Thursday, September 30, 2010

After Butcher's Moon, Bad Things Happen

I just finished reading Butcher's Moon and am done with the first part of the Parker series.  I have a three letter review of Butcher's Moon to offer:  Wow!

And now I can understand why Parker and Richard Stark vanished for 23 years after Butcher's Moon - they were spent.  I was secretly worried that I would find BM disappointing - mainly, I suppose, for the illogical reason that it was so hard to find a copy of it.  But BM delivered in almost every way imaginable.  I'll leave everything in general terms here because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who has yet to read BM (I accidentally learned of one crucial plot point and it drove me to distraction for most of the book waiting for it to happen.  And speaking of spoilers, someone also gave away a big part of Don't Ask, one of the Dortmunder novels.  I think about it all the time.)

I only have one of that second batch of Parker books - Comeback.  So I am going to give Richard Stark a rest and spend some time hunting down copies of the remaining books.  I want to know what Parker is like when he returns.  I've heard he doesn't really age and am curious to learn if he still has some of the same associates.

I thought my first post-Parker reading choice was going to be Kate Atkinson's new book Started Early, Took My Dog. I've been carrying around a copy of it in my bag all week.  But I was browsing at a used bookstore the other day and impulsively grabbed

I think I read about it in the Washington Post last year and saw a few mentions of it in other good places but didn't remember much about the book.  It was fun to grab something new after months of knowing exactly which Stark I would read next.  Half way through Bad Things Happen, I am extremely happy with my choice.  Its a hybrid of Paul Auster and Kate Atkinson - a crime novel involving writers, the police, an amatuer detective, murder and an obsession with stories and story-telling.     Quite enjoyable.  And it is a first novel, too.  Which is very impressive.  I only have a trade paperback copy of it but I think I will see out a first edition of it.  I think good things are in store for Harry Dolan.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Trial by Jury (Duty)

Jury duty was hell.  And it is not over.  We finished voir dire just before 5 PM and our judge tried to get a jury seated so any non-jurors would not have to come back again in the morning.  But it didn't work out and we got sent home at 6 PM.  I know people have to sit in offices from 8 AM to 6 PM everyday but this was the most exhausting day of sitting around on hard benches I have ever endured.

I caught up on reading the weekend editions of the New York Times and Washington Post.  Read the New Yorker, too.  And I finished Plunder Squad.  It was so so.  I don't think it ranks in my top five Parker novels (Butcher's Moon, Slayground, The Score, The Outfit, The Man with the Getaway Face) but it was okay for the most part.

Finally, I started Butcher's Moon (and after only a 100 pages it may be premature to put it at number one).  I am a bit embarrassed that I whined about the cover of this book the other day.  I know what's on the cover because I spend a lot of time staring at covers (of my own and of the beautiful scans that certain people, you know who you are, post online).  But no one else can see what is on the cover of a mass market paperback anyway.  Not a popular format.  Most everyone I saw was reading trade paperbacks.  And I spent a good deal of time looking at what everyone else was reading:

These were the only titles I could confirm.  I saw textbooks on interior design and securities trading.  In general, everyone was reading.  Lots of magazines, newspapers, books.  For all the talk about the death of print, there is still a lot of reading going on.  An orgy of reading almost.  And there were several people with Kindles.  (Note:  to the lady on my right, reading Game Change on your Kindle, I wasn't starting at you, I was just trying to figure out what you were reading.  Its really hard to do when there's no cover to look at.  You might want to re-think this Kindle thing.)  One lady was watching season one of The Wire on her laptop (which I ID'ed by the particular version of the theme song).  We own the complete series DVD box set - best xmas present ever.

I hadn't been able to pick up my comics the past two weeks.  Luckily, my comic shop is just a few blocks away from the courthouse I was in and I was able to drop in on my way home.   I got issues of the BRPD, Daytripper, Iron  Man, Hellboy, Proof, Sweet Tooth, and the Plague Ships.  And the 2010 issue of something called Tripwire, a UK comics magazine.  I read about it last summer but could never find copies so I automatically grabbed it when I saw it on the racks.  I think I will be reading it in court tomorrow.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Jury Is Out

I have jury duty again on Monday and am still undecided about what to bring to read while I wait to be called.  I am almost finished with Plunder Squad and have Butcher's Moon to take along.  But I have a ratty, ugly, old copy of Butcher's Moon - not one I'd wish to been seen reading in public.  This is a shame on so many levels - that such a good book should have such a bad cover - I'd be hard pressed to convince anyone of Westlake's genius with a cover that looks like this:

It is also sad that I even care what I am seen reading - but I ruthlessly judge others so I should be prepared.

Ideally, I would bring some comic books with me - but I like to read comics sitting at a table or lying on the floor - neither of which I will be able to do in a federal courthouse.  And I worry that the lighting will be bad.  I have several copies of Sweet Tooth and The Unwritten to read and this would be a nice block of time to do so.  But I won't.  And for those same reasons I won't read Osamu Tezuka's Ode To Kirihito in public either.  I should note here that I stopped reading comics as a kid and just returned to them two years ago.  I only discovered Osamu Tezuka because someone (you know who you are) who is also a Westlake obsessive edited an award-winning book on Tezuka (which I bought and it is quite wonderful) and I am now sort of interested in certain manga (which is something I actively used to dislike - though for no good reason).  [Side Note:  There was something called Read a Comic in Public Day at the end of August.  And I participated in it (which is very unlike me - I am the kind of person who mocks people who participate in public displays of anything) and read Tonoharu by Lars Martinson.] 

I have the past few issues of The New Yorker and The New Scientist to read.  I picked up the October issue of Backpacker magazine because it has a cover story on all the things one needs to know if lost or trapped in the wild.  This is normally not a concern for me - I live in downtown Washington, DC.  But after reading a lot of The Walking Dead and Justin Cronin's The Passage, I've come to realize that I'll be the first one to die in the event of the dead rising or a plague of virals or anything apocalyptic because my outdoor survival skills are woefully inadequate - and also because I don't like to run.  (I figure I'll have to carry the magazine with me as I flee the dead or whatever.)

I am also considering bringing the new Jonathan Franzen novel Freedom and the new Kate Atkinson novel Started Early, Took My Dog.  The Franzen looks wonderful but I have to be in court before 8 AM and am worried my brain will be too mushy (we work evenings and nights) to appreciate the book.  I hope the courthouse has a Starbucks. The Atkinson is probably the better choice.

Because I cannot have too much entertainment with me, I am charging up both iPods right now.  I'll skip what I could watch (Ashes to Ashes, the IT Crowd, Lead Balloon and Outnumbered to name a few) and say the real dilemma is which headphones to take.  I hate earbuds but my Sennheiser and Grado headphones look incredibly dorky.  People laugh when I wear them.  People who like me, even.  But they sound so good.