Book Report: The Last Detective by Robert Crais (2003)

I would have better enjoyed this book, like the others later in the Elvis Cole series, had I not read the first ones in the series. That is, if I had not immediately read the books and thought I’d find a series in the tradition of Chandler/MacDonald/Parker. Instead, the books have petered into a rather mainstreamish detective series with writing ticks designed not so much to be true to the character, but to ratchet up the suspense with devices.

The devices, again: Multiple points of view in a book that features a first person narrator. That way, you see, we get into the heads of the character. The same stop-and-restart changing of the timeline that Crais used in Hostage. The personal-as-plot-filler with the relationship with Lucy Chenier and their continuing breakdown. Geez, some Spenser fans have wanted Susan dead for 20 years, but she’s a foil for introversion with Spenser. Chenier? Nothing but a foil for Cole’s fear of losing her, which is how he’s spent the last couple of books.

At least none of the characters, if memory serves, says “There you go.” Instead, Cole says Panic kills, which is what the Rangers taught him and what the LA SWAT taught Talley in Hostage. Crais blends these sayings and verbal tics across multiple characters, which I think is sloppy. I don’t like when Parker does it, either.

The plot: Lucy’s son Ben is kidnapped while Cole’s watching him by people who claim to want revenge for something he did in the War in Viet shnucking Nam, man. Point of order, Mr. Chairman. The entire duration of the Elvis Cole novel cycle seems to be a couple of years from The Monkey’s Raincoat to the latest novel, but Crais has written the books over the course of almost twenty years now. Cole’s not aging, though. Perhaps Crais should have just done the McBain thing and had Cole as a veteran of the war which seems to occur every decade or so (or every two years in George W. Bush’s term), because although a young and vital man would have been a veteran of Vietnam, by 2005 those fellows are getting into their fifties and are running unsuccessfully for President.

But by page 74, I had figured out what was going on–mainly because of the multiple points of view. Although the writing style’s quick and enjoyable to read, the macro writing things–the devices enumerated numerous times on this blog and in this very book report–keep me from giving an unreserved endorsement of the series. I’ve got one until I’m caught up with Crais, and after I am done with it, I probably won’t seek out others–although I might just be stuck reading them if my beautiful wife keeps giving them to me and putting them on my to-read shelves.

It’s Easier to Ask Forgiveness than Permission

Use your head, Chester:

    A day after opting out of the U.S. ballistic missile defense shield, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin reiterated Friday that Washington must get permission from Ottawa before firing on any incoming missiles over Canada.

    “This is our airspace, we’re a sovereign nation, and you don’t intrude on a sovereign nation’s airspace without seeking permission,” Martin said.

Funny that Martin doesn’t chastise nations who would dare conceive of firing nuclear missiles over the sovereign nation of Canada to attack the United States.

I trust our government will do the right thing and destroy such missiles if possible and risking a Canadian retaliation of combustible submarines blockading the St. Lawerence Seaway.

Special Shout At

And I’d like to send this little shout at to Netscape, whose 7.2 browser has a setting to block unsolicited pop-up ads, but whose default home page, http://home.netscape.com/, gets around the browser setting and throws a pop-up ad anyway.

That’s smooth, fellows. Way to destroy any brand loyalty you might have had from us old-school dogs.

Eliminate Cost, Retain Value

Proper socialist education yields expected results: Yale students demand financial aid changes:

    Fifteen Yale students staged a sit-in at the university’s admissions office Thursday while nearly 100 others rallied outside urging the school to offer more financial aid.

    The 10-hour demonstration ended peacefully Thursday evening when police led the 15 students out of the building and cited them for trespassing.

    Some protesters called on Yale President Richard Levin to reduce by half the amount of money students on financial aid are required to pay. The students said families earning less than $40,000 a year should not have to contribute any money.

So the students are standing up for the lower middle class and demand free educations for themselves. Oddly, though, they’re not also championing throwing open the doors of Yale to everyone who completes high school and providing them with educational opportunity to further serve the interests of Man, never mind the smaller class sizes and watered-down talent a larger professorial pool would require. These protestors want to retain the value of the Yale degree; they just don’t want to pay for it.

Meanwhile, in the Post-Dispatch Business Section

Standard “Republican Spending Restraint Kills Grandmas” template stuff in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Cuts may leave some out in the cold:

    For Betty Jenkins and thousands of other Missourians, juggling grocery, utility and medical bills on a fixed income is a day-to-day struggle. The task becomes even more daunting when temperatures dip and home-heating bills reach triple digits, she said.

    Jenkins, a retired social services worker in her 60s who lives on Social Security and disability insurance, said the cost of heating her six-room home in north St. Louis County can top $100 a month during winter. To get by, she turns down the temperature every afternoon and occasionally has relied on federal assistance to avoid disconnection of her gas service.

    She and other Missourians who depend on home-heating aid may have fewer resources to draw from next winter because base funding for the country’s biggest energy assistance program would be cut by $85 million, or 4.4 percent, under President George W. Bush’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Missouri would see funding trimmed by $1.9 million; Illinois would get $4.9 million less. The amount of emergency aid available nationwide also would be reduced by a third, to $200 million from $297 million.

I expect these sorts of stories from the Post-Dispatch, which could appropriately be printed in actual red ink. But I don’t understand why this is a Business story.

Also missing from the story: calls to private citizens and charities to help out. Because although the Post-Dispatch and its idealogical contemporaries pose as champions of the common man, but it’s startling how little faith they have in us helping others without government coercion.

Government coercion where the government takes its vig off the top to pay for its own salaries and costs, and then splits the proceeds among sports facilities and their attendant highly-paid commissions, pay offs to corporations to pleasepleaseplease don’t move away, and then, if there’s anything left, to replace private charity and its warmth and benevolence with externally-imposed duty and bureaucracy.

Felix Silla Never Let Us Down

Kenny Baker, the man inside the R2D2 suit, has been busted for driving under the influence in Britain, where he was probably doing something dangerous like driving on the right freaking side of the road.

    Kenny, 70, was banned yesterday for being just over the booze limit.

    The 3ft 8in actor admitted having two glasses of wine before driving home after rehearsals for a play.

With a person that size, it wouldn’t take much, ainna?

My Next Flight to Europe is Leaving Never Ever

Remember that Twilight Zone episode about the monster on the wing? Doesn’t European regulation make unholy creatures who live to destroy seem tame by comparison?

    A BRITISH AIRWAYS jumbo jet carrying 351 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing after an 11-hour transatlantic flight with a failed engine.

    The fault occurred on take-off from Los Angeles but the pilot declined all opportunities to land in the US and instead continued on three engines for 5,000 miles to Britain.

    The incident happened three days after a European regulation came into force requiring airlines to compensate passengers for long delays or cancellations. Under the new rules, if the pilot had returned to Los Angeles, BA would have been facing a compensation bill of more than £100,000.

That will promote tourism.

Deploy the Lovecraft

Lileks on people who knock the iPod:

    Let me speak for millions here who just want to listen to music: I don’t care about Ogg Vorbis. If Ogg Vorbis came to my house and waved tentacles at me demanding in a slobbery moan that I kneel and submit, I would shoot it. I don’t know what it is and I don’t care.

Ïa! Ïa! Ogg Vorbis the Infernal Codecs with a thousand bits!

Undoubtedly, certain swarthy cultists are swaying and chanting esoteric eldritch hymns even know. Probably amid a foetor, too.

Damned If It Don’t

The Federal government often gets sued for the legislation it passes and the rules it enacts, but now it’s getting sued for not arbitrarily muddling in citizens’ lives:

    A consumer group sued the federal government Thursday, saying that salt is killing tens of thousands of Americans and that regulators have done too little to control salt in food.

    Despite advisories to take it easy on sodium, Americans are now consuming about 4,000 milligrams a day — nearly double the recommended limit to keep blood pressure under control, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said.

    So the CSPI renewed a lawsuit first filed in 1983 to ask federal courts to force the Food and Drug Administration to declare sodium a food additive instead of categorizing it as “generally recognized as safe.” This would give the agency the authority to set limits for salt in foods.

What’s next? Moving Morton’s over the counter, limiting me to three cartons at a purchase, and putting my name in the database of users? Who funds CSPI and thinks its works are in the public interest? Why doesn’t CSICOP sue the CSPI because there’s just the slightest chance of confusion between the organization of scientists who expose crackpots and the organization of crackpots who use junk science?

Canadians Cantankerous Over NHL Season Loss

Apparently, the Canadians are still blaming us for the lost NHL season, for they’ve decided not to let the United States protect them from nuclear missiles:

    Prime Minister Paul Martin said Thursday that Canada would not join the contentious U.S. missile defense program, a decision that will further strain brittle relations between the neighbors but please Canadians who fear it could lead to an international arms race.

You know, Canada, you’d need to show some spine to warrant enemies who would attack. You’re safe.

Book Report: Hostage by Robert Crais (2001)

This book finally makes good use of the multiple points of view that Crais has been doing for the last couple of novels. This time, though, he goes a little further and adjusts the timeline, so when one point of view leaves off at a climactic moment, another will pick up a couple of minutes earlier and carries the story through the cliffhanger in the preceding section to the next cliffhanger, where the process repeats. For the most part, it works.

The protagonist, Jeff Talley, burned out as a hostage negotiator in LA and came to a smaller town to hide from the failures in his past and his disintegrating marriage. His undead lifestyle shatters when a couple of young toughs rob a convenience store, kill the clerk, commit a home invasion on their escape, and hold the family hostage after killing a cop. Unfortunately, the house belongs to a mob accountant who has evidence in the house that would put the local don away for life. So Crais ratchets up the tension, with a sort of “Oh, man, what else could possibly go wrong?” suspense that Clancy affords us, and then the story just kinda….disappoints.

Amid the tension, we get a couple of “Why would they do that?”s and a couple of blindsidings added for the sake of a couple pages of mock tension and an ultimate deus ex mobina that left me wondering.

So it was a good read but a disappointing book. Soon to be a major motion picture!, and I look forward to the movie. Not only because Bruce Willis stars, but also because it probably won’t be a lot like the book. It will take a similar premise (I hope) and not end badly.

That Will Do The Trick

To combat SQL databases that are free if you could only properly download and install the things, Microsoft announces a SQLServer price cut:

    The company plans to introduce SQL Server 2000 Workgroup, a version for small businesses priced at $3,899 per processor, in the first half of this year. It will also add several features to the upcoming SQL Server 2005 update, which is due in the summer, and extend a reselling relationship with Dell, which will allow its customers to get support from the PC maker.

Yeah, that ONLY FOUR GRAND will surely reel in cash strapped small businesses and startups.

When All Your Credibility Is Gone, Why Not?

An ABC news special tonight, anchored by Peter Jennings: The UFO Phenomenon — Seeing Is Believing

Extra special nod, sadly, for the radio commercials who play up that ABC News is asking the things the government won’t consider!

Credible. I would say incredible, but I too easily believe ABC News would do this and treat it as a serious matter, since that’s what its audience believes, and some beliefs are valid because one believes them. A select few, anyway.