Excellent book. Actually, it's beyond excellent. I will say that with some exceptions, one would think he or she is reading about attitudes that existExcellent book. Actually, it's beyond excellent. I will say that with some exceptions, one would think he or she is reading about attitudes that exist currently in this country, rather than in 1936. It's frightening that with all of the "progress" we've made since the 1930s, some things never seem to change.
I decided against the actual "review" route, and what I ended up writing is pretty long, so I'll direct you to my online reading journal where I talk about a few parallels between Pozner's observations in 1936 and our current society in 2014 that have their origins in the protection of free-market capitalism and corporate profit, and which are strikingly similar in terms of the effects on the middle class, various racial and ethnic groups, and the average people of this country.
I have to say that while this book had a unique premise, it turned into more of an action-packed, drug-hazed thriller that involves the Russian mob, d I have to say that while this book had a unique premise, it turned into more of an action-packed, drug-hazed thriller that involves the Russian mob, drugs, bad cops, etc. before all was said and done, and well, frankly, not my cup of tea. I'm just not sure I really understand the point the author is trying to make underneath the action in this book.
If anyone wants to read more about what I think about it, click here to get to my online reading journal. I'm still not sure what I just read. ...more
Before I post the link for the entire review here, I will just say that the basic premise is quite good, as are the actual crime scenes -- good thing Before I post the link for the entire review here, I will just say that the basic premise is quite good, as are the actual crime scenes -- good thing when you're writing a crime fiction novel. However, I did have a few issues with some of the non-crime related writing. You can read all about it here. ...more
I think the only thing keeping it from being a perfect read for me are the long, often tedious and repetitive scenes among the gangsters in this book,I think the only thing keeping it from being a perfect read for me are the long, often tedious and repetitive scenes among the gangsters in this book, but otherwise, it's nearly perfect. I haven't seen the movie based on this book ("Out of the Past") yet, but it's on tonight's schedule.
This book is chock full of betrayals, double crosses and murder making for a hell of a good straight crime read, but it can certainly also stand on its literary merits.
PI Peter "Red" Markham and his partner Jack Fisher have taken on their last case together. They are called to the home of Whit Sterling, who hired them to find his missing girl, Mumsie McGonigle and the fifty-six thousand dollars she ran away with. The case takes Markham to Mexico, where he locates Mumsie who swears she never took the cash -- only enough to get by on. Unfortunately, as it turns out, Red falls hard for Mumsie. He still has to report to Sterling, though, so the two of them return to California, where Markham gives his client the news that he couldn't find her. When he thinks he's in the clear, the two of them move to a little cabin up near Lake Tahoe, planning to stay there "until the snow flies," then move on to Reno so that Red can open an office there. As plans go it's a good one, but that particular future just isn't in the cards. Flash forward ten years into the future and Red Markham has become Red Bailey. He's left the PI business behind for a gas station that he owns in little Bridgeport, California, and has an entirely new life. He spends his time off fishing, and has fallen for a much-younger little blonde named Ann. But underneath his quiet life in this quiet town, Red is just biding his time waiting for his past to catch up with him, which it does in the form of a summons to Reno. From there, Bailey is sent to New York to do a job, and he has no choice but to comply. It's only after he gets there that he realizes that he's been duped -- and that there may be no way out.
Past the initial setup, once the trap has been sprung, Build My Gallows High is the story of Red trying to find a way out the snare that has been very carefully set for him. It moves in and out of the past, as well as back and forth between the small Northern California town of Bridgeport and the streets of New York, making its way back to Red's current situation as he tries to take control of things and clear himself. It's extremely well crafted -- double crosses and betrayals abound as the figurative noose around Bailey's neck gets tighter with each turn of events. If the novel rested entirely on its plot, it would be a very good read, but there's much more to it than simply story. For example, there is such a keen sense of place here as the author moves back and forth contrasting hard, edgy New York -- its streets filled with young hooligans, cabbies who ply their trade and know when to keep their mouths shut, and gangsters who have no qualms about killing -- with the natural beauty of small Bridgeport, with its flowing streams, quiet fishing spots, tree-lined mountains and people living a good and wholesome life.
What I find the most interesting about this book, though, is not so much the action, but rather the focus on the characters. Without the time or space to go into them all, the standouts begin with Bailey, who's just been waiting for the day the past comes knocking on his door to reclaim him and who knows that the decisions he's made in the past will circle back to haunt him some day. He is the poster boy for "if only," thinking about how to get out of his present dilemma so that he and Ann might just be free to start the new life both of them really want, one that he's constantly deferring because he lives in this constant state of purgatory. Then there's Caldwell, the local Bridgeport game keeper, who is in love with Ann and has dreams of the two of them together in his cabin in the woods -- he also makes a decision that may come to haunt him as well -- but it's a moral one he feels he must make. Ann is a quiet beauty, blonde, small, willing to please and trying to do what's right by everyone, but there's a very strong-willed woman underneath her quiet veneer. She is contrasted with the two femme fatales of this book -- Mumsie and another woman named Meta Carson (in New York), both seductive and charming, but each as deadly as the other.
Build My Gallows High is such a fine example of true noir goodness that it's easy to recommend it to anyone who is into the genre but hasn't had the good fortune of reading this book yet. It is as dark as dark can be, and reveals that present and future are both inextricably bound by the choices we make. The more I stop and think about it, the more it grows on me, and the more in love with this book I become....more
The first thing I'll say here is that this book is not really geared toward cozy mystery readers or people who enjoy action thrillers or whodunits. ItThe first thing I'll say here is that this book is not really geared toward cozy mystery readers or people who enjoy action thrillers or whodunits. It's much more complex, it's very dark and frankly, it's weird in a very pleasing aesthetic sort of way that appeals to me. The second thing I'll say is that I've decided to reread this book -- I'm positive there are a number of things I missed the first time around. Certainly a reread isn't a requirement for this book -- but it's just how I do things when I really want to get to get the most out of a novel. So I'm not really leaving a review for now -- that will come later.
For right now, I'll leave it at this: if you're into darkness in your fiction or books that explore the dark side of human nature, you will certainly be rewarded here. I can also vouch for the quality of Nakamura's writing now, having read all of three of his books that have been translated into English. When I have finished reading the novel again, I'll post my final thoughts.
As it so happens, I was given an ARC by Soho (for which I am grateful), but I bought a hardback copy of this book for my library, so if anyone is interested in the ARC and you live in the US, I will gladly pass it on - and pay postage. I certainly don't need two copies. Just leave a comment.
I know I just added this book yesterday, but I opened it at 1 pm when it arrived, let everything else go, skipped dinner, and read the entire night thI know I just added this book yesterday, but I opened it at 1 pm when it arrived, let everything else go, skipped dinner, and read the entire night through because I could not put it down. I guess you might say that I LOVED this book:
a) It's about polar exploration, probably my favorite nonfiction reading topic in the universe, b) it's by Hampton Sides, who has not let me down yet with any of his books, and c) it's just so engrossing that I couldn't stop reading it. I'm pretty tired and cranky right now, but what the hell -- it was so worth it. Once again Hampton Sides has proven that he is not only a master of his topic but also a master of storytelling.
I've written up my thoughts about this book at the nonfiction page of my online reading journal; feel free to click on over. For now, I'll just reiterate how fanbloodytastic I found this book.
I seriously can't do this book the justice it deserves, but In the Kingdom of Ice is an absolutely phenomenal story told by a master storyteller, and it deserves as wide of a reading audience as possible. Even readers who might not normally be excited about the history of polar exploration would love this book -- the story is harrowing enough, but Mr. Sides highlights the humanity and the sheer bravery of these heroic men facing the unendurable in one of the most unforgiving environments in the world. The book literally reads like a novel, complete with cliffhangers, moments for rejoicing, and above all, page-turning scenes making it impossible to set the book down. It's an ultimate true "rollicking adventure" story, one that should be on everyone's reading list. To answer other reader criticism, yes, there's a lot of detail involved, but none of it is wasted space or used as padding as so often seems to be the case. I cannot recommend this book highly enough -- on the favorites list of 2014.
... someone should get in touch with Ken Burns -- this would make a fascinating PBS special....more