Monday, May 21, 2012

Batman was an amateur

Title: The Knowland Retribution
Author: Richard Greener
Bookmark: the library receipt

You know that new TV show, The Finder?  The credits say that it's based upon "The Locator" series by Richard Greener.

There are two books in the Locator series.  I'm not sure that qualifies as a "series."

On the other hand, the show is really more "inspired by" than "based upon," so I guess they can apply that poetic license however they please.

Anyway.  This is supposed to be about the book, not my various beefs with TV.  The good news is, I really liked the book.  Gripping story, interesting characters, timely plot.  (man loses family to tainted beef, goes after all the corporate muckety-mucks who saw the disaster coming, ran cost-benefit analysis, and said, "we'll risk it.  let's take the money.")  All good stuff.  Plus, most importantly, it's a lot of fun to read, and there was at least one point when I cackled with triumphant laughter.  For a freshman novel, it's an impressive effort.  I've read stuff by far more popular and well-known authors that wasn't nearly as interesting, nor as compelling.

I only have two complaints.

The first half of the book jumps around in time.  A lot.  I'd be ok with that, but there's no indication that it's happening until you realize that one of the people in the conversation died in the previous chapter, or that they're talking about some future event that happened 80 pages earlier.  There's also a tendency to use characters an awful lot before you have any idea of who they are.  I frequently found myself flipping back several pages--or several chapters--to make sense of an earlier scene after I finally got an idea of who was in it.  That had settled down by the second half, but it was really distracting.

Second, I don't think Greener, a "retired broadcast industry executive" (from the author bio at the end of the book) has a good grasp of how us working stiffs actually live.  After describing the opulent home and lifestyle of his main character, Greener has another, far more wealthy character tell our hero "you are by no means a wealthy man," and throws out a number, purportedly Walter Sherman's annual income, which is nearly five times more than I made at my last job.  Granted, I paid taxes on mine, and he didn't, but I'm doing the math with pre-tax numbers.  I don't know exactly where the line is drawn demarcating the "one percenters," but even if we're both below it, I know I'm a whole lot further from that line than Walter Sherman.  I couldn't get over that conversation for the entire book.  I'm still not over it.

But I'll probably read the next one anyway.  If only to finish the series.

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posted by reyn at 4:13 PM


one-way ticket

Title: A Ticket to the Boneyard
Author: Lawrence Block

I like Bernie Rhodenbarr in short stories; it gives him the space to be witty without the onus of filling the vast volume between covers.  Keller, in my limited experience, does a better job of filling those considerably larger shoes, if only because of his tendency to wax philosophic, rely upon Dot, and take his sweet time to do what he needs to do.  To be fair, I've only read one Keller novel, but I've also only read one Matthew Scudder novel, and of Block's various protagonists, Matt is the reigning king.  He regales with short stories, and easily holds his own through this brutal novel.

Years ago (book time), Matt put away a monster.  An exceedingly cruel man with strong hands, knowledge of all the body's pain centers, and a disturbing skill at inflicting psychological damage.  Now, long off the force, devoid of a PI license, and working for an agency, he finds out that James Leo Motley is free, and he's coming for Scudder.  But first, he vows to kill "all your women."  Matt is divorced; he has no family; he has no "women."  Motley kills any woman connected to Scudder, starting with a woman who testified at his trial.

Hamstrung by lack of hard evidence and the police department's disbelief that it's happening, Matt is on his own to stop a vicious killer.  In true hard-boiled form, he gets his ass kicked at least once.

Block's version of New York is all seedy underbelly.  Scudder navigates it well, and has contacts with contacts.  The real question is whether he's good enough to get Motley and put him away for as long as he deserves.  The writing is as brutal as the antagonist, and the descriptions of what Motley does were enough to make me feel uncomfortable, but it's extremely well done.  It makes me want to read the entire Scudder canon.

...On a nice, sunny day.

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posted by reyn at 3:35 PM


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Having a Child Isn't Always Perfect Bliss

Title: Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year
Author: Anne Lamott
Bookmark: my receipt from checking the book out from the library

I used to say that if I had to pick a favorite author, it would be Anne Lamott.  I haven't read anything by her in a long time, so when I read about her new book Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son, I knew that I had to read Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year first.  And what a worthwhile read it was.  I think I can safely say she's still one of my favorite authors perhaps even my favorite author.  You know, if I had to pick.

Many years ago (possibly high school), my best friend told me I was the most real person she knew.  While it's possible she has since wanted to take that comment back or has no recollection of ever saying it, it really stuck with me.  I have a great deal of respect for people who know who they are and own up to it.  Anne Lamott is the most "real" writer I have read, and I love her for it.  She doesn't sugar coat, she doesn't gloss over the tough bits, and she sure as hell owns up to those terrible thoughts that she wishes she didn't have. 

Operating Instructions contains all the good and the bad of having a kid: the destroyed state of one's body post-pregnancy, the lack of sleep, the occasional thoughts of murder (she contemplates leaving her son out on the front porch for the night because she can't take his colic-related crying any longer), the momentous occasions (holding his own head up, first tooth, walking, etc), the incredible feelings of love for her son, and more. She also frequently laments her son's lack of a father, but one can't help but be a teensy bit jealous of the amazing support network of friends and family that she has. 

All in all, I highly recommend this book.  If nothing else, the frankness and honesty is so completely and utterly refreshing.  I look forward to reading Some Assembly Required next.

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posted by Kate at 11:34 AM