Thursday, March 3, 2016

February's Best Reads

A busy month, was February. (Channeling Penguins’ announcer Bob Errey.) The shortest month of the year and one that required taking care of some things that had backed up over the holidays. I didn’t read as much as I like to, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t read.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss. Read it before and learned and laughed a lot. Didn’t learn as much this time—I should hope not—laughed just as much. While not as detailed as some grammarians and punctuationistas might like, Truss does take the time to explain through example why her nit-pickiness is important. Or should be. (She made her point well enough with me that I copied and pasted the title from the book’s Amazon page lest I bollocks the punctuation, though I do regret her omission of the Oxford comma.)

No More Heroes, Ray Banks. Yes, it was England month at Castle Schadenfreude. No More Heroes was the first of Banks’s books I read, asked to review it by New Mystery Reader way back in 2009. The third of his Cal Innes series, I liked it so much then I not only started working my way through his oeuvre, I jumped all over a Kindle collection of all four of the Innes books when one became available a couple of years ago. I’ve changed in the past seven years—Hillary Clinton would say I’ve evolved—and I’ve learned a lot about writing, storytelling, and reading. This book still kicks ass.

Bay City Blues, Raymond Chandler. Not a novel, maybe not even long enough to be a novella, but way too long to be a short story. I have the Collected Stories Everyman’s Library put out in 2002 and have read them all, but it’s been a while. Peter Rozovsky quoted the opening of Bay City Blues in a blog comment a few weeks ago and I had to look it up. Then, of course I had to read the whole thing. Which led to Red Wind, my favorite of Chandler’s shorter works for how well it describes Marlowe’s chivalrous attitude, but I’ve yet to finish that one in February and there have to be rules. My tastes have moved more toward Hammett than Chandler over the past few years, but it was still a treat to be reminded how good Chandler was when he was good, and in Bay City Blues he’s very, very good at what made him Chandler. What was that opening line, you say? “It must have been Friday because the fish smell from the Mansion House coffee-shop next door was strong enough to build a garage on.” In the same paragraph he mentions he “had my heels in the groove on my desk” and any questions I had about how to spend my evening were gone.

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