Book Report: Red Hammer Down by Jack Hild (1985)

Book coverI read this book as a break in more serious books. It is the sixth book in the series, so it’s the one right after Gulag War, which was the first of the series that I read in 2009. It deals with the aftermath of that book: After a successful mission to Siberia that embarrassed the Soviets, the SOBs scatter and hide out, only to find Spetsnaz kill teams on their trail. The SOBs discover that a fallen team member isn’t dead and is bait for a Russian trap on Majorca. But if you’re trying to trap the SOBs, you might find that the metal clamps shut around you.

The book is 218 pages, and about 120 of those pages are the climactic battle on Majorca. The preceding 90 are also action-packed and move along very rapidly indeed. There’s less exposition and setup even than the Executioner novels. Although, ultimately, this means they’re not as deep nor character-rich, but as an ensemble cast of sometimes expendable characters, you should expect some of that.

I’m surprised that the SOBs didn’t get some sort of movie treatment in the 1980s, frankly, and I look forward to stumbling across more of these books in the future.

Books mentioned in this review:

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2011: The Year’s Reading In Review

Well, here they are: The 106 books I read in 2011.

  • Buried Treasures of the Ozarks by W.C. Jameson
  • Remembering St. Louis World’s Fair by Margaret Johanson Witherspoon
  • Missouri Bandits, Bushwackers, Outlaws by Carole Marsh
  • A Political Bestiary by Eugene J. McCarthy and James J. Kilpatrick
  • This Is It, Mike Shayne by Brett Halliday
  • Battlestar Galactica by Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston
  • Split Image by Robert B. Parker
  • The Turqouise Lament by John D. MacDonald
  • The Virginian by Owen Wister
  • Great Sonnets by Edited by Paul Negri
  • Fresh Lies by James Lileks
  • Goodbye, Nanny Grey by Susannah Stacey
  • Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
  • Code of Honor by “Don Pendleton”
  • Unsolved Murders & Mysteries edited by John Canning
  • The Brookline Shoot-Out by Shirley Walker Garton and Bradley Allen Garton
  • The River of Used To Be by Jim Hamilton
  • Telefon by Walter Wager
  • The Gingerbread Lady by Neil Simon
  • Dave Barry Turns 40 by Dave Barry
  • Fletch Forever by Gregory McDonald
  • California Hit by Don Pendleton
  • Boston Blitz by Don Pendleton
  • Thunderball by Ian Fleming
  • Where There’s Smoke by Ed McBain
  • Battlestar Galactica 2: The Cylon Death Machine by Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston
  • Traces of Silver by Artie Ayres
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Selected Poems by John Donne
  • Casual Day Has Gone Too Far by Scott Adams
  • Garfield Takes Up Space by Jim Davis
  • Washington IOU by Don Pendleton
  • Bite Size History by Hugh Westrup
  • Triviata compiled by Timothy T. Fullerton
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Vintage Reading by Robert Kanigel
  • San Diego Siege by Don Pendleton
  • The Well-Stocked Bookcase
  • Sicilian Slaughter by Jim Peterson
  • Jersey Guns by Don Pendleton
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Texas Storm by Don Pendleton
  • The Best of Clarence Day by Clarence Day
  • Can a Lawn Chair Really Fly? by Jess Gibson
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry
  • Storm Prey by John Sandford
  • The Treasury of Clean Jokes by Tal D. Bonham
  • The Seinfeld Universe by Greg Guttoso
  • New Orleans Knockout by Don Pendleton
  • Firestorm U.S.A. by Jack Hild
  • The Bittersweet Ozarks at a Glance by Ellen Gray Massey
  • The Kentucky Rifle: A True American Heritage in Pictures by The Kentucky Rifle Association
  • No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem by Jeff Foxworthy
  • Point Blank by Jack Hild
  • Ozark Tales and Superstitions by Phillip W. Steele
  • Treasure Hunting for Fun and Profit by Charles Garrett
  • Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Atlas of Ancient History: 1700 BC to 565 AD by Michael Grant
  • The World’s Great News Photos 1840-1980 by Craig T. Norback and Melvin Gray
  • South Park Conservatives by Brian C. Anderson
  • Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Hawaiian Hellground by Don Pendleton
  • Silent Prey by John Sandford
  • Painted Ladies by Robert B. Parker
  • Sixkill by Robert B. Parker
  • Bad Blood by John Sandford
  • Anerica Alone by Mark Steyn
  • Incredible Super Trivia by Fred L. Worth
  • Run to Daylight by Vince Lombardi
  • Paris, Tightwad, and Peculiar by Margot Ford McCullen
  • Triumph TRs by Graham Robson
  • Missouri Hard to Believe But True by Carole Marsh
  • A Bag of Noodles by Wally Armbruster
  • Remembering Reagan by Peter Hannaford and Charles D. Hobbs
  • One Hour Crafts for Kids by Cindy Groom Harry
  • Bruges and Its Beauties
  • Gainsborough: A Biography by Elizabeth Ripley
  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not Special Edition 2005 by Mary Packard
  • Great Quotes, Great Comedians by compiled by Michael Ryan
  • Jokes and Anecdotes for All Occasions by Ralph L. Marquard
  • Corporate Madness by Mark Lineback
  • Orvieto: Art-History-Folklore
  • Whiplash: America’s Most Frivolous Lawsuits by James Percelay
  • 28 Table Lamp Projects by H.A. Menke
  • Three Aces by Rex Stout
  • Empire of Lies by Andrew Klavan
  • Halo First Strike by Eric Nylund
  • Outland by Alan Dean Foster
  • I’m Not Anti-Business, I’m Anti-Idiot by Scott Adams
  • The Porkchoppers by Ross Thomas
  • Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout
  • The Book of Questions and Answers by Joshua Coltrane
  • Canadian Crisis by Don Pendleton
  • Daytrip Missouri by Lee N. Godley and Patricia M. O’Rourke
  • Home for Christmas by Lloyd C. Douglas
  • Wild Horse Mesa by Zane Grey
  • Kill Me Tomorrow by Richard S. Prather
  • Colorado Kill-Zone by Don Pendleton
  • General George Patton: Old Blood and Guts by Alden Hatch
  • Love and Marriage by Bill Cosby
  • Attila, King of the Huns by Patrick Howarth
  • Buried Prey by John Sandford
  • Do the Work! by Steven Pressfield
  • In Odd We Trust by Dean Koontz and Queenie Chan
  • Missouri by Bill Nunn

To sum up:

I read a lot of Don Pendleton’s The Executioner series, as is only fitting because my beautiful wife bought me 47 of them for my birthday in February.

I spent a lot of time this year getting my geek cred back by reading The Lord of the Rings and Dune, and I threw in Time Enough For Love by Heinlein. That’s some 2000 pages of science fiction and fantasy right there.

In the late spring and early summer, I started and even finished a number of compendium books, especially about literature, in advance of my Jeopardy! audition. Since I’ve forgotten most of what I read in them, it’s just as well that I’ve not been summoned to Los Angeles.

I didn’t read too many classics or serious things this year. I got in a couple of bios, especially late, and a number of Robert B. Parker and John Sandford works.

This next year, I expect I’ll read more seriously but will get my fill of pulp and picture books.

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Book Report: Missouri by Bill Nunn (1982)

Book coverCenterre Bancorporation brought us this book to celebrate the opening of its new headquarters in St. Louis in 1982. Don’t remember Centerre Bancorporation? Boatmen’s Bank bought it out in 1988. Don’t remember Boatmen’s Bank? NationsBank bought it in 1996 and sent the Boatmen’s Bank Guy pitchman to MagnaBank, where he became Magna Man. Don’t remember MagnaBank? That’s not relevant here. Don’t remember NationsBank? It eventually became Bank of America.


At any rate, I got this book from the library as a picture book I could browse while watching football games, but the text-to-photos ratio is not particularly conducive to that. The book is almost endcapped by glowing tributes to the revitalizations of St. Louis City and Kansas City, and it’s almost handicapped by those tributes. For the last 30 years or so, St. Louis has always been on the verge of returning to its glory back in the days where it had the only bridge over the Mississippi River. But it never gets there, and any boosterism text is suspect.

But the book also takes a bit of a tour through small towns in Missouri, and it has a lot of pictures of historic Missouri (of 1982!). So it’s got that going for it, and it wasn’t an unpleasant couple of hours of browsing.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Burns and Allen v. Whitney

As I mentioned, I’ve been recording episodes of the sitcom Whitney because I think Whitney is cute. So I’ve given it two episodes, and Meh.

VHS coverIt didn’t help Whitney‘s case at all that I watched four episodes of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show on VHS in between the pilot and the second episode I watched (“Two Broke-Up Guys”, actually the sixth episode, which indicates I did not set my DVR to record all of the episodes) of the more modern sitcom. The differences are startling.

The modern comedy, including the Seinfeld seasons I previously reviewed, starts with a situational premise. The two Whitney episodes deal with 1)A wedding leads Whitney to try to spice up her relationship with her longterm live-in boyfriend, and 6)A friend of Whitney’s boyfriend ends their friendship because he thinks Whitney has influenced the boyfriend too much.

With those overarching situations, we then get to individual scenes that rely on the characters’ caricatured behavior and the other characters reactions to it. Also, the humor is pretty sexual in nature, as Whitney spices up her relationship by dressing as a naughty nurse and sending her boyfriend to the hospital, et cetera.

By contrast, the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show starts out with a situation–a card game, a visit from a friend or relative with some active children who stymie George as he tries to write a speech. Then we get individual scenes that rely on Gracie saying silly things and the other characters react to it. Then, in the middle, the pitchman comes into the scene and tells the characters present about Carnation Evaporated Milk.

You know, the structure isn’t that much different. I guess the difference really lies in the humor. The old Burns and Allen show places a lot of stock in wordplay and the occasional straight-up gag as Burns addresses the audience. Burns and Allen got their starts in vaudeville, early movies, and radio, so they have to be staccato.

Or maybe it’s that’ I’m an old man, even older than I was when I watched the first two seasons of Seinfeld last year, and comedy set in a city (Chicago, of all places) with young, unmarried people doesn’t speak to me. An older married couple (in their middle 50s in the 1950s, no less) who love each other and live in the suburbs, I like.

So I think I’ll dustbin the rest of the Whitney and find more grainy, clever comedy that makes my wife laugh.

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