Revenge Is A Red Head

 

Rating: 4/5 

I am running out of space for physical books, I own everything Hard Case Crime has put out: everything by Chuck Palahniuk, Chandler and for some reason most of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novels, to name a few of my eclectic collection.

So to save space and money (in most cases) I went out and purchased myself a kindle. Amazon’s algorithm counting every hard boiled novel, decided to present Revenge Is A RedRevenge is a Redhead by [Beloin Jr., Phil] Head as a “You Might like this, PS we are not spying on you” recommendation.

Less than an English £1 and 93 pages long I thought what can go wrong?

Phil Beloin Jr didn’t was a word on the page, pacing his story with edgy dialogue, action and just a bit of smut. The story follows, down on his luck Rich son of a cop, who  finds himself with out a home and part-time professional clothes remover and lady of the night Cherry Pop. Who meet at a “Gentlemen’s club” Rich has less than 75 cents in his pocket. Cherry takes a shine to him.

what happens next would somewhat spoil the plot so we will skip over that. Someone is wronged and revenge is sort.

Beloin creates two likable characters, who engage the reader and in the end you want to root for our duo even when they are slashing, shooting or beating people to death and in sometime even sleeping with them to death. According to Cherry it is not a bad way to after all the the french have a word for it.

if you like short punchy reads, good characters and modern noir then Revenge Is A Red is for you, if you liked Money Shot by Christa Faust then it is a must.

 

 

 

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The Exorcist (A book review)

Rating 4/5

The ExorcistIt’s seems every decade has had it Satanic panic, the 1960’s had it’s Manson murders, Rosemary’s baby, The First Church of Satan and the old Barbara Steel films. The 1970’s saw the rise of poltergeist mostly in the way of Enfield poltergeist, Damien of The Omen fame and of course William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist; often quoted by British film critic Mark Kermode as the greatest film ever made. The 1980’s saw the true Satanic Panic, cults on every street corner, any heavy metal album played backwards would enter you in to a pact with Old Nick to sell your very soul, except the records of christian heavy metal band Stryper for obvious reasons. The 1990’s again saw music being responsible with such acts as Marilyn Manson being held up as the poster boy for all that was unwholesome at the time.

Blatty’s Exorcist is for me the corner stone of all possession stories if you have read A Head full of Ghost. you will notice it is an uplift to Blatty’s 1970’s blue print. The story centers around Regan the daughter of a well heeled Hollywood actress, who happens to be working on her next project in Washington at the local Jesuit college.

It starts off slow, there are the usual bangs and knocking one would associate with a haunting. Stuff goes missing and appears in placing, there is an Ouija board too. Regan starts to become ill and traditional medicine has now answers so it’s to psychology and aliments of the mind becoming the reason of the illness. Enter priest Father Karras who happens to be both of the cloth and a physiologist, who is struggling with his own faith.

The story is a slow boil and is both a horror story and a physiological thriller, I am not sure by reading it, is Blatty  pro or against the Catholic church. it never crosses the line in to praise or scorn. Blatty’s style and prose is not straight forward either paragraphs switch between characters who may not even be in the same room.

“He walked up the stairs”

“While he was walking up the stairs across town she was boarding a bus”

It is an interesting style and does take some getting use to it maybe a detraction for some readers but after a while one gets to enjoy it. The real gem of the story is the brilliantly realized Kinderman , LT of detectives across between Columbo and Phillip Marlowe. A character that needs seeking out and devoured in the best sense.

Faith, loss, a mothers love are recurring themes through out the book Regan’s mother knows what happens to at least one person does she do the right thing?

It may be a little dated at times, but it works will and you can understand why the film always pops up in them 101 horror movies to see before you die lists. it is a slow boil but a lot of the best horror is. Read that then read A Head full Of Ghost the fitting homage to Blatty.

Stephen King’s IT: A book that that I couldn’t finish

ItThis isn’t a review as such, more of reason why I didn’t finish IT. Apparently in the Good Reads/book tube community (you tube but people talk about how many book they own on their videos). Did not finish is a thing or more commonly known as #DNF.

Now to me I like to finish a book I like to find out what happens as we all do when we pick a book to read and if you purchased a book you have made two investments :

  1. Money – now if you a decent income and you are on not on the breadline then every month you will get more money. The glories of work, which i have spoken about in other posts,
  2. Time – I am now 35, as some one pointed out to me I am nearly 40 time is something I am aware of is a finite resource. To quote King him self from on writing “I haven’t got time to read a bad book” or words to that effect

 

And why carrying on doing something you don’t enjoy? So i got to page 495 of It and it was hard going according to my Good Reads i started reading the adventures of Stuttering Bill and his friends on 31st of March it is now the 23rd Of April. To say I have not been invested in this book is an understatement. As books weighing over 500 Pages I have finished in the shorter amounts of time. It comes in at at lofty 1376 pages.

That’s the problem there is a lot of not much happening in the book, it just seems to go on and on, sometime there will be the aforementioned It on the murder (as my granny would say, “That fella he was on the murder, they nicked him for it”). Or It will scare someone but there is a lot of nothing.

If you don’t know the story there is a killer clown stalking a small town, killing children, a group of kids find out about this, get on with their lives only to get drawn back when they are adults when the killings start happening again.

King does touch on a few themes too. Domestic abuse, homophobia, the shattered american dream.

Maybe it just wasn’t for me after all not everyone likes Rock n’ roll music. But as the man himself said “I haven’t got time to read a bad book”. Sometimes you need to move away from the guilt of not finishing a book, give that book to charity and move on to the next book, as per reasons one and two above.

March Reading Retrospective

In March I blazed my way through 7 books, I was lucky as 6 of them were good reads. Here’s how I got on;

        Station Eleven 

Product DetailsThe first book I picked-up in March was Emily St-John Mandel’s excellent take on a post apocalyptic. fusing a sense of wonder and lost together for a world without society, electricity or modern trappings. Each character joins the dots to brilliant 3rd act

Station Eleven

 

The Girl With All The Gifts 

Product DetailsNext it was M.R Carey’s fantastic take on the Zombie story. Like Mandel’s Station Eleven above it focuses on the a post apocalyptic world and  a group of survivors with a small zombie
child in tow

The Girl With All The Gifts

 

The Troop

Product DetailsNext up to bat was Nick Cutter’s The Troop, a cross between Lord Of The Flies and Slither. unfortunately for me this fell flat. unlikable characters and it had a feel of being done before.

The Troop 

 

 

The Name Of The Wind

Product Details

Time for some high fantasy in Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name Of The wind. Losses it pace in  the middle but beginning and ending more than make up for it. Even if the main character is annoyingly perfect.

The Name Of The Wind

 

The Moving Target

Product DetailsTime to get hard boiled in Ross MacDonald’s Moving Target. Introducing Lew Archer investigating his first case. Money, kidnap and religious cults are all used in this classic noir story.

The Moving Target

Fight Club

Product DetailsChuck Palahniuck’s debut novel, left it’s mark on culture and had everyone quoting from it. A social commentary of the 90’s that still stands 20 years latter.

Fight Club A book review

 

Titanic Thompson

Product DetailsLast up was Kevin Cook’s treatment of Titanic Thompson’s life. Profiling the highs and lows of the the greatest conman of the 20th of century. In one with a pass interest in hustling, conmen, golf or even American folk heroes.

Titanic Thompson

 

 

And there you have it not a bad month for reading, six solid books and one that fell flat percentage wise that is good odd as Titanic Thompson would say.

Titanic Thompson the man who bet on everything. Kevin Cook (a book review

Rating 4/5 

 

Titanic Thompson by Kevin Cook

Before the email scams, before the internet scams, before people hacked face book and before ransom were scams. There were the grifter the honest to god conman. Names like Soapy Smith, Minnesota Fats, Amarillo Slim, hustling pool, sharping cards, hustling golf pros out of thousands travelling up and down the continental USA. Out of all these men and women who plied their trade offering bets with impossible odds and sure things. One man stood out among them all, the best of the best of the road gamblers; Titanic Thompson.

Kevin Cook’s biography tells the tale of the gentleman conman who travelled America making and losing more money in a lifetime then most could dream about. Thompson , golf hustler, card cheat, crack shot and master of the prop bet. Titanic’s story is set against a back drop of prohibition America, pool halls, back room poker games, Hollywood and swanky hotels. Thompson blazed across the states in his Packard, loaded with his.45, a set of of golf clubs both left and right handed and what every man who makes his living gambling a suitcase full of money.

Titanic is the romanticised grifter if there ever was one. Rubbing shoulders with the great and the good. Everyone from Howard Hughes to the local sheriff most people move in Thompson’s circle.

Cook’s portrayal of Thompson to the reader seems a little far fetched. The reader if they have had no knowledge of the conman’s modus_operandi would question what Titanic and his friends managed to get away with. The story can read somewhat fantastical. According to Cook it is true except one key scene that Cook reviles in the last part of the third act.

Many years I have spent learning the card sharp skills that Cook describes that Titanic executed poker games. I’ve never had the bravery to pull them of in a live game, most card cheating happens in private games Titanic him self said “It is to difficult to cheat in Vegas”. The card manipulation Titanic achieves is certainly real and can be done with practise. But where Titanic exceeds is golf hustles.

I am not a fan of Golf, it’s neither a sport I would sit down and watch let alone play, I have heard golfers wax lyrical of the game. I am in the Mark Twain camp of “Golf is a good walk spoilt”. In fact I have now read three books where golf features prominent; Alice Cooper’s Golf Monster which reads across between Autobiography and gold manual, James Ellroy’s first novel Browns Requiem and now Kevin Cook’s Titanic Thompson.

A mark of an excellent writer is to keep his audiences interest even when the reader has no interest in the subject. Cook by no means had me reaching for the Nine Iron I have ever enjoyed the golf scenes Cook puts to paper.

Like all Folk heroes when wrote about the author can fall in to the trap of sycophancy. Cook skirts in to this a couple of times but never fully immersing him self hero worship as soon as he treads the water he heads back to shore.

Thompson’s life had everything, wealth, women , friends, fans the twist at the end is a tragic ending that anyone can have. Cook knows his subject well and conjurers up the sympathy for his hero.

Cook’s biography on Thompson has a little bit of everything. But the characters larger than life and real are the reason the reader will invest their time in Titanic’s story. He took a few more years to sink than his name sake, but faded almost obscurity now. Cook helps bring the story of a remarkable man back in to lexicon of the conman. Forget your Ponzi and Madoff Thompson was charming good crook, a man who killed five people his charm never waned.

A worthwhile read of an American folk hero

The Moving Target

Rating 3.5/5

Detective noir has always interested me ; from my first taste by reading James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, the total immersion that was in playing Rock star games L.A Noire or watching the Monroe’s first screen outing in The Asphalt Jungle and Jessica Alba’s performance in The killer inside me. You can forget your Law and Orders where although flawed the good guys always come out whiter than white and are never in any peril. True detective fiction for me was gum shoes from the 1930 to the 1950’s , well the genre has a whole. I like my detectives as I like my eggs hard boiled (Not sure if that has ever been used before so I am claiming it).

After my bold claims above it turns out I haven’t read any Ross MacDonald and I knew nothing about his ex cop come private dick Lew Archer. Archer embodies the genre as much as Spade and Marlow. MacDonald writes with the rhythm and pace that has become synonymous with noir.

And with his embodiment of both character and style MacDonald give us Archer’s first case. Moving target. Moving Target see our detective Archer on the case of the missing oil tycoon Ralph Sampson. Archer has his suspects Mrs Sampson, Ralph’s Daughter Maranda Sampson, Alan Tagget Sampson’s personal pilot and Maranda’s love interest and there is a fading movie star and psychic who could also be involved. There is even a cult leader who lives on a mountain.

All the tropes are there Archer encounters heavies, men with secrets, thugs and where would a hard boiled detective be without the femme_fatale? Archer encounters enough of them.

This isn’t your down-town L.A story Archer moves around suburban L.A visiting dive bars and seedy hotels. MacDonald keeps his detective away from the hustle and bustle of the bright lights, proving that suburban L.A can be just as dangerous,

Archer is a likeable character and MacDonald is not scared to have his Character knocked out, shot at or worse.

The story may be formulaic but MacDonald and Archer keeps the reader gripped enough through the story. With enough twist and changes in direction to keep the story fresh with out being confusing , but at the end of it and the dust settles it is a kidnapping story and they can only turn out a few ways.

With the above said it is a worth wile read. Archer has the right balance of forthrightness , flaws and sarcasm to be enjoyable.

Ready Player One (It’s the 80s!)

Ready Player One cover.jpgThere is a certain nostalgia for the 80’s. That for some strange reason a generation wants to cling on to. For me the most purest for of music was invented in the 80’s hair metal, The Crue, Ratt, warrant and Guns and roses they may argue that they wasn’t hair mental but they grew up on the Sun set strip. So shout “I want my MTV” turn Kick start my heart up to 11. And get ready to say “Oh boy” like doctor Sam Beckett stepping in to the body of Elvis while he is flying Airwolf because Earnest Cline takes back to a time when cubes were Rubicked.

Well actually he takes us to the future 2044 where nostalgia is the in thing. Cline’s Ready Player one is a love letter to VHS, movies of the 80s and the games we use to play down at the arcade with a side dose of pop culture . The future is not bright in Cline’s world and we meet our hero Wade living in the stacks, motor homes stacked up on each other hence the name. With not a lot to do Wade spends most of his time in a VR world called oasis. Then James Halliday dies the Steve Jobs of 2044. But he has left an easter egg in the Oasis by completing levels if you will and if you can find it then you will run the Oasis and become rich beyond your wildest dreams.

Cline hooks Wade up with a bunch of hapless heroes and the game is set. The book drew me in I wanted Wade to carry out his tribulations and quest. I wanted Wade to score the perfect score on Pac-man I booed the evil villains who lived on some sort of space station in the game. But then it all fell apart for me.

Cline has chops in creating his world but it just a long drawn out “Do you remember the 80s?”Cline does give the world some weight, the stacks , the endless MMPOG. I was in. I had my coin on top of the arcade machine to buy in. I was even getting philosophical this is how people will form friendships and fall in love. Forget tinder I know of one world of war craft wedding. Then it happens Wade meets a girl, well an avatar and that when it all fell apart for me.

I know that shakespeare once said their was only 7 stories. But it becomes a paint by numbers fantasy , hero on a quest, hero meets girl, girl is not just a princess to be plucked like a toad stool (keeping with the video game theme) girl runs away, hero becomes annoying, pines for girl and the bad guys are evil.

Instead of Frodo finding the ring he plays arcade games instead.

Here is the interesting thing I blistered through the book afterwards I was in awe. Then I sat down and digested what I had read it was 5 stars but then the star faded and become 3 stars. It is enjoyable but I am not sure if Cline pulls off the cyber-punk fantasy cross over. If you like reading about some one playing down the arcade and can move past the somewhat bolted on love affair. Cline has some great ideas; the stacks, the Oasis, the parody of the Steve Jobs. But like all love letters to bygone people and bygone eras in hindsight they don’t always come across as they should.