Monday, March 28, 2016

#6-- 2016 is a quarter over, so what has Ted been reading?

I ended 2015 with a reading of J.K.Rowling/Robert Galbraith "The Cuckoo's Calling", her foray into mystery writing. I certainly enjoyed her descriptions of London and her attention to detail. But it seemed to me she needed some reining in/editorial control with a massive number of plot elements that, in the end, made sense in tying the story together, but seemed to take several pages on each element to be identified. It brought back memories of reading all the Harry Potter books to my son over the span of 12 years, most evenings-- I loved the locations and characters, but she never seemed happy with a simple statement.

I needed to get back to my crime roots so I picked up the latest from Scottish author Malcolm Mackay, "Every Night I Dream of Hell."This book follows his hugely successful, award-winning Glasgow Trilogy-The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, The Sudden Arrival of Violence and How a Gunman Says Goodbye. The Jamieson gang that ran drugs, prostitution and petty crime in Glasgow, Scotland has been weakened by prison sentences or death for the leaders and a new gang has shown up assassinating a low level gangster. Nate Colgan is the newly appointed "security advisor" and he must take charge. But why did his ex-girlfriend (and mother of his daughter) suddenly return to Glasgow at the same time as the new gang is making its move?
This book continues the stark dialog and sometime internal ethical debate among crooks as small-time crooks strive to do each other in to take over.

A new author beckoned and I fell for it-- Charles McCarry, ex-CIA operative presents his latest "The Mulberry Bush" about a young man who is the best assassin of jihadist leaders in the middle east, but is re-called to HQ/CIA to take a new assignment in Argentina contacting a beautiful young woman who may have contacts with Russian spies.Her parents were murdered decades earlier in "The Disappearance" of communists but her connections run deep and may fit into the CIA operative's plan to destroy the Agency from within.

I read a collection of stories by Tim Johnston called the "Irish Girl" after reading his great book"Descent" in 2015. He is a writing professor at the University of Memphis and we got together for coffee on one of my grand-daughter visits to Memphis after I had read about half of his book. I was blown away with what I had read already and the rest of the book was a runaway truck ride as he concluded the story of a family's disintegration when the daughter disappears, apparently kidnapped, and there are no clues as to what happened. 
Reading the stories written before the novel was published is very revealing of his talent. Most are set in the midwest, small towns where bad luck, bad timing are constants and it's usually revealed right before disaster strikes.

For something totally different, I read and would recommend two books by George Makana Clark-- "The Raw Man" and "The Small Bees' Honey: Stories." Clark's novel" The Raw Man" published in 2011 is the story of Sergeant Gordon's life in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Africa as told in reverse chronological order. Beginning from his capture by partisans and imprisonment in a horrible, underground copper mine where the only food was roasted,fellow prisoners and stretching back through his very dysfunctional teen years, youth, childhood and family, his story intertwines with that of Rhodesia and civil war until his family story becomes clear and yet mystically challenging.
"The Small Bees' Honey" published 14 years before the novel contain early drafts of some of the ideas presented in the novel as well as the tone that permeates the novel. Racial makeup, history, and personality drive these stories set in Africa, Central America and, eventually, America. This book is equally amazing but not an easy read. So that's what I've been reading this quarter.