Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Books, September 21, 2012

Todd Mason will serve as host for FFB for the next two weeks. The third week, the 12th will be Agatha Christie week.

Things are a bit rocky here this morning because of the new blogger dashboard. Sorry.  

**Summary still to come. Too many problems to get it up. 

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad and Sam McCain series of novels. You can find him here.

 I  hope The Handle by Richard Stark was a pleasure for Donald Westlake to write because it sure is a pleasure to read.

The Organization has decided that it's tired of this German guy running his big casino on an island in the Gulf of Mexico. He's beyond the jurisdiction of the Feds and it's unlikely Cuba will do much about him. Thus Parker is hired to take the casino and its other buildings down--literally. To blow them up.

Now while The Handle is every bit as tough as Dick Cheney's heart, the hardboiled aspect is played off against the sorriest group of human beings Parker may ever have had to work with. And the sardonic way Westlake portrays them had me laughing out loud at several points.

Take your pick. There's the alcoholic hood who talks as if he's auditioning for a Noel Coward play; the mob gun dealer who had to quit drinking several months ago and has increased both his cigarette intake (four or five packs a day) while maintaining both his cancer cough and his enormous weight; the pedophile who turns out to be a ringer sent to spy in Parker and his friends; the Feds who are so inept both Parker and Grofield play games seeing who can lose their tails the fastest. And then there's the the married Grofield, Parker's professional acting buddy, who never passes up a chance to impose his charms on willing women. In this case he endeavors to put the whammy on the very sexy blonde Parker himself has been shacking up with. Isn't that called bird-dogging?

And then we have Baron Wolfgang Freidrich Kastelbern von Alstein, the man who owns the island and the casino and who, over the years, has managed to make The Third Man's Harry Lime look like a candidate for sainthood. Westlake spends a few pages on the Baron's history and it becomes one of the most fascinating parts of the book, especially his days in Europe during the big war. 

The book is filled with the little touches that make the Stark books so memorable. My favorite description comes when Parker and the sexy blonde sit down to a dinner that Westlake describes as "viciously expensive."

A fine fine novel.

Blackwater, Kerstin Ekman

Long before the Scandinavian surge of crime fiction of today, a few Swedish writers caught our attention and one for us in the 1990s was Kerstin Ekman.

The plot centers on teacher and mother, Annie Raft, and is set in the 70s, and focuses on events surrounding, and following a double murder at the Blackwater lake in Sweden.

The victims of the murder are two tourists, visiting Northern Sweden to explore its forested wilderness. They are discovered by Annie Raft, herself new to the region, as she and her young daughter Mia scrabble through the forest, searching for the commune where her lover awaits and where they are to start anew away from the turmoil of their lives in Southern Sweden.

Things also deteriorate in the commune. Paradise is not what it seems, nor is Annie's lover. It is years later when this story concludes.

Ekman explores the degradation occurring to the environment at the same time she sets up this plot. The darkness of the land mirrors the darkness of the people who inhabit it. She also examines the animosity between Swedes and Laplanders in the region. From reviews on amazon, I see that this book was too dark for many readers, but we both enjoyed it at the time.

Sergio Angelini
Yvette Banek
Joe Barone 
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Curt Evans
Elizabeth Foxwel
Randy Johnson
Nick Jones
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
Rob Kitchin
Doug Levin
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
Juri Nummelin
Richard Pangburn 
David Rachel
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer 
Michael Slind
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Hi Patti, great cluster as always, thanks for th einclusion. I think the link to FJ Norris is actually the same as James Reasoner's though. (I think John has a new FFB posted yet)

pattinase (abbott) said...

This new blogger is a bit clunky for me as yet.

Yvette said...

Running late as usual, Patti. I had the quiz to finish. But I'll be up with something soon.

Anonymous said...

It's been a long time since I read THE HANDLE (RUN LETHAL in the British edition) - 1975 to be exact - and I don't remember it at all. Maybe it's time to reread the series.

As for the Scandinavians, I read the Sjowall/Wahloo Martin Beck series in the '70's as well.

Have a great trip, Patti. Hope there are no disasters this time!

Jeff M.

Gerard said...

I'm listening to a Swede author now, Jens Lapidus's EASY MONEY. I pretty much ignore all the Swedish personal and place names. Same with the names of several Serbian characters.

I really, really enjoyed the Sjowall/Wahloo books a few years ago.

I took Swedish during my college's J-term (one class during January) and received a D. I remember one word: hund.

J F Norris said...

There was a Danish crime writer named Poul Orum in the 1970s who wrote two very fine books. Of course I know them only in their English translations. Clean, stark, and humane stories with at least one of them having a very good detective story plot as well.

Rick Robinson said...

Why you all stick to Blogger is beyond me.

An interesting line-up today.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would love to switch but six years worth of stuff could be lost if I didn't do it right. I need a techie to help me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love the Sjowall/Wahloo books. Yes, there were the first I read. Oh, and Nicholas Freeling from Amsterdam if that counts kinda.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Jeff-Disaster looms if American Airlines cancels our flight or if it is delayed more than thirty minutes.

Todd Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd Mason said...

Happily, the Blogspot revision is far less annoying than the Beta version of the revision was. There are pointless changes, but they did fix many of the aggressively stupid things they initially fiddled with. Or, at least, this is true for me so far. (Composing in either "compose" or "HTML" is useful, though it's certainly not intuitively so at first...)

Anonymous said...

Good luck. The problem we had with them most recently was when the price for one of our flights dropped. When Jackie called about getting credit (as we do from Jetblue or Southwest) they told her, tough luck. You paid, no refund, no credit, drop dead (basically).

I saw they had a 4 hour delay on a NY to DC flight on American Eagle because for some unstated reason (affair with the other's husband? I really wanted to know!) two flight attendants got into a fight onboard, refused to work together and they had to go back to the terminal and wait for another crew. Couldn't they just ignore each other? It's a one hour flight for crying out loud!

We're flying American Eagle to Cleveland so our fingers are crossed.

Jeff M.

Juri said...

Here's mine:

Richard L. Pangburn said...

RE: "I saw they had a 4 hour delay on a NY to DC flight on American Eagle because for some unstated reason (affair with the other's husband? I really wanted to know!) two flight attendants got into a fight onboard, refused to work together and they had to go back to the terminal and wait for another crew. Couldn't they just ignore each other? It's a one hour flight for crying out loud!"

The most amusing blog comment I've seen in some time. You could sell that spec script to Hollywood.