Monday, August 22, 2005

"Shoedog" by George Pelecanos

Few crime novelists can hook you like George Pelecanos. His 1994 stand-alone “Shoedog” was out-of-print until last fall in paperback….great news!

There are no good guys in this tale of violence, extreme betrayal and social realism. Every character is morally questionable. Like great film-noir, the cast is either anti-hero or villain.

After drifting worldwide for seventeen years, Constantine decides to hitchhike back to DC. He accepts a ride from an older hood called Polk (everyone in “Shoedog” goes by one name).

Outside DC, Polk needs to make a stop to “collect some dough.” That stop sets a dreadfully dark caper in motion for Constantine.

A dual liquor robbery in DC on payday…two inside men on both jobs and a driver. Well cased and set up…it looks okay…and no one has a chance to say no.

In the great noir tradition a woman upsets loyalties and outsiders are after Polk.

The dénouement is stunning and will resound in your mind for an extensive period.

Packed with remarkable dialogue, suspense, treachery, fanatical duplicity and filled with superb pop culture references, “Shoedog” is best read in black and white.

Curmudgeon in the Wry 305

Monday, August 22, 2005---503 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 52 seconds (time well spent)
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Rave: Jethro Tull
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Underrated: Jack Elam, Roy Barcroft, Ellen Barkin, Scott Glenn
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Rant: The behavior of homeless advocates is scarier than that of the homeless.
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Rave: “Over There” is outstanding television. Bochco has done it again. Erik Palladino as Sgt. Scream is outstanding.
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Rave: Few crime novelists can hook you like George Pelecanos. His 1994 stand-alone “Shoedog” was out-of-print until last fall in paperback….great news!
There are no good guys in this tale of violence, extreme betrayal and social realism. Every character is morally questionable. Like great film-noir, the cast is either anti-hero or villain.
After drifting worldwide for seventeen years, Constantine decides to hitchhike back to DC. He accepts a ride from an older hood called Polk (everyone in “Shoedog” goes by one name).
Outside DC, Polk needs to make a stop to “collect some dough.” That stop sets a dreadfully dark caper in motion for Constantine.
A dual liquor robbery in DC on payday…two inside men on both jobs and a driver. Well cased and set up…it looks okay…and no one has a chance to say no.
In the great noir tradition a woman upsets loyalties and outsiders are after Polk.
The dénouement is stunning and will resound in your mind for an extensive period.
Packed with remarkable dialogue, suspense, treachery, fanatical duplicity and filled with superb pop culture references, “Shoedog” is best read in black and white.
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Rave: I admire those who can row a boat in a straight line.
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This just in: In order not to offend those of the Polish persuasion, the NCAA has renamed the pole vault event to stick vault. Lest people from Finland may get offended, the same NCAA has replaced finish line with end line.
What will they rename the foul pole?
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Rave: The History Channel takes some of the pain out of commercial breaks with their interesting and informative facts on the movie they are showing.
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Rant: After watching about three seconds of the promos for “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” it is painfully evident that its audience is composed of those who believe pro wrestling is both a sport and not fixed.
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Overrated: Nancy Grace, Whoopie Goldberg,
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Hmmm: If you remember when men’s suits came with two pairs of trousers, you are even older than I am.
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Remind me again: At the beach, what was so enjoyable about being buried in the sand?
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Hmmm: How come only drug dealers and high school teachers understand the metric system.
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Rant: why can't/won't home remodelers park those huge trash bins in their driveways and their cars in the street?---Thanks to Dandy Don Whittemore.
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Truism: Nobody ever got their money's worth out of a tube of Super Glue.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

"The Fools in Town Are on Our Side"

At eight years of age, Lucifer Dye could “shill a crap game, pimp for a whore house, speak six or seven languages, roll drunks, and hustle the rubes,” but could neither read nor write.

Dye is the central character in “The Fools in Town Are on Our Side” (1970) by Ross Thomas.

It is a complex, unique, compulsively entertaining small town corruption novel.

After Dye completes his education on a “scholarship” granted by a clandestine government agency he is employed by the agency, Section Two. And, he is told, “There is no Section One.”

After being unceremoniously dumped by the outfit, he is hired by Victor Orcutt to corrupt the corrupt in a Gulf Coast city.

Myriad scalawags abound, chicanery is the order of the day and abundant deceptions are trump cards, as a cast of sharp, unforgettable characters are manipulated by Dye, Orcutt and two associates.

There is never a dull moment in the absorbing narrative.

The “heroes” are tarnished and shady, and not much better than their adversaries.

The novels of Ross Thomas are fascinating and impossible to put down.

Out of print for nearly a decade, several of his works are being reissued by St. Martin’s Press. Do yourself a favor---pick one up and enjoy the ride.

Curmudgeon in the Wry 304

Sunday, August 14, 2005---545 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 52 seconds
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Rave: Fanny Grace
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Didjaknow: Yogi Berra was among those who stormed ashore on D-Day at Normandy.
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Underrated: Glenn Ford, John Garfield, Laura Lippman, and “Band of Brothers.”
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Rave: At eight years of age, Lucifer Dye could “shill a crap game, pimp for a whore house, speak six or seven languages, roll drunks, and hustle the rubes,” but could neither read nor write.
Dye is the central character in “The Fools in Town Are on Our Side” (1970) by Ross Thomas.
It is a complex, unique, compulsively entertaining small town corruption novel.
After Dye completes his education on a “scholarship” granted by a clandestine government agency he is employed by the agency, Section Two. And, he is told, “There is no Section One.”
After being unceremoniously dumped by the outfit, he is hired by Victor Orcutt to corrupt the corrupt in a Gulf Coast city.
Myriad scalawags abound, chicanery is the order of the day and abundant deceptions are trump cards, as a cast of sharp, unforgettable characters are manipulated by Dye, Orcutt and two associates.
There is never a dull moment in the absorbing narrative.
The “heroes” are tarnished and shady, and not much better than their adversaries.
The novels of Ross Thomas are fascinating and impossible to put down.
Out of print for nearly a decade, several of his works are being reissued by St. Martin’s Press. Do yourself a favor---pick one up and enjoy the ride.
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Overrated: Jude Law, poker on TV, reality shows, TV coverage of Natalee Holloway
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Driver’s Ed 101: It is infinitely easier to back into a parking space that it is to back out of one!
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Absolutely meaningless factoid: The Baltimore Orioles are the first team in the history of baseball to replace one manager (Lee Mazzilli) with two zees in his name with another (Sam Perlozzo) who has a double zee.
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Rant: Why are the Lakers scheduled to be on national television 24 times next season? Is America that eager to watch the seventh-best team in the West?
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Could be: Are the Polish going to get the NCAA to eliminate the pole position in automobile races?
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Funny Biz: While my political views swing 180 degrees away from those of Bill Maher, he can be a funny, funny man. In his latest book, “New Rules: Polite Musings of a Timid Observer” he effectively skewers the cult of celebrity, pop culture and politics as only he can.
And, life is too short if one cannot laugh at oneself, and “New Rules” gets me to do just that.
Things do have a way of balancing out however, as Bernard Goldberg’s “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America” is the #4 Best Selling Nonfiction title according to Nielsen BookScan.
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Quote: “Never force yourself to read a book that you do not enjoy. There are so many good books in the world that it is foolish to waste time on one that does not give you pleasure.”---Atwood H. Townsend.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Curmudgeon in the Wry 303

Saturday, August 06, 2005---514 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 52 seconds
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Rave: Tony Blair
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Confession: I don’t know how I tested positive for sarcasm.
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Quote: “If an amateur gets enough rejections from enough publishers, the amateur thinks ‘Oh, what the hell do they know?’ The professional wonders ‘what is wrong with my book?’”---Evan Hunter.
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Rant: If you absolutely trust the directions on MapQuest, you are more lost than you know.
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Just asking: What is the difference between scattered showers and isolated showers?
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Guilty pleasure: I confess---I continue to enjoy the Andy Hardy movies to this day. Mickey Rooney was a helluva talented youngster. And you can feel the star power of Judy Garland.
It is a shame what the studios did to her.
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Hmmmm: How could anybody possibly know that every snowflake is different? Is somebody keeping track? And, where do they keep them all?
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Power rankings: In July, the Yankees’ Jason Giambi hit 14 home runs, one more than the Washington Nationals .
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Picture this: Raymond Chandler was an in-house scriptwriter for Paramount when they released the film version of his novel, “The Big Sleep” in 1946.
Humphrey Bogart’s dynamic portrayal of PI Philip Marlow in this most enduring of all film noirs, made an icon of Chandler’s 1939 creation.
Chandler had wanted Cary Grant to play Marlow.
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Rant: People who watch reality shows have nothing better to do than sit and watch people who have nothing better to do.
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Rave: “One Shot” by Lee Child is just about as high-quality as suspense writing gets.
Protagonist Jack Reacher is a former MP, and possesses the size to be most imposing to the bad guys.
He lives under the radar---no family, no fixed address, no phone, no credit cards…and no wearisome questions. But---when the situation warrants…he does not hesitate to join in the fray. A modern day knight errant.
Five people are dead from six shots fired by a sniper. The police have a prime suspect (James Barr) in custody within hours. He claims innocence and says only, “Get Jack Reacher.”
When Reacher arrives, the slam dunk case is gradually eroded. And, not by any storybook surreptitiousness---rather by tough bits of information, forensic, personal and psychological that Reacher pieces together.
There is a great deal of interior dialogue, enabling the reader to follow Reacher’s deductive powers.
Follow sniper suspect James Barr’s example and “Get Jack Reacher.”
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Quote: Shoot first: Antoine Walker, who just joined the Miami Heat via a trade, once was asked why he shot so many 3-pointers . “Because,” he said, “there are no fours.”
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Meaningless Factoid: There are 490 U.S. bills to a pound.
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Rant: People who use made-up swear words like, “Oh sugar!” are just kidding themselves.
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Useless Factoid: According to reference books and Web sites, there are more mysteries about journalists than lawyers.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.