crime caper


Author Rating: B

Pagan Babies (read 11/1/11) Meh

Elmore Leonard has been a popular crime fiction and suspense writer for quite some time but this is the first novel of his that I’ve read since some time in the early 1980s. I wasn’t particularly impressed with him then and this novel didn’t change my opinion. He certainly writes better than many popular authors, he is able to maintain internal consistency, but at no point does he make me care.

Author Rating: C

Too High (read 7/14/11) Meh

I picked this up in the library because of the cover and checked it out because the back cover blurb compared Hirschfeld favorably to Carl Hiaasen and Donald E. Westlake, the latter being one of my favorite authors. Unfortunately, Hirschfeld fails to live up to that praise. While the novel is competent to a degree, there were too many threads that can’t bear up under the weight of reality.

Author Rating: A

Plugged (read 7/27/12) Highly recommended

OMG! OMG! The jacket blurb compares Colfer favorably to Donald E. Westlake, something which generates negative alarm bells with me because so many make that claim and so few ever live up to it, but — holy cow — Colfer is brilliant!

On New York’s 8th Avenue you know exactly what kind of street you’re walking. The flashing billboards and windows stacked high with lingerie-clothed mannequins never let you forget it. The smell of lust rises from the pavement and the door handles are coated with grease and guilt.

And Another Thing… (read 8/12/12) Recommended

Through happenstance, I discovered that in 2009 an author who is not the deceased Douglas Adams had published this sixth novel in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxytrilogy in five parts.”  I was a little disappointed because I didn’t find it nearly as entertaining as Plugged, but I’m glad I read it if only for historical interest.   If you haven’t read the Hitchhiker’s Guide you are less likely to enjoy this, but if you have it’s not a bad bit of light entertainment.

Colfer is also author of the eight-book Artemis Fowl science fantasy series, “starring teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl II.”

Artemis Fowl (read 8/15/12) Recommended

Yes, well, it is perhaps more entertaining if you’re a Young Reader age 9 to 12, but also I’m not so keen on the inherent unpleasantness of the main character for whom the first book and series is named.  I’m still recommending it though because it’s not actually terrible and I wouldn’t want to discourage others from giving it a go.  I probably will not continue with the series myself, however.

Author Rating: A+

P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) is one of my all-time favorite writers. If I am feeling out of sorts, sitting down with “Plum,” as he was known to his friends and family, never fails to cheer me up.

Since there are so many, I am just going to list the titles I have read. They are all highly recommended.

Something New

Psmith, Journalist

Psmith In The City

The Man Upstairs (short stories)

Picadilly Jim

The Inimitable Jeeves

Ukridge

Carry On, Jeeves

The Small Bachelor

Meet Mr. Mulliner

Summer Lightning

Very Good, Jeeves

Big Money

Hot Water

Mulliner Nights (short stories)

Heavy Weather

The Luck of the Bodkins

Laughing Gas

Summer Moonshine

Quick Service

Bertie Wooster Sees It Through

French Leave

Cocktail Time

How Right You Are, Jeeves

Service With A Smile

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood

No Nudes Is Good Nudes

The Girl In Blue

Plum Pie (short stories)

I found four new ones and have two of them on order from the library! Sadly, the fourth is not in the system.

Indiscretions of Archie (read 11/30/11)

This is one of Wodehouse’s best. Published in 1921, this feels more like a collection of short stories which follow chronologically from the first where we are introduced to Archie Moffam (pronounced “Moom”), an impoverished upper-class young man from England who meets and marries Lucille Brewster, daughter of a millionaire hotelier. Archie’s father-in-law is less than thrilled with his new son-in-law but by the end, despite all the crazy adventures Archie has inadvertently involved him in, Daniel Brewster discovers Archie is not as bad as all that. Laugh-out-loud funny.

The Purloined Paperweight (reread 11/25/11)

Published in 1967, this is “mature” Wodehouse. Earlier Wodehouse, from the 1920s, is much more frenetic while his later work, from the 1960s, is more polished, and he never lost the ability to be extraordinarily entertaining. Interestingly, there is a character in this novel with the same name (Binstead) as a completely difference character in the 1921 Indiscretions of Archie, the only instance I have come across where Wodehouse did this. Anyone know of another?

A Wodehouse Bestiary

Barmy in Wonderland

Love Among The Chickens (read 2/3/2014)

I am, to my surprise, still finding Wodehouse novels I wasn’t aware of; and this one is a definite keeper. How is it not among his most popular? I don’t know. As the title infers, it’s a love story, but with Wodehouse the course of love is never straight or certain, with plenty of diversions along the way. Very entertaining.

Author Rating: C

The Man Who Killed Shakespeare (read 3/23/08) Meh

The cover blurb declares Hodgson “the most demented writer since Carl Hiaasen.” I would profoundly disagree.

Hodgson’s writing is not bad, just not executed to the high standard one would expect with such a comparison, or without it. The best I can say is that it is readable if no better options are available.

Author Rating: B

When The Fat Man Sings (read 5/07) Recommended

Entertaining crime caper involving magicians and horse racing.

Author Rating: A

All of Hiaasen’s books are comic crime stories set in South Florida.

Skinny Dip (read 9/06) Recommended

An attractive heiress is tossed overboard from a cruise ship by her larcenous husband because he thinks she is onto his crooked dealings with a ruthless tycoon who is poisoning the Everglades

Tourist Season (read 10/06) Recommended

Someone is trying to kill Florida’s tourist trade in order to stop the state’s irresponsible development policies and destruction of the environment. It’s funnier than it sounds.

Sick Puppy (read 11/06) Recommended

Budding young ecoterrorist Twilly Spree begins a campaign of sabotage against a grotesque litterbug named Palmer Stoat and gets more than he bargained for.

Lucky You (read 11/06) Recommended

There are two winning tickets for a lottery pot of $14 million. JoLayne Lucks is the owner of one of those tickets. She wants to use her winnings to rescue a local plot of swampland from a strip mall developer, but Bode Gazzer and his sidekick, Chubb, holders of the other ticket, want all the money so they can fund the White Clarion Aryans before NATO takes over America with a handicapped parking sticker scam.

Strip Tease (read 11/06) Recommended

I was reluctant to read this one after having lived through all the hype of the movie starring Demi Moore, but it was better than I expected. A stripper and a cop get together to trap a corrupt politician.

Stormy Weather (read 12/06) Recommended

A story of tourists, native Floridians, scam artists, and insurance adjusters in the wake of a hurricane.

Flush (read 2007) Recommended

One man’s fight against illegal dumping of raw sewage into the Florida waters becomes a family affair.

Double Whammy (read 2007) Recommended

A TV host who is cheating in order to win fortunes in Florida bass-fishing tournaments and a preacher who sponsors said TV host and whose generous supporters don’t know that he’s addicted to prostitutes, profanity and land-grabbing find their schemes come unraveled when private detective R. J. Decker takes the case.

Hoot (read 2007) Recommended

Hiaasen’s first novel for young readers, this is another humorous ecological mystery set in South Florida.

Native Tongue (read 2007) Recommended

A corrupt real estate developer wants to build an 18-hole golf course on North Key Largo. An investigative reporter reduced to writing PR releases for a sleazy theme park intervenes.

Basket Case (read 2007) Recommended

A onetime hotshot investigative reporter demoted to the obituary page thinks that the death of Jimmy Stoma, the infamous front man for Jimmy and the Slut Puppies, may not have been an accident.

Nature Girl (read 7/17/11) Recommended

A good read but lacks the drive of Hiaasen’s other books. Where the rest deal with the evils of real estate development and/or environmental depredation, this one is about a woman who is tired of incivility, specifically telemarketers who call at dinner time, and decides to do something about it.

Author Rating: D

Bill The Galactic Hero (read 7/07) AVOID

Queen Victoria’s Revenge (read 7/07) AVOID

I was very disappointed with both of these books and would not attempt to read another by Harrison.

They are absolutely dreadful even taking into account the “standards” of 1960s and 1970s sci-fi and crime fiction.

Regardless of how much I disliked Harry Harrison’s writing, I understand that others considered him a significant writer and we note his death with regret.

Author Rating: A

Hammett was cited by Donald E. Westlake in an interview as an influence on his own work, so I picked up Hammett’s Complete Novels at the library.

There are indeed similarities in their writing styles but, unfortunately, Hammett’s writing career was not to be as long as Westlake’s, his first novel, Red Harvest, published in 1929 and his last, The Thin Man, published in 1934.

(Petri Liukkonen) Hammett’s first short story appeared in the magazine Black Mask on 1 October 1923, and his fiction writing career as novelist ended in 1934. In Black Mask Hammett became along with Erle Stanley Gardner one of its most popular writers. Under the pseudonym Peter Collinson, Hammett introduced a short, overweight, unnamed detective employed by the San Francisco branch of the Continental Detective Agency, who became known as The Continental Op. In the three dozen stories between 1929 and 1930, featuring the tough and dedicated Op, Hammett gave shape to the first believable detective hero in American fiction. Drawing on his Pinkerton experiences, Hammett created a private eye, whose methods of detection are completely convincing, and whose personality has more than one dimension.

The Thin Man (read 4/2/08) Highly recommended

The Thin Man is the lightest of the five short novels, and features Nick Charles, a hard drinking retired detective, and his wife Nora, a wealthy heiress. It is the basis for the six Thin Man movies, a 1940s radio series, a 1950s television series and an unsuccessful 1991 musical.

Red Harvest (read 4/3/08) Highly recommended

Murder, mayhem and public corruption. The son of a local industrialist contacts the Continental Detective Agency but is murdered before the Continental Op can meet with him. Competing gangs, invited by the industrialist to help “resolve” a labor dispute, threaten to take the whole town down.

The Dain Curse (read 4/4/08) Recommended

Murder and a corrupt religious cult.

The Maltese Falcon (read 4/6/08) Highly recommended

Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer are hired to follow a man who has allegedly ran off with the under-age sister of their client, but both Archer and the man turn up dead, and Spade is the chief suspect. His troubles don’t end there. It seems that the client is involved with some shady people trying to find a figurine worth millions.

From The Maltese Falcon:

The life he knew was a clean orderly, sane, responsible affair. Now a falling beam had shown him that life was fundamentally none of these things. He, the good citizen-husband-father, could be wiped out between office and restaurant by the accident of a falling beam. He knew then that men died at haphazard like that, and lived only while blind chance spared them.”

The Glass Key (read 4/6/08) Highly recommended

First published in 1931, gambler and racketeer Ned Beaumont’s devotion to crooked political boss Paul Madvig leads him to investigate the murder of a local senator’s son as a potential gang war brews.

Author Rating: B

Monkey Wrench (read 4/7/08) Recommended

Similar in style to Carl Hiaasen in being populated by quirky, fringe people, Cody clearly respects and has sympathy for people outside of the mainstream.

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