Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Finished: 'Trophy Hunt' by C.J. Box

This C.J. Box guy might actually make it as a writer. "Trophy Hunt" is the fourth in the 21-book series featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett.

This was another good one. It deals with cattle mutilations. If you're as old as I am you can recall the conspiracy theories of them back in the 1970s and 80s.

So far, all four books have had different, clever plots. Not the same old cookie-cutter stuff that many series writers fall into.

I'm not saying this passage reminds me of anyone or is a correct reflection of government workers (or any kind), but ... I thought it was funny:

"All my clerks are county employees," Ike said. "They work eight hours a day and not one minute longer. They take an hour for lunch and get two fifteen-minute breaks. If you woke one of them up in the middle of the night, she could tell you to the hour how long she has until retirement, how many days of sick leave she's got left this fiscal year, and to the penny what her pension will be. Those women keep me in a constant state of absolute fear." 

 I'm enjoying his books a lot. I gave this one a 7+ on the 10-point Haugenometer. Amazonians gave it a 4.7 of 5 and Goodreaders a 4.1.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Music is part of life

 We take a lot of things for granted. One of those occurred to me while driving home late last night with wifey from a Hairball concert with friends in Deadwood.

For those unfamiliar, Hairball plays rock covers from the 1980s and dresses accordingly. If you like Poison, VanHalen, KISS, Queen and Ozzie, you'd like them.

I told her: "We've sure heard a lot of music together."

Like many, we love our live music. 

We met on the dance floor at Dakota Territory, a nightclub in Sioux Falls, in 1986. I'm sure many of the same songs from last night were playing that night. I fancied myself a good dancer in those days, but the moves, like my opinion on my dancing, were mostly influenced by the 3.2 beer I was drinking. Now, I save my best moves for the slow songs.

In the 35 years since, music has been one of things that's bonded us. It's what we do. It's our thing.

Back then it was the Sioux Falls-area music scene. A friend of mine was lead singer for a band called Image. We were groupies for them. It's been rumored I was honorary tambourine player for them. But there was Aaron Baron, Flat Cat, Janitor Bob, Wakefield and many more we frequented at the Pomp Room and Phil's Pub.

We hit concerts in Omaha and Minneapolis: Prince, Aerosmith, KISS and Kid Rock.

We do much the same on an almost weekly basis in the Black Hills. The Robbinsdale Lounge provides mostly local country cover bands on Friday and Saturday nights. Deadwood and Sturgis bring in a good mix of regional and national acts. 

We cover all genres from Charley Pride and Elton John to Jamey Johnson, Shooter Jennings and Neon Trees. 

If they're live, we're there from rodeo grounds to coffee shops to street dances. We love it.

When we travel it's one of the first things we ask at the hotel desk: "Any place nearby that plays live music?"

I often think about it but never have really settled on what it is about music that makes it so special. Maybe it's the escape-ism. No worries when you're listening to a band. It's also the musicianship and the singing ability. I always appreciate people who can do things I can't or haven't made an effort to do. 

We really like supporting the locals and sometimes it's just cost-prohibitive, or we're too cheap, to go listen to some of the national bands I'd enjoy but not that much. For instance, the Zac Brown Band is coming to Rapid City this month. Cheapest ticket is $99. I've never once asked Alexa to "play Zac Brown Band" so I'm certainly not going to dish out a hondo to hear "Chicken Fried" for the 1,000th time, even if I am interested in how the band sounds live.

We also can be a bit snobbish. We critique them, especially the national acts. While we have our opinions, I'm not going to sit and nit-pic a local weekend band when they have day jobs and are just doing this for fun. It takes a lot of guts to get up in front of people and sing George Strait covers. I sing along to the Georges (Strait and Jones) in my kitchen cooking supper, but nobody is around to complain except my dogs and they don't say much. I take their silence as approval.

Looking back, I have no idea how many musicians we've listened to, but I know we never walked out wishing we hadn't.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Lest you forget ...

 The third in the Bags Morton series: Bags of Stone.

Take your turkey and stuff it

 I have probably an unpopular opinion regarding Thanksgiving. Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for this holiday and I'm very appreciative of that. But it's my least favorite holiday in terms of the food traditionally served.

I was paging through wifey's food magazine the other day, the Thanksgiving edition, and it reminded me that very little looked good to me. What did look good were some of the side dishes which seemed ten times more complicated than they needed to be. But that was about it.

For starters, I'm not a big fan of turkey. Ya'll can argue about the best way to cook it, but I'm not a fan of any of them. But, we always have it and I nab some of the white breast meat, slop on some gravy and douse it in salt and pepper and call it good. Turkey legs and other dark meat, yuck. 

Mashed potatoes. Not a fan either. I think I've mentioned that for the past couple years we've moved to a modified Mediterranean diet - more fish and very little white starchy stuff - meaning we rarely eat potatoes unless fries or hash browns when we're out on the town. We substitute wheat noodles for white, long grain and brown rice instead of white rice. We aren't total Nazis about it though. I have a particular weakness for Lay's potato chips after a workout. But I never really cared for mashed potatoes since I was a kid. Tolerated them, but didn't enjoy them.

Cranberries? Gimme a break. I'd rather have a handful of Sour Patch Kids.

Stuffing is okay once a year. It makes the meal bearable.

If it weren't for pumpkin pie, the eating portion of the day would be a waste to me. On T-Day and the preceding few days I'm usually good for two pies. Not slices. Entire pies. Straight up. No whipped cream. A slightly burnt crust earns bonus points.

The other holidays are much better on the taste buds.

Christmas, we usually have prime rib. Can't beat that.

Unless it's Easter. Then we usually have lamb chops and scallops or crab legs.

Fourth of July. Brat and burgers, man. 'Merica!

Thanksgiving has meaning for me. I just don't look forward to the food many of you make a big hub-bub about. Have a good one though. Just don't save any leftovers for me.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Finished: Brandi Carlile's memoir 'Broken Horses'

 It was about time for a break from my murder, mystery and mayhem reading and delve into a biography. So, on a whim, I tossed Brandi Carlile's "Broken Horses" into the Amazon cart.

Not really sure why. I'm not a particular fan of hers, had barely heard of her and couldn't sing you a song by her and you wouldn't want me to if I could. But I'd heard Shooter Jennings drop her name. I knew she produced Tanya Tucker's album with him. The book description seemed interesting, so I figured: What the heck?

She seemed kind of young (40) to be writing a memoir, especially considering she's not exactly a household name. But it was an interesting read. She's very introspective, admitted overly so, as many artistic types are. Her writing shows she's very aware of her faults and demons and she does a good job of making you feel like you're walking in her shoes.

Having not listened to her music before, I had Alexa play her music while I read her book. That was a new experience and made it more special. She describes her music as Americana, kind of folky, not really country, though she runs with that crowd. It's kind of Joni Mitchell meets Norah Jones. It's not my kind of music but my wife enjoys her now.

She tells some interesting stories having grown up dirt poor in a substance-abusing family. Moved around a lot and had a lot of oddball characters in her life. She is lesbian and it's a theme that is understandably key in her life and growing up. She talks about showing up at her baptism in the Baptist church and being turned away because she didn't answer the "homosexuality" question the way they wanted, which was supposed to have been: "No, I'm not."

Carlile became close with Elton John and the Obamas, and is/was a big fan-girl of Barrack and family.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter she wrote describing the feelings of finally winning a Grammy award. It made me feel happy for her. She definitely had her struggles and battled through them to get to the point where she is now - selling out Madison Square Garden.

If a memoir is written to make people understand the writer, to empathize with them, to make you really feel like they let you inside their life and thoughts, then Brandi Carlile certainly did that. I enjoyed learning more about her. While I probably won't be playing her music much, I will certainly continue to follow her career and life and wish nothing but the best for her.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Finished: Westlake, Box, Patterson, Flynn

 October was a good month for reading.

** Finished "Lethal Agent" by Kyle Mills, who has taken over the Mitch Rapp series for the deceased author/creator Vince Flynn. This is No. 18 in the series. I liked it a lot.

There's bioweapons, terrorists, drug cartels, lots of killing, and Rapp, the rogue CIA operative. All the things that make for a good, bloody thriller.

I gave it an 8+ on the 10-point Haugenometer. Amazonians liked it too with a 4.7 of 5. 

A couple quotes that caught my eye: 

Mitch Rapp: "And the American people ... they faint if someone uses insensitive language in their presence and half of them couldn't run up a set of stairs if you put a gun to their heads. What'll happen if the real shit hits the fan? What are they going to do if they're faced with something that can't be fixed by a Facebook petition?"

Stan Hurley: "It's not how you play the game, it's whether or not your opponent ends up dismembered in the woods."

** Finished the 1966 novel "The Busy Body" by Donald Westlake. It's a story of a mobster charged with digging up a dead body because the suitcoat the dude is buried in is lined with packages of cocaine. As is usual with Westlake novels, nothing goes right. In this case, the casket is empty.

It was good, not great. Not as funny as most Westlake novels. Gave it a 6 of 10. Goodreaders gave it a 3.8 of 5. Amazonians a 4.2 of 5.

** Knocked off the third in the Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box - "Winterkill." Another good one by him.

It's an hour away from darkness, a bitter winter storm is raging, and Joe Pickett is deep in the forest edging Battle Mountain, shotgun in his left hand, his truck's detached steering wheel handcuffed to his right—and Lamar Gardiner's arrow-riddled corpse splayed against the tree in front of him. Lamar's murder and the sudden onslaught of the snowstorm warn: Get off the mountain. But Joe knows this episode is far from over. And when his own daughter gets caught up in his hunt for the killer, Joe will stop at nothing to get her back...

The ending is not what you normally get in a novel, though I've gone there before.

I gave it a 7+ of 10. Amazonians a 4.7 of 5.

** Wrapped up the month with "Deadly Cross" by James Patterson. I don't read any of the co-authored books of Patterson. There are too many of them and some are probably good but I don't have the time to be messing with wannabes. 

This is the 28th book in the Alex Cross series. It interweaves two cases of Alex's and his wife. The Cross books are always good. This wasn't the best, but glad I read it.

Gave it a 6+ of 10. Amazonians seem stuck on the 4.7 number.

** Next up, I'm changing my murdery tune and cleansing the pallet with a memoir by Brandi Carlile. She intrigues me and I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Meth. We're on it.

Seems like forever since that slogan was unveiled by the State of South Dakota. It was less than two years ago and lit up the Twitterverse.

Seems like meth is still a big problem nationwide and The Atlantic looked into it. I think The Atlantic is one of the better publications around. They have good writers and go into depth on stories, like this story on meth.
Different chemically than it was a decade ago, the drug is creating a wave of severe mental illness and worsening America’s homelessness problem.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

This got my attention: A shortage of books?

Book shortage 2021: Why the supply chain issues won't ruin holidays (usatoday.com)

Normally, as the holidays approach print book sales rise as people purchase gifts. Unfortunately, current supply chain issues, which for the book industry include shortages in labor, paper and delays in shipping, may impact how many books are available. Recent headlines warning of a book shortage spurred panic that books will be hard to get this year. 

Here is a pretty good explanation of supply chain woes affecting the world right now: Supply Chain Issues: ‘There Really Are Problems Everywhere,’ Even For Small Companies

If you happen to run out of books, hit me up. I'll set ya up.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Reminder

 You really should get on the ball and start reading the Bags Morton series - Bags of Bodies, Bags of Rock, Bags of Stone.

Like the shoe company says: Just do it.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Finished: Stephen Hunter's "Basil's War"

 Stephen Hunter is most famous for his Bob Lee Swagger novels. They are awesome.

His latest novel is Basil's War. It's neither a Swagger novel nor awesome.

I'm not much of a war novel or war movie guy. Not really into history either except for the occasional biography. I read this one simply because Hunter wrote it.

Basil St. Florian is an accomplished agent in the British Army, tasked with dozens of dangerous missions for crown and country across the globe. But his current mission, going undercover in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, might be his toughest assignment yet. He will be searching for an ecclesiastic manuscript that doesn’t officially exist, one that genius professor Alan Turing believes may hold the key to a code that could prevent the death of millions and possibly even end the war.

St. Florian isn’t the classic British special agent with a stiff upper lip―he is a swashbuckling, whisky-drinking cynic and thrill-seeker who resents having to leave Vivien Leigh’s bed to set out on his crucial mission. Despite these proclivities, though, Basil’s Army superiors know he’s the best man for the job, carrying out his espionage with enough charm and quick wit to make any of his subjects lower their guards.

It was a short story he turned into a novel and you could kind of tell. It wasn't that much of a story. And if you're going to write a movie set in World War II you'd think it would be halfway believable. This stretched the imagination and the realm of possibility on occasion.

I finished it. Gave it a 5 of 10. Amazonians a 4.1 of 5. Goodreaders a 4.73.

Pro tip: Read all 12 Swagger novels; skip this one.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Quick thoughts and notes

 It kind of scares me when I look to my left and to my right and then feel like I've kind of become a voice of reason. I used to be the crazy bomb thrower and really haven't changed anything but got nothing on some of the yahoos I'm seeing these days. 

The list of things I don't "get" continues to grow:

What's so difficult with just being nice anymore? If not nice, then how about just not being a jerk.

Horse dewormer? Really?

And why do they still call it a foul pole? If a ball hits it, it's a fair ball.

Why isn't my BCRX stock taking off like myself and much smarter analysts think it should?

Calling someone a RINO is a sign of a lazy mind who usually can't verbalize their argument nor often times even spell the term correctly. That also extends to other terms that get tossed around: "Communist" "Socialist" and "Nazi." Easy to say, difficult for many who use the terms to understand.

Why people hating on Kirk Cousins so much?

I get having opinions about masks but is it really worth screaming about?

How can my insurance adjuster and my contractor be $44,000 apart in estimates of hail damage to my abode?

** Jonathan Turley cites a poll on college speech. It ain't pretty, folks.

The latest chilling poll was released by 2021 College Free Speech Rankings after questioning a huge body of 37,000 students at 159 top-ranked U.S. colleges and universities. It found that sixty-six percent of college students think shouting down a speaker to stop them from speaking is a legitimate form of free speech.  Another 23 percent believe violence can be used to cancel a speech. That is roughly one out of four supporting violence.

** This is a couple weeks old, but David French's argument remains. I suggest everyone read it: The Descent of the Partisan Mind

When I speak to college students, one of the first things I say is that they should do their best to avoid the “partisan mind.” I don’t mean they should avoid voting for partisan candidates. I don’t even mean they should avoid running for office as a member of a political party. What I mean is they should reject partisanship as an identity, in part because we are learning that there are often no limits to the gullibility and rage of the truly partisan person, especially when negative polarization means that partisan commitment is defined by animosity against the other side. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Finished: Lucy Foley's 'The Guest List'

Had low expectations for this one. The coworker who borrowed it to me didn't seem too enthused about it but thought I might like it. I did. A lot. 

First let me say, I love women. I'm married to one and have two daughters. My physician is female; my veterinarian is female. I entrust my most valuable things to women. In my management positions I've hired maybe seven or eight people, all women.

Now, having attempted to establish my bonafides as an admirer of the skills of the opposite sex, it pains me to say I'm not a big fan of female murder-mystery writers. With a few exceptions, like Faye Kellerman and Joyce Carol Oates, they generally aren't dark enough for me. They're too wordy. I like it dark, stark, bloody and cold-blooded.

And this book featured a wedding planner? I'm thinking J Lo and some rom-com kind of thing. And it featured multiple point of views, alternating timelines, like flashbacks; more things I usually don't like. I knew I wasn't going to finish it.

But low and behold here comes Lucy Foley doing all that bad stuff well: Set in a dark boggy island amid thunderstorms, screams in the night, drunkenness, bullying, obnoxious frat-boy types, every character a little shady, every character a suspect of killing somebody. The trick the author played which I don't think I've seen before is the reader doesn't even know who the victim is, much less who killed them, until the end. Clever with a capital C.

Most of the negative reviews I read focused on the fact that none of the characters were likable. What's wrong with that? I enjoyed that part. Seems more relatable than everybody being likable. Have you ever met any people?

Amazonians gave it a 4.2 of 5. Goodreaders a 3.86 of 5. Haugenometer an 8 of 10.

I highly recommend The Guest List.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

'It's been a good year for the roses; Many blooms still linger there ...'





Wifey brought another rescue plant home from work a couple months ago. Her coworker said it hadn't bloomed in three years. After a little time with Dr. Haugen, this ol' Primrose is happy as can be. It's just a matter of listening to the plant when it tells you how much light it wants and how often it needs a drink. Then you sing to it. This one is a fan of George Jones and Conway Twitty.

Another excerpt from Bags of Stone ...

     “You know, Johnny,” I said. “It seems like maybe you should find a way to reconcile with that girlfriend of yours. Especially after three murders now. You shouldn’t be sleeping on the street. Period.”

“But she’s crazy. And you’re watching out for me.”

“It occurred to me last night that I’m not going to be able to do a good job of investigating while trying to keep track of you at the same time.” Besides it was killing my back. “Maybe you just need to put up with a little craziness for a few days. Better than getting killed.”

“You haven’t lived with her.”

“Still. My point remains. To catch this guy, I need to be on the move more. Do it for the others on the street who might be killed if we don’t get this asshole.”

He stared out the window blowing on his coffee.

“I suppose I could take one for the team.”

I dropped him off at their housing project. 

“Thanks for breakfast,” he said. “You’re a righteous dude, Bags. Like Ferris Buehler.”

“You’re welcome, Johnny. I’ll be around downtown this afternoon and check in on you. Keep your eyes open.”

“I will.” 

He trudged up the sidewalk to his apartment like a death row prisoner to the electric chair.


Get Bags of Rock here. Free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

An excerpt from Bags of Stone ...

Bags of Stone available now at Amazon.


      "I’m talking about living on the street near you.”

“You’d do that for me?”

I think his eyes moistened.

“I’d do that to catch this killer.”

“Holy smokes.”

“Now it’s just going to be at night. I still need to make a living during the day. I’ll come down at nightfall. Probably not next to you, but where I can see you. Maybe across the street or down the block, but always within eye-sight.”

“That’d be awesome man. I’ll tell all the guys.”

“No, Johnny. You can’t tell anyone. We don’t know who is doing this or who to trust. Don’t look at me or talk to me. Ignore me.”

“Okay. After you catch him, can I tell people?”

“Yes. Then you can tell the world. Write a book.”

“I always thought I could be an author,” Johnny said. “Seems pretty easy.”


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Silva breaks a string with 'The Cellist'

 There's nothing worse than waiting anxiously for a specific book to come and and then it's a flop. Actually, there are a lot of things worse, but in the realm of book-reading it's numero uno.

As you faithful blog readers (bleaders?) know, I'm a big fan of Daniel Silva and his Gabriel Allon books. So I nabbed his newest one, The Cellist, the 21st in the series, and let it rest atop my TBR pile for a special occasion - the flight to D.C. and back to see my son.

It's a thick one - 458 pages. Fortunately, a thunderstorm left us sitting on the tarmac an extra hour on the connecting flight at Chicago, so I was able to finish it with plenty of time to spare so I could grouse about it to my wife in the seat next to me.

For starters, it was dull. The first 350 pages were full of banking jargon, Russians setting up fake accounts, laundering money, shell corporations, etc. 

After that, it picked up a little but then he ruined it with nonstop references to the President, the Coup and Jan. 6. He doesn't name Donald Trump, but it's obvious (for the second book in a row). If I'd wanted a Bob Woodward book detailing that portion of Trump's presidency I would've bought one. But I bought a book thinking it would be Allon killing terrorists and saving a pope or a prime minister and traveling Europe and the Middle East and teaching me stuff about famous artists.

This was Trump bashing amid a lame Russian financial scheme during COVID with the heroine being a cellist. Yes, a cellist!

Silva typically weaves current events into his fiction and did so a bit with President Obama, again, not naming him. But it was never so over the top and never vitriolic. This was over the top and vitriolic. I get it, you don't like him. Write a non-fiction book about it with your wife, NBC News correspondent Jamie Gangel. 

As the first two Goodreads reviews said:

Why in the world would the author sully a work of fiction with his personal anti-Trump propaganda? I have been a fan of Mr. Silva for many years but will no longer buy any future works of his.

And, if nothing else, the politics was forced ...

If I wanted to relive the last 18 month of the pandemic and a one sided view of US politics, I might, only barely have liked this book. It’s really sub-par writing for Silva. I’ve enjoyed most everyone of his prior Allon books! However, Silva’s treatise on his obvious world views, from carbon footprint, to sustainable green energy, evil billionaires, corrupt banks was too much. And no I do not forgive this author for making me pay to read his personal opinions!

It seemed he was writing for his buddies which he name-drops in the humble-brag acknowledgement section: Andrew Lack, Sally Quinn, Peggy Noonan, Henry Winkler, Gary Ginsburg, etc. Next time, just write a column in the Washington Post.

I don't even necessarily disagree with what Silva was saying, it's just not what I'm looking for when I'm looking to escape my day-job where I listen to that stuff endlessly. If I wanted Samantha Bee, I'd read her. 

Hopefully, since Trump is done, so is Silva's vendetta unleashed in his novels. 

I gave it a 6- on the 10-point Haugenometer. I hope he gets back on track with his next book or I'm afraid the Daniel Silva train has run out of track with this reader.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Coming soon-ish!

"I walked out of the Moonshine Bar at 11 with a 9."


And so begins the third novella in my Bags Morton detective series. 

With just a couple tweaks left in the Amazon publishing process, it will be live and ready to read. I will let you know when it's available, of course. In fact, I'll probably be somewhat obnoxious about it.

Until then, read Bags of Bodies and Bags of Rock. It's not necessary that you do so in order to enjoy this third entry, but the author would appreciate it if you did. And I think you'll be happy you did too. Of course, I'm a little biased, but others who've read them seem to agree. And millions of readers, okay, hundreds of readers couldn't be wrong.

If high-brow Oprah-Club novels are your bag, these Bags novellas are not for you. If quick reads, with plenty of twists and chuckles are for you, then get to it. There's some sex, drugs and rock n roll involved, so you should at least be an immature adult to best enjoy. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Start of Box series a pleasant surprise

 I've had a stack of twenty C.J. Box books staring at me for a few months now. Finally decided to dig in.

I was skeptical at first because it seemed, from what I'd heard about them, that his Joe Pickett series seemed like kind of a rip-off of Craig Johnson's Longmire series. Both law enforcement dudes in Wyoming, trouble finds them, they shoot people and all is well. But, I was wrong (yes, wifey, you read that correctly). Box's first book of the series came out three years before the first Longmire book. And, knowing a bit about how the process works, it's likely they were both working on their characters at the same time unbeknownst to each other.

There are similarities of course, since there's only so much you can write about in Wyoming. There's cows, antelope, Yellowstone and the Big Horn Mountains. And, fortunately for these two authors, there are a lot of guns.

My skepticism began to subside though as I read the first book, Open Season. It takes a little different tact. Joe Pickett is not Walt Longmire. Joe is a game warden, new on the job, young, unsure of himself, easily intimidated and a poor shot.

It was good enough that I moved on to the second in the series, Savage Run. There were actually some interesting plot twists and characters. 

In both books, there was some unexpected violence I enjoyed and even some sexual innuendo that was surprising for the Western genre. Surprising, but not unwelcome.

I think I kind of had it in my head that if I liked Longmire I shouldn't like Joe Pickett out of some kind of loyalty to Walt. But, I can like Mitch Rapp and Jack Reacher. I can like Gabriel Allon and Lucas Davenport.

So I guess Joe Pickett and Walt Longmire can coexist in my head too.

As is often the case, I usually get to where I want to be in my head, but the road getting there is longer than it should be.

I put both books in the 7 of 10 range and will keep reading the series - in order, of course. But first I'm going to knock off the new Daniel Silva novel that just showed up in the mail. See what Gabriel is up to.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Finished LB book of short stories

 Short stories don't get the credit they deserve. Some of the best, most memorable, writing I've read is in that format. Mark Twain's take the cake. Poe is right behind. William Faulkner, outstanding. A surprise for me was Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.

Those guys turned out some of the funniest, most frightening and deepest stories I've ever read.

What I also like about them is you can grab a book of their collected works and knock one out in a few minutes. Don't have time to settle in for an hour or two of reading, but want to feel like you accomplished something, grab a short story.

I seldom read two in a row, especially if the one was good. I feel like they should stand on their own and if you read two in one sitting it seems like they meld together a bit. Read one good one and marinade on it.

Lawrence Block's collection I just finished featured twenty-one short stories. Some better than others, as obviously you're always going to have your favorites. But there were a couple where I went to work the next day and regaled the staff with the plots. I don't know if I actually regaled them. I might have bored them with my telling of the story, but I regaled myself by reliving them.

"Cleveland in My Dreams" was like a long joke with a zinger of a finish. I'll be telling that one to captive audiences the rest of my life.

"The Tulsa Experience" was one where Block just drops the hammer at the end with a twist that makes you wonder "Did he really just write that?"

"Some Days You Get the Bear" was just so darn weird that it made me respect the writer's twisted mind so much I wanted to be like him but would be worried if I were.

In his introduction, Block says: "Short stories should speak for themselves. Writers, on the other hand, probably shouldn't." He goes on to talk about his stories anyway.

Block is a master and a delight and one of my favorite writers. I have some issues with him personally that I have written about in the past. But I'm guessing Edgar A. Poe wasn't always the most delightful person at times either. Actually, iy seems like a running theme with most of the greats. Watch Ken Burns' documentary on Ernest Hemingway for a prime example.

Writers. Go figure.