After the Matt Helm novels, I had to go back and read the first ten Destroyer books again. There’s was no particular reason I stopped at ten, just felt like a nice number. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read these books since I was a kid. I’ve read the series to #112, Brain Storm, and I have read all of the novels that Murphy and Sapir have written at least twice (i.e. the first 55 of them.) They are like corn chips; cheap, not very filling, salty and delicious. But reading them back-to-back shows the cracks in the formula and the wearying nature of that sort of serial fiction where at least 5% of the book is just recapitulation the set-up and background.
In my quest to read things I wouldn’t normally try, I’ve been working my way through the John Maddox Roberts‘ SPQR detective series, set in late-Republic Rome. This is a two-fold departure for me because I don’t read much detective fiction nor do regularly indulge in historical fiction. I’m up to the 7th book and find them very enjoyable. There is another ancient-Rome-detective series by Steven Saylor, Roma Sub Rosa, that appears to cover the exact same period. I’ll try it out in a year or so and see which is better. I’m not such a history buff that inaccuracies annoy me, so YMMY.
Calexit #1. Matteo Pizzolo writes a near-future dystopia set in a besieged Los Angeles. While coming at it from a lefty slant he manages to humanize the people caught up in events regardless of side. I’m looking forward to future issues to see where he takes the series.
A Canticle for Leibowitz. Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s 1960 novel about the collapse of society after a nuclear Holocaust, and a Catholic order founded by a Jewish weapons tech meant to keep whatever is left of civilization alive as benighted populists try to punish the literate for bringing down the fire. I was listening to this on the drive east and missed most of the saber rattling with North Korea. By the time I got caught up the novel felt frustratingly timely. Fuck.
Little Boy Lost. I picked up this J. D. Trafford novel as a Kindle First and started reading it shortly after passing through St. Louis where the novel is set. The setting was painted lovingly and I’m massively frustrated that I didn’t get Bosnian food while there. The whodunnit aspect of the story had a great cadence although the solution was telegraphed too early. The novel touches on issues of class and race without feeling hamfisted, which is surprising these days.
I’m reading Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. Very enjoyable read and soon to be a series by Netflix. Recommended by SugarFree. SugarFree is a king among men–handsome, rich, virile—and the best friend I have ever had. I love SugarFree and he certainly didn’t write this for me.
Gojira is re-reading the entire Lord of the Rings series, starting with the Silmarillion. He’s already on the last book. He hadn’t read them since college and forgot that they aren’t just the origin of so many fantasy tropes, but are actually fantastic books and a real joy to read.
Old Man With Candy
I’m doing a read and a re-read of two older books. In the former category, Garry Wills’s Inventing America is a deep dive into the background and creation of the Declaration of Independence, one of the most remarkable documents in human history. It’s not light reading, structured more as something like a PhD dissertation (back in the days before po-mo took over the academy), but it’s endlessly fascinating. Besides a detailed look at the creation and editing of the document, Wills makes a compelling case that the intellectual roots lie less with Locke and more with Hutcheson.
The Vintage Mencken is a grab bag of essays and excerpts from the Bard of Baltimore, assembled by Alistair Cooke. Harsh, cynical, on point, and delightfully crafted prose, this is something you can pick up and dive into anywhere. It has been said that history never repeats itself, but it often rhymes, and reading Mencken’s political essays, one is struck by the truth of this aphorism.
So, I’ve been reading the Sandman Slim series. Right now I’m on book #5, Kill City Blues, and it’s been a lot of fun so far. I think the author does a decent job of giveth and taketh-away from the eponymous Slim, so he never really gets too overpowered. (And he doesn’t even walk away intact from some fights, which is fun, too.) Granted, you know he’s not going to get curb-stomped into oblivion because, c’mon, there are four more books after this one. But the author has built an interesting universe, and that helps me stay interested since I’ve always been one for the sundry details. All of the Heaven/Hell, God/Lucifer stuff is particularly fascinating to me, what with my very tenuous, Sunday school arts and crafts Bible background. Overall, I’ll finish the series unless something heinous happens in the next two or three books. I thank SugarFree again for the recommendation and for helping me realize that reading really can be fun. (It was for a long time when I was young, and then somewhere along the way it felt like anything I read needed to challenge me. Just like every movie doesn’t need to be Citizen Kane, not every book needs to be Crime and Punishment.)
Jesse and SF talked me into hate-reading Urban Enemies which featured a number of throwaway stories written from the perspective of the villain of some of the day’s hottest urban fantasy series. Most of it was mailed in. They can buy me $12 worth of drinks, each. Much more fun urban fantasy is John Conroe’s latest Demon Accords novel, Winterfall. Conroe delights in finding new and destructive ways for his demigod characters to kill people. There’s no pretense to it, just ever cooler ways of killing bad guys. I’ve read the whole series and had fun with all of them. Finally, I re-read The Half-Made World. I don’t know how to summarize this book. Animistic gods that have taken to inhabiting guns and trains respectively have squared off in a world that isn’t quite finished and can change in response to the people who inhabit it. One old man could undo both sides. A chase ensues. It’s set in a weird wold like China Meiville does, but toned down so that it doesn’t take over the whole story.
I also read The Midnight Assassin, a non-fiction recounting of Austin’s first serial killer by long-time Texas Monthly feature writer Skip Hollandsworth. I think all of the reviews are correct. It is a good recounting, but frustrating because nobody knows who the killer was. But do stay until the end for a fun speculation on a Jack the Ripper connection.
I’m currently engrossed in Fun With Dick and Jane. If Puff gets run over at the end, I’ll be mightily pissed.
Here’s my lame excuse for not reading: I’ve been gambling away my kids’ college funds in Vegas. But it’s OK, I have a system, and any moment now, the winning will start. I did begin reading this, but after ten minutes, my lips got tired. I figure that after the past few days, I’m due, and that’s really more important than that stupid math shit.
Pimps don’t read; they compose literature reviews. One article accepted with revisions, two other articles being prepared for submission, and one paper submitted for a conference.