April is Over

One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.

Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell

Nonfiction:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
  • The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
  • Bogey Man by George Plimpton
  • To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame

Series continuations:

  • Charmed by Nora Roberts
  • The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor

Poetry:

  • “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

Early Review:

  • Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe

Corner

Simon, David and Edward Burns. The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. New York: Broadway Books, 1997.

Reason read: Maryland become a state in April.

The Corner is very similar to Simon’s other best selling book, Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets. As a freelance writer he has been allowed access to the darkest and grittiest corners of West Baltimore. With Edward Burns as coauthor, Simon takes the reader on a cruel and complicated journey. Together they illustrate what junkies will and won’t do to score the next hit or blast; what crimes or capers they will commit or won’t…because even full blown addicts have their limits. West Baltimore is a shooting gallery where the drug war rearranges police priorities. It’s a harsh reality. The operative word is “real” because even though the plot line reads like a movie and the people you meet could be actors, they are all real. As readers, you get to know people and care about them. Be forewarned. It’s no fairy tale. It grips you as only a never ending nightmare could.

Quotes I need to repeat, “The corner is rooted in human desire – crude and certain and immediate” (p 57), and a couple of pages later, “For those of us riding the wave, the world spins on an axis of technological prowess in an orbit of ever-expanding information” (p 59). Here are two more, “Even heroine no longer suffices to obscure the daily insult that her life has become” (p 179), and “He knows what he likes and to some extent, he knows how to get what he likes, if God is in the details, when DeAndre’s view of the sexual world is decidedly agnostic” (p 225).

Author(s) fact: David Simon writes for the show “The Wire” and Edward Burns was a cop turned teacher.

Book trivia: The Corner has a few photographs of some of the main characters.

Nancy said: Nancy said she couldn’t go to Baltimore without first watching The Wire which was based on The Corner (p 34).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go  in the chapter called simply “Baltimore” (p 34).


Library Week and the April Reads

Yes, it is now April 4th and I am just getting to this. April is slowly becoming one of those coulda, woulda months. I was supposed to run nine miles on Sunday. Instead, I had Easter dinner with the family and chilled out. I could have run on Monday but it snowed and I had Cairo. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn’t. April is supposed to he a half marathon (and you can see how well the training is going) and a 10k one week later. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell – in honor of Lowell’s birth month being in April.

Nonfiction:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – in honor of April being the month Louisiana was founded.
  • Bogey Man by George Plimpton – in honor of the PGA tour.
  • Corner by David Simon – in honor of Maryland becoming a state in April.
  • Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski – in honor of April being Math, Science, and Technology month.

Series continuations:

  • Venus Throw by Steven Saylor – to continue the series started in March for Saylor’s birth month.
  • Charmed by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in February for Valentine’s Day.

Poetry:

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz – to continue honoring Poetry Month
  • A Few Figs From Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.
  • “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.

If there is time:

  • To the Is-Land by Janet Frame – in honor of Anzac Day in New Zealand.
  • Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton (I had to request this one through interlibrary loan so I’m not sure it will be read in time to be in the April category.

Homicide

Simon, David. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.

Reason read: There is a book festival held in Baltimore every September.

Question: What happens when a reporter, already on the Baltimore police beat, is allowed to have unlimited access to the city’s homicide unit for a full year? Answer: Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets, a 600 page play by play of what it is like to work a murder from start to finish. From the first report of a cold body to (sometimes) solving the case, Simon was there to witness and document every little moment. He followed various detectives as they got the call, examined the victim for cause of death, poured over the crime scene for clues, canvassed the neighborhoods for reluctant witnesses, stood over autopsies waiting for more evidence, paced the halls in hospital emergency rooms impatient for first-hand accounts from survivors, went on death notifications, stared at their murder boards trying to put the pieces together…These police officers portray the grim reality of crime but they also share moments of humor, sarcasm and a genuine love of the job. I found myself liking Detective McLarney and thinking it would be cool to have a beer with him.

Probably the hardest cases to read about were young Latonya Wallace and police officer Gene Cassidy.

Line I liked, “A heavily armed nation prone to violence finds it only reasonable to give law officers weapons and the authority to use them” (p 108).

Book trivia: This is an informal reporting on crime in Baltimore. No index, photographs or footnoted references.

Author fact: At the time of publication David Simon was a reporter with the Baltimore Sun. He took a leave of absence to write this book. In the time he took him to write Homicide 567 additional murders occurred.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the obvious chapter called, you guessed it, “Baltimore” (p 34).


Saturday Morning Murder

Gur, Batya. The Saturday Morning Murder: a Psychological Case. Translated by Dalya Bilu. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.

Reason read: March is supposedly the best time to visit Israel. Also, the murder in Saturday Morning Murder takes place in March.

The story begins early one Saturday morning. Shlomo Gold arrives at the Jerusalem Psychoanalytic Institute to find the dead body of senior analyst Eva Neidorf. Although she was about to give a much anticipated lecture, someone has murdered her with a single gunshot to the head. So begins The Saturday Morning Murder: a Psychological Case, Gur’s first make-you-think fictional thriller starring Chief Inspector Michael Ohayon. [Note: Gur published a collection of essays in Hebrew two year before this translated publication.] Since this is our first introduction to the Inspector, Gur builds Ohayon’s personality with much detail. Early on we learn he is a heavy smoker and doesn’t like talking to the press. He drinks his coffee like an addict and takes it with sugar. He has no problem remembering names, hates to be unshaven and drives a Renault. He is a thirty-nine year old father and has been divorced for eight years. He is involved with a married woman and wanted to get a doctorate at Cambridge. But, back to the review. Gur builds this mystery through the characters she introduced. Don’t worry about trying to remember them all. Gur tries to throw you off the scent by making you think any of them could be the killer. When the whole story is finally revealed it isn’t this big out-of-left-field moment. If you are paying attention you definitely can see it coming. Despite the transparency, this was a great read.

Author fact: Gur died in 2005.

Book trivia: I would have recommended a second editor to take a look at Saturday Morning Murder. There were a bunch of typos and other mistakes throughout the book. I should note that these mistakes did not in any way detract from the story!

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Crime is a Globetrotter: Israel” (p 61). Note: Pearl lists them out of order. I read the last published vbook Bethlehem Road Murder first.


Killer Inside Me

Thompson, Jim. The Killer Inside Me.

Lou Ford is a young deputy sheriff with a big secret. He has what he calls a “sickness.” In truth, he is a sexual sadist and a homicidal sociopath. After having rough sex with a prostitute he finds all of his urges have come back. Years earlier he attacked a child. When his foster brother took the blame for the crime, Lou thought his secret was safe, especially when his brother died in a construction “accident.” He got away with it until he decided to blackmail the men who supposedly murdered his brother. Things get complicated and the bodies start piling up. Ford is a strange man (never mind the fact he’s a killer). He speaks in cliches all the time and he has an ego the size of Alaska. He thinks that he has covered up each and every crime and hasn’t left a shred of evidence that could implicate him in any way. It’s strange to read this in the 21st century. So many different forensic techniques we take for granted today (DNA, for one) were not available back in the 1950s. Even methods like the polygraph and fingerprinting have been greatly improved since their invention.

Best lines, “Out here, if you catch a man with his pants down, you apologize…even if you have to arrest him afterwards” (p 6).

Reason read: June is National Short Story month.

Author fact: Thompson also wrote The Grifters which is on my list.

Book trivia: The Killer Inside Me was made into a movie with a pretty cool website here.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Les Crimes Noir” (p 67). Interestingly enough, this is one of the stories in Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s which is also on my list.


Down There

Goodis, David. Down There. Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s. New York: Library of America, 1999.

David Goodis is a great storyteller. The story opens with a man, bloodied and dazed, running from two unknown men. Throughout most of the plot you don’t know who is who. Is the running man a good guy or is he bad? Why do the men chasing him want him so badly? They are relentless in their pursuit. You don’t know who to root for. But, the story isn’t really about the man being pursued. When he escapes into a seedy bar where his brother is playing piano, the attention shifts to the piano player. Now, caught in the middle of the pursuit is younger brother, Eddie. Growing up, Eddie had very little to do with his rough and violent brothers. While they followed a life of crime, Eddie became a Carnegie Hall pianist. For the past three years he has been just a simple piano player in a bar called Harriet’s Hut. Out of family loyalty, Eddie helps his brother escape and plunges headlong into the trouble is he has been trying to avoid for years. There is a reason he no longer plays Carnegie and that ugly truth comes back to haunt him. Throughout the story there isn’t enough character development to care about Eddie or his family. You don’t know if they are the good guys or not. Enough bad things have happened to Eddie to make the reader sympathetic to his plight, but not enough to sit on the edge of a seat, hoping and praying for his survival. I rooted for the plucky waitress, Lena, who attaches herself to Eddie and refuses to take no for an answer. She was gutsy and valiant and never wavered from her character.

Reason read: June is National Short Story month and even though this isn’t exactly a short story, it’s brief enough to throw on the list.

Author fact: One of the most fascinating things about Goodis (according to Wikipedia (yes, I’m quoting Wikipedia), is that most people didn’t know Goodis had been married for a brief time. It wasn’t until a divorce document was found that people really believed it.

Book trivia: Down There is also known as Shoot the Piano Player which was made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Crime Novels: American Noir listed in Book Lust in the chapter called “Les Crime Noir” (p 65).