Monday, May 22, 2023

Finished: 'The Housemaid' by Freida McFadden

 This is a psychological thriller with a couple twists I didn't see coming. It was entertaining and I'll be checking out more books from McFadden, who in addition to being an author, dabbles as a physician specializing in brain injuries.

“Welcome to the family,” Nina Winchester says as I shake her elegant, manicured hand. I smile politely, gazing around the marble hallway. Working here is my last chance to start fresh. I can pretend to be whoever I like. But I’ll soon learn that the Winchesters’ secrets are far more dangerous than my own.

The writing was average, but the short chapters moved things along very quickly. These are a bunch of unlikeable characters, which turns some people off, but which I like. It's good enough that I shared it with a coworker, which I don't like to do unless they're good ones (the books and coworkers).

This has a 4.5 of 5 rating from Amazonians and 4.4 by Goodreaders. I'm giving it a 7 of 10, which probably would have been higher if I hadn't just read the higher-rated Miami Purity. Speaking of which, I picked up another Vicki Hendricks book - Iguana Love. Not sure what I'm getting into with that one.

Friday, May 19, 2023

The center of attention

 My niece graduated high school last weekend. At her open house, the aspiring English major had books and coffee mugs as centerpieces. This table proved to be the most popular, for obvious reasons.

Better yet, they look like they've actually been read.

Friday, May 5, 2023

What a tangled web we weave ...

 I have to keep this vague, with PC pronouns and all, so as not to incriminate the guilty, but a good-hearted friend of mine was recently hoodwinked into buying an author's book.

What they thought was a gift, ended up being "that'll be $19.99, please." Now my friend is left with a book they didn't want to buy and don't want to read, but know the self-published author is going to come back and ask: "So what'd you think of my book?"

So they approached me, either because they think I have nothing better to do with my life or because they know I'm a fast reader, and asked me to skim the book, take some notes, type them up and send them so it would seem like they read the book. Kind of a Cliff Notes thing. We haggled over the cost of my services (they must read one of my books, but I won't charge).

The book was borderline unreadable. I'm sure the author poured their heart into it and feels really good about it, but, well, you know. Ultimately I found enough key details to get my friend off the hook should they be asked. 

All I know is I should've charged more for my role in the deceit.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Thursday, April 27, 2023

That sinking feeling is dated

 The topic of quicksand came up in the office the other day.

Apparently somebody read that kids who grew up in the 60s and 70s had more of a fear of quicksand than anyone else. Theories were given.

Mine was Gilligan's Island.

Seems every other episode had one of the castaways sinking in quicksand. Remember them looking for Gilligan, only to find his white hat on top of the murk? It's etched on my brain.

Quicksand was a very popular plot twist in TV shows and movies in the '60s and '70s. This plot line was delivered in what seemed like anywhere for a spring of excitement and suspense in our programming. They were so common in the movies and TV than quicksand actually was in real life. Even series like Gilligan's Island, Batman, Lost In Space and The Incredible Hulk, had moments of quicksand in them. According to one quicksand enthusiast, quicksand appeared in nearly 3% of all movies made in the '60s.

There was also an abundance of sand boxes when we were growing up, that made it feel as though quicksand could happen everywhere. Now sandboxes seem to be a thing of the past and therefore children nowadays don't see it as much of a threat.

Someone else in the office cited some Atari game that had quicksand in it, but I'm sticking with the far more popular and long-running Gilligan.

I also heard a comedian say recently: When I was younger I really thought quicksand was going to be a bigger problem for me as an adult than it turned out to be.

Slate has a fascinating (and long) story about quicksand that will tell you more than you'd ever want to know about the subject: "The Rise and Fall of Quicksand"

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

What stood out during Florida trip

 One of the highlights of our annual week-long vacation to Florida the last few years has, interestingly enough, been the Sunday Mass at St. John's Catholic Church in St. Petersburg.

Coincidentally, during my grade school years living in LeMars, Iowa, my family attended St. John's Lutheran Church. Just a side note, interesting to me.

It's odd to me that our week of beaches, bikinis, baseball, rock bands and fishing, can be highlighted by that Mass and its priest. It's just such a joyous event. He is sunshine personified in the middle of all that sunshine that is Florida. It's joy in the middle of an older, racially-diverse, area of St. Pete. 

If you know anything about me, you should know I am an impatient man. Homilies (ie sermons) over 15 minutes start to make me feel itchy. Mass over an hour, similarly. This Mass lasted an hour and 40 minutes. The priest's homily just under an hour. (Yes, I time them.) But the entire event seemed like 30 minutes. It flew by. I couldn't believe I'd sat still that long, that enthralled, that touched. But I was.

At one point I thought to myself that when we got in the car wifey was going to turn to me and suggest: "Let's just quit our jobs and move here." Because I know she feels the same way about that Mass. I pondered what my reply would be. As it was, she didn't say it, even if she felt it.

Upon later introspection, of which I'm all too often a victim, I began to feel guilty for not enjoying all Masses, regardless of the priest and the location, the same way. Am I so fickle, my devoutness so shallow, that I need a particular priest to enthuse me? Shouldn't I be enthused for God all the time? Or most of the time?

Sure, a good priest makes a good congregation, but I feel like my baseline for enjoying church should be higher. They should almost always be good, with some great ones and an occasional clunker thrown in. Not everyone can be on their game every Sunday (just ask the Minnesota Vikings).

I need to work on that. Just another thing to add to the list. You'd think by year 58 I'd have it figured out. The older I get, the more stuff I find out I don't have figured out. 

I guess the season of Lent was a good time to give that extra effort, build some momentum, get better, be better. Life is tiring sometimes when you care about that stuff. I guess it's good that I'm thinking about it, trying. The struggle is real.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Finished: 'Miami Purity' by Vicki Hendricks

 I needed this book. It's been a while since I had one knock my socks off, and this one did. I read the book in one sitting, literally, on a recent flight to Tampa. Fortunately, for my seat-mates, it didn't literally knock my socks off.

I'm not easily shocked. I'm 58. I've seen a lot and done a lot. But this one had me wincing, laughing, grimacing and saying to myself "No, don't go there!" And the author went there. 

'Miami Purity' was awesome. It was lurid and explicit in parts. But it had to be.

It had to be because I had high expectations, as I'd seen the book referred to a couple times recently as the book that reignited the contemporary crime noir genre. And you can't reignite something by being lame. You have to light stuff on fire, toss gasoline onto it and watch it explode.

Noir is a genre of crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings. This had all that. If you are easily offended, this isn't for you. It will touch your inner pervert and make you look over your shoulder in the airplane to make sure someone isn't seeing what you're reading.

According to Amazon:

Sherri Parlay gives up her life of depravity, and with best intentions, finds a respectable job as a dry cleaner in hopes for a decent future. But nature and nurture plot against her when she meets the beautiful, tortured, and rich young Payne, who tempts her with the love and life she never thought possible. Even Brenda, Payne's domineering mother, can't keep the lovers apart when Sherri's animal passions take control. Unfortunately, Payne is not only a different kind of man from those in Sherri's past, he's worse than any on her list of sordid affairs. Twisted psychology and a pure heart lead her into the dark realm of disillusionment and crime, where she reaches into her deepest reserves for the strength to survive. This contemporary noir novel is reminiscent of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice with a heavy dose of sexual realism that Cain might have enjoyed if his times would have allowed.

I read a lot of crime noir, primarily from the 1950s-60s. I've tried my hand at it myself with the Bags Morton books, but in those wasn't able to get as dark as I wanted, falling back onto my nature of smart-aleck humor more often than the stark darkness of the soul those true to the genre do. But I'm giving it a go on a current project I'm working on. Not sure if I'll ever publish it though, as people often have difficulty separating the author from the work. In that sense, I'd love to know Vicki Hendricks, to see if she's anything like her main character Sherri Parlay. I doubt it. But, if she isn't a nympho pervert, she has a great imagination and story-telling ability.

It's one book I'll probably read again, which seldom happens. I gave it a 9 on the 10-point Haugenomter. Amazonians gave it only a 3.7 out of 5, as I suspect many didn't know what they were getting into.

It's not an erotic novel though. It's a murder mystery, an adventure, a look into the dark soul of every evil character (and they all are bad people), with sex as a common theme between them. I probably should've chosen a different book to read during Lent, but then what would I have to talk about at Confession? Besides, I was a captive audience on an airplane. Not like I could browse the bookshelves for something else, and I'm glad there wasn't.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

No cash, no problem

 Wifey and I spent last week in Florida. If you like beaches, bikinis, bands and baseball you'd enjoy it. I do and I did.

One of the unique (to me) things we encountered was at the Atlanta Braves vs. Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. It was entirely cashless.

Sure, I've done the parking station credit card, paid for tickets with card, all that stuff. I'm not a techy nerd by any means but for an old guy I do all right.

But this was entirely cashless. We paid the parking attendant with plastic. He scanned it through his little handheld device. I bought the tickets through after being told they don't have ticket windows anymore. Even the concession stands had touchpad menus to make your choices and pay with card. The only reason employees were behind the counter was to bring you the food, and even they will probably be gone in a couple years. If desired, you could order your snacks and drinks from your seat, then go up minutes later and pick them up.

You could theoretically, easily, attend a ballgame and talk to nobody. This is all fine and dandy and the way of the world now, but I'm kind of old school. I like going up to the ticket window and chatting with the old lady about where the best seats or the cheapest seats are. I liked the back and forth with Wally the Beer Man (Google him) at Twins games. 

As much as I enjoy my quiet and solitude, I do like a little social interaction, especially at events that are supposed to be social and fun.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

The scent of a bookstore

While recently reading a 1950s used paperback by John D. McDonald, I fanned the pages in front of my nose and told my wife: "If they could bottle this smell I'd wear it as cologne."

She said I'd smell like an old man. She's wrong (but don't tell her that).

As Keith Roysdon writes at "Just as smells of your mother’s cooking are an important part of memory and nostalgia, smell is a big part of longing for a proper used bookstore."

It's a fun read, but I think used bookstores are more popular and prevalent than he thinks. We are fortunate to have two good used bookstores in Rapid City, plus an independent bookstore and a BAM. Not bad for a small city.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Chris Rock has issues

 WIfey and I watched the Chris Rock comedy special on Netflix last weekend for the main reason most everyone else did: To see if he'd say anything about Will Smith and to see if Rock has gotten any funnier.

He did and he hasn't.

I try to keep in mind that I'm a middle class, middle aged, white guy from one of the whitest states around, and that I may not be his target audience. But I used to think his HBO specials were pretty funny. Yet, Saturday night, I thought he was funny maybe a third of the time. Seemed to recycle some old stuff.

I'm no delicate flower and appreciate off-color humor with the best of them but swearing for the sake of swearing and trying to be crude just to be crude and not out of necessity for the joke to work, doesn't work for me. Repeating the same "naughty" word ten times and shouting it a little louder each time, doesn't make it funnier. It makes you annoying. And screaming the word white people aren't supposed to say a thousand times in an hour is cringe-worthy to me.

To me, an amateur psychiatrist, Rock has some serious issues. Half the time he talked about how rich he was, the other half how much sex he has. Kinda made me doubt he's really all that. Then the last ten minutes he spent on Will Smith and "the slap" was kind of like watching a person come unhinged right in front of you. It was like I was a fly on the wall of his therapist visit.

It was uncomfortable and sad and not funny. He had a meltdown worthy of any of the Housewife shows, but it didn't seem contrived like theirs. You could tell he was genuinely embarrassed by the slap, probably by the fact he didn't fight back, and that everybody in the world saw it. 

But instead of paying his therapist to fix him, he made us all pay to watch him be embarrassed again. 

Made me wish Rock hadn't been wearing a necklace with Prince's love and peace symbol. There was no love and no peace Saturday night. And, worse yet for a comedy special, mighty few laughs.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Finished: John D. MacDonald's 'The Brass Cupcake'

 The title of this one had me curious and the author had me enthused. John D. MacDonald has sold an estimated 70 million books, of which I account for six of those with many more to come. The Brass Cupcake, fyi, is an old term for a cop's badge.

There are a lot of older terms in his novels because many were written in the 1950s. I know I harp on it but there are so many great mystery writers from the mid 20th century, that a person doesn't have to stick to James Patterson all the time. Be adventurous. He classifies as "hard-boiled crime" and that's the genre I've been hitting hard.

I'd seen MacDonald's name pop up in several reviews of more contemporary authors: "as good as MacDonald" or "shades of MacDonald." I decided to check out this MacDonald guy and he's fabulous.

The Brass Cupcake, according to Amazon:

Ex-cop Cliff Bartells might be the last honest man in Florence City, Florida. After quitting the force over a crisis of conscience, he takes a job at an insurance company buying back stolen jewelry. Cliff is focused on keeping the bottom line down and staying out of the spotlight.

But when an affluent tourist from Boston is murdered over a hefty collection of jewelry, Cliff finds himself wrapped up in a case that’s making national headlines. With the victim’s beautiful niece, Melody Chance, determined to help retrieve the goods, suddenly Cliff has the partner he never knew he wanted. Now all they need is a suspect: someone capable of cold-blooded murder in the name of profit. And that could mean anyone in this crooked town.

I gave it a 7-plus on the 10-point Haugenometer, while Amazonians a hearty 4.3 of 5.

Monday, February 6, 2023

2022 suckiest year ever for books

 Finally getting around to my review of books from 2022. Last year was not one for the books - in my world anyway.

Due to a number of factors, I only notched 25 books read. Among them, I only had three 8s on the 10-point Haugenometer and they all came in the first three months. So the last three-fourths of the year was kind of a stinker on the quality scale too.

The top-rankers included "In Plain Sight" by C.J. Box, which looking back I may have over-rated.

Dean Koontz came through with "Quicksilver" - a solid 8 as Koontz continues his mastery of the written world and a messed-up imagination.

The other 8 was "The Last Picture Show" by Larry McMurtry. He's kind of a messed up dude too, but this one probably had me thinking more about it for days afterwards than any other from 2022. 

I hope to hit the bookshelf hard in 2023. Hoping to double the output. One a week would be nice and not too much to ask if the rest of my life would just cooperate.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Finished: Noel Hamiel's 'South Dakota's Mathis Murders'

 It's always neat when you can read a book that features characters you know personally or knew of. It's even neater when you also know the author.

So it was with Noel Hamiel's true-crime novel "South Dakota's Mathis Murders." I've known of Hamiel for many, many years, but never met him until this past year after he retired to the Black Hills. Since meeting him we've talked on the phone and messaged a few times. He's a wonderful man.

The Mathis murders took place in 1981, when I was a senior in high school, so I remember the incident being in the news but don't really recall following it. When you're 17 in the 1980s there were much more important things in your life and they generally had big hair and wore tight acid-washed blue jeans.

Back to the book:

It was perhaps the most infamous murder case in state history. Ladonna Mathis was shot twice in the head at point-blank range inside the family's metal shed serving as their makeshift home. Two of her three children, ages 2 and 4, were also shot in the head. The brutality of the killings shocked the state and set off a frenzy of law enforcement activity. Despite its intensity, the investigation never found the murderer or the murder weapon. Though charged with the crime, the husband was acquitted, leaving the door open for endless speculation about what really occurred on that late summer morning of Sept. 8, 1981.

With renewed insight from those involved, veteran South Dakota journalist Noel Hamiel explores this cold case of murder and mystery that still haunts the Mount Rushmore state.

I was surprised to learn that Jeff Masten testified on behalf of the defense in the case - in regard to ballistic tests run by the FBI for the prosecution. Not that Jeff wasn't a brilliant man but he also went on to be Lincoln County State's Attorney and the first to use DNA testing in the state and ultimately put a man on death row. I've always thought of him as a prosecutor. My mom worked for Jeff for many years in Canton, including during that time. A sign of how small our state is, Jeff's sister lives in Rapid City. Her son and my son went to school together in Rapid City, played baseball together and were good friends. Her son (Jeff's nephew) also interned in my office. Small world.

Back to the book. I really enjoyed it. It's only a hundred pages or so, easily readable over the weekend. Noel's life was spent in the newspaper industry and the book reads like a well-researched newspaper story. 

Famed South Dakota historian Jon Lauck (who I also work with on my day job) has a blurb on the book saying it rivals Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." I think Jon is being considerate or never read the second-best selling true crime novel of all time, but I recommend both books.

Everybody who reads "South Dakota's Mathis Murders" is going to be asked: Did he do it?

I don't think the prosecution proved he did (especially going up against some of the societal mores of those days) but I think subsequent analysis and comments from his father suggest he did.

Read it and tell me what you think.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Finished: Patterson's 'Triple Cross'

 The detective Alex Cross novels are the only ones I read from James Patterson any more. His latest, Triple Cross, was pretty good but could've been a hundred pages shorter.

James Patterson's #1 bestselling hero Detective Alex Cross hunts down a serial killer who targets entire families—and who will next be coming for the Crosses. 

A precise killer, he always moves under the cover of darkness, flawlessly triggering no alarms, leaving no physical evidence.  

Cross and Sampson aren’t the only ones investigating. Also in on this most intriguing case is the world’s bestselling true-crime author, who sees patterns everyone else misses.

The writer, Thomas Tull, calls the Family Man murders the perfect crime story. He believes the killer may never be caught. 

Cross knows there is no perfect crime. And he’s going to hunt down the Family Man no matter what it takes. Until the Family Man decides to flip the narrative and bring down Cross and his family. 

Honestly, it takes me a bit to get things straight when starting Cross novels because I often confuse him with Lucas Davenport from the John Sandford series (which I personally prefer). While this one didn't knock my socks off, Patterson's writing style makes for quick reading, even in books over 400 pages like this one.

I gave it a 7 on the 10-point Haugenometer. Amazonians a 4.5 out of 5.

Monday, January 16, 2023

'Bags of Shots' hits Amazon

 I have good news for you devotees of Bags Morton and the Bags series of novellas. The fourth installment is now available as an e-book on Amazon.

For just $1.99, basically the cost of a chicken egg, you can read "Bags of Shots." If you are a Prime member, you can download it for free. You won't be any smarter when you're done reading it, but you will have chuckled several times, rolled your eyes a couple more, and perhaps snorted once or twice.

In this one, the latest worldwide pandemic has finally reached southwest South Dakota, but Bags is largely oblivious to it. Reality hits him between the eyes, though, when his babe, Bobbi Jo, starts getting hot, and not the good kind of hot. The Tehran Fever has hit and there's no cure, except hospitalization to help with the symptoms and help patients hopefully ride out the storm. You can't be admitted until the fever hits 103 and Bags can't find a thermometer anywhere to even measure it.

While searching for one in the unlikeliest of places, FEMA trucks with medical supplies are being hijacked, and the state epidemiologist is kidnapped. That triggers a call from Bags' former boss and buddy, the governor, enlisting Bags and his unconventional (some would say illegal) methods in finding the doctor. If he can find her, Bags hopes to put her expertise to use on Bobbi Jo.

But the clock is ticking and the fever is rising.


Do you need to catch up or start at the beginning (not necessary, but fun):

Book #1: Bags of Bodies

Book #2: Bags of Rock

Book #3: Bags of Stone

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Not earth-shattering, but I hit a little milestone

 I recently went over the 1,000 books sold mark on and feel pretty good about it. Sure, James Patterson sneezes and sells 1,000 books, but, on the other hand, I write my own books. That number doesn't include what I've sold on Amazon and other platforms.

I've just had a soft spot for smashwords. I joined them in 2011 shortly after their start-up. I liked the freedom they provided, the much higher author payment per book, and admired their grit in taking on the industry giants. They've been very successful, as now almost 200,000 authors are represented there.

It's still not a household name, but as part of its business model it gets you to the household names. If I upload a book to, they distribute it to other retailers like Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Scribd and public libraries. So it's pretty cool.

There's a lot of stuff on there I wouldn't read (there's something for everyone) and the quality range is pretty wide. But it's worth checking out and I urge you to.

If you're one of those 1,000, thank you very much.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Finished: McCarthy's 'The Road'

 Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is just another example of how I don't get it as far as what is considered great literature of modern times.

He won a Pulitzer Prize for it; it was a best-seller; and chosen for Oprah's book club. All together now: Oooh, aaah.

I gave it a 5 on the 10-point Haugenometer.

According to Amazon, whose readers gave it a 4.4 of 5:

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

I don't argue that McCarthy is a great author. His shtick of not using commas and quote marks is cute. Heck, I wish it had been the rule of the land when I was kid. Imagine how much easier grammar and composition classes would have been.

But this is just a dull story of a man and boy trekking across barren, burned-out land. They mostly have monosylabic conversations, if you want to call them that. (I think I made that word up.) Nothing profound about it. They don't have names, and you don't know how the world got to this point. If he was going for bleak and boring, mission accomplished. 

McCarthy did a good job of showing probably what a post-apocolyptic world would look like. People not trusting each other, every man for himself kind of thing.

It just didn't do it for me and hardened my resolve to never join the Oprah Book Club.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Books for the kids

 When I was a kid my great-aunt Nora could always be counted on to give us kids gloves or mittens for Christmas. Assuming I lost at least one glove in between holidays, I would freeze my hand or hands until the next Christmas, knowing I'd get a new pair.

So it is that I have the Christmas tradition of giving a sure thing to my kids and their significant others for Christmas. Every other gift they get from ma and pa is labeled "From Mom and Dad," but this one is labeled only from me. And so their brains don't freeze, like Aunt Nora took care of my hands, I give them books. I know four out of the six usually get read. The ones that don't aren't because they aren't a great selection, it's because Junior doesn't read much unless it fits on his phone or it has to be carefully tailored to to his interests. 

After much thought and research during the course of the year, I picked up the following for them:

For history professor and son-in-law Stetston: The Good Country - A History of the American Midwest 1800-1900 by Jon K. Lauck. Even though there was a flagrant omission in the book (no mention of the Haugen empire) I bought it because Jon is a coworker and a friend and I wanted to do my little part to help his sales hit double-digits. 

According to Amazon:

At the center of American history is a hole—a gap where some scholars’ indifference or disdain has too long stood in for the true story of the American Midwest. A first-ever chronicle of the Midwest’s formative century, The Good Country restores this American heartland to its central place in the nation’s history.

Jon K. Lauck, the premier historian of the region, puts midwestern “squares” center stage—an unorthodox approach that leads to surprising conclusions. The American Midwest, in Lauck’s cogent account, was the most democratically advanced place in the world during the nineteenth century. The Good Country describes a rich civic culture that prized education, literature, libraries, and the arts; developed a stable social order grounded in Victorian norms, republican virtue, and Christian teachings; and generally put democratic ideals into practice to a greater extent than any nation to date.

For my son, Luke, the catcher of bad guys: Killing the Mob by Bill O'Reilly. 

The tenth book in Bill O'Reilly's #1 New York Times bestselling series of popular narrative histories, with sales of nearly 18 million copies worldwide, and over 320 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

O’Reilly and co-author Martin Dugard trace the brutal history of 20th Century organized crime in the United States, and expertly plumb the history of this nation’s most notorious serial robbers, conmen, murderers, and especially, mob family bosses. Covering the period from the 1930s to the 1980s, O’Reilly and Dugard trace the prohibition-busting bank robbers of the Depression Era, such as John Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby-Face Nelson. In addition, the authors highlight the creation of the Mafia Commission, the power struggles within the “Five Families,” the growth of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, the mob battles to control Cuba, Las Vegas and Hollywood, as well as the personal war between the U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and legendary Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa.

For Katie's Kwinn: Killing the Killers: The Secret War Against Terrorists by Bill O'Reilly.

In Killing The Killers, #1 bestselling authors Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard take readers deep inside the global war on terror, which began more than twenty years ago on September 11, 2001.

As the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, the Pentagon burned, and a small group of passengers fought desperately to stop a third plane from completing its deadly flight plan, America went on war footing. Killing The Killers narrates America's intense global war against extremists who planned and executed not only the 9/11 attacks, but hundreds of others in America and around the world, and who eventually destroyed entire nations in their relentless quest for power.

Killing The Killers moves from Afghanistan to Iraq, Iran to Yemen, Syria, and Libya, and elsewhere, as the United States fought Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as well as individually targeting the most notorious leaders of these groups. With fresh detail and deeply-sourced information, O'Reilly and Dugard create an unstoppable account of the most important war of our era.

For daughter, Katie, and because she requested it: The Night Shift by Alex Finlay.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. Y2K is expected to end in chaos: planes falling from the sky, elevators plunging to earth, world markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse. None of that happens. But at a Blockbuster Video in New Jersey, four teenagers working late at the store are attacked. Only one inexplicably survives. Police quickly identify a suspect, the boyfriend of one of the victims, who flees and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, more teenage employees are attacked at an ice cream store in the same town, and again only one makes it out alive.

In the aftermath of the latest crime, three lives intersect: the lone survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who’s forced to relive the horrors of her tragedy; the brother of the fugitive accused, who’s convinced the police have the wrong suspect; and FBI agent Sarah Keller who must delve into the secrets of both nights—stirring up memories of teen love and lies—to uncover the truth about murders on the night shift.

For daughter, Rylee: The Lost Girls of Willowbrook - A Heartbreaking Novel of Survival Based on a True Story by by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.

Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.

Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined ...

For daughter-in-law Kayla, I'm starting her on a new detective series I've heard about but haven't read myself. Hopefully they're good and she can lend them back to me. They're the first two paperbacks in the 18-book series.

Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (#1) by Louise Penny.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it's a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces---and this series---with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (#2) by Louise Penny.

Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter―and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder―or brilliant enough to succeed?

And granddaughter Josie begins her literary journey with: My First Disney Classics Bedtime Storybook. It includes: The Lion King, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland and 1001 Dalmations.

I hope you Aunt Nora or Santa were good to you as well.

Friday, December 23, 2022

'Bags' books free for a short time

 One of my distributors,, has a year-end promotion going on (never end a sentence with a preposition). 

Since I'm in a good mood I've made all three Bags Morton books available for free. Go to, sign in and search my name (it's listed at the top of this blog) and download away.

Then you will be properly prepared for the fourth book in the series coming in early 2023.

The Haugen Christmas letter, unthawed and uncensored

 It's time for the annual Haugen holiday communique in which I highlight all the good things that happened in our family in 2022 and leave out the bad stuff because you don't want to get me on a rant about the people who really pissed me off this year. 

The big news is the expansion of the Haugen Empire. 

Josie Jayne Kastengren came into the world on Easter Sunday, daughter of Rylee and Stetson. She's named after my dad, Joseph, and Stetson's grandma, Jayne. Sorry to break it to you other grandpas and grandmas out there, but yours is now only the second cutest granddaughter in the world. Smart as a whip too: Josie already knows her multiplication tables and babbles in English, Lakota and Norwegian. She's got a killer smile and more cheeks than the Kardashians in string bikinis. 

All three of them (the Kastengrens, not the Kardashians, thank God) spent a couple months this summer with us at the Haugen compound by Rapid City. Rylee made a small but positive career change this fall - going from teaching science to 130 seventh-graders and all the drama that middle-schoolers bring, to teaching 23 fifth-graders who actually still listen to adults and want to learn. Stetson is teaching at the University of Illinois and wrapping up his doctoral studies. They were back for Thanksgiving and seem to have taken well to parenthood.

The other newbie has been around for a few years but officially became a Haugen and is enjoying all the perks of that lofty title (including, but not limited to, free ice water at Wall Drug). Kayla and Luke were married in October here in the City of Rapids. They make their home in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., where Kayla recently attained her Master's Degree from Drexel. She is managing a store in Tysons Corner while job hunting for something more in her public health field. Luke continues to track down bad guys during the week and hunting deer, turkey and bear on weekends. He continues to impress and amaze me with the quality young man he's become.

Katie put another notch in her belt last month, managing another winning campaign for her boss, Congressman Dusty Johnson. I run into her a lot as our jobs often intertwine. It's fun watching her in action and seeing how she's adopted some of my better qualities while forgoing my grumpiness and cynicism. Those will come with time. Her longtime boyfriend, Kwinn, is still around and has become one of the family. He'd become a bigger part if he'd let me know where some of the gold deposits are in the Hills.

Our adopted son, Kirk, is doing a heck of a job leading his band of Norsemen. I'm still not ready to utter the "SB" word but if he manages to pull that off I promise to leave the family fortune solely to him (I hope he enjoys the riding lawn mower and 1,000 books).

Nancy, aka Wifey, continues assisting her chiropractor boss and they moved into a glitzy new office. She's still the social butterfly of our household and pries me out of the house on occasion to make me talk to people. Otherwise, she's a regular in her gym and enjoys long hikes away from me.

I'm wrapping up 18 years with Senator Thune. His recent blowout reelection (sorry, DT) should take me into retirement down the road, though no plans on that front, since I enjoy my job and coworkers and don't really see anything I'd rather be doing. My golf game sucks and I can't shoot straight, so it's not real enticing to pursue those hobbies any more regularly than I already do.

On a sour note, the day I'd been regretting for a while finally came last spring when we had to put down my buddy, Stanley. I still get choked up when I think about it and really miss him.

Ol' Huckleberry was similarly hit hard by the loss, so with that as my excuse, we added a puppy to the household. Finn is a chocolate lab who is high energy from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. He carries his orange ball with him everywhere, constantly begging anyone to throw it for him. He's really turned into a momma's boy but is really good company on my many walks and jogs. Looks like he's going to be an acrobatic Frisbee player too, though without opposable thumbs he's not very good at throwing it back.

So that's it from the Haugen house in 2022. Another memory filled year. I don't often look all that enthused about things (I suffer from Resting Bored Face), but when I reflect back on the years with these retrospectives I am reminded of what a wonderful life and wife I have. And I am so proud that we have three kids who are good people, each excelling in three very different occupations, of which the only thing in common is that they are helping people and making the world a better place. What more could a guy ask for?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Grandpa Haugen