Friday, June 4, 2010

Books April & May 2010

Books April & May 2010
Goin PostalbyMark Ames
Yellow Dog PartybyEarl Emerson
A Purple Place For DyingbyJohn D MAcDonald
Dust DevilsbyJames Reasoner
ShootbyDouglas Fairbairn
The SpecialistsbyLawerence Block
Evening's EmpirebyBill Flanagan
Monkey's RaincoatbyRobert Crasis
MemorybyDonald Westlake
Soft TouchbyJohn D Macdonald
Wordy ShipmatesbySarah Vowell
My So-Called Punk: Green Day, Fall Out Boy, The Distillers, Bad Religion---How Neo-Punk Stage-Dived into the MainstreambyMatt Diehl
I've been out of the loop for the last couple of weeks and lacking in inspiration to write much of anything, however I have been reading and as yet another month closes out it's time for me to look back at what I have been reading. I missed April, so for the sake of being complete I'm going to cover both months. Here's just a few comments about each book.

Non Fiction
Going Postal is about the phenomenon of school and work place shooting in the 80s and 90s. The author compares the incidents to slave revolts and hypothesis that the shootings have mainly been in reaction to the increasingly dehumanizing and industrial nature of the work place (which includes schools). I don't know that I totally agree with his point of view but it's certainly worth considering. One of the issues I had with the book was that it was lacking in real solutions.

My So-Called Punk: Green Day, Fall Out Boy, The Distillers, Bad Religion---How Neo-Punk Stage-Dived into the Mainstream was, well not all that great. I read this book due to my interest in the underground punk scene of the 1990s, which I was a witness and very minor participant in. I was let down by the limited focus of the book, which only really leaned heavily towards the West Coast/ Pop Punk scene centered around the Warp Tour and the Epitaph, Lookout and Fat Wreck Chords Rekords scene. I felt like it could have used a couple of more edits to smooth out redundancies and I felt like several of the chapters basically covered the same ground and focused solely on the same artists and people in the scene. I think also the scope of what was covered was very limited and at several points the author missed the opportunity to talk about several other scenes that were exploring the same topics and issues outside of the United States. Overall I can’t recommend this book, and would instead point you toward the excellent 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 along with We Got the Neutron Bomb : The Untold Story of L.A. Punk by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen.

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell was good, but as there were no chapter breaks it felt like a run-on sentence. It's about the ...... From Amazon/ Publishers Weekly "1630 journey of several key English colonists and members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Foremost among these men was John Winthrop, who would become governor of Massachusetts. While the Puritans who had earlier sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower were separatists, Winthrop's followers remained loyal to England, spurred on by Puritan Reverend John Cotton's proclamation that they were God's chosen people. Vowell underscores that the seemingly minute differences between the Plymouth Puritans and the Massachusetts Puritans were as meaningful as the current Sunni/Shia Muslim rift. Gracefully interspersing her history lesson with personal anecdotes, Vowell offers reflections that are both amusing (colonial history lesson via The Brady Bunch) and tender (watching New Yorkers patiently waiting in line to donate blood after 9/11). " I liked the book-- but it's not the best of her works, it's obvious she cares about what she is writing about and that carries a lot of narrative well enough.

Fiction
Yellow Dog Party and the Monkey's Raincoat are both PI novels, I wrote about Yellow Dog here. Monkey's Raincoat is the first Robert Crais
Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels book, it was OK. I think that it was exactly what was popular in the late 1980s. I enjoyed both books enough that I look forward to reading more by the authors. I think the Earl Emerson book has the edge as something that I more interested in, but I want to see who these PIs age and mature.

My two John D MacDonald titles were The Soft Touch and a Purple Place for Dying. The Soft Touch was about a simple heist that goes wrong and everything unravels, and Purple place is about a woman who suspects that her husband has squandered her money and wants Travis Magee to look into it. What struck me about both books was MacDonald's use of his understanding of business and how things can fall apart, it's a theme in his books that I like and that I don't see others exploring.

Shoot was a book I read after seeing it covered by Mike Davis over at the Rap Sheet. It's an early 70s story about a group of hunters who get ambushed by another group and end up killing a member of the other group. They spend a week wondering what's going to happen next, and take to the woods the next weekend to see if the others will return. It was a fast fairly exciting read, and it's a product of it's time and place.


The Specialists I wrote about Here, Dust Devils was yet another solid pulp style crime story from James Reasoner. Why hasn't he been recruited to write a Hard Case yet? Yeah I know he wrote the first Hunt For Adventure, that's why I am hoping that he'll get a HCC some time sooner or later.

Evening's Empire I heard about on the NPR show Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson . I had read author Bill Flanaga's previous book A&R years back and liked it. This new book really is about the history of the Rock Music industry from the late 60s until the present day.

From Booklist

Spanning some 40 years, journalist Flanagan’s third novel is the picaresque, anecdotal story of an English rock band. In London in 1967, his boss tells young lawyer Jack Flynn to photograph the wife of client Emerson Cutler. Seems she is cheating on the serial adulterer rock star. Cutler asks Flynn to work for him, thereby introducing him to the rock lifestyle. Over the years, Flynn, Cutler, and the rest of the band leave London for L.A., tour the world, and generally behave as in prototypical rock-band fashion. Rock insider Flanagan is very familiar with the milieu, knowing how musicians act and talk as well as the kinds of rock-scene denizens he describes—journalists, producers, record executives, and so on—and referencing historical figures and events throughout. Despite the rowdy rock atmosphere, this novel disguised as an old man’s road memoirs has a pensive quality. As Flynn notes, “Thousands of days are lost to us completely. They pass out of our memories like songs half heard on restaurant radios.” It was only rock and roll, but he liked it. --June Sawyers

Anyway, I dug the book enough to read the whole thing, but I am so tired of what Mike Watt referred to as "
Baby boomers selling you rumors of their history, Forcing youth away from the truth of what's real today" in the song Against The 70's--- I get it, I get it, you all had the best of times, great can we move on? That said if you want to know how the music industry got into it's current mess, this book will tell you just about all you need to know.

Thoughts, comments, ect?