Goodreads Profile

All my book reviews and profile can be found here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review of Good Morning, Midnight

Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of Good Morning, Midnight:

Classic Hill with scintillating use of language, puns, allusions, and a nifty mystery to boot. Not only that, you'll learn who the "funnyboogers" are. Some people dislike Hill's work as being too cerebral.  Nonsense. They can be read on a multitude of levels, and Hill remains one of my favorite authors.

An intriguing and complex story.  A man is found dead in a locked room, ostensibly having blown his head off.  The story becomes even more mysterious when it's learned he killed himself in a way identical to his father some ten years earlier, even to the Emily Dickensen book of poems found open to virtually the same page in each case.

Statements from the participants given to the police are layered throughout the book and each provides a very different view of events.  Lots of questions move the story along. What is Andy's relationship to Kay? Why does Andy keep trying to steer Pete away from his questioning what appears to be simply a case of copy-cat suicide? And who is the rather ordinary VAT inspector who seems to know more than he should?

The ending will be disconcerting to those who like everything tied up with a bow. I found it to be very satisfactory.

'via Blog this'

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review of In God's House

This is a rather extraordinary novel. Simultaneously a page-turner, legal thriller, memoir, and devastating screed against the Catholic Church's bumbling of the pedophile scandal, it reflects the authors own journey from Catholic adherent to disgusted and scandalized ex-Catholic. It's an examination of the fall of what Marcia Hamilton calls "the Pollyanna Years*" when we all believed religious organizations could only be instruments for good. Now, of course, we know they often confuse evil and good.

My guess is that this book is thinly disguised fact masquerading as fiction. The author, Ray Mouton, was the lawyer hired by the Diocese of Lafayette in 1984 to defend "the serial pedophile Fr Gilbert Gauthe, a priest who insisted that every sexual act he committed on the young boys was enjoyed by them and symbolic of his love for them.

Some caveats: 1. the meditation between Sasha and her grandfather on the nature of heaven and hell is superfluous to the story and totally unnecessary. 2. Renon Chattelrault's actions as a lawyer seem bizarre. Yes, he's charged with defending a pedophile priest and trying to get the best deal for him, but his motivations become less than pure as he forms a triumvirate with a psychiatrist priest and a nun to force the Church (totally bent on preventing any kind of negative publicity to the church) to face a reality of the epidemic of priestly pedophilia. A more accomplished author would have better woven this part of the story into the general fabric of the book.

It's very dark, southern gothic. Be prepared to stay up nights. If the truth is half as bad as Moulton portrays it to be, the Catholic Church should be run out of business (a word I use advisedly.)

href="" rel="nofollow" style="background-color: white; color: #666600; font-family: Georgia, Times, 'Times New Roman', serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;" target="_blank"> 


'via Blog this'

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review of A Candle for the Bag Lady

Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of A Candle for the Bag Lady:

A novella in the classic Block mold, read by the author, who, unlike most authors, does an excellent job portraying the humdrum, rather ordinary, plodding existence that is Matt Scudder.

Matt is visited by a lawyer who gives him a check for $1200 from a bag lady who Matt barely knew and for whom he had done nothing remarkable. He learns she had been murdered and had been quite wealthy, revising her will regularly to make bequests to people she didn't know and barely had any interaction with.

Matt, in his inimitable way, after tithing from the bequest and sending some to his ex-wife and sons, decides to assume the money was to discover who and why she had been murdered.  The result is utterly banal (intentional reference to Hannah Arendt.)

It's interesting to feel the undercurrent of danger and lawlessness attributed to New York.  The book was written many decades ago in 1977.  New York is now considered one of the safer cities so from that sense it feels somewhat anachronistic.

It's a marvelous listen/read, nevertheless, very short but a great character study.  Block has been reissuing many of his earlier works for Kindle and audio, much to my delight.  Not to mention we get to hear Block sing in this audiobook. Well, we'll overlook that.

'via Blog this'

Friday, May 03, 2013

Review of Red Flags: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of Red Flags: A Novel of the Vietnam War:

"We kill for peace," could be the motto of the US Army. 

The story is a nice mix of mystery, espionage, and social criticism.  Eric Rider is a CID agent on his second tour of Vietnam who is sent to the Montagnard area to interfere with the flow of money into VC and NVA coffers from the production and sale of drugs.  His ostensible cover is that of an intelligence officer sent there to collect information.  This provides the perfect mechanism for the author to reveal one of his themes: the ignoble treatment of the Montagnards.   

The Montagnards were miserably treated by everyone: the French, the Vietnamese, everyone, but were considered more trustworthy than the South Vietnamese by the U.S., especially the Special Forces, and the Montagnards cooperated, partly because of their hatred for the Vietnamese and partly because of the  promises of future independence (unrealistic) made by the Americans. The author clearly has a great deal of empathy for the Montagnards.  The scene where Rider assists in the delivery of a breech baby in a Montagnard village is quite extraordinary.  That he must later kill the child's father, a VC, makes it all the more poignant. 

One very interesting tidbit is that foreign civilian contractors were essentially immune from prosecution for any crimes they might commit.  Because Congress had not declared war, they were not subject to military courts or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and because they were often American citizens they were immune from Vietnamese justice.  This situation led to some foreigners taking advantage of smuggling, black marketeering, virtually anything to enrich themselves.  NVA camps were found with piles of USAID rice.   

American soldiers were often placed in untenable positions, unable to trust the ARVN, who had been fighting foreign invaders for centuries and knew Americans were simply just a more recent variety of invader, nor American contractors and AID employees who were making piles of cash by playing off both sides, not to mention their own superiors who cared more about rotating in and out of combat zones just long enough to accumulate medals and "combat" time to help their careers.   Just why many Americans re-upped for second and third tours in Vietnam has puzzled many. Rider and Roberta, a USAID doctor talk about it.  "People who don't know who they are," is  what the Vietnamese called American soldiers.  Normality becomes ill-defined as soldiers returned to a society that didn't value them and was totally unreal compared to the super adrenaline flow overseas.  

There's quite a shocking (sorry) scene where Rider happens to see an extra wire running off one of the field telephones in the compound and realizes his phone has been booby-trapped.  They discover other electronic devices (tape recorders and such) set to blow up in the user's face. This was retribution by the local ARVN Colonel angry they had interfered with his profitable opium trade. 

The verisimilitude of the novel was lauded by many reviewers on Amazon who actually served in Vietnam and  the area  around Pleiku where it takes place.  I am completely baffled by a few reviewers who thought the book was boring. I could not stop listening and resented interruptions.   The audiobook was very ably read by Joe Barrett, one of my favorite narrators. 

'via Blog this'

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Jon Stewart's Long War with CNN is Getting Bitter, Petty - Esther Zuckerman - The Atlantic Wire

Jon Stewart's Long War with CNN is Getting Bitter, Petty - Esther Zuckerman - The Atlantic Wire:

It's ironic that even several years after his Crossfire appearance, in which Stewart make it clear that his is a *comedy* show, he continues to be taken seriously by the media as a news show. The idea that he could be a competitor reveals how little regard CNN must have for itself, a truly scary thought. He has every right to ridicule them for that alone.
The past year is replete with examples of CNN, Fox, most of the electronic media, etc., getting stories wrong because their sole desire is to be *first* with the story regardless of whether it's correct. They got the Supreme Court's decision on the health care act wrong simply because the reporters didn't read past the first paragraph. What passes for journalism now is a lazy, superficial, herd reporting and tweeting what the other guy said.. If you have any serious interest in what's happening you need to wait a couple of weeks/years and then read a book or specialized journal article about the event where an author has taken the time to do substantial and thoughtful research.
The Atlantic is usually one of those journals. This piece, regretfully is not. Given the numerous copy-editing failures, it matches the slap-dash efforts to get something up fast regardless of worth. It required little thought and no reporting.
I was saddened by this line: "something that he and the journalists he mocks share: they deeply care about what the American public should care..." Stewart has never claimed to be a journalist. He is mocking those who do claim to be journalists but clearly are not. This idea that a talking head reading something off a teleprompter and then sitting around *speculating* about events is journalism is the major problem. To call anyone in TV news a journalist is to confuse a tree with a twig.
BTW. At my house Wolf Blitzer is known as Wolfgang Blitzkrieg.

'via Blog this'