Sunday, April 18, 2010

#18: Assignment Stella Marni by Edward S. Aarons

Spy Sam Durell decides to unofficially help a friend's brother, entangled with an ice-cold Hungarian beauty, and ends up himself mixed up in an Iron Curtain plot in Edward S. Aaron's Assignment Stella Marni.

I am rediscovering Aarons' long-running Assignment series with adult eyes and admiring their hard-nosed plots and tough prose. This one is a bit of a departure as Durell acts more like a private eye, tangling with a rogue FBI agent and falling under the spell of Stella Marni himself, even with loyal girlfriend Diedre close by.

This was one of the early entries, from the 1950s, and reflects the Cold War sensibilities of the time. Even so, Aarons manages to inject quite a bit of shading into all of his characters, good and evil.

One of my favorites thus far out of the stack I have been dipping into regularly, that I purchased in a mighty swath of Gold Medal paperbacks some time back. A good entry in the series.

Friday, April 16, 2010

#17: Murder Doll by Milton Ozaki

Chicago P.I. Carl Good looks for a cheating husband's mistress and ends up tangling with the mob in Milton Ozaki's potboiler Murder Doll.  Ozaki, notable as an early Japanese-American crime novelist, writes in a rat-a-tat style, featuring a typical gumshoe of that era who is quick with a gun and a quip. 

The story races along improbably--especially a sequence where Good is imprisoned at a nudist camp in northern Indiana--but is genial enough and surely enjoyable for fans of 50s pulp novels.  I wouldn't seek out Ozaki again, but I'm sure if I came across another of his novels I would enjoy it.

I bought this for beloved Kindle for only 99 cents and read a good chunk of it in one fell swoop.

Monday, April 12, 2010

#16: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

Nonfiction exploration of book collecting, featuring curiously amoral book thief John Gilkey and the legion of rare book dealers that gathered to send him to jail.  Author Allison Hoover Bartlett inserts herself into the narrative, sometimes uncomfortably, as she gets involved with both sides of the story.

Voracious readers like myself will find interesting passages on the nature of collecting various things, and John Gilkey is a character really too strange for fiction.  Reading some of the interesting book anecdotes made me start thinking about used bookstores and garage sales a bit differently.  Overall, I enjoyed this look into a subculture I was only aware of in a tertiary way.

I listened to this on audio book on loan from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

#15: Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy

At the start of baseball season, I picked up this raucous account of average baseball player and brief minor league pitcher Matt McCarthy, who writes about one roller-coaster season at the fringes of baseball with the Provo Angels.

McCarthy has plenty of raunchy and funny anecdotes, and played with a surprising number of future major-leaugers as well as a larger number of wash-outs (whose stories are as interesting).  Most baseball books talk about life in the spotlight, but this autobiography shines a light on an aspect not seen nearly as frequently.  In that way it reminded me favorably of Pat Conroy's My Losing Season.

A little googling shows that the accuracy of some of McCarthy's accounts have been called into question, but I liked his writing style and enjoyed the work overall.

I borrowed this book from Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it at a good pace; now I'm ready to visit some ballparks.