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Books

Death of Author Colin Dexter – March 24th, 2017

by on Mar.24, 2017, under Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think you all know I’m a nut about books of all sorts. I was very sad to learn of the death of British author, Colin Dexter Tuesday. He is best known for his series of books featuring irascible, beer swilling, Wagner loving Inspector Morse. He is in the upper pantheon of British mystery writers like Dorothy Sayers, Edmund Crispin, Agatha Christie, P.D. James, and few others.

I found Dexter’s writing with the flavor of Edmund Crispin and his main character of his mysteries, Gervase Fen. The stories had a trail to follow, but the main character managed to get diverted for one reason or the other. The mysteries were complex with clever and sometimes even more complex solutions. The various other characters that populated Dexter’s, and Crispin’s, novels were distinct and often as interesting as the main characters. Both wrote only as much of a set of books they wanted and then quit. A brave move to walk away from a series. Dexter’s series became far better known and lived on due to three popular television series involving the Morse series characters.

The photo above is from the back of one of his books along with the entire Dexter set in my library.

 

 

 

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Book: ‘Neither Dies Nor Surrenders’ by Peter Klingman – March 21st, 2017

by on Mar.21, 2017, under Books

Neither Dies Nor Surrenders: A History of the Republican Party in Florida, 1867-1970Neither Dies Nor Surrenders: A History of the Republican Party in Florida, 1867-1970 by Peter Klingman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has an unbelievable amount of great history that is nearly impossible to find anywhere else. It has a perspective not found in books written from the Democrat angle. It’s just a mess of a book. Poorly written and thought out.

According to the preface by the person who initially had the concept of the book is that he is a Republican, but chose a Democrat to actually write the book. I can only figure these two had communication problems and the struggles to mete out the issues led to the muddled approach to the entire book.

There are boat loads of names that are referenced but in a variety of ways too often with little context. Too often national figures are referenced to possibly local, state or national. The entire book is buoyed by political references that most don’t know the definition of and there are no definitions in the body of the book.

The benefits are the well referenced and footnoted facts that are not to be found in other histories of politics and history of Florida. Eye opening and refreshing. So much so a researcher reading this should struggle through the text and make it to the end.

Bottom line: i recommend the book – for research purposes. Not for general reading. 5 out of 5 points

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Book: ‘Modesty Blaise’ by Peter O’Donnell – March 18th, 2017

by on Mar.18, 2017, under Books

Modesty BlaiseModesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I loved the comic strip, Modesty Blaise, written by this same author. The illustration work was incredible! Was i ever tickled at Christmas time of 2016 coming across 8 – that’s right, 8 – volumes of the Blaise series. 25 cents each, to boot! A Christmas present! I can now read the wonderful writing from the comic trip in book form!…….was I ever wrong.

What a slogging mess. The entire book is more and over written introduction of the characters with a bit of adventure tucked away. If you can get that far. Way, way, way too much self-examination written in that gets more and more ponderous. Why was I reading about Willie Garvin’s motivations over and over and over again?

The book starts as if 20 volumes precede it with how the Modesty kid had run some organization for a few years. Though it’s written as if she ran the group for decades. O’Donnell continues writing about Blaise’s co-hort and how he is in trouble and she goes about saving him. The action part are handful of pages in the midst of 50. The main mission is something about diamonds that really doesn’t make much sense. More perplexing is with all of this introspection being written, what really compels the Blaise character to chase after the diamonds is not revealed. There’s some clever bits written of how the diamonds are going to be swiped. Collectively none of it makes sense. except Blaise is 26 and might be so immature to chase whatever carrot put in front of her.

There’s also much silliness of Blaise being in her 20s and living the contents of a life 60 years old. Also how brilliant she was with all she learned in ten years. Ten years? Sheesh!

Thus the plotting was horrible, the writing OK and …

Bottom line: i don’t recommend this book. 3 out of 10 points.

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Book:’Losers Live Longer’ by Russell Atwood – March 7th, 2017

by on Mar.07, 2017, under Books

Losers Live Longer (Hard Case Crime #59)Losers Live Longer by Russell Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Losers Live Longer’ is very well plotted and written. There are some inconsistencies with the main character, but otherwise characters and settings are also well done.

This is an excellent inclusion of the pulp genre by a contemporary writer in a current world of strong intolerance toward so much that makes up the genre. There are no excuses as to how characters are portrayed or respond. Political correctness is tough to find here. It’s very nice volume of fresh air buried in silly neo-puritanical book efforts to include whatever attitudes are popular not to offend in the Media today.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 7 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘An American Spy’ by Olen Steinhauer – March 3rd, 2017

by on Mar.03, 2017, under Books

An American Spy (The Tourist, #3)An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished the book and realized I could’ve read the last 20 pages and probably have been as satisfied. Steinhauer is clearly trying to present a novel of the spy business and the international entanglements that get into motion and all of it can have many levels going in many directions and you can’t trust a souls. All of those ‘and’s should give you a clue to how confusing this book can be if the reader isn’t paying attention.

One thing i liked is that this claims to be past of a series and well shows that a series may have similar characters but doesn’t have to have a star. The first two starred Milo Weaver. Here Weaver gets lost in all of the spy shenanigans, which I think is more of what Steinhauer is trying to present. The down side is a hard one, the book starts out in China and barely mentions a familiar character until after almost a third of the book. I’ll add that the first third is questionably needed.

The writing is very, very good. Excellent use of words and ideas. Though the first chunk in China is written in perfect English that just wouldn’t happen in translation. The Americanized dialogue of the Chinese further confuses with so much going on.

The plotting of multiple very different characters with different names of various nationalities constructed in a non-linear way is taking the idea of portraying a complex spy world to a level that almost needs a reader to take notes to keep track of everyone. There’s far too much effort to jump back and forth with different viewpoints. It’s a big effort for how the book ends. which I found very disappointing.

Despite the great writing, i can’t get past the poor plotting and ending:

Bottom line : I don’t recommend this book. 5 out of ten points.

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Book: Ordeal of the Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone – February 21st, 2017

by on Feb.21, 2017, under Books

Ordeal of the Mountain Man (Mountain Man, #17)Ordeal of the Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the better stories of the whole Johnstone Clan corral of books. The writing, though, is very good at times, then weak and then horrible. i wonder how many hands were in writing this book.

Basically this book is a variation of many of the previous Smoke Jensen novels combined into one. This one combining herding cattle, kidnapping, taking over a town indians, etc. All of which is a retread of the other books with the same results – and i don’t mean just gunfighting. The town banker, the indian interaction, the reasons for robbery, herding cattle were all too familiar to me as i read the Jensen series in order. Much has been repeated before, but this time it is all too much of the same.

Another problem i had was marked inconsistency in this part of the series. This one specifically stumbles involving the weird way the Johnstone Clan has handled Jensen’s children, adopted children and children mentioned that seem to be lost forever.

The vast array of characters are, as always, well done. The settings are lacking in this one. Especially odd as so much territory is covered.

Of course, the repetition is to me and not readers who have not taken in about 75 of the Johnstone books. It is a good story with it’s troubles but…

Bottom line: I recommend this book: 6 out of 10 points.

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Book: ‘The Sinister Sign Post’ by Franklin W. Dixon – January 16th, 2017

by on Jan.16, 2017, under Books

The Sinister Sign Post (Hardy Boys, #15)The Sinister Sign Post by Franklin W. Dixon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up to read after i read a copy of The Shadow series i had found a few days before to compare the two, as both were written around the same time. There is, indeed, a similarity of style and mood of the two books. Though The Mox edition of The Shadow is surely darker while The hardy Boys is much lighter. Both do have the courtesy of the characters and the anger of the bad guys with little use of violence. Very interesting to compare the two.

This 15th outing of The Hardy Boys is the first, to my memory, that i have ever read. It’s a nice little mystery with plenty of action. The writing is very, very good as is the plotting. It’s a tricky book to write as the characters are out in the country and the setting is very important. As are the locations of things like the sign post. Dixon does an excellent job of moving the characters around from place to place with a feeling of movement and the ease and difficulty, thereof.

This book is better handled and written for an adult than most “adult” books today, which seem to me to be written for young people adding bad language and sex. I might just try more of these Hardy Boys books.

The clinker is the near non-existence of serious violence. The stakes are extremely high for the bad guys involving what they are doing. Yet, they don’t seem to mind witnesses and merely tie up those who can finger them. More likely the bad guys would make the witnesses disappear. This is the element written for younger folks. Funny hoe today the direct opposite occurs as parents willingly push very violent video games to the same age group this book is for. Seems we were much smarter in the 1930s.

Bottom line: i recommend this book. 8 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘The Widow’s Strike’ by Brad Taylor

by on Jan.15, 2017, under Books

The Widow's Strike (Pike Logan, #4)The Widow’s Strike by Brad Taylor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the fourth Taylor book I’ve read and the hardest to get through. I had a great deal of trouble getting hooked into the story and found myself realizing lots of parts that should have been edited out.

In the past six months I’ve only read two other books of similar subject and length, both by John Gilstrap. Otherwise, besides non-fiction, i’ve eaten through a few dozen well crafted, tightly written 150 page mysteries, thrillers, etc. This book could’ve been one of those. I believe this book could’ve been three of them. This Taylor novel is over laden with more than needed about about a dozen characters. All the while leaving settings written sparsely.

The bigger trouble i was having was a lot of repetition I had read in Taylor and other’s books. Gilstrap constructed a similar story. Though his was preposterous, it was a better book. The opening to Gilstrap’s version of a virus on the loose is far more frightening than Taylor’s version. Of the many of these international intrigue books i’ve read, this is the first i’ve read that seemed to be repetitive in theme and parts.

The Florida part: On page 402 the story moves to Florida. Taylor brushes past the area of Brevard County he’s placed his characters. A further example of only providing simple settings through out the book. His lack of knowledge of the area is shown as he refers to the area as having “third-tier vacation rentals and cheap surf shops”. Ron Jon’s, the only store mentioned in the book, has few cheap anything. His writing of Port Canaveral seems he looked at a map than actually there. There’s a lot to play with around the Port and he could’ve really added something more, and different to the book.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend the book. 5 out of ten points.

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Book:’Dividend on Death’ by Brett Halliday – January 2nd, 2017

by on Jan.02, 2017, under Books

Dividend on Death (Mike Shayne #1)Dividend on Death by Brett Halliday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was pretty sure I’d read this before, but after reading it, I’m not so sure. I have multiple copies of this book from over decades and can’t find a marking that i had read it. The best thing about Goodreads is keeping a reader straight about their book activities.

This is the first of the Shayne series and, after having read a good 40 or more of them, this was the writer’s launch without a lot of the settings and characters that would later populate the series. This is also a rocky story. Far less sleek than later Shayne books written by Dresser. After Dresser the series really goes down hill. This is far better than any of those.

Shayne, as a character, is far less developed as in future books. A few of his characteristics were still to come. That makes him a bit harder to understand. The rest of the characters are well written. With Painter and Gentry nearly identical to their characters in future books. This book makes it real obvious why Dresser later added a newspaper reporter pal for Shayne.

The settings are also far more sparse. In other Shayne books, knowing Florida as well as i do, i could actually follow where Shayne was going on either side of the bridge.

Bottom line: I recommend this book! 8 out of 10 points.

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Book: #100 of 2016 -‘The Return Of A ‘Mad’ Look At Old Movies’ by Dick de Bartolo – December 30th, 2016

by on Dec.30, 2016, under Books

The Return Of A 'Mad' Look At Old MoviesThe Return Of A ‘Mad’ Look At Old Movies by Dick de Bartolo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My goal was to reach 100 books in 2016. Due to the death of my father, my own illness more than twice this past year and trying to produce 4 books, i fell waaaaay behind. As days remained in the year a friend joked i should read a MAD magazine Don Martin collection of cartoons to speed up to 100. I scoffed at first. Then I learned of the death of my friend, MAD magazine’s Duck Edwing on December 27th. Suddenly i realized I could rap up the year with a volume of Duck’s cartoons and a volume of another MAD cartoonist friend, Jack Davis, who died this past August. Maybe an odd catharsis, but very satisfying to revisit the work of two legends in cartooning.

I first had this book more than 40 years ago. As i actually stopped and read it cover to cover, i wonder if I ever actually did that. I have now. I know I’ve flipped through it and read parts of this and the first part of the series. Now i have multiple copies of the book and carry one with me wherever i go. This book and the work of cartoonist Jack Davis really propelled me into cartooning. I should also credit the hilarious writing of Dick deBartolo. The combo inspired me in so much of my early work and whenever i could get away with sequential storytelling like is in this book and MAD magazine.

It is not sentimentality that has me praise this book. It’s the outstanding illustrations and brilliant storytelling and dialogue of deBartolo. de Bartolo perfectly parodies and wide range of films in a hand full of pages. Each short story reflects a number of films in the genre reflected. Lots of details only a movie lover, like me, would pick up.

Younger people might get lost in this for the reason that they don’t know the films and over sensitive types might be offended by what they perceive as being not P.C. Sad so many of the young have censored themselves with a narrow minded approach to life. Their backward viewpoint is why this book is likely never to see reprint. Such is the controls of censorship.

Bottom line: i recommend this book. 10 out of 10 points.

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Book: #99 for 2016: Don Edwing’s MAD Bizarre Bazaar #1 by Duck Edwing – December 29th, 2016

by on Dec.29, 2016, under Books

Don Edwing's MAD Bizarre Bazaar #1Don Edwing’s MAD Bizarre Bazaar #1 by Don Edwing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My goal was to reach 100 books in 2016. Due to the death of my father, my own illness more than twice this past year and trying to produce 4 books, i fell waaaaay behind. As days remained in the year a friend joked i should read a MAD magazine Don Martin collection of cartoons to speed up to 100. I scoffed at first. Then I learned of the death of my friend, MAD magazine’s Duck Edwing on December 27th. Suddenly i realized I could rap up the year with a volume of Duck’s cartoons and a volume of another MAD cartoonist friend, Jack Davis, who died this past August. Maybe an odd catharsis, but very satisfying to revisit the work of two legends in cartooning.

I’ve had this one for many years, but have never sat down and actually read it. The cartoons written and drawn by Duck are mostly hilarious. The ‘Red Menace’ is my favorite. His cartooning is crude in style and he once told me how frustrating he was working around the monumental legends of Mort Drucker and Jack Davis.

A lot of this collection of cartoons, published in 1980, would not be considered PC. Ridiculously sensitive types might have a problem with some of the cartoons. That should tell those people to read more Duck cartoons to lead to recovery. 😀

Bottom line: i recommend this book. 8 out of 10 points.

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