Blog Posts by Uncle Will

blogger photo







stripe

by Eric M. Hammel

cover image
01/17/11
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.

Tags:  
cover image
12/23/10
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.
Tags:  
by Jeff Foxworthy

cover image
12/22/10
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!
 
 
Tags:  
by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV

cover image
12/13/10

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.  


 

Tags:  
by Stephen King

cover image
11/30/10
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.
Tags:  
by Lee Child

cover image
11/15/10
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.
Tags:  
by Dennis Lehane

cover image
11/13/10
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.
 
Tags:  
by Bobby Hull & Bob Verdi

cover image
11/03/10
The Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup and Bobby Hull is there to capitalize on their success. It is only fitting. Arguably, the best forward that ever played the game, Hull played when professional hockey players were only drafted if they were born in Canada. There were just six teams and the athletes had to have off-season jobs to make ends meet.
 
At the height of his career, Hull made about as much as a “star’s” game check is today. Hull was a fast skating, hard-shooting, hard-drinking poster-boy of the Blackhawks from 1957 till 1972 when he jump from the NHL to the WHA. Hull had joked that he’d sign elsewhere if he was offered one million dollars and the owner of the Winnipeg Jets made the offer and signed the NHL’s preeminent start to a 10-year contract.
 
Hull retired in 1980. It took until the death of Blackhawks owner, Bill Wirtz, for amends to be made with his former team. Wirtz’s son, Rocky, took over the team and offered Hull an ambassador’s position with the club. Hull had a tumultuous relationship with his first wife and mother of his three boys. It is quite humorous that he never really mentions her name in the book, but rather refers to her as “their mother.”
 
If one is looking for a book that honors one of the greatest sports heroes of all-time, this book will meet that need. It is arranged like a tabernacle.
Tags:  
by John Sandford

cover image
10/18/10
Virgil Flowers does not look like a Homicide Investigator.  He does not dress like one.  He surely does not act like one; however, he is one of the most successful case-closers in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCI). 
 
In this latest installment, four recent murders in a small rural community have led to Virgil being called in to investigate.  At the center of the investigation is a church group that was founded in Germany over a hundred years ago and has migrated to the Midwest. The children are all home schooled; the young girls marry older men and there are whispers of social taboos being breeched.
 
Virgil teams up with the attractive sheriff in hopes of solving the murders.  Unfortunately, all the church members keep to themselves and all Virgil can turn up is speculation, not specifics.
 
This is the 4th book in this series.  The nice part is that the reader does not have to read them in order.  This Virgil Flowers series is a nice diversion from all the Prey novels.  Virgil Flowers is a refreshing diversion from the typical mystery-book-investigator.  He works against the typecast and uses his uniqueness in a way that disarms people and makes them vulnerable to his inquiries.  He is a charmer and chocked- full of blarney.
Tags:  
by Mike Ditka with Rick Telander

cover image
10/08/10
Being born and raised in Chicago, a true Chicago sports fanatic leans early in life to treasure the rare occasions that thier sports teams win any championships.  Case in point:  The Chicago Cubs.  Enough said.
 
This new book chronicles the Bear season of 1985 and the Super Bowl win against the New England Patriots.  It is in the first person narrative Da Coach, Mike Ditka.  It also dedicates, at the beginning of about every chapter, a page or two with several selected stars of the squad sharing some of their personal recollections.
 
The book is co-written by the award winning columnist from the Sun-Times, Rick Telander. The layout of the book is set to enhance a quick-read; displaying thin columns and a lot of pictures.  There are also a great many small, shaded areas that have former players perceptions of past games that season.
 
It is the 25th anniversary of the last time a NFL world championship was won by Chicago.  A die-hard fanatic's worse nightmare is that it will be another 25 years or longer till that goal is again achieved.
 
". . .Includes a bonus audio Compact disc featuring an exclusive interview with Mike Ditka that provides even more memories from the truly golden era of Chicago football. . ."
Tags: