Blog Posts by Uncle Will

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by Richard Matheson

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04/14/11
Even though this book is cataloged as Fiction, it is definitely Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  Matheson is probably best known for his novels:  I am Legend, What Dreams May Come, Somewhere in Time, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Hell House, and The Night Stalker.  He also penned the short story Nightmare at 20,000 Feet which is one of the most famous episodes from the "Twilight Zone."
 
This story begins as a recollection by the 80+ year old author, Alex White (aka Alex Black).   During World War I, Alex meets his soon-to-be best friend in a trench in France.  Alex is fighting for America and Harold is there for his beloved Britain.    While dodging mortars and hand-grenades, the two form a special bond.  As the war progresses, so does the likelihood that their deaths are near.  
 
Harold's dying words to Alex are the rekindling of past stories about Harold's "gorgeous" village in England named Gatford.  Alex is bequeathed a wad of gold the size of a fist and vows to find the place after his medical discharge.
 
Gatford proves to be almost impossible to find.  When Alex finally discovers it, he agrees it is gorgeous and decides to settle down there.  Only 18 years old and very impressionable, Alex gets into a relationship with the local witch, Magda, who is old enough to be his mother.   Alex discover that the nearby forest is called Middle Earth; the home to a nation of fairies.  
 
Alex slowly begins to break the rules passed on to him by town-folk and eventually falls in love with the diminutive fairy, Ruthana.  What follows is a sweet story of love and loss in a mixed-marriage (human and fairy) peppered with a vow of vengeance by the vindictive half-brother of Ruthana.
 
The narrative of this book is borderline grating.  Alex is the type of person that cannot take a stand on anything and questions everything he says and believes.  Not a good quality in an author leastwise a narrator.  The frequency of the narrator's "second thoughts" is so reoccurring that it almost becomes annoying.   And yet this story has enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning. 
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by Robert J. Randisi

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04/04/11
What's better than stumbling upon a new mystery series author?
 
This is the 5th book in Randisi's Rat Pack series.   Baby boomers and boomettes recall that the Rat Pack was comprised of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.  The '60's were their heyday and their kingdom was Las Vegas.
 
Eddie G. is a pit boss in a mob-run Nevada casino.  He also is a fixer.  Eddie G. ("...just call me Eddie...") knows a lot of people.  This knowledge endears him to The Chairman of the Board, aka:  Sinatra.  In past Randisi novels we learn that Eddie was minutes late to Marilyn Monroe's date with destiny,  helped Dino when he was being blackmailed, assisted Sammy when the little man shot someone in Eddie's living room and  is currently attempting to protect Ava Gardner.  
 
All of the books have titles that play upon popular song titles:  "Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime";  "Luck be a Lady, Don't Die"; "Hey There, You With the Gun in Your Hand"; "You're Nobody Till Somebody Kills You."
 
The narrative is right out of film noir.  The sentences are clipped.  The characters' shoulders all have chips.  Sexism is the standard where women are "broads" and nothing gets discussed unless it is over a few fingers of booze and several smokes. 
 
Eddie G. is a lover, not much of a fighter, so he always teams up with a lovable enforcer named Jerry Epstein.  Jerry loves to cook and eat and has no qualms about breaking bones.  It's his business.
 
Mystery lovers should make it their business to check out this series.  It will deliver.  That's a fact, Jack.
 
 
 
 
 
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by Neil Gaiman

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03/23/11
One night walking the streets of London, Richard Mayhew chances upon a lady in need of a good Samaritan.  Once Mayhew touches her he is drawn below the city to a world that not many know exits. 
 
This is the premise of Neverwhere.  Unbeknownst to most,  London has an underbelly;  a city-beneath-the-city.  People enter this world by falling thru the cracks.  In Neverwhere angels and demons exist.  Rats talk.  Evil is personified in the likeness of two men centuries old.  Royalty is in jeopardy. 
 
Door, the rescued young woman, is the daughter of the King of Neverwhere.  Her family has been slaughtered and she is on the run from two eternal assassins:  Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar.  She gets aid from a mercurial Marquis.  She holds auditions and hires the underworld's best body guard:  Hunter.  Door's quest is to find the Angel Islington, who was working on a secret project with her father that holds the key to why she lost her family and is now a target.  The Angel also might know a way for Mayhew to be able to return to his former life, above ground.
 
This book is like The Twilight Zone meets Mad Max in the Thunderdome.   It is very visual.  Richard Mayhew is an unimposing ordinary guy, when placed in a difficult situation, rises to levels within himself, that he doesn't know exists.  After reading, try watching the DVD version in our collection that was a BBC miniseries by the same title. 
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by Stephen Hunter

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03/16/11
"...In Washington it's Us, the Us who are with Us, the Us that are not sure about Us, and the many Us-es who don't care.  The other team, our mortal enemies, are also Us, it's just that they happen to be the Us that is against Us; they are the other Us, and they have other Us-es that are against Us..."
 
The book pits the good Us against the other Us while it slowly draws us in.   
 
Ray Cruz is a Marine sniper on assignment in Afghanistan.   When his mission is compromised and his spotter executed, Ray goes on the run.  He is honor- bound to complete his mission and find the killers of his partner. 
 
The greatest sniper of all time, Bob Lee Swagger, is commissioned to track down Cruz.  Little does he know that a team of mercenaries is using him as bait to draw out Cruz so that they can fulfill their contract and kill him.
 
At the center of the story is a sleazy Afghan political leader known as the "Beheader."  He was the original target of Cruz' who now is being protected by the White House so that peace can be reached in that war torn country. 
 
At the offset this book was rather technical, which made it a hard read through the first several chapters.  It was like riding a roller-coaster that slowly makes its way up a tremulous track and then the ride down seems endless.  For avid followers of Hunter's Sniper series, there will be no disappointments and a stupendous new revelation to the Swagger lore.  
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by Srefan Kanfer

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03/09/11
"...You know how to whistle now don't you Steve?  You just put your lips together and blow..."  These words were spoken by Lauren Bacall in "To Have and Have Not" to Humphrey Bogart.  Bogie's response was a whistle of wow. 
 
This new biography of one of the legends of Hollywood is a comprehensive look at the rise of man who would not quit.  In the Arts, it is often said that one must pay their dues.  Bogie bank account was tapped over 30 times while he appeared in "B" movies just waiting for that one break.
 
His break came in the role of Roy Earle in Raoul Walsh's 1941 film "High Sierra."  Bogart never looked back.
 
What sets this biography apart from most of those written about a film celebrity is the dissection of a body of work and  the discussion as to why there hasn't been an actor of Bogart's acclaim since his death and why there might never be.    This book has all the right ingredients for a tasty bio.  Bon Appetit!
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by David Rosenfelt

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02/28/11
Milo worked in law enforcement for seven years before he was forced to retire.  With the skills sets that he had mastered there was only one logical choice for his next career move.  He partnered-up and became a thief. 
 
As most thieves will tell, getting pinched goes with the territory.  Milo is caught stealing an envelope from a victim who's killed during the commission of the crime.  Milo is able to hide the evidence before he is caught and put in the slammer.  Milo has gotten evolved in something that is way out of his league; because how many jailed suspects get a federally ordered, 24-hr. armed guard outside their holding cell?  Milo needs to get sprung.  He needs a good attorney.  But Milo's a dog.
 
Enter dog-lover and independently wealthy lawyer, Andy Carpenter.  As a favor to a friend of his on the police force, Andy reluctantly agrees to defend Milo and his jailed partner, Billy Zimmerman; another ex-lawman.  Someone is out to silence the two suspects. Andy slowly gets suckered-in by a highly intelligent German Shepherd and his war-hero master. 
 
What follows in this 8th book in the Andy Carpenter series.  It is a quick-paced, clever mystery.  Just the chapters about a lawyer arguing his defendant's bail hearing in open court to a judge is worth the read.    A terrorist bombing that happened in Iraq during the war is the focal point of this mystery.  Billy Zimmerman lost a leg because of it and soon might be framed for murder being sold as revenge.
 
All of Carpenter's sidekicks are back and the wisecracks are plentiful.  Rosenfelt, in a real-life, is a protector of Golden Retrievers.  His love of dogs is a recurring theme in many of his novels.  Animal and mystery book lovers will be thrilled reading his latest edition.
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by Michael Koryta

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02/14/11
Imagine looking past cottonwood trees out at the Gulf of Mexico through flimsy gauze.  The air is salty, the waves are commanding, and the entire atmosphere is sweaty and thick with insects. 
 
This is the feeling you get reading Koryta's new novel that takes place on the coast of Florida in the mid 1930's.  Depression has taken its toll on the post-WW I veterans who are forced to seek labor in work camps throughout the country.  Arlen Wagner is one of those ex-Marines who is struggling to survive. 
 
Arlen's struggles are compounded because he has a special gift or curse.  He can look a person in the eyes and see their death.  While  train traveling with his naive co-worker, young Paul Brickhill, arlen sees death in all of his fellow passengers and quickly convinces Paul to exit the train with him. 
 
Their sudden exit leaves them alive to survive the horrific train crash down the rail, but stranded in a remote region with little resources.  They hitchhike with a shady stranger who takes them to the Cypress House and introduces them to the lovely and mysterious Rebecca Cady, owner of the hotel/bar. 
 
A hurricane is brewing and the two travelers must take shelter with Rebecca.  Their transporter, Walt Sorenson, is suddenly killed and both innocent men are arrested by the corrupt local Sheriff.  They are tortured in their holding cells by order of an evil, powerful politician, Wade Solomon.  
 
Solomon has far-reaching control over all the citizens in his territory and is the county's sole contender for Crime-Boss-of-the-Year.  The Cypress House is the center of Solomon's smuggling operation and he has Rebecca's world held ransom.    The new travelers are not welcomed and viewed an interruption to his smooth running operation.  It doesn't help matters that Paul falls madly in love with Rebecca and Arlen sees death in his ward's eyes every time Solomon is nearby. 
 
What follows is a slow-paced, Southern story that meticulously builds towards a powerful ending. 
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by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

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02/07/11
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.

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by Elmore Leonard

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01/27/11
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. 
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by Elmore Leonard

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01/20/11
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.        
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