Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

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).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Review: Cannibals, by Jen Conley … Trump v. Sanders (the great debate) …

Cannibals, by Jen Conley … a collection of gritty short stories from, according to Wiki, a heavily forested area of coastal plain stretching across more than seven counties of southern New Jersey. Most of us know of the Pine Barrens from a favorite Sopranos episode wherein Paulie and Christopher get lost after trying to whack a Russian mobster.
Conley’s stories are my kind of stories; dark, with a touch of hope, whether it gets crushed out or simply fades … and some of the open endings leave you to thinking about more. Much like my last read and review, Joe Clifford’s, December Boys, Cannibals is a series of verismo operas, one after another. The stories first appeared in Thug Lit, Beat to a Pulp, Yellow Moma, Out of the Gutter, Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey Present: Both Barrels, All Due Respect, Trouble in the Heartland, Literary Orphans and Needle: A Magazine of Noir.
Home Invasion starts the collection and sends a distinct message to the reader: Be prepared, MF’er, this ain’t no cozy you’re reading. I particularly enjoyed this story because I had a night to think about it. I took a look at the index and saw the title, and it made me think back to a time when I sat with two fellow wannabes, one of whom had an idea for a home invasion. It might well have been a test for me; to see if I’d go along, but I’m still proud to say if it was a test, I failed with flying colors. “No way,” I remember saying. “That’s a no-no for me.”  One of them agreed and I was never asked again, nor do I know if there ever was one, and/or, if it was ever pursued. The idea of hurting someone in their home over coin or jewelry is probably the most despicable thing I can think of (along with ripping off the elderly in stock scams). Anyway, Conley’s Home Invasion does justice to Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River. No spoilers here, so you’ll have to buy the book and read it cover to cover—and you really should. The casualness of life can sting worse than stepping on a beehive ... and sometimes there's just no justice anywhere.
Cannibals involves a young girl who separates from her cousin and his friend after being teased about the cannibals in the woods. She’s anxious to assert her independence and she’s a fast runner, but then she finds herself caught in the clasp of a pack of hobos living in the woods. You’ll feel the terror this kid fears and you’ll be afraid for her the same way you’d be afraid as a young kid being terrorized by adults living in, and smelling of, squalor and cheap booze.
Howling deals with a female officer answering a call from an elderly man hearing howls in the woods. She’s having a tough time since losing a husband to a car accident and sometimes answering calls like these can make a cop feel foolish, except sometimes there’s more to the call and what might happen going forward. Life can get lonely a lot sooner than we’d all like to think.
Pipe deals with a young African-American kid in need of retribution for the humiliation he suffers at the hands of a bully, but there’s more to the story, including how relationships between teachers and students, and/or teachers and those marked as lost, evolve and resolve. It’s a surprise ending that caught me off guard and made me enjoy it all the more.
Metalhead Marty in Love the preverbal dorky musician in love with the girl he can’t have … until he can, and then … this one will make you feel it in the gut (unless you’re a sociopath).
June is the daughter of a woman earning her coin as a hooker, and when the girl makes a mistake taking what isn’t hers, the harsh realities of life below the poverty line appear in all its ugliness. People are at their Thomas Hobbes state of nature worst, living a life that is in fact solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
Circling deals with another female officer whom has recently lost her husband. She’s called with a younger cop to a domestic disturbance situation where she recognizes the perp, a man she grew up with and once had a brief relationship with. He’s trying to get busted from fear of presumed gangsters he owes … the background to both characters bubbles throughout. A real good read.
Eleanor … geez, this was my favorite in the collection, especially because of the way I thought something worse than what had already happened was about to happen. This one involves elderly people living in trailer homes, a murder, and an incredibly well told tale of what the elderly have to deal with both emotionally and physically. Terrific read.
Escape … a thriller from the opening page … a woman escaping a jealous ex-boyfriend she’s provided with a restraining order … page turner right to the end.
Milk … at first when I read the title, I thought Harvey Milk, but no, that’s San Francisco and a long time ago now.  This one is a wild ride with a guy told to pick up a container of milk by his often bizarre dad, although they’re on good terms of late … he goes out with a friend and they do a few lines, and even though he’s got something to his future, well … what sometimes happens in life happens.
Debbie the Hero … hey, every grandmother should be like this one … her granddaughter has strayed into the arms of a local dipshit and is pregnant … no spoilers here, but here’s a woman who’s done her time (not prison time, life), and she reflects on enough of it to keep the readers’ eyes on page through to the ending. Real good story. Second favorite so far.

Next up is the Springsteen song made famous: It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City … but I’m about to read that one now and need to post this review up from fear of the ton of stuff I have to do over the next few days getting ready to revisit New Hampshire with Tommy Red. Needless to say, you have more than enough here to be enticed with … it’s a terrific collection of short stories and I’m sure glad I stumbled upon it on Facebook. Actually, I found it on another terrific writer’s blog, Dana King’s One Byte at a Time,where I read the interview he did with this wonderful collection’s author, JenConley.
 Trump v. Sanders (the great debate) … Well, it would be kind of fun to watch these two. All Trump could do with Bernie is continue to call him a crazy communist, but that’s because he doesn’t have any dirt on the man … and let’s face it, Trump understands as much about political ideology as he does about running a casino.
On the other hand, Bernie could let the Orange Blowhard go off the rails a time or two and then turn to him, shake his head, and say: “You really are a moron.”
It probably won’t happen because the Orange Blowhard has balls the size of split peas … his dodge of the Vietnam war over a foot injury (he couldn’t remember which foot) spoke volumes, but what was even better was his shitting his pants when a protestor tried to gain his stage and/or the eagle he had brought in for a photo op nearly gave him a stroke. You can find both on Youtube … under Eagle Scares Trump.
In the meantime, Senate Democrats are furious with Bernie for even entertaining the idea of a debate. They conveniently ignore that fact that their choice for establishment president, Lyin Crooked Hillary, doesn’t have the guts to honor her promise to debate before California … or she’s just too busy hiding behind her staff and letting them magnify the lies about the IG’s report on her email debacle.
The hysterical lemming left runs home to Momma & Poppa (the party). Remember that great opening to The Newsroom, when Jeff Daniels ticks off why America is no longer the greatest country in the world? I really miss that show, but to the point: There’s a rant he does when he turns to the woman representing the left and says, “If liberals are so fuckin’ smart, how come they lose so goddamn always?”
Well, let me offer one suggestion (smiley face). Upon further review of whatever election confronts them, the left can ALWAYS (not sometimes, not almost always, but ALWAYS) retreat to where they are most comfortable – in absolute hysteria. Nothing is funnier to me than watching so-called liberal democrats freak out come election time. Whether it’s a buffoon like Donald Trump (a.k.a., the Orange Blowhard), or John Kasich, or any other candidate who might’ve won the nomination, the one thing the Democratic Party can count on is its liberal base collectively shitting their pants and falling in line behind whomever they (i.e., the party) decides should be the nominee. In this instance, it’s a criminal with more bad baggage than most organized crime family bosses (i.e., she’s responsible for a lot more death and income inequality than the mob).
Does anyone really believe the Orange Blowhard is the glue holding Democratic loyalists/lemmings in place for this coming election. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, wrong. We’d be hearing the same exact thing no matter which GOP nominee won. To wit: Oh, no, we can’t let the Republicans win! They’ll destroy everything we’ve accomplished! The world will be at risk. We’ll be set back 100 years! The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer and they’ll even rewrite the constitution by placing conservative judges on the bench, and so on.
And to that I say: Ronald Reagan was the most destructive force for the middle class in my voting lifetime … yet we’re still here. What happened post-Reagan has made things a lot tougher for the middle class, and it wasn’t just from the GOP that the economic shit storms were delivered.
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall?
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA into law?
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who instituted welfare reform?
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who passed the anti-minority crime bill?
How many Democrats endorsed the war with Iraq?
Wasn't it Obama who gave away the store during the bailout?
Wasn’t it Obama who maintained the Bush tax cuts?
Wasn’t it Obama who went back on his word to fight for unions?
Did the income inequality gap widen or shrink during the last 7 years?
Isn’t it Obama sending troops back to Iraq?
Isn’t it Obama sending troops to Syria?
Isn’t it Lyin’ Crooked Hillary Clinton who wants a no fly zone over Syria?
Isn’t it Lyin’ Crooked Hillary who supported NAFTA and the TPP (before she was against it, and make no mistake, she’ll find it GOLD all over again if given the opportunity)?
Isn’t it Lyin’ Crooked Hillary who was more comfortable with a $12.00 minimum wage rather than $15.00
Did the conservative majority Supreme Court uphold the ACA twice (for the sake of insurance companies, perhaps, but they upheld it)? 
Did the same court deliver marriage equality?
Hysteria, that’s what way too many so-called liberal democrats yield to every single presidential election cycle. It’s how they react to pretty much everything political. Rather than fight within their own party to insist on a progressive agenda (not the bullshit convention platform everybody knows is ignored the day after it’s created), but an actual progressive voice, one that has a say in future policy, the idea of risking a single election cycle (or two), brings on massive diarrhea … they shit their brains out and immediately run home to Momma and Poppa – the party officials who have taken them for granted ever since 1968, after which they created the super delegate system that declares: We don’t give a shit who you voted for or who you want, we’ll make that decision for you. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said exactly that when she declared: “Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.”
Imagine that, the grass roots getting what they voted for?
This is why Bernie or Busters (many of whom had to switch their political affiliation from Independent to Democrat just to vote for Bernie due to closed primary states) aren’t going to vote for Lyin’ Crooked Hillary. Whether they mail in Bernie’s name or vote for Jill Stein or protest vote for the Orange Blowhard … it has to do with sending a very clear message to the DNC. We’re not going to shit our pants and get in line. Either take us serious or lose us. That’s your choice. We’ve already made ours.
The Sopranos ... Pine Barrens …

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Joe Clifford’s December Boys … Game 7 thoughts …. Meet me in New Hampshire … Lyin’ Crooked Hillary …


December Boys: A Jay Porter novel … by Joe Clifford. This is my second Clifford novel and I’ve already ordered the first in the Jay Porter series, Lamentation. Our protagonist, Jay Porter, is an insurance claims investigator, a job he’s not fond of, which adds to a burgeoning set of issues, both personal and financial. The issues mount and serve to heighten the tension throughout this terrific novel.

The backstory to his personal angst are parents killed in a car accident, and the suicide by cop of his junkie brother just over a year ago. He’s feeling guilty about not being able to save his brother (Chris), and he’s getting panic attacks that may be fueled by an increase in alcohol intake. He’s also experiencing paranoia from a lack of sleep. He loves his wife and child, but can’t seem to get out of his own way. They’ve been having marital problems Jay doesn’t understand, mostly because he’s wrapped up in his own guilt and frustration over the circumstances surrounding his brother’s death.

Jay investigates a routine claim and discovers something is amiss. A 16 year old boy confesses to a lie that quickly snowballs into the investigation of what has become the latest scourge of our wonderfully abrasive free market economy—private prisons. Long before we get there, Jay’s wife takes their son and heads to Bernie Sanders’ Burlington, Vermont, where her mother lives. They need time apart, she tells Jay. He needs to get over his brother’s death and seek help.

On a visit to see his son, Jay is set up by his mother-in-law when Jay’s wife returns with their son, and a “friend” (who happens to be a good-looking yuppie), the kind Jay assumes is looking to get down his wife’s pants. Like most men feeling rejected, whether it’s real or not, Jay does the macho dance and puts himself in deeper shit with his wife.

On his own, Jay drinks and accidentally gets a promotion for the kid’s confession to the insurance claim, but when the kid’s mother makes a frantic call to Jay about the kid being hauled off by the police, Jay looks into it (risking his job) and meets a cute courthouse employee, Nicki, who tests the bonds of Jay’s marriage while also supplying him with just enough information to keep Jay sleuthing.

It all takes place in the brutal cold of a New Hampshire winter; brittle temperatures, snow storms, howling winds and the gnawing possibility of an ever anxious to cross the road at the exact wrong time deer and/or moose. Jay has demons he has yet to control, and with everything going down at the same time – the family crisis with his wife, a beating he takes from a couple of cops, the lure of a young beautiful woman looking to be more than friends, the weather, the emotional weight of a dead brother and all that implies, Porter also winds up stepping on some heavy feet, the hated, wealthy and politically established Lombardis, turning his life into a perfect storm of life or death.


Get December Boys here:

Game 7 thoughts …. Well, being totally honest, I never thought we’d get this far without Stralman and Stamkos … and although I was hopeful vs. the Wingless in Detroit, I wasn’t overly confident. I was much more concerned with the Wrong Islanders because of their physical style of play, but 10 games later (truly amazing how both teams were dispatched in 5 games), we were facing the winner of what many believed were the two best teams in the east. And so it’s been the Pipsqueaks from Pittsburgh for 6 rough and tough games. At times they seemed invincible … and then we came back and played hard and fast and rejected their speed and skill.
Our former New York guys, Callahan & Boyle, have been tenacious as always, and when the rest of the team is chipping in with the chippiness, we've taken command ... but there's a difference between chippy and the penalty box, and so far Paquette has managed to avoid confusing the two. We need to stay out, yet be forceful and do some banging. Fight for pucks and never relent along the boards in our end.
It'll be nice to hear this song six or seven times tonight ...

When Bishop went down in Game 1, I didn’t think we had a prayer. I thought game 1 was catching them at the right time, and especially after games 2 and 3, I figured we were done. Wrong again, oh, fat swami of Fords, New Jersey … the Bolts fought back and nearly dominated for 60 minutes, thus scaring the shit out of me yet again after going up 4-0 in two periods, and having to hang on to win 4-3 (for the beating they took in the third period).

I was hoping we’d take Game 6 and preclude tonight’s one and done Game 7, but the Pipsqueaks proved way too good to lose in 6. So tonight all one can do is hope we show up for all three periods, and that we play as if there’s no tomorrow, because the truth of the matter is: lose and there’s no tomorrow.

Get Tommy Red here:

Lyin’ Crooked Hillary … so, now that the State Department, the department she once headed as Secretary of State, has issued its blistering report of her terrible (take your pick here) a) incompetence, b) judgement, c) criminality and/or all of the above, we’ve learned that what she and her campaign have been spewing for the last year is yet another compilation of big fat lies.

Yes, lies.

1) She was NEVER “permitted” to use a private email source (the rules were changed specifically precluding such activity WHILE she was secretary of State);

2) She NEVER reported the attempted hacking of her emails

3) The other Secretaries of States who used their own emails NEVER had a PRIVATE SERVER, NOR a SPECIFIC REGULATION PRECLUDING SUCH USE.

4) Her excuse that it was a matter of “convenience” WAS DIRECTLY CONTRADICTED by her own email stating she was concerned her personal emails would be exposed.


6) There was NO EVIDENCE that she requested or received approval to use her personal account for business.

Bottom Line, Amici: The Orange Blowhard can now add another name to the label he’s assigned her. Instead of Crooked Hillary, she’s now LYIN’ CROOKED HILLARY.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book reviews: Knuckleball, by Tom Pitts ... George V. Higgins Biography ...

Knuckleball, by Tom Pitts … call me old school, but I love it when a story is told in a straightforward manner, without forty pounds of introspection and sixty pounds of fatty narrative. I also prefer stories that reflect life (i.e., real life), where kids are forced to battle demons most parents overlook, where husbands and/or wives cheat on their spouse, where people with the best intentions are too often the victims of their decency, and where the slightest of lies may have the greatest of consequences. Knuckleball features all of the above, which is why I’m so glad I dick around on Facebook enough to occasionally land on a post from a friend or two with a reading recommendation that winds up being the pleasure this one has been.

A good cop, a really good cop, is brutally executed in the city of San Francisco while his partner was busy dealing with personal demons a few blocks away. Somebody sees the killer. Somebody had to have seen the killer, it was in broad daylight out on the streets. Sure people scatter, but …

A young kid at home has to deal with the relentless bullying of an older street punk brother. Their mother works hard just to get bye. There’s no father. There’s no money. There’s no future so long as things remain the same.

Knuckleball features life in a big city with all its virtues and vices. Hugh Patterson is the good cop murdered on the street. Vince Alvarez is his partner. Oscar Flores is a 15-year-old kid and one of the people who witnesses the murder. Ramon Alvarez is Oscar’s bully brother. The novella takes place over a three day/game period between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the home town San Francisco Giants. The murder takes place in The Mission section of Frisco. It is a compelling story.

Knuckleball is verismo opera, where the truth not only hurts, it often survives, whether rightly or wrongly. Knuckleball is a terrific read, and I’ll be reading more of Mr. Pitts in the near future.

George V. Higgins: The Life and Writings,  by Erwin H. Ford II … interesting, sad, and an often funny account of the life and times of one of my favorite writers ever, George V. Higgins. If you don’t know how good this guy was, take a look at my sycophantic love for his writing here: Three Masterpieces Etched in Stone (an article I wrote for the Rap Sheet seven years ago) .

Higgins was a single child brought up by educated parents, and although he clung to his Boston Irish roots, including his religion, he wasn’t a slave to the clergy. He did allow his first marriage to a woman with drinking and mental issues to go on way too long because of the antiquated Catholic Church issues regarding divorce, and it bankrupted him more than once. He was also as brilliant as they come, with a vocabulary that required a dictionary at all times. He was a journalist, a prosecutor/lawyer, a writer of novels and non-fiction, an English professor, and one haughty MF’er, especially when forced to deal with liberals (he was more conservative than liberal), but he was also a very loyal friend and an equally loyal enemy when crossed. Higgins eventually drank himself into a deadly heart attack, but the road of his 59 years was colorful and productive. A workhorse with relentless energy, Higgins wrote for 4 hours every morning, had a 3 hour liquid lunch, then returned to write for another 2 hours in the afternoon. He was constantly working to fight off the IRS and keep his boats (literally) afloat. He defended G. Gordon Liddy and Eldridge Cleaver.
Higgins also felt pigeonholed as a crime writer because of the great success he experienced with The Friends of Eddie Coyle (my favorite crime novel ever). Higgins wanted to be lauded as a great literary figure and felt rejected as such. I often found some of his books, much like some of James Ellroy’s works, unreadable, but his first three and a few others later down the road were simply brilliant. Higgins purposely returned to writing crime because his publishers required it for the sake of earning coin. Glad I finally had the chance to read a biography of him … and the truth is, I couldn’t put the book down.

Next In the cue … Joe Clifford’s December Boys: A Jay Porter Novel … review before we leave for New Hampshire and a return to shutter island? You know, the wife has never experienced life on the rock.


Violence? Really? Vicious? Hey, Eugene Robinson, blow it out your ass.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Disposal Wells … Bolts take down the Islanders … What I’m reading now … George V. Higgins bio …

Disposal Wells … a CBS 60 Minutes report on the exponential rise in earthquakes in Oklahoma was an indictment on oil production in that state, but if your home was damaged or destroyed and you were looking for help from the government, state or federal, you were/are shit out of luck. It wasn’t fracking doing the main damage, not in this instance, but it has been oil production, at least according to scientists (that widely ignored species by Republicans and oilmen alike). Disposal wells apparently involve pumping water/waste fluids deep underground, and what it does once it gets there is upset the natural friction between fault lines. What was most disconcerting in the CBS report was hearing how those affected most by the rise in earthquakes, from 2-3 a year to more than 900 a year, the people of Oklahoma and their public safety, is how they are being totally disregarded because of the power oil business wields within the state. Oil employs 1 out of every 6 Oklahomans; the essence of that fact, at least according to the oil business and the state politicians they own, is: You can either live with your house falling down and maybe killing you and/or yours … or you can apply for food stamps.

Oy vey …
Of course the oil people didn’t respond to interview requests, although there was one defender of oil, and he made no bones about the business side of the equation carrying much more weight than public safety.

It’s one more example of the INEVITABILITY of capitalism. Nothing will ever take precedence over profit in our world, including public safety, so long as economies are based solely on private profit, which allows the purchase of government at the expense of the people.

It’s just another bright shining star of American Exceptionalism, amici … and some extremely short-sighted logic.

Bolts in 5 … nobody would’ve predicted the badly injured and hurting Tampa Bay Lightning would take the first two rounds after just 5 games each, but that’s what happened Sunday afternoon when the Bolts played possibly their best game of the season in routing the Brooklyn Long Islanders, 4-0. Hey, I’ll be the first to admit I never thought we’d win in less than 7, if at all, but the Bolts really showed what they’re made of in this series. The Islanders have a brutal checking team; their fourth line is made of linebackers, with Matt Martin playing the Dick Butkus role, but our guys never backed down, and by Game 5, I think we surprised the Islanders with some clean but equally brutally hard checks of our own (Cally on Leddy, Cally on Hamonic). We took hits (Drouin) and responded, and I don’t think the Islanders knew what to do about it.

And it doesn’t hurt when you have Ben Bishop in net. He continues to amaze, closing out both series with shutouts. Nikita Kucherov continues to light the lamps with 10 goals in as many playoff games, and Victor Hedman is shining on both ends of the ice. The Bolts penalty kill units seem to be breaking down the momentum of their opponents. Boyle, Callahan, Palat, Pacquette, etc., continue to frustrate opponents’ man (and two man—twice in the Detroit series) advantages.

While it remains a mystery as to whether or not the missing trio of Stamkos, Stralman and Brown will be able to return for the next round, the Bolts are clearly playing their best hockey of the season.

The Caps and Pens are fighting it out, with the Pens leading that series 3-2. Hopefully it’ll go 7 and we can get some much needed rest.

Shot in Detroit, by Patti Abbottt … review to come closer to the book release, but in the meantime, I’m close to finished and enjoying this one thoroughly. A page turner about a photographer with a newfound project—photographing recently dead young black males: a murder victim, a death from illness, (West Nile virus), an overdose, etc., but they all fascinate and complicate matters when a search for weird, dark, edgy stuff leads to an unexpected death and turn in events. Review coming closer to the book’s release.  Get it here.

George V. Higgins: The Life and Writings … found this on amazon and grabbed the last copy for $45.00 fazools (Ouch!), but, hey, happy birthday to me.

In the cue … Joe Clifford’s December Boys: A Jay Porter Novel (amazon tells me it’s on the way) … review before we leave for New Hampshire … and a return to shutter island? Get it here.

And some very kind words for Tommy Red from Dana King at OBAT ... read about it here.

Get Tommy Red here.


You already know why Crooked Hillary doesn't deserve your vote, but here's something else to digest ... Clinton Cash …