Sunday, May 31, 2009

Books May 2009

May 2009--- Dateline, Ann Arbor Michigan!
Books that I read/ finished this month were:

Hoodtown by Christa Faust
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Letter
2009-will-Read list book!

Christa Faust is getting a lot of buzz these days for her most recent book Money Shot , and because I enjoyed that book I wanted to check out some more of her work. This is the second of her three books, and aside from Money Shot it's likely to be the most accessible. The story is about a murder in Hoodtown, a world where the Luchador culture is the norm. Just think of the residents as a minority group, living like many of those groups have lived in their own little ghettos. Like those ghettos Hoodtown crime really isn't something that the cops care about, as long as it stays on it's side of the tracks. Our hero this time around is X a disgraced Luchador who finds herself sucked into a mystery and has to play PI to keep herself alive and figure out who is killing hoods and leaving them with their faces exposed. I enjoyed the book, Hoodtown is well crafted and the world of the Luchador ghetto is alive and vibrant. If you have read Money Shot and want need something to give you the Faust jolt until her next book (still no word on when that's going to be out), Hoodtown is a nice little fix to hold you over.

Girls in 3 B by Valerie Taylor
Tarot Card Book Mark: Hair
50s pulp about three girls from the sticks who move to the big city looking for adventure. 50s pulp with lesbian over tones (and the bible has more explicit stuff in it that this book), which follows the adventures of the three girls as they figure out who and what they are in route to their life destinations. The book deals with class, culture, counter culture, drugs, pre marital sex, work, and the way in which childhood friendships wander. Reading the book today, I felt a frustration that the girls couldn't seem to vocalize or talk about some of the issues that they were dealing with-- I know this is due to the fact that we are a much more open society in many places and ways.

Nothing but a Smile by Steve Amick
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Car
Wink Dutton is on his way back to the world after an accident in the Pacific theater that had taken his drawing hand. Not only is he back in the world with a Purple Heart, he has lost his ability to make a living as a commercial artist. It's 1944, and he's not sure what to do. In Chicago he stops into to check in on Sal, the wife of a Army buddy-- a photographer for Stars and Strips. The wife has been running the camera shop that her father left them and struggling to make ends met. One thing leads to another and soon Wink is living in the spare apartment helping helping Sal run the shop. Sal had started to take pin up pictures of herself and sell them to make money, and it's only a matter of time before Wink and Sal's friend Rennie are making a living off of taking and publishing photos of Sal and Rennie as Winkin' Sally and Weekend Sally. The book follows the story of the rise of their little empire, it's fall and their lives in the immediate post war era. The author Amick is a local Ann Arbor guy, and he takes what could have easily been a pulp style story and makes it a fun, engaging read. It is interesting to read about that era as seeing how scandalous the concept of Cheese Cake and Nudie photos were, and the social implications and ramifications of posing for those kinds of photos really was. I found the end of the book a bit rushed and not as satisfying as the set up, but that's very honest about the way that life plays out. Over all I think this is one of the better pop fiction books that I have read in a while, and I hope that it finds an audience. It's also the kind of story that would make a great little film.

Say it with Bullets by Richard Powell
Tarot Card Book Mark: Eight
Hard Case Crime Book of the Month

Excellent 50s crime talk from Hard Case, I posted a full review here

Lush Life by Richard Price
Tarot Card Book Mark:
2009 will-read-list book!
I haven't even read the first page of this book yet, but I wanted to say that my understanding is that this book is about the different worlds that people live in, even when they live in the same city--- in this case the Beast that is New York. Now having finished the book I have to say-- it's a 60,000 word story stretched out to 100,000 words. Basically it is about a mugging gone wrong, where a white kid ends up dead on the sidewalk for saying the wrong thing. The actions of the muggers and victims are all mistakes, blunders and misread by everyone else. While the dialog was great, the portrayal of the muggers and their cohort was fully realized and nuanced, the book lacked an energy, a drive and a tempo. I never felt like I really wanted to spend another moment with any of the characters and despite the praise heaped on Richard Price, I don't think that I will be revisiting his work any time soon.

Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death by Tucker Coe
Tarot Card Book Mark: Fire
Donald Westlake Book for the Month!
Starting off Tucker Coe was a pen name of Donald Westlake, and this book is the first of the Mitch Tobin PI series. Mitch Tobin is a disgraced ex-cop who has been building a wall in his back yard for the last six months, when a local hood approaches him about a job. At first Tobin wants nothing to do with the job, but after thinking it over and being assured that the job is on the level he takes it. The gig is simple find the mistress of the hood who appears to have run off with a new man and a chunk of cash. Ok, Ok, I know we have all seen this one played out before, but in Westlake's hands it is a fun who-done-it kind of romp that is somewhere between his Stark books and his more comics outings. I liked Tobin and his work ethic, there is something about all of the logical steps and documenting of the a case that Westlake includes that speaks to the 'You Didn't Write It, You Didn't Do It' professional in me. Right now, I have other Westlake and Stark books waiting for me, but I can see revisiting Mitch Tobin down the road a ways.

Note: Tarot Card Book Marks? I have a really lame deck of Tarot cards that I pulled off a free cart at the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library sale a couple of months back, and I started using them as book marks for giggles mostly. I just pull a card at random from the deck, make note of it, and when I am done it goes in the discard pile. Sometimes the card ends up to have a relation to the book in questions, sometimes not.

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