Thursday, August 24, 2023

Knocked off 4 more books, lots of people died

 I've fallen behind on what passes for book reviews around here, so let's get caught up on the latest:

The Girl With No Place To Hide by Nick Quarry (aka Marvin Albert). It was originally published in 1959. This was republished by Black Gat Books, which specializes in reprints of some of the best vintage mystery books. 

The woman comes into the bar and catches Jake’s attention immediately. Not beautiful, but there is something striking about her. She asks for Steve Canby, who’s just left, and dismisses Jake with a glance. Then she leaves. Jake doesn’t think much of it until he comes out of the bar and finds the woman being choked by a huge hulk of a man. Coming to her rescue, he barely manages to keep from being strangled himself.

Later, they end up at his apartment. Her name is Angela, and she just wants someplace safe to spend the night. Someone is out to get her. Jake Barrow is a private detective between jobs, so he agrees. But later that night when he returns from a false alarm from someone claiming to want his services, he finds her gone. Was the call a ruse? Who knew she was here? But this is just the beginning—it’s not long before his pursuit of Angela leads to murder.

Amazonians gave it a 4.5 of 5. It ranked a 7 of 10 on the Haugenometer.

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers. I knew Flowers from hosting my wife's favorite podcast Crime Junkie. This was her first book and a New York Times bestseller last year.

Twisty, chilling, and intense, All Good People Here is a searing tale that asks: What are your neighbors capable of when they think no one is watching?

The book was given to my wife by my daughter. I was skeptical, figuring it was just some author given a book deal because she was somewhat famous, but it was actually very well written and enjoyable. So, never judge an author by their cover, I guess.

Amazonians gave it a 4.4 of 5; the harder-to-please Goodreaders of 3.9 of 5, and the Haugenometer a 7 of 10. 

After Death by Dean Koontz. Go figure, one of my favorite authors ended up being the one with a bit of a clunker. It was okay, but Koontz seems to be obsessed with this singularity thing, and I'm not. One thing I admire about him is that he writes what interests him and not what he thinks his fans want. But, hey, Dean, time for another one for the fans. Ditch the biological, computer-oriented singularity thing for a bit. Give it a rest.

Michael Mace, head of security at a top-secret research facility, opens his eyes in a makeshift morgue twenty-four hours following an event in which everyone perished—including him and his best friend, Shelby Shrewsberry.

Having awakened with an extraordinary ability unlike anything he—or anyone else—has ever imagined, Michael is capable of being as elusive as a ghost. He sets out to honor his late friend by helping Nina Dozier and her son, John, whom Shelby greatly admired. Although what Michael does for Nina is life changing, his actions also evoke the wrath of John’s father, a member of one of the most violent street gangs in Los Angeles.

But an even greater threat is descending: the Internal Security Agency’s most vicious assassin, Durand Calaphas. Calaphas will stop at nothing to get his man. If Michael dies twice, he will not live a third time.

From the tarnished glamour of Beverly Hills to the streets of South Central to a walled estate in Rancho Santa Fe, only Michael can protect Nina and John—and ensure that light survives in a rapidly darkening world.

Amazonians liked it and gave it a 4.4 of 5, Goodreaders a 4.2 and the Haugenometer a 6 of 10.

Mortal Stakes by Robert B. Parker. He is one of the absolute best. Give him a try. This is one of his famous Spenser series (the third in over 50, and written in 1975). It combines tough-guy private eye, with humor and emotion. The trifecta.

Everybody loves a winner, and the Rabbs are major league. Marty is the Red Sox star pitcher, Linda the loving wife. She loves everyone except the blackmailer out to wreck her life. 

Is Marty throwing fast balls or throwing games? It doesn't take long for Spenser to link Marty's performance with Linda's past...or to find himself trapped between a crazed racketeer and an enforcer toting an M-16. 

America's favorite pastime has suddenly become a very dangerous sport, and one wrong move means strike three, with Spenser out for good!

Amazonians a 4.4, Goodreaders a 4.2 and the Haugenometer an 8.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Read this

 Here's a story about rearranging your books.

FWIW, I arrange mine by author, not by size, color or alphabetically, like some lunatics.

Pulling down and replacing every book on your main shelves can be a kind of ritual, a trip down memory lane that reminds you, in brief flashes and long reveries, how you got to where you are. It’s turning to the back of a book to find the name and semester of the class it was read for, scratched lightly in pencil in the back cover. It’s remembering which books were purchased in which cities; which were gifts; which you have duplicates of, in case a friend needs them. 

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Hot stuff and not-so-much

 I usually like to try a couple new peppers in my garden. Two that did well in pots about bookend the hotness (Scoville) scale from mildest to one of the hottest:

Candy Cane Chocolate Cherry Pepper

Pepper with boldly striped fruits against uniquely variegated foliage! astonishing early maturing fruits are deliciously sweet and crisp, tasting great when eaten at any stage of maturity. Elongated, mini-bell shaped fruits ripen from green with white stripes to a unique chocolate and cherry red striped masterpiece. Ideal in containers, on the patio, or in the garden.

Days to Maturity: 60 to Green / 70 to Red Ripe

Height: 18 - 24 Inches

Spread: 12 - 18 Inches

Fruit Size: 3 ½ to 4 x 2 ½ to 3 Inches

Scoville Heat Unit: 0 - 100 SHU

Pepper 'Buffy'

This fiery little tobasco-type hot pepper has juicy thick-walled fruits which pack some heat! At maturity the peppers are red, slightly triangular in shape and about 1.5-inches long, with 500,000 Scoville heat units.

If interested, I get most of my seeds from, though I think I bought Buffy as a seedling at a local nursery.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Filling those boyhood memories

 My book collection seems to lack purpose or at least a unique purpose. Sure, it contains all the books I've read, but it's missing something and I finally figured out what.

It's missing two of the series I read when I was a kid - The Tarzan series and the Hardy Boys series. I don't know what happened to them when I moved out of the family home or when Mom sold it. I brought every other book. I'm guessing I borrowed them to somebody and never got them back (an annoyance of mine).

So I've made it a point to start building them up from scratch. I've started with the Tarzan series. It's the Ballantine Series, very distinguishable by their black covers and spines with cover designs by artists Neal Adams and Boris Vallejo.

It's a series of 24 adventure novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875–1950) and published between 1912 and 1966 (Wiki). I have 16 of them and working on the rest.

I think the first cover is my fave, with Tarzan coming to rescue Jane. (Did you know that in a later book when Tarzan ventures to America to find Jane, he finds her in ... spoiler alert ... Wisconsin!)

This one is pretty cool too:

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Finished: Block's 'The Autobiography of Matthew Keller'

 I'm sure it's happened but I'm not aware of an author writing a series and then capping that series with an autobiography of the the principal character. But Lawrence Block did just that with his Matthew Scudder series. It's a unique concept that could've fallen flat but did not because, well, it's Lawrence Block.

He wrote 17 novels featuring Scudder and closed it out with Scudder "writing" his autobiography. Block made it look like Scudder was writing it in a train-of-thought manner and pulled it off. I loved it. You have to read many Scudder novels for it to hit home and I have.

Running concurrently with it, you get the feeling that much of it is the 85-year-old Block's autobiography as well. It was cool.

I marked it up pretty good with quotes like: "Life, even as it lengthens, becomes increasingly about death."

And, a phrase common at AA meetings: "Feelings aren't facts." A lot of people, not just alcoholics, but also FOX News and CNN die-hards, might do well to heed.

One thing I learned, which I took as true, as Keller wrote about his time with the NYPD probably in the 1960s, was in regard to the "N" word. Even then, NYPD officers were advised not to use it. So, they found a way around it. They instead used another "N" word instead and referred to Blacks as "Norwegians."

So if a guy was recalling a liquor store robbery that involved two Black suspects, he'd tongue-in-check say: "It was, of course, two Norwegians." Didn't mean the cops weren't racist, but simply used semantics to get around using the word they were thinking.

As a full-blood Norwegian, that caught my attention. I'm surprised I haven't heard that reference before, given all the crime noir I've read from that era.

As for the book, I gave it a 7 and hope LB has several more novels left in him, though it appears Keller's career has come to an end. 

Oh, and my copy was signed by the Grand Master himself!