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.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thursday BS around SD

Tea native competes on American Ninja Warrior (Tea Weekly)
“Honestly, I didn’t know what the show was until a bunch of people were saying you should do American Ninja Warrior.”

Carrier Leaves Mark on Winner School District (Winner Advocate)
“I am no better than anyone else, I can pick up a broom.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How the 10th man came to be

This is an interesting excerpt from the book “Why Dissent Matters.” It talks about “The Tenth Man” who was developed as a sort of devil’s advocate in military intelligence after Israel was caught off-guard by the Yom Kippur War.


If there are 10 people in a room and nine agree, the role of the tenth is to disagree and point out flaws in whatever decision the group has reached. Seems like this could be adapted for political and business models as well.
Killing the messenger is self-defeating. AMAN, the Israeli forces’ directorate of military intelligence, had to change the way it did business, and in the aftermath of the Agranat Commission it created two new tools: the position of the Tenth Man, also referred to as the Revision Department, and the option of writing “different opinion” memos.
The review is here. The book is: Why Dissent Matters: Because Some People See Things the Rest of Us Miss by William Kaplan (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Story behind Bags' stories

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been on a hardboiled noir detective kick the past few years – primarily stuff from the 60s and 70s. They most often contain dark characters doings bad things. Though some of them have quirky detectives in funny situations and exude humor.

I’ve read so many of these, from Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake to John D. MacDonald, that I thought I’d try my hand at writing one. Ended up I wrote three. They’re shorter, not full length 100,000-word novels you have to pour over for weeks. Each of these you can knock off in two or three nights. 

They’re fast moving, somewhat quirky, set in South Dakota, as I like to do.

What I originally aimed for though was dark, nasty and gritty. It’s not entirely what I ended up with. Try as I might I just can’t get into that dark place needed to churn out some true noir. I think you’ll find the main character, Bags Morton, to be of very loose morals, but with his own set of principles he won’t stray from. The newly-retired cop is sarcastic and smart-alecky. He’s chasing bad guys in bad places, bars and strip joints. There are criminals and ex-cons and bar flies.

So the biggest thing that really separates this from most stuff I’ve written is these characters tend to talk like you might expect people like that to talk. There are more F bombs than I’m usually comfortable using. There’s plenty of promiscuity and sexual behavior (which is mostly left to your imagination.) So what I’m saying is don’t think you’re getting into a Bobby Trane, priest out wandering around kind of novel. It’s rated PG, but nothing like you don't see in your fave Netflix series. Don’t blame me if, after you reading all three, you are swearing like a sailor by the end of the summer. You were warned.

The plan is to release the first novel, Bags of Bodies, tomorrow. Look for some kickoff specials, though if you have Amazon Unlimited it's free.

In a nutshell, Bags Morton is enjoying retirement with his beautiful girlfriend. She would like to get married (and have sex with him) but not until Bags decides to quit messing around with other women. Bags, loves her too (and aches to have sex with her) but already has 3 or 4 marriages under his belt and has lost all faith in the institution. While they are sorting this out, people start dropping dead around Bags. First his mechanic is killed, then his barber, then his dog’s veterinarian. Bags decides to step in and use some of his previous contacts/convicts to figure out what is going on. And to kill the person doing it.

In July I’ll drop the second book, Bags of Rock.

In BOR, Bags gets called in by his old friend and former boss, The Governor, because the Gov is being blackmailed over nude pictures of his daughter, who is lead singer of an up-and-coming rock band. Things go sideways quickly when Bags shoots the Lieutenant Governor’s son during a robbery attempt; and a biker gang seeks revenge on Bags and the governor’s daughter.

Then in August, I’ll let loose the third book, tentatively titled Bags of Stone. See what we’re doing here? “Spend a summer with Bags.” Rather than dragging these out, let’s just “boom, boom, boom” get ‘em out there.

BOS introduces you to Bags’ friend Jonathon B. Stone, a homeless dude known to most others as Johnny B. Stoned. As homeless people are getting murdered in the downtown area, Johnny seeks Bags’ help. Bags goes undercover as a homeless person and prowls the streets trying to protect his friend and find the murderer. But nothing can ever be simple for him.

It seems I have trouble moving on to other projects while I have these sitting here begging me to go back and edit and rewrite. So I'm getting them out. Hope you enjoy a little break from the real world.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Finished: J. Kellerman’s “The Murderer’s Daughter”

I haven’t read a Jonathan Kellerman novel in quite some time for no other reason than getting caught up in other stuff. The Murderer’s Daughter is a stand-alone, with no Alex Delaware, Kellerman’s most famous character.
A brilliant, deeply dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches—perhaps because she bears her own invisible scars: Only five years old when she witnessed her parents’ deaths in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But even as an adult with an accomplished professional life, Grace still has a dark, secret side. When her two worlds shockingly converge, Grace’s harrowing past returns with a vengeance.
I liked it a lot. I gave it a 7- on the Haugenomter, while Amazonians a 3.8 of five.

Kellerman is a psychologist himself, thus spins very believable psychological stories. His main character here, Grace, is a femme fatale with issues of her own. It’s dark, murderous, sexy – all the things I like.

One thing I personally like about Kellerman is his writing diversity (unlike say James Patterson). In addition to his psychological thrillers, he’s also written non-fiction psychology books, a book on vintage guitars and children’s books.  He is a clinical professor of pediatrics and still manages to kick out a novel a year. Pretty impressive dude. No one-trick pony.

I’ve liked every Kellerman book I’ve read and need to make it a point to get better caught up in a few others that have slipped past me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday BS around SD

No better place to raise kids than SD (Meade County Times-Tribune)
"Everyone sat at the table until everyone was done. They had to ask to leave the table. I never let them eat with their caps on,"

Montague a fourth-generation rancher (Meade County Times-Tribune)
"Being a mom is the most important job in the world. When it's all said and done, my kids are what I have to look back on and say, 'I did this.’”

Ernest Roth answered the call for WWI (Edgemont Herald Tribune)
“The rank and file of the fellows were quite unhappy with the machine gun assignment as rumor had it that these units were always the first to be ordered into the front lines of combat in actual battle and were consequently referred to as ‘Suicide squads.’”

Acting as an advocate for FFA (Brandon Valley Challenger)
“You maintain a positive outlook and advocate for FFA. You tell people how fun it is and try to get people into it. I’m really passionate, and I decided to go for it. It’s going to be a fun year.”

Local mother Florence Munger famous for running Ritz Café (De Smet News)
“I was spoiled because I would go in and eat whatever they served for the day,” Craig admitted. His favorite meals that his mom made were round steak slow-cooked in tomato sauce and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Finished: James Patterson’s ‘Cross the Line’

I’ve pretty much abandoned new James Patterson books and his host of co-authors, with one exception. I still read the Alex Cross novels. But even they are getting a little stale.

Hey, gotta give it to Patterson, he figured out a formula, stuck with it and it’s worked millions of times over for him. Short sentences, short chapters, keep it moving. But I have to think, especially after you’ve made more money than God, that you’d want to try something new. Apparently not. Dance with the girl who brung ya, I guess.

So Cross the Line is a year old, as I don’t exactly rush to the newest Pattertson stuff. And it was okay.
After shots pierce the tranquil nighttime calm of Rock Creek Park, a man is dead: what looks at first like road rage might be something much more sinister. But Alex has only just begun asking questions when he's called across town to investigate a new murder, one that hits close to home: Washington's own chief of detectives. And Alex's former boss, beloved mentor of Alex's wife, Bree. 
Now there's a killer on the loose, a long list of possible suspects, a city in panic, and nobody in charge of the besieged police force. Until Bree gets tapped for the job.
Amazonians seem to have a higher opinion of it than I do, a 4.4 out of 5, but so be it. It’s a 6 on the 10-point Haugenometer. Goodreaders a 4 of 5, and Barnes & Snobles 3.8 of 5.

Now that it’s done I can rest with the satisfaction that I can go another year or two without have to read another Patterson novel.