Saturday, November 18, 2017

I saw it in color and loved it

Wifey and I attended the Jamey Johnson concert last night at the Deadwood Mountain Grand. We both loved it.

I'm not very good at writing reviews but do it anyway.

Johnson didn't talk much, just played music nonstop for almost two hours, and there's nothing wrong with that. Preferable in most cases.

A couple songs in, after "High Cost of Living," he said: "First time in Deadwood. Didn't know there'd be so many of ya." Long pause, then: "What if we suck?"

They didn't.

He has such a deep, rich voice, it's incredible. The sound mix was perfect, as we were able to hear all his words over a large band. Between back-up vocalists, the guitars, two drummers and a trio of instrumentalists, there must've been a dozen of them.

He tossed in a tribute medley to George Jones and two songs and a shout-out to Tom Petty. He also brought his dad on stage for a song (bottom photo).

You can usually tell when a band is having fun and feeding off the crowd (they were) and at one point while the crowd was singing along to "In Color" the lights were turned on so Johnson could see how large the crowd was. It was packed. He smiled and turned to his guitar player with a grin. They dimmed the lights and cranked it up again.

My 20-year-old texted to ask how the concert was. I told him and added: "He speaks to me." The kid "lol"d to that, but Johnson does and the concert turned this fan into an even bigger fan.

Best 25 bucks I ever spent.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Finished Sandford's 'Field of Prey'

I got out of order on John Sandford’s “Prey” novels, but as the great Willie Nelson sings: “There’s nothing I can do about it now.” Except to read the books.

On a side note, great lyrics to that song:
I've survived every situation
Knowing when to freeze and when to run
And regret is just a memory written on my brow
And there's nothing I can do about it now.
“Field of Prey” is #24 in the series and I really enjoyed it. One of the things that draws me to the novels is the setting. Most are set in southern Minnesota, which I know pretty well. So it’s fun when Lucas Davenport ventures into Owatonna or Mankato, with several mentions of South Dakota. This one takes place in the Red Wing area on the Wisconsin border.
On the night of the fifth of July, in Red Wing, Minnesota, a boy smelled death in a cornfield off an abandoned farm. When the county deputy took a look, he found a body stuffed in a cistern. Then another. And another. By the time Lucas Davenport was called in, it was fifteen and counting, the victims killed over just as many summers, regular as clockwork. How could this happen in a town so small without anyone noticing? And with the latest victim only two weeks dead, Davenport knows the killer is still at work, still close by. Most likely someone the folks of Red Wing see every day. Won t they be surprised.
Amazonians like it, giving a 4.6 of 5. Goodreaders at 4.2. I need to loosen up my system because all I seem to do is hand out 6 and 7s lately on my 10-point system. But I won’t start today: 7+.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Reading list interrupted

My newest thing is to try to weave some biographies into my reading repertoire. My current rotation is about ten crime fiction novels, then a classic book, ten more fiction novels, and then one religious book. So I wanted to broaden my horizons a little more without delving into 800-page tomes like The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. More power to those who do, but I don’t have the upper body strength to hold those books the required time necessary, nor the patience or attention span.

And I didn’t want to do presidents, because those are all usually epic length, and also because everybody reads them and most have been studied to death and I have a working knowledge of most of them. So I’m leaning toward famous people, who I wouldn’t normally read about, don’t know a lot about beyond the rudimentary, but who also seem interesting and might teach me something.

So with that in mind, I knocked off Arnold Palmer’s A Life Well Played: My Stories.
Palmer takes stock of the many experiences of his life, bringing new details and insights to some familiar stories and sharing new ones. This book is for Arnie's Army and all golf fans but it is more than just a golf book; Palmer had tremendous success off the course as well and is most notable for his exemplary sportsmanship and business success, while always giving back to the fans who made it all possible. Gracious, fair, and a true gentleman, "Arnie" was the gold standard of how to conduct yourself in your career, life, and relationships.
I liked that he actually seemed to have written it himself. If he had a ghost writer it wasn’t a very good one. It was a little clunky at times, not as smooth as Doris Kearns Goodwin, but very interesting in a down-home gentlemanly way.

My main takeaways were that Arnie was a very competitive person, holds a couple grudges, loved his dad and his wife a lot, and is just a really, nice, old-school type of person who is not terribly impressed with the way society is headed. (It was like looking in the mirror with a lot less distance on the drives.)

It met my qualifications to be included in the rotation: quick read, interesting and I learned some stuff. Go figure.

I’ve also picked up a couple bios for the to-be-read file, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel, and Charles Lindbergh – Writer, Inventor, Pilot. I’ll keep you posted on those, but not until I knock off three or four of my usuals, or as I call them, the good stuff.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Finished: Craig Johnson's 'The Cold Dish'

I scored tickets to hear Craig Johnson speak at Black Hills State University last week. So I figured I better read one of his books.

He’s the author of the Longmire book series, which was turned into a television series. It’s sixth and final season (though Johnson hinted at some one-off movies down the road) hits Netflix on Nov. 17 (if I recall correctly, but probably don’t.)

I found Johnson to be very humorous, down-home, humble. He provided great insight into the characters, the writing process, the actors and the biz. It was well worth the money (tickets were free).

While Johnson practically lives in my backyard (Wyoming) and I love the Netflix series, I’d never read one of his books. Not sure why, but maybe was thinking they really weren’t up my alley for murder mysteries. Might’ve even been a little uppity myself, thinking they were more Louis L’amour-ish, and those were from my junior high days.

Anyway, picked up his first in the series, The Cold Dish. And loved it. Might be front-runner for my favorite book I read in 2017. It had all the stuff I like if you combined Dean Koontz-Lee Child-Lawrence Block: murder, mystery, sex, love, spirit worlds, good dialogue.
Walt Longmire, sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka County, knows he's got trouble when Cody Pritchard is found dead. Two years earlier, Cody and three accomplices had been given suspended sentences for raping a Northern Cheyenne girl. Is someone seeking vengeance? Longmire faces one of the more volatile and challenging cases in his twenty-four years as sheriff and means to see that revenge, a dish that is best served cold, is never served at all.
I ended it late the other night and just sat thinking about the book. It’s like the book ends with Walt Longmire, suffering, half-drunk, sitting on the porch of his Wyoming ranch home, with his best bud, who’s just given him an iced tea instead of a beer, and you’re thinking about the book and gradually come back into the real world. But you don’t want to, you want to go back to Wyoming, but you can’t, because the book is over and you’re back in reality and you gotta go to work tomorrow and you're grumpy the book ended because it was so good.

I was also annoyed that I didn’t pick out the killer in the book until way too late.

Not sure if I liked the book more because I’d met the author, or if I would have liked it just as much without having met him. I guess it doesn’t matter. I liked it and will be picking up the second book in the series.

Goodreaders give a 4.1 out of 5. Amazonians a steller 4.5. The Haugenometer about hit 8 on this one but will settle with a 7+ on the ten-point scale.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

When the comics page and news page mix

I wonder at which point the late-night “comedians” became news.

Every morning on my news feed I see stories of what these supposed consciences of America had to say the night before. I don’t read the stories, because I don’t really need to be preached to by a guy whose previous claim to intellectual stardom was filming women in bikinis jumping on trampolines. (I didn’t know he had that show until recently, but probably would’ve watched highlights.)

I don’t remember radio newscasts reporting what Johnny Carson or Jay Leno or even David Letermen said. As a former journalist I’m just trying to get my head around why these jokers are taken as serious people. Nobody reports what Weird Al Yankovic thinks of the latest breaking news.

I haven’t, except in passing, watched any of them, so maybe I’m missing out on their genius, but I doubt it.

My television viewing habits are probably not considered mainstream. I was a pretty devoted Letterman viewer back when he was funny. Then he hit a period, from which he never recovered, when he turned bitter and mean and just wasn’t funny anymore. The only times I’ve watched late night since were those rare occassions when Prince would perform. Then I turned it off.

I don’t watch any of the other goofs either: Samantha Bee, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher. Give me the old school actually funny and cutting edge people, like George Carlin, Dennis Miller or Chris Rock, and I’ll watch. I don’t care if they’re lib or conservative. I’m really not afraid to have my ox gored, but I do like comedians who will gore everybody’s oxen. Not just one side

I also don’t watch the nightly news, network or local, nor do I watch the Sean Hannities or Rachel Maddows of the world. So you might think I’m an uninformed person, but you’d be wrong.

I have a news station on all day at work, usually muted. My Twitter feed is filled with newsies. In my job I hear politics, from every possible point on the political spectrum, from 8 to 5. So when I get home, the last thing I want to hear is talking-head blowhards, who frankly most times know less about the topics than I do.

For me, until the early darkness returns, my evenings involve working out (usually with dogs in tow) and gardening, then reading and writing. If the television is on during those times, it’s usually a baseball game or a music channel. Not that I don’t have my TV vices, like NCIS and Big Bang Theory reruns, but they don’ preach to me. (I get that on Sundays.)

I really think listening to cranky/angry people every night can’t help but make you cranky/angry yourself. So I try to avoid it because I don’t need any help in that area.

On that front, I’ve made a more recent effort to eliminate those types of people from my social media too. I recently discovered the mute button on Twitter, so I don’t see some people’s post but they still get the pleasure of seeing mine. The handful I muted are mostly complainers and virtue signalers. I followed them expecting something different. On Facebook I “mute but follow” several as well. If they’ve been ranting pro or against Obama or Trump over the years, they’ve most likely met that fate.

The new thing (to me) which I really like is Snapchat. I only do that with a handful of friends. The best part though is the family group, where me, the wifey and kids can get some pretty goofy, more private, free-for-alls going on that always bring a smile to my face.

That seems to be my goal. A few more smiles, a lot less politics, make Mark a happy, or at least less grumpy, boy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Finished: Daniel Silva’s ‘House of Spies”

“House of Spies” is the 17th in the Gabriel Allon series. It has to be tough as an author to keep things fresh for that long, but Daniel Silva does a good job. Gabriel keeps growing as a person and a professional (he's now director of Mossad) and the world’s problems never cease.

At 544 pages, that’s a pretty heavy load for my attention span but it flew by quickly as the world’s intelligence agencies join forces to bring down an ISIS plot. This one isn’t as Gabriel Allon-centric as most of the novels, but he’s still the main dude. And a good one.
Allon's career began in 1972 when he, Eli Lavon and several others were plucked from civilian life by Ari Shamron to participate in Operation Wrath of God, an act of vengeance to hunt down and eliminate those responsible for killing the Israel athletes in Munich. Wrath of God is referenced in the books throughout the course of his life.
One of the things I really like about Silva’s books is the afterward he includes. It shows the amount of research he puts into these spy thrillers and also touches on some of the real problems the world faces. Also, while Silva never names the president of the United States you can tell which ones he’s referring to. Surprisingly, he’s quite critical of Obama, or at least his efforts in the war on terror. I say surprisingly because I assume Silva is a liberal, given that he’s a journalist from California and married to CNN’s Jamie Gangel. But you know what they say about assuming.

This was another home run by Silva. I gave it a 7 of 10 on the Haugenometer. Amazonians are hot for it as well, with a 4.6 of 5.
But House of Spies is more than just riveting entertainment; it is a dazzling tale of avarice and redemption, set against the backdrop of the great conflict of our times. And it will prove once again why Daniel Silva is “quite simply the best” (Kansas City Star).

Friday, October 6, 2017

A garden with lots of twists

Last week when we were in Illinois, our daughter took us to a really cool place called Allerton Park about 20 minutes outside Champaign. The 12,000-acre park is considered one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois, along with the Cubs, Rob Blagojevich and Chicago’s murder rate.

It was built on the private estate of Robert Allerton and is now managed primarily by the U of Illinois. Allerton made his money in hogs, parlayed that into the Chicago Stockyards and founder of First National Bank of Chicago. Basically, his family was rich. And he had a son who was an artsy-fartsy guy and began creating this landscape which includes forest, grasslands, trails, a mansion, gardens and sculptures.

Befitting a splendid Georgian manor house, the Formal Gardens feature extensive plantings and over 100 ornaments and sculptures to discover.
“He created a picture in the garden. Yes, he painted with vegetation instead of oil and canvas.”
 Being a sophisticated liberal arts dude myself, I found the place to be “really cool.” I’m sure that’s what the Allerton family was going for. "Hey, Alice, let’s build a really cool place hicks from South Dakota can come to and walk around."

According to Wiki:
It has been described as "a vast prairie turned into a personal fantasy land of neoclassical statues, Far Eastern art, and huge European-style gardens surrounding a Georgian-Revival mansion" .
I liked that it was a very eclectic place. You could be walking by a huge peony garden, then down a hiking trail for half a mile and come across a huge bronze sculpture of a bear attacking a man. Then through the forest and out into an herb garden or into a Buddhist sculpture garden or Chinese maze garden.


Pictured here are the Fremiet sculptures:

Two bronze sculptures by the French artist Emmanuel Frémiet (1824-1910) were returned to Allerton Park in September 2016. The sculptures are not original Allerton pieces, but were donated to the University of Illinois in 1959 and subsequently placed along the park trails. They were loaned out for a traveling exhibition in 1980, moved from the park to the Krannert Art Museum in 1988, and finally placed in storage until new settings were created in the park.

Popularly called Gorilla Carrying off a Woman and Bear and Man of the Stone Age (Denicheur d′Oursons), they depict violent encounters between animals and Stone Age people.[33] Subject to controversy since they were created in 1885 and 1887 because of the violent subject matter, they are, however, immensely popular with park visitors who enjoy being surprised by finding them in the woods along the Orange Trail.

All in all, this was the type of place for a romantic get-away with the significant other or a nice family outing. You can take an hour or a day. It was pretty cool.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Finished: Ted' Bell's 'Patriot'

Finished Ted Bell’s ninth Alex Hawke novel over the weekend. Was pretty proud of myself too, because I’m easily intimidated by thick books, but tackled this 700-pager  like a trooper and am a better man for it.

Intelligence officer Alex Hawke takes on power-hungry Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is wielding a terrifying new weapon, in the latest adrenaline-fueled thriller in Ted Bell’s New York Times bestselling series.
In corrupt Russia, an erratic Vladimir Putin is determined to forge his country into a formidable superpower once again. He intends to redraw the map of Europe, and will go to impossible extremes to realize his fantasies—including shooting down a civilian airliner packed with tourists bound for China. Kremlin scientists have developed a radical new weapon that could forever alter modern warfare. NATO, locked in a tense standoff over Ukraine, Poland, and Estonia, knows Putin will not hesitate to use it. But there is one man who can bring the world back from the brink: Britain’s foremost intelligence asset, Lord Alexander Hawke.
It probably could’ve been a hundred pages shorter if he took out all the descriptive crap I skip over, but it really was a page-turner. Alex Hawke is a bit like James Bond, has some cool big-boy toys and lots of friends in bad places, including Vlad Putin. So it gets a little outrageous in places, but nothing wrong with that. Living in reality ain’t all it’s cracked up to be either.

I gave it a 7- out of 10 on the Haugenometer, just because it was fun and flew by. Amazonians mostly agreed with a 3.7 out of 5. You can pick this book up for less than 6 bucks, so you might as well.

If I remember correctly, and I probably don’t, this is the only Hawke novel where he doesn’t have a girlfriend, wife or even a one-night stand. One crazy assassin lady put the moves on him, but he had better things to do. Don’t we all?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Getting caught up, while in Dante's hell

While I have a stack of books I could be reading, I'm waiting for the latest Ted Bell book to be delivered by the Amazon fairy. So I've been stuck for three days in Dante's seldom talked about tenth circle of hell where you've finished one book, but don't want want to start another, because you're waiting for an even better book.

Fortunately I have several anthologies with short stories that are perfect for such occasions and fell in with Nathaniel Hawthorne. First was "Young Goodman Brown" and then a must-read for all gardeners "Rappaccini's Daughter."

"Young Goodman Brown" "is often characterized as an allegory about the recognition of evil and depravity as the nature of humanity."

It is kind of a dour story about Mr. Brown and his dreamlike journey into the forest where he discovers, or thinks he discovers, that most of his family and friends are hypocrites and not as pure as their Puritanical beliefs would portend.

As for "Rappaccini's Daughter," Wikipedia sums it up well: "It is about Giacomo Rappaccini, a medical researcher in medieval Padua who grows a garden of poisonous plants. He brings up his daughter to tend the plants, and she becomes resistant to the poisons, but in the process she herself becomes poisonous to others."

Before those shorts I did knock off three novels which I was remiss in blogging about. They were:

Dean Koontz "The City" - I knocked this thick one off in about four days because it was so good. Gave it a 7 on the Haugnometer. Goodreaders a 3.8 of 5.

Of the two Koontz books I recently read, I liked this one the best. Maybe it's just because it reminded me a little of Odd Thomas.
Here is the riveting, soul-stirring story of Jonah Kirk, son of an exceptional singer, grandson of a formidable “piano man,” a musical prodigy beginning to explore his own gifts when he crosses a group of extremely dangerous people, with shattering consequences. 
Lawrence Sanders "McNally's Dilemma" - The McNally books are always a joy. This is the point in the series where Vincent Lardo takes over the writing of the Archie McNally stories due to Sanders' death. Gave it a 6, only because it was good but didn't wow me. Goodreaders were okay with it too, at 3.77 of 5.
After finding husband number two in a precarious position with an attractive young lady, Melva Williams pulls the trigger --- and readily admits to the crime passionnel. To shield her gorgeous daughter from the press and paparazzi, she turns to her longtime friend Archy McNally.
Dean Koontz "The Silent Corner" - The kick off to a new series featuring Jane Hawk, suspended FBI agent. I gave it a 7 of 10 and Goodreaders seem to like it even better as it checks in with a 4.01 of 5.
“I very much need to be dead.”These are the chilling words left behind by a man who had everything to live for — but took his own life. In the aftermath, his widow, Jane Hawk, does what all her grief, fear, and fury demand: find the truth, no matter what.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Link-oh-hump-day-rama

Got a quick trip coming up to move Junior into his apartment at college in Mankato. One of the best parts is getting to visit a great used book store there: Once Read Bookstore. Here's a nice feature story on it.

And other stuff:

*** So this is from Daniel Handler, best known for his Lemony Snicket series: If you want to get boys to read give them books about sex. Not sure what to think of this, so going to have to noodle it for a bit and maybe write a post tba.

*** One of my guilty pleasures is Sharknado, deal with it: How 'Sharknado' Casts Its C-Listers and Nearly Landed Trump as President

*** Here are the four books Mark Cuban is reading this summer

*** 13 Books to Read in August.
From a fast-paced, surprising novel about a Brooklyn mom on the run from the law, to a story collection about the varied lives of young, female Chinese immigrants, to a cookbook that tells you how to make classic American treats like Oreos and Nutter Butters (seriously), here are the books you need to devour in August.

*** 13 Writers Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize.

*** The NY Times touches on hate from an unexpected source (to them).
The leaders of the Women’s March, arguably the most prominent feminists in the country, have some chilling ideas and associations. Far from erecting the big tent so many had hoped for, the movement they lead has embraced decidedly illiberal causes and cultivated a radical tenor that seems determined to alienate all but the most woke.
*** Is this really news? AP: Older people dying on job at higher rate than all workers

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Let's all think & talk alike, not

This is a good essay on why we need weird people. Why we need to unbundle our undies and allow people to say and write stupid, odd, controversial things. It’s a simple thing called free speech. Learn it, know it, live it.


(Isaac) Newton wouldn’t last long as a ‘public intellectual’ in modern American culture. Sooner or later, he would say ‘offensive’ things that get reported to Harvard and that get picked up by mainstream media as moral-outrage clickbait. His eccentric, ornery awkwardness would lead to swift expulsion from academia, social media, and publishing. Result? On the upside, he’d drive some traffic through Huffpost, Buzzfeed, and Jezebel, and people would have a fresh controversy to virtue-signal about on Facebook. On the downside, we wouldn’t have Newton’s Laws of Motion.
Historically, academia was a haven for neurodiversity of all sorts. Eccentrics have been hanging out in Cambridge since 1209 and in Harvard since 1636. For centuries, these eccentricity-havens have been our time-traveling bridges from the ancient history of Western civilization to the far future of science, technology, and moral progress. Now thousands of our havens are under threat, and that’s sad and wrong, and we need to fix it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Get rocked!

As promised, the second Bags Morton ebook hit the interwebs this week. To my dismay there have been no protest marches, threats of boycotts nor rending of garments nor gnashing of teeth.

Except by my wife of course, who I exasperate on a near daily basis:

Her: "Will you remember to put the wash in the dryer before I get home?"
Me: "I don't know."
Her: "Whadaya mean you don't know?"
Me: "I will TRY to remember, but we won't know if I actually did remember until you get home."
Her: "Grumble, grumble, something, something, jerk."

Back to Bags Morton, or the Summer with Bags as its become known worldwide.

Following on the stripper heels of Bags of Bodies comes Bags of Rock. It's a little shorter and a little cheaper, as I finally figured out the Amazon set-your-price tool. So it's only a buck ninety-nine. I mean seriously, for $1.99, even if you don't read or can't read, you should download it just so you can brag to people: "Hey, I downloaded a book today."

And your friends can look at you and say: "Wow, didn't realize you were such an educated person." Now put your shoes on the right feet and do it.

If you are a reader who likes a quick detective tale with biker gangs, strip joints and a rock band, and who appreciates a good chuckle, then this is just the book for you. If you don't like that stuff, why the heck are you even reading my blog/Twitter/Facebook feeds?

No friend of mine objects to a foot festering in a pickle jar on the bar counter, as this book begins. Soon there-after Bags is hot on the trail of somebody who is blackmailing his friend, the governor, with naked pictures of the gov's daughter, who is lead singer of the up-and-coming rock band, The Itch.

Trust me it's even better than it sounds. This is a little tamer language and sexual innuendo-wise (sorry)  than the previous Bags of Bodies, because the clientele is a little more hoity-toitie and less prison meaty.

The third still-to-be named Bags offering during this Summer with Bags is due out in August, though it's currently experiencing some technical difficulties. The hamsters in my old home computer, that still runs Windows 97, went on strike demanding more carrots. But I'm holding firm because once you give an inch to those little Lech Walesa wannabes, they will run rough-shod on you.

All three Bags books are quick reads. They aren't 700-page Moby Dick things you need to devote a year of your life to. They're two-night wham-bam-thank-you-Bags-ers that'll leave a smile on your face and your toes tingling.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Some mid-summer reading suggestions

While who some consider “interesting people” and who I consider “interesting people” don’t exactly jive, I do find these lists interesting as I try to read outside my fiction box on occasion.

 And so, in the spirit of Washington, D.C., bookishness, we’ve asked the most interesting people we know to tell us what they’re reading this summer—both the tomes at the top of their lists and their recommended guilty pleasure, if they’ll admit to having one at all.

 It’s funny to me how the hoity-toities like to consider most of the stuff I read to be “guilty pleasure” material, but they should realize I feel no guilt in it at all, only pleasure. As it is, most of the stuff I gleaned from their lists that I’m adding to my Books To Buy list come from the guilty pleasure genre. Pardon me for not reading about famous dead people every night of week.

My additions from their list:

Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher Knowlton
The Highway and Badlands by CJ Box (then Paradise Valley)
The Fallen by Ace Atkins
House of Spies by Daniel Silva

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Finished Daniel Silva’s “Black Widow”

Daniel Silva rocks it in his latest book, Black Widow. I’ve read about 10 of Silva's 16 Gabriel Allon books and he’s done a great job of keeping my attention, which is not an easy thing to do.

Did you know Farrah Fawcett died about 20 minutes before Michael Jackson? Loved her poster.

Oh, wait, as I was saying …

As a former Middle East correspondent for UPI, who lived in Cairo, Silva has a unique grasp of the region and timely insight into various governments and terrorist groups. He seems well sourced and intelligent. This book tackles the ISIS situation. His main character, Allon, is in Jack Reacher territory, when it comes to my favorite protagonists in a series. He’s deep, dark, unflinching.

I really liked this one. A page-turner, realistic, timely.
Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.
They call him Saladin . . .
He is a terrorist mastermind whose ambition is as grandiose as his nom de guerre, a man so elusive that even his nationality is not known. Shielded by sophisticated encryption software, his network communicates in total secrecy, leaving the West blind to his planning—and leaving Gabriel no choice but to insert an agent into the most dangerous terrorist group the world has ever known. She is an extraordinary young doctor, as brave as she is beautiful. At Gabriel’s behest, she will pose as an ISIS recruit in waiting, a ticking time bomb, a black widow out for blood.
I also enjoy his “afterwards” to the book, where he details some of his research and stories behind the story. Like when he met former Mossad director Meir Dagan, who suggested that when the books become movies they cast somebody taller in his role.

Goodreaders give it a 4.3 out of 5, while Barnes & Schnable gives it a 4.4 of 5. It hit a 7- on the Haugenometer of 10.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Science!

It’s hard to argue with science, I’m told. So let’s not start now.

The headline of this story is: Science Says You Should Add More Fiction Books to Your Summer Reading List

So don’t be a Fiction Book Denier! Fiction is good for you, according to a consensus of scientists. Do not argue with me on this. People smarter than you and I have spoken.

If you don’t read a fiction book, specifically THIS fiction book, the polar ice caps will melt, oceans will rise and Al Gore will lose weight. Buy fiction now! It will help you build your empathy muscle (that’s right behind your pecs); help you assess and adapt to the world around you; and boost your creativity.
A number of research studies have shown that when we read about depictions of smell, touch, and movement, we use the same parts of our brain as when we experience these sensory stimulations ourselves.
When we read fiction, we help our brains experience and work through complicated situations that could come up in real life.
It’s science, folks. Science!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Finished: MacDonald’s ‘Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper’

I’m a late-comer to him but finally getting around to knocking off some John D. MacDonald paperbacks. So far so good. He writes some fascinating stuff with unique plots that are out of the mainstream detective novels.

I don’t know if I’m ready to go as far as Jonathan Kellerman though, who says: “The Travis McGee novels are among the finest works of fiction ever penned by an American author.” But they've got my attention.

In The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper:
He had done a big favor for her husband, then for the lady herself. Now she’s dead, and Travis McGee finds that Helena Pearson Trescott had one last request of him: to find out why her beautiful daughter Maureen keeps trying to kill herself. But what can a devil-may-care beach bum do for a young troubled mind?

McGee makes his way to the prosperous town of Fort Courtney, Florida, where he realizes pretty quickly that something’s just not right. Not only has Maureen’s doctor killed herself, but a string of murders and suicides are piling up—and no one seems to have any answers.

Just when it seems that things can’t get any stranger, McGee becomes the lead suspect in the murder of a local nurse. As if Maureen didn’t have enough problems, the man on a mission to save her will have to save himself first—before time runs out.
This was written in 1968 so it’s not at all politically correct, which may be why I find it so refreshing.

Goodreaders give it a 4 of 5. I gave it a 6-plus of 10.