Blog Posts by Uncle Will

Posted by Uncle Will on 02/07/11
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This is the 5th installment of Patterson's Michael Barrett series.  The densely populated NY detective
takes a much needed Long Island vacation with his 10 adopted children and their nanny, Mary Catherine,
in tow.  The springtime romance of Michael and Mary Catherine has blossomed into a summer fling.  Just as
the 4th of July of all relationships is about to set off fireworks, a different set of fireworks explodein the city.

A copycat killer is reproducing some of NYC's most sinister past crimes.  Bombs are booming.  Bodies are
bouncing and it isn't even safe to sit and smooch in a parked car anymore, since Son of Sam Part II is playing at a parking lot near you!  

While Michael juggles his vacation and his assignment as chief investigator of the mounting multiple homicides, a couple of local Long Island bullies are beating-up some of the Barrett boys on the beach. 

If that isn't enough, FBI beauty, Emily Parker, is asked to team with Michael again.  The sparks were flying high the last time the two lawmen occupied the same zip code and Michael's new feelings for Mary Catherine are tested.  

Which lovely lady will Michael choose?  Will the Barrett boys survive the beatings?  Will the killer be captured
before completing his mission of death?  Will Michael survive his daily round-trip drives on the Long Island
Expressway before both he and his vehicle come to a crashing halt?  

Patterson once again has written the perfect murder mystery.  As the title suggests, every thing comes down to the last stimulating second.  Tick tock. Tick tock.

Posted by Uncle Will on 01/27/11
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Dara is a three-time award winning documentary film maker.  She has only made three films in her life.  One won an Oscar.  She's very good at what she does.
 
Xavier is her 6' 8" Afro-American assistant.  He is spry for being in his seventies.  He too is very good at what he does;  which is mainly lust over and look after Dara.
 
This time around the two are in Africa making a film about modern day pirates on the open seas.  Somalia is the pirate capital of the world and they have an abundance of material to choose from to film.  When they show up there are over 12 ships being held hostage.  Although the pirates have requested more than 300 million dollars in ransom, the pirates have only netted about 30 million. 
 
The two film-makers quickly make friends with a couple of personable pirates , a British secret agent who is overseeing the high seas lunacy for Queen and his country, and a billionaire traveling the world in 2 million dollars yacht with a bottle of expensive champagne in one hand and his trophy blond in the other.
 
This is Elmore Leonard at his best.  Witty, gritty and always entertaining.  The dialog is at a sonic pace and the characters are diverse and intriguing.  Leonard uses a story-within-a-story technique that is quite creative while he plays around with the narrative. 
Posted by Uncle Will on 01/20/11
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Carlos (Carl) Webster is the main character in Leonard's novels:  The Hot Kid and Up in Honey's Room.   This book is a collection of three stories with Webster as the protagonist.  
 
Webster, a Federal Marshall,  has the reputation as being a shoot-first-ask-questions-later-type peace officer.  He is married to a former dance hall gal.  The setting is post World War II.   In Showdown at Checotah we are introduced to Webster as a young teen.  He lives on a pecan farm with his father and is a serious young man with a dead-eye ability using firearms.  After killing a poacher, he tells the investigating officer that when he grows up, Carl wants to go into law enforcement.   Years later, that very investigator hires Carl. 
 
In the second story, Louly and Pretty Boy, readers are introduced to Carl's wife, Louly Ring.  She is a complicated and confusing character.   She begins as a young girl who dreams of being a gangster's moll, but later matures into a loving devoted wife.  Her maturation process is hard to empathized with since she we shown only a quick glimpse of his back story.    Hopefully, Leonard is at work creating a more complete connect-the-dots reckoning of  life story.
 
In the novelette, that is the same title as this compilation, Carl is dispatched to one of the many German POW camps in America to investigate the hanging of one of the prisoners.  Initially, the death is ruled a suicide, but soon after Carl starts snooping around, murder becomes more likely the method. 
 
One of Leonard's greatest strengths is his mastery of dialog.   His characters all seem to jump off the page and out of each book he writes.  This probably explains why so many of his novels have been adapted to film.        
Posted by Uncle Will on 01/17/11
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This new book in our collection chronicles the U.S. Marines in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945.  The war in Europe was nearly over; just a race to see who could capture Hitler first.  The Japanese Empire still occupied a lot of territorial islands and the U.S. desperately needed to capture much more real estate that would be used for B-29 re-fueling bases.   All these battles were for the anticipated aerial bombings of  Japan.    The United States' biggest fear was that a drawn out war was imminent and many more lives would be lost if the anticipated ground invasion of Japan became a reality.

My father fought on Iwo Jima, a remote island in the Pacific West, from February 19 through March 16, 1945.  7000 Marines were killed and 20,000 were wounded, during the bloodiest battle of World War II. Unfortunately, most Americans today know more about the famously staged flag-raising incident that took place there, than the fact that on an island so small,  so seemingly insignificant,  so many men died fighting for world peace.
 
The Japanese had occupied Iwo Jima for so long that their entire occupying army was networked underground.  After the Marine invasion it was discovered that all the Naval pre-invasion bombing did not even make a minuscule dent in disrupting the island defenses.  The island consisted of black volcanic rock, finely ground, that made traversing difficult.  The Japan forces knew that this island was integral to the defense of their homeland.  They were extremely well-prepared.  Suicide attacks were the nightly norm.
 
The chapter on Iwo Jima is just one of several examples of the sacrifices made and battles won.
There have been many books written about the war in the Pacific and this is one of the better ones; dedicated
exclusively to the final year of WWII and all the U.S. island victories that were lined-up like dominos.  The
pictures are many and the writing is precise and easy to absorb.   It does not read like a high school history book.

Posted by Uncle Will on 12/23/10
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It has been a long wait. Three years, to be precise, since the last Arkady Renko novel. Ever since 1981, when Gorky Park hit the book stands running,  no other serial novel has had such a sad, weather-beaten hero-of-the-common-man as the Russian investigator Arkady Renko.  He is persistent, clever, self-effacing, plodding, suicidal, broken-hearted, witty, loyal to a fault,  keen-eyed,  and mostly acts like a beaten dog.
 
Russians are a proud people.  Another of their stronger traits is that they are realistic.  They seem to have the ability to accept the hand that they have been dealt, self-analyze it, and still continue to survive in a society that seems to have only two classes:  the Haves and the Have nots.
 
In this 6th installment, Arkady is once again on the brink of being fired for insubordination.  While helping out a friend who is a hopelessly drunken detective, Arkady stumbles upon a serial killer.  Unfortunately for Arkady and the next victims, the government is not accepting of his theories and are hurried to distance themselves from him.
 
Arkady's young ward, Zhenya, the brilliant, street chess-hustler, is also trying to distance himself from Arkady.   Zhenya stumbles upon a very young girl - Maya - whose infant was stolen from her while trying to escape her miserable life of  forced prostitution.   Zhenya, who would be the last to admit that he has learned anything useful from Arkady,  tries to take on the role of protector, while assisting to find the kidnapped child. As always, there is Cruz' continuing central theme  of class struggle.
Posted by Uncle Will on 12/22/10
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This book is an English major's delight.  Foxworthy's stage persona is that of a backwards backwoodsmen.  He is anything but.  To publish a book this clever, one must have an outstanding command of the English language; both spoken and written.  
 
"...No-ble (no-bul), adj. and n. completely without prevarication.  'That tree jumped right out in front of me, Judge, noble.'..."
 
"...Tab-leau (tab-lo), n. and adj. a phrase pertaining to controlling the extent of a bill of sale.  'I ain't buying another round, 'cause I'm trying to keep my tableau.'..."
 
"...Disability (dis-a-bi-la-te), adj. and n. a certain aptitude or proficiency.  'I was born with disability to charm women of the opposite sex.'..."
 
Planning a trip down South?  This book definitely would help bridge the language gap.  When ordering at a fancy southern diner,  if one wants a steak that stays juicy, one's gotta serum!
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 12/13/10
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It's been about a year and half since Griffin's last installment was published in his Badge of Honor series.
Sgt. Matthew Payne is back and his guns are still blazing.  Coined "Wyatt Earp" by the Philadelphia press, Matt has had the misfortune to have drawn and used his police issued firearm more times in his short tenure as a law enforcement officer than 99% of his fellow officers do in their entire careers.

This time around Matt is trying to stop a rash of vigilante killings and copycat killings of those vigilante killings.  Confusing, yes; especially to Matt who is left scratching his head.   

Payne is anointed the head of the task force that is going to put a stop to this madness.  Matt's love-life remains healthy and his new relationship with Amanda Law, who he helped rescue during an earlier case, grows stronger. 

Once again Griffin spins his magic.  He has a handle on police procedure and his stories never are Hollywood-ized.  Since it was so long since his last book, Griffin used a clever device to give his old and new readers the Matt Payne back story:  He had a character write Payne's obituary.  


 

Posted by Uncle Will on 11/30/10
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As prolific a writer Stephen King is, he is most in his element when writing short stories. This latest has four stories that do not disappoint.
 
Liking to read short stories out of sequence from the order they are presented in a book usually produces a devilish fancy.
 
So skipping right to story #3 was the starting point. This one deals with a man making a deal with the devil to expand his current life expectancy; which is on a cancerous crash course.
There is another about a happily married couple that has shocking developments for the wife when she goes nosing around in the garage.
 
A mystery writer has a run in with a truck driver, the size of a semi, which leads to a turn in the road that is not found on Map-Quest.
 
King describes his latest work as harsh. The stories are gritty and not like anything he has written in the past.
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/15/10
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Imagine if Robin Hood was 6′5″ and could take on all of the Sherriff of Nottingham’s elite guard bare-handed and the outcome would be “…Chalk one up for the Good Guys…”? Jack Reacher is a modern day Robin Hood, on a smaller stage.
 
In Child’s newest edition, Reacher takes up from where he left off in 61 Hours. He is on his way to Virginia to meet a woman that he has only spoken to over the phone. While traveling through a remote Nebraskan town he stumbles upon a farming community that is being ruled by a band of bullies. These bullies own a fleet of trucks that the town’s farmers are mandated to use when they harvest their crops. The Duncans are comprised of three middle-age brothers and one son.
 
Reacher takes the Duncans head-on. They employ former Huskies’ linemen as their enforcers. To their dismay, the 300 lb. ex-athletes are no match for Reacher. While dishing out his brand of justice, Reacher gets hooked into investigating the 20-year old disappearance of a young girl. The case was never closed and is as cold as liquid nitrogen. Reacher learns of the unsolved crime while sharing bar-stool space with the town’s only doctor; the pickled version, not the sober. A cry of help is phoned-in to the doctor by the younger Duncan’s wife and Reacher volunteers to drive the slobbering physician out on his house call. She has been beaten bloody. Reacher learns that this is an everyday occurrence and the rest of the novel is Reacher reactions to domestic violence and child-abuse.
 
Having read all of Child’s novels, I found that this one compares to the fictional characterization of Tom Laughlin’s Billy Jackin 1971. Billy Jack was the protector of an Indian Reservation in Wyoming. He always seemed to banter with his villainous opponents before reigning great pain upon them. Reacher has several such scenes in this book. There is something almost poetic in a humble man’s weary warnings to the wayward just prior to the words being acted out.
Posted by Uncle Will on 11/13/10
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In the long awaited sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone, Patrick Kenzie and his wife, Angie, are asked by Aunt Beatrice to once again search for her missing niece Amanda. It has been 12 years since Kenzie found the then 4-year old kidnapped daughter of drug-addicted Helene. He is still dealing with the guilt that he took a young child out of a loving relationship and placed her back into the hands of a living nightmare mother.
 
He discovers that Amanda has matured into a Harvard-bound teenager who displays a strong constitution, worldly wisdom, and is an expert at identity theft. Has Amanda been kidnapped again, this time by a Russian mobster, or is she simply orchestrating her plans to begin a new life away from the horrid one that she’s been subjected to for the last 12 years.
The current U.S. economy not only is affecting all in real-life, but also has forced Kenzie to seek some type of full-time employment with benefits that include health insurance. Angie is close to getting her graduate degree in education, but with their precocious daughter, Gabriella, requiring all the basics in life….food, shelter, clothing, etc.; Kenzie fears that the private-eye trade is no longer going to help him provide for his family.
 
This story appears to be foreshadowing of what the Kenzie’s lives will be in future novels. This time around Lehane’s emphasis is more toward modern families and not limited to his usual Boston-way-of-life themes. There is a great deal of conversations like those that take place everyday in homes around the world by parents and husbands and wives.
 
Bubba, the modern-day Michael-the-Archangel best friend of the Kenzies also returns. Wouldn’t it be grand if everyone was able to have as a godfather, a menacing man-child who shoots first and might get around to asking questions later?
 
There is doubt if this book will ever be adapted to film. There is not the usual mandated action scenes and intrigue sought in today’s popular mysteries; but rather a centered story about the importance of family, friendship and the work that must be put in those relationships in order to yield some assemblance of satisfaction.
 

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