Sunday, July 23, 2017

THE SECOND LIFE OF NICK MASON by Steve Hunter

Finished Fr 7/21/17

I first learned of this novel listening to an interview with the author on NPR and I got it as an Ebook from the library. I didn't realized that I had the latest book in the Nick Mason series until I finished the book. Usually anything that's featured on NPR takes weeks to get- I waited months for HILLBILLY ELEGY.

Nick Mason is a career criminal from Chicago's southwest side- 'Canaryville' near Bridgeport, the home of Richard Daily and where the TV series SHAMELESS is filmed.

Nick is asked in on 'one big final score'. They are to remove pads and upholstering from a charter vessel and take them to Detroit. However, it's all a ruse and the stuff is full of cocaine. The whole thing was set up as a sting by SIS (Special Investigations Section). This is an elite Chicago police task force that's totally corrupt.

The novel begins when Nick is in prison in Terre Haute, IN, and he is called in for a visit by Darius Cole. This man is the overlord of criminal operations on the southside of Chicago.
Nick is doing 25 to life with no chance of parole until he's done 20 years, but Cole says that he can get him out, but he must 'give the next twenty years to Darius Cole'.

Nick becomes Cole's 'Samurai Warrior' on the outside. His handler is a man called Quinteros (keen-tay-ros) who gives Nick a phone and he must answer at once and do what is asked- no questions or excuses.

Nick commits several fantastic murders, meets beautiful women, drives classic black muscle cars, and lives in an exotic condominium in Park West across from Lincoln Park on Chicago's northside waterfront.

I loved the book, in fact, I just about devoured it! Fast paced with well defined characters and it's a genre book, but heads and shoulders above most of the competition.

The book at amazon-

 https://www.amazon.com/Second-Life-Nick-Mason-Novel/dp/0399574328

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION by Shelden Rampton & John Stauber

"The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq"

This is one of my trade-sized paperbacks that I first finished on Thanksgiving Day, Th 11/27/03, and this was a 'bathroom read' from Mo 6/27/17 through Mo 7/17/17.

 "Information warriors and perception managers" - This was my favorite phrase in the book! It all comes back to this. There is no search for Truth, but only how it can be subjectively portrayed.

An observation on the comments page at amazon-

"The facts and observations in this book paint a chilling picture of a Whitehouse that functions almost exclusively as the propaganda wing of the exclusive Carlyle Group by manufacturing public opinion, manufacturing a state of endless war (thus creating a market for the Carlyle Group's principle product: arms) and making legal and acceptable activities that would otherwise be unthinkable.
This book helps cut through the rhetoric and makes it clear that we are no longer in a situation that can be defined as Republicans vs. Democrats, or Conservative vs. Liberal values. What is made clear is that the highest offices in our country have been hijacked by criminals, ideological extremists and terrorists. It's a shame that most Republicans will dismiss this as so much "liberal propaganda"; it's their party that's been hijacked and if they ever face the truth, I suspect they'll be mighty cheesed off."


Office of Strategic Influence was headed by General Simon P. Worden

https://www.google.com/search?q=General+Simon+P.+Worden+office+of+stategic+influence&rlz=1C1GGRV_enUS751US751&oq=General+Simon+P.+Worden+office+of+stategic+influence&aqs=chrome..69i57.8439j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#q=General+Simon+P.+Worden+office+of+strategic+influence

Center For Media and Democracy- this is a watchdog group of progressives out of Madison, Wisconsin.

Carlyle Group- financial services, leveraged buyouts, multinational private equity. George Bush Sr. was a leader of this group.

After reading this book it is impossible to fully believe in almost anything. There are so many 'influence peddling' groups that are designed to distort reality that I think the average citizen can never really be informed.

From the book's page on amazon-

"Weapons of Mass Deception reveals:
How the Iraq war was sold to the American public through professional P.R. strategies.
"The First Casualty": Lies that were told related to the Iraq war.
Euphemisms and jargon related to the Iraq war, e.g. "shock and awe," "Operation Iraqi Freedom," "axis of evil," "coalition of the willing," etc.
"War as Opportunity": How the war on terrorism and the war on Iraq have been used as marketing hooks to sell products and policies that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism.
"Brand America": The efforts of Charlotte Beers and other U.S. propaganda campaigns designed to win hearts overseas.
"The Mass Media as Propaganda Vehicle": How news coverage followed Washington's lead and language.
The book includes a glossary — "Propaganda: A User's Guide" — and resources to help Americans sort through the deceptions to see the strings behind Washington's campaign to sell the Iraq war to the public."

Monday, July 17, 2017

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER by Octavia E. Butler

Finished Su 7/16/17

I got this novel from the library on Kindle. Last week I heard on NPR a piece on Butler and they said that she had died 'in a fall at her home in Forest Park, Washington. I was familiar with her writing, but I thought the manner of death rather odd. Similar to William Holden? I checked this out, and learned that what happened was a stroke and then a fall.

The library has most of her novels, yet few on Ebooks. This book is the first of the Earthseed Trilogy and was released in 1994.

The first third of the book takes place in a community of poor families near Los Angeles in 2023. The government is no longer in control and marauding bands of violent crazies prey upon the citizens.
Some take a drug called 'Ro' that makes them insane and prone to light fires (from 'Pyromania').

After a few years Lauren Olamina's enclave is invaded, and she and some followers begin a trek toward the Canadian border. The story is told by Lauren and each chapter begins with a quote or poem from Earthseed. This is a religion that she is developing.

Hyperempathy Syndrome

Keith Olamina is Lauren's brother and he is a hoodlum. He leaves the community to work with the criminals on the outside. They use him because he can read and write- they are illiterate. Keith gives some of the money that he earns to his mother, but soon he is brutally murdered- skinned alive.

Curtis Talcot is Lauren's boyfriend. He is lost on the night of the attack on the community.

Harry and Zahra are the two people that follow Lauren from her community.
Travis and Nativida are a couple that soon join Lauren.

Bankole is an older man that joins the group. Lauren is romantically involved with this black man. He has property in northern California that becomes their destination. His sister and her family have a working farm, but when the group arrives the farm has been invaded and there are no survivors.

Jill and Allie Gilchrist are two sisters that join the group.

From the book's page at amazon-

"By 2025, global warming, pollution, racial and ethnic tensions and other ills have precipitated a worldwide decline. In the Los Angeles area, small beleaguered communities of the still-employed hide behind makeshift walls from hordes of desperate homeless scavengers and violent pyromaniac addicts known as "paints" who, with water and work growing scarcer, have become increasingly aggressive. Lauren Olamina, a young black woman, flees when the paints overrun her community, heading north with thousands of other refugees seeking a better life. Lauren suffers from 'hyperempathy," a genetic condition that causes her to experience the pain of others as viscerally as her own--a heavy liability in this future world of cruelty and hunger. But she dreams of a better world, and with her philosophy/religion, Earthseed, she hopes to found an enclave which will weather the tough times and which may one day help carry humans to the stars. Butler tells her story with unusual warmth, sensitivity, honesty and grace; though science fiction readers will recognize this future Earth, Lauren Olamina and her vision make this novel stand out like a tree amid saplings."

I liked the book and will try to get the next book in the series. It kind of reminded me of THE STAND by Stephen King- another sprawling Road Book.

The book at wikipedia-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Sower_(novel)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

THE JEALOUS KIND by James Lee Burke

Finished We 7/12/17
This was an Ebook that I read via Axis 360. Not much of Burke's catalog is available electronically, but his latest book is.

The description and writing is great, yet the plot was a bit confusing.

Taken from the book's page at amazon-

"On its surface, life in Houston in the 1950s is as you’d expect: stoic fathers, restless teens, drive-in movies, and souped-up Cadillacs. But underneath lies a world shifting under high school junior Aaron Holland Broussard’s feet. There’s a class war between the “haves” and the “have-nots” as well as a real war, Korea, happening on the other side of the world. It is against this backdrop that Aaron comes of age, trying to understand how first loves, friendship, violence, and power can alter what “traditional America” means for the people trying to find their way in a changing world.

When Aaron spots the beautiful Valerie Epstein fighting with her boyfriend, Grady Harrelson, at a drive-in, he steps in. Aaron and Valerie begin dating, but Grady presents a looming problem—as does Grady’s father, who has troubling criminal connections. In the middle of it all is Aaron, who seemingly takes care of one threat, only to see multiple ones manifest in its stead.

In The Jealous Kind, “modern master” (Publishers Weekly) James Lee Burke creates a singular, bittersweet experience that mirrors a larger world on the precipice of great change. As Aaron undergoes his harrowing evolution from boy to man, we can’t help but recall the inspirational power of first love and how far we would go to protect the world we know."

This is part of the Holland Series, and I much prefer Dave Robicheaux Saga. It's only 'Holland in name only' because it isn't necessary to be familiar with the other novels in the series.

I really liked the character of Saber Bledsoe. This character is clearly an homage to Clete Purcel who has a very similar relationship to Dave Robicheaux.

Loren Nichols is also an interesting character. He starts as punk and evolves into a sympathetic person. Although Aaron plays guitar throughout the book, Loren becomes the professional musician.

Valerie Epstein is almost too good to be true. She's leftist leaning with a father that worked in the OSS during WWII. I wish the father's part was bigger.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR by Dennis Lehane

This is one of my paperbacks that I bought at the west branch back in April of 2008. I read and finished it the first time in July, 2008.

This novel was released in 1994 and is the first in the Patrick Angie Gennaro Detective Series.

The book is set in Boston- mainly Dorchester. Pat is the son of a famous fireman. This man physically (he burned Patrick on the stomach with an iron to teach him that a kitchen fire could be deadly) abused Pat and he is a damaged individual because of this. Angie is married to Phil. All three of them were friends growing up, but now Phil physically abuses Angie and Pat is in love with her. These dynamics play a large role in all the books of the series.

Pat and Angie's office is located in a bell tower of a catholic church.

This novel concerns the theft of property from a politician by a cleaning woman. This woman is married to one of the biggest gang leaders of the city, and his son is the leader of the other biggest gang.
Socia- elder gang leader
Roland- his son
Jenna- Mother of Roland and wife of Socia. She is brutally shot down and murdered near the Boston Commons. Patrick shots the shooter and this is photographed and makes him famous.

Patrick discovers that the 'property' is actually photographs of a prominent and powerful politician having sex with a young boy. The boy is the gang leader and his father,  the other gang leader, is the pimp.  If this information would be made public, all three men would lose everything.

Patrick and Angie shot and kill Roland. The premise is that some people can change and some can't. Either they change or you kill them- no compromise can exist.

I have never read a book where the title is so clever and the scene in which it occurs is unforgettable. Devin, head of a police gang unit, invites Pat and Angie for a drink in a white bar in a black neighborhood. 'The War' is the inevitable gang-war between Socia and Roland's gangs.

Angie, Pat, and Devin, an officer in a police gang unit, meet in a bar. There is a customer standing on the bar in front of the TV watching a football game and  counting the number of black players on the Notre Dame football team. He refers to them as 'niggers'. When the tirate ends, Devin calls him over and sucker-punches him in the face and breaks his nose, and says, "A nigger friend of mine asked me to give you that. He knew you'd understand". Although Devin is a complete alcoholic, he is an excellent cop and does have a black partner.

Anything by Lehane is worth a look, and I found another book that's part of the series in my collection and I play to get to it soon.

Friday, July 7, 2017

CELESTIAL NAVIGATION by Anne Tyler

Finished We 7/5/17 One of my trade paperbacks and part of a trilogy also containing THE CLOCK WINDER and SEARCHING FOR CALEB.

I loved CELESTIAL NAVIGATION. It's a haunting, and slightly depressing tale of life in a Baltimore boarding house from the early 1960's to the mid 70's based around the Pauling family.

It begins when Jeremy Pauling's mother dies, and his two sisters, Amanda and Laura, visit to see how he is coping. Jeremy is agoraphobic, probably somewhere on the autistic scale, and artistically inclined. He had been living with his mother almost as husband and wife, and they spent there days drinking cocoa and watching TV, only leaving the house when absolutely necessary.

Rooms are rented out to pay living expenses. A few older people and one medical student attending Johns Hopkins live in this row house in a declining section of the city of Baltimore.

Mary Tell and her daughter, Darcey move in. Mary has left her husband, Guy, to be with John Harris. Guy hates marry and will not give her a divorce and John is still married, and later his wife moves back in with him, yet he continues the affair with Mary. Mary is just as 'stuck' as Jeremy.

Jeremy falls in love with Mary and pledges his undying love. Mary is flabergasted and had no thoughts of romance, or even friendship, with Jeremy. However, I think that she continues with her flawed thinking- 'A' man is better than 'No' Man. Although they do not marry, she has five more children with Jeremy.

Jeremy started making two dimensional sketches, but branches out to textured works, and then sculptures. He uses bits and pieces of things lying around in the house.

Mildred Vinton is a woman who has lived in the house since Jeremy's mother was alive. This woman is from a large family and stayed on and watched over her mother as she was dying. Mildred loves the idea of 'privacy'. She only wants to be left alone so that she can finish a book with absolutely no distractions. She has found her true 'home' at the Pauling's townhouse.

Mildred is adept at 'reading' the people in the house, especially the relationship between Jeremy and Mary.
Mary has taken the children with her to live in a summer cabin owned by Jeremy's gallery owner, Brian O'donnell.  Mary is finally free to mary Jeremy, but he is too distracted to fulfill her only true wish. Although, Mary is also 'free' to live her life outside of the undo influence of any other person, and she is thrilled with her independence. We don't really know the exact nature of their relationship at the end of the novel, but I think that both have more or less accepted the shortcomings of each other, and they continue to have some sort of nurturing relationship.

In an unbelievably heroic act (for Jeremy), he takes a bus across the city to visit his family at the cabin. To anyone else, it would be almost nothing, but Jeremy's life has been severely limited by his agoraphobia and this is a monumental achievement.

In the end, Mildred Vinton and Jeremy live in the house almost identically to the way that Jeremy lived with his mother at the beginning of the novel.

While researching the novel (I wanted to decide which of the trilogy to start) I learned that many of Tyler's books are set in the Baltimore area of Roland Park. This was the first 'planned community' or suburban development designed to follow the street car lines (1890). This section of Baltimore South-West of Towson is also where the first shopping center was built.

The book's page at wikipedia-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celestial_Navigation_(novel)

Monday, July 3, 2017

THE NEON RAIN by James Lee Burke (1st Dave Robicheaux series)

Finished Su 7/2/17

This is a trade paperback that I borrowed from the library at the Contemporary Books Club meeting last Wednesday evening.

Dave is single and working as a detective for the New Orleans Police. His partner is Clete Purcell and he lives on a houseboat. He's an alcoholic and working the twelve steps.

The novel opens as Dave visits a man about to executed. Dave helped this man with his alcoholism and the man has heard that there is a hit out on Dave. Later, while fishing in the Bayou he finds the body of a young black woman. She's an overdose victim, Dave thinks it murder, and the authorities do nothing. These two incidents kick off the action.

Crooked cops try to kidnap Dave and he gets the better of them. Annie, his future wife, drives by and they escape in her car. She is a social worker from Kansas, and it's later revealed that she has lost a baby while pregnant- seven months.She was saving her grandfather who was working the farm during a bad storm. A farm implement had fallen on him.

Three men invade and capture Dave and Annie while at Annie's apartment. They escape but Annie is assaulted by one of the men. Later, Clete kills that man for a ten thousand dollar pay off from the mob. He's now a crooked cop and at the end of the novel he leaves for Central America. He leaves a note saying that his wife can keep his toothbrush, and he didn't even bother to shut the doors of his car when he abandons it at the airport. Dave learns in a letter from Clete that he's working for the paramilitary (Contras) and says that they are all kids and anyone with a case of Clearasil could rule.

We meet Dave's half brother, Jimmie;  "Gentleman Jimmie". He owns a successful restaurant in New Orleans and he's a very popular 'give to get along kind of guy'. He entertains mobsters, but he is an ethical man.

Didi Gee (Dee Dee Giancano) is a three hundred pound gangster mafia leader who puts a hit on Jimmie. The government is going to shut down Gee's enterprise and they are going to subpoena Jimmie and Didi knows that Jimmie won't lie, so he's gotta go. The hit is staged so that Didi has an alibi because he has invited Dave to his restaurant for a meal- Dave is with the mobster at the time of the hit..
Later Dave attacks this man at his restaurant with a canvas bag filled with heavy metal objects.

The other villains are federal authorities who are working against the Sandinistas. A high ranking officer (retired general) is involved because of guilt over his son's involvement at My Lai- the area was known as 'Pinkville' by the American troops.

Dave is cleared of all charges as he was on unpaid leave for most of the novel, but he resigns from the NOPO and moves to New Iberia, where he grew up.


This is Burke's sixth novel, but the first of the Robicheaux series, and I can't wait to re-read the second in the series. They're all great!

From Library Journal at the book's page at amazon-

"New Orleans homicide cop Dave Robicheaux has a passion for fishing. While pursuing his hobby on a back country bayou, Robicheaux finds a body. His discovery pulls him into a network of small-time Mafiosi, Nicaraguan drug dealers, federal Treasury agents and retired two-star generals all involved in a plot to ship arms to the Nicaraguan contras. More interesting than the unraveling of this plot is Robicheaux himself Cajun, recovering alcoholic, practicing Catholic And his efforts to preserve his integrity in the face of provocation. Better still are Burke's evocative descriptions of New Orleans life both high and low. (The book is marred slightly by a resemblance to the Travis McGee series Robicheaux lives on a houseboat and has a penchant for color-laden metaphor. But Neon Rain is a well-crafted novel with a likable hero)"

- I don't know if I would agree with this observation. Travis is not as 'rough and tumble' as Dave. Dave's always on edge due to his alcoholism, and although Travis is no teetotaler, his drinking is not even in the same league as Dave's. Even when he is not drinking, Dave's evil, drunken angel is always just below the surface).

The morning after I finished the book, Mo 7/3/17, I checked the library website to see if HEAVEN'S PRISONERS, the second novel, was available in Ebook form. But, I found that it was available  to watch on Hoopla. I checked it out and watched it on the living room PC. I'm going to take advantage of this excellent library feature.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

BLACK CHERRY BLUES by James Lee Burke

Finished Fr 6/30/17 This is the third in the Dave Robicheaux series.
I borrowed this from the library as an Ebook- Axis 360

Most of the novel is set near Missoula, Montana.

Dixie Lee Pugh is a washed up Country/Blues musician that knew Dave when they were in college. He comes back into Dave's life struggling with his alcoholism and tells Dave that he heard two mean that he worked with admit to the murder of two men.

Dave reluctantly becomes involved. Dave confronts the two men at their motel and beats them very bloody with a length of chain. The stronger of the two men kills the other with a knife because he knows that Dave will take the heat for this murder.

This man and his partner work for a land leasing outfit that are buying land in Montana. They want to turn it into the new Lake Tahoe and they also want the natural minerals (gas, oil, whatever).

These two men kill two Indians in the AIM movement who didn't want the land leasers on their land.

While on bond, Dave and Alafair travel to Montana to try to find evidence that Dave didn't kill the land lease guy.

In Montana Dave runs into a low level mafia boss who runs the area. Mayhem ensues.

In the end of the novel Dave locates the bodies of the two men due to a dream. His new Indian girlfriend was murdered and she comes to him in the dream and tells him that the bodies are buried near a spring that would have allowed to bury the men even though the ground would have been frozen solid.

Dave, Alafair and Dixie Lee share a house in Montana. Dixie promises not to drink and he watches Alafair while Dave looks for answers.

Dave's old partner from the New Orleans Police Department, Clete Purcell, works for the mafia guys in Montana.

All of the Robicheaux series is Must Read stuff and this one is no exception. I've borrowed NEON RAIN, the first in the series from the library.

 From Publishers Weekly on the book's page at amazon-


"Burke pits a land-hungry oil company against a Blackfeet Indian reservation in a stunning novel that takes detective fiction into new imaginative realms. His Cajun sleuth, Dave Robicheaux, an ex-New Orleans cop featured in two previous novels, attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, has recurrent nightmares about his murdered wife, and cares for an adopted El Salvadoran refugee girl. When two American Indian activists disappear, Robicheaux's dogged investigation not only sets him on a collision course with Mafia thugs and oil interests, but also leads him into a romance with Darlene American Horse, his ex-partner's girlfriend. All the main characters in this darkly beautiful, lyric saga carry heavy emotional baggage, and Robicheaux's sleuthing is a simultaneous exorcism of demons of grief, loss, fear, rage, vengeance. Burke's fictional terrain--stretching from the Louisiana bayous to Montana's red cliffs and pine-dotted hills--is uniquely his own, yet also a microcosm of a multi-ethnic America. He writes from the heart and the gut."