Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
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
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
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
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
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
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.