Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Finished Dean Koontz's 'The Other Emily' and others

 Playing catch-up here a bit for those of you who care what books I've read.

The highlight was Dean Koontz's new novel "The Other Emily." I kick myself whenever I get off a Koontz kick and bother with other authors, because he's so consistently good. This didn't disappoint.

A decade ago, Emily Carlino vanished after her car broke down on a California highway. She was presumed to be one of serial killer Ronny Lee Jessup’s victims whose remains were never found.

Writer David Thorne still hasn’t recovered from losing the love of his life, or from the guilt of not being there to save her. Since then, he’s sought closure any way he can. He even visits regularly with Jessup in prison, desperate for answers about Emily’s final hours so he may finally lay her body to rest. Then David meets Maddison Sutton, beguiling, playful, and keenly aware of all David has lost. But what really takes his breath away is that everything about Maddison, down to her kisses, is just like Emily. As the fantastic becomes credible, David’s obsession grows, Maddison’s mysterious past deepens―and terror escalates.

Is she Emily? Or an irresistible dead ringer? Either way, the ultimate question is the same: What game is she playing? Whatever the risk in finding out, David’s willing to take it for this precious second chance. It’s been ten years since he’s felt this inspired, this hopeful, this much in love…and he’s afraid.

It's tough to say much more without giving away the twists and ending. I came close to figuring it out pretty early on, but Koontz surprised me with the grand finale and why it was Thorpe felt guilty. Suffice to say it was typical Koontz - good versus evil, quite frightening and bordering on the impossible, but the more you think about it, pretty probable.

I gave it an 8 of 10 on the Haugenometer. Amazonians a 4.3 of 5.

** Another one I was looking forward to was "The Sentinel." It's the first of the Jack Reacher series where author Andrew Child steps in to continue the popular series begun by his now-retired brother, Lee Child.

Having read the previous 24 books written by Lee, I have to say Andrew did a pretty good job. But, a devotee to the series like me could recognize some differences in style. The one that stood out to me most is that he had a much more talkative Reacher. Sometimes in unrealistic ways, like when Reacher is ready to defend himself against a gun-wielding bad guy, Reacher launches into a soliloquy of how he's going to defeat the guy before he does it. Meanwhile, apparently, the bad guy just stands there and waits for him to be done sermonizing before the fight begins. Otherwise, it was all good.

I gave it a 6 of 10 and look forward to the next one, "Better Off Dead," due out in October.

** I also read Lawrence Block's "No Score" - one of the short Chip Harrison series. Kind of a silly book, but mildly entertaining, as drifter Chip keeps having his quests to lose his virginity interrupted. I gave it a 5 of 10. The Harrison series is not one of Block's best, probably his lamest.

** I round out the list of missed reviews with Ace Atkins' "The Ranger." This is the first of six in the Quinn Colson series, a former Army Ranger returned to his home in the south and cleans it up. I gave it a 6 of 10.

Monday, May 24, 2021

A fun but 'short' visit

 My best friend from college, Steve, broke quarantine in Minnesota and visited the Black Hills with his wife last week. I met him for lunch in Hill City and then we roamed the streets. Talked non-stop for about three hours. It was great.

He’s in the small circle of close friends of mine. I have fewer than 10 people in my life whose opinion of me I actually care about. He’s one of them. He knows where the bodies are buried and would lend me his shovel to bury another. The two of us can talk the usual BS guy-talk but also get into deeper subjects, like aging parents, us aging, wives, kids, politics. Just like the old days, minus the bottle of vodka and Breakfast Club playing in the VCR for the 100th time. As they say, he gets me. Few do.

He’s also one of the few people who still calls me by my college nickname: Coz. Don’t even remember how I got that. For a short while I was “Speed.” Don’t ask. I liked that one, but it never stuck. Coz did. 

We took the obligatory selfie in front of a chainsaw-carved bear in Hill City and texted it to the third member of our college trio who was still under armed guard in his home outside Minneapolis. It took us a while as two old guys can do trying to get a decent photo of the two of us and the bear. When it was done, I was surprised by one thing – how short I appeared.

Being short is nothing new for me. I was one of the youngest in my grade growing up. Combined with being a late bloomer anyway, I was always six inches shorter than anyone in my class. Until my senior year. Then, as my dad had been telling me but whom I was beginning to doubt, I grew. By my freshman year in college I was 6-2. No longer short!

So what did this genius do in college? I befriended two of the tallest guys in my class, both basketball players, both 6-7.

Steve told me once that I’d apparently caught the eye of some vision-impaired or hard-up co-ed who had asked him: “Who’s that short guy you’re always hanging around?”

Rather than being flattered, and fresh off a long bout with short-man’s syndrome, I replied: “Short!? I’m six-foot-two!”

But there I was, the short guy again. And it reared its ugly head again in the selfie we took 35 years later. It even appeared Steve had grown another inch and I’d shrunk an inch. How’d that happen?

Saturday, May 8, 2021

How about those vaccinations, eh?

 Consistency is not a great American virtue of late. The COVID vaccine debate is a good example. I received my shots in March. No big deal. If you aren't getting yours, fine. I don't care. But the arguments against strike me as silly and often hypocritical.

For those who say "my body is a temple" so they aren't going to put a couple milliliters of a FDA-approved vaccine in their body, I've seen your temple hanging over your sweatpants at Walmart. It's built out of french fries, glued together with corn syrup and sprinkled with Cheetos. You wouldn't know the food pyramid from the Great Pyramid at Giza.

I'm a bit of a health nut the past few years. Certainly wasn't always that way. I grew up swimming in a cattle tank (the cows don't always face out) and getting sprayed down with RAID before walking beans in the evening by Selma Hansen (not Hayek, unfortunately). I started chewing Copenhagen at 16. Then I spent a decade of decadence consuming enough tequila and Old Milwaukee to keep Mexico and Wisconsin solvent through the 1980s. So I figure a little potassium chloride isn't going to do me in.

Then there is the "I only consume natural ingredients" crowd that will chow down every untested but friend-on-Facebook-approved supplement at the health food store. Oh look, here's some opossum sperm that will remove wrinkles. As Billy "Crash" Craddock would sing: Rub it in, rub it in. Here's some poison castor bean powder that will clear up my toenail fungus! Gobble, gobble. 

Or the not-so-natural-stuff: Viagra! Munch, munch. Gimme my Zoloft; I'm depressed.

I want the state to legalize weed so I can stay stoned through life, but don't tell me to get a shot that might save my life or that of my grandma. Instead, pass me a menthol cigarette or the vape pen with the newest flavor: Willie Nelson's socks.

You're worried about what you put in your body? Give me a break.

Ladies, lay off the Scensty then if you're so concerned with what goes in your bod. Maybe research what's in those scents before you inhale. (Hint: it ain't all pumpkin and dandelions.)

Lately I've been following these athletes who don't want to get the shot. Okay, fine. Then also knock off the illegal steroids. Quit visiting GNC for every testosterone-booster, pre-workout juice and after-workout powder. Pump iron like a real man. Go aunatural there too.

My body is a temple. Ha. Pass me the meth pipe, say over 12 million Americans. Over 36 percent are obese. Fifteen percent smoke cancer sticks. Over 6 percent have alcohol problems. About 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes annually in the United States.

Four out of five Americans are prescribed antibiotics every year (antibiotics approved by the same government as the COVID vaccine, by the way). CDC estimates about 47 million antibiotic courses each year are prescribed for infections that don't need antibiotics. But I'm not going to get that COVID shot because I'm free! I'm not a sheeple! I watch what goes in my body. Pfft.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think we're at the point where the government has to mandate the COVID vaccine like they do childhood vaccinations. But it won't be long and private business will and, having been a small business owner, I'm fine with that. If Delta says you need a vaccine to fly, so be it. Drive to Florida instead. If Menards wants to see your vaccination card to enter and you don't have one, go to Runnings. If you want to go to the next Bruno Mars concert and he says you need to be vaccinated, good on him. Go see Miley Cyrus.

I feel good having had my shots. A little more secure. More free, believe it or not. I realize they aren't 100 percent foolproof. But I'm a gambling man and like my odds having it while I mingle among the crowds. Because I've seen those crowds, I know people in those crowds, and unlike some in those crowds I'll listen to my doctor before I listen to my Facebook friends who think they're doctors.

A little COVID vaccine for a little peace of mind? Straight into my veins, baby!