Live By Night begins in the thick of the roaring 20s. The advent of prohibition has normalized corruption among the police and criminals with an exploLive By Night begins in the thick of the roaring 20s. The advent of prohibition has normalized corruption among the police and criminals with an explosion of illegal distilleries and speakeasies popping up all over the country. Despite the government’s best efforts to keep liquor out of the hands of the population, consumption has more than doubled. The potential to climb the ladder of organized crime has never been more attractive and Joseph Coughlin, son of prominent police officer Thomas Coughlin, sees his opportunity.
A botched bank robbery coupled with a double cross from career criminal Albert White lands Joe in jail where he promptly forms an alliance with Thomaso Pescatore, a powerful mob boss. When Joe finishes up his sentence, Thomaso sends him down south to Tampa to lock Albert out of the rum trade, crippling his presence in Boston. It isn’t long before Joe becomes an institution in South Florida with power that spreads far up the Eastern seaboard. Holding onto that power becomes a constant struggle as Joe clashes with the US army, cuban revolutionaries and the Ku Klux Klan.
The second book in Lehane’s acclaimed Coughlin trilogy, Live By Night more than lives up to its predecessor, despite being two very different books. Where The Given Day is a sprawling epic about the struggle for the average worker’s rights, Live By Night is a tightly focused study on the unstable power structure of the criminal underground. Although it can be argued that the “gangster novel” is a tired genre, it’s Lehane’s ability to craft an edge-of-your-seat thriller as well as a rich cast of characters sets that one apart from others.
In an interview with Craig Ferguson a few years back, Lehane had known that he wanted to pick up where he left off with The Given Day but knew that whiskey was the vice of choice in prohibition-era Boston. To him, that had already been done to death. After some thought, he realized that no one had really looked at the rum trade and with an old city like Tampa at the heart of the action, he felt right at home moving the setting down south. Rather than the deeply ingrained racism between the Italians and the Irish in Boston, Lehane gets to explore the institutionalised racism between the KKK and basically everyone who isn’t a native born American. This leads to some uncomfortable scenes but one specific moment where I audibly cheered at the demise of a despicable character at the hands of Joe.
Dennis Lehane is fast becoming one of my favourite living authors and Live By Night further cements him. I look forward to anything he puts out. I have high hopes for the third book in this series, “World Gone By” and have it on deck to read shortly....more
Sinner Man tells the story of small town insurance-peddler Don Barshter, and how after a few too many drinks, inadvertently murders his wife followingSinner Man tells the story of small town insurance-peddler Don Barshter, and how after a few too many drinks, inadvertently murders his wife following an errant strike. Rather than call the police and turn himself in, Don decides to cram his wife’s body into a closet and flee town. It’s during his aimless travels that Don forms a plan - get to Buffalo and join the mob under a new identity. Now known as Nat Crowley, he quickly begins a career in organized crime and subsequently hooks up with a woman who may be more dangerous than she first lets on.
Nat Crowley, while trying his best to frame himself in a positive light, is a despicable, layered character - as all great noir protagonists are. Barshter suffers from the “smartest man in the room” syndrome where his own arrogance and self-perceived intelligence blinds him. How can you blame him? His ramshackle, cartoonish plan actually unfolds as he envisioned but when ripples begin to show, he ignores them thinking he’s infallible. So while it appears at the beginning he’s done a serviceable job replacing the spineless Don Barshter with the cold, callous Nat Crowley, he realizes too late that like leopards, you can’t change your spots (sorry for the overdone expression) and despite his best efforts, history threatens to repeat itself before all is said and done.
Identified as Block’s first ever crime novel, Sinner Man is ripe with noir excellence. You’ve got all the hallmarks of the genre; tough-talking baddies, femme fatales, a plethora of murders and steamy sex scenes. For fans of Hard Case Crime, this is an easy sell - Sinner Man lives up to their publishing standards revealing itself as a hidden gem from Lawrence Block’s vast catalogue of work....more
Based On A True Story is the autobiography of famed stand-up comedian Norm MacDonald - or so he would have you believe. Rather than tell you his realBased On A True Story is the autobiography of famed stand-up comedian Norm MacDonald - or so he would have you believe. Rather than tell you his real life story, Norm decided to write of his one-time plan to borrow millions of dollars from various casinos in Las Vegas, turn that money into millions for himself, then retire to a ranch in Montana. As the story moves along, Norm, strung out on morphine, tells a completely skewed, often fictionalized version of his life to his pal and real-life podcast co-host Adam Eget as he drives them from LA to Vegas.
While the majority of the memoir is totally off-base, its core is still tied to some of Norm’s real life history. His time on Saturday Night Live is discussed with his arrival at the show depicting Lorne Michaels as an unhinged drug addict whom Norm bribes with government-grade morphine to secure his spot. His obsession with fellow cast member Sarah Silverman was a definite high point of the book - it had me laughing hysterically as he cluelessly pursued her, leading him to plot to assassinate her then-boyfriend Dave Attell. His move to the Update Desk is mentioned where he spent 3 years reading “the fake news” - he even includes a chapter of the Top 25 Update Jokes of All-Time (#1 belongs to Chevy Chase, 2-25 are all Norm’s, of course)!
The filming of Dirty Work is also covered, although there’s a story about a Canadian serial killer whose actions threatened the success of the movie (although if you believe Norm’s word, Dirty Work was massively successful earning $250 million its opening weekend). Like his earlier discussion of meeting Rodney Dangerfield, Norm’s telling of hiring Don Rickles for the film stays within the scope of each of the aforementioned comedian's style. Norm became upset over constant insults from Don Rickles when trying to offer him a role in the movie, just like he couldn’t understand why Rodney Dangerfield couldn’t get any respect. Despite Norm admitting his admiration for the Rickles, his character was completely oblivious to the comedian’s humour. This had me cry-laughing.
There’s so much more that I could get into here, but I don’t want to spoil everything. Based On A True Story was wildly original, completely over-the-top, and I absolutely loved it. There were points where I found myself laughing so hard my sides would hurt and if that isn’t a proper endorsement, I don’t know what is. The idea that Norm would portray himself as a narcissistic, delusional monster was completely unexpected and easily puts this in a category of its own....more
With his new book Canada, comedian/actor Mike Myers sets out to unload as much information about the country he grew up in while also detailing an abrWith his new book Canada, comedian/actor Mike Myers sets out to unload as much information about the country he grew up in while also detailing an abridged version of his life story. The result is an often entertaining yet interesting experiment.
At the outset, Myers is quick to explain that his book is not meant to be a definitive text on the country, but rather his own experiences coming of age in Canada. So don’t expect him to go into detail surrounding Canada’s role in residential schools and the mistreatment of its indigenous population or any other controversial subject; he’ll let other more qualified writers speak on that.
Instead, he speaks at length about the different accents, odd quirks and cultural milestones that form regional identities throughout the land. I found myself laughing out loud when he described the East Coast way of ingressive speaking, something my girlfriend pointed out when she moved to Halifax from Ontario a few years back.It also certainly doesn’t hurt that he is a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan! Myers discusses the importance of hockey as a national pastime woven into the fabric of the country’s popular culture. It brings people together even if most of the time is spent chirping one another over their respective teams.
My biggest criticism involves the final chapters wherein he discussed the 2015 election and the arrival of Justin Trudeau as the country’s apparent saviour. I’m not one to really get into politics and while I can get behind Trudeau being a more socially progressive choice for our country, I feel it’s a little too early to heap the amount of praise on him that Myers did. It seemingly came across as a weird and strange end to a book about the nostalgic views of a transplanted Canadian.
That being said, Canada was an enjoyable read for the most part. It did its job in making me laugh in all the right spots and I learned quite a bit about Myers’ upbringing and some interesting trivia behind a few of his movies/SNL characters....more
After discovering her employer only hired her as a publicity stunt, Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) leaves to open her own practice. Unfortunately,After discovering her employer only hired her as a publicity stunt, Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) leaves to open her own practice. Unfortunately, her green skin kind of makes it impossible to hide that she’s a superhero and because of this, she begins racking up enemies quicker than a hiccup.
As with most collections, this volume deals with a few different stories. First up, we have She-Hulk taking a case for the immigration of Kristoff Vernard, the now estranged son of notorious bad guy and nefarious dictator Dr. Doom. Following that, She-Hulk teams up with Hell-Cat in an attempt to track down and discover the contents of a mysterious file that potentially holds damaging information to the Marvel universe.
The first story was the better of the two as it led to some pretty hilarious moments including a showdown with a giant mechanical Doom-Bot. The second was unfortunately saddled with some pretty atrocious artwork from Ron Wimberly that sort of killed the momentum of the book. It’s a real pity because I felt the story itself was decent. I mean, the writer of the series is an actual lawyer! You can’t get any more qualified than that.
Despite being a comic about immigration law, it was pretty fun! Looking forward to book two....more
2016 was a shit year. Because of this, I ending up reading the least amount of books in one year since about 2010. It was all bad though. Quality over2016 was a shit year. Because of this, I ending up reading the least amount of books in one year since about 2010. It was all bad though. Quality over quantity? Yes?
I completely lost my mind over The Expanse series reading the first four books back to back to back to back. Blake Crouch's Dark Matter completely blew my mind. I lost myself in the works of Dennis Lehane and David Simon.
There were a few stinkers. Bob Backlund's biography was wholly disappointing and Steve Hamilton's The Second Life of Nick Mason did next to nothing for me.
Hopefully 2017 can get me back on track. I doubt I'll ever read as many as 97 books in 2013, but I'd like to focus more on crime fiction/mystery novels....more
Bleeding Blue is the story of the career of Wendel Clark.
Drafted first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1986, Clark went on to play in the NHL unBleeding Blue is the story of the career of Wendel Clark.
Drafted first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1986, Clark went on to play in the NHL until 2000 when he was forced to retire due to injuries. While he didn’t win a Stanley Cup, Clark was an absolute force during his tenure terrorizing opponents with crushing hits and clutch goals. He’s widely regarded as one of the most beloved Maple Leafs players in franchise history having three separate stints with the team in the 90s. Bleeding Blue takes you through the many ups and downs over his relatively short career.
While I thought Bleeding Blue was a decent read, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot here for non-Leafs fans. Clark, while loved by the Toronto faithful, didn’t play with flash, didn’t smash records, and didn’t leave a memorable mark on the sport. However, that isn’t to say he was a bad player by any means. He often left everything on the ice and when he wasn’t injured, he was a complete player that coaches and teammates alike could count on.
If you’re a die-hard Leafs fan who jumped on the bandwagon during their memorable 1992-1993 season, then there will be enough here to grab your attention. However, if you’re not, well, it’s likely a skippable read.
This is That is a weekly satirical public affairs program on CBC Radio. With the help of producer Chris Kelly and comedian/podcaster Dave Shumka, hostThis is That is a weekly satirical public affairs program on CBC Radio. With the help of producer Chris Kelly and comedian/podcaster Dave Shumka, hosts Pat Kelly and Chris Oldring ventured into the literary world and produced their first book - This is That: Travel Guide to Canada!
Here’s the thing; being Canadian myself, jokes about “Canadiana” can get old quick. Yes, we all live in igloos, we all drink maple syrup like water, we apologize profusely, we say “aboot”...
...sorry, that was rude, eh.
While this book does play heavily on Canadian stereotypes, the jokes aren’t repetitive and they do not feel recycled. This is a hugely entertaining book that had me laughing out loud. It’s one of those few experiences I’ve had where I feel like something was written specifically with my own personal sense of humour in mind.
You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you pass on this one, ya hoser. With the holidays fast approaching, This is That: Travel Guide to Canada would make the perfect stocking stuffer for Canucks and Yankees alike! I’m sure that given the recent election, a lot of Americans will want to familiarize themselves with their neighbors to the north before packing up to escape the orange menace in the White House....more
Sam Meggs’ Wonder Women takes a look at many women throughout history that have had their accomplishments either long since buried or stolen by a membSam Meggs’ Wonder Women takes a look at many women throughout history that have had their accomplishments either long since buried or stolen by a member of the opposite sex. Twenty-five women are featured - with an additional forty-two in blurbs - in the categories of science, engineering, mathematics, adventuring, and inventions. Each mini-biography is written with equal parts snark and research and while Meggs tries to keep things light through her conversational tone, it’s disheartening to hear just how difficult it was for women to be viewed as equal to men throughout history. I’m not naive in saying that in 2016 we’ve solved that problem, but we’ve certainly come a long way from the days of barring women in America from getting an education. Given the talent, brilliance and perseverance of the women on display here, think how much further ahead our society would be if we just embraced equality.
Wonder Women is a fascinating read for men and women alike; an important look at some of the great women who quietly revolutionized our world....more
I have it pretty good here in ol’ 2016. I work nine to five, Monday to Friday. I have a decent health plan and my job consists of sitting on my ass inI have it pretty good here in ol’ 2016. I work nine to five, Monday to Friday. I have a decent health plan and my job consists of sitting on my ass in front of a computer all day. I get regular raises and if I get sick, I can rest up for a few days until I kick whatever ails me out of my system. The men of the Boston Police Department in the early 20th century didn’t have any of this. They’d be lucky if they were even given time off to sleep let alone enough money to feed their families.
For Dennis Lehane, it started with the Boston Police strike of 1919. The simple thought of an entire police force walking off the job had fascinated him, but as he began digging, The Given Day grew both in size and scope. Lehane included the infamous Spanish Flu outbreak, The Great Molasses Flood of early 1919, and Babe Ruth’s rise to the top of baseball - all of this occurring within a city already struggling to find its identity. As Boston formed into a melting pot of immigrants - both the Irish and Italians leading the forefront - to say that they were all at odds with one another would be a gross understatement. Considering the Irish were often connected to the police department and the Italians closely associated with communism and terrorism, events would occur that would poison the minds of Boston's residents resulting in widespread racism that would fuel many of the city's more memorable events.
The Given Day follows three main characters. Danny Coughlin, a young Boston police officer tasked with infiltrating and investigating the Boston Social Club - an unofficial union formed by his fellow officers looking to fight for workers rights; Luther Laurence, a black man who arrives in Boston fleeing from Oklahoma following a botched robbery attempt; and Babe Ruth (do I really need to explain who this is?).
As the plot progresses, all three become linked by the corruption and fear that gripped Beantown. Lehane’s clean, flowing prose is front and center making The Given Day a breezy, but brutal read. Character development is top-notch and I found myself digging in for long reading sessions, desperate to know what horrible thing would hit the city next. That said, the Babe Ruth stuff didn’t do a whole lot for me. Although he wasn’t featured as prominently as the other two characters, I found his story a little jarring and out of place by comparison. Both Danny and Luther’s stories were so gritty, unpredictable and at times unapologetically bleak that Ruth’s story felt like literary padding.
Like Lehane’s signature Kenzie & Gennaro series, The Given Day is about as readable as you can get. Aside from the bits about Ruth, you have a classic crime/historical fiction book that plays like a James Ellroy novel on Ritalin....more
I originally rated this four stars, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about it the last few days. I think if a book can do that to me, it at leI originally rated this four stars, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about it the last few days. I think if a book can do that to me, it at least deserves 5.
Just like The Shining and Salem’s Lot, my first exposure to Pet Sematary prior to reading the novel had been from a Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror episode. You know, the one where Bart reads this incantation from a book of black magic in hopes to raise their beloved cat Snowball I from the dead but instead unleashes a hoard of zombies upon Springfield? Good times. Man, those were some great episodes. You can’t go wrong with Treehouse of Horror.
Anyway, the parody isn’t exactly the same (it never is) but the meat and potatoes of it are present. There’s still a dead cat, although this one is named Church (short for Winston Churchill). Following its death, its owner Louis Creed, is approached by his neighbor who has a suggestion that may help alleviate his family’s impending grief - take the kitty up to an old Mic Mac burial ground behind Louis’ property and put the cat six feet under before his wife, daughter and toddler son return home from their Thanksgiving vacation in Chicago. And why not? Louis could just lie and say that Church ran away - no one needs to know the details. However, what Jud doesn’t tell Louis is that this spot will not be Church’s final resting place...
As much as I love my cat Gertie, ain’t no way I’m bringing her back from the dead if I’m to expect something like this. Church returns void of personality and lingers like a shell of his former self. When Lou’s family return, they can tell something is off about the family cat but aside from an ever present noxious odor, they can’t quite put their finger on it. While the novel is often considered King’s most terrifying work (he admits as much in the introduction), it’s more about how we deal with grief and what lengths we will go to help the ones we love, and I think that’s what struck me the hardest. As another tragedy strikes the family and as the story moves along and the characters make increasingly poor decisions, you want to grab their shoulders and shake them, tell them to take a second and look before you leap. It’s like when you watch the lead in a horror movie go down into a dark basement or cellar and you can’t help yelling at the screen. Then you remember that Louis is dealing with a level of guilt that you just cannot imagine and you’re not sure if you would do anything differently.
In my experience reading King, I often find he struggles with endings. He can write a hell of a journey but I’m not quite sure if he ends up in the right destination. Pet Sematary is one of those exceptions as I can’t think of a better ending. Remember that episode of Friends where Joey put The Shining in the freezer because it was too scary to have lying around? He’ll likely need to put Pet Sematary in liquid nitrogen....more
Following the death of his wife, author Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem’s Lot, the town in which he spent his childhood, to continue work on a novel. HFollowing the death of his wife, author Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem’s Lot, the town in which he spent his childhood, to continue work on a novel. However, it wouldn’t be a Stephen King story if there wasn’t something sinister lurking in a small town. Did I mention this takes place in Maine?
King has noted that the idea for Salem’s Lot came from a thought he had while teaching Dracula to his high school class – what if the famous vampire landed in America and terrorized New York City? Luckily, Uncle Stevie’s wife Tabitha had a better idea – put the bloodsucker in a small town. Although the novel’s antagonist isn’t the contemptuous Count himself, King imagines a foe on the same grand scale – a centuries-old undead monster with an ego the size of Manhattan. He even monologues like a Bond villain!
Surprisingly, I didn’t find Salem’s Lot as scary as I expected. This might have something to do with the fact that I’ve seen the two-part mini-series from 1979 and seemed to remember most of the more frightening parts from the show, albeit that was at the very least a dozen years ago (that window scene really stuck with me). That being said, I managed to forget enough of the core plot that it ended up feeling pretty fresh overall. After the first vampire rears his ugly head, the facade of happy life in ‘The Lot’ comes tumbling down like a flimsy house of cards. From that point on, the book becomes extremely difficult to put down, firmly establishing itself as one of those page turners that you have to refrain from reading ahead – something I struggled with during many of the action scenes.
In the end I had a few small gripes, and although they didn’t keep me from enjoying the book as a whole, it left me feeling like some elements of the novel could have been cut out entirely along with a few of the characters’ actions looking suspect and oddly motivated. With this being only King’s second effort, it’s proof that he did not suffer from the fabled sophomoric slump that plagues a lot of successful authors. Salem’s Lot is a recommended read for those with limited exposure to vampires, mainly of the sparkly persuasion....more