Wednesday, 16 October 2019

LAWRENCE BLOCK (as JILL EMERSON) - THIRTY (1970)


Synopsis/blurb....

THIRTY, as intensely erotic a book as I’d ever written, is what happened after I stopped writing erotica.

Beginning with CARLA in 1958, I spent half a dozen years laboring in the vineyards of Midcentury Erotica, writing no end of books for Midwood, Nightstand, Beacon, et.al. It was a wonderful training ground, a comfortingly forgiving medium, and I’ve never regretted the timer I spent there, although for a time I wanted to disown the work I produced. (That changed with the passage of time, and now I’ve been eagerly reissuing much of that early work in my Collection of Classic Erotica. I like to tell myself this represents great progress in self-acceptance, but I have a hunch Ego and Avarice play a role here.)

Never mind. I went on writing for Bill Hamling’s Nightstand Books until a break with my agent deprived me of the market, and I can’t regret that, either, because it’s safe to say I’d stayed too long at the fair, and would have stayed longer still if given the chance. Instead, I took a job editing a numismatic magazine in Wisconsin and went on writing fiction in my free time. I placed some stories with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and THE GIRL WITH THE LONG GREEN HEART with Gold Medal, and then I wrote THE THIEF WHO COULDN’T SLEEP, which turned out to be the first of a series about a fellow named Evan Tanner.

This was the first book in a voice that was uniquely mine, and the most satisfying work I’d ever done. I went on to write a total of seven books about Tanner (an eighth would follow after a 28-year interval) along with a couple of other crime novels, and then one day I got a call from my agent, Henry Morrison. Berkley Books wanted to launch a line of erotic novels, but on a different level from the old Midwood/Nightstand/Beacon ilk. It was 1968, censorship had essentially vanished, and American letters from top to bottom was embracing the sexual revolution and the new freedom. As Cole Porter might have put it, some authors who’d once been stuck with better words were now free to use four-letter words.

Meanwhile, I was going through a period of discontent with the whole notion of fiction. I had nothing against the idea of making things up, but the artificiality of the novel suddenly rubbed me the wrong way. Narration, whether first person or third person, was a weird voice in one’s ear. Who are you? Why are you telling me this? And why should I believe you?

What appealed more were books that presented themselves as documents. Fictional diaries, fictional collections of letters, whatever. Yes, of course they were novels, we knew they were novels, but they took the form of actual documents.

Thus THIRTY, which would take the form of a diary kept by a woman in her thirtieth year. I had just reached that age myself, and while I recognized it as a landmark, it seemed to me that turning thirty was rather a bigger deal for a woman than for a man, that it was very much a turning point. So I plunged in, and I strove throughout to write what Jan would have written in an actual diary, leaving things out, skipping days altogether, and letting characters come into and go out of her life, and events pile one on the other, the way they really do, with less pattern and logic than one typically demands of fiction.

I just read the book prefatory to writing this book description, and I was surprised how much I liked it. (And how little of it I recalled.) I decided from the jump to put Jill Emerson’s name on it, a name I’d shelved after WARM AND WILLING and ENOUGH OF SORROW. THIRTY is, to be sure, a creature of its time, as one knows when Jan whines about having to pay $375 a month for a Grove Street apartment. But I think the book holds up.

In any event, Jill was back in business, and she’d go on to write two more books for Berkley’s sexy new series, both of them pseudo-documents like THIRTY.

Another Audible book consumed over the course of a week or so's driving to work and back. My commute is about 20 minutes, sometimes longer each day which allows the opportunity to get about 3-4 hours more "reading" in a week. Happy days.

Here we have a diary of a woman, plotting her journey from slightly dissatisfied housewife to a single sexually liberated free woman. I'm not too sure if she is any happier at the end of her journal than she was at the beginning, but she's had a fair few adventures along the way.

No crime or mystery to this one, which is what you can usually expect from Lawrence Block, but as he explains above it's a different book written for a different audience at a different time in his writing career. This is quite graphic with it's prose and the level of explicitness in its descriptions of our main character's sexual liaisons. It's quite a contrast to a couple of his other early books that I listened to previously - 21 Gay Street and Of Shame and Joy. Between the early 60s and 1970 you can definitely see a relaxation in censorship laws.

In short then..... a 29 year old woman, married and bored, a chance remark from a friend and a different outlook on life, a fumble at a party, a treat for the kid shovelling snow, a packing of the bags and a move to the city - New York, a series of encounters - single men, two men, one woman, a woman and a man, new experiences, a control freak, enjoying it, enduring it, a whole tick list of variations and possibilities from A-Z - probably a few more as well, giving it away, selling it, making new friends and acquaintances, falling pregnant, an abortion, an encounter with an old neighbourhood friend, an encounter with the estranged husband, pick-ups and trysts in bars, hotels, taxis, apartments etc etc.

I was fairly entertained by the shenanigans, without every feeling any great warmth or affection for our main character, Jan. Scrub that probably no affection for her. I did fear for her at one time, in her encounters with the controller Eric. He comes across as sadistic and inhuman, as opposed to some sort of liberator and mentor, freeing Jan from her shackles emotionally, from a personal level and those imposed by respectable society. Maybe around the mid-point he kinds of fades from the scene.

A week or two on from listening to this, I can't exactly remember where we left off with Jan, which is no great source of regret. I enjoyed the time spent in her company, Fifty years on, it would be interesting to have a catch up with her now and see what she's been up to in the last half a century. I'm betting she'll have calmed down a bit. I hope she's happier than at this stage of her life.
Without ever coming close to being the author's most enjoyable book ever, I did have fun with this one.

An enjoyable listen, with a pleasant narration from Emily Beresford.

3.5 from 5

Read - (listened to) - October, 2019
Published - 1970
Page count - 190 (5hours 11 mins)
Source - Audible access code received from author's assistant
Format - Audible
  

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

DIETRICH KALTEIS - CALL DOWN THE THUNDER BLOG TOUR - aka QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH DIETRICH KALTEIS (4)



One of my favourite contemporary authors is back with a new book.

Call Down the Thunder from Canadian author, Dietrich Kalteis dropped earlier this week and Dietrich was kind enough to stop by for a few questions.....


Photo: Andrea Kalteis
















It's been a year or so since our last chat, what have you been up to in the past 12 months or so? 

Relating to writing, I finished one novel, and I’m halfway through a new one. I also worked on edits, organized and took part at various readings and events, and I’m getting set for another trip down the coast to California to promote the new release.

Another book dropping imminently (out now actually) - Call Down the Thunder
Can you pitch it to readers in a few words?

Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on. The land’s gone dry, barren and worthless. And the bankers, greedy and hungry, make life even more impossible, squeezing farmers out of their homes. The couple can wither along with the land, or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the other farmers. But Sonny comes up with a way for them to stay on their land and prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery.
  
At time of writing, I've still to get my teeth into my copy, but I read somewhere ...... bankers, loan sharks, the Ku Klux Klan—not to mention ferocious dust storms - late-1930s Kansas. So another historical novel as opposed to a more contemporary setting, how did you do the research for this one?

To get a solid feel for the times, I read many archived newspapers, historical accounts, agricultural bulletins, studies, memoirs, and I viewed hundreds of photos and maps of the damage inflicted by the dusters and drought.

I've probably asked before, are there different challenges to approaching a book set in the past as opposed to present times? I'm guessing the same levels of blood, sweat and tears are needed?

There’s an old saying, “Write what you know.” And I think that’s true. I’ve set stories in present time, in Vancouver where I live, or in Toronto where I used to live. And as much as I have lots of memories to draw on, those stories still need a degree of research. 

To write a story set in a place and time I’ve never experienced, I have to do a lot more research. If possible, I go to where I’m writing about to get a feel for it. If it’s set in another time, then I dig up enough to become familiar with it. But there’s not so much blood, sweat and tears; I enjoy the digging, learning about the people and how they survived and adapted to whatever came.

Do you have a preference between past and present?

I don’t. When I come up with a story, I just want to set it in what I feel will serve it best. 

Did the end result mirror your expectations?

I never know how a story will turn out when I start writing. I loved writing about the hard, yet simple times of the thirties, and it felt solid right from the beginning, so I’d say yes, the results met my expectations.  

At the risk of getting ahead of myself, what's next? What can we look forward to in 2020?

I won’t mention titles yet, but the next one is set in present-day Vancouver and involves a cheating couple being pursued by a gangster husband who’ll stop at nothing to catch them. It introduces readers to some new characters and takes them on a wild ride up through northern British Columbia and into Alaska. 
The one after that is also complete and based on a real-life bank robbing couple – lesser-known than Bonnie and Clyde – who were at large in the central States in the latter 1930s and topped the FBIs most wanted list. 

Random question time.....

What’s your favourite vegetable?



It would be easy to just say eggplant, but you know, Col, it also depends on setting. For instance, in the early springtime here in the northwest we get great wild fiddleheads, followed by fantastic asparagus. Then summer squash, and there’s savoy cabbage in winter. Hard to pick a favorite.

When did you last have a fist fight?

Once it a while it’s tempting, but generally I leave the rough stuff to my characters.

Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?

Again, I leave that to my characters.

Do you have any tattoos?

No.

What was your first pet’s name?

Freddy, the talking parrot.

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?



Back when I first learned to cook, I tried a recipe for corned beef crepes. It didn’t turn out looking like the photo in the book and had to be one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted. After tossing it in the bin, I ordered a pizza and it wasn’t bad.

Do you have any irrational fears?

My fears are all logical and reasonable. Although, I’m not partial to heights, or being in deep, murky water. So heights and depths. Generally, I’m okay with everything in between – oh, and needles, I don’t like needles.

What’s your favourite vacation destination?



There are many places that I’ve enjoyed visiting, but for the past several years I keep ending up in California, so I guess you could say it’s a favorite destination.

When did you last tell a lie?

I can’t think of anything specific, and I’d really like to say I don’t, but then I’d be lying. 

What's the best book you've read in this year?

The Border by Don WInslow.



------------------------------


Many thanks to Dietrich for his time.

Call Down the Thunder is available now.....


Desperate times call for desperate measures in Kalteis's lightning-fast crime caper story Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on: their land's gone dry, barren, and worthless; the bankers are greedy and hungry, trying to squeeze them and other farmers out of their homes; and, on top of that, their marriage is in trouble. The couple can struggle and wither along with the land or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the others. Clara is all for leaving, but Sonny refuses to abandon the family farm. In a fit of temper, she takes off westward in their old battered truck. Alone on the farm and determined to get back Clara and the good old days, Sonny comes up with an idea, a way to keep his land and even prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery. He sets the scheme in motion under the cover of the commotion being caused by a rainmaker hired by the mayor to call down the thunder and wash away everyone's troubles.


Links below....



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Dietrich and his books previously on the blog....







Ride the Lightning


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Bio: Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat ClubTriggerfishHouse of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), and Zero Avenue. His novel The Deadbeat Club has been translated to German, and 50 of his short stories have also been published internationally. He lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast. 

His website is http://www.dietrichkalteis.com/, and he regularly contributes at the blogs Off the Cuff:

And at 7 Criminal Minds:

You can also find him on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dietrich.kalteis/


Monday, 14 October 2019

2 BY THOMAS H. COOK

Another author with about six books on the TBR pile, maybe more and I've never read him. Ridiculous really. I have heard good things about Thomas H. Cook though.







Cook - no relation to the recently bankrupted travel agents - has written over 25 novels in his career, most of them stand-alones. There are three in his Frank Clemons series of which Flesh and Blood is number two.



From Wikipedia...

Thomas H Cook's pictureThomas H. Cook was born in Fort Payne, Alabama, and holds a bachelor's degree from Georgia State College, a master's degree in American History from Hunter College, and a Master of Philosophy degree from Columbia University.

From 1978 to 1981, Cook taught English and History at Dekalb Community College in Georgia, and served as book review editor for Atlanta magazine from 1978 to 1982, when he took up writing full-time.

Cook began his first novel, Blood Innocents, while he was still in graduate school.[2] It was published in 1980, and he has published steadily since then. A film version of one of his books, Evidence of Blood, was released in 1997.

Six of his novels have been nominated for awards, including Red Leaves in 2006, which was also shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger and the Anthony Award, and went on to win the Barry Award and the Martin Beck Award.






Flesh and Blood (1989)


Publisher's Weekly
Image result for cook flesh and bloodRich in character, complex in plot, Cook's second Frank Clemons novel, after the much-praised Sacrificial Ground , finds the former homicide detective relocated in New York. Now a private eye, Frank lives with Karen on the upper East Side, but he is falling out of love and becoming increasingly aware that his real sympathies lie with Manhattan's less-privileged citizens. That's one reason why he is drawn to the case of Hannah Karlsberg. Hannah, in her 70s, was brutally murdered (her right hand chopped off) in her apartment; her employer, a high fashion designer, hires Frank to locate Hannah's next-of-kin so the body can be released and buried. But Hannah's past is full of gaps and contradictions, and Frank is soon on a trail that begins in the Lower East Side sweatshops of the 1930s, where Hannah was a forceful strike leader for the American Garment Workers' Union. The scent then leads to a small village in Colombia, and ends in a settlement house in Brooklyn. Frank's investigation is steeped in a deep personal, lyrically evoked sorrow; talking with Hannah's old co-workers, he uncovers dark deeds and omissions that resonate with his own growing sense of isolation and betrayal. Cook constructs a many-layered and shimmering tale in which the history, locale and personality build to an unsuspected, satisfying end. BOMC alternate; Detective Book Club and Mysterious Book Club main selections.

Library Journal
Former policeman Frank Clemons, a private investigator, is hired by famous dress designer Imalia Covallo to find a relative of her slain employee so the police will release the body for burial. Frank reconstructs the dead woman's past: a garment worker and union activist, she mysteriously left for South America only to reappear in New York as the unknowing sidekick of a drug runner; she was a diligent assistant to Covallo. Frank experiences a deeply felt empathy for the woman and ends by discovering her murderer. Strong prose and steel-etched characters complete an enticing puzzle. Detective Book Club main selection. REK



The Chatham School Affair (1996)

Image result for chatham school affair cookAn Edgar Award-winning novel.

As he draws up his will, Attorney Henry Griswald is haunted by a long-buried secret: the truth behind the event the world knew as the Chatham School Affair, a controversial tragedy that destroyed five lives, shattered a quiet community, and forever scarred the young boy. Layer by layer, Cook paints a portrait of a woman, a school, and a town in which passionate violence seems impossible... and inevitable.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

JAMES NEWMAN and MARK STEENSLAND - IN THE SCRAPE (2019)


Synopsis/blurb......

Most kids dream about a new bike, a pair of top-dollar sneakers endorsed by their favorite athlete, or that totally awesome video game everyone’s raving about. But thirteen-year-old Jake and his little brother Matthew want nothing more than to escape from their abusive father. As soon as possible, they plan to run away to California, where they will reunite with their mother and live happily ever after. It won’t be easy, though. After a scuffle with a local bully puts Jake’s arch-nemesis in the hospital, Sheriff Theresa McLelland starts poking her nose into their feud. During a trip to the family cabin for the opening weekend of deer-hunting season, Jake and Matthew kick their plan into action, leaving Dad tied to a chair as they flee into the night. Meanwhile, the bully and his father have their own plans for revenge, and the events to follow will forever change the lives of everyone involved . . .

Another one-sitting read which provided my first taste of co-author's James Newman and Mark Steensland. In the Scrape offers up a coming-of-age tale for two brothers, Matthew and Jake.

A difficult childhood, abandoned by their mother, raised by a volatile, unpredictable father, plagued by bullies at school, the boys only have each other and dreams of a better life, not quite buying into the narrative that their father spins about their mother. The plan is to raise some money and run to California to live with their mother.

James Newman
Hungry stomachs, heavy drinking, beatings with a belt, school yard fights, brotherly love, attendance at church, theft, comic books, an altercation, a blow to hopes, a police visit, a hunting trip, doubts, uncertainty, a trial run, a commitment to the plan, chaos, death, answers,

I really liked this one. You would need a heart of stone not to empathise with the two brothers. You will them to succeed and you shudder at every setback along the road. Not a story with a totally happy ending, but maybe the best outcome in the circumstances.

Short, sharp, thought-provoking, sad, hopeful, a tale of love and determination with characters you root for.


Mark Steensland
4 from 5

Definitely a pair of authors I would be keen to read more from in the future, either collaboratively or on their own.

Read - September, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 105
Source - Net Galley
Format - ePub read on laptop

SEPTEMBER 2019 - FILMS (CINEMA)

I think my wife and I should have seats with our names on; seven trips in the month - a bit of horror, crime, action and foreign language comedy.......


It Chapter Two (2019)
I've read the book, seen the film (the original), seen the re-make and now the sequel. I was momentarily tempted to re-visit the book, but nah it's too long. I did love it back in the day though.

Not too many scares here in all honesty, but a decent couple of hour's viewing. I think the only actor I was really familiar with was James McAvoy. Stephen King has a fairly long cameo (for him at least, I always seem to remember him as someone floating around in the background of films of his books, a visible extra). He has one scene as an antiques/vintage/retro dealer. Friendship, re-connection, love, grief, loss, loyalty....all get a run-out.

It runs at nearly three hours and usually I'm kind of fidgety after about two, but I don't recall getting antsy in the cinema, so it held my attention throughout. There's worse ways of spending an evening.

From Wikipedia......

It Chapter Two is a 2019 American supernatural horror film and the sequel to the 2017 film It, both based on the 1986 novel by Stephen King. The film is directed by Andy Muschietti from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman. It is the second film in the It film series. It is produced by New Line Cinema, Double Dream, Vertigo Entertainment, and Rideback, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film features an ensemble cast, including Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, and Bill Skarsgård, who returns as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Set in 2016, 27 years after the first film, the story follows the remaining members of the Losers Club reuniting in order to defeat the eponymous being who has returned to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine.





Ready or Not (2019)
Horror-drama-comedy with a few laughs and a few moments of hands over the eyes, sharp intakes of breath. I could have sworn the lead actor was Margot Robbie, but apparently not. Samara Weaving is the lady in question. None of the rest of the cast were overly familiar to me. Another film that was enjoyed without being especially memorable in all honesty. Gets me out of the house though.


From Google....

Grace couldn't be happier after she marries the man of her dreams at his family's luxurious estate. There's just one catch -- she must now hide from midnight until dawn while her new in-laws hunt her down with guns, crossbows and other weapons. As Grace desperately tries to survive the night, she soon finds a way to turn the tables on her not-so-lovable relatives.


Ad Astra (2019)



My daughter said avoid after watching the trailer, her boyfriend agreed. Me, I'm as thick as mince. Brad Pitt.... gotta be good, init..... err no. The only good thing about it was that it allowed me to doze off several times catching up on obviously much needed sleep with a series of micro naps, before several short sharp jabs to the ribs from my better half brought me back to the land of the living.

A bit slow, a bit ponderous. No doubt there's a message in the film somewhere, but not for me.

From Google.....

Thirty years ago, Clifford McBride led a voyage into deep space, but the ship and crew were never heard from again. Now his son -- a fearless astronaut -- must embark on a daring mission to Neptune to uncover the truth about his missing father and a mysterious power surge that threatens the stability of the universe.




Gang Leader (2019)
A bit of a punt on a one showing only foreign language film and I'm glad I did. Great performances, maybe a bit cheesy with the music and soundtrack, but I really liked it. Funny and sad in equal measures, with a bit of enjoyable action and some drama thrown in for good measure. Great acting as well and I loved the story.

Robbery, death, grief, revenge, greed, a crime writer, a new family forged from the ashes of loss and bereavement. 

From Wikipedia....

Gang Leader, promoted as Nani's Gang Leader, is a 2019 Indian Telugu-language comedy thriller film produced by Naveen Yerneni, Y. Ravi Sankar and Mohan Cherukuri under banner of Mythri Movie Makers and written & directed by Vikram Kumar. The film stars Nani with Lakshmi, Saranya Ponvannan, Priyanka Arul Mohan, Karthikeya, Anish Kuruvilla, Priyadarshi Pulikonda,Vennela Kishore and Sathya in pivotal roles. The music is composed by Anirudh Ravichander. In the film, a group of bereaved women seek the help of a crime novelist to avenge the death of their loved ones.



Angel has Fallen (2019)
I'm not a massive Gerard Butler fan, I kind of think he's a bit wooden to be honest. I don't mind Morgan Freeman and I love Nick Nolte. Nolte features as Butler's dad and I love seeing him play a grumpy old man. Butler might just be growing on me a bit, as I quite liked this one and didn't spend all the time viewing hoping against hope that he gets killed.

Someone's out to kill the President and discredit Butler, one of his top security people.

This is the third in the series, but I haven't seen the earlier ones - Olympus has Fallen, London has Fallen. There might be worse ways of filling in a couple of hours in an evening.

From Google.....

Authorities take Secret Service agent Mike Banning into custody for the failed assassination attempt of U.S. President Allan Trumbull. After escaping from his captors, Banning must evade the FBI and his own agency to find the real threat to the president. Desperate to uncover the truth, he soon turns to unlikely allies to help clear his name and save the country from imminent danger.


Rambo Last Blood (2019)
I've seen a bit of chat about how this film buys into the Trump MAGA narrative and I kind of understand that to a degree, with it's villains here being solely Mexican. I kind of think that's a bit harsh in all honesty.

I was quite happy to enjoy it for what it was..... a rescue turned revenge thriller, where Rambo kills an insane number of people as payback for the death of his niece (I think).

I do like a bit of Sylvester Stallone if I'm honest. He's not too bad an actor in my opinion. I've enjoyed more of the films I've seen him in than not.


From Google....

Vietnam War veteran John Rambo tries to find some semblance of peace by raising horses on a ranch in Arizona. He's also developed a special familial bond with a woman named Maria and her teenage granddaughter Gabriela. But when a vicious Mexican cartel kidnaps Gabriela, Rambo crosses the border on a bloody and personal quest to rescue her and punish those responsible.


The Kitchen (2019)

Probably my favourite film in the month (Gang Leader - a close second)... 70s, maybe 80s New York setting, men wearing the trousers, women seen but not heard. Mob wives seeing their husbands incarcerated for a few years and struggling to survive with the crumbs thrown them by the Irish mob, decide to take over and work for themselves. Loved it. I do like Melissa McCarthy. I enjoyed seeing Elizabeth Moss again (Handmaid's Tale) and Tiffany Haddish was pretty convincing as a tough as nails wife turned mobster.

All the elements I like in a film were present...... crime, action, grit, striking characters, a decent story, violence, tension and lots more. When does the DVD come out? 

From Google.....

Between 8th Ave. and the Hudson River, the Irish mafia runs 20 blocks of a tough New York City neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen. But for mob wives Kathy, Ruby and Claire, things are about to take a dramatic and radical turn. When the FBI sends their husbands to prison, the three women take business into their own hands by running the rackets and taking out the competition.

Friday, 11 October 2019

GEORGE V. HIGGINS - THE RAT ON FIRE (1981)
























Synopsis/blurb.....

Trouble. Money trouble, rent trouble, debt trouble, wife trouble, woman trouble, legal trouble, illegal, extra legal... when the problems get too much it sometimes seems a good idea to put a match to the one you'd most like to be without. And if it happens to be a slum full of blacks who don't pay the rent, and if you're well insured and Jerry Fenn, then it might seem an even better idea. But if you pay Leo and Jimmy to do it for you, you might just have another problem.

Never before available in paperback, The Rat on Fire strikes sparks off the streets and lights up the sleazy side of the American underworld with the glare.

The last of the holiday reads covered and another trip way back in time to Boston in the company of George V. Higgins.

Second time around for this one as I read it back in January, 2010 (3 stars) - I enjoyed it a bit more second time.

The police start up an investigation into a fire marshall they believe to be corrupt. Billy Malatesta, will take a bribe and not look too hard into the causes of a fire and the landlord can collect on the insurance. Jerry Fenn has a building that is costing him money. He has tenants that steal the copper pipes and throw their refuse in the yard, then complain about the state of the place and refuse to pay the rent. Fenn knows a guy, Leo Proctor who can solve his problem. The guy knows his stuff and knows Malatesta. Detective Lieutenant Inspector John Roscommon sets his two finest Mickey Sweeney and Donald Carbone after Proctor and the corrupt official.

It's another one that is heavily reliant on dialogue to advance the story and it's a style of writing that I really like. Mick and Don pose as truckers and hang out at a cafe which Proctor visits regularly. Moaning frequently about the lack of available Danish and life on the road, all the while eavesdropping and gathering information.

In the meanwhile we also learn about some of the residents of the building in question and their struggles, in particular the one lady who does pay rent to Fenn - Mavis Davis and her reprobate son and all round loose cannon Alfred.

Planning, scheming, rationalisations, money troubles, casual racism, frustration, surveillance, investigations, pastries, money, incentives, rat-catching, arson and a helluva lot more.

There's a rhythm to the story that I really liked. The time spent with different characters. Fenn meeting his guy and discussing the intended fire. Proctor enlisting some support and the regular meetings with the marshall. Fenn getting on with running his business as an entertainment agent. Roscommon catching up with his two guys. Mavis and her son Alfred with bust ups and legal trouble. There are also little off-shoots and cameos with stories about characters on the periphery who we never meet, but which add some substance and reality to the lives of the characters we are reading about.

I couldn't actually remember too much about the previous reading of the book. I think the passage of time has eroded my memories and it was new and fresh as if I was reading it for the first time.

Setting, plot, characters, length, outcome - all positives.

4 from 5

The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Cogan's Trade were the other two Higgins books I enjoyed recently.

Read (re-read) - September, 2019
Published - 1981
Page count - 194
Source - owned copy
Format - omnibus edition

MIKE KNOWLES - IN PLAIN SIGHT (2010)






Synopsis/blurb.....

Wilson thought he had acquired freedom from being a gritty, gruesome criminal when a car accident puts him back in the cross hairs. This time, dirty cops use him as bait, telling him the only way to stay out of cuffs is to put someone worse in them. Knowing that justice isn't blind in the city, Wilson picks a fight with the Russian mob to lure both the corrupt cops and brutal robbers into a trap, scavenging once again for his freedom. Full of gory conflict, this latest in the Wilson Mystery series offers nonstop action and savage violence.

The third and last for now, Mike Knowles-Wilson novel, In Plain Sight was another enjoyable holiday read - coming quickly after Darwin's Nightmare and Grinder.

Not one for the faint-hearted - it's harsh, bloody and brutal. Our man Wilson wakes up in hospital chained to the bed. An uneasy pact with a Maori cop is the key to his freedom.

I kind of know what to expect from these books now, not that I would class them as formulaic. Wilson is a loner, an outsider, bereft of family and with only one person he can count on as a friend, though by extension he get his friend's wife thrown in for free - a second reluctant one. It isn't the kind of normal friendship that involves meals out or concerts and cinema trips. More the last port of call when the chips are down and you need a favour. I find that quite sad really and it's not an existence I would ever envy. He isn't motivated by greed or a sense of justice. He doesn't dream of a quiet life in suburbia with a wife and 2.4 children. Survival and a life lived on his own terms appears to be motivation enough.

In the course of the book, Wilson sets up an old enemy, one we are familiar with from a previous encounter, all the while planning and plotting how to get out from under the hold of a loose cannon cop.

A month on - details, events, names from the book are all a bit fuzzy. Wilson does his thing and does it well. Blood is spilled, plans come to fruition, curve-balls are negotiated, enemies are put in their place and we live to fight another day.

Pace, plot, setting, character, outcome - all plusses.

No real downside as such, maybe a bit of jadedness at so much time spent in the company of the same guy in such a short space of time. I'll be curious to see what happens in the next outing - Never Play Another Man's Game - but I'll save that for a few month's time.

4 from 5

Read - September, 2019
Published - 2012
Page count - 203
Source - owned copy
Format - omnibus paperback edition