Friday, April 29, 2005

“I am Godzilla – you are Japan!”

The Movie: Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, 1995 (Scott Rosenberg, screenwriter; Gary Fleder, dir.)
Who says it: Treat Williams as Critical Bill, a psychopathic criminal
The context: Critical Bill confronts Mr. Shh (Steve Buscemi), the assassin sent to kill him.
How to use it: To announce your plans to wreak devastation.

The Kennebec crested again this morning around 8:00 a.m.; you can see a current photo on the USGS website. Flood warnings continue until Monday, because we're supposed to get more rain tomorrow and Sunday.

Dizzy and I walked downtown to see it. I bought a cup of coffee and a croissant at A-1 to Go; we sat in McKay Park, which was half underwater, and watched cormorants diving for alewives. The Cobbosseecontee was high, but the current didn't seem as fast as it was during the last flood. Dizzy insisted on putting his paws in the water, which must have been freezing.

The Mystery Writers of America gave out their Edgar Awards last night, and T. Jefferson Parker's California Girl won Best Novel. This might be the first year I had actually read all the Best Novel nominees before the awards ceremony; I didn't set out to do that, it just worked out that way.

I liked all of this year's nominees, but the book I'd have voted for leads off this week's reading list.

Chris Mooney, Remembering Sarah. I avoid exploitative thrillers about crimes against children, I'm tired of crime fiction piling on the issue of pedophilic Catholic priests, and Remembering Sarah's jacket copy made it sound like more of the same. But the jacket does Mooney a serious disservice, because Remembering Sarah avoids every cliche of the genre. Six-year-old Sarah Sullivan disappears from a sledding hill one snowy night, and the only suspect is a defrocked Catholic priest. But as Sarah's father, Mike, struggles with his loss five years after the fact, he -- and we -- discover that nothing and no one in this case are what they seem to be. I'm not sure this book is even a thriller; it's a true mystery about families and the lasting effects of secrets.

James Swain, Mr. Lucky. Tony Valentine's company, Grift Sense, consists of himself, his neighbor Mabel, and his ne'er-do-well son Gerry, who help casinos identify gambling scams. I've been a huge fan of this series since the first book; Mr. Lucky may be the best one yet. Tony investigates Ricky Smith, who seems to win at everything. It's statistically impossible, but Tony can't figure out how Ricky manages to beat every game, even horse races and local raffles. Meanwhile, Gerry runs afoul of a psychopath in Mississippi, and both men confront the ambiguous ethics of what they do for a living. I wouldn't be surprised if the series takes a major turn after this book.

Louise Welsh, Tamburlaine Must Die. Leaving aside the ambiguous ethics of publishing a (generously-spaced) 160-page novella as a full-priced hardcover, Louise Welsh's second book is a masterful exercise in historical ventriloquism. The poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe knows he's marked for death, but doesn't know why, or by whom. We follow him through the last days of his life, as he tries to identify the man who has doomed him by posting heresies signed "Tamburlaine," Marlowe's favorite creation. Very well done, but Welsh's Marlowe is a sociopath I had a hard time caring much about.

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