Thursday, December 18, 2014

Charles Chaplin - My Autobiography



Charles Chaplin (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was a genius who has contributed lots of joy to the world. He was a comedian, director, writer, actor, composer, producer... a true performer.

His movies are still entertaining, even to my 11 year-old niece. In this autobiography he wrote about his poor childhood, how he joined the entertainment industry, how he made successful movies and founded the United Artists and how the American public were turned against him, accusing him as a communist. He wrote about famous people he met, like Gandhi, Einstein, Churchill, HG Wells, his partner Douglas Fairbanks, etc. 

After the released of the first film with sound, the Jazz Singer, in 1927; he still insisted to make two more silent movies: City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936) and both were successful. The next movie, The Great Dictator (1940), which he called an anti-nazi movie, was not as good as his silent ones. It was very funny how he portrayed the dictator, which looked a lot like Hitler: why they wore the same moustache? When you think about it, Chaplin wore it first. Why would a country leader wore the same moustache as a comedian? Was the style a hit in the era?

My favourite Chaplin films are the full-length ones: The Gold Rush, The Circus, and Modern Times. When I was buying this book, what I looking for was how he had gotten the ideas for them. So I am a little disappointed because he didn't wrote about all of them. He only wrote about several of his movies, while he had made so many. In all, this is an enjoyable book and a good inspirational story about a poor boy from a destitute neighbourhood in London who became the world's favorite man. This book was first published in 1964, when he lived in exile in Switzerland. Only in 1972 he returned to the U.S.A to accept his Honorary Award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.

64-pages of pictures are grouped in the middle of this book. 
As he made his own movies, between them, he had to take break to look for ideas and inspirations. After City Lights (1931), he took a trip to the Orient with his brother Sydney, and he visited the island of Bali, between his trip from Singapore to Japan. He brought a camera along, because there was documentary films from this trip. It's available in YouTube and the year (it's said) was 1932.

Excerpt from the book about Bali:
It was Sydney who had recommended visiting the island of Bali, saying how untouched it was by civilization and describing its beautiful women with their exposed bosoms. These aroused my interest. Our first glimpse of the island was in the morning – white puff clouds encircled green mountains leaving their peaks looking like floating islands. In those days there was no port or airfield; one landed at an old wooden dock by row-boat.
We passed through compounds with beautifully built walls and imposing entrances where ten or twenty families lived. The farther we traveled the more beautiful the country became; silvery mirrored steps of green-rice fields led down to a winding stream. Suddenly Sidney nudged me. Along the roadside was a line of stately young women, dressed only in batiks wrapped around their waists, their breasts bare, carrying baskets on their heads laden with fruits. From then on we were continually nudging. Some were quite pretty. Our guide, an American Turk who sat in front with the chauffeur, was most annoying, for he would turn with lecherous interest to see our reactions – as though he had put on the show for us.
The hotel in Denpasar had only recently been built. Each sitting-room was open like a veranda, partitioned off, with sleeping quarters at the back which were clean and comfortable.
Hirschfeld, the American water-colour artist, and his wife had been living in Bali for two months and invited us to his house, where Miguel Covarrubias, the Mexican artist, had stayed before them. They had rented it from a Balinese nobleman, and lived there like landed aristocrats for fifteen dollars a week. After dinner the Hirschfelds, Sydney, and I took a walk. The night was dark and sultry. Not a breath of wind stirred, then suddenly a sea of fire-flies, acre upon acre of them, raced over the rice-fields in undulating waves of blue light. From another direction came sound of jingling tambourines and clashing gongs in rhythmic tonal patterns. ‘A dance going on somewhere,’ said Hirschfeld; ‘let’s go.’
About two hundred yards away a group of natives were standing and squatting around, and maidens sat cross-legged with baskets and small flares selling dainty edibles. We edged through the crowd and saw two girls about ten years old wrapped in embroidered sarongs, with elaborated gold tinsel head-dresses that flickered sparklingly in the lamplight as they danced mosaic patterns to treble high notes, accompanied by deep bass tones from large gongs; their head swayed, their eyes flickered, their fingers quivered to the devilish music, which developed to a crescendo like a raging torrent, then calmed down again into a placid river. The finish was anticlimactic; the dancers stopped abruptly and sank bank into the crowd. There was no applause – the Balinese never applaud; nor have they a word for love or thank you.
Walter Spies, the musician and painter, called and had lunch with us at the hotel. He had lived in Bali for fifteen years, and spoke Balinese. He had transcribed some of their music for piano, which he played for us; the effect was like a Bach concerto played in double time. Their musical taste was quite sophisticated, he said; our modern jazz they dismissed as dull and too slow. Mozart they considered sentimental, and only Bach interested them because his patterns and rhythms were similar to their own. I found their music cold, ruthless and slightly disturbing; even the deep doleful passages had the sinister yearning of a hungry minotaur.
After lunch Spies took us into the interior of a jungle, where a ceremony of flagellation was to take place. We were obliged to walk four miles along a jungle path to get there. When we arrived, we came upon a large crowd surrounding an altar about twelve feet long. Young maidens in beautiful sarongs, their breasts bare, were queueing up with baskets laden with fruit and other offerings, which a priest, looking like a dervish with long hair down to his waist and dressed in a white gown, blessed an laid upon the altar. After the priest had intoned prayers, giggling youths broke through and ransacked the altar, grabbing what they could as the priests lashed violently out at them with whips. Some were forced to drop their spoils because of the severity of the lashings, which were supposed to rid them of evil spirits that tempted them to rob.
We went in and out of temples and compounds as we pleased, and saw cock-fights and attended festivals and religious ceremonies which took place all hours of the day and night. I left one at five in the morning. Their gods are pleasure-loving, and the Balinese worship them not with awe, but with affection.
Late one night Spies and I came upon a tall Amazon woman dancing by torchlight, her little son imitating her in the background. A young-looking man occasionally instructed her. We discovered later that he was her father. Spies asked him his age.
            ‘When was the earthquake?’ he asked.
            ‘Twelve years ago,’ said Spies.
            ‘Well, I had three married children then.’ Seemingly not satisfied with this answer, he added: ‘I am two thousand dollars old,’ declaring that in his lifetime he had spent that sum.
            In many compounds I saw brand-new limousines used as chicken-coops. I asked Spies the reason. Said he: ‘A Compound is run on communistic lines, and the money it makes by exporting a few cattle they put into a saving fund which over the years amounts to a considerable sum. One day an enterprising automobile salesman talked them into buying Cadillac limousines. For the first couple of days they rode around having great fun, until they ran out of gasoline. Then they discovered that the cost of running a car for a day was as much as they earned in a month, so they left them in the compounds for the chickens to roost in.’
           
Balinese humour is like our own and abounds in sex jokes, truisms and play on words. I tested the humour of our young waiter at the hotel. ‘Why does a chicken cross the road?’ I asked.
            His reaction was supercilious. ‘Everybody knows that one,’ said he to the interpreter.
            ‘Very well then, which came first, the chicken or the egg?’
            This stumped him. ‘The chicken – no –‘ he shook his head, ‘-the egg – no,’ he pushed back his turban and thought a while; then announced with final assurance: ‘The egg.’
            ‘But who laid the egg?’
            ‘The turtle, because the turtle is supreme and lays all the eggs.’

Bali then was a paradise. Natives worked four months in the rice-fields and devoted the other eight to their art and culture. Entertainment was free all over the island, one village performing for the other. But now paradise is on the way out. Education has taught them to cover their breasts and forsake their pleasure-loving gods for Western ones.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mireille Darc - Tant que battra mon coeur (mémoires)

Is there another version of this book? I happen to have this pocket version, which is too small: 10,8 x 17,7 cm. There are 24 pages dedicated for pictures (divided in 2 groups); the ones from her childhood were arranged in an "economical" way that one page carries 4 - 6 pictures--> can't see them clearly in this size, the two pictures with her classmates, for example.

Ms Darc's writing style is easy to read & understandable. She chose things from her life that she thought interesting for this book. I really enjoyed reading this book. For me, what I like most is to read about her life with Alain Delon, her heart surgery, and the terrible car accident. She is an independent woman, very strong, yet very kind. Not much photos here as she burned them when she started a new life with her husband, Pascal Desprez, an architect.

She met Alain Delon in 1966, but only 2 years later they became close. After Alain Delon finished the filming of La Piscine, Markovic Affair started. That day, he called her, asked her to accompany him to watch an opera. Mireille Darc went to Yves Saint Laurent to borrow a dress/gown for the event and Pierre Bergé (the owner) asked her whom she went with. She told him that she would be going with Alain Delon. 
Pierre Bergé : Ah, OK... OK... with Alain... But you know?
Mireille Darc : Yes, I know.

It was a difficult time for Alain Delon, but she stood by his side. In this book she wrote about one incident when she was interrogated and threated by the police. She was truly a friend and that is why she is the only woman who stayed with Alain Delon for 15 years. They didn't have any children because she had a heart condition, a result of her poor childhood.

I say she chose interesting things for this book because there was this embarrassing story where she and Alain Delon went to an event in Lido. She wore the phenomenal dress from Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire and when she and Alain Delon were dancing, someone touched her natal cleft. If I myself ever published an autobiography, I would have omitted embarrassing things.

In March 1980 she had a heart operation where the surgeon opened her heart so she was clinically dead for a while. Even now, in 2014, I still think it was a difficult and very expensive operation.

In July 1983 she had a terrible accident in tunnel of Aoste where her Mercedes 500 was hit by a truck (she was in passenger seat, sleeping). Although her relationship with Alain Delon had been waning, she still worked for him. At that time she had visited some furniture factories for Alain Delon label and was visiting perfume and glasses factories. Because of the accident, her body was broken, and also her heart, because he left him for a girl half of her age. However, Mireille Darc was (and is) a very wonderful lady, since we all know that she and Alain Delon are still good friends.

The book was written in 2005. 343 pages.


Alain Delon contributed some pictures for this book. See the left side of each pic.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Deadline - John Sandford

As can be guessed from its title, this latest Virgil Flowers' adventure is dealing with the death of a reporter. Virgil lives in Mankato, has a girlfriend with children. His friend, Johnson Johnson, in Trippton, called him for help because dogs in his area had been dognapped. Dogs are people's best friend, so Virgil took it (or tried to take it) seriously.

As a state police, Virgil went around and across Minnesota to work. Now it was in Trippton, in Buchanan County, "in the Driftless Area along the Mississippi River". To make it simple to get his boss's permission, Virgil at this time had some time after solving a case in New Mexico. At the same time, his boss Lucas Davenport, had been busy working on the black hole case-->read John Sandford's Field of Prey. I myself thought Virgil should have been helping his boss than working on this dognapping cases. Of course Virgil never clearly told his boss what he was really up to.

However, in searching for the missing dogs, Virgil found a meth lab and ended up working on murder cases, started with a dead reporter found in a ditch. It turned out the dead reporter had been working on an article about the local school board embezzlement, the biggest in Minnesota history. The school board tried to cover the embezzlement up by murdering the reporter, at first, but more bodies turned up because things were going more wrong and wrong. It was useless, by the way, because Virgil our hero had known about the school board's involvement from the beginning.

The story concluded with Virgil Flowers going home bringing a yellow dog. The latest John Sandford book Uncaged also portrayed the hero/heroin with a dog. Now if Sandford would also give Lucas Davenport a dog, that's a pattern.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Alain Delon - en plein soleil

Published in 2012, this hard-covered book is smaller than I expected : 16,8 x 24,6 cm. The paper used are in good quality, though, so the photographs - which are quite a lot - have been very well reproduced. In 144 pages (not include covers), the book by Christian Dureau tells the story of Alain Delon: from his troubled childhood, his days as a marine in Vietnam, how he began to work as an actor, how he worked with great directors like Rene Clement, Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean-Pierre Melville. Quotes from Delon himself are scattered throughout, in blue letters, inserted at right places for the readers' benefit. Most of his memorable movies' synopsis are also there, separated in pale pink backgrounds.

This book followed his steps as an actor, so if you are looking for juicy gossips you will not find them here. Even the Markovic affair was only told in 1 paragraph. [In Bernard Violet's Les Mystères Delon , an unauthorized Delon biography, the affair dominated several chapters.]

contents

A scan from The Sicilian Clan days. Click to zoom in.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Uncle Scrooge: The Seven Cities of Gold by Carl Barks

The volume contains stories such as: The Seven Cities of Cibola (looking for Indian arrowheads in great deserts of the west, Uncle Scrooge, Donald, and the kids find the long lost Seven Cities of Cibola), The Million-Dollar Pigeon (to save money, instead of hiring a messenger, Uncle Scrooge sends a million dollars by a pigeon post, but the bird never arrives at the bank), The Mysterious Stone Ray (Uncle Scrooge and the kids find a bottle with a SOS message on a beach and they go for a rescue. When they arrive at the island, they find the Beagle Boys has been turned into stones), A Campaign of Note (Uncle Scrooge is a candidate for city treasurer and wants to win without spending too much money), The Lemming with The Locket (a locket, the key to Uncle Scrooge's new safe combination is accidentally stolen by a rat/lemming and to get it back they run after the creature all across the world), The Tuckered Tiger (to make the Duckburg Spring Festival a success, Uncle Scrooge holds an animal race. His horse vs Maharajah of Swingingdore's tiger. The winner will get the owner of the losing animal's weight in diamonds), The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone (whoever that owns it can turn anything into gold), Heirloom Watch (Uncle Scrooge can claim his inheritance to his great uncle Quagmire McDuck in Scotland if he can show the old McDuck heirloom watch in good condition), The Great Steamboat Race (Horseshoe Hogg challeges Uncle Scrooge to finish the unfinished boat race of long ago), Riches, Riches, Everywhere! (Uncle Scrooge shows Donald and the kids that he is the cleverest prospector and can find riches everywhere), and The Golden Fleecing (Uncle Scrooge wants to change his red coat with a golden coat, but the tailor needs some magical golden wool).

There are also a couple of 1 page stories of how Uncle Scrooge tries to trick a café owner into serving him more coffée.

Stoned Beagle Boys in The Mysterious Stone Ray: a horror for Uncle Scrooge
The Great Steamboat Race: my favourite then and now!
Panels from The Golden Fleecing. The kids' guidebook seems to have answers for everything.
Yup, the book has answers to everything.
A panel from Heirloom Watch. Even Uncle Scrooge thinks like this.



Donald Duck: Trail of the Unicorn by Carl Barks

The volume contains stories such as: Trail of the Unicorn (Uncle Scrooge pays Donald and the kids to bring back a unicorn from Himalayas for his zoo collection), Super Snooper (Donald drinks a magic potion and becomes a superman), the Great Duckburg Frog-Jumping Contest (frog legs cost too much so Donald decides to catch the animal himself), Letter to Santa (Donald forgot to mail the kids' letter to Santa, so he asks Uncle Scrooge to buy a steam shovel for the kids, but Uncle Scrooge wants to get the credit), Dowsing Ducks (the kids try to show Donald that their water diviner really works), The Goldilocks Gambit (Donald, the kids, Gladstone Gander and three bears in a cabin), New Toys (the kids want the toys they already have for Christmas. I think this is one of the sweetest stories Barks ever wrote), Luck of The North (with a fake map, Donald sends Gladstone Gander to the Artic Ocean and follow him to prevent something bad happened), Donald's Love Letters (Donald thinks Gladstone Gander has his love letters to Daisy and tries to get them back because they are embarrassing), Rip Van Donald (the kids makes Donald believes he has slept for 20 years and the world has changed), Land of Totem Poles (Donald and the kids in a competition: who is the best salesman?), and Serum to Codfish Cove (Donald brags being the greatest skier, so the mayor tasks him to bring a bottle of serum to the isolated village of Codfish Cove).

Panels from the title story. I hope somebody took pity of Huey and helped him carry the rock.
Panels from the Great Duckburg Frog-Jumping Contest. My most favourite story in this volume.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Man - Irving Wallace

It took me a long time to finish this book. Irving Wallace enjoyed writing so much that it seemed the book would never end. 'The Man' in the title refers to a character named Douglass Dilman, a black man who fictionally became The President of the United States of America in September 1964, about the same year when the events like in the Mississippi Burning movie happened.

What would happen if the president, the vice-president and the speaker of the House of Representatives died at the same time in an accident? According to the President Succession Act of 1947, the next in line was President pro tempore of the Senate, and that was Senator Douglass Dilman, who held the position as a political gesture, to shut up (black) demonstrators and rioters. The people around the late president, tried to run the same policies; but as time went by, Dilman began to show his own personality. It was then that they wanted to remove him from office on impeachment. Dilman fought back and tried to get a fair trial: if he was removed it was because he was incompetent, not because the colour of his skin.

Reading this book was like reading political transcripts. Some speeches were very long, and I thought, 'Why couldn't he edit them?" Some characters were interesting, like the president's personal guard, Otto Beggs; Edna Foster, the personal secretary; Sally Watson, the social secretary, who accused the president raping her; Secretary of State Arthur Eaton, and Lawyer Nat Abrahams. As a president, in making decisions, Dilman always chose the right things. He didn't try to please any side, but he chose the right thing, so whatever the outcome was, he had done his best.

Dilman was also not an angel, but when the war against him began, his faults were exaggerated. Some accusations were even fabricated. However, in the end, Wallace made him won and gave the readers a happy ending.

[Irving Wallace] was aware that in black ghettoes "The Man" was slang for "white man" or "the white boss". In The Man he place a black man in the role of the ultimate white boss. But the title had a second, more important meaning to [Irving Wallace]. In the early 1960s the vast majority of black males were used to being treated by whites as a separate species, as something less than a man. Douglass Dilman, the protagonist of the novel, after a lifetime of living as a milquetoast, token Negro, wants to be treated as a man and must learn for himself what it is to act like a man. ~David Wallechinsky

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Uncaged - Singular Menace #1 (John Sandford & Michele Cook)

Uncaged is the first book of the Singular Menace Trilogy. Written by John Sandford and his wife Michele Cook, this is intended to young adult readers. Looking back, I think there has been big changes to young adult books. What first came into my mind was Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, which almost had no violence. But when I thought about it, before I was 12, I had already read Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries and enjoyed them very much. Nowadays, books for young adults are mostly about magic and dragons, which I avoid. Uncaged offers action and violence. There is a waterboarding torture scene and a guy whose face gets ripped. The Singular laboratory itself uses ‘lab human’, and although it sounds scary, Doctor Who – TV series made for universal audience, including children- also offers the same thing when Cybermen convert human into robot.

The main character in Uncaged was a sixteen year-old red-haired girl, Shay Remby, a foster kid who left home to Hollywood to look for her brother, Odin. 17 year-old Odin, an autistic genius, was wanted by Singular Corporation, a big biomedical research lab, after he and his group broke into their laboratory in Eugene, Oregon. Odin took away several flash drives contained proofs of how the lab abused animals and human beings. He also took a lab dog: a dog who had been turned into a kind of robo-dog. This dog’s brain should be charged periodically, like a cell phone.

In Hollywood, Shay lived in a ‘hotel’ for homeless kids. The hotel was belonged to and managed by Twist, an artist. Shay got a room and worked for Twist: painting posters and climbing high buildings. Her latest foster parents taught her how to climb.

Singular recruited war victims, those who had lost their limbs and changed them into bionic men à think of Six Million Dollar Man or Bionic Woman. Not all Singular guards knew about the illegal activity of their bosses. Their researcher, ex-Afghanistan soldier named West, secretly helped Shay after finding out that Singular had kidnapped Odin.


Book one ended after Shay rescued Odin from Singular prison in Sacramento and hunted by the authorities as terrorists. Shay and her friends also took away an Asian woman, another lab human from Singular. I am looking forward to reading the sequel.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Night Crew - John Sandford

In my opinion, The Night Crew is not as good as the Prey series, although it’s worth to read because it’s written by John Sandford. The Prey series were centered in MinneapolisSt Paul, and the description of the places were vivid, that I was tempted to visit the Twin Cities if only I had the money.

The Night Crew was set in Los Angeles. The heroine was Anna Batory, leader of the night crew. With an administrator (Louis) and two cameramen (Jason and Creek), Anna went around the city to capture video news and sold them to TV stations. In the beginning of the book, the crew got two stories: an animal rights raid and a jumper. The next morning, one of Anna’s cameramen, Jason, turned up dead on a beach, shot to death.

In the course of the investigation, Anna was told by the police that she had been being stalked and the stalker murdered anyone who had been closed to her. Guarded by Jake Harper, a lawyer, who believed that the Jason’s murder connected to the jumper (Harper’s son)’s death – and that the police was too slow – Anna tried to find who the stalker was.


Compared to John Sandford’s other works, I think the plot here was not very effective. Anna and Jake Harper went around investigating and got many false clues. I was also disappointed after the cuprit had been exposed. Anna was familiar with his voice and she thought he was someone she knew. The way he obsessed about her, it seemed he had been like that for a long time. It turned out he was someone she met at the beginning of the story. I read somewhere that John Sandford didn’t made the sequel because Anna Batory was too much like Lucas Davenport, his Prey hero. The reader could grasp this when they read how Anna killed her stalker in the end. Like Davenport, she could lost her mind and saw red. Like in Eyes of Prey, when Davenport kept hitting the killer’s face until they were separated. Jake Harper, who witnessed Anna’s rage, decided to end their relationship – like Weather decided to leave Davenport (although temporarily) in Sudden Prey after he manipulated her in order to kill the bad guy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Merlin - TV Series

I really loved watching this TV series and tried not to miss each episode, but the channel that showed it, Diva, usually changed the schedule when they showed the last episode of each season. Like last week, when I tried to watch the last episode of season 5 (the last season). It was supposed to be shown on Thursday at 6 pm. It was not shown. I found out later that it had been shown at 2 pm, while I was still at work. As this was the last episode, the conclusion, I sought the schedule and was finally able to catch it when it was re-shown on Sunday evening.

L-R : King Uther, Arthur, Merlin, Gaius, Morgana, Guinevere
Before watching this series, I only had known that Merlin had been a great sorcerer, with white long beard and a pointed hat. He worked along with King Arthur and his knights of the round table, one of them had been famous for his search of the Holy Grail. King Arthur had had this beautiful wife, Guinevere, who once had had an affair with one of his knights, Lancelot. Merlin had a powerful enemy, the high priestess Morgana. Also well known had been King Arthur’s sword Excalibur.

In this made-in-Britain TV series, I learned a lot about Camelot and Merlin’s relationship with King Arthur. When Merlin, as a young man, first arrived in Camelot, Uther Pendragon was the king. King Uther was very much against magic and he had punished those who practiced magic, condemned them to death. Merlin was sent to King Uther’s son, Arthur, as a servant. Merlin had to hide the fact that he could practice magic, although countless times he had helped Arthur without Arthur’s knowledge of Merlin’s gift. Merlin stayed with Gaius, the palace’s physician and became his apprentice. Only Gaius knew Merlin’s secret.

Sometimes Merlin has to drink a magic potion which can make him old, so no one
will recognize him
Meanwhile, Arthur’s half sister, Morgana, gradually found out that she could do magic; but she was afraid of her father. She was so bitter that she became evil. She wanted to be the queen of Camelot and in order to achieve that, she had to kill Arthur first.

The last episode showed Arthur’s death by Mordred after the battle of Camlann. Merlin had been told about this before and he had tried to kill Mordred first, but failed because Merlin was too kind. Merlin had been told that he could save Arthur if he acted quickly. Gaius had said that Merlin had to take the gravely wounded Arthur to Avalon, but Arthur died on the way. If Merlin had called the dragon the fly them away from the beginning, perhaps Arthur could have been saved. I must say that in his last hour, Arthur looked more drunk than dying.

I vaguely remember that Finna, a faithful servant of a sorcerer who had died in Morgana's hand, gave Merlin a little box, told him that it could be useful in a dark time. I think Merlin hadn't used this box yet.


So there goes the image of old Arthur and old Merlin worked together for the sake of Camelot, to unite the kingdoms.

Among the actors, Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Katie McGrath (Morgana) stood out. Angel Coulby (Guinevere) perhaps was the worst, and I think the part was just not for her.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Watch Your Back - Karen Rose

Karen Rose usually makes supported characters - one male & one female - in previous book(s) into main ones, and it's the same formula in Watch Your Back. I think this book has been written with one obvious reason: to create a romance between policewoman Stevie Mazzetti and Private Investigator Clay Maynard. The plot itself is quite good, but I think it's not as complicatedly woven like the writer's latest works.

Usually one can read Karen Rose's book on its own, but I strongly suggest that you read No One Left To Tell first. Watch Your Back is from the Baltimore Series: (1)You Belong To Me (2) No One Left To Tell (3) Did You Miss Me? (4) Watch Your Back. Actually there is one little work between (3) and (4) called Broken Silence which is only available as e-book, but if it's printed it would be a thin book, and personally I think you can left this one out, unless you care about the characters in the Baltimore series.

In No One Left To Tell, there was a corrupted police named Silas Dandridge, Stevie Mazzetti's former partner. Silas was dead at the end of No One Left To Tell and in Watch Your Back, Stevie tried to right the wrongs. As Silas Dandridge's partner, she had  not known all the evil things he had been doing; and after his death and Internal Affairs declared that she was clear, she dug into his cases and investigated them again, and found innocent men in jail while the real culprits were free.

The antagonist in this book was a businessman and a philanthropist named Todd Robinette. He had murdered his previous wife (and several others) and framed his son, thinking that his son could survive in jail. However, when Stevie Mazzetti, had tried to question his son, his son had run and shot the police. So Stevie Mazzetti had to shot him back and the son had been dead. Todd Robinnette had been waiting for a chance to avenge his son's death.

News about Stevie digging into old Silas Dandrige's cases was not a secret. Early in the book she had survived a couple of murder attempts. Todd Robinette then hired hitmen to join the excitement. Stevie always managed to survive any attack, though, either because she was lucky or because Clay Maynard, who had been in love with her through previous books, was always at her side guarding her. Even the hitmen realized that Robinette was crazy that they left him, and so Robinette must try to silence Stevie himself.

Another Ms Rose's book that I suggest to read before this one is Nothing To Fear from the Chicago series, although it's not a must. It's because there's a small reference to the house owned by Clay Maynard's father in Watch Your Back, which was used to hide Stevie Mazzetti and her 7-year-old daughter. The house was the scene of abduction and murder in Nothing To Fear, and Maynard's parents bought the house without knowing anything about those.

I must say that I like Ms Rose's characterization of Cordelia, 7 year-old daughter of Stevie Mazzetti. Her father and brother had died before she was born so she was only with her mother. They took care of each other and as a result she was more mature than her age. She sounds real to me because I know someone like her. And I also hate if children are portrayed like they know nothing and the adults refuse to tell them anything.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Hanged Man's Song - John Sanford

First time I read the titles of these Kidd novels, I thought they were sophisticated; but since the 1st book I have known that they are only tarot card's names.

This is the 4th book in the series and the last. Among all 4, I think this is the best and I like this very much. There was more criminal investigation than computer stuff.

Kidd's hacker friend, Bobby, who had helped him a lot in databases, had been brutally murdered in his house in Jackson, Mississippi. The killer was 1) meticulous - for able to track down the mysterious Bobby, while the FBI and NSA not 2) evil - for killing Bobby, who was crippled, and 3) crazy - for sending stuffs from Bobby's laptop to the news (and destroyed several politicians' careers) and claimed that it was Bobby's undoing.

Afraid that the missing laptop contained informations about him (and his friends), Kidd tried to get it back, helped by John Smith (from The Empress File) and his burglar friend LuEllen. Among Bobby's ring, perhaps they had chosen Kidd by acclamation, to do the physical works. Hackers usually sit in front of their computers and rarely go out, but Kidd went across country chasing bad guys.

The FBI didn't realize that Bobby had been died. Kidd and John Smith's effort to attract their attention to the murder case was unfruitful. So Kidd, Smith, and LuEllen must play detective to catch Bobby's murderer and get the laptop back. Near the end, there was a critical moment when LuEllen got caught and John Smith's 'foster kid' got kidnapped.

When Kidd and LuEllen was going to go to pick up John Smith, Kidd did two tarot spreads, and the final resolution card was, in both cases, The Hanged Man. "The Hanged Man indicates a kind of suspended animation, a suspense between two states - a waiting state. Transition, maybe. Okay, so Bobby's dead and everything is in transition."

Kidd and LuEllen would appear again 10 years later in Silken Prey - to help State Cop Lucas Davenport in a case. Kidd then was very good in databases, because he had inherited the contents of Bobby's laptop. I read Silken Prey first and knew that Kidd had a hot wife named Lauren and a 5-year old boy named Jackson. Until near the end of The Hanged Man's Song (the last book in the series) he still hadn't met a woman named Lauren. It turned out Lauren was LuEllen's real name. In all 4 books in the Kidd series, Kidd never found out LuEllen's real background; but in Silken Prey, Lucas Davenport successfully tracked her down to her hometown (after pulling out her maiden name from the marriage certificate) and to a local old man who remembered her.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Devil's Code - John Sandford

Jack Morrison, Kidd’s fellow hacker, had been shot to death during a break-in at a software company called AmMath in Dallas. Morrison had sensed that something had been going wrong and sent a message to his sister that if something happened to him, she was to see Kidd.

AmMath had hired Morrison to straighten out the operating software and they thought that he had seen something he shouldn’t. The reader knew from the beginning that the bad guys were the AmMath guys: the CEO and 2 security guys. The same bad guys also spread a rumor about a group of hackers who called themselves Firewall, complete with names of its members, including Kidd’s online name. Firewall later attacked the IRS website, so Kidd and his friends were chased by the FBI.

Kidd had to find a proof that Morrison was innocent, that there was no Firewall, and lead the FBI to the real bad guys.

On the first trip to Dallas with Morrison’s sister, at the airport, Kidd did a spread of his tarot cards. The key card was The Devil, which represented a force of evil, usually from the inside. "He sits on top of you, controlling you, without you even being aware of it". The forbidden file Morrison had opened (while he shouldn’t) was a reference to this. The file’s name was OMS, stood for ‘Old Man of the Sea’, whom Sinbad the Sailor met on his fifth voyage. The Old Man tricked travelers into carrying him on their shoulders while tranporting him to a pool of water, then forcing them to carry him all the time until they died. However, Sinbad got him drunk with wine and was able to shake him off and kill him. This tale was also a metaphor of AmMath’s crime.

There was a scene in a hotel room in Radisson, where LuEllen (Kidd’s partner) and Morrison’s sister watched Emma on HBO and asked the guys (Kidd and the sister’s bodyguard) to shut up. I believe that this is the 1996 version. There was this description: “Emma and her friend were standing under a spreading oak”
Kidd: “That woman’s got a long neck.” --> that’s Gwyneth Paltrow
LuEllen: I don’t think they did a very good job with Frank. They needed to make him more attractive in the beginning and worse in the end, and show why Emma was attracted to him.
Morrison’s sister: I didn’t think he was very attractive at all. I don’t see how he could possibly compete with…
I think Ewan McGregor is attractive enough. He only needed a decent hairdresser in Emma.

EwanMcGregor as Frank Churchill. Worst rival in a romance movie.
The spreading oak in Emma (1996)
Gwyneth Paltrow and her long neck





Saturday, September 6, 2014

Komik Terbaik Disney Karya Carl Barks Bundel 1 & 2

I decided to buy these bundles from Gramedia Online because 1) I didn't have to go out and 2) I got 15% discount. Sold at Rp 170.000,- each (retail price), I think they are very expensive. Each bundle is soft covered and has 404 pages (incl. covers). I made the order and payment on Tuesday (before noon) - both books were 'in stock' - and received them on Friday afternoon.


I have collected the 12 series and perhaps the bundles are only compilations. I am not sure because I don't have the 1st and 2nd series. Also, there are stories from the 12 series which are not included in the bundles. Perhaps there will be the 3rd bundle? Bundle 2 comes up with a binder and there is a space for 1 more bundle there.
There's still a place for 1 more bundle in the binder
Here are the contents of both bundles. I compare them with the contents in the 12 series (minus 1st & 2rd):

BUNDLE 1
Natal di Gunung Beruang (Chrismas on Bear Mountain)
Rahasia Kastil Tua (The Old Castle's Secret)
Voodoo Hoodoo
Jejak Unicorn (Trail of the Unicorn)
Mengangkat Kapal Karam (The Sunken Yacth)
Lomba ke Laut Selatan (Race to the South Seas)
Menyusut Ke Lubang Semut (Billions in the Hole) - seri 7
Hilang di Dasar Laut (Lost Beneath The Sea)
Sejuta Wajah Mimi Hitam (The Many Faces of Magica de Spell)
Pulau di Angkasa (Island in the Sky) - seri 3
Di Istana Ratu Putri Duyung (Hall of the Mermaid Queen) - seri 3
Hanya Pria Tua yang Miskin (Only A Poor Old Man) - seri 4
Kembali ke Klondike (Back to the Klondike)
Di Sungai Emas (The Golden River) - seri 4
Di Dunia Bawah Tanah (Land Beneath the Ground!) - seri 5
Gudang Besar di Bukit Killmotor (The Big Bin on Killmotor Hill) - seri 5
Tujuh Kota Cibola (The Seven Cities of Cibola)

BUNDLE 2
Kisah Batu Bertuah yang Hebat (The Fabulous Philisopher's Stone) - seri 6
Mahkota Genghis Khan yang Hilang (The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan!) - seri 6
Negosiasi Dingin (A Cold Bargain)
Berburu Mutiara (Deep Down Doings)
Mencari Mahkota Suku Maya (Crown of the Mayas) - seri 6
Membuat Sumur Uang (The Money Well) - seri 7
Mesin Paul Bunyan (The Paul Bunyan Machine) - seri 7
Anjing Jadi-jadian Whiskervilles (Hound of the Whiskervilles) - seri 10
Pencari Status (The Status Seeker)
Robot Pencuri Raksasa (The Giant Robot Robbers) - seri 8
Di Tralla La (Tralla La) - seri 9
Kota Beratap Emas (City of Golden Roofs) - seri 9
Misteri Mitos (Mythic Mystery) - seri 9
Si Juara Uang (The Money Champ) - seri 10
Serangan Safari (So Far and No Safari) - seri 10
Harta Karun Kuno (Oddball Odyssey)
Demi Keping Tua (For Old Dime's Sake) - seri 11
Pulau Angsa Emas (Isle of Golden Geese) - seri 11
Valentine Sepuluh Sen (Ten-Cent Valentine) - seri 11
Kedok Kalkun (Turkey with All the Schemings) - seri 12
Pencarian Kapal Cuspidoria (Search for the Cuspidoria) - seri 12

STORIES IN THE SERIES (3-12) NOT INCLUDED IN BUNDLES 1 & 2:
Bulan Dua Puluh Empat Karat (The Twenty-four Carat Moon) - seri 3
Kisah Keuangan (A Financial Fable) - seri 5
Gudang Uang Bundar (The Round Money Bin) - seri 5
Di Gua Ali Baba (Cave of Ali Baba) - seri 8
Misteri Rel Kota Hantu (Mystery of the Ghost Town Railroad) - seri 8
Untung-untungan di Musim Salju (Wintertime Wager) - seri 10
Gagak Gila (Raven Mad) - seri 11
Liburan di Kota Bebek (Holiday in Duckburg) - seri 12
Boros Tapi Hemat (The Thrifty Spendthrift) - seri 12

A shot from Mesin Paul Bunyan. I don't like the edges decor. Looks dirty.
Previous series. I own 3 to 12 (10 out of 12).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Empress File - John Sandford

The Empress File is the 2nd book in the Kidd series, previously published under John Sandford's real name.

Kidd's friend, Bobby - a hacker specialized in databases - asked for his help. A friend of Bobby in the town of Longstreet, had been accidentally shot to death by the police, and his family didn't get justice because they were black. John Smith (not real name) - an investigator for a legal services company, together with local activist Marvel and Harold, and Kidd as the 'technician'; they made a plan to bring down the corrupted city council for revenge. In the center of the city council was the female mayor: Dessusdelit. Taking along his burglar friend LuEllen, Kidd didn't miss the opportunity to secretly rob the bad guys.

Compared to the first book The Fool's Run, I say The Empress File was less exciting - but only a little bit. Near the ending, Kidd was almost beaten to death by his enemies before LuEllen saved him, and although I kind of prefer the hero gets beaten (a nice difference from a neat hero in tidy hair and smooth suit), I think LuEllen should had arrived much sooner.

Kidd was a tarot reader, and like the first novel, this 2nd book also took a tarot card for its title. After Bobby called, Kidd got the tarot deck out and did two spreads. The Empress dominated both of them. "In my interpretive system The Empress represents women, new enterprises, new creations, new movements. There's an overtone of politics and a suggestion of s3x." In this case, The Empress card could have pointed to Marvel.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Fool's Run - John Sandford

This book was first published in 1989, before the Prey series - under John Sandford's real name. The hero was a painter who was also good with computer, named Kidd (or Mr. Kidd - his first name is unknown to readers). Sometimes he played Tarot. A big defense aviation company in Chicago hired him to attack its rival's computer system. Kidd's employer stated that they had invented a new technology called String and that the rival had stolen it. They needed to slow the rival down by attacking its computer system.

Kidd hired his friends: a burglar named LuEllen and an ex-investigative journalist named Dace. He also sometimes called Bobby, a hacker specialized in databases.

After the work had been done, Kidd realized that his employers had not been telling him the truth. He tried to punish them, especially for trying to getting rid of him and his team; but it was almost impossible to hack into their computer system because while Kidd had been working for them, they had learned all about his ways.

The conclusion was quite funny... and simple. Try to think about what will you do if you are fighting against a computer or a robot and had failed to defeat it.

At first I had worried this book would be hard to read, you know, it was about hacking. There were indeed some hard parts, like when the technician explained to Kidd how String worked. But overall I could enjoy reading this book.

Kidd was a Tarot reader. After hired by the aviation company, he "did five quick spreads, and The Fool showed up in critical positions in three of them. The Fool represents a major change that occurs as a natural and inexorable part of life, without your volition, because of the way you live." Thus the title The Fool's Run.


Friday, August 22, 2014

The Library of Gold - Gayle Lynds

Also known as "The Book of Spies". I really enjoyed reading this book, especially because I read that lousy Dan Brown's Inferno before this. Library of Gold has many elements: spies, treasure hunt, crime, politics, betrayals, traitors, hit men, and a little romance.

Spymaster Tucker Andersen from CIA saw his best friend murdered in front of his eyes after telling him about The Library of Gold - a long lost library belonged to Ivan The Terrible - and a secret bank account which involved in a jihad mission. Andersen hired two cilivians: 1) Judd Ryder, former intelligence officer and his best friend's son, and 2) Eva Blake, ex-curator, who was serving jail time for murdering her husband in a car crash. Both Eva & Judd were 32 years old.

The former librarian from The Library of Gold had smuggled one of the books from the library: The Book of Spies; to prove himself. The librarian had been dead after and the book was being displayed in London. Eva Blake was sent to talk around, just in case someone knew about the library. Instead she saw her dead husband - for whom she had spent 2 years in jail - very much alive. As Eva was the only person who could blow his cover, her husband wanted her dead, but then she met Judd Ryder who had been sent to protect her.

The Library of Gold belonged to a book club, its members were rich, powerful people who were also ruthless and egoist. They would do anything to keep the location of the library secret. Eva's husband, however, was the recent librarian, and he prepared clues for Eva so she could find the place and share its glory to the world. Meanwhile, the director of the library sent his security head to eliminate Eva & Judd and anyone else who threatened the library's existence.

Eva Blake turned out to be a worthy companion and she learned fast how to be a spy. Their situation was even more dangerous when Tucker Andersen's boss died and the CIA was shutting down the operation, leaving Andersen, Blake and Ryder alone in a Greek island where the library located, while the library's security men were far outnumbered them.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Inferno - Dan Brown

Dan Brown described Robert Langdon, the hero in his books, as 'a handsome man with thick brown hair'. Yet after the release of The Da Vinci Code movie, I couldn't help thinking about Tom Hanks, and this always ruins the image.

The title of this book means 'hell' and I imagined scary things happened in the story. However, it turned out the story was a Dan Brown standard, which involved run-and-chase scenes, puzzles to solve, and a plot to change the world. Most of the pages were spent to describe paintings, buildings, surroundings and objects. The story began with Robert Langdon woke up in a hospital with an amnesia, to make it more exciting, because after that, there was really not much to happen. This is one of light read books.

A scientist has hidden for a year to develop some kind of new virus, to reduce the world population. The WHO director who has been trying to find him, got clues that involve symbols from Dante's The Divine Comedy - because the scientist is a fan of Dante Alighieri - starts with a Botticeli's Map of Hell. Robert Langdon, a symbol expert, was invited to translate the symbols. He was flown to Florence, Italy, the home of Dante, and the place where the scientist jumped from Badia tower to his death. The virus has been hidden well and will be released at a scheduled time, and Langdon must find it before it's too late.

As usual, there is a young woman at Langdon's side during run-and-chase scenes. In this book, it's Sienna Brooks, a young doctor who treats Langdon in the hospital when he wakes up in the beginning of the story. It will be explained later why she keeps helping him.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Antoine et Antoinette (1947)

From director Jacques Becker, this movie is short and simple. Antoine works in a printing house, cutting books' edges with a machine; while his wife Antoinette waits a photo booth in a supermarket. They are working class people, don't have much money, but they are happy. They rent a little apartment across a grocery whose owner flirts with Antoinette.


One day, the grocer sends Antoinette flowers and this make Antoine angry. Even angrier when he finds out that Antoinette has bought a lottery ticket. "Another wasted 30 francs," he said. However, when he checks the number out, he finds that the ticket wins 800.000 francs and they start to make a list of things they want to buy, and at the top of the list is a motorcycle with a sidecar.

That night Antoine wakes up in the middle of the night and store the ticket inside one of their books. The next morning, the grocer comes again to see Antoinette but she has left for work, and Antoine - who doesn't come to work because he has to go to the bank to pick up his money - meets him instead and while they are arguing, Juliette (a friend) comes to borrow the book where Antoine had put in his lottery ticket. In a hurry, he grabs a ticket from the book without looking, before giving the book to Juliette. Without his knowing, another Antoinette's friend had put another lottery ticket in the book, but this ticket doesn't have a winning number. In the printing house, the boss had given rejected books to Antoine and those books circulating among their friends who borrow them. Remember, this was 1947 and money were spent for food, not for books.

In the metro station, Antoine has lost his wallet, where he put in the lottery ticket. It's like, his dreams won't come true now. Antoinette had heard this sad news, too. Antoine then goes to a bar, where the owner is having a wedding party for his daughter. The bride-groom is the one who found Antoine's wallet earlier that morning and he returns the wallet, but Antoine goes angry when he looks at the ticket, how the number has changed. The bar owner defends his new son-in-law, saying that if he really wanted to swap the ticket he wouldn't have returned the wallet at all.

Antoine goes home to find the grocer is trying to seduce his wife. They are having a duel and Antoine's head hits a rack in the kitchen. He passes out and remembers the details when Juliette came that morning to borrow the book. He opens his eyes and voilà! there is Juliette, in the crowd who watching the duel, holding the book. He gets his lottery ticket back.

The movie ends with Antoine and Antoinette riding their new motorcycle with a sidecar.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Act of Killing (2012)

Had wanted to watch this since I heard it was nominated for Oscars, but never had the time since I knew it was almost 3 hours long. This movie was banned here, but it's available for free in YouTube.

When I was watching the movie, I thought it was some kind of 'behind the scene' in the making of a movie called 'Arsan dan Aminah'. American director Joshua Oppenheimer chatted with the main actors, asked them to tell the 1965 events in their own words. I had heard such stories (but the ones happened in Central Java) but from the victims' relation (the closest one was my aunt, who was almost in tears when she told me what had happened to her uncle, her favourite uncle - I supposed), never from the 'killers'. I just read articles at internet, that 'Arsan and Aminah' had been never released, that that the actors perhaps would sue Mr Oppenheimer. A bit strange despite the fact that there was a scene of an interview about 'Arsan and Aminah' with a local TV, with the poster as a background. I was appalled watching this, because the TV journalist put a happy face in the interview.

Anwar Congo, one of the main player in this documentary, was a member of Pemuda Pancasi1a. He was young and ardent in 1965. When he heard about how this communist party (PKI) murdered the top army generals, with his friends he struck back the PKI members and their branches; even though he lived in North Sumatra. Many people at that time belonged to organizations or parties and PKI was one of the biggest. Those who lived far from Jakarta usually didn't know anything and were caught, jailed, tortured and murdered because of a tiny connection to PKI. I had heard there were cases of mistaken identity, that they got the wrong person, but it made no different. [The Javanese people, for instance, often has a name of one word only. Two persons with the same name and they got the wrong one or they got both, the fate of the name's bearer was the same.] It was mentioned in the movie that they who had money could buy their freedom (it was true). At that time Anwar Congo believed that he did the right thing. He showed the director how he used garrote for execution. He got sick in the end of the movie, perhaps filled with remorse; unlike his other friend.

There were scenes when the Chinese retailers were being coerced for money and I wonder if the government could do something about it. There was also a candidate for people's representative (DPR) who thought how he could gain more money for himself if he won; not for the people's prosperity.

In President Soeharto's era, there was this movie called Penumpasan Pengkhianatan G 30 S PKI. It was released in 1984 and I was 11 year-old. My teacher told us, the pupils, to watch this movie and I went together with my father. It was a long movie, divided into 2 parts: First part when the PKI plotted to kill the generals and went on with the kidnapping, tortures and murders. Second part when Letjen Soeharto eradicated the traitors. The tortures scenes made me sick and years later I found out that the UK classified films according to their contents, such as nudity, profanity, violence. Like a movie with one (or two?) f**k word will get a 18+ certificate. So when I was forced to watch such violence like in the PKI movie, by my government, I wonder if I could sue somebody... Those same people who always boasting this country was famous of its eastern polite manners.

The Black Dahlia

I have seen the movie, which at that time I thought slow and boring. I had heard about the famous case, though, perhaps around late 80's  when I had a couple of American crime noir books to read. Different from the movie, I think this is one of the best crime books I've read.

At first I needed time to get used to the writing style, which quite hard for me to understand. Too many slangs and the way the sentences had been built was quite different. I also don't prefer the story telling from first person point-of-view.

The central character was a 29 year-old patrolman (and boxer) named Dwight Bleichert, who early in the story joined the Los Angeles Police Department as a Warrants detective. He and his partner Lee Blanchard were lent to Homicide to help investigating the Black Dahlia murder: a body of a tortured 22 year-old Elizabeth Short had been found in a vacant lot in January 15, 1947. The case was so famous that 200 cops were sent to work it. For Bleichert and Blanchard, the case became an obsession. It took time, but Bleichert managed to track back the missing last week in Elizabeth Short's life and find the killer.

In the real life, the case was unsolved; but this book was a fiction and the writer gave a conclusion... 2 years later. What made this book interesting was the details. So many crimes in this life, and in 1947 they were no different; although I believe they weren't as many as today where almost everyday we hear murder news on TV. Bleichert and Blanchard didn't work on the Black Dahlia case only, and some of them were for their own interest. These two heroes in the book were not saints and they were corrupted, both of them.

While reading the last pages and I thought, "Okay, so that person was the killer..." Mr Ellroy added something and the story was moving to a different direction. The richness of the story also made me forget this and that, like who killed Lee etc and in the last pages they were all answered and I finished the last page with satisfaction.

I just read the film page from Wikipedia: "DeWitt is gunned down by Lee, standing on the stairs across the atrium. Bucky sees a man sneak up behind Lee, wrapping a rope around Lee's neck. Lee fights back while Bucky, paralyzed with shock, watches from across the atrium as a second shadowy figure steps out and slits Lee's throat. Lee and the man holding the rope fall over the railing to their deaths several floors below."  This scene was so different from the book and reminded me why I didn't like the movie very much. I'm not a fan of John Hartnett either.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Storm Front - John Sandford

Storm Front is the latest book in Virgil Flowers series and another one with a title I can't understand. I also don't like the core of the story - I had reading enough book about conspiracy and discovery of buried artifacts that could rewrite the Bible etc. At first I couldn't believe John Sandford took this kind of theme (but I had to because I was reading it) and I really hoped he stuck to the usual state crimes, or rural state crimes.

A preacher who worked in excavation site in Jezreel, Israel, found a stone, part of a pillar, with an inscription in primitive Hebrew and hieroglyphics about King Solomon. The preacher stole the stone and brought it back to his hometown in Mankato, Minnesota, wanted to sell it to the highest bidder. The Israelis wanted the stone back and they sent an investigator. Mankato was also Virgil Flowers's hometown, so as the only resident BCA agent in the southern end of the state he was sent to pick up the investigator at airport and drive her around to meet the preacher and find the stone, even though he was investigating another case: a counterfeit lumber ring. This kind of case was actually for the FBI but they asked the BCA in because of local knowledge and the BCA owed them one that month and the boss said OK... etc.

This was an enjoyable story, actually, with spies, Hezbollah, show-business archaeologist, professor of ancient mysteries, ex-Turkish intelligence officers... One interesting thing I learned from this Virgil Flowers series is: an Apache could look like a Vietnamese or a Lebanese, makes me able to have more imagination what Winnetou looked like.

In Virgil Flowers series, Lucas Davenport (Flowers's boss) seemed never to do field works. This was actually the ideal condition Davenport's boss preferred. In Phantom Prey, Davenport's boss said: "Lucas, you're supposed to be the brains of the operation. You're not supposed to get shot in alleys. Not any more. Those days are over." But I do love reading Davenport doing field works. John Sandford usually made Davenport hurt in the end of a book so that time flied quickly - in the next book he was older by several months because he had to rest before the next big case. In the latest Prey series, Davenport was around fifty. Compare that to Virgil Flowers series: in this 7th book, Flowers was still in his early thirties.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mad River - John Sandford

Among all Virgil Flowers books I've read (this is number 6), only this one has the title I like. Mad River was a river near a small town called Arcadia, where some of the actions in this book took place. The other titles seems obscure to me.

This was a good book, too. We, the readers, and the police in the book know the bad guys from the start, but the way the story have been written makes the reading very enjoyable. I even think that the witty dialogues were back.

A kid named Jimmy Sharp brought along two friends to rob a house in Bare County and ended up by shooting the daughter of the owner. In their desperation to run away, and because Jimmy Sharp was not smart, the kids killed more people. In Bare County, where the criminal level was low, the kids became a terror; especially after a cop got killed. Virgil Flowers was sent to look at the case and he had to catch the kids before the sheriff did, because the sheriff wanted the kids dead. Meanwhile, Flowers thought that the kids, especially Jimmy Sharp, was a key witness who could help him to put the real brain in the first murder into jail.

In the previous book, Flowers used a new method called 'market research', and he used it again in this book to find where the kids were hiding. He gathered a couple of inmates in Stillwater prison, who had IQ level same as Jimmy Sharp, and after telling them the story and showed them a map, asked them to figure out where the kids were hiding.

Flowers' parents lived in Bare County, so we got to see the relationship between Virgil and his father and mother, which was good. Virgil was a priest's son and in this series we read what he thought about God and I must say that most of the time I disagreed with him. There was also interesting dialogues between Flowers and Davenport about how Flowers often forgot to carry his gun. That time, Flowers had been beaten by two guys outside a bar and was in a hospital.

Davenport: "You notice I didn't say a single f***m' thing about you going up to that bar without a gun."
Flowers : "I appreciate that."
Davenport: "But if you had a gun with you, like you should have, as soon as you were hit, you could have rolled and come up with the weapon and just squeezed off a couple of rounds... even if you didn't hit anything, that would have ended it. They'd have run, and you wouldn't be here." [...]
Flowers: "No. That's what would have happened if you had a gun. You can do that, because that's the way you think. If I'd had a gun, and even remembered it, I probably would have dropped it trying to get it out. [...] I'm just no d4mn good with pistols, Lucas."

This depiction of a cop's death was quite something, too: He fell in the street, on his back, and in a last dead reflex motion, threw his arms out to his sides, so that he looked like a picture of a dead man. It reminded me of clear depiction of Davenport's condition after a fight: ...and he was standing with one shoulder a foot lower than the other, crippled, hung over the balcony.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Shock Wave - John Sandford

A bomber blew up the boardroom at the Pye Pinnacle in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Three weeks later the same thing happened at a construction trailer at a new PyeMart site in Butternut Falls, Minnesota. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) instantly got involved. An ATF supervisor called the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and asked for a local liaison in Butternut Falls. The BCA sent Virgil Flowers.

The bomber was believed to be lived in Butternut Falls and he must be caught as soon as possible, especially after he went after Flowers. The new PyeMart site was controversial. The locals believed that the major and the city council were bribed to approve the zoning change, but they couldn't prove it. Flowers himself focused to catch the bomber. A local fisherman suggested that Flowers did a “Market Research”: everybody in town told Flowers confidentially who was likely to be the bomber. Each person nominated 10 names. Flowers had to went through the answers, interviewed the suspects and checked out their backgrounds. One of the names should be the bomber. The idea was new and interesting, and for us readers this made the book not as boring as usual when Flowers did so many interviews.

The identity of the bomber was revealed near the end. I think Shock Wave is one of the best Virgil Flowers books. In the previous book, Bad Blood, Flowers had a romantic relationship with the sheriff, which had to end in this book.

A restaurant waitress asked Virgil Flowers 'why you're called 'that fuck1n' Flowers.'"
He said: "They call me that because I'm so good with women."

Well, he actually didn't give a straight answer like that because he was upset, a little shook up after a bomb. I find this little scene quite touching and a bit sad because his sheriff was leaving him.