Friday, May 8, 2020

Favorite Reads

Though my schedule hasn’t changed much, social distancing has created time for reading. I also read when I used to watch television news. The books chosen were good choices, as well.

The Man with the Getaway Face, Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark. I’ve read a small handful of the Stark/Parker books and the only one I didn’t care for was The Hunter. (I’m working on a post that goes into things everyone else loves and I don’t, and why the rest of you are wrong.) Getaway Face (wonderful title) begins with Parker leaving an off the radar clinic with a new face to minimize the chances of being recognized by anyone he offended in The Hunter. Wouldn’t be much of a book if that worked, so besides worrying about that, a member of his new crew has a personal agenda, plus the caretaker from the clinic is chasing the last three new faces to see which one killed the doctor. Well-paced, not a wasted word, and Parker’s personal moral code is easy to understand once you buy into the character, which is also easier here than in The Hunter. There was nothing Westlake couldn’t do as a writer.

Paradise Sky, Joe Lansdale. I liked Cold in July so much I went straight for a Western and found it completely different but just as good. A fictionalized account of the life of Nat Love, aka “Deadwood Dick,” the book traces his life from the day he’s almost lynched for looking too closely at a white woman’s ass, through his time as a Buffalo Soldier, and onto Deadwood, where the obsessed man whose wife’s butt Nat admired catches up with him. Paradise Sky has all the wit and laugh out loud humor Lansdale is known for, but also pulls the reader into the sadness approaching despair Love faces, and the horrific injustice faced by African Americans after the Civil War. Lansdale’s reputation rests much on the Hap and Leonard books, but having read one of them in addition to Cold in July and Paradise Sky, I’d have to say it’s the weakest of the three, which is not to say it’s weak. I have another H&L on my shelf, so a re-evaluation may be in order.

The Promise, Robert Crais. Writers like Crais are why I keep a spreadsheet to track the writers I don’t want to lose touch with. I like the Elvis Cole books best, and I like the parts of this book that are told through Cole’s first-person POV better as well, but the characters are all compelling, even Maggie the K-9. The plot never sacrifices plausibility for surprise, but there is plenty you won’t see coming. I could have lived without the last two denouement chapters, but that’s like saying Charlize Theron has ugly toes. (Full disclosure: I have no idea what Ms. Theron’s toes look like, and I’m not about to add to a crime writer’s already dubious search history by Googling “Charlize Theron toes.”)

Hawke's Target, Reavis Wortham. A modern day Texas Ranger story, and a damn good one. I’m not usually a fan of books that go from one shootout to the next, preferring suspense to build more organically, but Wortham writes such good action sequences I was happy to get to the next. Sonny Hawke is a good ol’ boy trouble seems to find and Wortham makes Sonny capable without being superhuman. I’ll be back.

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