Saturday, November 30, 2019

'Pet Teachers' kicks off tomorrow

I've had this short novel called "Pet Teachers" sitting on my computer for a few years now. It's like a fat old cat sitting on my desk staring at me. I ignore it, it ignores me; but occasionally I feel the need to feed it or pet it. That's a laborious way of saying I keep messing with it, editing it, making small changes here and there, mostly with the idea of making it longer. But it's gotten old and needs to go.

It's a distraction. It hampers my efforts on other projects as it diverts me and has my mind going there when it should be going elsewhere.

So I need to do something with it. While I'm close to publishing another novel, I don't really feel like going through that process with the much shorter "Pet Teachers." So I came up with this brilliant idea. It's actually more like a plain ol' idea, but thought I'd give it a try.

To get it out the door, or to the litter box, if you may, I reckoned I would post it on this blog. Figured I'd post three or four chapters a day in hopes people would return the next day for a couple more until this kitty is out the door or put down, if you may. The last installment is Friday, Dec. 13, an ominous date, as it should be.

"Pet Teachers" is about three teachers in the Black Hills area. They were forced into their occupations by a blackmailing Dean of Students at their university after a couple bad decisions made it impossible  for them to pursue their chosen, more prosperous, careers.

As part of her "you owe me one" follow-up, each summer the Dean also sets them up with a job. Not a summer siding or roofing houses or working at the golf course, like most teachers do during June, July and August. Her jobs are of the illegal variety and usually highly lucrative.

When she died, her daughter, now president of the university, carried on the tradition.

Last summer they attempted a heist at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and, suffice to say, it didn't go entirely according to the teachers' plans.

Tune in tomorrow to kick off their festivities. Then read all during the week while you're at work. I think you'll enjoy it, even if your boss won't.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Finished: Child's 'Blue Moon'

Watching the Dallas Cowboys lose on Thanksgiving was made even more enjoyable by wrapping up the 24th Jack Reacher book by Lee Child - "Blue Moon."

It got off to a good start, with Reacher using his intuition to foresee a crime and stopping it, but it goes downhill from there. The overly descriptive paragraphs of alleys and building layouts were tedious. The plot grew outlandish. Reacher turned into a gleeful murderer rather than the reluctant user of violence. One body count of the book put it at 70 stiffs. It got ridiculous.
Reacher is on a Greyhound bus, minding his own business, with no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there. Then he steps off the bus to help an old man who is obviously just a victim waiting to happen. But you know what they say about good deeds. Now Reacher wants to make it right. 
An elderly couple have made a few well-meaning mistakes, and now they owe big money to some very bad people. One brazen move leads to another, and suddenly Reacher finds himself a wanted man in the middle of a brutal turf war between rival Ukrainian and Albanian gangs. 
Reacher has to stay one step ahead of the loan sharks, the thugs, and the assassins. He teams up with a fed-up waitress who knows a little more than she’s letting on, and sets out to take down the powerful and make the greedy pay. It’s a long shot. The odds are against him. But Reacher believes in a certain kind of justice . . . the kind that comes along once in a blue moon.
While somewhat entertaining, I found myself speed reading through it. Hoping the next one is better. Or, maybe it's time for Child to expand his portfolio and imagination and start a new series. 

I gave it a 6 of 10 on the Haugenometer. Amazonians were more generous with 3.9 of 5, though some of the 1 star reviews were scathing, and Goodreaders went crazy with 4.1 of 5. So maybe I'm the outlier on this one, or the prescient one who doesn't feel the need to automatically bend a knee to a great author. Even Mark Twain wrote a clunker or two, probably.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Finished Connolly's "Every Dead Thing"

While I was reading John Sandford's novel "Holy Ghost," one of the characters mentioned he was reading a novel by John Connolly called "Every Dead Thing" and it was "scaring the hell out of him." Authors seem to do that name-dropping thing, and I figured if it's good enough for Sandford to mention it's good enough for me.

So I bought it. Heck of a racket those famous authors have going for them. And I just finished it.It was good. It was bloody, probably had more killing in it than any mystery novel I've read (which is saying something). But, I can't say it "scared the hell out of me." A couple Koontz novels have - the kind that keep you up at night or I dream about.

Former NYPD detective Charlie "Bird" Parker is on the verge of madness. Tortured by the unsolved slayings of his wife and young daughter, he is a man consumed by guilt, regret, and the desire for revenge. When his former partner asks him to track down a missing girl, Parker finds himself drawn into a world beyond his imagining: a world where thirty-year-old killings remain shrouded in fear and lies, a world where the ghosts of the dead torment the living, a world haunted by the murderer responsible for the deaths in his family — a serial killer who uses the human body to create works of art and takes faces as his prize. But the search awakens buried instincts in Parker: instincts for survival, for compassion, for love, and, ultimately, for killing. 
In the tradition of classic American detective fiction, Every Dead Thing is a tense, richly plotted thriller, filled with memorable characters and gripping action. It is also a profoundly moving novel, concerned with the nature of loyalty, love, and forgiveness. Lyrical and terrifying, it is an ambitious debut, triumphantly realized.
It is the first in the Charlie Parker series. I'll read the second and see where things go. It's over 470 pages, which is a bit long for my attention span, but it was good enough to carry me through.

Amazonians gave it a 3.9 of 5. I gave it a 7 of 10, bumped it up one for the well-researched gore.

A couple lines I particularly liked:

On a guy carrying his wife's pink umbrella: "He had the look of a man who is trying to pretend that a dog isn't screwing his leg."

On a tough-looking gangster hearing his sister died but he didn't cry: "Lionel Fontenot didn't look like a man with well-developed tear ducts."

And finally: "You can't bluff someone who isn't paying attention."

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Finished: Sandford's 'Holy Ghost'

John Sandford's "Holy Ghost" is the 11th in the Virgil Flowers series. Flowers was a sidekick of Lucas Davenport in the "Prey" series - kind of his alter ego. This was a very entertaining book.
Pinion, Minnesota: a metropolis of all of seven hundred souls, for which the word "moribund" might have been invented. Nothing ever happened there and nothing ever would--until the mayor of sorts (campaign slogan: "I'll Do What I Can") and a buddy come up with a scheme to put Pinion on the map. They'd heard of a place where a floating image of the Virgin Mary had turned the whole town into a shrine, attracting thousands of pilgrims. And all those pilgrims needed food, shelter, all kinds of crazy things, right? They'd all get rich! What could go wrong? 
When the dead body shows up, they find out, and that's only the beginning of their troubles--and Virgil Flowers'--as they are all about to discover all too soon.
That's the summary by Amazon, which, oddly enough, gets the town name wrong. It takes place in Wheatfield, MN, a metropolis of 600 souls. It's right there on the back cover!

I got a little tired of Virgil running into dead-end leads, but I liked the premise (apparitions of the Virgin Mary appearing at the local church and reinvigorating the local economy).

I gave it a 8 on the Haugenometer. Amazonians liked it even better with a 4.5 of 5.

I have the most recent Flowers novel waiting for me on my TBR shelf, so I need to get going.

The Pride of country music

Wifey and I went to the Charley Pride concert last night at the Deadwood Mountain Grand in Deadwood. Expectations were low as I don't expect much from an 85-year-old. Figure it's an accomplishment when they get out of bed in the morning.

Charley exceeded my expectations. I've seen Willie Nelson and B.B. King in their 80s and Charley seemed the most spry. He wasn't doing cartwheels or anything, but he strode from one side of the stage to the other and was very engaged with the audience. His voice was strong and he seemed to enjoy showing off his deep range.

A couple times he seemed to briefly forget a couple lyrics, but the keyboard player who has been with him for over 40 years covered nicely for him and got him back on track.

I think some of the mild confusion was that he seemed to ad lib his set, which went for about 90 minutes. He sang his hits, like "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" but when audience members shouted out their suggestions he took their advice. On one song, he turned to the band and said: "Do you remember that one?" They nodded yes and they were off.

He's recorded over 500 songs and the keyboardist pointed out it would take 25 hours to sing them all. Charley said there's nobody he would want to listen to for 25 hours straight. Apparently he's never heard Prince.

Charley was very engaged with the audience, joked with them and was in good spirits. Seemed to enjoy himself.

He enjoyed telling stories between songs but acknowledged, "You didn't come to listen to me talk." He mentioned the old rumor that he is the illegitimate son of Hank Williams. Said it was a popular theory decades ago. He laughed at it and then mocked it by playing a couple Hank songs.

The venue appeared sold out. Might have been some standing room available but all the seats were full and I don't think they sold SRO tickets.

The crowd was older. Lots of gray and white hair. It was odd though, when you see a guy like him who I never really followed, because he was before my time, but he definitely had his groupies. The crowd loved him and repeatedly hollered out their affection.

It was a fun night, more fun than I anticipated. I probably wouldn't have gone, but it was something to do and I try to make it a point to see the legends when they come to the area. I hoped for the best and we got it. Good job, Charley.

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Goose Egg - interesting but has cracks

Nate Silver at is proposing a new statistics for baseball. The Save ruined relief pitching. The Goose Egg can fix it.

I don't know that I agree with this new stat, but I do agree that closers are often used incorrectly. Rather than have Taylor Rogers pitch the 9th inning with a three-run lead, I'd rather have seen him in the sixth inning after the starting pitcher faded and left the bases loaded with one out.

That's when the game is won or lost. That's when you need to bring the smoke. That's when you need your best pitcher. Use somebody else later.

Like Stinkin' Yankee Goose Gossage says:
“I would like to see these guys come into more jams, into tighter situations and finish the game. … In the seventh, eighth or ninth innings. I don’t think they’re utilizing these guys to the maximum efficiency and benefit to your ballclub,” Gossage said. “This is not a knock against Mo [Rivera],” he continued later.1 “[But] I’d like to know how many of Mo’s saves are of one inning with a three-run lead. If everybody in that [bleep]ing bullpen can’t save a three-run lead for one inning, they shouldn’t even be in the big leagues.”

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Need to step up the prayer game

So the West River Diocese has been without a bishop for a couple months as Bishop Gruse was transferred. So we await the appointment of a new bishop.

At weekly Mass we've been praying for a new one as part of the Intentions. That's a part of the Mass where prayers are said out loud for various things, like peace, rain, those who've recently died, and topics affecting the community, nation or world. We go through a list of a half dozen or so.

Somebody writes them each week. I'm not sure who, the priest, the church secretary, somebody. What caught my ear recently is the portion where we pray for a new bishop.

We pray for a "competent" bishop for our diocese. Every week, same word. Competent? Is that what it's come to? Can't we set our sights a bit higher? Maybe ask for an excellent bishop? A immensely holy one? A learned, prayerful one of great leadership skills? Maybe even a super, duper one?

Maybe I'm nitpicking, but words mean things and it seems it was specifically chosen. No offense to any since, but I wonder what words they prayed when the diocese received Bishop Chaput. They should copy those words.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Finished: Block's 'After the First Death"

Been on a Lawrence Block roll, and why not?

"After the First Death" was one of those slow starters that gradually picked up steam and finished with a flourish. That's a dangerous game to play with me, because I have little patience. Sure there was a naked woman with her neck slashed in the bed of the guy buy page 6, but then there was a lot of introspection. I don't like introspection. Not sure why. I'll have to think about it.

It was written in 1969 and then another author wrote a book by the same name ten years later. Seems like something you'd want to check before you gave your book a title. But I guess they didn't have Google back then.
Lawrence Block weaves his spell in this suspenseful tale of a man haunted by murders he hopes he hasn?t committed ... It was all too frighteningly familiar. For the second time in his life, Alex Penn wakes up in an alcoholic daze in a cheap hotel room off Times Square and finds himself lying next to the savagely mutilated body of a young woman. After the first death, he was convicted of murder and imprisoned, then released on a technicality. But this time he has to find out what happened during the blackout and why? before the police do.
I gave it a 6-plus of 10 on the Haugenomter. Not great, but good. Amazonians and Goodreaders gave it a 3.5 of 5.

After a 182 pages of grittiness, Block ended the book with some thoughtful prose:
"Nothing is ever certain. We do not know quite where we are going. But where you are going is less important, I think, than where you are. And still less important is where you have been."