Thursday, March 4, 2021

Recent Favorite Reads

 My reading life has been good of late. Not all winners, one massive disappointment from a top-flight author, but a lot of good stuff I’m happy to recommend. (The disappointment is all on the publisher, who advertised a Robert Crais book as an “Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel,” even though the only place either of their names appear is on the cover. The book was okay, but the bait and switch really put me off.)


Savage Night, Allan Guthrie. Guthrie takes a story I didn’t think I’d like, tells it in a manner that does not easily lend itself to the suspension of disbelief, and had me completely absorbed. There are multiple reveals, each well prepared, and the foreshadowing is so adept you don’t realize what he’s done until a couple of paragraphs before the reveal. Highest recommendation.


Imperial Valley, Johnny Shaw. Shaw is a master at combining suspense, violence, and humor. Imperial Valley is the third (and hopefully not final) Jimmy Veeder fiasco, and at least as good as its predecessors, which I also loved. Shaw is solidly on the list of authors I make sure don’t fall through the cracks.


The Killing of the Tinkers, Ken Bruen. No one can spend less time on the core story and engross you like Bruen in the Jack Taylor novels. I read a few at random; now I’m going through them in order. Wonderful writing, and Taylor is a fascinating character you root for despite his myriad of faults.


The Sins of the Fathers, Lawrence Block. Finding the proper entry point into a writer’s oeuvre is important. My first exposure to Block came through an anthology of Keller stories. I’m not a fan of hit man tales, so I never followed up. (I made a similar mistake by introducing myself to Ellroy with The Cold Six Thousand.) People wore me down on Block, so I tried a Bernie Rhodenbarr novel and enjoyed it a lot, which led me to tackle the Scudder books in order. I’ll be kicking myself for a while about leaving Block for so late in my reading life. This book rules.


The Cold Cold Ground, Adrian McKinty. (Re-read.) Book One of the six-volume Sean Duffy Trilogy. (McKinty’s a writer, not a mathematician.) Duffy is a Catholic cop working in a Belfast suburb during the worst of The Troubles, which is where and when McKinty grew up. Rarely have I read anything that placed me in a foreign place and time so compellingly. Reading it again was timely, because it reminded me (as if I needed it) we can’t let this country go too far down that road.


Which Lie Did I Tell?, William Goldman. Maybe the most entertaining book I have ever read. It’s a memoir of a Hollywood screenwriting legend (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, and The Princess Bride, etc.) that also serves as a screenwriting class and cautionary tale of what to beware of in the business. Engrossing, enlightening, and laugh out loud funny, this second such book of Goldman’s is leading me back to the first, Adventures in the Screen Trade.


The Devil at Your Door, Eric Beetner. The finale to the Lars and Shaine trilogy. I know I said I don’t like hit man stories. I meant it. That doesn’t apply to Beetner. He gets the ball rolling and I’m willing to go wherever he wants me. Lars and Shaine are complex and complementary characters you’ll come to care about. There’s also a laugh out loud scene that follows the Elmore Leonard Rule of humor as well as I’ve seen. (The ELRoH: The people saying or doing funny things should not know they are funny.) Why none of Beetner’s books are movies or streaming series escapes me. Lars and Shaine are perfect for someone like Liev Schreiber and Jennifer Lawrence circa Winter’s Bone. (Hailee Steinfeld? I’m too old to keep tabs on actresses that young. Pick someone.)



1 comment:

Marvin Minkler said...

Have read all of Ken Bruen's work, including The White Trilogy, and the five novels that make up the Inspector Bandt series. Blitz, Vixen, Calibre, and Ammunition. Well worth your time when you finish the Jack Taylor series. Also very much liked Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy series.