Book Report: The Last Dance by Ed McBain (2000)

You know, I found this book in the second rank of books on my to-read shelves, so I’m not sure where I got it. Did I inherit it from my aunt? Did I buy it at the 80% off store last autumn? I cannot remember. All I know is that I was disappointed that an Ed McBain book made it to the back of my bookshelves without getting read. So I rectified the error.

This book represents the 50th 87th Precinct novel. Ponder that, if you will, and revere it. Ed McBain has produced fifty of these novels over the course of the last half century or so; considering that this one is five years old and that they’re coming fewer than one a year now, it’s worth our awe. Like Perry Mason novels, these books hold up well enough for people of a certain age, who remember a life without the Internet. We remember the typewriter and can accept books with reproductions of typewritten reports within them to lend authenticity. Damn kids wouldn’t understand.

This book gets away from that and actually mentions the Internet and mentions Steve Carella’s age. He’s just turned 40, which means I’ve almost caught up with him. If Ed McBain lives another decade, I’ll call Steve Carella a damn kid, and he was 35 when I was 15. Talk about unfair.

The book deals with a number of murders surrounding a revival of a 1920s musical and features a nuanced and ultimately dual-tragic plot. If you stop to think about what the primary (first) murder means, you’ll understand. But the boys from the 87th and Fat Ollie Weeks (of the 88th) get their workouts covering the City looking for clues in the brutal winter (that offers relief, even if the characters don’t know it, from the brutal summer).

Of course, if you don’t know the characters, perhaps the book proves a little hard to follow. Over the last three decades especially, we’ve come to know Carella, Meyer, Hawes, Brown, Parker, Byrnes, Kling, and Generro (wait, he’s not here; don’t tell me if I missed the book where he got it). But this series is proving more resilient than a number of television series, for crying out loud, and proves to be an old friend to which one can turn again and again (since books take longer than an hour minus commercials on television or DVD).

Okay, enough late night blathering. I liked the book, not only because it’s a good enough book in the genre replete with McBain’s poetic touches but also because it’s a link to my youth, when I read adult books in my middle school and high school years.

Symbols for Republicans Continue to Shamble

From a review of Land of the Dead:

Then again, maybe you’re one of those people who are incapable of running. In director George Romero’s parallel universe, “walkers” are the living dead, the zombies who are slowly invading Pittsburgh. They’ve been doing it since 1968, biting and converting one victim at a time. As the zombies have become increasingly resourceful in tracking human prey, they’ve also been increasingly potent symbols of the conformity and consumerism that Romero sees as sucking the life out of America.

The fourth installment in the series (not counting the recent remake of “Dawn of the Dead”) is his most unmistakably symbolic movie yet, a savage indictment of the bunker mentality that has zombified the United States in the age of terror.

In the Nixon years, it was conformity and consumerism. In the George W. Bush years, it’s the bunker mentality. Undoubtedly, for most of the Clinton years, they represented the restrictive legislators and their government protection limitation. One wonders what the zombies represented between 1992 and 1994. Probably the undead menace of “Republican Democracy” that could erupt at any time and did.

UPDATE: In a later review by the same “critic,” War of the Worlds becomes a symbol of Republicans run amok, too.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Agrees with Kelo

PROPERTY RIGHTS: Tear down the castle:

Conservatives have been trying for years to breathe more life into the constitutional protection of property rights. Many saw the sympathetic cause of the New London homeowners as a foot in the door. But their view could have handcuffed economic development.

The court’s decision may fuel the trend for big box stores to displace little businesses and homes, as in Sunset Hills. But it also will help cities improve their economic health or aesthetics. In essence, the decision is a bow to modernity. There aren’t castles anymore.

Bowing to modernity. Apt. All should bow to our new overlords, for whom the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has always been the voice, supporting eminent domain to build ballparks for private companies and to revitalize downtown St. Louis.

There aren’t any castles any more for the common man, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch undoubtedly looks forward to the days when the serfs learn their places as bound to the land of their lords.

Related Query III

So can local governments now take intellectual property rights and give them to others? Because think of how much more profitable a movie theater would be if it didn’t have to pay the studios 90% of the ticket price….and how much more tax money for public use the local government would get….

And all that expensive software they need to run? Eminent domain! It’s all free!

Related Query II

Does the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision mean that my municipal government can determine that food products I have already ingested could better serve the public as fertilizer in the flower bed in the median of the Maryland Heights Expressway and compel me to report, finger in throat, to expel the contents of my stomach for public use?

If so, I hope the soil is very basic as I drink a lot of coffee and don’t want to burn the petunias.

Don’t Worry; The DEA Will Put It To Public Use

A woman at an airport falls prey to larcenous predators: The DEA:

A Quincy woman carrying $46,950 in cash through Logan International Airport claims she was on the way to see a Texas plastic surgeon when federal drug agents seized the money she planned to use for a procedure on her buttocks and breasts.

“The agent looked at my buttocks and told me that I do not need an operation,” Ileana Valdez, 26, told a federal court yesterday in an affidavit contending she got the cash from selling her Dorchester business and two homes.

As some of you know, if law enforcement thinks you have too much cash on you, they can just take it and hold onto it for you until such time as you successfully sue to get it back.

DEA Special Agent Anthony Pettigrew said, “This is her version of events on that day. When there’s a hearing, DEA will present its version of what happened on that day.”

How nice; the DEA doesn’t plan to present evidence of wrongdoing. The DEA will present its version of what happened.

Related Query

Can my local government seize my other private possessions now and turn them over to retailers to sell again? Because the city of Maryland Heights could undoubtedly put the sales tax paid by someone else on the things I formerly owned to good, public use.

UPDATE: I’ll take Illinois in the pool for the first government to try it.

The End of Private Property

Supreme Court rules: All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

“The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including — but by no means limited to — new jobs and increased tax revenue,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin rounds up.

Alternate Title: Supreme Court Acts to Solve Housing Bubble Problem

Book Report: Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker (2005)

As you know, I buy every Robert B. Parker book immediately, although in the recent years and with the recent novels, “immediately” has come to mean the week of release, sometimes the month of release instead of the day. So I got this book within a week of its hitting the shelves and the Amazon shipping room.

Like Phil Connors at the end of Groundhog Day, I have to admit to my perfect woman that something’s different, and anything different is good. The protagonist is not the biggest, baddest gun in town who happens to be co-dependent to a slut and a Korean War veteran. Instead, the first person narrator is the sidekick, and damned if that ain’t enough difference.

Virgil Cole, the toughest marshal-for-hire in the business, and his sidekick Everett “I” Cole come to Appaloosa at the behest of the local aldermen to handle the local band of rowdies who killed the last marshal. As they move into town and onto the badmen, a new woman shows up in town and draws the codependency of the formerly impervious Cole even though she’s a flighty Jewess woman. The tandem of Cole and “I” capture the leader of the murderous band and see him through to a conviction, but his lackeys hire the other baddest guns in the west to concoct an escape with the woman as a hostage and….

Well, I won’t get into detail since my beautiful wife has yet to read the book. However, the book really breaks out of the doldrums into which the Parker books have fallen, amongst the Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, and Spenser novels. This book represents what Potshot and Gunman’s Rhapsody could have been. It’s The Searchers, Sherlock Holmes, and slightly the Spenser novels intermingled in a way that freshens the Parkerverse. It lacks a number of cookie-cut features of the Parkerverse, such as the Korean War service and the tough good gay guy; not that there’s anything wrong with those, but they’re too much a part of Parkers’ other works to really add to those other works. I admit that sometime in the midst of the novel, I didn’t know where it was going, and I was interested in being surprised. And felt the book was capable of it.

My only complaint with the book is that it ends rather abruptly. The last sixth of the book runs very quickly and the ending, although satisfying, provides the satisfaction of a Chinese meal. Sure, it’s good, but I am going to be hungry later.

Perhaps that’s the intention, as the further adventures remain available for Parker to write.

Also, gentle reader, note that this is the 50th book I have read and reported for you this year. I fully expect my store-bought-and-amateur-calligraphed-certificate and coupon for a free Dairy Queen Sundae from each of you. Considering my annual goal is 70 books this year, perhaps I could afford at this time to try Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, or Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury again. Fortunately, though, for both of us, my aunt left me more pressing suspense and horror novels.

I’m Not a Fan of French Wine, But….

I certainly don’t embrace invoking the Bioterrorism Act:

Washington is demanding a new wine accord by July 15 to replace one which expired in 2003 and which would enshrine American wine-making practices banned in Europe.

These include adding oak wood chips to barrels of wine to hasten the ageing process, adding water to must (the grape juice before fermentation is complete), and the use of ion extractors to reduce acidity.

Representatives of struggling French wine producers appealed at the international Vinexpo wine fair in southwestern Bordeaux this week to Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau and External Trade Minister Christine Lagarde to protect their interests in the negotiations.

European Union officials, pushed by traditionalists, are so far refusing to extend a current dispensation allowing the American practices, but US officials say that if no agreement is reached they will tighten application of the Bioterrorism Act.

This law, introduced after the September 11 2001 attacks in the United States, covers imports of all food and drink.

That’s a creative application of legislation. Which means it’s poor legislation.

Pass a good law, prevent or punish a specific act. Pass the normal legislation, and the creative applications never stop.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)


Interesting word choice, Mr. Blankley:

Although this is a heavily researched book that includes amongst its sources almost a hundred people who are or were personally close to Mrs. Clinton, this is not a peek through a keyhole. Instead, it is a peek — and more than a peek — into the mind of Hillary. And, whether you like or hate Hillary, the inside of her mind is a fascinating place in which to rove about.

Now I know I will look for Hillary to be bushed from how politics have gored her.

(Link seen on Power Line.)

Unintentional Irony Alert

Found in a column by John Stossel:

<ñor> “No matter how hard women work, or whatever they achieve in terms of advancement in their own professions and degrees, they will not be compensated equitably!” shouted Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., at a “wage equity” rally in Washington, D.C.

Undoubtedly, the distinguished gentleperson is upset she makes $118,575 and her male colleagues make $158,100.

(Link seen on Outside the Beltway.)

Creve Coeur Handles Its Budget Surplus

What do you do if you’re a local government with a surplus? Turn it into a deficit! But Creve Coeur, Missouri, is rather blatant about it:

The Creve Coeur City Council is considering the proposed budget that begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2006.

The council is expected to vote on the proposed budget at its June 27 meeting.

The proposed budget for all funds shows revenues at $16.8 million and expenditures at $16 million. The apparent $800,000 surplus actually will be routed to long-term personnel funds, leaving the city with a $300,000 deficit in the general fund.

Uh oh! Deficit! You know what that means! Time to raise taxes:

The proposed budget includes a modest raise in what residents pay the city through their personal property taxes. Perkins said residents currently pay 7 cents per $100 assessed valuation. He said the city has not determined the amount of the increase but expects it will be between 8 and 9 cents.

Perkins said although an exact amount has not been determined because information from the county assessor’s office has not arrived, the city is looking at personal property tax numbers that would translate to about $13 a year more for a home valued at $350,000. The money would generate about $140,000 more for the city.

Other taxes in the city have gone up in recent years. The city’s utility tax, after decades of being at less than 5 percent, increased to 6 percent last year and will rise to 7 percent July 1.

Some businesses in the Olive Boulevard Transportation Development District increased their sales tax by one-half percent. The money will be used to pay for roadway and other improvements in the district. The city will not receive money from that increase.

Perkins said the city has begun looking into whether it should consider increasing its tax on business licenses. He said the matter will be reviewed by the city’s economic development and finance committees, but the issue is not part of the proposed budget for 2006.

  • Personal property taxes–that is, cars and things that apartment dwellers pay, too
  • Sales taxes
  • Business license costs

Creve Coeur is on its way to becoming the perfect municipal government. An efficient tax raising and expending machine.