The Song: "Mr. Bad Example," Warren Zevon. Words & music by Warren Zevon & Jorge Calderon. Track 5 of Mr. Bad Example, 1991.
When/how acquired: Purchased CD, 1991.
That link goes to a live performance of the song on "Late Night with David Letterman" that sounds almost like a mariachi cover. The song was a standard in Zevon's concerts, and my favorite version was an acoustic one, with Zevon alone on guitar.
This CD may be my favorite Warren Zevon album, and was the theme music for the deeply strange summer of 1992, when (among other things) I took my first solo vacation — a long weekend in Bethany Beach, DE — and had back surgery. No, those things were not related.
I'm in Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book. It's officially work, but feels more like a vacation. One key to a happy life, as a friend wrote in a book that will be out later this year, is having a job that feels more like a hobby.
Which reminds me that it has been a shockingly long time since I posted a reading list. Sorry about that. I've been doing a lot of manuscript work, and my pleasure reading has been catch-as-catch-can. But here are some highlights of the past couple of months:
Good Books I've Read Lately
Jodi Compton, HAILEY'S WAR. I was a big fan of Compton's two Sarah Pribek novels, THE 37TH HOUR and SYMPATHY BETWEEN HUMANS, but this book took me by surprise. Hailey Cain is a truly fresh protagonist, and this thriller reveals new secrets almost to the last page. Hailey works as a San Francisco bike messenger after dropping out of West Point under mysterious circumstances. An old friend asks for an unreasonable favor: drive an undocumented Mexican-American teenager south across the border, so she can take care of her dying grandmother. The trip ends in disaster, with Hailey nearly killed and the girl missing. Hailey's determined to find out what happened and why, and make things right if she can.
Rosanne Cash, COMPOSED. I listened to this on audiobook, rather than read it. Cash herself reads it, and it felt like a gift — a lovely, extraordinary book that reports the gains and losses of her life, but makes no attempt to settle scores. I liked her and her music before I listened to the book, and I like her even more now. She's also my favorite follow on Twitter — @rosannecash.
Gillian Flynn, DARK PLACES. Libby Day, now in her early 30s, is the only survivor of a notorious massacre. Her brother Ben is serving multiple life sentences for murdering Libby's mother and sisters. Libby managed to run from the house, and her testimony helped convict her brother. Short on cash, Libby agrees to sell her personal information to a group of true-crime fanatics, and must confront some truths she's never admitted to anyone. Flynn's first novel, SHARP OBJECTS, blew me away, and this book is just as good. I'd like to read it in a book group, because I need to talk to someone about the ending, which felt abrupt and not fully justified.
Lisa Gardner, LOVE YOU MORE. I read this at the recommendation of Joseph Finder, who raved about it. The praise was justified. Gardner keeps her D.D. Warren series fresh by giving equal time to other characters, and in this book, the other character is a Massachusetts state trooper who's found standing over her husband's dead body with a gun in her hand. The trooper, Tessa Leoni, tells us her story in the first person, alternating with the third-person account of Warren's investigation. Twists keep coming, to an ending that is both plausible and deeply satisfying. A virtuoso performance.
John Connolly, HELL'S BELLS. This book will not be out in the US until October, when it will be called THE INFERNALS (but it's coming out in May in the UK), and my minion status earned me an early copy. I am John's paid minion, and he's a good friend besides, but this is one of those pieces of the job that feels like a hobby, because this book is simply wonderful. In this more-than-worthy sequel to THE GATES, young Samuel Johnson and his faithful Dachshund, Boswell, are sucked into the depths of Hell, along with a couple of policemen, some very unpleasant dwarfs, and an ice cream truck. HELL'S BELLS manages to be both very funny and truly frightening, a rollercoaster that is fierce and wise and smart and kind.