Author Topic: What are you reading lately?  (Read 138627 times)

random axe

  • Concerned Netizen
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 34,984
  • Karma: +92/-20
  • Concern Intensifies
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1560 on: January 07, 2020, 11:36:42 AM »
I read a few detective novels by Jeremiah Healy, an author I only heard of when a customer asked if we had any of his books.  I don't know why I'd never heard of him -- Healy wrote something like a dozen "Cuddy" novels, about an Irish private investigator in Boston, and three novels as Terry Devane, about an Irish female attorney who turns PI, also in Boston.  He was publishing from something like 1984-2003, and the Cuddy novels aren't terribly similar to Robert Parker's Spenser books, but I'd think there was considerable audience overlap.

The ones I read (Blunt Darts, The Staked Goat, Invasion of Privacy) were all fine -- it was easy to read all three of them in the same month, which says something.  The structuring is a little odd, but not broken, and it helps keep them from being too predictable.  They're not stunning, but I'll ready more of them if I see more of them.


Right now, I'm re-reading Wintersmith, by Pratchett, which I haven't read since not long after it came out.  I'm impressed by how little I remember of it.  :lol:  :whatever:

Dr. Leonard HmofCoy

  • I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,759
  • Karma: +205/-69
  • His BRAIN is gone
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1561 on: January 08, 2020, 07:48:39 PM »
I recently read, in rapid succession, "The Broker" by John Grisham, and "The Ghost" by Robert Harris (Enigma, Fatherland, Archangel, etc). What a contrast. The Grisham is so freaking routine as to make me wonder if he's actually far more clever than we ever realized and has come up with an AI to write Grisham novels. My wife was ranting about his consistent, rigidly followed formula. Anyway, it mostly takes place in Italy, which is why we bothered, because we just went there! Anyway.

"The Ghost" is one that it turns out I've read before, duh, but dang, Harris can write creeping dread better than almost anyone. The story is, a hack ghostwriter is retained to write the memoirs of the recently retired and extremely unpopular British Prime Minister (and obvious Blair clone) because the previous ghostwriter fell drunk off the Martha's Vineyard ferry in the middle of the night on a trip no one knew about. Not suspicious at all! And, of course, like in all Harris novels, there's a Big Secret, worth killing to preserve, and the tension ratches up on the main character as he closes in, wittingly or unwittingly, on the answers. Also, utterly formulaic, but so much better somehow than the Grishams that I don't feel bothered by it.

And speaking of formulaic ... well it's not like that, but I read a new Louise Penny Inspector Ganache novel, "A Better Man." I might be done, there, even though I like the characters, the silly little invisible Quebec town, and the murderous office politics in Montreal. But they're all about the same. A bit overwrought. And I should have realized from the title that it was going to be about domestic abuse (oh yeah, that pearl jam song) so meh. Or méh, as they say in Quebec.
"Parasitic wasps laying eggs in other insects is a better love story than Twilight." - :bitzero:
"Anyhow, it was the best sentient food movie since Killer Tomatoes Eat France." - :flipper:
"lee marvin in drag is no way to spread the gospel, son." - TFJ
"It failed. My enemies have been purged." - Sidious
"It's not like there was ever a time I didn't think Rudy Giuliani was a smug gibbering imbecile." - random axe
"*drags taint* Oh cool, I didn't know you could do that." - mo.d

random axe

  • Concerned Netizen
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 34,984
  • Karma: +92/-20
  • Concern Intensifies
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1562 on: January 09, 2020, 01:18:48 PM »
I read Pelican Brief and Time to Kill by Grisham.  Pelican Brief was surprisingly good, although the film was surprisingly bad.  Time to Kill was . . . either just terribly naive or a great example of a First Novel.  But from what I hear, his later novels were of the If You Want More Of That variety.  Eh.

I haven't read Robert Harris.  All we have at the moment is Archangel, which looks like more of an investment than I have time for right now, but I'm gonna watch for The Ghost.

While I was looking, I found a 1972 Harry Harrison spy-thriller called Montezuma's Revenge, apparently one of two about an art expert who works for the CIA.  I had no idea Harrison wrote non-SF.

Dr. Leonard HmofCoy

  • I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,759
  • Karma: +205/-69
  • His BRAIN is gone
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1563 on: January 10, 2020, 03:56:48 PM »
Right, I loved the Pelican Brief, but I can credit myself for having read them all that I've read that one.
"Parasitic wasps laying eggs in other insects is a better love story than Twilight." - :bitzero:
"Anyhow, it was the best sentient food movie since Killer Tomatoes Eat France." - :flipper:
"lee marvin in drag is no way to spread the gospel, son." - TFJ
"It failed. My enemies have been purged." - Sidious
"It's not like there was ever a time I didn't think Rudy Giuliani was a smug gibbering imbecile." - random axe
"*drags taint* Oh cool, I didn't know you could do that." - mo.d

stormneedle

  • Trusted
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,790
  • Karma: +119/-42
  • Nonsense Stuffer
    • Your page here!
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1564 on: January 15, 2020, 09:52:34 PM »
I get that people, me included, don't like the narrator changing in the middle of a series of [audio]books. But I don't need to see two pages of reviews where that's the only thing mentioned! If that's the worst thing that happens to you, count yourself lucky.

But at the moment I'm about halfway through Charlie N. Holmberg's "Smoke and Summons". Subtle storytelling, and the world building accretes as necessary rather than getting all laid out in a long exposition or two. There seem to be similarities in how she writes her characters to her "Paper Magician" series, but I'd have to read them more to make the connections.
“I'm generalizing from one example here, but everyone generalizes from one example. At least, I do.”

random axe

  • Concerned Netizen
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 34,984
  • Karma: +92/-20
  • Concern Intensifies
Re: What are you reading lately?
« Reply #1565 on: February 16, 2020, 01:42:50 PM »
Read a noir thriller called Nobody Move, by big-time well-reviewed author Denis Johnson, who's more famous for a giant Vietnam War novel called The Smoke Tree.

Nobody Move almost seems experimental, like a 'serious' author dabbling in pulp for fun.  A many-time loser who's a compulsive gambler and doesn't seem to have a job gets picked up by an enforcer over a late payment.  The tables turn, and turn again.  Our antihero meets a beautiful woman who's been screwed over too many times, herself, and would like revenge or suicide or something.  The enforcer is hunting them.  Everyone wants revenge on everyone else, more or less, and bad things happen.

The dialogue is witty, sometimes funny.  The exposition is scant, and expert, and often very nicely executed.  This is like a 300-page book with almost everything cut out, but by a truly expert editor.  It reads like Elmore Leonard not bothering to plot, or Dave Barry after a bad divorce and miserably coming down from a month-long alcoholic bender.  It made me think favorably of Harry Crews, Jim Thompson, Donald Westlake.  I didn't get the feeling that Johnson hates the world, but more that his characters do, and that he sympathizes, but . . . that he doesn't care what happens to them.

In fact, the book seems . . . a little . . . not half-assed, but indifferent?  It feels like the last 15% was written much later than the rest of it, and on a deadline, with the author a little tired of it and a little angry that it had to be finished.  I was definitely on board, but the ending was massively unsatisfying. 

It's not a happy ending, and it's not really an unhappy ending.  It just sort of falls apart.  For instance, he keeps alluding to a terrifying character called The Tall Man, who we're told isn't actually tall.  The Tall Man is apparently the most alarming of all of the top gangster's associates.  He finally appears during the race to the climax (such as it is) and in the denouement, and he . . . does almost nothing at all.  He uses a desktop computer, a little.  He tells the femme fatale that he and she are not like other people.  He almost seems to switch sides, but he doesn't.  He's discarded without drama, not killed off but simply set aside, like an unused Kleenex that's been carried in a pocket as insurance but has been there too long without a sneeze coming along.

The whole book sort of whimpers away that way.  It's a balloon that keeps getting inflated but never pops.  Instead, the air farts out because the thing was never tied off.

The rest of the book was pretty excellent, though.  I was hugely admiring of how well the story works with so little exposition.  I'm not good at that, at all, as a writer, myself.  I often see it done badly.  Not here.  Now if only the last forty pages or so could be rewritten, Nobody Move would be magnificent.  :shrug:  It would make a signature Tarantino picture, but . . . yeah, new ending.

So it goes.  Still pretty good, but I'm gonna be irritated about it for awhile.


edit:  I wrote "Quarantino".  I kinda like it, but I didn't mean to.