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).

Saturday, March 18, 2017

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


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:


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 …

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.


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