Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Report #13 of 26 - Fat Ollie's Book by Ed McBain

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This is a book I've had on the shelf for a while now.  McBain was a prolific writer of over 100 novels.  I don't quite know why I've never really gotten into his books.  He wrote primarily police procedurals and his writing style was very easy to read.

Part of the issue I had with his most celebrated series (the 87th Precinct books) was that he insisted in using a fictitious east coast city called Isola.  Which was New York city and it rubbed me the wrong way from the start.  Then he insisted it not allowing is characters to age.  His main detective Carella is always just around 40 years old.  Interestingly all of his novels were set in the present day so we get the follow the ageless Carella throughout the changes of the 50's to the 2000's.

Put that aside and you have an enjoyable series of novels.  There are all kinds of characters in the form of the cops that inhabit the precinct and the accompanying low-lifer's that inhabit a city.  There are usually two  crimes that are being solved at the same time in each book.

Anyway, straight ahead cop stories that are, usually, pretty good.

I hated the character of Fat Ollie, who is a detective from a neighboring precinct (the 88th) and thank God he's not part of the 87th because I'd have to kill myself.  He is a bigot, glutton and all-around asshole who wrote a terrible novel that is stolen form his police car.  The hard part of the book is that McBain makes us suffer through the text of this book!  But eventually I got into the rhythm of it and could simply laugh at it.

The story of the missing book was pretty fun and the case of the murdered politician was also well done.

Yea, I liked it.  As a matter of fact I'm going to try and track down the first three novels of the series which were written in the 50's and start from there.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Report #12 of 26

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This was a fun book.

Down on her luck Stephanie Plum needs a job and starts working for her cousin Vinnie.  Vinnie is a bail bondsman and Plum has to learn to become a bounty hunter, fast.

This is quite a tonic after reading a Spenser novel.  Stephanie Plumb doesn't know the first thing about bounty hunting or about guns or about self defense.  She just want to pay the rent and she can make $10,000 if she can catch an ex-cop who is wanted for murder.

The book is very funny and is a wonderful way to spend some time with a book.  It turns the whole private eye thing on it's head by making it a fish-out-of-water story and it's very effective.  I felt sorry for Plumb because she made all kinds of mistakes that I would probably make if I were in her shoes.  (Although I'd have my gun out much more than she did.)

If you're looking for a story that feels like a movie by giving the genre a twist - this is a great start.  If you like it well, you're in luck, it's the first book in a series that has run to sixteen novels so far.

I'll be reading the second one very soon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Report #11 of 26

Potshot
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Robert B. Parker

The late grate Robert B. Parker!

There is only one author that Sue and I truly share in admiration.  The books of Robert B Parker and his Spenser series especially, were one of the first things we shared when we first started dating.

The first Parker novel I ever read was Crimson Joy  the murders in the story were brutal and I was surprised Sue suggested the book to me.  But what really came through was the character of Spenser; ever confident, strong and funny.  The humor of Parker's books never come out of the plot but always through the dialog between the characters in the story.

If you get in to the Spenser series you will find that, in the end, you won't remember the plots nor will you care about them because what you loved the best was the dialog and the relationships that Spenser has.  His best friend and sometimes partner Hawk is one of the best characters in mystery fiction - ever.

Potshot itself was not one of Parker's best stories.  As stories go, not much really "happens" until the very end.  This book would be a real treat to a serious fan of the series. Parker gathers around Spenser and Hawk all the other tough guys that Spenser has met throughout his long career to help him discover what is wrong in Potshot CA

Give this one a pass until you've read at least 10 of the novels prior to this one.

But was it any good?  Well, it was only okay. But reading Parker is always easy; his words fall right off the page and once you've realized you've read 335 pages you'll swear it felt like a short story of 25 pages.

Save this book until you're really in to the series then it will be much more enjoyable for you.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book report #10 of 26

The Last Good Kiss
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James Crumley

Yea, I hated this book.

It wandered around, around and around.  It solved the primary case in the middle of the book and then created more mysteries along the way.

The main character was a drunk who was following a bigger drunk and they became friends and drank all over the West of the US.

Critics have described The Last Good Kiss as Crumley's best book.  That's too bad because I didn't like it very much.  Which means I won't be seeking any other books by this author.

Another apt description of his writing style was a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson.  Mostly the book is about all the drinking these two characters do along the way.

I just didn't like it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Report #9 of 26

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Book 3 of the Netherworld trilogy.

Here it is - the dramatic conclusion!

The answer to Taste Imperative is revealed.  The stakes are much higher and the body count starts to accelerate.

Again and again the flaws in this series kept showing up; from some meaningless chases to some clunky sex scenes to just playing one cliche after another to string a story together.  I kept stopping and remembering other stories I'd read or movies I'd watched.  There were bits of Mad Max, Lord of the Rings, Blade Runner and just some goofy situations that just made the whole thing a mess for me.

I enjoyed the last sequence in the secret bunker but the whole thing ended in an eye-rolling steal from Blade Runner!

Did I enjoy the series?  Well, I like the concept of the books, merging the novel with the graphic novel but the story was so weak that, in the end, I kept thinking that I could have read something else.

Book Report #8 of 26

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Book 2 of the Netherworld trilogy.

Another fast-paced read. We follow agent Rook and Plesur into the wilds of the uninsured territories of New Jersey still being chased by unknown forces who are trying to kill Plesur and the knowledge that is locked in her brain.  Along the way we pick up two new characters and we get to learn more about the past of this near-future.

The text and art still work well together although I found the story dragged on a bit.  Part of the reason was just the nature of a book 2 of 3.  The second book tends to delve into the background a bit more and the plot usually slows down until book 3.  Learning about the Emergency and how pleasure models came to be was interesting but where the story nearly lost me was in the endless chases and escapes. They felt like they were there just to fill pages.  Because the author had the benefit of an artist he did not have to spend too much time describing the settings which made wading through this second book manageable.

The new characters, the military robots and the use of "ear backs", chips that can be inserted behind the ear to add intelligence, skills and new personalities, were fresh ideas that I liked.  Alas, the situations our four characters find themselves in seemed all too familiar which made for a book that was a bit of a let-down from the first.