Saturday, June 04, 2005

Quote of the Day

The Huffington Post | The Blog: "Seeing that approval for his overhaul plan has been steadily going down in the polls as he roams our country looking for pre-selected audiences to which he can stump, I fear he's becoming a bit of an obsessed stalker, desperately trying to get us to agree to go out with him. The only problem is that when the President's the one stalking you, it's like having a stalker who keeps sending you bills to reimburse all his travel, lodging, and expenses, as well as all charges incurred by his enormous staff and security detail."

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Pistol Poets, Victor Gischler

Victor Gischler's second novel reminds me in some ways of the work of Carl Hiaasen. It's the same kind of darkly humorous tale, with a wickedly sharpened satirical point to it. The target that Gischler skewers--small-college academia and the scruffy intellectual losers and posers that inhabit it--is a smaller target than Hiaasen's Florida land-rape culture, but it's still a fat and juicy one.
Harold Jenks, small-time urban drug dealer on the way up, decides to ditch the life of crime and make off with the identity of Sherman Ellis, a young, hopeful inner-city kid with a scholarship to Eastern Oklahoma University. Sherman won't be missing said identity, because he's just been killed in a robbery by Jenks' dimwitted associate Spoon. Unfortunately for Jenks (and Spoon), he also decides to make off with a bag full of cocaine belonging to their boss, Red Zach. After all, a college student's gotta make ends meet somehow.
Meanwhile, visiting EOU perfesser Jay Morgan has problems of his own, namely a coed dead of a drug overdose in his bedroom. He'd like to keep it quiet, but this bizarre old man with a mysterious past and a notebook full of gritty (and really good) poetry has suddenly appeared in his living room, along with his loyal henchman and another coed who may actually be batshit crazy. Throw in a sleazy PI looking for the dead girl, a pair of feuding professors, two students in way over their heads, and a small town redneck drug pusher hoping to score big. Mix with Harold Jenks and his troubles. Sit back and watch the fun.
It's not a perfect book; the PI character goes from Sleazy Loser to Evil Bastard a little too quickly for me to buy, and Gischler himself slyly acknowledges a bit of deus ex machina near the end. But the book's huge fun to read, and I'm really looking forward to getting Suicide Squeeze, the next Gischler book...which, from the excerpt at the end of the paperback Pistol Poets, appears to target yet another entirely different and absurd world, that of big time sports memorabilia. The man do be versatile.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


from Daily Kos: "The U.S. Army has a new program that will allow soldiers to leave the service a couple years before their full four year contract is up. They can leave early. This is based on a plan developed by President Bush when he was in the National Guard."
-- Jay Leno

Monday, May 30, 2005

River of Darkness, Rennie Airth

One of the things I'd like to use this blog for is to recommend books that I've enjoyed. Don't expect to always see the newest and hottest books discussed. What I pull from the TBR pile is influnced by a number of factors, including the phases of the moon. I'm sometimes interested in the Next Big Thing, but not always.

And, unless a book is so particularly loathsome that I feel duty bound to warn the public as one would warn them of a virulent strain of botulism, I'll probably stick to books I like and leave out the ones I threw across the room in disgust. Mostly.

So, on to River of Darkness by Rennie Airth, a book I bought new on the recommendation of Michael at Kate's Mystery books in Boston. Thanks, Michael.

The serial killer genre has been, you should pardon the expression, done to death in recent years. Every other book seems to be about twisted creeps with awful pasts doing people in in nasty ways, while being pursued by brilliant detectives and/or psychologists who will catch the monster if they can just figure out the theme that binds the bizarre and gory crimes together. It's a tough genre to keep fresh.

River of Darkness has a lot of the stock elements: The Investigator who's Seen Too Much; The Eager Young Constable who follows him about; The Profiler Who Explains the Criminal's Mind; and of course, the Villain himself, who kills from a compulsion born out of his twisted past. Yet Rennie Airth is a gifted enough writer that he manages to keep you turning the pages.

The book is set in England shortly after World War One, and Airth renders the atmosphere of that place and time beautifully. He makes you feel the melancholy caused by the horrendous losses of the war and the effect that those losses had on the psyches of the people who survived, particularly Inspector John Madden, a veteran of the trenches trying to shake off the nightmares. But Airth also shows the slowly dawning atmosphere of hope after the end of the "War to End War," a hope made all the more poignant because the reader knows of the even greater horrors over the horizon.

It's a great book, and I recommend it. I understand that The Blood Dimmed Tide, the second Madden novel, is coming soon. I'll definitely be lookng for it.