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).

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Book Reviews … Bad Samaritan (Dana King), Jack Waters (Scott Adlerberg), Nothing Ever Dies (Viet Thanh Nguyen).

Amici: A set of long overdue reviews ...

Bad Samaritan, Dana King … Right in time for the #MeToo movement, this brilliant Nick Forte novel starts with the protagonist providing a much needed lesson for a Rob Porter-like clown who slaps a woman. Then a successful female author writing under a pseudonym for the purpose of having a quiet, private life, shows up in need of an investigation into a series of letters she’s received that portend her being exposed as the novelist she actual is (Desiree d’Arnaud). The investigation into the potential blackmail letters introduces the wild and whack-job world of men’s rights activists, a collection of Neanderthals who believe they’re the ones getting the short end of the equality stick. Needless to say, it’s not the kind of activism with which Nick can relate.

Another investigation features a former hooker being blackmailed with a video from her prior life. Nick feels guilty for the death of the former hooker’s mom, and thus takes on Lily O’Donoghue’s case. After handling what appears to be the blackmailing scheme, Nick finds himself tangled with a Chicago gangster. Although Nick and the boss of the local syndicate have a past, it may not be enough to save himself from the mess he’s stepped into. There’s more to Lily, her past and present, than meets the eye.

Nick’s practice has become a bit more successful than we’re used to seeing in previous novels. The usual cast of characters (Sharon, Goose, Delbert, Sonny, Jan, and daughter Caroline) are back and as entertaining as ever.

In the midst of his investigations, Nick seeks to expand the office space. A stodgy tenant he shares the floor with is a bit of an ass and wants a favor for a bargaining chip.

The dialogue is sharp as a razor, and the action is what we’ve come to expect from one of the best in the business, Dana King. Bad Samaritan comes highly recommended. As Don Kirkendall of Men Reading Books told me the night we went to dinner in Perth Amboy a few months back, “That Dana King is just great.”

Listen to me: Don knows what he’s talking about. Go get this book.

Jack Waters, Scott Adlerberg … A professional gambler with a determined sense of honor. If you cheat Jack, you may wind up with a knife in your chest. Adlerberg’s history novel takes place almost forty years after the Civil War. It begins in Jack’s home state of Louisiana, where Waters is known as a respectable gambler who keeps to himself, but after catching a young man cheating at poker in Waters’s home, a fight erupts and ends when Jack kills the young man with his knife.

Forced to flee the states, Waters hops a boat that leaves him in a fictional Caribbean Island run by a sleazebag of a president, a military man, General Hernandez Garcia Napoles. Napoles is also a gambler, but he doesn’t like to lose, not ever, and especially not ever to a Gringo. Jack is mixed race, but not enough for some on the island to accept as one of their own. Warned not to play cards with the general, Jack gets too comfortable and makes the mistake of playing anyway. He wins big, but the general finds a way of not paying his debt, accusing Jack of supporting the rebels in the mountains.

Napoles finds his other pleasures with virgin women on the island, some as young as thirteen.

There’s a U.S. diplomat on the island, a drunk with a beautiful wife who finds her carnal pleasures outside her own home. When she finds one of the girls Napoles has disgraced, because the girl couldn’t stop bleeding, she takes issue with the general as well.

In the meantime, after first refusing to help the rebel guerillas because he’d rather play cards, Waters seeks their leader, Raoul, and joins their army.

He’s no Che, that’s for sure, but Waters does have a strong sense of right and wrong. What happens is some exciting stuff told in some smooth narrative and dialogue. A pleasure to read, start to finish.

Here’s a line I circled from page 205 because I really liked it a lot. “History was the word people used when they hoped to lend meaning to the arbitrary workings of chance…”

Also highly recommended. Go get this book, too.
Nothing Ever Dies, Viet Thanh Nguyen. Just finished (Chapter 6) listening to this audiobook … I suspect those interested in this book will feel somewhat in tune with where Nguyen moves the discussion about war and the military industrial complex and how people perceive “their” side—as those in the right, the human, the victims or saviors. Perhaps this is best exemplified by how America (and every other nation state) insists on calling its police and military “heroes”: those who sacrifice their lives for the greater good (although I’m sure the nationalist brand would prefer “the rest of us” rather than something as socialist as “the greater good.”)

In any event, I felt it was restating the obvious regarding how we as Americans, those who are Vietnamese, Korean, etc., perceive our roles in wars. The suggestion that those of us on the left here (i.e., Americans who didn’t see glory in the American intervention in Vietnam) do a better job of realizing the humanity of our soldiers alongside whatever inhumanity we may have perceived or assumed or were confronted with as fact; again, not all of us on the left blame American soldiers. While there’s no excuse for what happened at My Lai, and is believed to have happened in several more Vietnamese villages, and although it is difficult to see any humanity in those involved in the mass slaughter of 500 Vietnamese (men, women, children, and infants), I suspect most can understand how such nightmares occur during war without removing any accountability from the crimes.

Check that, my bad. I do know of people (Americans) who defended Lt. Cally and his men from the crimes they committed, which confirms the author’s point. But, let’s face it, those blind faith “America right or wrongers” are NEVER going to read this book … and if forced to at gunpoint, would likely say “Liberal subterfuge.”

Anyway, it’s a fine study loaded with philosophical name dropping and quotes, and it does a terrific job of delving into American cinema (and the propaganda it reinforces), which has been mirrored by South Korea as they have become more Americanized.

More to come down the road.
Politics … What’s left to say about it anymore? We’re a country that has gone from Vietnam War protests that eventually brought the war to an end, to a society that completely ignores war. Meanwhile, the disparity in incomes in America has turned us into a true banana republic. The government is owned by corporate interests. Lobbyists get to vote in one party’s presidential nomination process, and when we learned Congress has a fund for the defense of sexual assault charges against them (paid for with taxpayer money), it was a two or three day flash in the pan bit of news, and then voters quickly returned to their sides of the two party duopoly and the congressional scam that should have anyone involved put in chains was forgotten. Unions have been crushed, pensions eliminated, and the bulk of the population scurries to make ends meet in a race they can never win.

How this population doesn’t vote for a third party, whichever one fits its political profile, is as baffling as the fact a despicable human being won the presidency and may well win it again.

So it goes.


Yesterday my granddaughter sang God Bless America for us. I figure it’s a good time for her to learn another song.