Book Report: Please Write for Details by John D. MacDonald (1959, ?)

Book coverReading the pulp fiction blogs newly in the sidebar reminded me that I had not read a John D. MacDonald novel in quite some time (not since The Damned in March 2012). So I picked up this book.

The novel focuses on an American ex-pat in Mexico who wants to get a little extra income to supplement his savings, so he talks to another ex-pat, a decadent aging beauty who suggests an artist workshop. They line up a couple of artists to teach, rent a rundown failed hotel for the summer, gather a staff of inexpensive indolents, and lure a varied cast of characters to the workshop. Students include a retired career military man who likes to paint landscapes where battles were fought; a newly married couple on a honeymoon, a recent widow who is beautiful but who seems to have given up on life; a player who’s out to conquer more women in his scientific study of the species; an artist working low-paying jobs; a high school teacher with a hunger for sex; a couple of rich Texan girls; an ad man who suffered a mental breakdown; an architect whose firm is breaking up because his partner’s wife has fallen in love with him, and a couple of older women who paint as a hobby.

That’s pretty much the plot, too. They come together, meet, interact, pair off somewhat, and then they leave.

With a MacDonald book, you kinda wait for the death or crime as a pivotal moment, but there isn’t one in this book. I’m not sure there’s even a pivotal moment, although a party has some dramatic impact on the people and turn their lives a bit.

But it’s an interesting book, and one filled with MacDonald’s writing. So if you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy it more than if you’re not, but it’s worth a read. Also, you should be a MacDonald fan. Thank you, that is all.

Books mentioned in this review:

An Innovation I Look Forward To

So the National Weather Service had a little extra budget extracted from the invented money of the Fed, and they decided to engage in a bit of weather self-importance inflation of their own by naming winter storms.

Frankly, I look forward to the day when they give names to individual summer breezes. A’ course, they won’t go very far through the alphabet here in the Ozarks, but still. Summer Breeze Aidan can cool me for a second some July.

Someone Did Not Get The Memo

Change in film industry threatens to close local theaters:

The Moxie is Springfield’s only non-profit, independent movie house, bringing in many foreign films, limited releases, and documentaries. But it is not the only theater that has to fund the costly conversion.

Dangit, that should be non-profit, Native Hipster movie house.

And it answers Gimlet’s question How many hipsters do you have down in Springfield???

The answer is Not enough to support a native hipster cinema.

Which is the answer, really, to the question “How many hipsters live place?”

Book Report: Comic Art Now by Dez Skinn (2008)

Book coverI bought this book in the discount bin at the grocery store a couple years back. It’s an art gallery style book sampling modern comics, particularly focusing on independent artists who are doing creative work with the new technologies.

I mean, there are some smaller books in the Marvel line mentioned, but most of it is smaller artists publishing their own work. The focus is not American comic art, either; the book features a lot of British, Brazilian, Japanese, and European artists. The author is himself a British comic book editor, so there you go.

The biggest insight I got out of it really has more to do with my own relationship to the comics, such as it is these days. As I was going along, I read the captions for the art first and only then, sometimes, looked at the images briefly.

So that might explain why I take a little less out of books like Frik’in Hell and why I don’t do comic books as much as I did when I was younger; I’m more into the prose than into the art, and when that art takes precedence over the story, I’m not sold on it. I’m that way with films, too, I guess. Come to think of it, I’m that way with prose books, too.

So it’s an interesting book to page through, and I liked it. But not enough to go buy a stack of comic books.

Books mentioned in this review:

I’m Not Paranoid; I’m Just Imaginative

Now that a senator has proposed sweeping gun legislation in response to the recent events on the east coast, everyone’s calling for people to write or call their senators to oppose this legislation (see Jennifer, Robb (who once gave me advice for improving my tinfoil hat, werd), Say Uncle, Instapundit, and so on).

Uh huh.

How’s that letter go? I am a gun owner, and I want to voice my displeasure at is not very far off from I have a gun, and here is my demand.

How close?

Close enough for government work. That is, all it takes is a poorly turned phrase, a staffer getting the vapors, and suddenly you’re threatening your senator and there are some very blackly clad government employees no-knocking your house to neutralize you.

No, thanks. I’m just going to send money to the NRA-ILA and various organizations that can fight on my behalf.

The rest of you choose your words carefully. Very carefully.

Book Report: The World of Mike Royko by Doug Moe (1999)

Book coverThis book is a coffee-tablesque biography of Mike Royko written shortly after his death in 1997. Strange, I think I read Royko in his lifetime, but if I did, it must have been his syndicated work in actual newspapers, as I did not get a job with Internet access until 1998.

Long time readers know I like Royko (see my book reports on One More Time, Like I Was Sayin’, and Dr. Kookie, You’re Right!). I think I’ve got another collection of his around here somewhere, and I’ve also read his profile of Mayor Daley I, Boss, in the days before the blog.

Interesting side note: According to this book, Royko was encouraged to write Boss by Saul Alinsky.

This book takes an overview of his career from his time in the military through the three Chicago daily newspapers. It has some interviews with people who knew him, particularly his sons by his first wife. It’s a bit hagiographic, but as I’ve mentioned, I don’t mind admiring a figure about whom you’re writing (or reading).

It’s not a deep biography, weighing in at only 114 pages and featuring a lot of photos, but it offers some insight into the man behind the columns that the columns themselves didn’t provide on their own.

I enjoyed it. If you liked Royko, old man, you might, too.

On the other hand, I’m going to have to get away from biographies. Man, they’re all like, It’s going good, it’s going good, he’s dead, the end. At the end of the year, these can hit one right in the depressive cleaving groove.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Missing Scene from a Christmas Classic

I found this on YouTube while researching a bit of the family Christmas classic Lethal Weapon. It’s a scene not found in the film, but it’s got the right look to be something trimmed and left behind:

Maybe it’s on the DVD I have as a deleted scene; maybe it’s been held back for the six-disc Blu-Ray package to be released someday. But it’s kind of satisfying to come across something new featuring the characters, look and feel, of a film I’ve liked and enjoyed for decades.

It’s kind of like fan fiction. Only real.

It extends the enjoyment and the storyline when I thought it was set and immutable. What a treat.

Book Report: Never Ending Dawn by V.R. Williams (2001)

Book cover This is a small chapbook of religious-themed poetry. I’d assumed that the poet was a resident of Springfield, Missouri, since the publishing house is here in town, but I could be mistaken. The About the Author on the back indicates that the poet was originally from Tobago and was a school teacher in NYC. Searching briefly on her name on the Internet yields a lot of small businesses run by V.R. Williams. Trying the publishing house, Gilead Publishing, in the old search engine yields a number of results publishing religious-themed books much like this one. So I have no idea about the source of this particular book. You can’t buy it on Amazon. So I might have a real collectors’ item here.

As I said, it’s a chapbook collection of religious poems dealing with the poet’s relationship with God and whatnot. Some poems venture into eulogies for people the poet knew. But it’s that sort of thing.

Is it any good? Well….

It’s not bad in a revulsion sort of way. The poems are not free verse and have end rhymes, so the author put some thought into them. The grammar is good, unlike some poems personal friends of mine have written. But there’s nothing particularly evocative or memorable in the book.

I can’t help but contrast the collection with that of James Kavanaugh, the self-defrocked priest whose collection I read in November. His was a late 1970s collection of the period zeitgeist for free-wheelin’ poets in turtlenecks and with hardback contracts didn’t even bother to end-rhyme, and his words pretty much washed over me like water, too.

So.

You know what? Ms. Williams and Mr. Kavanaugh both took the time and effort to put their thoughts, different as they were, into some sort of structure and to share them with others. Good on ’em. If it doesn’t work out that they’re immortal, so be it.

I must be in the Christmas spirit or something to not be snarking all over them both, but there you go.

Highlights from a Very Noggle Christmas

Highlights from Christmas 2012 at Nogglestead:

  • Ammunition was given as a gift, ammunition was received as a gift.
    This….is….. SPRINGFIELD! Of course it was. Earlier this year, I accompanied my mother-in-law to the gun range so she could become familiar with her .38, so I got her a box of .38 rounds to encourage her to go in 2013. She got me a box, too, to encourage me to come with her. Her gift to me came in a bit of trickery; I had asked for a woodworking router for Christmas, and I unwrapped an Asus wireless router box, at which point my wife said, “Mom, that’s the wrong kind of router!” and they played it up as though it was a mistake. After they led me on for a bit, my mother-in-law told me to open the box, and inside was another wrapped box with a distinctive jingle of brass. At which point, my wife and I laughed harder because we had a box about the same size for her.
     
  • Mizzou Leia
     
  • My boys discovered that they could combine the marbles from their new Hungry Hungry Hippos game with the electronic car launcher from their new Hot Wheels set to create a devastatingly effective marble launching siege engine. That one chimp with the bone from the beginning of 2001? My direct ancestor, brother.

I hope yours was just as good.

Book Report: The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson (2011)

Book coverThis book is not a romance novel. You are forgiven if you think it might be: It’s under 200 pages, its author has written 200 other novels in the stripe, and it features a simple story of people falling in love.

However, please note that this book is a Christmas novel, a genre I only recently discovered in the local Christian publishing bookstore at Christmas time.

Look, here’s the categorization:

See? A Christmas book.

Its plot is simple: a strange woman comes to town, buys a building that a city councilman wanted, and plans to open some sort of business in it. The new town manager, the first woman to hold that position, is new in town and has to navigate the politics of the situation. The fortyish bachelor who runs the paper, the child of the founders and a man who dreams or dreamt of bigger things, tries to get the scoop. And other townsfolk talk and wonder about the stranger.

It relies on a bit of Christian Stephen Kingery to teach valuable lessons and Christmas stuff to the characters. It’s lighter fare than Home for Christmas, and it’s supposed to be. It’s like beach reading for the snowtime. I don’t think I’ll read another in the genre until maybe next year at this time, but I can’t help but wonder if I might not be able to write something in it.

Books mentioned in this review:

Red on Red

Talk radio host Dana Loesch files suit in St. Louis against Breitbart.com:

Conservative talk radio host and commentator Dana Loesch sued the owner of the conservative website Breitbart.com Friday, claiming that although her relationship with the news and opinion aggregating website had gone “tragically awry,” Breibart.cοm LLC refused to let her work for the company or anyone else, forcing her into “indentured servitude in limbo.”

I wonder what’s up with that?

Oh, No. It Is First Edition.

I was going to proudly not bid on this auction because I expected it would be one of the later editions. But according to a seller answer to a question, it’s straight Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. eBay auction: Play D&D at Detroit’s Immortal ConFusion with 8 Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors!

Join 8 Fantasy & Science Ficiton authors for a classic game of Dungeons & Dragons at Detroit’s very own Immortal ConFusion this January

Join eight other fantasy authors in a classic game of D&D at Immortal ConFusion this coming January! The players include some of the best in the fantasy world: Pat Rothfuss, Peter V. Brett, Diana Rowland, Jim C. Hines, Mary Robinette Kowal and Sam Sykes. Authors Myke Cole and Saladin Ahmed will DM the game.

Of course, it’s still in Detroit, so there’s my reason for not buying myself one of those for Christmas.

But what’s up with the $7.15 shipping on it?

Book Report: Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman (2011)

Book coverThis book is a Jesse Stone book, but it’s not a Robert B. Parker book. It’s written by one of the guys behind the Jesse Stone television movies, so it comes out of that milieu. It definitely has some television moments in it, but unlike the television excesses that Parker injected in his book after writing for the Spenser: For Hire television show, this book has some description and prose in it that are not dialog. But some moments in it are definitely televisionish in other ways, like when Jesse Stone breaches a room where an armed man might be by hitting the door and rolling into a sitting position with his gun up.

It’s also like Parker filtered through Ed McBain after a fashion: there are multiple, unrelated plot lines running through it. It takes place as Paradise is getting ready to go into the important summer tourism season. A ring of car thieves threatens the town, and then one of the thefts goes awry and leads to a homicide. A criminal from Stone’s past comes east from LA to get revenge. A girl holds her school principal at gunpoint and Jesse Stone helps intercede. The plots don’t all start or end at once; the car theft thing starts the book out, and ultimately gets a mob-assisted resolution midway through the book. The third plot starts out in the middle of the book and resolves over the last half. The main plot, the revenge one (although you might be forgiven thinking the plot that starts the book is the main plot), kinda weaves through a bit and then ends climactically in an episode that makes you go, “What?”

It’s meant to fill the book equivalent of two hours, and it does. It’s not as fast of a read as Parker’s work, but really, they’re two different animals. How different? Jesse Stone gets a cat. Not a shorthaired pointer. Not a bull terrier whom children say reminds them of Spuds McKenzie, a marketing icon from twenty-five years ago.

So it’s a so-so read. Not as good as the Ace Atkins Spenser novel, but Atkins is a novelist by trade. Still, this book is weightier than Parker’s last entries in the series, so it’s got that going on. But a direct comparison and contrastation does us no good.

Books mentioned in this review:

Further Eroding the Concept of Family

In Eureka, two women roommates think that their combined households containing an adult child and two minor children constitutes a family. (Also here and here.)

Note that none of the sources claim they’re a lesbian couple, which would change the timbre of the case. The articles claim that they’re two people who moved in together to share household costs, and they’ve run afoul of a local ordinance that says homes can only be shared by families. It’s designed to keep owners from turning single family homes into multiple unit dwellings and to keep the number of roommates down from frat house levels.

The two women ran afoul of the one family per home regulation, and instead of seeking a variance in the one-family rule , they’re seeking to expand the definition of family to include unrelated and nonsexual unions of adults. You know, like a club or new dyad (why stop with two, though?).

It’s almost enough to make a fiscal conservative think that the social cons are onto something when they say that the whole concept of family is under sustained, although unrelated, assault.

If these two women and their children constitute a family in the eyes of the law, what does not? Also, into what other elements of the law would this ruling set a precedent? A roommate can get custody of a child when the roommates’ shared domicile dissolves? What about in the death of a roommate, can the roommate get custody over the kid’s grandparents? Will insurers have to start covering your roommates? These are not unrelated questions.

In our grandparents’ time, this sort of argument would be unheard of. In our parents’ time, it would have been laughable. In our time, it’s just plausible enough that it could go either way.