Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Report #26 of 26 - Up Till Now


Every year I take the girls to the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.  It's the annual geek nirvana that is held on the Stampede Grounds and has been getting steadily bigger each and ever year.

We've either met or heard speak, all kinds of celebrities. It's an opportunity to get to know our favorite actors a bit better and to be exposed to all kinds of ideas and products from the world of comics, science fiction, TV and movies.

This year William Shatner was the guest of honor.  Yes, THE William Shatner - Captain Kirk, T.J. Hooker and Denny Crane - THAT William Shatner.  He was wonderful.

To see Shatner you'd put him in his 60's, he's full of energy and enthusiasm, he's living life to the fullest with no plans on stopping.  The inspiring part of this man is that he's not in his 60's, no, he's in his 80's!!  Your read that right, born March 22nd 1931 - he's 80.

Knowing I'd get a chance to see the man himself, I dusted off his autobiography and gave it a read.  I've grown up watching this guy on TV and one of the things I've enjoyed about seeing him is he always reminded me of my dad.  Not that their characters are the same but I always saw a resemblance in his features that often made me think he could be a brother to my old man.

Through this book I learned that Shatner has lead a varied and interesting life.  He has enjoyed more highs and suffered more lows than most regular people.  Since childhood he wanted to be a working actor, he wanted to make a good enough living to support a family and pay a mortgage.  He managed to do that but, in order to make it happen, he had to throw himself into his work to the exclusion of everything else.

Chapter after chapter I saw how slowly Shatner came to realize that his obsession with becoming a star was destroying everything else.  And then I was able to see him grow through success and tragedy.  The best gift of the book is learning Shatner's philosophy on life and living.  Through everything, he suggests, to never lose your sense of wonder and adventure and to embrace saying "yes" to opportunities because it's those opportunities that sometimes pay off right away or pay you back years afterwards.

Plus the book is a hoot to read; each chapter is long but they are all laid out in the form of a conversation.  Shatner's humor springs through at the strangest of times, he actually interrupts his paragraphs with all kinds of asides.  At first it's a bit jarring but I quickly got into the rhythm of his writing and enjoyed his narration very much.

Like any autobiography the book is best read if you are a fan but there is a lot to get out of the book if you are.  Shatner is not Kirk but Shatner is very close to being Denny Crane.

Live life and have fun doing it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Report #25 of 26 - L.A. Noire

Various Authors

Because this is a project tied in to a video game some explanation is needed.  L.A. Noire the game, is the newest title by Rock Star.  The game and the stories from the collection are set in post WWII Los Angeles, 1946 - 1947.  Think of all those Fedoras and that Detroit steel when Hollywood was as corrupt as any mafia family.

The collection has eight stories from the biggest names in crime fiction today.  Every story is set in the same time period as the game, some use characters right out of the game others just use the environment to inspire the narrative.

Each story has it's own art work to support it and I'll share them here.

STORY ONE: The Girl by Megan Abbott.

This was a drug addled story of a nearly out of control Hollywood party.  While reading I was screaming at June to just to the right thing.  There is loads of illicit behaviour going on that is only hinted at in the story which I found to be very effective, I can imagine quite a bit.  Abbott can write raunchy like no one else.

STORY TWO: See The Woman by Lawrence Block

One of my favorite authors Block is not stranger to the intimate crime story.  It's about two LAPD cops who have to deal with a recurring domestic disturbance.  It's tragic in the original problem and in the solution to it.  Dark, dark, dark.  Fantastic.

STORY THREE: Naked Angel by Joe R. Lansdale

This was a nice straight-ahead police detection story.  It relied a bit too much on the cop's hunches but in the end they all made sense.

I'd read more from Lansdale.

STORY FOUR: Black Dahlia & White Rose by Joyce Carol Oats

This was a well thought out retelling of the Black Dahlia murder of 1947.  (Just imagine a world without Marilyn Monroe!)

STORY FIVE: School for Murder by Francine Prose

A veteran from the war is having trouble finding his motivation in the production of a new movie.  The director helps him out by sending him to acting class.  All the clues are there.

Loved this one.

STORY SIX: What's In a Name by Jonathan Santlofer

Oh, ick.  A mentally deranged sociopath serial killer story.  I hate stories about insane people - they make no sense, I can't understand them and they usually do terrible things to people or their bodies.  Yuck.

Obviously it was well written because I got the above reaction.  But this is a side of crime fiction that I usually try to avoid.

STORY SEVEN: Hell of an Affair by Duane Swierczynski

My favorite author!  Swierczynski can twist a story like no other.  This is a straight-up story about a straight-up working Joe who meets a stunning woman and the start a whirlwind affair.  Even though he knows he should question her motivation he just goes along with it all.

The story does not end like you'd expect, believe me, just when he's getting a grip on the situation ...

STORY EIGHT: Postwar Boom by Andrew Vachss

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book Report #24 of 26


Probably the most literate book I've read in a while.  Vachss is a highly regarded figure in the world of crime fiction; he certainly has a very interesting bio.

The book follows a group of six homeless men on the streets of New York.  Some are there by circumstance others are there because they cannot function in society and one (the narrator) is there by choice.  Together they survive the streets with each person bringing his personal skill to the group.

Most of the story centers around Ho who used to be a highly regarded sensei.  Ho believes he is responsible for the death of his most beloved student and walks away from his old life to atone for his part in her death.

One of the characters in the book has created a library of thousands of books inside an abandoned building.  When he discovers the same building is scheduled to be demolished the group decides to help by moving the library to a safe location.

For most of the story we discover how each member of the group became homeless and how they all cope from day to day.  I found the aspects of survival on the streets riveting and the novel brings to light how easy and random the journey to homelessness can be.  They are not all crazy, they are all not off their meds, though some are.  By choice or by circumstance survival becomes a new set of skills that one must learn.

The plot of the book is pretty much secondary to the story of these six people.  Through the mission of moving the library many of the characters find a new direction to his life.  And like real life - it's messy.

This is an excellent, excellent book.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Report #23 of 26


Finally!  A novel where we are not constantly hearing about Sunny Randa's struggles to be an independent "female" PI.  Plus, there is much less about Sunny's struggles with her emotions regarding her ex-husband.  Don't get me wrong - she's still struggling with her emotions regarding her ex-husband - but it's not getting in the way of the story, for a change.

Straight up detecting, good "guy" trying to put the bad guy away.

Sunny Randal is more self assured and I think so was Parker when he wrote it.

This was the best one so far.  This being the third installment in the series.

The next book is Melancholy Baby