Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Finished 2 good ones from McMurtry and Block

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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