role of women between the 1940’s and 1970’s--is the centerpiece, there are many other treasures along the way. --Seira Wilson"


I really loved this novel and although it's a romance, it is in no way a Harlequin Romance! And, I was pleased to see that the author did not cast Meridian's husband, Alden as a villain. He was as much trapped by society's expectations as she was.

Link to excellent review-

http://expendablemudge.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-atomic-weight-of-love-novel-for.html

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ROGUE LAWYER by John Grisham

This was a hardback that Janny loaned to me and I finished the book on Tuesday, 11/7/17. This was also the day that I got the finishing touches on my right sleeve tattoo at Black Moon.

The whole premise of this novel seems to have been lifted from Michael Connelly's, THE LINCOLN LAWYER. Both books concern a dishonest or unprincipled attorney who plies his trade on the fringes of the legal community. Both books are great reads, but Connelly is clearly a better writer. And, Grisham's novel feels as if he's stitched together several short stories or novellas, and there's a lot of loose ends at the conclusion. Maybe he's intentionally creating openings for a possible series on the character of Sebastian Rudd.

The plot of the novel from wikipedia-


"Sebastian Rudd is a street lawyer, but not your typical street lawyer. His office is a black customized bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, and fine leather chairs. He has no firm, no partners, and only one employee: his heavily armed driver, named 'Partner', who used to be his client, and who also happens to be his bodyguard, law clerk, confidant, and golf caddie. Sebastian drinks small-batch bourbon and carries a gun. His beautiful ex-wife, Judith, is a lawyer too, and she left him for another woman while still they were married. He only gets to see his son, Starcher, for 36 hours per month and his ex-wife wants to stop all visits. He defends people other lawyers won't go near: a drug-addled, tattooed kid, Gardy Baker, rumored to be in a satanic cult who is accused of murdering two girls; a vicious crime lord, Link Scanlon, on death row who escaped before his eyes; a homeowner, Doug Renfro, arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house, and killed his wife and dogs; a Mixed martial arts fighter, Tadeo Zapate, who killed a referee after losing a fight. In between these adventures, he's contacted by a serial kidnapper and killer, Arch Swanger, who's involved in human trafficking, and knows the whereabouts of the assistant chief of police's missing daughter."

Basically, the novel is a collection of five subplots-

The relationship between Sebastian, Judith, and their son, Starcher. Although he loves the boy, he hates his name every time it's mentioned.

Gardy Baker- a goth kid railroaded by an entire town for the murder and rape of two young girls. The cops go for him and ignore the real killer, an ex-boyfriend of the girls' mother.

A retired home owner, Doug Renfro, whose house is targeted by a swat team. They think he and his wife are major drug traffickers, but it's really the young man next door. He's stealing the old couples wifi. The surprising fact of this story is that although Mr. Renfro is attacked in the middle of the night, without warning, the police are absolved of any wrong doing because they 'are merely doing their jobs'. The fact that they murder Mr. Renfro's wife in the process is just an unfortunate accident.
      However, I did wonder if one part of this subplot is true. When this fiasco goes to trial the jury foreman asks the judge why the police are not on trial instead of Mr. Renfro, then the trial seems to be dismissed. Would this really happen? If the law says that the police cannot be held responsible wouldn't the jury be forced to enforce that law?

Tadeo Zapate- a mixed martial arts fighter who loses a fight by a questionable decision, and lashes out and kills the ref. Tadeo is sponsored by Rudd and although Sebastian does all he can for this obviously guilty man, Zapate idiotically  feels that he can convince the jury that he was temporarily insane as he struck the ref twenty-two times with vicious punches to the head (and all of this was caught on video).

Arch Swanger- a sociopath who is possibly a serial killer and human trafficker. A police official's pregnant daughter is kidnapped by human traffickers and Swanger seems to know where she is being held and gives this information to Rudd. This might be the most interesting story, yet it doesn't seem to be fully resolved at the end of the book.

This book is an easy read and very entertaining, but that's about all you could say. I think Michael Connelly is the better writer and I have a novel by David Baldacci that I'm going to read and and see how he compares as a best selling author of legal thrillers.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

NOAH'S COMPASS by Anne Tyler

This is a hardback that Janny loaned to me. Tyler wrote this in 2009, so she was 68. While it doesn't rate as one of her best novels, it is certainly a fine novel. Written by an unknown, it would have been a literary sensation!

Finished on Sa 11/4/17 in one three hour marathon session on the living room couch after an early afternoon workout at Planet Fitness.

Plot summary from wikipedia-

"On the surface, Liam Pennywell leads an ordered, decent life. Once widowed and once divorced, with three grown-up daughters, he has just been dismissed from his teaching job and, for lack of funds, has moved to a smaller apartment on the outskirts of Baltimore. Toying with the idea of retiring altogether rather than going job hunting at his age, Pennywell is assaulted by a burglar on the very first night he stays at his new place. When he wakes up in hospital with a bandaged head, he cannot remember a thing about the attack.

The loss of memory disturbs him more than the crime itself. In a neurologist's waiting room he observes 38-year-old Eunice accompanying an ageing entrepreneur to his doctor's appointment and finds out that she is working for him as a "rememberer" or, as she herself puts it later, the old man's "external hard drive." Intrigued by this occupation, Pennywell contrives a chance encounter with her, and eventually they strike up a relationship with each other.

Complications in their love affair arise when his youngest daughter, 17-year-old Kitty, decides to move in with him, obviously because she expects to be enjoying more freedom than if she stayed with her mother; and when his middle daughter Louise makes a habit of dumping his four-year-old grandson Jonah at Pennywell's apartment for him to babysit. On top of that, Eunice turns out to be a married woman who, after Pennywell has found out, still does not want to let go of him.

In the end the police arrest the burglar—a juvenile delinquent whose mother has the cheek to ask Pennywell to serve as a character witness at her son's forthcoming trial. By then, Pennywell has made up with his eldest daughter Xanthe, who was bearing an old grudge against her father, has got rid of Eunice, and has got settled in at his new apartment. Also, he has started working as a zayde (Jewish word for 'grandfather') for Jewish preschool children."

PLOT NOTES;

Liam Pennywell is a fifth grade teacher who has recently been 'downsized' and has moved to a cheaper apartment in the Lutherville/Timonium area of suburban Baltimore. The first night in the new place he is viciously attacked, bitten on the hand, and knocked unconscious. He awakes in the hospital and can't remember anything about the incident.

The novel is about how he adjusts to the attack, and as a result of his quest to find out what happened, he gains new insight and acceptance of his whole life.

Kitty- Liam's youngest daughter by ex-wife Barbara. Kittys' boyfriend is Damian. Barbara still has feelings for Liam, although she has clearly moved on in her life. At the end of the novel Kitty leaves Barbara's home and lives with Liam for her final year of high school.

Bundy- Liam's Afro-American friend at St. Dyfrig where they both work, and Bundy is a PE teacher at the school. Although Liam has a degree in philosophy he has been a middle school teacher for all of his professional life. His major problem is that he has never lived up to anything close to his full potential- he always settles for less.

Xanthe- (pronounced- "Zan- thee") Liam's daughter and only child by Millie, his first wife. She is mad at Liam for most of the novel because she thinks that Damian, Kitty's boyfriend, is the one who attacked Liam.

Louise- Liam's oldest daugher by Barbara. She is married to Dougall, who is a blue collar worker, and they have a four year old son, Jonah. They are 'born again Christians'.

Mr. Ishmael Cope- an extremely rich developer, COPE DEVELOPMENT, who is having memory problems. He has hired a 'rememberer', Eunice Dunstead. This woman becomes the object of Liam's desire, and Eunice loves him even more.

Liam is 61 and Eunice is 38.

The major twist in the novel occurs when Liam learns that Eunice is married. Because his father left his mother when Liam was a boy, Liam has great respect for the institution of marriage. But, you could also say that because he is suffering from extremely low self-esteem, he uses his view of the sanctity of marriage as an excuse to not pursue Eunice, the love of his life. THIS IS PROBABLY THE MAJOR THEME OF THE NOVEL.

Norman- he is Eunice's husband. He works in the field biology at Johns Hopkins hospital.

Millie- Liam's first wife. This was an unhappy marriage and Millie was continually depressed and she finally takes her life- sleeping pills. Liam probably shares some responsibility for Millie's condition because he could not fully commit to the relationship. He most likely felt that he was unworthy of a loving relationship and as a result, was distant from his wife.


Julia- she is Liam's older sister. She is distant and aloof. She's a lawyer and pretty hard-nosed.

Lamont Edward Twill, 24-  He is the man who attacked Liam on his first day at his new apartment. This man's mother goes to Liam's apartment (The Twill's live in the same complex) and asks Liam to be a character witness at Edward's trial. She feels that Twill showed remorse because he didn't steal anything from Liam's apartment. Liam doesn't buy it and believes that the reason Edward fled was because Liam screamed and his neighbors heard his cry for help.

Bard and Esther Jo- These are Liam's father and stepmother. Esther Jo was the office sex-pot and Bard left Liam's mother for this woman. When Liam talks about this with his father late in the novel, Bard tells him that he was so afraid that he would die without attaining any real happiness. BARD BELIEVES THAT YOU MUST TAKE A RISK FOR HAPPINESS WHILE LIAM REMAINS PASSIVE, HIDING BEHIND HIS BELIEFS.

Last line of the book-

"He could almost convince himself that he'd never been wounded at all"

You could write an entire critique about the novel from that final line and also the title of the book.

An explanation of the title from wikipedia-

"The novel takes its title from a discussion Pennywell has with his grandson about whether Noah was steering his ark, or just bobbing up and down in the flood. "Noah didn't need to figure out directions, because the whole world was underwater and so it made no difference," he tells Jonah. “There wasn't anywhere to go. He was just trying to stay afloat."

I love everything by Anne Tyler and the more I think about this book, the more I love it.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

THE RED PRESIDENT by Martin Gross

Refinished Sa 11/3/17  This was one of my ancient paperbacks that I originally finished "Sunday evening, 3/22/98". The tone of the novel is pretty much one long hysterical shriek...."The Russians are coming!...The Russians are coming"! It's a literal distillation of Reagan Republican feeling about 'The Evil Empire'. I wasn't all that surprised to learn that Martin Gross....now know as 'Martin L. Gross' became a noted figure within the Tea Party Movement. At one point, he was also the editor of Book Digest. This is his first novel and later he concentrated on non-fiction, and many felt that he played a bit wild and loose with the truth to score his political points.

He claimed about his audience- "“I am their hero. I always know what people need and why, because I’m Mr. Joe Sixpack with a good brain.”

From The New York Times-

"Martin L. Gross, a writer whose books criticizing government spending and taxation became best sellers in the 1990s and were embraced more recently by supporters of the Tea Party, died on Aug. 21, 2013 in Ocala, Fla. He was 88."


The plotline was copied from Kirkus Review-


THE RED PRESIDENT is about a... "secret Marxist-Leninist who ascends to the Oval Office. Oval Red is the code word for the Soviet masterplan to subvert a Democratic presidential candidate and maneuver him into the White House. Targeted by the Kremlin is charismatic young US Senator Jed Hankins, whose public ultraliberal, idealistic policies are hammered into private pro-Sovietism by his aide, Bill Fenton, a KGB plant. Riding on a strong wave, Hankins wins the Democrats' nod for Vice President, then succeeds to the President-elect spot when on election night the original nominee dies of a heart attack just before being swept into office. Meanwhile, a wily ex-CIA operative, John Davidson, and an active agent, Sam Withers, catch on to the Soviets' plot. After inauguration, Hankins begins a blanket appeasement policy, including significant dismantling of the US armed forces, a move that shocks most of Congress and the US public. Realizing that Hankins' days in power are limited, and tiring of his growing reluctance to do their bidding, the Kremlin speeds things along by confronting Hankins with nuclear blackmail: capitulation, or annihilation. Hankins refuses and is shot dead by Fenton. With minutes to spare before Soviet missiles fly, agents Withers and Davidson, aided by a defecting KGB agent, persuade top officials of Hankins' treason; a new President is quickly sworn in who eyeballs the Soviets to a stalemate".

This was a long book, but the plot was weirdly captivating. In this era of Trumpism I think that the president and his team clearly see the Russians as heroes. Communism is certainly dead, but what took it's place in the Soviet Union is flat-out, hands-off, unregulated Capitalism. What sensible people would recognize as,'Gangsterism', yet this has a definite appeal to the Trump folks.

Monday, October 30, 2017

AFTER SILENCE Jonathan Carroll

This is one of my ancient trade paperbacks that I first read and finished Su 1/16/00. The flyleaf reads: "Read in one day. Off tomorrow. Feel like I'm coming down with cold/flu. Nice read. Bought yesterday- main branch, 50 cents".

However, I refinished the book on Su 10/29/17, and I really, really loved it! I guess the tip off should have been that the first time through, I read it in one day. This time it took two, but I finished in one three hour stretch on the living room couch yesterday.

"Jonathan Samuel Carroll (born January 26, 1949) is an American fiction writer primarily known for novels that may be labelled...
MAGIC REALISM...
SLIPSTREAM...
CONTEMPORARY FANTASY".

The Plot-

Max Fischer
Lily and Lincoln Aaron

The book is kind of a simple story that goes completely off the rails, not once- but twice.

Max is a successful cartoonist, single and OK with this, and one day at an art exhibition (some of his work is featured) he meets the woman, and her ten year old son, that fulfill all of his romantic dreams. The three of them are so perfectly matched that their worlds change from black and white to Technicolor the moment that they meet. Months later, Max learns a truth that brings it all down.

Lily is a monster. She had kidnapped Lincoln when he was just a small baby. And, this family never forgot and never gave up hope that someday their missing child would come back home.

SECOND IMPLOSION-

The novel skips to the future. Lincoln is now seventeen and he's turned into a surly punk (FUCK DANCE, LET'S FUCK; tee shirt) and it seems that all the excellent parenting of Max and Lily has been worthless.

Lincoln learns that he's not Lily's son and returns to his birth family to wreak havoc. Max follows, but is too late to stop the violence.

TWIST-
Lincoln's real birth parents are not the people that Lily claimed in the first place. The family that Lincoln visits has a son that was kidnapped, but this boy was reunited with his parents. Lincoln burns down their house and beats up the boy anyway.

TIME TWIST-
On the way from the fire and violence, Max meets Lincoln on the road and in a scene of road-rage madness, Lincoln shoots at Max. This same scene occurred many years before when Max first visited that family that he thought Lily had robbed of their child. 

This is a link to Goodreads that has a list of quotes from the author. He has many books, and I plan to read more. I don't think that AFTER SILENCE is even his best work.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/23704.Jonathan_Carroll

Friday, October 27, 2017

COUNTERPARTS by Gonzalo Lira

Finished Fr 10/27/17 (very early on the day of the microwave/oven installation from Dick Van Dyke)

This is one of my old paperbacks that I found downstairs when I was going through the collection to get rid of 'the unwanted', and I decided to re-read this one. I first read it Fr 5/14/99. And according to the flyleaf, "Before Brandenburgs to sign the Sun City deposit box stuff". I don't exactly remember this incident, but I get the picture.

While I was reading the book I searched the internet to find out more about this author. He did write another book that continues with the character of Nicholas Denton, but he's left the fiction genre, and now primarily writes 'financial news'. In fact, I noticed some of his work at ZERO HEDGE which a one of those 'Russian Fake News' outlets (an unsecured website). He's a graduate of Dartmouth and his family is from Chile and he's related to some of the founding fathers of that country. His politics are the the radical right.

CHARACTERS:

Margaret Chisholm- She's the slightly unhinged FBI agent. In the first scene of the novel she is called to a stadium to interrogate a suspect who has planted bombs around the venue. In order for him to reveal their location, she grabs a fire ax and chops off the man's fingers. Even she realized that she went to far, but not enough to stop.  She begins to grasp that the ultra-violence is becoming far too attractive.

SEPSIS-  An international hitman similar to Carlos the Jackal. He's more into 'metas-murder'; he leaves the victim alive, but so damages his life that he would be better off dead. Ex.- kills every member of the person's family, but lets the target live. "There are some fates worse than death".

Nicholas Denton- He plays the role of a career bureaucrat within the CIA, but really he has organized a clandestine group that is the true power within the agency. He's mild-mannered, yet secretly ruthless.

Sister Marianne- A Catholic nun who is an expert on Vatican architecture. She and Edmund Gettier, her mentor, are employed to strengthen Vatican buildings. However, forces within the CIA are going to destroy the Vatican to help draw the West into the middle East. Near the end of the novel it's revealed that Gettier is actually a villain who was also a terrorist and a lover of Sepsis.

Federico Lorca- When the action moves to the Vatican, this man is the police coordinator with the Italian authorities.

Keith Lehrer- This is Denton's putative boss at the CIA and the arch-villain of the story. He's running an illegal operation called Archangel that will reap millions of dollars for him and a couple of other high ranking officials in the agency. He asks  Denton to join, but Denton kills him and makes it appear to be a self-inflicted bullet to the brain.

Storyline:

After the incident at the stadium, Margaret's boss assigns her to a case that might allow her to mentally regroup. A small religious order in New Hampshire has been attacked and all of the nuns, except one, have been killed in a bomb attack. And, while in custody someone takes a shot at this nun, so it appears that she is the real target.

The nun is invited back to Rome to make the structure of the Vatican buildings more strong and secure. She's an expert on ancient architecture. The CIA teams with the FBI to secure this operation and mayhem ensues.

Not a great book, but not bad. More 'plane' or 'beach' type of a novel. Lira's next novel was called ACROBAT and features more on the adventures of Nicholas Denton. It's out of print and fairly expensive. I'd read it if the library got it, but they don't.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon

Finished Tu 10/17/17  The October, 2017 selection for the Contemporary Book Club.

This novel is the first in a series of eight books; all of them are over eight hundred pages. I liked the book, but 800 pages is quite enough, and I have zero interest in reading even one more in the series. However, tomorrow I will receive the first disc of the television series. The woman in the group that suggested that we read this book liked the series, and several group members agreed. 

I was surprised to learn that the author was not even Scottish (she'd never even been to Scotland) and she lived in Scottsdale, AZ. At her website I learned that Gabaldon is a lover of reference books and she compiled a collection of over 1,500 books relevant to the novel.

Although the book does involve time travel, it doesn't feel like a science fiction novel. The beginning of the book is set in 1946, but nearly seven hundred pages are set in Scotland, 1743. This first book is a leadup to the Battle of Culloden which effectively destroyed the clan system of Scotland.

From the novel's page at wikipedia-

"Plot summary-

In 1946, after working apart during the Second World War, British Army nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank, a history professor, go on a second honeymoon to Inverness, Scotland. Frank conducts research into his family history and Claire goes plant-gathering near standing stones on the hill of Craigh na Dun. She faints when investigating a buzzing noise near the stones; upon waking, she encounters Frank's ancestor, Captain Jack Randall. Before Captain Randall can take her into custody, he is knocked unconscious by a Scottish Gael who takes Claire to his clansmen. As the Gaels inexpertly attend their injured comrade Jamie, Claire uses her medical skill to set Jamie's dislocated shoulder. The men identify themselves as members of Clan MacKenzie, and Claire eventually concludes that she has traveled into the past. She represents herself as an English widow who is traveling to France to see her family. The Gaels do not believe her and take her to Castle Leoch, where Claire searches for a way to return to her own time.

The Gaels of 1743 see Claire as a "Gall" (foreigner), "Sassenach", or "Outlander", ignorant of Gaelic culture. Her medical skills earn their respect; but the clan chieftain, Colum MacKenzie, suspects her of being an English spy. Colum sends her with his brother, Dougal, to collect rents; on the way he also solicits donations for the Jacobites, overseen by Ned Gowan, a lawyer from Edinburgh who is working for the Clan.

When chance again brings her to his attention, Captain Randall tells Dougal to bring Claire to him for questioning. There is suspicion that she is perhaps an English spy. To keep Claire from Randall, Dougal has her wed Jamie, which makes her a Scottish citizen. Torn between her attachment to Jamie and the thought of Frank, Claire tries to return to Craigh na Dun. However, she is captured by Randall's men, requiring Jamie to rescue her. Upon returning to Castle Leoch, Claire continues acting as the official healer, and befriends Geillis Duncan, the wife of a local official, who shares a knowledge of medicine. Eventually Claire and Geillis are charged with witchcraft while Jamie is away, but Jamie returns in time to save Claire. While inprisoned with Geillis, Claire learns that Geillis is part of the plot to restore King James to the Scottish throne along with Dougal and that she is also pregnant with his child. Just before their escape, Claire realizes that Geillis is, like herself, from the future, when she sees a smallpox vaccine scar on her arm. Geillis also sees Claire's scar.

Claire tells Jamie her real story, and he takes her to Craigh na Dun. When he offers her the chance to stay or go, she decides to stay. Jamie takes her to his home of Lallybroch, where they meet Jamie's sister Jenny and her husband, Ian. Though Jamie is still a fugitive from the British, he reclaims his position as Laird of Lallybroch, until one of his tenants betrays him and he is taken to Wentworth Prison. Claire and the MacKenzie clansmen attempt to rescue him, but they fail, and Claire is captured by Randall, who threatens to have her raped. Jamie offers himself in Claire's place, and Randall frees Claire into the woods. Claire tells Randall that she is a witch and tells him the exact day of his death, which she knows from Frank's family history. Thereafter Claire is befriended by Sir Marcus MacRannoch, a former suitor of Jamie's mother. While MacRannoch's men distract Wentworth's guards, the clansmen drive a herd of cattle through the underground halls, trampling a man. They rescue Jamie, who has been assaulted physically and sexually by Randall, and take him to MacRannoch's stronghold, where Claire tends Jamie's wounds. As soon as Jamie is able, they and Jamie's godfather, Murtagh, escape to Saint Anne de Beaupre's monastery in France, where another of Jamie's uncles is abbot. As she and Jamie emerge from a sacred hot spring under the Abbey, Claire reveals that she is pregnant."

Monday, October 16, 2017

BOTTOM LINER BLUES by K. C. Constantine

Finished early Mo 10/16/17

This is an old paperback that I had never read. I almost threw it away, but glad that I didn't.

From the journal entry of Mo 10/16/17


"Read 330am- 430am BOTTOM LINER BLUES, K. C. Constantine and finished the book.  A very strange police novel, and I don't think I've read anything quite like it.  Although Mario Balzic, police chief of Rocksburg, Pennsylvania, is the protagonist of the novel, the book is far from a police procedural. It's really about the drastic change in economy of the area and how this grim and uncertain future affects the people who live there." 

Mario is obsessed with his experience at Iwo Jima in WWII. He can't remember any of the guys that he fought with- especially the men who died on that beach. 

His wife, Ruth, feels that their marriage has hit a dead end. She wants things to be different, but she can't get Mario to understand. 

Much of the novel takes place at Dom Muscotti's saloon. Unemployed and broke Russian writer, Nicholas Myushkin argues with bartender, Vinnie Valcanas, about the state of the world and other pseudo-philosophical subjects. Mario vacillates between 'voice of reason' and 'befuddled bystander'.  

Crime at the center of the tale-

Crazy lady with child firebombs a tractor trailer at a truck stop. She gets blown out of the rig while trying to keep her toddler from getting too close to the explosion. The woman is blasted out of the cab, lands on the young girl, and crashes her head into a lug nut on the wheel. The child dies. When the driver comes out of the truck stop, he has a heart attack.

The driver is probably the father of the child and the woman might be an ex-wife.

I'm going to skim through the book a second time, and then write some more. This book is not quite like anything in this particular genre. I'll consider buying some more by Constantine. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

TAXI DRIVER by Richard Elman; screenplay written by Paul Schrader

Refinished Th 10/5/17. This is one of my ancient paperbacks and recently was a 'bathroom read' for several weeks. According to the flyleaf I first completed the book in two afternoons- We 4/22/98. And, there's a note that I had to spend $40 to pay Alpha Electric 'to flip the breaker that shorted out from the battery charger'. I have no recollection of this incident, but it might have been a battery charger for my motorcycle? I checked, and Alpha is still around and it's a business out of Riverton. Why would I get an outfit out of town? Who knows....

This is a slim novel, yet remarkably well written. The dialog really crackles and the characters just jump off the page. I wonder how much of this is Schrader and how much is Elman.

I noticed the Richard Elman wrote a kind of memoir about a 1972 Rolling Stones tour that he took in 1972. It's still available at Amazon, but a bit too expensive.

Travis Bickle is a film icon, thanks to Robert De Niro, but this book provides a different dimension to the character.

The author's page at wikipedia-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Elman

Characters-

Travis Bickle- Nightshift taxi driver, Vietnam vet, ISOLATION.

Iris- Young prostitude that Travis feels drawn to- almost like a sister. He wants her 'out of the life', yet she can't imagine that she has a choice.

Sport- Iris's pimp

Betsy- Travis's idolized love interest. She's almost an ethereal character (metaphor for 'feminine beauty'). Betsy works for the politian, Senator Charles Palantine.

Senator Charles Palantine- The rich successful white dude- the polar opposite of Travis and people like him.

The best way to approach this book would be to read it straight through in a couple of sittings- just let the dour, violent, and gloomy atmosphere sweep you away.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

IN THE ELECTRIC MIST WITH CONFEDERATE DEAD by James Lee Burke

Refinished Mo 10/2/17  I originally read this in two days and finished on Xmas Eve, We 12/24/03. The note on the flyleaf says that I had a bad chest cold.

QUIRKY CAST OF CHARACTERS-

Batiste- Dave's helper/partner at the fishing shop

Alafair-  Dave and Bootsie's adopted daughter, Tripod is her pet.

Elrod T. Sykes- Drunken actor that's starring in the Civil War picture that's being shot in New Iberia.

Rosa (Rosie) Gomez- FBI (Fart- Barf- and Itch) agent and Dave's partner in the investigation.

Julie 'Baby Feet' Balboni- This man grew up in New Iberia and played baseball with Dave in high school. He's a prominent mob figure in New Orleans. A huge man, shaped like a tapered banana- small head and tiny feet.

Kelly Drummond- Actress/girlfriend of Sykes. This woman is shot and killed. The killer thought she was Dave- she was wearing one of his t shirts.

Dewitt Prejean- Old black  Zydeco guitarist. He fills in the details of the murder of a black man, Hogman Pucet, that Dave witnessed in 1957. This man was having an affair with a white man- Twinky Herbert Lemoyne.

'The Ghost of' John Bell Hood- A Confederate general who appears (with his soldiers) to Dave throughout the book. He offers offbeat and eery advice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bell_Hood

Cherry Le Blanc- A prostitute who is murdered and mutilated by Murphy Ducet.

Mike Goldman- The loud and obnoxious director of the movie. He knows that he's tied to the mob, but he thinks he can keep things under control- he can't.

SUB-PLOT;

Murphy Doucet and Twinky Herbert Lemoyne killed Hogman Pucet for having an affair with Mrs. Lemoyne. Doucet was a state cop and arrested Hogman, then brought him out to the swamp and shot him dead- no belt and no shoe laces. Dave was a sophomore in college and working for an oil company on summer break. He was across the bayou and witnessed the killing- the two killers couldn't care less. I guess they thought it was only a black man and no one would give a damn.

In the end of the book, Doucet kidnaps Alafair and takes her to a deserted fishing cabin. Dave and Rosie track them down and Rosie empties her 357 into him. But, Julie Balboni ends up in prison. He runs the show on the inside and has many male lovers. One of these men throws gasoline on him while Baby Feet is asleep. Covered in flames, he jumps to his death on the jail room floor. 

James Lee Burke is a brilliant writer and I'd read anything by him, although my favorites are the Dave Robicheaux series.

QUOTES-

"What we do not do is let the other side make us be like them"

"Maybe we have so much collective guilt as a society that we fear to punish our individual members"

Saturday, September 30, 2017

PHANTOM LADY by Cornell Woolrich

Finished Fr 9/29/17

I read almost the entire last third of the book in one 2 1/2 hour sitting on the couch- just had to know what happened!

One of my ancient paperbacks and I first completed it on Su 5/22/94 and in pencil, scrawled across the flyleaf is, 'Absolutely Wonderful!'

The author is a the epitome of Noir and there is an excellent introduction to the book written by Francis M. Nevins Jr. He explains the genre and tells about the author's rather tortured life. Woolrich (he released this novel in 1942 under the pen name, William Irish) was a closeted homosexual and lived with his mother for a large portion of his life. He died in 1968 after he lost a leg due to complications of gangrene. 

NOTES:

Scott Henderson- the protaganist

Marcella Henderson- Scott's murdered wife; strangled with his tie

Carol Richards- Scott's girlfriend and the loyal, love of his life. She is instrumental in freeing him from jail.

Burgess- the cop that believes that Scott didn't do it.

John Lombard- Scott's 'true friend'. Scott calls him in South America and he returns to help Scott catch the killer, but he is the real murderer.

The Phantom Lady- her name is never revealed and she was beginning to lose her mind on the evening that Scott and her shared a meal and a night at the theater. She is committed to a mental asylum.

2 Additional Murders-

The woman who created the copy of the orange hat

The blind beggar that was burned accidentally by the Phantom Lady. She puts her cigarette into his begging cup and burned the man. This guy, however, could actually see and his act was a scam. Lombard trips him and then breaks his neck in the beggar's rooming house.

SUICIDE- Cliff, the jazz drummer at the theater. He was enthralled with the Phantom Lady on the evening of the show, and he takes Carol Richards to a marijuana party when she's trying to find out if he can identify the Phantom Lady. He slashes his wrist after a night of excess on the deadly hemp plant.

ACCIDENTAL CAR ACCIDENT-
Carol tails the doorman who witnessed Scott and the Phantom Lady on the night of their encounter. Carol so unnerves the man that he runs into the street and is run over by a speeding.

Chapter 23 is the final chapter in the book- 'One Day After The Execution'. Burgess goes back and details exactly what happened and how it was done. I found this to be a little on the Agatha Christie side, but, in this case, it worked.

I'd read anything by Woolrich or his various pen names. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

PERPETUAL WAR FOR PERPETUAL PEACE by Gore Vidal

"How We Got To Be So Hated"

Finished Fr 9/29/17

Although I had read through this a few weeks ago, I kept coming back to it.

The book is a collection of seven longish magazine articles and an introduction written and published by Vidal .

I thought the most interesting section was his writings and observations about Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh contacted Gore Vidal when he was in jail and said that he thought the author's take on Terrorism was accurate- "You've hit the nail on the head".

Gore (and many others) feel that McVeigh was not a singular 'bad apple' or 'lone assassin', but had contacts with several home-grown American militias, and might even have been involved with middle-eastern terrorists. And, Vidal clearly makes the case that the government did not do a transparent and meticulous investigation, and the government's examination seems tainted and might even be some kind of coverup.

McVeigh's doctor maintained that Timothy was not deranged or unhinged, but "serious". McVeigh's sessions with this doctor were allowed to go public, and I'd really like to read them. And, I'd like to read more unbiased information about Timothy McVeigh. He was obviously something more than a random 'evil doer'.

In one of the articles- THE NEW THEOCRATS- Vidal makes an excellent case for ending the tax abatement for religious organizations. It's a glaring fact that religious institutions now play a dominant role in America's political structure and they should no longer be allowed to shrink their tax obligation. And, most importantly, there is absolutely NOTHING in the First Amendment that says anything about letting religious institutions out of their financial duty to the government.

The only thing that I regretted about the book is that it's over twenty years old. In the era of Trumpism, all of the data in this books seems almost 'small potatoes'.

I want to read more by Vidal.

Monday, September 25, 2017

WILD THING by Ian Copeland

"On the Road, In the Studio, Off the Charts Memoirs of... '

Finished Mo 9/25/17 in one early morning push- 315am-4am.

This is one of my hardbacks that I've owned for years, yet never had read. Ian was an agent for all of the 80's New Wave acts that I loved (still do!) in the 80's, and the section dealing with his time in the service was some of the best that I've read on the subject of Vietnam.

NOTES-

He was born in April, 1949 near the city of Damascus in Syria.

His father, Miles Copeland, Jr., was an early 'senior' member of the CIA, and his mother, Lorraine, an archeologist.

In the early sixties he owned several motorcycles and was part of a criminal gang. Had he not left the country to go back to his family in England, he would have ended up in a middle-eastern prison for car theft. Biking around the middle east with his buddies on the eve of of The Six Day War in 1967 was a most interesting part of the book.

In the states after boot camp he was allowed to pick a nickname. He chose 'LeRoi'- 'The King' in French, but no one at Ft. Dix, New Jersey spoke French, so they called him 'Leroy (Coolbreeze)'.  

2 brothers and a sister- Miles III (IRS), Stewart (drummer for The Police, composer), Lorraine- Lennie, writer/producer

He was one of the first to realize that Punk would be a major factor in the record industry. After London, he took a job with an adjunct of Capricorn Records in Macon, Georgia.

Married a woman from Macon, GA and had two daughters

Wishbone Ash and The Average White Band were among his first picks

 A partial list of his very impressive roster-

Members of R.E.M were all personal friends; Drummer Bill Berry was his chauffeur in his Capricorn days.
Charlie Daniels Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band,
the B-52's, The Cure, The Police, Simple Minds, The English Beat, and The Go-Go's,the Buzzcocks, Nine Inch Nails, Concrete Blonde, Iggy Pop, General Public, Charlie Peacock, Let's Active, R.E.M., Sting, Morrissey,Adam Ant, the Bangles, the Smiths, the Thompson Twins, the Fixx, UB40, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Oingo Boingo, the Dead Kennedys, and the Cure.

FBI- Frontier Booking International

In the late 1990's he ran Backstage Cafe bar and restaurant in Beverly Hills. This was not in the book, but I found out via Facebook.

He died of Melanoma in 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2017

IN THE COUNTRY OF THE BLIND by Edward Hoagland

Finished Su 9/24/17

The Contemporary Book Club Selection- August, 2017

NOTES-

Set in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Montreal, CA is not too far Northwest of the area

Melba- Press's maid, 'charwoman', "pig ate her baby, and what's worse, they had to eat the pig", Bronco Guys- Vegas and Reno.

Carol- Artist/Activist. Dorothy Day's Workers Party CATHOLIC WORKER MOVEMENT, lower east side. 2 kids- Christie and Tim. Stained Glass.

Dorothy Day wikipedia-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Day



Jeremy and Molly- Press's 2 middle school aged children. Claire is his wife.

Prescott worked for Merrill Lynch before his blindness.

Clarks and Swinnertons are Press's neighbors.

Karl Swinnerton- Volunteer Fire Chief, WWII vet, emphysema, scanner. Pays $5.00 to eat lunch with the Swinnertons.  Dorothy is Karl Swinnerton's wife. She's a columnist for the local paper.

Darryl and Avis Clark. They are evangelicals- 'Solid Rock Gospel'. Don't believe in evolution.

Odd Scene- Melba takes guys wallet as he suicides at Point Reyes, Ca. Her 22 yr. old son froze to death trying to locate his father/ mountain man. Pig ate her baby- they ate the pig.

Reupert is an auctioneer and cattle dealer. Rupert and Melba are/were lovers and partners. She helps buy his livestock/horses and he lets her live on his property in a trailer.

Al and Rog are Rupert's adult sons. Rog is also an auctioneer, and has a better delivery than Rupert. Al is 'The Hippie Horseman'- takes them on trips in his truck; also Press.
Rupert and the two brothers might have done a bank robbery 20 yrs. ago. Melba says they might have put the money on a train to get it across to Canada, but failed to locate the train car.

Benny Messer runs the local junkyard. Also a car mechanic. Watches the hippies with a telescope. Thinks that the women bare their breasts when picking vegetables

Chuck- The dealer? Mystery figure who takes Press on fish runs to Maine. Might be from Arkansas or San Diego. Chuck probably not his real name. He takes Press on a road trip south, wrecks the car, and leaves Press to be reunited with Melba.

Friday, September 22, 2017

MARIETTE IN ECSTASY by Ron Hansen

Finished Th 9/21/17 I ordered this book on Amazon after hearing a lecture by James Lee Burke where he mentioned that this was one of his favorite novels. It arrived Sa 9/9/17.

This is a slim novel that provides a picturesque window into the life of an early 20th century priory in upstate New York. Seventeen year old Mariett Baptiste takes her vows, and soon begins to exhibit stigmata. Although godly in nearly all ways and an excellent postulant, the novel examines Mariette's and the cloistered order's reaction to her 'gift'. Reality or Vanity.

The novel takes place from 1906 through 1907.

OUR LADY OF SORROWS, Arcadia, New York. This is about half-way between Rochester and Syracuse; south of Lake Ontario.

Annette Baptiste (Reverend Mother Celine) is the Prioress of the order. She's 37 and Mariette's older sister. They were close as children, but now Celine is her 'boss', and perplexed.

Their father is the local doctor. He is nonplussed that two of his daughters have taken holy vows.

A possible reason why the stigmata cannot be 'proved' one way or another (p. 174)-

"God gives us just enough to seek Him, and never enough to fully find him. To do more would inhibit our freedom, and our freedom is very dear to God."

P 51 THE SEVENS-

7 Deadly sins
7 Healing virtues
7 Spiritual works of mercy
7 Joys of Our Lady

I loved the book and on Friday, 9/22 I ordered two more by Hansen; HITLER'S NIECE- A Novel, and DESPERADOES.

Th 9/21/17 was also the day that my microwave/oven went out. I called Dick Van Dyke on Wednesday and they showed up at 2pm Thursday. $800 to start- No Expectations.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MOCKINGBIRD by Walter Tevis

Finished Su 1/17/17

I read this as an ebook from the library, but I think that I own a paper copy of this fine novel somewhere in my collection. The interest in Tevis stems from watching the bonus features from THE MAN THAT FELL TO EARTH a couple of weeks ago. I did manage to find my copy of THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT in the collection and soon I'll be reading that novel. I've read that the author considers that one to be his best.

I think that MOCKINGBIRD is one of the finest Sci Fi novels ever written. The themes of the novel, the end of reading and critical thought and the over utilization of computers and automation are contemporary problems and the fact that the novel is set in the 26th century does nothing to blunt this exposition.

From the book's page at wikipedia-

"A central character is the dean of New York University, Robert Spofforth, an android who has lived for centuries yet yearns to die. The novel opens with his failed attempt at suicide. Spofforth brings a teacher, Paul Bentley, to New York. Bentley has taught himself to read after a Rosetta Stone–like discovery of a film with words matching those in a children's primer. Spofforth disliked Bentley and his reading knowledge. Bentley says he could teach others to read, but Spofforth instead gives him a job of decoding the written titles in ancient silent films. At a zoo, Bentley meets Mary Lou, explains the concept of reading to her, and the two embark on a path toward literacy. Spofforth responds by sending Bentley to prison for the crime of reading, and takes Mary Lou as an unwilling housemate. The novel then follows Bentley's journey of discovery after his escape from prison, culminating in his eventual reunion with Mary Lou and their assistance with Spofforth's suicide."

Bob Spofforth is the smartest creature in NYC, and ultimately it is he that is responsible for the end of the human race. The reason that he attempts to end mankind is that this would allow him to end his own life. It seems that he is 'programed to serve mankind' and as long as one human is alive, he must continue to serve.

Fave Scenes-

Toasters in a factory are continued to be made for centuries, but a simple part stops them from functioning properly, so just as they are made, they are discarded. 100% production produces nothing until Bentley solves the malfunction.

The religious commune 'worships' in the mall at Sears.

'Thought Buses' can read minds, yet only are programed to promote 'happy thoughts'.

I would read anything by Tevis and I'm avidly looking forward to THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT which is apparently a book about chess???

Sunday, September 17, 2017

DEAD MAN by Joe Gores

Finished Sa 9/16/17

This is one of my old paperbacks that I first completed on Tu 1/16/95. Joe Gores's writing style reminds me of Donald E. Westlake, engaging story, yet the level of craft is nowhere near 'the greats'- Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, or John D. McDonald. I still liked the book, but the ending was a bit fantastic.

Eddie Dain- Tall, thin private investigator in San Francisco; married to beautiful Marie, five year old son, Albie (named for Albert Einstein). Dain plays chess, and is a computer expert (in 1993, I really don't know what that would entail), and thinks of his life and his career as a game. This 'distance from life' is his downfall- not connected to what really matters, and this is what he learns in the end.

Doug Sherman- San Franciscan book seller; friend of Dain's (also, his attempted killer)

Randy Solomon- San Franciscan police detective; friend of Dain's (Also, his attempted killer)

Evangeline Broussard- Cajun stripper; initiated the plan to steal the bearer bonds when her boyfriend, Maxton asked her to have sex with one of his friends at the office Xmas party. She becomes Dain's lover in the end.

Jimmy- the man in Maxton's law firm who was originally with Vangie. He is killed in the scramble to recover the bonds.

Keith Inverness- One of the three killers of Dain's family. Near the end of the novel he travels with the gang to cajun country to kill Dain and Vangie. He's only concerned with killing Dain- Inverness is 'haunted' by the murders , yet he just can't seem to kill Dain.

Travis and Nicky- two thugs that accompany Maxton to cajun country to get the bonds and kill Vangie and Dain.

STORYLINE-

Dain and his family live a quiet and happy life north of San Francisco. He takes small cases, but one he cannot leave alone. A man has asked to find out the reason for an explosion on a boat that killed his partner. It's found to be accidental, yet Dain discovers that it was actually a murder.

This leads killers to try to murder his whole family. Dain escapes death, but Marie and Albie are shotgunned to death.

Dain spends years in recovery and evolves into almost a comic book hero- Bulking up over fifty pounds and learns numerous martial arts.

He becomes obsessed with the killers and travels to Las Vegas to work for the mob at one of the casinos. He uses his computer skills to penetrate the operations.

Dain follows Vangie to the cajun country where the two are up against the professional hitmen. This is the best part of the book. Dain and Vangie are unarmed, yet take out four gun toting killers.

In the anticlimax Dain learns that his two best friends, Doug Sherman and Randy Solomon were actually involved in the killing of Dain's family. He kills them both, and lives happily ever after with Vangie.

And, there's Dain's cat named "Shensie" that means crazy in Swahili.

The author's page at wikipedia-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Gores

From Publishers Weekly at amazon-

"No matter how many transformations PI Eddie Dain undergoes, readers will remember him as first met--a sunny, bookish and chess-playing computer whiz in northern California, delighted with his vibrant young wife and three-year-old son. Eddie's hubris and naivete lead to a brutal shoot-out, leaving him alone and, after extensive physical rehabilitation, coldly intent on revenge. With his body trained to a muscular machine, he uses his computer skills to become Travis Holt, an accountant in Las Vegas where he learns how to deal with the underside of the law. That task accomplished, he returns to San Francisco as Dain, a PI willing to undertake shady assignments, notably one for a scummy investment lawyer in Chicago caught in a bearer-bond scam. Although Dain renews his acquaintance with a rare book dealer and a cop from earlier days, he remains empty inside, beset by nightmares of his family's final moments and motivated solely to avenge their deaths. Gores ( 32 Cadillacs ) handles these transitions deftly, portraying a PI who, carrying The Tibetan Book of the Dead with him at all times, is both larger than life and believable. How Dain and a young Cajun stripper end up deep in the bayous of Louisiana, pursued by those he'd been pursuing, and how, weaponless, they plan a showdown, provides a stunning climax, with a significant surprise still left to spring. With plenty of plot twists, violence and sex, Gores still makes this a somewhat lighthearted, race-through read--an updated, slightly self-reflective, comic detective story with a hero both hard-boiled and sensitive, who finally recovers his soul."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by S. J. Watson

Finished Tu 9/12/17

This book was recommended to me by Becky, a member of the contemporary book club. She said it is was prime example of 'an unreliable narrator', and she was certainly correct!

I got the the book in hardback for a few dollars from Amazon. Money well spent.

Fantastic opening scene-

A young woman wakes up in bed with an older married man. She thinks that she had gotten wasted and had gone home with a married man. When she notices her reflection in the bathroom mirror, she sees that she's twenty or more years older than she thought, and when she speaks with the man, he tells her that he is her husband. Later she learns from a psychologist that she can't trust her husband.

Due to an accident (not true) she retains memory only for one day. When she goes to sleep, her memories are wiped clean. She writes a diary to record what she needs to remember. Her doctor calls her each morning to remind her where to find the journal. She is not to tell her husband.

Christine Lucas
Ben Lucas, her husband
Adam, Chris's adult son. He was killed when he was stationed in Afghanistan (not true).
Dr. Nash, Chris's therapist. Ben is not aware that Chris is under his care.
Claire, Chris's friend
Mike, Chris's lover. This is the man that caused her memory loss. He attacked her when she wanted to break up and go back to her husband and son many years before.

The Twist-

Mike, posing as Ben, takes her out of the hospital. He tells her that he is Ben, her husband, and Claire no longer is in their lives and Adam has been killed while in the army. Chris begins to recover her memory when Mike brings her back to the hotel room of the first attack.

From Amazon.com Review-

"Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he's obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis--all the result of a mysterious accident that made Christine an amnesiac. With the encouragement of her doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory every day. One morning, she opens it and sees that she's written three unexpected and terrifying words: "Don't trust Ben." Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion. What kind of accident caused her condition? Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her? And, for the reader: Can Christine’s story be trusted? At the heart of S. J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep is the petrifying question: How can anyone function when they can't even trust themselves? Suspenseful from start to finish, the strength of Watson's writing allows Before I Go to Sleep to transcend the basic premise and present profound questions about memory and identity. One of the best debut literary thrillers in recent years, Before I Go to Sleep deserves to be one of the major blockbusters of the summer."

"S. J. Watson lives in London and worked in the National Health Service for a number of years. In 2009 Watson was accepted into the first Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, a rigorous and selective program that covers all aspects of the novel-writing process. Before I Go to Sleep is the result."

This morning I learned that the book is a movie and streamable on Netflix. I'm going to watch it this morning, We 9/13/17.

Although I really liked the novel, here's why I liked the movie more-

It works better that Adam is a child. I felt that the 'Afghanistan angle' didn't work.

The 'compressed time' in the film works much better. In the book Chris is 47, but in the movie she's only 40. Chris's level of isolation is more believable if it doesn't last as long.

It works better that Chris is not a published author as she is in the novel. If she was a more public figure, her level of isolation would be more difficult to maintain.

The 'reveal' in the hotel room is really powerful in the film- a terrific and brutal fight scene.

The Winnie The Pooh lines between Chris and Adam provide excellent closure and gives hope that Chris might make a fuller recovery. This isn't even in the book.

Rowan Joffe directs the film, but he did a terrific job as screenwriter. He really took the novel and made major improvements.

Minor criticism of the movie-

Why did they feel it necessary to change the spelling of Dr. Michael Nash's name? In the film it's spelled, 'Nasch'. Why go with the unusual spelling? How does this improve anything?




Tuesday, September 5, 2017

WINTER'S BONE by Daniel Woodrell

I ordered the dvd from Netflix and watched it on Sa 9/1/17. I had seen the film when it first came out several years ago, but knew it was worth another look. I wanted to read the book and I found that I could get it through Kindel at the library. I read the whole novel in two days and finished it on Su 8/3/17- Labor Day Weekend. The dialog and quirky expressions are truly one of a kind. I loved the crackling and provocative speech patterns. Many of the better lines were used in the film quoted directly from the novel.

From the book's description at Amazon-

"Ree Dolly's father, Jessup, has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dollys will lose their house if he doesn't show up for his next court date. With two young brothers depending on her, 16-year-old Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive. Living in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks, Ree learns quickly that asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake. But, as an unsettling revelation lurks, Ree discovers unforeseen depths in herself and in a family network that protects its own at any cost."

In the film Ree has a brother and sister, yet in the book she has two brothers. The book makes it clear that everyone believes (knows?) that Jessup had been killed, but I felt that the film kind of left that open. I believed that it was possible for the viewer to believe (for most of the film) that he might have been on the run, or even in some kind of witness protection program.

On Sunday night I watched a documentary called STRAY DOG. In the movie version of Winter's Bone the character of Thump Milton is played by a real person, Ronnie Hall. The documentary was about his life. He's a Harley riding proponent of veteran's rights. The film was about his life and how he travels on his cycle with him friends and Mexican wife to various rallies and observances around the country.

Jennifer Lawrence was tremendous in the film, and so was John Hawkes who played Ree's uncle, Teardrop. Many of the characters were played by people who lived in the area. The film was shot in remote Missouri near Branson, MO.

The film and the novel had almost a biblical or medieval feel. The setup was almost like a knight on a quest as in a classical fairy tale.

I would read anything by Daniel Woodrell and I might even check out Amazon to see what's available in the dollar or less rack- plus postage.  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

THE BACHMAN BOOKS- 4 Early Novels by Stephen King

Finished THE LONG WALK, We 8/30/17. Also included in this anthology were RAGE, ROADWORK, and THE RUNNING MAN.

For the last several weeks the 'bathroom book' has been THE KINGDOM OF FEAR which is a collection of long essays about the work of Stephen King, and a couple of weeks ago I found THE BACHMAN BOOKS, an ancient paperback, on the shelves downstairs.

I read that King wrote this while he was a freshman at the University of Maine, and over eight years before CARRIE.

I liked the idea that the reader is thrust directly into the action without any background information. You are at 'The Walk' just before it begins, and you soon learn that the young men must maintain a four mile per hour pace or they will be shot. But, you don't know why or who made the rules.

On the other hand, at the end of the book you never really find out the 'how and why'.
Who was 'The Major', and how did he derive his power?

The book's link at wikipedia-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Walk

The brief descriptions of the walkers at the end of the wikipedia entry provide a good sketch of each young man, and that is pretty much all that the novel reveals about the characters.

King's descriptions of sexuality was a big tip-off that the writer of the novel was not very old or aware of 'the ways of the world'.

This is certainly not among King's best works and probably best appreciated only by his rabid fan base.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH by Walter Tevis

Finished We 8/23/17 before the meeting of the Contemporary Book Club.

This was one of my ancient paperbacks- I'm going to discard the book.  My note on the flyleaf says that I bought the book at Book House, Rock Hill, Mo. on Fr 9/12/97 and I finished it that weekend. On that Sunday I drove my Pacific Coast motorcycle to Taylorville to see the film, 'Excess Baggage'. Last night I checked to see if I could get this movie, but it hasn't been released to Netflix.

From 'Fantasy and Science Fiction' about Tevis's life-

"Tevis was born February 28, 1928, in San Francisco. When he was ten, his family went off to live with the father's sister in Kentucky, leaving Walter, who had contracted rheumatic fever, behind in a hospital. He remained there, wholly alone, for a year before joining the family. He attended school, feeling always the outsider, in Kentucky, and, following service in World War II (two years as a carpenter's mate), went on to the University of Kentucky, where he earned his bachelor's and master's in English. He then embarked on a teaching career, first at various Kentucky high schools, later, from 1966 to 1978, at Ohio University.

Published to great acclaim in 1959, The Hustler became a film classic in 1961. The Man Who Fell to Earth, rejected by Harper's, was published as a paperback original by Gold Medal in 1963. In conversation with Daniel Keyes, Tevis claimed that this rejection led to his lengthy writing block; editor Pat LoBrutto, who worked with Tevis on Mockingbird and subsequent books, doesn't think Tevis made so much of it. At any rate, Tevis had become a confirmed drinker ("It's about my becoming an alcoholic. I sobered up to write it," he said of Man), and for the thirteen years he taught in Ohio, he wrote little or nothing.

Tevis also told Keyes that he'd always dreamed "of being a New York writer, of being in the center of the literary scene," and in 1978, three years after he quit drinking, Tevis moved to the city. Mockingbird came out in 1980, his story collection Far From Home the following year, both The Steps of the Sun and The Queen's Gambit in 1983. The Color of Money, a sequel to The Hustler written for quick money, also came out in these last years. Paul Newman bought the property, commissioning a screenplay from Tevis; for the 1986 film, however, both screenplay and novel were junked.

By his own admission, Tevis still had problems writing. He'd also begun confronting autobiographical materials more directly, in a kind of self-dredging that doesn't always imply salvage, and that can prove as wrenching to the reader as to writer. In stories of the period we often see Tevis peering out at us from within.

Whiskey had left him unable to answer the telephone or open the door, in Michigan. That had been two years ago. Whiskey had left him sitting behind closed suburban blinds at two in the afternoon, reading the J.C. Penny catalog and waiting for Gwen to come home from work. Well. He had been free of whiskey for a year and a half now. First the hospital, then A.A.; now New York and Janet.

He'd continue this transmutation of life in Mockingbird, his parable of coming out of alcoholism, and in The Steps of the Sun, whose early passages rehearse his own childhood of pain, illness, and alienation (and which is, overall, a parable of adolescence). The darkening cities and expended populations of the first, the impoverished, pre-ice age earth of the latter—these are the landscape of their author's own post-alcoholic mind: worlds to be retrieved, reconstructed, reinvented, reborn.

Though sales for Mockingbird were disappointing, in subsequent years the book has been much praised, taking its place alongside Man as a classic. Thus far Steps hasn't elicited as much attention as the others even though, as André- Francois Ruaud points out in a rare essay on Tevis for France's Bifrost magazine, it's among the most original and successful science fiction novels of the '80s. It is also Tevis' first wholly optimistic book. In its successor, The Queen's Gambit, he turned again from the fantastic to the realistic mode, offering in its stone-brilliant story of a driven, alcoholic female chess champion who achieves redemption (much as Mockingbird paired with Man) a positive retelling of The Hustler.

Walter Tevis died of cancer in 1984, the year after his last two, redemptive books were published, age 56. He had experienced, observed, brought to others and to himself great pain, terrible abjurations; his books gave it all up, took our hands to lead us through the backwash. And yet, like his protagonists, he had borne up under it all, survived, endured.

"It is very bad for people to find substitutes for living their lives," he said in what may have been his last interview, wondering if this might not be his abiding theme. Even if late in life, he said, he had found great joy in it: "I'm really pleased that the grass is green. I didn't used to be."

*     *     *
Through it all, out of it all, blows this dark, strangely comforting wind, this threnody of loss. It is, for many reasons, a small body of work, and one of rare unity.

Einstein remarked that in his life he'd had only one or two ideas. Many fine writers are like that, I believe, making a lifetime's agenda of drawing out the universe implicit in those ideas. So the strands that run and interweave in Tevis's work: alcoholism, the gamesman/artist (pool player, chess player) in whom ambition and wound pull like twin suns, the adolescent's eternal alienation, prisons of self and society, bleak futures, Christ figures, redemption.

Again and again Tevis mounted voyages to the alien, inhospitable planet of self, to bring back odd rocks, strange growths, colors not seen in our nature. Again and again he seized metaphors and wrung their necks, making them give up secrets others had not obtained, could not obtain. There he stood balanced, about to fall. He was, as Lethem writes, "a master manipulator of archetypes, an artist capable of delving into the zeitgeist while nevertheless remaining on his own pure search for himself." His work is unique, with that element of infinite rereadability Nabokov held the hallmark of great literature. Like his characters, though passed through perilous times, disregard and rejection, waking with the day-after, too-late taste of booze, stale smoke and failure upon them, Tevis's work will endure."

Thomas Newton is 'The Man Who Fell'. His home planet, Anthea, is completely devoid of resources, and he is sent to Earth to lay the groundwork for colonization of the planet. The Antheans are certain that Earth will destroy itself by nuclear war in just a few decades at most. The Antheans hope to emigrate a few key people to take over Earth's economic and political systems to avoid a holocaust. I guess the moral dilemma of the novel is should an alien force have the power to determine the fate of Earth, even if the outcome is positive.

The subtext of the novel demonstrates how an individual deals with alcoholism.

World Enterprises Corp- W.E. Corp

Thomas Jerome Newton

Nathan Bryce- Professor of chemical engineering that suspects that Newton is 'not of this earth'. He becomes a friend and confidant. Newton gives him a million dollars at the end of the novel.

Oliver Farnsworth- Newton's patent lawyer. Played by Buck Henry in the film.

Betty Jo Mosher- The alcoholic hillbilly from Kentucky who becomes Newton's maid/personal assistant. They're drinking partners and she turns him on to gin. She drinks it with three teaspoons of sugar.

Brinnarde- Newton's 'head of security'. This man is a government agent and leads to Newton's downfall.

Monday, August 21, 2017

THE THINGS WE KEEP (Love Never Forgets) by Sally Hipworth

Finished Su 8/20/17 The August 2017 selection for the Contemporary Book Club

(Today is the Great American Eclipse- Mo 21, 2017)

Two parallel stories basically set at Rosalind House, an assisted living facility.

Love story between Luke and Anna  Forster. She is only 38 and suffering for early onset Alzheimer's, and he has a condition where he will lose the facility to form words and communicate.

The story of Eve Bennett and her five year old daughter, Clementine. Her husband had been convicted or investment fraud and he committed suicide. Eve is a trained chef and takes a job as cook and cleaner at Rosalind and works there so that Clem can continue in her old elementary school.

Moral Dilemma- Should the lovers be left alone or should they be separated because neither one fully understands or appreciates their actions. Love Prevails.

NOTES-

Clar and Laurie- a southern couple of advanced age

Richard- husband of Eve and father of Clem

Eric- Corrupt manager of Rosalind. At the end of the novel he is replaced for 'cooking the books'.

Jack and Helen- Jack is Anna's twin brother and Helen is his wife. They have three boys and Anna was very close to Ethan. Jack is a lawyer and he has power of attorney over Anna. It was his decision that Anna should be committed.

Fondue Incident- Anna was making a melted cheese treat for Ethan. The pot began to burn, but Anna could not remember the way to the kitchen. Ethan was burned rather severely on the cheek. This made Anna realize that her time of independent living was over.

Aiden- The motorcycle riding ex-husband of Anna. She leaves this man as soon as she realizes that she has Alzheimer's. She felt that she was saving him from heartache, yet maybe not. This dilemma was not really developed, although this split led to the love affair between Anna and Luke.

Angus- The gardener at Rosalind and he becomes Eve's boyfriend. Disturbing to Clem- at first.

Sarah- Luke's sister. She is very much in favor of Anna and Luke's relationship. She believes that her husband is a good guy and had many women friends. He would never dream of taking advantage of a woman regardless of her mental capacity.

May- Turns one hundred; the oldest client at Rosalind

Bert- The old crank with the imaginary wife, Myrna. Bert befriends Clem and she learns to 'bring up' her dead father, but decides that she must 'let him go' and deal with people in the real world. Bert begins to understand this as well.

Gwen- A stocky old woman who has taken a shine to Bert. He rejects her because of his wife, but this relationship probably grows.

FACT-

Positive diagnosis of Alzheimer's can only be made at the autopsy.  Anna thinks that this is funny. What if they find out after she has died that she really didn't have the condition.

Depth perception is the first to go in the arch of Alzheimer's.

Enid is Clara's sister and she was originally with Laurie when they were teenagers. Clara feels that after all the decades of marriage, she has 'taken' Enid from Laurie. Clara is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and wants to reunite the two. Laurie feels that Clara was and is the only love of his life.

The book was a kind of 'light read' and I liked the story. I wish there was more about Luke's mental situation. He is largely ignored.

From the author's page at wikipedia-

"Sally Hepworth is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She is the author of three books, most notably The Secrets of Midwives, a novel she published in 2015.[1] Hepworth and her works have been featured in media outlets that have included USA Today, The New York Times, and The Sydney Morning Herald."


"Hepworth worked in both event management and Human Resources prior to her career as a writer. While on maternity leave with her first child, Hepworth wrote Love Like the French, a novel about a British woman who goes to France after an accident leaves her husband in a coma. The character goes to France to see what the French could teach her about living. Hepworth was unable to finish the book immediately after her son Oscar was born, but the book was eventually published in Germany in 2014.

Hepworth released a second book, The Secrets of Midwives, that she wrote while pregnant with her second child. The book was released in 2015 and is a novel about three generations of midwives. Her research for the book came from her own questioning of midwives during check-ups and reading fiction and nonfiction books on the subject. KJ Dell'Antonia from The New York Times called it a "fast and fun read," with other reviews of the book coming by way of Publishers Weekly, The Sydney Morning Herald, and Kirkus Reviews.

Hepworth's third book, The Things We Keep, is scheduled for release in early 2016."


I saw a joke by Jerry Seinfeld about Alzheimer's on Youtube.
Comedian is hired to entertain at an Alzheimer's facility. He tells the same joke, over and over again, and brings down the house. At the end of the show, a man comes up to the comedian and asks, "How do you remember all that"?

Monday, August 14, 2017

DARKNESS TAKE MY HAND by Dennis Lehane

Finished Su 8/13/17 One of my old paperbacks that I bought at the West Branch on Sa 10/23/04 and finished it a few days later.

Several weeks ago I read Lehane's, A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR. In the book's' storyline, that novel happened before 'Darkness Take My Hand'.

What Happened In Darkness-

Patrick Kenzie and his partner, Angela Gennaro are targets and their old neighborhood in Boston becomes a 'killing zone'. A serial killer has been active for over twenty years without detection. A neighborhood watch group formed in 1977 took illegal action against a couple of killers who dressed as clowns. Patrick's evil father burned one of the men (roasted him alive!) while others in the group tortured the two men. This secret is at the heart of the novel.

Gerry Glynn was a local policeman (now owner of The Black Emerald- a 'cop bar') witnessed the killing by the group. He promised not to tell and beneath a sunny disposition Gerry becomes a monster- killing and dismembering for decades, and he has a few very evil helpers.

From the book's page at amazon-

"Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro’s latest client is a prominent Boston psychiatrist, running scared from a vengeful Irish mob. The private investigators know about cold-blooded retribution. Born and bred on the mean streets of blue-collar Dorchester, they’ve seen the darkness that lives in the hearts of the unfortunate.

But an evil for which even they are unprepared is about to strike, as secrets that have long lain dormant erupt, setting off a chain of violent murders that will stain everything – including the truth.

With razor-sharp dialogue and penetrating prose, Darkness, Take My Hand is another superior crime novel from the author of Mystic River; Gone, Baby, Gone; and Shutter Island."

Kevin Hurlihy is a particularly vicious character and although he is not involved in the serial killings, he's a vile enforcer for the Boston Mob. He was once a childhood friend of Patrick and Angela.

And, of course, there's Bubba, Patrick's trenchcoat wearing, arms dealer. Forever loyal, yet as dangerous as a viper.

The title is from a letter that was sent to Patrick. One of the serial killers had gouged out the eyes of his victim. The eyes and this letter were left at Patrick's apartment. The killer admits that he has been to Hell and that 'Darkness has taken his hand'.

Anything by Dennis Lehane is well worth a look- the writing, characters, and plotting are always rewarding and enjoyable.

Friday, August 11, 2017

MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! by Harry Harrison

Finished Mo 8/7/17- an Ebook from the library (Hoopla)

I was surprised to see that this book was still in print. I watched the movie, SOYLENT GREEN, last weekend and learned that it was taken from this novel. I couldn't believe that a paper copy was not available, but it was on Hoopla.

The film's Bonus Features included commentary by the director and he said that the 'cannibalism' was not in the book. I thought that this would be like making a movie of MOBY DICK without the whale.

The book (1966) and the film are radically different and they only share the setting and the two main characters, Andy and Sol.

The book is really an extrapolation of Malthusian Theory and a speech made by Dwight Eisenhower.

"A Malthusian growth model, sometimes called a simple exponential growth model, is essentially exponential growth based on a constant rate. The model is named after Thomas Robert Malthus, who wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), one of the earliest and most influential books on population."

From a presidential news conference by Dwight D. Eisenhower- December 2, 1959

"This thing has for very great denominations a religious meaning, definite religious tenet in their own doctrine. I have no quarrel with them; as a matter of fact this being largely the Catholic Church, they are one of the groups that I admire and respect. But this has nothing to do with governmental contact with other governments. We do not intend to interfere with the internal affairs of any other government, and if they want to do something about what is admittedly a very difficult question, almost an explosive question, that is their business. If they want to go to someone for help, they will go unquestionably to professional groups, not to governments. This Government has no, and will not as long as I am here have a positive political doctrine in its program that has to do with this problem of birth control. That's not our business."

In the book Sol blames the government for not doing anything about the extreme overpopulation. He attends a violent demonstration in Manhattan and breaks his hip. This leads to his death.

From the book's page at amazon-

"The world is crowded. Far too crowded. Its starving billions live on lentils, soya beans, and —if they’re lucky—the odd starving rat.

In a New York City groaning under the burden of 35 million inhabitants, detective Andy Rusch is engaged in a desperate and lonely hunt for a killer everyone has forgotten. For even in a world such as this, a policeman can find himself utterly alone….

Acclaimed on its original publication in 1966, Make Room! Make Room! was adapted into the 1973 movie Soylent Green."


The book is a straight forward 'A to B' presentation- no twists and no surprises. However, for some reason the Ebook is divided into two sections with thirteen chapters each. When I was in section #1, chapter 3, I mistakenly skipped to section #2, chapter 4. After many more chapters read out of order, I went back and reread. The timeline is actually late spring to winter, and since there's not really any extreme character deviations or unusual plot twists, it was pretty easy to follow.

Another idea from the film that's not in the book is 'furniture'. In the rich people's apartments women were assigned to the rooms and could be used as concubines or prostitutes. The women didn't mind- this was part of the job description. And, the movie hinges on the discovery that 'Soylent Green is people'. The film has to be one of the biggest departures from a written work to the silver screen, although I felt that both the novel and the movie were worth a look.

Edward G. Robinson's last film. He was almost completely deaf while shooting the film.

Charlton Heston and Chuck Connors, two prominent Republicans, together in the same film!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

THE WHISTLER by John Grisham

Finished Fr 8/4/17

I got this from the library on Kindle, and I was surprised that it was available- it's his latest novel.

The title refers to a 'whistle blower'. The plot involves a 'mole' within a corrupt Florida judge's office. (Much later in the book it's revealed that the 'insider' is the judge's court reporter- JoEllen) The judge is working for the 'coastal mafia'/ 'catfish mafia'. The bulk of their loot is skimmed from an Indian casino, but they also own all kinds of businesses- hotels, shopping centers, and other legitimate enterprises. The tribal leaders are in on the scam.

Because of the 'legal' casino, life on the reservation is very good. Each member of the tribe receives $5,000 a month as their cut of the casino's profits. Since state and federal laws don't really apply on the reservation I wonder why more businesses are not on Indian lands. Wouldn't a Walmart or a McDonald's get the same tax breaks and perks as a casino? If this were so, then Indian reservations would not be the rural ghettos that they seem to be. That's one big question that I'd have fro the author.

The novel takes a very straight 'A to B' approach. There are NO surprises or twists- straight from indictment to capture and confinement.

Two officers in the Florida Board On Judicial Conduct are called by a disbarred/ex felon lawyer, Ramsey Mix- Greg Meyers. Meyers is running from the mob and lives on a boat with his girlfriend, Carlitta- no permanent address.

He wants to expose the corruption and he will be compensated under Florida's Whistle Blowing law. I wish this had been more developed. Apparently, if you are a state worker in Florida you are automatically shielded from any retribution if you go public with possible wrongdoings. In the Trump Era the 'leakers' or 'whistleblowers' are anathema.

Lacy Stoltz and Hugo Hatch are the two agents who first go after the judge. The murder of Hugo is perhaps the only unexpected  event in the book. They are lured to a deserted area of the reservation to obtain information about the case. Hugo's air-bag and seat belt have been rendered inoperable and Lacy and Hugo vehicle is hit head on by a large pickup truck. Hugo goes through the windshield and is killed. Lacy is badly injured. The killers recover Lacy and Hugo's phones and laptops.

Judge Claudia Mc Dover and her lover, Phyllis Turban, have been taking money from the mob's skimming operation for years. They have condos and houses all over the world, they fly by private jet, and have millions in jewels and expensive art.

From the book's page at Amazon-

"We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.
     But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens.
     Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.
     But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.
     What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.
     But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.
     Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else."

Although I liked the book, it came off as a little flat- especially so soon after reading a Harlan Coben novel. But, everybody likes a Grisham because they're all page turners even though this novel doesn't offer 100% satisfaction.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

PROMISE ME by Harlan Coben

Part of the Myron Bolitar series

Finished Tu 8/1/17 while waiting to see if I would be needed on jury duty. I was not.

The title refers to a conversation that Myron heard between two teenaged girls. They were talking about taking a ride from someone who had been drinking or on drugs. Myron has them promise that if they ever found themselves in that situation, they were to call him, no questions asked.

The novel is basically about two young girls who are missing. Were they kidnapped or did they simply run away? Since they are both eighteen, the law is less than interested, but Myron is close to one of the girl's mother.

The single biggest connection between the two cases is that both girls withdrew money from the same ITM in NYC the night of their disappearance.

The Big Twist (and this was so convoluted, I don't think anyone could possibly guess it)
-Dr. Edna Skylar Did It!  In the opening scene of the novel this doctor sees one of the missing girls on a busy NYC street. Dr. Skylar is an OBGYN who has kind of a hobby of facial recognition. She recognizes the girl from 'missing' posters, but the girl tells her that she's OK, and don't tell anyone that she has seen her.

-This girl is pregnant by Dr. Skylar's wayward son. This young man is a failed rock musician who teaches at the girl's school and had an affair with the missing girl. Skylar wants the baby- this is why she orchestrated this dizzy plan.

Twenty pages from the end, the reader is left with the feeling that the girl had actually killed the baby's father, and her parents were involved in a cover-up. But, Myron digs deeper and confronts the real perpetrator.  The other missing girl actually did run away. She fell in with a pimp and felt that she loved this man. Both girls were pregnant. In the end, both girls return home.

Recurring Characters from the series-

Win- Myron's friend from college. This man is a trained assassin, yet he is a certified member of the exclusive 'one percent'.

Esperanza- This woman works for Myron in his office. She is an ex-pro wrestler that went under the name, Pocahontas.

Big Cyndi- This is a 300 pound transvestite that wa Esperanza's partner in the ring. She works various jobs for Myron's office.

Myron Bolitar is a basketball star that never really made it. He was a smash hit in high school and college, but he was injured only a few games into his college career. He decided to open an agency that represented sports players. Now the office has grown, and he represents almost anyone who needs his service or anyone rich and famous.

The novel is meant to be slightly funny. It reminds me of Donald Westlake in his funny stuff. Example, DROWNED HOPES.

This is an easy read and I could have read it in just a couple of days, but other books intruded. I bought the book for a buck at this year's library book sale.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

THE LOST GET-BACK BOOGIE by James Lee Burke

Finished We 7/26/17, in fact I finished this Ebook at the library right before the Contemporary Book Club Meeting for THE CONVICTIONS OF JOHN DELAHUNT.

This is an early novel by Burke and I read that it was rejected one hundred and eleven times before it was finally published, and it later was nominated for a Pulitzer prize.

The book is set in 1962 in New Iberia, LA, Louisiana's Angola State Penitentiary, and Missoula, Montana.

Iry Paret is the main character and the title refers to a song that Iry is trying to write. He is an accomplished C&W musician on the guitar and dobro.

The dobro is a way of acoustically making a stringed instrument louder. A metal cone is attached to the body to amplify the sound.

From the book's page at Amazon-

"Iry Paret's done his time -- two years for manslaughter in Louisiana's Angola State Penitentiary.  A man in a bar attacked their lead singer, knocked him out, and then grabbed Iry. Iry had a knife and stabbed the man through the heart. Now the war vet and blues singer is headed to Montana, where he hopes to live clean working on a ranch owned by the father of his prison pal, Buddy Riordan. In prison, Iry tinkered with a song -- "The Lost Get-Back Boogie" -- that never came out quite right. Now, the Riordan family's problems hand him a new kind of trouble, with some tragic consequences. And Iry must get the tune right at last, or pay a fateful price."

When Iry is paroled he decides to leave Louisiana and relocated to Montana. When he was in prison he met Buddy Riordan who played piano in the prison jazz band.

Frank Riordan, Buddy's father, has turned the whole town against the family. Frank wants to shut down the local factories (pulp mills) for environmental reasons, and this will cause several hundred people their jobs.

Buddy is separated from Beth, yet Iry has an affair with her. After Buddy dies (he runs his pickup truck off the road, the truck catches fire, and the ammunition that he was carrying explodes. He was looking for the men that destroyed his father's aviary) he marries Beth and they buy some land and raise Buddy's two young boys in Montana.

The descriptions are beautiful and the characters are well drawn. I would read a grocery list written by James Lee Burke. However, due to the violence of the characters I thought the ending was just a bit too upbeat- it bordered on the 'happily ever after'. But, I certainly wish Iry all the best!