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.
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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.
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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.
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.