Sunday, December 27, 2009

#52: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In a dystopian future U.S., a totalitarian central government forces the formerly rebellious outer districts to offer teenage "tributes' in a nationally televised fight to the death in Suzanne Collins' young adult sci fi outing The Hunger Games.

Collins throws in a little of everything from Lord of the Flies to The Long Walk to The Giver, and astute readers will probably find more stories that one could draw parallels from. But The Hunger Games tools along under its own steam, and has interesting characters and situations. I was a bit surprised, however, that despite its young adult label there is a very high body count, and there are plenty of stabbings, shootings, maulings, and general mayhem that skip through its pages.

This novel is reported to be the first of a trilogy, and I am interested in finding the next one to know what happens next (especially as this ends on almost a cliffhanger). I bought this for my beloved Kindle with some Christmas money and read it over two snowy days.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

#51: 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly

L.A. police detective Harry Bosch investigates a convenience store robbery that seems to have triad connections in Michael Connelly's latest thriller 9 Dragons.

I have been a longtime Connelly fan and find his Harry Bosch series one of the best contemporary mystery series (along with Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins stories). After a bit of a lull, his last several novels have come back strong.

This one is a real change of pace, as Bosch's ex-wife and daughter, now living in Hong Kong, get caught up in the action when the daughter goes missing. Bosch immediately takes off for Hong Kong and ends up on a nightmarish journey as the clock ticks and the bodies pile up.

9 Dragons is especially high octane, and I have always enjoyed Connelly's clipped journalistic prose. A good jumping on point for thriller readers but more rewarding for longtime fans.

I checked this out from the Farmland Public Library in Farmland, Indiana.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

#50: The Long Fall by Walter Mosley

Extremely tarnished P.I. Leonid McGill tries to go straight (or at least less crooked) when he gets wrapped up in multiple revenge plots in Walter Mosley's The Long Fall.

Mosley is one of my favorite contemporary mystery authors, and I have found his Easy Rawlins novels consistently good. In that series, Mosley traces the adventures of an L.A.-based quasi-detective from the end of World War II through the Red Scare and to the Watts riots and beyond. The political and social milieu of the Rawlins series adds much to the storytelling.

Here McGill is a contemporary detective, on the other side of the country in New York. And where the Rawlins series is shot through with hints of Chester Himes and Ross Macdonald McGill is much more Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Mosley's writing is equally admirable here and I thought this was a great start for what I hope is a new series.

I am glad I reached 50 books this year with one of my favorite writers.

I listened to a very good audiobook version of this on loan from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Friday, December 11, 2009

#49: The Kar-Chee Reign by Avram Davidson

In the far-flung future, Earth's citizens have left its depleted shores for space, and those staying behind have, over the centuries, devolved back to a Bronze Age state. Then, suddenly, an alien invasion arrives to pick the planet's bones in Avram Davidson's genre-bending The Kar-Chee Reign.

I have credited Davidson for my sudden interest in what I used to call "hippie-fi" after years of reading about lantern-jawed space heroes via Heinlein, Asimov, and those type of writers. From Davidson I decided I would take on Philip K. Dick, John Brunner, Samuel R. Delany, and others, and I haven't looked back.

The book that set me on that fateful journey was Rogue Dragon, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out this book was the prequel. In it, a group of makeshift heroes, proficient with bow and club and rousing speeches, outsmart the alien science of the insectoid invaders.

Avram Davidson is a solid storyteller, and used some interesting socio-political underpinnings to prop up his story.

I got this book from, an Ace Double which has Ursula LeGuin's very fine, similiarly-themed Rocannon's World (which I recently finished) on the flip. It may be the best combined Ace Double I've read.

Monday, December 7, 2009

#48: Citizen Vince by Jess Walter

On the eve of the 1980 presidential election, a semi-reformed criminal in the Witness Protection Program makes one last attempt to bury his past in Jess Walter's darkly comic crime novel Citizen Vince.

With its engaging characters, spot-on dialogue, and sense of time and place (early 80s Spokane) Walter brings to mind some of the best work of Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, and Ed McBain. Really fine writing--especially in creating a parallel story between our protagonist's troubles and the Reagan/Carter race--gives Citizen Vince a more literary bent.

I plucked this novel out of a 25-cent library book sale with no preconceived notions and found it to be highly enjoyable and engaging read. A cut above for mystery fans.

Friday, November 27, 2009

#47: Four Kinds of Rain by Robert Ward

A broke but noble activist and therapist decides he's sick of both titles when he sees a chance to steal a priceless work of art from an unstable patient in Robert Ward's riveting modern noir Four Kinds of Rain.

I haven't found a lot of noir that I liked since the great Gold Medal era of pulp writing, but Ward's novel belongs on the list of contemporary classics. It compares favorably to another modern favorite of mine, Scott Smith's A Simple Plan, which features literary writing with genre trappings. And Jim Thompson himself couldn't frown upon the unreliable narrator depicted here, whose vast narcissism and cold rationalization of his actions cause the events to unravel in the bloody final chapters.

I found this one on the $1 goodbye shelf at the local Books a Million while out Christmas shopping and devoured it in a couple of settings. Recommended for thriller fans.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#46: Rocannon's World by Ursula LeGuin

Rocannon is a scientist for the League of Worlds, learning about civilizations on uncharted planets; but when a space rebellion leaves him stranded on a Bronze Age-style planet, Rocannon takes up a sword and flying steed and goes after his starborn enemies.

Admirable pulp, and the rookie novel from the great Ursula LeGuin. However, unlike some of the debut works of other sci-fi authors, which often has to come with allowances made for early writings, LeGuin's novel comes out fully-formed and engaging.

I was pleasantly surprised by this short novel, and that it takes place in the same "universe" as some of LeGuin's most well-known science fiction, including The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. Interestingly, this is also the first appearance of LeGuin's creation the Ansible, a device for talking between words that others (including Orson Scott Card and his Ender series) have picked up on and used for their own over the years.

A good read for both sci-fi and fantasy fans. I nabbed this off of, an Ace Double with Avram Davidson's The Kar-Chee Reign on the flip side.

Monday, November 23, 2009

#45: Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

Oslo's crumpled cop Harry Hole is back in Jo Nesbo's Nemesis, in which our troubled hero tries to get out of the frame for an ex-girlfriend's murder while tracking a murderous serial bank robber.

Nesbo's first Scandinavian thriller translated into English, The Redbreast, was one of my favorite books of 2008, so I was pleased to find this one at the Morrison-Reeves Public Library. The Redbreast dealt with the emotional and political repercussions of Norway's Nazi involvement in World War II. This new one picks up a lot of themes and characters from his previous novel but, lacking the historical context, doesn't have quite the dramatic resonance of the prior outing.

That being said, Nemesis is a crackling good thriller with a great protagonist that reminds me favorably of Michael Connelly's notable series detective Harry Bosch. I like moody Scandinavian thrillers as a change of pace from American writers, but find that Nesbo has more the stylings of his U.S. counterparts with breakneck storytelling, linear action, and sardonic humor.

Recommended, with the caveat that you should read The Redbreast first. I am looking forward to Harry Hole's next adventure.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

#44: River Girl by Charles Williams

A crooked deputy gets one look at a mysterious woman living in the swamp with her husband and is ready to do anything to be with her in Charles Williams' blistering noir River Girl.

It seems to me that Williams is not as well known as some of the other pulp writers of the era, but I have come across his work from time to time and have always found that he delivers the goods. Even though the reader can pretty well guess what's going to happen when our tarnished protagonist gets hooked by the "River Girl," watching the doom unfold is a wild ride and a great read. There is a great sense of time and place (a broiling small Southern town in the 50s) and an interesting (unreliable) narrator. A strong entry and one I would recommend for noir fans.

I surprisingly snagged this one for just .99 for my beloved Kindle.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

#43: Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard

A paroled bank robber readily slips into his old life with a fake psychic and her crime lord boyfriend even as the police have him in their sights in Elmore Leonard's easygoing crime novel Road Dogs.

I have been a longtime fan of Leonard, but in the latter part of his career he has been a bit hit and miss. This is a good novel for longtime fans, though, as it features a handful of characters from previous novels (including the George Clooney character from Out of Sight). However, for three quarters of the novel they stand around and assess each other's coolness and tell stories; only during the last bit of the novel does the story come to life with double and triple crosses and bursts of violence.

Overall an enjoyable tale, though again not at the top of Leonard's admirable bibliography. I listened to this on a good audio book version on loan from Morrison-Reeves Public Library.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

#42: The Apostle by Brad Thor

The U.S. president is blackmailed into approving a covert op in Afghanistan to rescue the daughter of a major donor; meanwhile, a secret service agent who overhears the blackmail works to find out the truth in Brad Thor's military thriller The Apostle.

I had never heard of Brad Thor or his series of books when I picked this audio book up on a whim from the shelf at the Morrison-Reeves Public Library. I was quickly hooked on the fast-paced story with realistic overtones. As the plot rocketed along I found Thor leaned more and more to the right, to the point of making Tom Clancy read like Al Franken. The president, a demonized version of the worst of Clinton and Obama, who rides to the presidency on a wave of support from "the mainstream media," was my first clue.

But I enjoyed the storytelling overall and understood, via Google, that Thor did quite a bit of legwork and research on Afghanistan before writing this outing, and it shows. Politics aside, there is enough rough bromance and gun fetishism to slake the bloodthirst of any military thriller fan. I will look for more of Brad Thor's work.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

#41: The Jewels of Aptor by Samuel R. Delany

In a post-apocalyptic world, a ragtag band of adventurers journeys to a mysterious island to secure a treasure and head off a potential enemy invasion in Samuel R. Delany's The Jewels of Aptor.

This is Delany's first published work, and bears a lot of the same motifs he explores, with more polish, in later classics like Nova and Babel-17; artists and misfits as protagonists, critical plot points featuring music and literature, psychedelic overtones. We also see the early emergence of some of his more curious obsessions, such as people wearing one shoe, rope belts, and sporting chewed fingernails.

But The Jewels of Aptor stands on its own merits, a brisk mix of high fantasy and sci-fi with some lyrical passages. A worthwhile read for fans of Delany (and I am one).

I nabbed this from, one half of an Ace Double with James White's Second Ending on the reverse.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

#40: Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

Rant Casey is a mysterious hillbilly who turns out to be Patient Zero in a virulent rabies outbreak and a leading figure in a night-time car-crash ritual; when he dies in a flaming wreck, an oral history of his brief, strange life makes up the core of Chuck Palahniuk's Rant.

Initially I was a bit afraid to take on Chuck Palahniuk's dark vision but found, with Diary and Snuff (part of last year's 50 books), that he is quite a good writer, though decidedly not for all tastes. The contents of a "sex tornado," and a time travel device that is mostly used to rape, murder, and commit incest, could conceivably bring the casual reader up short.

But Palahniuk is, as usual, full of good ideas, and is a smart, literate writer; sort of a Kurt Vonnegut with the sensibilities of Howard Stern. Rant takes on more a science fiction bent than some of his other novels, though I was quite a ways into it before I realized its near-future setting, sort of a rural cyberpunk.

I bought this with a Books A Million card my daughter gave me and enjoyed it throughout, and am now trying to decide which unsuspecting friend to give it to, to turn on to Palahniuk's work.

For discerning readers up for a challenge, Chuck Palahniuk's work is quite rewarding. Recommended, with reservations.

Monday, September 28, 2009

#39: The Laughter Trap by Judson Philips

Hard-nosed journalist Peter Styles is snowed in at a ski lodge along with a cold-blooded killer and plenty of suspects in Judson Philips' The Laughter Trap, the first in the Styles series from prolific writer Philips.

Philips offers an agreeable enough thriller, plotted a bit like an Agatha Christie whodunit with a few hard edges in a Ross Macdonald vein. One curious element is that the novel is narrated by another character observing Styles' investigation, and had I not known that Styles returns in a series of other novels I would have suspected--with his obsessive tendencies and violent outbursts--that he was the killer himself. The novel is also a bit different in that although it was written in the swingin' 60s, unlike some authors of that time period Styles definitely puts himself in the Silent Majority and looks askance at some of the beatniks and hippies around him.

I ended up with two Peter Styles novels in a big chunk of pulp I landed from ebay, and though I am not driven to read the other one I am sure will turn to it one day.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

#38: Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec

An Eastern European mercenary helps a young schizophrenic woman impregnated with two mysterious babies travel from Russia to Canada, along the way brushing up against the Siberian mafia, Native American hackers, Canadian biker gangs, a self-aware Artificial Intelligence, a doomsday religious cult, and more strange characters.

Maurice Dantec's baroque cyberpunk novel Babylon Babies is a dense, maddening chunk of
sci-fi, but not without its merits for patient readers. Dantec is brimming with fresh ideas, delivered in a sardonic tone, but is prone to lengthy digressions and side treks. I would recommend this to anyone who had read a lot of the sci-fi canon and would like a challenge.

The movie Babylon A.D. is a Vin Diesel action flick theoretically based on the book, though the movie has the slenderest whisper of a connection to this sprawling, chewy work.

I listened to a very good audio book version of this on loan from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#37: To Kiss, Or Kill by Day Keene

A punch-drunk boxer from the mean streets of Chicago is fresh out of the asylum when he finds a dead blonde in his hotel in Day Keene's crackling noir To Kiss, or Kill. Soon steely cops, mouthy reporters, and bad women are all on his trail.

Dark humor and a relentless pace make this outing memorable. Keene also surprises with an upbeat ending, a rare sight to see in noir writing.

Day Keene is a current fave hardboiled writer that I only recently discovered (with Home is the Sailor being the launching point) and I am currently on the prowl for more of his work.

I snagged this one for 99 cents on my beloved Kindle.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

#36: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

A handful of murders have an antisocial hacker in common, leading her to try her clear her name even as the noose tightens in Stieg Larsson's second Swedish thriller, The Girl Who Played With Fire, published posthumously.
His first novel, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, was one of my favorite reads of this year, and the follow-up is not far behind. Those who enjoyed the first one will find a richer experience with the backstories of the characters in the second, but it can also more or less stand alone.
I chew through a lot of mysteries and thrillers, as loyal readers here have observed, and enjoy changing it up with Scandinavian mystery authors now and then, an increasingly popular genre in the U.S. Their storytelling has a tendency to be less linear and more ruminative, with shifting points of view. This novel is big and chunky at more than 500 pages, but reads at a good clip and is translated in a straightforward style.
I had the great fortune to be sent a copy of this novel to give away during Knopf's "Tattoo You" contest, but naturally read it before declaring the winner.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Slight Digression for Stieg Larsson

I am soon to be wrapping up my The Girl Who Played With Fire contest, over at my other blog, but there is still time to enter. Astoundingly, Knopf asked me to be one of 250 bloggers across this great nation to give away a copy of Stieg Larsson's latest thriller. However, they didn't mention that I couldn't read it first, so the contest ends when I get done. And I read quite a bit last night. And, by the way, it's good. More soon to be written about it here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

#35: Stop This Man by Peter Rabe

An ex-con tries to get back into the crime business by stealing a chunk of gold from a science lab, only to find out it was nuked as part of an experiment. Trailing radioactive death behind him, our protagonist finds himself hunted by the FBI, the cops, and criminals alike in Peter Rabe's rocketing noir Stop This Man.

This is another fine noir in the Hard Case Crime line, a collection of lost pulps repackaged with retro covers. Although fast-paced, I found this one to be uncommonly bleak, even by the high standards of Hard Case Crime. There is nobody to root for and plenty of downbeat moments.

Still, one of my favorites of the series (and I haven't missed many) and from one of my favorite lost noir writers. I had found A House in Naples quite by accident as a teen and always tried to grab anything else by Peter Rabe in the infrequent instances where I came across his work. A truly excellent writer who deserved more attention. Recommended.

I rarely buy Hard Case Crime novels as soon as they hit the stands, but this one I bought from Amazon as soon as I knew it was coming out and read it at a quick pace.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

#34: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

After writing several quasi-autobiographies (such as Postcards from the Edge), Carrie Fisher writes her first true tell-all, an amiable, scattershot series of anectdotes about her colorful life.

Fisher gathered a lot of material from her stage show, performed as a way of recalling memories lost through shock therapy and a lifetime of excess; thus, the audio book version is probably the best way to consume this slight volume. Wishful Drinking was an amiable listen (read by the author), but I suspect there isn't enough drilling down on a variety of interesting subjects (among them Star Wars and her movie-star parents) to make a completely satisfying read. Still, I enjoyed it and wished Fisher had provided even more.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Public Library and consumed it rather quickly.

Monday, August 3, 2009

#33: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Suburban horror features a man who may be the last human on earth and his day-to-day struggles against his friendly-neighbors-turned-vampires in Richard Matheson's milestone horror novel I Am Legend, made into at least three movies and paid homage to countless times.

This is actually the first book I have re-read since I started trying to read fifty books a year last year. My wife and daughter were interested in it, so we listened to a good audio book version on the way up and back from Traverse City, Michigan. I had read it probably around middle school (when I discovered the Charlton Heston movie version) and was eager to see how it held up.

I enjoyed it again, though it is a bit dated, and you have to look past all of the parts that have been cribbed since and try to look at it with fresh eyes. But if you've seen any of the movies, especially the Will Smith one, there are more layers to the novel politically and philosophically that make it worth a look.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

#32: Half-Injun, Half-Wildcat by John Callahan

The illegitimate son of a ranch baron is shut out of the will when his father dies, but decides to help his hard-headed half-brother save the spread during a range war anyway.

Despite the lurid pulp title, Half-Injun, Half-Wildcat is a pretty good Western (half of an Ace Double) with a lot more nuances than you might think for the time period and the Ace line.

This western came from the prolific pulp pen of Paul Chadwick, who wrote mysteries, sci-fi, and westerns under various names including Chester Hawks and the house name for Secret Agent X. It was a sturdy, quick read that I finished on a single day while on vacation in Traverse City, Michigan.

I was happy to find this Ace Double (backed with Outcast of Ute Bend by Clement Hardin) at a small used bookstore in Traverse City.

#31: Curtains for a Lover by Robert Dietrich

Another pulp adventure from the swingin' sixties, with plenty of hungry women and barking pistols for hero Steve Bentley; though, curiously, it turns out our protagonist is not a private eye or an undercover spy, but a Washington accountant.

Curtains for a Lover is a further curiosity as one of the many paperback outings written under a pseudonym by Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt. When I was younger, I read and enjoyed several of his David St. John spy novels without having a clue who he was, only later learning about his strange role in U.S. history.

I did not know this was one of his other writing non-de-plumes when I picked it up in a little used bookstore in Traverse City Michigan on vacation, but some late-night googling brought me back in touch with an old favorite.

Our numbers-cruncher actually appeared in several of "Robert Dietrich's" novels, although the bankbook-balancing generally takes a back seat to boozing and bed-hopping. Here the whole story is set off by a high-maintenance stage actress who thinks someone is forging big checks with her signature. In quick order the bodies are stacking up and the suspect list gets longer.

I found this to be a highly enjoyable read with some good prose passages. I knocked this one out in about a day while on vacation and would be happy if I stumbled across more of Bentley's adventures.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

#30: The Murderer Vine by Shepard Rifkin

Slightly shady private eye is convinced to avenge the murder of several civil-rights workers in the deep South in Shepard Rifkin's sobering noir The Murderer Vine.

A long shadow is cast over the first few pages, leading relentlessly to a stark closing chapter that turns detective fiction on its cauliflower ear. Rifkin's private eye, fresh from the big city with his secretary in tow, finds the rural South and its supposed bumpkins a little harder to fathom than he thought. A lot of interesting political and social thought lifts the storytelling.

Rifkin has offered a fine, downbeat work, originally written in the 1970s and reprinted for the excellent Hard Case Crime line, a mix of pulp paperbacks featuring lost noirs and contemporary crime. This would probably be one of my favorites in the entire series, and I haven't missed many.

I read this one on my lovely Kindle and was one of the first three books I bought for this device. Recommended.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

#29: Two-Way Split by Allan Guthrie

A mentally unbalanced trio of thieves inadvertently cross paths with an ex-con trying to go straight(ish) and a crooked(ish) private eye in Allan Guthrie's crisp caper novel Two-Way Split.

Guthrie name-checks old-school noir but adds his own touches of blunt humor and quirky characters. The Edinburgh setting adds interest and is also the location of another crackling crime drama from Guthrie that I read last year, Kiss Her Goodbye, which features some of the same characters.

I would easily point any Guy Ritchie movie fans towards Guthrie, or any reader who likes tough noir in a different setting. There is no doubt there is a lot of good mystery writing coming out of Europe today, at times eclipsing our homegrown scribes.

Two-Way Split has the distinction of being the first novel I read on my beloved new Kindle, and I purchased the download at the humble price of around a dollar. I consumed it over a day or so on the beach in Traverse City, Michigan, the perfect spot for reading a good pulpy outing.

I am on the prowl for more of Guthrie's fine, reverent noir writing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#28: The Ballad of Beta-2 by Samuel R. Delany

Trippy sci-fi has student tasked with tracing a poem that originated during a star-journey in which spaceship society devolved over a generations-long flight. The student makes a space-jaunt to the fleet of supposedly junked ships and finds that they aren't quite as abandoned as he thought.

I became a big fan of Samuel R. Delany last year and keep an eye out for his work. This one was the first one I nabbed from the book-swapping site (an improvement over BookCrossing, I think, which I used to call "Book Throwing Away Club"). I swallowed this in a single gulp on a long afternoon on the beach in Traverse City, Michigan.

The Ballad of Beta-2 is an early work and, although interesting, not as fully ripened with the wild imagination of some of his later novels such as Nova and Babel-17. In fact, its brief page count means big chunks of exposition are dealt with rather briskly.

However, a lot of Delany's trademarks are here, and there are bouts of neat ideas, making it worth reading for Delany completists like myself.

Friday, July 24, 2009

#27: Go Green, Live Rich by David Bach

Interesting collection of insights about how to green your life and perhaps save/make some money at the same time. Go Green, Live Rich is a rather slender, breezy volume written with the cheery agressiveness of a lot of business books of this type.

This seems like a curious selection based on previous blog entries, and it is. I had to select a "green" book to complete the summer reading program at the Morrison-Reeves Library. I picked this one because of having some interest in green living and green applications at work and home. This very quick read had some decent takeaways; however, I wasn't convinced that if I took all my savings from going green and invested it I would become rich.

Go Green, Live Rich will provide some food for thought as a primer for green thinking, especially if the reader hasn't been exposed to the concepts before.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond Indiana and read it in a short span of lunch breaks.

Monday, July 20, 2009

#26: The Paper Pistol Contract by Philip Atlee

Nullifier Joe Gall is given the tricky assignment of spoiling a French nuclear test and pinning it on the Chinese in The Paper Pistol Contract by Philip Atlee.

Naturally, this being written in the swinging 60s, Joe leaves a little time for the ladies and to kill a Godless Communist or two. But in the end I was a bit surprised how philosophical Gall is and more surprised at a somewhat downbeat ending; in fact Gall's "contract" more or less ends in ruins, with the bodies of friends and foes alike around him.

Atlee also displays a fine, full sense of place and character that makes his writing a cut above the usual pulp fare of that era. I was genuinely pleased with the last Joe Gall adventure I read (scroll down) and will keep looking for more of Atlee's work (even as, it seems, more and more of the Gold Medal paperbacks of my youth are in landfills, or somewhere).

I bought this one in a big heaping helping of Atlee and Edward S. Aarons paperbacks from ebay and looking forward to more.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

#25: Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett

A Thai cop with his own curious code of ethics (on display in Burdett's last novel with this character, Bangkok 8) intervenes when a prostitute--who works in his mother's brothel--kills an American spy. Soon our somewhat tarnished protagonist stages a coverup that draws the attention of the U.S. government, potential terrorists, and corrupt cops and soldiers.

John Burdett's writing features steel-hearted storytelling spiked with dark humor and shocking bursts of sex and violence. Plenty of Bangkok red-light adventures makes this one cautious treading for the unwary reader, but I really liked our protagonist's circuitous philosophical musings. I will be looking for the third in this series, I believe freshly released.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it rather quickly.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

#24: Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Billy Beane continues to spin straw into gold with the Oakland A's, a traditionally underfunded baseball team with ongoing successes. How he does so is at the center of Michael Lewis' Moneyball, an entertaining piece of reporting heavy with arcane baseball logic but leavened with interesting human interest stories.

Whether you are a hardcore baseball person or a more fair-weather dabbler like myself, Moneyball is engaging storytelling. A reader can tell that Lewis enjoyed the subject and he writes in a bright, clear style. It is interesting to see what has happened to some of the characters--I mean, actual baseball players--since the writing of the book and how the A's have fared overall.

I picked this up for a quarter at a library book sale and passed it on to another baseball fan when I was finished.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

#23: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs, a private investigator and amateur psychologist in 1930s London, takes on the case of a missing heiress that eventually leads back to multiple murders driven by a shameful act during World War I.

This is the second of the series featuring Maisie Dobbs, and like the first has a mildly engaging mystery. But Dobbs has a great backstory; she was a poor girl who came up "in service" as a maid to a quirky mistress who later sent her to college, then later still serves as a nurse at the front in World War I, becoming wounded and then coming under the toutelage of a Poirot-like investigator and eventually taking over his practice.

Consequently, I picked up the second novel mostly to see what happened to Maisie Dobbs next, and again found the storylines from the past more compelling than the present mystery presented. I think the writing is a little more clear-eyed than what you might find in the typical English "cozy" mystery, and Winspear writes with a nuanced ear for details. This, more than any plotting, would encourage me to get the next in the series.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

#22: The Silken Baroness Contract by Philip Atlee

Secret agent Joe Gall, "The Nullifier," goes deep undercover to sort out various intrigues in the Canary Islands and elsewhere in Philip Atlee's enjoyable spy outing The Silken Baroness Contract.

As I wrote recently, I have a renewed interest (along with a fair chunk of fandom) in finding some pulpy Gold Medal books of the 50s-70s, and getting acquainted (or re-acquainting myself) with this body of work.

I had not read Atlee before and found myself pleasantly surprised. His protagonist, Joe Gall, never found a doll he didn't want to bed or a commie he didn't want to kill, but Atlee has a great sense of detail and place and passages of fine writing, as well as finely-tuned action scenes and bolts of (non-PC) humor. Gall was a more well-rounded character than I thought I would find, once you get past all of the saber-rattling (including one eyebrow-raising scene where Gall, in a steambath, kneads the stump of a Korean War vet who lost his leg).

I thought I would briefly dip into Atlee before resuming another Edward S. Aarons book, but find myself inclined to try Atlee again sooner.

I bought this book in a happily large lot of Gold Medal paperbacks from ebay.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

#21: Brimstone by Robert B. Parker

Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, the two laconic gunmen from Robert B. Parker's Appaloosa and Resolution novels, return for a third round in Brimstone, another tightly-wound Western.

Here our lawmen sort out a town in which a somewhat suspicious religious leader carries on a spiritual campaign against the saloons with some heavily-armed "deacons" while a rogue Indian killer nips at the town's heels. But at the center of the story is Virgil Cole's relationship with a serially unfaithful woman, highlighting that even the fastest gun in the West is still susceptible to the p-whip.

I would rate this trilogy highly in the modern Western canon; certainly not at the level of Larry McMurtry or Cormac McCarthy but within shooting range of Elmore Leonard and probably ready to have a showdown with Loren Estleman. Terse writing, leavened with humor, makes this a fast read.

I checked this out from the Farmland Public Library and chewed through it quickly.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

#20: Assignment Madeleine by Edward S. Aarons

Spy Sam Durrell reluctantly goes to Algeria in the heat of the French conflict there to bring back a triple-crossing American agent who killed his mentor; soon he ends up fighting killers on all sides during a race across the desert in Edward S. Aarons' Assignment Madeleine.

I dipped into Aarons' "Assignment" series with Sam Durrell many, many years ago and remember the few books I read being competent but perhaps a notch below my favorite of that era, Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm novels. However, reading this one with fresh, or perhaps more seasoned, eyes I found this to be very tough, terse writing. Aaron presents the political nuance of John LeCarre as well, which surprised me for a series novel.

Fortunately I bought a big chunk of these (and some Philip Atlee Joe Gall novels in the same ebay lot, an admirable load of Gold Medal paperbacks) and will be able to try some more later and see how others stand the test of time.

Once I had some of these of my own, but I can't find them or have let them slip through my fingers, and in fact a lot of people have done the same as you can't find Gold Medal books in used bookstores like you used to, all crowded out by big thick Tom Clancys and John Grishams.

Edward S. Aarons seems to be having a bit of a revival in pulp fandom, so I thought I would find out for myself. And I was glad I did.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

#19: Missing by Karin Alvtegen

A woman with a privileged upbringing ends up living on the streets, but a shocking murder draws her back into society in Karin Alvtegen's Swedish thriller Missing.

I have enjoyed this recent spate of moody Scandinavian mysteries winding their way here, and would rate this one highly. The story of how our protagonist, Sibylla, becomes homeless is almost more compelling than the central mystery, in which through circumstances (and then intent) she becomes the central suspect in the ritual killing.

But Missing is compelling overall and reads at a good clip (I think I finished it in three or four days). For mystery fans, most of these Scandinavian writers represent a good change of pace. I will look for more from Alvtegen, already well established in her own country. Recommended.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

#18: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

A boy with an alter-ego named "Crow" runs away after being told of an Oedipal curse on his head; meanwhile, an elderly man who can talk to cats begins on a parallel odyssey after a brutal killing. Their paths converge at a strange library not far from a ghost-filled wood. Both a painting and a one-hit wonder song called "Kafka on the Shore" play critical roles.

Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore is incredibly difficult to summarize, as one might derive from the previous paragraph. It is strangely dreamlike, to the point of drowsiness, paragraphs of mundane detail punctuated with surprising bursts of murder, rape, and more. Serial killers and pimps drift past librarians and truck drivers. There are slugs falling from the sky, possible UFOs, and various benign and evil spirits.

Obviously not for all tastes, but certainly unique and with merit for those looking for a change of pace. I borrowed this on audiobook from my pal Michael, who you can see in the sidebar is also trying to read 50 books this year.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

#17: The Repairmen of Cyclops by John Brunner

Galactic cops get on the trail of interplanetary body-snatchers in John Brunner's brisk sci-fi outing The Repairmen of Cyclops.

John Brunner was a popular sci-fi writer of the 60s and 70s who I have never gotten into; and, in fact, I can think of two or three of his novels I have picked up and put down over the years without finishing. This was my first one of his I read all the way through, and I found it to be a serviceable yarn on one half of an Ace Double I snagged for a quarter.

I learned this was the last of a trilogy featuring these characters in various space exploits, though I didn't feel any confusion or loss from missing the others. Enough neat ideas, at a good clip, to make me think about revisiting some other Brunner.

Almost worth owning just for the cool orange 60s cover alone; google it and you'll see waht I mean.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

#16: Little Girl Lost by Richard Aleas

P.I. John Blake finds out a murdered stripper, found on the roof of a seedy NYC strip joint, was his former high school girlfriend last seen heading for medical school ten years' past.  Blake decides to dig into the murder, much to his regret, in Richard Aleas' Hard Case Crime novel Little Girl Lost.

I actually read Aleas' second John Blake novel, Songs of Innocence, first, and found it to be one of my favorite of the contemporary entries in the Hard Case Crime series, mostly reprints of lost noir with attractive retro pulp covers.  As well it should be, as Richard Aleas is actually Charles Ardai, the editor of Hard Case Crime and no slouch himself, as it turns out, in hard-boiled writing.

In fact, his John Blake mysteries are pretty seamy and downbeat, even by the high standards of the Hard Case Crime line.  Overall, the two Aleas books are among the stronger on the contemporary side of the Hard Case Crime house.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana, and was surprised to find it amidst their small paperback collection.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

#15: An Evil Guest by Gene Wolfe

A Broadway stage star is convinced by a wizard detective to spy on a powerful industrialist recently returned from an alien planet, causing romantic and dramatic complications, in Gene Wolfe's genre-bending pulpfest An Evil Guest.

Wolfe's wholly original Book of the New Sun opus (which begins with The Shadow of the Torturer) stands as one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy series, though its density may not be for all tastes.  The same might be said of this stand-alone outing, a tribute of sorts to the pulp era, an oddball mash-up that might have happened if H.P. Lovecraft and Cornell Woolrich decided to put on Ziegfield's Follies.  If you know what I'm talking about, rush out and get this right away.

I'm a big fan of Gene Wolfe and thought this was a solid entry to his, I think, somewhat underrated body of work.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

#14: Meet Me At The Morgue by Ross Macdonald

A parole officer gets drawn into a kidnapping plot when he is convinced one of his parolees is innocent. In trying to find the kidnapped child, our protagonist gets drawn into a dark tangle of broken families and failing marriages in Ross Macdonald's Meet Me At The Morgue.

Like many, I find Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer mysteries one of the touchstone series of contemporary crime fiction. Macdonald's eye for the inner lives of people as well as the external world he lived in (centered around California) is unparalleled. I long ago devoured most of the series.

This is a non-series work, but features a lot of the key themes of Macdonald's writing. A bit more workmanlike than some of his novels, but features several memorable turns of phrase and passages of fine writing.

I bought this for a quarter at a library book sale and read it even as the yellowed pages were falling out of it. Made me hanker to find more Ross Macdonald that I had previously not read.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

#13: Real World by Natsuo Kirino

In the Tokyo suburbs, a troubled teen clubs his mother to death and goes on the run, drawing four curiously disaffected classmates into his web.  The four girls' misguided efforts to alternately help and hinder their classmate "Worm" end in suicide, more murder,  and general mayhem, in Natsuo Kirino's noirish psychological novel Real World.

Although I have enjoyed a fair slice of anime, manga, and Japanese horror films, I don't think I knew enough about Japanese culture to fully understand what Kirino was trying to say about her teenage protagonists; but most of the story can be applied to desensitized and pop culture-glutted young people anywhere.  Chilly prose and chilling storytelling throughout.

I borrowed this from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Friday, March 13, 2009

#12: The Black Path by Asa Larsson

Lawyer Rebecka Martinsson, reeling from the traumatic events of her recent past, retreats to her grandmother's old cabin in northern Sweden and eventually gets drawn into a local brutal murder by steadfast cop Anna-Maria Mella.  The victim is part of a debauched, jet-setting elite group with messy business ties that both women try to unravel in Asa Larsson's philosophical thriller The Black Path.

I found Larsson's first novel Sun Storm a solid legal thriller, but the second, The Blood Spilt, almost a rewrite of her first effort. The storytelling is quite different here and relies on a much larger group of characters, including giving a broader role to the police characters from the first two novels.  Larsson jumps around from viewpoint to viewpoint, killers to victims to hunters, weaving more of a psychological study than a true mystery.  The ending, especially, leaves the reader to draw a few of their own conclusions. 

Overall I found The Black Path to be a solid read for those familiar with the more morose, meandering writings of the Scandinavian mystery writers.  I will look for the next in Larsson's series.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

#11: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

A youth being raised in a shack in the middle of a vast opium field learns he is the clone of El Patron, the hard-hearted ruler of the country called Opium, a sliver-sized dictatorship between a crumbling U.S. and a socialist Mexico. When he comes of age, and realizes what El Patron has kept him around for, he strikes out for adventure in Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion.

I was actually about halfway through this interesting sci-fi story when I realized it was written for the young adult market; hard to believe from the description I gave, but it really is appropriate for that age range, as well as adult readers.

I liked Farmer's writing style and appreciated that the plot veered away from European- or American-centric storytelling. Even though Nancy Farmer seems to write primarily for the young adult market, I will look for more of her writing.

I started listening to this one on audio book on loan from the Indiana University East library, but when I had to return it I quickly went to Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana and checked out the text version to finish it up. A solid read.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

#10: Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

An aging metal star is haunted by ghosts, from his past and otherwise, in Joe Hill's chilling spook story Heart Shaped Box.

I actually started this book in 2008 but put it down three times, finally finishing it today.  I checked it out from the Farmland Public Library and, since it got where I would not read it at night, couldn't get it done in time before it was due.  The truth is I also put it down when it scared the bejeezus out of me, which was frequently. Despite its pop-culture trappings this is an old-school ghost story at heart, and therein the fright lies.  

Heart Shaped Box is the debut novel from Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King, and I'm not sure if that was supposed to be a secret at some point but a glance at his author photo and the jig's up.  He writes a bit like his dad, but I saw more of George R.R. Martin's writing there, especially The Armageddon Rag.

This is a genuinely frightening tale that I enjoyed, when I could bring myself to read it.  For fans of old school horror, from a new voice.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

#9: A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock

A big-firm lawyer, after a scandal, takes a tumble to the Brooklyn Public Defenders office, where a housing project shooting has him facing his past as well as a dangerous present.

Justin Peacock's sturdy legal thriller A Cure for Night has a splash of speedy John Grisham plotting and a dash of Scott Turow's nuanced characterizations, but Peacock's own background as a lawyer in Brooklyn is all his, and seems to ring true to me.

The story heads along its expected routes up to a surprising ending that did tie everything up nicely. This was a solid, straightforward legal thriller with its feet on the ground, and certainly to be appealing to fans of the genre.

This is Peacock's first novel, and I would read another from him. I borrowed this from Morrison-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana, and read it over a couple of snowy days.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

#8: Shooting Star by Robert Bloch

A literary agent and part-time private eye tries to help clear the name of a murdered cowboy star in Robert Bloch's Shooting Star, another in the admirable series of pulp reprints showcased by Hard Case Crime.

I thought Shooting Star was an enjoyable, if minor, work by Bloch (author of Psycho and more). The private eye was agreeably smart-alecky and Bloch seemed to have a good feel for Hollywood in the late 50s, the setting of this novel. There are plenty of smoldering dames and gat-wielding yeggs along the way as our tarnished protagonist gets mixed up in a "reefer" ring selling "tea" and "muggles."

I am a longtime fan of Hard Case Crime and found this to be an enjoyable outing. This one, I believe, is the first printed in that old-school "Ace Double" style, with another Bloch novel, Spiderweb, on the flip side. I will, I'm sure, start reading that one shortly.

I purchased this paperback with a Christmas gift card and chewed through it pretty quickly.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

#7: The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

One-time hotshot lawyer Mickey Haller tries to come back from an addiction problem when he inherits a slain friend's clients, including a big-time movie producer about to go on trial for double murder, in Michael Connelly's brisk legal thriller The Brass Verdict.

I find Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, about a tarnished cop with his own code of ethics and a weighted past, to be one of the finest contemporary mystery series out there (with Walter Mosely's Easy Rawlins a close second). I have not read Connelly's off-series novels as closely, but picked this one up as Bosch has a supporting role.

Connelly writes in a clipped style that gives away his background in journalism, but writes fully-rounded characters.  I enjoyed this outing, even though Bosch had a tertiary part, and read it at a good clip.  I will probably seek out the other novel featuring Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer.

Connelly is one of my favorite mystery writers, and I think this is a solid read from him.  

I checked this out from the Farmland Public Library in Farmland, Indiana.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

#6: Now Wait for Last Year by Philip K. Dick

A doctor sets his marital problems aside to help the Earth get out of an unwinnable galactic war in Philip K. Dick's mind-boggling Now Wait for Last Year.

I find The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to be milestone science fiction novels, not just of Dick's work but of the genre, but the more I read of Dick the more I realize how deep his body of work goes. I finished 2008 reading Martian Time-Slip and found it to be one of Dick's finer works as well, and A Scanner Darkly remains a favorite.

Although Now Wait for Last Year treads a lot of Dick's familiar trails--everyday people caught up in huge events, time travel, drug abuse, paranoid government conspiracies, p-whipping shrews, odd robots and aliens--I found the writing to be denser and more downbeat than some of his funnier, freer works; and thus somehow more rewarding.

I read this in a very fine edition from the Library of America in their second volume of Dick's collected works. With biographical notes and comments from Jonathan Lethem (whom I am realizing, the more I read of Lethem, is a stylistic follower of Dick's), the Library of America volumes are worth picking up. I have been giving them as gifts in that way that you kind of want them for yourself. This one I checked out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Friday, February 6, 2009

#5: Steel-Jacket by Merle Constiner

Laconic gun hand helps a naive homesteader cross treacherous ground in Merle Constiner's easygoing oater Steel-Jacket.

I have come to Constiner's work lately after reading praise of him from other pulp fans. I enjoy his work, and found this one to be a cut above his usual fare. Typically Constiner has a lantern-jawed hero, a spitfire woman, and a wise older man who helps the hero, with everything snug tightly at the end.

Here, our cowpoke is more clever and funny than Constiner usually allows, giving the overall work a looser feel.

I picked this one up for a shiny quarter at an area flea market and enjoyed a quick read.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

#4: Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis

Hallucinogenic hybrid of horror, family drama, and quasi-autobiography, Lunar Park features bad boy writer Brett Easton Ellis (author of the controversial American Psycho) deciding to settle down with his movie-star wife and his (previously unclaimed) son in suburbia, only to find their house haunted and their family life deteriorating.

Reviews of Lunar Park were polarized, with some critics hating it and some loving it. I fell in the latter category, but recognize that it might not be for all tastes. There are elements of tell-all, with real people and situations depicted; but there is also skin-crawling horror, with ghosts and demons and the like popping out of the woodwork. Fellow Brat Pack writer Jay McInerney appears, and is a real person; but Ellis' wife and son aren't. The fictional killer from American Psycho appears to be on the loose as well. But real emotions, of relations between fathers and sons, of failures and regret, all ring true.

And, most surprisingly, Ellis casts himself as a weaselly a-hole throughout. The idea of the "unreliable narrator" takes on real resonance here; especially late in the book, when the continuous horrors finally causes Ellis to split into two characters, one he calls "The Author." I enjoy this type of meta storytelling and thought it was well-crafted.

Overall Lunar Park is a confounding book, but--knowing little about Ellis and having not been exposed to his previous work--I could enjoy it on its own merits. Another early front-runner in my favorites column for 2009.

I read this on a very good audio book recorded by James Van Der Beek, given to me by a friend.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

#3: Gun Work by David J. Schow

An Iraq war veteran helps an old war buddy rescue his girlfriend from a Mexico City kidnapping ring, only to find himself in the middle of a triple-cross that leaves him the prisoner of the sadistic kidnappers. How he sets out on a bloody trail of revenge is at the center of David J. Schow's Hard Case Crime entry Gun Work.

Most Hard Cast Crime novels are lost pulp classics repackaged with retro covers. Gun Work is a new novel from a contemporary novelist, but holds onto a lot of the hard-nosed appeal of the classics. Strangely, with its rough bromance, pro-military leanings, and fetish-like attention to weaponry, it reads like a very good Don Pendleton Executioner novel, the kind of which I tore through as a teen.

I borrowed this from my pal Michael, who is also trying to read 50 books this year, as seen in my sidebar.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

#2: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

A crusading financial journalist has a fall from grace and finds himself writing the biography of an industrial magnate on a remote island.  The magnate's true motives are soon revealed, and the journalist ends up (with the help of the anti-social hacker of the title) looking into the decades-old unsolved murder of a teenage girl.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a bracing, original debut novel by Stieg Larsson, who I was sorry to learn passed away shortly after completing what is called "The Millennium Trilogy," of which this is the first volume.  Reading a lot of mysteries, I have recently come to appreciate the philosophical differences of the incredibly popular mystery novels of Sweden and Norway; though this one comes with a number of American-style shocks.  

I felt The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo compared very favorably with another Scandinavian bestseller, Jo Nesbo's The Redbreast, one of the best reads I enjoyed last year.  Larsson's novel is an early front-runner for my favorite novel of 2009.

I checked this one out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

#1: A Member of the Family by Cesar Millan

Our new Westie puppy is a great joy in our lives and a cure for the Empty Nest Blues.  The part we had forgotten was that having a puppy was like having a real baby; you are up every two hours with it pooping and crying and it needs constant looking after and so on.  And, like a real baby, it helps if you read a manual or two.

Like many people I had seen the Dog Whisperer show and was interested in what Cesar Millan was doing with his training style.  With some Christmas money I went out and bought his new book, A Member of the Family, which takes a pet owner from the day you pick out a puppy until the day your old companion dies.

This book has a little good advice for every stage of raising a dog.  I also enjoyed Cesar Millan's personal story and asides about his family life.  There are case studies and other interesting breakout information throughout.  It is the kind of book you would probably want to loan to a friend with a new puppy, or stick up on a shelf for future reference.

Cesar Millan states that his style--being a pack leader and the Alpha--is not necessarily for everyone, but with my Westie and her big personality it suits us fine.

I read and enjoyed this at a good clip, and would recommend it to any pet owner.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 Wrap-Up

This time last year I fell under the sway of my pal The Mighty Caveman who coaxed me into one of those crazy internet things where all of a sudden, against all logic and reason, you are reading 50 books in one year.  Astoundingly, even to myself, I met that goal.

Loyal readers asked me if I was going to keep going.  I said no, as there were always more Nerd Extreme Sports to conquer.  I have done the 24 Hour Comics Challenge twice, the 24 Hour Zine Thing once, plus played many marathon gaming sessions at GenCon and other places.

But I have started reading some pretty interesting books, and decided I missed blogging on them.  So the gears started turning, and I returned to the blog-o-sphere.

My five favorite books from 2008 were STARS IN MY POCKET LIKE GRAINS OF SAND by Samuel R. Delany, THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION by Michael Chabon, THE REDBREAST by Jo Nesbo, THE WANDERING GHOST by Martin Limon, and THE WHEAT FIELD by Steve Thayer.  Though I also liked Michael Chabon's GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD, George Axelrod's BLACKMAILER, Naomi Novik's HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON, Robert B. Parker's RESOLUTION, and Sebastian Faulks' DEVIL MAY CARE.

It was the year I knuckled down and tackled Harry Potter, the year I discovered Samuel R. Delany and rediscovered Philip K. Dick, a year of morose Scandinavian mysteries and cold-blooded Hard Case Crime novels and a smattering of Ace Doubles.

If this is also your meat and potatoes, soldier on.  If not, feed your head in some other way; but keep reading.

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