Tommy Red

Tommy Red
The Progressive Killer

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Book Reviews: The Road to Matewan by William Trent Pancoast and Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy … Movie Review: Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation … Keep it in perspective, please.

Amici:


The Road to Matewan by William Trent Pancoast … imagine communities living the pastoral life, in tune with their environment and at peace with their neighbors. It existed in the mountains of West Virginia prior to coal mining, prior to the industrial progress that ultimately destroyed both the land of those same mountains and the lifestyle of their communities. Pancoast’s fine novel begins mid-destruction, when Thomas Greene’s family is confronted with the onslaught of coal mining progress and the decay of life as he knew and enjoyed it. An intelligent man, Thomas sees the writing on the wall, and before his ultimate fleeing the land he so loved, circumstances put him in contact with a manager of one of the mines where the company not only houses its labor, it provides them with script, their only source of income, which is useless off company grounds. It is to be spent in company stores, and is far worse than any form of welfare known to man. Script is earned with blood, sweat, and tears, and can be taken away for no more an infraction than getting injured on the job or mentioning the word union. It is that level of greed that is the road to Matewan and the massacre that occurred there in 1920.
 
Company housing and script are forms of slavery making a comeback today as our economy drifts closer and closer to a modern form of feudalism where West Coast truckers are experiencing a similar fate (i.e., where companies finance or refinance the trucks and later repossess same as drivers fall further into debt). Matewan is the town where the coal miner wars of 1920 began, and the novel provides a wonderfully graphic overview of the conditions that lead to the coal mine strikes as the United Mine Workers Union attempted to gain support in the western most portions of West Virginia.
 
Thomas Greene’s family suffers, but not nearly as badly as so many of those beholden to the jobs they signed on for, including a life under script conditions and the brutality of non-regulated capitalism (what America seems determined to return to today). Ultimately, as conditions worsen for mine workers and the abuses of the employers increase to include hiring professional thugs (Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency) as muscle, the natural occurrence of a revolt is imminent. Thomas Greene makes the move away from life on the mountain, makes sure his children are educated, and although they prosper, he and his wife long for the life they knew and loved best.
 
An engaging read start to finish … and if your blood doesn’t boil for the conditions heaped up on workers doing such a dangerous and self-destructive job, check your pulse.
 
The story behind this book is best described by the author himself: “Appalachia, its coalfields, and especially the Tug Valley, are an American tragedy. When the liars and thieves representing the land and coal companies set about stealing the land from its pioneer owners, no one could have envisioned the feudal state that would be imposed upon the mountaineers of West Virginia. I know how important the history of the Tug Valley is to me, and I have seen how important that history is to the people who were uprooted, and to the descendants of those who stayed. Therefore, The Road to Matewan.”
 
 
 
Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy … this has to be my favorite William Kennedy novel (and that’s saying a lot). A brilliant touch of Cuban-American history, with a touch of Ernest Hemingway at the Floridita and some Santeria, the Cuban revolution (Batista vs. Fidel), Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the race riots of the late 60s, and so much more. From Albany, the protagonist Quinn’s stomping ground, to Cuba and back, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes is the master, William Kennedy, at his very best. Cynical, comical, emotional, raw, violent, sensual … you name it, you’ll find it in this exciting trip through some of the most clever dialogue ever penned, as Quinn (the journalist) falls for Renata (the gorgeous revolutionary who worships Santeria and desires Batista’s death) and the sparks fly.
 
Kennedy is quick and clever and sophisticated and exciting to read, especially when he blesses us with a page or two of straight dialogue that is so witty and tight, we long for more as we turn each page. The history lessons you get from this one are a bonus.
 
 

 
Birth of a Nation by Nate Parker … I guess I wasn’t aware of the controversy regarding the director/writer/actor’s sexual assault case during his college years, but maybe that’s a good thing, because I was able to watch the film without those lingering thoughts. I thought the film was very good and will likely watch it again. I thought the title couldn’t be more appropriate. It makes one wonder how African-American families today aren’t arming themselves for some of the blatant injustices heaped on them by law enforcement that simply go unpunished if not rewarded. When videos aren’t enough, one has to wonder what the hell is.
 
I thought this movie about 10xs better than the Oscar winner from a few years ago, 12 Years a Slave, the one the academy felt was a good choice to be the token bone thrown to the black community as Best Picture. Then again, there’s something about a revolutionary movement, whether it’s quelled or not, I find much more alluring than happy endings reinforcing the institutions to blame for some many of society’s ills.
Don’t blame the tweets … that’s right, amici, it isn’t the tweets that are the problem. We know what Trump is. We knew it before he was elected, so let’s KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE, PLEASE. Read the article here: 
 
From the article: “Despite Trump’s own warning a mere two years ago that ‘we should stay out of Syria,’ he now finds himself hip-deep in Syrian blood with no apparent aversion to his predicament. I’m not sure about the percentage of bleeding women amid the daily carnage in Syria, though it seems to be enough to whet Trump’s appetite for destruction.”
 
The above article reflects pretty much what Democrat loyalists did for eight years under Barry. They ignored everything, maybe because they felt they did the right thing electing a mixed-race president? He was good-looking, he said the right things, he had charisma up the wazoo, and his family was something special to root for. Ignored was the politician he proved to be by not taking positions 131 times as a senator. Ignored was what he didn't do while president. I think it is more that Democrat voters were happy enough it was their party in power and that's literally all that mattered to them. Pathetic really, but that's where we are. I don't find Trump’s "blood" tweets all that offensive as I do funny, but funny because this is what our government is comfortable with, a bad joke. Hillbots ignored her war crimes the same as they ignored Barry's the same as Republicans will ignore this moron's killing. Very frustrating.
 
Too many of us (Americans) have become VERY complacent with the killing our military is ordered to do across the globe. Where are the anti-war protests? Where is the shared angst at a war that has gone on for fourteen years and expanded dramatically over that time? Where is the angst at all the disasters we've caused? Is it because our kids are no longer drafted and there is a wealth of unemployed to volunteer? Is it because Covfefe's tweets are more offensive?
 
He's an asshole. We all know that. Those who defend his actions are lost causes, so don't bother arguing with them. They're beyond ignorant. They wear their ignorance with pride (and think they're tougher for it---how pathetic is that?). The much more relevant issues are the killing we continue to do in the Middle East, the meddling WE do everywhere, and the economic protections being put in place to secure the wealthy their stranglehold over our government.
 
I don't "hate" America, so if you're that fucking stupid to believe so, move on, please. Americans need to do some serious self-reflection. Whether you're Christian, Muslim, Jewish, whatever the fuck ... think about what we ignore and what enrages us. Think about how bad off we as a nation are to have just gone through an election between a criminal and a con-man. Think about where we're headed.
 
It's time to give up on the lesser of two evils bullshit. It's time to DEMAND more from ourselves and those we elect to represent us.
 
—Knucks
 
What a GREAT Band … and song. The Allman Brothers Band … Not My Cross to Bear.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Book reviews: Craig McDonald’s The Running Kind … Joseph Haske’s North Dixie Highway … Politics: The AfterBern …

Amici:
The Running Kind by Craig McDonald … crime novelist Hector Lassiter is reunited with an old mate from prior adventures in the Lassiter series, Jimmy Hanrahan. It’s 1950 and too close to Christmas when Hector and Jimmy (a cop) are huddled indoors from an Ohio blizzard and a young girl approaches Hector with a plea for help. Her mom and aunt are in danger because one of them is a Cleveland mafia boss’s wife and the other his girlfriend (comare—pronouced Goomarr if you’re from the East Coast). Hector’s been having a few with Jimmy, but there’s no way he’ll deny the young girl’s request for help. A battle quickly ensues, which is the start of a cross country adventure that involves several notables, to include Elliot Ness and J. Edgar Hoover (and his G-men), still ambivalent about this so-called mafia thing (which is about to hit the television airwaves). There’s also an appearance by a young Rod Serling, and by adventure’s end, old Blue eyes himself, accompanied by the woman he couldn’t wait to own (and never would), Ava Gardner. Frank is there with a message from Momo (Sam Giancana).
 
As it turns out, the mom and comare have something on the mob boss and are looking to turn witness, which is a tough sell when there are so many in law enforcement enthusiastically on the mob’s payroll. It’s one treachery after another, until it becomes the safer play to head out of town. It is in Missouri where Hector, who’s already had a little fling with one of the two women (the mother or the girlfriend?), and winds up falling for the mother of the mother, as did this reader, has to draw battle lines.
 
It’s a raucous ride wherein Hector is eventually matched up against a hitman with a scary nickname and mad tracking abilities. Seems everybody is running in this terrific read, and one can only hope Hector can make it back alive for the life he’s often dreamed of, and with a woman he’s always hoped he’d fine.
 
It’s a start to finish thriller featuring honorable men in a dishonorable world of corruption. Hardboiled and ready to burst, with a wonderful touch of Americana and celebrities. One more from a wonderful series—a hell of a read.
 
An extra bonus (at least for me) was the dedication.
 
 
 
 
North Dixie Highway by Joseph Haske … This one quickly became one of my favorite reads of the year, and I look forward to this author’s future works. Buck Metzger is back from the conflict in Bosnia and he’s having problems with the changes that happened at home since he left. Sleep doesn’t come easy, even when he drinks himself into a stupor in his car. He’s haunted by a life he no longer recognizes, and he’s unsure of what his world is supposed to be now that he’s home—home being the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Home is as rural as it gets, except a lot colder in the winter. From an initial ride with family men to a casino where copious amounts of liquor are consumed and tiny stakes of coin are lost (a great touch because it shows just how poor these people are), we are drawn into an unforgiving world where steady employment has fled the scene, and living off the land and/or what swims in the river is more often a must than not. And booze, of course, there’s always booze where employment suffers most, and Buck’s people are no slouches when it comes to consuming alcohol.
 
Metzger’s story is told in flashbacks from his youth, with lessons learned from hard men living hard lives. It is family loyalty over all else, with whatever is necessary to maintain the code, be it feuding, drinking, and/or promises of revenge. Buck loves his family, no matter the makeup. He’s learned much from his grandfather, from survival skills to a code of honor that offers no excuses. He’s also learned much from his Vietnam veteran dad, including a cruel-to-be-kind slaughter of wild animals when they show up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bear scene alone was worth the price of entry into this state of nature world that exists alongside and within two centuries of progress.
 
Buck reads to sustain his sanity, and although his friends and family can’t understand the point in doing so while living in a world where it seems to serve no purpose, it is a form of salvation for a man trying to find himself. The old family feud involving the death of his grandfather often consumes his being, but there’s a lesson learned in that dilemma as well.
 
Ultimately, Buck tells the story of his family and the community they live in, where cold-heartedness and compassion do not mix well. It is not a world devoid of compassion, however, and the men and women (women every bit as hard as the men), provide it in doses when necessary.
 
Comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Woodrell are justifiable, although I was also reminded of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s wonderful works. There’s a special place on one of my bookshelves at Casa Stella for novels like North Dixie Highway, and Haske’s debut takes its proper place there. Simply put, it is a wonderful read, recommended and sent to me by Gonzalo Baeza. Haske’s debut novel is an intriguing read at least equal to the best of his contemporaries, to include McCarthy, Woodrell, and Campbell.
 
 
 
Feeling the Bern … Assuming Herr Drumpf survives the various investigations seeking to topple his never ending buffoonery, assuming he makes the Over in a 2 year Over/Under, what comes after Trump? Will there be a Trump II?
 
I’m afraid this is where progressives and/or socialists like myself are feeling the worst of the AfterBern. After the fiasco that was the 2016 Democrat presidential primary, with all that was exposed, and all that is being covered up in a Florida courthouse where former Berners are seeking restitution from the DNC in a FRAUD case for being robbed of our coin, we’re left wondering what might have been. Not if Sanders had won the nomination and then presidency. I’ve never been sure Sanders would’ve beaten the Clown currently occupying the White House, mostly because patriotism, with our collective ignorance, is an easy sell. What troubles those like myself most about the Sanders revolutionary retreat was the missed opportunity for a viable third party.
 
There’s no denying the strength of the Sanders’ influence in the political arena last year. His message woke up a population used to sleeping through the process, but his eventual capitulation to a party that rejected him to the point of cheating was something many of his new and old supporters have yet to digest. Sanders supporters were selflessly loyal, reaching into their own pockets to fund his campaign over and again, so when the Wikileaks dump exposed how unfairly his campaign was treated, and just how corrupt the entire process is, many Sanders supporters rejected his plea to back the establishment candidate. Some didn’t vote. Others voted Green. And some voted for her opposition. Protests votes all, but all very effective in rejecting Hillary Clinton.
 
What is most disconcerting about the Sanders capitulation is what might have been. Had Sanders joined the Greens, or went solo and formed a Labor Party, any third party, I’m pretty sure at least half of the 14 million who voted for him in the primary would’ve gone with him. At the very least, he would’ve had a place on the debate stage where he could’ve gone after both Clinton and Trump without DNC handcuffs. At the very least, there would be a viable third party to push forward now, when it is obviously most needed.
 
In retrospect, I have to believe he was never serious. His reluctance to be another Ralph Nader, what he’s stated, is a pathetic excuse for people seeking political revolution.
 
While none of us know what will happen down the road, so far the DNC doesn’t look any more interested in shifting to the left now as it did during their fake primary. Those who supported Sanders remain on the outs. Those who supported Clinton cling to the nonsensical Russian conspiracy as the reason for her loss.
 
In the meantime, Progressives like myself dig our heels deeper. There will be no more a compromise in 2018 or 2020 than there was in 2016. The DNC has retained its corrupt super delegate format, allowing lobbyists to vote alongside establishment politicians to overturn the voice of their own electorate. How does anyone stay with a party that ignores its voters?
Make no mistake, we’ll be around to remind the public how voters in several states might as well stay home come the next Democrat Presidential primary, when super delegates get to ignore wins as big as 12%, 22%, or 88% of the registered democrat voters within each state.
I offered a compromise the DNC so badly needs, but I suspect it too is in vain. Rather than exile Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, how about embracing her efforts to do the right thing during the primary and excuse herself from her co-chair position with the DNC rather than hand off debate questions to the DNC’s choice for nominee? How about one giant apology for the scathing letter sent to her by the DNC for her support of Sanders? (Thank you, Wikileaks.) How about backing off the attacks on Nina Turner (who would be my choice to reform the sewer that is the Democrat Party)? How about a Turner-Gabbard or Gabbard-Turner ticket? Do you really want to shatter glass ceilings? Well, there it is.
 
Pretty much everyone outside of Sanders sycophants feels as though the Bern left us scorched for all our efforts and coin. Bernie, while continuing his political revolutionary rhetoric, no longer retains our faith or support. We know Bernie talks a great game, but to many of us, he’s proved himself just another good democrat. We can only hope that people like Nina Turner and Tulsi Gabbard leave the mess that is the Democrat Party to establish a third party with the help of former Berners. We were generous with the Sanders campaign only to get doubly screwed. Many of us on the left have pledged to never give our money to any Democrat candidate again. Not while the party maintains super delegates and operates like a third rate, desperate, mafia family waiting for the other party to fall apart.
 
There’s nothing about the current Democrat Party that inspires. Leaving it seems the way to go, and with Hillary Clinton continuing her excuse/blame tour (currently having the nerve to attack the very organization that rigged the primary for her -- the DNC), it seems her latest round of "Me, Me, Me" will continue to tear the party apart.
 
 
—Knucks
 
RIP, Gregg Allman … The Allman Brothers Band …

Saturday, March 18, 2017

4 Book Reviews … Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayers … Rubdown by Leigh Redhead … American Static by Tom Pitts … and Hunger Knut Hamsun …

Amici:

Before the reviews, TK regrets to inform its millions of followers that we’ll be taking a temporary break from Temporary Knucksline book reviews for a few months. I’m simply overwhelmed with projects of my own. We’ll do one from time to time, I guess, but please do not send requests or ARCS or books until we announce we’re back in action. Okay, so here are four real good ones in the meantime …

Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayers … Charles “Chowder” Thompson is a rural crime lord, a big fish in a small but secure pond. He has the local law, Sheriff Jimmy Mondale, on his side, along with a couple of cohorts, one of which is feeling ambitious enough to reach toward the bigger fish in the bigger Kansas City pond. Chowder has a daughter rough and tough enough to avoid like the plague. So does Sheriff Jimmy, and although his daughter might be able to spell, she’s also a bit wilder than your average college kid (she likes to fire a gun while getting laid).

Then there’s Terry Hickerson, a supreme fuckup if there ever was one. He also has a cohort, Cal, and when they two aren’t robbing liquor and/or convenience stores, they’re plotting the next great American score, except they may well have pulled one off already. It involved a televangelist preacher, his proclivity for men, and blackmail. Not to be outdone in the family bowl, Terry also has a child, a boy named Wendell, and the author waxes some very humorous parenting via Terry.

Then there’s the apparent gum in the works of a town that has run smooth enough, minus a body or two (including those found burnt to a crisp in their cars) … He’s an assistant state attorney looking to make a name for himself, and he’s rattled the main players on this wonderfully dark rural stage.

What’s a father to do when he learns his daughter has been sexually active with someone they’d rather see dead first? What’s he to do when he also learns his partner’s daughter might’ve had something to do with it?

No spoilers here … Peckerwood features excellent writing, humor, dark that makes so-called “noir” look more albino than black, and some of the most engaging characters you’ll meet on the page. They’re not just mean, cruel, and vicious. Truth be told, you’ll like them, or at least respect them, because they exist in a world where blood comes first, loyalty second, and everything and everybody else are what they sort out, the wheat from the chaff.

Side note: When I first started reading Peckerwood, I thought: These guys make the mob look like cub scouts. It had to do with a particularly brutal scene. By book’s end, I’m forced to reconsider my original thought about rural gangs vs. the more formal mobs. To wit, in the end, they’re all the same. Where they’re successful, corruption holds fast … where they breakdown is where corruption is exposed. The violence, like ISIS beheadings, may be tough as a visual image, but in the end, dead is dead. Whether your head is cut off, you’re burned to death, somebody cracks your skull with a tire iron or Louisville Slugger, or a pair of bullets find their way behind one of your ears, dead is dead.

Get Peckerwood here:


Rubdown by Leigh Redhead … In an age of political correctness that precludes bad habits when speaking and writing (and probably thinking), it was a pleasure to see the word “gash” on the page again. Now, before you lose your shit and hurl “misogynist book reviewer” my way, calm your jets and think context, MFers.

I remember the first time I used that word on the page after meeting my wife. She was horrified (Catholic school girl, you know) … She said to me, she said, “That’s horrible. Do people really talk like that?” Even though she was brought up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (not nearly as tough as Canarsie, obviously), Ann Marie kept her distance from the kinds of crowds I associated with, so she really did draw a blank. “Yeah,” I told her. “Not often, but it’s out there. It’s a niche word, I guess.”

Then she called me an idiot.

By now you’ve figured out Rubdown features said controversial word on the page. It does, and it was a pleasure to see it again. The fact it was used by a female author makes it twice as nice. There’s quite a few politically incorrect words bandied about in this fine, fast, and funny PI crime novel. There’s a touch of the master, Vicki Hendricks, and some wonderful surprises (as those down under words go). It’s another language at times, but easy enough to figure out, and because the character, Simone Kirsch, is a former stripper and doesn’t have much of a filter, it’s a beautiful thing.

The other take I had on this book was, FINALLY, I’m reading a crime novel written by a woman that deals with the kinds of worlds I’m familiar enough with NOT to be offended by so-called misogynistic dialogue. As I stated in a tribute to my favorite crime writer, George V. Higgins, the men AND WOMEN of those worlds (including the Rubdown world) speak another language and are NO LESS men or women for it. It is the Rome they exist in and the language, you better believe, is Roman.

I guess this was the second in the Simone Kirsch mystery series, but it works fine as a standalone. Simone has a PI boss named Tony (the tough as nails type) and they get involved in the search for a missing supposed-to-be debutante (of sorts). The daughter of a high profile lawyer (they call them barristers) is off the reservation, possibly dealing with drugs and the sex industry. Simone is on her tail, except not inside the flat where she apparently kills herself. There’s an ex-boyfriend and his frustrations at failing to get down Simone’s pants/skirt/jogging shorts, etc., and when his current girlfriend gets pissed off enough, well … it’s some of the fun that continues throughout, to include witty sarcasm, some strong sexual tension, and an Aussie-China sex trade connection. The characters that inhabit the sex industry are as sympathetic and/or disturbing as the well-to-do lawyers and their quirks. It always depends on from which angle you get to see them. Ms. Redhead does a GREAT job of making all the peripheral characters in this book interesting, which lends even more credibility to Simone. The fact she has a tongue as sharp as a razor makes it fun to boot.

The author does a wonderful job with the sexual tension (ready, fellas?) … turns out women have the same lustful desires as men, and Simone isn’t shy about them. She’s also fallible, so when she comes very close to being a victim herself, we get to remember she’s one of the good guys (so to speak).

No spoilers here, not ever, but take a bite of this apple and you’re on your way to an entertaining start to finish read. I heard Ms. Redhead read at the Philadelphia Noir at the Bar, and she had the place in stitches at times. She knows how to weave a storyline that draws a reader onto the next page through to the end.

Rubdown is a fast-paced romp through the sex trades of our times, with a dynamic woman armed with witty cynicism and oozing sexuality. Readers are guaranteed to want more of Simone Kirsch as the pages turn with both anticipation and fear. Viva la Ms. Redhead!

Get Rubdown here:


American Static by Tom Pitts … it’s a thriller from very early on straight to the end, with a sadistic SOB (Quinn), a former dirty cop (Trembley), and another former cop, a guy we’d all like to be our grandfather (Carl). When Quinn picks up young Steven after the kid was robbed and left for broke, he takes him for a ride to San Francisco, where the action goes 100 mph to the end. There’s lots of bodies left in a wake of bad blood, and it all has to do with revenge.

Theresa is the woman of the moment in American Static; the daughter of a bad guy[(s)?] with enough clout to make bad things happen. The top dog claiming parental rights is no father of the year, but for some reason he wants his daughter back. Is it because she’s become drug addicted and basically homeless? Is it because he seeks to re-bond with a kid he never bonded with in the first place? Or is it something else? Or is it a combination of all of the above?
 
Orrrrr, is it politics?
 
Let's face it, most politicians "would crawl over their mothers to fuck their sisters" (or vice versa). Okay, but what about why the other guys are after her (her non-fathers ... or are they)? What can this poor kid mean to so many mean sons of bitches? And poor Carl, he’s lost his friend and partner on this wild ride … Can Carl save him? Can Carl save Theresa and Steven? Can he save himself? You’ll have to read to find out, but you’ll take a wild ride from the valley to the streets of San Francisco and wind up in the bowels of Oakland. 

American Static is a missile on a rollercoaster of a ride, dripping with blood from blades through the hearts that are lost in San Francisco. You’ll turn the first few pages and won’t stop. It’s as simple as that.

Get American Static here:

Hunger by Knut Hamsun … It’s difficult to say exactly why this novel took me in and refused to let me go. Is it because I’ve gone through similar states of emotional confusion? Is it because my wheels have often turned too fast for the mind to allow rest (i.e., thinking taking the place of sleeping?) … Was it the good me countered by the bad me feeling guilty the good me wasn’t good for the right reasons and therefore was the bad me after all?

Confused? You might think so, but that’s how much of Hunger reads, minus the tirades, dizziness from lack of food, the vomiting from eating too fast after not eating for too long, etc. All I know is I read a book without a plot that I couldn’t put down, and I’ll likely read it again someday. My Facebook hero, Gonzalo Baaeza, recommended it, and it gets a super star review from me. There was more than a touch of Dostoevsky with our protagonist in Hunger, and the self-torture of a mind at battle with itself was every bit as real as caffeine headaches that last for hours (or days) at a time … but in a good way. In such a good way.

I’ll be revisiting Hunger again, but first I’ll want to read some more of what Hamsun wrote, and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, before dying in disgrace for being a Nazi.

Get Hunger here:

—Knucks

Please Note: Temporary Knucksline will be taking a temporary break from book reviews for a few months while I catch up on some projects of my own. We’ll be back, so stay tuned …


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book reviews … McFetridge, Krueger, Kalteis, and Frankson … Cheatriots, Greatest Ever …

Amici:
One or the Other by John McFetridge … Tensions are running high for the Montreal police a few weeks before the 1976 Summer Olympics. The law is expected to keep the peace for appearance/tourists’ sake, and do their jobs (not just for show). John McFetridge incorporates history, Canadian and world history, like nobody else. There’s some great references to the world that was (1976) throughout this third in a series of Eddie Dougherty mysteries. When a writer can get one to want to do some research on their own, whether it’s because what they just read is interesting or they want verification, it’s a win-win, both for the writer and his reader. McFetridge manages that big time (or is it Big League or Bigly?). Eddie is bucking for detective, and although he’s often put on cases as an acting one, he takes any opportunity to advance to heart. When the bodies of two teenage lovers are discovered on the banks of a river (St. Lawrence), the head honchos in the police department want it off the table as fast as possible. The best way to do that is label it a murder-suicide. Easy enough, except Eddie Dougherty isn’t buying it. Nor is his partner for the case, Sgt. Francine Legault of the Longueuil police (not to worry, I can’t come close to pronouncing Longueuil either). They work the case as best they can, with Eddie stretching the limits of his authority and proper police procedure while his partner (mirroring his girlfriend in many ways) prefers the up and up. Speaking of Eddie’s girlfriend … she’s the lefty, he’s the establishment in their give and take about where to live and when to marry and how much good having a bleeding heart can do in the real world, etc., and it all makes for interesting dynamics.

When Eddie and Legault are pulled from the case, they decide to work it nights/after policing hours, pissing off some of the upper echelon and other police districts. No spoilers here, but if you want a great sense of history, to include Janis Joplin, KC and the Sunshine Band, Idi Amin, labor on strike, an Olympic athlete or two looking for asylum, and the Baader-Meinhof gang, One or the Other is ripe with those bands, incidents, radical causes, and more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, AMICI, a terrific read.


An Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger … This is a terrific read. Forty years down the road, after a particularly bad year (1961) in a small town in Minnesota, Frank Drum, a minister’s son, tells the story of the strange and tragic happenings of that awful year. It is wonderful writing start to finish, something I immediately passed on to my wife (and she’s loving it as well). The tragic death of a young town boy is soon followed by another death, albeit an itinerant nobody knows. Frank and his younger brother, Jake, discover the body of the itinerant and a Native American who they can’t be sure might’ve caused the death of the itinerant. There’s some small town prejudice against the Native American that is heightened because of a policeman who speaks before thinking. The Drums also have a daughter, Ariel, a virtuoso destined to attend Julliard in New York, but suddenly she’s no longer sure it’s what she wants. Mother Drum was once engaged to her daughter’s music instructor, Emil Brandt, a world class musician severely disfigured in the war. Ariel is also transcribing her instructor’s memoir and dating his nephew. Frank catches Ariel leaving the house in the middle of the night and returning in the early mornings. Where is she going? Who is she with? Father Drum, the minister, has a friend who lives in the church basement. Gus and Father Drum went through the Korean War together, and they hold secrets never discussed, although each went in a different direction after the war; Drum to the church and Gus to drink.

No spoilers, but this wonderfully written novel is a pleasure to read. It comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Ride the Lightning by Dietrich Kalteis … Karl Morgen is a bounty hunter. When he finds his prey, Miro, a drug dealer, having his way with an underage girl in Seattle, Karl goes a bit over the top and winds up losing his license. And of course Miro gets off with a suspended sentence.

Karl heads north into the wonderful world of Vancouver, process serving. Ah, Vancouver, “where people settle things with middle fingers instead of guns.” While in Vancouver, he meets his kind of woman, PJ. The two hit it off, but PJ has a daughter who can make one’s head spin, but for all the wrong reasons (like her allegiance to a knucklehead boyfriend).

His old nemesis, Miro, is involved in other drug dealing and wants to set up his old buddy Karl for the embarrassment of being dragged out of a bar (what caused Karl to lose his license). Miro wants a bit more revenge, especially since he’s having to work with people he hates.

It’s a double-edged tale of revenge, because Karl isn’t exactly happy being a process server and would love nothing more than to take Miro down on more time. There’s also an old time gangster, Artie, who prefers spending his waking hours roasting his balls on a beach, but he’s got the clout to do some damage. Miro and Karl want at each other. Artie wants to operate without the law on his back. Vancouver gets the rough and ready treatment, in a tale told by a voice very similar to Elmore Leonard. It’s a fun read with clever dialogue, lots of action, and an intro to that other foreign country on one of our borders (the one without the wall). A fun read, start to finish.


Dark Introductions and Party Girls by Martin J. Frankson … A series of short stories that take dark to a new level, invoking ironic humor at every turn of the page. “Dark Introduction” alone is worth the price of admission, and the stories that follow only enhance the experience. My favorites were “Meet the Parents” (Hannibal Lecter has nothing on this one) and “Stigma and Memory” (the perspective of a plant). You’re into dark, you’ll want to read these. Real good stuff.

 
Cheatriots, Greatest Ever … “The horror. The horror.” Yep, that pretty much sums up most NFL fans’ feelings about the Cheatriots’ absurd comeback in Super Bowl LI. How does a team with a 25 point lead blow the game? Easy, they get cocky and make incredibly stupid play calls (remember the Sea Pigeons?) … and that’s what ultimately cost Atlanta their Super Bowl win.

And the truth of the matter is there’s only one team in the NFL that could’ve pulled that off and they are (as I swallow humble pie) the greatest team in NFL history with the greatest coach in modern NFL history and the greatest quarterback in modern NFL history. If I had to assign a rating to the great QBs in NFL history, Brady would get the 10 and Montana and anybody else you want to put there starts at an 8. And, yes, there is a very valid argument that rule changes since Montana’s playing days dramatically help quarterbacks, but Brady has done it with different teams almost every time.

I can only assume that the Cheatriots are the karma for all my Hillary/DNC hating, and/or there is a God and she/he is making me pay for past sins via the Cheatriots.

They are the greatest ever … and now I hope they all get diarrhea.

—Knucks

Mozart’s Requiem for my hockey team? Oy vey …

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book Reviews: Cemetery Road, by Gar A. Haywood … Family Portrait with Fidel, by Carlos Franqui … Jewish Noir, from PM Press. Movie Non-spoiler Review of Fences, by J.R. Jarrod … The Tweeter in Chief … The Democrat Party’s Suicidal Contortions … Happy Holidays!

Amici:
Cemetery Road by Gar A. Haywood … Although originally published in 2009, Cemetery Road and its author turn out to be one of my best finds in 2016. Character introspection isn’t something I usually favor, but when it’s done with grace and sophistication, it is wonderful.
 
The protagonist and narrator, Errol “Handy” White, tells a tale of guilt and the tragic consequence of best intentions. As a young man, Handy ran with two best friends, R.J. Burrow and O'Neal Holden (a.k.a. O). As young men will sometimes do, they engaged in petty thefts that were as harmless as they were dumb. When a young girl, Olivia, takes one of those regrettable first hits of cocaine, the kind that kill, an act of vengeance via theft becomes a bloodbath of far-reaching proportions. Handy’s brother Chancellor was in love with Olivia, but it was Handy who took her death to heart and felt the person responsible for the cocaine, Excel Rucker, should have to pay. Handy puts a plan of fairly simple vengeance into play, but the unintended consequences affect more lives than Handy or his two best friends could ever have imagined.
 
In the years that have passed, Handy’s background includes a move to Minneapolis and a marriage that bears a daughter, neither of which event has worked out all that well. The author does a wonderful job of teasing the reader while peeling the onion a layer at a time. Handy has issues with his daughter, who has fallen victim to substance abuse and has a burning desire to know who her mother was and where she might be. Handy also has a trip to make, which after a prologue, starts with a return to L.A. for the funeral of one of his two best friends. J.R. was murdered, but over what is the question. J.R. also had a daughter and wife, and although his murder has thus far been deemed a drug incident, J.R.’s wife refuses to accept the assumptions. J.R.’s daughter is a reporter who also has questions, so when Handy shows up and is also unconvinced about the effort the police are making to find his friend’s killer, he does some investigating of his own.
 
Nobody likes politicians, and throughout the novel, we’re not quite sure about O’Neal and/or his role in anything that has happened. He’s become a local mayor with more than old friendships to concern himself with, never mind the cause of one of their deaths. It all has to do with the plan of vengeance Handy proposed to his two friends back in the day. Has it come back to haunt them?  No spoilers here, but the trip the author masterfully takes us on is compelling. Just as Handy’s background issues with his daughter and her mother, the act of vengeance is similarly revealed in stages that will keep readers glued to the page. Handling guilt and searching for some measure of redemption are powerful emotional trips to engage. Haywood takes us on such a trip through his wonderfully articulate and soul searching protagonist, Handy White, but perhaps the genius behind this novel for me was the empathy I felt for Handy’s hot-headed friend, J.R. The ghost of guilt that haunted his entire life was ever present, and it lent all the credibility necessary to understand Handy’s seemingly suicidal quest for redemption.
 
Cemetery Road is smart, sophisticated writing. The collection of starred industry reviews and high praise from newspapers were well deserved back in 2009. Trust me, this baby has staying power. I don’t keep every crime novel I read on the shelves in my writing room at Casa Stella, but this one will take its place on the top shelf along with some of my other favorites.
 
Family Portrait with Fidel by Carlos Franqui … some background on the author is necessary before a review of his sometimes sad and often times hilarious take on Fidel and the revolution that was, then quickly wasn’t. Franqui was born in a cane field and was a member of the communist party. He joined the 26th of July movement headed by Fidel Castro and co-edited the movement (and later the revolution’s) official newspaper, RevoluciĆ³n. Franqui was a writer, poet, journalist, art critic, and political activist who eventually fell out of favor with Castro due to the abandonment of all principle when it came to human rights and democratic power. Forced to leave Cuba, in 1968 he broke ties with the Cuban government (Castro) with a letter condemning the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Family Portrait was recommended by author Scott Adlerberg, and I had a fun time reading Franqui’s take on everything that went wrong under Fidel Castro and his much more vicious brother, Raul. Franqui’s take also reveals what a horse’s ass Fidel was when it came to doing the right thing and defending the principles of his revolution. What he did was consolidate all the power under an almighty, but not nearly as bright as he needed to be, God—Castro himself. He allowed his thug brother free reign of the military, and it was used just as horribly as can be imagined. Settling scores by taking lives is never a good idea.
 
Nor was Fidel nearly as smart as he was charismatic (i.e., Barry and The Donald?), but he was clever enough to play off the superpowers and retain his grip on his country. Surviving 11 presidents is no small feat. Still, his revolution was more a convertible one, unfortunately driving with the top up while destroying any sense of transparency. A thug when it came to culture of any kind, Fidel chose unwisely in repressing the poets and other artists of his culture, along with homosexuals. It is what cost him someone as obviously valuable as Franqui, a true voice of reason, but power is a nasty aphrodisiac and Fidel certainly showed no signs of being immune to it. It is obviously what cost him Che Guevara as well, someone Franqui felt was much more the true revolutionary than Fidel.

This book certainly left me with a more critical view of Fidel himself.
 
A wonderful passage to this informal memoir takes place at the end of Part IV, subtitled “Was Fidel a Communist?” Here’s the passage:
 
“In effect, did the revolution change anything? Yes, everything in the highest echelons of Cuban society changed: the Party-state was the new ruling class. But nothing changed below. Those of us—almost two million—who have suffered through this process know that the monster is not socialism. The word just has no meaning any more. Each side has its buzzwords. Pinochet and Videla always talk about the “free world,” while Kim Il Sung, Teng Siao-ping, Husak, Pan Van-don, and Brezhnev talk “the proletariat,” “popular democracy,” “communism,” “internationalism,” and “free territory.” No one believes these words anymore because everyday reality gives them the lie. The socialist world is not socialist; it’s a world where the people are forced to work and to endure permanent rationing and scarcity, where they have neither rights nor freedoms. If they are taught to read—an essential prerogative if the wall of ignorance is to be destroyed once and for all—they are deprived of the freedom to read what they like. The increase in literacy is more than offset by the increase in the new elite above. There is no equality in education, because the new elite give special attention to the children of Party members and state officials. The same applies to labor. There is no unemployment, because people are made to work at forced labor, in reeducation camps, and in military service. Salaries are not equal and are insufficient.  This goes as well for housing, medical attention, transportation, and food.
 
“Those above enjoy privileges. So there are no more old bourgeois around, so what? There are plenty of bureaucrats who administer, control, and enjoy wealth. Above, everything is different, while below it’s the same old thing. In Cuba, we call this system socialismo.*
 
*There is a pun in which the word socio, meaning “partner” or “buddy,” is blended with socialismo, or ‘socialism.’”
 
 
Jewish Noir from PM Press. I haven’t read all the stories, so I can speak to only those I read and enjoyed. Suzanne Solomon’s use of 2nd person in her story, “Silver Alert,” was wonderful. “Twisted Shikse” by Jedidiah Ayers is probably my favorite in the collection thus far. David Zeltserman’s “Something’s Not Right” was a story (fantasy?) I’m thinking most writers can appreciate, and S.J. Rozan’s “The Flowers of Shanghai” was a history lesson (at least for me) regarding how one might think there couldn’t have been more anti-Semitism in a world gone crazy (WWII). I learned it was prevalent in Japanese-occupied Shanghai as well. Nancy Richler’s “Some You Lose” very effectively deals with the difficulties of summing up one man’s life in a eulogy.
 
 
Fences, a non-spoiler review by J.R. Jarrod … Unlike many of his peers whose marquee status has faded, Denzel Washington can still “open” a movie. He’s one of my favorite movie stars, hands down, and I’m always eager to see his latest directorial endeavors. As if that wasn’t enough, add Viola Davis and material by August Wilson, and it was enough to get me into the theater, but was it enough to keep me riveted … ?
 
The Oscar buzz for this film is not without merit. The performances in this film are densely crafted, utterly humanizing, compelling and worthy of a stride along the red carpet. Standouts are of course Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson – a man haunted by opportunities that might have been – and Viola Davis as his indomitable, selfless wife Rose; among the rest of the cast, Stephen Henderson (reprising his Tony-nominated role as Bono) and Mykelti Williamson (as Gabriel) provide the most engaging supporting performances. (Williamson often steals scenes;  his climactic final line of dialogue is no exception.)
 
Structurally, however, Fences plays like a throwback to Masterpiece Theatre or a made-for-HBO movie of the past. This is primarily because Fences is truly a filmed stage play, substituting real brick & mortar interior and exterior locations for their stage counterparts. We are teased by possible flashbacks, dream sequences and the like, but they never materialize, nor do the walk-ons or other juicy supporting roles evinced in the characters’ lengthy diatribes and soliloquies.  (I’d hazard a guess that Denzel Washington speaks more words in this one film than he has in his entire cinematic career.) With no dam in sight, I found myself quickly drowning in the endless rivers of bombastic dialogue. Any event even remotely dramatic is simply referred to as having taken place off-screen, and the principal cast is never truly untethered from the two-story house, backyard, or locked-down camera. In this respect Fences inadvertently becomes an experimental film (that just happens to boast a stellar cast), but is hardly the cinematic experience I think many are expecting.
 
In cinema, the writer and director must assume their audience is unfamiliar with the world being depicted onscreen; therefore the filmmaker’s duty is to educate as well as to entertain. An example of where Fences fails to educate can be found in Troy’s tirades to his son Cory (Jovan Adepo) about 1950s race relations. Since the screenplay never provides any three-dimensional malevolent, let alone benevolent, white characters (or outsiders of any other race, for that matter), Troy’s rants seem targeted at straw men. Thus, rather than compelling the filmgoer with this tale of Black family life in the 1950s, such narrative and structural deficits serve to distance if not disenchant the filmgoer.
 
Having seen the screenplay, I can attest that it is indeed, for all intents and purposes, still formatted like a stage play, with copious runs of dialogue throughout. While August Wilson’s Pulitzer-prize winning genius can’t be contested, it seems this early stage-to-screen adaptation of his own work was deemed by contemporary producers as too sacrosanct to edit. (There is no other screenwriter credited in this production.) Unfortunately Wilson’s material is revered to a fault. Leaving the screenplay untouched (and the footage most likely minimally trimmed in post-production) was a decision by the producers which resulted in a film that mimics the award-winning play but never uses the semiotic tools necessary to dissect, translate or interpret the play for the cinematic medium. This yielded, in my opinion, an extremely claustrophobic movie going experience.
 
I wanted to love this film … I did. Yet rather than unpack or elevate the material, the artifice of this production undercuts verisimilitude and unintentionally breaks the fourth wall with its lack of cinematic dexterity. Fans of the stage play will find some solace, I’m sure, since they’re essentially getting a stage play redux, albeit in high-definition. Antwone Fisher (2002) and The Great Debaters (2007) are evidence that Denzel Washington is a fine and nuanced director, and though the performances in this film are flawless, I left the theatre feeling that Fences The Movie is unduly haunted by the ghost of August Wilson.
 

 
 
The Tweeter in Chief … or maybe the prestidigitator in chief is more appropriate. While the Orange Blowhard tweets, the media and other Democrat sycophants crack jokes and/or predict a new apocalypse based on the Blowhard’s cast of greedy capitalist/nationalist characters for his cabinet and staff, people who just might remake America in a way the Founding Fathers would most appreciate.
 
And, no, that isn’t a good thing, certainly not for the lot of us.
 
I’ve been waiting for the tweets that hint of appointments to whoever might be in charge of the evacuations of the cities and herding of the populaces into feudal land parcels, but even that might be an improvement on where the Blowhard seems to be taking us (somebody say 14 hour workdays, no vacation time, sick time, and/or unions?). Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but no less so than Democrats seem to think.
 
Maybe he’ll leave those in the cities alone, especially those who can afford the subtle and/or not so subtle gentrifications.
 
What we should be afraid of, it seems to me, isn’t World War III, whether with China or somebody else nuclear capable. It seems to me the economy is about to take a big league boost for those who can afford it most, while the rest of us get used to lower wages for more production and less value. That seems to be were Herr Drumpf is headed with cabinet picks and staff appointments that defy even a hint of income gap control.
 
And let’s not get into the environment. Let’s face it, we were doomed a long time ago on that front. Trump will expedite the end of life on planet earth via the further ignoring of climate change. On the other hand, for those of you who might have a few years left before the climate apocalypse of hot air (pun not intended), poisoned water, rising sea levels and unbreathable air, you can always enjoy the time you have left. At least he’s giving you a good reason to go hedonistic.
 
The Democratic Party’s Suicidal Contortions … and over on the other side of the political aisle are the losers in the 2016 run for the power minus the glory. The Democratic Party and its never ending search for someone to blame for their own misdeeds (i.e., what was exposed in WikiLeaks) seems determined to hold fast and ignore progressives yet again. This week they’re back to blaming Vladimir Putin and his Russian team of hackers for wanting Trump to beat Hillary so bad they forced the DNC to sabotage Bernie Sanders’s campaign.
 
Just think about the shape-shifting that line of logic requires.
 
In any event, it is amusing watching Democratic lemmings twist and turn over Trump and all the projections about what the Blowhard will do next, although I sometimes think they forget who actually still is president. Then again why not? They certainly forgot Barry was president the last 7+ years. They were so drunk on the prediction that Trump would kill the Republican Party for good, and/or that they could do whatever they wanted (i.e., DNC sabotaging its own candidates), they didn’t see the train headed straight for their collective power. Well, the train has struck and the power is gone, at least for the next two years. We shall see if the contortions they continue to undertake will leave them any better off in 2018 and/or 2020 than they are right now, which is in the proverbial shitter.
 
Viva la RevoluciĆ³n!
 
Happy Holidays … give the gift of Stella. Need something to buy for one of yours? Give the gift of reading about a progressive thinking hit man who has zero respect for organized thugs and (or is it the same thing?) the government in general.
 




Sunday, November 20, 2016

Three Book Reviews … Post Election Blues …

Amici:
Resurrection Mall, by Dana King … Doc Dougherty is back. The author’s Penns River series is a winner, and the latest installment, Resurrection Mall, tops the list. Penns River is pretty much everywhere in America, a town down on its luck from manufacturing that has flown the coop to foreign shores. It is an economically devastated town with the usual problems that follow: a rising crime rate that includes real estate carpetbaggers seeking a quick property flip or cheap investment and the concomitant crime. Last time we visited Penns River in Grind Joint, a Russian mobster had staked a claim on a casino operation. Casinos are often sold because of all the well-paying jobs they will bring to the community. No matter the same idea is draining money from those with jobs. Now that the casino is up and running in Penns River, the petty crimes have begun to up and run as well. Homes are being ripped off. Tool sheds are missing tools. Citizens are hanging on in what’s left of the good areas but are starting to feel the pinch as burglars look to score a quick fix and expand their territory.

The unavoidable drug trade that is always present in wealthy and/or depressed neighborhoods has staked a claim in Penns River. A Minister Lewis has invested in a mall for the sake of the community and his flock. It is called Resurrection Mall. Lewis is a busy man and requires help in administering all the responsibilities involved in running a church, never mind the reconstruction of an abandoned mall. While malls usually bring the kids in for whatever forms of entertainment are popular at the time, it also brings in the dealers looking to score a new user or ten.

Meanwhile, back at home, Doc’s father is giving him shit about the stolen tools from a friend’s shed and all the other petty crimes going on in the community. Doc has his own official issues to deal with, including the in-house fighting at the department and the influence the casino has with the mayor and the police. Cars are being stolen from the casino lot. Not a good thing. Whether a gambler has won or lost, the last thing he wants to deal with is an empty parking spot where his car used to be.

The in-house Dougherty exchanges are classics. King’s dialogue is top of the line. You quickly latch onto Doc and his family and friends and never want to put the book down.

Shortly after his Sunday night dinner with his parents, Doc is confronted with a big mess, the result of an apparent drug war. Five are killed, but somebody close to Doc, somebody from Grind Joint (see review here:), Wilver Faison, saw the entire thing go down. Doc wants to protect Wilver, but the kid, now 16, is terrified at least one of the hit team saw him.

No spoilers here. Trust me on the author’s ability to write a brilliant novel. Doc Dougherty is the cop we all want in our communities. A veteran at his trade, Doc is smart and disciplined, but not over the top. His best personality trait is the fact he’s reasonable. He’s willing to listen and isn’t easily maneuvered by the powers that be. In Penns River, his immediate boss is a family friend and someone Doc respects, but everybody has to deal with the politicians overseeing the police and those willing to serve the politicians ahead of the community. There’s usually more than one in every precinct, the brown noses, the by-the-book sycophants, and it’s no different in Penns River.

This is a terrific novel you’ll want to read, and if you haven’t read King’s other Penns Rivers novels, you’ll want to read those also.

Check out Down and Out Books here:
Check out Dana’s works here:

Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh … You like dark? You like funny? You like funny-dark? Then get this baby. Eileen is a single 24 year old living with her father, an alcoholic retired cop. Dad verbally abuses Eileen a dozen times a day and for a dozen different reasons. He cracks nasty about her looks, her inability to find a man, and the disparity between her and a more attractive sister who has flown the coop and has her own life. Dad also sees gangsters where they’re not. Eileen tells us she is unhappy and that she hates everything. She’s telling us this some thirty plus years removed from her life with Dad and her job at a prison for boys in Massachusetts. Her alcoholic mother has been dead for five years, but she often recalls lying in bed with the corpse the night Mom died. Her life seems analogous to coexisting alongside the living dead.

She has issues with her body—“I hated my face with a passion”—but she isn’t immune to sexual attraction. There’s a guard at the prison she often stalks on her days off, just to get a look at Randy, and to spark another fantasy or two. She is mostly invisible to everyone, except her father and his abuse. She’s happy to run out to the liquor store and purchase his daily bottle of gin for the sake of peace and quiet once he passes out. She can take some solace in her room in the cold attic because it’s as far away from Dad as possible. Dad tends to fall asleep in a broken recliner in a filthy kitchen neither of them have any intention of cleaning.

It’s a dour look at life, and it reminded me of Bukowski’s Barfly, where one might substitute the sale of a short story and a fling with a publisher for a newfound friendship with a new hire at the prison, somebody who not only sees Eileen, she befriends her. Rebecca is a hot redhead with a Harvard degree and a screw or two loose of her own, albeit for altruistic reasons. That has to do with an ending that is a wonderfully dark surprise. The novel takes course over a seven-day reflection of Eileen’s mostly miserable life in 1960. It’s a PEN/Hemingway Award winner (whatever the fuck that means, but I’ll assume I should always mention a writing award … and so Eileen has also been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize). Bottom line: If you’re into a dark dose of life with some great humor, this baby is something you’ll want to read. I loved it.
Get Eileen here:
Earthquake Weather, Terrill Lankford … Want to know something about Hollywood? Read this baby. It’s a dark but humorous trip to and through Hollywood portraying all the jealousy, deceit, greed, lust, and vengeance required of the players seeking a seat at the table. Mark Hayes is a creative executive with a dream of making his own movies. He works for a top notch scumbag, Dexter Morton, who takes pleasure in his ability to do as he pleases since his recent success with a movie that has earned enough to make him relevant in the industry. Dexter is the big boss man of Prescient Pictures.

The aftermath of a serious earthquake leaves the town in tatters as Mark’s known but not neighborly neighbors filter out of the building where he lives. They are all in an immediate quest for survival from the rubble of aftershocks. Neighbor meets neighbor, and coincidences emerge. A party thrown by the boss man, Dexter Morton, brings some of the coincidental people into play, but when the host is found floating face down in his pool, hairpiece askew, the following morning by Mark, he becomes a prime suspect in Morton’s sudden demise.

The hot girlfriend, Charity James, of the dead man took issue with him the night of the party and stabbed him in the ass. A few others in attendance mentioned how they wouldn’t mind it so much if the boss didn’t wake up one morning, but it’s Mark who found him, so it’s Mark the police are interested in speaking with. And they do, a few times, but in the meantime there’s shenanigans aplenty, including the appearance of a rattlesnake intended to end Mark, a few tussles with gangbangers of consequence (you don’t spit into the wind or insult Bloods or Crips), and there’s the issue of the minor starlet/former girlfriend (Charity) of the dead guy, who has managed to embed herself in Mark’s life because he was told to get her out of there (the party) after the stabbing incident. Of course Mark brought her home, but without ill intentions. Still, she became comfortable with Mark’s roommate, and eventually comfortable in a one-timer with Mark, but her follow-up act was with gangbangers, and nothing good was going to come from that.

The author takes us on a dark but fun trip through the Hollywood subculture of movie makers and shakers. Mark is self-deprecating enough to win our sympathy, even when he does nasty stuff, but we’re with his better angels throughout, including his wanting to help that overthrown starlet. No spoilers here, but the ending occurs just after the O.J. alleged double murder (alleged my ass), and it’s a lot of fun getting there. So much so, I’d intended to write the review for a December post, but wasn’t willing to put this one down long enough to wait.

Get Earthquake Weather here:

The Electoral Blues … never let it be said that Knucks can call a Super Bowl winner … or an election. The shocker on November 8 was met with great joy at Casa Stella, although we had no idea it would happen. Now, to clarify, we weren’t celebrating the Orange Blowhard’s victory. No sir/No ma’am. We were celebrating the temporary death of the Clintons’ presidential aspirations. I say temporary because we all know Chelsea’s “turn” will be coming along soon enough. We’re in no hurry for that spoiled brat (“earning” $600,000 fresh out of college? Really?) to make her way to center stage. Now that the DNC has taken one in the chops, maybe it will clean the sewer it has become and reform itself.

No, we won’t be counting on it. My Demexit remains in place until further notice.

What I’ve found comical (yes, comical) since the election result is the amount of high drama expressed by those who voted blue no matter who (Democrat lemmings) and/or Hillary loyalists. The world is coming to an end. Racism has been validated … Hell, some claim bigotry has been mandated, as if it not only never existed before, but it now has an official call to arms. None of what occurred under Obama’s tenure, much the same way as any of his decisions and/or indecisions, is either remembered or called to account. How could it be? He was the cool president, no drama Obama. It’s a nice crock of shit if you want to swallow it. Sure, some of the yahoos are feeling their oats these days, but how long does anyone really think that’ll last before they’re caught and have to pay the price for being assholes? I’ll go out on a limb and say things will settle down from whatever peak they’ve reached, and I’m not so sure it’s all that much higher than what is normal in our institutionalized racist America.

The bottom line is Progressives will continue the fight for a voice in our government on domestic and foreign policy. We will not capitulate to the corrupt powers all too willing to sellout to corporate and Wall Street interests. We will not buy into the nonsense about the lesser of two evils, which is exactly how the Democrat Party become so powerful and corrupt. Ultimately, it’s how the party shot itself in the foot. The incremental change we’ve been told to swallow for three decades has gone in one direction, and it hasn’t been in the interests of the middle class, the poor, or minorities.

—Knucks

Here’s what we believe has happened to Democrat voters over the years. Carey Wedler seems to have nailed it pretty good. So, hopefully yeah, welcome back to the resistance, bitches.