Friday, September 29, 2017

#66: The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera

In an epidemic-ravaged Mexico City, a peace broker called The Redeemer tries to negotiate a Romeo and Juliet-type situation between two crime families in Yuri Herrera's The Transmigration of Bodies.

Herrera's tight novel is a bit of a genre-buster, reading like a hard-boiled noir but--with characters called Neeyanderthal, Three Times Blonde, and The Unruly--also has elements of parable, with hallucinogenic imagery.

Our laconic hero spends half the novel trying to find an open pharmacy--his neighbor has finally given in to his advances, but he is out of condoms--and the other half dealing with deadly adversaries, all against a haunted, emptied landscape.

I read a lot of noir, and found Herrera's work fresh in a lot of ways.  Recommended for those who enjoy hard-boiled fiction and would like to try something new.

I bought this with an Amazon gift card for Father's Day and read it quickly.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

#65: The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst

In the long shadow between WWI and WWII, a French aristocrat and spy in Poland tangles with vengeful Nazis, sneaky Soviet spies, and more in Alan Furst's The Spies of Warsaw.

Our protagonist comes across a German plan for a tank invasion, which his superiors find hard to believe, while a romance with a League of Nations representative begins to bloom.

Furst has written a long series of spy novels set in this era, and this is a sturdy entry, reading like early Graham Greene or Eric Ambler.  It's a good old-fashioned outing for those interested in this time and place.

I listened to a good audiobook version on loan from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

#64: River War by Jim Austin

Wandering gun-hand John Fury meets up with an old pal, now a prosperous shopkeeper with a target on his back, in Jim Austin's River War.

Soon Fury is working as a sort-of bodyguard for his friend, and has his plate more than full.

Austin and the (brief) John Fury western series were written by prolific author James Reasoner.  As a seasoned hand himself, Reasoner hits all the right beats, with plenty of gunplay, as well as a dangerous riverboat trip, hostile Indians, a buffalo stampede, and a prairie fire, among other misadventures.

Reasoner creates an enjoyable outing for fans of the genre.

I borrowed River War, and one more John Fury book, from the Parker City Library in Parker City, Indiana, and read this one quickly.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

#63: The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo by Ian Stansel

Long-feuding brothers finally end their acrimony with gunplay; and when the surviving brother sets out on a horse to escape, the other brother's widow leads her own horse in pursuit in Ian Stansel's contemporary western The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo.

What sets the long feud off is a rivalry over a hat; how this then plays out with horses and property the brothers own, and a struggling business they run as horse trainers, is the backdrop for the story.

Stansel has created a lyrical, engaging tale of family dysfunction set against a backdrop of a rural California at odds with itself.  Well-drawn characters, and an involved sketch of the horsemanship world, add interest.

Recommended for readers of contemporary fiction in general, but western fans will see classic parallels to enjoy.

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

#62: Shock Value by Jason Zinoman

Jason Zinoman writes an interesting account of the cultural changes that led to a shift in horror filmmaking in the 70s in Shock Value.

This is the era of horror film I more or less grew up on, and is especially interesting to me.  And even for me, there are some stories--like William Castle wanting to make Rosemary's Baby--that I was unfamiliar with.

To me, the most enjoyable element was Zinoman giving the proper due to Dan O'Bannon and Dark Star, to me an underrated figure and film of that period.

For those unfamiliar with the era, there are great accounts of directors such as George Romero, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and Brian De Palma, and how they got their starts, sometimes by hook or by crook.

Worthwhile, for horror movie fans and general film buffs.

I listened to this on audiobook checked out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library.

Monday, September 11, 2017

#61: Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou

Moses is raised in a socialist orphanage, runs the streets in a gang, and becomes an errand boy in a brothel, leading to a sad end in Alain Mabanckou's Black Moses.

This vivid slice-of-life story is set against a backdrop of life in the Congo in the 70s and 80s, helping create a fully-realized sketch of time, place, and people.

Mabanckou's novel crackles with life, alternating between darkness and light humor, with bursts of violence. Ultimately, the novel talks about the universal bonds of friendship, accessible in any society.

Mabanckou has written an entirely readable novel from a point of view less-seen to the average reader and is enjoyable throughout.  Recommended for readers interested in international and particularly African fiction.

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