Friday, July 31, 2009

Books July 2009

Devil Born Without Horns by Michael A Lucas
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Home
2009 Will Read List book!

bought this book because Amazon kept recommending it, and it is from Rudos & Rubes publishing, who issued the collection of short stories from 70s Punk Rocker Johnny Strike. The book follows Jim Pichaske, a recent college grad, and his decent into the madness of low rent world of working retail. In this case it's for a poorly run and managed Furniture Company called Nimbus. Jim is of course educated and underemployed , and too often treated like some kind of chucklehead with no brain. As time passes he starts to spiral into a life of petty crime, drug use and finally a last big score which, well like the rest of his life isn't going where he thought it would. I liked this book a lot, maybe it cause I have worked in the furniture business, or that I know all too well what it is to be underemployed and to watch dreams and desires slip away. The book is more in the vein of something like Miami Purity where the crime is the result of a life in free fall or maybe more to the point a life without a real drive or direction.

The Con Man by Ed McBain

Tarot Card Book Mark: None

The 4th of the legendary 87th precinct novels follows the squad as they track a team of Con men who are working the streets fleecing the public, meanwhile the bodies of two women have surfaced in the river, both dead of poisoning and both with near identical tattoos on their hands. The squad works the cases while McBain talks about the Cons that people live with every day, and the trust that it takes to put the truth in someones hands and for them to follow up. There is a element of the book where McBain addresses the reader about the subject of the con, in much the same way that Donald Weslake did in some of his books. Once again there is shockingly dated quality to the book as it is pre-drug apocalypse, pre-professional police movement, and stills stuck with the technology and methods of the 1950s. Still it is worth visiting and checking out.

Killer's Choice by Ed McBain

Tarot Card Book Mark: None

I really liked this one, I have to say that I have liked all of the 87th precinct books I have read, but this one was different. This was the first one that didn't deal with perps that were committing a specific crime, that is to say the last one was the con man and before that there was the pusher and the mugger. This one had a little more of the expected mystery structure and feel to it. I liked that the mystery structure was folded into the police procedural style. I also liked the introduction of the Det Hawes and the exit of Haviland. Who but McBain could get away with some of the really dark humor that's in this book, and in 1957 even. I am taking a little break from the 87th precinct books right now, but hope to get to the next one later in this month or early next month.

East of A by Russell Atwood
Tarot Card Book Mark: Burning
Hard Case Crime is going to publish the sequel to this book in Sept so I wanted to read this one before hand, luckily I ran across a copy of in a paperback trade in joint. East of A starts with P.I. Payton Sherwood arriving home to find he needs to run to the store for some food, only the place on the corner is closed and things just get worse from there. He interrupts the beating of a young woman who repays him by taking his watch. The story unfold from there as Payton searches for the girl, his watch and slowly depletes his bank account trying to get her out from under. It is a Detective novel of it's time (90s NYC), and was a great read. I look forward to the HCC book arriving in just about a month.

Vanilla Ride by Joe R Lansdale

Tarot Card Book Mark: The Mouth
Leonard and Hap and back and riffing their tough talking asses off while things go bad around them. It all started with them retrieving the grand daughter of a friend from her drug dealing scum bag boyfriend, and from their chaos ensues. It's pretty much a lot of crazy action and funny tough guy talking. There is an energy to the book the keeps it from getting boring and standard. No mysteries to solve, no big corruption to uncover, Leonard and Hap really are just two guys who can't seem to stay out of trouble and have to deal with happens.

The Deep Blue Good-Bye by John D MacDonald
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Gift
2009 Will Read List Book!
I have put off reading this book for a long time, and it was time to give it a read. This is the first of the Travis McGee series, and the first full length MacDonald that I have read. If this is any indication of things to come I have to say that I am looking forward to the stack of MacDonald books that I have amassed over the last year or so. The story is pretty straight forward, Travis is an outsider type who lives on a house boat and is in the business of recovering things for friends. In this one he is asked by a friend of a friend to help recover/discover what every it was that her father had brought back from the Far East during the War. That would be WWII, and her father would have died in prison, only to have a former cell mate show up and search the family home, taking off, only to return a rich man. If you look at the cover of the book I have included in this post, you should get an idea of what the riches were. McGee takes the job and is sucked into the world of the ex-con and his psycho way of life and search for kicks. There is a strong undercurrent of the loosing of the social mores and dangers of that ebbing through the book-- it's almost like a prediction of the social chaos to come in the 1960s and 1970s. The prose are direct but have a flow and a spark. There were a couple of places where the turn of the phrase stuck with me, lines that I am going to have to steal for story titles, "These are the Slums of the Heart" and "These are the bunnies who never find a burrow". There is the issue of the wounded women that McGee finds himself in the company of, I don't really have much to say about them at this point in my reading of the series, I wonder if as times changed over the more than twenty years that the books were written if the women become stronger? What I can say is that if you are new convert to reading pulp/hard boiled tales that this will entertain and also give an insight to the steps between Marlow and Spencer in Detective fiction.

Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Lion
I first heard the name Anthony Neil Smith in connection with the website Plots with Guns and his brother in arms Victor Gischler. A pretty good crime book, that I think I liked more for what it said about some places I have lived than for the over all plot. In a lot of ways the book felt a little-- mushy-- around the edges, like there was a sharpness that was missing from the plot. Things I liked : The stuff about the Minnesota Ice culture. As an outsider who lived in the Cities for 5 years, I know exactly what that 'we had all the friends we needed in the 2nd grade' mentality and culture is all about. As for the description of my home town (and current residence) of Ann Arbor, MI, Smith gets is half right. His description of the town as being filled with smug people who don't know how smug they come off is correct on the first part, but the truth is they know how arrogant and smug they come off and they really don't care. The minor quibble aside, I am looking forward to picking up the newest of Smith's books, Hotdoggin' in the future.

The Cutie by Donald Westlake
Hard Case Crime Book of the Month
Donald Westlake Book for the Month!
I'm running low on time this month, so I am going to go for a two for one here, my Hard Case Crime and my Donald Westlake book for the month. This was the first Westlake novel published way back in 1960, and the first to hit the stands (are there still stands?) in the months after his death. It's the story of a organization man who gets caught up in finding The Cutie. No despite the red head loading the pistol on the cover, the Cutie is someone who thought that they were being cute when they left a passed out junkie next to a woman they had murdered, only the junkie woke up and got out of the scene ahead of the cops. I think I am making it more complex than it is, but it's a hell of a read, and knowing that it was Westlakes first published novel makes it well worth checking out.

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. This month I had several books where I didn't have the cards as bookmarks, this was mostly due to the fact that I have been moving and everything was in disarray and I didn't always have the cards handy. A couple of the books were also inter-library loans, and I tend to use the paperwork that comes with those as bookmarks.
p.s. I am half wake as I write this let me know if something didn't make sense or I really screwed up the grammar

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Just loved the MacDonald books. Travis' appeal is hard to surpass.