Saturday 8 May 2021

2014/2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020/2021 READING CHALLENGE - TBR PILE

A reading challenge undertaken to make a small dent in my TBR pile has been completed seven and a bit years after undertaking it. Go me!

December, 2013 I committed to this one ......


Another challenge for next year, my 6th and probably my last, though it's possible I may sign up for a Canadian reading challenge around about the middle of next year, depending on what dents I make in this year's other challenges in the next 6 months.

Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery has signed up for this one organised over here by Roof Beam Reader. Where Tracy leads, I follow!

The challenge is fairly simple in its aim - to make a small dent in your TBR pile, but the books selected you must have had waiting there for over a year!

The Goal: To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months). 

There are specific rules and one of the differences in this challenge is that each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2013 or later

I read the books, I just failed on the time scale.

Of the 14 books - 6 were read in 2021, 5 in 2019, 1 each in 2017, 2016 and 2014

Completed eventually - 14 and out!

PAUL THOMAS - SEX CRIMES (2003) - January, 2019 - 4 Stars

The things we do for sex - lie, cheat, scheme, kill.....

Paul Thomas's blackly humourous stories explore the unpredictable and sometimes fatal consequences that can occur when sex rears its not-sougly head. The author if the ground-breaking series of New Zealand comic thriller featuring the Maori Detective Tito Ihaka (Old School Tie, Inside Dope and Guerilla Season) takes us into a world of lust, deceit, betrayal and elaborate revenge, where nothing is as it seems and even the best-laid plans never unfold quite according to plan.

Sex Crimes is seven delicious helpings of irony, intrigue and full-on entertainment from the writer who the celebrated Australian author Marele Day described as "a master of plot, pace and the killer one-liner." 

South of No North contains some of Bukowski's best work. Among the short stories collected in the book are Love for $17.50, about a man named Robert whose infatuation with a mannequin in a junk shop leads him first to buy it, then make love to it, and then eventually fall in love with "her," much to the consternation of his real-life girlfriend; Maja Thurup, about a South American tribesman with an enormous penis who is brought to Los Angeles by the woman anthropologist who has "discovered" him and become his lover; and The Devil is Hot, about an encounter with Old Nick at an amusement pier in Santa Monica, where Scratch himself is caged and on display, fed only peanut butter and dogfood, exploited by a cynical carnie.

The collection also features two of Bukowski's finest and most famous short stories: All the Assholes in the World Plus Mine, an autobiographical rumination on the treatment of his hemorrhoids, and Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live With Beasts. (The latter story originally was published as a chapbook of 500 copies by Bensenville Mimeo Press in 1965.)

The short stories collected in the volume are evocative of Bukowski at his best, when he was one of the premier short story writers still at the top of his talent.

Called by Raymond Chandler “a sleazy, corrupt but completely believable story of a North Carolina town,” this tough, realis­tic novel exemplifies Depression literature in the United States.

Falling somewhere between the hard-as-nails writing of James M. Cain and the early stories of Ernest Hemingway, James Ross’s novel was for sheer brutality and frankness of language considerably ahead of his reading public’s taste for realism untinged with sentiment or profundity. 

The setting of They Don’t Dance Much is a roadhouse on the outskirts of a North Carolina town on the border with South Carolina, complete with dance floor, res­taurant, gambling room, and cabins rented by the hour. In the events described, Smut Milligan, the proprietor, seeks money to keep operating and commits a brutal murder.

Shopping Cart Soldiers is a modern day Odyssean tale of the atrocities of war and its even more appalling aftermath. Set against the brutal realities of the conflict in Vietnam, John Mulligan tells the story of Finn MacDonald, an eighteen-year-old boy who is drafted soon after he emigrates with his family from Scotland. Upon returning from Vietnam, Finn is plagued by the terrible memories of all he has seen and is pushed into a haze of self-destructive behavior that tests his will to survive. Shopping Cart Soldiers chronicles Finn's painful and remarkable journey -- and his triumphant path to spiritual renewal and recovery.

"As dreamy and eerie, singular and compelling a novel as you will ever read. A prime piece of storytelling." - Larry Heinemann, author of Paco's Story

1995: William Cowling, at forty-nine, is digging a hole in the garden of his ranch home. A hole for shelter, for solutions. After years of pent-up terror, he has finally found the courage of a fighting man, the courage to laugh in the face of his certain knowledge that the weapons of destruction massed all around us, and against us, must one day be unleashed. His story - including the lives of his friends and family, his lover Sarah and his wife Bobbi - is our own. His defiance of the insane intentions of our leaders could also be ours.

THE NUCLEAR AGE takes on our supreme unacknowledged terror, finds its lunatic core and transforms it into a moving and courageous story that speaks of, and to, an entire age: our own, our nuclear age. It is a fiercely inventive comic fable for our time. 

Half-Apache and mostly orphaned, the adventures of Edgar Presley Mint begin on an Arizona reservation at the age of seven when the mailman's jeep accidently runs over his head. Shunted from the hospital to a reform school to a Mormon foster family, comedy and trouble accompany Edgar -  the irresistible innocent who never truly loses heart, and whose quest for the mailman eventually leads him to an unexpected home.

Smart, bored, attractive and single, Mattie Brooke is a not quite over-the-hill waitress in the tiny town of Dip, Washington. She's lived all but one year of her life in Dip, and not much of what goes on there escapes her eye. But then, not much of what goes on in Dip is worth noticing. Not much, that is, until a traveling salesman named Tucker Harris drifts into town. Mattie cuts out on her steady guy just long enough for this stranger to introduce her to his bizarre brand of safe sex, and after Tucker splits Mattie figures to go on with her life the same as before. Fat chance. What begins as sassy complicity in a capricious tryst triggers a subtle and vertiginous slide into hell, with no stops for beer or introspection. A hell so deceitful and complete that, less than one revolution of the earth around the sun later, Mattie suffers the horrible revelation that there will be no saviour capable of rescuing her sanity - let alone her life. In the darkness of this devastation it seems the best she can hope for is a mercifully swift termination ...

But wait. There is one possibility. It won't of course come for free. Nor is the price her soul, not that. Merely everything in it.

"There'd been a woman in this room when last he'd been conscious. Why so there was, sqealed the little devil, who now began to tune the surface of Tucker's cortex, stretching its surface like the skin of a kettle drum, by means of hidden software burnbuckles, to raise its pitch, which was the voice of the devil itself, and testing it with a pair of crusty mallets, unspeakably atrophied shrunken heads mounted on the tibia of Cesare Borgia."

I'd found a life that wasn't based on watching and lying and plotting, on using people, laying traps, practising deceit. But I'd brought a virus with me, carried it like a refugee from some plague city, hiding symptoms, hoping against hope they would go away. And for a time they had. And I was happy.

But when men in police uniforms came to execute me on the roadside, beside dark fields, it was a definite sign that my new life was over.

Mac Faraday is a man with a past living a quiet life in the country - until his beloved friend Ned Lowey is found hanged. Is it suicide? Faraday won't accept that and starts to ask questions.

Why did Ned visit Kinross Hall, the local home for juvenile girls?
Why did he keep press cuttings about the skeleton of a girl found in an old mine shaft?
Who was the beaten girl found naked beside a lonely road?

As Faraday's search begins to uncover chilling secrets, he finds himself thrown back into the past, forced to confront again the dangers of his old life.

Once he was the hunter, now he has become the prey.


There’s been a savage killing in an asylum for the insane.

Johnny Barrett is a journalist, and he wants to solve the case. He also wants to win a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Faking insanity, he gets himself committed – to a nightmare. Will he ever get out again, sane or insane?

This is the novel of Sam Fuller’s amazing 1963 movie Shock Corridor, a study in madness, hallucination, sexual fantasy and terror that grips from the first page to the last.

First publication in this country.

They grew up together on the mean streets of Marseilles, where friendship means everything. They swore that nothing would break their bond. But people and circumstances change. Ugo and Manu have been sucked down into the criminal underworld of Europe's toughest and most violent and vibrant city. When Manu is murdered and Ugo returns from abroad to avenge his friend's death, only to be killed himself, it is left to the third in this trio, detective Fabio Montale, to ensure justice is done. Despite warnings from both his colleagues in law enforcement and his acquaintances in the underworld, Montale cannot forget the promise he once made Manu and Ugo. He's going to find their killer even if it means going too far.

In Izzo's hardboiled novels, Marseilles is protagonist: explosive, tragic, breathtakingly beautiful and deadly. Asked to explain the astounding success of his now legendary Marseilles Trilogy, Izzo credits his beloved native city: 'Essentially, I think I have been rewarded for having depicted the real beauty of Marseilles, its gusto, its passion for life, and the ability of its inhabitants to drink life down to the last drop.' Fabio Montale is the perfect hero in this city of melancholy beauty. A disenchanted cop with an inimitable talent for living who turns his back on a police force marred by corruption and racism and, in the name of friendship, takes the fight against the mafia into his own hands.

Europa Editions published Chourmo, the second installment in Izzo's Marseilles Trilogy, in 2006, and will publish Solea, the final book, in 2007.

Sometimes the only way to understand evil is to plunge into it headlong - and just pray you don't drown.

People come to California's Huntingdon Beach in search of the endless party, the ultimate high and the perfect wave. Ike Tucker came looking for his vanished sister - and for the three men who might have murdered her.

In that place of gilded surfers and sun-bleached blondes, Ike looked into the shadows. He found parties that drifted towards pointless violence and joyless violations, highs that he might never come down from - and a sea of old hatreds that was wilder, deeper - and deadlier - than the ocean.

'Unique, colourful, suspenseful and mysterious. A very fine writing debut.'     Joseph Wambaugh

Stephen Schwartz's intensely nonstop thriller is about a LAPD homicide detective who must find a killer responsible for a series of murders that are directly related to him. Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective and former vice cop Hayden Glass is a sex addict. The addiction has ruined his marriage and irreparably damaged many of his relationships. 

However, he has always been able to separate his behavior from his career. But, when a series of killings in the L. A. area seem to be meant as a sign just for him, his addiction threatens to ruin both his professional career and his life.

"Raw, twisted, and so hard-boiled it simmers from beginning to end." Robert Crais


Set on a luxuriously appointed and hopelessly corrupt Army base in Mannheim, Germany, where the soldiers prefer real-life race riots to mock combat, Robert O'Connor's viciously funny novel is conclusive proof that peace is hell and the U.S. Army is its ninth circle.

In that hell, Specialist Ray Elwood is the ultimate survivor: a high-stakes drug dealer, bureaucratic con artist, and shrewd collector of other people's secrets. Elwood is contemplating cleaning up his act, although doing so will require one last, epic heroin deal. But of course it's then that his life will careen totally out of control. With its impeccably rendered cast of sycophants, drug burn-outs, and uniformed sociopaths, Buffalo Soldiers give us a scabrous, haunting vision of a military idled by the New World Order--and at all-out war with itself.


His name was Clay Burgess. Occupation: cop - he started out honest. Then he walked a crooked mile - with the little black bag to collect the loot from The Slot's gamblers. And he found a crooked sixpence when he began to dip into the little black bag for - the redhead from St. Louis. 


  1. Happy for you that you completed the challenge, Col. It's not a race, so who cares if it took a bit of time. I enjoyed the Paul Thomas collection, too - thanks for the reminder of it. And I'm glad to see the Peter Temple and the Jean-Claude Izzo here, too - both very talented authors, in my opinion.

    1. Thanks Margot. I need to remember the not a race thing! It was a very mixed bag of books and authors. Some enjoyed more than authors. I do have more on the pile from nine of the authors mentioned including your three picks.

  2. The only one I have read on this list is Total Chaos. I recently read a review of a book by Paul Thomas but his books are not so easy to read here. Good for you finishing all of these. I agree, reading should not be a race. I worry about counts (per month) too much and I don't know why.

    1. I think I'm still obsessed with counting, but I suppose it keeps me out of mischief. It's a shame that Thomas isn't more readily available in your neck of the woods.