Recent Read: Nightmare in Pink

pinkIn his second outing, Travis McGee,  John D. McDonald’s beach bum/salvage consultant who take 50% of whatever he recovers for his clients, has left his Florida home base for the asphalt jungle of New York City.

He has come to NYC to help the delectable sister of an old army buddy whose boyfriend was murdered on the city streets in what the police ruled an apparent mugging. While investigating the death, and a bit of romance, we learn the murdered boyfriend was into some shady dealings involving millions of dollars. While investigating,  Travis finds himself drugged, hallucinating and in a horror house  masquerading as a mental institution.

When reading, one has to remember this is 1964, because Travis is the kind of guy who has problems with women working. However, that does not stop our hero from bedding our lady friend  before and after she discovers her now dead boyfriend was not who he said he was. Hey,  someone had to help her recuperate from her melancholy.

While, admittedly I did not care for this book as much as the first book in the series (The Deep Blue Goody-by), and if you can excuse the 60’s sexism, McDonald, still fine tuning his long time anti-hero,  has crafted a strange, off-beat ending that you won’t see coming.

 

 

Recent Read: Born to Run

BorntorunIf you ever had the opportunity to experience the spiritual, soul-stirring, sermon preaching, exhaust filling concerts of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band then you will be right at home with this autobiography. Born to Run is a memoir like no other. Then again, Bruce Springsteen is a rock and roll artist like no other. He has absorbed, inhaled, assimilated, learned, the history of rock, blues, country and soul blending it all with everything in his heart, his mind, his intellect and his spirit. Elvis, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and others were his teachers. He learned well.

While I purchased the eBook version of Springsteen’s tomb of a memoir, it laid there for a while. I finally ended up borrowing an audiobook version from a local library and listened to the more than 18 hours of Springsteen himself telling his story. I wasn’t sorry. Hearing Bruce himself added elements that would have been completely missed in reading the book. His style, his spirit, his cadence, his voice are as important as the written words.

The first part of the book focuses on his early years growin’ up in a dysfunctional Jersey family: a distant alcoholic father, a loving mother, and poverty. His father’s family had an unspoken history of mental illness. Bruce also discusses his own chronic battles with bouts of depression over the years. It’s all straightforward; not shying away from revealing the bad  and the difficult times in his life. Like all of us, those early years were a vital part in his development and his future. These many years later, his journey has been at times that of a haunted and tortured artist.

For me, the most interesting parts though were when Springsteen dives into his creative process. It’s well known he is a control freak and hates to let go. During his early years, Springsteen was a member a few struggling groups. For a control freak, he had to be in charge. That’s why it evolved into the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Everyone had their say, but Bruce has the final say. His work, always personal, would take on social themes and causes like Vietnam Vets, nuclear energy and always the struggle of the working man, those still searching for their piece of the American pie.

Born to Run is at times heartwarming, heartbreaking, rambling, inspiring and definitely written in the artist’s voice.

 

Recent Read: Don’t Let Go

HarlanHarlan Coben never disappoints. He’s steady Eddie, always there to provide a thrilling ride. Don’t Let Go is a carryover from last year’s Fall Reading list. The book is a lesson in not trusting everything the government tells you, and sometimes even the people you most admire and love.

Napoleon “Nap” Dumas is a New Jersey detective. A recent murder case brings back questions, and memories, about how his twin brother Leo died some 15 years ago. It’s haunted him daily ever since. No one has been able to explain how Leo, and his girlfriend, Diana Sykes, ended up getting killed in front of a railroad train.

The recent murder is that of Pennsylvania police officer Rex Canton, another high school friend of Nap’s, murdered in his car, the fingerprints of Maura Wells, Nap’s high school girlfriend who vanished without a trace the same night Leo and Diana died, are found at the scene. How can that be? Compelled to investigate, he quickly realizes there is a connection even though the deaths are 15 years apart. Leo, Diana, Maura, and Rex were all members of Westbrook High School’s Conspiracy Club. The club members took a particular interest in a nearby secret military facility. What is the connection? Were they all murdered? What is the relationship between the deaths, then and now, and the secret military facility? Don’t Let Go is intense, fast-paced, and suspenseful as layers of lies, secrets, and deceit are slowly revealed.

Recent Read: Kill Devil Falls

Kill Devil Falls

Kill Devil Falls is a town on its final breaths of life. A former mining town whose water has been contaminated; it’s a cold and hostile place in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There is no cell phone service, no main roads in or out, and the electrical power is iffy. The town’s main street is loaded with potholes and consists mostly of a lot of empty, dilapidated buildings and trailers. The few folks still living there are a strange collection of oddballs, deviates, and creeps.

Into this hellhole comes U.S. Marshall Helen Morrissey, sent there on a last minute assignment to transport prisoner Rita Crawford, back to Sacramento where she and her boyfriend Lee Larimer have been on a spree of robberies.  One night while on the run, Rita takes the stolen money and high tails it off to Kill Devil Falls leaving Larimer in the wind.  In town, she is apprehended by the local sheriff, Big Ed and his deputy, Teddy, who happens to be his son.

After filling out the required paperwork to transfer Rita into her custody; ready to take her back to Sacramento, Helen discovers her car won’t start. Has it been tampered with? This is just the beginning of a wild ride of terror and death. Rita is the first to die, but far from the last, and Helen soon discovers she’s on her own, isolated, with no one to trust, and fighting to stay alive.

Kill Devil Falls moves at a breathless speed with surprising twists and turns along the way. The author plays it cool with his cast of disturbing in-bred characters. You’re never certain which of them is the crazed psycho killer, or just creepy unscrupulous opportunists trying to get their hands on the money left behind by the late not so lovely Rita.

Recent Read: Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story.

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What I liked best about Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story is how it went beyond the standard “making of” books that have previously come out. Critic Chris Nashawaty spends about a third of the book giving us a history of the rebellious new anti-establishment comedy that was in the air. They came from the Harvard Lampoon, National Lampoon, Chicago’s Second City, and Saturday Night Live. By the time of National Lampoon’s Animal House they all came together, both behind and in front of the camera.

After the success of Animal House, Hollywood was hot for another film from the same sources. The result was a way too long 199-page screenplay by Brian Doyle-Murray, Doug Kenny, and Harold Ramis. The problems only built from there. Filmed in Florida, away from the prying eyes of the studio, first time director, Ramis, co-writers Kenny and Doyle-Murray along with cast members Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Rodney Dangerfield began to improvise. After all, that’s what they did best. Well almost best, What they did best was drugs; pot and cocaine flowed throughout the entire shoot. The set was one big party! According to the author, the only person on the film who was straight was Ted Knight!

Somehow, thanks to the free-flowing improvisational skills of cast members like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and the writers, a disjointed film was made. Many people have complained the film has no plot, and scenes are not connected. They are more like skits. That’s all true, and that is what the studio heads thought after watching the way too long rough cut. They were very nervous. Something needed to be done. That’s when they brought in the gopher!

Nashawaty gives the readers plenty of juicy, outrageous details and background information to enjoy. However, it wasn’t all fun and games; there is a dark sadness overshadowing it all as we follow the meloncholy road of the comic genius Doug Kenny; his depression and drug use accelerating out of control. Kenny would die in Hawaii just one month after the film was released.

Caddyshack is not as funny as Animal House, the studio at first thought they had a disastrous financial bomb, but it made money, thanks mostly to the performances of Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield. Over the past four decades it has picked up a cult following, and phrases from the film (Be the ball!) have become mantras, at least for golfers.

If you are a die-hard Caddyshack fan, the book is a must, though you may notice that if you own the DVD, some of the information is not all new. If you are not a Caddyshack fan, the book is still a good look at movie-making during those crazy, hazy days.

Recent Read: Strip Tease

StripFlorida is a house of hilarious horrors. Just live here for a while, and you will discover that Carl Hiaasen’s outrageous characters are not that far from the truth. Strip Tease is a wild, murderous trip filled with strippers, unscrupulous lawyers, and crooked, self-serving politicians.

Erin Grant works in a “Gentlemen’s Club.” She needs to raise money to fight a court appeal as she attempts to get back custody of her daughter from her sleazy ex-husband. Hey, don’t be judgmental, everyone has to make a buck the best way they can. The evening activities start out like any other at the club until a drunken party-goer (it’s his bachelor party) jumps up on stage and begins groping one of the dancers. In the audience, that night is Florida Congressman Dave Dilbeck who jumps on stage and start plummeting the drunk with a champagne bottle. Not exactly the best of timing for any politician who should remain in the shadows and unrecognized in this kind of situation. After all, it is an election year. This incident sets off a series of events that include a wild assortment of crazies including political fixers, a wheelchair stealing drug addict ex-husband, scam artists, a variety of roaches, bugs and yogurt, and naturally murder. Despite the odd array of people Carl Hiaasen includes, he makes them believable. Most likely, because it’s set in Florida where a wide assortments of wacky types seem to flock, or maybe it’s the Sunshine State’s overbearing heat that bakes a normal person’s brain. Either way, Hiaasen hilariously captures it all. An entertaining fun read.

 

Recent Read: The Neighbor

The NeighborAs a state, Maine, one of my favorites to visit, has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, yet it is flourishing with writers in the mystery/suspense/crime genre. I am not sure why that is, but author Joseph Souza is one of those authors, and his new thriller may just keep you up way past your bedtime.

Just published, The Neighbor, takes place in Dearborn, Maine and asks: how well do you know your neighbors? How well do they know you, and how well do you know your spouse? If you are like the two narrators in this fast-moving psychological suspense thriller, the answer is probably not as well as you think.

Souza never lets up the pressure leaving you, really forcing you to turn page after page wondering what happens next? What perverse secrets will be revealed? It’s a dark and winding road filled with characters who all have a box full of secrets and lies they are keeping to themselves.

The dual narrators are husband and wife Clay and Leah Daniels, recent transplants to Maine from Seattle. Their neighbors are Clarissa and Russell Gaines, a black couple. Clay has kick-started his dream job of opening up a craft beer brewery. Leah, a stay at home Mom, is hoping for a friendly neighborhood with friends for both of their two kids and herself. Neighbors Clarissa and Russell Gaines have careers at the local university. They are also not very neighborly. Leah finds herself left alone in a deserted, still undeveloped neighborhood. Lonely, Leah starts doing things that good neighbors don’t do. Clay does things a good husband shouldn’t do. In the process, secrets best left hidden for all begin to unravel.

Reading The Neighbor is  like riding a twisty out of control roller coaster that you will not want to get off as you watch everyone’s lives crumble and their dark and haunted pasts all come colliding together.

Summer Reading 2018

Okay, though the title states Summer Reading, some of these titles have recently been published. That said, here are a few the books I am looking forward to reading over the coming months, if I don’t get sidetracked by other recently published books that I am currently not aware of and really get excited about. You probably know how that can easily happen. You plan on reading one book and another pops up that is a must read right now! Most of the books on the list are crime/suspense/mystery reads (no surprise). I also included a collection of short stories and a film book. Feel free to let me know what you are reading or plan to read.

Old Black Magic

I am always doubtful when another author takes over a series by an author who has passed on. Generally, it’s best to let the series be. Robert B. Parker’s estate, like a few others, decided to continue  with three of Parker’s most beloved characters: Spenser, Jessie Stone, and Vigil Cole and Everett Hitch, each with their own author.  Old Black Magic is Ace Atkins seventh Spenser book and the author captures Parker’s style as close as possible. I have enjoyed his previous works in the series, and am looking forward to reading the latest which came out on May 1st.

The Neighbor

I am currently reading Joseph Souza’s latest, and have read enough of it, half at this point to tell you The Neighbor will keep you up past your bedtime. We have two narrators, husband  and wife who have different views of the truth, and both with secrets to hide. This is a story filled with twists  upon twists making you question whose truth to believe, and how well do you know your spouse, yourself and your neighbors. Everyone has  secrets, and if exposed…

A dark psychological thriller. Now available.

Kill Devil Falls

Not familiar with this author or book, but came by it from author June Lorraine Roberts  in her review over at her website, Murder in Common. You can read it here. Available now.

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From what I understand,  Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story is more than  another “making of “ book which lately have become rather common. Author Chris Nashawaty  provides a fabulous historical background on all the players and how they came together at a time when comedy was in flux. From Harvard’s National Lampoon and  Chicago’s Second City to Saturday Night Live and eventually the movies with Animal House and Caddyshack this book gives you the lowdownAvailable now.

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From Hardcase Crime in July  comes Understudy for Death, a Charles Willeford novel that has not seen the light of day in almost sixty years. For those not familiar with Willeford, he is a master of  crime books with works like  Miami Blues and Sideswipe. Willeford’s books are  macabre and darkly funny, perfect for the offbeat crazy world of Florida noir.

Florida Lauren Groff

I have not read any previous books by Lauren Groff, but her work has received excellent reviews, and Florida a collection of short stories focusing on the strange, weird state filled with hurricanes, heat, humidity and enough odd characters to fill…well the entire state sounds like an intriguing read. Due date: June 5th.

Turbulance Jun 5

Stuart Woods is a light read, generally enjoyable, and a guilty pleasure. If you are in the mood not to think, but just enjoy, he might be for you. Lately, he has been pumping books out at three or four a year, and they have been uneven, still I have a soft spot for him. Available June 5th.

Money SHot Aug 7th

Another Stuart Woods book,  co-written by Parnell Hall. This features Teddy Fay, a supporting character who has evolved from Wood’s Stone Barrington series. Teddy Fay’s journey from the CIA to dangerous criminal to a Presidential pardon to working in the film industry for Stone’s son is hard to swallow, but he is friends with Stone,  and Barrington leads a charmed life; he’s rich, women are constantly willing to fall into bed with him, he’s friends with the President, and best friends with the  NYC Police Commissioner. Available August 5th.

 

Recent Read: Early Autumn

EarlyRobert B. Parker was at the top of his game in his early books.  Early Autumn was the 7th in the Spenser series and remains one of his best.

Spenser is hired by the mother of  15 year Paul Giacomin to find her son who has been kidnapped by the father. More out of spite than love. In truth, neither parent wants the teen. The boy seems disinterested in life; he does nothing except look at TV. When asked a question he shrugs. With uncaring parents, Spenser determines that if the boy is to survive in life, he needs to become autonomous: independent, learn how to do things for himself.

Spenser takes the young teen up into the woods of Maine, staying at a cabin owned by Susan Silverman, Spenser’s lady. Here Spenser teaches Paul structure, and how to work with his hands. Spenser tells him he needs to finish what he starts and learn what he is good at doing. It doesn’t matter what you do; you just have to have something in your life that is you.

Spenser meanwhile digs up dirt on the parents. The father is involved with mob figures; the mother sleeps around with men and now has a boyfriend who’d doesn’t want the kid around.

This not the typical Spenser crime novel, though Hawk makes an appearance and when Hawks around people die. And there are plenty of the smart-aleck remarks as you expect from our hero. Still, the story is more about Spenser mentoring the teen boy; teaching him to be self-sufficient, learn to live on his own and wanting something for himself in life. As usual, there are vivid descriptions of New England.

Recent Read: The Hangman’s Sonnet

Hangmans-SonnetRobert B Parker’s Jesse Stone is one of my favorite characters. Jesse was once a promising shortstop until he suffered a career-ending injury. After that, Jesse became a police officer with the L.A. Police. He developed a drinking problem (Johnny Walker Black) after his wife Jan left him. It cost him his job. He eventually got the position of Chief of Police in the small fictional Massachusetts town of Paradise; mainly because the town’s political honchos knowing his damaged history thought they could control him. They didn’t know Jesse.

The Hangman’s Sonnet, Reed Farrel Coleman’s fourth book in the series,  picks up not too long after where Debt to Pay finishes with the death of Jesse’s fiance Diana. With Diana death, his drinking, always a problem, has unraveled forcing one on one interventions from co-workers and friends to help Jesse keep his job. Meanwhile, the management team of Terry Jester, one time called Boston’s Bob Dylan, has approached Jesse about a big industry party to be held in Paradise to publicize the release of Terry’s first album in decades. The recordings mysteriously disappeared before its release as Jester himself did a J.D. Salinger at the same time, and has not been heard from or seen since. The few who heard the album years ago say it is a masterpiece and would place Jester in the top ranks of artists.

Meanwhile, two thugs, King and Hump, recently released from prison, break into the home of a wealthy old lady. They have been hired by a third person, to retrieve some important items, they themselves are not even sure what they are looking for which makes the job difficult. The thugs tear up the house as they search. Unfortunately, during the home invasion the elderly woman, tied up and gagged, dies. No one was supposed to die.

Jesse is working the case, trying to hold on to his job, and his drinking problem all at the same time. He eventually comes to the conclusion that somehow the missing Jester tapes and the break-in resulting in the old woman’s death are connected. If he’s wrong, his job could be once again in jeopardy.

 The Hangman’s Sonnet is a fast-paced read, though there may be a little too much time spent on Jesse’s drinking which is full tilt boogie. Coleman though is a good storyteller and he captures Parker’s rhythm and nuances perfectly.