Thursday, March 30, 2023

Winter's Favorite Reads

 The Dramatist, Ken Bruen. It’s hard for a Jack Taylor novel not to make this quarterly recap. Bruen has as unique a voice as anyone, and I read mostly for voice. The books are more character studies of Jack Taylor than they are mysteries, yet Bruen keeps them fresh throughout.


Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli, Mark Seal. Outstanding history of how The Godfather came to be one of the greatest films of all time. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for film buffs, or those who are into The Godfather.


The Dawn Patrol, Don Winslow. I finally caught up with Winslow, once again proving I am ridiculously slow on the uptake. I’d been put off a little by the length and topics of his more recent work; thanks to the friends who suggested I look earlier. Winslow has a gift for dialog, as well as providing exposition in such an entertaining manner you look forward to it. A lot funnier than I expected, which is never a bad thing.


Criminal Economics, Eric Beetner. I finished this one and thought, “This is Shakespearean noir.” I’d tell you why, but that would spoil the ending. Read it yourself. It’s well worth your time.


God Save the Mark, Donald Westlake. Begun as a Richard Stark Parker novel, Westlake shifted gears and turned it into a comedy. Not as funny as some of the later humorous novels, it’s still a delight. Easy to see how this same story could have been very dark.


The First World War, Basil H. Liddell Hart. Still considered the gold standard after 90 years. While there are things here I could investigate in more detail, my key takeaway was that this was a pointless war with needlessly horrific casualties that didn’t accomplish much except to light the fuse for WWII.


Jimmy the Wags, James Wagner. I forget how many times I’ve read this book; I turn to it when I want to get in to a PI frame of mind. Wagner was a decorated NYPD officer turned private investigator; this is his PI memoir. It’s hilarious and cautionary at the same time.


Shotgun, Ed McBain. To say this is a typical Ed McBain novel is to say it’s better than just about anything else out there. This is a typical Ed McBain novel. The high expectations he developed should not detract from its evaluation.


Muscle on the Wing, Daniel Woodrell. Volume 2 of The Bayou Trilogy. Woodrell is best known for books such as Winter’s Bone and  Tomato Red, but these early works are outstanding and deserve more appreciation.


The American West, Dee Brown. A broad history of the frontier from before the Civil War till about the turn of the 20th century. Outstanding in its own right, and a treasure trove of information on where to take research for the Western that is gestating in my imagination.


We Own This City, Justin Fenton. Man, has the Baltimore Police Department been fucked up for a long time. (The whole city, for that matter.) The parallels to the Rampart scandal in LA that formed the basis for The Shield are disturbing. WOTC is the source material for David Simon’s recent HBO series of the same name (what some are calling season 6 of The Wire) but with far more detail.



E. Ellis said...

If you enjoyed We Own This City, if you have not heard of it, you might be interested in Mark Bowden's upcoming Life Sentence. It is about the same era in Baltimore as City and involves many of the people featured in City and The Wire. I'm almost finished with the ARC and it is a very detailed and good book and reads like a bonus episode of The Wire.

Dana King said...

Thanks for the tip. Adding to the list now.