Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Eye of the Needle" Review

Ken Follett is among the best at writing thrillers that hook you and never let you go.

In interviews, he acknowledged that “Eye of the Needle” was his breakthrough novel. It surely deserves all the praise it has received.

In 1940, the The Abwehr, (German Intelligence), has planted their finest agent in Great Britain---code name “The Needle.” Using the name Henry Faber, he works as a railway clerk and attempts to be invisible.

Using his bicycle for transportation, he observes all the war preparations and anything that would be helpful for the German bombers.

As the war progresses, Faber continues his adroit undercover work---radioing the info back to The Fatherland.

Meanwhile the Allies are utilizing a disinformation campaign designed to convince the Germans that the European Invasion (D-Day) will take place at Pas de Calais. Ships and tanks that are merely rubber and timber, barracks that were a movie set, etc. were utilized to persuade the enemy that Patton had a huge Army ready to invade.

Double agents that MI5 had turned churned out radio reports furthering the deception.

If the Germans learn of the great ruse, thousands could be lost. The Needle chances upon the phony barracks and tanks and knows this info must be delivered in person to the Fuhrer.

However, he has to eliminate some Allied soldiers who spot him as he leaves the fake army base. Their discovery leads to cat and mouse chase.

His escape via U-Boat 505 off the North Sea coast is hampered by a violent squall grounding all sea and air transportation. Faber is shipwrecked on a remote rock island with four inhabitants. There he must perpetuate his counterfeit persona until the weather clears.

Meanwhile, MI5 is closing in while working on the scant clues Faber leaves in his wake. They too are hampered by the weather.

The novel moves at a measured pace that heightens the suspense with each turn of the page. Faber is great villain whose cunning keeps him a step ahead MI5. The crew from MI5 are dogged in their pursuit and thorough in the procedural methodology. It is a remarkable match up.

Using an economical cast, all the characters are fully fleshed out. You know everyone quite well.

While the last 48 hours before the weather clears are intensely gripping, the entire narrative is mesmerizing and attention grabbing. This is a breathtaking “what if” take on an important slice of history.

Since we all know how WWII turned out, the outcome may never be in doubt…but how MI5 closes the trap is a superb ride.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Curmudgeon in the Wry 358

Thursday, August 23, 2007---568 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 57 seconds (time frittered away) (a pointless waste of time)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…never in doubt.
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Rave: Mary Astor
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On the Victrola: “The Very Best of Cleo Laine”
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Reading: “Last to Die” by James Grippando
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Rave: The TV spots for the US Open featuring a/o invoking the spirit of John McEnroe are a hoot. http://www.usanetwork.com/sports/usopen/
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Quote: “Al Sharpton frequently appears on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ as the voice of reason, saying people should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, evidently forgetting his own leap to judgment in the Tawana Brawley case---for which this blowhard has still never apologized.”—Otto Penzler.
In addition, I might add, he has yet to apologize to the Duke Lacrosse players.
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Rave: “Burn Notice” (USA Network, Thursdays at 10 PM) is easily my favorite weekly TV show. Really displays every positive about Miami. It just sparkles.
Great cast, nifty story arc, snappy dialogue and wonderful camera work.
Very cool in the Karen Sisco mode.
Check it out. USA is good about repeats of each show.
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Stats: Everyone knows the airlines are FUBAR. According to the Wall Street Journal ridership on the Amtrak passenger rail system is up 6% so far this year, the biggest jump since the late 1970s. On the Acela Express, trains that run at higher speeds between Washington, New York and Boston, the number of riders has surged 20% over the past 10 months. That is enough new passengers to fill 2,000 Boeing 757 jets.
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Rant: Courting trouble! Did you hear about the Rutgers women's basketball player who is suing Don Imus for libel, slander and defamation? The lawyer for Kia Vaughn says his client just wants to live a normal life. Really? This is not the way to do it.
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Rave: “Broken Trail” starring Robert Duvall received seven well-deserved Emmy nominations. It is a terrific flick.
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TV timeout: I cannot help but think Dan Patrick is leaving ESPN, in part, because of the network's growing emphasis on junior-high shtick and assorted other nonsense aimed at the young male demographic living in their parents' basements.
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TV timeout II: Clint Eastwood produced the “Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends” coming to PBS on September 12th as part of their American Masters series. Clint will interview Tony and jam with him. DVD available on September 25th exclusively at Target.
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Reality check: Things sure have changed since I went to college 45 years ago. Books cost as much for one semester as what I paid for a whole year’s tuition.
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The King: I can remember exactly where I was when Elvis died and how I heard the news. And you?
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Rant: Every time “Bullitt” turns up on the tube, I find myself watching, and perpetually enthralled by the car chase. That car chase makes all the “Die Hards” and their ilk look like amateur hour cartoons.
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Didjaknow: When Sparky Lyle came in to pitch for the Yankees, Munson would just put down one finger for the slider which was Lyle’s bread & butter pitch. For everybody else, one finger was asking for the fastball…
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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 19, 2007

Curmudgeon in the Wry 357

Sunday, August 19, 2007---769 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 24 seconds (time frittered away) (a pointless waste of time)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…never in doubt.
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Rave: Lloyd Corrigan
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On the Victrola: “Unrehearsed Jazz Perfection”---A Starbucks Collection.
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Reading: “A Coffin for Dimitrios” by Eric Ambler (1939)
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Truism: Airlines ranked below the IRS in the University of Michigan’s most recent survey of American customer satisfaction.
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Rave: The FedEx TV spot where the employee cannot locate China on a map is hysterical.
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Quote: “The record industry will sue anyone discovered telling friends, acquaintances or associates about new songs, artists or albums.”---The Onion.
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Rant: I was shopping at Home Depot and I noticed buckets all over the floor catching rainwater leaking from the roof. Wouldn’t you think that they would have something in there to fix that?
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Rave: Fifteen years after retiring, no one has come close to replacing John McEnroe on the tennis circuit. In addition, he is one helluva an announcer.
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Rant: In a perfect world, Barroid Bonds would now, just go away.
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Truism: The next time you cannot figure out your computer, remember that the geeks have won.
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Rant: I do not know about you, but I can live without any news about the Britney-K-Fed custody battle.
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Truism: The Red Sox were right on Johnny Damon, now a part-time player in the Bronx.
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Rant: There are few things more obnoxious than watching some bozo talking on his cell phone at a sporting event
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Rave: I really am enjoying “The Bronx Is Burning.” ESPN does a great job at repeating the episodes…so no need to tape. Somehow, they manage to get Mickey Rivers (or his wife Mary) to have a huge laugh out loud scene-stealer each week.
AMC’s summer original, “Mad Men” also entertains me. Not at the “Bronx” level…yet I reserve Thursdays at 10 for it. It captures the era perfectly.
TNT’s summer original is the six-hour miniseries version of “The Company.” It is an adaptation of Robert Littell’s novel. All those in the know say it is the definitive book on the CIA. At over 900 pages, I never made the commitment to read it. The series is uneven, but the good sections are outstanding---and I am looking forward to the resolution.
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Hmmm: You know it is a strange baseball season when Hanley Ramirez has more home runs than Manny Ramirez.
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Rant: The problem with most summer movies is that you can almost feel your brain atrophying as you watch them.
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Rave: Joseph Finder is a craftsman like writer of business thrillers, and his latest, “Power Play,” is a gem.
Jake Landry, a junior exec for Hammond Aerospace, is tapped to attend an upper management retreat, since his boss is overseas on business. The meeting is held at an isolated resort in British Columbia with no wireless, no cell towers, no internet---just bonding and team building.
Jake, sticking out like a sore thumb among the firm’s movers and shakers in full poseur mode, is the one who saves the day when the get-together turns into “Deliverance.”
Five heavily armed thugs invade the resort, take the VPs hostage and demand hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom.
Jake’s native intelligence and dubious background (gun nut father, juvy jail time) casts him as the MacGyver of the group. He utilizes all his shrewdness, cunning and smarts to cause the kidnappers to implode.
Joseph Finder’s thorough research gets thing right. Wire fraud, high performance composites, grenades, firearms and corporate politics in all their intricacies are clarified in an entertaining fashion that advances the plot.
The pacing is intense; the plot moves at warp speed and the details are on the money.
The kidnapping of a group of corporate executives is entirely plausible, and ought to alarm boardrooms everywhere.
“Power Play” is yet another winner from Joseph Finder.
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Hmmmm: If Hillary could not catch Bill in the act, then how can she catch al Qaeda?
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Rimshot: Why am I always driving behind either Miss Direction or Mister Turn?
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Didjaknow: Six actors have won acting awards in both the lead and supporting categories:
Jack Lemmon (1955, 1973) - the first!
Jack Nicholson (1975, 1983, 1997)
Gene Hackman (1971, 1992)
Robert De Niro (1974, 1980)
Kevin Spacey (1995, 1999)
Denzel Washington (1989, 2001)
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Rant: Why do we care about exhibition football games when we don’t about spring-training baseball games?
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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 18, 2007

"Power Play" by Joseph Finder

Joseph Finder is a craftsman like writer of business thrillers, and his latest, “Power Play,” is a gem.

Jake Landry, a junior exec for Hammond Aerospace, is tapped to attend an upper management retreat, since his boss is overseas on business. The meeting is held at an isolated resort in British Columbia with no wireless, no cell towers, no internet---just bonding and team building.

Jake, sticking out like a sore thumb among the firm’s movers and shakers in full poseur mode, is the one who saves the day when the get-together turns into “Deliverance.”

Five heavily armed thugs invade the resort, take the VPs hostage and demand hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom.

Jake’s native intelligence and dubious background (gun nut father, juvy jail time) casts him as the MacGyver of the group. He utilizes all his shrewdness, cunning and smarts to cause the kidnappers to implode.

Joseph Finder’s thorough research gets thing right. Wire fraud, high performance composites, grenades, firearms and corporate politics in all their intricacies are clarified in an entertaining fashion that advances the plot.

The pacing is intense; the plot moves at warp speed and the details are on the money.

The kidnapping of a group of corporate executives is entirely plausible, and ought to alarm boardrooms and civilians everywhere.

“Power Play” is yet another winner from Joseph Finder.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Daniel Silva Book Signing on 8/11/007

This past Saturday, Daniel Silva gave an author talk and signing before a full house at the Cocoa Beach Public Library.

His latest book, “The Secret Servant” features Israeli Mossad op (assassin)/art restorer, Gabriel Allon, in a hunt for Islamist Terrorists. Like all his books, it is meticulously researched.

It is his fastest seller to date…currently #3 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list.

Mr. Silva was a UPI correspondent in the Middle East (based in Egypt) for a number of years prior to joining CNN. He now writes full time.

He takes the terrorist threat to the free world most seriously.

His talk, like his books, leave you feeling more informed, smarter about the entire terrorism problem and thoroughly entertained.

His research for the book does not leave him optimistic about the possibility of a catastrophic event occurring in England.

The European-born extremists are very dangerous…and a growing threat.

He pointed out that in England and Western Europe the birth rate is below replacement levels for non-Muslims. In fact, Italy is the first nation to have a larger population over 60 than under 20.

The ranks of Muslims are exceeding the replacement level…leading him to liken London to Londonistan. More than 200 active terror cells are being tracked in Great Britain.

His only reservation about our conduct on the war on terror is our outsourcing of torture---mostly to Egypt. He stressed than there is no embellishment in the book about the extreme rendition activities in Egypt.

If you want to be entertained while you learn a great deal about the threats posed by the Global Jihadists, “The Secret Servant” will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning.

After reading it, I am willing to wager that you will go back and read his first nine works.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Curmudgeon in the Wry 356

Sunday, August 12, 2007---696 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 22 seconds (time frittered away)(a pointless waste of time)
Offending readers one issue at a time since 2001.
Almost completely free of original ideas.
Often wrong…never in doubt.
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Rave: The Barbaras, Mason and Lewis
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On the Victrola: “Begin the Beguine”—Artie Shaw.
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Reading: “The Mordida Man” by Ross Thomas.
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Rant: Isn’t it special to see the leaders of the NAACP asking everyone not to judge Michael Vick until his day in court? I just do not remember them asking the same for the Duke Lacrosse players.
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Rave: The Boots Randolph rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” remains my favorite version.
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Hmmmm: Can an atheist get insurance against acts of God?
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Try this at home: To find the cause of global warming, stand barefoot on a lawn and then move to asphalt.
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Factoid: If all the trucks that delivered the latest Harry Potter novel were lined up bumper-to-bumper, the caravan would stretch 15 miles.
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Rant: Can you imagine how much money the state would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check?
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Didjaknow: Prior to 1898, only the U. S. Post Office could manufacture post cards.
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Rave: The FedEx Kinko’s office meeting spot currently running on TV is hilarious.
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What’s your preference?:
“Casablanca” or “The Maltese Falcon”
“Hud” or “Cool Hand Luke”
Maverick or Rockford
Rowdy Yates or Dirty Harry
Wally & Beaver or Frasier and Niles
“Rio Bravo” or “El Dorado”
Hamilton Burger or Perry Mason
Sam Spade or Philip Marlow
Opie Taylor or Richie Cunningham
“The Magnificent Seven” or “The Great Escape”
“Shane” or “Pale Rider”
Indiana Jones or Jack Ryan
“Twilight Zone” or “Outer Limits”
Little Rascals or Dead End Kids
A Cast of Thousands or CGI
Nick Charles or Philo Vance
Tarzan or Jungle Jim
Andy Hardy or Henry Aldrich
The Falcon or The Saint
Mr. Moto or Charlie Chan

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Useless factoid: Among those who have played the part of Wyatt Earp in the movies and on TV are Henry Fonda, James Garner, Kurt Russell, Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Burt Lancaster, Hugh O’Brien, Richard Dix, Jimmy Stewart and Kevin Costner. It is hard for me to pick a favorite---but the finalists are Fonda, Garner and Russell. Who is yours?
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Rant: Sweating it out…do you feel run-down and achy? Is your head hurting? Don’t blame the heat or humidity; you’re suffering from the newest national epidemic – Barry Bonds fatigue.
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Rant: Lunatic fringe---if you actually believe that the Bonds home run ball should bring $600,000 or $60,000 or even $6,000, turn the family checkbook over to your wife and seek help
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Rave: If “The Secret Servant” by Daniel Silva isn’t the best new book I have read this year, it is in the Top Three!!!
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Rant: Don't talk on the phone while ordering food, purchasing items etc. If you are in the checkout line, get off the phone and show some courtesy to the attendant.
Gather up all the old wired phone booths and require restaurants and other public places to have a few, then, anyone who wants to use their cell must go into the booth, thus saving us all from the knowledge of their human experience.
If you want to talk on your cell phone, you don't need my company.
Do you think phone etiquette can be taught in schools?
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OK Pilgrim: No phones on belts. There is no need to holster digital artillery.
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Rant: School is starting and with it is an increase in sightings of the most ruthless and feared creature on the highway, the dreaded mini-mom. If you sight a mini-mom, make no attempt to intercept or reason with her, as she has an uncertain temper and limited attention span.
That mini-mom is drinking coffee, talking on her cellphone and trying to discipline unruly children. Driving is the last thing on her mind.
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Rant: Replacing Rosie with Whoopie is enough to gag a maggot…from bad to worse.
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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.