Wednesday, December 30, 2015


*Book 9 of the Matthew Scudder series* 
"Sometimes it's a dog-eat-dog world and the rest of the time it's the other way around."
This year I've realized that I'm not that big of a fan of standard detective series. They get too repetitive and frankly boring after a while. It nearly broke my heart when I realized that I was starting to feel the same way about this book in Lawrence Block's Scudder series, arguably the top of the detective pack. As I read, I started to notice the formula and the trends. Once again, Scudder has to explain that he's not an official private detective, once again Scudder "struggles" with what to charge people for his services, even though he always seems to settle on the same price (somewhere between $2-3K), and once again Scudder has a moment where he's unsatisfied with his work and considers giving the client a refund, even though he's never actually gone through with it yet. I guess it's designed for the casual reader that might jump into the series at anytime, but for me it becomes a slog reading the same shit over and over. At least in this book we were spared him having to explain why he's not a cop anymore; I'm a little tired of hearing that story too.

This time around Scudder takes on two cases that somehow end up connected, determining whether or not a TV producer was responsible for the rape and murder of his wife, as well as tracking down the masked sex killers in a grisly smut film he stumbles onto in the middle of watching a VHS rental of The Dirty Dozen. This novel's plot developments were based on so many coincidences that the plotting seemed a bit lazy this time around. But even with these issues that I personally had and the fact that this book lacks the emotional weight of Eight Million Ways to Die, the freshness of When The Sacred Ginmill Closes, or the urgent danger of A Ticket to the Boneyard, it's still as thoughtful, readable, and well-written as any of the other novels in Block's Scudder series, with some cool characters and nasty villains.
"We are closer than close, you and I. We are brothers in blood and semen."
So although it suffers from the usual stale repetitiveness as other later novels in most mystery series, it's still a Block novel so it's still one of the better detective books out there. If you're going to read a repetitive detective series, this should be the one you read.
"Well it's a hell of a story," he said. "And I guess you could say it has a happy ending, because you didn't drink and you aren't going to jail."

Friday, December 25, 2015

COLD AS HELL by David Searls

Here I go again, reading another tale of cheerful holiday spirit this Christmas! This time, it's a quick-read novella from DarkFuse that feeds into every parent's nightmare, following a man who he loses track of his twin children after letting them ride on a kiddie train for an 18-minute ride around the fancy outdoor mall on a cold and snowy night. Time seems to stop, people seem to not have seen the train or know that one even exists, and as his Uncle Buster and Santa Claus tell him: "Things Are Not What They Seem."

It's a moody, well-written tale where the author blurs the lines of reality and has you questioning everything your read. His use of the increasing biting cold and snow adds a strong, creepy atmosphere over the story, with the jovial Christmas spirit of the mall providing an unnerving contrast. This book is best read in one sitting and packs a lot in it's small page count.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

YOU'D BETTER WATCH OUT by Tom Piccirilli

With the holidays rolling around, I was in the mood for a good Christmas tale and I thought it would be a great opportunity to read another Tom Piccirilli book before the year was out! And because it's Tommy Pic, let me tell you, if you're looking for a heartwarming holiday tale of good tidings and cheer, go look somewhere else, because You'd Better Watch Out is definitely not for you. It's a brooding, hard-hitting Brooklyn "noirella" about an unnamed man who, as a child, witnessed his corrupt, abusive cop father brutally murder his mother. He grows up a foster child, learns violence at an early age, and becomes muscle for a prominent New York crime outfit, waiting patiently for the moment when his no-good Pops gets out of prison.

It's a simple tale, but as usual in the hands of Piccirilli, it stands out for it's storytelling economy, dead-eye prose, no-holds-barred depiction of violence, and how quickly and intuitively he can find the beauty and emotion in such dark and nihilistic material. This is my fourth novella so far by Piccirilli and he's really mastered that length and structure. I can't wait to jump into his longer work and see what he can do when he has more pages to impress me with!


Monday, December 21, 2015


It's always an event when a new Stephen King short story collection is released. Much of his best material comes in the short form and he's proven time and again to be one of the best short story writers working these days. I adored his previous collection Just After Sunset, and I couldn't wait to jump into this one! I had read about a third of the stories when they were previously published, including the two novellas in the collection, the inventive and entertaining magic Kindle story UR, and the highly disappointing killer car story Mile 81, which is wrecked by it's atrocious ending.

Unfortunately my favorite stories in the book were ones I'd read before, which lessened my enjoyment a bit with the collection as a whole. It's by no means a bad collection, I just didn't have many amazing discoveries but enjoyed the re-reads. My favorites were the captivating "Morality," about a New York City couple who are approached with a tempting way to get themselves out of the economic slump, the beautiful and heartbreaking story of a highway accident, "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive," and the Raymond Carver-esque tale of a doomed marriage, "Premium Harmony", all of which I'd read before. There were a few new stories that I enjoyed and which read like classic King shorts: "The Dune" (which had a nifty ending), "Obits," and "Bad Little Kid," all of which would fit snugly right in the middle of his Skeleton Crew collection.

Some of the others were less enjoyable, with King's occasional tendency toward disappointing endings on display. He's famous for not outlining his stories and not knowing what will happen once he starts writing, which most of the time is not a problem. But in some of these stories, it's glaringly obvious and he doesn't bring it home very well. But as I mentioned, a collection of new King stories is always a big deal. And there's enough great stuff here to get excited about!
"Memory's job is not only to recall the past but to burnish it."