Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Books June 2009

Reading list-- June 2009

Killing Floor by Lee Child
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Fish
I made it 168 pages into this book before cashing it in. I just didn't get what the big deal was. The book started off ok, drifter gets blamed for a murder, only it turns out he has more experience solving homicides than just about anyone on the local police force-- In the Heat of the Night anyone-- pretty soon it's established that Jack Reacher is a ex-military badass-- and it just never took off for me, and I figured what the hell, there are plenty of other books that are calling to me, that I want to read more of, so I moved on. DNF

The Poison Ape by Arimasa Osawa
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Fish (yes I carried the card over from Killing Floor)
This is the first crime novel I have ever read set in Japan, and I dug the fast paced, action oriented pace of the book. The Poison Ape is a Taiwanese Mob Hitman on the hunt for the man that destroyed his life and betrayed him. On his trail is an old army buddy who is now a cop and a Japanese cop, known as the Shinjuku Shark, who plays by his own rules-- I know, I know, sounds like a episode of Mannix or something. One thing that I would point out is that Japan is one of those cultures where non-conformity is almost a capital crime. Honestly it's the fact that it's set in Japan and plays on the culture and customs of that country, along with a solid translation that makes this book well worth checking out. The book starts out with our hero busting low level criminals for selling paint thinner to huffers, I don't think that I have ever seen that anywhere else in any other book I have read. I would recommend this for anyone out there that wants something along the lines of a Hard Case Crime novel from Asia. I have to also note that what grabbed my attention in the first place was the Chip Kidd cover, which seems to pay homage to the Black Lizard crime reprints of the 80s and 90s.

Hunt at the well of Adventure by Gabriel Hunt as told to James Reasoner
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Eye
Hard Case Crime Book of the Month
Fun, Fast, Light and frothy, the first Gabrial Hunt adventure, has all of that and a sense of history. The book starts with a mysterious woman delivering a Civil War flag and a bottle of water to Hunt at a reception, only men with automatic weapons interrupt and the quest is on. Hunt heads south following the few clues that are left to him and ends up danger a couple of times and out of it soon enough. This is summer reading, it's the kind of stuff that I dug as a teenager, and while it's not the kind of story that I would want a steady diet of it was a nice change of pace from the grittier kinds of books that I tend to read. Thinking back it reminded me of a Jerry Ahern's pair of The Takers books from the 80s, with it's slight supernatural twist. I wonder what an Ahern penned Hunt book might look like. All of that said, I wish it had been just a little grittier and had a little more of a puzzle to it. I will be checking out the future volumes of the Hunt for Adventure and will consider this a solid first entry and introduction to the series. I also have to add James Reasoner to the list of authors that I need to check out in further detail.

Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski
Tarot Card Book Mark: Drowning
Speaking of authors that I have to check out, I think with this book I have officially read all of the Swierczynski novels published to date. Like his others this is another enjoyable pulp romp. The gang is called into the office for a Saturday meeting, only to find out that the boss has called them all in to be killed--- only things don't go as planned. I have not read The Ax by Donald Westlake, but what I have heard about that book made me think of it while reading this one. The energy of the book is compulsive and propulsive. Truths come out, crazy work place alliances are formed and broken. In many ways it's a comment on the dog eat dog work world-- OK not really, it is more of a comic bookie action story. I have to say that Swierczynski along with Victor Gischler are creating a body of fast, fun, pulpy crime adventure books that are exactly what is needed in the far to serious world of crime fiction.

Dark Passage by David Goodis
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Moon
This is the second Goodis book I have read, and I am not sure that I am all that ready to tackle more of his work at this point. It's not that it's bad, it's just that it's more of a challenge, with a rhythm and a structure of it's own. Dark Passage is about Vincent Perry a nobody of a man who his convicted of killing his shrew of a wife. He maybe be a nobody, but his wife was the kind of leach that sucks the life out of nobodies. He escapes the Big Q and heads back to San Fransisco to, well he's not sure at first. Complications ensue, as he gets framed for another murder before discovering the truth about who killed his wife and why. What I like about Goodis is that he seemed to have a handle on the lives of the those eking by, and those trapped in the drudge of life, with little hope for escape and how their simple desire to have something good can go so bad. Dark Passage isn't a page turner, but it is well worth checking out.

The Outfit by Richard Stark
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Dog
Donald Westlake Book for the Month!
What can I say about the Parker books that I haven't said, and this is only the fourth one I have read. They are fast, fun, and smart. I dig the whole set up of the Pro Thief and his crew, the jobs they pull, and the goal that they reach. The drive of a Stark book is rarely equaled, and I always seem to find them a quick read, and I am rarely ready for them to end. This is the third Stark book, and I think that I liked the previous one, The Man With the Getaway Face better, but the first one The Hunter a little less, still so far they are all top shelf crime books. I am at the point where if someone was to ask me for a couple of books to give them a grasp of the history of Crime Writing in America, one of the Parker books would be right up there with Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books as an examples of the best of the 1960s. Next up on my Parker list is going to be The Mourner, but I think that I am going to end up reading a non-Parker Westlake next month.

Savage Season by Joe R Lansdale
Tarot Card Book Mark: Water
Growing up in Hippie Land U.S.A. taught me many things, among them never trust a Hippie-- pretty much that sums up this book. The plot is pretty basic Hap and Leonard are sucked into a scheme to recover a chunk of money that was stolen from a bank years and years ago. They don't like their partners too much, and several times think on just walking away, but have to see it though. Things go bad, people die and general chaos ensues. I like the look at the hippie Sixties culture though the lens of time and seeing in the end what I have tended to see from the tie dyed moron masses, they are some of the most untrustworthy, selfish, and deluded dangerous fools walking about round today. I like that Lansdale even explores and questions the real commitment of the sell outs and wanna be revolutionaries of that time rather than playing up the BS We ended the war, and saved the world delusion of way to many of his peers. I will be revisiting the Hap and Leonard series some time soon.

Once Were Cops by Ken Bruin
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Horse.
4MA Discussion book
Wow --- I am going to say that again, Wow. Talk about narrative drive and story velocity. I can't think of another author since James Ellroy who has taken the language and story telling of crime and so stripped it down to the bare bones. The book is the story of Shea a Irish Guard (their version of police) who gets his wish and is sent to NYC to become an officer in the NYPD. In many ways the story is your basic riff on Jim Thompson's Killer Inside me, but it's fresh and furious due to the Irish lilt of the story and the language used to tell it. One of the oddest things about the book is that it really cuts out all the action. There isn't really any play by play of the crimes involved, no gory dissections of actions and events, it all just happens and the plot moves on. That's a very brave move, and one that in the right hands will surly fail, but not here. The previous Bruin books that I have read were the collaborations he has done with Jason Starr for Hard Case Crime, but with this book Bruin has joined; Faust, Girschler, Abbott and Swierczynski on my list of new to me authors I need to follow.
No House Limit by Steve Fischer
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Spider
Hard Case Crime book for the Month (2).
I don't have all that much to say beyond another solid Hard Case Crime novel. Vegas baby Vegas, Joe Martin runs a independent Casino called the The Rainbows End-- the outfit has sent in professional Craps player Bello to break the house. Several chapters start with little bits of info about Vegas and how things work.

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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