Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pale Kings and Princes, by Robert Parker

Well I lied in my last post, I managed to squeeze one more book out of 2009 for an even 30 books this year.  This was another Spenser book, nothing special but an easy, somewhat fun read.  I don't love these Spenser books, but there is something about them that makes them entertaining.  Oh well, the official last book for me in 2009.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Looking for Rachel Wallace, by Robert Parker

Likely the final book I'll read in 2009, Looking for Rachel Wallace is the second Spenser book I've ever read (and I read my first earlier this year). I liked the first Spenser book a lot more than this one, but it was still a fun, easy read. I have one more of these Spenser books lined up to read, but it will probably wait until the new year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Red River (Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail), by Borden Chase

  • Title: Red River (originally published as "Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail")
  • Author: Borden Chase
  • Purchased from: Lot of paperback books won at Weschler's Auction in Downtown DC.
  • Started: 12/1/09
  • Finished: 12/1/09
Well it's been a while since I posted, because it had been a while since I'd read a book.  I'm hard pressed to even count this one (Red River), not because it wasn't good (it was) but because it's barely a novel.  A tiny Western, really a screenplay (you can't read it without hearing/seeing John Wayne delivering the Dunson lines), I polished this one off in about 2 hours while on jury duty, waiting to see if I would be called to appear in a jury pool.
I wasn't called, but the two hours with Red River on a Tuesday morning were great.  Fun book, really enjoy this old Westerns.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Guns, by Ed McBain

  • Title: Guns
  • Author: Ed McBain
  • Purchased from: Lot of paperback books won at Weschler's Auction in Downtown DC.
  • Started: 10/5/09
  • Finished: 10/10/09

I think Guns is the last Ed McBain book I have from that lot of paperbacks I won at the auction. I didn't hold much hope that I'd enjoy it, I had not enjoyed Death of a Nurse very much. Guns wasn't bad though, not nearly as good as the early 87th Precinct books, but not bad at all. You don't like any of the characters very much (maybe at all) but it still made for a fun read.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dust on the Sea, by Commander Edward L Beach

Dust on the Sea is the second in the Richardson trilogy, the first book Run Silent, Run Deep I read several months back. I don't have a copy of the third book, Cold is the Sea, but I hope to get a copy soon. In some ways I liked Dust on the Sea better than RSRD, but RSRD is a classic for a very good reason, overall it is the better book. For for action and a great description of life aboard a WWII submarine, you cannot beat Dust on the Sea.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Death of a Nurse, by Ed McBain

  • Title: Death of a Nurse
  • Author:  Ed McBain 
  • Purchased from: Lot of paperback books won at Weschler's Auction in Downtown DC.
  • Started: 9/20/2009
  • Finished: 9/27/2009
One of the few non-87th prescient books I've read, didn't love it but it was a short, easy read none-the-less.  I have one more McBain book remaining from my Weschler's win a few months back titled Guns.  Another non-87th prescient book, I don't have high hopes.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Vanilla Ride, by Joe Lansdale

I came across Joe Lansdale's work years ago, I don't even remember how now. I suspect I was looking for someone who wrote stories similar to John MacDonald's Travis McGee series. Tough guy mysteries, but the tough guy has a buddy, and they're both deep down good people trying to do the right thing. Corney? Hell yes. Entertaining? Hell yes.

Anyway I took to Lansdale's Hap Collins & Leonard Pine immediately. The mysteries were decent, nothing great but entertaining enough. But the conversations between Hap & Leonard, and the narrative by Hap... that's where these books excelled. I don't laugh out loud at many books, but I've laughed numerous times through everyone of these books. Even when some pretty horrific things were happening. The narration, Hap Collins, is just so damn entertaining.

About 2 weeks ago I found out via Lansdale's website that another book in the series had come out, Vanilla Ride. I put a hold on it at the public library and picked it up a day or two later. The story was probably the worst of the series, but the characters of Hap & Leonard rise above the story, fun as ever. I don't know if there will be any more books in this series but if there are, I'll read them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Find a Victim, by Ross MacDonald

This is one of those times where I find I'm reading a book for the second time... part of the whole reason I started this blog. That is, to stop that from happening again, at least on accident. Normally this wouldn't a big deal with a Lew Archer novel as I love these books, but Find a Victim is the rare exception; I don't like this one. Didn't like it the first time, still don't like like it the second time.

Also, it took me a long time to read such a short novel. Not so much because of my feelings towards the book, but because of two different reasons: Vacation is over so I'm back to work, and I bought a guitar and have been trying to learn to play. The guitar is now taking up most of my free time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Mugger, by Ed McBain

  • Title: The Mugger
  • Author: Ed McBain
  • Purchased from: Lot of paperback books won at Weschler's Auction in Downtown DC.
  • Started: 9/3/2009
  • Finished: 9/5/2009

When my wife and I were on our honeymoon in August of 2007 in Portugal we came across a small used bookstore in the town of Cascais. This bookstore had tons of 1940's-1960's pulp/detective fiction paperbacks in English. I bought a bunch of books for cheap including 3-5 of the very early 87th Precinct books by Ed McBain. Of course now I have no idea which ones I've read, but today's book was not one of them.

The early 87th Precinct books were great; short and fun, fast paced great reads. I remember one of them I later realized was the basis for an episode of the TV show Alfred Hitchcock presents. I've heard that the later 87th Precinct books are not very good, but I've enjoyed these early ones and The Mugger was no exception.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Crack In The Lens, by Steve Hockensmith

A few years ago I came across a website discussing a fun take on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. The set up was a couple of cowboys in the old west who like Holmes try to solve mysteries as well. The book sounded fun so off to the library I went and sure enough they had it, the book was titled Holmes on the Range. I'm a sucker for buddy stories and Holmes on the Range was just the kind of book I liked. Since then I've read all of the series as they're published, most recently today's entry The Crack in the Lens.

While I've enjoyed all the books in the series (there are also 4 or 5 short stories that are entertaining as well) the first book and this newest one are by far my favorites. The middle two (The Black Dove & On the Wrong Track) were fun reads but not quite as good as the first and fourth. The author (Hockensmith) also maintains a website that is updated reasonably often, responds to emails quickly, and generally seems like a nice guy. I always look forward to new Holmes on the Range mysteries, the only fiction I buy new are these books.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Princess Bride, By William Goldman

Another one where I'd seen the movie a zillion times and never even considered it might be based on a book (I don't often pay attention to opening/closing credits). If you can struggle through the first, miserable chapter of this book (it was much better in the movie version with Peter Falk as a grandfather reading to his sick grandson) the book is fantastic. All of the elements from the movie are there, but it is somehow even better in print. I say better, but I guess I really mean this one for me was better having seen the movie first. It was a lot of fun for me to read this imagining Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, etc as the characters I was reading about. It also helps that the movie is very close, almost word for word, to the book for most of the movie.

Anyway a very fun read that I highly recommend, again if you can stomach that introductory chapter.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

To Hell and Back, by Audie Murphy

I don't care if he's not the real author and instead his story is written by a ghost writer. To Hell and Back is an amazing story, Audie Murphy was a real life bad ass, and I can only imagine how many thousands of kids must have enlisted in the Army because of this book.

I'd seen the movie before so I knew the basic story, but it just doesn't matter. The movie, no matter how good it is, cannot do justice to this book and the story behind it. The day to day horrors these kids went through, and the insane bravery Murphy shows is just too amazing for words. It is well known now what a tough time Murphy had with what used to be labeled battle fatigue; If you read this book you'll know why.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Galton Case, by Ross MacDonald

I could read Lew Archer books all day. The mysteries in these things are not what keep me reading them (and they very well may be fine mysteries). It's the characters, Lew Archer firstly, and all the other wiseguys (and gals), cops (crooked and honest), LA and the other cities/states Archer has to visit, etc. The dialog is just fantastic. I lose myself in these books every time I pick one up. They're not huge books, but even if they were I'd still finish them in a day. Give these books to someone who loves action movies but doesn't like reading and you'll have a reader for life.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baa Baa Black Sheep, by Gregory Pappy Boyington

Continuing my WW2 reading I just finished Baa Baa Black Sheep. My only knowledge of this story before was the TV show of the same name (later changed to Black Sheep Squadron) with Robert Conrad. I never really liked that show, and I didn't love the book either.

It's a strange book, it doesn't read like a book, more like Boyington was just talking into a tape recorder and someone transcribed it. It certainly could have used more editing. In fact there isn't very much in the book about aerial combat or the Black Sheep, instead it's the story of how Boyington ended up where he did in life: highly decorated, a fighter ace, a drunk, and a POW survivor.

For all the faults of this book (and they were numerous) it did keep me reading. The guy had a hell of a life, I bet hearing him tell these stories would have been much more entertaining then reading his words about them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Sand Pebbles, by Richard McKenna

That lot of paperbacks I won at Weschler's included a bunch of war novels I'd always wanted to read.  Das Boot was one of those as was Run Silent, Run Deep.  The Sand Pebbles, however, was one I'd always kind of avoided.  I was only familiar with the movie description, but I didn't think it sounded great.  Just goes to show how dumb I can be.  I loved the book.  There was a lot going on, some great characters, and it covers a time and place I knew almost nothing about.
The movie is available via Netflix's on demand service so I started watching it last night.  So far so good, but at about 3 hours I only made it through the first half last night.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Boat (Das Boot) by Lothar-Günther Buchheim

You may recall that I mentioned Run Silent, Run Deep had reminded me of my love of WWII submarine video game simulations.  When I finished reading that book I started playing Silent Service II again, and then started playing an old DOS (but more recent than SSII) Pacific Submarine game called Silent Hunter.  While playing that I started reading The Boat.  I had seen the movie before, years ago, and really liked it but had never read the book.  The book was much more detailed, slower through the first half, but overall significantly better than the movie (and I loved the movie).  The raunchy German sailors and their sex stories, the overwhelming boredom on the Atlantic, the near destruction by the destroyers hunting them, and then the sad, sudden ending.  Such a good book.  I may prefer to play video games based on the Pacific campaign, but I think for books and movies the Eastern Front is my favorite.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Way Some People Die, by Ross MacDonald

This book is an example of why I started this blog.  I've probably read this book twice before and I'd really like to know if I've already picked up a book before starting it.  Having said that, I love MacDonald and the Lew Archer series.  Hands down one of the most entertaining detective writers of all time.  MacDonald's Archer books are what detective fiction should be.  Tough guys, hard times, conniving women... yet Lew Archer for all his tough outside won't take the easy money, couldn't live with himself if he turned his back on the junkie hooker.  I could start this book from the beginning after just finishing it, such a great read.   

Monday, July 20, 2009

Run Silent, Run Deep by Commander Edward L Beach

Back when I was about 13 (1986) I got my very first real computer (not just a game machine, but keyboard, disk drives, etc.).  It was an Atari 65 XE.  I still have it in fact, along with several disk drives and other atari computers (130 XE, 2600) and boxes of peripherals and software.  So much that I've only recently seriously considered getting rid of it, as the boxes take up almost all of the storage unit we own in our condo, barely leaving room for the other items we need to store.
This Atari computer was fantastic, I loved the thing.  I spent hours (when I should have been building muscle and chasing girls) playing games and figuring out how computers worked.  One of my favorite games was Silent Service: The Submarine Simulation (tied for first place with SS was M.U.L.E., but I won't bore you with a bigger digression).  My memory is that the game, published by MicroProse, came with an instruction booklet with a foreword by Commander Edward L. Beach but I am unable to verify this through web research.  I mention that b/c I believe it was the first time I had heard of Beach.  I didn't own the game though, it was owned by a friend of mine.  I had a data copy of the game, but not a copy of the instruction booklet, so it took me months to figure out how to play the game.  But once I had the controls and basic strategy figured out, I was hooked.
Some time after figuring out how to play the game I was in a book store and noticed a book with a familiar name attached.  That book was Submarine! by none other than Commander Edward L. Beach.  This collection of WW2 submarine stories (true stories) was incredible, I still own that battered copy.  I almost entered the Navy based off that book and the Silent Service video game.  At 13 though I wasn't much of a reader, so I never bothered trying to find the book for which Beach was most famous, although I did watch the movie over and over, as well as all other WW2 submarine movies available to me.  But armed with the strategies described in the short stories in Submarine!, I became much better at Silent Service the video game.
Back to the present day:  several weeks ago I was at an auction house next door to my condo, they were auctioning off books from an estate, and among all the nice hardbacks were dozens of boxes of paperbacks.  I went through what was left and pulled together 20 books I was willing to bid on, had them merged into a lot and placed my absentee bid.  Of course I won, who they hell else was going to bid on a collection of 20 random books I had individually selected?  Add to that they were all about 30 years old, although in good condition.
So for $12, I got my books, two of which were by Beach.  One of them was (finally, you're thinking) the book I just finished, Run Silent, Run Deep.  I loved it.  The movie was only loosely based on the book, so much of this was new to me.  In fact I've struggling not to buy a submarine simulator now but damn I want to play one.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

To Kingdom Come, by Will Thomas

This was the second book in a series by Will Thomas, the first was titled Some Danger Involved which I read a few months back.  I enjoyed the first book quite a lot, but didn't find this second in the series to be as much fun.  Still an easy and enjoyable read, but it makes me much less excited for the remaining books.  I'll pick up the third book soon and let that one decide if I continue with this Sherlock Holmes-like series.
In the interest of full disclosure, before reading To Kingdom Come I had tried to read a Ray Banks novel, one of the first in his Cal Innes detective series, Saturday's Child.  I made it about a quarter of the way through the novel before deciding it wasn't for me.  I'm not sure what it was, I just could not get into this book.  It wasn't too disturbing or anything like that, I was just bored with the book.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore

We were in San Francisco for several days (you'll note I read a book on the flight out), and when we got back I started reading a book I have picked up the week before.  The second Christopher Moore book I've read now, A Dirty Job, and it was fun and enjoyable, same as the book Lamb I read last year
Moore lives in San Francisco, and A Dirty Job takes place there, so it was fun (and coincidental) that I had just come back from San Fran (I understand the locals hate when you call it that, so I say "San Fran" as often as possible when there) when I read this book.  I'm in no hurry to read more books by Moore, but I have enjoyed the two I've read.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorp

You'd almost think I had done this on purpose.  Flying from DC to CA one Thursday morning, I spent 5 of the 6 hours on the the plane reading Thorp's follow up to The Detective, titled Nothing Lasts Forever ("NLF").  Even when flying JetBlue with their DirectTV offerings, I just can't sit and watch that boring TV for very long.
For those of you who don't know, Nothing Lasts Forever is the book on which the greatest Christmas movie ever is based.  That movie, of course, is Die Hard.  The plot of NLF is remarkably similar to Die Hard, remarkable perhaps in that the movie followed the book so closely.  I expected to find that Die Hard was loosely based on the book, but really it was pretty damn close.  I found NLF to be very enjoyable, a fun read for such a long, boring flight.
NLF was a much more bloody & action packed book than The Detective, but I liked them both very much.  I'm not sure I'll pick up any other Thorp books as these are the only two books to follow detective Joe Leland

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Love in the Ruins, by Walker Percy

I wish I could say I loved this book, but the fact of the matter is I struggled to make myself read it.  I couldn't remember why I had it in my book list, but when I started I saw that it was a kind of apocalyptic novel.  Only it wasn't, and despite rave literary reviews I didn't think it was very good.  Some reviewers compared this book to those by Flanner O'Connor... I strongly disagree with that sentiment. 
But I persevered and finished the book.  On to more light reading.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham

This is probably the last Wyndham novel I'll read in quite some time, in fact I had not expected to read it this soon at all. When I returned the last batch of books to the library I had my eye on a few others to borrow from the list in my cell phone. But I stopped by the Wyndham section and happened upon this, and thought "what the hell?"

It was a decent book, a lot more humor than I expected for a story of murderous children. I'm not sure I've ever seen either of the movies based on the story (Village of the Damned) but will probably watch the original soon. Anyway a quick read, not nearly as good as the three apocalyptic novels from the Omnibus, but fun all the same.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham

And thus ends my reading of the John Wyndham Omnibus.  I loved all three novels, but The Chrysalids was by far the one that held my attention strongest.  The ending wasn't great, but also not a total surprise, as none of the other two novels ended on a very down-note.  So to have it end so happily for the main characters (albeit at the loss of almost everyone else in the book) wasn't a total surprise.  For all his apocalyptic writing, the guy was clearly an optimist.
The first two books (Triffids & Kraken) were about the coming of the apocalypse, but Chrysalids is different as it is years (thousands?) after the apocalypse.  This fact alone makes the drama so very different in Chrysalids as compared to the earlier two novels.  No longer is the protagonist trying to forestall the doomsday scenario, or even just barely survive it.  Instead we have a world rebuilding after some cataclysmic event. 
I won't bother summarizing the plot, numerous sites do that better than I could.  I'm just surprised at how much I enjoyed each of these novels.  I thought Triffids would be a somewhat silly book, instead it lead to the discovery of three fantastic works.  Hell you can even read it online if you can stand e-texts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Kracken Wakes, By John Wyndham

I went to the library recently and returned Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids. I had enjoyed that book and a quick Google search directed me to two other apocalyptic novels by Wyndham I might want to read: The Kraken Wakes & The Chrysalids. When I went into the library I couldn't find either book alone, but I found an Omnibus. I should have looked more carefully the first time I was there, the Omnibus had all three apocalyptic novels in it, so I read them in the order published therein. As mentioned before, I had already read the first (Triffids) so I read Kraken next.

I really enjoyed Triffids, but I might have liked Kraken better. Part of it is the relationship to our modern-day scourge of global warming. Another part is the way so many people speak in terms of absolutes about what they know, when they really know nothing. It's one of those constants in life I guess, politicians are always blow hards, know-it-all neighbors, etc. And there was something fun about reading Kraken at the beach, since the book is so water-based.

Interested to see what happens in the final book of the Omnibus.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Godwulf Manuscript (first Spenser book), by Robert B. Parker

That's right, after finishing Will Thomas's Some Danger Involved I picked up The Godwulf Manuscript from the small take-one-leave-one library at our beach condo. We took an extra day off and had 5 days & 4 nights at the beach. It was very nice, spent a lot of time reading on the beach or on the sunny balcony. The Godwulf Manuscript is the first in the Spenser series, also the first of these I'd ever read. My only knowledge of Spenser came from the 1980's Robert Urich TV show Spenser for Hire. I'd never really liked the show, although perhaps I need to give it another shot as I didn't read much back then.

I liked this first book, a smart-assed Boston PI, who loves his food, women, and beer. A short & easy read with a fairly straight forward mystery. I'm not sure I'll bother trying to read many of these books, but I'll probably run through a couple more and see how I feel after that.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Some Danger Involved, by Will Thomas

I keep a list of books I want to read in my cell phone. I pick these books ideas up from various sources which I never note. So I'm not sure where I came up with this Will Thomas book, but I'm glad I did. Thomas is a librarian, so I was already partial to him, but this book is very fun. A bad-ass Sherlock type character who has his own version of Watson detailing his detective work. This first story (there are now others) is more entertaining and hard to put down, I finished it early on Saturday while at the beach and sure wished I'd had the next one in line ready to go for my next read. Assuming DC public has them, I'll keep reading this series.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham

  • Title: The Day of the Triffids
  • Author: John Wyndham
  • Borrowed from MLK Library
  • Started: 5/16/09
  • Finished: 5/17/09
I wrote a misleading statement in my last post on The Detective. I said next up The Day of the Triffids when in fact I had already finished the book. As I've mentioned before I am a fan of post-apocalyptic novels, so I finally read Triffids. I wasn't disappointed.
I was surprised that it wasn't until the last quarter of the book that the Triffids actually became a serious threat. But I was taking the title of the book too literally, it wasn't one day that the Triffids ruled, rather the Triffids eventually had their day to reign.

The book actually ends on an a somewhat positive note, you can see a future and possibly an end to the Triffid nightmare. There were other times when things looked good though, and quickly went to hell.

I imagine that anyone like me who loves this genre imagines that should some horrible catastrophe happen on earth, we'd be one of the lucky ones to survive. Cause man, it would suck to be one of the 95 percent who don't.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Detective, by Roderick Thorp

  • Title: The Detective
  • Author: Roderick Thorp
  • Purchased from Abe Books a long time ago
  • Started: 5/2/09
  • Finished: 5/8/09

Too early to say I'm back, but just maybe. This is now the second novel I've read this year. I've had this book for a long time though, it's a huge detective novel. If it has any claim to fame certainly the size of the book is a part of it.

I won't lie though, there are only two reasons I bought this books: 1, there is a Sinatra movie based on the book, and I wanted to read it before I rented the move; 2, the sequel to this book, titled "Nothing Lasts Forever" is the book the movie Die Hard is based on... I love Die Hard.

So I bought Nothing Lasts Forever just today, my library only had one copy and it's missing. Damn book was expensive, barely any used holdings anywhere (it's out of print), cheapest copy I could find still set me back $20.

So about The Detective: I started this book several times over the last year, but finally it stuck. read it reasonably quickly for a big book. It jumps around the time line a lot but wraps everything up pretty neatly at the end (as neatly as possible anyway). Lots of sexual hangups in the book, but it was interesting enough to keep me up most nights trying to get closer to the end.

Up next is The Day Of The Triffids... I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic novels.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Watchmen, by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons & John Higgins

Six months? Seriously? I haven't read a book in six months? That's just hard to believe... where has the winter gone? Well I hope this book will spur me on to pick up the habit once more, hard to find the time for a good book these days but I sure do love reading.

So Watchmen. I liked it, I'm not going to become a comic book fanboy but I really enjoyed it. I had read about Watchmen so I knew the basic plot (not any specifics) and I knew about the comic-within-a-comic device. I thought I'd hate that part of it the most, but as it turns out it was my favorite part. I thought the blending of the main story with the meta-comic story was great.

This has made me a little more excited about seeing the recent movie version, I'll probably wait until it's on video though.

Up next? Not sure, I hope the warmer weather means more lazy days outside in the sun where I'm more likely to read a book. I'll have to head to the public library to see if any books catch my attention.