Sunday, October 16, 2011

#44: Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin

Comedian Kathy Griffin tells all about her long, slow climb to stardom from working-class Chicago to second-tier Hollywood in Official Book Club Selection.

I understand that some may find Griffin to be an acquired taste, but I have always found her extremely funny.  I really enjoy her reality show Life on the D-List but cemented my fandom when I caught her live during the Gay Pride Festival in San Diego a few summers ago.

I think it helped tremendously that I listened to this in audiobook form on a recent long road trip to Georgia, and absorbed it in one fell swoop.  Griffin narrated the audiobook in her usual style, which I think enhanced some of the writing that might not have been as interesting on the page.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and liked it a lot; recommended for fans, especially in the audiobook format.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#43: The Hunter by Richard Stark

Parker is a professional thief who is double-crossed and left for dead by his wife and best friend, then single-mindedly decides to get his cut of the big take no matter who he has to bring down--on up to the top gangsters in the country.

The Hunter is a very tough-minded crime novel from the early 60s, the first Parker novel by Donald Westlake under the pseudonym of Richard Stark.  It is a bleak noir with no likeable characters, but written in a terse, kinetic style.

I have been a long-time fan of Westlake (and once got a chance to meet him, when he appeared on a TV show I was directing) and have read a lot of his large body of work, but had not really dipped into his famous Parker series.

I got interested in reading The Hunter for two reasons; first was because I read a very cool graphic novel version done by one of my favorite artists, Darwyn Cooke, and the second was because I nabbed it for my beloved Kindle for free.

As soon as I finished it I grabbed a handful more Kindle Parker novels for pocket change, and dived right into The Man with the Getaway Face, the second novel in the series (and also a good graphic novel). 

Recommended for fans of inky-black noir.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

#42: Assignment The Cairo Dancers by Edward S. Aaarons

CIA operative Sam Durell goes into action against a Middle Eastern zealot kidnapping world scientists for nefarious means in Edward S. Aarons' Assignment The Cairo Dancers.

Aarons wrote a long, reputable series of novels about Durell over several decades; this entry, from 1965, may be one of the latest ones I have read to date. 

While his 50s novels have a Cold War sobriety, the farther I have read into the 60s the more I have seen the more outlandish trappings of the spy novels and movies of that era; this one features a sinister German dwarf, a pair of feral twin hitmen, a giant death laser and of course a secret base hidden in a mountain that Durell has to fight his way out of.  Naturally he also finds respite long enough to provide comfort and aid to several women in need.

This is a solid adventure in a really underrated series that I have yet to find makes a false step.  I found this one at a used bookstore in Muncie Indiana for 99 cents.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

#41: Our Kind of Traitor by John LeCarre

A young British couple on vacation end up in a fateful tennis match against a Russian businessman that sends the pair spiraling into the shadowy world of espionage in John LeCarre's Our Kind of Traitor.

LeCarre's work in the 60s and 70s, especially his George Smiley novels, are almost without peer in the spy genre.  Admittedly I have picked up and put down a lot of his novels since, finding them a bit mixed as the years have gone on. Probably the last one I really enjoyed was Our Game, but admittedly I have avoided a few newer entries that--based on this novel--might be worth a look.

This one struck my fancy from the beginning, written with a good mix of dark humor, interesting characters, complex plotting, and bursts of sobering violence.  It was great to see LeCarre still has some in the tank well into his 80s, writing a contemporary and relevant spy thriller.  Recommended for long-time fans of LeCarre and/or the genre.

I checked this out from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it at a steady pace.