Some Real Crap That I Read On The Crapper

I think that the archaeo/crypto/apocalyptic thriller has now finally run its course. In many ways this is quite a shame, since I have enjoyed many of these types of novels in the ten years since The DaVinci Code was published. But as good as The DaVinci Code was, Inferno isn’t.

Even though Dan Brown has only written four Robert Langdon novels, the plot from novel to novel has become so heavy and predictable that I can only compare it to John Cena’s “5 Moves of Doom” that he unleashes in every professional wrestling bout: talk about the need for an “Attitude Adjustment” on Dan Brown’s part.

inferno

The greatest indictment of Inferno is that I could easily have stopped reading at page 100 and I would not have been in the least bit bothered. I would not have wondered what ever happened to Robert Langdon as I had already read it all three times before. Fortunately, the author is not prolific so I will have four to five years to get ready for the next novel. And John Cena will still be using the same five moves to end his wrestling matches at that time too …

(And please, for the love of God, no movie with Tom Hanks.)

One Of These Days, This Book Could Make It To The Crapper

So I was happily perusing the new offerings at the local library when I came upon this tome on how to deal with procrastination.

procrastination

Now call me crazy, but if the issue is procrastination then the twin concepts of ordering it from the library and then going and picking it up is an immediate self defeating proposition. And that is before one even begins dipping into The Big Book Of Excuses to find a reason to avoid reading this book (or just dipping it in gravy so the dog will eat it.)

And since some people must have managed to avoid this book up to now, the publisher has finally gotten around to releasing it as a recording. But I think all of the above caveats are still going to apply. I could test out my hypothesis on my youngest daughter who has raised procrastination to an art form; but then again I am sort of busy tonight so perhaps I could try it out tomorrow, or when I see her this weekend …..

If Only One Could Read In The Shower ….

It has been quite some time since I wrote a book review from the “readin'” room.  However, that is being corrected as I have been working my way through the latest novel by James Lee Burke called Creole Belle.

Usually it takes me two days to a week to read a novel, but this one has taken me almost three weeks to read:  and I am not yet done with the story.  But this has nothing to do with the quality of the story; far from it.  The story is quite amazing – but it is very depressing and a little reading goes a long way with this book

Basically the plot is devoid of characters who are redeemable.  There are bad guys, very bad guys and truly evil guys.  Even the two main protagonists in the story if they are not going to Hell, are going to be spening many lifetimes in Purgatory,  It has been a rather tough read as I always feels tainted after a chapter or two.  Minor hygiene issues of the soul aside though, it is a truly brilliant book with deeply scarred and flawed characters and a brilliant plot that just demolishes any romantic notions that a person could have about New Orleans or Louisiana and the tangled politics and business of the region.

Sit Back And Soak This One In

“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” 

You can take an opening line like that and run with it from there.  And that is what the author did.  I first came across this novel browsing the new books at the Powell’s in Cedar Mill Crossing. It did not take long to get it from the library as it has not yet gained momentum:  which is rewarding on one level as I got the book quickly, but disappointing on other levels as I want the book series to succeed.

With the end of the Harry Potter novels, and then the seeming writers block and ever eroding story lines resulting in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series becoming somewhat disappointing, I have been searching for a new fantasy series to rise to the fore.  I think that it may have emerged from Down Under.

Australian author Daniel O’Malley has written his first novel:  The Rook.  This is a tremendous first novel aiming for an audience that grew up on Harry Potter.  But this is definitely an adult novel (and hopefully an “R” rated movie sometime in the not too distant future).  Just the battle in the house in Reading could garner that rating if shot right (that means gore, people, lots and lots and lots of gore).

I am not sure who should play Myfanwy (Miffany) Thomas in the movie but Emily Blunt would be an interesting choice as would Christina Ricci:  it has to be an actress that can do meek and murderous; plain and posh.  And the options for killer cameos for actors litter the book – especially the Gestalts …

Read this book and see what I mean!

Prime Time Tub Time

For a long time, Robert Crais has been an author who I eagerly wait on for each new novel.  I really like what he does with his main characters – especially the warrior/monk-like private eye Joe Pike.  What is very important to know about Robert Crais is that he got his start as a script writer and among his credits are shows such as LA Law and Hill Street Blues:  shows that were renowned for the quality of the writing.

Joe Pike is, as regular readers know, the silent (in more ways than one) partner of private detective Elvis Cole.  Both are decorated vets with Cole being a former Ranger and Pike a former recon Marine and this tends to play into the stealthy force way of dealing with problems.  The author has maintained that he will not sell the movie rights to Joe Pike and Elvis Cole:  but should he ever do so, I see Brad Pitt as Pike and George Clooney playing Elvis Cole.

Robert Crais is very tuned into the Southern California crime world and understands the inner workings of how things appear to work, and how they really work, on both sides of the border.  And dealings on both sides of the border are the subject of his latest novel:  Taken. 

Now this novel would be worth a write up just for its plot and the brilliant noirish quality of the story and its characters.  It would also be worth a write up to discuss some of the political issues of the day that Mr. Crais deals with in all of his novels and the manner in which they are infused into the story. 

The case in this story revolves around illegal immigration and its ramifications.  It is a story of predators and prey.  It is a story about strength of character and moral lassitude.  It also has a sub-plot about family decisions to enter the country illegally carrying down a generation or two to create problems.  It is a story of humanity and inhumanity. Just these reasons place it well above any normal detective novel.  But then there is a twist. 

This is not a plot twist, but a plot presentation twist:  three quarters of the story is told on a reverse timeline.  It is brilliant.  The story is based around the decisions made by the four main protagonists and then traces the reasoning behind each decision.  And it works: brilliantly.  This is my favourite Robert Crais novel to date.  But be forewarned; I say that about every novel he writes since it seems that he is still evolving as a writer and the evolution is carrying over to his main characters.  So what do you have next for me, Mr. Crais?

This Is Not A Book For The Crapper; It Is One For The Tub

(And That Is A Good Thing!)

I have always loved history (and I love reading history).  I cut my teeth on history the way that most English did:  by studying the Greek and Roman pantheon of gods and heroes in grade school.  From there it was on to the classics of Virgil and Horace and Homer in that bastion of higher learning – Kingsbrook Comprehensive.  Later still in college, I read Herodotus and Plutarch at the behest of the best, and most brilliant, lecturer I came across through four high schools and four universities:  George Vaternick and his cousin “Joe Roman” rendered carefully as a stick figure (there was also “Joe Greek”, “Joe Norman” and “Joe Italian”).

At that time in my life, I was also deep into collecting 15mm and 25mm military miniatures and was channeling that into studying Napoleon, the Crimea and World War 1.  I also had a Roman army; but by then I was beginning to become really interested in the “barbarian” hordes that were pushing each other westward as they each emerged from the steppes of Russia.

But what I am really fascinated in these days is the British history of the 1940s and 1950s.  I am not so much interested in the open warfare of the time, but much more intrigued (and this is the correct word to use) in the back room politics and the clandestine warfare that resulted from Churchill and Roosevelt adopting a policy of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and choosing to work with Joseph Stalin to defeat Hitler and the fifty years of subversion and one upsmanship that resulted and is known as The Cold War.

I love reading novels about the dark dealings and goings on of this time.  John le Carré, a pen name, is the obvious master of the English spy novel.  Chapman Pincher wrote some incredible novels that may or may not be fiction. One his most intriguing accusations is that former British PM Harold Wilson was a Soviet spy.

John Lawton is the new master of the medium and his novels deal with espionage and political intrigue in the 1940s and ‘50s.  His novels always seem to weave through a narrative of real events, many of them unexplained or swept under the carpet by a succession of British governments.  These books go through World War 2 and on into the 1950s and deal with Britain’s flirtation with socialism.

It was interesting to read one of these spy novels and discuss the political and historical events with my father who remembered them and usually had further insights as he had close friends who worked for Special Branch and the SAS.  Especially on the politics of the Labour Party, my father was a wealth of knowledge.  Now I have found another writer who has great insight and ideas in his novels:  Charles Cumming.

Currently, I am finishing off, and thoroughly enjoying reading, his latest novel The Trinity Six.  (And I am the cleanest, most pruned out person in the area from reading this in the tub for so long.) Cambridge University seemed to produce as many Soviet spies in the ‘30s and ,40s as the best KGB schools in Moscow.  The Philby, Maclean, Cairncross, Burgess and Blunt spy scandal and resulting defections of the ‘50s was the uncovering of the greatest penetration of British institutions by the Soviets that has heretofore been broadcast by the British.

The plot revolves around the idea that although five spies were uncovered who had gone to Cambridge together, it would be unwise to assume that MI6 and Special Branch caught all of the spies who went to the school.  In the novel, a college professor is approached about revealing the identity of the sixth Spy and deals with how it frightens both the Russian and British secret services into trying to suppress this information by any and all means.  It is not about wild car chases, humping Mata Hari-esque secret agents or saving the world with three seconds left on the timer.  This deals in subtlety and in the lack of subtlety when required.

Spy hunting is much like pest extermination.  It is like trying to kill fleas.  Even if you kill all of the fleas, you still itch and scratch and fell that there are more out there to kill.  And like fleas, it is impossible to get all of them.  That is why, even now, there are entire governmental divisions hunting through each other’s ranks looking for something that may or may not exist because they know that it exists even if it doesn’t.  It was a life that I think that I would have greatly enjoyed.

The Feeling Is Now Back In My Toes From My Latest Marathon Reading Session In The Loo

Every now and then, I find myself in thrall to a character in a book:  Jack Reacher is one such individual.  He is the modern personification of Clint Eastwood’s “man with no name” character who visited biblical vengeance on the not so good in those wonderful Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns of the mid ’60s  and on into the esteemed Mr. Eastwood’s westerns of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. 

Jack Reacher wanders the country as a drifter exploring as he goes while righting wrongs and protecting those that need protecting.  He is a lone samurai.  He is the gunfighter who rides into town on a pale horst at five minutes to noon.  But he does not necessarily wear a white hat:  more one that is a darker shade of grey.  There is a simply complex logic at work when he anazlyzes a situation; yet he applies a very sparse black and white morality to the solution.  Everything about him is minimalist:  but not simplistic.

Reacher is a former West Pointer, Army major and MP and is a man amongst men and stands, according to several of the novels, 6’6″ tall.  This alone makes the news that Tom Cruise has purchased the movie rights rather disturbing since Tom stands not that much taller than Deep Roy.

(I suppose I should not be throwing stones at that particular glass house since I am a mighty 5’6″ myself:  but, then again, throwing stones is what I do).  But I suppose that with the magic of the movies it should be possible to do the same thing with Mr. Cruise that was done to Robby Coltrane to make him appear more ogreish when playing Hagrid.

Anyhoo … I read this novel in a day and it was a great read.  Most importantly, it was the novel that everyone wanted as it explains how Reacher left the army in the first place and delves into his very particular pathology (that renders him similar to the “man with no name” in his ability to smite.