Saturday, December 19, 2015


 Ice Chest by J.D. Rhoades

In this winning caper novel from Rhoades (Devils and Dust and three other Jack Keller mysteries), the Enigma agency’s top model, Clarissa Cartwright, and her entourage fly from New York City to Atlanta, where she’s due to wear a jewel-encrusted bra known as the Ice Chest at a fashion show. Chunk McNeill, a former New York cop, and Zoe Piper, a whiz at using computers to gather intel, lead the team providing security, while Hermione Starr manages the flock of Enigma’s underwear models. Meanwhile, crooks Rafe Valentine, L.B. Gordon, and their associates aim to snatch Clarissa and her multimillion-dollar brassiere with the aid of Branson Suggs, Rafe’s rather na├»ve nephew. Also watching Clarissa is Aldo “the Moose” Cantone, a henchman of an ex-boyfriend of hers, Mario Allegretti, who just can’t accept her leaving him. The grab is made, and that’s when the fun really begins. Chunk and Zoe want to save the innocents, Rafe and L.B. want to get paid, and Mario wants to kill anyone who has touched “his girl.” Other zany characters keep the plot twisting.

Friday, December 18, 2015


Bill Ott at Booklist seems kinda relieved about ICE CHEST: 

Fans can’t be blamed for their furrowed brows when a favorite author decides to change styles. So when action-maestro Rhoades turns away from flawed noir heroes and nonstop overdrive to try his hand at a wacky, Elmore Leonard–style caper novel, well, we can’t help but worry. 

No need, as it turns out. There’s  just enough edge in this gang-who-couldn’t-shoot-straight heist tale to remind us that blood is only an itchy trigger finger away, but connected to those trembling digits are some of the goofiest, oddly sympathetic characters since Brad Smith rigged a horse race in All Hat (2003). The bad guys, including twins who happen to be eunuchs (long story) and a ringleader whose outsize vocabulary has led to delusions of grandeur, plan to kidnap a supermodel who will be wearing a bra studded with $5 million in jewels. On the other side of the scrimmage line are the security chief for the lingerie company; his punky, computer-wizard assistant; and the model’s chaperone, who has some special skills of her own. Oh, and there’s the supermodel’s jealous, mobbed-up boyfriend, too. 

The thing is, every one of these characters could star in his or her own thriller—well, except maybe the eunuchs—and together they comprise an ensemble that delivers nonstop entertainment. Does Rhoades do comic caper novels better than he does high-octane thrillers? Too close to call. 

Thanks, Bill! I think I'm going to add "action-maestro" to my business card.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dispatches From the Lunatic Gun-Humping Fringe

In response to the latest column, a frequent commenter had this to say:

So Dusty, can you tell me what "high powered" weapons were used please since I haven't read what they were???? Or do you even know? Can I presume that you will tell me that they used "high powered assault weapons"?? That would be a lie of course and I expect Mr. Nagy would not approve of you lying, right? So would you please answer my question? I'll thank you in advance. This is Frank, of course, and I'm sure you remember me. Merry Christmas, Dusty.

This commenter, who goes by the online handle of "skylinefirepest" , is actually a gun-humping lunatic named Frank Staples (he's actually proudly used his real name in the comments once or twice, so i give him credit for at least that much).

One of Frank's many deranged obsessions is making sure that no one in print calls an AR-15 or other long gun used in a murder an "assault rifle." I'm not sure why this particular bug is so far up Frank's ass, but you'll notice that he's so hung up on it that he feels compelled to make an angry denunciation of a term I have not used. 

Frank also knows that I'm barred from responding, but that doesn't stop him from demanding answers from me in the comments section. Whether or not this makes him an asshole is left to the reader. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Difficult Problem, Bad Solutions

The Dec. 2 murders of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., and the Nov. 14 killings of three people, including a police officer, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs are chilling examples of the kind of terrorism that seems the most impossible to prevent.
Both were murderous rampages by people who, for the moment, can’t be tied to a specific directive or widespread plot from any particular organization. Instead, what we seem to have here are deranged individuals with nearly unlimited access to high-powered weapons and enraged by inflammatory rhetoric that tells them who the enemies of God are.
It’s hard to imagine how such a plot might be disrupted. Specific plans and instructions from an organization might be intercepted, or members of the conspiracy might have an attack of conscience or otherwise be turned to inform on and break up the plan.
It happens all the time. But how do you find out about a plot that festers in someone’s living room or in some primitive hut on a North Carolina mountainside, under the radar of everyone, including even the killers’ families in the case of the San Bernardino attack?
A difficult problem, to be sure. So, of course, you can count on our politicians to come up with totally wrong solutions.
Take, for example, Donald Trump. The current Republican front-runner has suggested that the solution is to just bar all Muslims from coming to the U.S., until, and I quote, “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This apparently includes Muslim-Americans, born in this country and therefore citizens, who are out of the U.S. when Trump’s Super Huge and Classy Iron Curtain comes down.
OK, let’s just address one thing right off the bat. If you’re going to use as your end date some mythical time when “our country's representatives can figure out what is going on,” then you might as well go ahead and say “forever.”
But the biggest problem with The Donald’s latest brain-spew is … well, let’s let another famous Republican explain it: “I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say, ‘No more Muslims,’ and just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”
You know who said that? The Dark Prince himself, Dick Cheney. Let me tell you something, folks: When even Dick Cheney tells you you’ve gone too far, you need to slow your roll. It’s like having Keith Richards and Axl Rose do an intervention to tell you you’re doing too many drugs.
In any case, Cheney is right. The idea that we deny people, even American citizens, rights based on religion is not only repugnant, but it also violates the U.S. Constitution that Trump and people like him claim to revere, even as they trample all over it.
And, of course, nothing in the Trump proposal would have done a thing to stop Robert Dear, the Planned Parenthood terrorist. Remember him? Everyone else, including the so-called liberal media, seems to have forgotten.
Unfortunately, The Donald is not the only one with a bad idea to thwart so-called “lone wolf” terrorism. President Obama, apparently frustrated by the inability of Congress to even provide for expanded background checks for prospective gun buyers, suggested that maybe we can at least bar people on the TSA’s “no-fly” list from owning firearms.
Now, on the surface, this makes sense. I mean, if you can’t even get on a plane because you’re a suspected terrorist, you shouldn’t be able to own a gun, right? There’s only one problem. For years, the “no fly” list (actually several lists) has been a fiasco, a Kafkaesque nightmare where people are pulled out of line by security, subjected to “enhanced” searches and interrogation, and even denied flights for reasons which no one can or will explain.
Those people include a pilot told he couldn’t board the plane he was supposed to fly, a former U.S. attorney with a “top secret” clearance, and a 5-year-old child, all of whom have names similar to people on the list. Maybe if the various watch lists could be fixed, they might serve as an indicator of who shouldn’t own guns, but since it’s illegal to even reveal who’s actually on them, I don’t see that happening.
The “lone wolf” terrorist problem isn’t going to be solved by simplistic solutions. It’s certainly not going to get solved by fomenting more hate and fear, whether that be against Muslims or against women’s health providers falsely accused of “selling baby parts.” You can’t legislate that, and you can’t control the hate and fear spewed by radicals. But you can call on the people who want your votes to avoid adding to it.