Thursday, March 24, 2022

Winter's Best Reads

Nobody From Somewhere, Dietrich Kalteis. Elmore Leonard is dead, but there’s no need to feel a great void. Kalteis’s newest continues in the master’s tradition without being derivative, with the same kind of quick narrative and entertaining dialog.


Contrary Blues, John Billheimer. Not what I expected; this is better. Highly entertaining, plausible, and amusing story set in West Virginia coal country. Billheimer has a style that reads easy as warm milk, and the characters and situations are believable without being predictable.


Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman. Anyone interested in screen writing needs to read this. Anyone interested in how movies get made needs to read this. Anyone interested in good stories well told needs to read this. Did I leave anyone out? A masterpiece by possibly the greatest screenwriter ever.


Hell and Gone, Sam Wiebe. The new Wakeland novel makes Dave witness to a horrifying crime. How much he’ll help the police (if at all), is the main mystery until things break in a manner that forces a decision. Wiebe’s writing makes it easy to forget you’re reading, as the story seems to direct itself straight into your brain.


The Hard Bounce, Todd Robinson. A re-read, but just as good as the first time. Boo and Junior are characters not to be forgotten. Why Robinson can get contracts in France and not the US is an indication of how fucked up US publishing is.


Ordo, Donald Westlake. Funny, melancholy, thought-provoking. The story of a naval NCO who learns his short-term wife of many years ago is now an international sex symbol and how the knowledge changes both of them. Or doesn’t. Westlake really could write anything.


Double Deuce, Robert B. Parker. Much of the book consists of Spenser and Hawk waiting around for something to happen as they’re tasked with providing security for a ghetto project. That’s okay, because there are few more enjoyable things in the canon that Spenser and Hawk passing time, and even fewer better than when they take action.


Bread, Ed McBain. Mid-70s 87th Precinct tale. It may not seem like praise to say there isn’t a lot to distinguish Bread from a lot of other eight-seven stories, but that means it’s excellent. If McBain ever wrote a book that wasn’t worth making time for, I’ve yet to come across it.


D-Day, Stephen A. Ambrose. Detailed examination of the events, planning, and training that led up to the invasion of Normandy, followed by as good a description of June 6 as you’re going to find. Ambrose had a gift for describing both the forest and the trees in a manner that brings out the horrors, and which of them could, or could not, have been avoided. Not a light read, but important for anyone interested in the invasion, or World War II in general.

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