Saturday, August 1, 2009

July's Good Reads

Swag, Elmore Leonard - John McFetridge cites this book almost as often as Toronto is colder than Miami. Since John is mistaken about such things even less frequently than that, I finally got around to reading it, and he's right again. Classic Leonard, with two criminals who aren't as smart as they think they are. The dialog is spot on, and the story is a little more tightly plotted than is Leonard's usual policy. The ending could have come right out of Donald Westlake, though with Westlake it wouldn't have been the ending.

Slammer, Allan Guthrie - A strange book that will leave you wondering what the hell is going on in places. A young prison guard finds himself in over his head dealing with the inmates, peers, and family life. Intimidated into to muling drugs for a powerful prisoner, the stress undoes him and soon he's no more sure than the reader about what's real and what isn't. Guthrie will keep you confused, but not so baffled you give up, and provides a denouement appropriate to the climax, which not all writers, thriller or otherwise, are willing--or able--to do.

Family Secrets, Jeff Coen - Non-fiction account of one of the largest and most important organized crime trials in American history. Murders unsolved for twenty years or more became public record when Frank Calabrese, Jr. and his Uncle Nick turned on Frank Sr. and testified for the Feds. By the time the investigation and trial were over, much of the upper levels of the Chicago Outfit were behind bars, and the workings of the Chicago mob were brought out into the light as never before. Coen's writing is straightforward and journalistic and appropriate to the material. No "creative non-fiction" is needed to enhance this story. Required reading for anyone with an interest in organized crime.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Like the sound of these. I need to read more Leonard. For some reason, his "brilliance" eludes me most of the time.

Dana King said...

SWAG is as good an exmaple of a Leonard tale told from the perspective of the bad guys as any I've read. Funny in spots, but never played for laughs. Like most criminals, these guys just aren't too bright.

Steve Weddle said...

Read Mr. Guthrie's TWO-WAY SPLIT and have HARD MAN on the way. Guess I'll have to add SLAMMER to the list now. Nice write-up.

Dana King said...

Thanks, Steve. I'm working Guthrie from the other direction. SLAMMER was my first; I'll be looking for more.