Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fixed & Updated


Loads of behind the scenes cleanup so that I can now update the lists on either side of the main blog with links to new books. You'll note that Non-fiction and Fiction now comprise separate lists, and that there's a handy search feature available now too, in case you just can't wait to find out what I thought about Books of Blood.

I've added 20 new reviews, getting me caught up to roughly March of 2013. And now the rest will be much easier to add.

For the present though, I'm off to spend a little time on game design and a little time reading. Later tonight, drinks with the Viking!

Happy Saturday to you all.


Burke Series by Andrew Vachss

Blossom by Andrew Vachss
Burke travels to Indiana to help an old buddy whose nephew has been accused of murder. A sexual sniper…

Hard Candy by Andrew Vachss
No relation to the Ellen Page film. In Hard Candy, Burke runs afoul of a mafia family, and a hardcore sniper assassin. The assassin, Wesley, ends up become a Burke alter ego / brother figure / underworld boogey man in the remaining novels.

Sacrifice by Andrew Vachss
Burke takes down a kiddie satan snuff film ring… But he kills a little boy in the process.

Down in the Zero by Andrew Vachss
Burke is seriously disturbed by his inadvertent murder of a little boy; he goes up to the Hamptons to investigate a spate of teen suicides.

Mask Market by Andrew Vachss
A mysterious man hands Burke a CD, then gets killed by a group of pros. Investigating the crime puts Burke back in touch with a young woman he rescued in one of the first novels. Only now she’s all growed up, and kind of an evil lady.

Footsteps of the Hawk by Andrew Vachss
Two cops, Morales and Belinda, try to squeeze Burke as part of an investigation of a sequence of murders.

False Allegations by Andrew Vachss
Burke vs. lawyer trying to prove child molestation allegations are fake.

Safe House by Andrew Vachss
Burke’s client has an ex-husband who is a neo-nazi. We learn a lot about the Aryan Brotherhood criminal prison gang. Turns out, much of what we learn is true, which is disturbing.

Choice of Evil by Andrew Vachss
Burke vs. the Gay Rights assassin.

Dead and Gone by Andrew Vachss
Burke is killed. He reappears with a new name and face, and with the help of his new girlfriend, Gem, he hunts down those responsible.

Pain Management by Andrew Vachss
Burke has an adventure in Portland, tracking down a missing girl and pulling a heist on a shipment of medical painkillers.

Only Child by Andrew Vachss
Burke hunts down the killer of the illegitimate daughter of a mob-boss.

Down Here by Andrew Vachss
Burke’s friend Wolfe is fingered by a lowlife rapist who claims the former DA shot him, Burke is dragged into a complicated mess.

Terminal by Andrew Vachss
When a career criminal who is dying of cancer turns Burke on to a big score, Burke goes for it! Also, evil people get what’s comin’ to them.

New Life by Andrew Vachss
The final Burke novel. By now, Burke has become a tired, ranting old man, whose world view is outdated, and whose actions no longer seem to hold up to even the minimal amount of scrutiny that Vachss' long suffering readers are likely to apply. Burke chases some baddies around in improbable ways, and everyone gets a fresh start. It's fun to have seen some of these characters grow up and change, and I learned a good bit about criminality reading the series, but by the end, I felt as tired of Burke's world as he seemed to be. Glad Burke gets a new life; time for me to move on to other pastures.

I read all of these in January and February of 2013., mostly in the Pacific Northwest.

Flood by Andrew Vachss

Flood by Andrew Vachss
Flood is Burke’s one true love, throughout the entire series. So it’s a bit of a surprise that we only meet her this once. Burke helps she and her kid out, then she books it for Japan. Oh yeah, she’s a karate master and a thick-bottomed hottie, just like Burke likes ‘em.

Strega by Andrew Vachss

Strega by Andrew Vachss

I’d heard Vachss mentioned many times as a sort of dirty heir-apparent to the mean streets of Raymond Chandler. And he is, though his streets are much, much meaner, and instead of being an entertainer first and foremost, Vachss is a crusader of sorts.

Andrew Vachss is a strange and quirky defender of sexually abused children. And dogs. He spent years as the Chief of the Special Victims Bureau in New York and is married to another Chief of the Special Victims Bureau, who shows up as as the she-crusader, Wolfe, in many of these novels. In addition to writing extremely hard-boiled crime fiction like the twenty novels I’m ‘bout to tell you ‘bout, Vachss and his lady wrote books like: Sex Crimes: Ten Years on the Front Lines Prosecuting Rapists and Confronting Their Collaborators, and The Life-Style Violent Juvenile: The Secure Treatment Approach. I didn’t read these.

Strega kicked off my January/February twisted love affair with Burke.

Burke, our violent, self-righteous, vigilante felon is an avenging dark angel. He spends his time rescuing child prostitutes in the nasty Times Square of the eighties, scamming, punishing, and murdering various types of exploiters. He has a “family” of racially diverse misfits, from the brilliant Mole (his version of Q), Max, Mama the Chinese mafiosa restaurateur, the Prof, and of course, his dog.

The streets Burke knows so intimately are urban dystopia, where rain, neon, semen, blood, and exploitation form a patina over the top of Vachss’ cropped prison-yard language. Makes Chandler look like Walt Disney, to be honest. These are dark roads.

In Strega, Burke is hired by an aging mobster to put the hurt on a pervert who is blackmailing a woman named Strega. Burke and his friend Max the Silent, the Mongolian martial arts master, fuck the guy up pretty good, and Burke gets involved with Strega. Strega is a witch, or at least she thinks she is. She’s got sexy powers, but is also clearly a victim of childhood sexual abuse. Burke tracks down the abuser (hint: he’s been mentioned in this paragraph!)

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Cronin’s sequel to The Passage is quite similar to his first horror novel. Structurally, it marches along in nearly identical footsteps, with an initial section set in the falling days of mankind, then a longer back half that deals with events in the post-apocalyptic, vampire infested landscape of the contentinal United States, roughly eighty to one hundred years after the cataclysm. Many of the same characters return, and they do largely similar things. So if you liked the first one, you’ll likely like this one.

Like The Passage, I find the novel to be a mixed bag. Cronin’s language vacillates between beautiful, attempted beautiful, and downright sloppy and rushed. The plotting is equally uneven. (I’m still not sure why several implausible things that were useful to resolving conflicts occurred.) The character development efforts have a whiff of someone giving it the old Rice college-try, at least most of the time. Some characters (like Tifty and Greer) get enough backstory and development to make them interesting. Some get so brief a caricature that they are just silly (insane Lila and the officious Horace) despite getting fair amounts of screen time. Others are such brief sketches that I can’t keep them straight, and find that I just plain don’t care when they are fighting for their lives.

I’ll admit that I just don’t understand much of what occurs in the mystical transformations of a couple of the novel’s female characters either. They undergo profound, manga-level metamorphosis at points and become near god-head type figures. I just don’t understand why, how, or what they become.

So… Some good zomb—errr, vampire—killin’. Some decent apocalypse. Some fairly good action sequences in the Mad Max post-apocalpyse landscapes, and a bunch of characters I end basically won’t remember in a month. Fun, but not great, and occasionally not even that good.

I got this feeling on a summer day when you were gone.

Nine months since a post. Criminal. Shameful.

I've got excuses: Lots of reading, wrote another book, travelled the world, from the misty mountaintops of Kauai to the sunny shores of Sliema. We celebrated a great milestone for the Professor, rolled on Dubs through the wineries of Kelowna with The Senator and KMK, searched for sea monsters, explored the ancient ruins of Hagar Qim, toured the secret libraries and prisons of the world's greatest university with the guidance of a charming scholar, and drank and swapped stories with Vikings. I bore the pall of a beloved matriarch under the Texas sun, drank Wild Turkey on a crumbling dock on the shortest night of the year, practiced trail running in the mountains above Malibu with LT, took my first steps down the path of mindfulness meditation, studied Israeli home invasion techniques, pondered the secrets of the Squamish Chief, and played host to many fine visitors. I also worked on a couple of different games during the last nine months, at least one of which could be really good if it ever gets made. And, yeah, I read a lot.

Here's a sneak preview of the book reviews still waiting to be posted. All coming soon, I promise.

The Twelve by Justin Cronin
All 18 of Vachss' Burke novels
Leather Maiden by Joe Lansdale
The Ghost Road Blues Trilogy by Jonathan Mayberry
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman
Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman
Born Bad by Andrew Vachss
The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (again)
Joyland by Stephen King
Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I Wear The Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
In Other Worlds by Margret Atwood
A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames (Hooray, Aunt Terry!)
Malta & Gozo by The Lonely Planet
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood

For now, it's a quiet day here on the hillside in Burnaby. The world ahead looks uncertain, but then, it almost always does. Of one thing, though, I've got no doubt: There will be more books and loads more adventures! Stay tuned, dear imaginary reader.