Sunday, November 10, 2019

Finished: Sandford's 'Holy Ghost'

John Sandford's "Holy Ghost" is the 11th in the Virgil Flowers series. Flowers was a sidekick of Lucas Davenport in the "Prey" series - kind of his alter ego. This was a very entertaining book.
Pinion, Minnesota: a metropolis of all of seven hundred souls, for which the word "moribund" might have been invented. Nothing ever happened there and nothing ever would--until the mayor of sorts (campaign slogan: "I'll Do What I Can") and a buddy come up with a scheme to put Pinion on the map. They'd heard of a place where a floating image of the Virgin Mary had turned the whole town into a shrine, attracting thousands of pilgrims. And all those pilgrims needed food, shelter, all kinds of crazy things, right? They'd all get rich! What could go wrong? 
When the dead body shows up, they find out, and that's only the beginning of their troubles--and Virgil Flowers'--as they are all about to discover all too soon.
That's the summary by Amazon, which, oddly enough, gets the town name wrong. It takes place in Wheatfield, MN, a metropolis of 600 souls. It's right there on the back cover!


I got a little tired of Virgil running into dead-end leads, but I liked the premise (apparitions of the Virgin Mary appearing at the local church and reinvigorating the local economy).

I gave it a 8 on the Haugenometer. Amazonians liked it even better with a 4.5 of 5.

I have the most recent Flowers novel waiting for me on my TBR shelf, so I need to get going.

The Pride of country music

Wifey and I went to the Charley Pride concert last night at the Deadwood Mountain Grand in Deadwood. Expectations were low as I don't expect much from an 85-year-old. Figure it's an accomplishment when they get out of bed in the morning.


Charley exceeded my expectations. I've seen Willie Nelson and B.B. King in their 80s and Charley seemed the most spry. He wasn't doing cartwheels or anything, but he strode from one side of the stage to the other and was very engaged with the audience. His voice was strong and he seemed to enjoy showing off his deep range.

A couple times he seemed to briefly forget a couple lyrics, but the keyboard player who has been with him for over 40 years covered nicely for him and got him back on track.

I think some of the mild confusion was that he seemed to ad lib his set, which went for about 90 minutes. He sang his hits, like "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" but when audience members shouted out their suggestions he took their advice. On one song, he turned to the band and said: "Do you remember that one?" They nodded yes and they were off.

He's recorded over 500 songs and the keyboardist pointed out it would take 25 hours to sing them all. Charley said there's nobody he would want to listen to for 25 hours straight. Apparently he's never heard Prince.

Charley was very engaged with the audience, joked with them and was in good spirits. Seemed to enjoy himself.

He enjoyed telling stories between songs but acknowledged, "You didn't come to listen to me talk." He mentioned the old rumor that he is the illegitimate son of Hank Williams. Said it was a popular theory decades ago. He laughed at it and then mocked it by playing a couple Hank songs.

The venue appeared sold out. Might have been some standing room available but all the seats were full and I don't think they sold SRO tickets.

The crowd was older. Lots of gray and white hair. It was odd though, when you see a guy like him who I never really followed, because he was before my time, but he definitely had his groupies. The crowd loved him and repeatedly hollered out their affection.

It was a fun night, more fun than I anticipated. I probably wouldn't have gone, but it was something to do and I try to make it a point to see the legends when they come to the area. I hoped for the best and we got it. Good job, Charley.

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Goose Egg - interesting but has cracks

Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com is proposing a new statistics for baseball. The Save ruined relief pitching. The Goose Egg can fix it.

I don't know that I agree with this new stat, but I do agree that closers are often used incorrectly. Rather than have Taylor Rogers pitch the 9th inning with a three-run lead, I'd rather have seen him in the sixth inning after the starting pitcher faded and left the bases loaded with one out.

That's when the game is won or lost. That's when you need to bring the smoke. That's when you need your best pitcher. Use somebody else later.

Like Stinkin' Yankee Goose Gossage says:
“I would like to see these guys come into more jams, into tighter situations and finish the game. … In the seventh, eighth or ninth innings. I don’t think they’re utilizing these guys to the maximum efficiency and benefit to your ballclub,” Gossage said. “This is not a knock against Mo [Rivera],” he continued later.1 “[But] I’d like to know how many of Mo’s saves are of one inning with a three-run lead. If everybody in that [bleep]ing bullpen can’t save a three-run lead for one inning, they shouldn’t even be in the big leagues.”

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Need to step up the prayer game

So the West River Diocese has been without a bishop for a couple months as Bishop Gruse was transferred. So we await the appointment of a new bishop.

At weekly Mass we've been praying for a new one as part of the Intentions. That's a part of the Mass where prayers are said out loud for various things, like peace, rain, those who've recently died, and topics affecting the community, nation or world. We go through a list of a half dozen or so.

Somebody writes them each week. I'm not sure who, the priest, the church secretary, somebody. What caught my ear recently is the portion where we pray for a new bishop.

We pray for a "competent" bishop for our diocese. Every week, same word. Competent? Is that what it's come to? Can't we set our sights a bit higher? Maybe ask for an excellent bishop? A immensely holy one? A learned, prayerful one of great leadership skills? Maybe even a super, duper one?

Maybe I'm nitpicking, but words mean things and it seems it was specifically chosen. No offense to any since, but I wonder what words they prayed when the diocese received Bishop Chaput. They should copy those words.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Finished: Block's 'After the First Death"

Been on a Lawrence Block roll, and why not?

"After the First Death" was one of those slow starters that gradually picked up steam and finished with a flourish. That's a dangerous game to play with me, because I have little patience. Sure there was a naked woman with her neck slashed in the bed of the guy buy page 6, but then there was a lot of introspection. I don't like introspection. Not sure why. I'll have to think about it.

It was written in 1969 and then another author wrote a book by the same name ten years later. Seems like something you'd want to check before you gave your book a title. But I guess they didn't have Google back then.
Lawrence Block weaves his spell in this suspenseful tale of a man haunted by murders he hopes he hasn?t committed ... It was all too frighteningly familiar. For the second time in his life, Alex Penn wakes up in an alcoholic daze in a cheap hotel room off Times Square and finds himself lying next to the savagely mutilated body of a young woman. After the first death, he was convicted of murder and imprisoned, then released on a technicality. But this time he has to find out what happened during the blackout and why? before the police do.
I gave it a 6-plus of 10 on the Haugenomter. Not great, but good. Amazonians and Goodreaders gave it a 3.5 of 5.

After a 182 pages of grittiness, Block ended the book with some thoughtful prose:
"Nothing is ever certain. We do not know quite where we are going. But where you are going is less important, I think, than where you are. And still less important is where you have been."

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Some quid pro quotes, notes and stuff I found interesting:

*** CBD Interest Among Americans Surpasses Nearly All Other Health Products: ‘This Generation’s Snake Oil’ 

 “At this time there are no known benefits for taking CBD over-the-counter,” explains Dr. Davey Smith, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at UC San Diego. “CBD is this generation’s snake oil, where millions are engaging with the product without evidence of any benefit.”
In fact, in some cases CBD may actually prove harmful. Dr. Leas cited a few already documented cases in which CBD products contained potential poisons due to these products not being regulated by any federal entity.
*** Ignore the Lazy Pessimists, Shopping Malls Are Far From Dead
Irony of ironies, one of the few public business figures who openly expresses his belief that bricks & mortar retailing has a brilliant future is the man largely credited with destroying this allegedly “old economy” way of catering to acquisitive customers. Happily Bezos isn’t the only believer.
*** This is interesting: The tragic story of Guggenheim architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s secret love nest
Today, we remember Frank Lloyd Wright as the greatest of American architects, a visionary who designed landmark buildings such as the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue. In the early 20th century, though, Wright was one of America’s most scandalous celebrities — and it began with his relationship with Mamah, the first of several affairs that would play out in newspaper headlines across the country.
*** Prince book #1

*** An interview with the author: Prince Wanted To 'Break The Mold Of The Memoir,' Says His Co-Writer
He, until the end, as with you and I, never really fully understood himself. And I think if you can reproduce that sense of mystery that you feel about your own self in performance or in your music there's such a gravity in that. And it really attracts people, because they want to know more without even knowing why or without knowing what might be hidden. So I think he was very astute at understanding the iceberg of the self, and knowing what should be submerged and what should be above water.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Most Important Quote of the Day

"I like the guacamole. Now, I don't really love the guacamole. So I get it when I feel like it. They changed their guacamole from $1.50 to $1.80. I mean, $1.50 is already pretty darn high. So they changed it to $1.80, and I'll never again get guacamole. It's not about the guacamole itself, I just don't want to let them win"
-- Astros pitcher Zack Greinke on Chipotle

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Finished 2 good ones from McMurtry and Block

If you think I spend half my free time sitting around reading 1960s and 70s pulp fiction, you'd be about right.

I suppose I could instead read books to make me a better person. Garbage in, garbage out, they say. But I rationalize by saying/hoping great writing in, great writing out. I don't know that it translates that way for me, but reading great writers like Larry McMurtry and Lawrence Block at least inspires me to write. And I need that more than I need positive thinking books or delving into the argument of where the Midwest begins or ends. Kudos to those who do, but that ain't me.

So as the cold weather sets in and the garden is kaput, the reading picks up. This week I finished McMurtry's "All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers" and Block's "You Could Call It Murder."

McMurtry has become one of my favorite authors, and it's not just because of this:
While at Stanford, McMurtry became a rare-book scout, and during his years in Houston, managed a book store there called the Bookman. In 1969, he moved to the Washington, DC, area, and in 1970 with two partners started a bookshop in Georgetown which he named Booked Up. In 1988, he opened another Booked Up in Archer City, which is one of the largest used bookstores in the United States, carrying between 400,000 and 450,000 titles. Citing economic pressures from internet bookselling, McMurtry came close to shutting down the Archer City store in 2005, but chose to keep it open after an outpouring of public support. 
In early 2012, McMurtry decided to downsize and sell off the greater portion of his inventory. He made the decision as he felt the collection was a liability for his heirs.[11] The auction was conducted on August 10 and 11, 2012, and was overseen by Addison and Sarova Auctioneers of Macon, Georgia. This epic book auction sold books by the shelf, and was billed as "The Last Booksale" in keeping with the title of McMurtry's The Last Picture Show. Dealers, collectors, and gawkers came out en masse from all over the country to witness this historic auction. As stated by McMurtry on the weekend of the sale, "I've never seen that many people lined up in Archer City, and I'm sure I never will again." 
And I haven't even read McMurtry's most famous works or even the movie adaptations and screenplays he's written. In addition to "All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers," I've read his "The Last Kind Words Saloon" and "Anything for Billy."

Just really good stuff. They say he captures the essence of had-scrabble Texas and hard women really well.
Ranging from Texas to California on a young writer's journey in a car he calls El Chevy, All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers is one of Larry McMurtry's most vital and entertaining novels. 
Danny Deck is on the verge of success as an author when he flees Houston and hurtles unexpectedly into the hearts of three women: a girlfriend who makes him happy but who won't stay, a neighbor as generous as she is lusty, and his pal Emma Horton. It's a wild ride toward literary fame and an uncharted country...beyond everyone he deeply loves. All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers is a wonderful display of Larry McMurtry's unique gift: his ability to re-create the subtle textures of feelings, the claims of passing time and familiar place, and the rich interlocking swirl of people's lives.
It's a bit like Hunter S. Thompson does Texas. An ending that leaves you think.

Amazonians gave it only 3.3 of 5 stars, but I enjoyed it more and gave it a solid 7 of 10 on the Haugenometer.

From there I turned to my old faithful Lawrence Block. He never fails to deliver.
“A missing person case brings private eye Roy Markham to the remote winter-bound college town of Cliff's End, New Hampshire. But what began as a routine investigation quickly becomes dark and dangerous. Six pornographic photos and a tidy little blackmail scheme result in a brutal and baffling murder, and no one is safe - especially Markham himself.”
Amazonians liked it with a 4.2 out of 5. I gave it an 8 of 10 as well. A good solid read.

The only problem I had with this signed paperback (which I was quite surprised to find) is that I went to carefully tear a price sticker off the cover and wasn't careful enough. I pulled some of the cover off with it. Pissed me off. Had me grumpy going to bed. Oh well, live and learn, I guess. Leave the stickers on, you OCDing idiot!


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Facts matter, even in, shocker, nonfiction

This is why I write fiction. It's like a jazz jam session. Just write and ramble and tell a story and let it rock n roll. Nobody comes back and says: "Bags Morton didn't really get his ear shot off in a McDonald's drive-thru!"

Yes, he did. In my (does best SpongeBob impersonation) imagggginaaaaation.


An example of nonfiction "truth":
In his new book, “Talking to Strangers,” Malcolm Gladwell writes that poets have “far and away the highest suicide rates,” as much as five times the rate for the general population. The statistic struck Andrew Ferguson, a writer for The Atlantic, as odd, so he tracked down its source: a paper that cited a 1993 book by Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychologist who based the finding on suicides among 36 “major British and Irish poets born between 1705 and 1805.” Somehow, a narrow analysis of a few dozen 18th- and 19th-century poets was mistakenly applied to all poets, then amplified in a best-selling book.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

What stage of inebriation are you tonight?

So I was reading this article about the death of Alexander the Great and got a chuckle out of this:

The Macedonians and their monarchs had a proud tradition of heavy alcohol consumption. It was not at all uncommon for a session to end with drinkers passing out. In a play performed in Athens earlier in the 4th century, Dionysus, the god of wine, sets out the stages of inebriation:
For sensible men I prepare only three craters: one for health (which they drink first), the second for love and pleasure, and the third for sleep. After the third mixing bowl is drained, sensible men go home. The fourth crater is nothing to do with me—it belongs to bad behavior; the fifth is for shouting; the sixth is for rudeness and insults; the seventh is for fights; the eighth is for breaking the furniture; the ninth is for depression; the tenth is for madness and unconsciousness.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Georgia on my mind

I recently made my first visit to Savannah, GA, and was awfully impressed. I'd definitely go back and bring the wife next time.

I was there for a long weekend withmy son who is working for a few months a couple hours away. We were going to meet in Atlanta but he said airline tickets were cheaper to Savannah and he knew I wanted to visit there. Besides, it's only 30 minutes to the ocean.

The main reason it was on my bucket list was because Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil is one of my all-time favorite books. Considering it spent four years on the NY Times best-seller list, I"m probably not the only who thinks so.

So we did the St. Bonaventure Cemetery thing (read the book) on a foggy, rainy morning, which was cool. Of course the big attraction in Savannah, as far as the book is concerned, is the Bird Girl statue. There's a picture of it on the cover of the book. It was in the cemetery, but it attracted so many visitors that they moved it to a museum. It's also a good way to monetize it. That, in fact, is why I ended up not seeing it.

For starters, I'm not a big museum guy. Paintings, yes. Artifacts, maps, old tools, clay pots, fossils, whatever, not so much. So as we approached the museum, I had it in my head that if it wasn't free I'd spend five bucks to see the statue. The optimist in me hoped it might be one of those voluntary-donation places. But, alas, twas not. It was 20 bucks a head. And I had my kid's head with me. All I really wanted was a picture next to the statue. While I'm no cheap-skate, 40 bucks seemed a bit much so we turned around and checked out the Rembrandt and Michelangelo statues outside the museum for free.

They also have these park-like town squares all over (22 of them). Really nice sculptures and fountains with huge trees and lots of flowers. Every couple blocks there's one. In between are shops and restaurants and bars.

They also have those along the river walk, a cobble-stoned historic area I'm guessing 10-12 blocks long. It's along the Savannah River, a big shipping lane to the Atlantic. There are street performers, bands, and I even rode a mechanical bull. Fun area. Lots of tourists.

One thing I noticed and pointed out to Junior was: "Either they have a lot of pretty women in Savannah or a lot of pretty women visit Savannah."

A while later after noticing a man walking a Mastiff dog, another a Great Dane, and a couple other giant bulldogs outside a shop, he laughed when I said: "Either they have a lot of big dogs in Savannah or a lot of big dogs visit Savannah." He's an easy audience.

I was really impressed with the food options. Every place we ate at there seemed to be another five dishes I wanted to try.

The people were great. There's history everywhere (even though that's not so much my thang).

Most people I visited with didn't know where South Dakota was. When I told them I lived twenty miles from Mount Rushmore, they seemed to get it more. One guy even asked me if there was anything to see out here besides Mount Rushmore. I told him some stuff and he made notes and is coming next summer. Another asked if we had any wildlife. I said, just my wife.

All in all, Junior and I had a great time. One of the favorite places I've visited. (And I'm having trouble downloading the photos off my phone, so you're just going to have to go see the place in person. Trust me.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Why Baseball Still Matters: My September 11 Story (not mine, his)

Here's an excerpt from a column written by a guy known as "Baseball Crank" after the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. His office was there. I'm doing a terrible job of paraphrasing it, so just read the danged thing.

It starts with: "On Tuesday they tried to kill me"

Then he reflects on the importance of the cops and firemen and seeming pettiness of things like baseball in comparison:

There's a scene that comes to mind, and I'm placing it in the Lord of the Rings because that's where I remember it, but feel free to let me know if I've mangled it or made it up. Frodo the hobbit has lived all his life in the Shire, where the world of hobbits (short, human-like creatures) revolves around hospitality and particular etiquette and family snobbery and all the silliest little things, silly at least in comparison to the great and dangerous adventure he finds himself embarked on. Aragorn, one of the Men, has been patrolling the area around the Shire for years, warding off invading creatures of all varieties of evil. Frodo asks Aragorn, eventually, whether he isn't frustrated with and contemptuous of hobbits and the small, simple concerns that dominate their existence, when such dangers are all at hand. Aragorn responds that, to the contrary, it is the simpleness and even the pettiness of the hobbits that makes the task worthwhile, because it's proof that he has done his job - kept them so safe and insulated from the horrors all around them that they see no irony, no embarrassment in concerning themselves with such trivial things in such a hazardous world. It has often struck me that you could ask no better description of the role of law enforcement and the military, keeping us so safe that we may while our days on the ups and downs of made-up games.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A couple things that caught my eye last week ...

*** For all those disaffected journalists laid off by their corporations, consider buying a weekly newspaper. Seriously. It's a good way to write, report what you want, and make some bank. Been there, done that, loved it. In a buyer's market for weeklies, where are the buyers?
You might have chuckled at the “buyer’s market” line, since all the bad news about metropolitan newspapers may lead you to think that a newspaper is no longer a good investment. That’s not true of most community newspapers, because they are the sole, reliable source of news about their communities, and most of them “are doing fine financially,” says Kevin Slimp, the leading consultant to community papers.
*** This is an exhaustingly long piece by Andrew Sullivan, but very interesting and insightful.

*** Wifey and I just finished Season 2 of "GLOW" on Netflix. It just keeps getting better.

So the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW), since they’re on a local cable show, are required by contract to produce a Public Service Announcement to play during their show. I thought this one was hilarious.

“Don’t Kidnap” 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Always good to have a good joke on hand ...

A guy goes into the emergency room in incredible pain. Doctors examine him and determine he has something lodged in his rectum.

They get to digging and pull out a plastic horse. In fact they end up pulling out four more plastic horses. 

The doctors list his condition as stable.

Bees

Been making a concerted effort to plant flowers, preferably native, to attract bees to the garden. Seems to bee working.




Thursday, August 15, 2019

I don't want to be between those sheets

In 1978 Ian McEwan wrote a book of short stories called "In Between the Sheets," which he considered experimenting in various forms and to "find his voice as a writer."

Two decades later, McEwan went on to write two of my favorite books: "Atonement" and "Amsterdam."

It's a good thing I read his novels first, because if I'd read those short stories first I never would've touched them. I appreciate a guy experimenting, and it apparently worked, but man was that some awful stuff i just finished.

It seems McEwan had a bit of an Edgar Allen Poe phase and dipped into the gothic and sexual, but man was it nuts. Some of the stories were almost unreadable gibberish. It's like he had some notes for a story, but no beginning and no ending, and thought "hey, I'll throw them in this book of short stories."

The ones that were readable were weird. There was the two-timing pornographer whose girlfriends decided to castrate him. There's a possible relationship between a female writer and her ape. And there's a father who is suspicious of his teenage daughter's relationship with her older midget girlfriend.

The only one that was slightly entertaining, in an E.A. Poe way, was "Dead As They Come." It "tells of a wealthy businessman's bizarre obsession with a fashion mannequin, which he purchases and takes home with him."

Spoiler alert: He goes crazy(er) when she refuses to talk to him and he "kills" her.

I'm glad McEwan improved as a writer and is now considered one of the best British writers of all time. Maybe the experimentation in the short stories helped. So at least it wasn't a wasted effort.

I like short stories and always have a couple books of them on hand for when I have only 15 minutes to kill, not enough time to sink into a novel, but enough time for a quick escape. Mark Twain's are the best. I bought a recent one by Craig Johnson with Longmire shorties. Haven't tried that yet. Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges has another one that I've really enjoyed.

And it dawns on me, if you happen to be into weird short stories (not McEwan weird), you might like some of those listed on this homepage. I wish I could say I've progressed as much as a writer as he has.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

How do you insult a Norwegian?

Recently a CNN talking head got his undies in a bundle because some guy called him "Fredo", which is apparently a bad thing to call someone of Italian heritage, as in the dim-witted brother of the Corleone family.

It would never occur to me to call someone Fredo, much less occur to me that it was something bad. But, hey, I'm not exactly on the cutting edge of insults nowadays.

I know the big slur words not to say, which since I never used them (N, C, F, words) isn't really much of a lifestyle change. But occasionally there are words that I might use and not realize they are bad. But good luck explaining that to someone offended by the word in these days of instant and easy offense. I once wrote a column and referred to some Canadian as a Canuck. I then received a letter to the editor from a truck driver from Canada who said that was offensive. I didn't know that, and still am not sure of that. Not enough anyway than I refrain from using the word, as if I actually ever have reason to use it much anyway.

But this Fredo thing, which the dude said is the equivalent of the N-word to Italian-Americans (I doubt it), got me thinking. What would be the equivalent of the Fredo word or N word to Norwegians?

Seriously, what could you call a Norwegian-American that referenced his past that would even get him to raise an eyebrow? Lefse licker? Lutefisk breath?

I'm fifth generation South Dakotan. And I'm 100-percent Norwegian heritage. Both sides of my family tree are littered with Oles, Olafs and Olavs. I don't know what you could call me, referencing my heritage, that would offend me.

Seriously, Norwegians write joke books about Norwegians and sell them to non-Norwegians. We tell Ole and Lena jokes that imply we are stupid. I suppose the groups most offended would say we aren't offended because we haven't been a marginalized group. We haven't been enslaved or discriminated against like many minorities. Fair enough.

The point I'm making out of this, though, is that regardless of the wrongs done to you or your ancestors, maybe if everybody wasn't so easily insulted people would be less likely to insult you.

Because what's the point of insults? Why does anyone call anyone else a name? It's to put them down, lessen them, make them feel inferior. But if it doesn't work, doesn't get a rise out of you, doesn't make you feel inferior, what's the point of doing it? I'm not saying it would happen over night, but when an idiot discovers that what they are saying doesn't affect you, he'll probably give up eventually. If enough idiots give up, imagine the world we might live in.

In my job, I get yelled at weekly on the phone from out-of-staters. Called every name in the book. I laugh at them, joke with them, and so on. Mostly I try to remain calm, and that infuriates them more. If I took personally what everyone said, I'd be a total basket case and probably be taking it out on those around me too. It's definitely easier said than done, and I can't honestly say nobody's never gotten under my skin. Fortunately, few know what buttons to push. But, then again, I'm a stoic, unemotional, dumb Norwegian. If you don't have that going for you, it might be more difficult. Give it a try. Might work.

In the meantime, have you heard the one about Ole and Lena driving to Minneapolis?

At Luverne, Ole put his hand on Lena's knee. She smiled.

At Mankato, he slid his hand up a couple more inches. Lena smiled more.

At Minneapolis, Ole moved his hand onto her thigh.

Lena said: "Ole, you can go further if you want."

So he drove to Duluth.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Read 'The Chain' and you'll never leave your kids alone again

I was looking forward to reading "The Chain" by Adrian McKinty, as the plot I'd read about seemed very clever. For once, the book lived up to its hype. It was unsettling and left me thinking about it when not reading. That's usually a good sign. Koontz does that to me sometimes.

Goodreads sums it up well:
You just dropped off your child at the bus stop. A panicked stranger calls your phone. Your child has been kidnapped, and the stranger explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger. The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child within 24 hours. Your child will be released only when the next victim's parents kidnap yet another child, and most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don't kidnap a child, or if the next parents don't kidnap a child, your child will be murdered. You are now part of The Chain.
Author Don Winslow calls it: "Jaws for parents."

This was one of the most suspenseful books I've ever read. Wasn't gory, sexual or anything over the top. I guess you'd consider it a psychological thriller, as the parents of the kidnapped children become the monsters they hate and weigh moral choices throughout.

You get hooked from the start. A couple twists shocked me. The final twist I didn't see coming.

The author shows a little humor too, as he quotes a character: “A man once told me that all books should end at chapter seventy-seven.”

This, of course, makes you turn to the end of the book to see how many chapters are in it.

Another says: “If I don’t make it, don’t let them cast some asshole to play me in the movie version of this.” And, of course, the movie rights to this book have already been sold to Paramount for 7 figures. That makes for a good rags to riches story for McKinty.

Amazonians give it a 4.2 out of 5, that jives with an 8 out of 10 on the Haugenometer. Goodreaders gave it 3.95 out of 5.

Definitely one of the better books I've read in a long time.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Shooter and his band hit the mark

Wifey and I attended the Shooter Jennings concert last night at the Iron Horse Saloon in Sturgis. It was stellar.

I was a frequent listener of Shooter's Sirius/XM radio show, but kind of lost sight of him after I cancelled the service. Then I got back on the Shooter bandwagon when he appeared in an episode of The Punisher. His song "Fourth of July" even joined my lunchtime karaoke session, witnessed only by my dogs, and I heard no complaints from them.

The concert was impressive. Shooter's music repertoire is vast. It ranges from classic country ballards to outlaw country to rock. The segues were seamless. His banter with the audience was limited as he put all his effort into the keyboards and various guitars.

It's well known that Shooter doesn't like Nashville (much like his father, Waylon) and they apparently don't care for him either. That's unfortunate from the aspect of not having a more mainstream listenership, because he has more talent in his pinkie finger than all the bro-country Justin and Jasons put together. Shooter isn't riding his father's coattails. He's legit talent, great singer and outstanding musician.

I  always respect artists who can sing AND play an instrument besides the tambourine. I also can play an instrument and sing, but there's never been a big calling for singing tuba players. I prefer to think Nashville hates me too.

We started out the concert just above him on the rail of the second floor, but moved down to the mosh pit midway through. The highlight of the evening for me was when I belted out a duet with Shooter - killing "Fourth of July." I consider it a duet, because I was six feet away from him on the floor. He probably wasn't as enamored with his partner's talent as I was.

If you listen to just one shooter song make it that one. Here's a link, with a cameo from George Jones at the end.

Here are the lyrics so you can sing along:

Alone with the morning burning red
On the canvas in my head, painting a picture of you
And me driving across country, in a dusty old RV
Just the road and its majesty
And I'm looking at you with the world in the rear view
You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me
And your happy to be with me on the 4th of July
We sang 'Stranglehold' to the stereo
Couldn't take no more of that rock 'n' roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along
Those white lines get drawn into the sun
If you ain't got no one to keep you hanging on
And there you were like a queen in your nightgown
Riding shotgun from town to town
Staking a claim on the world we found
And I'm singing to you, you're singing to me
You were out of the blue to a boy like me
You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me
And your happy to be with me on the 4th of July
We sang 'Stranglehold' to the stereo
Couldn't take no more of that rock 'n' roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along, sang along
And I'm looking for you in the silence that we share
You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me
And your happy to be with me on the 4th of July
We sang 'Stranglehold' to the stereo
Couldn't take no more of that rock 'n' roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along, sang along

Monday, July 22, 2019

Catching up on the books

Getting around to a couple past-due quick book reviews.

Most recently finished John Sandford's "Escape Clause." It was standard Sandford stuff, meaning clever, funny, a little sexy and with a good twist at the end (which I humbly admit to predicting).

It's the ninth book in the Virgil Flowers series. Two rare tigers are stolen from the Minnesota zoo and Flowers delves into the underground market for exotic animal parts.

A couple quotes jumped out at me:

"She scuttled off down the sidewalk to a blue Prius and stared at him through the windshield with the electric ferocity only a Prius owner could summon."

And this quote from Davenport to Virgil; "She was goofier than a Packers fan who's lost his cheese."

Goodreaders give it a 4.2 of 5. I'm a little lower with a 6+ out of 10.

Previously I knocked off a couple from the usual suspects, Stephen Hunter and Craig Johnson.

Hunter's "Master Sniper" was another hard-core gun book.I'm not hard-core, but enjoy his stories. I gave it a 6.

Johnson's "Another Man's Moccasins" is from his Longmire series. I gave it a 6+.

One I've been fiddling with in between is a book of short stories by Ian McEwan titled "In Between the Sheets." I shouldn't have been surprised by the contents of the book given the title, but I was. It's pretty much erotica. It surprised me because McEwan has written a couple of my favorite novels, "Atonement" and "Amsterdam." Both were pretty serious. The short stories so far have been weird, somewhat pervy, but I'll probably keep chugging along because he's such a good writer.

The next novel I'm starting tonight is one I've really been looking forward to: "The Chain" by Adrian McKinty. Let's hope it lives up to my expectations. I need a knockout.