Createspace (2014), Paperback, 204 pages
I love British Mysteries, and The Darkening Sky is no exception. Well written, with great development of characters; I felt that I knew Power & Lynch personally. I enjoyed the suspense of not knowing what was coming next; sudden twists and turns, along with unique characters kept me stuck to each page. In my view, Greene is bringing an updated, and fresh voice to the mystery game, and I look forward to further volumes in this highly entertaining and somewhat edgy series. Hugh Greene is a writer to start paying attention to in my opinion. Highly recommended.
Tag Archives: the thugbrarian review
Createspace (2014), Paperback, 204 pages
Something quick, yet intense from Haruki Murakami. Art and literature combined, making for one enjoyable reading experience.
The Strange Library
by Haruki Murakami
Bond Street Books (2014), Paperback, 96 pages
If you are an avid reader of Murakami’s books, you will agree that on the one hand, this is not what one expects from Haruki Murakami, but on the other, it makes perfect sense that he would write a twisted, yet artistic little book such as the Strange Library. It is a short read, lasting about 40 minutes, as many of the pages are filled with these very cool illustrations.
The story is basically about a teenaged boy who encounters an evil old librarian who tricks him into a reading room (cell) in the basement, which is at the far end of a labyrinthine web of corridors. There is a girl who comes and goes as if by magic, and a sheep man who receives as well as gives pain, and of course, the old librarian. If I said any more, I would be spoiling the fun.
Thugbrarian Set-List: OFF! First Four EPs.
Recently, I put together a vintage stereo system, using 1980s Technics components. The component that has been getting the most use is the Turntable. On it this week has been OFF!- First Four eps. This is the only real Hardcore Punk band around anymore. This is a great collection of 4 7″ records in a cool box. OFF! Everyone should hear it at least once.
I have been sent scores of new Non-Fiction this last couple of months. In the coming weeks, I will be reviewing these books, including the 3 below- The Algonquin Round Table New York by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, Lens of War: Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War and Dirigible Dreams: The Age of the Airship. All of these have either come out recently, or are about to publish.
The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide
by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick
An enlightening overview of the exploits of New York City’s literary, theater and newspaper royalty from the end of WWI to the beginning of WWII. The Algonquin Round Table, self-proclaimed by the group as The Vicious Circle, formed in 1919 and included such luminaries as Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx and Robert Benchley, and the local press clamored to publish their every word.
While the story of the Table takes center stage, the book also spends time going over the beginnings of the now venerable New Yorker Magazine. Also of interest, Fitzgerald meticulously chronicles the lives and (mostly) deaths of the members after WWII. I enjoyed this look at New York’s early Avant Garde, and learned a great deal about New York City during this period. Highly recommended.
Lens of War: Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War
by J. Matthew Gallman , Gary W. Gallagher
Georgia Press (2015), Hardcover, 256 pages. Expected Publication April 15th
This is no ordinary photo collection of The Civil War– the editors have compiled some of the most iconic photos of the war that 27 scholars analyze, offering us their take on the story behind the images. The work of pioneer photographer Matthew Brady is of course evident throughout the book, as are some of his protegés who have ventured out on their own.
These photos are viewed through various lenses, offering the reader alternate narratives that many of us may not have even fathomed. This is an excellent collection that will appeal to Civil War buffs, photography and art enthusiasts, as well as students of History and Human Geography.
Dirigible Dreams: The Age of the Airship
By C. Michael Hiam
Foreedge (2014), Hardcover, 248 pages
As a child, I was always excited whenever the Goodyear Blimp would fly overhead, the thought of people being aboard a flying bag of gas set my imagination to new heights. Dirigible Dreams gives us the history of the great airships, from the groundbreaking work of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, to the ill-fated Hindenburg disaster, which brought about the demise of airships as viable modes of transport.
These airships, or Zeppelins were the grandfather of the present-day blimp, although they are quite different. Imagine travelling in luxury across the great expanse of oceans, floating like air itself. These were massive flying machines that have been utilized to discover, carry travelers and to drop deadly weaponry during WWI. A blimp is simply a big balloon that flies in circles above a ball field.
This was a highly entertaining as well as an educational read. Recommended for lovers of history, aviation, and technology.
Thugbrarian Set-List: Jumbo Rollers- Smokey Rabbit Hole (Jumbo Rollers)
Singer/guitarist Johnny Rock from the Jumbo Rollers gave me his new cd a few weeks ago, and I have finally got to listen to it in my car stereo. This is Rock & Roll my friends. The live shows are always entertaining, and this cd was just what I needed to deal with pesky morning traffic. Expect to hear some home-style Punk/Garage/Rock & Roll on Smokey Rabbit Hole, and expect your ears to thank you as well.
The awesome cover was taken by Local Norfolk, Va. Photographer Beth Austin, who is known to take great photographs of Bands that play in the area. You can listen to the songs from this cd before you buy one at the Jumbo Roller’s Bandcamp Page
Before the First Shots are Fired: How America Can Win or Lose Off the Battlefield
by General (Ret) Tony Zinni & Tony Koltz
Palgrave Macmillan Trade, (2014) Hardcover, 256 pages
General (Ret) Tony Zinni utilizes his four decades of military experience to present an overview of the United States military’s failure to move into the 21st century, by not adapting to the changing face of warfare, as well as ignoring the mistakes made in past conflicts.
Zinni uses anecdotes from his many experiences during war and military conflicts (from Vietnam to Somalia and Iraq), including his Command of CentCom to illustrate how our military services have not progressed with the times, mostly due to our political leadership’s myopic world view, and lack of experienced advisers. While he makes many salient points, I cannot help but feel that he is on a finger-pointing mission; he critiques the administrations of every president since Truman, detailing poorly planned decisions that resulted in unforeseen circumstances, particularly in the case of the missing WMD in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. His scathing review of the characters of Vice-President Cheney, and Secretary Donald Rumsfield are unforgiving, displaying a sense of disappointment and outright dislike without filter.
That said, this is an extremely interesting narrative which shows how our military has not learned from past mistakes, and has blindly sought to continue on fighting insurgencies, and landless terrorists as if fighting a defined enemy such as we experienced during the World Wars. General Zinni uses his understanding and vast knowledge of American Military history to make valid points. These points range from our lack of a solid plan for fighting non-traditional battles such as cyber warfare, as well as our inability to win militarily without leaving a decade long civil quagmire in our wake.
It is obvious that General Zinni has little regard for our current military advisers, and that he believes that all Presidents should have a personal and professional understanding of war, using the example of President Eisenhower’s strategic prowess, which was due to his valiant service during WWII. I get the sense that he believes that only a President who has served in the military can be an effective Leader.
General Tony Zinni has produced an insider’s accounting of the leadership, strategic and political wrangling, and short-sighted military planning behind the scenes for the last 4 decades. This information alone is a treasure for military historians interested in the modern era. Zinni makes some astute judgments concerning our recent military snafus, particularly our invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, and the fractured political and civil climate that we left with the Iraqi people. If you can get past the “told you so” attitude, and sour grapes evident in some of Zinni’s statements, you will find exceptional ideas from a highly intelligent military mind, as well as some interesting insight into what goes on behind closed doors during all phases of military engagement.
Above all, Before the First Shots are Fired offers us an overview of where our Political and military leaders have strayed, and how to possibly reign it all in, producing a solid policy that will keep us safe, while freeing us from decades of nation-building madness.
Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman
by Robert L. O’Connell
Random House (July 1, 2014), Hardcover, 432 pages
There have been many books published about the Civil War this year, the 150th anniversary of the end of the War. Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O’Connell may be one of the best of the lot. Within these pages, William Tecumseh (Cump to his family) Sherman’s childhood, tenure at West Point, brief civilian life as a banker, war-time heroics as well as his life as a living monument are equally chronicled, giving the reader an excellent biography of the man. From the early tragedy of losing his father, to his bouts of depression, O’Connell offers a full and enlightening explanation of how Sherman became the man that he became. Many are familiar with his Scorched Earth policy during the March to the Sea, setting aflame the South’s infrastructure, military targets and economic strongholds as the final recourse in ending the Civil War.
The book goes into vivid detail on not just the deed of burning Atlanta to the ground itself, but also why Sherman chose this path. Sherman’s Grand Plan was to not only beat the Confederacy’s forces militarily, but to destroy them economically and psychologically. By parading his army deep into Southern territory, he assumed that civilians would give up hope, and realize that the war had already been won. This tactic delivered what was promised, leaving Sherman and his commander U.S.Grant as heroes of the Union. This brings up one of many facets of Sherman’s life that I was not aware of, particularly that he preferred to be the second banana, or the wing man, never desiring to be left in charge. While that may have been true, as O’Connell shows, his larger than life stature was forged by the respect of both his troops (they called him Uncle Billy), and the leadership in Washington, as he constructed a professional, volunteer army that is seen as the archetype for the future standing Army of the U.S.
While there is much to be read concerning Sherman’s military service, there is also a great deal about his private life, his brief and unfortunate foray into the business world, and his family life. Of special interest to me was the fact that his adoptive family, headed by Thomas Ewing , would be where he’d meet his future wife Ellen, who was actually his foster-sister. O’Connell’s writing is anything but dry- his story-telling prowess keeps the book moving smoothly, and never seems to get bogged down by the minute details.
Above all, Robert L. O’Connell is able to show how Sherman’s strategic genius, in tandem with Grant’s leadership skills, are responsible for not only the success of the Army of the West, but also for building a true professional American Standing Army-an important achievement which would propel the United States into a leadership position in world affairs in the near future.
I highly recommend this engaging book to those interested in American History, the Civil War, Military Strategy, and American Political History.
out of 5 Stars
Sometimes I just want to read a great story that isn’t too thought-provoking, or time-consuming to read. A literary version of the TV shows Breaking Bad or Law & Order if you will. Pure entertainment without being heavy. Short stories, novellas, and especially anthologies have always held a place in my heart. I have recently read some entertaining stories in the following titles. A short story by Gord Rollo called Peeler, the novella Medira by Robert King and an amazing collection of 8 Crime-Fiction tales in the Anthology THUGLIT #11. Each of these are available for the Kindle and Nook, as well as hard copy versions at fair prices. Enjoy!
Medira (Memoirs on Being #2)
by Robert King
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform,(2013) 90 Pages
I thoroughly enjoyed volume one of the Memoirs on Being Series titled Time Ahead (see my review here), and I actually enjoyed this 2nd volume as well, although I have a couple of complaints, which I will get to shortly.This story is in keeping with the theme of the series: the evils of technology and existentialism. In Part one, our protagonist wakes up after a century of slumber to find that humans have been supplanted by Transhumans-a race of super humans made superior by technology.
In this volume, the main character awakens with amnesia in a parallel world, from almost two centuries (2005) in the past. He finds himself in the city of Medira, in the year 2200, where people are living in a society that utilizes the equivalent of our 19th century technology, as all harmful technologies have been outlawed a century earlier in Medira. It is ruled by a priestly elite that has found a way to view other planes of existence, in the process causing a catastrophic event. If I went any farther than this, you will have no need to read the book, since it is a wisp of a story, but I will say that the ending is a combination of disappointing, and thought-provoking (both frustrating and exhilarating).
Which brings me to my complaints. This, as with the first volume, is a very short read, about 90 pages. I can see great potential in the story-line, and Mr. King’s writing, but I wish that he would flesh it out more, because there are so many questions about characters, events and locations in my mind. Conversely, I can see a plus side to this problem. The story as it is, is really interesting, and quite disturbing in some ways. I am still asking myself questions about this book, a week after reading. So perhaps Robert King is a crafty trickster after all.
I may not have found this chapter as compelling as the first, but it has merit, and I am anxious to read the forthcoming 3rd and final volume to the trilogy. I am hoping that it ties everything together somehow. It will be interesting to re-read volumes one and two again before reading #3 when it arrives, perhaps there will be an AHA moment.
by Gord Rollo
Enemyone (2012) Kindle edition, 70 pages
Another over the top story from Gord Rollo. This short story, at 70 pages long titled Peeler delivered a combination of psychological thriller and horror, complete with minutely detailed gore.The story revolves around a cook at a mental institute, and a psychopathic patient/inmate who thinks that peeling his skin completely off will turn him into a God. The cook becomes obsessed with the Peeler, and as you can figure, the results are not what he bargained for. The graphically violent ending will jangle your giblets. If a bucket of pulsing entrails were to suddenly become a book, it would be titled Peeler. Gord Rollo never disappoints. Not for the squeamish.
THUGLIT Issue 11 (May/June 2014)
Kindle Edition, 128 pages
Published April 30th 2014 by Thuglit Publishing
Thuglit is simply one of the best Hard-Boiled Crime anthologies around. Consisting of 8 killer crime-fiction stories that are written with authority, starting with SOUNDING by Matthew McBride, a comical story about smuggling that delivers a gritty dose of danger and mayhem. It is a perfect opener to this highly regarded anthology. Other standout stories include A BOTTLE OF SCOTCH AND A SHARP BUCK KNIFE by Scott Grand, and 192 OVER 110 by Max Sheridan– they are all gems actually. The writing is top-notch, with a dose of humor at times to counter the violent nature of the majority of the tales. I read this in Kindle Edition, which I was able to Steal at 0.99 cents! You can find the print edition for around $6. Which ever format you choose, I swear to you that you will be hooked!
Next week, I will be reviewing Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O’Connell, and I AM Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
by Dean Koontz
Bantam (2014), Hardcover, 416 pages
I imagine that Dean Koontz fans will think poorly of The City, his latest book. After all, where is the horror-the action-the gore!? It is a shame when writers aren’t given a chance to leave their comfort zone to try something new. Personally, I found The City magical. The idea of a city made flesh, in the form of a woman who may one day give you a glimpse into her secrets is one of the central ideas of the book. The main character, a boy of 9 named Jonah Kirk, narrates his life story at the age of 57, explaining how he arrived at where he presently is. His father was a deadbeat dad, who is involved with a domestic anti-war terror group like the Weather Underground, who are also murderous bank robbers. His mother is a nightclub singer, and his grandfather a piano player who has played with some larger than life Jazz luminaries.
Jonah himself is a piano playing prodigy; a beautiful part of this book is the constant mentions of popular music of the mid 60s, as well as the character’s love of big band, and jazz music. The story arc takes place between 1966-1967, and Koontz does not hesitate to provide the reader with a thorough description of the era, from what the #1 song of a certain week was, to the style of bell bottoms girls wore in 1967. This aspect of the book made it extremely entertaining for me. The friendship between Jonah and his quiet Japanese-American neighbor, Mr. Yoshioka was the highlight of the book in my opinion. This relationship was highly detailed, and was built upon as the story progressed; right up until the end-their relationship remained one of trust and understanding, and was one of the most poignant stories within the story.
The City is about coming of age in the turbulent 60s, broken families, fear,racism, domestic terrorism, trust, love, belief and perseverance. Jonah and his friend and sometime neighbor Mr.Yoshioka combine forces, with a small group of Japanese-American veterans of the U.S. Internment camp system. Using clues and connections, they piece together a decade-long trail of murder and deceit involving a cast of characters that includes Jonah’s father. There are moments of gut-wrenching sadness, and violence that is portrayed realistically, with an ending that gives one hope for the City and its denizens.
I am not an avid reader of Dean Koontz, and from what I understand, he is mostly known for horror and suspense. I believe that this book had levels of both horror and suspense, although in small doses. What it does possess is beautifully written prose, which at times bordered on poetic with lines such as
“The bright sun painted the pavement with the black shadows of bare-limbed trees, and in the fitful winter wind, those silhouettes twitched underfoot like the many tangled legs of agitated spiders.”
Koontz is a brilliant writer, with descriptions of the mundane that turn ordinary moments into masterpieces. Poetry was a big part of the story as well, as Mr. Yoshioka and Jonah would read and recite haiku often, both in English and Japanese, which is yet another of many layers involved within the story.
Something else that struck me was the attention to detail when dealing with different cultures within a major city. I remember living in Brooklyn in the 60s as a child, and there were Chinese, Norwegians, Italians, Puerto Rican, Irish, African-American and Polish immigrants all living within a square mile of my neighborhood. Dean Koontz did a great job in ensuring that this multi-cultural melting pot of urban life was depicted in all of its glory. It made me think of my childhood in 1967 New York fondly; the music and different people with the funky fashions are what make the book The City feel real.
The city is simply a powerful story that speaks of family commitment, the changing social structures of the 60s, music, art, the criminal mind, life-long friendships and a little bit of magic. One of my favorite books of the year.
out of 5
Book Review: Hanns And Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz-by Thomas Harding
Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz
by Thomas Harding
Simon & Schuster (2013) 348 Pages
“I had to appear cold and heartless while watching things that would go to the heart of anyone with any human feelings” ~ Rudolf Höss
There have been many books written about the Holocaust, and I have read quite a few of them; Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding adds a new dimension to the bibliography, in that it chronicles the lives of two Germans in parallel-one a German Jew who along with his family, barely made it out of Nazi Germany alive, and the other the Kommandant of Auschwitz. What makes this story unique is that it offers the personal perspective of each man’s experience, allowing the reader to view the horror in detail through the eyes of each man.
Hanns Alexander and his twin brother Paul were members of an affluent Jewish family in Berlin. Rudolf Höss was a farmer who fell in with a young Adolf Hitler, getting caught up in the Beer Hall Putsch which got him imprisoned for 4 years. As an early member of the Nazi party, Höss would climb the ranks until becoming a Kommandant of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. He would be instrumental in the design and implementation of the most brutal prison system the world has ever seen.
Thomas Harding has put together a well written historical biography of both men, with their life stories told in tandem from childhood to their fateful meeting at war’s end. Hanns, along with his family were able to escape to England, where both he and his brother Paul enlisted in the British army, with Hanns becoming a lead investigator and Nazi Hunter, in a quest to bring the Reich’s leaders to justice. Hanns is the man responsible for tracking and capturing Rudolf Höss, who would be convicted during the Nuremberg Trials.
As the world is losing the last remaining witnesses to World War II, this book is a reminder of what the human race is capable of, both good and bad, while educating a new generation in what sacrifices have been made by their ancestors. The dual biographies go into intricate detail concerning events that have contributed to the rise of the Nazi party and the war that ravaged much of Europe; events such as the 1929 Stock Market crash, and its effect on the German economy, as well as the ineffective Weimar Government, which fermented Nationalism among most of the population.
Harding presents an excellent chronological time line of events, in an easy to follow style which reads like a thrilling novel. Much of the personal information on Höss is taken from his autobiography, written while in prison awaiting trial. He was the first high-ranking officer to admit to his crimes, while giving detailed information on the building of the concentration camp system and unlike his peers, Höss laid bare the Reich’s objectives of wiping European Jews from the face of the earth.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in World War II history, Jewish Studies, or a compelling biography with a gripping story.
out of 5