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March 26th, 2015 – ‘Eight Hours to Die’ by William W. Johnstone

by on Mar.26, 2015, under Books

Eight Hours to Die (Sixkiller: U.S. Marshal, #3)Eight Hours to Die by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is amazing how the Johnstone Clan of writers can draw a reader into a tale. They did it again here with this offering from the Johnstone Herd of books.

The tale is a fun ride of a town in trouble and Sixkiller rides in to try and save the day. After reading so many Johnstone books in the past two years, the tales do start to sound familiar when a weaker writer gets hold of it. That is the case here. As much fun as the story is and the pages turn faster and faster as excitement builds, this Johnstone tale is lacking.

As the book proceeds the story resolves itself a bit too easily. There’s little in the way of twists and turns to help the story have more meat to it’s bone. There is a significant twist in the story that comes at a very odd part of the book.

The characters make it all worthwhile. Most are well done. Though, many are given little background and some are never given names.

The two biggest clunkers of the product is a goofy cover and an unrelated book title.

Still the book is worth reading for the fun of it all.

Bottom line: i recommend the book. 5 of 10 points.

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March 12th, 2015 – Book: ‘On Target’ by Mark Greaney

by on Mar.12, 2015, under Books

On Target (Court Gentry, #2)On Target by Mark Greaney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘On Target’ is a terrific adventure. So many books have a formalized plot. I charged into this book thinking I would travel a somewhat similar trail. Author Greaney takes his hero and hurls him into one mess after the other. Soon the original mission of the hero transforms into various levels of excitement and viewpoints and the ending becomes mysterious at each page turn.

The writing is very good. The characters are very well described and explained.

When the girl character appeared, I figured she was dropped in as love interest. She’s more than that. Though, she could have just as well be a boy. In that sense the woman character felt forced.

The other issue is my typical cry of a contemporary novel that could have had 50 less pages or so. It helps that Greaney has a compelling story to better carry the reader through extraneous text.

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

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March 10th, 2015 – Book: ‘Heywood Broun’ by Dale Kramer

by on Mar.10, 2015, under Books

Heywood Broun - a biographical portraitHeywood Broun – a biographical portrait by Dale Kramer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heywood Broun has become a long forgotten whipsaw sharp humorist. Even the more notable Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, of the same Smart Set, are getting long lost nearly 100 years after blazing literary trails of wit.

I can’t even remember where I picked up this copy of Dale Kramer’s ‘Heywood Broun’, but I have never seen it again. I had to enter the book, here, into the Goodread’s shelves. That’s a true pity, for this book of Broun’s life is very well written and researched. The writing is better than most biographies. There’s a closeness felt in the writing to Broun that seems to be closer than Broun, himself, would have allowed.

There are the troubles: Lack of years noted, which, as usual, gets confusing while reading. There are asides of supposed dialogue at different points, that are very good, but for someone as guarded as Broun, have to wonder about the accuracy. The dialogue does fit well and well illustrates the narrative.

There seems to also be the noticeable edits throughout the book as names come out of no where with no explanation. The names are not recognizable, even with my knowledge of the circle Broun ran around with.

Bottom line: I recommend this book….IF you can find it.

An aside: The book is inscribed Christmastime 1949 by Maggie Bartel, long time reporter for the New York Daily News. She retired to Key West and became, and apparently is still, instrumental in recording Key West history. Something dear to my heart.

Bartel had inscribed the book to, what appears to be, “Bob Ring”, who I could find nothing about. Was hoping this might help me figure out where I had picked up the book. Possibly Bartel never gave the book to Ring and I found it during one of my trips to the Keys. The book does appear otherwise not to have been read, though the dust jacket is in terrible shape.



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February 25th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Broken Gun’by Louis L’Amour

by on Feb.25, 2015, under Books

The Broken GunThe Broken Gun by Louis L’Amour

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I see a well illustrated old west themed cover to a Louis L’Amour book, the title ‘The Broken Gun’ and I plunge into a novel that instantly confuses me. It takes a few pages to realize when in time this novel falls. There is no mention of it. There is a mention of 90 years before…but, before what?

By the third page the Korean War is mentioned.

Involving stroytelling, time should be established in some way off the top if a story about different time periods is being unraveled. Instead L’Amour leaves the reader at drift trying to figure out what’s going on.

Making the early part of the book worse is L’Amour’s poor approach to literally illustrating an urban setting.

Once the novel goes out to ranch lands of sand and rock, L’Amour hits his stride in describing the setting. But, time gets away from him again. L’Amour clearly had trouble with writing about his present.

A number of things bother me about the writing of this book. One involved an over long chase near the end. Another was one sentence involving a character that vanishes. Though clearly not the intent, the line is more surreal than consistent with the rhythm of the story.

The story is shakey, at best, and the conclusion over obvious.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this book. 4 out of ten.

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February 23rd, 2015 – Book: ‘The Family Jensen’ by William Johnstone.

by on Feb.23, 2015, under Books

The Family Jensen (The Family Jensen, #1)The Family Jensen by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first book of a series by the Johnstone Clan, that I’ve read, are usually excellent. This one missed that mark. There certainly are some great stories inside and even a good overall story. It’s just that in an effort to weave four stories together as a whole doesn’t work. The three individual stories of the three main characters read as stories meant for another purpose. So that the main underlining story also seems like a separate novel. Seems to me the Johnstone Clan could’ve just fleshed out all four stories into separate books that might not run the typical 300 pages. Maybe that was the initial idea.

The writing is OK. Though it does seem as if, at least, one of the three separate stories was written be an also separate author.

The characters are as good as always. Especially good work done for the indian characters. The bad guys were lacking in this case.

I’m going to recommend the book due almost entirely with the last fourth of the book. I do recommend reading the book as separate novels. Might be best to skip the prologue, I think it makes more sense that way.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 5 out of 10 points.

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February 20th, 2015 – Book: ‘Poirot Loses a Client’ by Agatha Christie

by on Feb.19, 2015, under Books

Poirot Loses a ClientPoirot Loses a Client by Agatha Christie

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

‘Poirot Loses a Client’ lost me a bit in viewing Christie as a great author. The formula is mostly the same. Someone is dead. Group of people are suspects. Everyone is overly talkative about what they think is going on. Suspects gathered. Resolution. After reading Edmund Crispin, I wish Christie thought of fleshing out a plot, characters, setting and writing.

This story has Poirot, and pal, enter the story with little explanation as to who they are and why they would be involved in the plot. For those of us that know the characters, we could say we don’t need the background. I feel a book needs to anticipate new readers and not make assumptions.

Moreover, the story feels like it has been pushed through a template, as referred to above.

Getting to the conclusion is a plodding roaming of Poirot finding one talkative character after another. Not all suspects would spill so much. One way Christie could have made the story more interesting story would be having the characters stonewalling Poirot.

The resolution was a bit frustrating after getting through the rest of the book.

There is good character development, with the exception of proper introduction of the two main characters.

Bottom line: I do not recommend this book. 4 of ten points.

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February 10th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Long Divorce’ by Edmund Crispin

by on Feb.10, 2015, under Books

The Long Divorce (Gervase Fen, #8)The Long Divorce by Edmund Crispin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As much as I really liked ‘The Moving Toyshop’ for the playful way with the story and characters, ‘The Long Divorce’ has far less engaging characters and story. I can still clearly recall many parts of ‘the Moving Toyshop’ and can hardly recall much of ‘The Long Divorce’.

The writing is fine for a mystery. The setting is well defined, especially the rural areas. The characters are also illustrated well but with less spark than in ‘The Moving Toyshop.

There is a significant and needless plot device used, it seems, because there is little engaging in this book. I’d say, that is what hurts this book. The writer was so busy setting up to reveal the plot device that certain characters and situations got washed out.

Bottom Line: I recommend this book. Checking 5 of 10 points.

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February 6trh, 2015 – Book: ‘The Moving Toyshop’ by Edmund Crispin

by on Feb.06, 2015, under Books

The Moving Toyshop (Gervase Fen, #3)The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a rollicking good literary time as author Crispin takes you along for a weird mixture of mystery and hijinks. There is a mystery in it all but it’s more than forced. The fun is reading Crispin’s writing of the characters and settings. Both extremely well done.

The embedded story is a bit complex and certainly strains credibility. Considering this book is from the mid-1940s and set in tiny Oxford, England, the tale would be far easier to pull off today.

Included are chase scenes written like few others. The best part of those are further descriptions of the locales.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 7 of 10.

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February 2nd, 2015 – Book- “The Last Mountain Man: Savage Territory’ by W.W. Johnstone

by on Feb.02, 2015, under Books

Savage Territory (Matt Jensen: The Last Mountain Man, #4)Savage Territory by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m reading these in order and this is the fourth in the series. After a bumpy third book, this one gets more on track of the first two with similar quality and story telling. This is not as good as the first two, but still, involving story telling better than most all of the rest of the Johnstone Clan written books.

Seems this is the same writer as the other three books, for, again, there is an interest in trains, a Perry Mason-type trial and attention to detail missing in most Johnstone books. The writing is very good. The characters well written, as usual.

This is the first of the four where the outcome is pretty obvious from the start. The writer keeps the reader guessing as to just how the obvious ending could possibly occur with so many characters going in so many different directions. It all works well.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 8 of 10.

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January 31st, 2015 – Book: ‘Last Mountain Man: Purgatory’ by W.W. Johnstone

by on Jan.31, 2015, under Books

Purgatory (Matt Jensen: The Last Mountain Man, #3)Purgatory by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As I read the Johnstone Clan’s The Last Mountain Man series from the start to this third in the series it becomes very apparent that the crafter of the tales is a far better storyteller than those handling the other parts of the series I’ve read so far. These three are all complex with interwoven threads that bind to make a solid story.

However, this one is not as well written as the first two. Specifically the first few chapters that are a mish-mosh of trying to retell the two previous books and start telling this one. One reason for this may be that this book came out the same year as the last and the one previous to it came out only months earlier. Chug-a-lugging these books seems to have strained production values.

The bulk of the book is still good, lacking the depth of the first two. The characters are especially well explained. Excellent work is done with a secondary character that is law enforcement that, over the course of the book, realizes what is really going on.

Despite the poorly written first chapters –
Bottom line: I recommend this book 7 of 10

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January 22nd, 2015 – Inking a Stack of Work!

by on Jan.22, 2015, under Cartooning

2015-0122-Inking

I spent a few hours this evening inking a stack of pages involving a number of projects. I’m back in a local coffee shop. Second time this week with major accomplishments as a result. Been reading books of favorite writers, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley & others of the Round Table and their need for a place to hole away and get work done. Realized I need to do the same again.

It’s been exactly a year since I stopped going to my old coffee shop haunt due to political reasons. Since then have bounced around at chain spots and other places. Seems I have found a new spot- or as pals Craig Zablo & John Beatty call my “office” – to hunker down and really get work done

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