Friday, January 1, 2010

Books: A year of Donald Westlake and Dec 09 reads

In commemoration of Donald Westlake I made it my mission to read at least one of his works each of the last 12 months. I also checked out a couple of the films based on his books and even listened to one of them as a book on CD. Overall it was a great experience, and I have come to enjoy Westlake as a master of story telling. I liked some of the books more than others, but can't say that I disliked any of what I read. The Parker books I read were a joy to discover, and I enjoyed his more comedic as well. The movies based on his work were hit and miss. I enjoyed The Hot Rock, Point Blank and Payback. Made in the USA really is it's own animal that while based on a Stark book really give no hint of what makes the Stark books work. The Bank Shot had it's moments, but I found myself more interested in the location shots of LA in the early 1970s.

Anyway, I enjoyed my year with Westlake and as I have amassed a stack of his books he will not be far from my reading in 2010. Speaking of 2010, it is my intent to read at least one John D Mac Donald book a month this coming year.

Dec 2009 Books: Here is a quick overview of the books that I finished reading in Dec 2009

Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day by Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor
The title pretty much tells the story of this oral history of the the bay area punk scene. Like the other oral histories I have read this was insightful, informative and engaging.

Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodhouse
Tarot Card Book Mark Fruit
In the past I only knew P.G. Wodhouse via BBC TV series Jeeves and Wooster. This was my first Wodhouse novel and it was a nice light comic read, almost a cozy. No one dies and the crime element is pretty limited-- however I am looking forward to my next visit to the world of P.G. Wodhouse.

The Score by Richard Stark
Tarot Card Book Mark Flying
This was my Westlake book for the month-- a fast paced heist tale with a lot of energy and twists and turns. More good stuff and I am looking forward to the Jugger the next of the Parker books and the next book on my TBR pile.

A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the making of Bitter Tears by Antonino D'ambrosio
My second music related book for the month, and of all the books I read in 2009 none moved me in the way this one did. It's the story of not only Cash and his post Sun Rockabilly years but his interaction with the New York Folk scene in the early '60s, and the plight of the Native Americans in the early 1960s. I learned more about that movement from this book (did you know that JFK promised not to break the treaty that George Washington made with the Seneca-- only to do that when he got into office?) than I have anywhere else. Also like any great book about music it sent me back to the album Bitter Tears (which has long been a favorite of mine) and has more looking forward to getting my hands on the works of Peter La Farge who wrote many of the songs on the album.

Losers Live Longer by Russell Atwood
Tarot Card Book Mark Candle
Hard Case Crime book for the Month
Payton Sherwood sure hasn't made it big since the events of his first adventure East of A, but Atwood has only grown as a story teller. This book finds him looking for the murder of a legendary PI and ending up with an answer he's not going to like. This was a fast, fun and addictive read, everything that a Hard Case paperback should be. You gotta love that cover as well.

Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear by Charles Ardai
Tarot Card Book Mark The Hat
The second of the Hunt for Adventure books, this one carries on the pure escapist Indiana Jones style adventure started by the first one. It never slows down and has just enough of the twists and turns needed to keep you reading. I liked the Clive Cussler like cameo by Ardai, and have the next Hunt book hovering around the top of my TBR pile.

Somebody Owes Me Money (BOCD) Donald E Westlake
Hard Case on CD!
I wanted to check out the audio book version of at least one Westlake book this year, and this was it. Nicely read and preformed, this Westlake story is about a Cab driver who is looking for the payout on a winning horse and when he stumbles on the murdered body of his bookie finds a whole lot more.

Mr. Monk in Outer Space by Lee Goldberg
I've never really considered Monk before reading this book. Somewhere around the middle of the story I had to head to the library and check out a couple of DVDs of the series. I picked up about 6 of the Monk books up at the Friends of the Library sale a while back because I enjoyed the previous book by Lee Goldberg that I read. This one finds Monk looking into the murder of the producer of a cult Sci Fi TV show and the murder of the CEO of a fast food chain. While I liked the investigation part of the story it was spending time with Monk and his cast the kept me reading, and has me looking forward to my next Monk novel. I also laughed a couple of times, which I don't often do when reading.

Thoughts, comments, recommendations?
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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