Sunday, August 27, 2006

George Pelecanos--"The Night Gardener"

Everything that occurs in “The Night Gardener” by George Pelecanos has a consequence and affects the perspective of the novel’s multitude of characters.

Washington D.C. is a major character…not the city seen by tourists, politicos and lobbyists…rather the city where the murder of a drug dealer is known as a “society cleanse.” Mr. Pelecanos transports the reader to this authentic and shocking kingdom of street crime.

At the core of the story are three D.C. cops and the cases that trigger their lives to intersect.

In 1985, T.C. Cook was a legend in the homicide division, while Gus Ramone and Dan “Doc” Holiday were rookie beat cops.

Cook was lead detective on a serial murder case involving three teens who were murdered in various city community gardens. The cases were never closed…the killings stopped.

In 2005, Cook has retired and had a stroke…Doc Holiday has a limo service (he left the force just before an internal affairs investigation)…Gus Ramone is a solid family man and homicide Detective Sgt.

The three are reunited while trying to solve a present day killing with possible links to the three unsolved from 1985 that continue to haunt them.

The three have separate motives. Solving the case would mean redemption for the alcoholic Holiday. For Cook, apprehending the killer will end his obsession so he can rest in peace. For Ramone, it is all part of the job…and it is personal, as his fourteen-year-old son knew the 2005 victim.

This is a panoramic novel, with a sizeable cast amid a tangle of subplots. The reader immediately becomes caught up in the sequence of events and Mr. Pelecanos challenges you to pay attention. And, the rewards are great.

More a novel about crime than a crime novel per se, you will become more interested in learning how the case will alter the lives of the trio of cops than how they will solve the crime.

“The Night Gardener” is a compelling and powerful novel whose characters come alive via revealing details. The absorbing plot of parallel stories of working cops and career criminals will lead you in unexpected directions.

To detail any more of the story line would deprive readers of the shock of discovery.

At the conclusion, you may feel the need for a standing ovation.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Ross Thomas---"Cast a Yellow Shadow"

The DNA of Ross Thomas’ novels contains unpredictability, witty urbane dialogue, inventive plotting, intricate double (and triple) dealing and a rogue’s gallery of quirky characters.

“Cast a Yellow Shadow” (1967) is the second in his Mac and Padillo series featuring two guys who just want to operate a nice bar and grill after WWII.

Nevertheless, the saloon keepers are caught up in political skullduggery because of Padillo’s enforced activities for the CIA.

Mac’s wife has been kidnapped to ensure that Padillo will assassinate a South African prime minister.

The other side is offering cash for Padillo not to pull the trigger.

For a couple of old soldiers of fortune, this mess should be no problem---except that whether Padillo does the shooting or not, Mac’s wife is going to die.

Padillo enlists the aid of a trio of foreign double agents he has tuned and Mac gets some helpers from the local criminal element.

The scheme is hatched to free Mac’s wife and the chase is on as clever devious people try to outfox one another. Who will pull the double cross, who will stay loyal?

Like crossword puzzle fans, readers will delight at how neatly all the pieces fit.

Ross Thomas: always surprising, always entertaining!


Curmudgeon in the Wry 327

Friday, August 25, 2006---699 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 21 seconds (time frittered away)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…but never in doubt.
+++++++
Rave: Gabby Hayes
+++++++
Currently reading: “The Night Gardener” by George Pelecanos. Beyond excellent….exceeding even my high expectations.
+++++++
On the Victrola: “Got Nothing But Song” from the Starbucks Hear Music series. A wonderful collection of great jazz vocalists from Billie Holiday to Chet Baker to Ella. Superb!
+++++++
Rant: There needs to be a law preventing cable channels from running commercials at the same time.
+++++++
What’s wrong with this picture: A suspected murderer flies home first class from Thailand at government expense, sans handcuffs, dining on roast duck, fried prawns and drinking champagne. Tell me this is a gag!
+++++++
Department of redundancy department: Meaningless NFL preseason game, unconfirmed rumor and free gift.
+++++++
Rave: The DNA of Ross Thomas’ novels contains unpredictability, witty urbane dialogue, inventive plotting, intricate double (and triple) dealing and a rogue’s gallery of quirky characters.
“Cast a Yellow Shadow” (1967) is the second in his Mac and Padillo series featuring two guys who just want to operate a nice bar and grill after their cold war time. Nevertheless, the saloon keepers are caught up in political skullduggery because of Padillo’s enforced activities for the CIA.
Mac’s wife has been kidnapped to ensure that Padillo will assassinate a South African prime minister.
The other side is offering cash for Padillo not to pull the trigger.
For a couple of old soldiers of fortune, this mess should be no problem---except that whether Padillo does the shooting or not, Mac’s wife is going to die.
Padillo enlists the aid of a trio of foreign double agents he has tuned and Mac gets some helpers from the local criminal element.
The scheme is hatched to free Mac’s wife and the chase is on as clever devious people try to outfox one another. Who will pull the double cross, who will stay loyal?
Like crossword puzzle fans, readers will delight at how neatly all the pieces fit.
Ross Thomas: always surprising, always entertaining!
+++++++
Q & A: What is worse than watching a meaningless NFL preseason game? A preseason game that goes into overtime.
+++++++
Just asking: What do you suppose the Las Vegas over/under on Paris Hilton’s declaration to remain celibate for a year is?
+++++++
Rant: I just read that Jerry Springer and Emmitt Smith will compete in the third season of TV's "Dancing with the Stars." Amazing. Who knew there was a first and second season?
+++++++
Hmmmm: While driving down the road, I see a sign that reads, “Watch for hidden driveway.” But I can never find it.
+++++++
Rave: Count me in as one who is ecstatic about the service from the used book sellers on Amazon.com. Finally got discouraged trying to locate the seven out-of-prints by Ross Thomas I was lacking.
So, I ordered them plus a 1927 S.S. Van Dine “Philo Vance” novel---using seven different vendors.
My comment on each was “exceeded expectations.”
And, some have been known to find me hard to please!
+++++++
Rant: Apparently, there is less guilt involved in throwing your trash into your truck bed and having it blow out, than throwing it out your truck window.
+++++++
Truism: The hotter the car, the more pathetic the old guy driving it. And, the longer the comb-over.
+++++++
Truism II: Congressmen continue to appear on “The Colbert Report,” convinced they
will be the first not to look foolish. So far, none has succeeded.
+++++++
Rave: There is nothing better in baseball than a 1-0 game.
+++++++
Hmmmm: There are nights when I am almost certain I could get a job in the Texas Rangers’ bullpen.
+++++++
Rant: When news people announce a “deadly murder-suicide”, is that to distinguish it from all other kinds?
+++++++
Numbers game: “The Catcher In the Rye” still sells over 200,000 copies annually…”To Kill a Mockingbird” does six figure business as well.
+++++++
If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.









Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Long Live the King

Twenty-nine years ago this afternoon Elvis left the building for the last time.
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I learned the news...as clearly as I remember when I heard JFK had been shot.
I remember the first Elvis record I bought....the EP for "Love Me Tender."
The three shows he did for Ed Sullivan (for the unheard of sum of $50,000) are etched in my memory. It was a seminal moment in American pop culture.
52 Million people watched the third show in 1957---1/3 of the available audience!
I cannot forget joining in the applause at the end of "King Creole" at the Carefree Theater in West Palm Beach during the 4th of July holiday in 1958.
When I learned the movie was based on "A Stone for Danny Fisher" by Harold Robbins, I read all his books.
Elvis did as much to alter the landscape of popular music as Frank Sinatra did preceding him and the Beatles who followed.
Certainly once there was Elvis, my time spent listening to Top 40 radio took a quantum leap.
If there had been no Elvis, I doubt I would have taken my path to the record business.
Quote: "Before Elvis there was nothing."---John Lennon
Elvis my have left the building, but we will always have the memories.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Curmudgeon in the Wry 326

Sunday, August 13, 2006---640 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 21 seconds (time frittered away)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…but never in doubt.
+++++++
Rave: Jack Elam
+++++++
Currently reading: Daniel Judson’s “The Darkest Place”.
+++++++
On the Victrola: “Stepping Out of A Dream” by Nat King Cole…another in the Starbucks Hear Music series.
+++++++
Rant: I would love to have watched the PBS special on Walter Cronkite a couple of weeks back, had anyone rather than Katie Couric been the host. Well, maybe not everyone…Bryant Gumble, Chris Berman, Joe Buck, Martha Stewart, Rick Sutcliffe, Oprah, Deborah Norville, Tim McCarver and John Kruk {among others} would have prompted me to eschew the show as well.
+++++++
Rant: Skip Carey, Dwight Jaynes agree that poker may be fun, but it is not a sport.
+++++++
Rant: One reason so many people don’t use turn signals is the blinker switch is operated by the same hand that’s holding the cell phone.
+++++++
Rave: Bravo to Marriott for going 100% smoke-free in all their US properties. That sets quite a standard.
+++++++
Rave: The basic tenet of Daniel Silva’s “The Messenger” is that Saudi petrodollars are financing Islamic Fascist Terrorism…not much of a stretch for me.
Abdul Aziz al-Bakari is the Saudi billionaire bankrolling the terrorists in this fascinating, intelligent, stylish and well-researched tale of international intrigue.
A plot to assassinate the Pope and destroy the Vatican leaves 700 murdered and St. Peter’s Basilica badly damaged…the Pope spared due to the efforts of Gabriel Allon (Israeli intelligence officer, assassin and patriot).
An attack upon Allon’s mentor and celebrated Israeli spymaster follows.
Allon organizes a team to locate the former Saudi intelligence agent responsible (Shafiq). Shafiq is well protected and secreted deep among the layers of al-Bakari’s vast financial empire.
Intense preparation, timely CIA support, and shrewdness, ingenuity: all are necessary to place a mole inside the world of al-Bakari---nicknamed Jihad, Inc.
The entire cast of abhorrent villains and dedicated good guys are fully portrayed and come to life on the pages. The locations truly matter to the story and the deft plotting grabs you from page one.
“The messenger” will keep you up, make you think and entertain you…quite a trifecta.
A magnificent novel…not to be missed.
+++++++
Rant: There should be a warning sticker on all cell phones that says, “You may think you’re talking normally when you’re not.”
+++++++
Hmmmm: I love Michelle Wie, but I think she needs to beat the girls before trying to beat the guys.
+++++++
Truism: Never trust a beauty shop that has no mirrors.
+++++++
Truism II: Ahhh, Florida in the summer, where parking in the shade is an art form.
+++++++
Rant: Baseball players who wear their pants down to their shoes.
+++++++
Rave: The US Post Office has outdone themselves with two recent commemoration stamp issues. The DC Comics Superheroes set and the Baseball Sluggers collection (Mel Ott, Roy Campanella, Hank Greenberg and Mickey Mantle) and an eye to behold. They are truly attention getters and mood elevators. Bravo!
+++++++
Rave: The new format for the Tucker Carlson show on MSNBC. Only wish there was a repeat later in the evening.
+++++++
Hmmm: Am I the only one who notices that the small SUVs and hatchbacks look a lot like the old Gremlins and Pacers we made fun of so long ago?
+++++++
Quote: “The most talented quarterback in the ACC wears No. 3 for Duke _ for the Blue Devils' basketball team.”--- Caulton Tudor. That would be point guard Greg Paulus, the nation's No. 1 rated high school quarterback in the class of 2005.
+++++++
If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.









Daniel Silva's "The Messenger"

The basic tenet of Daniel Silva’s “The Messenger” is that Saudi petrodollars are financing Islamic Fascist Terrorism…not much of a stretch for me.

Abdul Aziz al-Bakari is the Saudi billionaire bankrolling the terrorists in this fascinating, intelligent, stylish and well-researched tale of international intrigue.

A plot to assassinate the Pope and destroy the Vatican leaves 700 murdered and St. Peter’s Basilica badly damaged…the Pope spared due to the efforts of Gabriel Allon (Israeli intelligence officer, assassin and patriot).

An attack upon Allon’s mentor and celebrated Israeli spymaster follows.

Allon organizes a team to locate the former Saudi intelligence agent responsible (Shafiq). Shafiq is well protected and secreted deep among the layers of al-Bakari’s vast financial empire.

Intense preparation, timely CIA support, and shrewdness, ingenuity: all are necessary to place a mole inside the world of al-Bakari---nicknamed Jihad, Inc.

The entire cast of abhorrent villains and dedicated good guys are fully portrayed and come to life on the pages.

The locations truly matter to the story and the deft plotting grabs you from page one.

“The messenger” will keep you up, make you think and entertain you…quite a trifecta.

A magnificent novel…not to be missed.