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: 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: 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.

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.

 

Recent Read: The Killer Inside Me

 

Jim Thompson’s protagonist, deputy sheriff Lou Ford, is slow thinking and a bit on the corny side, at least, that is what he wants everyone in the small Texas town he lives in to believe. He bores people with dull platitudes so he can watch them squirm, and he gets a laugh for himself as they all get sucked into his game. Everybody sees Lou as a good guy, a good ‘ol boy, who wouldn’t hurt a fly. However, in truth, Lou is a violent psychopath with a dark history and a streak of violent behavior that he keeps in control under his regular guy facade…until he can’t.

The novel was published in 1952 when post-war America was drawn to Eisenhower, conformity and white picket fences in the suburbs. Americans were reading books like My Cousin Rachel, The Silver Chalice, and The Caine Mutiny. They weren’t in the mood for cheap paperbacks dealing with alienated,  psychologically damaged killers. It’s easy to see why. Thompson’s first-person narrative forces the reader to go inside the blistering mind of a diabolically crazed killer in a way that most writers cannot even fathom. It’s a chilling, nasty, and at times hard to stomach journey. The Killer Inside Me is noir at it darkest.

Note:

This is the second novel I have read by Jim Thompson. I mistakenly told a few folks on-line The Killer Inside Me was my first. Writing this review reminded me I wrote an article, a few years back, on the film version of After Dark, My Sweet, and at that time had read the book. Okay, that’s about it for true confessions. 🙂  I have attached a link to the After Dark, My Sweet article here if you are interested.