Friday, August 29, 2008

A Message from John McCain

Hey, you! Reagan Democrat over there! You're a woman, right? You look like a woman, but kids these days keep their hair pretty long ... heh, heh ... and I see freckles. Irish? You're Irish? Yeah, I bet you're a Catholic. And I must say that hair dye's keeping you youthful-looking.

Anyway, my pollsters tell me you're excited about voting for a member of your own generation. And you thought it was cool that a woman got so far in this year's Democratic primaries.

So I've got a deal for you: a woman on my ticket! And she's only 44!

What? What's that you say? She has no meaningful policy experience? Oh, come on. She was mayor of Wasilla. Wasilla has almost 8,500 people in it. It's bigger than the town YOU live in, isn't it? And she's been governor of Alaska since - uh - 2007. And she's only had one independent investigation launched against her so far!

But this is the great part -- she's pro-life! She's so pro-life she has FIVE children -- and the last one's only four months old! And he has Down syndrome! And she's going to make him a prop in a nationwide campaign, isn't that cool?? Her teenage daughters are bound to be psyched about all this, too, and her seven-year-old will love that big house on Observatory Circle.

I know you'll be as pleased as I am about my choice of the most qualified woman I could find to join me in this quest for the Presidency. Don't think about the fact that I'm 72; it's not as if Governor Palin would ever have to run things herself. She's just here to look pretty. Did I mention she was almost Miss Alaska?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Off to join the circus

I leave early Friday morning for points south, and won't be back in Gardiner until mid-October. Between now and then I'll be in Washington, New York and Baltimore, and hope to see many of my friends and relations. If you need more detailed information about my whereabouts, send me an e-mail.

The blog resumes on Monday, and no, I still don't have a theme. We'll both be surprised.

In the meantime, I took a few days off last week, and got a lot of reading done.

What I've Read Lately

Jennifer Finney Boylan, I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU: Growing Up Haunted. A very loose memoir of Boylan's life growing up in a haunted house, as a girl in a boy's body. Boylan is a funny, insightful, compassionate writer -- I was a fan of her novels when she was James Finney Boylan and loved her first memoir, SHE'S NOT THERE. This book could have used a little more structure, but still left me with the feeling that she's someone I'd love to know in person.

Sean Chercover, TRIGGER CITY. A worthy follow-up to Chercover's dazzling debut, BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD. Chicago PI Ray Dudgeon agrees to investigate an apparently straightforward murder for the victim's father, a retired Army colonel, and discovers an international conspiracy. The book will be out in October.

Jack O'Connell, THE RESURRECTIONIST. Jack O'Connell is a unique voice who's been silent much too long. His books are unclassifiable, somewhere between crime fiction and fantasy; this book is unquestionably a thriller, but one that deals with things seen and unseen. Sweeney, a pharmacist, brings his comatose son Danny to the prestigious Peck Clinic in hopes of a cure. What he finds are two very different philosophies of dealing with the comatose, which require him to make life-changing decisions about his future and his son's. That description doesn't begin to describe the strangeness and wonder of this book. I will need to read it again about six months from now.

Clare Langley-Hawthorne, CONSEQUENCES OF SIN. A debut novel set in Edwardian England, featuring the politically active heiress Ursula Marlow. Someone is killing the daughters of wealthy men, for reasons that may have to do with a secret in Ursula's father's history.

Lee Child, NOTHING TO LOSE. Jack Reacher crosses between the Colorado towns of Hope and Despair, and runs afoul of Despair's police force. They're rude to him for no reason he can identify, so he decides to teach them some manners. Not one of the stronger titles in this series; Reacher, always an anti-hero, comes off as irrational and petty, and the end of the book is just plain ugly.

Max Allan Collins, THE FIRST QUARRY. Classic pulp about a hit man's first job, set sometime in the 1970s.

Michelle Gagnon, THE TUNNELS. A very impressive debut novel. FBI Special Agent Kelly Jones returns to her alma mater (a New England university based on Wesleyan), where a serial killer has been slaughtering young women in a tunnel network underneath the campus. Tight, clean, suspenseful, with a strong, believable heroine; the sequel's already on my to-be-read pile.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Books, Books, Books

Hey, everybody -- just checking in to post a reading list, and spread the word that Ballantine is offering a free PDF download of Katherine Neville's THE EIGHT between now and August 18 -- just click here for details.

Travel time last week meant extra time for reading, and a bout of insomnia's helped as well.

What I Read These Weeks

P. G. Wodehouse, HOT WATER. Kevin Wignall recommended this non-Jeeves novel, which I'd saved as a reward for finishing some work. Kevin says he can't understand why no one's made a movie of this, and I agree. A chateau off the coast of France is the setting for several elaborate schemes, including the blackmailing of a Senator, a jewel heist, and two disastrous engagements. Wodehouse pokes at everything from Hollywood to literary pretensions, and I laughed out loud.

Louis Bayard, THE BLACK TOWER. Louis Bayard is a beautiful writer, and explores new material in every book. I was - er - thrilled to snag this advance copy at the Thrillerfest banquet. In Restoration France, a medical student becomes involved in a series of murders -- because his father, a physician by the same name, had treated the young Dauphin in the Bastille. The Dauphin died of disease or malnutrition during the Terror -- or did he? A marvelous, moody book that raises as many questions as it answers.

Victor Gischler, GO GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE. I'd have read this book anyway, but Karen Olson's recommendation booted it to the top of the pile. In the not-so-distant future, the world goes to hell in a handbasket: flu epidemic, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, food riots, and the destruction of Washington, DC send Mortimer Tate into a cave with a decade's worth of supplies. Nine years later, he emerges to find a world where the only semblance of order is a chain of strip clubs -- Joey Armageddon's Sassy-A-Go-Go -- and Mortimer's own ex-wife is one of the main attractions. Mortimer sets out to find his wife, and gets caught up in a post-Apocalyptic showdown in the skyscrapers of Atlanta. It's horrifying, funny, surprisingly poignant, and all too plausible; Gischler is a twisted genius.

Elie Wiesel, NIGHT. I'm not sure how or why I never read this book before, but saw it mentioned recently on a friend's blog, and decided it was time. This memoir of Wiesel's time in the Nazi death camps is a permanent human document. Everyone needs to read it; it's on school reading lists for a reason.

Janet Evanovich, LEAN MEAN THIRTEEN. A little light reading, for a break; Stephanie Plum hunts for her missing ex-husband, a shady lawyer. Cars get destroyed, junk food gets eaten, Stephanie flirts with Ranger but winds up with Joe Morelli. It's reassuring.

Will Peterson, TRISKELLION. The first young-adult novel by Mark Billingham and Peter Cocks, to be the first in a trilogy. Twins Adam and Rachel spend the summer in their mother's home village of Triskellion, which is haunted by a dark secret. The premise is good but the pace is slow, and the big reveal at the end is a little too understated.

Ammon Shea, READING THE OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. A short account of Shea's year spent reading the Oxford English Dictionary, with some of the best words he discovered. An absolutely delightful book, and must-reading for any fan of words. I wish it had been twice as long.

Chelsea Cain, SWEETHEART. I read most of this book in one sitting, waiting for a new tire; I had a blowout the other day in Brunswick, and an advance copy of this book was in my trunk. I didn't like Cain's first novel, and this is more of the same. If you liked HEARTSICK, you'll like this one: haunted homicide detective Archie Sheridan battles beautiful serial killer Gretchen Lowell. It's a fast read, and well-done, but left me feeling as if I'd been reading pornography.

Dick Francis, UNDER ORDERS. Francis's first novel in years brings back ex-jockey Sid Halley, who mysteriously hasn't aged at all. It's not his best work, though, and the prose clunks in places. Read the earlier books instead.