Patrick Anderson, book reviewer for the Washington Post, provides a chatty overview of the current state of crime fiction with lots of recommendationsPatrick Anderson, book reviewer for the Washington Post, provides a chatty overview of the current state of crime fiction with lots of recommendations and plot summaries and discussions of a few past masters.
If you are looking for serious literary criticism or a consideration of the thriller phenomenon, this isn't it. He has a tendency to summarize plots and end saying empty things that don't convey much information like "Her books have won numerous prizes, and this one shows why" or "Her plot is nasty as it is delicious".
Anderson also places a great deal of emphasis on the size of the author's advance and sales, although he does criticize James Patterson for basing one novel in San Francisco in order to improve West Coast sales. Once in a while, you wonder if Anderson is more interested in literary merit or marketing skill.
On the positive side, he is willing to go after some of the best selling authors for pawning off sub-par work and serving as CEO's managing a crew of co-writers. And he is willing to challenge the quality of some of the classics of the past creating a great opportunity for endless, if imaginary, discussion.
Overall, this is a great conversation but not the definitive word on the "Serial Killer Motif" or "New Developments in Narrative Structure".
The Man Who was Thursday is very disconcerting. The book begins on a farcical note:
"The suburb of Saffron Park ... had been the outburst of a speculatThe Man Who was Thursday is very disconcerting. The book begins on a farcical note:
"The suburb of Saffron Park ... had been the outburst of a speculative builder, faintly tinged with art, who called its architecture sometimes Elizabethan and sometimes Queen Anne, apparently under the impression that the two sovereigns were identical."
For a long time the book seems to be part Pirates of Penzance and part Sherlock Holmes, then at the finish the story takes a left turn into the supernatural and you end up with a Christian fable:
"Only in the blackness before it entirely destroyed his brain he seemed to hear a distant voice saying a commonplace text he had hear somewhere,'Can ye drink the cup that I drink of?'"
Personally I felt as if I had been tricked into a particularly sentimental Sunday school class. I much preferred lines like:
"Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."
My advice would be to skip the last two chapters, much too uplifting. ...more
A cover operation for a nameless anti-terrorist organization obliterates in gruesome fashion.
Trying to review something like this is quite challenge.A cover operation for a nameless anti-terrorist organization obliterates in gruesome fashion.
Trying to review something like this is quite challenge. 263 pages of senseless violence done very effectively is still senseless violence. The only socially redeeming aspect of this is that the book takes the concept to an extreme that it is hard to imagine anyone exceeding:
"Molly screamed -- a howling geyser of rage that seemed like it had been building up under a mountain of composure.
'Hey, wait a second ... Molly!'
Then she squeezed the trigger.
Part of David's scalp flipped up from his head, like a piece of toupee caught in the breeze"
And it gets worse from here.
The author also writes comics, and perhaps the best way to take this is as a comic book with make believe characters. Clearly Swierczynski is having a wonderful time trying to figure out how to give one more twist to his psychotic premise, and unless he is on the verge of being institutionalized, he can't possibly visualize having this happen to real people.
This is definitely not for the squeamish or those who deplore violence in literature. Come to think of it, I can't imagine why I admit reading it.
This is a gossipy history of an investment bank, most of it dedicated to the last 20 years where the most gossip is available. It contains all of theThis is a gossipy history of an investment bank, most of it dedicated to the last 20 years where the most gossip is available. It contains all of the joys and limitations of good gossip, although non-bankers may find the descriptions of the various compensation packages a little arcane....more
A good 100 page introduction to search engine optimization stretched to 388 pages including 60 pages of interviews with SEO consultants asking them abA good 100 page introduction to search engine optimization stretched to 388 pages including 60 pages of interviews with SEO consultants asking them about the current state of SEO and getting insights like "It's always changing" and it's "beginning to mature." And then there are the innumerable reminders not to use link farms to improve your search engine standings, often with references back to the prior reminders.
For those who need to know how to get their websites noticed by Google, the basics are here, and for many that's all that matters. It's a shame that business publishers feel the need to pad these things to justify their $40 for a paperback....more
A lot of fun wandering through the slang and cynicism of what is essentially a very sad story. What sets this apart is that the characters display a nA lot of fun wandering through the slang and cynicism of what is essentially a very sad story. What sets this apart is that the characters display a number of differents sides, Oscar being part nerd, part macho Dominican, part American teenager, part immigrant. The whole blend is exhilirating....more
"By feeling insecure about our making love, Nina, you make the inference we are a pair of cheap people involved in some cheap pleasant friction"
Oh my."By feeling insecure about our making love, Nina, you make the inference we are a pair of cheap people involved in some cheap pleasant friction"
Oh my. Did Travis Magee really get girls with lines like that?
The good part of the book is an adventure with LSD in corrupt mental hospital. The rest of it is Magee trying to convince us that he is a sensitive caring guy and not just someone who will hop in bed with any gorgeous young thing who happens by, quite a trick since he actually does hop in bed with almost any gorgeous young thing that happens by. He doesn't really expect to get credit for turning down older women, does he?...more
"I heard her gasp, They'd picked a great spot, steep rock on both sides. I'd hit the brakes, banged it (the car) into reverse, stuck my head out the w"I heard her gasp, They'd picked a great spot, steep rock on both sides. I'd hit the brakes, banged it (the car) into reverse, stuck my head out the window and went down the winding slope backward at a crazy speed. There was one hell of a crack, and a sharp peppery stinging on the back of my neck. It startled me enough to put me off. I banged the rock and came back onto the road again and into a curve and missed the curve, slid it backward onto a ride to a grinding stop, rear wheels lifted clear of the ground."
A lot of things make this work. The most important is having spent a little over a hundred pages trudging through the life of a small town businessman, the kind found in fiction who owns everything in town and whose values are "good bourbon, a good bed, and a busy woman" and, I might add, cheating other people.
To accept John D. MacDonald, you have to swallow a lot. A hurt, angry, intelligent woman obviously is sexually repressed, a problem Travis McGee can solve fortunately. The sleazy businessmen aren't such a bad guys: "He had made trouble in a lot of far places and settled it his way, or he wouldn't have lasted. Cube Fox and Jass Yeoman must have been quite a pair." And then there are the ponderous sections of amateur psychology and self congratulation:
"Maybe, before we parted, I would tell her -- or try to tell her -- how she, in her own way, had mended me. A different fellow had gone out there to Esmeralda, with the bad nerves and the flying twitches and the guilts and remorses and the feeling of being savagely and forever alone. No guilts this time. Not with this one. Remorse is the ultimate in self abuse."
Why put up with it? Partly to imagine the attitude of that era, which is as far away now as Sherlock Holmes was in the 1940s when Basil Rathbone was making the Holmes movies. Partly because after all this pontificating, Travis McGee is suddenly skidding down a mountain in reverse trying to save his skin and manages to succeed in an ingenious way. And partly for lines like this:
"So she was a big creamy bitch standing beside me in her tailored tight pants, and suddenly she was fallen cooling meat, and it was too damn fast."
Admittedly, Mr. McGee isn't overly sensitive. It's just that sensitivity gets a little tiring after a few decades....more
This sounds like a better book than it is. The basicconcept of a writer of cozy mysteries stumbling into the amoral world of criminals sounds compelliThis sounds like a better book than it is. The basicconcept of a writer of cozy mysteries stumbling into the amoral world of criminals sounds compelling. And there are genuine highlights such as the monologue by a drug dealer on the horrors of drug addiction followed by self justification on the grounds that someone is going to make money selling drugs so it might as well be him. Criminals must think that way.
In spite of all this, the book feels flat. Perhaps the blandness of the writer who tracks down the mystery is the problem, or maybe it has to do with the plodding way that details of each deed are outlined.
"Some dilution very soon became necessary. Within six months of our beginning, I had had to increase the monthly supply of fifty kilos. And I had other work to do. Lenotre and Galindo had reported in the early stages that, if they were to get all the business they knew of, they would have to have morphine and cocaine to sell as well as heroin. Morphine addicts did not always like heroin and cocaine addicts would sometimes refuse it if they could get cocaine elsewhere."
Sounds like the monthly report from the sales manager in Northern Ohio. In a sense, that may be the point. It's just a point that gets old in a hurry....more
A light introduction to social marketing for the beginner complete with a definition for a blog. While this may not be a cut and paste job, there doesA light introduction to social marketing for the beginner complete with a definition for a blog. While this may not be a cut and paste job, there doesn't seem to have been much first hand research apart from running google searches.
Weber pushes the idea of promoting your site, and then talks about how My Space never had to advertise. It would have been good to know exactly how they did get their first member and if they did anything at all to get a second member or just sat back and waited. If they did it without promotion then, why can't someone with the right idea do it now?
I do like the emphasis on applying basic marketing analysis to social networks as a marketing tool (even if My Space seems to undercut his argument), and the book does have some solid content about planning a social network. Even so, Weber falls into a lot of gee whiz millenialism without much warning:
"... the social web isn't just a channel or another medium for marketing messages. In effect, it's becoming the closest thing to physical life. ... you're going to have start talking to customers as if they were with you in the room."
Really? I might enjoy a chat with Elmore Leonard, but I am substantially less interested in exhanging views with Simon & Schuster, and I have no interest in participating in a social network with the folks at Kelloggs even though I do the family shopping and eat cereal....more
I have read this four or five times since I was a teenager. Once it served as a critique of the materialism of the adult world, a few years later I saI have read this four or five times since I was a teenager. Once it served as a critique of the materialism of the adult world, a few years later I saw it as a critique of the power structure, and then there was the mystical element associated with transendentalism. Most recently, I saw it simply as an appreciation of nature and the calm that gives.
Taking Harold Bloom's definition of a classic as being a book that can be read and re-read with profit, Walden certainly qualifies as a book that grows with you over the years....more
I would have to imagine that Kellerman's popularity is based on his ability to provide an airplane book, light reading for a distracting atmosphere wiI would have to imagine that Kellerman's popularity is based on his ability to provide an airplane book, light reading for a distracting atmosphere with just enough grisly stuff to keep you from falling asleep.
Having chosen this as my first Kellerman, I couldn't get interested in whether Delaware's ex-wife moved back in with him or not, and a Dr. Hauser seemed to appear from nowhere to provide an action sequence. Was he in an earlier book?
Technically, Kellerman should get credit for the action sequences, which are good, and the characters who are distinctive even if the narrator on the audio book hams up their voices too much. For me the book slows when Delaware starts to discuss the various theories of the crime and the psychologies of the various characters. The denouement with another character who appeared from nowhere felt very artificial. Judging by Kellerman's sales, a few million other people have a different reaction.
I was amused by the reviewer here who had a reaction similar to mine and decided to give Kellerman another try. Could it be that Kellerman is selling millions of copies to people who are trying to figure out why he sells millions of copies?
Some people prefer to be caught in the illusion. I like to see what the man behind the curtain is doing, and this is a good short introduction to theSome people prefer to be caught in the illusion. I like to see what the man behind the curtain is doing, and this is a good short introduction to the form of a mystery.
Keating says that murders are essentially static events after the fact and writers have a constant battle trying to maintain interest after they have produced the body. They can fall into producing a series of static interviews followed by a long discussion of the rationale behind the solution. Sherlock Holmes may have lamented that Watson spent too much time on drama and not enough on logic, but Watson knew what he was doing.
Keating suggests spicing the stories up with events like second murders and having the explanation of the puzzle take place while bullets are flying back and forth. Of course that is not the only way to do things. Mickey Spillane is notorious for explaining a puzzle while a woman stripped in an attempt to seduce Mike Hammer. (I know that the years are catching up on me because I read this book recently and while I remembered Mike Hammer shooting the woman, I didn't remember that she had her clothes off.)
For a non-writer reading about technique is very helpful in understanding the difference in personal reactions to writers, why Jonathan Kellerman is relatively boring compared with James Ellroy. It's more than just the body count that makes the difference.
"'You wouldn't refuse to help poor little me?' the beautiful blonde said. She leaned over the desk and fluttered her eyelashes at John J. Malone."
One"'You wouldn't refuse to help poor little me?' the beautiful blonde said. She leaned over the desk and fluttered her eyelashes at John J. Malone."
One story actually begins with these words. So many stories have a surprise ending to the point that the only surprise is when the characters retain their identities from beginning to end.
The fun is just in getting a slice of crime stories from the 50s. If you liked Double Indeminity, this is just your style. Some big names like Ed McBain/Evan Hunter, Donald E. Westlake, Mickey Spillane, and John D. MacDonald show up, but the bulk comes from people like Norbert Davis and Stephen Marlowe, who aren't as well known today.
Even if the stories are a little creaky, you get the noir sense of guilt and fear hovering over everything, and it is fun to see really good pop fiction done by people who took priced in being able to do it.
"Willie drained his beer quickly. Sally was waiting supper for him. He had reached the door when he heard the shots. The black sedan shot past as he stepped outside and for one awful instant he saw a face. Black eyebrows ... the sneer ... the scar on the cheek. The face of a guy he had known three years ago. And the guy had seen him, too. In his mind, Willie ran. He ran faster than he had ever run in his life -- but his legs didn't run."
Mickey Spillane was awful in all kinds of ways. This he knew how to do.
As a general rule, this book is something that you would want to just taste once in a while to clear your palate. One creaky story with a surprise ending is fun. A lot of them in a row becomes tedious....more
**spoiler alert** For someone who is identified with the cozy village mystery, Agatha Christie spent a lot of time fight against the form and nowhere**spoiler alert** For someone who is identified with the cozy village mystery, Agatha Christie spent a lot of time fight against the form and nowhere more than here.
She creates a serial killer who is challenging the detective to solve the puzzle and she seemingly presents the killer as he plans his crime. The irony is that the puzzle itself is a fraud developed by the killer to hide a straightforward clubbing with a blunt instrument. The motive is simply money.
In a sense the books suffers from terminal cuteness with the prospective murder having the same initials as the ABC railroad guide that is left at the scene of each murder and with the murders orchestrated to go alphabetically with Mrs. Ascher being killed in Andover and Betty Barnard being killed in Bexhill. This artificiality is the ultimate clue to the crime. Everything is too cute to be real.
The victims in this book are noteable for being people caught in grinding daily tragedies, an old shopkeeper separated from an abusive husband, a young waitress with unrealizable fantasies about romance, and an old man with a wife dying by inches. It is not too hard to put all three together and create an all too familiar pattern of life for many people.
There is a deep coldness at the heart of all of Christie's coziness, and she let's it show here.
Of course, there still is plenty of the coziness with an opening exchange about Poirot's surprising ability to have black hair as old age creeps up.
"You're looking in fine fettle, Poirot," I said. "You've hardly aged at all. In fact, if it were possible, I should say that you had fewer grey hairs than when I saw you last."
"Why is that not possible? It is quite true."
"Do you mean your hair is turning from grey to black instead of from black to grey?"
"As usual, Hastings, you have the beautiful, unsuspicious mind."
A little bit of this goes a long way, and she doesn't just provide a little bit of it. I understand why the lovers of Raymond Chandler find Christie unreadable....more